NFL Power Rankings: Week 6

NFL Power Rankings
James P. McCoy – The Buffalo News

The NFL power rankings are always a fun exercise. Drama reigns supreme in the 2021 NFL season. You really can’t tell what some teams are going to do on a week-to-week basis. And even beyond the results, some of these games are simply fascinating. The New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans made the biggest jump in the rankings this week at 3 spots. The Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders look like identical teams and have an identical 4-point drop in the rankings. Let’s dig into it.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5)

Last week: 30

I thought the Jaguars were showing some progress with close games against the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals. But, after the Bengals game head coach Urban Meyer became a massive distraction, embroiling himself in controversy.

Not only was he caught on camera letting a young woman who was not his wife grind on him at a bar. But, it was his own bar in Columbus with a picture of him and his wife on the bar, and he handled the situation like a naughty first grader who just got caught throwing rocks at windows.

His players no longer respect him, he’s lost the confidence of the fanbase, he seems to have lost the confidence of ownership, AND they just got smacked 37-19 by the division rival Tennessee Titans. The Jags are in free fall.

31. Houston Texans (1-4)

Last Week: 32

The Texans did a few things worthy of inspiring the faintest hint of promise this week. First of all, not laying a stinker amid a media firestorm and an inferno of controversy like the Jaguars helps. Second of all, Davis Mills turned in an extremely efficient game against the New England Patriots. They weren’t able to hold on to a 22-9 lead early in the third quarter. But, getting there in the first place shows a bit of progress.

30. New York Jets (1-4)

Last Week: 29

The New York Jets very nearly pulled off a second win in a row this week against the always hilarious Atlanta Falcons. Unfortunately, they had no answer for Matt Ryan and Kyle Pitts and put themselves in a position where they needed to recover an onside kick to win the game. Zach Wilson is still struggling to show why the Jets selected him with the No. 2 overall pick. But, they feel a lot closer to some form of relevancy right now than they did after their 0-3 start.

29. Detroit Lions (0-5)

Last Week: 31

Dan Campbell is a hell of a coach. His passion was evident after the Lions’ last-second loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, this is a bad football team. That was evident when they couldn’t accomplish much of anything through 56 minutes of game time. Jared Goff is a limited quarterback who shows flashes from time to time, but on the whole is holding the Lions back from any sort of real success.

28. New York Giants (1-4)

Last Week: 27

Ouch. The Cowboys have been embarrassing a lot of teams lately, but it’s never fun when it’s your turn. In addition to getting blown out against a division rival, the Giants lost Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, and Kenny Golladay to injuries. Hey at least Kadarius Toney finally looks worth that first round pick.

27. Miami Dolphins (1-4)

Last Week: 26

Hopefully Tua Tagovailoa is back this coming week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But, it’s not going to matter much if the Dolphins keep putting… well… THAT around him. Truth be told, Jacoby Brissett has performed fairly well in Tua’s place. Yeah, he threw a garbage time interception and fumbled the ball late in the first half. But, the real problems for this team are a porous defense and an even worse offensive line. The way this team is trending, I could see them pushing the 30s by the end of the season.

26. Atlanta Falcons (2-3)

Last Week: 28

Those Falcons almost did it again! They put up a strong first half performance against the New York Jets and somehow forgot to continue playing football through the rest of the game. To their credit, they finally managed to (barely) hold onto a lead in the fourth quarter. But, it came against the lowly Jets. So, did you really win?

25. Washington Football Team (2-3)

Last Week: 22

I’ll give WFT this – Taylor Heinicke is fascinating to watch. He scrambles all over the field, knows how to put a drive together, and generally looks like a solid option most of the time. That is, until he starts making mistakes. The Washington Football Team had a genuine chance to be competitive this week against the Saints. But, Heinicke threw a bone headed interception just shy of the endzone on an opportunity for a touchdown. He threw another bad one on their own 26 with only a 4-point margin between the teams. You just can’t win with that.

24. Indianapolis Colts (1-4)

Last Week: 21

Tough break for the Colts. They outplayed the Ravens for the majority of the Monday Night Football game, but fell apart in the fourth quarter. If that wasn’t bad enough, Carson Wentz still managed to drive them down the field for the game winning field goal kick. But, Rodrigo Blankenship pushed it wide left from 47 yards. The Ravens’ offense was on a roll at that point, and they won the coin toss. It was pretty much a wrap from there.

23. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)

Last Week: 25

From a neutral perspective, the Panthers and Eagles played an ugly game. From an Eagles fan’s perspective, you’re happy to return near .500. And, doing it against a team many recently considered to be one of the best teams in the NFL. However, that blocked punt at the end of the game perfectly encapsulates just the kind of craziness that needs to happen for the Eagles to look competitive right now.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3)

Last Week: 24

The Steelers finally looked like a competent team this week against a struggling Denver Broncos. Ben Roethlisberger played unspectacular, but mistake-free football. Najee Harris finally looked like the force on the ground the Steelers needed him to be. Losing JuJu Smith-Schuster for the rest of the season hurts too. The result wasn’t certain through the vast majority of the game, but they came away with the win at the end and that’s what matters.

21. Las Vegas Raiders (3-2)

Last Week: 14

I thought the Broncos were the biggest pretenders in the NFL. Boy was I wrong. The Raiders’ sloppiness has been there all season and is starting to get in their way. Their inability to get the two yards necessary for two points after their lone touchdown of the Chargers game exemplifies just how bad this team was at running the ball this week. Then there’s the coaching issue. Four years into a 10-year contract, head coach Jon Gruden is now gone. We don’t need to talk about the controversial aspects of that in this article. But, it is devastating from a football perspective. The Raiders’ season could very well fall off a cliff after this.

20. New England Patriots (2-3)

Last Week: 20

To be clear: the reason why I’m moving the Patriots down a spot is because I wasn’t all that impressed by their win, and teams around them are moving quite a bit. The Patriots looked dead in the water most of this game until a late rally beginning in the middle of the third quarter sparked a last-minute comeback. It was finished off by Nick Folk kicking the go-ahead field goal with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter. It’s good for Patriots fans, who were staring 1-4 in the face. But, I see more of the ugly side of this one.

19. Denver Broncos (3-2)

Last Week: 15

After being pulverized by the Ravens last week, I called the Broncos pretenders. I’m going to go ahead and double down on that statement this week. They managed to avoid being completely embarrassed this week against a downtrodden Steelers team. But, they showed massive signs of weakness. Like Roethlisberger, Teddy Bridgewater was mostly serviceable if unspectacular this week. He didn’t make too many mistakes until an absolutely gut wrenching interception with 11 seconds left in the game killed any hopes the Broncos had of tying the game and sending it to overtime. It wasn’t even a fluke thing, it was just an awful throw and the Broncos finish things out looking like the biggest pretenders after a promising 3-0 start.

18. Chicago Bears (3-2)

Last Week: 23

You have to give credit to the Bears. Despite all the drama surrounding Matt Nagy’s decision making and Justin Fields’ development, they’ve won three of their last four games. Wins over the Bengals and Lions weren’t exactly easy, but it looked pretty easy against the Raiders this week. Keep an eye on this Bears team. They could sneak their way into the playoff picture if you take your eye off of them.

17. San Francisco 49ers (2-3)

Last Week: 16

Trey Lance didn’t look particularly comfortable in his first game as a starter. He couldn’t find the endzone, was sacked twice, and threw a costly interception on his first drive of the game. If he’s to save the quality of the 2021 rookie QB class, he’s going to need to perform much better going forward. But, I will give credit to the 49ers defense. They kept a high-flying Cardinals team to only 17 points this week. Put a decent offense on the field, and this team is a contender.

16. New Orleans Saints (3-2)

Last Week: 19

I’m really starting to get sick of your antics, Saints. Particularly you – Winston. Can you make up your mind if you’re good or not? The Saints looked like a very good football team this week. The defense allowed 373 yards, but only two touchdowns. One of which came late in the fourth quarter when it would have taken a miracle for Washington to come up with the win. Jameis threw for four touchdowns and only one interception. I wonder how they’ll lose next week?

15. Seattle Seahawks (2-3)

Last Week: 13

Russell Wilson’s doctors allegedly believe he has a realistic chance to return to the lineup in four weeks. That’s huge, because I’d have to push this team down farther if they were planning on playing Geno Smith all season. He was good enough to engineer a comeback, but he still did Geno Smith things at the end by killing it with an interception.

14. Minnesota Vikings (2-3)

Last Week: 17

Barely beating the Detroit Lions isn’t necessarily worth jumping three points in the NFL power rankings. However, contextually, the Minnesota Vikings are starting to turn things around. Don’t forget, this is the same team that is literally only a handful of traditionally low-impact plays away from being 5-0 right now.

13. Tennessee Titans (3-2)

Last Week: 18

Derrick Henry. That’s all I really need to say about the Titans. In fairness to Ryan Tannehill, he was very efficient. He even threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter! But, let’s be honest. This game was about Derrick Henry going OFF for 130 yards and 18 of the Titans’ 24 offensive points. It’s just the Jaguars, but Derrick Henry stepping on the scene is never good for the rest of the NFL.

12. Carolina Panthers (3-2)

Last Week: 11

I’m not ready to leave the Panthers behind just yet, but getting beaten by a struggling Eagles team just isn’t a good look. It’s even worse when you see Sam Darnold getting sacked three times and throwing three interceptions. Are the ghosts returning? Let’s see how they do against the Vikings next week.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)

Last Week: 12

Barely losing a strange game against the very good Green Bay Packers is not something to be terribly worried about. The season is still early and the Bengals showed a lot of fight against a Super Bowl contender. The Bengals can still make an impression with the Ravens and Browns making up two of their next four games. But, if they want to be a top-10 team, they’ll need to figure out more ways to spark the offense beyond simply chucking it deep to Ja’Marr Chase.

10. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3)

Last Week: 10

It seems kind of nuts to me to have a sub .500 team in the top 10 of the NFL power rankings. But, we all know what the Chiefs are capable of when they catch fire. Their three losses (Ravens, Chargers, Bills) have all come against teams ranked higher than them in these power rankings. Not to mention, one of their wins also came against one of those teams (Browns). I have a feeling they’ll get it turned around sooner or later, but they might fall out of the top 10 with another lackluster performance against Washington this week.

9. Cleveland Browns (3-2)

Last Week: 7

I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why people are blaming Baker Mayfield for this loss. What more do you want from him? He threw for over 300 yards, two touchdowns, only took one sack, and was extremely efficient all night. If the Browns didn’t have such a scary backfield, he probably would have thrown for more touchdowns. The defense isn’t quite ready to stop elite quarterbacks like Justin Herbert, but the Browns kept pace. They’re still a top-10 team in my eyes.

8. Baltimore Ravens (4-1)

Last Week: 9

The 1-4 Indianapolis Colts aren’t exactly a juggernaut, but you absolutely have to give it up to the Ravens for that comeback victory. Don’t get it twisted, though. I haven’t forgotten about the slow starts, and I haven’t forgotten that they lost to the Lions. Baltimore gets credit for climbing to 4-1 by climbing in the NFL power rankings, but I’m still skeptical if they can keep this up.

7. Green Bay Packers (4-1)

Last Week: 6

Credit where credit is due: The Packers survived two pivotal missed field goals by Mason Crosby and came out with a very weird win. But, this is a very injured football team. Hopefully Elgton Jenkins and Josh Meyers can return soon to put that offensive line back together. But, they’re still missing Jaire Alexander for a while. They’re still without Zadarius Smith for the rest of the season. When you have Aaron Rodgers you always have a chance, but they’re edging toward the fringes of the Super Bowl contenders.

6. Los Angeles Chargers (4-1)

Last Week: 8

If you’re still not convinced the Los Angeles Chargers are legit, I don’t know what more information you need. Justin Herbert was nearly perfect against the Browns throwing for just under 400 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. He got off to a bit of an up and down start this season, but the last three weeks he has been absolutely automatic. 

5. Los Angeles Rams (4-1)

Last Week: 5

The Los Angeles Rams, right now, are a team that feels like they have no holes. The only thing they’ve kind of struggled with this year is pass coverage, and even then they make up for it with well timed interceptions. That’s what they did as Geno Smith marched the Seahawks down the field this week. It was hard to stop the Geno train, but they pulled it off with their fifth pick of the season.

4. Dallas Cowboys (4-1)

Last Week: 4

I’m a sucker for a good ol’ deep pass by a wide receiver. That’s what we got from WR Cedric Wilson this week in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys were already in clear control of this football game. At that point, they were just showboating. But, it was still fun to watch nonetheless. I’m not sure if the Cowboys are benefiting from a weak division this year, but it sure didn’t help them last year. So they must also be really good.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-1)

Last Week: 3

Beating up on the poor Miami Dolphins just doesn’t seem fair. Tom Brady owned them for years in New England and now he’s moved about 200 miles northwest just to add insult to injury. The Bucs absolutely spanked them 45-17 in a game where Brady truly looked like a GOAT. Their only loss so far this season is to the Rams, but I’m confident they could win that game if they see them again in the playoffs.

2. Arizona Cardinals (5-0)

Last Week: 2

Another week, another No. 2 appearance for the only undefeated team left in football. I wasn’t terribly impressed by their 17-10 win over a struggling 49ers team. Kyler Murray was efficient but unspectacular, but their defense did look good against the rookie Trey Lance. I absolutely think they’re a dangerous team, I’m just not sure if they’re the MOST dangerous team.

1. Buffalo Bills (4-1)

Last Week: 1

The Bills ARE the most dangerous team in football right now. Josh Allen is playing lights out in the air, their ground rotation is lethal, and their defense is stifling. Week 1 is a weird stain on their season, considering the loss came to the struggling Steelers. But, I think we can safely say that game was a fluke. In the last four weeks, this Chiefs game was the only one remotely close. And they still won by 18 points.

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