WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 7
|10.18.11 at 6:16 am ET|
Just one undefeated team remains after six weeks of football. As expected, the Packers (1) rolled all over the Rams and cruised to 6-0. The Ravens (2) and Patriots (3) also continued their winning ways and jump one spot each to round off the top 3. The Lions (7) suffered their first loss of the season to the upstart 49ers in a gritty and exciting game. The 49ers (6) are buying what Jim Harbaugh is selling and they’ve now rattled off four straight wins as they head into their bye week.
Desperate teams like the Jets, Eagles (19), and Falcons (13) all managed to squeeze out wins and stay alive in the playoff race. The Jets stay put at No. 11 but could jump higher next week if they can beat the 4-1 Chargers (4).
There’s been a lot of commotion at the quarterback position across the NFL. The Broncos (26) are set to go with Tebow, the Redskins (20) have yet to name a starter for Week 7, the Seahawks (24) are uncertain if Tarvaris Jackson will be available, and the Raiders (12) suffered a big blow losing Jason Campbell.
At the bottom, misery loves company. The three remaining winless teams, the Rams (30), Dolphins (31), and Colts (32) are getting comfortable in their spots. All three teams are reaching new levels of terribleness.
What to watch for in Week 7:
The Falcons travel to Detroit to face the Lions in a game that could have playoff implications down the road.
In the hunt to win the AFC South, with the Manning-less Colts a non-factor, the Texans and Titans will square off in a huge divisional game.
Byes: Bills, Bengals, Patriots, Giants, Eagles, 49ers
1. (1) Packers (6-0) — Packers players should be prepared to fend off whispers of a possible perfect season because they’ll get louder and louder each week. The defending Super Bowl champs are over-matching their opponents and 7-0 looks inevitable with the Vikings next. With the way Aaron Rodgers is playing, undefeated certainly seems like a very real possibility.
2. (3) Ravens (5-1) — Baltimore has outscored its opponents by 77 points. The Ravens defense has been good all year and once again showed how tough and physical they can be against any offensive weapon the opposing team might throw at them. Arian Foster was shut down by a run defense that has been superb this season. On the other hand, Ray Rice has been lethal in the run and pass game.
3. (4) Patriots (5-1) — The improvement from the Patriots defense over the past couple of weeks has to be encouraging for Bill Belichick heading into the bye week. The pass rush is progressing and they’re getting off the field on third-down. This defense came up huge against the Cowboys and finally picked up the offense. Tom Brady and crew turned the ball over four times but the Pats D held Dallas to just six points on those turnovers. It’s a perfect time for a bye week for the Pats. Jerod Mayo, Albert Haynesworth and others can heal up and the defense can work on its problems before the team enters a tough stretch of games.
4. (2) Saints (4-2) — Tough day all around for the Saints. Not only did they lose to a divisional opponent, head coach Sean Payton tore his MCL after colliding with tight end Jimmy Graham. The injury will probably prevent the fiery Payton from coaching on the sidelines for a good period of time. All in all, the Saints should be able to overcome the tough defeat- thanks to the schedule. Two of the three winless teams in the NFL (Colts and the Rams) are next.
5. (6) Chargers (4-1) — The first-place Chargers sat back this past weekend and watched their biggest competition in the division lose its starting quarterback. The AFC West is theirs to lose. The Chargers now have to prove they can beat the good teams in the NFL. They’ll start by playing the Jets in New York this Sunday.
6. (14) 49ers (5-1) — The 49ers haven’t been 5-1 since Steve Young was the starting quarterback. Their win against a solid Lions team in Detroit has finally put them back on the map. Jim Harbaugh’s team is in a great position heading into the bye week. Their remaining schedule includes two games against the lowly Cardinals and Rams and one game against the Seahawks. It must feel good to be in the NFC West for the Niners.
7. (5) Lions (5-1) — No one expected the Lions to go undefeated. They will be judged on how they bounce back from losses and there’s been no evidence to this point to believe the Lions won’t rebound well. One thing to be concerned about is Jahvid Best. The starting running back experienced “concussion-like symptoms” for the second time this year. Losing Best for a period of time could make the Lions an extremely one-dimensional team because they lack depth at that position.
8. (10) Steelers (4-2) — The win against the Jaguars on Sunday wasn’t pretty and the Steelers still have to be more consistent. The run defense is giving up too many yards and Roethlisberger was sacked three times in the second half. The other bad news that came from game was that Troy Polamalu suffered concussion-like symptoms. Rashard Mendenhall’s performance was encouraging for Steelers fans. The running-back rushed for over 100 yards for the first time this season.
9. (13) Giants (4-2) — Improvements have to be made during the bye week if the Giants want to win the NFC East. They’re one of the worst offensive teams on third-down and the defense has allowed too many big plays and has struggled stopping the run. With all that said, the G-Men are still 4-2 and hoping that Justin Tuck will be back after the bye.
10. (7) Bills (4-2) — As good as the Bills offense has been this season, the defense has been just as bad. The Bills rank in the bottom of the league in points allowed, rushing defense and passing defense. The team hasn’t been able to generate any pressure on the quarterback. Four sacks in six games is good enough for dead last in the NFL.
11. (11) Jets (3-3) — Nothing like playing a win-less team to snap a losing streak. The Jets were desperate for a win and they got just that. However, the offense still struggled to move the chains and get first downs. The rushing attacked struggled as well until the game was all but over. The Jets still have a lot to prove.
12. (8) Raiders (4-2) — The Jason Campbell injury is a killer for the Raiders. The list of potential candidates that the Raiders have inquired about doesn’t seem too promising either. Apparently the most appealing replacement, David Garrard, has a back injury and is unavailable. Carson Palmer is an intriguing option if the Bengals and Mike Brown finally decide to budge.
13. (15) Falcons (3-3) — It was as close as a team can get to a “must win” game this early in the season, but the Falcons rose to the challenge. Atlanta beat the Panthers and avoided falling two games under 500%. The absence of Julio Jones helped the Falcons get back to the run game with Michael Turner. The Turner led rushing attack has always been the recipe for success for the Falcons and it proved to be true once again on Sunday. The strong, physical running back rushed 27 times for over 100 yards and two touchdowns. When Turner produces, the Falcons usually win.
14. (9) Texans (3-3) — The Texans don’t seem to be much different than what we’ve seen in previous years; the only difference is they have a shot at the division with the Colts in shambles. The Ravens are an elite team in the AFC and it was obvious the Texans are not at the level. The two-game skid they’re currently in makes their game against the Titans even bigger this Sunday.
15. (16) Bears (3-3) — There is still a lot of work to do if the Bears want to make the playoffs. Their blow-out victory over the one-win Vikings should help them build momentum but they are still in a tight spot looking up at the Packers and Lions. Jay Cutler and the Bears will play in another huge game this week in London against a team they could very well be fighting with for the last playoff spot in the NFC, the Bucs.
16. (19) Buccaneers (4-2) — The way a team bounces back from an embarrassing loss says a lot about the character of the squad. The Bucs have to be encouraged after their win against the Saints. Not only was it a huge divisional win, but they improved in many different areas. Downfield passing has been an issue all season but Josh Freeman completed some long attempts and passed for over 300 yards for the first time this season. The Bucs also picked off Drew Brees three times. They had just two interceptions prior to the matchup.
17. (17) Titans (3-2) — Matt Hasselbeck and the Titans moved into first-place during their bye. They also have the advantage of an extra week of preparation before they take on the Texans in a battle for the AFC South. The Titans have a great shot at the division but will need to see a major improvement from Chris Johnson. The star running back has been inept so far. The fact the Titans have the worst run game in the league is a major disappointment.
18. (18) Cowboys (2-3) — Jason Garrett’s lack of confidence in Tony Romo when the game was on the line was obvious on Sunday. On the road, against a team that never loses at home with a quarterback known for his comebacks, Jason Garrett didn’t trust that his quarterback could get a much needed first down and it hurt his team. The Cowboys showed they can play with the best teams in the NFL, they just have to finish. At 2-3, Dallas is still a contender for the division.
19. (20) Eagles (2-4) — The Eagles crawl into their bye week after a very turbulent start to the season. They got a much needed win against the Redskins. Now they have to get healthy and fix the endless amount of mistakes they have been making over the past six games. Protection for Vick is the most important thing that needs to improve. Vick has taken a countless number of hits this season and has been knocked out of games on many occasions. If Vick can’t last the whole year, the Eagles season is over.
20. (12) Redskins (3-2) — Sunday’s Rex Grossman was the Rex Grossman many of us were expecting to see at the beginning of the season. The Redskins have a major problem at the most important position in the game. Whether it’s Rex Grossman or John Beck, neither quarterback seems capable of getting them where they want to go. Mike Shanahan said on Monday he hasn’t made a decision yet on who to start and will go with whoever “gives the team the best chance to win.” Problem is, both quarterbacks hurt the team more than help.
21. (21) Bengals (4-2) — Already the Bengals have the same amount of wins as they did all of last year. Andy Dalton has given fans reason to believe he is the quarterback of the future. He’s done just enough to give his team a chance to win. He’s also received some top-notch protection. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney were non-factors last Sunday and Dalton continues to be one the least sacked starting QB’s in the league. Defensively, the Bengals numbers have been spectacular. However, don’t forget they’ve played some of the worst offensive teams thus far (Colts, Jaguars, Broncos, Browns).
22. (23) Browns (2-3) — Without Peyton Hillis, the Browns offense has been anemic. The big play potential has gone out the window. Colt McCoy is averaging less than 6 yards per completion.
23. (24) Chiefs (2-3) — Rumors have been swirling around Kansas City about Todd Haley’s job security. There was a report that Haley would have been fired if the Chiefs lost to the Colts last week. I think it would be a mistake to let Haley go. The Chiefs have had to deal with a multitude of injuries this year and the team has finally showed some life over the past two weeks. Not to mention the fact that the Chiefs shocked everyone last year and won the division. Coming off the bye, Kansas City will get the first crack at the Campbell-less Raiders.
24. (25) Seahawks (2-3) — The running game has struggled this year. Marshawn Lynch has yet to have a 100-yard performance. Robert Gallery is expected to return Sunday after missing three games and should be a major factor in improving the ground attack. Question marks remain on the status of Tarvaris Jackson (strained pectoral). Charlie Whitehurst has been practicing with the first-team and may get the nod. Marcus Trufant was placed on injured reserve on Monday.
25. (22) Panthers (1-5) — The Panthers have collapsed in the fourth quarter in each of their last three games; but at least they’ve had the opportunity to win each week. This is a much improved team that will find a way to win games eventually. Cam Newton has shown a lot of promise. There will be growing pains like the interception he threw on Sunday, but Newton seems to be learning more and more each week.
26. (27) Broncos (1-5) — “Tebow Time” is just days away. Many will be watching with great interest to see how the fan favorite will do. He won’t have the help of his best receiver because Brandon Lloyd was traded to the Rams on Monday. The Broncos are obviously preparing for the future. They want to see what they have in Tim Tebow.
27. (28) Cardinals (1-4) — Coming off the bye week, Kevin Kolb will hope to improve after a poor start to the season. The ink hasn’t dried on the $63 million contract Kolb signed in July but already people are second guessing the decision to bring him in. Kolb’s completion percentage is under 60% and he’s been mistake prone on the field.
28. (26) Vikings (1-5) — I think everyone saw enough of Christian Ponder to say Donovan should be done in Minnesota. The McNabb experiment has obviously not worked out. The pass offense is one of the worst in the league. It’s time for a change and time for Ponder to start gaining some valuable experience like what his fellow rookie quarterbacks are doing (Gabbert, Dalton, Newton).
29. (29) Jaguars (1-5) — The losing streak is now at five for the dreadful Jaguars. Week after week it seems like the Jaguars just don’t have the talent to win games in the NFL. All of their hopes are on rookie Blaine Gabbert.
30. (30) Rams (0-5) — The Rams could find themselves still searching for their first win of the year by the time November rolls around. This young team has taken a tremendous step back after an encouraging season in 2010. The trade for Brandon Lloyd, while an improvement, won’t help the offensive line protect Sam Bradford any better. The second-year QB suffered a high ankle sprain in the team’s fifth straight loss and might not play next week against the Cowboys. He’s been sacked more than any other QB in the league.
31. (31) Dolphins (0-5) — It almost looked like the Dolphins wanted to lose. The team never looked motivated or showed a true desire to win. Some of the coaching decisions were puzzling including the offensive strategy before the first half, throwing the ball towards Darrelle Revis, and the decision not to challenge a questionable call in the fourth quarter while letting the team take a delay of game on the very next play. Brandon Marshall hasn’t played to his potential. Too many drops, especially in the redzone, and an inability to finish big plays has prevented him from being in the “elite receiver” category.
32. (32) Colts (0-6) — Before the season started, the Week 7 rematch of Super Bowl XLIV was a game many marked on their calendar. Six weeks in, it’s safe to say it will probably result in the Colts chalking up their seventh straight loss. Indy without Manning makes you wonder if they would be able to beat a college team.
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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