Around the NFL Writer
One week later, and it remains The Big Three and a whole lot of “Let’s see.”
The Bills are still the best team in football, proving their mettle with a gutty win over the dreaded Chiefs at Arrowhead. The Eagles continue to chug along as the league’s lone remaining undefeated team. Figuring out what to do next is where it gets … difficult.
As your resident NFL Power Rankings guy, I tend to embrace the challenge the 32 teams lay out before me on a weekly basis. But this week? This season? I’m in full-on panic mode, typing on my laptop with one hand while breathing into a brown paper bag held by the other.
And yet, I must persevere. I shall accept this challenge. Hero stuff right here.
Don’t forget to check out the NFL Power Rankings Podcast with Dan Hanzus and Colleen Wolfe. New episodes every Tuesday all season long.
NOTE: Up/down arrows below reflect team movement from the Week 6 Power Rankings.
Previous rank: No. 1
The Chiefs believed sending extra rushers at Josh Allen could neutralize the Bills’ superstar quarterback. They learned a hard lesson. Allen hung in the pocket and delivered touchdown strikes to Gabe Davis and Stefon Diggs when facing the blitz, huge plays that helped secure a 24-20 “revenge” win against the rival Chiefs at Arrowhead. While Allen was doing his MVP act on one side of the ball, Von Miller was again making Buffalo’s brass look like a genius collective by delivering a two-sack day and the QB pressure that led to Patrick Mahomes‘ game-clinching interception in the fourth quarter. With the win, the Bills gain a tiebreaker advantage that could have major ramifications come January.
Previous rank: No. 2
Everybody wants to be known as a “fourth-quarter team,” but there’s something to be said for stealing the soul from your opponent in the second quarter, too. From the NFL Media Research Department: The Eagles have scored 112 second-quarter points in 2022, the most points in any quarter in NFL history through a team’s first six games. Football’s lone undefeated team, Philly will come out of its Week 7 bye facing a favorable schedule, with three straight games against teams owning two or fewer wins through Week 6. The road to 9-0 is clear for Nick Sirianni’s rowdy gang of spirit-swiping marauders.
Previous rank: No. 3
The stage was set for more Mahomes Magic against the Bills at Arrowhead, but this time, it was the visitors celebrating in the end. Patrick Mahomes was pressured by Von Miller — a star playing on the other side of the country when these teams met in January’s Divisional Playoffs — before Mahomes tossed the game-deciding interception late in the fourth quarter. The pick sealed a 24-20 loss against a rival that Kansas City will likely see again come January. “It was a great battle. You love these games,” Andy Reid said. “You just don’t want to be sitting on this end of it. But you love the competition and the way the guys get after it.”
Previous rank: No. 7
Minnesota isn’t anybody’s idea of a juggernaut, but five wins in six games — picked off only by the undefeated Eagles — tells the story of a team that knows how to close. The Vikings did it again on Sunday in Miami, forcing a huge turnover as the Dolphins were marching toward the go-ahead score; then Dalvin Cook found a crease for the long touchdown run to ice the game. “It’s very much the inverse of 2021,” said Kirk Cousins, invoking the salty ghosts of the Mike Zimmer era. “I would walk off of the field after a loss and say: ‘Man, we’re playing so well. We’re playing so well!’ Somehow, some way, we lost. This year, it’s, ‘Gosh, we can play better.’ But we win. I’ll take this any day.”
Previous rank: No. 9
Sunday’s 30-26 win over the Saints was one of those games where you think to yourself, Man, this Joe Burrow dude is special. The third-year quarterback tallied 300 yards through the air and improvised brilliantly on the scramble in a successful Superdome homecoming for the LSU legend. Speaking of LSU, Burrow made magic with former Tigers teammate Ja’Marr Chase (7/132/2), who put the Bengals ahead for good via a 60-yard catch-and-run score with two minutes to play. Chase had been bottled up for much of the season until the second half on Sunday. Burrow and Chase are fixin’ to go on a rampage.
Previous rank: No. 10
It’s time for Dak Prescott to rejoin the gang. Cooper Rush‘s run as an undefeated starting QB came to an unceremonious end on Sunday Night Football, as the Eagles picked off the Dallas passer three times in a 26-17 loss at the Linc. Rush struggled in new territory at QB1, playing from behind in a difficult road environment. The results weren’t surprising, but Rush deserves credit for doing his part to keep the season afloat while Dak worked his way back from thumb surgery. Early reports point to a Prescott return this Sunday against the Lions.
Previous rank: No. 13
If you let the Giants hang around in a game, there’s a good chance they’ll find a way to beat you. We saw it again on Sunday at the Meadowlands, where Big Blue forced two Lamar Jackson turnovers in successive possessions in the fourth quarter to steal a 24-20 win from the Ravens. Much credit is in order for Don “Wink” Martindale, who cooked up another fine defensive game plan that neutralized Jackson and allowed the offense to wipe away a 10-point deficit in the second half. This is old hat by now: The Giants are 3-1 in games in which they trailed by double digits.
Previous rank: No. 5
Lamar Jackson is a former MVP who has had stretches this season when he’s looked better than ever. But the quarterback also bears his share of the responsibility for three confounding late-game meltdowns that have defined a .500 start. On Sunday, Jackson buried Baltimore with two fourth-quarter turnovers — a grisly interception that set up Saquon Barkley’s go-ahead score and a strip-sack fumble that aborted a comeback attempt — in a frustrating 24-20 loss to the upstart Giants. The Ravens are up to three losses in which they led by at least 10 points in a game — matching a team record for most such losses in a season. Through Week 6!
Previous rank: No. 6
Why is offense so hard for the team with Tom Brady? Tampa Bay had to fight for every yard on Sunday in Pittsburgh, struggling to make impact plays against a Steelers team without reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt or multiple starters in its secondary. Brady, who missed Saturday’s team walkthrough to attend the wedding of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, was uncharacteristically inaccurate, while the offensive line struggled to get any push at the point of attack. Even a Brady QB sneak — money in the bank for two decades — produced zero gain on a key third down. The Bucs are in search mode.
Previous rank: No. 12
What to make of the latest Chargers win, a 19-16 overtime conquest of the Broncos? The defense certainly did its job, regularly harassing Russell Wilson and reducing Denver’s “attack” to rubble after a fast start. But what has happened to the L.A. offense? Justin Herbert looked positively pedestrian, averaging 4.2 yards per attempt while leading Los Angeles on a single touchdown drive. At his best, Herbert attacks defenses downfield like no other quarterback, but a prime-time showcase put the gunslinger in constant checkdown mode to Austin Ekeler (10 catches on 16 targets). An elite Broncos defense certainly played a part, but the Bolts can be better.
Previous rank: No. 4
The 49ers are watching another season get turned upside down by injuries. This, from ESPN: By the end of Sunday’s 28-14 loss to the Falcons, the Niners were down to four of 11 projected starters on their defense: linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, safety Talanoa Hufanga and end Samson Ebukam. On Monday, Hufanga — a breakout contributor this season — was placed in the concussion protocol. It was obvious how attrition affected San Francisco’s performance against a middling Falcons attack, and wins will remain scarce if Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense can’t flip a switch. That didn’t happen in Atlanta, where the visitors were shut out in the second half.
Previous rank: No. 15
The Rams had the perfect get-right opponent on Sunday in the Panthers, who put up little resistance in the second half of a 24-10 win at SoFi. Los Angeles has struggled to find consistency and comfort with its offense since Week 1, but there were genuine signs of life on back-to-back touchdown drives in the third and fourth quarters that put the game away and sent Sean McVay’s team into its bye feeling better about itself. McVay gave out a game ball to his offensive line after the game, but victory was Pyrrhic on that front: Left tackle Joe Noteboom was carted off the field with a torn Achilles. It will be next man up at one of the team’s most vital positions.
Previous rank: No. 17
The Jets went to Lambeau Field and secured their biggest win in years. The 27-10 beatdown of the Packers was stunning in how easy it felt for New York, a former doormat that entered the season with the NFL’s longest postseason drought at 11 years. Robert Saleh’s young playmakers impacted the game at every level: Sauce Gardner was a constant menace in the secondary, Breece Hall went for more than 100 yards on the ground with the clinching touchdown run, while Quinnen Williams and a surging front four punished Aaron Rodgers and lived in the backfield all afternoon. When it was over, Gardner jogged around Lambeau wearing a Cheesehead — an act of defiance and a message to the league: The Baby Jets have arrived.
Previous rank: No. 11
The bye came at an ideal time for the Titans, who survived the first five weeks despite an avalanche of injuries to key players. Nate Davis, Amani Hooker, Ola Adeniyi and Zach Cunningham are all working their way back to the lineup as the team prepares for a big Sunday tilt against the rival Colts. Let’s stay optimistic: The Titans started the season 0-2 and hit their bye at 3-2 — that’s the exact record Mike Vrabel’s team held through five games one year ago. Those Titans finished 12-5 and claimed the top seed in the AFC. In a weak division and with improved health, Tennessee should again have a path back to double-digit wins.
Previous rank: No. 8
This is no longer just about an underachieving defense or an offense trying to find itself. The entire operation seems to be out of sync in Green Bay, where the Packers fell back to .500 with a lopsided loss to the Jets at Lambeau. After the game, a beaten-down Aaron Rodgers spoke of removing complexities within the offense — a well-worn trope for players questioning the philosophies of a coaching staff. “I’m not attacking anything,” Rodgers said. “I just think that, based on how we’ve played the last two weeks, I think it’s going to be in our best interests to simplify things for everybody. … Just simplify some things, and maybe that’ll help us get back on track.”
Previous rank: No. 14
The Raiders are the best 1-4 team in football, but that type of compliment doesn’t get you far in the NFL. The good news? Vegas comes out of its bye with a very favorable schedule that should put Josh McDaniels’ team in good position to get off the mat. The Raiders’ next six opponents are a combined 13-20-2. Catching the Chiefs in the AFC West might be a reach, but jumping back into the playoff race is well within reason.
Previous rank: No. 21
Forget any contrived talk of a quarterback controversy. Mac Jones is a 2021 first-round pick who will resume QB1 duties once his ankle is healthy enough to allow it. But when that happens, Bill Belichick can rest easy knowing he has a battle-tested rookie backup with legitimate potential. Bailey Zappe, the fourth-round pick out of Western Kentucky, had his best game as a pro in a 38-15 win over the Browns, completing 24 of 34 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Zappe was poised and had the offense in rhythm — four different Pats players finished with at least 60 receiving yards. A New England staff with former head coach castoffs was an easy punchline during the summer. Who’s laughing now?
Previous rank: No. 22
The Falcons showed in the early weeks of the season how they can be competitive with just about anyone. On Sunday, they displayed their potential when they put forth a complete effort. Marcus Mariota was nearly perfect, connecting on 13 of 14 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns (he added 50 yards on the ground), while Dean Pees’ defense scored on a fumble recovery and pitched a second-half shutout in a 28-14 win over the 49ers. The outcome represented a season high for points scored and a season low for points allowed by the Falcons, who are tied with the Bucs atop the NFC South through six weeks. In a wide-open NFC, anything is possible.
Previous rank: No. 16
So who’s the starting quarterback of this team? Jameis Winston returned to practice last week and was active on Sunday, but it was still Andy Dalton at the controls in a 30-26 loss to the Bengals. Both veterans are 1-2 in their 2022 runs as starters, but Dalton has been given less to work with — New Orleans once again played without its top three receivers against Cincinnati. On a short week, coach Dennis Allen is choosing the mystery approach: “He’s not 100 percent healthy,” Allen said of Winston after the loss. “We have a Thursday night game. Let’s get into study on that, see where he is at, and then we will go from there.”
Previous rank: No. 24
Geno Smith‘s surprisingly explosive offense has been the dominant storyline around the Seahawks this season, but one can imagine Pete Carroll loved the script being flipped by his defense on Sunday. Seattle’s D limited the Cardinals to only a game-opening field goal drive in the Seahawks’ 19-9 win. (Arizona’s other six points came on a special teams bust by the Seattle punt unit.) Meanwhile, cornerback Tariq Woolen is making himself a player in the Defensive Rookie of the Year competition: The fifth-round pick iced Sunday’s win with his fourth interception in as many games.
Previous rank: No. 28
Matty Ice lives! Forced to play another game without star running back Jonathan Taylor (ankle), Colts coach Frank Reich rolled out a pass-drunk attack that thrived in a 34-27 win over the Jaguars. Playing behind a revamped offensive line, Matt Ryan threw for 389 yards and three touchdowns on 42-of-58 passing. Ryan didn’t commit a turnover and, remarkably, never took a single sack despite all those dropbacks. Ryan certainly played his role in Indianapolis’ uninspired start to its season, but Sunday served as a welcome reminder he can still sling it when given time to read defenses and make plays.
Previous rank: No. 27
Just when all hope appeared lost, Mitch Trubisky stepped out of the shadows to save the Pittsburgh Steelers. The veteran QB, who lost his starting job back in Week 4, replaced a concussed Kenny Pickett vs. Tampa Bay and led Pittsburgh on a scoring drive before icing the game with two huge third-and-long conversions to Chase Claypool and a designed run play that produced the clinching first down. Mike Tomlin’s undermanned defense also stepped up, putting continual pressure on Tom Brady with a four-man rush led by Cam Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi. The Bucs looked out of sync all game — no small feat, considering how many key players were unavailable for the Steelers.
Previous rank: No. 18
In a way, it feels like the 2022 Miami Dolphins had their season paused the moment Tua Tagovailoa‘s helmet smacked the turf on that ugly Thursday night in Cincinnati. At that moment, Miami was 3-0 and one of the biggest stories of a young season. Three weeks (and losses) later, the Dolphins still haven’t had a quarterback who was able to finish a game he started. “I’m going to demand that the team does not point at [QB injuries] to be a reason for what’s happened or a reason for the loss,” Mike McDaniel said after a 24-16 setback to the Vikings. “I think that’s the easy thing to do.” Tua cleared concussion protocol last week and is expected to be ready to return on Sunday Night Football against the Steelers. The Dolphins are ready to hit play on their season.
Previous rank: No. 23
It began with signs of progress. Russell Wilson completed his first 10 passes, including a 39-yard touchdown strike to tight end Greg Dulcich. Then, as has been the case all season, the Broncos and their maddening offense went into a deep sleep. The 19-16 overtime loss to the Chargers — Denver’s second straight OT setback — underlined a hard reality: The Broncos have the worst offense in football, with no clear path to improvement. “They’ve got too many good players to consistently be this poor,” ESPN’s Troy Aikman said after another fruitless Denver possession in the fourth quarter. “At least, I think they do. Maybe they don’t.” We feel you, 8.
Previous rank: No. 20
The Browns have major problems on defense, and it’s not getting better. The Patriots, led by fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe, took it to Cleveland in a 38-15 thumping that brought out the boo birds at FirstEnergy Stadium. Pressure is building around head coach Kevin Stefanski, which could be bad news for defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who presides over a unit that has allowed 27.2 points per game (29th in the league). “Every way you can get beat — offense, defense, special teams, coaching — we got beat,” said Stefanski, attempting to spread the blame after the loss. “They beat us, and we also beat ourselves a few too many times.”
Previous rank: No. 19
The Cardinals’ offense is broken. Does the team have the right tools (and the right carpenter in Kliff Kingsbury) to get it fixed? Arizona’s attack managed an opening drive field goal and nothing else in a 19-9 loss to the Seahawks, the same Seahawks who had surrendered a combined 84 points in the previous two games against the Lions and Saints. The news got worse Monday when it was learned Marquise “Hollywood” Brown suffered a foot injury against Seattle that is believed to be serious. Brown has pretty much been the lone bright spot for Arizona’s offense, and now he exits just as DeAndre Hopkins returns from suspension. On Monday, the Cardinals pivoted by agreeing to a trade that brings Robbie Anderson to the desert. Good luck with that.
Previous rank: No. 25
The Jaguars couldn’t make the big stop to finish the Colts, the end result a 34-27 loss that Jacksonville could ill-afford after dropping its previous two games. An absentee pass rush played a major role: The Colts were forced into a pass-happy approach with their top two running backs injured and inactive, but the Jags couldn’t manage a single sack against the statue-like Matt Ryan despite the veteran throwing 58 passes. Doug Pederson’s team recorded just six QB hits, with no Jags player tallying more than one. That’s not gonna work.
Previous rank: No. 26
The Lions hit their bye week looking for answers on defense. Aidan Hutchinson, selected No. 2 overall in April’s draft, is searching with the rest of his teammates right now. Hutchinson had three sacks and two tackles for loss in a Week 2 win over the Commanders. He’s had zero sacks and just three QB hits combined in Detroit’s other four games — all losses. A pop under the hood shows more struggles: According to Pro Football Focus, Hutchinson’s pass-rush win rate is 8.9 percent, which ranks 107th out of 156 qualified players. Does this mean “Hutch” is a bust? Of course not — but the rookie is just one of many Detroit defenders who need to raise their game.
Previous rank: No. 29
If Darnell Mooney makes a clean catch at the goal line, the Bears are back at .500, with Justin Fields and the offense getting praise for stacking back-to-back promising weeks. But Mooney’s juggle cost Chicago the go-ahead score in the final seconds of an excruciating 12-7 loss in prime time. “We always get told that ‘we’re almost there, we’re almost there,’ ” Fields said. “Me, personally, I’m tired of being almost there. I’m tired of being just this close.” Fields’ frustration is beyond understandable for a Bears team that had three trips inside Commanders territory that produced zero points. Chicago is taking baby steps, but it wasn’t enough on Thursday.
Previous rank: No. 30
The Commanders didn’t play particularly well on Thursday night, but sometimes you can win simply by letting the other team beat itself. That’s how it felt after two crucial Bears blunders in the second half — a muffed punt and goal-line bobble — allowed Washington to escape Soldier Field with a 12-7 win. With Carson Wentz expected to be sidelined for four-to-six weeks after fracturing the ring finger on his throwing hand against Chicago, the Commanders will turn to Taylor Heinicke when they host the Packers on Sunday.
Previous rank: No. 31
The Texans ended their bye week with a major organizational shakeup. The team parted ways with executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby, a former team chaplain turned front-office executive who rose to a high position of influence after Houston fired former coach and GM Bill O’Brien four games into the 2020 season. This news was not met with sorrow from a large portion of the fan base. Meanwhile, Texans fans must hope a better version of Davis Mills shows up after the bye: The second-year QB has finished with a passer rating under 100 in all five games.
Previous rank: No. 32
The Panthers look very much like a team ready for the end of the season. This is bad news, especially when it’s the middle of October. Steve Wilks’ tenure as interim coach began with a 24-10 loss to the Rams that will be remembered for Wilks sending Robbie Anderson to the locker room (and into Panthers history, as it turns out) after the mercurial wide receiver got into multiple sideline disagreements with his positional coach. On Monday, Anderson was traded to the Cardinals. Could Christian McCaffrey be next?
Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter.
Five weeks into the 2022 NFL season, Dan Hanzus’ Power Rankings experience a grand reshuffling, with 28 of 32 teams on the move. Check out the changes at the very top, bottom and just about everywhere in between.
Parity remains a king in the NFL, making the Power Rankings an arduous undertaking. What is the pecking order at the quarter mark of the 2022 season? Dan Hanzus provides the full rundown, 1 through 32, with the 49ers re-entering the top five.
Dan Hanzus updates his NFL Power Rankings with a brand new team in the No. 1 spot — and that’s only the beginning of this week’s hierarchical upheaval. Check out the full rundown, 1 to 32.
After a wild week highlighted by a series of improbable comebacks, Dan Hanzus has 30 teams on the move in his updated NFL Power Rankings. How high do the 2-0 Eagles fly? How low do the 0-2 Bengals go?
With the first week of the 2022 season in the books, Dan Hanzus provides a fresh batch of NFL Power Rankings — and a whopping 30 teams are on the move!
With the 2022 NFL season about to kick off, Dan Hanzus updates his Power Rankings. Which teams are on the move heading into Week 1? Which division claims four top-11 slots?
One month out from their Kickoff Game showdown, the Bills and Rams hold the top two slots in Dan Hanzus’ Power Rankings, but there are plenty of changes in the pecking order, including a new team at the bottom.
Dan Hanzus takes stock of the NFL hierarchy with his post-draft Power Rankings. Which teams helped themselves in Las Vegas — and which teams are trending in the wrong direction?
What does the league pecking order look like after the opening wave of free agency? Dan Hanzus updates his NFL Power Rankings with changes at No. 1 and No. 32, plus PLENTY of movement in between.
With Super Bowl LVI in the rearview, Dan Hanzus provides his NFL Power Rankings one final time before offseason madness kicks into high gear. Check out the full rundown, 1 to 32.
How do the four remaining teams — the Bengals, Chiefs, 49ers and Rams — stack up heading into Championship Sunday? Where do the Divisional Round losers finish? Dan Hanzus provides a fresh batch of NFL Power Rankings.
You won’t want to miss a moment of the 2022 season!
NFL+ gives you the freedom to watch LIVE out-of-market preseason games, LIVE local and primetime regular season and postseason games on your phone or tablet, the best NFL programming on-demand, and MORE!
© 2022 NFL Enterprises LLC. NFL and the NFL shield design are registered trademarks of the National Football League.The team names, logos and uniform designs are registered trademarks of the teams indicated. All other NFL-related trademarks are trademarks of the National Football League. NFL footage © NFL Productions LLC.