2016 NFL Week 6 Power Rankings

Week 6 Game Balls

Offense — Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans. Provided the team's only consistent offense in a must-win game, with 149 rushing yards, 29 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns.

Defense — David Irving, DL, Dallas Cowboys. Three forced fumbles, including his stuff-strip-recovery of Aaron Rodgers' quarterback draw with goal-to-go.

Special Teams — Wil Lutz, K, New Orleans Saints. 52-yard game-winning field goal with :11 remaining.

Rookie — Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys. Fourth consecutive game with over 130 rushing yards. The Cowboys rushed for more yards against Green Bay (191) than the Packers allowed in their first four games combined (171).

Honorable Mentions: WR Odell Beckham, LB Jatavis Brown, ST Nickell Robey

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Last month, the NFL announced this year's nominees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They'll join an excellent Senior candidate, Kenny Easley — an Ed Reed-type player, a hard-hitting strong safety who went after passes like a ball-hawking free safety — and Contributor nominees Jerry Jones and Paul Tagliabue. I have no idea what Jerry Jones has done to merit inclusion in the Hall of Fame, but Tagliabue was an excellent commissioner, who expanded the league, grew its popularity, maintained labor peace, avoided the steroid controversies that plagued baseball, and maintained a civil relationship with players, which his successor has failed to repeat.

Anyway, there are 94 "modern" nominees this year, which is less than usual, and I've broken them into four groups. The first are players and coaches whom I fully support and would vote for enthusiastically. The second are individuals I wouldn't select in the early rounds of balloting, but would probably go thumbs-up as Finalists, and I wouldn't have a problem with them getting in. The third group is comprised of those for whom I probably wouldn't vote, but I see the appeal of their candidacy. The fourth are people who have no business in the Hall of Fame without buying a ticket.

These are opinions, not predictions.

Group 1: Strong Candidates

Donovan McNabb, Tiki Barber, Terrell Davis, Daryl Johnston, LaDainian Tomlinson, Herschel Walker, Ricky Watters, Isaac Bruce, Henry Ellard, Torry Holt, Alan Faneca, Joe Jacoby, Kevin Mawae, Jason Taylor, Sam Mills, Zach Thomas, Steve Atwater, LeRoy Butler, Brian Dawkins, Rodney Harrison, Albert Lewis, Darren Sharper, Morten Andersen, Don Coryell, Clark Shaughnessy

Darren Sharper is a terrible person, but he was a great football player. I deliberately made this a group of 25, the number of candidates who will advance to the semi-finalist stage.

Group 2: Borderline Candidates

Randall Cunningham, Doug Flutie, Kurt Warner, Roger Craig, Edgerrin James, Derrick Mason, Terrell Owens, Jimmy Smith, Hines Ward, Mark Bavaro, Mike Kenn, Tom Nalen, Bryant Young, Cornelius Bennett, Clay Matthews, Karl Mecklenburg, John Lynch, Darren Woodson, Brian Mitchell, Steve Tasker, Mike Holmgren, Richie Petitbon

Terrell Owens was an extremely productive receiver, but he was such a disruptive presence, I'm not convinced he made his teams better. A more detailed explanation of my feelings about Owens can be found here. I listed 25 strong candidates and 22 borderline: exactly half of the 94 nominees. That includes 4 QB, 7 RB, 1 FB, 7 WR, 1 TE, 5 OL, 2 DL, 5 LB, 8 DB, 3 special teamers, and 4 coaches — though really Petitbon should be viewed as a combined player (4-time Pro Bowl DB) and coach (3 Super Bowls as defensive coordinator).

Group 3: Weak Candidates

Steve McNair, Shaun Alexander, Ottis Anderson, Sterling Sharpe, Rod Smith, Tony Boselli, Ray Donaldson, Jay Hilgenberg, Chris Hinton, Kent Hull, Olin Kreutz, Jim Lachey, Nate Newton, Steve Wisniewski, Leslie O'Neal, Simeon Rice, Fred Smerlas, Seth Joyner, Eric Allen, Joey Browner, Ty Law, Dennis Smith, Everson Walls, Gary Anderson, Nick Lowery, Bill Cowher, Tom Flores, Chuck Knox, Dan Reeves

Thirty people in this group. I don't think any of them should get in, but it's possible my mind could change in the future. These are the very good players and coaches who, to me, fall just outside the PFHOF.

Group 4: It's An Honor Just to Be Nominated

Drew Bledsoe, Phil Simms, Larry Centers, Eddie George, Eric Metcalf, Chad Johnson, Carl Banks, Tedy Bruschi, Levon Kirkland, Willie McGinest, Joey Porter, Frank Minnifield, Bob Sanders, Troy Vincent, Sean Landeta, Jimmy Johnson, Buddy Parker, Dick Vermeil

Everyone in this group was a good player, or a good coach. Most of them were very good. But none approach a Hall of Fame standard, and in each case, there are eligible candidates at the position who are more deserving.

Time for the Week Six NFL Power Rankings. Brackets show last week's rank.

1. New England Patriots [1] — In Tom Brady's second game back from suspension, Rob Gronkowski set a career-high with 162 receiving yards. How are you going to stop this offense?

2. Minnesota Vikings [2] — Coming into Week 6, 20 players had at least 4 sacks. Three of them were Vikings: Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, and Brian Robison.

3. Dallas Cowboys [8] — They remind me of the late-'90s Broncos. They have the best offensive line in the NFL, a dynamic young running back, a future Hall of Fame tight end, and solid defense. At the end of the first half, Dak Prescott led a 97-yard touchdown drive in five plays and :29, including three gains of over 20 yards.

4. Buffalo Bills [7] — Lead the NFL in point differential (+59). The Patriots (+58), Eagles (+57), and Vikings (+56) are close behind.

5. Atlanta Falcons [5] — Richard Sherman should have been called for pass interference on Atlanta's final offensive play. When former defensive backs like announcer Ronde Barber and studio analyst Rodney Harrison are complaining that a fellow DB got away with one, that says something. So do the replays showing Julio Jones' arm pinned by Sherman.

6. Seattle Seahawks [6] — Three straight wins following their tepid start. They have a huge game next Sunday night at Arizona.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers [3] — Ben Roethlisberger had surgery for a torn meniscus on Monday. He will miss the Steelers' Week 7 game against New England — which removes a lot of the fun from a marquee matchup — and the team has a bye in Week 8. Roethlisberger might be able to return for Week 9. Landry Jones will start in the meantime.

I rank teams according to current strength, and with Jones under center the Steelers probably aren't a top-10 team. But I also prefer to avoid one-week rollercoasters in the rankings, a team dropping 12 spots one week and then rising 11 the next. Since Big Ben might only miss one game, Pittsburgh settles here. I expect the Patriots to win by double-digits next week. They're favored by 7.

8. Denver Broncos [4] — I'm never too hard on teams for losing road games on Thursday night, and their head coach missed the game for medical reasons. So they don't drop too far despite a very shaky performance. But let's talk about their seven offensive line penalties.

1. Late second quarter. Holding on Max Garcia. Nullified a 15-yard run by C.J. Anderson. Instead of trying to score before halftime, the Broncos opted to run out the clock.

2. Third quarter. False start on Donald Stephenson. Turned 3rd-and-6 into 3rd-and-11.

2b. Next drive. Stephenson was called for unnecessary roughness on a blatant late hit after the Chargers recovered a fumble. Fifteen yards.

3. Late third quarter. Holding on Matt Paradis. Nullified another 15-yard run by C.J. Anderson, turning a first down at the San Diego 15 into 2nd-and-13 at the 40. Two plays later, Brandon McManus missed a 56-yard field goal.

4. Early fourth quarter. Holding on Russell Okung. The penalty occurred in the end zone, resulting in a safety.

5. Fourth quarter. Holding on Michael Schofield. Nullified a 7-yard run by Trevor Siemian.

6. Same drive. False start on Donald Stephenson. Turned 3rd-and-9 into 3rd-and-14.

7. Late fourth quarter. Holding on Russell Okung. Nullified a nifty 20-yard touchdown by C.J. Anderson. Two plays later, the Broncos lost a fumble.

All five offensive line starters were flagged for accepted penalties, and you can draw a direct line between Denver's o-line penalties and a 12-point swing in an 8-point game.

9. Arizona Cardinals [12] — I agree with Sean McDonough: "The way this game has been officiated is not something anybody wants to watch." Amen. Referee over-involvement is a huge problem in the NFL right now.

10. Kansas City Chiefs [16] — Marcus Peters, last season's Defensive Rookie of the Year, intercepted his fifth pass of the season. No one else in the league has more than three.

11. Washington [18] — Dominated the line. The offense rushed effectively with both Matt Jones and Rob Kelley, and the defense sacked Carson Wentz five times.

12. Philadelphia Eagles [11] — Punted at 1:47 pm local time, and didn't run another offensive play (other than a kneel-down) until 3:04. They went an hour and 17 minutes between plays, during which time Washington ran 38 plays.

13. Oakland Raiders [10] — The rain seemed to affect Derek Carr, who fumbled twice and threw an interception, more than longtime Bay Area QB Alex Smith, who went 19-of-22. Oakland didn't force a three-and-out all game, and the Raider defense has the fewest three-and-outs (6) in the NFL this season.

14. Houston Texans [15] — This says more about Houston's defense than Brock Osweiler, but Osweiler has passed for more yards than the opposing quarterback in five of their six games.

15. Green Bay Packers [9] — Lost as cosmic punishment for wearing their hideous throwback uniforms. During the Sunday night game, Al Michaels said, "They'll be writing off Green Bay tomorrow," implying an overreaction to the team's struggles through five games, especially since the Packers have a winning record.

But this isn't just a five-game problem. The Green Bay offense — and specifically, the Green Bay passing offense — hasn't looked right in almost a year, going back to the middle of last season. Aaron Rodgers is the best deep passer of his generation, but the Packers are near the bottom of the league in big passing plays; everything's underneath. The Packers used to have a devastating red zone offense, and now they settle for field goals. I'm not writing them off, exactly, but there's a real problem that needs to be fixed, or they'll go 8-8 and miss the playoffs.

16. San Diego Chargers [21] — Three turnovers on special teams: a muffed punt, muffed kickoff, and a Denver onside kick.

17. Detroit Lions [22] — Let's talk about the London Curse. Since the NFL's London Series began, teams are 10-22 (.313) the week before making the trip to England. On Sunday, the Lions played the Rams, who travel to England in Week 7. Next week, the Lions face Washington, who travels to England in Week 8. The Lions are favored.

18. Los Angeles Rams [17] — Allowed a combined total of 16 points against the Seahawks and Cardinals. Allowed at least 28 to everyone else they've faced.

19. Cincinnati Bengals [14] — Lost four of their last five and they rank 29th in points per game. Part of that is a tough schedule; look for them to bounce back against Cleveland.

20. Carolina Panthers [13] — Second time in the last three games that they've allowed at least 40 points. Their defense can't stop anyone, and it's putting too much pressure on the offense.

21. New York Giants [23] — Odell Beckham gained a career-high 222 receiving yards, sparked by 75-yard and 66-yard TD receptions on which he simply outran the Ravens' secondary; the 66-yarder in the fourth quarter, which proved to be the game-winning touchdown, was a thing of beauty. We talk so often about Beckham's hands that you can overlook his speed. But he's starting to remind me of Chad Johnson, whose obsession with image overshadowed his talent and hastened the end of his career. Beckham is a marvelous receiver, and I hope he'll conduct himself so that we focus on his game, not his antics.

Beckham was the first player with two touchdowns of 65 yards or more in the same game since Tavon Austin in 2013.

22. New Orleans Saints [27] — Allowed 32 first downs and still won. They're an Arena League team.

23. Miami Dolphins [29] — Jay Ajayi rushed for 204 yards and 2 TDs, the first 200-yard rushing game this season.

24. Baltimore Ravens [20] — All of their games this season have been decided by less than 7 points. A butterfly flaps its wings, and the Ravens could be 6-0, or 0-6. They've lost three in a row, and Terrell Suggs has a torn biceps.

25. Indianapolis Colts [24] — There are so many little things that went wrong to cost them Sunday night's game. This is just one of them.

There's a minute left in the third quarter, and the Colts are winning 13-9. They have 4th-and-1 at the Texans' 8-yard line. After some hesitation, they decide to go for the first down. But the clock's running down, so they call a timeout. What are you doing? Timeouts are valuable. If you're not going to get the play off, just take a delay of game penalty and bring in Adam Vinatieri to kick a 31-yard field goal. Instead, the Colts called timeout and didn't get the yard anyway; in fact, Andrew Luck got sacked for a 5-yard loss.

Fast-forward to the end of regulation. Houston has just tied the game, and Indianapolis gets the ball back at its own 32 with :49 remaining. They run two plays and gain 20 yards, but also use both of their remaining timeouts. Now they have 2nd-and-8 at the Houston 48 with :31 and no way to stop the clock. They don't want to use the middle of the field, so they throw to the sideline, and T.Y. Hilton catches the ball out of bounds. If they'd had that one last timeout, maybe they can use the whole field, gain 15 yards, and avoid overtime.

I'm not second-guessing going for it on 4th-and-1; in fact, I think that's a smart call. But using a timeout to avoid the delay of game penalty is just a horrible decision in that situation.

26. Tennessee Titans [25] — Back-to-back wins for the first time since 2013.

27. New York Jets [19] — Last in the NFL in points per game (15.8) and point differential (-69). Todd Bowles says that Ryan Fitzpatrick is still his starting quarterback, but my biggest concern about Fitzpatrick is that he's leading his receivers into hits and setting them up to get hurt. We saw it dramatically with Charone Peake, but it's not a new problem. If your man is going to get blasted, especially for a short gain, you don't throw that ball.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [26] — Their defense is bad, but second-year linebacker Kwon Alexander is a future star. Alexander leads the team (or is tied for the lead) in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, interceptions, interception return yards, and defensive touchdowns. Last year, Alexander was in the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation before a four-game suspension. The Bucs went 6-6 with Alexander in the lineup, then 0-4 without him. This year, he's playing even better.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars [28] — Back-to-back wins, but both against bad teams, and both games were close. They trailed Chicago 16-7 with 5:00 left. The Jaguars have by far the worst third down percentage (27%) in the NFL.

30. Chicago Bears [30] — Second-worst in the NFL in points per game (16.8). They've been held below 20 points in five of their six games.

31. Cleveland Browns [31] — Jordan Poyer, who was taken to the hospital with a lacerated kidney, remains in the hospital and probably will not play again in 2016. Broadly speaking, however, he should be okay.

32. San Francisco 49ers [32] — Colin Kaepernick didn't play especially well, but he's not the one who allowed 312 rushing yards. San Francisco's opponents average more points (30.8) than the 49ers have scored in any game this season.

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