Photo credit: Mike Morbeck
Author: Joey Carr
7 weeks of the NFL season are in the books and there’s more to digest than there usually is at this point in the year. There is a substantial amount of below .500 teams, including the defending NFC champion Seahawks; but on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are a record number of undefeated teams (Five!!). The Packers and Patriots remain far ahead of the rest of the NFL, but a few surprise teams, such as the Panthers and Bengals, continue to impress week in and week out. The big question this season is, however, can the numerous 2-4 teams step up and have a big second half, or will mediocrity remain the trend?
1. New England Patriots, 5-0
Bill Belichick has his team bulldozing through their Revenge Tour, as they’ve scored 183 points in 5 games, which is one more than they did in their historic 2007 season. Their toughest test of the year will be this Sunday however, against Todd Bowles’ new look Jets.
2. Green Bay Packers, 6-0
Despite Sunday’s last second win against the Chargers, the Packers come in at the No. 2 spot. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t exactly looked like the MVP of last year, but he still has been one of the more reliable signal callers in the league. Their defense did let up nearly 600 yards of offense to Phillip Rivers and Branden Oliver on the other hand, so that’s definitely an area of concern for Mike McCarthy.
3. Cincinnati Bengals, 6-0
The “Who-Dey” squad has been quite the surprise this year, and it’s mostly in part to the vast improvement Andy Dalton has made over the past year. The run game is scary and that defense is something to marvel at. This might be the year the Bengals finally win that elusive playoff game.
4. Carolina Panthers, 5-0
After finishing 7-9 last year, and winning the dreadful NFC South, the Panthers are now in the elite teams conversation. They dismantled the vaunted Seattle defense in the fourth quarter, coming back from 13 down. Yes, it was only one game, but come season’s end, Carolina should still be in contention for a playoff spot.
5. Denver Broncos, 6-0
This is a stat you probably aren’t used to hearing: Peyton Manning has more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (7). Number 18 has been abysmal so far this season, and is only undefeated due to his standout defense bailing him out each and every game. It’ll be interesting to see how Manning responds when his defense faces an elite offense (Week 12 against the Patriots).
6. Atlanta Falcons, 5-1
The one undefeated team to not make it out of week 6 unscathed, the new look Falcons should be able to fly through the rest of their schedule. They have the
easiest remaining games, and as long as Devonta Freeman keeps running downhill, they should be fine for weeks to come.
7. Arizona Cardinals, 4-2
After winning their first three, they’ve gone 1-2, and have been inconsistent since starting undefeated. The defense allowed Landry Jones to pass two late touchdowns on Sunday, completing the Steelers comeback. And even though they’ve gotten great production from their offense, execution has been a huge problem. The Cards need to stay on top of their game or else Seattle or even St. Louis could come from behind and swipe the division from them.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers, 4-2
Antonio Brown has been held under 50 yards for the past three games, which just happens to coincide to Big Ben’s absence. Mike Vick isn’t the quarterback he used to be and while he still has a cannon for an arm, the Steelers need someone else at QB. Enter Landry Jones. He led Pittsburgh to a comeback win on Sunday against the Cardinals and should take over while Ben is sidelined (with or without his cellphone).
9. New York Jets, 4-1
Todd Bowles has this team rolling, with the defense proving to be one of the best in the league. They haven’t faced an elite offense yet however, but that will change when they head to Foxboro Sunday to take on their archrivals. If they can knock off the “Evil Empire” Patriots, things could get interesting in the AFC East.
10. San Diego Chargers, 2-4
While their record says below .500, their performance says something else. They’ve squandered back-to-back opportunities to win games, both in the final seconds, and could easily be 4-2. Phillip Rivers threw for over 500 yards on Sunday, Antonio Gates is still Antonio Gates, and Keenan Allen is the one of the most promising young receiver in the league; this team will be just fine, despite their 2-4 record.
11. Philadelphia Eagles, 3-3
After a rocky start to the season, Philly seems to be back on track. DeMarco Murray is improving every game, and the defense looks shored up for the time being. As long as Sam Bradford stays healthy, the Eagles are the favorite to claim the NFC East Title.
12. Seattle Seahawks, 2-4
It could be a Super Bowl hangover, but something is not right with the Seahawks. They’ve blown four (!!!!) fourth quarter leads this year, and the offense is not clicking the way it has in the past. These problems go way past Kam Chancellor, and if Seattle wants any shot at the playoffs, they need to figure out how to fix their fourth quarter woes.
13. Indianapolis Colts, 3-3
In his first game back from injury, Andrew Luck looked sharp on Sunday night against the Patriots. While it wasn’t enough to overcome the vengeful Pats, things are looking up for a Colts team that started off 0-2. However, they don’t get to play their subpar division teams again until week 14, which will be challenging.
14. Minnesota Vikings, 3-2
Adrian Peterson has looked like himself in about half of the Vikings games, but it doesn’t seem to matter as Minnesota is 3-2 and in contention for a playoff spot. Tedy Bridgewater needs to cut down on the mistakes but rookies like Stefon Diggs make the playoffs reachable.
15. New York Giants, 3-3
The Football Giants have yet to show any signs of consistency, and it’s hurting them in the rankings. Eli Manning throws for 4 touchdowns one night and then gets picked off three times the next time (like Monday night). If the Giants are going to have any success this season, they’re going to need their defense to step up a little, and Manning will need to be more consistent.
16. Dallas Cowboys, 2-3
Big changes are coming to Dallas after the bye week, as head coach Jason Garrett made the decision to start Matt Cassel over Brandon Weeden, and running back Christine Michael will now be “let free”. Also, Dez Bryant could be coming back from injury this week, making Cassell’s job a lot easier.
17. Houston Texans, 2-4
Many people might not be as high on the Texans as I am, but Brian Hoyer has shown glimpses of potential, and Arian Foster is getting back to normal. Yes, they’ve only beaten Miami and Jacksonville, but give Houston a little more time to develop, and they could be fighting for a playoff spot come December.
18. San Francisco 49ers, 2-4
In a year that was supposed to be a rebuilding season, San Fran has shown some potential. Colin Kaepernick has been decent the past couple of weeks, and the defense is starting to come around. They have a showdown with the Seahawks this Thursday however, that will ultimately decide if they can contend for a playoff spot this season.
19. Buffalo Bills, 3-3
After destroying the Colts week 1 with Tyrod Taylor at the helm, who would’ve thought they would be 3-3 with E.J. Manuel starting? They haven’t exactly exuded consistency thus far, and things don’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Rex Ryan needs to get his team turned around sooner rather than later.
20. New Orleans Saints, 2-4
With their season on the line, they came out with a win on Thursday night against an undefeated division rival in Atlanta. Their offense was rolling, and the defense held
it’s own versus Devonta Freeman and company. With both of those aspects trending up, a playoff spot isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
21. Miami Dolphins, 2-3
I’m not sure if newly appointed head coach Dan Campbell put something in the water in Miami or if he’s an amazing motivational speaker, but the Dolphins looked completely reinvigorated on Sunday. It’s going to be interesting to see how Miami responds in the coming weeks when they play the difficult part of their schedule.
22. St. Louis Rams, 2-3
Who would’ve thought the Rams would be in second place through 7 weeks in the NFC West? They stunned Seattle in week 1, but have mostly been up and down since then. Todd Gurley could be the player they’ve been waiting for, however, and has the ability to be a franchise cornerstone.
23. Chicago Bears, 2-4
Da Bears have been exactly what they were supposed to be: average. Jay Cutler will not be leading this team to the promise land anytime in the near future, and if they keep losing, a fire sale might be on the horizon.
24. Oakland Raiders, 2-4
Yes, the Raiders are 2-4, but they’ve played some very strong teams thus far and haven’t lost by much in those contests. They’ve competed and have playmakers on both sides of the ball, which bodes well for both the near and distant future.
25. Washington Redskins, 2-4
The disaster that is the Washington Redskins continues to go on the decline. Kirk Cousins doesn’t look like he can be a franchise quarterback, and the run game has slowed to a crawl after starting off strong. They’ve got a tough schedule ahead of them, and the NFC East Title seems like a far off hope at this point.
26. Cleveland Browns, 2-4
The Browns always seem to be one big play away from winning most of their games, which was the case on Sunday against Denver. Cleveland has the tools to be a decent team, but mistakes keep costing them and dragging them down.
27. Detroit Lions, 1-5
Well, it finally happened. There are no more winless teams in the NFL, with the Lions escaping with a win on Sunday in overtime. Albeit, it was the Bears, but it was a great team win. Calvin Johnson had his first strong game and Matthew Stafford answered well after being benched the previous Sunday. The playoffs are all but out of the question, but this season can be a good building block for next season.
28. Tennessee Titans, 1-4
Marcus Mariota is expectedly having rookie season struggles, but his defense hasn’t exactly been helping him win games. The Titans are once again a bottom feeder team, but at least have a glimmer of hope with Mariota.
29. Baltimore Ravens, 1-5
Who would’ve thought? The Ravens, at 1-5, bottom of the AFC, and number 29 in the rankings. It’s one of the biggest surprises of the year, and Baltimore should just be looking at next season at this point.
30. Kansas City Chiefs, 1-5
Another AFC surprise, the Chiefs are in serious trouble for years to come. They just lost Jamaal Charles to his second ACL injury in four years, and Alex Smith is statistically one of the worst quarterbacks in football. KC should take a look at backup Chase Daniel as soon as this week if they want any chance at being somewhat competitive this season.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2-3
Yes, they are 2-3, but their play has been lackluster to say the least this season. Jameis Winston is the ultimate wildcard at quarterback, and needs to settle down for the Bucs to stay in competition.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1-5
The Jags are at the bottom yet again, and it’s not entirely the players fault. Coach Gus Bradley has won a combined 7 games in his tenure as head coach, which spans over two seasons. Sure, players like playing for him, but the Jags front office need to make a change in head coach this season; it’s working out well for Miami so far.
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