Week 7 NFL Power Rankings: Saints and Chargers making noise
We are seven games into the season and there are 25 teams at one game under .500 or better. That means to this point we can really only write off seven teams as being virtually out of the playoff race to this point with one being Cleveland (2-4-1) just a win away from becoming relevant again.
At the top, the only real clarity comes from the Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots. They are clearly the class of the NFL, but right behind them are New Orleans and the Los Angeles Chargers. It's difficult to know what to make of both teams. Are they truly contenders? Or, are they simply two teams that have been fortunate to this point?
Heck, we're not even totally sure about the Rams and Kansas City given that neither team won a playoff game last season. This all could be early-season mojo that could wane later on.
Time will tell. But what we do know is that the uncertainty within a league (unlike the NBA) is what makes that league special.
1. Los Angeles Rams (7-0). Last week: 1.
Fentress says: A sign of dominance is a team that doesn’t mess around with weak opponents. The Los Angeles Rams destroyed San Francisco, 39-10 on Sunday. Earlier this season, the Rams blew out Oakland (33-13) and Arizona (34-0). WR Cooper Kupp’s MCL sprain, which held him out on Sunday, is week-to-week proposition.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1). Last week: 2.
Fentress says: That 45-10 butt-kickin’ Kansas City laid on Cincinnati was the stuff of champions. The Bengals are a good football team and the Chiefs treated them like scrubs. It was a nice bounce-back from a disappointing loss at New England. What made the win most impressive was the play of the defense against a strong offense. If that continues, this team won't lose again. Next up are Denver, Cleveland and Arizona before a Nov. 19 showdown with the Rams.
3. New England Patriots (5-2). Last week: 3.
Fentress says: The Patriots, helped by two special teams touchdowns, took apart Chicago’s so-called dominant defense, 38-31, without the services of tight end Rob Gronkowski. The WR duo of Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon is already one of the league’s best. RB James White, however, is the top target with 45 receptions and seven receiving touchdowns, both RB records for this time of the season.
4. New Orleans Saints (5-1). Last week: 4.
Fentress says: The Saints were very fortunate that Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker missed the first PAT of his life in the final seconds of a 24-23 New Orleans’ win on the road. Nonetheless, the fact that the Saints were able to move the ball well against the NFL’s top-ranked defense on the road was more than impressive. Things don’t get any easier for the Saints. Up next, the Saints are at the Vikings and at home against the Rams.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (5-2) Last week: 5.
Fentress says: The Chargers were fortunate to defeat Tennessee, 20-19 in London, England. This is anything but a dominant team, but certainly are formidable. With touchdown passes of 75 yards to WR Tyrell Williams 55 to WR Mike Williams, QB Philip Rivers became the third passer this season with two TD passes of over 50 yards in one game.
6. Carolina Panthers (4-2). Last week: 12.
Fentress says: QB Cam Newton completed 16 of 22 passing for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the final quarter to lead the Panthers to a 21-17 win at Philadelphia after trailing 17-0 entering the fourth. The Panthers could be without WR Torrey Smith when they face his former team, Baltimore, on Sunday.
7. Baltimore Ravens (4-3). Last week: 7.
Fentress says: As previously stated, kicker Justin Tucker missed the first PAT of his career in the final seconds costing his team a 24-23 loss to the Saints. Tucker had made 222 straight PATs. Heartbreaking to be sure. But this team must move on quickly, Carolina, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are up next.
8. Minnesota Vikings (4-2-1). Last week: 9.
Fentress says: The Vikings have won three consecutive games while allowing just 55 points along the way. Let’s see how well Minnesota’s defense does this week against Drew Brees and the Saints. QB Kirk Cousins is having a career season with 2,162 yards and 14 touchdown passes with just three interceptions. His 101.8 rating is the best of his career.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1). Last week: 8.
Fentress says: The idle Steelers must have thoroughly enjoyed watching Baltimore and Cincinnati go down on Sunday. Now they will look to get back at Cleveland at home after tying the Browns in the opener on the road. Pittsburgh has been connected to rumors for a deal involving Arizona CB Patrick Peterson.
10. Washington (4-2). Last week: 17.
Fentress says: Taking down Dallas, 20-17, put Washington in sole possession of first place in the NFC East as the only team with a record above .500. That status shouldn’t change this week with a game at the lowly New York Giants. Running back Adrian Peterson is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season since 2015.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (4-3). Last week: 6.
Fentress says: Gotta drop the Bengals down a healthy chunk after they looked so lost against Kansas City. That 45-10 loss was embarrassing. The offense managed just 239 yards against one of the most generous defenses in the NFL. Cincinnati must bounce back against Tampa Bay.
12. Green Bay Packers (3-2-1), Last week: 11. Fentress says: The Packers were last week, which gave their coaches an extra week to prepare for what comes next. Green Bay plays at the Rams on Sunday and then at the Patriots the following week. The Packers must win at least one or risk falling a couple of games back of the surging Vikings.
13. Houston Texans (4-3). Last week: 19.
Fentress says: Houston has won four straight games to move into first place in the AFC South.
14. Miami Dolphins (4-3). Last week: 10.
Fentress says: QB Ryan Tannehill might not return for Houston this week.
15. Chicago Bears (3-3). Last week: 13.
Fentress says: The Bears’ defense shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as the 1985 Bears.
16. Seattle Seahawks (3-3). Last week: 15.
Fentress says: Seattle welcomes back linebacker K.J. Wright for big game at Detroit.
17. Detroit Lions (3-3). Last week: 22.
Fentress says: The Lions’ offense has produced 63 points in last two wins after scoring 34 in previous two games.
18. Atlanta Falcons (3-4). Last week: 21.
Fentress says: This team seems to be close to busting out. Washington is next.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4). Last week: 14.
Fentress says: That collapse against Carolina will be tough to overcome.
20. Tennessee Titans (3-4). Last week: 18.
Fentress says: Decision to go for two late in loss to Chargers haunts the Titans. But Marcus Mariota had open area to run before throwing incomplete.
21. Dallas Cowboys (3-4). Last week: 20.
Fentress says: The addition of WR Amari Cooper could be huge for this offense.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4). Last week: 16.
Fentress says: The Jaguars’ offense has produced just 14 points in two weeks. Benching QB Blake Bortles on Sunday didn’t solve anything.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3). Last week: 25.
Fentress says: QB Jameis Winston has passed for 760 yards in two games. But can he lead the Bucs to a win at Cincinnati on Sunday?
24. New York Jets (3-4). Last week: 23.
Fentress says: Jets land WR Rishard Matthews, granted his release by Tennessee a month ago, to help offense.
25. Denver Broncos (3-4). Last week: 26.
Fentress says: Rocking Arizona means next to nothing. Kansas City will remind the Broncos who they are.
26. Indianapolis Colts (2-5). Last week: 29.
Fentress says: The Colts had an impressive 37-5 win over Buffalo. Now beat Oakland to get back in the AFC South race. Sort of...
27. Cleveland Browns (2-4-1). Last week: 24.
Fentress says: Coach Hue Jackson says he will help OC Todd Haley with the offense, sparking controversy.
28. Buffalo Bills (2-5). Last week: 27.
Fentress says: Buffalo has New England and Chicago up next. Season over.
29. New York Giants (1-5). Last week: 28.
Fentress says: Eli Manning threw for 399 yards and the Giants still lost to Atlanta.
30. San Francisco 49ers (1-6). Last week: 30.
Fentress says: Unveiling of Dwight Clark statue only positive for 49ers these days.
31. Oakland Raiders (1-5). Last week: 32.
Fentress says: Coach Jon Gruden will rebuild this team to his liking. It will take time.
32. Arizona Cardinals (1-6). Last week: 31.
Fentress says: Worst performance of the season leads to change at offensive coordinator with promotion of Byron Leftwich.