There’s considerable movement in the Week 6 NFL power rankings. Let’s get right to it.
1. Seattle Seahawks (5-0) | Last week: 3 (+1)
It might not always look pretty, but Russell Wilson and the Seahawks find a way to get it done in primetime at home. D.K. Metcalf came up big in the Sunday night victory over the Vikings, and it might just be an every-week occurrence where we wonder how the star receiver lasted to the end of the second round in last year’s draft—he’s producing every single game. Seattle will likely use the bye to get things right on defense, particularly against the run.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) | Last week: 1 (-1)
They hadn’t lost since the middle of last season, so it’s an obvious takeaway; but the Chiefs have not looked that poor on both sides of the ball in quite a while. Patrick Mahomes was able to scramble around and try to avoid the Vegas pass rush, but there wasn’t much open on the backend of the defense—Kansas City was shut down in the second half until a late touchdown made it an eight-point game. Defensively, the Chiefs could not follow up their spectacular Week 4 outing and gave up a bunch of big plays to the Raiders. This Monday evening versus the Bills will feature two teams trying to get over subpar performances.
3. Green Bay Packers (4-0) | Last week: 4 (+1)
Hopefully the week off gave star receiver Davante Adams time to get back to 100% after missing time with a hamstring issue before the bye. Assuming he returns to the lineup, Adams will join a Green Bay offense that’s been humming despite the injuries to the receiving corps. The Packers will face a Bucs team coming off a mini bye and a Thursday night loss.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-0) | Last week: 5 (+1)
Rookie receiver Chase Claypool showed off his versatility and elite athleticism with four total touchdowns in the Steelers’ win over the Eagles, and the huge performance will give opposing defenses more to account for when facing an offense that also has James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington. Defensively, it was surprising that Pittsburgh gave up so many big plays, but they still have a top-tier unit that should tighten up quickly.
5. Tennessee Titans (4-0) | Last week: 8 (+3)
As one of the four remaining unbeaten teams coming off an impressive win over a stingy Bills squad, the Titans clearly deserve a spot in the top five of the power rankings after making a conference title game last season. A.J. Brown quickly made a difference in his return to the lineup, and Ryan Tannehill continues to play efficient football while playing off reigning league-leading rusher Derrick Henry. Mike Vrabel’s defense didn’t allow for much room for Buffalo to run the ball, and the entire team is apparently determined after they feel they were wrongly blamed for their own COVID-19 outbreak.
6. Buffalo Bills (4-1) | Last week: 2 (-4)
Last night simply was not a good showing for the Bills, who looked rusty and off on both sides of the ball while committing too many penalties. Expect Sean McDermott to get that all sorted out soon, but Buffalo will stick with a funky schedule when they face the Chiefs at 5:00 PM ET this Monday, which is a challenge. Josh Allen just needs to stop pressing and he’ll get back to the MVP form he was at during the first four games.
7. Baltimore Ravens (4-1) | Last week: 7
The offense of the Ravens hasn’t been lighting it up this season, but the defense more than did its part against the Bengals while welcoming No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow to the rivalry. A positive for the Baltimore offense is that the connection between Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews continues to click, but the entire group can still—and must—elevate its play to get to where they want to be in January and February.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2) | Last week: 6 (-2)
While they were favorites heading into the game, going on the road to an underrated Chicago team on a short week was no easy task, and the Buccaneers were without Chris Godwin (hamstring). The pass protection obviously struggled for Tampa Bay, but the run game led by third-year running back Ronald Jones (two consecutive 100-yard games) has been a real bright spot to build upon. The Bucs would get a huge boost if Godwin is able to return to the lineup when they face the Packers this Sunday.
9. Los Angeles Rams (4-1) | Last week: 9
The Rams are 4-1 and might very well be back to 2018 levels when they won the NFC, but they have undoubtedly benefitted from playing the NFC East within the conference in four of their first five games. However, they deserve credit for taking care of business with the teams in front of them, and the defense was especially dominant versus Washington last Sunday—Aaron Donald recorded four sacks in the victory. Los Angeles can put themselves in an excellent spot with a win over the 49ers this Sunday night.
10. New England Patriots (2-2) | Last week: 10
The bye week came early for the Patriots because of the schedule movement caused by COVID-19 hitting Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore, but Newton and Gilmore might now both be good to go this weekend against Denver.
11. Las Vegas Raiders (3-2) | Last week: 12 (+1)
The Raiders’ Week 5 win versus the Chiefs is probably how Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock envisioned it going when they constructed their roster. Henry Ruggs III and Nelson Agholor stretched the defense and came through with big plays in a way that would make Al Davis proud, and the defense played tough and caused some rare headaches for Patrick Mahomes and company. Las Vegas now has the confidence that they can beat anyone, and the best sign was Derek Carr getting over the hump a bit after major struggles facing the rival Chiefs in the past.
12. Chicago Bears (4-1) | Last week: 14 (+2)
It wasn’t pretty, but the Bears found a way to win and improve to 4-1 last Thursday night. Chicago is not getting much love for a one-loss team, but they have a strong defense and an experience Super Bowl-winning quarterback that should get more comfortable as he adjusts to Matt Nagy’s offense. Remember, Nick Foles did not benefit from a full offseason with his new team, so these early-season reps are really almost like how it’d be in the preseason for him. Foles does appear to be getting a good grasp of things, though, and it was interesting to see him animatedly telling Nagy he wanted to keep the foot on the pedal and keep the Tampa Bay defense on its heels when the team was driving.
13. New Orleans Saints (3-2) | Last week: 13
Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense bounced back from a slow start versus the Chargers, coming back to get a narrow victory in overtime ahead of their bye week. There are concerns, however: the offense just doesn’t feel there yet, and the defense has given up 29+ points in every game since Week 1. We don’t know the entire story, but it seems like a great move to suspend Michael Thomas for punching his teammate during practice. Thomas appears to have some bad character qualities, and the team must get that under control before it becomes an Antonio Brown type of situation.
14. Cleveland Browns (4-1) | Last week: 16 (+2)
The Browns are 4-1 for the first time since 1994, when Bill Belichick was the team’s head coach and the first season of Friends just hit the air. It helps that he’s getting the ball and playing well, but Odell Beckham Jr. appears to be in perhaps the best mindset of his career, which helps the chemistry of the team overall. This Sunday at Pittsburgh will be very intriguing.
15. Indianapolis Colts (3-2) | Last week: 11 (-4)
The Colts were without All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard and left tackle Anthony Castonzo in their loss to the Browns, so they don’t suffer too big of a drop in the power rankings. Philip Rivers has more interceptions than touchdowns this season, but Colts head coach Frank Reich threw all of his support behind the veteran quarterback after Indy’s defeat at Cleveland. Personally, I think the Colts should run the ball more with Jonathan Taylor, and I suspect that Reich will given his preference to lean on the run.
16. Carolina Panthers (3-2) | Last week: 18 (+2)
We’re just a little over a month through the season, but Matt Rhule is probably the early favorite for Coach of the Year with the job he’s done in Carolina. The Panthers defense, with Brian Burns and Yetur Gross-Matos coming off the edge, has been one of the biggest surprises of the year—Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow deserve a lot of credit. Mike Davis has done an exceptional job filling in for Christian McCaffrey during the three-game winning streak, but the disrespect toward McCaffrey from people (those that say running backs don’t matter, mainly) is pretty ridiculous.
17. Arizona Cardinals (3-2) | Last week: 19 (+2)
Pass rusher Chandler Jones is one of the most underrated players in the league, and losing him to the season is an enormous loss for the Cardinals. Though it might not get talked about much by the mainstream, it’s a notable blow to Arizona’s playoff chances. I’m surprised he won it with other candidates such as D.K. Metcalf, but Kyler Murray is coming off his second NFC Offensive Player of the Week award, and running backs Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds got going a bit against the Jets.
18. San Francisco 49ers (2-3) | Last week: 15 (-3)
Last week felt like a low point for the Niners, and it might be difficult for them to rebound and get back to their Super Bowl form considering the power of the NFC this year. Jimmy Garoppolo was pulled to protect him from the beating the Dolphins defense put on the 49ers, and he and the offense desperately need to show some life this Sunday night versus the Rams. San Francisco has not played well on defense recently either, and Sean McVay’s offense will be a big challenge.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3-1) | Last week: 17 (-2)
Philadelphia’s win at San Francisco a couple of weeks ago doesn’t look as impressive now, but the connection between Carson Wentz and Travis Fulgham is something the Eagles can work with moving forward as the offense gets healthier. The Eagles are just a half game behind the Cowboys, so they aren’t in a terrible spot in the hapless NFC East, but this Sunday against the Ravens could be a measuring stick to see if the team can consistently contend against non-divisional teams this season.
20. Dallas Cowboys (2-3) | Last week: 20
Dak Prescott’s injury was completely gut-wrenching, especially because Dak seems like a genuinely great guy; like everyone else, I am wishing Prescott a speedy recovery. Despite Andy Dalton’s capability, not having Prescott at quarterback is a huge loss for the Cowboys. But the hysterical media reaction over Prescott not getting a long-term contract in the offseason was a bit much, even for over-the-top sports media. There was an offseason negotiation between Prescott and the Cowboys, and it just didn’t work out (reportedly, because Prescott actually wanted fewer years on the deal to potentially hit the jackpot again earlier); there’s no need to conflate a non-agreement in a negotiation into cursing Jerry Jones and the Cowboys organization. Anyway, the Dallas defense must get better for the team to contend in the division.
21. Miami Dolphins (2-3) | Last week: 26 (+5)
I thought Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins offense could give the Niners some trouble, but not many anticipated a totally dominant effort from Miami. With a top-flight versatile secondary, if the defense can get pressure like they did last week, Brian Flores’ defense will consistently be a major problem for the opposition. The Dolphins will now face a winless Jets squad as they look to get to .500.
22. Minnesota Vikings (1-4) | Last week: 23 (+1)
Mike Zimmer looks like he was right when he rhetorically asked about ever having a bad defense ahead of the season. Eventually, the Seahawks made adjustments and came back, but Zimmer and Minnesota put together a gameplan to limit Seattle’s offense and give them a chance against one of the league’s top teams—and the game might have been different if dynamic running back Dalvin Cook didn’t leave with a groin injury. 1-4 is a tough position, but the Vikings might remain in the playoff mix over the next few months.
23. Houston Texans (1-4) | Last week: 24 (+1)
The Texans were able to get their first win with Bill O’Brien no longer the team’s head coach, but it will be much more difficult this Sunday when they play the first-place Titans. A win could give Houston the confidence to get right back into the AFC playoff picture, but a loss would drop them to 1-5 and in a very tough spot in the conference. A lot will be on the shoulders of Deshaun Watson.
24. Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) | Last week: 21 (-3)
Justin Herbert became the first rookie in NFL history to throw for four touchdowns on Monday Night Football, and it seems like nothing fazes the young gunslinger from Oregon—it probably helps that Herbert was a four-year starter in college. A couple more inches to the left on the kick at the end of regulation, and we’d be talking about how awesome of a victory Herbert and the Chargers got in New Orleans—it’s been like that for Los Angeles in recent years.
25. Detroit Lions (1-3) | Last week: 25
Coming off the bye week, the Lions must take advantage of matchups with the Jaguars and Falcons over the next two weeks. Getting to 3-3 should put them squarely in the NFC playoff picture.
26. Atlanta Falcons (0-5) | Last week: 22 (-4)
The Falcons looked like they had a promising schedule on paper over the next several weeks, but they couldn’t win the first game of the stretch, and it cost both head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff their jobs. Atlanta has had quite the decline from their Super Bowl loss a few years ago, and giving up leads had become common for the defense—giving up a 28-3 lead with a championship on the line is not easy to bounce back from. While the Falcons are being counted out, I expect them to be competitive with proud players like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones on the roster.
27. Washington Football Team (1-4) | Last week: 27
It came in a loss where he was sacked several times behind and offensive line that could not protect against the Rams, but the return of Alex Smith to the field was the story of the week in the NFL. Smith nearly lost his life following his devastating leg injury nearly two years ago and then faced a grueling rehab process, so his amazing comeback is a great inspirational story of perseverance.
28. Denver Broncos (1-3) | Last week: 28
The bye week and the schedule shift gave the Broncos a little extra time to prepare for the Patriots, but they’ll likely now have to face Cam Newton (assuming he can get cleared from COVID-19) instead of Brian Hoyer and/or Jarrett Stidham. The good news is Drew Lock might have been given enough time to return from his shoulder issue.
29. Cincinnati Bengals (1-3-1) | Last week: 29
A.J. Green’s performance has been one of the most surprising developments early this season. The Bengals are paying him $18 million, but the production simply has not been there—and it looked like Green was open to getting traded, as he appeared to say if he isn’t going to be used then “just trade me” while frustrated on the bench. While the score was lopsided, Cincinnati played hard in their loss to Baltimore, and the defense didn’t do a bad job on Lamar Jackson.
30. New York Giants (0-5) | Last week: 30
The offense came alive for the Giants in their close loss to the Cowboys, but the defense gave up too many big plays in the passing game. Both New York teams are 0-5 in the same season for the first time in history, and Giants ownership in particular can’t be happy with the way things have gone, despite the glimpses of promise from the rebuilt roster. At least the Giants remain in the divisional mix because of how woeful the NFC East has been.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) | Last week: 31
The Jaguars have settled in to about what most thought they would be this season, and Gardner Minshew has already been sacked 16 times this season after he was sacked 33 times as a rookie. There’s a lot of work to do in Jacksonville, but hopefully the offense can get back to the level it was during the first two weeks of the season.
32. New York Jets (0-5) | Last week: 32
Remember, the current Jets regime did not sign Le’Veon Bell last offseason (head coach Adam Gase was reportedly not happy with the signing from the start), so it’s best for both sides that the former All-Pro is being released. There’ll be a lot of evaluating for the Jets throughout the rest of this season, and that includes quarterback Sam Darnold, who will ideally get back on the field soon after missing last week with his shoulder injury.