Throughout most of this season, we’ve discussed the surprise Kansas City Chiefs and their emergence as a top-flight team. Well that’s not news anymore, but what is involves how badly the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons have played to open the year. Most experts tabbed these two teams to win their respective divisions; instead, they’re both plagued with problems and looking like good bets to miss the postseason. So what teams are looking like playoff locks? Take a look in our Week 6 power rankings…
1. Denver Broncos (5-0); beat Dallas 51-48, retains same ranking – For the first time all season, the Broncos were actually challenged. And their defense was battered, until the end, when they finally put pressure on Tony Romo and forced a late-game interception. Peyton Manning was once again flawless; however, the defense looks like the one chink in the armor.
2. New Orleans (5-0); beat Chicago 26-18, moves up one spot – From defense to offense, the Saints might be the NFL’s most complete team. After a down season for himself, Jimmy Graham is back to form and proving to be a superhuman tight end.
3. Seattle Seahawks (4-1); lost to Indianapolis 34-28, drops one spot – The Seahawks dropped a very tough game to a hot Colts team on the road. We certainly don’t think this is any sign of trouble ahead though, and they should still be playing the Saints in the NFC Championship later.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (5-0); beat Tennessee 26-17, moves up one spot – It’s hard to be convinced that Alex Smith is truly capable of taking this team to the Super Bowl – especially when he doesn’t throw downfield too well. But strong defense and Jamaal Charles has been the recipe for an undefeated team and remarkable turnaround so far.
5. San Francisco 49ers (3-2); beat Houston 34-3, moves up one spot –
Was this blowout a sign of an improving Niners team or a reeling Texans club? We’re willing to bet it’s somewhere in between. The run game is definitely looking better for San Francisco though, and their defense is tough as usual.
6. New England Patriots (4-1); lost to Cincinnati 13-6, drops two spots – Okay, so that was pretty bad against the Bengals. But credit a Vince Wilfork-less defense for holding Cincinnati to just 13 points on their home field. Also consider that the Patriots have dealt with an insane amount of injuries on offense.
7. Indianapolis Colts (4-1); beat Seattle 34-28, moves up three spots – The Colts have now beaten two of the NFC superpowers in the Niners and Seahawks. Andrew Luck put on an impressive display on the road against the league’s best defense. Now, if only Trent Richardson could do something…
8. Green Bay Packers (2-2); beat Detroit 22-9, moves up three spots – Green Bay did an excellent job of bottling up Reggie Bush and taking advantage of a surprise Calvin Johnson scratch. Based on their remaining schedule, get ready for another NFC North title run.
9. Chicago Bears (3-2); lost to New Orleans 26-18, moves down two spots – If there’s one team that can still stand in the way of Green Bay and the NFC North crown, it’s Chicago. They lost to a tough Saints team, but will remain competitive.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2), beat New England 13-6, moves up one spot – Granted, their last victory was at home, against a banged-up team, and only a one-touchdown win at that. But it’s still a victory nonetheless and a very fine defensive performance for the Bengals.
11. Detroit Lions (3-2), lost to Green Bay 22-9, moves down three spots – It turns out that Detroit’s offense needs both Bush and Johnson to function as a solid unit. Green Bay was able to eat both Bush and Matthew Stafford alive without Johnson stretching the defense.
12. Baltimore Ravens (3-2), beat Miami 26-23, moves up one spot – Baltimore played an excellent second half to grab a tough win at Miami. The offense is still filled with question marks, but the defense provides a solid foundation.
13. Miami Dolphins (3-2), lost to Baltimore 26-23, drops four spots – After starting out the year great, Miami has now lost two straight. And one thing that’s really hampering them is how quickly they abandon the run game when yards don’t come easily.
14. Dallas Cowboys (2-3), lost to Denver 51-48, moves up four spots – Dallas and Tony Romo showed more in this one loss than they did in both of their wins. It was a heartbreaker, but the Cowboys will move on and grab some easy wins over their NFC East opponents.
15. Houston Texans (2-3); lost to San Francisco 34-3, drops two spots – Normally the Texans would freefall further after such an ugly loss. But much of the back-half of the league also lost. They should get back to .500 with a below-average St. Louis team coming into town.
16. Cleveland Browns (3-2); beat Buffalo 37-24, moves up five spots – Brian Hoyer hysteria looks to be over as he tore his ACL. Now the keys revert back to Brandon Weeden, who will either drive Cleveland to the playoffs or crash their postseason dreams into a tree.
17. Arizona Cardinals (3-2); beat Carolina 22-6, moves up five spots – Why do teams keep throwing Patrick Peterson’s way? Well probably because he covers opposing number one wideouts; but at the rate he keeps picking off passes, QB’s will think twice and thrice about doing so.
18. Tennessee Titans (3-2); lost to Kansas City 26-17, drops one spot – What this game mainly told us is that Kansas City is a very good team – not that Tennessee is a bad one. Unfortunately, things don’t get any easier for the Titans with Seattle and San Francisco coming up.
19. New York Jets (3-2); beat Atlanta 30-28, moves up four spots – Most people predicted that this would be the game where Atlanta finally got going and started a playoff run. Instead, it was a showcase for rookie Geno Smith to throw three touchdowns and lead a game-winning drive.
20. Atlanta Falcons (1-4); lost to New York Jets 30-28, drops five spots – The Steven Jackson injury was devastating, but most people expected Atlanta to at least remain in the postseason hunt. Now their chances of a turnaround are even more unlikely since Julio Jones may be done for the year.
21. San Diego Chargers (2-3); lost to Oakland 27-17, drops five spots – San Diego gained a lot of hype with how they played earlier in the season. However, this hype has been deflated and they’re looking no better off than when they were under Norv Turner.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3); beat New York Giants 36-21, moves up four spots – Hats off to the Eagles for grabbing a road win and staying in the NFC East race. Michael Vick is unlikely to play, so Nick Foles gets another audition for the starting QB role.
23. Washington Redskins (1-3), bye week, moves up one spot – The Redskins move up by default. Expect them to be moving back down again though after their secondary gets torched by Romo this week.
24. Minnesota Vikings (1-3), bye week, moves up one spot – Bringing Josh Freeman in to compete for the quarterback job can only help. Christian Ponder has proven ineffective over and over, while Matt Cassel has failed to do much after being gifted a talented Patriots receiving corp years ago.
25. Carolina Panthers (1-3), lost to Arizona 22-6, drops six spots – Once upon a time, Carolina was coming out of the bye week with a favorable schedule ahead. Then they put just six points up against the Cardinals and looked like NFC South cellar-dwellers.
26. Oakland Raiders (2-3), beat San Diego 27-17, moves up two spots – The Matt Flynn debacle is finally over with following his release, and Terrelle Pryor is firmly entrenched as the QB of the future. He’s now 2-2 as a starter this year.
27. Buffalo Bills (2-3); lost to Cleveland 37-24, drops seven spots – Hats off to Buffalo management for not letting severely outmatched Jeff Tuel out on the field again. However, practice squad hero Thaddeus Lewis doesn’t figure to be much of an upgrade at QB. Don’t expect Buffalo to win too many more games with EJ Manuel out for 6-8 weeks.
28. St. Louis Rams (2-3); beat Jacksonville 34-20, drops one spot – A win over Jacksonville doesn’t get you anywhere these days. Now a win over the Texans this week…that would be showing a little something more.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4); bye week, move up one spot – There are holes on both sides of the ball and the Steelers are going into a rebuilding mode. That process starts with rookie running back Le’Veon Bell .
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4); bye week, move up one spot – This team has actually been competitive in a couple of games this year. Don’t be surprised to see them rack up a few victories over the remainder of the season.
31. New York Giants (0-5); lost to Philadelphia 36-21, drops 3 spots – The Giants lost a very winnable game at home after being outclassed at nearly every position. Now starting running back David Wilson is out for next week’s game at Chicago. Win number one won’t be coming any time soon.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5); lost to St. Louis, retains same ranking – They actually had a lead for once this season and put some points on the board. Unfortunately, it didn’t take Jacksonville long to show their true colors after being blanked 17-0 in the second quarter.