NFL Power Rankings Week 7: One lingering question for each team

NFL analyst AJ Hawk talks 49ers best in NFC, Cowboys blaming Jason Garrett for their down season, why Baker Mayfield is very unlucky, and Chiefs defence could cost them Super Bowl appearance.

With six weeks’ worth of games in the books, the 2019 NFL season is really starting to take shape as the best clubs begin to present themselves while the rest fight to keep up.

Looking at each division, we’ve got a pretty good sense of what each team’s strengths and weaknesses are. Losses can no longer be blamed on early-season struggles and adjustments, leaving very few mysteries remaining around the league.

But, we’ve still got a few questions we’d like answers to as the season heads toward the mid-way point.

This week, the panel includes editor Geoff Lowe and staff writers Donnovan Bennett, Mike Johnston and Emily Sadler.

1. New England Patriots

2019 record: 6-0
Last week: 1
Lingering question: Is there reason to be concerned about the offence?

New England’s defence is undoubtedly the best in the NFL, and it’s not really close. But there are questions about the offence, which has struggled to find consistency through the Patriots’ first six contests. The running game that was top-five a season ago is well below average, while a legitimate receiving threat outside of Julian Edelman has yet to emerge. (GL)

2. New Orleans Saints

2019 record: 5-1
Last week: 2
Lingering question: Can Drew Brees return to full strength?
Teddy Bridgewater is 4-0 with seven touchdowns and only two turnovers. He has done tremendous work in relief of Brees but this team lacks that extra gear on offence without their franchise pivot behind centre. (MJ)

3. San Francisco 49ers

2019 record: 5-0
Last week: 6
Lingering question: Will they ever lose again?
Just a few weeks ago, we questioned their identity. Not anymore. The 49ers will hit you hard and run you over, and if you try to stop the ground game they’ll beat you through the air – Jimmy Garoppolo passed that test agains the Rams in Week 6. (ES)

4. Seattle Seahawks

2019 record: 5-1
Last week: 5
Lingering question: Are the Backstreet Boys next?
Winning is fun, and the Seahawks are living it up right now. Russell Wilson is the biggest story this season with his MVP-calibre performance once again earning Seattle another W, but it’s the club’s creative choreography that we’re still talking about after Week 6. (ES)

5. Green Bay Packers

2019 record: 5-1
Last week: 3
Lingering question: Will lack of depth at receiver by Green Bay’s Achilles’ heel?

With Devante Adams and Geronimo Allison hurt, and every other receiver dropping catchable balls, you have to wonder if there is enough fire power around Aaron Rodgers for the Packers to be considered a contender. (DB)

6. Kansas City Chiefs

2019 record: 4-2
Last week: 4
Lingering question: Can the defence keep up?
The Chiefs entered the season with an improved defence, but their performance over the past two weeks is concerning – especially against the run game. Back-to-back losses have seen the Chiefs’ defence run over by opposing running backs as the clock runs down, limiting the offence’s time of possession. The only way to defeat Patrick Mahomes is to keep him off the field, and opposing offences have figured out how to do just that. (ES)

7. Buffalo Bills

2019 record: 4-1
Last week: 7
Lingering question: How much longer can the defence carry this team?

The Bills defence has yet to give up more than 17 points in a game so far this season, meaning the 18 points the offence is averaging per game has been enough. But for how long? If Buffalo is truly going to be a contender in the AFC this season, they need to find ways to score with more consistency. (GL)

8. Houston Texans

2019 record: 4-2
Last week: 16
Lingering question: Have they finally learned how to protect Deshaun Watson?
After giving up 18 total sacks in the first four weeks, the o-line has kept a clean sheet in each of the past two games. They’ve averaged 42 points over those two contests, both victories. Coincidence?

9. Minnesota Vikings

2019 record: 4-2
Last week: 12
Lingering question: After back-to-back wins, is the Vikings offence back on track?

A week after Kirk Cousins made Adam Thielen happy by making him a must-play fantasy receiver, he did the same for Stefon Diggs against the Eagles. (DB)

10. Baltimore Ravens

2019 record: 4-2
Last week: 13
Lingering question: Who is going to play in the secondary for the Ravens?

DeShon Elliott becomes the second Ravens safety in two weeks to suffer a season-ending injury. The Ravens now have five defensive backs on injured reserve. Along with Elliott, Tony Jefferson, Tavon Young, Brynden Trawick and Iman Marshall are done for the year, plus corners Jimmy Smith and Maurice Canady are also hurt. (DB)

11. Carolina Panthers

2019 record: 4-2
Last week: 15
Lingering question: Does this team need Cam Newton back?
You’re not going to win any arguments stating Kyle Allen is a more talented quarterback than Cam Newton. Still, the sophomore QB has been able to run this offence far more efficiently than Newton had been running it prior to his latest injury. Newton was 0-2. Allen is 4-0.
“(Bucs defensive coordinator) Todd Bowles told us in our pre-broadcast meeting that the Allen-QBed team presented more of a challenge to defend than the Week 2 Cam QBed team,” NFL Network host Rich Eisen tweeted. “Said, among other issues, Allen finds his outlets better.” (MJ)

12. Detroit Lions

2019 record: 2-2-1
Last week: 11
Lingering question: Can the Lions finish games?

The Lions lead the league in moral victories – but those count for nothing. In the super competitive NFC North, will they learn not just to be competitive in games but finish them also? (DB)

13. Los Angeles Rams

2019 record: 3-3
Last week: 9
Lingering question: Got anything else in that playbook, McVay?
Remember that dominant Rams offence that went all the way to the Super Bowl last year? This isn’t it. Jared Goff hasn’t looked good under pressure and consistency has been a big issue thanks to some turnover on the offensive line. The loss of guard Joseph Noteboom hurts going forward. (ES)

14. Chicago Bears

2019 record: 3-2
Last week: 14
Lingering question: How long do the Bears hold onto Trubisky as their guy?

It must have been tough for Bears fans to watch Deshaun Watson take on Patrick Mahomes while the Bears were on their bye week. Two MVP candidates that have transformed the position and their respective franchises were drafted after the Bears reached for Mitchell Trubisky. With a ready to win now defence, the question is how long can the Bears continue to try and prove they were right in picking Trubisky before they move on from him. (DB)

15. Dallas Cowboys

2019 record: 3-3
Last week: 8
Lingering question: Is Jason Garrett the right man for the job?

This team has the talent to contend in the NFC, and we’ve seen it this season. So if the talent is there, the coaching has to be to blame after the Cowboys have dropped three straight games – the third coming against the winless Jets. Questions have always swirled around Garrett, but you have to think if the skid continues in Dallas that he’s on a very short leash. (GL)

16. Philadelphia Eagles

2019 record: 3-3
Last week: 10
Lingering question: Can the issues in the secondary be resolved?

The Eagles are a good team with a really bad secondary, and it will be Philadelphia’s downfall if it’s not addressed soon. Much of the issues have to do with injuries to the likes of Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, but a lot can be attributed to silly mistakes and straight up bad coverage. (GL)

17. Indianapolis Colts

2019 record: 3-2
Last week: 17
Lingering question: Is Quenton Nelson the best offensive lineman in the NFL?
The guard entered his team’s bye week following a near-perfect performance against the Chiefs in Week 5. Defensive studs Darius Leonard and Malik Hooker appear close to returning, which is a huge boost to the defence, but Nelson has become the lifeblood of the post-Andrew Luck Colts. He shows up and dominates every single week. (MJ)

18. Oakland Raiders

2019 record: 3-2
Last week: 18
Lingering question: Can Josh Jacobs earn OROY?
The Raiders won two in a row heading into their bye week, thanks in large part to running back Josh Jacobs. The rookie ranks in the top 10 of rushing yards, touches per game and touchdowns, and is the biggest difference-maker on Oakland’s offence. (ES)

19. Pittsburgh Steelers

2019 record: 2-4
Last week: 25
Lingering question: Can the above-average QB protection and defence give Pittsburgh a shot in a wide-open division?

With young QBs at the helm, will the Steelers be able to sustain their great protection? The Steelers’ offensive line has allowed just five sacks this season. Since 2014, Pittsburgh’s offensive line has given up 140 sacks, which is tied for the second-fewest allowed in the NFL. Defensively, Pittsburgh has forced 15 turnovers in their first six games which ranks second in the NFL and are the most for the Steelers over the first six games of a season since 2010, when they forced 17 in first six games. (DB)

20. Denver Broncos

2019 record: 2-4
Last week: 26
Lingering question: Are these the real Broncos?
The Broncos followed up Week 5’s divisional win over the Chargers with a shutout victory over the Titans, showing us the heavy-defending, high-sacking defence we expected to see earlier this season. It’s not too late for a comeback – with the playbook out on how to beat the Chiefs, things just got interesting ahead of the big divisional matchup this Thursday night… (ES)

21. Cleveland Browns

2019 record: 2-4
Last week: 19
Lingering question: Can Baker Mayfield improve enough on the fly to make the Browns the Super Bowl contender they were expected to be?

The Browns have been the league’s biggest disappointment. Mayfield has failed to protect the football, throwing 25 interceptions in 20 career games. He also hasn’t been able to protect himself behind a bad offensive line and is now suffering from an injured hip. (DB)

22. New York Giants

2019 record: 2-4
Last week: 24
Lingering question: Is it time to rethink 2019’s expectations?

When the call was made to bench Eli Manning in place of Daniel Jones, Giants fans surely were resigned to the idea of a rebuild. But the Giants have proven to be a tougher team than many of us expected, and now, thanks to the struggling Cowboys and unpredictable Eagles, Big Blue finds itself just one game out of the lead in the NFC East. (GL)

23. Jacksonville Jaguars

2019 record: 2-4
Last week: 22
Lingering question: When will Jalen Ramsey’s situation be cleared up?
We still don’t quite know whether or not the star cornerback has played his final game in Duval County after his early-season trade request. The Jags have lost two straight and could’ve used Ramsey, who’s also dealing with a lingering back injury. If cooler heads prevail and Ramsey returns to the Jags lineup, they can still make a push for a playoff spot. (MJ)

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2019 record: 2-4
Last week: 23
Lingering question: Will Jameis ever change?
Sunday’s showing from Winston in England was a masterpiece. He threw a career-high FIVE interceptions, fumbled twice and was sacked seven times. As long as he continues to make mindbogglingly silly decisions with the football, the Bucs will never get over the hump despite their defence showing up this season – specifically in thwarting opposing rushing attacks. (MJ)

25. Los Angeles Chargers

2019 record: 2-4
Last week: 20
Lingering question: If the Chargers fall in L.A. and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
The Chargers know no home-field advantage, and Sunday Night’s dismal outing against the Steelers proved that in spades with all that yellow and black filling the stands. Television wasn’t much better, with the game registering season-low ratings. It’s probably for the best, considering the  Chargers’ turnover-filled loss that saw some of the worst displays of missed tackles we’ve seen. (ES)

26. Tennessee Titans

2019 record: 2-4
Last week: 21
Lingering question: Do they know scoring points is good?
The defence got the memo that giving up as few points as possible is great. They rank fifth in points allowed. Unfortunately, the offence hasn’t been able to help them whatsoever as they’re ranked fifth-worst in points scored. They were shut out by the Broncos in Week 6. The Broncos. (MJ)

27. Arizona Cardinals

2019 record: 2-3-1
Last week: 28
Lingering question: Can Kyler Murray keep this up?
Back-to-back wins (against the Bengals and Falcons, but still) have seen improved play from the offensive line, which has Kyler Murray thriving. If the line holds up, Murray will have Cardinals fans celebrating more than just two victories this season. (ES)

28. New York Jets

2019 record: 1-4
Last week: 31
Lingering question: What could’ve been had Sam Darnold stayed healthy?

Hypotheticals aren’t really the name of the game here, but we can’t help it with this one. What if this Jets offence had any bit of life over the last few weeks? Would the Jets be in the AFC conversation? Obviously we’ll never know, but this is a completely different team with Darnold at the helm. (GL)

29. Atlanta Falcons

2019 record: 1-5
Last week: 27
Lingering question…


30. Washington Redskins

2019 record: 1-5
Last week: 30
Lingering question: What’s the deal with Dwayne Haskins?

Washington (temporarily) stopped the bleeding Sunday with a win over the lowly Dolphins, but reality bites back this week against the ferocious 49ers defence. Washington’s rookie QB surely won’t be subject to San Francisco, but will he ride the pine all season long? And if he does, what does it mean about the franchise’s view of their first-rounder? It’s bad if there are already questions about whether Haskins is the guy and he hasn’t even started a game. (GL)

31. Cincinnati Bengals

2019 record: 0-6
Last week: 29
Lingering question: Will A.J. Green play for the Bengals again?

The Bengals are the only 0-6 team in the league. If they continue to lose, the lingering question is if A.J. Green ever suits up for the team again. He’s currently injured and is a pending free agent. Green could choose to sit out and preserve his health in a season that is a lost cause. The Bengals could also choose to trade him at the deadline as to not lose him for nothing this off-season. (DB)

32. Miami Dolphins

2019 record: 0-5
Last week: 32
Lingering question: How can Miami avoid close calls like Sunday’s near-win?

Talk about sweating it out. If not for the godsend that was that bungled two-point conversion at the end of Sunday’s loss to Washington, the Dolphins would even be bad at tanking. Thankfully for Miami, the team doesn’t play another opponent as bad as itself until Week 16 against the Bengals. For their sake, let’s hope the Dolphins have the No. 1 pick locked up by then. (GL)

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