Tuesday, October 17, 2017
2017 NFL Week 6 Power Rankings
Week 6 Game Balls
Offense — Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers. Rushed for 179 yards, the second-highest total of any player this season.
Defense — Johnathan Joseph, CB, Houston Texans. Two interceptions, one of them returned 82 yards for a touchdown, plus a solo tackle for a 3-yard loss. Per Pro Football Focus, Joseph allowed only 6 yards on 6 targets.
Special Teams — Pharoh Cooper, KR, Los Angeles Rams. Returned the opening kickoff through traffic for a 103-yard touchdown.
Rookie — Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans. Passed for 3 TDs, but also led 6 three-and-outs — tied for the most by any team against any opponent this year — versus the Browns. Cool the hype.
Honorable Mentions — RB Melvin Gordon, ER Cameron Jordan, PR Michael Campanaro
Five Quick Hits
* Thanks to CBS for highlighting the remarkable football career of Sam Mills prior to Thursday's game in Carolina. Mills is eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he's never been a Finalist.
* Detroit and New Orleans combined for 34 possessions, 17 each. The Saints had seven offensive possessions in the fourth quarter alone.
* The Falcons are the obvious one, but did you notice how many blown leads there were in the early games on Sunday? Atlanta led 17-0 and lost. Washington led 17-0 and nearly lost. The Bears led 17-3 and went to overtime. In fact, the Bears led 24-13 with 3:00 left in regulation and couldn't finish.
* The 49ers released linebacker NaVorro Bowman, making Joe Staley the only remaining player from their Super Bowl appearance in Feburary 2013. However quickly you think it's possible to destroy a professional sports franchise, the Yorks exceed your expectations.
* I'm ready to start taking bets on whether Kyle Shanahan gets fired before next season. I'd still bet against it for now, but I wouldn't bet very much.
Let's jump into the Week 6 NFL Power Rankings. Brackets show last week's rank.
1. Kansas City Chiefs  — Still tied for the best record in the league, 5-1, and they beat the team they're tied with. The Steelers always give them trouble — Kansas City has lost three in a row, and six of the last seven, against Pittsburgh — so I wouldn't read too much into this week's loss.
2. Philadelphia Eagles  — Lead the NFL in rush defense (66 yds/gm) and offensive third down percentage (51%).
3. New Orleans Saints  — I still don't trust their defense, which scored three TDs but gave up 38 points, and which has allowed the highest rate of third-down conversions (48%) in the NFL. But the Saints have won three in a row, all against teams with at least three wins of their own (Panthers, Dolphins, Lions).
4. Seattle Seahawks  —
Hooray for Seattle, where Seahawks can fly
Hooray for Bobby Wagner, where runs go to die
The Seahawks are winners, now two in a row
Held the Rams to 10 points, which is really quite low
Hooray for Seattle, where stoners get high
Hooray for the Space Needle, up in the sky
I may be no poet — I do not deny
But this is the week that Seattle's on bye
5. Carolina Panthers  — Cam Newton rushed 11 times for 71 yards and a touchdown. The rest of the team rushed 14 times for 9 yards. This comes after the Panthers averaged exactly 1 yard per rush attempt in Week 5. Jonathan Stewart (2.9), Christian McCaffrey (2.7), and Fozzy Whittaker (2.5) all average under 3 yards per carry.
All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly has cleared the concussion protocol and expects to play in Week 7.
6. New England Patriots  — I'll discuss the play with Austin Seferian-Jenkins below, in the Jets section, but keep in mind that the Jets lost by seven, so an additional touchdown doesn't mean the Patriots lose, it means overtime, assuming the rest of the game stays the same.
7. Buffalo Bills  — This season, they've allowed 2 passing touchdowns — every other team has at least 4 — and intercepted 8 passes. That -6 TD/INT differential is tied with Jacksonville for best in the league, by far; no one else is better than -1.
8. Minnesota Vikings  — Top-five in both yards allowed and points allowed. They've only allowed 20 points in a game once this season.
9. Denver Broncos  — Allowed almost as many rushing yards against the Giants (148) as in their previous four games combined (203). Emmanuel Sanders will miss at least one game with a sprained ankle, but is sounds like Demaryius Thomas avoided any major injury.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers  — What a missed opportunity by Jim Nantz on Sunday, when Tony Romo was describing players as "artists" or "scientists." In that situation, how do you not ask Romo, "Which one were you?"
11. Atlanta Falcons  — Last year, Matt Ryan threw 38 TDs and 7 INTs. If he throws 32 TDs and 1 INT in the next 10 weeks, he can match that.
12. Cincinnati Bengals  — Second-best defense in the NFL, by both yards allowed (263/gm) and points allowed (16.6/gm). They've played against some pretty bad offenses, but they also played some of those games missing their best defensive players, who are back in the lineup now.
13. Washington  — Jay Gruden has done some good things as head coach, but his in-game timidity and the complete absence of any killer instinct are a significant problem for this team.
There are multiple examples, but let's go straight to the really bad one. Washington leads 26-24 with 1:57 left in the game, and has just recovered an onside kick attempt by the 49ers, who have two timeouts left. No question, you have to pick up a first down there. If you run five plays, the game is over and you win. You can't settle for running three plays in that situation.
But Gruden did. Washington rushed ineffectively all day. Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, and Mack Brown combined to carry 27 times for 58 yards (2.1 avg), and all of them averaged under three yards per carry, while Kirk Cousins completed two-thirds of his passes and averaged 8.6 net yards per attempt. But Gruden called three straight runs, all of which (predictably) got stuffed. San Francisco used its timeouts, and Washington punted with a minute left on the clock and the Niners, down by 2, needing only a field goal to win. Washington held on thanks to a controversial penalty, but Gruden nearly gave away a game his team should have won easily.
14. Detroit Lions  — Matthew Stafford has thrown 4 pick-sixes this season. No one else has more than 2.
15. Houston Texans  — Fourth straight game with at least 33 points. There are 49 teams in NFL history with a four-game streak like that (including last year's Patriots), but the Texans are only the third to go 2-2 during the streak, joining the 2009 Packers and 1993 Patriots.
16. Green Bay Packers  — In the last game of the 2011 season, Matt Flynn filled in for Aaron Rodgers with 480 yards and 6 TDs. I'm guessing Brett Hundley won't do the same.
17. Los Angeles Rams  — Tied with the other L.A. team, the Chargers, for most 40+ yard rushes allowed (3). The Rams and Colts have given up 8 rush TDs this season; no one else has allowed more than 6.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars  — Wildly up-and-down. They crushed Houston then got blown out by Tennessee. They embarrassed the Ravens then lost to the Jets. They intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five times and routed the Steelers, then lost by double-digits to the Rams. That's a pretty intense good-week/bad-week cycle.
19. Dallas Cowboys  — I know they went 13-3 last season, but they've lost two in a row and three of the last four. And that's with Zeke Elliott.
20. Miami Dolphins  — Two wins in a row, but they're worst in the NFL in yards per game (243) and points per game (12.2).
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  — NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports Jameis Winston has an AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder. It's not clear whether Winston will play in Week 7.
22. Tennessee Titans  — Second-to-worst in points allowed, and it's worse than it seems. The Titans have played two of the three lowest-ranked offenses in football (Raiders, Dolphins) and no one in the top 14. They're giving up yardage and points against mediocre-to-bad opposition.
23. Baltimore Ravens  — Scored 24 points with no offensive touchdowns. Their offense produced 3 turnovers, 7 punts, 3 field goals, 1 expiration of half, and no TDs.
24. New York Jets  — It's outrageous that Austin Seferian-Jenkins' apparent touchdown was reversed. I must have advocated 100 times — and in 15 years doing this column, that's not an exaggeration — for the "clear and obvious" criteria that the league supposedly uses to reverse calls on the field. It's not being applied, and anyone who tells you it is being applied is a liar. It's insulting to the audience — us — to pretend that these reviews are anything but a coin flip. On every one, Al Riveron guesses and this one dude's opinion becomes law.
The play with Seferian-Jenkins was close. I can absolutely see why the play was initially ruled a touchdown, and I can absolutely see how it might have been a fumble. What I cannot see, at all, is how the play was clear and obvious.
25. Oakland Raiders  — Missed an extra point and lost by 1. I expect them to rebound as Derek Carr gets healthy.
26. Los Angeles Chargers  — Two wins in a row, and all of their losses were to teams with winning records, most of them (3/4) by a field goal or less.
27. Chicago Bears  — 2-0 against the AFC North, 0-4 against everyone else.
28. Arizona Cardinals  — Led 31-0 and eked out a 38-33 victory. Adrian Peterson, who has played in one of their six games, is the team's leading rusher.
29. New York Giants  — Changing play-callers appeared to give them a spark on Sunday night, but Eli Manning went 11-of-19 for just 128 yards and 8 first downs, with 3 sacks for -10 yards. Their wide receivers combined to make 2 catches for 22 yards. It's 2017, not 1938; you can't win without a viable vertical pass game.
30. Indianapolis Colts  — Tied for worst in both rush TDs allowed and interception TDs allowed. There's lots wrong with this team that Andrew Luck can't fix.
31. San Francisco 49ers  — Brian Hoyer went 4-of-11 for 34 yards, a sack for -10 yards, a 45.3 rating, and 1 first down. In four drives, he never crossed midfield and the 49ers punted four times, falling behind 14-0. Hoyer was then relieved by C.J. Beathard (grandson of legendary personnel man and 2018 Hall of Fame candidate Bobby Beathard), who went 19-of-36 for 245 yards, 2 sacks for -19, 11 first downs, a touchdown, and a last-second interception after he led a 24-12 comeback that had the team in position to win.
Beathard will start in Week 7.
32. Cleveland Browns  — Held below 20 points for the fifth time in six games; they've allowed at least 30 three times. This was their third loss by 14 or more.