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NFL Power Rankings, Week 7: Cowboys soaring; AFC North falls

Major shakeup.

Well, save for Nos. 1, 2 and 32 in the Week 7 Power Rankings. The Vikings were on a bye last week, while the Patriots keep rolling along like it's 2004. Once past those two, the NFL totem pole is a jumbled mess, as no team is in the same spot until you get all the way down to Mr. Irrelevant. Can you believe that? Every team is in a different spot! Before we sort out all that stuff, though, let's sort out some of you:

Hey, yo, wait a stinking minute! I have a framed picture of Sammy Baugh, only the greatest Redskin of them all!

Romo might be the most hated on player of the last 25 years, man. But I understand if the Cowboys stick with Dak.

Agreed. And I like your cow.

Received many tweets imploring me to punish the Broncos and Steelers, among others. Not going to go hard on the Broncos, who were on a short week without their coach. Keep your opinions flowing, though: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Oct. 11 Power Rankings.

It was the bye week for the top-ranked Vikings, which means, for the first time in five weeks, we endure no change at our most prestigious spot. During the down time, tackle Jake Long got acquainted with his new club, while OC Norv Turner had an opportunity to work on kick-starting his run game. Unless I'm seeing it wrong, the only thing that could derail Minnesota is the thinness on the offensive line. But Jake Long alone cannot make America -- er, the Vikings' ground attack -- great again.

Tom Brady says his team is "at a decent place." I'd say so. Outside of the fact the Patriots own the best record in the AFC, this two-tight end deal is rollin'. In Week 5, it was Martellus Bennett pulling off the hat trick in the end zone, missing on the Gronk spike. This past Sunday, the real Gronk was a one-man wrecking crew, with 162 yards and a touchdown in the win over Cincinnati. That's a career high in receiving yards for arguably the greatest tight end of all time.

 **Power Rankings side note:** Bennett caught five more balls against the 

All the commenters that hated on their friendly writer for having Dallas in the top 10 three weeks ago are really going to be steaming now. Well, they can take that steam and go iron a Zeke Elliott Offensive Rookie of the Year T-shirt with it. The Great Wall of Dallas II is rolling. The Packers had the best run defense in the NFL entering Week 6, but the Cowboys, well, ran them over in Green Bay, putting up 191 rushing yards. Of course, it didn't help the Packers that their stagnant offense wasn't giving the D any rest. But as bad as Aaron Rodgers looked at times, give the Dallas defense props for playing within its scheme -- and playing well. More pass rush is needed. More run game is not. Elliott is on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards.

If pro football is about survival for four quarters, then I present to you "Falcons at Seahawks." Holy cow. Seattle got off to a fast start, then let Matt Ryan throw all over the place. Then came a botched snap on a Steven Hauschka field-goal try with the 'Hawks down seven. Still, Russell Wilson and Co. were pesky, scoring a would-be tying TD ... only to have the PAT blocked. Pete Carroll lost his best pass rusher along the way. Finally, Seattle had to hold the best scoring offense in the league on four downs. Football is freaking stressful.

Keeping the Falcons in the top five. They showed more in this loss at Seattle than in the Week 5 win at Denver. Why? Because things didn't go well early, but Dan Quinn's group didn't fold its tent. Instead, Atlanta clawed back from a 17-3 deficit to forge a lead late in the fourth quarter in the toughest place to play in pro football.

Regarding the non-call on Julio Jones: Thought the refs missed that one. But it was Jones who let the ball carom off his hands -- and into Earl Thomas' mitts -- on the previous possession. The Falcons also lucked out on Seattle's bad snap on the Steven Hauschka field-goal miss. And Matt Ryan should have scrambled on the third down prior to the Jones "PI or not PI?" play. Point is, there were many pendulum swings in Falcons- Seahawks, and Atlanta hung tough.

The only Broncos offensive linemen not penalized Thursday night were Gary Zimmerman and Mark Schlereth. It was painful watching C.J. Anderson make a brilliant run, only to see a yellow hankie ruin the picture because Max Garcia or Matt Paradis manhandled his man. Heck, the flags were flying around all night for a Denver team that committed a costly 103 yards worth of penalties. We thought quarterback play might hold this team back, but the O-line may yet be the culprit.

So happy for these guys. As mentioned previously in this space, I reserve the right to cheer for the Bills. When the early injuries (and one very important suspension) contributed to an 0-2 start, I feared we were in for another empty, 8-8, playoff-less season. Well, now look: Buffalo is 4-2 after taking four in a row, including a huge division win over the Patriots. The defense looks fantastic. Soon it will be Shaq-tastic, when the first-round pick gets healthy. Sure would be nice to have Marcell Dareus back this week ... jussssst in time for the Dolphins.

Look out, NFL. The offense looked balanced behind phenom David Johnson. The defense? Made big plays all over the field, including a red-zone takeaway to thwart the Jets' last real chance to get in the game. Agreed with Jon Gruden on the ESPN broadcast that Michael Floyd's prospective reemergence could be the key to Arizona reemerging as an NFC contender. The lone downer: Seeing Jaron Brown, a solid contributor, get hurt on a meaningless completion late. Hate that kind of stuff.

So much has been said about the play of Aaron Rodgers. Don't expect me to add anything, so let's talk about some other stuff, here. Scratch that -- what the heck is wrong with Aaron Rodgers?? Everyone was saying it across the country when Rodgers missed a wide-open receiver in the end zone by several feet. No matter what, keeping Eddie Lacy on the field more -- so that it's not so obvious when he's getting the football -- would help. Then again, Lacy's not 100 percent. Not a fun day at Lambeau on Sunday. Well, except for Brett Favre walking out on the field in jeans and a black shirt, dressing up for the moment to get his Hall of Fame ring.

Spoke on NFL Network repeatedly last week about tempering expectations for the Steelers this past weekend. Pittsburgh fans can easily talk about their team's penchant for coming up flat in games that people think they should win 46-6. That said, who would have foreseen the Steelers sucking as bad as they did against the Dolphins on Sunday? Or Jay Ajayi rushing for over two bills? How about Miami posting 474 yards to Pittsburgh's 297? Unbelievable. Miami's offense?

In case you missed it the first 506 times it was mentioned over the weekend, here's reminder No. 507: Andy Reid-led teams are nearly unstoppable after the bye week. The Chiefs head coach improved his post-bye week mark to 16-2 after taking down the Raiders on Sunday. That said, Reid's discipline has always been the offensive side of the ball -- and this road W came on the backs of the starting 11 on defense. Kansas City held one of the premier offenses in the league to a paltry 286 yards, while forcing two big turnovers. How about Dee Ford? Five tackles, two sacks and that important strip job of Derek Carr late.

Funny, but with all the Dak-or-Romo discussions, the media's love affair with Carson Wentz and Odell Beckham Jr.'s infatuation with the kicking net (which is now getting really old -- excuse me, is really old), feels like not enough attention has been given to the Redskins, who have won four in a row. That might have been the longest sentence ever, but it didn't feel as long as Kirk Cousins and Co.'s first two weeks of the season. Since Week 3, Cousins has tossed eight touchdown passes against three picks. And on Sunday, Washington's run game racked up 230 yards, while Philly's entire offense produced 239.

Much to study about the Eagles' loss in Washington. The offensive line was beaten repeatedly by the Redskins' pass rush, with Carson Wentz sacked five times. The Philly defense was simply flattened on third down, allowing Washington a conversion rate of over 50 percent on pro football's most important down. Yet, after all that, Doug Pederson's squad was still in it, down 27-17, deep in Redskins territory. Zach Ertz simply can't drop that ball on third down. Ugh.

When you lean on your quarterback tooooo much, his subpar game becomes the entire team's bad game. The Raiders' defense has come under scrutiny plenty. Fine. How about the oft-absent ground attack? Seventeen carries for 65 yards won't accomplish diddley poo as a complement to an accomplished passer, or as a way to provide rest for a tired defense. Oakland's D looked gassed Sunday.

Raise your hand if three quarters of the way through Sunday night's game you were pleading with the Texans to feed Lamar Miller the ball (... and not have Brock Osweiler throw any more passes). Not you, Bill. This is a question for the fans ... the fans. Bill O'Brien's game plan got more conservative as the contest wore on. Then, when Houston had to have it, Osweiler, C.J. Fiedorowicz and especially Jaelen Strong, all rose up to make huge plays. That said, the W belongs to Miller (178 scrimmage yards) and a defense that halted the Colts at the end of regulation and again in overtime. Next up: at Broncos on Monday night. Juicy.

Clutch fourth quarter from the Lions on Sunday. Not sure I've ever typed that previous sentence. There was the 13-play drive to knot the game at 28. Then Matthew Stafford made plays again in setting up Matt Prater's go-ahead field goal. With all the injuries, the backfield is still a complete mess. So what a lift it was for fans in Detroit to see Golden Tate get his season going. Tate produced more yards in Week 6 than in the previous five combined, catching eight balls for 165 yards and a TD.

Oh Case Keenum! Noooooooooo! Not after that game you put together. Keenum performed wonderfully for 59 minutes in Detroit until the Rams' final salvo. Hated to see Keenum force a throw over the middle into double coverage when he could've lived to play another down. Los Angeles had a minute and change to set up a field-goal attempt. Bear in mind that Keenum, whom so many point to as holding this team back, completed 20 passes in a row and logged four total touchdowns. If he can play like that every week ...

What a beautiful deep ball from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr. on what led to the first of the wideout's bizarre net celebrations. More exciting was seeing Beckham explode on the long catch-and-run that saved the game for Big Blue. Great play. Even more enjoyable was watching Beckham go into his act with the net again, then wheel around to see if any of his teammates were watching. (They weren't.) I'd give $50 and a Carl Banks rookie card to know what is in Manning's head when those two have a chat on the sideline. Nice save by the Giants' defense on that final Ravens drive.

Not sure if the Ravens will be part of a blowout ever again. Baltimore has now dropped three straight after opening the season 3-0. The Ravens are the first team in NFL history to have their first six games in consecutive seasons be decided by six points or less.

 **Power Rankings side note:** The offense was a little better under new OC Marty Mornhinweg, gaining 391 yards and scoring 23, after averaging 354.3 and 20.1 with Marc Trestman. 

Long time since Cincinnati started the season 2-4. In fact, it was in 2010 when Marvin Lewis' outfit not only began the season 2-4, but lost seven more in a row to fall to 2-11. Carson Palmer was the quarterback back then, throwing to the likes of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. Seems like forever ago. Don't think this rendition of the Bengals will plummet that far, but my preseason prediction of 8-8 is starting to feel spot on. If Cincinnati is to make the postseason for the sixth consecutive season, then taking advantage of the two upcoming (winnable) home games ( Browns, then Reskins) is critical. Welcome to the Jungle, baby -- then time to byyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

It was the bye weekend for the Bucs and Vikings. You know what else these two football teams have in common? Nothing. Tampa Bay won two Mondays ago, but hardly looked impressive doing it. And the Bucs are carrying several problems that must be solved ... otherwise, they're headed from 2-3 to 6-10. The ground attack is a shadow of what it was in 2015, with Doug Martin and Charles Sims now on the shelf. Jameis Winston continues to deplete his head coach's trust, while the kicking game is quite an adventure.

Tennessee continues to road grade with DeMarco Murray and friends (137 team rushing yards versus the Browns). On Sunday, though, there too was Marcus Mariota, performing as if he once was the second overall pick in the draft. Mariota completed 17 of his 24 passes for 284 yards, three touchdowns and a pick (while also adding 64 yards on seven rushes). Over the last two games, he's thrown six touchdown passes, while putting up a sterling 125.3 passer rating. The game got a little scary in the end, but not because of him.

 **Must watch:** With 10 minutes to go in the first half, Murray took off on a 16-yard run. Cool. But notice how quickly 
 Mariota accelerates *past* Murray to throw a block. He was almost at a standstill. #littlethings 

Not sure how much longer the Saints can keep this up. The defense keeps hemorrhaging points (yielding a mind-boggling 168 over five games), and yet, there's Drew Brees to pick up the pieces. The dude throws for 465 yards and four touchdowns, and it's as if we don't notice anymore. Because we don't. What a standard to meet every Sunday. Encouraging fact: In each of the last two games, the pass rush has hit the opposing quarterback more than 10 times. Just sayin'.

Poor Mike McCoy's hair looked like it was turning Michael McDonald silver right before our eyes. The epic collapses so far this season made me forget that the Chargers were a winning team in both 2013 and '14. Alas, a safety, a hard hit on Demaryius Thomas and the ability to overcome severe Martyball (conservative late-game play-calling) delivered a W for the hard-luck Bolts. It sure makes it easier to ask for a mere $1.1 billion. Well I didn't want to ask ya, Clark, you know ... could ya maybe spare a little ... extra cash?

How many people -- Jags fans, even -- knew that Arrelious Benn was still in the league? The guy who, until this season, hadn't played in a regular-season game since 2012, and had caught just two passes for 10 yards all year, made perhaps the play of the year for Jacksonville on Sunday in Chicago. Benn's 51-yard catch-and-run saved the day for the Jaguars. And it came after three stints on IR, and five years after his last touchdown reception in the NFL. Good for him.

Jay Ajayi didn't think Jay Ajayi would run for 204 yards on the Steelers. Holy crap. More on that in a minute. The Dolphins received a hefty boost in this week's Power Rankings, mostly for decimating the Steelers. Don't sleep on the improving offense, though, which has averaged 474 yards and 30 points per game over the last three outings.

 **Trivia:** Can you name the last player to rush for 200 yards and two touchdowns on the 
 Steelers? (Hint: a 
 Giants running back in 1985 ... 

Simply a devastating loss. Might've been a season-ender, if the AFC South wasn't so weak. At this point, if the Colts are to make anything of their season, they must sweep the rest of their division games. That starts this week at Tennessee. Because after that, Indy faces the Chiefs, then travels up to Lambeau. One positive to come out of the loss was the play of Frank Gore, who posted the first Colts 100-yard rushing game since Vick Ballard did it in 2012. Crazy talk.

Hard to win when your quarterback has zero touchdowns and 10 interceptions after halftime this year. Todd Bowles is stuck between a rock and a hard place here. Save for the Bills game, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been mostly terrible. Geno Smith is ... there. At least he got an interception of his own! How about second-round pick Christian Hackenberg? If Dak Prescott, who went two rounds after the Jets rookie, can have all this success, why can't Hackenberg even be dressed for games?

What has happened to the Panthers' secondary is gross. To plummet from sixth in points allowed to 29th is remarkable, and it speaks more to the parity in the NFL from year to year. Injuries, benchings and one big departure have all led to three weeks of weak secondary play. The list is ugly: A) There was Julio Jones hitting the X button all day in Week 4; B) Mike Evans converting a critical third-and-long when he was the only wide receiver in the route in Week 5; and C) Drew Brees throwing for a country mile last weekend. At 1-5, is the season over?

After much hoopla regarding the return of Colin Kaepernick to the 49ers' huddle, not much was different. The hair under the helmet was reminiscent of my 1975 Topps Drew Pearson card; the play on the field was more ... more ... 2015 Colin Kaepernick. Any callback to the disco era is awesome in my book, but continuing the brand of play that got him beaten out by Blaine Gabbert -- not so much. I want Kap to get the magic back. He was truly an electric player during that 2012 postseason run and was clutch in the 2013 playoffs, as well. The concern is that even if that part of his game is still there, the talent around him is not.

So last time Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) threw in the late afternoon at Dodgers Stadium, he tossed a no-hitter. His counterpart on the mound for the Dodgers will be Rich Hill (12-5, 2.12 ERA) in what should be an intriguing rubber match, even if Hill has not been up to snuff in the postseason. The NLCS is tied 1-1, and, as we all know, whoever steals Game 3 with their "other" pitcher often dictates the series. Oh, the Bears got beat Sunday by a wide receiver who hadn't scored a touchdown since 2012.

The Browns made it eventful in Nashville. Unfortunately, they were unable to bring home two consecutive onside kicks in the loss. Instead of wallowing in the brown of a winless start, take notice of Cody Kessler. Despite being under a heavy rush much of the day, the rookie completed 26 of 41 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns. Kessler also converted two huge fourth downs with Cleveland behind two scores and just five minutes left on the clock. Not bad, man.

 **Must watch:** Check out the 
 first of the aforementioned conversions, a fourth-and-one where Kesseler spins out of a sack, throws across his body to 
 Terrelle Pryor, and ... wow. 

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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