NFL Power Rankings Week 6: The elephant in each team’s room

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady reacts after a loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Sept. 13. (Brett Duke/AP)

Five weeks into the NFL season, we’re down to four undefeated teams — two in the NFC, and two in the AFC. But the truth is there’s very little separation league-wide, as each team is dealing with one major issue or another.

In our power rankings this week, Sportsnet’s expert NFL panel endeavoured to drill down on one flaw for each team — the elephant in the room that could prove troublesome as the season goes on.

This week, the panel includes editors Geoff Lowe and Craig Battle, and staff writers Mike Johnston and Emily Sadler.

1. Seattle Seahawks

2020 record: 5-0
Last week: 2
The elephant in the room: Too many squeakers

The Seahawks are 5-0 and move up to the top spot in these rankings, but they haven’t won a single game by more than eight points. What’s more, Sunday’s one-point win over the now 1–4 Vikings required a touchdown with 15 seconds left on the clock. The offence is second in the league in scoring with 33.8 points per game, but the defence is 20th, giving up 27.0. (CB)

2. Green Bay Packers

2020 record:
Last week: 3
The elephant in the room: None

Yes, this is cheating, but forget about the elephant — let’s talk about Green Bay’s GOAT. (ES)

3. Kansas City Chiefs

2020 record: 4-1
Last week: 1
The elephant in the room: They’re human

A mid-game offensive dry spell — coupled with a handful of huge plays by the Raiders — led to the first Chiefs’ loss in the team’s last 14 games. Which means it’s possible. And could even happen again. (CB)

4. Baltimore Ravens

2020 record: 4-1
Last week: 4
The elephant in the room: The Chiefs

They’ve made some strong statements with some dominant wins, but their only true test this season came in Week 3 versus the Chiefs, and that didn’t go so well. (ES)

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

2020 record: 4-0
Last week: 6
The elephant in the room: Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow

The Steelers’ offence is flying, but a surprise early bye week means Roethlisberger’s surgically repaired elbow is going to have to hold up for 12 straight weeks – and then the playoffs – after the 38-year-old missed all but two games last year. That’s a big ask for Big Ben. (ES)

6. Tennessee Titans

2020 record: 4-0
Last week: 7
The elephant in the room: Potential looming punishments for coaches and/or ownership after the team reportedly broke COVID-19 protocol

Besides the off-field distractions, the Titans looked great returning to the turf and beating the Bills in rare Tuesday action. A.J. Brown’s return from an injury was a boon to the offence. (MJ)

7. Buffalo Bills

2020 record: 4-1
Last week: 5
The elephant in the room: An average defence

Buffalo’s struggles on offence against the Titans are definitely concerning, but that’s likely an outlier more than a trend. What has been a trend, however, is average play on defence – a big surprise given what we’ve come to expect from Sean McDermott’s teams. Injuries are definitely a factor, but Buffalo’s defence has yet to play to its full potential this season. (GL)

8. New England Patriots

2020 record: 2-2
Last week: 8
The elephant in the room: Dependence on Cam Newton

It became glaringly obvious in New England’s last game that without Cam Newton in the lineup the Patriots offence has serious problems. Brian Hoyer looks done and Jarrett Stidham looks far from ready, and so the reliance on Newton is both a short- and long-term concern for the Patriots. (GL)

9. Los Angeles Rams

2020 record: 4-1
Last week: 10
The elephant in the room: Strength of schedule

All four of the Rams’ wins have come against teams from the NFC East, who have four wins combined between them. The one non-NFC East game they’ve played was against the Bills (and it was a loss). (CB)

10. New Orleans Saints

2020 record: 3-2
Last week: 11
The elephant in the room: The defensive secondary has been less than stellar

Chargers rookie QB Justin Herbert beat the New Orleans defensive backs with regularity on Monday. The Saints ended up winning the game, but it was cause for concern. Even without Michael Thomas, Drew Brees can still march the offence down the field fairly effectively when he’s called to and the team is averaging more than 30 points per game. On the flip side, the defence is allowing an average of 30 points each week. That needs to change. (MJ)

11. Cleveland Browns

2020 record: 4-1
Last week: 12
The elephant in the room: Uh, is winning always this stressful?

The Browns are 4-1 for the first time since Bill Belichick was their coach back in 1994, but three of their victories have seen them outscored in the second half. In fact, they’ve been outscored in the second half by a combined score of 66-61 throughout this four-game win streak. (ES)

12. Arizona Cardinals

2020 record: 3-2
Last week: 14
The elephant in the room: The question mark lined up in Chandler Jones’ spot

Jones was off to a slow start in 2020, but in 2019 he finished second in defensive player of the year voting, and is a major part of this defence. Now that he’s going to miss the rest of the season with a bicep injury, Kyler Murray and co. could find themselves playing from behind more often than not. (CB)

13. Indianapolis Colts

2020 record: 3-2
Last week: 13
The elephant in the room: Philip Rivers

You won’t hear coach Frank Reich say it, but Rivers has been disappointing thus far in his first year in Indianapolis. He threw two interceptions in a loss to the Browns – the first of which was a terrible pick-six – and only has four passing TDs in his first five games. (MJ)

14. Chicago Bears

2020 record: 4-1
Last week: 16
The elephant in the room: The future of the QB position

At what point do Bears fans wish that 4-1 was actually 1-4? Yes, Nick Foles beat Tom Brady again, but their quarterback situation has otherwise been a bit of a mess that feels harder and harder to move on from via the draft as they climb the standings. (ES)

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2020 record: 3-2
Last week: 9
The elephant in the room: Tom Brady’s waning patience

Tom Brady appears frustrated with some of his new teammates – in particular his offensive linemen who allowed eight QB hits in a Thursday loss to the Bears. The Bucs were undisciplined as well as having several soft penalties called against them. In total, they had 11 penalties that amounted to 109 yards, and it cost them at key points in the game. Hopefully for the Bucs, Brady’s sideline yelling will be a wakeup call. (MJ)

16. Las Vegas Raiders

2020 record: 3-2
Last week: 18
The elephant in the room: The 2019 second half

The Raiders are riding high into their bye week with a 3-2 record, hoping to get back to the playoffs. But last year at this point they were in the exact same spot before fading hard down the stretch to finish at 7-9. The team will need to stop the run and cut down on defensive miscues to ensure they don’t repeat history. (CB)

17. Carolina Panthers

2020 record: 3-2
Last week: 19
The elephant in the room: Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers are actually good

This is more an elephant in the room for the rest of the NFC South, but it’s been confirmed: the Panthers are good. That wasn’t supposed to be the case in a rebuilding year, and it certainly didn’t look like the Panthers would be competitive after starting 0-2 and losing their star running back to an ankle injury. A three-game winning streak later and Bridgewater has earned the full confidence of his new teammates. Carolina should be up for the challenge against the 4-1 Bears this week. (MJ)

18. Miami Dolphins

2020 record: 2-3
Last week: 22
The elephant in the room: The franchise QB waiting in the wings

The Dolphins deserve to bask in the glory of a shockingly dominant win over the 49ers, but if we’ve learned anything from Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 16-year NFL career it’s that the Fitz-magic eventually wears off. And when it does, the pressure will mount to move to Tua. (GL)

19. Dallas Cowboys

2020 record: 2-3
Last week: 17
The elephant in the room: Dak Prescott’s contract situation

Prescott took a risk playing on a franchise tag this season, and Sunday’s injury was a worst-case scenario. But it doesn’t change the fact Prescott is one of the league’s best QBs or that he deserves to be paid like it. Until the Cowboys do the right thing and pay Dak, this will continue to hang over the franchise. (GL)

20. Los Angeles Chargers

2020 record: 1-4
Last week: 20
The elephant in the room: No more margin for error

There were few great expectations for this team this season, and so far Justin Herbert has played better than anyone could’ve hoped despite the team losing all four of his starts. But after the OT loss to the Saints on Monday night, the Chargers will need to be just shy of perfect to turn Herbert’s ROY push into a playoff push. (CB)

21. Minnesota Vikings

2020 record: 1-4
Last week: 21
The elephant in the room: The money owed to Kirk Cousins

Even if you wanted to shake things up at quarterback, Cousins’ contract almost entirely prevents that from happening. What now? (ES)

22. San Francisco 49ers

2020 record: 2-3
Last week: 15
The elephant in the room: Jimmy G. wasn’t the answer

The 49ers had a built-in excuse for their relatively slow 2-2 start to the season — they’d suffered injuries all over the field. But Jimmy Garoppolo’s return from an ankle injury didn’t help this past Sunday as the 49ers trailed Dolphins 30–7 at halftime. C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens didn’t distinguish themselves in Garoppolo’s absence, either. (CB)

23. Philadelphia Eagles

2020 record: 1-3-1
Last week: 23
The elephant in the room: Failure to build around Carson Wentz

The emergence of practice squad receiver Travis Fulgham could be really good news for the Eagles, but it’s also a fluke. Philadelphia’s front office entered last off-season knowing it had to overhaul the weapons surrounding Wentz, and the situation is no better almost a year later. (GL)

24. Cincinnati Bengals

2020 record: 1-3-1
Last week: 24
The elephant in the room: A.J. Green

We’ll probably never know what a Joe Burrow-A.J. Green connection looks like — Green’s dismal numbers, another reported injury, and a bunch of lip-readers (see below) are all signalling the end of the receiver’s time in Cincinnati. (ES)

25. Detroit Lions

2020 record: 1-3
Last week: 25
The elephant in the room: What could’ve been

Maybe the Matt Patricia era never had to begin in the first place…? (ES)

26. Houston Texans

2020 record: 1-4
Last week: 27
The elephant in the room: The reality of overcoming an 0-4 start and actually making the playoffs now that Bill O’Brien is gone

The Texans weren’t going to lose to the lowly Jaguars after the team fired its dual GM-coach, but there is lots of ground to make up for in the AFC South. (MJ)

27. Atlanta Falcons

2020 record: 0-5
Last week: 26
The elephant in the room: They’re no longer in the room. The elephants were fired.

The team finally parted ways with head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff after the embarrassing winless start to the year. A big question now becomes: Is 35-year-old Matt Ryan the right arm (and contract) to lead this team through a rebuild? (MJ)

28. Jacksonville Jaguars

2020 record: 1-4
Last week: 28
The elephant in the room: Reality has sunk in. This team stinks.

After upsetting the Colts in Week 1, the Jags haven’t been able to put a complete game together and at times look lost. As long as the defence keeps allowing 416.8 yards and 29.4 points per game, the losses will keep piling up. (MJ)

29. Denver Broncos

2020 record: 1-3
Last week: 29
The elephant in the room: They don’t get the Jets again

The Broncos’ secured their first win of the season two weeks ago before a surprise bye, but it was against the Jets, a team that — at the moment — looks dead set on going 0-16. Making matters worse, the Broncos gave up 28 points to those Jets, who haven’t scored more than 17 in any other game. (CB)

30. Washington Football Team

2020 record: 1-4
Last week: 30
The elephant in the room: What’s next for Dwayne Haskins

The return of Alex Smith might be the best story in football this season, but it happened because the new regime in Washington benched the 2019 15th-overall pick just 11 starts into his NFL career. Is Haskins the next Josh Rosen, or will he get a second chance to prove himself? (GL)

31. New York Giants

2020 record: 0-5
Last week: 31
The elephant in the room: Daniel Jones’ struggles

Coming into the 2020 season, the football world was intrigued to see what Danny Dimes would do to build off what was an exciting rookie season, despite way too many turnovers. What we’ve seen is Jones has taken a step back in the passing game while the turnovers continue, and now the Giants might be starting to wonder whether they need to reevaluate. (GL)

32. New York Jets

2020 record: 0-5
Last week: 32
The elephant in the room: Adam Gase’s job status

Who’d have bet this summer that Le’Veon Bell’s time in New York would’ve come to an end before Adam Gase’s? Regardless of what happens over the next couple of months, Gase is essentially a dead man walking the Jets sidelines, and you can’t help but wonder what kind of vibe that creates in the locker room. (GL)

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.