Week 6 in the NFL saw the top teams respond in some tricky matchups on the road, showing they are complete teams that can win anyhow, anywhere at anytime. Although that limits the shakeup in Sporting News’ latest league power rankings going into Week 7, there are still plenty of notable developments.
While six teams have separated with 5-1 or better records (see the 6-0 Cardinals) and seventh can join that group on Monday night, the interesting movement is in the muddled middle between 4-2 and 2-4. With the playoffs having room for 14 teams, there’s plenty that can change in the back end of the playoff picture.
Here’s how SN sees how all the teams stack up against each other 1-32 with one third of the 2021 season finished:
NFL power rankings
1. Arizona Cardinals 6-0 (previous rank: 1)
The Cardinals had the ultimate trap game in Cleveland and responded by scorching the Browns from start to finish, even without coach Kliff Kingsbury able to make the trip, with Kyler Murray not showing any right shoulder limitations. And how about old-school J.J. Watt?
2. Los Angeles Rams 5-1 (2)
The Rams show no mercy with lesser opponents. Everything is working offensively again and the defense could finally prey on a helpless foe. Los Angeles is still working toward that rematch with Arizona much later in the season.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-1 (4)
The Buccaneers have adopted the methodical way of winning by any means necessary and not worrying about style points (when they’re not there) with Tom Brady. They are just buying time until Rob Gronkowski and their key secondary pieces can get healthy.
4. Buffalo Bills 4-2 (3)
The Bills’ Week 1 misstep against the Steelers doesn’t look so bad now with multiple big wins since, topped by toppling Kansas City. They better hope the letdown at Tennessee doesn’t cost them later.
5. Green Bay Packers 5-1 (5)
The Packers keep doing their thing with Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones with the right level of defensive support in every game. With their impressive five-game winning streak, that Week 1 debacle vs. the Saints seems like a distant memory.
6. Dallas Cowboys 5-1 (6)
The Cowboys didn’t just escape the Patriots with a fifth-straight victory. They made a statement in the type of game they have tended to lose in the past, overcoming major penalties, red zone turnovers and one big coverage mistake. Dak Prescott is a hard man to beat and the Bucs were lucky to do so in Week 1.
7. Baltimore Ravens 5-1 (8)
The Ravens can beat teams in many ways now with Lamar Jackson running or passing the offense to big things. Their defense needed that confidence-builder against the Chargers after that Monday night mess.
8. Los Angeles Chargers 4-2 (7)
The Chargers weren’t prepared to handle the Ravens’ versatile offense, which knew to attack them where they are weakest, in run defense. The Justin Herbert clunker is a reminder he still can fall victim to his inexperience, no matter how good he looked in the previous week.
9. Kansas City Chiefs 3-3 (10)
The Chiefs looked like they were headed to another mistake-filled mess in Washington, but then the light went on for Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill again to turn a frustrating winnable game to a total rout. The defense was a nice surprise in protecting the lead well.
10. Cincinnati Bengals 4-2 (11)
Joe Burrow is giving Prescott a run for his money as comeback player of the year with amazing first-half quarterback play. The Bengals are looking dangerous and complete offensively with the defense now feeding off that.
11. Las Vegas Raiders 4-2 (16)
The Raiders got rid of Jon Gruden and somehow their offense and defense untapped some of their potential in Denver. It’s not a coincidence as the new leadership seemed more focused on showcasing their most talented players.
12. Tennessee Titans 4-2 (12)
The Titans can’t pull away yet in the AFC South with the Colts walking right back into the mix. Neither their defense nor offense is reliable enough to trust in any given week.
13. Cleveland Browns 3-3 (9)
The Browns got singed against the Cardinals as their offensive line, wide receiver and running back injuries have caught up to them around Baker Mayfield. The defense has too much of a burden instead of being able to tee off, playing off rushing attack-based ball control.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers 3-3 (20)
The Steelers aren’t pretty yet offensively but they’ve fought their way back to .500 on the strength of rookie running back Najee Harris and their defense, which was their season-long game plan, anyway.
15. New Orleans Saints 3-2 (19)
The Saints had a bye to figure out what kind of team (contender or middle-runner) they are post-Drew Brees. Sean Payton has done a great job having them play complementary football and squeezing mostly good play out of Jameis Winston.
16. Minnesota Vikings 3-3 (23)
The Vikings have three OK wins (Lions, Panthers, Seahawks) to balance out three tough losses (Bengals, Cardinals, Browns) in a difficult early schedule. They get a Week 7 bye before they face the Cowboys, Ravens, Chargers and Packers (yikes) over the next month.
17. Seattle Seahawks 2-4 (13)
The Seahawks just aren’t the same team without Russell Wilson’s inspiring and stellar play, which should mean he really is always the NFL’s MVP based how much his team needs him to win.
18. San Francisco 49ers 2-3 (14)
The 49ers needed to figure out a few things on both sides of the ball during the bye and also use it to get healthier. It’s on Kyle Shanahan to make the offense click because the defense may not be a quick fix.
19. Chicago Bears 3-3 (15)
The Bears got some better play from their key rookies, Justin Fields and Khalil Herbert, to make the Packers sweat. But they need more firepower as their defense still has plenty of key holes.
20. Carolina Panthers 3-3 (17)
The Panthers have faded fast from 3-0 with Sam Darnold struggling and Christian McCaffrey ailing. Their offense that had so much potential is now a mixed bag of occasional flashes. The run defense woes also are very real.
21. Denver Broncos 3-3 (18)
The Broncos are free-falling with their offense still trying to prop them up but Vic Fangio’s defense is totally losing it after a strong 3-0 start. The Browns next on the road on a short week won’t help them get well.
22. Philadelphia Eagles 2-4 (21)
The Eagles played the Buccaneers well with Jalen Hurts doing what he could but the defensive roller-coasting continues to be maddening for Nick Sirianni.
23. New England Patriots 2-4 (22)
The Patriots have two “moral” home victories against the Cowboys and Buccaneers but they are still winless in New England. Their only wins are still against the Texans and Jets. Despite the prime treatment, they aren’t playoff-worthy.
24. Atlanta Falcons 2-3 (25)
The Falcons had a bye to continue to work on their offense to make it hum with Matt Ryan and Arthur Smith. Watch out should they get Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley going at the same time.
25. Indianapolis Colts 2-4 (26)
The Colts are seeing Carson Wentz play like they expected in Frank Reich’s offense with his full complement of weapons and better blocking. They should know the AFC South title is still within reach if they can clean up a little more defensively.
26. Washington Football Team 2-4 (24)
WFT is starting to see Taylor Heinicke regress to his below-average passing talent. The defense has been the much bigger disappointment, however, giving up way more big plays than it makes.
27. New York Jets 1-4 (29)
The Jets had a much-needed bye to regroup for the rookie season of Zach Wilson and Robert Saleh. The bad news is, they are facing the Patriots for a second time on the road in Week 7.
28. New York Giants 1-5 (28)
The Giants were cut down to size against the Rams as the injuries have gotten to them. Their defense has become a shell on every level and their offense doesn’t have any rhythm or consistency with line and backfield deficiencies.
29. Miami Dolphins 1-5 (27)
The Dolphins’ defense has gone into the tank with injuries and ineffectiveness everywhere, which is a really awful look for Brian Flores as it’s timed with Tua Tagovailoa reviving the offense.
30. Houston Texans 1-5 (30)
The Texans are not capable of competing well with Davis Mills and their defense, despite all the flashes they show for a rebuilding team with above-average coaching. They should be well positioned to draft Deshaun Watson’s real replacement.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars 1-5 (32)
The Jaguars got a win for Trevor Lawrence by backing him up with great receiving, running and special teams in a winnable “home” game in London. Now they will try to get on the board on American soil again.
32. Detroit Lions 0-6 (31)
The Lions are losing their fight slowly as the defeats become more devastating. The Bengals taming them like that on their home field might have taken all the scratch out of the fellow cats.
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