1. Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) Def. Carolina 28-23. Last Week: 3
The case could be made to leave the Chiefs — the only team to beat Philadelphia — in the number one spot. But they’ve just lost and the Eagles are winners of four in a row. Whether they were forced to beat the refs or themselves Thursday night is open to interpretation, but they overcame a penalty differential of 10-for-126 vs. 1-for-1 on the road. They’re off to their best start since beginning 2004 at 7-0 on their way to the Super Bowl.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) Lost to Pittsburgh 19-13. Last Week: 1
The Chiefs got taken out of their game by the Steelers Sunday, and handed their first loss in the process. Rookie sensation Kareem Hunt was held to just 21 yards on the ground on just nine carries, his lowest career total by 60 yards, and didn’t see a carry in the fourth quarter with the Chiefs trailing. He did his work through the air instead, finishing as Kansas City leading receiver with 89 yards. The Chiefs won’t have to wait long for a shot at avenging this loss, they pick up play Thursday against the reeling Raiders.
3. New England Patriots (4-2) Def. New York Jets 24-17. Last Week: 8
Tom Brady won his record-setting 187th regular season game and the Patriots moved to first place alone in the division despite falling behind 14-0 early to the Jets. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Patriots this season, and the defense once again allowed a less-than-intimidating signal caller to get loose, with Josh McCown throwing for 354 yards in the loss.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) Def. Kansas City 19-13. Last Week: 18
We all figured the Steelers still had a sucker punch in them, and for the second straight year they delivered it to the Chiefs. Their stars showed up big time Sunday, with Le’Veon Bell rebounding from a miserable afternoon against the Jaguars with 179 rushing yards, his highest total since Week 14 against Buffalo last season. Antonio Brown did the work through the air once again, with eight catches for 155 yards.
5. New Orleans Saints (3-2) Def. Detroit 52-38. Last Week: 15
Adrian Peterson may have done just fine in Arizona, but the Saints sure didn’t miss him either. Mark Ingram had 150 total yards and Alvin Kamara threw in another 87 as the Saints took it to Detroit. In a bizarre game where both defenses allowed a ton of scoring and made a ton of plays, the Saints’ much-maligned d got five sacks and five takeaways from Matt Stafford. Not a bad day of work.
6. Carolina Panthers (4-2) Lost to Philadelphia 28-23. Last Week: 4
The Panthers ground and pound isn’t featuring very much ground. With 95 yards per game they rank just 22nd in the league, and if you take Cam Newton out of the picture the rest of the team is averaging just 46 yards a contest. This was on display in the loss to Philadelphia Thursday night when Cam accounted for 77 of the team’s 80 net rushing yards. Whether it’s rookie Christian McCaffrey or veteran Jonathan Stewart, someone has to get going.
7. Minnesota Vikings (4-2) Def. Green Bay 23-10. Last Week: 16
The Vikings certainly positioned themselves well in the division Sunday afternoon. They moved into a tie with the Packers for first place, knocked Aaron Rodgers out of contention, and watched the Lions surrender 52 points and the game to New Orleans. Suddenly that victory against the Bears a week ago seems more important. Talk of Teddy Bridgewater finally returning is picking up as well.
8. Los Angeles Rams (4-2) Def. Jacksonville 27-17. Last Week: 13
It wasn’t pretty but the Rams beat the Jaguars at their own game Sunday, relying on two special teams touchdowns and the ground game and throwing for just 121 yards. The Rams failed their last division test against Seattle, but they’ll get another chance, again at home, to state their arrival against Arizona this weekend. If they win they’ll have five wins, and first place all to themselves.
9. Buffalo Bills (3-2) Bye. Last Week: 9
The Bills return to action at home against Tampa Bay. They’ve played some surprisingly good football this season but spent the bye watching New England move a win ahead and the Dolphins match their own record. Even the Jets trail Buffalo by a half game, so each week is crucial in the AFC East.
10. Atlanta Falcons (3-2) Lost to Miami 20-17. Last Week: 6
The bye-week didn’t do anything but separate disappointing home losses for a Falcons team that now has to go on the road to Foxborough while trying to avoid a three game losing streak. Matt Ryan’s interception against the Dolphins was his sixth this season. He threw just seven a season ago.
11. Denver Broncos (3-2) Lost to New York Giants 23-10. Last Week: 5
One of several disappointing performers at the top of these rankings. Everything seemed to be falling into place for a Broncos victory at home, until they came out and found themselves down 17-3 by halftime. That wouldn’t let C.J. Anderson or Jamaal Charles get going, and the run game finished with just 17 carries for 46 yards.
12. Green Bay Packers (4-2) Lost to Minnesota 23-10. Last Week: 2
No team suffered a more devastating loss this week than the loss of Green Bay’s quarterback. Aaron Rodgers is likely done for the season after undergoing surgery to repair a broken collarbone. Faith in Rodgers has often kept the Packers above their counterparts in these rankings. After a three interception debut in relief against the Vikings, we’ll see what new quarterback Brett Hundley can do with a week to prepare for the Saints.
13. Seattle Seahawks (3-2) Bye. Last Week: 11
The Seahawks will return to action against the Giants this week, in what would have looked like another compelling mismatch if anyone ignored the game between New York and Denver this weekend. The Seahawks will have to avoid the same trap if they want to keep up with the Rams and suddenly revitalized Cardinals.
14. Washington (3-2) Def. San Francisco 26-24. Last Week: 12
An inconsistent Washington attack still found contributions from this season’s usual suspects while almost blowing a 17-0 lead against the Niners. Chris Thompson finally received the majority of the workload at running back, but still did most of his damage in the air (four catches, 105 yards.) Vernon Davis had both a 51-yard reception and costly fumble against the team he formerly starred for.
15. Miami Dolphins (3-2) Def. Atlanta 20-17. Last Week: 25
The Dolphins turned in a stunning comeback and equally unexpected upset for their second straight victory. Jay Ajayi increased his yardage total for the third straight game, finishing with 130 rushing yards and giving Miami some semblance of an offense. They’ll face another division opponent with three wins this week when they play the Jets.
16. Detroit Lions (3-3) Lost to New Orleans 52-38. Last Week: 7
The Lions continue to almost pull off impressive comebacks, scoring 28 straight points in the second half Sunday to pull within a score, but they’d do better to avoid constantly finding themselves down in the first place. With a bye on their hands now, they could fall a game-and-a-half behind either the Vikings or Packers, both in action next weekend.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) Lost to Los Angeles Rams 27-17. Last Week: 10
The game didn’t open exactly as planned for Jacksonville, down after the opening kickoff. But Leonard Fournette pressed the reset button with a 75-yard touchdown on his first carry. His final carry a week ago was a 90-yard touchdown against Pittsburgh. Not bad for two plays. Fournette would finish with 21 touches for 130 yards, and Blake Bortles with 35 attempts. Not the breakdown Jacksonville wants.
18. Houston Texans (3-3) Def. Cleveland 33-17. Last Week: 14
Almost the entirety of the AFC South may sit at 3-3 (sorry Colts) but you have to feel the best about the Texans chances moving forward based on the way they’re playing right now. Since installing Deshaun Watson at quarterback, the rookie has 15 touchdowns to just five interceptions and the Texans only losses have come at New England and Kansas City.
19. New York Jets (3-3) Lost to New England 24-17. Last Week: 17
Jets fans will feel aggrieved after Austin Seferian-Jenkins touchdown turned touchback, but probably pretty content to be sitting at three-and-three and feeling like they should have just beaten the Patriots. Jenkins’ eight catches Sunday give him 23 on the season. A year ago he led Jets tight ends with ten over the entirety of 2016.
20. Arizona Cardinals (3-3) Def. Tampa Bay 38-33. Last Week: 28
Adrian Peterson sure amounted to what the doctor ordered for the ailing Cardinals. Two of the NFL’s most famous veterans starred as the Cardinals dismantled Tampa Bay and moved within a next-week victory over the Rams of claiming the most wins in the division. Peterson had 134 yards and two touchdowns in his debut, and Larry Fitzgerald caught ten passes for 138 yards and a score of his own.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) Lost to Arizona 38-33. Last Week: 19
It sounds like the long-term effects of this weekend will be limited to Aaron Rodgers, and Jameis Winston expects to return to action after injury to his throwing shoulder knocked him out of the loss to Arizona. Tough to evaluate a player when they’re entering the game down 24-0, but Ryan Fitzpatrick looked like he remains one of the league’s most capable backups leading a very late comeback attempt.
22. Dallas Cowboys (2-3) Bye. Last Week: 20
Dallas has to have endured the worst bye week this week. Handed down the news that Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal was declined, they at least have a second week to prepare for six games without their star runner. Up first: the winless 49ers.
23. Baltimore Ravens (3-3) Lost to Chicago 27-24 (OT.) Last Week: 21
The Ravens fiercely turned a 24-13 deficit into an overtime battle, but turnovers that built the hole scuttled this one for them. Joe Flacco threw two interceptions, leaving him with twice as many picks (eight) as touchdowns on this season. They’re back to playing catchup to the Steelers as they head to Minnesota.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) Bye. Last Week: 22
Bengals fans can hope the Steelers got their good game out of their system against the Chiefs. They’ll play Pittsburgh when they return to action late Sunday afternoon. A.J. Green will be looking to keep his streak of three straight games with a score active.
25. Oakland Raiders (2-4) Lost to Los Angeles Chargers 17-16. Last Week: 23
Derek Carr returned earlier than expected, but it did little to improve a struggling Raiders offense. Outside of Cordarrelle Patterson scoring on a 47-yard jet sweep, the unit produced little. Amari Cooper had his best game in weeks – five catches for 28 yards.
26. Indianapolis Colts (2-4) Lost to Tennessee 36-22. Last Week: 24
A week after breaking out Marlon Mack and the running game in a win over the 49ers, it was the Colts who watched their opponents run all over them – 171 yards for Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray – Monday while Mack was given just two carries. With Andrew Luck giving “no timetable” for return, the offense has to come from somewhere. Even T.Y. Hilton was silent Monday night: just one catch for 19 yards.
27. Tennessee Titans (3-3) Def. Indianapolis 36-22. Last Week: 26
Ryan Succop hit on all five of his field goal attempts inside fifty-yards, moving his NFL record streak to 51 straight conversions. More important to their division champion hopes, the Titans beat the Colts for the first time in their last twelve tries. While the Texans have won the division the last two years, it’s the Colts that have been the masters of the Titans, and that’s now over.
28. Los Angeles Chargers (2-4) Def. Oakland 17-16. Last Week: 27
The Chargers got their second win in as many tries and shoved the Raiders firmly into the basement in the AFC West on a Nick Novak field goal as time expired. It’s a far cry from the way LA began the season. They have Melvin Gordon’s 147 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns to thank for Sunday’s win.
29. Chicago Bears (2-4) Def. Baltimore 27-24 (OT.) Last Week: 29
Mitch Trubisky got his first win and Tarik Cohen got his first touchdown pass as the Bears eventually put the Ravens away in overtime. Adrian Amos returned an interception 90 yards for Chicago’s final score of regulation and Jordan Howard had 167 yards on the ground, including a 53-yard overtime scamper to set up Connor Barth’s winning 40-yard kick.
What looked like one of the most lopsided matchups entering the week – the Giants suddenly decimated receiving corps against the Broncos elite secondary – turned into a comfortable victory in the other direction. The Giants won the turnover battle 3-0 and Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Trevor Siemian three times for the boys in blues first win.
31. San Francisco 49ers (0-6) Lost to Washington 26-24. Last Week: 31
Rookie C.J. Beathard from Iowa took over after Brian Hoyer was yanked down 14-0 and almost led an impressive comeback. The 49ers have now lost five games in a row by three or less points. Beathard will start this week against Dallas.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-6) Lost to Houston 33-17. Last Week: 32
After a three-interception debut, it’s unclear if Kevin Hogan will get a second shot as the Browns’ starting quarterback. First overall selection Myles Garrett got his third career sack Sunday in just his second game.