NFL Power Rankings: 49ers Climb, Cowboys Fall22 min read
Lindy’s Sports’ UK editor Simon Milham reflects on the first six weeks of the 2019/20 NFL season and offers insight into each of the 32 teams. With that in mind he has updated his NFL Power Rankings which has seen a drastic rise for the San Francisco 49ers.
32 – Miami Dolphins
Four of their first five games were at home and only once have they managed to score more than 10 points – a 16-point haul in a losing effort against previously winless Washington. No 0-5, they figure to be underdogs in every game bar a home tilt with Cincinnati on Dec 22. Though denying they are tanking for Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, who is likely to be the first QB taken in the draft, that is exactly the plan. Do not be surprised if this backfires for, whisper it quietly, he may not be as brilliant as some would have us believe.
31 – Washington Redskins
They won a game, so how can they rank lower than Cincinnati? Easy. They played Miami and even they failed to cover a 3.5-point handicap against the desperate Dolphins. The Jets and Giants at home represent their best chance of adding to that sole W. Firing head coach Jay Gruden at 5am on a Monday morning is not going to fix this team in a hurry, and any team that manages a paltry 2-for-11 on third down against the Dolphins is worthy of a place near the basement.
30 – Cincinnati Bengals
For franchise that is known for cutting corners, they are going the long route to a victory. The offensive line has not been fixed since Andrew Whitworth went to the Rams and QB Andy Dalton’s injuries have piled up as a result. Like the Dolphins, can they convince a high draft pick that they are committed to winning? Bengals’ defense is not quite as bad as Miami’s, despite allowing 269 rushing yards in a defeat to Baltimore to leave them at 0-6. WR A.J. Green’s injury absence means plenty of cheap seats in the Jungle.
29 – Atlanta Falcons
Just three years after they suffered one of the most stunning defeats in Super Bowl history, the Falcons have had their wings clipped. Their roster is stacked with talent and it is unfathomable how they have contrived to lose five games this season. Fix the offensive line issues, slow starts and start creating some turnovers, and the Falcons will fly again. Oh wait. The Rams, Seahawks and Saints are up next. Urgh.
28 – Denver Broncos
Is anyone buying a win over the Tennessee Titans? Yes, their defense has led them to two wins in a row, but Brexit chat is more riveting than watching Vic Fangio’s team. The AFC champion Chiefs, Colts and Browns are on the horizon, so going into the bye week with a winning record appears unlikely. A fire-sale and rebuild looks on the cards.
27 – Arizona Cardinals
The offense appears to be in sync with rookie QB Kyler Murray, and while they need balance with RB David Johnson (who is suffering with a back injury), the cards’ defense is horrible. They are conceding 132.8 rushing yards per game and 281.2 passing yards, can’t cover tight ends, and the cornerbacks are playing soft. Vance Joseph is a good coordinator, but he has little talent to work with.
26 – Tennessee Titans
The make or break season for QB Marcus Mariota appears to be heading in the wrong direction. The No.2 pick in the 2015 draft is in the last year of his rookie contract and while his average play over the last four years has not been helped by injury, his confidence has not been helped this season by offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. When you are replaced by Ryan Tannehill, you know your days are numbered.
25 – New York Jets
Adam Gase has not even had a sniff of good luck with QBs in his time with the Dolphins and the Jets, but Sam Darnold’s return was the catalyst for Gang Green’s first win of the season, helped by facing a banged-up Dallas team. Let’s not get carried away, though. That $112m in guarantees to free agents looks money badly spent and a ninth year out of the post-season is all but nailed on.
24 – New York Giants
The NFC East is wide open, with the Eagles (3-3) and Cowboys (3-3) both losing, and the Giants (2-4) are getting a little healthier. They also face the Cardinals on Sunday, a team also trying to establish an identity behind a rookie QB. Daniel Jones has silenced a few doubters, this young defense is improving, and they were competitive against the Patriots despite playing without RB Saquon Barkley, TE Evan Engram, WR Sterling Shepard and RB Wayne Gallman. Rising stock.
23 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Head coach Bruce Arians is sticking with QB Jameis Winston, despite a career-high five interceptions in their ‘home’ loss to the Panthers in London. He has 68 picks and 87 turnovers since 2015, the most of any NFL passer. Yet it is the pass defense that is the main issue. The Bucs have drafted seven DBs in the first three rounds in the past four years – and are still allowing 304 yards per game through the air.
22 – Jacksonville Jaguars
While sixth-round QB Gardner Minchew and his whiskers has been a nice story in relief of injured Nick Foles, there is now plenty of game-film on him, and he looked jittery in the pocket under constant Saints’ pressure on Sunday. The Jags do have winnable games against the Bengals (at Wembley) and the Jets in the next few weeks and if they can start creating some much-needed turnovers, they could yet be in play for the AFC South title.
21 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Thank goodness for a bye week. The Steelers beat the Chargers to move to 2-4 without their top two QBs, and also played without the likes of Mark Barron, Roosevelt Nix, James Washington, Steve Nelson and Jaylen Samuels. They also lost Stephon Tuitt for the year, which is a major blow to their defense. Monday night football against the Dolphins should mean another win, but they will probably need to beat the Ravens in Baltimore on December 29 and hope one of their back-up QBs gets hot before that to have a hope of playoff football.
20 – Cleveland Browns
Some prematurely had the Browns as Super Bowl contenders at the start of the season but having blown a 14-point lead against Seattle, they are now 2-4 and visit the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on October 27. QB Baker Mayfield has an injured hip and cynics would suggest he stops shooting from it until he wins a few games. The run defense has allowed 445 yards in the last two weeks, Freddie Kitchens looks every bit a rookie head coach, but on the plus side, RB Nick Chubb is playing lights out. The schedule eases up soon, and the Browns might be better value than the Ravens to win the division, even at this juncture, we have the Ravens higher in the rankings.
Tip: Cleveland Browns to win the AFC North at
19 – Los Angeles Chargers
To be beaten at home by the legend that is Steelers’ third-string QB Delvin Hodges takes some doing for a team that was considered among the front-runners for the Super Bowl. The Chargers (2-4) have dropped two straight and four of five, and QB Philip Rivers has eight turnovers in six games. The sputtering offense has failed to score in the first half in each of their last two home games. Things should pick up once experience offensive linemen Russell Okung and Mike Pouncey return, but they will be in a hole should they fall on the road at Tennessee this weekend.
18 – Detroit Lions
The Lions slipped to 2-2-1 after a 23-22 defeat to Green Bay on Monday and saw another game they should have won slip away, in large part down to two phantom flags from officials. They have won two games by a combined six points and lost two games by a combined five points, and continue to trend upwards. The defense is playing well, but five field goals against the Packers tells its own tale. Red zone woes may continue to plague them.
17 – Oakland Raiders
Coming off a bye and with veteran right guard Gabe Jackson returning from injury, expect Josh Jacobs and the running game to be productive. WR Zay Jones is a nice pick-up from Buffalo, but they need more from defensive end Clelin Ferrell, the No.4 pick out of Clemson, who has not been as productive as hoped. The run defense has been stout since Ritchie Incognito’s Week 3 debut, and while their next three games are at Green Bay, at Houston and at home to Detroit, the schedule softens thereafter. The Raiders are an outside bet to make the playoffs before heading to Vegas, baby.
16 – Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are on course to post 3,280 rushing yards this season and break a record that has stood since 1978. QB Lamar Jackson has 460 yards on the ground and Mark Ingram has 424 yards from 87 carries to go with seven touchdowns. You would think their run defense would be better, having to practice against Jackson, but it isn’t – conceding 4.4 yards per carry. It doesn’t help that they lack depth at the safety position, kick too many field goals and commit too many penalties. You can do it against the Bengals and Dolphins, but try that when faced with the Patriots.
15 – Chicago Bears
The Bears are giving up fewer points and getting more sacks than they did a year ago, kicker Eddie Pinieiro has been solid on a better-than-expected special teams unit but – and it is a big but – they have a difficult upcoming schedule and Mitch Trubisky as their QB. Unless their offense manages to get close to average, they will struggle to keep pace with the Packers in the NFC North.
14 – Philadelphia Eagles
Seven of the last nine times the Eagles had a 3-3 record, they made the playoffs – and no team in the NFC East has a winning record. However, while their run defense looks good on paper (72.8 yards per game), those stats may be skewed, as only the Cardinals, Giants and Bucs are giving up more passing yards than the 280.2ypg the Eagles concede. If starting corners Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas can find a little more consistency, the Eagles are still in good shape to make the post-season.
13 – Carolina Panthers
Some NFL insiders feel the Panthers will move on from injured QB Cam Newton at the end of the season. He has lost eight straight starts, while his deputy, Kyle Allen, has won all four in relief. The Panthers, whose defense has raked up 23 sacks and created 14 turnovers in the four-game winning streak, have a bye this week. They will need to be better on third-down conversions then they were against the Bucs in London (3-for-15), but you can’t argue with 37 points.
12 – Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys (3-3) are dealing with some major injury issues at present following their loss to the Jets. WRs Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, OTs Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, CBs Byron Jones and Anthony Brown are all struggling to be fit to face the Eagles on Sunday. DL Tyrone Crawford is on IR and that is a big miss for the Cowboys, who have lost three straight. Five takeaways this season is a large reason why this squad is not living up to its pre-season billing.
Tip: Dallas Cowboys to win NFC East at
11 – Buffalo Bills
The Bills are 17-point favourites to beat AFC East rivals Miami on Sunday and could yet be the main challengers to the Patriots in the conference. Their top-five defense, which sacked Tom Brady four times in a 16-10 Week 4 loss, is a match for anyone and they run the ball effectively. Do we believe in young QB Josh Allen, though? He has plenty to prove, but should at least feast on the Fins’ and lead his team to 5-1.
10 – Houston Texans
Close losses to the Saints and Panthers aside, the Texans (4-2) made a statement in beating Kansas City at Arrowhead on Sunday, but they enter the meat of their schedule with a few injuries, notably to CB Bradley Roby and RT Tytus Howard. The Texans’ offensive line was made to look good by KC’s inept front seven and their running game is efficient and effective, nothing more. Put a tough defense in front of them, and the Texans may struggle to find enough balance.
9 – Indianapolis Colts
Colts face a huge clash on Sunday against the Texans and the winner will have pole position for the AFC South. They are likely to get some key players back, including WR T.Y. Hilton, LB Darius Leonard and possibly safety Clayton Geathers. Their home loss to Oakland was franked when the Raiders beat the Bears in London, and the Colts subsequently won as double-digit dogs at Kansas City. Are they Super Bowl sleepers? If they keep running the ball effectively with underappreciated Marlon Mack, they can claim the division at the very least.
Tip: Indianapolis Colts to win AFC South at
8 – Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings rank 27th in receiving yards, 26th in receptions and are one of three teams without a receiving TD by a tight end. Yet they rank third in the league in average yards per play at 6.3 and will hope to avoid an 0-3 start I division play when they travel to Detroit on Sunday. QB Kirk Cousins looks more comfortable in the pocket and Stefon Diggs bounced back against Philadelphia. Minnesota looked good in wins against the Giants and the Eagles. Will tough road trips to Detroit, Kansas City and Dallas change our opinion about the rising Vikings? We don’t think so.
7 – Los Angeles Rams
A lack of consistency in the running game (averaging 98ypg) and too much reliance on the passing attack (272ypg) leaves the Rams (3-3) struggling for offensive identity, which is an odd thing. The offensive line changes have not helped. After CB Aqib Talib was placed on IR Monday due to a rib, the Rams made a win-now-mode splash on Tuesday, with the arrival of CB Jalen Ramsey from Jacksonville. He might be the kick-start the Rams need after three losses.
6 – Kansas City Chiefs
It is arguable that we should have the Chiefs so high, given that their run defense is putrid, giving up 180 yards or more in four straight games. But a fifth straight win in Denver might settle a few nerves. Andy Reid is, after all, 22-3 against AFC West opponents and QB Patrick Mahomes is 3-0 against the Broncos. Two home losses gives cause for concern, but nine of the last 14 Super Bowl champions lost back-to-back games at least once and key players such as LT Eric Fisher, DT Chris Jones and WR Sammy Watkins will return shortly. They have fixable problems and plenty to look forward to.
Tip: Kansas City Chiefs to win AFC West at
5 – Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers does not have too much to play with outside of Aaron Jones and Davante Adams (who is injured), but second-year wide receiver Allen Lazard could develop into a favourite Rodgers’ target. The defense is playing at a very high level and it seems likely that the Packers will chalk up another win against Oakland this Sunday – as the Raiders have played only one decent QB this year in Patrick Mahomes and he sliced them up. Packers (5-1) control the NFC North for now and while their schedule stiffens, a good defense travels well.
Tip: Green Bay Packers to win the NFC North at
4 – San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers (5-0) are unbeaten and still have their starting offensive tackles and fullback back to return from injury. QB Jimmy Garoppolo ranks fourth in the league with a 69.9 completion percentage and has an average of 8.0 yards per pass attempt in a system which has been conservative to this point. He has tossed five interceptions in five games, though, so needs to cut down on turnovers. They have two signature wins – against the Browns and Rams – and dominated both. The defense has made opposing QB’s lives miserable while blitzing just 15.3