Most teams now have six games under their belt. That means point differential is becoming more and more meaningful since lopsided wins or losses are marginalized by a larger sample size. So we’re including point differential alongside team’s records in the edition of the NFL Power Rankings. In some cases, we think the point differential is a better indicator of a given team’s ability, even more than what their record says. Otherwise, the top and bottom have remained pretty stable, while the most movement occurs among the middle 22.
2018 NFL Power Rankings: Week 7; Tier 1: The Undisputed Favorites
1 Los Angeles Rams (6-0; +78)
It’s been a minute since the Rams have had a really convincing win, but they continue to win nonetheless. Pair the league’s only unbeaten team with the NFL’s best point differential, and you get the undisputed top-ranked team in the Power Rankings.
2 Kansas City Chiefs (5-1; +43)
Kansas City went toe-to-toe with the Patriots in a wild shootout but came up on the losing end. We won’t downgrade them for that – they had chances to win – and keep them in the second spot. They’ve shown more than the Pats on the season, but there is a bit of a blueprint out there on how to beat the Chiefs. Their offense needs to stay ahead of the curve. And we think it will.
3 New England Patriots (4-2; +28)
Sometimes a team’s history and reputation can get overrated as far as how it applies to the present. But you have to think that New England’s been-there, done-that attitude had something to do with their ability to hang with the Chiefs high-powered offense and ultimately pull out the W. The Pats should be favored in every game they play going forward and they should be one of the first teams to lock up a division title (again).
Tier 2: Should-Be Playoff Bound
4 New Orleans Saints (4-1; +40)
This week’s Saints/Ravens matchup is endlessly intriguing. The winner stands to benefit more than the loser is negatively impacted. However, a win for New Orleans will only do more to cement their place as a legit championship contender.
5 Carolina Panthers (3-2; +7)
The Panthers have the Eagles and Ravens next on the schedule. Both of those teams offer an interesting test for a team that brings a unique set of matchup problems in their own right. This tanking might be a little high for a team that’s 3-2, but outside of the Rams, Carolina is just as dangerous as anybody else in the NFC.
6 Baltimore Ravens (4-2; +76)
Baltimore would easily be in the top five if not for that loss to the Browns. It is just one game, but that one game is emblematic of how wildly this team goes back and forth between a pretty high ceiling and a really low floor. Teams that aren’t consistent deserve to be downgraded a bit. A good showing against the Saints this week will go a long way in forecasting where this team can go.
If you’re an offense, PROTECTING THE QB is about as important as it gets (especially if you’re paying him 20+ million a year).#RavensFlock #OnePride #KeepPounding #HereWeGo #LARams #GoSaints #Colts #FightForEachOther #Texans #Seahawks #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/Zu94uCqrSh
— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) October 18, 2018
7 Cincinnati Bengals (4-2; +16)
The first two weeks of the season saw the Bengals win both games by an identical score of 34-23. Since then, every game has been decided by ten or less. The defense is as good as any, but the offense hasn’t taken full advantage of it by showing an ability to pull away. Sure, they’re 4-2, but playing in too many close games is a recipe sure to go wrong.
Tier 3: Right There
8 Los Angeles Chargers (4-2; +31)
The Chargers got a lot of preseason hype. Then they started out 1-2 and there was a lot of “same old Chargers team” finger-pointing. Now they’re 4-2 and right in the thick of the AFC playoff race. However, they’ve had the league’s weirdest schedule: losses against two of the NFL’s best (Rams and Chiefs), with wins over mostly bad teams (Browns, Raiders, 49ers, and Bills). We still don’t know how good (or bad) this team is, but this week’s game against the Titans will give us a better idea.
A major discussion topic among NFL owners/executives at this week’s league meetings is the Chargers’ viability in LA. PSL sales have been a struggle and team is expected to revise its Inglewood revenue goals sharply to a more realistic number: $400m to around $150m, per sources
— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) October 17, 2018
Tier 3B: Right There, But Questions at QB
9 Chicago Bears (3-2; +43)
There are teams that seem a bit bipolar on a team level. But the Bears’ variance between really good and pretty bad can be boiled down to the quarterback play. Chicago has New England this week. Seeing how Mitchell Trubisky navigates going against Bill Belichick’s game plan will be very interesting.
10 Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3; -17)
This ranking is symbolic of holding out hope this team can get right. Both in terms of health and on-field production. We thought giving up 30 against Kansas City was forgivable, but allowing Dallas to score 40? Not so much. The Jags have now lost 3 of 4 and after a really good start, they’ve fallen back.
11 Tennessee Titans (3-3; -20)
A few weeks ago it looked like Tennessee might be able to compensate for uncertainty at the quarterback position. Maybe team’s have caught on and done better scouting, or maybe the Titans’ luck has run out. Either way, it’s not a great sign of things to come.
The Tennessee Titans allowed 11 sacks to the Ravens on Sunday. The last 4 teams to take at least 10 sacks in a game are all from the AFC South. pic.twitter.com/lHWyhiThyA
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 15, 2018
12 Washington Football Team (3-2; +2)
Washington is in the lead in the NFC East, but essentially only by virtue of having already had their bye week. It’s a little bit of a plot twist to the season the NFC East might be the league’s worst division. Somebody’s gotta win it. And Washington feels like the favorite. But they’re not necessarily playing like a division winner.
Tier 4: Ruined by Inconsistency
13 Green Bay Packers (3-2-1; +4)
Knee injury aside, it’s been a weird season for Aaron Rodgers. His numbers are pretty much in line with his overall career marks, but he’s missing an inordinate number of throws. As for the Packers, on the whole, their defense has shifted between below-average and outright terrible. On top of it, if you only watched the first half of games, you’d think this was one of the four or five worst teams in the league. Having said all that, Rodgers’ presence alone is worth holding out hope that they may put it together. They’ll have the bye week to start figuring things out.
14 Philadelphia Eagles (3-3; +20)
The next four weeks (home for Carolina, Jacksonville, and Dallas, then on the road for New Orleans) feels like a make-or-break stretch for the reigning champs. The Eagles’ struggles this year show how little is given in this league and everything is earned. Philly has been given no breaks and needs to create their own luck if they want to get back into the playoffs.
You couldn’t ask for a better clinic tape from the @Eagles OL here. Watch Kelce stand up the DT and Seumalo (LG) take the practice reps on the crowther to the field. It’s beautiful. pic.twitter.com/WwcVmJ8sQC
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) October 17, 2018
15 Houston Texans (3-3; -2)
Winning three straight might suggest this is a team on the rise. We’re skeptical. Every game involving the Texans this season has been deciding by seven points or less. The fact that they have won three after losing the first three, conversely, could just be that over time wins and losses in one-score games generally settle around .500.
16 Minnesota Vikings (3-2-1; -8)
The Vikings defense has regressed in a meaningful way compared to last season. And the offense – while it’s looked great at times – hasn’t been as fluid or as in-sync as last season. There’s still time, but you’d think if this was a true contender there’d be more signs of that thus far.
17 Dallas Cowboys (3-3; +20)
Dallas has alternated between losses and wins this season. That would suggest they’re in for a stinker against Washington this week. Regardless, it’s a golden opportunity for the Cowboys to insert themselves into the division title race. Not that they aren’t already, but being in first place through seven weeks would be eyebrow-raising for this team compared to preseason expectations.
18 Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1; +17)
With a bye week this week, an opportunity arises to get some players healthy (or just back, in the case of Le’Veon Bell). They’ve had a couple nice wins the past two weeks but we’re still looking at this team with a skeptical eye. It just doesn’t seem like the Football Gods are doing Pittsburgh any favors this season.
“Just in pure production, James Conner is right there with Le’Veon of a year ago. … James Conner is 5th in this league in rushing. That’s pretty great.” — @RealSkipBayless
Le’Veon Bell 2017:
86 YPG Rushing
44 YPG Receiving
James Conner 2018:
76 YPG Rushing
43 YPG Receiving pic.twitter.com/SKa3eZW7eu
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) October 15, 2018
(Apologies for allowing Skip Bayless into these proceedings, but the stats don’t lie.)
19 Miami Dolphins (4-2; -15)
Being 4-2 is nice, the Dolphins have done everything they’ve needed to so far, but the schedule is not set up for this team to have sustained success. Barring a surprise one way or the other, this team is tracking as an 8-8 team. We think the point differential is a better indicator of the team’s ability in this case, more so than their record.
20 Cleveland Browns (3-2-1; -23)
Playing a rookie quarterback is a long play. It’s good to have Cleveland competitive again, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing if they struggled, got another relatively high draft pick, and built around Baker Mayfield for the future. Slightly better depth would do wonders for this squad.
21 Seattle Seahawks (3-3; +26)
Usually, there’s never a bad week to get a bye. It’s a chance to get healthy and put in some extra hours in the film room. But the Seahawks have won three of four – the only loss coming to the Rams, in a game Seattle pushed them to the edge. The Seahawks might’ve preferred to keep playing rather than sitting at home this week.
Tier 5: Still Hanging On by the Skin of Their Teeth
22 Denver Broncos (2-4; -34)
Losers of four straight, the Broncos need to find their way to a win against the Cardinals this week. If not, we’re in the bottom-has-dropped-out territory. Meaning Denver could choose to make some tough decisions or kick the can down the road until the end of the season.
23 Atlanta Falcons (2-4; -25)
On paper, the Falcons aren’t really any different than the highly-successful Falcons teams of yesteryear. But the defense has been really bad. And the criticisms that have existed before concerning the offense have been made exponentially worse for the most part. When a team decides to run it back year after year, going stale is a huge problem. And this team just feels like it’s gone stale. They need to go on a run now, or this is a wasted season.
Was high on #Falcons entering season & will likely end up missing on them.
Their 2-4 start is particularly problematic because they open with 5 of first 7 games at home. After Week 8 bye, Atlanta closes with 6 of its final 9 games on the road.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) October 18, 2018
24 Detroit Lions (2-3; -12)
The Lions seem to get up for big(ish) games. They’re two victories have come against New England (where Detroit’s head coach was previously employed and Green Bay, they’re chief division rival). If they can’t motivate themselves for games without the additional outside motivators, that’s a huge concern.
25 New York Jets (3-3; +26)
One would be foolish to expect the Jets to make a real run at the playoffs. But if you want one takeaway to watch for, it’d be this: New York plays Minnesota and Chicago the next two weeks, the outcomes of those games could be a good indicator or how division play (and conferences, to a lesser extent) factor into a team’s success (or lack of). Which is to say: how they matchup against the Vikings and Bears offers a mildly interesting hypothetical about where the Jets would line up if they were in a different division (or conference).
26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3; -32)
The early-season feel-good story of the NFL has officially landed down where most expected them during the preseason. That’s not to say this team is without intrigue, however. Jameis Winston’s performance(s) and how it relates to his relatively complicated contract status is one of the NFL’s more interesting stories going forward.
Most Points Allowed- QB
1. #Buccaneers 28.39
2. #Falcons 25.52
3. #Saints 25.06
4. #Steelers 23.86
5. #Chiefs 23.41
6. #49ers 22.82
7. #Bengals 20.74
8. #Vikings 20.13
9. #Colts 19.57
10. #Patriots 19.46
— Kyle Richardson (@krich1532) October 17, 2018
Tier 6: Looking Forward to the End of the Season (Already)
27 Indianapolis Colts (1-5; -28)
There’s a pretty easy argument to make that this team is better than their record would suggest. Andrew Luck is still working his way back and probably doesn’t have a great feel for things to this point, at least relative to where it was when he was at his peak. They’ve also had a really difficult schedule. Their next two games are against the Bills and Raiders. If they are better than 1-5, they’ll show it in the coming weeks.
28 New York Giants (1-5; -45)
If you came up with a list of things that could cause a team to struggle, this team checks pretty much all the boxes. Bad offensive line? Check. Unstable QB play? Check. Lack of pass rush and unreliable defense? Check and check. Unnecessary off-field drama and controversy? All the checks.
Odell Beckham Jr. leaves the field with two seconds left in the first half, while the rest of the #Giants offense stays on the field for one last snap. Beckham had two catches for 12 yards in the first half pic.twitter.com/KdQ7kTNWLf
— Kevin Boilard (@247KevinBoilard) October 12, 2018
29 Buffalo Bills (2-4; -62)
It’s not Nathan Peterman’s fault he’s continually put in losing situations. But he is symbolic of the self-inflicted wounds the Bills have dealt themselves time after time.
30 San Francisco 49ers (1-5; -31)
Jimmy Garoppolo was a band-aid for this team’s weaknesses. That band-aid has been ripped off, and it’s uncovered something ugly.
31 Oakland Raiders (1-5; -66)
The Raiders have a bye week and thus won’t be playing. But that only makes them marginally less competitive than what they’ve been when they’re actually on the field.
32 Arizona Cardinals (1-5; -57)
One more week of Arizona coming in last. But the upside is that that might not be the case for long, though. The downside? The Cardinals could move up and out of last merely because the teams immediately above them are so bad, not necessarily due to anything they are doing right.