2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 7?

NFL StaffContributor IOctober 19, 2021

2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 7?

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    Bleacher Report

    Six weeks into the 2021 NFL season, division races are starting to take shape. The league's cream is rising to the top, and the detritus is sinking to the bottom.

    That may be Detroit's new nickname: the Detroit Detritus.

    Sorry, that was mean. Shouldn't kick a fan when they're down.

    Three of the league's eight division races look like they may be all but over by Thanksgiving. The Green Bay Packers (NFC North), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFC South) and Buffalo Bills (AFC East) have all built sizable leads and look like the clear No. 1 team in their divisions.

    Meanwhile, some teams labeled contenders before the season are floundering. After getting drilled at home by the undefeated Cardinals, the injury-wracked Cleveland Browns have major problems. Those issues are nothing compared to what's going on in Washington, where a supposedly stout defense couldn't stop a MAC team right now.

    With another week of NFL action complete, Bleacher Report NFL Analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski have gathered again to rank the league's teams from worst to first.

    And after a last-second victory in London, for the first time in a long time, we won't be starting this week's power rankings with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

32. Detroit Lions (0-6)

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Last Week: 31

    Week 6 Result: Lost vs. Cincinnati 34-11

    Last week, Lions head coach Dan Campbell was left in tears by a gut-wrenching last-second loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

    Week 6 was gut-wrenching as well. But this time the indigestion was brought about by a blowout loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in which Detroit failed to hit 250 yards of offense and quarterback Jared Goff barely cracked 200 passing yards with a passer rating of 67.8.

    Campbell didn't hide his displeasure with his quarterback while talking to reporters after the game.

    "I feel like [Goff] needs to step up more than he has," Campbell said. "And I think he needs to help us, just like everybody else. I think he is gonna need to put a little weight on his shoulders here and it's time to step up and make some throws and do some things."

    Campbell is hardly wrong that Goff hasn't played well this season. But very few players for the Lions have. The Detroit offense is bad. The Lions defense is worse.

    And with the Jaguars winning in London on Sunday, the Lie-downs are the NFL's lone remaining winless team.

    "Welcome to the basement, Detroit," Sobleski said. "After a couple of excruciatingly tough beats in two of the previous three contests, the Cincinnati Bengals boat-raced the Lions on Sunday. Campbell's squad is the only remaining team without a victory. Campbell even admitted after the game that the Lions need to bring in more help so they can properly evaluate some of their current talent, specifically Goff. Well, they're well on their way to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft. That talent should help."

    "Falling short against the Vikings in heartbreaking fashion two weeks ago might loom large for the Lions in terms of chasing their first win of 2021," Gagnon added. "That was embarrassing against Cincinnati, and now they've made their dissatisfaction with Goff public ahead of a tough stretch of games. If they don't beat the Eagles in two weeks, they might not win until at least December."

31. Houston Texans (1-5)

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Last Week: 30

    Week 6 Result: Lost at Indianapolis 31-3

    The Houston Texans are officially imploding.

    After winning in Week 1, the Texans have now lost five straight games. In a couple of those games, the Texans showed more than a little fight, including last week against the New England Patriots. But after getting annihilated by the Colts on Sunday, the Texans now have two defeats by at least 28 points in the last three weeks.

    The Texans actually only had 35 fewer yards Sunday than the Colts and converted over half of their third downs. But Houston committed three costly turnovers and allowed a bevy of big plays.

    Now the reeling Texans have to try to prepare to face two of the hottest teams in the NFL. Houston travels to face the undefeated Cardinals in Week 7 and follows that up with a home date against the 5-1 Rams.

    Of course, at this point in the season, losing games might not be such a bad thing.

    After all, this is a team expected to be in the market for a new franchise quarterback in 2022.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5)

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    Ian Walton/Associated Press

    Last Week: 32

    Week 6 Result: Won vs. Miami 23-20 (London)

    The streak is over.

    As it turns out, all the Jacksonville Jaguars needed to snap the third-longest losing streak in NFL history was a change of scenery.

    Say, about 4,200 miles to the east.

    Thanks to 319 passing yards from Trevor Lawrence, 101 total yards from running back James Robinson, a 100-yard receiving effort from Marvin Jones and a 53-yard field goal as time expired, the Jaguars tasted victory Sunday in London for the first time since Week 1 of the 2020 season.

    The Jaguars will now have a bye week to bask in the glow of victory, but this wasn't a win replete with style points. Jacksonville was outgained offensively 431-396, converted just three of 12 third downs and allowed nine third-down conversions on 17 attempts for the Dolphins.

    But in the only statistical category that really matters, the Jaguars came out on top, and when you haven't won a game in 400 days, you'll take a W any way you can get it.

29. New York Jets (1-4)

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Last Week: 29

    Week 6 Result: Bye week

    There was little question that rookie quarterback Zach Wilson was going to have his work cut out for him leading a limited New York Jets team in 2021.

    It has indeed been rough. Wilson has averaged less than 225 passing yards per game, has just four touchdown passes against nine interceptions and has posted a pitiful passer rating of 62.9.

    While speaking to reporters over the bye week, Wilson said he needs to do less thinking and more throwing.

    "I would just say, to an extent, aiming the throw rather than just throwing it, like I've always done my whole life," he said. "Just reacting to what a defense is giving me and just throwing it, rather than putting too much thought into it.

    Obviously, I got a lot I'm learning every single week and I'm always putting my mind on new things I need to learn, and with that sometimes comes being a little bit robotic, and I think sometimes that's how those throws come out. I'm aiming them, I have to just throw it and rip it, kind of how I do in the second half when we have some of those big plays down the field, I'm just reacting. Throwing it to where I feel like my receiver is at, and how they're coming out of things, rather than just trying to put it to a spot."

    Wilson is hardly the only reason the Jets are 1-4, nor is he the first rookie quarterback to have a rough go of it in his first season.

    But hoping that a terrible Jets team will be any better after the bye than they were before is likely wishful thinking.

28. New York Giants (1-5)

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Last Week: 28

    Week 6 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Rams 38-11

    It's no secret that the New York Giants are not a good football team. But over the first five weeks of the 2021 season, quarterback Daniel Jones had at least avoided the mistakes and turnovers that had so often plagued his career.

    They came back with a vengeance in Week 6.

    It was something of a surprise to see Jones on the field at all after he sustained a nasty concussion in Week 5, but by any measure, his performance was dreadful: 242 passing yards, no touchdowns and three picks.

    After watching the Giants lose five of six to open the season for the second year in a row, Darryl Slater of NJ.com believes it's time to face facts: Jones isn't the answer under center for the Giants.

    "Jones has now started 32 games, and the Giants are 9-23 in his starts," he said. "Yes, the Rams came to New Jersey on Sunday with Pro Football Focus' fourth-rated defense (and No. 5 offense). Still, this was an inexcusably dreadful performance from a third-year quarterback."

    Given how New York looked against the Rams, it's rather difficult to argue with him.

    "Daniel Jones finally had a Daniel Jones game with four turnovers against the Rams, and now the Giants are pretty much done for 2021," Gagnon wrote. "I'm not giving up on Jones just yet because he was limiting his turnovers before that, he lacks support right now, and the Rams are a great team. But the rest of this season should serve as a huge audition for 2022."

27. Washington Football Team (2-4)

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Last Week: 26

    Week 6 Result: Lost vs. Kansas City 31-13

    There have been plenty of players, teams and units that have failed to meet expectations over the first six weeks of the 2021 season. But there may not be a bigger disappointment in the entire NFL to date this season than the Washington defense.

    Spearheaded by a line stocked with first-round picks, the Washington defense was supposed be among the league's most formidable in 2021. Instead, it has been downright terrible. After giving up a staggering 499 yards to Kansas City, Washington has surrendered 423 yards per game, second-most in the league. The team has allowed over 30 points in five straight games and ranks dead last in the National Football League in scoring defense.

    Earlier this week, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio called criticism of his defense "predictable."

    "Bottom line is we have plenty of looks that we present, plenty of personnel packages that we have presented, plenty of calls that we presented. It's about execution, and we haven't executed at a high enough level," he said.

    Well, after the "execution" demonstrated Sunday, we predict there's going to be a lot more criticism.

    "What the hell happened to the Washington defense? That unit is far too talented to get consistently ripped apart, and now the season is pretty much down the drain as they travel to Green Bay with a 2-4 record," Gagnon said. "The WFT must make big changes next offseason, especially if that young defensive front doesn't get it together this year."

26. Atlanta Falcons (2-3)

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Last Week: 27

    Week 6 Result: Bye week

    Not a lot has gone right for the Atlanta Falcons over the first six weeks of the 2021 season...except the play of running back Cordarrelle Patterson.

    For most of his professional career, Patterson was a dangerous kick returner and part-time wide receiver. His career high in receiving yards was 469 as a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings in 2013. Since then, Patterson is with his fifth different team, has made multiple Pro Bowls as a returner—and has had little offensive impact.

    Now, however, Patterson has experienced a rebirth as a "tweener" who plays both running back and wideout in Atlanta. His 25 receptions for 295 yards puts him on pace for career highs in both categories. So do his 41 carries for 173 yards on the ground. And his five total touchdowns.

    Per Nick Shook of NFL.com, Patterson has been quite possibly the most impressive thing about a less-than-impressive start to the season in Atlanta.

    "Matt Ryan hasn't been afraid to target Patterson no matter where he lines up, throwing four touchdown passes to him in their first five games together, including a three-touchdown outing in a high-flying loss to Washington in Week 4," he said. "The Falcons have a ways to go in terms of improving their roster, but the former first-round pick's contributions in his age-30 season have made this team an exciting watch on a weekly basis."

25. Miami Dolphins (1-5)

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    Last Week: 25

    Week 6 Result: Lost vs. Jacksonville 23-20 (London)

    The good news for the Miami Dolphins is that in his return from injured reserve, second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    The bad news for the Dolphins is everything else.

    Despite outgaining the Jaguars and converting over half of their third-down attempts, the Dolphins have now lost five in a row after falling on a last-second field goal to a Jags team that hadn't won a game since Week 1—of last season.

    While speaking to reporters after the game, a clearly dejected Brian Flores put himself on blast.

    "I'm not doing a good enough job," Flores said. "Not playing consistently enough. Not coaching well enough. Not playing well enough. And not playing consistent enough. Some positive plays. Consistent ball—first half, a little bit in the second half but we're just not putting it together. That starts with me."

    It's hard to believe these are the same Dolphins that entered the season with legitimate playoff aspirations after a 10-win 2020 season.

    Now aspiration has turned to desperation.

24. Philadelphia Eagles (2-4)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Last Week: 22

    Week 6 Result: Lost vs. Tampa Bay 28-22

    The Philadelphia Eagles are a hot mess offensively.

    After showing some signs of improvement over the first month of the 2021 season, second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts was terrible against the Buccaneers on Thursday night, completing just 12 of 26 passes for 115 yards. He had one interception and easily could have had three.

    The Eagles had 213 total yards and didn't surpass 100 yards of offense until the fourth quarter; Philly's two longest plays of the game were pass interference calls against the Buccaneers. In the first half, the Eagles ran one play in Tampa territory.

    Still, for as badly as Hurts played Thursday, Davenport thinks the Eagles may have an even bigger problem.

    "Nick Sirianni is making a very compelling case for the title of the NFL's worst head coach," he said. "The offensive play-calling is just horrendous. Sirianni completely forgot Miles Sanders was on the team until the final quarter, and all he seems to want to run are RPOs and bubble screens. I've seen more offensive creativity from the staff at Pickerington Central—and that's a high school in suburban Columbus. Ohio."

23. Indianapolis Colts (2-4)

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Last Week: 24

    Week 6 Result: Won vs. Houston 31-3

    There hasn't been much for fans of the Indianapolis Colts to cheer about in 2021, including a soul-crushing overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5.

    There were finally some smiles in Week 6.

    Most came courtesy of a 31-3 drubbing of the Houston Texans at home. Quarterback Carson Wentz was efficient, passing for 223 yards and two scores. Running back Jonathan Taylor had another monster game, rushing for 145 yards and two touchdowns while averaging over 10 yards a carry. The Colts also got wide receiver T.Y. Hilton back, who caught all four of his targets for 80 yards.

    One win over a bad team won't fix all that ails the 2-4 Colts, but head coach Frank Reich told reporters that it still felt good to roll for once.

    "We had to feel what it feels like to win this way," coach Frank Reich said. "Defensively, getting turnovers. Offensively, getting those chunk plays, and special teams playing solid. It was a good step, but we know we've got to get a lot better."

    As bad as the Colts have been, the team is still in second place in a weak AFC South. And with the first-place Titans coming to town on Halloween, turning the season around remains a possibility.

22. Minnesota Vikings (3-3)

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Last Week: 23

    Week 6 Result: Won at Carolina 34-28 (OT)

    It hasn't been an especially attractive start to the season for the Minnesota Vikings. But after outlasting the Carolina Panthers in overtime in Week 6, the Vikings have rebounded from a 1-3 start to get back to .500 and in a tie for second place in the NFC North.

    The engine for Sunday's win was a Vikings offense that piled up a whopping 571 yards. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 373 yards and three scores, while running back Dalvin Cook gouged the Panthers for 140 yards on 29 carries.

    Head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters after the game that he thought the latter played a big part in the former's success against the Panthers.

    "I thought we stuck with [the running game] a little bit better," Zimmer said. "We ran the ball some, we hit a couple play-actions off the boots. That was big, so we got some big plays off of that. They were really closing in hard on the running game, trying to catch us on the back side on some of the zone plays."

    It was an impressive offensive effort, and the Minnesota defense played one of its better games of the year heading into the bye week. But there's still plenty to tighten up over the off week. The Vikes face a brutal four-game gauntlet (Dallas, at Baltimore, at the Chargers, Green Bay) when the team returns to action in two weeks.

21. Chicago Bears (3-3)

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Last Week: 20

    Week 6 Result: Lost vs. Green Bay 24-14

    For the Chicago Bears, all that matters in the moment is that the team lost at home to the rival Packers in Week 6 to fall two games back in the NFC North.

    But the reality is that these Bears weren't going to challenge the Packers in the division anyway. The odds that Chicago can even back into the playoffs a la last season aren't especially good. This season is as much about the future as the present in the Windy City.

    And in that regard, there were some positive signs against Green Bay.

    Justin Fields still has a ways to go in his development. But there were signs of progress in his effort against Green Bay: 16 completions in 27 attempts for 174 yards. There were bumps as well—a terrible decision that resulted in an interception and four more sacks allowed.

    But Chicago got an impressive performance from sixth-round rookie running back Khalil Herbert, who tallied 112 total yards and a score on 21 touches.

    "Aaron Rodgers might own the Chicago Bears, but the latter is slowly discovering itself with Fields and fellow rookie Herbert in the backfield," Sobleski said. "Right now, the Bears aren't ready to compete with the NFC's best, which the Packers certainly are. But as the season progresses and those young players get more comfortable and gain more confidence, the Bears will be difficult to handle. The record won't show it, but there are things to be excited about in Chicago."

20. Seattle Seahawks (2-4)

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Last Week: 19

    Week 6 Result: Lost 23-20 at Pittsburgh (OT)

    The Seattle Seahawks are done. Finished. The 2021 season is a lost one.

    That might seem a harsh thing to say about a team six weeks into the year. But the Seahawks aren't like the other teams toward the bottom of these power rankings. Or at least they weren't supposed to be. This was a team that was supposed to contend for the top spot in the NFL's toughest division. To challenge for a trip to Super Bowl LVI.

    That's not happening.

    It's not just a matter of Seattle's 2-4 record after falling to the Steelers in overtime Sunday night, although given Arizona's 6-0 start, the hole Seattle's in might as well be the Mariana Trench.

    Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Chris Carson are on injured reserve and won't be back for at least a few weeks. The Seattle defense (as it so often has been in recent years) is a sieve. And with the Rams and Cardinals rolling, Seattle is buried in its own division.

    Oh, and three of the team's next four games are against squads with winning records.

    The Seahawks are toast.

19. San Francisco 49ers (2-3)

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Last Week: 17

    Week 6 Result: Bye week

    After three straight losses, the San Francisco 49ers face a boatload of questions coming out of the bye week. There's no question what the biggest one is…

    Who will be the starting quarterback when the Niners host the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7?

    There is no shortage of people who believe that Trey Lance showed enough against Arizona in Week 5 to earn another start. But while appearing on KNBR 680's Papa & Lund Show, (per Marc Delucchi of Niners Nation), former San Francisco tackle Joe Staley said he believes the team should turn back to veteran Jimmy Garoppolo.

    "I think when you look at the quarterback situation, you know what you're going to get out of Jimmy," he said. "He has the understanding of the offense, and I think he does probably give this team the best opportunity to consistently win games throughout the whole entire year because of the understanding of where to go with the football."

    Given head coach Kyle Shanahan's comments most of the season, provided he's healthy, it will probably be Garoppolo.

    But the veteran's leash certainly should be short.

18. Denver Broncos (3-3)

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Last Week: 15

    Week 6 Result: Lost vs. Las Vegas 34-24 

    Remember when the Denver Broncos were 3-0?

    Yeah, that's getting harder and harder to do.

    Those three wins against terrible teams seem like a million years ago. Since then, the level of opposition has increased, and Denver's fortunes have gone south in a hurry.

    It's not especially difficult to pinpoint why the Broncos lost to the Raiders on Sunday. The team was something of a mess on both sides of the ball. On offense, the Broncos turned it over four times, including three Teddy Bridgewater interceptions. On defense, the team had little answer for the Raiders, allowing 426 yards of offense and 340 yards through the air.

    "Thursday's matchup in Cleveland between the Browns and Broncos has gone from a battle of playoff contenders to a duel of desperation between two teams trying to remain relevant in their respective divisions," Davenport said. "If the Broncos have an edge there, it's that their team hasn't been ravaged by injuries on both sides of the ball. But that won't matter if the team is as sloppy with the football as it was against Vegas."

17. Carolina Panthers (3-3)

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    Last Week: 12

    Week 6 Result: Lost vs. Minnesota 34-28 (OT)

    The Carolina Panthers are struggling.

    After roaring out of the gate with three straight victories to open the season, the Panthers have dropped three in a row after falling in overtime to the Vikings in Week 6.

    With running back Christian McCaffrey on the shelf, more offensive pressure has been placed on quarterback Sam Darnold of late. The results haven't been pretty: Darnold completed just 17 of 41 passes against Minnesota with a passer rating of 55.6. The offensive struggles have left Carolina's defense on the field more, and an exhausted Panthers D was carved up in Week 6 to the tune of 571 yards allowed.

    Panthers head coach Matt Rhule told reporters that he's aware the offense needs to improve substantially.

    "Again, I think we had a plan," Rhule added. "I think we felt good about it. Obviously, today, it didn't look very good at times. We're just gonna continue to evolve and try to get better."

    Darnold's bad game against Minnesota wasn't solely his fault. Panthers receivers dropped a number of passes that hit them in the hands. But there have been enough flashbacks of the Darnold who struggled so badly in New York over the past few weeks to ratchet up the concern level in Charlotte.

16. New England Patriots (2-4)

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Last Week: 16

    Week 6 Result: Lost vs. Dallas 35-29 (OT) 

    The New England Patriots hold a title that no team wants: This is probably the best 2-4 team in the AFC, if not the entire NFL.

    Just as was the case back in Week 4 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Pats played well enough Sunday to give a one-loss Dallas Cowboys team all it could handle. And just like in Week 4, New England wasn't quite able to seal the deal.

    "We went toe-to-toe with them for 60 minutes," head coach Bill Belichick told reporters after the game. "They just made a few more plays than we did."

    "The Patriots should be able to get back to within a game of .500 next week against the hapless Jets," Davenport said. "But then comes the stretch that will define their 2021 season. Beating the Chargers in Los Angeles will be a tall order, but these Pats are capable of taking down flawed Panthers and Browns teams the two weeks after that, and they're certainly capable of beating the Falcons in Week 11. If New England can start closing some teams out and come out of that game at 6-5, the postseason could be back in play."

15. Las Vegas Raiders (4-2)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Last Week: 18

    Week 6 Result: Won at Denver 34-24

    It has been quite the tumultuous stretch for the Las Vegas Raiders. After winning three in a row to start the season, the Raiders dropped two straight. Then head coach Jon Gruden resigned after multiple emails surfaced in which he used included racist, anti-gay and misogynistic language.

    It would have been understandable given all the chaos if the Raiders weren't at their best Sunday in Denver. Instead, the opposite happened. The team rallied around interim head coach Rich Bisaccia and downed the Broncos in a game that wasn't as close as the final score.

    It was a contest dominated by Las Vegas on both sides of the ball. Derek Carr threw for 341 yards and two scores, while the Raiders defense picked off Teddy Bridgewater three times and sacked him five times.

    It was an impressive effort, one that got Gagnon's attention.

    "Maybe, just maybe, the Raiders will be galvanized by the Gruden fiasco," he said. "They looked inspired on the road in Denver under tough circumstances. They have a chance to become one of the best stories of the 2021 season, and they're totally in the mix now. With the Eagles and Giants on deck, they could easily make this a 6-2 start."

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3)

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Last Week: 21

    Week 6 Result: Won 23-20 vs. Seattle (OT)

    This Halloween, the Pittsburgh Steelers are doing their best impersonation of Jason Voorhees.

    The team just won't die.

    They aren't tallying many style points in the process, but after back-to-back wins over Denver and Seattle, the Steelers are a .500 team heading into the bye. That it took overtime to beat a Seattle team led by Geno "He's Still in the NFL?" Smith isn't especially encouraging, but a win is a win, and now Pittsburgh will have what its next opponent (Cleveland) would give its right arm for: a week off to rest.

    Still, while Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt and the Steelers are staying within shouting distance of the Ravens in the AFC North, Sobleski isn't ready to buy Pittsburgh as more than an also-ran.

    "Somehow, the Steelers worked their way back to a .500 record despite Roethlisberger's declining play, a weak offensive front and a defense that allows opponents to regularly move the ball," he wrote. "Currently, Pittsburgh fits the very definition of mediocrity. With the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens after the team's bye, it's easy to see this squad simply treading water going into the final month of the season."

13. Cleveland Browns (3-3)

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Last Week: 9

    Week 6 Result: Lost vs. Arizona 37-14 

    Here we go again in Cleveland.

    It's not just a matter of getting stomped at home by the Arizona Cardinals in a game in which Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield turned it over three times while Cardinals counterpart Kyler Murray threw four touchdown passes.

    That was bad enough. But there's more.

    Mayfield was already playing with a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder, and per Ben Axelrod of WKYC 3News, he dislocated that same shoulder in the loss. Mayfield said he expects to play through that injury, but the same can't be said about running back Kareem Hunt, whom head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters is "likely" headed to injured reserve.

    With star running back Nick Chubb already on the shelf with a calf injury, Hunt was carried and then carted from the field in the second half with one of his own. With the Browns playing on a short turnaround against Denver on Thursday night, it's entirely possible Cleveland will be without its top two running backs as the team tries to avoid falling even further behind the rolling Ravens in the AFC North.

12. New Orleans Saints (3-2)

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    Last Week: 14

    Week 6 Result: Bye week

    There has been no shortage of things written about Jameis Winston since he was taken first overall in 2015—both good and bad. Pundits have lauded his cannon of an arm and decried his penchant for tossing interceptions.

    But not enough is being written about how well Winston is playing in his first season as the starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints.

    Yes, there have been interceptions. Three of them. And Winston's completion percentage (60.3) isn't especially high. But the 27-year-old has thrown four times as many touchdowns as interceptions so far this season. His passer rating of 108.1 is easily a career high. The wide receivers that Winston has thrown to are not an especially imposing bunch. And the Saints hit the bye above .500 and within striking distance of the division-leading Buccaneers.

    It won't take long to find out whether Winston's Saints are a threat to Brady's Buccaneers. After playing the injury-ravaged Seahawks in Week 7, New Orleans hosts Tampa Bay on Halloween.

11. Tennessee Titans (4-2)

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Last Week: 13

    Week 6 Result: Won vs. Buffalo 34-31

    If the Tennessee Titans make any noise in the 2021 playoffs, the team will likely look back to a wild Week 6 win over the favored Bills as the genesis of their positive momentum.

    Granted, the Titans entered the game at 3-2 and in first place in the AFC South, but this wasn't a team that was being talked up as a contender in the AFC. This was a team that lost to the Jets. The defense was bad. The offense was one-dimensional. 

    Of course, when that one dimension is Derrick Henry, that's not so bad.

    The Titans also could easily have lost this game. Sean McDermott's decision to go for it on 4th-and-inches with less than a minute left rather than kick a chip-shot field goal to force overtime handed the contest to Tennessee.

    But the Titans finished the game with more points than the red-hot Bills. Made that fourth-down stop. Matched a Bills team that spanked the Chiefs in Kansas City last week blow for blow.

    That makes Tennessee quite possibly the biggest winners of them all in Week 6.

10. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Last Week: 11

    Week 6 Result: Won at Detroit 34-11

    We don't mean to alarm you, but something rather bizarre is going on in the NFL.

    The Cincinnati Bengals might be good.

    All the offseason talk in Ohio centered on the Bengals' neighbors to the north. But after blasting the hapless Lions in Detroit, it's Cincinnati that possesses the better record six weeks into the season.

    On offense, the Joe Burrow-to-Ja'Marr Chase connection looks as dangerous as it did in their LSU days. Joe Mixon torched the Detroit defense for over 150 total yards. And Cincinnati's defense continues to exceed expectations, holding the Lions to just 228 yards of offense.

    To be fair, the Bengals haven’t exactly faced the stoutest of opponents; Cincinnati hasn't beaten a team with a winning record this season. That will change next week when the Bengals travel to face Lamar Jackson and the AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens.

    Find a way to win that game, and the Bengals could be in first place in the division seven weeks in...just like exactly zero people expected.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2)

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    Last Week: 5

    Week 6 Result: Lost at Baltimore 34-6

    The Los Angeles Chargers came into Week 6 looking to make a statement by beating the 4-1 Ravens in Baltimore.

    Instead, the only statement the Bolts made was "ouch."

    From the opening kickoff to the final play, the Chargers were dominated on both sides of the ball. Los Angeles only had 21 yards more total than the Ravens amassed just on the ground.

    While speaking to reporters after the game, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert admitted the team had no answer for what the Ravens did defensively.

    "It's a lot of looks that we didn't see on film that they kind of constructed for us," Herbert said. "They did a great job of disguising their looks and bringing pressure from one way and hiding from another. Looks that they haven't showed all season, looks that we have to be better at adjusting to during a game."

    It was a sobering comedown for a Chargers team that had been cruising of late. The Chargers will have two weeks to think about what went wrong (and rest injured players like wide receiver Mike Williams and linebacker Drue Tranquill) ahead of a Halloween matchup with the New England Patriots.

8. Kansas City Chiefs (3-3)

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    Last Week: 10

    Week 6 Result: Won at Washington 31-13 

    At first glance, Sunday's 31-13 win by the Kansas City Chiefs would appear to be just the sort of emphatic victory they needed after getting drilled by the Buffalo Bills in Week 5.

    In some respects, it was. Running back Darrel Williams scored two touchdowns in relief of the injured Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Patrick Mahomes threw for 397 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

    But Mahomes also tossed two more interceptions, and Kansas City's three turnovers gave the team 14 giveaways for the season, most in the NFL.

    Head coach Andy Reid told reporters after the game that the team has to clean that aspect of their game up.

    "We got to get out of this cycle," Reid said. "I'm not sure I've been around quite this many, but we're here, so it needs to change. But we were heading the right direction that second half."

    "The Chiefs are a dangerous team," Davenport said, "and the offense is as good as any in the NFL. But between a defense that struggles to make stops and Kansas City's penchant for turning the ball over so far this season, this is a team with issues that need to be fixed if the Chiefs are going to three-peat as AFC champions."

    "Rumors of the Chiefs' demise were greatly exaggerated," Sobleski countered. "Does Kansas City have issues on defense? Yes. Has Patrick Mahomes made more mistakes than usual this season? Also yes. At the same time, the Chiefs still feature the game's second-ranked offense after a 506-yard effort Sunday against the Washington Football Team. Reid's squad may not be as well-rounded as the previous two seasons, but it's still quite dangerous."

7. Green Bay Packers (5-1)

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Last Week: 8

    Week 6 Result: Won at Chicago 24-14

    With each successive week, the Green Bay Packers put their blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints further and further into the rear-view mirror.

    Granted, Sunday's win over the rival Bears wasn't the prettiest of victories. Aaron Rodgers threw for less than 200 yards, and the Packers were just 2-of-8 on third down. But the Green Bay defense limited the Bears to only 277 yards of offense and Rodgers, Aaron Jones and Davante Adams made enough plays to leave Soldier Field with a 10-point win.

    In beating the Bears, the Packers opened up a two-game lead on Chicago and Minnesota in the NFC North and established themselves as a runaway favorite to win the division. But at least one of our analysts is still a little skeptical of the team's chances of a deep playoff run.

    "Any team led by Rodgers is going to be a tough out in the playoffs," Davenport said. "But these Packers aren't especially explosive offensively or intimidating defensively. Until I see them beat a team like the Cardinals or Rams, they're a tier below those NFC West squads in my mind. They'll have a chance to make me reconsider that, though. Over the next six games, they face both those NFC powerhouses and the Kansas City Chiefs."

6. Dallas Cowboys (5-1)

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Last Week: 6

    Week 6 Result: Won at New England 35-29 (OT)

    The Dallas Cowboys are running away with the NFC East.

    After outlasting the Patriots in New England in Week 6, the Cowboys are already just one win off last season's total. The offense is rolling both on the ground and through the air. The defense has shown significant improvement, with cornerback Trevon Diggs emerging as an early Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

    But the team heads into the bye week with more than a little anxiety after quarterback Dak Prescott injured his calf on the final play of Sunday's win. Prescott was in a walking boot after the game, but he told reporters he expects to be fine.

    "Life keeps throwing punches, and I'm going to keep throwing them back," said Prescott. "It's a part of it. It's part of this game. It's a physical game we play. I'll be fine. I've got a lot of confidence in myself, the medical team. I feel good. Obviously, [the boot] is a precaution."

    The Cowboys have Week 7 off to get their star quarterback right. But there will be a lot of breath-holding in Big D until Prescott is back out there slinging it.

5. Baltimore Ravens (5-1)

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Last Week: 7

    Week 6 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Chargers 34-6

    The marquee matchup of Sunday's early slate was a matchup between two 4-1 teams in Baltimore. The Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers were both attempting to stake a claim as the top team in the AFC.

    The home team staked something, all right: the Bolts. Right through the heart.

    Playing against a Chargers offense that dropped 47 points on the Cleveland Browns a week ago, the Ravens were absolutely dominant defensively. Baltimore allowed just 208 yards of offense and six points. Los Angeles managed just 26 yards on the ground and converted just three third downs in 12 attempts.

    Offensively, the Ravens were a juggernaut on the ground, racking up 187 yards on 38 attempts. Three different Ravens backs scored touchdowns.

    "That the Ravens were able to destroy the Chargers in a game where Lamar Jackson didn't play especially well should scare the bejeezus out of the rest of the AFC," Davenport said. "With the Browns an injury-ravaged mess and the Bengals next up on the schedule, the Ravens have a golden opportunity to put a stranglehold on the AFC North."

    "The Ravens are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to destroying inferior opponents, but nobody expected them to hammer the talented Los Angeles Chargers like that," Gagnon added. "This team is really coming together following a killer defensive performance from that new-look unit. They can make a huge statement against the division-rival Bengals next week."

4. Buffalo Bills (4-2)

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Last Week: 3

    Week 6 Result: Lost at Tennessee 34-31

    Wonder what they'll be talking about on the radio in Buffalo on Monday?

    Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott's decision to eschew a short field goal and overtime for a Josh Allen sneak (that was unsuccessful) late in Monday night's tilt in Nashville will be dissected. Criticized. Bemoaned, even.

    It's not why the Bills lost the game.

    The Bills lost because they had no answer for Derrick Henry, who rolled for 143 yards and three touchdowns. The Bills lost because a defense that had been playing lights-out allowed the Titans to score on six consecutive drives (not counting a one-play "drive" at the end of the first half).

    Maybe it was a bit of a letdown after last week's massive win in Kansas City. Looking ahead a bit to next week's bye. Or maybe the Bills just caught an angry Titans team that wanted to send a message.

    Whatever the reason, the Bills now have two weeks to think about what went wrong. And to remedy it.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-1)

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    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    Last Week: 4

    Week 6 Result: Won at Philadelphia 28-22 

    Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady had another efficient game against the Eagles on Thursday night, extending his record as the NFL's all-time leading passer with 297 yards and two scores. When asked by Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer of Amazon Prime Video how much longer we might see the 44-year old under center, he said not to plan for a retirement party any time soon.

    "I really think I can play as long as I want," Brady said, via CBS Sports. "I could literally play until I'm 50 or 55 if I wanted to. I don't think I will obviously … my physical body won't be the problem. I think it'll just be, I'm missing too much of my life with my family."


    Cue about 30 defensive coordinators throwing up.

    There's no question that Tampa's offense is firing on all cylinders, especially with running back Leonard Fournette on a hot streak the past couple of games. But the defense continues to be ravaged by injuries, with Richard Sherman the millionth (approximately) team cornerback to get hurt.

    If you played the position in Pop Warner and have delusions of winning a Super Bowl ring, give the Bucs a call.

2. Los Angeles Rams (5-1)

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Last Week: 2

    Week 6 Result: Won at New York Giants 38-11

    Fun fact: Sean McVay's Los Angeles Rams have never lost a game when leading at halftime.

    That streak wasn't about to end Sunday against a completely overmatched New York Giants team.

    This was a game where the Rams did just about anything they wanted offensively. Matthew Stafford had only two more incompletions in Week 6 (six) than touchdown passes (four). Two of those scoring strikes went to wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who piled up 130 receiving yards. Running back Darrell Henderson racked up 107 total yards and two touchdowns of his own.

    Defensively, the Rams put the clamps on Daniel Jones and the Giants. Much of New York's 261 yards of offense came with the game completely out of hand. L.A. forced four turnovers and didn't let the Giants into the end zone until garbage time.

    It was the first of a trio of eminently winnable games for the Rams, who host Detroit next week before heading to Houston to pound the Texans.

    If the Rams aren't 7-1 when the Titans come to town on November 7, it will be a massive upset, and they probably won't be an underdog again until visiting Lambeau Field on November 28.

1. Arizona Cardinals (6-0)

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Last Week: 1

    Week 6 Result: Won at Cleveland 37-14

    The Arizona Cardinals headed to Cleveland in Week 6 with a coaching staff depleted by COVID-19 and a roster depleted by injuries.

    Neither mattered even a little.

    Facing a quality opponent on the road, Arizona absolutely blasted the Browns. Offensively, the Redbirds converted eight of 15 third downs and got four touchdown passes from quarterback Kyler Murray. Defensively, the Cardinals allowed just 290 total yards, punished Baker Mayfield for five sacks and forced three turnovers.

    It was a statement win in every sense, and with a home date with the one-win Texans up next, it's likely that the Cardinals will be 7-0 for the second time in franchise history when they welcome in Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night in Week 8.

    "The Cardinals just won a contest where the team didn't have head coach Kliff Kingsbury, quarterbacks coach Cam Turner, outside linebacker Chandler Jones or defensive linemen Zach Allen and Corey Peters because they were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list," Sobleski said. "Also, the organization designed center Rodney Hudson to injured reserve earlier in the week. Yet Kyler Murray and Co. still throttled the Cleveland Browns and improved to 6-0. These Cards are for real."


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