Tuesday, October 20, 2015

2015 NFL Week 6 Power Rankings

By Brad Oremland

Week Six Game Balls

Offense — DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans. 10 receptions for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns. This is his third straight game with about 150 yards, and he leads the NFL in receiving by almost 100 yards. Through six weeks, Hopkins might be the Offensive Player of the Year.

Defense — Cameron Jordan, DL, New Orleans Saints. The Saints' only consistent impact player on defense, and he made a huge impact Thursday night, with 5 tackles, 4 quarterback hits, and 3 sacks, plus a forced fumble and the recovery.

Special Teams — Chris Boswell, K, Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh's new kicker, signed two weeks ago, went 4/4 on field goals, including 47 yards, 48 yards, and 51 yards.

Rookie — Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings. A 5th-round pick from the University of Maryland, Diggs caught 7 passes for 129 yards, the first 100-yard receiving game by any Viking in 2015.

Honorable Mentions: WR Martavis Bryant, LB Karlos Dansby, P Kevin Huber

Five Quick Hits

* Apparently FOX has hired Alex Rodriguez as a baseball analyst. I don't entirely understand: isn't A-Rod the most hated baseball player in the United States? Or maybe second-most, behind Jonathan Papelbon? Why the P.R. blitz to make sure we know they've hired this guy?

* The AFC South is awful. Tennessee has the best point differential in the division, -17.

* Weird game on Sunday night. The Patriots caught a huge break on that onside kick, and the Colts' bizarre fake punt. But they also overcame another offensive line injury and Julian Edelman's gruesome finger injury, which probably contributed to a pick-six.

* Last year, no team started 5-0. This year, five teams are still undefeated.

* Three of the five undefeated teams have Week 7 byes (Bengals, Broncos, Packers). Week 7 is going to be really hard on a lot of fantasy teams.

Bob McNair and the Battle Against Bigotry

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair has donated $10,000 to oppose HERO, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which protects Houstonians from discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy. Similar statutes exist in most major cities, including Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth, and El Paso. It's discouraging that in 2015, there are still people like McNair who feel so strongly about extending discrimination.

Houston is due to host Super Bowl LI next season, and if HERO fails, the NFL should re-consider that privilege. Two decades ago, the league moved the Pro Bowl from Arizona when the state refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day, a principled stand that is widely praised today. The league should make clear that Houston will be held to the same standard. Pink jerseys are great and all, but if the NFL is truly committed to equality and social responsibility, it needs to put its money where its mouth is. Let's get to the Week 6 NFL Power Rankings; brackets show last week's rank.

1. New England Patriots [1] — Uncomfortably close win, in which I think the offense outsmarted itself. LeGarrette Blount has owned the Colts, with 312 yards and 7 TDs in his previous two games against them. Here's his production by quarter on Sunday night:

1st Q: 3 rush, 8 yards
2nd Q: 3 rush, 45 yards, TD
3rd Q: 3 rush, 13 yards
4th Q: 7 rush, 27 yards; 1 rec, 11 yards, TD

Blount had a good game (104 net yards, 5.8 rushing average, 2 TDs), but he was an afterthought for most of the evening.

2. Green Bay Packers [2] — Nearly lost at home, as punishment for wearing the third-worst throwback jerseys in the NFL.

3. Cincinnati Bengals [3] — Top-10 in every major offensive category: yardage (3rd), scoring (4th), passing (6th), and rushing (10th). The Bengals have the most explosive pass offense in the league, with 9.1 yards per attempt, 8.7 net yards per attempt, and 28 completions of 20+ yards, all best in the league. They're tied for 2nd in 40+ yard completions and pass TDs.

The Bengals made the fewest sacks (20) in the NFL in 2014. Carlos Dunlap now leads the NFL with 6.5 sacks. Rush defense is a concern: they allow 4.9 yards per attempt, 3rd-worst in the league.

4. Denver Broncos [5] — Shaquil Barrett, starting his first game for the injured DeMarcus Ware, made 6 tackles and 3 TFL, with 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and recovery, and a pass deflection. In addition to Ware, linebacker Shane Ray has a sprained MCL and will likely miss four to six weeks. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reports that Emmanuel Sanders suffered an AC joint sprain, on his diving near-catch at the end of regulation. It's a good time for their bye.

5. New York Jets [6] — Offense leads the league in rushing yards per game and lowest sack percentage. Defense leads the NFL in fewest yards and fewest points allowed. Offseason acquisitions like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, and Darrelle Revis — not to mention new head coach Todd Bowles — have transformed this team.

6. Carolina Panthers [9] — First win over the Seahawks since 2007, snapping a five-game losing streak during the Pete Carroll era, including 0-4 with Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. This team reminds me a little of the early-2000s Eagles, with Donovan McNabb at QB. There's no one really to throw to, and the run game is just okay, but the defense is good and the QB can create plays on his own. Carolina's next three games are at home, but all against pretty tough opponents.

7. Arizona Cardinals [4] — Carson Palmer threw two picks, John Brown lost a fumble, Chandler Catanzaro missed a 47-yard field goal, and they couldn't convert a desperation 4th-and-3 at the end of the game. Those problems are a little flukey, but you'd like to see better against a mediocre defensive opponent, and the best teams don't lose flukey games. The Patriots and Packers don't commit four turnovers in a game. The Bengals don't go 1/4 in the red zone. The Broncos' defense makes big plays even when they're not generating turnovers. The Panthers don't miss tackles. Arizona needs to tighten up the ship a little, play with more consistency.

8. Seattle Seahawks [7] — The Seahawks are 2-4; they're not a great team right now. But they're not a bad team, either. Three of the four teams who've beaten them are undefeated, two of those three were on the road, and all the losses were close (10 points or less).

9. Atlanta Falcons [8] — Devonta Freeman is for real. He's a particularly valuable asset for PPR fantasy leagues, with at least three receptions in every game, and at least five receptions in every game since he became the starter. The Falcon pass defense is really questionable, and especially struggles to stop running backs and tight ends.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers [15] — Their offense was so bad with Michael Vick. On Sunday, Vick went 3/8 for 6 yards, with a sack for 5 yards. Basically, nine attempts for one yard. His passer rating this season is 79.8, compared to 113.1 for Ben Roethlisberger and 149.3 for Landry Jones. In the first half, Vick led the Steelers to 4 first downs and 3 points. Pittsburgh scored on all four of its possession with Landry, including two TDs.

Whether his hamstring feels right or not, Vick is borderline unplayable at this point in his career. Landry Jones should start in Week 7. He gave the offense a spark, you'd like to see what he can do, and you want to get Big Ben totally healthy before Week 8 against the Bengals.

11. Philadelphia Eagles [13] — A very ugly victory, but they've won three of their last four. Philadelphia is the only team to defeat the Jets this season, and the last two weeks have both produced 20-point wins. Their defense is very good, the one unit that played well on Monday night.

12. Minnesota Vikings [12] — Defense is good, but their offense (and QB Teddy Bridgewater in particular) has regressed. Minnesota and Dallas have the fewest long (20+ yard) pass plays in the league, and Dallas just made a QB change in response. The Vikings have the fewest passing TDs in the NFL (3); Dallas is next (5) and the average is 9.2. This isn't just Adrian Peterson vulturing goal line opportunities; Peterson only has 1 red zone TD himself. Bridgewater takes too many sacks, throws too many interceptions, and doesn't create plays downfield. With defenses focusing on Peterson, opportunities should be there in the pass game, and Minnesota isn't capitalizing on them.

13. Buffalo Bills [10] — Their defense was so good last year. Coordinator Jim Schwartz departed with the old coaching staff, and Rex Ryan installed a new scheme. The Bills still have a good defense, but it's not performing up to expectations. On Sunday, linemen like Mario Williams dropped into coverage, and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton dropped back 33 times without getting sacked. DT Kyle Williams sprained his PCL in the fourth quarter and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.

Speaking of injuries, Sammy Watkins sprained his ankle and appears to be doubtful for Week 7. Percy Harvin (hip) has already been ruled out, and backup receiver Marquise Goodwin left Sunday's game with a rib injury. That leaves Chris Hogan and Robert Woods as the top wideouts. Hogan, Woods, and tight end Charles Clay should all be appealing plays in daily fantasy, against a Jaguar pass defense that is probably the worst in the NFL.

14. St. Louis Rams [14] — Worst in the NFL in both yards per game and total touchdowns scored. Brian Schottenheimer is gone, they brought in Nick Foles at quarterback, and Todd Gurley has been electric, yet the Rams have been held to 10 points or fewer in three of their last four games. St. Louis is a playoff contender, and if not before the trade deadline, at least in the offseason, the team has to acquire some weapons in the receiving corps. Tavon Austin had a great game against the Cardinals, but he's too inconsistent to be the top receiver.

15. New York Giants [11] — The interception ripped away from Larry Donnell and the roughing penalty on Damontre Moore totally changed the complexion of this game. I don't know how anyone can watch a game like this and claim that momentum is a myth.

16. San Diego Chargers [16] — Heroic performance in a losing effort by Philip Rivers. His team can't run the ball, his top receiver got hurt halfway through the game, and he took a huge beating behind an injury-decimated line (13 hits). Yet he passed for 503 yards, with 2 touchdowns and no turnovers. Even the Packers were blown away. It was the 17th 500-yard passing game in NFL history. Rivers became the 8th 500-yard passer to lose, and the 8th with a passer rating below 100 (99.7).

17. Cleveland Browns [18] — Travis Benjamin gained 117 receiving yards against the Broncos, the most they've allowed all season. Benjamin looks more and more like a star in the making.

18. Indianapolis Colts [20] — Offense spent most of the night in max protect, six or seven blockers. New England spent most of the game using a three-man pass rush, sometimes four. That's a waste of blockers; get a couple of those guys into pass patterns.

19. Miami Dolphins [26] — Predictable rebound under the new coaching staff. Teams often show up in the first game with a new coach, but Miami — with talent on the roster and problems that had obvious solutions — should be able to sustain the improvement more than most.

20. Washington [17] — Their worst game of the season. Washington was outgained 474-225, but four Jets turnovers kept the game somewhat competitive. The run defense, which led the league after three weeks, has slipped to 23rd. Every week, it looks worse than the game before.

21. New Orleans Saints [28] — Stars of the game: Drew Brees (of course), TE Ben Watson (10 rec, 127 yds, 2 TD), DL Cameron Jordan (3 sacks, FF, FR), and LB Dannell Ellerbe (13 tackles, forced fumble and recovery). Jordan should make the Pro Bowl this year, and I remain amazed that the Saints acquired Ellerbe (and a third-round draft pick) in the Kenny Stills trade. Stills, now with the Dolphins, has as many catches this season as Watson had on Thursday night.

22. Houston Texans [22] — Twenty-one-point fourth quarter, including two DeAndre Hopkins TDs, for a comeback victory over the Jaguars. Hopkins is on pace for 139 receptions, 1936 yards, and 112 first downs. Incredibly, only one of those would be a record (112 first downs). 81% of Hopkins' receptions have produced first downs, the highest percentage by anyone with at least 25 catches.

23. Baltimore Ravens [19] — In 1996, the very first Baltimore Ravens team ranked 28th (out of 30) in points allowed, and dead last in yardage. Since then, this is the worst defensive team in franchise history. They have a particular problem forcing takeaways, and they're getting burned deep.

24. Dallas Cowboys [24] — Head coach Jason Garrett officially announced that Matt Cassel will start at quarterback in Week 7. That's probably the right move — maybe Cassel can deliver a spark — but I suspect the offense will continue to struggle at least until Dez Bryant returns. Brandon Weeden didn't create enough positive plays, but he was also handcuffed by an offense without any playmakers.

25. Oakland Raiders [25] — They had a bye this week, so let's expand on what I wrote last week about Charles Woodson. I don't use the term "future Hall of Famer" lightly, but Woodson is a slam dunk. He's played forever, which the voters appreciate, and he's still playing at a high level, which everyone should appreciate. He's got amazing stats — including 64 INT, returned for 966 yards and 11 TDs — and he is the only player in history with at least 50 INT and at least 20 official sacks. He's made eight Pro Bowls, with three first-team all-pro selections. He was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. He's one of the 20 greatest defensive backs in history, maybe top 10 by the time his career is over.

26. Chicago Bears [23] — Last year, the NFL did a great job of returning to its "indisputable visual evidence" policy: replays were overturned only when it was clear and obvious that the original call was wrong. This season, the opposite: calls are overturned on a whim, a guess, a stupid technicality, or a preference. I'm a long-time proponent of replay, but right now the system is doing more harm than good. It takes forever, and it's wrong half the time, often increasing controversy rather than quelling it. If this is how it's going to function, the replay system should be abolished.

27. San Francisco 49ers [30] — Won the Har-Bowl rematch, with a pair of former Ravens both delivering big games. Anquan Boldin led the Niners with 102 yards, and Torrey Smith caught a 76-yard touchdown. The pass attack looked good against Baltimore's weak secondary, but the ground game continued to struggle. Carlos Hyde, since his fantastic Week 1, is averaging 52.4 rush yards per game, with 3.36 per carry.

28. Detroit Lions [29] — Turnovers remain the problem. They muffed back-to-back punts in the second half, both giving Chicago possession around the Detroit 20-yard line, and leading to 10 points. They also allowed the Bears to drive 69 yards in three plays and :17 for the tying field goal that sent the game into overtime. The Lions' maligned offensive stars, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, bailed them out, but it never should have gotten so far.

29. Kansas City Chiefs [21] — Punted on their first six possessions and didn't score until the fourth quarter. Then Jeremy Maclin left with a concussion. If their offense is really this bad, maybe Jamaal Charles is even better than we thought.

30. Tennessee Titans [27] — Marcus Mariota, who finished with 5 sacks, 4 turnovers, and a 67.6 passer rating, wasn't playing great before the hit from Olivier Vernon, either. I'm not sure it's Mariota's fault, though. I don't like drafting quarterbacks and then putting them on the field with so few weapons to help them adjust to the professional game. I think Tennessee's offense would be better off with Zach Mettenberger throwing to Amari Cooper than Mariota passing to Delanie Walker and Kendall Wright. This team has so many needs, Mariota's not in a position to succeed.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [31] — Second-worst in the NFL in points allowed per game. Their red zone defense has been poor, and they've allowed 3 defensive touchdowns (2 INT, 1 fumble).

32. Jacksonville Jaguars [32] — Tied with Dallas for fewest takeaways in the NFL, three. But Dallas has already had its bye. The Jaguar defense is generating only one turnover every other week, with a league-low 1 interception. Jacksonville is also the only team without a rushing touchdown.

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