The great Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Take this as your opportunity to look around and admire the rapid progress made by many of the teams on this list.
Take Dallas, for example. The Cowboys began the year at No. 15 in the power rankings and tumbled all the way to 19th after losing to the Giants in Week 1. Since then, they’ve climbed all the way to No. 4, moving ahead of perennial contenders Denver (sixth), Pittsburgh (eighth) and Green Bay (11th).
We know success can be fleeting—the Falcons had the same record as Dallas at this juncture last season and limped to the finish line by losing seven of their last 10. But the Cowboys are constructed differently—they’re built to last. If anything, the best is still to come for Dallas. Ezekiel Elliott is just hitting his stride and top receiver Dez Bryant has vowed to return after the team’s upcoming bye week.
We still don’t know if the Cowboys will stick with Dak Prescott or revert back to Tony Romo when health permits, but let’s not worry about that right now. The Cowboys have accomplished a lot in a short time and that deserves our respect. Now let’s get to the rankings …
1. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 1
No news is good news for the Vikes, who return Sunday following their Week 6 bye. Hopefully the week off helped Stefon Diggs get healthy. The second-year wideout has averaged 93 receiving yards per game this year, which is the most by a Viking since Randy Moss went for 102 yards per game in 2003. Also of note, Fox has taken the drastic measure of photo-shopping Sam Bradford’s head onto Teddy Bridgewater’s body. Don’t worry, I have the link.
Fantasy Tidbit: Last season, the Vikings ranked fourth in rushing yards per game (138.2). This year, they’re dead last (70.6).
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2. New England Patriots
Last Week: 2
Gronk be Gronking. In a career already full of awesomeness, Sunday’s gem against Cincinnati may have topped them all. The 162 yards Rob Gronkowski tallied in Week 6 were a career-high. You know who else loves having Tom Brady back? James White. The third-year back has 12 catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns over his last two games.
Fantasy Tidbit: Julian Edelman still hasn’t scored a touchdown this year. Last season he scored seven times in only nine games.
3. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 4
The Seahawks have been winning ugly but winning nonetheless. Jimmy Graham answered the bell with another big game in Week 6, throttling the Falcons to the tune of 89 receiving yards. He’s averaged 100.7 receiving yards per game over his last three outings while reestablishing himself as a weekly TE1. The 310 passing yards Seattle allowed in Week 6 were a season-high.
Fantasy Tidbit: Christine Michael began his career by going 24 games without a touchdown. Since then, he’s scored five times in only three games.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 8
Dak Prescott finally threw an interception. Despite this horrible tragedy, the Cowboys still beat the Packers with relative ease. Ezekiel Elliott boosted his MVP candidacy with another monster game (28 carries for 157 yards) while the backup brigade of Cole Beasley and Brice Butler continued to wreak havoc (combined seven catches for 79 yards and three touchdowns). Tony Romo better get used to holding a clipboard. This is Dak’s team now.
Fantasy Tidbit: Prescott holds a 103.9 quarterback rating through his first six games. He’ll set a new rookie record if he maintains that. The current mark was set by Robert Griffin III in 2012 (102.4).
5. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 5
Julio Jones hasn’t been Mr. Consistency, but when he hits, he hits big. In perhaps his toughest matchup of the year, Jones sunk the Legion of Boom for 139 yards on seven catches while reclaiming the NFL lead in receiving yards. Jones’ heroics weren’t enough to beat the Seahawks, but the Falcons have a favorable schedule coming up with dates against San Diego and Tampa Bay in two of the next three weeks.
Fantasy Tidbit: Tevin Coleman’s 17 yards from scrimmage against Seattle represented a new season-low. He entered Week 6 averaging 94.6 yards from scrimmage.
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6. Denver Broncos
Last Week: 3
Denver was handed its second straight loss in Week 6 as Trevor Siemian turned 50 passes into just 30 completions for 230 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile C.J. Anderson was outplayed by rookie Devontae Booker for the second week in a row. Denver still boasts two of the league’s top three corners according to Pro Football Focus (Aqib Talib and Chris Harris) and should be in better hands with Gary Kubiak back at the helm this week.
Fantasy Tidbit: Anderson has averaged 41 rushing yards per game over his last four outings. He averaged 83 rushing yards in his first two games of the year.
7. Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 12
Behind the strength of LeSean McCoy’s epic #RevengeGame against old foe Chip Kelly, the Bills rushed for an absurd 312 yards in Week 6. That’s Buffalo’s highest single-game rushing total since 1992. Here’s another knowledge bomb for you: the Bills’ current four-game winning streak is their longest since 2008. Watch out, New England. The Bills are coming.
Fantasy Tidbit: Lorenzo Alexander leads the NFL with eight sacks. The last Bill to lead the league in sacks was Bryce Paup in 1995.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 6
Because a logical outcome would be too simple, the Steelers spent their Sunday afternoon getting blown out by the Dolphins, who entered the game as eight-point underdogs. This year Ben Roethlisberger waited until Week 6 to suffer his annual three-week knee injury. Now the Steelers will turn to Landry Jones against New England in Week 7. Insert prayer emoji.
Fantasy Tidbit: Without Roethlisberger last season, Antonio Brown averaged only 58.8 receiving yards in four games without scoring a touchdown.
9. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 13
It’s been a precipitous fall for Carson Palmer, who has made the dramatic transition from All-Pro to “barely there” in less than a year. Palmer’s decline has hindered John Brown and Michael Floyd, but fortunately the trickledown effect hasn’t reached David Johnson yet. The second-year back leads the league in both touchdowns (eight) and yards from scrimmage (833).
Fantasy Tidbit: Floyd has caught just five passes for 58 yards over his last three games. Two of those five catches have gone for touchdowns.
10. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 15
You don’t mess with Andy Reid coming off a bye. The former Punt, Pass and Kick Champion is now 16-2 immediately following a bye week. Jamaal Charles was expected to take over as the Chiefs’ lead back but instead it was Spencer Ware who did the heavy lifting in Week 6. Ware’s 131 rushing yards against Oakland were a career-high.
Fantasy Tidbit: Since logging a career-high seven catches for 129 yards in Week 1, Ware has caught just six passes for 102 yards with no touchdowns.
11. Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 7
If you take away his four-touchdown game against the Lions in Week 3, Aaron Rodgers has completed just 94-of-157 passes for 965 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. That computes to an underwhelming 79.9 quarterback rating. To make matters worse, Green Bay’s current backfield consists of Eddie Lacy (ankle injury), James Starks (knee surgery), Knile Davis (traded from Kansas City on Tuesday) and Ty Montgomery (plays wide receiver). It’s not looking good in cheese country.
Fantasy Tidbit: The Packers are still allowing the second-fewest rushing yards per game despite yielding 157 yards to Ezekiel Elliott in Week 6.
12. Washington Redskins
Last Week: 17
Coming off a fumble-plagued rookie year, Matt Jones has taken much better care of the ball in 2016. He’s also been more efficient, amassing 348 rushing yards on 69 carries over his last four games (5.04 ypc). After suffering his sixth known concussion, the Redskins have to be concerned about what the future holds for Jordan Reed, who just signed a six-year contract this offseason.
Fantasy Tidbit: DeSean Jackson has averaged just 31.7 receiving yards over his last three contests. He averaged 79.3 yards per game in his first three outings this year.
13. Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 9
Amari Cooper’s breakout year is happening, whether you like it or not. But if the Raiders plan to make the transition from fun sleeper team to legitimate playoff contender, they’re going to have to play defense at some point. The Raiders have now allowed the most yards per game, the most passing yards per game, the third-most rushing yards per game and the ninth-most points per game.
Fantasy Tidbit: Cooper is now on pace for 1,560 receiving yards. That would shatter the team record Tim Brown set in 1997 (1,408).
14. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 10
The Carson Wentz Rookie of the Year buzz has quieted to a whisper over the past few weeks. Laying an egg against a Josh Norman-led Redskins secondary is understandable, but the reality is that Philadelphia just doesn’t have much firepower on offense. With a date against the undefeated Vikings in Week 7, the Eagles could be in for another lean weak.
Fantasy Tidbit: Excluding his 19-yard effort against Pittsburgh in Week 3, Jordan Matthews has averaged 81.3 receiving yards per game this season.
15. New York Giants
Last Week: 19
Here’s how last week played out for Odell Beckham. He fumbled on the Giants’ first play from scrimmage before leaving with a hip injury in the second quarter. After halftime he exploded for 211 yards including a 66-yard go-ahead touchdown with 1:24 remaining. His 15-yard penalty for celebration gave Baltimore a short field but the Giants held on. All in a day’s work for the league’s most mercurial player.
Fantasy Tidbit: Beckham’s 222 receiving yards in Week 6 were a career-high and the second-most in team history behind Del Shofner’s 269 against Washington in 1962.
16. Houston Texans
Last Week: 16
Kudos if you were able to buy low on Lamar Miller coming off a season-worst effort against the Vikings in Week 5. Like the third Die Hard movie, Miller was back with a vengeance, throttling Indy with 178 yards (149 rushing, 29 receiving) and two touchdowns. Meanwhile Brock Osweiler owns PFF’s second-worst quarterback grade out of 35 qualifiers this year. Imagine if the Texans had just kept Brian Hoyer instead.
Fantasy Tidbit: The Texans have yielded an average of 354.3 yards in three games without J.J. Watt. They were allowing 277 yards per game before his injury.
17. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 11
Much has been made of the Jets’ murderous schedule this year, but look at what the Bengals have had to compete with. The Steelers in Week 2, the Broncos in Week 3, Dallas in Week 5, New England in Week 6—that’s four Goliaths in a five-week span. Not that anyone feels much sympathy for Vontaze Burfict after dishing out yet another cheap shot in Week 6.
18. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 14
Terrance West has become such an important part of the Ravens’ offense that the front office fired OC Marc Trestman in part for not using him enough. Over his last three games, West has gone for 295 yards and three touchdowns on 55 carries. Somehow Baltimore is 0-3 in that span. Also, how weird is it that the Ravens are playing at MetLife Stadium for the second week in a row?
Fantasy Tidbit: Mike Wallace’s 97 receiving yards in Week 6 were his most in a game since Week 15 of 2014 when he registered 104 yards in a loss to New England.
19. Detroit Lions
Last Week: 21
“Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in!” Golden Tate decided to actually earn his paycheck last week by shredding the Rams for a career-high 165 receiving yards. That’s more yards than he had in his other five games combined (134). He also showed off his cheerleading chops with some sweet pom-pom moves. With free agency looming in 2018, Matthew Stafford is going to be a rich man if he keeps playing like Dan Marino.
Fantasy Tidbit: Marvin Jones has averaged just 40.3 receiving yards per game since going off for 205 yards against the Packers in Week 3.
20. Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 23
Marcus Mariota has lit it up over the last two weeks. In that span he’s delivered seven touchdowns (six passing, one rushing) and only one interception while providing an additional 124 yards on the ground. Sure they’ve been favorable matchups (Browns and Dolphins) but Mariota deserves credit for balling out even while playing with one of the league’s worst receiving groups.
Fantasy Tidbit: Kendall Wright’s 133 yards against Cleveland were a season-high and his most since 2013 when he gashed the Cardinals for 150 yards in Week 15.
21. San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 27
Someday in the not-so-distant future, Antonio Gates will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. But right now, he’s not even the best tight end on his own team. That title belongs to Hunter Henry, who erupted for 83 yards and a touchdown Thursday in the Bolts’ upset win over Denver. The reigning John Mackey Award winner belongs in the weekly TE1 conversation.
22. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week: 18
Case Keenum went out and had the best game of his career on Sunday (three passing TD, one rushing TD) only for the Rams to blow a fourth-quarter lead en route to their second straight loss. Kenny Britt is starting to open our eyes. He’s on pace for 1,312 receiving yards, which would be the most by a Ram since 2005. Britt won’t be on the waiver wire much longer.
Fantasy Tidbit: Britt’s 136 yards in Week 6 were his most in a game since Week 14 of 2012. It was also Britt’s 11th career 100-yard game.
23. New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 26
Coby Fleener runs for touchdowns now! He also caught a 50-yarder from Drew Brees, giving him three scores over his last three outings. Even on zero sleep after driving halfway across the country for a wedding, the great Evan Silva still knew Brandin Cooks would have a productive week (173 yards, one TD). Rookie Michael Thomas will be a popular waiver add after scoring his third touchdown in as many games.
Fantasy Tidbit: Brees is on pace to throw 720 passes this year. That would be the second-highest total in league history behind Matthew Stafford, who attempted 727 passes in 2012.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 24
Doug Martin should be back this week after sitting out three games with a strained hamstring. The Bucs could sure use him. They rank 27th in rushing yards a year after finishing fifth in that category. Winning the turnover battle will continue to be the key for Tampa Bay. The Bucs are 1-5 all-time when Jameis Winston throws two or more interceptions including 0-2 this season.
Fantasy Tidbit: Mike Evans is tied for third in the league with 62 targets despite not playing last week. He’s seen double-digit targets in four straight games.
25. Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 20
Hey, Jonathan Stewart’s back! That’s all I have for good news. Through six games the Panthers have been a total train wreck and it doesn’t look like things are going to get better anytime soon. Even Cam Newton’s return from a concussion did little to energize the Panthers in Week 6. Only four teams have allowed more touchdown passes than Carolina this year.
Fantasy Tidbit: The Panthers have scored five rushing touchdowns over their last two games. They had just two in their first four contests of 2016.
26. Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 30
And the season’s highest single-game rushing total belongs to … Jay Ajayi? Yup. Because Ajayi doesn’t care about your fantasy team or mine, he decided to wait for Arian Foster’s return from a hamstring injury before exploding for a career-high 204 yards on 25 carries. Week 6 also included Ryan Tannehill’s best game of the year and a standout effort from Byron Maxwell, who held Antonio Brown to four catches for 39 yards.
Fantasy Tidbit: Ajayi’s 204 rushing yards against Pittsburgh were the most by a Dolphin since 2002 when Ricky Williams rushed for 216 yards against the Bears in Week 14.
27. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 22
The Colts provided the most unintentionally hilarious moment of Week 6. Just as Al Michaels announced that Frank Gore had broken the Colts’ streak of 55 games without a 100-yard rusher, Gore was dropped for a loss, sending him back to 99 yards. Gore did eventually top 100 yards, but the Colts lost anyway. Sitting in last place in arguably the league’s worst division, Chuck Pagano will be coaching for his job Sunday against Tennessee.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 28
Has Allen Robinson been this year’s biggest fantasy bust? He’s certainly in the conversation. Jalen Ramsey has had his moments, but he couldn’t keep up with Alshon Jeffery on Sunday. Meanwhile things have gotten so bleak for Jacksonville’s running game that Titans bust David Cobb was brought in for a tryout earlier this week. Coach Gus Bradley has been living on borrowed time all year. His job will be on the line again Sunday when the Jags face Oakland.
Fantasy Tidbit: Robinson hasn’t gone over 60 yards receiving since Week 1. He reached 60 yards in 11-of-16 games last season.
29. New York Jets
Last Week: 25
Ryan Fitzpatrick was predictably awful against the Cardinals but Geno Smith wasn’t any better in limited action (4-for-6, 31 yards, one INT). Adding to the misery, Brandon Marshall has caught only 15-of-33 targets in Eric Decker’s absence while Matt Forte has seen just 50 carries over his last four games. At least the schedule gets easier with matchups against Baltimore, Cleveland and Miami over the next three weeks.
Fantasy Tidbit: Ryan Fitzpatrick has targeted Marshall on 30 percent of his throws since Decker’s injury. Before that, he was only targeting Marshall 23.9 percent of the time.
30. Chicago Bears
Last Week: 29
It looks like Brian Hoyer has a new favorite receiver and his name is Cameron Meredith. Over the last two weeks, Meredith has caught 20-of-27 targets for 243 yards and one touchdown. Prior to those two outings, Meredith had just 17 receptions for 172 yards in his career. Behold, Alshon Jeffery has come across a groundbreaking solution to the Bears’ red-zone woes.
Fantasy Tidbit: Hoyer has now gone 197 straight passes without throwing an interception dating back to last season.
31. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 31
Aside from some slick running and a long touchdown pass to Torrey Smith (preceded two plays earlier by an egregious overthrow, also to Smith), Colin Kaepernick’s season debut was pretty run-of-the-mill. Kaepernick is clearly better than Blaine Gabbert, but that’s not exactly a badge of honor. We know the offense stinks but people forget how inept the Niners’ defense is. Only the Saints have allowed more points per game this season.
Fantasy Tidbit: The 49ers have completed just 55.9 percent of their passes this year. That’s the lowest success rate in the NFL.
32. Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 32
The Browns aren’t any closer to winning, but there have been signs of life. Cody Kessler led an impressive comeback Sunday against Tennessee, nearly erasing a 15-point fourth quarter deficit. His 336 passing yards were a career-high. Terrelle Pryor’s emergence as a wide receiver continued with two more touchdowns in Week 6. For an 0-6 team, the Browns have plenty of interesting pieces.
Fantasy Tidbit: Isaiah Crowell has rushed for just 38 yards on 22 carries over his last two games. Before that, he was averaging 98.5 rushing yards per game.
Biggest Rise: Chargers6
Biggest Fall: Bengals6