1. New England Patriots (5-0) Def. Indianapolis 34-27. Previously: 1
Deflategate revenge? Just another game in the win column if you ask the Patriots. They have five now, and are 5-0 for the first time since their ill-fated 16-0 regular season in 2007. Which came after Spygate. Memo for the NFL: Big early season controversies apparently directly lead to undefeated Patriots teams.
2. Green Bay Packers (6-0) Def. San Diego 27-20. Previously: 2
Aaron Rodgers began his next two years without an interception at home streak, and the Packers got their closest win of the season with a big goal line stand. The invisibility of Eddie Lacy has to be concerning; he’s only topped 50 rushing yards twice this season, and has yet to carry the ball 20 times in a game.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (6-0) Def. Buffalo 34-21. Previously: 3
Cincinnati is playing so well they look like the Cardinals do when the Cardinals play bad teams. Dalton is on pace for somewhere between five and six interceptions, less than half what he’s thrown in any previous season. Sign me up. I believe.
4. Denver Broncos (6-0) Def. Cleveland 26-23 (OT.) Previously: 5
If we just copy and paste, “The defense is as good as any defense we’ve seen, but the offense is miserable,” in here every week does that work going forward? The optimistic take is that the Broncos finally got the run game going with 152 yards on the ground. The bad news is Peyton Manning just threw his 10th interception and his quarterback rating of 72.5 is at least 10 points lower than any season since his rookie year.
5. Carolina Panthers (5-0) Def. Seattle 27-23. Previously: 7
The Panthers kept being the team that just wins. Greg Olsen is off to a big start as Cam Newton’s best (only?) receiving threat, and caught the game-winner to complete his second 130 yard receiving day of the season.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) Def. Arizona 25-13. Previously: 9
Who needs Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown when you have Landry Jones to Martavis Bryant? The Steelers, now 2-1 without Big Ben, are looking more and more like one of the class teams of the NFL once he gets back in the fold.
7. Arizona Cardinals (4-2) Lost to Pittsburgh 25-13. Previously: 4
The Cardinals have lost two games in almost the exact opposite method they’ve won their other four. Carson Palmer in victories: 12 touchdowns, two interceptions. Carson Palmer in defeat: two touchdowns, three picks.
8. New York Jets (4-1) Def. Washington 34-21. Previously: 8
Is Ryan Fitzpatrick suddenly a help and not a hindrance to the Jets’ season. If they’re this good on defense, can pound the rock with Chris Ivory, and have good quarterback play…well, we’ll know more after Foxborough.
9. Atlanta Falcons (5-1) Lost to New Orleans 31-21. Previously: 6
Devonta Freeman is the surprise of the season, but it’s yet more surprising that Atlanta is content giving him 13 carries, especially considering every other player with a carry fumbled Thursday. After 34 receptions in the Falcons’ first three games, Julio Jones has 15 in the last three. Atlanta needs to go back to what works, and that’s Freeman and Jones.
10. Minnesota Vikings (3-2) Def. Kansas City 16-10. Previously: 10
Rookie Stephon Diggs’ emergence as a receiving threat (216 yards in the last two games) may finally give opponents something to worry about besides Adrian Peterson. And it may be just in time, if teams are going to focus on just shutting down the run like Kansas City did Sunday.
11. Indianapolis Colts (3-3) Lost to New England 34-27. Previously: 11
Chuck Pagano says he “doesn’t regret,” the “fake-punt-play” the Colts ran Sunday. Their opponents can only hope he doesn’t regret it enough to run it again, and again, and again.
12. St. Louis Rams (2-3) Bye. Previously: 12
The Rams come out of their bye week with a chance to show they can get themselves hyped up for a game that isn’t in their division. After the Browns just let the Broncos’ run game get on track, this could be an appetizing matchup for Todd Gurley.
13. Seattle Seahawks (2-4) Lost to Carolina 27-23. Previously: 13
Kam Chancellor is back, but the Legion of Boom is still letting game winning drives go right down the field. This is the third week in a row they (they, not the refs) haven’t been able to stop an opponent with the lead in hand. At this point, they have to be grateful A) they’re not 1-5, and B) Arizona has stopped winning.
14. Buffalo Bills (3-3) Lost to Cincinnati 34-21. Previously: 14
Sure this was a loss, but you expect that, and when you consider the events of the game: E.J. Manuel didn’t look lost in his spot start, LeSean McCoy returned from injury and looked good - this week was almost encouraging for the Bills. Just, fix the penalties if you want to go anywhere.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) Def. New York Giants 27-7. Previously: 22
Six weeks into the season, and the Eagles appear to be the team least desperate to not be in first in the NFC East. DeMarco Murray recorded his third straight game of over 10 yards rushing, as the run game in Philly is finally starting to click.
16. San Diego Chargers (2-4) Lost to Green Bay 27-20. Previously: 15
If Philip Rivers throws for 503 yards, and San Diego still loses, the “ride Philip Rivers’ shoulders to victory” plan suddenly seems to have some flaws. Like, a lot of flaws.
17. Chicago Bears (2-4) Lost to Detroit 37-34 (OT.) Previously: 17
For the third straight week, Cutler and the Bears had a clutch drive in the fourth quarter in them. This time was perhaps the greatest of all, as they marched 69 yards in three plays and 21 seconds, mostly using the drive as a welcome back party for Alshon Jeffery. The Bears with Cutler at the helm have a lot of fight in them.
18. Oakland Raiders (2-3) Bye. Previously: 19
Denver may be rising further and further ahead in the standings, but that makes next week an important matchup for both Oakland and San Diego, as they battle for second place in the division. If Oakland wants to make a statement that they’re separating themselves from the Jacksonvilles, Tampa Bays, and Tennessees of the NFL, this is their chance.
19. Cleveland Browns (2-4) Lost to Denver 26-23 (OT.) Previously: 23
The Browns are holding high their proud tradition of frustrating fantasy owners who own their running backs. Sunday carries and yardage: Duke Johnson, 9 for 38; Isaiah Crowell, 11 for 32, Robert Turbin, 10 for 27. Never change, Cleveland.
20. Miami Dolphins (2-3) Def. Tennessee 38-10. Previously: 26
You know who likes playing for Dan Campbell? Cameron Wake. He had four sacks and two forced fumbles in the first half Sunday, which is, uh, four more sacks and two more forced fumbles than he had in the Dolphins’ first four games of the season.
21. New York Giants (3-3) Lost to Philadelphia 27-7. Previously: 16
The Giants are apparently the team most desperate to not be in first in the NFC East. When you consider that Eli Manning started the day 10-for-10, it means he finished it 8-for-28, and that about sums up the difference between the Giants Sunday before DeMeco Ryans ripped an interception away and after.
22. New Orleans Saints (2-4) Def. Atlanta 31-21. Previously: 31
Michael Mauti and Ben Watson were the heroes of the day for New Orleans. When they get big plays, the Saints are capitalizing on momentum. They just need that to happen more often. Even though it wasn’t netting them big returns, they stayed committed to the run against Atlanta and it paid off.
23. Dallas Cowboys (2-3) Bye. Previously: 21
Could Dez Bryant really be back already? The Cowboys haven’t ruled out a return against the Giants in week seven and obviously, the return of stars from injury could be just what the doctor ordered. Of course, so could playing the Giants.
24. Houston Texans (2-4) Def. Jacksonville 31-20 Previously: 27
Brian Hoyer’s performances in the last three games (65-for-97, 837 yards, 7 TD, INT) certainly support his shift back to starting quarterback, and bring into question the decision to go away from him so early. All in all, it may just be the return of Foster that is boosting quarterback play in Houston in general.
25. Washington Redskins (2-4) Lost to New York Jets 34-20. Previously: 18
Washington has completely lost the ground game that was their identity early in the season. With that, comes Kirk Cousins, volume passer. And with that comes turnovers. And with that, comes defeat.
26. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) Lost to Minnesota 16-10. Previously: 20
When it rains it pours. The Chiefs’ murderous schedule continues next week with Pittsburgh. The Chiefs’ injuries on offense continue with Jeremy Maclin’s concussion a week after Jamaal Charles was lost for the season. The Chiefs’ losses continue.
27. San Francisco 49ers (2-4) Def. Baltimore 25-20. Previously: 28
So far this season Colin Kaepernick is either on or he’s off. In the 49ers’ losses to Arizona and Green Bay, he averaged 113.5 yards passing and threw no touchdowns but 5 interceptions. In the four games sandwiching those two: 275.5 yards-per-game and six touchdowns to no interceptions. Maybe it was just a blip?
28. Detroit Lions (1-5) Def. Chicago 37-34 (OT.) Previously: 32
It’s fitting that when Detroit finally won it was with the pattern that had them winning the last few years: a heavy dose of Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson. Perhaps most impressive in the victory: their defense held Matt Forte to 2.9 yards-per-carry and his lowest yardage total of the season.
29. Baltimore Ravens (1-5) Lost to San Francisco 25-20. Previously: 24
Through six games, the Ravens’ defense ranks 25th in the league in points per game allowed (27), and 27th in yards per game (381.) Oh, and the team is minus five for their turnover margin, also good for 27th in the league.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) Bye. Previously: 29
Fresh from their bye, Tampa gets a trip to Washington, where they played their best game of 2014, getting their second (and last) win of the season 27-7. Fond memories.
31. Tennessee Titans (1-4) Lost to Miami 38-10. Previously: 25
This was the fourth loss in a row since the Titans showed such promise in their opening weekend thrashing of Tampa Bay. Marcus Mariota has almost as many turnovers (nine) as he does rushing attempts (10).
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) Lost to Houston 31-20. Previously: 30
Jacksonville keeps putting up stats through the air, with Blake Bortles averaging 45 attempts and 311 yards over the last three games. Maybe because they’re chasing just about every game they’re in.