The Depth Chart: Week 7

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My power rankings for the NFL.

High Five

1. Tennessee Titans (5-0)
They may not be the most talented team in the league, but they’re definitely one of the most complete. A top notch defense with a solid running game and a sound veteran quarterback.

2. New York Giants (4-1)
For a while, they looked like the best team in football, but the Browns brought them back to Earth. They’re still one of the toughest teams, though.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1)
A sign of the Steelers’ prowess is the ability to maintain stability with Willie Parker missing time.

4. Buffalo Bills (4-1)
Are they for real or just an upstart team? They definitely have one of the better defensive units in the league, but I don’t know if their young offense can hold up over the long haul.

5. Dallas Cowboys (4-2)
Sure, they lost to the Cardinals in overtime and the Redskins at home. And Tony Romo will be out for up to a month and Adam Jones has been suspended indefinitely. But this offense is scary good and they just added another playmaker in Roy Williams.


6. Washington Redskins (4-2)
They’ve surprised a lot of people this year, myself included, and are definitely a contender in the NFC East as long as they keep it up.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2)
The Buccaneers are starting to look like the team of old. Their defense has found the fountain of youth and the offense is running the ball well and getting solid play out of whichever quarterback is under center: Jeff Garcia or Brian Griese.

8. Indianapolis Colts (3-2)
I think the Colts are back after having struggled in the first quarter of the season. This week against the top defense in the league — the Ravens — the Colts looked like the explosive offense they’ve always been and their defense was swarming to the football.

9. Denver Broncos (4-2)
I don’t know what to make of the Broncos. Their defense needs a lot of work, but their offense is too good to lower them much farther. They’re in position to win the AFC West if they can hold off the Chargers.

10. Arizona Cardinals (4-2)
The Cardinals could have their best team since 1998. I knew they would beat the Cowboys — it’s one of the upsets I picked — because their offense is so explosive that it gives defenses problems. Their defense is starting to come around, too.

11. Carolina Panthers (4-2)
Last year seems to have been an aberration. Jake Delhomme is back and healthy and aside from Steve Smith and the passing game, the Panthers have a solid run game and a tough defense.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3)
The Jaguars began the season 0-2, but have since come on strong. Those two losses were against two of the league’s best teams, the Titans and the Bills. They’re playing about as well as any team in the league right now. Their run game has always been strong but David Garrard has been playing efficiently lately and is making it difficult for defenses.

Muddled Middle

13. New England Patriots (3-2)
This team is too good not to be contenders even without Tom Brady. The way they run their franchise is like a college football program. When an injury occurs, they just insert the next guy on the depth chart and pick up where they left off the previous week.

14. San Diego Chargers (3-3)
The Chargers have played up and down this year but have scored some big victories. If they want to continue to be contenders, they have to get their defense off the field quicker and keep the ball in the hands of the playmakers on offense.

15. Atlanta Falcons (4-2)
It’s pretty simple how the Falcons have had success this year. They’ve had one of the top run games in the league, a rookie quarterback who is currently playing beyond his years, and a defense that gets after the opposing quarterback.

16. Chicago Bears (3-3)
The Bears have led in the fourth quarter of every game this season, but have only won half of those games because they’ve broken down and haven’t finished. I imagine they’ll work their way back up as the season progresses.

17. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
There’s no doubt the Eagles miss Brian Westbrook. Their offense takes a hit when he’s not out on the field. He’s got to get back on the field and the Eagles’ attacking defense has to hold down the fort until he gets back.

18. New York Jets (3-2)
As long as Brett Favre has two legs, one arm, and a heartbeat, he provides whichever team he plays for a great opportunity to win. The Jets defense has to tighten the screws a little bit, but their offense is more than picking up the slack.

19. Green Bay Packers (3-3)
The Packers got off to a great start to open the season and Aaron Rodgers was being praised as a hero. Lately, Rodgers has had to fight through injuries and hasn’t looked as invincible. This will probably be a roller coaster season for Rodgers — as it is for all first year starting quarterbacks — and the Packers.

20. New Orleans Saints (3-3)
This Saints offense is probably the third-most explosive offense I’ve seen in the last two years, behind last year’s Patriots and the 1999 Rams. The ease at which they move the ball down field — on deep passes alone — is remarkable. Their defense needs to pull its weight, though.


21. Minnesota Vikings (3-3)
Brad Childress is definitely on the hot seat. With the off-season addition of Jared Allen and Bernard Berrian, and the past few years of building that defense, the Vikings fans expect more than a .500 team, and so does management.

22. Baltimore Ravens (2-3)
The Ravens currently have the No. 1 run defense, No. 1 pass defense, and No. 1 overall defense. They’re 2-3. Can you guess what’s wrong? Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

23. Miami Dolphins (2-3)
Okay, so the Dolphins have pulled out the bag of tricks to pull off a couple wins. That might turn some heads, but it’s not going to get them into the playoffs.

24. Cleveland Browns (2-3)
I can’t express how disappointing it is as a football fan to know how overrated the 10-6 Browns were a year ago, and yet, the NFL felt it was in the league’s best interest to schedule them for 5 prime time games, more appearances than any other team.

25. San Francisco 49ers (2-4)
The Niners have a great running back, an adequate quarterback, and one of the most athletic tight ends in the game. Not to mention, they have the mad scientist offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, calling plays for the 9th highest scoring offense in the league. Problem is, they have the worst scoring defense in the league, having given up 167 points this year.

26. Houston Texans (1-4)
A lot of people expected the Texans to make some noise this year, but they just haven’t done that. The offense is 5th in the league in yards per game but they’re only 17th in points per game. That means they’re not capitalizing off of all those yards. The defense is also underachieving.

27. Seattle Seahawks (1-4)
Time is finally catching up on many of these Seahawks. Matt Hasselbeck just missed this week’s game and all of his weapons on offense have been out with injuries, too. Plus, their defense is atrocious right now. They’re 22nd against the pass and 23rd against the run.

Low Five

28. St. Louis Rams (1-4)
In Jim Haslett’s first game as head coach of the Rams, he got them to respond and pick up an upset victory over Washington. The real test is whether they can sustain that momentum over the course of several games, and that starts with a tough matchup against Dallas in Week 7.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (1-4)
The Chiefs are still rebuilding and they might be another year or two away — it’s difficult to say in this era of the NFL where teams can jump from worst to first in one year. I really like Dwayne Bowe, Larry Johnson, and Tony Gonzalez on offense, but the quarterback situation still is unsettled.

30. Oakland Raiders (1-4)
I’m not so sure Tom Cable will do much better than Lane Kiffin. This team just seems to be heading in the wrong direction, and it’s a shame because they have great young talent at quarterback and running back.

31. Cincinnati Bengals (0-6)
We all knew the Bengals defense was bad. It always has been and always will be, which is surprising because they’re coached by a defensive-minded guy in Marvin Lewis. But their offense, once one of the most explosive in the league, has just fallen off the map.

32. Detroit Lions (0-5)
They traded Roy Williams, one of only two playmakers on their team. And Jon Kitna, while prone to throwing interceptions but can still make all the throws, has been placed on injured reserve. This is by far the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL. The good news is that Matt Millen is no longer in charge of personnel.

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