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Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Six weeks into the 2019 NFL season, things are taking shape.
Some of those things are going just as we expected they would. We figured the New England Patriots would be good, and they are—the defending champs are the last remaining undefeated team in the AFC. We figured the Miami Dolphins would be bad, and they are. In fact, the Dolphins are well and truly terrible.
But there have been more than a few surprises. The last remaining unbeaten team in the NFC isn’t the defending conference champion Los Angeles Rams, who have dropped three in a row to fall to .500. Or the Dallas Cowboys, who have suffered a similar slide. It’s the San Francisco 49ers, who just pummeled the Rams in Los Angeles to move to 5-0.
Not bad for a team that went 4-12 a year ago.
As is the case every week during the 2019 season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brent Sobleski, Gary Davenport and Brad Gagnon have gathered to examine the league’s ever-changing landscape and power-rank the NFL’s teams from No. 32 to No. 1.
The aforementioned 49ers are inside the top five. The Los Angeles Chargers are barely inside the top 25. And there isn’t a team from the NFC East inside the top 12.
Just like exactly no one predicted.
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Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
Last Week: 32
Week 6 Result: Lost 17-16 vs. Washington
Sunday’s matchup between the winless Washington Redskins and the similarly winless Miami Dolphins featured levels of suck that are usually only seen in cosmic phenomena like black holes. It was a battle between two awful teams to see which one wanted to lose more.
And in 2019, you aren’t out-losing the Dolphins. No, sir.
For a moment, it appeared the Dolphins might actually try to win. Compliments of an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to DeVante Parker, the Dolphins pulled within one with six seconds left in the game. Head coach Brian Flores elected to go for two and the win.
That turned out like everything else has in Miami this year.
“This was one of the few games on Miami’s schedule that appeared at least semi-winnable,” Davenport said. “It’s not easy in the NFL to run the table and go 0-16—it’s happened just twice. But this Miami team looks to have what it takes to have a historically terrible season—maybe even the worst ever.”
According to Sobleski, losing every game may be just what the Dolphins need.
“Phew, that was a close one,” he wrote. “The Dolphins almost screwed up and won a game. Fortunately, the failed two-point conversion keeps them firmly in the driver’s seat for next year’s No. 1 overall draft pick. This approach is especially important after the coaching staff already gave up on Josh Rosen. Yeah, yeah. He’s still considered the starter. Blah, blah, blah.”
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Gail Burton/Associated Press
Last Week: 30
Week 6 Result: Lost 23-17 at Baltimore
The Cincinnati Bengals have bottomed out.
By virtue of Sunday’s six-point loss in Baltimore, the Bengals now sit at 0-6. Facing a Ravens team that entered Week 6 allowing the second-most yards per play (6.7) in the NFL, the Bengals averaged just 4.5. Cincinnati’s offense was offensive all the way around.
Quarterback Andy Dalton? 235 passing yards, an interception and a passer rating of 61.4.
Tailback Joe Mixon? Eight carries for 10 yards.
Wide receiver Tyler Boyd? Three catches on seven targets for 10 yards.
All this with a first-year head coach in Zac Taylor who is supposed to be a keen offensive mind.
The Bengals are an absolute mess. The offense can’t move the ball with any consistency. The defense (which allowed 497 yards to the Ravens) is every bit as bad as last year’s squad that ranked last in the NFL.
Taylor’s tenure at the helm in Cincy may be a short one.
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Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
Last Week: 31
Week 6 Result: Won 17-16 at Miami
We tried to think of something good to say about Washington’s one-point win in Miami—the team’s first victory of the season.
Sadly, we’re not that creative.
Granted, a win is a win—especially for a reeling team that lost five straight to open the season and sent its head coach packing. And venerable tailback Adrian Peterson (23 carries, 118 yards) and rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin (four catches, 100 yards, two touchdowns) had big afternoons in the win.
But this was a game the Redskins nearly squandered. Had Miami not attempted a two-point conversion at the end of the game that was unsuccessful, this contest would have gone to overtime—which may have qualified as cruel and unusual punishment.
Washington should enjoy the feeling of a win while it lasts. With three straight games ahead against teams with winning records, it’s apt to be the last time the Redskins experience it for a while.
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Michael Wyke/Associated Press
Last Week: 28
Week 6 Result: Lost 34-33 at Arizona
Things just continue to get worse for the Atlanta Falcons.
After falling behind early against the Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday, the Falcons battled back thanks to the right arm of quarterback Matt Ryan. When Ryan found tailback Devonta Freeman from 12 yards out with less than two minutes to play, the Falcons were a PAT away from tying the game.
So of course veteran kicker Matt Bryant missed the extra point, because that’s the kind of season it’s been in Atlanta.
Team owner Arthur Blank has maintained that Dan Quinn’s job as head coach is safe.
But there’s no arguing that the 2019 season has been a disaster for the Falcons.
“The offense has been erratic,” Davenport said. “The defense has been garbage. And the Falcons have now dropped four games in a row since their only win of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s been a steady downward slide for Atlanta since its devastating loss in Super Bowl LI—from 11-5 in 2016 to 10-6 in 2017 to 7-9 in 2018 and now 1-5. Blank may not fire Quinn before the season is over, but Quinn’s days in Atlanta are numbered.”
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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Last Week: 23
Week 6 Result: Lost 16-0 at Denver
Week 6 may have marked the end of an era for the Titans.
After Marcus Mariota completed just seven of 18 passes for 63 yards with a pair of interceptions against the Broncos in Denver, Titans coach Mike Vrabel made a switch at quarterback—benching Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill.
Mariota tried to put the best face on a bad situation.
“I don’t feel great,” he told reporters after the game. “Coach [Vrabel] made a decision, and he’s going to make a decision that’s best for the team. I respect it, and I just try to be there for Ryan.”
For his part, Vrabel allowed that he isn’t sure who will start in Week 7 when the Titans face the similarly reeling Los Angeles Chargers.
“I’ll let you know as soon as I figure it out and do what’s best for the team,” Vrabel said.
“The offense has become unacceptably bad considering the talent they have on that roster,” Gagnon said. “Think about all those premium draft picks: Marcus Mariota, Taylor Lewan, Jack Conklin, Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, Derrick Henry. Plus you add Rodger Saffold and you get Delanie Walker back. And this is the result? The Titans scored 43 points in Cleveland in Week 1, and they’ve scored just 55 in five games since then. Their 2019 campaign is circling the drain, and it’s impossible not to feel bad for a defense that still hasn’t surrendered more than 20 points in a game this season.”
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Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
Last Week: 29
Week 6 Result: Won 24-22 vs. Dallas
The New York Jets are winless no more.
Yes, the Jets had to hold on like grim death to eke out a two-point win over the visiting Dallas Cowboys. After jumping out to a 21-3 lead, it took a failed two-point conversion late to secure the win.
But the New York Jets are winless no more.
It was no coincidence that New York’s first win coincided with the return of quarterback Sam Darnold. After a nightmarish month without the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft, Darnold passed for 338 yards and two touchdowns—including a 92-yarder to wideout Robby Anderson.
In the grand scheme of things, the win doesn’t mean a lot—New York’s 0-4 start quashed any faint hopes the Jets had of making the playoffs.
But at least the Luke Falk era is mercifully over in the Big Apple.
It really is over, too…Falk became the first quarterback (per Sunday’s game telecast) since Jeff George in 2001 to start a game one week and be released the next.
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Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Last Week: 27
Week 6 Result: Lost at New England 35-14
In his first career start, New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones looked like the real deal. He led the G-Men to a thrilling comeback win and was quickly dubbed “Danny Dimes” by a jubilant fanbase.
In his fourth NFL start, Jones looked very much like a rookie signal-caller.
Playing on the road against the league’s best defense this year and without his No. 1 running back, wide receiver and tight end, “Danny Dimes” was barely worth two cents. Jones failed to complete half his passes, threw three interceptions and finished the loss with a passer rating of 35.2.
It was a sobering reminder that while Jones is talented, he’s also inexperienced. There are going to be bumps in the road as he acclimates to the NFL—and some of these bumps are going to be tooth-rattlers.
The Giants may be headed in the right direction, but there’s still a ways to go before the team is ready to contend in the NFC East.
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Katharine Lotze/Getty Images
Last Week: 19
Week 6 Result: Lost 24-17 vs. Pittsburgh
After losing two straight at home to teams that had combined for one win this season, the Los Angeles Chargers are officially in dumpster fire mode.
The problems are wide-ranging and varied. Philip Rivers topped 300 passing yards against the Steelers, but much of that came in garbage time, and he turned the ball over three times. The ground game was nonexistent against the Steelers, largely because of an injury-ravaged offensive line that featured five matador impersonators. The defense just allowed 17 points (one score was a defensive touchdown) to a third-string undrafted rookie quarterback best known for his duck-calling skills.
You cannot make this stuff up.
The Chargers look nothing like the playoff contender many made them out to be entering the season. They certainly don’t look like the team that went 12-4 and won a playoff game in 2018.
With four of the team’s next five games against clubs with a winning record, things are more than likely going to get worse.
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Tim Ireland/Associated Press
Last Week: 22
Week 6 Result: Lost 37-26 vs. Carolina (London)
Throughout his four-plus years in the NFL, there’s been one predominant knock against Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston—turnovers.
That knock was deafening Sunday in London.
Winston threw for 400 yards in a loss to the Carolina Panthers, but he was also intercepted five times and lost a fumble. The Buccaneers turned it over seven times, and there’s no way a team is going to win a game in the NFL with that many miscues.
Because the game was a Sesame Street episode from hell sponsored by the number seven, that’s also the number of sacks the Buccaneers allowed. That included 2.5 from longtime Buccaneer Gerald McCoy, who had a huge day against his old team.
All told, it was a mistake-filled mess of a performance from a team that can’t afford to make them—and a painful reminder that the Buccaneers have a tough decision looming in the offseason regarding Winston’s future with the franchise.
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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Last Week: 25
Week 6 Result: Won 16-0 vs. Tennessee
The Denver Broncos might just be better than we thought.
After shutting out the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, the Broncos have now peeled off two wins in a row after dropping their first four games of the season. That losing streak isn’t as bad as it looks either—home losses to the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars came on field goals as time expired.
This isn’t to say the Broncos don’t still have issues. Denver ranks well outside the top 20 in the NFL in total offense and managed just 270 yards against the Titans.
But Vic Fangio’s defense is playing well—Sunday’s shutout featured just 204 yards allowed, three takeaways and seven sacks.
We’ll discover soon enough whether the Broncos are the team that’s won two straight or the one that lost four consecutive games before that. Thursday night, the Broncos will play host to the first-place Kansas City Chiefs at Mile High.
Pull that game out, and the Broncos could be in business in the AFC West.
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Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press
Last Week: 20
Week 6 Result: Lost 13-6 vs. New Orleans
The play of rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II has taken the Jacksonville area by storm in 2019. “Minshew Mania” is in full effect.
Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, though, Minshew looked like a rookie signal-caller.
Minshew’s effort against New Orleans was easily his worst of the season. He completed fewer than half his passes for 163 yards with an interception and a passer rating of 51.4.
However, he wasn’t the only player who fell flat against the Saints. Tailback Leonard Fournette managed just 72 yards on 20 carries. The Jaguars put up 226 yards of offense—a performance that harkened back to the dark days of the Blake Bortles era.
The reality is that this Jaguars team probably isn’t making a postseason run in 2019. And whether it’s the future of head coach Doug Marrone or the quarterback quandary between Minshew and Nick Foles, the Jags face some massive questions when this season is over.
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Jason Miller/Getty Images
Last Week: 18
Week 6 Result: Lost 32-28 vs. Seattle
In retrospect, the idea that these Cleveland Browns were ever considered a playoff contender or ranked inside the top 10 in these power rankings seems laughable.
The Browns raced out to a 20-6 lead Sunday against the Seahawks, but this Browns team has yet to see a mistake it doesn’t like, so it didn’t hold. Baker Mayfield threw three more interceptions in Week 6. Two occurred in plus territory. For the second week in a row, one happened around the end zone. The Browns committed four turnovers total and piled up nine more penalties for 83 yards.
Good teams do not continually commit unforced errors. But game after game and week after week, the Browns shoot themselves in the foot.
It’s all but certainly going to get worse before it gets better. After a Week 7 bye in which the Browns will somehow commit six more penalties and turn it over twice, Cleveland travels to Gillette Stadium to face the undefeated Patriots.
That’s not going to end well.
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Kyusung Gong/Associated Press
Last Week: 26
Week 6 Result: Won 24-17 at Los Angeles Chargers
The 2019 campaign hasn’t gone according to plan for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team has been devastated by injuries—including the elbow injury that ended Ben Roethlisberger‘s season.
However, to their credit, they haven’t packed it in. Despite starting undrafted rookie third-string quarterback Devlin Hodges on Sunday night against the Chargers, the Steelers didn’t just compete—they spent most of the game taking Los Angeles behind the woodshed.
“The Steelers aren’t going down without a fight,” Sobleski said. “Sure, they’re down to their third-string quarterback, but the coaching staff wisely limited his role while relying on the running game and a burgeoning defensive front seven to win its last two contests. The margin for error is razor-thin, but the upcoming schedule isn’t exactly harrowing.”
That schedule includes four out of six against teams with losing records after the bye—including a tilt with the winless Dolphins in Week 8.
It’s likely the Steelers will host the Colts on Nov. 3 with a chance to end the first half of the season 4-4.
Given all that’s happened, it would be quite the achievement.
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Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
Last Week: 24
Week 6 Result: Won 34-33 vs. Atlanta
To be fair, the Arizona Cardinals still aren’t an especially good team. The defense was torched to the tune of 356 passing yards and four touchdowns by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
However, the Redbirds have now rolled off two wins in a row, and as Gagnon pointed out, they’re getting better.
“The Cards might not be a playoff contender, but they’re going to spoil a few parties this year,” he said. “They’re becoming a lot more fun to watch, and the one really impressive thing about that young offense is it’s been pretty disciplined. Arizona has turned the ball over a tied-for-NFL-low four times in six games. There’s reason to be optimistic, even if the defense is still pretty bad.”
Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray is getting better by the week. He threw for 340 yards with three scores and no interceptions and ran for another 32 yards against the Falcons.
The Cardinals have the unfortunate distinction of being stuck in a loaded NFC West, but if the team makes some defensive improvements in the offseason, Arizona could be ready to make some real noise in the division in 2020.
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Naomi Baker/Getty Images
Last Week: 21
Week 6 Result: Bye Week
A funny thing happened on the way to another disappointing season in Oakland: The team got better.
So much better, in fact, that Oakland hit its bye week sitting at 3-2 in second place in the AFC West, just half a game behind the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Raiders have peeled off back-to-back wins over teams that entered the season as playoff contenders with something of an old-school game script: Run the ball with rookie tailback Josh Jacobs. Control tempo and time of possession. And make just enough plays defensively to get the W.
The Raiders still need work. This defense gave up a 28-point quarter to the Chiefs earlier this year. The team is better on that side of the ball, but still not especially good.
That said, while it might be a stretch to call the Raiders a legitimate playoff threat, it’s not a stretch to say that moving forward, teams won’t be looking past the Raiders. They won’t pencil in an easy win when they see the Silver and Black on the schedule.
The Raiders are tomato cans no more.
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Adam Hunger/Associated Press
Last Week: 9
Week 6 Result: Lost 24-22 at New York Jets
In last week’s power rankings, Sobleski said this of the 2019 Cowboys:
“Maybe the Cowboys are just mediocre.”
After Dallas lost consecutive games to the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers, the general thought was that it would get right against the winless Jets at MetLife Stadium. Instead, the Cowboys came out flat, fell behind 21-3 and dropped their third straight game to fall to .500 on the season.
With Dallas now mired in a full-on tailspin and head coach Jason Garrett in the final year of his contract, speculation has ramped up regarding Garrett’s future in Dallas. Team owner Jerry Jones indicated after the game that he doesn’t blame Garrett for the losing streak and isn’t planning to make any changes at this time.
We’ll see if he still feels that way after the Cowboys play the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday night. The way Dallas is playing, a fourth straight loss is a real possibility.
“The Cowboys haven’t scored a touchdown in the first half since Week 3, which is a significantly bad sign regarding the state of a team’s offense,” Gagnon said. “Injuries are a factor, but the relatively healthy defense has embarrassed itself as well. Besides, elite teams overcome injuries. Just look at the Saints, Colts and 49ers.”
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Tim Ireland/Associated Press
Last Week: 17
Week 6 Result: Won 37-26 vs. Tampa Bay (London)
Do you remember when the Carolina Panthers were Cam Newton‘s team?
Pepperidge Farm remembers. The folks in Charlotte, not so much.
With a banged-up Newton under center, the Panthers started the season 0-2. Since Newton gave way to Kyle Allen, those same Panthers have peeled off four wins in a row, with the latest an 11-point win over their NFC South rivals from Tampa in London.
It’s not that Allen is posting gonzo numbers—he threw for a modest 227 yards against the Buccaneers. But he is taking care of the football (he’s yet to throw an interception this season), and the Panthers are playing well in all facets of the game, whether it’s Christian McCaffrey and the run game or Luke Kuechly and the defense.
Two weeks into the season, the Panthers looked done. A month later, with an unheralded backup quarterback running the show, Carolina looks like a legitimate playoff contender.
The NFL is weird sometimes.
“Kyle Allen is making things very interesting in Carolina,” Sobleski said. “Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles told NFL Network’s Rich Eisen “the Allen-QBed team presented more of a challenge to defend than the Week 2 Cam QBed team. Said, among other issues, Allen finds his outlets better.” Whoo boy, a quarterback controversy is brewing, and it’s hard to argue against Allen based on his play as the starter.”
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Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Last Week: 15
Week 6 Result: Lost at Green Bay 23-22
In the first quarter of Monday’s Week 6 finale between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, it looked like the visitors were set to make a statement. They appeared ready to announce their arrival as a force in the NFC North.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford completed a long pass to Kenny Golladay on the game’s first play. Detroit raced out to a 13-0 lead and thoroughly dominated the first quarter.
It was the other three quarters that wound up being a problem.
Yes, there were two phantom calls for illegal use of hands in the second half that had a big impact on Detroit eventually losing the game. There was also a call for 12 men on the field that led to Green Bay’s first touchdown. But for the Lions, far too many trips deep into Green Bay territory ended in field goals instead of touchdowns.
“The Lions are a good football team, and the officiating didn’t do them any favors,” Davenport said. “But to get a tough road win against a good team, you have to take full advantage of the opportunities you’re given. The Lions didn’t do that, and it leaves them in an all-too-familiar spot: bringing up the rear in the NFC North.”
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Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Last Week: 8
Week 6 Result: Lost 38-20 at Minnesota
The Philadelphia Eagles are—in a way—just like their NFC East rivals in Dallas this year.
It’s hard to get a bead on whether either team is any good.
In Week 6, the answer to that question appeared to be not especially. By the midway point of the second quarter in the Twin Cities, the Eagles trailed 24-3. Philly was able to get as close as 24-20, but the Vikings then peeled off two unanswered touchdowns to pull away.
As it’s been much of the season, the Eagles pass defense was a sieve in Week 6. Philadelphia gave up 333 passing yards to a quarterback (Kirk Cousins) who has struggled most of the year, allowed him to throw for a staggering 11.5 yards per attempt and surrendered two touchdown grabs of over 50 yards to Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs.
Luckily for the Eagles, the Cowboys also laid an egg on Sunday in New York, so the two teams are still tied atop the NFC East.
“Everyone seems to be waiting for the Eagles to play like the team they’re supposed to be, not the one they actually are,” Sobleski said. “At 3-3, Philadelphia has one quality win over the Green Bay Packers and an awful loss to the Atlanta Falcons. This team is far too inconsistent to be considered among the league’s better squads.”
Maybe the Sunday night affair between the two in Week 7 will provide more clarity regarding these enigmatic clubs.
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Alex Gallardo/Associated Press
Last Week: 7
Week 6 Result: Lost 20-7 vs. San Francisco 49ers
The defending NFC champions are in trouble.
It was bad enough that the Los Angeles Rams allowed 55 points in a stunning Week 4 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Worse that the following Thursday brought a crushing one-point loss at Seattle. But now the Rams have been dominated at home by the San Francisco 49ers in a game that dropped the Rams three games back in the loss column in the division.
This was a game where Jared Goff failed to throw for even 80 yards. Where the Rams didn’t convert a single third down. Or fourth down. Where after a first-drive touchdown run, the Rams were shut out at home.
The Rams haven’t looked right offensively with any consistency since their Super Bowl loss. The O-line is a shell of its 2018 self. And Goff is struggling to carry an offense that has become one-dimensional.
The schedule is cutting the Rams some slack—their next two opponents are a combined 1-11. But this Rams team isn’t a front-runner to rep the NFC in Super Bowl LIV any more.
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Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Last Week: 14
Week 6 Result: Bye Week
The Indianapolis Colts are riding high.
The Colts headed into the bye week fresh off easily their best performance of the year—a six-point win over the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in which the Colts dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
It gets even better. The week off comes at a good time, as when the Colts return to action in Week 7 in a huge AFC South matchup against the Houston Texans, the team will have at least one important contributor back on the field. Reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard cleared concussion protocol earlier this week and will line up at weak-side linebacker against the Texans.
When Andrew Luck surprisingly retired before the season, many people believed that any chance the Colts had of making a deep playoff run left with him.
Jacoby Brissett appears to have taken that as a personal slight. He has 10 touchdown passes against just three interceptions and has posted a passer rating of almost 95.
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Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
Last Week: 16
Week 6 Result: Won 38-20 vs. Philadelphia
For most of the 2019 season, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been on the side of the proverbial milk carton. Missing in Minnesota.
Kirk Cousins certainly found him in Week 6.
On a day where Cousins had his best game of the season, Diggs was the primary beneficiary. He led the team with seven grabs for 167 yards and three scores in a decisive win over the Philadelphia Eagles that may have been the Vikings’ most complete effort of the year.
“The Vikings have looked good in back-to-back wins over the Giants and Eagles,” Davenport said, “and Minnesota also owns a resounding victory over an Oakland Raiders team that’s better than we thought. But this is also the same Vikings team that’s 0-2 in the division and seems to shrink when the lights are brightest more often than not. Minny has road trips coming to Detroit, Kansas City and Dallas that could change my mind about this team, but I’m still not quite ready to consider it a legitimate Super Bowl contender.”
“Minnesota has taken a lot of heat from me this season,” Gagnon added, “but only the Vikings and New England Patriots have won four or more games by 16 or more points this season. The Vikes lack consistency, but it’s fair to wonder if Kirk Cousins and Co. have actually begun to turn things around. Maybe the strife from two weeks ago was just what they needed. Week 7 in Detroit will be very telling.”
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Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press
Last Week: 12
Week 6 Result: Bye Week
The Chicago Bears have an identity problem.
Back in Week 4, it appeared the Bears had figured a few things out. Even with backup Chase Daniel at quarterback, the Bears made relatively easy work of the rival Minnesota Vikings—thanks largely to a defense that looked as dominant as ever.
But then the team took a trip across the Atlantic and laid an egg against the Oakland Raiders. The offense came out flat—again. The defense was gashed by rookie tailback Josh Jacobs.
And the Bears went into the bye facing more than a few questions about whether this year’s squad could match last year’s success.
Chicago had best make good use of this week off and get things figured out. Four of the team’s next five games after the bye are against teams that made the postseason a year ago, including trips to face the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams.
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Nick Wass/Associated Press
Last Week: 13
Week 6 Result: Won 23-17 vs. Cincinnati
The AFC North isn’t having a good season as a whole, but it’s becoming clear that the Baltimore Ravens are the division’s best team.
Thanks to a six-point win over the Bengals and Cleveland’s home loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Ravens have opened up a two-game lead in the division. The team was propelled to victory in Week 6 by quarterback Lamar Jackson and an offense that piled up almost 500 total yards. Jackson threw for 236 yards and gashed the Bengals for 152 more yards and a score on the ground.
However, the defense may have been an even bigger story against Cincinnati. Entering Week 6, only the Miami Dolphins allowed more yards per play than Baltimore. But against the Bengals, that defense gave up just 250 yards and 10 points (Cincinnati’s first score came on a kick return).
If that defense holds up better as the season moves along, the Ravens are going to run away with the division.
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James Kenney/Associated Press
Last Week: 11
Week 6 Result: Bye Week
The Buffalo Bills might just be legit.
Over their first five games in 2019, the Bills have suffered just one loss—and that was a six-point defeat at the hands of the unbeaten New England Patriots.
The defense is absolutely the real deal. Entering Week 6, only the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers had surrendered fewer yards per game than the 275 the Bills are giving up. The same holds true for the Bills pass defense, which one year after leading the NFL ranks third in the league at 187.2 yards per game.
With that said, if the Bills are going to make it to the postseason and make any noise there, the offense has to improve. The Bills were a respectable 12th in total yards heading into Week 6, but the team’s scoring average of 18 points per game is tied for 26th in the league.
Quarterback Josh Allen has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and has a passer rating of just 75.2.
Those numbers aren’t going to get it done in January.
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Colin E. Braley/Associated Press
Last Week: 3
Week 6 Result: Lost 31-24 vs. Houston
The Kansas City Chiefs have a problem. A significant problem.
For the second week in a row, the Chiefs were beaten at Arrowhead by an AFC South team. And both times it happened the same way.
At the risk of being blunt, the Chiefs got their butts kicked at the point of attack.
Despite falling into an early 17-3 hole, the Houston Texans stuck to their guns in the run game Sunday. It paid off in a big way—41 carries for 192 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps most importantly, the Texans wound up with a huge edge in time of possession—almost 2-to-1.
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense can’t score if they aren’t on the field. And the defense has now been gashed two weeks in a row.
Not long ago, the Chiefs looked like arguably the best team in the NFL.
Now, it looks like the book may be out on them.
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Colin E. Braley/Associated Press
Last Week: 10
Week 6 Result: Won 31-24 at Kansas City
The Houston Texans are a good team. But the Texans lacked a statement win in 2019—a victory that announced Houston was a force to be reckoned with in the AFC.
They got that win Sunday in Kansas City.
That the Texans won a duel with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs at Arrowhead was impressive enough. But this was a game where they trailed 17-3 and turned it over three times. Rather than fold, the Texans held their ground, rallied and stormed back for the win.
“This was a game that could have gotten away from the Texans,” Davenport said. “Houston fell behind early, and Deshaun Watson frankly didn’t play especially well. But the Texans stayed committed to the run, dominated time of possession and pummeled the Chiefs at the point of attack. It was as impressive a victory as any team in the NFL had this week.”
“I’ve been ranking the Texans well ahead of my colleagues the last few weeks, and now I’m feeling vindicated,” Gagnon added. “That was their third impressive road performance of the season (they also went blow-for-blow with the Saints and handily outplayed the Chargers), and they’re actually better than their 4-2 record. They’re solid on both sides of the ball, and they should run away with the AFC South.”
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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Last Week: 6
Week 6 Result: Won 32-28 at Cleveland
The red-hot start by the San Francisco 49ers is hogging most of the NFC West headlines—and rightly so. But the Seattle Seahawks are right there nipping at their rivals’ heels after Sunday’s come-from-behind win over the Browns in Cleveland.
Seattle hasn’t racked up style points in winning five of six to open the season—the Seahawks trailed the Browns 20-6 before peeling off 19 unanswered points to take the lead. But Seattle’s only loss this year came at the hands of the similarly 5-1 Saints, and the Seahawks keep finding ways to win.
It helps to have an MVP-caliber quarterback. In 2019, Russell Wilson is making a strong case to win the award for the first time. Wilson threw for 295 yards and two scores Sunday, and he’s now set a franchise record for pass attempts without an interception.
“The 5-0 Niners are absolutely for real,” Davenport said, “but I can’t shake the feeling that Wilson and the Seahawks remain the team to beat in the division. Whether it’s playoff chases or postseason games, the Seahawks have been there and done that, and that experience matters. That said, when these teams meet in Seattle on the last Sunday of the regular season, it may well be with a division title on the line.”
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Mike Roemer/Associated Press
Last Week: 4
Week 6 Result: Won 23-22 vs. Detroit
The conversation after the Packers’ one-point win over the Detroit Lions on Monday night will center on bad officiating. And to be fair, it was bad. Detroit defensive end Trey Flowers was penalized twice for illegal hands to the face without having his hands in, you know, anyone’s face.
But those calls aside, what the Green Bay Packers were able to do was still impressive.
This was a Packers team that was without top wideout Davante Adams. Geronimo Allison joined him on the sideline after taking a shot to the head. And yet Aaron Rodgers was able to rally a ragtag group of pass-catchers for the win.
This was a Packers team that was shredded by Matthew Stafford for 168 passing yards in the first quarter—the most, per Monday’s broadcast, that Stafford has ever thrown for in the first 15 minutes. But time and again, the defense turned the Lions away once they got close, holding them to one touchdown and five field goals.
Good teams find a way to gut out a win when they’re not at full strength and aren’t playing their best football.
The Green Bay Packers are a very good football team.
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Michael Zagaris/Getty Images
Last Week: 5
Week 6 Result: Won 20-7 at Los Angeles Rams
The 2019 San Francisco 49ers are for real.
One week after shutting down the Cleveland Browns in a 31-3 blowout, the 49ers went one better—San Francisco blasted the defending NFC champions in their own stadium.
The 49ers defense was dominant against the Rams. The team held Jared Goff to a jaw-dropping 78 passing yards and was perfect on third and fourth down—the Rams failed to convert on all 13 of their attempts Sunday.
Los Angeles scored on its first drive of the game—and that was it. A Rams team that entered Week 6 averaging over 413 yards a game had just 157 against San Francisco. The 49ers lead the NFC in any number of categories and now sport the stingiest pass defense in the NFL.
“It’s high time we give the 49ers the credit they deserve,” Davenport said. “The Seahawks are right behind them in the NFC West, but the Niners are more than just a threat to win their division. With that defense playing as well as it is and one of the best ground games in the league, the 49ers have a real shot to represent the NFC in Miami in February.”
“San Francisco’s 5-0 record isn’t a mirage after dominating the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams in back-to-back weeks,” Sobleski wrote. “The 49ers defensive front is the league’s best unit and absolutely destroying opposing game plans. Meanwhile, head coach Kyle Shanahan continues to call a brilliantly orchestrated offense. Finally, the hype is real.”
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John Raoux/Associated Press
Last Week: 2
Week 6 Result: Won 13-6 at Jacksonville
When Drew Brees went down with torn ligaments in his thumb against the Los Angeles Rams, it wasn’t unreasonable to assume the New Orleans Saints were in big trouble. Not many NFL teams can weather the loss of a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famer under center.
The Saints have played four games since that injury occurred—and haven’t lost once.
The Saints have done a fantastic job as a team of rallying around backup Teddy Bridgewater and doing whatever it takes to get a win. Whether it’s the run game, the wide receivers or the defense, just about every position group on the team has improved since Brees got hurt.
The original plan in New Orleans was probably just to hold on—try not to fall too far off the pace in the race for at least a wild-card spot and hope Brees’ return would help spur a late surge.
But home-field advantage is still on the table, and the Saints don’t necessarily need to rush Brees back until his hand has healed fully.
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Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Last Week: 1
Week 6 Result: Won vs. New York Giants 35-14
The New England Patriots cruised past the New York Giants on Thursday night, largely because of a defense that continues to be absolutely dominant. New England posted a pair of non-offensive scores against New York on a blocked punt and fumble return, and the Pats’ league-best defense gave up just 213 yards of total offense.
However, the win almost came at a steep cost. A wide receiver corps that is already thin suffered another loss when Josh Gordon went down with a scary-looking leg injury in the second quarter. The Pats scuffled offensively without Gordon on the field, but it appears the 28-year-old avoided a major injury. Gordon now has a few extra days to get healthy before the Pats take on the New York Jets in Week 7.
“It’s true that outside of the Buffalo Bills, the Pats haven’t played anyone yet this year,” Davenport said. “And New England didn’t pile up many style points against the Giants. What they did pile up was another victory—short-handed or no, even when they aren’t playing their best, the Pats just go out there and take care of business. There’s just no way I can rank any other team in the top slot.”