From the Sidelines

Today’s Pigskin post-Week 6 NFL power rankings

27 December 2015: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) warms up before the NFL game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)

It was another week full of head-scratching outcomes in the NFL. Teams who most had in the top 10 (or even top five) of their year-opening rankings like the Broncos, Steelers and Panthers fell to teams that virtually nobody did like the Chargers, Dolphins and Saints.

Of course, none of the latter three vault into even the top 20 in this week’s edition. Their wins were merely an example of the parity around the league. Any team can fall on any week.

And, so, the aforementioned powerhouses must be punished and fall in our own rankings. Except for the Panthers, that is. Their free-fall has been an ongoing saga since this season began.

Denver and Pittsburgh, however, do fall out of our top five. They leave New England as the lone AFC representative in the league’s supposed elite – surrounded by a quartet of NFC teams they may well face come February.

Read on to see where your own team ranks, who rose and who fell.

And, remember, these rankings are intended to inspire discussion, so, whether you agree or disagree, let us hear it in the comments below.

  1. Cleveland Browns (0-6) Last Week: 32

Is Cody Kessler Cleveland’s future franchise quarterback? Given the rotten luck of the Browns, it’s tough to say, but there are signs that point to the affirmative. Kessler’s played well in an unenviable situation and with an underwhelming supporting cast. If he keeps it up, the Browns might have to reconsider taking a QB with the high draft pick they’re certain to receive.

  1. San Francisco 49ers (1-5) Last Week: 30

Colin Kaepernick struggled with accuracy (13-of-29 passing) in his first start of 2016, but he did seem to provide somewhat of a spark for San Francisco on Sunday. The embattled quarterback rushed for 66 yards and linked up with Torrey Smith on a pretty, 53-yard scoring toss as well. Of course, the Bills’ vastly superior roster turned this one into a laugher after halftime, but don’t blame that on Kaepernick.

  1. Chicago Bears (1-5) Last Week: 29

The Bears pitched a shutout against the Jaguars for three quarters on Sunday and, up 13-0 heading into the fourth, looked to be on the way to their second victory and a cushy spot in the mid-twenties of these rankings. Instead, Chicago let up 17 fourth-quarter points, including an embarrassing 51-yard game-winning touchdown in which they neglected to touch Arrelious Benn down.

  1. Miami Dolphins (2-4) Last Week: 31

The Dolphins are one of several bottom-tier teams who beat foes thought to be vastly superior to them on Sunday. The most optimistic of Miami fans couldn’t be faulted for feeling hopeful after their Dolphins thoroughly overpowered a Steelers team expected to contend for the AFC this season. In the long run, though, this win will merely be a nice keepsake in what’s still shaping up to be an otherwise lost year.

  1. New York Jets (1-5) Last Week: 25

The good news? Ryan Fitzpatrick has cut down on the turnovers. The bad news? He’s still not the man to pilot the Jets offense. Fitzpatrick’s thrown just one pick in the past two games, but New York’s offense has managed all of 16 points in that same span. The answer at quarterback may not be on the roster, but it’s readily apparent that a change is necessary.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4) Last Week: 26

Skin-of-their-teeth victories over two bottom-feeders in the Bears and the Colts aren’t enough to save the Jaguars from sliding a spot. After all, if not for a critical gaffe by Tracy Porter the Jags would be staring down the barrel of 1-5. As things stand, they’re fortunate to be sitting at 2-4 and an offense that couldn’t get on the board for over 45 minutes against a woeful Bears defense remains a concern.

  1. Carolina Panthers (1-5) Last Week: 20

The Panthers welcomed Cam Newton back in hopes of getting off the schneid this week. Newton did his part, accounting for over 300 yards and three total scores. Unfortunately, the defense didn’t follow suit. The Panthers surrendered a deplorable 465 yards to Drew Brees, just a few weeks removed from letting Matt Ryan go for over 500. Hard to imagine that Josh Norman isn’t somewhere chuckling to himself over that.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) Last Week: 22

Tampa Bay got a week off to feel good about its last-second win against the rival Panthers. The Bucs will hope that the time off helped Doug Martin to get his hamstring right and rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo to get his head right. If so, Tampa Bay should have a good shot at evening its record with the 49ers next on deck. 

  1. Indianapolis Colts (2-4) Last Week: 24

The Colts were painstakingly close to forcing a three-way tie in the AFC South. Indy secured a 23-9 lead over the rival Texans well into the fourth quarter before inexcusably giving up 17 unanswered points and making the Texans feel good about their Brock Osweiler investment. Truth be told, the jury’s still out on Osweiler. This one falls mostly at the feet of a miserable defensive effort from the Colts.

  1. New Orleans Saints (2-4) Last Week: 27

The Saints’ second win of the year came in a very Saints-like fashion. New Orleans needed 41 points to squeak by Carolina. Just two weeks earlier, it needed all of 35 to eke out a one-point win over the Chargers. New Orleans’ offense will continue to makes its games a fun watch, especially with the continued emergence of rookie receiver Michael Thomas (307 yards and three touchdowns in five games), but winning shootout after shootout isn’t a sustainable recipe for success.

  1. San Diego Chargers (2-4) Last Week: 28

A bevy of young talent was on display for San Diego during last Thursday’s win over the Broncos. Hunter Henry’s emergence as a top-tier receiving threat should have the Chargers feeling pretty good about life after Antonio Gates. Melvin Gordon’s yards per carry don’t show it, but he looks much improved over last year’s disastrous rookie campaign. And, of course, Joey Bosa’s been a constant presence in opposing backfields after a worrying summer. Unfortunately, by the time all this talent reaches its peak, Philip Rivers’ time might be up.

  1. Los Angeles Rams (3-3) Last Week: 18

After a surprising start, the Rams look to be trending back towards the mediocrity most anticipated. What’s been unexpected, however, is the cause of the slump. Los Angeles could undoubtedly use more from its offense (Todd Gurley, in particular), but a defense that’s surrendered 30 in three of its last four is the primary culprit for the two-game slide.

  1. Tennessee Titans (3-3) Last Week: 23

Matchups in back-to-back weeks against the Dolphins and Browns appear to be just what the doctor ordered for a once-struggling Marcus Mariota. The second-year quarterback has accounted for seven touchdowns over the last two weeks. While he’ll garner the headlines, a Titans defense that’s notched 12 sacks in the same span deserves a nod as well.

October 16, 2016:  Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) calls out signals during second half game action between the Los Angeles Rams and the Detroit Lions during a regular season game played at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  The Lions defeated the Rams 31-28.

(Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

  1. Detroit Lions (3-3) Last Week: 21

Most were understandably sheepish on Matthew Stafford and the Lions after Calvin Johnson’s retirement. Well, don’t look now, but Stafford’s on pace for 4,400 yards, 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this year. Whether he can keep that up without the threat of a running game, however, remains a concern.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (2-4) Last Week: 16

The schedule-makers didn’t do the Bengals any favors by pitting them against the Patriots in a week where they so desperately needed a win. The Bengals deserve some credit for hanging tough against the class of the AFC, that and their own talent level keeps them from falling into the bottom tier. Moral victories are nice, but the Bengals will need to start stacking some real ones if they expect to earn their first playoff win in a quarter-century.

  1. Baltimore Ravens (3-3) Last Week: 14

The Ravens finally saw some life in what’s been a listless offense this year. They ran the ball well and managed to connect on a few big passing plays against the Giants. Unfortunately, the week their offense woke up was the same in which their defense slept in. Baltimore surrendered two long passing scores to Odell Beckham and saw defensive leader Terrell Suggs tear his bicep in one long, misfortunate afternoon.

  1. New York Giants (3-3) Last Week: 19

It’s safe to presume that Odell Beckham is back to having fun on the football field. As noted above, the polarizing receiver went bananas on Sunday – going for over 200 yards and scoring the game-clinching touchdown. It was a sight for sore eyes and one the Giants will need to see more of if they hope to contend in the surprisingly tough NFC East.

  1. Oakland Raiders (4-2) Last Week: 10

It was a rough showing from what’s been a mostly strong Raiders offense this season. Derek Carr accounted for two turnovers and a running game down Latavius Murray couldn’t get going. With all the youth on this Oakland team, the occasional down outing can be forgiven. But, given the importance of this divisional loss to the Chiefs, it’s hard to justify Oakland remaining in the top 10.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) Last Week: 8

To call Philadelphia right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Big V for short) a turnstile would be an insult to turnstiles. The rookie tackle got put through the grinder by Ryan Kerrigan and co. in Week 6, playing a big part in the five sacks Carson Wentz took. Of course, the Eagles knew they wouldn’t easily replace Lane Johnson, but they’ll need Big V to go from liability to reliable in a hurry if they expect to contend with a ferocious Vikings front

  1. Houston Texans (4-2) Last Week: 12

Did the Houston Texans turn a corner on offense Sunday night? It’s tough to say. After all, 50 minutes of offensive ineptitude and even the remarkable comeback came against Indianapolis’ junior varsity-level defense. But it’s not like the talent isn’t there. Lamar Miller’s as explosive as they come out of the backfield and the tandem of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller would make many QBs around the league jealous. It’s just a matter of whether or not Brock Osweiler can utilize all this weaponry.

  1. Washington Redskins (4-2) Last Week: 13

No change for the Redskins this week, but that shouldn’t detract from what they’ve accomplished during their four-game win streak. Against the Eagles on Sunday, Kirk Cousins got all of his talented pass-catchers involved and Washington’s pass-rushers, well, rushed passes. Washington was the first team all season to make rookie sensation Carson Wentz look pedestrian.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (3-2) Last Week: 15

The Chiefs looked like a whole new team coming off their bye. After surrendering 43 points to the Steelers, and getting a week to stew over it, Kansas City allowed just a fraction of that (10 points) to another explosive offense in the Oakland Raiders. Meanwhile, Spencer Ware continues to play the Larry Johnson to Jamaal Charles’ Priest Holmes for an offense that, though unspectacular, seems to be forming an identity.

  1. Green Bay Packers (3-2) Last Week: 6

Even Aaron Rodgers’ most loyal fans would have a hard time defending the star quarterback’s ugly day against the Cowboys. Rodgers missed several wide-open throws and accounted for two turnovers. Only a meaningless, late touchdown salvaged his day from a statistical standpoint. Injuries may have hamstrung Rodgers’ production a year ago, but the cast around him in 2016 is as good as it’s getting, which means continued struggles represent cause for concern.

October 16 2016:   Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) sets the offense during the Dallas Cowboys 30-16 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI.  (Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire

  1. Buffalo Bills (4-2) Last Week: 11

The Bills force their way into the top 10 this week after reeling off their fourth straight victory. Of course, beating an inferior 49ers team wasn’t exactly a hallmark win for Rex Ryan’s bunch, but beating up on a group who, a month ago, many thought the Bills were on the same par with, says a bunch. With a strong rushing attack and a stifling defense, these Bills look a lot like Rex’s Jets from a few years back.

  1. Arizona Cardinals (3-3) Last Week: 17

The Cardinals make a well-deserved vault up the rankings after the Monday night beating they laid on the Jets. Arizona’s defense smothered New York, allowing just 33 rushing yards and forcing two interceptions as well. Meanwhile, David Johnson continues his emergence as one of the league’s best runners, going for over 100 yards and three scores.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) Last Week: 3

If the Steelers could always play in the friendly confines of Heinz Field they might go undefeated. Pittsburgh’s outscored its last two foes by a combined score of 74-27 at home. In their last two road games, however, the Steelers have been outscored 64-18. With Ben Roethlisberger hobbled, and Tom Brady coming to town, it’s unlikely that even some good home cooking saves the Steelers this week.

  1. Denver Broncos (4-2) Last Week: 4

It happens. Denver’s primetime upset at the hands of a desperate San Diego team isn’t an indictment of the team’s Super Bowl hangover. After blowing late-game lead after late-game lead the Chargers were scratching and clawing for just one positive outcome. That said, quarterback Trevor Siemian’s inability to complete much of anything downfield is making his ability (or lack thereof) to lead this Denver offense a concern.

  1. Dallas Cowboys (5-1) Last Week: 9

Two weeks, two thorough dismantling’s of 2015 playoff qualifiers. In their past two, the Cowboys have overpowered the Bengals and Packers by a combined score of 58-30. Their impressive rookie backfield will rightly draw lots of attention, but a tip of the cap is much deserved for a defense that’s flustered Andy Dalton and Aaron Rodgers in back-to-back weeks.

  1. Atlanta Falcons (4-2) Last Week: 5

Even in a losing effort, the Falcons proved that they’re no fluke by standing toe-to-toe with an NFC power in Seattle. And, of course, a missed passed interference call could’ve changed the outcome of this one. Nonetheless, Matt Ryan’s stellar performance (335 yards, three score) against an elite secondary is as strong a testament as any that he’s turned a corner. Don’t be surprised if these two lock horns again come January.

  1. Seattle Seahawks (4-1) Last Week: 7

As noted above, Richard Sherman and the Seahawks may have gotten away with pass interference en route to their win over the Falcons. But this wasn’t the “Fail Mary” or anything of that degree, the Seahawks still played well enough to win against a fellow NFC power. More importantly, an offense that struggled to find its footing with so many rotating parts early on is starting to round into form. Pair it up with a top-flight defense and it could spell trouble for the rest of the NFC.

  1. New England Patriots (5-1) Last Week: 2

Another week brought another 300-yard, 3-touchdown outing for Tom Brady. Of course, many were hoping that Brady’s revenge tour would hit a bump in the road during this Sunday’s visit to Heinz Field, but a banged-up Steelers team featuring Landry Jones under center has made that a virtual impossibility. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, that’ll likely only motivate Brady to prove that even the presence of Ben Roethlisberger wouldn’t have stopped him from leaving the Steel City victorious.

  1. Minnesota Vikings (5-0) Last Week: 1

No changes in the top spot this week. It’d be understandable to vault New England above Minnesota on its off week, but the memories of this dominating Vikings defense don’t dissipate that quickly. With a road trip into a hostile Philadelphia awaiting the new-age “Purple People Eaters,” not to mention Sam Bradford’s unceremonious homecoming, the team at the top promises to be an interesting watch once again in Week 7.

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