NFL Power Rankings: Panthers, Jets surge into top five in Week 7

2:25 | NFL
SI's NFL Power Rankings: Week 7
Tuesday October 20th, 2015

The 1972 Dolphins could be in for a long year. One of the six remaining undefeated teams, Atlanta, fell in Week 6 but a quintet remains. And the number of threats on the schedule are fairly limited—the NFL's usual parity has given way this season to a lackluster quality of play.

New England has close company atop the Power Rankings now, and the race to stay undefeated has a chance to linger deep into the regular season. 

  • 1
    1New England Patriots
    last week: 1
    record: 5–0
    This is a really good Patriots team, but the comparisons to the 2007 squad are off base. That was an all-timer (which is what made the Super Bowl loss so shocking)—Tom Brady, a dominant Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Adalius Thomas, Junior Seau, Mike Vrabel, etc., etc. The 2015 Patriots are on the same course, though, even more so if they can stop the impressive Jets from nabbing an upset on Sunday. With four of New England's next five at home, it will take a significant upset to keep the AFC East leaders from sitting on 10–0 heading into Denver in Week 12.

  • 2
    2Green Bay Packers
    last week: 2
    record: 6–0
    When we talk of a team desperately needing a bye week, said team usually is not undefeated and threatening to run away with its division. But the 6–0 Packers could use a few days. While the offense found a way to get to 27 points vs. San Diego, even Aaron Rodgers is starting to feel the effects of a thinned-out cast around him. Put a lesser quarterback in there and the passing game, in its present state, would be a nonstarter.

  • 3
    3Cincinnati Bengals
    last week: 3
    record: 6–0
    About 85% of romantic comedies made in the '90s centered around the “Ugly Duckling” premise—“nerdy” girl takes off her glasses and lets down her hair and, oh whaddya know, she's attractive. This is more or less what is happening with the Bengals offense. The skill players all were there, whether on the roster or injured. It's all clicking now ... and it's beautiful.

  • 4
    4Carolina Panthers
    last week: 8
    record: 5–0
    Dating to last season, the Panthers have won 10 of their past 11 games, counting a playoff victory over Arizona. Their lone loss in the stretch came to Seattle in the NFC divisional round. Carolina earned a little revenge Sunday, but there are bigger things ahead. Count this team as a legitimate NFC favorite.

  • 5
    5New York Jets
    last week: 7
    record: 4–1
    The Jets' climb to the top five does not come solely thanks to an easy win over Washington—with Matt Jones out and Kirk Cousins playing as if he'd never been outdoors before, a loss would have been disheartening. The real reason New York is climbing: Its balanced offense is providing a strong complement to its top-ranked defense.

  • 6
    6Denver Broncos
    last week: 5
    record: 6–0
    The old saying goes that “defense wins championships,” not “aging quarterbacks with limited arm strength win championships,” so the Broncos figure to be in this to stay. That said, the schedule does become significantly more treacherous after a Week 7 bye, so stay tuned.

  • 7
    7Pittsburgh Steelers
    last week: 12
    record: 4–2
    Pittsburgh won in San Diego behind backup QB Michael Vick, then knocked off Arizona with third-stringer Landry Jones firing two touchdowns. On Pittsburgh's current trajectory, practice-squadder Tyler Murphy will carry the Steelers past the Chiefs on Sunday and Charlie Batch will come out of retirement to upset Cincinnati in Week 8.

  • 8
    8Arizona Cardinals
    last week: 4
    record: 4–2
    Bruce Arians's team had a chance to pull away from its NFC West competition over the past three weeks. Instead, Arizona has slipped back into the pack—not just within the division but, as you'll see, within an NFL landscape that features a seemingly infinite number of very average clubs.

  • 9
    9Minnesota Vikings
    last week: 9
    record: 3–2
    Picking up where we left off on the Cardinals' write-up (i.e. the league's prevailing mediocrity outside of a handful of teams), we find the Vikings. This is, by all accounts, a team to watch in the near future and one that currently holds a wild-card spot. It also could lose in Detroit this week without surprising too many people.

  • 10
    10Atlanta Falcons
    last week: 6
    record: 5–1
    The previously unbeaten Falcons were nabbed by the Thursday night black hole that has claimed so many before them. Combine that with a motivated Saints team on the other sideline, and the result—a 31–21 Atlanta loss—was fitting.

  • 11
    11Philadelphia Eagles
    last week: 16
    record: 3–3
    Not sure the Eagles' performance on Monday night justifies a five-spot leap. (In fact, I'm pretty sure it does not, what with the four turnovers and all.) Again, though, few teams have separated from the pack, including in the NFC East, where Philadelphia stands for now as the team to beat.

  • 12
    12Indianapolis Colts
    last week: 14
    record: 3-3
    Lost amid the Colts' mystifying fake punt and all the “revenge game” hogwash was the fact that Andrew Luck played a darn good game, considering he was coming back from a shoulder issue. His 312-yard, three-TD performance was a clear step forward against a team that had forced Luck into nine interceptions over the past three meetings.

  • 13
    13Seattle Seahawks
    last week: 10
    record: 2–4
    The Cardinals' aforementioned mini-slump leaves the NFC West very much up for grabs. If Seattle has any designs on claiming it again, it will first have to figure out why it turns into a pumpkin when the clock strikes the end of the third quarter.

  • 14
    14St. Louis Rams
    last week: 15
    record: 2–3
    If you thought the Todd Gurley hype was lit before St. Louis's bye, just wait until Sunday when he gets a crack at Cleveland's bottom-of-the-barrel run defense. All it took was two Gurley starts to start assuming that he is going to light it up most weeks.

  • 15
    15New York Giants
    last week: 11
    record: 3–3
    Coaches like to say that they'll “burn the tape” after a bad loss, rather than spend time reliving it. The Giants might want to go one step further and burn down their entire film room after Monday night's mess in Philadelphia.

  • 16
    16Buffalo Bills
    last week: 13
    record: 3–3
    Since a season-opening win over Indianapolis, the Bills have lost three straight at home. Worse yet, they're allowing a staggering average of 32.8 points in those defeats. For a reference point, the Bears' 32nd-ranked defense is surrendering 29.8 points per game.

  • 17
    17Cleveland Browns
    last week: 18
    record: 2–4
    Week 6 marked three consecutive Sundays the Browns have had a game decided by exactly three points, two in overtime. Unfortunately for them, they're 1–2 in that heart-pounding stretch. There are four more weeks before the Browns' bye, too. How much will they have left in the tank by then?
  • 18
    18San Diego Chargers
    last week: 19
    record: 2–4
    The past two weeks, Philip Rivers is 78-of-113 passing for 868 yards—staggering numbers from a terrific quarterback. Oh, and the Chargers are 0–2 in those games. If San Diego doesn't find some semblance of a run game soon, Rivers might blow past Peyton Manning's single-season passing yardage mark (5,477). He's on pace to top it through six games.

  • 19
    19Miami Dolphins
    last week: 24
    record: 2–3
    Welcome to the 2015 season, Cameron Wake. After four games without a sack, Wake delivered four in a win over Tennessee. Lamar Miller's 113-yard outing was a divergence from Weeks 1–4, too. I assume Dan Campbell's pregame speech consisted mainly of him tearing up a picture of Joe Philbin.

  • 20
    20Washington Redskins
    last week: 17
    record: 2–4
    Kirk Cousins has played in 20 NFL regular-season games. He has thrown two or more interceptions 10 times. Cousins could carve out a very long career as a solid backup QB who makes a start from time to time. Yet Washington continues to ask him to step up in weight class, regardless of the outcome.

  • 21
    21San Francisco 49ers
    last week: 26
    record: 2–4
    Two weeks ago, Jim Tomsula was answering questions about if he might bench Colin Kaepernick. Tomsula's embattled quarterback has responded by throwing four touchdowns to zero interceptions since then, and the 49ers actually can jump into second place (at least until Sunday) by upsetting Seattle on Thursday night.

  • 22
    22Dallas Cowboys
    last week: 22
    record: 2–3
    Hopefully at least a few of you can relate to this. A lot of the birthday parties when I was kid were held at places like Chuck E. Cheese, where you'd just run around playing games for a couple hours. And at every party there was one kid—often the same kid—who, rather than just drop a quarter in a machine, would just hover until someone forgot to grab his or her prize tickets, and then he'd pounce. That's what the Cowboys are doing in the NFC East right now. Just lurking, biding their time, waiting for their opportunity.

  • 23
    23Oakland Raiders
    last week: 23
    record: 2–3
    The Raiders' upcoming stretch is critical, because there's a rather thin line between really making something of this season and slipping into the drudgery of the past three years. Playing meaningful games in November and December would be a huge step forward.

  • 24
    24Chicago Bears
    last week: 20
    record: 2–4
    Just as it looked like the Bears might be turning a corner, they coughed up 546 yards and 37 points to previously winless Detroit. Honestly, though it's tough to approach the season in these terms, losses may not be a bad thing right now. This franchise needs a big draft next April.

  • 25
    25Houston Texans
    last week: 30
    record: 2–4
    No matter what happens to the Texans' record from here, nothing should take away from the incredible spectacle that is DeAndre Hopkins. Even with Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer playing musical QBs, Hopkins is on pace for an all-timer of a statistical season.

  • 26
    26New Orleans Saints
    last week: 28
    record: 2–4
    Very slowly the Saints are beginning to re-establish their once-potent home-field advantage. They've now won two straight in the Superdome, including last Thursday's upset of Atlanta. And Michael Mauti's blocked punt, with Steve Gleason in the house, was a reminder of what that venue can be for New Orleans.

  • 27
    27Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    last week: 27
    record: 2–3
    Fantasy players and Bucs fans alike are hoping the bye week did some good for Mike Evans, both in terms of his health and finding a rapport with Jameis Winston. Evans scored in nine of his final 12 games last season; he's yet to find the end zone in 2015.

  • 28
    28Baltimore Ravens
    last week: 21
    record: 1–5
    The last time that the Ravens were this bad, they finished the 2007 season at 5–11, then fired Brian Billick and drafted Joe Flacco. They've been at or above .500 every year since—a streak that is in substantial jeopardy.

  • 29
    29Detroit Lions
    last week: 31
    record: 1–5
    Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi moved from the sideline to the box last Sunday, Can't verify this, but rumor is that the first thing he said when arriving at his new perch was, "Holy crap, has Calvin Johnson been out there this whole time?"

  • 30
    30Kansas City Chiefs
    last week: 25
    record: 1–5
    Game No. 1 post-Jamaal Charles was the Chiefs' worst fears realized. Charcandrick West and Knile Davis rushed for 46 yards on 14 carries, with neither player breaking off a run of longer than nine yards. Gonna be a long couple of months.

  • 31
    31Tennessee Titans
    last week: 29
    record: 1–4
    Losing Marcus Mariota for a few weeks is a disappointing setback for a club that needs its franchise quarterback on the field. But given how Olivier Vernon's hit on Mariota looked in real-time, the Titans should be thanking their stars that Mariota will be back at all this season.

  • 32
    32Jacksonville Jaguars
    last week: 32
    record: 1–5
    See ya here again next week? Blake Bortles is coming along at a decent rate, but everything is happening in baby steps for the long-struggling franchise.

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