NFL Power Rankings, Week 7: Patriots back; Raiders hit bottom

Print

The Patriots ascend, the Jags don't and the rest is history.

Before we get to all that, NFL history took two losses this week: Jim Taylor and Paul Allen.

Taylor, a former Packers great, passed away on Saturday. A Hall of Famer and one of the game's all-time power backs, Taylor retired as the NFL's third-best rusher all time and was a four-time champion while in Green Bay. His 1,474 yards in 1962 set a Packers franchise record that stood for over 40 years. To be clear, that came in a 14-game season. Prorate that (and his 19-touchdown total) over 16 games, and you're looking at a 1,685-yard season with 22 touchdowns -- as a fullback, when every team in the league knew Green Bay was running. That also happened to be the only year Jim Brown was bested for the league rushing title. While the "Golden Boy," Paul Hornung, was the more famous member of the backfield, and quarterback Bart Starr was the leader, Taylor was the sledgehammer, giving the vaunted Packers' sweep its teeth, a la Earl Campbell with the Houston Oilers and Marshawn Lynch with the Seahawks.

I had the good fortune of meeting Taylor and his wife some years ago in Canton. They couldn't have been a more courteous, classier couple. Often, I wish the NFL honored its fallen the way the MLB has. Players like Taylor were huge figures in the history of the game, and they should be regarded with as much pomp and circumstance as Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle and the like.

While I never met Paul Allen, I know this: The Seahawks would not be the Seahawks as we know them had he never owned the team. He took a franchise that had only been to the playoffs four times in 21 seasons and created both a management structure and organizational culture that pushed Seattle to the playoffs 12 times in the next 21 years. That stretch included the team's first Super Bowl appearance and first Super Bowl win. His fingerprints were on CenturyLink Field, which became one of the hardest places for visiting teams to play. And most importantly, as Seattle fans will tell you, without him, there may be no Seattle Seahawks anymore.

Now, on to your thoughts.

Dude, I don't remember tweets from last week.

Yeah, I am kind of seeing it like you.

The Rams are locked at the top, while you will see a new, baby-faced No. 2. Well, not exactly. Tom Brady did best the Chiefs and their kid wonder at quarterback, who move to three. As for the rest, see below. Your take is welcome: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

PROGRAMMING NOTE: For more in-depth analysis on the updated league pecking order, tune in to NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET for "The Power Rankings Show." Want to add YOUR voice? Provide your thoughts in a tweet to @HarrisonNFL or use the hashtag #NFLPowerRankings, and your comments could be featured on air.

RANK

1

RAMS (6-0)

Previous rank: No. 1

Jared Goff finally appeared mortal this season, and it didn't matter. Not when his tailback scootered his way to the second level of the defense consistently in Denver. Gurley padded an already-impressive season tally with 208 yards rushing and two touchdowns, pushing the Rams to a 6-0 start. Loved the locker room video after the game, with Sean McVay handing the football to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. You can watch that here. Bet you @SonOfBum enjoyed that sucker immensely. Bet you the Broncos wouldn't have sniffed Super Bowl 50 without him. Truth.

RANK

2

PATRIOTS (4-2)

2

Previous rank: No. 4

Good luck finding three-and-half hours that are more entertaining than Chiefs at Patriots. Much to glean from the 43-40 New England win -- yet, it's the minutiae that often sticks. Like Rob Gronkowski, for whom opposing defenses scheme every week, and who is now firmly at No. 2 among tight ends (behind only Travis Kelce), making the big catch-and-run to set up Stephen Gostkowski's game-winner. Remember, folks, Gronk has always been a much better blocker than Kelce. Then there's the Sony Michel/ James White concoction. Cris Collinsworth was correct in stating that it's a bit of a giveaway the Pats are planning on running the football when Michel is in the lineup. Still, White performs every aspect of his job so admirably that this might be the most effective committee in football right now. (Although Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara might challenge that notion soon. Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler have something to say here, too.) Last thought: New England might play suffocating defense near the red zone, but the Pats sure are vulnerable to the chunk play.

RANK

3

CHIEFS (5-1)

1

Previous rank: No. 2

By the time you finish reading the opening sentence of this Chiefs blurb, Tyreek Hill will have caught an underthrown ball on a post route, then headed for the corner and turned said corner in a manner we haven't seen since Bo. No, not Bo Scarbrough. That Bo. Kansas City went toe to toe with the Patriots in front of New England's nutso crowd, and Patrick Mahomes kept pace with Tom Brady and the New England offense. Yet, in the end, a suspect defense and the rulebook ruled the day. Breeland Speaks' non-sack of Brady was clearly a case of a pass rusher not wanting to get the Clay Matthews treatment from the officials. The sad part is, had Speaks tackled Brady, it would've been his second career sack -- and, quite possibly, it would have allowed K.C. to win the game.

RANK

4

SAINTS (4-1)

1

Previous rank: No. 3

The Saints headed into their Week 6 bye at the worst possible time. No team wants a week off when it is playing its best football. Drew Brees was clearly feeling it in Week 5, regularly tossing the football 5 yards ahead of Redskins defensive backs and into the waiting arms of loving New Orleans receivers. They were almost like timing patterns. Oh, there's a Washington DB, so my guy must be 20 feet ahead of him -- let me just throw the ball there. How about Mark Ingram, who waited four weeks to play, barely broke a sweat in Week 5, and then had a bye? Give him 30 carries in Week 7. New Orleans moves down only due to the Patriots leapfrogging the Chiefs.

RANK

5

VIKINGS (3-2-1)

4

Previous rank: No. 9

No, Kirk Cousins can't dance. Not unless you think Michael Madsen can really cut a rug. Cousins can throw the football, though, well enough to be paid every cent the Wilfs forked over to sign him. Oh, and Cousins can run for touchdowns, too. Even on a day that was far from Cousins' most prolific, with the passing game enduring a few hiccups, Minnesota converted five third downs against the Cardinals, while Arizona converted none. That's because the Vikes ran up and down the field, with 155 yards from Latavius Murray and 195 overall on just 32 carries. Six yards per, kids.

RANK

6

CHARGERS (4-2)

4

Previous rank: No. 10

Tyrell Williams out-jumped about seven Browns for that football in the end zone. Good grief. Even more noticeable in Los Angeles' win over Cleveland: Anthony Lynn's running game stockpiling yards -- 246 of them, when all was said and done. Such ample production must've made the former running backs coach proud. With the reeling Titans on the schedule this week and Joey Bosa expected to return after the Week 8 bye, the Chargers have an opportunity to close the gap on the Chiefs in the AFC West going forward. Either way, this is a playoff team.

RANK

7

RAVENS (4-2)

4

Previous rank: No. 11

Think about all the devastating Ravens defenses over the years, from the 2000 group that set records to the 2008 unit that pushed the team and its rookie quarterback to the brink of the Super Bowl. Neither of those teams ever posted 11 sacks in the game -- nor has any other unit in Ravens franchise history. Baltimore dominated the Titans. The offense scored twice early, and the game was over. Numbers: Tennessee gained 106 yards. Total. The Titans' running backs averaged 2.5 yards per carry. The passing game averaged less than 2 yards per dropback. Eight Ravens got a sack. Terrell Suggs now owns 4.5 on the season. He turned 36 last Thursday.

RANK

8

STEELERS (3-2-1)

4

Previous rank: No. 12

Right when the pundits wanted to write the Steelers off, they won three of four, including Sunday's triumph, which involved going into the AFC North leader's place and handing the Bengals a big, fat L. In addition to getting off the divisional schneid (Pittsburgh had been the only AFC North team without a division win), the Steelers positioned themselves nicely for another run. The next time the Steelers see the Bengals, Cincy will have to travel to Heinz. That's peering far into the future: Week 17, in fact. In the interim, Pittsburgh gets a rematch with the Ravens in Baltimore in Week 9. Up next for one of the hottest teams in pro football? The Byes. Ugh.

RANK

9

PANTHERS (3-2)

4

Previous rank: No. 5

Well, the Panthers made it interesting late. Need another viewing of the end of this contest on Game Pass, but it seemed Cam Newton was off on a few of those throws down the stretch. There was the ball behind Greg Olsen (who made a one-handed catch out of bounds), the overthrow to Christian McCaffrey in the end zone and the misfires on third and fourth downs. Had to agree with Olsen, who was steaming in the huddle because the offense didn't hurry up following his miracle grab on the sideline. Carolina lollygagged, providing the replay official 10 hours to look at the play. That seemed to be the Panthers' problem the entirety of the first half, too: sluggish effort.

RANK

10

BENGALS (4-2)

3

Previous rank: No. 7

Great googly moogly. What an awful way to lose (yet again) to the dreaded Steelers in Cincinnati. Marvin Lewis' defense couldn't hold the fort late. His face said it all when CBS gave us the proverbial let's-take-an-extra-long-look-at-the-coach-being-totally-dejected-and-trying-but-not-trying-to-hide-it-while-the-other-team-goes-for-a-mostly-meaningless-two-point-conversion shot ... or something like that. There was the holding call on that final drive to extend the Pittsburgh foray. Then the nobody's-home middle screen to Antonio Brown on the game's most important -- and controversial -- play. All of which negated a clutch Bengals drive featuring an on-point Andy Dalton. Next up: at Kansas City in prime time. Yeesh.

RANK

11

BEARS (3-2)

3

Previous rank: No. 8

Football is often hard to explain. The Bears came into their Week 6 matchup in Miami flying high and having generated 18 sacks in their four prior games, putting them on pace to tie their own NFL record, set in 1984 (the year before they won the Super Bowl). Then Chicago was stonewalled by a mediocre Dolphins offensive line. And the Bears' offense didn't pick up the slack in the first half. The second half was a different story, as Mitch Trubisky and Co. started scoring points. Yet, a pair of defensive linemen almost saved the day for Da Bears. Helluva play, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman.

Side note: I didn't like the conservative play call on third down to virtually force a long field-goal attempt for Cody Parkey. Bears fans? (@HarrisonNFL)

RANK

12

EAGLES (3-3)

3

Previous rank: No. 15

You would never know it if you didn't glance at the numbers, but Carson Wentz is off to a better start in 2018 than he was in 2017. Perhaps it's the lack of a running game for most of the season that has led to the dysfunction on offense, or the poor record prior to "Thursday Night Football" against the Giants. Wentz's completion percentage through four games is up compared to his numbers through four last season (68.4 from 60.5), as is his yards-per-game mark (298.0 from 264.5) and TD-to-INT ratio (8:1 from 6:2). As encouraging as that might be, more encouraging is the fact that Alshon Jeffery got involved in a big way versus the Giants. With Jay Ajayi down and defenses honed in on Zach Ertz, Doug Pedersen needs Jeffery to have a big year.

RANK

13

PACKERS (3-2-1)

Previous rank: No. 13

So often, we hear that kickers aren't football players. That's rather stupid, especially considering how much pressure these guys must routinely endure to win football games. So, yes, I am genuinely thrilled for Mason Crosby. After watching a player -- or anyone, really -- flop so publicly ( five times), you'd expect his resolve to be absolutely leveled. Yet, there was the longtime Packer on the Monday night stage, splitting the goalposts flawlessly seven times, including the game-winner. Did you know Crosby hit the game-winning kick in his first career game back in 2007, a 42-yarder to beat the Eagles at Lambeau? Will never forget his 51-yarder to beat the Cowboys in the 2016 Divisional Playoffs. That came after a beautiful sideline laser from Aaron Rodgers to Jared Cook. Which was not too dissimilar from a couple of Rodgers completions on the game's most poignant drive, including a Cook-esque grab from Equanimeous St. Brown.

RANK

14

COWBOYS (3-3)

9

Previous rank: No. 23

Last week in this space, I made a general plea to play to Dak Prescott's strengths -- his athleticism -- instead of keeping him in the pocket full-time. Prescott himself also could've picked more spots to take off and run. Well, that happened in Dallas on Sunday, on both counts, which not only kick-started a sputtering offense but seemed to build Prescott's confidence throwing the ball. Also worth discussing: The Cowboys' defense is a top-three unit, especially with David Irving back in the saddle. Rod Marinelli's group can rush the passer with solely the front four, blitz with Jaylon Smith manning the point or play coverage. The Dallas defense was firing on all cylinders, with no let-up, against the Jags. Can the Cowboys keep it up on the road in Washington?

RANK

15

JAGUARS (3-3)

9

Previous rank: No. 6

How do you characterize the Jags' showing in Big D? Dreadful? Demoralizing? Or typical? Is this what this squad is sans Leonard Fournette? Jacksonville is not built to come from behind -- a notion repeated on the broadcast and in highlight shows over and over again -- because the Jaguars have an issue at quarterback. When Blake Bortles plays well, it's usually in concert with the running game and a solid defensive effort. Take Fournette out of the offensive equation, and suddenly the Jaguars can't move the ball -- which in turn means Calais Campbell and the boys on defense are playing too many plays, defending short fields and ultimately going down with the ship.

RANK

16

REDSKINS (3-2)

2

Previous rank: No. 18

An answer. That's what Sunday's win over the Panthers was. That's what the late stand against the Carolina offense was, after the Panthers had fought back from a 17-zip deficit. The coverage, in particular, held up -- something that had been the glaring issue in the "Monday Night Football" debacle (torching) in New Orleans. A big assist to the defense came from the offensive backfield, namely Adrian Peterson. The guy nobody seemed to want (in fantasy or reality) pounded the rock repeatedly into the teeth of the Panthers' front, utilizing his typical hard cuts before lowering his head to grind out 97 yards on 17 carries. As a team, Washington ran 28 times for 132. That's how teammates help out their tired pass rushers and defensive backs.

RANK

17

LIONS (2-3)

Previous rank: No. 17

Like the Saints, the Lions took this past weekend off at seemingly the worst time, right after a huge win. At least it provided receiver Marvin Jones and a few peeps on the defensive side the chance to get healthier for the back stretch. In theory, anyway, as this still constitutes an early off week. Surprisingly, shockingly, the pass rush has held its own, with 17 sacks through five weeks. That number looks even better when you consider that Detroit's opponents have only attempted 152 passes. That's one sack every nine pass attempts, an absolutely bodacious number. The production has come mostly without Ziggy Ansah, who hopes to make it back on the field this week in Miami.

RANK

18

SEAHAWKS (3-3)

3

Previous rank: No. 21

The Seahawks simply refuse to be as cruddy as everyone said they would be before the season. Your friendly writer felt this team would go 6-10, and that was far from the bottom of the barrel regarding predictions for Seattle. Yet, here the Seahawks are at 3-3, fighting the Rams until the 12th round (only the "Rocky" movies go further) last week before knocking the Raiders out early in London. They commanded that overseas affair from the first quarter on at Wembley, playing as complete a game as we've seen from this group since early last season. Russell Wilson completed 17 of 23 passes with three touchdowns, one pick and one perfectly scooped-up football on a scoring toss to David Moore. For his part, Moore keeps putting up touchdowns. The running game was robust, with 37 attempts for 155 yards. What more can you say about Ken Norton's defense? Three points, man.

I talked about the importance of late owner Paul Allen in the intro above. For more about what he meant to the franchise, click here.

RANK

19

DOLPHINS (4-2)

1

Previous rank: No. 20

Second-and-8 in overtime, score knotted up at 28, ball at the Bears' 39 ... the Dolphins were trying not to lean on QB2 Brock Osweiler. Next came an inside handoff -- and Exhibit A for why Frank Gore will end up in the Hall of Fame someday. Gore busted the inside run, cut to his left, made another cut outside, made a subtle Gore-esque move to avoid getting tackled deep in the secondary, then finally (and stubbornly) went down at the 7. The stadium erupted. (Gore became the first back to run for more than 100 yards against the Chicago defense this season.) Gore then got more work, plowing down to the 1. On third-and-goal, coach Adam Gase spelled Gore with Kenyan Drake. Drake fumbled, and the Bears recovered the football. Holy cow, what a sequence. Thank goodness Drake didn't end up having to live with the gaffe. What a wild game in Miami. Wild win, total team effort.

RANK

20

BROWNS (2-3-1)

4

Previous rank: No. 16

What a deflating way to follow up a gutty Week 5 win. On Sunday, the Browns never shifted out of neutral, allowing the Chargers to pull ahead early. After bolting ahead by multiple scores, Anthony Lynn's group ran, ran and ran some more, to the tune of 246 yards on the ground. Unlike all season, Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland offense couldn't pull closer to their opponents. First, Mayfield's receivers continued dropping like flies, with Rod Streater being the latest to go down. And the guys who played made up for it by dropping three passes in the end zone. Fun for the whole family!

RANK

21

TEXANS (3-3)

1

Previous rank: No. 22

The Texans continue to win. The Texans continue to get bailed out. One week after Jason Garrett skipped going for it on fourth-and-short in Houston territory with Ezekiel Elliott, and two weeks after Frank Reich went for it on fourth down on his side of the field in OT, Houston faced Nate Peterman -- he of the rough start to his career and no practice time -- in the waning moments. Pick-six. Hey, give credit to Johnathan Joseph for reading the out route to Kelvin Benjamin and all, but my gosh, the 13-year vet has never seen an easier interception in his life. Kareem Jackson saw an easier one, eh?

RANK

22

JETS (3-3)

3

Previous rank: No. 25

Saw much maturation in Sam Darnold against the Colts, even compared to where he was at in the Dolphins game a month ago. The rookie QB was the beneficiary of a couple of short fields (thanks to Todd Bowles' defense), but he took what the defense gave him, knowing the appropriate time to make the aggressive throw and when to rein it in. Impressive. The rookie out of USC finished an admirable 24-of-30 for 280 yards with two touchdowns and a pick. That's 9 yards per throw. With a healthier secondary on the other side of the ball, I'm not sure this Jets outfit will be an easy out down the back stretch.

RANK

23

FALCONS (2-4)

1

Previous rank: No. 24

Even with the clutch win Sunday, the Falcons are probably going nowhere this season, at least in terms of January. That doesn't mean pundits should look past Matt Ryan's play. Last season, in his first campaign with Steve Sarkisian, Ryan didn't approach the level of play he showed in his MVP campaign of 2016. But take a gander at the combined numbers over his last four games: 112 of 153 for 1,432 yards, 12 touchdowns and zero picks. The downside? Both Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu left Sunday's game early. Methinks Atlanta has lost enough players to injury this season. The Chargers are supposed to lead the league in IR every year -- don't the Falcons know that?

RANK

24

TITANS (3-3)

10

Previous rank: No. 14

Offensive futility has found itself an ally in the Tennessee Titans. The air raid has produced 220, 183, 83, 327, 121 and 51 yards, which is 164.2 yards per game. Actually, the only raid going on Sunday was the assault on the Tennessee pocket. The rushing attack had its own awful Sunday, and is now averaging less than 100 yards per game. If it weren't for the legs of QB Marcus Mariota, there would be no running game. Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis are both averaging under 3.5 yards per rush. If the loss in Buffalo was a mere blip, the blowout loss to Baltimore was raspberry jamming the radar.

RANK

25

BUCCANEERS (2-3)

6

Previous rank: No. 19

Say this for the Bucs: They showed a ton of character in Atlanta on Sunday. This NFC South matchup receives the Weirdest Game of the Week Award. It appeared as though Tampa had lost early when the Bucs fell behind 21-6. Then Jameis Winston and Co. fought all the way back, as Winston tossed three touchdown passes and the defense started making stops. That is, until the Falcons' final touchdown on a pass to Tevin Coleman. Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David looked confused a second before the play, then David failed to get over into the flat to pick up the RB leaking out. Every bit of which would be moot if DeSean Jackson had scooped that lateral. Oy. Not sure Jackson scoring would have saved Mike Smith's job. But Tampa's defense is a bit of a mess right now.

RANK

26

BRONCOS (2-4)

Previous rank: No. 26

The Broncos stayed with the Rams for most of a cold Sunday afternoon. It was the kind of weather that mandates a team be able to run the football, or at least stop the run. Denver could do neither. Pro football has morphed into an entirely different sport than it was in the 1960s, yet that age-old axiom still comes into play, even in this pass-happy era. Todd Gurley followed in Isaiah Crowell's sprint steps, becoming the second straight running back to breeze past 200 yards against the Broncos' defense. Meanwhile, Denver couldn't help Case Keenum by producing some kind of groundswell of its own, even though Keenum actually outplayed MVP candidate Jared Goff. It's challenging to convert third downs, much less score points, with only 60 yards rushing, especially on a Freezer Bowl kind of day.

RANK

27

GIANTS (1-5)

Previous rank: No. 27

The Giants are dangerously close to being the worst team in the league, even though they have superior talent at key spots, relative to the franchises listed below. New York has started 1-5 for the second straight year. The offense is in disarray and the defense was destroyed Thursday night, while the locker room sounds like an appropriate venue for head-banging ... against the wall. Odell Beckham Jr. made headlines again for doing that to a cooling fan. Maybe they were playing some "Quiet Riot" at the Big Snoopy.

Side note: Did you ever try to stick your hand in those floor fans your parents had when you were a kid? It seems as though Big Blue is out of contention already. The sad part of that equation is that the NFC East leader is 3-3.

RANK

28

BILLS (2-4)

Previous rank: No. 28

If you watched any of Bills-Texans on Sunday, you know there's no question the Bills are playing hard for Sean McDermott. Thus, no move down for the Bills, even in a loss. The way the front seven has played, constantly making life uncomfortable for quarterbacks, Buffalo can stay in games. Cornerback Tre'Davious White was outstanding in coverage, locking up DeAndre Hopkins. He doesn't get to play against (or in place of) Nathan Peterman at QB, though.

RANK

29

COLTS (1-5)

Previous rank: No. 29

The stats don't show it, but Andrew Luck is playing at such a high level. Yes, he did start the game against the Jets with a pick-six to Morris Claiborne. We should note that the ball hit Marlon Mack right in the hands. Perhaps Mack was upset that he wasn't active for the Colts' dropfest against the Patriots a few Thursdays ago and didn't want to feel left out. Luck was far from perfect (23-of-43, 301 yards, four TDs and three picks), but recall that he is throwing the football to wide receivers who couldn't start for 80 percent of the teams in the league. Too many turnovers by the offense coupled with a defense that couldn't rankle rookie Sam Darnold ... not a good mix.

RANK

30

CARDINALS (1-5)

Previous rank: No. 30

The Cardinals hung with the big, bad Vikings for the balance of the afternoon on Sunday, but they simply don't have the personnel at this point to ultimately keep up with playoff teams. Although Chandler Jones can play with (and demolish) any opponent he faces, apparently. Jones added to his early Defensive Player of the Year candidacy with five tackles, 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble that sparked a defensive touchdown. Going to keep talking him up in this space until more pub flows his way.

RANK

31

49ERS (1-5)

1

Previous rank: No. 32

The 49ers move up a spot, the only team in this week's rankings to do so after a loss, thanks to a valiant performance at Lambeau. Kyle Shanahan's group has yet to log a win this season in any of C.J. Beathard's three starts, although the second-year pro out of Iowa has played well in two of them -- including Monday night's outing, which saw him post a 115.3 passer rating. Still, while Beathard completed 16 of his 23 passes, one incompletion stood out, and it came on the third-and-4 on the Packers' side of the field early in the fourth quarter. Beathard had his tight end (and former college teammate), George Kittle, open on a short out route in the flat, but the QB double-clutched and overshot the throw. Consequently, San Francisco was forced to settle for the field goal. Beathard's late interception, when the Packers all-out blitzed, wasn't his finest effort, either, although Green Bay's Kevin King outpositioned Marquise Goodwin for the football. Beathard's deep ball to Goodwin earlier in the evening was beautiful. The 49ers deserved to win. Aaron Rodgers gives no quarter.

RANK

32

RAIDERS (1-5)

1

Previous rank: No. 31

The Raiders are so bad, not even an elite pass rusher could save them. Oakland was not facing the kind of Seahawks defense that strikes fear in the NFC West -- but Derek Carr wasn't pitching strikes on the London pitch, and he often didn't have time to throw them, anyway. I thought that, with Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch going Beast Mode against his former team, maybe this would be the sneaky upset of the week. Or not. This team is in really rough shape. Agree with this sentiment.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop