NFL Week 7 Power Rankings

Five Quick Hits

* As if Denver's ailing offense needed any more problems, standout left tackle Matt Lepsis is out for the season. If teams start stacking the line to stop Tatum Bell, Mike Shanahan is going to start punting on first or second down.

* As if Green Bay's struggling team needed any more problems, starting wide receiver Robert Ferguson is out for the season. If the Packers' receiving corps gets any thinner, Brett Favre is going to start trying to catch his own passes.

* Boomer Esiason can be a serious analyst when he wants to. He's terrific on ESPN radio with Marv Albert.

* Troy Aikman got hit in the head a lot as a player, and he makes simple mistakes sometimes, but he's the best announcer on television.

* Strangest sight on MNF: a linebacker (I think it was Reggie Torbor) covering Terrell Owens.


The biggest story this week was the report that Giants running back Tiki Barber will retire at the end of this season. Barber leads the NFL in rushing yards and has been one of the top backs in the league for years now. He was my all-pro RB in 2004 and 2005, and he has more 100-yard rushing games (21) since 2004 than any other RB. The rushing numbers don't tell the whole story, since Barber is a good blocker and an excellent receiver. Barber is one of the NFL's good guys, a superstar who always plays hard and behaves with class on and off the field. If he does retire, the league will miss him.

Before we get to the power rankings, I want to remind readers that these rankings reflect a team's strength right now. These rankings aren't playoff predictions, nor will they be. This week, they're about a team's power heading into Week 8. In a couple months, they'll be about a team's power heading into Week 16. A team that's out of postseason contention, but playing well, could be ranked higher than a team that's clinched a spot but fallen off the mark.

Anyway, on to the power rankings. Brackets indicate previous rank.

1. Chicago Bears [1] — It's a long season, but the Bears have to like the way the NFC playoff picture is shaping up. The only team within a game of them is New Orleans. Chicago is 5-0 in the NFC and 3-0 in the NFC North. The Bears have already won at Green Bay and Minnesota, so their only remaining road game in the division is at Detroit.

2. Indianapolis Colts [2] — Brought in Booger McFarland to shore up their league-worst rush defense, but injuries are mounting. Strong safety Mike Doss is out for the season, and DT Montae Reagor is likely to miss significant time after he flipped his SUV while not wearing a seat belt. On the bright side, the Colts appear to have the AFC South pretty much wrapped up already. It sounds stupid, and it kind of is.

3. Denver Broncos [4] — Five wins in a row, but they're 31st in scoring. Against Cleveland, Jake Plummer finally got a chance to throw, with a season-high 41 attempts, and made the least of his opportunity, with a 51.8 passer rating. Plummer seems to have lost both the decision-making he showed last year and the play-making ability he's shown throughout his career.

4. New England Patriots [9] — This is probably too high, but I'm not ready to move the Saints or Giants this far up yet, and the Pats have been on fire since their loss to the Broncos. In the last three weeks, New England has won by an average of 19 points, and Tom Brady looks comfortable for the first time since last January.

5. New Orleans Saints [6] — They've been terrific for the last month, beating three good teams and barely losing at Carolina. The schedule doesn't get any easier after the bye, with three of the next five games against winning teams, the exceptions being the streaking Bucs and a dangerous Steelers team.

6. New York Giants [8] — Beat the Cowboys' quarterbacks, recording six sacks and four interceptions. Michael Strahan had a monster game, tying for the team lead in tackles, posting two sacks, and coming up with a crucial tipped ball. In their first three games, the defense looked like a liability, but since the bye, it's looked like a strength.

7. San Diego Chargers [3] — They'll be lower when Shawne Merriman gets suspended, but based on Sunday's game, the defense appears to have fallen apart already. After allowing an average of 11 points in their first five games, with no opponent reaching 20, the Chargers yielded 30 to a Kansas City offense that has struggled this season. No KC wide receiver had more than two catches, but Tony Gonzalez torched San Diego to the tune of 138 yards, and Larry Johnson had a monster day.

8. Cincinnati Bengals [14] — Chris Henry's suspension ends next week, but the Bengals are still missing some key players. Odell Thurman is out for the year due to a league suspension. Levi Jones and David Pollack are out for the year because of injuries. Cincinnati is still a competitive team, but those absences could doom its chances of contending for a Super Bowl.

9. Minnesota Vikings [16] — Probably shouldn't be so high, but I don't have anyone else to put in this space. The Vikings probably can't win their division, but they should waltz into the playoffs as a wildcard. After this week's game against New England, the Vikings have four straight laughers. They need more production out of Chester Taylor, who averaged under three yards per carry other than his 95-yard breakaway on Sunday.

10. Philadelphia Eagles [7] — The Eagles are a better team than this, but they can't secure victories. Philadelphia should probably be undefeated, but they gave away the Giants game in Week 2, and against Tampa, Donovan McNabb gave away three points in a game that was decided by two. At the end of the first half, at the Tampa six-yard-line with no timeouts, McNabb threw a four-yard pass to L.J. Smith, who was tackled in bounds and short of the goal line. The clock expired and Philly never attempted a field goal. Missed opportunities consistently cost this team games it should win.

11. Baltimore Ravens [13] — Jim Fassel's reign as offensive coordinator didn't last long. The defense is playing its best ball since the Marvin Lewis years, but Steve McNair has been a major disappointment at quarterback, despite a couple of late drives that helped the Ravens secure early-season victories. It'll be interesting to see how Brian Billick handles his QB situation if McNair continues to struggle.

12. Seattle Seahawks [5] — Matt Hasselbeck hasn't been playing well — he was 7-of-17 when he got hurt on Sunday — but his injury could really hurt the Seahawks. Seneca Wallace was a disaster in Week 7, committing three turnovers in a quarter and a half. Shaun Alexander's return should help the team (if for no other reason than that Mike Holmgren will call more runs) but not enough to outweigh Hasselbeck's absence.

13. Carolina Panthers [12] — It's always tough to predict their offense, which is basically dependent on Steve Smith, but the defense should just destroy Dallas next week. No matter who starts at quarterback, that offensive line is not equipped to handle Carolina's front four, so expect to see a lot of sacks and a couple of interceptions.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers [10] — Gave the game away, with three lost fumbles, nine penalties, and no answer for Alge Crumpler. Fumbles have been a particular problem for the Steelers this season, and rookie punt returner Santonio Holmes — who against Atlanta had a breakout game as a receiver — has been a decided liability. Charlie Batch is a capable backup, but it's reached the point that Pittsburgh fans should be concerned about Ben Roethlisberger's long-term health.

15. Atlanta Falcons [17] — In the first half of Sunday's game, both QBs had three TD passes. With several key members of its defensive line missing, the Falcons came up big when it mattered, getting turnovers and capitalizing on field position. Offensive line has become a concern here, too, as LG Matt Lehr has been suspended by the league, and talented RG Kynan Forney continues to battle shoulder problems.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [21] — This ranking might seem high for a 2-4 team, but in the last four weeks, they've beaten Cincy and Philly, with close losses to the Saints and Panthers. Ronde Barber, who had two interception returns for touchdowns, and Matt Bryant, who hit a 62-yard field goal to win the game, could both make a case as the best player of Week 7.

17. St. Louis Rams [18] — The Rams had a bye this week, but St. Louis sports fans weren't bored on Sunday, as their baseball team took the field for Game 2 of the World Series. The Cards lost on Sunday, but the Series is coming back to St. Louis, and it looks like this might finally be their year.

18. Kansas City Chiefs [19] — An up-and-down team. They blew out the 49ers, then barely squeaked by the Cardinals. They get humiliated by the Steelers, then upset the Chargers. As someone trying to make sense of all this, I'm going to avoid rash moves until they can put a three- or four-game streak together.

19. Jacksonville Jaguars [11] — This might be an overreaction to their ugly loss against the Texans, but an elite team shouldn't lose games against bad teams like Washington and Houston. The Jags have a lot of injuries right now, and that can be the difference between a great team and a mediocre one.

20. Dallas Cowboys [15] — Their three wins have come against teams with a combined record of 5-14. They lost to 3-3 Jacksonville by a touchdown, and against winning teams, they've lost by an average of 14 points. Tony Romo was unimpressive on Monday night, but he offers the Cowboys the best chance of making the playoffs at this point. Drew Bledsoe is too easy a target for defenses.

21. New York Jets [20] — Leon Washington is looking more and more like Curtis Martin's successor in green and white. The Jets had 16 rushing first downs against Detroit, and Washington led the way, running for 129 yards with two TDs and a 6.5 average. Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery give the Jets their best receiving tandem since Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet.

22. Green Bay Packers [25] — Brett Favre and Ahman Green both had big numbers, but it helps when your defense keeps giving you the ball. In the 2006 NFL season, there's no cure for an ailing defense like Dolphins quarterbacks. On a separate note, Green is starting to look like Ricky Williams.

23. Washington Redskins [24] — At one point, Washington managed three consecutive penalties in such a way that Nick Novak had to kick off from his own five-yard line. The celebration penalty on Antwaan Randle El was a stretch (his celebration hardly constituted use of a prop), but Washington has by far the most penalty yards in the NFL this season, almost 70 ahead of the Eagles.

24. Buffalo Bills [22] — This team expected to win with its defense and a running game led by Willis McGahee. The defense is middle-of-the-pack, and the running game has been disappointing. McGahee is fifth in rushing yards, but he hasn't had a bye yet, and his average per carry is the lowest of any rusher in the top 10.

25. Houston Texans [31] — If I were voting for the Pro Bowl today — and I'm not, even though the voting is open — David Carr would be on my ballot. Carr is completing over 70% of his passes, and he's fourth in the NFL in passer rating, trailing only Peyton Manning, McNabb, and Marc Bulger. I still don't know about Mario Williams and Reggie Bush, but I think Houston's front office can feel okay about passing on Vince Young.

26. Tennessee Titans [27] — Their remaining schedule is nasty, with only three games against teams with losing records. The only one of those in Tennessee is this week's matchup against the suddenly-dangerous Texans, to determine which is the worst team in the AFC South.

27. Detroit Lions [28] — Allowing 27 points per game. I don't know who to blame more, defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson or offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who has Jon Kitna throwing on every down. The Lions can't keep their defense off the field, and Martz had the same problem as coach of the Rams.

28. Cleveland Browns [29] — Josh Cribbs is having a great year as a returner, but he's got to do a better job of holding on to the ball. Cribbs may see a larger role as the team shakes up its league-worst offense. Maurice Carthon, a hot head coaching prospect in recent years, has been fired as offensive coordinator.

29. Miami Dolphins [26] — Joey Harrington had 62 pass attempts against Green Bay. That might make sense if Miami were playing from behind all game, or if the Packers stacked the line to stop the run. But the Dolphins were winning at halftime, and Ronnie Brown averaged 3.9 yards per carry, which isn't great, but also isn't worth giving up on.

30. Arizona Cardinals [23] — Brought in Edgerrin James to supply a first-class running game, but they're last in the league in rushing yards per game, yards per carry, rushing TDs (tied), and they're the only team in the NFL without a run of at least 20 yards this season. Arizona's 2.5 yards per rush is incredibly poor.

31. San Francisco 49ers [30] — Both the Niners and their Week 8 opponent, Chicago, had byes this weekend. What do you think Norv Turner has been telling his offense this week? I'm guessing he didn't waste much time game-planning, instead assuring his players that Mike Nolan will be nicer at the press conference than Dennis Green was.

32. Oakland Raiders [32] — Got their first win, but I still like Frank Caliendo's take: "Both Mel Gibson and spinach have had a better year than the Raiders." It's true.

Comments and Conversation

October 24, 2006

Jeff Young:

Levi Jones is not out for the year, he’s out for 3-4 weeks.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site