From the Sidelines

Today’s Pigskin post-Week 7 NFL Power Rankings

October 23, 2016: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) hands the ball off during a NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire)
Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire

Week 7 in the NFL was one for the little guy.

Teams who’ve resided in the bottom-third of these rankings for much of the year, like the Chargers and Dolphins, forced their way out with impressive victories over the Falcons and Bills, respectively.

Meanwhile, powers thought to be in slumps like the Broncos and Eagles reclaimed their own contender status with dominating wins against their former QBs.

As always, there’s plenty of movement in yet another edition of Today’s Pigskin power rankings. So read on to see where your own team ranks, who rose and who fell.

And, remember, these rankings are intended to inspire discussion, so, whether you agree or disagree, let us hear it in the comments below.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-7) Last Week: 32

No change this week for the basement-dwelling Browns, who fell to rival Cincinnati by two scores. Of course, it’s hard to do anything but sympathize for the Browns at this point. On Sunday, they were forced to turn their sixth different quarterback (including Terrelle Pryor) on the season. Rookie Kevin Hogan had some flashes, particularly running the ball, but was ineffective as a passer (50 percent completion percentage, two interceptions). Who would have thought the Browns would be missing Cody Kessler before they even got to their bye in 2016?

31. San Francisco 49ers (1-6) Last Week: 31

Colin Kaepernick’s inability to complete even 50 percent of his passes is as good a sign as any that San Francisco will be in the market for a quarterback this offseason. But quarterback is far from the only weak point for these Niners. After going up 14-0 on the Buccaneers, San Francisco rolled over and died. The 49ers were just disgraceful on defense, giving up over 500 total yards and and 238 on the ground to the less-than-frightening tandem of Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber.

30. Chicago Bears (1-6) Last Week: 30

Things went from bad to worse for the downtrodden Bears last Thursday. Brian Hoyer, who’d actually done quite well in relief of Jay Cutler, gave way to third-stringer Matt Barkley, and Chicago flatlined. It’s unfair to expect much from any team’s third-stringer and, with a roster so talent-depleted, any additional losses can’t hurt the Bears any. That’s a good thing, as they figure to do a lot more losing.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4) Last Week: 27

Yet another listless effort from Gus Bradley’s bunch leaves one to wonder if wholesale changes are coming for the Jaguars soon. Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson, once thought to be an exciting young duo, continue to struggle mightily. What’s more concerning is that the latest subpar showing came against a lackluster Raiders defense. How bad are things in Jacksonville? Well, the Jags were actually poised to get the ball back and make this a one-possession game before allowing Oakland punter Marquette King to turn a busted play into a backbreaking fourth-down conversion.

28. Carolina Panthers (1-5) Last Week: 26

The Panthers slide even on an off week because some of the teams around them impressed while they relaxed. Near the top of power rankings, it’s easier to let a powerhouse hold steady or advance even an off week. That’s because they’ve set a precedent for how their performing this season. The opposite holds true for bad teams. Carolina has set a standard of lousy play through six games and that’s why, even on a bye, we don’t hesitate to dock them.

27. New York Jets (2-5) Last Week: 27

For better or worse, the Jets are stuck with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even when they tried to bench the struggling signal-caller in Week 7, they were forced to call upon him after Geno Smith went down. Fortunately, it worked out all right on Sunday. A ticked off Fitzpatrick played an efficient ballgame and a much-hyped defense finally bared its teeth. Since the Jets played a slumping Ravens team, though, their victory needs to be taken with a grain of salt. They hold steady in the bottom-six for now, but are talented enough to ascend this list some in the coming weeks.

26. New Orleans Saints (2-5) Last Week: 23

Miscues told the story of New Orleans’ six-point loss to the Chiefs. After falling behind early, the Saints were in good position to cut Kansas City’s lead to three in the fourth quarter. Instead, Mark Ingram fumbled inside Kansas City’s 10-yard line and essentially put this one on ice. As I’ve written in the past, the Saints are just good enough to keep their games interesting, but also lousy enough to find a new, heartbreaking way to lose seemingly every week.

25. Los Angeles Rams (3-4) Last Week: 21

The Rams extended their losing streak to three games on Sunday and it looks as though teams have found a fool-proof blueprint to beating them: Limit Todd Gurley and force Case Keenum to throw the ball. Keenum came up woefully short in London, throwing four interceptions — including a pick-six in a game that was decided by seven. Los Angeles’ defense played great, allowing just 10 points to Eli Manning and the Giants. But Keenum spotted New York seven points, so the D’s effort proved to be for naught.

24. Tennessee Titans (3-4) Last Week: 20

Tennessee got a nice outing from its stars on offense, but that group ultimately whiffed when it counted most. The Titans got the ball late in a four-point game that could’ve put them in a tie for the top spot in the AFC South. It was a chance for Marcus Mariota to grow his star. Instead, Mariota put the ball on the ground and Robert Mathis returned it for a game-clinching score. It was the 15th fumble, and ninth lost, in a career that’s just 19 games old.

23. Indianapolis Colts (3-4) Last Week: 24

When the Colts win, it almost always seems to be in exciting fashion. But that’s the thing: The Colts have needed to eke out wins against the Chargers, Bears and Titans — not exactly world-beaters (the jury’s still out on San Diego). Three of Indy’s four losses have also been by one possession. Colts games are almost always a fun watch, but having to find a way to win in the final minutes every week doesn’t bode well for Indy’s future.

22. Baltimore Ravens (3-4) Last Week: 17

Sunday’s game seemed to be setting up perfectly for the Baltimore Ravens. The chance to beat up on the hapless Jets and reverse a three-game losing streak seemed to be right there for the taking. Instead, Baltimore’s offense had perhaps its worst game in a season that’s been full of bad ones — running for all of six yards and managing just three long field goals. Not to mention that, in a trend that seemingly began against Odell Beckham and the Giants, the Ravens continue to be susceptible to the big play.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) Last Week: 25

Anytime you can double up your opponent on the scoreboard in today’s NFL, you’ve done well. The Buccaneers did just that in their victory over the 49ers, outscoring them 34-3 in the game’s final three quarters. Mike Evans’ continued emergence as one of the league’s best receivers (545 yards, six touchdowns in six games) appears well-set to continue. However, one can’t help but wonder if no-names like Rodgers and Barber will be able to run the ball nearly as well against stiffer competition.

20. Miami Dolphins (3-4) Last Week: 29

October 23, 2016 - Miami Gardens, FL, USA - Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) runs into the end zone on a touchdown reception in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla (Photo by Al Diaz/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

October 23, 2016 - Miami Gardens, FL, USA - Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) runs into the end zone on a touchdown reception in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla (Photo by Al Diaz/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

A Dolphins team that was lambasted as being soft just a few weeks ago is suddenly playing hard-nosed football reminiscent of a bygone era. With their offensive line now fully intact, the Dolphins have surrendered just one sack on Ryan Tannehill in the last two weeks. He ate 17 in the previous five games. More importantly, the suddenly road-grading O-Line has cleared the way for Jay Ajayi to run for over 400 yards in his last two.

19. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) Last Week: 18

The Bengals did well to halt their slide against a beatable foe in the Cleveland Browns and their two-score margin of victory suggests a job well done. In many ways, it was. However, Cincy can’t count on big play after big play, or lucky bounces, to be on its side against stiffer competition. Nor can the Bengals count on playing a team down to their fifth true quarterback. Some will argue that it’s better to score in one play than 12, but until we see it against tougher competition, the Bengals are a team with red zone issues.

18. Houston Texans (4-3) Last Week: 13

The Texans may be a division leader, but they’re one whom plenty of AFC teams will hope to draw come January. At least as long as Brock Osweiler’s under center. Sure, Denver was amped up to play their former QB, but shouldn’t the opposite have been true as well? If so, it didn’t show. Osweiler’s 41 passing attempts went for just 131 yards, and he was forced into three fumbles on Monday night. Simply put, he looked to be playing scared. Osweiler’s Texans are scoring just 16 points a game this year, a startlingly low total.

17. San Diego Chargers (3-4) Last Week: 22

Wins over the Broncos and Falcons, two teams that reside in the top 10 of these rankings, have forced many to take notice of these Chargers. And why wouldn’t they? The Chargers, after all, are a few bad bounces away from being a 7-0 football team. Young players on both sides of the ball have turned San Diego from also-ran to world-beater in seemingly no time at all. Now it’s just a matter of continuing to close out games.

16. New York Giants (4-3) Last Week: 16

No change for the Giants here. While they got back over the .500 mark and their defense played some inspired football, the offense remains a gargantuan concern. The Giants put just one long scoring drive together in London against the Rams and their lone offensive touchdown came courtesy of an interception that set them up in L.A. territory. Seeing as the Rams had let up 30 in three of four heading into this one, that isn’t exactly a glowing endorsement of the G-Men’s offense.

15. Washington Redskins (4-3) Last Week: 12

The Redskins don’t suffer much of a fall here because they’re a team who many felt were overachieving during their four-game win streak. Even when the Redskins were winning they had a feel of a team that would win eight or nine games. Last year, that’d probably be enough to earn them the NFC East crown. Unfortunately for Washington, the division’s grown a lot tougher. With Josh Reed and Josh Norman, arguably Washington’s best players on each side of the ball, suffering from concussions, it’ll be tough for the Redskins to repeat as division champs.

14. Detroit Lions (4-3) Last Week: 19

The Lions have rebounded from a 1-3 start to win three in a row. More impressively, each of the three wins (Eagles, Rams, Redskins) have come against teams who boasted winning records at the time. Strange though it may sound, the retirement of Calvin Johnson may have benefited Matthew Stafford. Rather than force the ball to his top option, Stafford’s shared the wealth and his numbers have received a boost for it. The seven-year pro is on pace for a career-best in completion percentage, the second most touchdown throws of his career and single-digit interceptions.

13. Buffalo Bills (4-3) Last Week: 9

Rivalry games should always be taken with a grain of salt in the NFL. Even the rest of the AFC East manages to dole out a loss to New England now and then. That said, it’s hard to argue that the Bills were anything other than punched in the mouth by the Dolphins. Miami ran for 250 yards and sacked Tyrod Taylor four times. With LeSean McCoy hobbled, Buffalo managed just 67 rushing yards on 22 attempts. With Sammy Watkins already on the shelf, the Bills ought to be hoping that McCoy returns to full health sooner than later. And with the Patriots up next, they’ll need him.

12. Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1) Last Week: 8

Even though the Cardinals didn’t lose, they definitely came out of Sunday night’s showdown with the Seahawks feeling like a loser. Rather than cut the NFC East race to half a game, they’re suddenly 1.5 games back. Arizona outgained Seattle by a wide margin but flubbed numerous opportunities to win in regulation. If the Cardinals are forced to play on the road this January, this is the game they’ll look back on with regret.

11. Green Bay Packers (4-2) Last Week: 10

The Packers may have won another unsightly Thursday night game (literally and figuratively), but they didn’t look like contenders in the process. They battled a hapless Bears team tightly for three quarters before ultimately pulling away. It took Aaron Rodgers 56 attempts to accumulate what look like outstanding numbers (326 yards and three scores) and Green Bay’s run game went through two of its wide receivers. Neither seems like a sustainable recipe for success.

10. Oakland Raiders (5-2) Last Week: 15

October 23, 2016:  Oakland Raiders Fullback Jamize Olawale (49) during the NFL game between the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/ Icon Sportswire)

October 23, 2016: Oakland Raiders Fullback Jamize Olawale (49) during the NFL game between the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/ Icon Sportswire)

Beating up on an inferior foe is a feeling the Raiders haven’t been acquainted with in some time, but it’s exactly what they did during their matchup with the Jaguars. Oakland had its way on offense and flustered Blake Bortles and Co. for much of the day on D. It’s not a signature victory (the Raiders don’t yet have one of those), but it marks one step closer to Oakland’s first winning season since 2002.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (4-2) Last Week: 11

The Chiefs got just 64 yards of offense from their stars (Jamaal Charles, Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce) on Sunday. Normally that’d seem like a recipe for a certain loss, but not this week. Spencer Ware continued his ascent as a featured back, posting 130 total yards on 19 touches. Rookie speedster Tyreek Hill got behind an admittedly exploitable New Orleans secondary for a 38-yard score. Take it with a grain of salt — the Saints after all aren’t the 1985 Bears — but the emergence of new weapons has this once-struggling offense looking pretty formidable at the midseason point.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) Last Week: 7

No shame in losing to the Patriots, especially with so many critical pieces sidelined to injury. However, the way in which the Steelers lost to New England was frustrating. Pittsburgh missed field goals, failed to capitalize on turnovers and made some questionable coaching decisions. It’s those gaffes, not health, that cost the Steelers in a game that was within four points well into the fourth quarter.

7. Atlanta Falcons (4-3) Last Week: 4

The Falcons scored 27 points in two quarters against the Chargers. In the next two-and-change, however, they managed just three. Of course the game turned for good when, in their own territory, the Falcons failed on a fourth down in overtime. Hindsight’s 20-20 and all, and if Atlanta converts then Dan Quinn is lauded as a genius. But if the Falcons’ slide continues, many will look back on that play as the one that turned the season.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) Last Week: 14

Carson Wentz looked as much like a rookie as he had all year in a sloppy game that featured eight turnovers in all. On this Sunday, though, that didn’t matter. The Eagles’ defense, juiced up to play their former QB in Sam Bradford, matched a feisty Minnesota group blow-for-blow. The Eagles improve to 3-0 at home and won those games by a combined score of 84-23. This a good time to note that their huge Sunday night clash with the Cowboys will be played in Dallas.

5. Seattle Seahawks (4-1-1) Last Week: 3

Nobody wants to tie, but for the Seahawks it’s hardly a result they can complain about. Not with how many opportunities the Cardinals had to win this 6-6 slugfest. Credit to Seattle’s ferocious defense for repeatedly stepping up when Arizona threatened. That said, this team has some serious concerns on offense. Receivers can’t uncover and the offensive line, when it isn’t putting Russell Wilson’s livelihood in danger, is hold-happy. The Browns are said to be shopping Joe Thomas, which, if they’re smart, should pique the Seahawks interest.

4. Dallas Cowboys (5-1) Last Week: 5

The Cowboys enjoy a slight bump on their off week by virtue of the teams around them having less-than-stellar showings. Last we saw Dallas, it was wiping the floor with teams thought to be serious contenders in the Bengals and Packers. Now it’s got yet another chance to prove it belongs among the league’s elite, and stake its claim to a huge division lead, with a win over the rival Eagles.

3. Denver Broncos (5-2) Last Week: 6

All’s well in Denver. After two disappointing losses, Denver reasserted itself as only it could with a dominating defensive effort again the Texans and former QB, Brock Osweiler. While the defense was it’s typically impressive self, Denver’s run game got going with a combined 190 yards between C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker. Denver’s offense functions best when Trevor Siemian takes a back seat to the two talented backs, so this was certainly a heartening sight for Broncos fans.

2. Minnesota Vikings (5-1) Last Week: 1

The Vikings lose their grasp on the top spot but don’t suffer too steep of a fall. They showed too much in their first five to suddenly fear that the sky is falling in Minnesota. This was a weird game, as neither offense seemed to have any interest in holding onto the football. With a Halloween visit to the lowly Bears awaiting Minnesota, the Vikings should be able to get back on the winning track sooner than later.

1. New England Patriots (6-1) Last Week: 2

At long last, the NFL’s gold standard has taken it’s rightful place atop our power rankings. The Patriots were far from perfect in their win over the Landry Jones-led Pittsburgh Steelers. They fumbled twice, receivers dropped easy catches and New England failed to get any pressure on the young signal-caller and yet it still won by 11. If that’s not the mark of a top team, what is?

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