NFL Power Rankings: Panthers, Jets surge into top five in Week 7
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
• BELLER: Fantasy player rankings for Week 7
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?"
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.
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.