By Angelo Inglisa.
Biggest Riser: Buffalo Bills (17->10)
Biggest Faller: Indianapolis Colts (20->28)
1.) Minnesota Vikings (+/-0)
The bye week came at the best time for Minnesota, as six of last week’s top 10 teams lost, with only the Patriots claiming a win over a non-top 10 opponent. Taking on the Eagles on the road will be a great test for how focused these Vikings are.
2.) New England Patriots (+/-0)
The Brothers of Destruction (Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett) love having Tom Brady back. The tight end duo has combined for 386 yards and four touchdowns since Brady’s return, and Belichick’s favorite RB Dion Lewis is due back in a couple of weeks, resulting in the age-old question of how do you stop the Patriots?
3.) Seattle Seahawks (+3)
Don’t look now, but Seattle has won three straight. The offense finally seems to have figured out how to play together, with Jimmy Graham forcing defenses to gameplan for him, and Christine Michael finally adjusting to that terrible offensive line. Not to mention the defense, which is top 5 in every category except turnovers.
4.) Denver Broncos (-1)
Are the naysayers being proved correct? Denver’s offense has been miserable in these past two weeks, mostly due to an M.I.A. run game. C.J. Anderson has been neutralized, resulting in the Broncos attempting 93 passes (eight of them sacks) compared to 40 rushes. It’s one thing if it’s Tom Brady throwing those passes, it’s another if it’s Trevor Siemian/Paxton Lynch.
5.) Dallas Cowboys (+5)
The hottest team not from Minnesota, the ‘Boys have rattled off five straight W’s behind the best line in football and rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Even with Dak finally committing a couple of turnovers, Elliott still looks capable of carrying this team every week, as he is on pace to finish just shy of 1,900 yards rushing on the season.
6.) Atlanta Falcons (+1)
Despite the loss to the Seahawks, I like what I’ve seen from this Atlanta team. Matt Ryan has drastically improved this season, the offense has a ton of weapons, and the defense looks to be improving. The NFC could be an interesting race between the Cowboys, Seahawks, Vikings, and Falcons.
7.) Pittsburgh Steelers (-2)
I’m willing to excuse the loss to the Dolphins, seeing as Ben Roethlisberger’s injury sapped the team of all it’s mojo. Now the Steelers have the coaching and talent to win games without Ben, but Landry Jones didn’t look very good last year and could easily make the next 4-6 games very challenging for Pittsburgh.
8.) Green Bay Packers (-4)
It’s hard to say that a team should fire a relatively successful coach, but Mike McCarthy seems to have been figured out. The offense looks stale, and was shut down by a Dallas defense pretty much devoid of talent. Losing Eddie Lacy may actually end up helping, as Knile Davis should be used differently and may provide a spark to the offense.
9.) Washington Redskins (+6)
The NFC East is the best division in football currently, with no team below .500. Washington has reeled off four consecutive wins, mostly based off a solid rushing attack and a defense that is meshing. The ‘Skins sacked Carson Wentz five times, holding the rookie play-caller to only 179 yards.
10.) Buffalo Bills (+7)
Another East team that’s on a four-game winning streak, the Bills have looked like an entirely different team since dropping that Thursday night game to the Jets. LeSean McCoy has 470 yards since Anthony Lynn took over Offensive Coordinator duties, and that shouldn’t change, even if Sammy Watkins comes back at some point.
11.) Arizona Cardinals (+1)
Granted, it was the Jets, but damn if that wasn’t impressive. David Johnson ran like a man possessed, and the defense stifled the New York offense all night. Tyrann Mathieu was a blur, leading the team in tackles to go along with two pass deflections and an interception.
12.) Oakland Raiders (-4)
The Raiders had a chance to surge past the Broncos but got ground into the dust by Kansas City. Jack Del Rio was a defensive coordinator before becoming Oakland’s head coach, so why are the Raiders hemorrhaging points every week?
13.) Houston Texans (+/-0)
No movement since they deserved to lose until the Indianapolis defense gifted Brock Osweiler 17 consecutive points. Admittedly, Osweiler did have a couple of great throws towards the end, but he still struggled against a defense that ranks fifth-worst in yardage and points.
14.) Philadelphia Eagles (-5)
One guy can only do so much. That’s what the Eagles are learning, as they have struggled to help Carson Wentz at all. The defense plays great for some stretches but has been too inconsistent these past two weeks. And with the Cowboys and Redskins on a roll and the Giants breathing down their neck, Philadelphia needs to figure something out fast.
15.) Kansas City Chiefs (+3)
The Chiefs have maybe the best collection of running backs outside of Pittsburgh, as Spencer Ware, Jamaal Charles and Charcandrick West all able to beat you in a variety of ways. However, until some another receiving threat emerges to complement Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce, trailing early will still be this team's fatal flaw.
16.) New York Giants (+3)
The Giants finally stopped their bleeding, even though the refs appeared to be wearing purple and black. Odell Beckham Jr. had 359 yards and one touchdown walking into Sunday’s game and added 222 yards and a couple of score by the end of it. Eli Manning is going to need this OBJ every week because he doesn’t look like a guy who has won two Super Bowls anymore.
17.) Baltimore Ravens (-3)
The playcalling was much better this week, with Terrance West remaining productive with an uptick in carries. However, injuries have reared their ugly head, much like last year, with five starters inactive last week, including two along the offensive line, and they lost another in Terrell Suggs during the game.
18.) Cincinnati Bengals (-7)
The Panthers aren’t the only team slumping. The Bengals, who have been to the playoffs in each of the last five seasons, are off to a 2-4 start, matching their total losses last season. Andy Dalton is the second most sacked QB this season, which is a shocker considering how good this offensive line was last year.
19.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2)
Going in-depth on the Buccaneers stats, I’m bullish on Tampa Bay being a viable threat to the Falcons. In five games, the Bucs are getting outscored by 10 points per game, and don’t rank in the top 15 in ANY category, offensive or defensive.
20.) Detroit Lions (+3)
Another Jekyll or Hyde team, the Lions at least can score points and make games close. All of Detroit’s games have been decided by one possession, and should probably be 5-1 if they didn’t choke against the Titans and Bears. Jim Caldwell remains one of the most frustrating coaches in the NFL.
21.) New Orleans Saints (+3)
Best passing offense, fourth-worst rushing offense, second most points per game, giving up the most points per game. The Saints will go as far as Drew Brees can throw them, and with the Panthers reeling and the Buccaneers are, well, bad, that might be good enough for the Saints to steal some games and put some pressure on the Falcons.
22.) Carolina Panthers (-6)
Great fact, my co-host for my First and Goal podcast (if you haven’t before, you should totally check it out on https://soundcloud.com/u92) Nick Kirincic brought up that the last Super Bowl team to start the next season 1-5 was in 2004… was also by the Panthers. They finished the season 7-9, and while that is a solid finish, it will probably take a 9-1 finish for Carolina to make the playoffs.
23.) Tennessee Titans (+4)
I’ve done a full 180 on the Titans, who I believe are the future 2016 AFC South champs. The Texans are underachieving, the Colts lack talent at every position except QB, and the Jags offense looks like a train wreck, so the Titans, who play passable defense and grind you to dust with DeMarco Murray, can seriously win the South. Seriously.
24.) Los Angeles Rams (-2)
I knew it was only a matter of time until the Rams were .500 again. Case Keenum played well enough to keep the Jared Goff chatter down, but ultimately ended a 27/32, 321 yard, three touchdown day with a pick. The defense, which has all the hype, hasn’t been dominant, giving up 23 points per game, 17th in the NFL.
25.) Jacksonville Jaguars (+/-0)
The Jaguars should’ve won this game handily. Instead, Jacksonville scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to slip away from the Bears 17-16. Gus Bradley has the defense playing at a top 10 level, but the offense has looked downright miserable now that they aren’t playing down 20 for three quarters.
26.) San Diego Chargers (+3)
I am all in on Hunter Henry . He’s scored in three straight games and looks to be the future for the Chargers. Philip Rivers has made it a point to get him the ball, and Melvin Gordon has finally proved to be a competent NFL running back. The run defense has done excellent this year, currently fifth in the NFL.
27.) Miami Dolphins (+1)
Credit to Jay Ajayi, as he single-handedly beat the Steelers for Miami, with an assist from Ben Roethlisberger’s knee. However, I still think this is a bad team, and Jay Ajayi’s career stats not counting last week: 80 carries, 304 yards, three TDs. Not exactly All-Pro numbers.
28.) Indianapolis Colts (-8)
Under no circumstances should the Colts of lost last Sunday night. NONE. They dominated the Texans for 3 and half quarters, and the defense decided that game was over and let Houston score 17 straight points and steal the game. The Colts, believe it or not, are the worst team in the AFC South, and it isn’t close.
29.) New York Jets (-3)
That $12 million gamble is not paying off for the Jets, as Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the league in interceptions, and the defense can’t do anything right. The secondary is routinely torched, and this week the defensive line decided to take the night off. At this rate, I might end up buying a Cody Kessler jersey in a few weeks.
30.) Chicago Bears (+/-0)
Good news: Brian Hoyer has thrown for 300 yards in every start without an interception. Bad news: They are 1-3 with him as a starter. The Bears rank well in yardage but have the second-worst scoring offense in the NFL.
31.) Cleveland Browns (+1)
I like the Browns offense. Cody Kessler hasn’t been Browns-bad yet, Terrelle Pryor is an untouchable asset, and Hue Jackson has coached his team into games. Once the team is able to accrue some defensive talent in the draft or free agency, the Browns may be competitive in the future.
32.) San Francisco 49ers (-1)
I was ready for the revival of Colin Kaepernick, running the option with Carlos Hyde and leading the league in the team rushing. Instead, Kap looked like he hasn’t practiced in a year, and Carlos Hyde may be missing some time. Things are looking bleak.