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

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush. (Kyusung Gong/AP)

Despite all the white-knuckling through team practice facility shutdowns and bye week shuffling, we’ve successfully made it through six weeks in the NFL, and have learned a lot about the 2020 crop of teams.

That said, there are still shoes to drop and mysteries to be solved. That’s why for the latest edition of the power rankings, our expert panel rounded up one lingering question for each team.

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: 1
Lingering question: Is this team as good as its record?

Call it an "elite until proven otherwise" situation — the Seahawks are No. 1 because we expected them to be great, and all they've done this season is go 5-0. But the schedule has been super easy, and the defence has allowed a ton of points. Is this a great team on cruise control/playing down to its competition, or a sign of struggles to come now that the schedule is about to get tough? (CB)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

2020 record: 5-0
Last week: 5
Lingering question: How long can they keep this win streak going?

This one goes hand in hand with a more pressing question: How will the Steelers survive the loss of Devin Bush? Their second-year linebacker and defensive play caller on the field went down Sunday with a season-ending ACL tear, and it's a devastating blow for both player and team. Pittsburgh's top-rated defence -- and its red-hot, red-and-white offence -- have been flying, but a Week 7 run-in with the also-undefeated Titans will be the biggest test yet. (ES)

3. Kansas City Chiefs

2020 record: 5-1
Last week: 3
Lingering question: How did Patrick Mahomes fall to 10th in the 2017 draft?

I realize it's an old question, but ... seriously. In Monday's surgical victory over the Bills, Mahomes hit on more than 80 per cent of his 26 passes, and took just a single sack — the fifth time he's taken one or fewer in six games so far this season. He's now on pace for 4,500+ yards, 40 touchdowns and just three interceptions, and at 25 is a frontrunner for his second NFL MVP award. (CB)

4. Tennessee Titans

2020 record: 5-0
Last week: 6
Lingering question: How much will the season-ending injury to star left tackle Taylor Lewan hurt the Titans offence?

The Titans have given up a league-low six sacks and are fourth in rushing yards per game (157.8). Lewan is a key contributor as well as a popular leader in the locker room. (MJ)

5. Baltimore Ravens

2020 record: 5-1
Last week: 4
Lingering question: Can Jackson match his MVP magic of last year?

We've got our answer, and it's Y-E-S. (ES)

6. Green Bay Packers

2020 record: 4-1
Last week: 2
Lingering question: Sunday was just a fluke, right?

The Aaron Rodgers we all saw Sunday against the Buccaneers looked more like his AFC North opponent in purple than he did the GOAT of Green Bay. (ES)

7. Buffalo Bills

2020 record: 4-2
Last week: 7
Lingering question: What is going on with the defence?

Two straight so-so games from Josh Allen is of some concern, but the play of the usually-stout Bills defence is a real head-scratcher. A top-3 unit in 2019, Buffalo now ranks in the bottom half of the league in both points and yards against. And the run defence, which had been the only strength coming into Week 6, was just gashed by the Chiefs. (GL)

8. Chicago Bears

2020 record: 5-1
Last week: 14
Lingering question: Is it time to take this team seriously?

The 3-0 start felt lucky, and 4-1 still felt like a bit of a fluke. Now at 5-1 and atop the NFC North, the Bears face the Rams, Saints and Titans in consecutive weeks before a trio of divisional matchups. We're about to get answers. (ES)

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2020 record: 4-2
Last week: 15
Lingering question: How much will Vita Vea’s injury impact the team long-term?

They acquired nose tackle Steve McLendon from the Jets to help fortify the D-line and the Bucs impressively held the Packers to 201 total yards in the first game without Vea clogging things up. It will be interesting to see the trickle-down effect stemming from his injury and how McLendon adapts. (MJ)

10. New Orleans Saints

2020 record: 3-2
Last week: 10
Lingering question: Will this team finally kick it into gear and start firing on all cylinders after the bye week and once Michael Thomas is back from his injury?

The Saints have been fairly inconsistent both in games and on drives since Week 1. (MJ)

11. Los Angeles Rams

2020 record: 4-2
Last week: 9
Lingering question: Can they win outside the NFC East?

These Rams cakewalked through four games against the historically awful NFC East, but are 0-2 against the rest of the league. Next week's home date with the Bears will tell us a lot. (CB)

12. Arizona Cardinals

2020 record: 4-2
Last week: 12
Lingering question: How will the defence hold up without Chandler Jones?

All due respect to the Dak Prescott-less Cowboys, but Monday wasn't exactly a true test of a Cardinals D playing its first game without 2019 NFL defensive player of the year runner-up Jones. Will they be able to get sufficient pressure on opposing QBs? Who will step up as a leader? To be fair, safety Buddha Baker put his hand up in a big way on Monday, registering one interception, one sack and one forced fumble. (CB)

13. Indianapolis Colts

2020 record: 4-2
Last week: 13
Lingering question: Is it smart to believe Philip Rivers can lead this team to a championship?

Rivers was slinging the pigskin impressively in a comeback win over the Bengals in which Indy overcame a 21-point first-half deficit. That they were down 21-0 to the Bengals to begin with is concerning, but Rivers had his best performance as a Colt to date so that’s encouraging. (MJ)

14. New England Patriots

2020 record: 2-3
Last week: 8
Lingering question: Are the offensive troubles related to COVID delays, or is this something bigger?

The Patriots now find themselves below .500 for the first time since Week 8 of the 2002 season – a mind-blowing fact – and real questions need to be asked about the offence’s struggles over the past two games. Are New England’s many COVID roadblocks to blame, or is it a lack of playmakers on the roster? Either way, Josh McDaniels needs to figure it out fast. (GL)

15. Cleveland Browns

2020 record: 4-2
Last week: 11
Lingering question: Can the Browns win when it counts?

Four straight victories made a statement, but so did their two lop-sided losses to divisional heavyweights Baltimore and Pittsburgh. (ES)

16. Las Vegas Raiders

2020 record: 3-2
Last week: 16
Lingering question: Is the deep ball here to stay?

Winning football games rarely comes down to one player, but still: In games Henry Ruggs has played, Derek Carr is throwing the ball deeper and the Raiders have won. In games he hasn't, Carr has played conservatively and the Raiders have lost. If Ruggs can stay healthy and the Raiders can maintain the deep threat as opposing defences get more film to work with, the ceiling for this team is a lot higher than anyone guessed during the pre-season. (CB)

17. Miami Dolphins

2020 record:
Last week: 18
Lingering question: How long will the Fitz-Magic last?

The 3-3 Dolphins head into the bye above the Patriots in the standings for the first time since 2008, and the bearded journeyman is the reason why. All NFL fans expect Fitzpatrick to come back to earth, as he always does, but if No. 14 continues to play well, this Dolphins team could push for a playoff spot. (GL)

Updated answer: As it turns out, not much longer:

18. San Francisco 49ers

2020 record: 3-3
Last week: 22
Lingering question: Can Jimmy Garoppolo be trusted?

Jimmy G put up an all-time stinker against the Dolphins a week ago before showing up Sunday and putting forth a much better effort. But, according to Dieter Kurtenbach of the Mercury News, of Garoppolo’s 268 passing yards, only 42 of them came through the air. Whether or not he can be counted on for anything more than short passes is a big question moving forward. (CB)

19. Carolina Panthers

2020 record: 3-3
Last week: 17
Lingering question: How will they manage to end their red zone woes?

The short answer is: Christian McCaffrey will eventually return from injury. Without McCaffrey, the Panthers have settled for field goals far too often, and kicker Joey Slye leads the NFL in both total FGs and FGs within 30 yards. The Panthers were humbled by a tough Bears defence and fell back down to .500. (MJ)

20. Los Angeles Chargers

2020 record: 1-4
Last week: 20
Lingering question: Is it already too late?

Anthony Lynn expects his team to turn the season around, but Football Outsiders gives them just a 16.9 per cent chance at the playoffs. This term certainly seems better than its record, but the last thing a rebuilding club should want is to narrowly miss the post-season and end up with a 16th-overall pick for its efforts. (CB)

21. Denver Broncos

2020 record: 2-3
Last week: 29
Lingering question: Should we break them up now, or wait until after world domination?

Two in a row! Drew Lock and Philip Lindsay were back in the lineup, but it was the Broncos' defence that came up especially huge in the surprise win over the Patriots. Holding New England and a newly healthy Cam Newton to just 12 points, the Denver D now has 10 sacks in the past two weeks. (CB)

22. Dallas Cowboys

2020 record: 2-4
Last week: 19
Lingering question: Who’s going to step up in Dak Prescott’s absence?

Monday night’s trouncing at the hands of the Cardinals only further solidified what we already knew: Dak Prescott was the foundation of any success this team had before his injury. Now the team needs someone to step up to help fill the void if the Cowboys are going to have any chance at the NFC East title — and after rough games from both Zeke Elliott and Andy Dalton, we’re not sure who that’ll be. (GL)

23. Detroit Lions

2020 record: 2-3
Last week: 25
Lingering question: Can Matt Patricia save his job?

Grain of salt: It was the Jaguars. But the Lions put together a pretty complete game in Sunday's win, and have the chance to change their fortunes with a stretch against some struggling clubs over the next six weeks, including the Falcons, Vikings, and Washington. So, what does this mean for Matt Patricia's employment? (ES)

24. Philadelphia Eagles

2020 record: 1-4-1
Last week: 23
Lingering question: How many injuries are too many injuries?

By the end of Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, the Eagles offence included just two of the 11 projected starters heading into the season: Carson Wentz and centre Jason Kelce. Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz were the latest added to Philadelphia’s long injury list, and it’s beginning to feel like this is too much to overcome. (GL)

25. Cincinnati Bengals

2020 record: 1-4-1
Last week: 24
Lingering question: Are the Bengals selling?

Veteran receiver A.J. Green had a decent showing in Week 6, but his generally poor play, combined with some savvy lipreaders last week, suggested he was not long for Cincinnati. According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, however, there's a different wide receiver who's more likely to be on the move: John Ross. (ES)

26. Houston Texans

2020 record: 1-5
Last week: 26
Lingering question: Is this defence capable of making life any easier for Deshaun Watson and the offence?

The Texans allow more rushing yards per game than any other team, struggle to force turnovers and give up an average of 30.3 points each week. Watson is playing like the star he is, but team success will be limited if the defence can’t pull its weight. (MJ)

27. Atlanta Falcons

2020 record: 1-5
Last week: 27
Lingering question: How is the makeup and style of this team changing under interim coach Raheem Morris?

They looked darn good against the struggling Vikings, but you have to take wins like that with a grain of salt. (MJ)

28. Minnesota Vikings

2020 record: 1-5
Last week: 21
Lingering question: How long does Cousins keep the job?

At 1-5, it's been hard to know at times this year if it's bad luck, injury-induced absences, or off-season turnover that's been the cause of all these losses, but there is one consistent contributor: Kirk Cousins' penchant for interceptions. The starting QB is on pace for 27 interceptions on the season, making his contract -- already a sore spot among Vikings faithful -- look even worse, especially if management is eying a rebuild. (ES)

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

2020 record: 1-5
Last week: 28
Lingering question: What is the coaching staff going to look like next season?

The Jags have now lost five in a row, so the tanking is right on track. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone has gone on record saying he won’t fire defensive coordinator Todd Wash despite all the struggles. Ultimately, ownership will need to decide if this coaching staff is the group they want leading a rebuild after the team presumably drafts its next starting QB in 2021. If they keep losing, that QB will be Trevor Lawrence. (MJ)

30. New York Giants

2020 record: 1-5
Last week: 31
Lingering question: Is Jason Garrett the right man for the offensive coordinator job?

Regardless of how things finish this season, Joe Judge is a good bet to be back as head coach next season. But could Judge make a change at OC as Daniel Jones and the offence continue to struggle? Yes, the loss of Saquon Barkley has been impactful, but Jones and the passing game have lacked the big-play ability this season they flashed in 2019 under Pat Shurmur. (GL)

31. Washington Football Team

2020 record: 1-5
Last week: 30
Lingering question: What’s the short- and long-term plan at quarterback?

Two games into the Kyle Allen era in Washington, it’s clear he’s not the answer. So the question becomes: what now? Bring back Dwayne Haskins? Call on Alex Smith? Stick it out with Allen? All answers that are less than ideal and none that will help Washington’s future. Long-term, reports emerging Sunday that Ron Rivera has interest in Cam Newton raise even more questions. (GL)

32. New York Jets

2020 record: 0-6
Last week: 32
Lingering question: When will the Adam Gase era finally come to an end?

Unless the Jets’ decision-makers feel keeping Gase is the team’s best chance to secure the No. 1 overall pick, the decision to keep him on the sidelines after the league’s worst start to the 2020 season makes little sense. It can only be doing more harm than good. (GL)

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