WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 6
|10.11.11 at 6:51 am ET|
Before the season started, the Eagles, Falcons and Jets were locks for the playoffs. The Bills, Redskins and 49ers were locks to have no chance. … And then they started playing the games. Now, through Week 5, the Eagles, Falcons and Jets are all under .500, and the Bills, Redskins and 49ers are all sitting pretty in first place in their divisions. It’s been an unpredictable year so far in the NFL. The Bills (7) and Raiders (8) are in our top 10. The Falcons (17), Eagles (20) and Jets (11) are not.
The elite teams in the NFL have held true to form. The Packers (1), Saints (2), Ravens (3) and Patriots (4) all have performed up to par and have solidified the top five over the past few weeks. The Lions (5) are making a case week after week that they, too, are one of the best in the league.
What to watch for in Week 6:
• The Eagles’ season is on the brink of collapsing. They’ll play the Redskins in what is arguably a must-win situation.
• The Bills will look to take down another solid opponent when they travel to New York to take on the Giants.
Byes: Broncos, Titans, Chiefs, Cardinals, Chargers, Seahawks
1. (1) Packers (5-0) — The comeback win against the Falcons came at a price, as starting left tackle Chad Clifton went down with a serious hamstring injury. The loss will certainly test the depth at the tackle position, because starter Bryan Bulaga has been battling a knee injury for the past two weeks. Even with the injuries, nothing has slowed down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. The defending champs are rolling. They haven’t lost a game since Week 15 against the Patriots and are playing the beat-up, winless Rams on Sunday.
2. (2) Saints (4-1) — Like other elite teams in the NFL, the Saints have a prolific offense accompanied by a mediocre defense. On Sunday against the Panthers, Sean Payton‘s defense made some key mistakes that could have cost the team the game. The five penalties the defense had on Sunday included two roughing-the-passer penalties and a personal foul on a bonehead play from Roman Harper. The Saints also were scorched by DeAngelo Williams on the ground.
3. (3) Ravens (3-1) — Coming off the bye week, the Ravens need Joe Flacco to bounce back from a shaky start to the season. Flacco’s completion percentage is one of the worst in the league, at 49 percent. He’ll look to improve against a Texans defense that is missing its best pass rusher in Mario Williams.
4. (4) Patriots (4-1) — The versatility of the Patriots offense makes Tom Brady and crew one of the most dominant teams in the game. Whether they need to pass, run, go to the no-huddle, or sustain a long drive, the Pats can do it all and are only going to get better. The production from the run game has been key. Brady can rely on his backs to move the chains, and it has helped balance the offense. Defenses have to worry about both the run and pass. The win against the Jets has to bolster the defense’s confidence as well. Although they faced a poor offensive team, the Pats should be encouraged after making big stops on third down. They’ll face a major test this Sunday against the Cowboys pass offense.
5. (5) Lions (5-0) — The Lions didn’t disappoint their fans while appearing on “Monday Night Football” for the first time in a decade. The Lions not only are relevant, they’re undefeated. The defensive line is relentless at rushing the passer. Ndamukong Suh has gone from rookie to superstar in just a year. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have connected each week for at least one TD. Johnson now has caught nine touchdowns in his first five games. No receiver has done that in the history of the NFL.
6. (8) Chargers (4-1) — For the first time since coach Norv Turner took over, the Chargers are 4-1. Not to rain on Turner’s parade, but anything less than 4-1 at this point would be a disappointment. The Chargers’ four victories have come against teams with a combined four wins this season.
7. (1o) Bills (4-1) — Looking for a stat to explain the Bills’ 4-1 start? How about the fact that they have caused 16 turnovers in five games? They’re also in the top five of the league in points and rushing yards and have scored 30 or more points four times this year. It may be time to start drinking the Kool-Aid and believe the Bills can actually make the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
8. (17) Raiders (3-2) — The Raiders need to build on their emotional, upset victory Sunday. Teams play better when they can come together and find a little something extra to play for. The Raiders are talented enough to contend in their division but still have to commit less penalties and play more consistent on defense.
9. (6) Texans (3-2) — Defensive star Mario Williams is out for the year, and that is a major blow for the Texans. The defense has been one of the strong points after a dreadful season in 2010. On the other hand, the Williams injury had nothing to do with the mistakes the Texans made on offense. Matt Schaub has to learn from the mistakes he makes on the field. His interception in the red zone was a result of a terrible decision and it cost his team the game.
10. (14) Steelers (3-2) — When the offensive line plays well, the Steelers look like a completely different football team. Pittsburgh enjoyed its best performance from the run game, ironically enough with starter Rashard Mendenhall on the bench. The production from the run game helped allow Ben Roethlisberger to have his best game of the year as well. The next two weeks should be a cake-walk with the one-win Jaguars and the one-win Cardinals up next.
11. (9) Jets (2-3) — The goal of Rex Ryan‘s Jets to host a playoff game this season looks unlikely. In the past two games, the Jets have 14 three-and-outs. Converting a first down has been a tremendous challenge for Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense. On top of that, the run defense has taken a huge step back and has gone from one of the best in the NFL to one of the worst, allowing allowing an average of 134.8 yards per game.
12. (16) Redskins (3-1) — The run game and the defense have been the highlights of the Redskins season so far. Coming off the bye, Washington is in a great position in an unpredictable NFC East. Mike Shanahan and crew definitely enjoyed watching the Giants and Eagles crumble in Week 5.
13. (7) Giants (3-2) — The Giants make game-changing mistakes and are an inconsistent team through five weeks. The G-Men have shown glances of both greatness and inconsistency this season. Comeback wins followed by last-minute red zone interceptions have defined Tom Coughlin‘s team. The good news is that the Giants still have time to get healthy and improve, because the NFC East is up for grabs. The run game is one area from which the Giants must get more production.
14. (19) 49ers (4-1) — One overtime loss is preventing the 49ers from being 5-0. That’s pretty impressive for a team that won just six games all of last year. The success of the 49ers can be credited to a physical defense that doesn’t allow many points and an efficient offense. Alex Smith isn’t being forced to do too much on the field. He’s thrown just one interception and is relying on Frank Gore to help move the chains.
15. (13) Falcons (2-3) — A loss to the Packers Sunday night snapped the Falcons’ 23-game winning streak when having the lead at halftime. The Falcons haven’t lived up to expectations this year. Just five games in, Atlanta has the same amount of losses it had all of last season.
16. (15) Bears (2-3) — Watching a Bears game is like listening to a broken record. More times than not, you’ll see Jay Cutler under siege, the offensive line struggling, and a countless number of yellow flags. Nine false start penalties is inexcusable at any level of football. The Bears are losing ground quickly in the NFC North.
17. (11) Titans (3-2) — It might have been a tad too early for those who jumped on the Titans bandwagon last week. They barely generated any pressure on the quarterback against a Steelers team that is one of the worst in protecting the quarterback. After playing well against below-average QBs, they were torched by Ben Roethlisberger. The Titans must go back to the drawing board as they head into their bye week. They’ll battle the Texans for first place in a huge divisional game in Week 7.
18. (18) Cowboys (2-2) — The Cowboys’ bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only can Tony Romo heal, the Cowboys have extra time to prepare for the Patriots and work on the silly mistakes that have hindered them this year. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys can improve coming off the bye. They have a tremendous challenge ahead.
19. (12) Buccaneers (3-2) — It seems like embarrassing losses always come with a devastating injury. If defensive tackle Gerald McCoy misses significant time because of the ankle injury he suffered Sunday, the Bucs defense is in major trouble. Josh Freeman has to make better decisions on the field. He already has six interceptions this year, tying his total from last season.
20. (20) Eagles (1-4) — Only five teams have made the playoffs after starting a season 1-4. This is a team in major trouble. There are rumblings that Andy Reid‘s job could be in jeopardy. A loss to the division rival Redskins next week in Washington could be the tip of the iceberg. The Eagles are struggling in many areas. The players are making dumb mistakes, the defense can’t stop the run, and the offensive line has shown no signs of improvement.
21. (21) Bengals (3-2) — The young talent is starting to emerge in Cincinnati, with Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and Rey Maualuga standing out. Dalton has shown tremendous potential playing well on the road and leading the way in back-to-back weeks with come-from-behind victories.
22. (22) Panthers (1-4) — Another moral victory from the Panthers. Cam Newton and his team have proved that they are no longer a pushover. The Panthers haven’t lost by more than seven points this year. Last year they lost by seven or more points 12 times.
23. (23) Browns (2-2) — The two W’s in the win column for the Browns are very deceiving. Those victories have come against teams that have yet to win a game this year (the Colts and Dolphins). Pat Shurmur needs to continue to help Colt McCoy develop into an elite quarterback so the Browns can eventually be able to beat teams with a winning record.
24. (24) Chiefs (2-3) — It’s been a shaky start to the season, but it looks like the Chiefs are finally starting to learn how to play without their stars. Matt Cassel and the resilient Chiefs have now fought back and won two straight games. Todd Haley has to be happy with the way his team has bounced back. Don’t expect the Chiefs to contend for the division title or a playoff spot, but this team will compete each week.
25. (26) Seahawks (2-3) — Pete Carroll‘s Seahawks pulled off the upset win of the week in New York against the Giants. The victory came with Marshawn Lynch‘s best game of the year and Tavaris Jackson on the sidelines. If the Seahawks want to win more games they’ll need similar performances from Lynch and Jackson to remain on the bench.
26. (31) Vikings (1-4) — There’s nothing like playing an awful team to help bust a slump. This season the Vikings have scored 89 first-half points but just 22 second-half points. They’ve also held a lead in every game they have played. The last-place Vikings have at least had an opportunity to win in all their games.
27. (25) Broncos (1-4) — After weeks and weeks of saying Kyle Orton was his guy and there was no QB controversy, John Fox finally decided to put Tim Tebow under center. If nothing else, Tebow added a much-needed spark to the Broncos offense. Orton has been shaky at QB. It might be “Tebow Time” in Denver, and you know Broncos fans are excited.
28. (27) Cardinals (1-4) — One team that has disappointed in 2011 is the Cardinals. Kevin Kolb was supposed to improve an unproductive offense but has failed miserably. Turnovers and a bad completion percentage have hurt. The Cards go into their bye week with three straight losses and will face the Steelers and Ravens next.
29. (28) Jaguars (1-4) — Four consecutive losses and counting for the Jaguars. This was a franchise clearly not focused on winning coming out of the gate, and it has shown so far. Major changes need to be made in Jacksonville to fix the abundance of problems.
30. (29) Rams (0-4) — Watching both the Seahawks and 49ers win on Sunday had to add a little extra hurt to an already ailing team. Sam Bradford and the Rams will come out of their bye week hoping to see a tremendous improvement from the offensive line. They’re also the next unfortunate opponent of the undefeated Packers.
31. (30) Dolphins (0-4) — With Chad Henne out, Matt Moore will try to break the Dolphins’ losing streak. Moore is just the guy the front office wants in there to help the Dolphins win the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. It’s not surprising the team couldn’t reach an agreement with David Garrard after Henne went down. Miami wants the No. 1 pick, and Moore gives them the best chance to get it.
32. (32) Colts (0-5) — The Colts are the early front-runners for Luck. It will be interesting to see what happens if they do get the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. How can the Colts justify drafting Luck after signing Peyton Manning to a five-year, $90 million contract? I’m sure if Manning has a say, he will push for a running back. The Colts have many areas to address in the offseason.
Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.
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