After another week of craziness, there is a lot of movement in the 2018 Week 6 NFL power rankings. The top four remains the same, and two of those teams will matchup this Sunday night.
1. Los Angeles Rams (5-0) | Last week: 1
The defense—and cornerback Marcus Peterson in particular—again struggled, but the offense came through with 33 points in Seattle. At times, it looks like Peters doesn’t think the ball is going to be thrown his way, only to get burnt for touchdowns; he’ll have to get that solved or teams are going to keep attacking him. LA has over 30 points in every game this season, and they shouldn’t slow down much despite a potentially-tough trip to Mile High this weekend.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) | Last week: 2
With everyone focused on the offense-versus-defense matchup between the Chiefs and Jaguars, it was Kansas City’s defense that stepped up and was the difference in the game. The unit had five sacks and five turnovers—including a pick-six by defensive lineman Chris Jones—in the 30-14 victory. Patrick Mahomes surprisingly didn’t throw a touchdown against the Jaguars, but he helped the offense move the ball, as the team’s big-time weapons all did their part in a convincing win to remain undefeated.
3. New England Patriots (3-2) | Last week: 3
Julian Edelman is back in the mix for the Patriots, Josh Gordon continues to get more comfortable in the offense and caught Tom Brady’s 500th career touchdown pass, and rookie running back Sony Michel is quickly becoming one of the best runners in the NFL. All this led to the offense looking downright scary against the Colts last Thursday night, as Brady looked the sharpest he’s looked all season. The team hasn’t even gotten Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan going much yet, but TB12 has a ton of weapons at his disposal and is going to be tough to stop moving forward.
4. New Orleans Saints (4-1) | Last week: 4
Congratulations to Drew Brees for becoming the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards. The future Hall of Famer has been slinging the ball around like a flag football quarterback all these years, and he’s been one of the most underappreciated players in league history in my opinion. It was great to hear him mic’d up for the milestone in an emotional moment with his teammates, coaches, and family, as everyone got to see what a class act he is. The Saints are rolling, and the bye might come at a good time so they can step back and reflect for a bit before returning with a lot of energy in Week 7.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (3-2) | Last week: 13 (+8)
The top four teams are pretty solid, but from there it’s been a crazy season to this point. After their second straight win, the Chargers move up eight spots into the No. 5 spot in this week’s power rankings. They have a future Hall of Fame quarterback of their own, and he has as many weapons around him as ever. The Chargers can score in an instant as well as run out the clock for several minutes with Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. And Sunday’s win against the Raiders was a promising performance by the defense, which is still without star pass rusher Joey Bosa.
6. Carolina Panthers (3-1) | Last week: 9 (+3)
It was not a good sign that the defense allowed the Giants to get back in the game on Sunday, but Graham Gano came through with an ice-cold 63-yard field goal that hit the net to give the Panthers a two-point victory. Gano’s kick probably would’ve been good from 73 yards, and it could be a momentum-builder ahead of a tough two-game road trip against the Redskins and Eagles. Greg Olsen (foot) could be back this week, which would give Cam Newton and the passing attack a boost if the Pro Bowl tight end is close to 100%.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (4-1) | Last week: 11 (+4)
A couple of defensive touchdowns boosted the total and lifted the Bengals to a comeback win against the Dolphins, but Cincinnati is third in the NFL in scoring (30.6 points per game), behind only the Chiefs and Rams. The team’s first full season under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor had me optimistic about their chances of competing for a playoff spot this season, and things have gone well to this point. Joe Mixon is emerging as a star player for the Bengals, and he immediately made a big impact in his return to the lineup after missing the previous two games with a knee injury.
8. Tennessee Titans (3-2) | Last week: 5 (-3)
After the big overtime win against the defending champions in Week 4, the Titans might have had a letdown against the Bills on Sunday. The defense played well overall, but they just couldn’t get a stop at the end of the game, eventually allowing a game-winning field goal. And offensively, Marcus Mariota put a would-be touchdown into the hands of Nick Williams—who was targeted on the interception earlier in the game and did not cut across the face of the defender, causing the turnover—but it was dropped. Also, two lost fumbles (one by Dion Lewis and one by Taywan Taylor) were big, and this just wasn’t a good performance by the team. The good news is Derrick Henry got going with 11 carries for 56 yards in the loss, and he should be more involved as the season progresses.
9. Minnesota Vikings (2-2-1) | Last week: 16 (+7)
Coming off a game in which they were lit up by Jared Goff, I admittedly didn’t think the Vikings had a good chance of beating the Eagles in Philadelphia; but the defense stepped up and made plays—including big defensive tackle Linval Joseph taking a fumble 64 yards to the house while hitting 18 miles per hour in the process, and then wearing shades on the bench—and the offense led by Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs moved the ball on the Eagles. The receiver duo has simply been spectacular, and Thilen became the first player in NFL history with 100+ receiving yards in the first five games of the season. Mike Zimmer’s squad appears to be on the right track after their surprising Week 4 performance in LA.
10. Chicago Bears (3-1) | Last week: 17 (+7)
The Bears had a Week 5 bye, but they move up seven spots in the power rankings thanks to some losses by other teams. The talented Vic Fangio-led defense is giving up just 16.2 points per game, and I like that they can play elite defense in a league that’s more slanted toward the offenses than ever. Chicago has four straight games against the AFC East starting this week versus Miami.
11. Baltimore Ravens (3-2) | Last week: 7 (-4)
That was a tough overtime loss to the Browns, especially because a Justin Tucker kick (which is basically automatic) was blocked in the game. Also, it was a tough because the Ravens have an extra difficult four-game stretch before the bye, with matchups at Tennessee, vs. New Orleans, at Carolina, and vs. Pittsburgh. The league’s top scoring defense should keep them in every game, but the offense might need a little more balance—and Michael Crabtree must overcome his early-season drop issues; he had a costly end-zone drop in Sunday’s loss.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2-1) | Last week: 15 (+3)
The Steelers could be as high as No. 5 in the power rankings, as they looked really good in their emphatic win against the Falcons. Pittsburgh’s defense got pressure on Matt Ryan all afternoon, sacking him six times while not allowing him time to get the ball out on-time to his playmakers. The Steelers lead the NFL with 19.0 sacks, and blitzes were getting home during Sunday’s win against Atlanta. Aside from the bad interception at the end of the half, Ben Roethlisberger played great, and James Conner had one of his best games as a pro, so that’s exactly the type of game the Steelers want every week.
13. Green Bay Packers (2-2-1) | Last week: 8 (-5)
It’s hard to say the Packers would have won, but Mason Crosby had the worst game of his career with four missed field goals and a missed extra point in the team’s 31-23 loss to the Lions. The offense couldn’t get the ball in the end zone in the first half, and they had a couple of turnovers in the game, so it’s not all on Crosby. It was a positive sign that Aaron Rodgers and company did get things going in the second half, though, and they should be able to handle business as they face the Niners in Lambeau Field on Monday night.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) | Last week: 10 (-4)
People are probably panicking too quickly over the defending Super Bowl champs. There are obvious concerns for a team that hasn’t hit 25 points in a game this season and being one of the most league’s most explosive offenses last year, and Carson Wentz hasn’t been quite as magical—particularly on third downs—so far this season. The bigger concern is probably the defense, as the corners are struggling to cover, and the defense has typically been much tougher at home than they were in their loss to the Vikings. Jalen Mills must stop biting on double-moves, as he’s allowing way too many big plays—though he did last season, too.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) | Last week: 12 (-3)
I like defense and the Jaguars clearly have an exceptional one; however, I’m just not as high on the team overall as a lot of people are. The Jags forced the first two interceptions of the season on Patrick Mahomes and did not allow him to throw a touchdown, but the Chiefs had guys open and moved the ball on them. Again, Jacksonville has a bit of a target on their backs after their breakout 2017—the trash talk by Jalen Ramsey doesn’t help alleviate that—and they haven’t been consistent enough this season.
16. Washington Redskins (2-2) | Last week: 6 (-10)
The Redskins have also been inconsistent this season, including Alex Smith surprisingly struggling with decision-making and accuracy in last night’s loss to the Saints. That said, the team had a tough task facing Drew Brees on a record-breaking night in the Superdome, and no team is running away in the NFC East through five weeks. I liked how the defense played tough against the run last night, and it was the secondary that let down the Redskins. We’ll see if Josh Norman and company can step up against Norman’s former teammate Cam Newton and the Panthers this Sunday. Washington plays three of their next four at home.
17. Atlanta Falcons (1-4) | Last week: 14 (-3)
The Falcons were my preseason pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, so this 1-4 start has been a major surprise. Injuries have obviously been a factor on defense, but no one really played well in Sunday’s loss at Heinz Field. Dan Quinn must get his defense to step up, and the offensive line needs to do a much better job of protecting Matt Ryan than they did against Pittsburgh, but the Falcons have the ability to go on a big run and climb back into the playoff race. This Sunday against the Buccaneers obviously isn’t a “must-win,” but it’s a key game to get Atlanta back on track.
18. Miami Dolphins (3-2) | Last week: 18
It looked like the Dolphins were on their way to a 4-1 start in a bounce-back effort against the Bengals, but Cincinnati scored 24 fourth-quarter points—with two defensive touchdowns—en route to a 27-17 victory. The good news is the Dolphins got both Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore going a little bit after the run game had struggled the last couple of weeks, but it could be tough sledding against Chicago’s defense this week. Miami’s own defense must step up against a Bears offense that had an extra week to prepare for the matchup.
19. Detroit Lions (2-3) | Last week: 25 (+6)
After an 0-2 start to the season, Matt Patricia continues to get his guys to play solid football as they picked up wins against two of the top quarterbacks in football (Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers) in two of the last three games. The Lions defense is tied for third in the NFL with 17.0 sacks through five games, and it’s been mostly without Ezekiel Ansah, who hasn’t played since early in the season opener against the Jets. There’s talk of Ansah, who is on the franchise tag, “faking” his injury so he isn’t injured before free agency in 2019, but it was good to hear Patricia come to the defense of his player. Perhaps Ansah will be ready to go after the team’s Week 6 bye.
20. Houston Texans (2-3) | Last week: 26 (+6)
In a league with offensive fireworks in nearly every game, it was refreshing to see a hard-fought game in which both defenses played well and made tackles in the battle for Texas. I wish we would see more games like that each week, but it’s not likely in today’s NFL. The Texans came out on top in the thrilling overtime victory against the Cowboys, with DeAndre Hopkins coming up clutch with a couple of spin moves on a 49-yard catch-and-run to set up a game-winning field goal. I like the way Deshaun Watson is playing, as he’s throwing the ball accurately to stay ahead of the chains and keep the offense in positive situations, but the amount of big hits he’s taking is a concern.
21. Cleveland Browns (2-2-1) | Last week: 22 (+1)
After a huge 12-9 overtime win against the Ravens in Baker Mayfield’s first home start, the Browns have improved to 2-0-1 in front of the Dawg Pound this season. The defense has allowed 15.7 points per game in those three games, so Gregg Williams’ talented unit might be on its way to making Cleveland one of the toughest places to get a win in the league. The Denzel Ward selection at No. 4 overall in the draft was questioned by mostly everyone, but it’s certainly worked out through five games. We’ll see how the defense fares with Philip Rivers and the Chargers coming to town this week.
22. Seattle Seahawks (2-3) | Last week: 19 (-3)
Russell Wilson (three touchdowns) and the Seahawks nearly handed the Rams their first loss of the season, but they couldn’t quite come up with the victory on their home field. Still, it was a promising effort from the young team, particularly by the offense; and the running game was a big part of it. It was good to see the Seahawks decide to feature Chris Carson (19 carries, 116 yards), who is truly a beast of a runner, and Mike Davis (12 carries, 68 yards, touchdown) as they were not afraid to keep first-round pick Rashaad Penny on the bench. The commitment to the run opened allowed for successful play-action passes, where Russell Wilson is probably at his best. I wouldn’t count the Seahawks out this season.
23. Oakland Raiders (1-4) | Last week: 21 (-2)
Similarly, I wouldn’t count the Raiders out after a 1-4 start, even after a 26-10 loss to the Chargers. Derek Carr is clearly trying to do too much right now, and this offense can be one of the NFL’s best if he and everyone else take care of the football. Also, for all the talk (i.e. criticism) about Jon Gruden, he’s getting his team to play hard on every snap—and his offseason moves (like Jordy Nelson; three touchdowns the last three games) have worked out despite the lack of wins. Gruden is taking full responsibility for the losses, which his players will respect. Oakland will host Seattle this Sunday before their bye week.
24. Dallas Cowboys (2-3) | Last week: 20 (-4)
Hopefully people don’t just look at the stats, see Dak Prescott threw two interceptions, and criticize the third-year quarterback for his play—but I suspect that’s exactly what’s happening from a lot of “experts” out there. Neither interception was on Prescott, who played a very good game in what was a fun and tight matchup with Texans. Dak’s supporting cast must start to step up around him if the Cowboys are going to compete for a playoff spot this season, which I think they can do. The defense continues to tackle well and hit hard, and the unit should help keep the team in games. Overall, while the No. 24 ranking is low, there’s a ton of parity in the league right now.
25. Buffalo Bills (2-3) | Last week: 29 (+4)
Sean McDermott guiding his team to wins against the Vikings and the Titans this season is an indication of how good of a coach he is. The Bills don’t have a particularly strong roster—especially on offense—but they play hard and compete every game. If you just look at the stats, Josh Allen isn’t playing well to start his career, but the rookie gunslinger is making plays with his legs and is doing enough to win games with the worst offensive supporting cast in the NFL.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) | Last week: 24 (-2)
Coming off the bye week, Jameis Winston will be back under-center starting for the Buccaneers, and he has a big opportunity in front of him. The Bucs sit at 2-2 in a tight NFC, and Winston has a solid offensive line and plenty of targets to spread the ball to. Winston and the offense might need to put up a lot of points as they travel to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a matchup with the Falcons. Tampa Bay has lost three straight games to Atlanta.
27. New York Jets (2-3) | Last week: 31 (+4)
Sam Darnold was great on deep passes—two to Robby Anderson for long touchdowns—against the Broncos, and it perfectly complimented a run game that put up over 300 yards including a team-record 219 yards by Isaiah Crowell. The offense line has shown major flashes of being a dominant unit at certain points this season, and a strong running attack paired with Todd Bowles’ defense will help the Jets compete this season. The convincing win against the Broncos was a great sign for Bowles amid the impulsive talk of him being on the hot seat.
28. Indianapolis Colts (1-4) | Last week: 28
You don’t often see a team dress less than 46 guys for a game, but that’s what the injury-ravaged Colts had to do on a short week last Thursday night against the Patriots. It was ultimately a 38-24 loss that the Patriots felt in control of the entire time, but Indianapolis again battled despite falling behind big in Foxboro. Despite a 1-4 record, Frank Reich is doing a good job in his first year as the Colts’ head coach, and the future looks bright for the franchise. Also, I guess Andrew Luck is healthy after 121 passes in five days, which is great to see—but ideally he’ll throw the ball less moving forward, and the team knows that.
29. New York Giants (1-4) | Last week: 27 (-2)
Right now, the Giants have to be regretting giving Odell Beckham Jr. a huge long-term extension before the season—at the very least, Pat Shurmur probably wouldn’t mind a couple of future draft picks instead of Beckham. It was simply ridiculous that the star receiver criticized his coach, quarterback, and teammates in an ESPN interview, and there is no excuse for his actions. Of course he was frustrated with the team success and his individual success, but there’s a better way to handle things. It’s nearly as concerning that Beckham basically doubled-down on his comments after the game, especially when he had a costly fumble on a punt (recovered for a touchdown by Carolina) and a drop on a would-be touchdown, along with another drop on a fourth-down on what would’ve been a sure first down and potentially a touchdown. Overall, this isn’t a good situation for the Giants.
30. Denver Broncos (2-3) | Last week: 23 (-7)
Things are not looking good in Denver, as it’s a similar start to last season, with a winning start that’s quickly become a dreadful stretch. Broncos head coach Vance Joseph says changes are coming, but the change unfortunately might be at his head coaching position. People are pushing for Super Bowl winning head coach Gary Kubiak, who is a senior advisor to the team, to assume the role on an interim basis for the rest of the season. Denver just doesn’t seem to have any identity, and they don’t play good defense despite a lot of talent under a defensive-minded head coach.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-4) | Last week: 30 (-1)
The Niners lost to the Cardinals on Sunday, but it doesn’t drop them all the way to the No. 32 spot in the power rankings. San Francisco just didn’t take care of the football—which is something you obviously must do if you want to win games—but they otherwise moved the ball better than Arizona. C.J. Beathard should be admired for playing so hard, but he needs to start taking care of the ball more so the Niners can win some games.
32. Arizona Cardinals (1-4) | Last week: 32
Steve Wilks picked up his first win as head coach against the Niners, and it’s probably the type of game he envisioned for his team—the five turnovers were a season-high. However, the offense still didn’t move the ball, mostly benefiting from the five turnovers and a mistake in coverage on a 75-yard touchdown to Christian Kirk. The offense can still get a lot more creative, particularly when getting the ball to star running back David Johnson.