Culture of Hoops

Sonny’s NFL Picks Week 7: Power Rankings Edition

Image courtesy of Mike Morbeck/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Mike Morbeck/Flickr.

After back to back weeks of successful NFL picks for the first time all season, I’m now prepared to put together some power rankings. Please, contain your excitement. Today, you’ll only be getting a look at teams 32-15. Why? Well, the state of the NFL is always changing. Right now I feel like it’s the perfect time to bust out some power rankings. My knowledge and understanding of the current state of the league is at its peak and every team is at least a quarter of the way through their season, which means I have a general idea of which totally made up category they fall in:

Rotten Egg Fart Stinky (Teams 32-30)

Not Good by Any Calculation (Teams 29-25)

Below Average (Teams 24-20)

Fringe Contenders (Teams 19-11)

Legitimate Contenders (Teams 10-6)

The Favorites (Teams 5-1)

By next week I might realize that just about everything I thought was true about the league turned out to be false and my Week 7 power rankings was just a pile of crap. That still might turn out to be the case, so I’ll give you the sampler size of the pile of crap compared to the whole thing. Anyway, let’s get to it.

32: Oakland Raiders (0-5)
Derek Carr is now the current record holder for touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback in their first five starts. He has eight of them, which is eight more wins than the Raiders currently have. But still, good stuff!

31: Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6)
The Jags were a Josh Scobee field goal away from leaving the Raiders as the only winless team in the league, but in the long run this might be good for the Jaguars. Right now, high draft picks are more important than a meaningless road win against the Tennessee Titans. And hey, speaking of rookie quarterback records, Blake Bortles set the record for highest completion percentage in the first career start for a rookie. Again, good stuff!

30: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5)
Even though Oakland and Jacksonville are the two remaining winless teams, Tampa Bay is right there with them in terms of metaphorical rotten egg fart stinkiness. The Bucs got a road win in Pittsburgh—stop me if you guys have heard this before, but that game cost me my chance of winning an Eliminator Challenge—and they have three winnable losses on the slate. That leaves two more games in which the Buccaneers stumbled out of the gate to 56-0 and 38-0 deficits. I would suggest some type of betting scandal could be in play, but spotting a team a 56-0 lead doesn’t suggest point-shaving … it suggests that you are an utterly atrocious football team.

29: Washington Redskins (1-5)
One of the many lessons I’ve learned so far this season: don’t fall in love with a back-up quarterback just because you aren’t the biggest fan of the starter. For a few weeks, I was no better than the obnoxious know-it-all fan who clamors for his teams back-up quarterback just because the starter isn’t cutting it. Here’s the harsh reality; nine times out of ten he’s a back-up for a good reason, and for the Redskins it was because Kirk Cousins might be terrible. 13 games and 21 total turnovers … that’s not what you like to see. Another lesson I learned: don’t get so deeply involved in the business of the Washington Redskins. I’ll just stick to getting fired up about the Chicago Bears.

28: New York Jets (1-5)
You can make an intriguing case that the Jets are Rotten Egg Fart Stinky, but they did jump out to a 21-3 lead in Green Bay, have a realistic chance to bear the Bears on Monday Night Football AND they made things semi-interesting in the fourth quarter against Denver last week. As bad as their passing attack has been—and it has just as much to do with their playmakers as it does with Geno Smith—their defense can at least keep them around in games. That’s more than quite a few other teams can say.

27: Tennessee Titans (2-4)
So Jake Locker … is he still a thing, or are the Titans going forward with Barry Gibb Charlie Whitehurst as their quarterback? Truth be told, I don’t think it matters too much. When you have second-rate play makers, a below-average defense, and are on the wrong end of the biggest road comeback in NFL history, the difference between a crumby starting quarterback and a crumby back-up quarterback isn’t huge.

26: St. Louis Rams (1-4)
I’m a sucker for Austin Davis and for the talent the Rams have on defense, but it’s looking like St. Louis will be sitting at 1-10 the next time they are favored in a game (Week 13, home against Oakland). The number in the W column is the only thing that matters at the end of the day, but St. Louis has been the friskiest of all of the one-win teams.

25: Minnesota Vikings (2-4)
The Vikings offensive line hasn’t been able to keep their quarterback upright so far this season, but they have paved the way for the 13th best rush offense in the league. That number isn’t staggering, but considering Adrian Peterson flew off the handle right before Week 2—it was probably longer ago than that, but that’s when he was put on the shelf—it has to be pleasantly surprising for Vikings fans to see that their crew of supporting backs have been able to ease the pain of the loss of Peterson, at least a little.

24: Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3)
The Steelers have played only one truly impressive game all season—a 37-19 trouncing of the Panthers in Carolina on Sunday Night Football—and have hovered between wildly mediocre and downright bad the rest of the year. Last week’s debacle in Cleveland might have been the low point for the Steelers, but it won’t top their home loss to the Bucs in Week 4 for thousands of people who picked them in their Eliminator Challenge. I’m sorry, this is going to bug me all year and you won’t stop hearing about it until the bitter end.

23: Miami Dolphins (2-3)
The Dolphins Week 1 win over the New England Patriots threw everyone off the scent of a below average football team. Even though they are the sixth best rush offense in the league and third in yards allowed defensively, this just isn’t a very good football team. It’s been said before, but this is a quarterback’s league and Ryan Tannehill is stuck in neutral. The third year QB is 27th out of 33 qualified quarterbacks in passer rating, only a point ahead of EJ Manuel and right behind Derek Carr. Oh by the way, did you hear all of the Packers fans go crazy when Green Bay took the lead with just seconds left in Miami last week? I felt like I was watching a Miami Heat game.

22: Atlanta Falcons (2-4)
21: New Orleans Saints (2-3)
These two teams are anemic on the road and while they were once nearly unbeatable at home, that notion is going to change soon. The Falcons dropped their first home game of the year against the Chicago Bears last week and the Saints are coming up on brutal stretch of home games. Five of their six remaining home games are against teams that sit in my top 14. If they go 3-2 in those five I’ll be truly shocked. The Falcons defense is slightly worse than the Saints, but the Saints offense isn’t capable of churning out big plays like Atlanta does. Either way, these are two below average football teams who have lost their aura of invincibility at home.

20: Buffalo Bills (3-3)
I don’t usually like to speak in hypotheticals, but had Buffalo defeated the New England Patriots last week, Bills fans would have been discussing Kyle Orton the same way Patriots fans talk about Tom Brady. Plus, come late-January there would’ve been quite a few Bills fans stranded in Arizona disappointed that their favorite team wasn’t there to play in Super Bowl XLIX.

19: Kansas City Chiefs (2-3)
The Chiefs aren’t an atrocity. They might not even be bad. Kansas City is the home to one of the better running back duos in the league in Jamal Charles and Miles Knile Davis and a steady defense that can get after the opposing quarterback. They pummeled the Patriots at Arrowhead in Week 4, but with three games remaining against the Chargers and Broncos plus a few non-divisional challenges—Seattle and at Arizona—the Chiefs are nothing more than a fringe contender until they prove otherwise.

18: New York Giants (3-3)
I thought that the Giants were on the verge of a breakthrough in the NFC East and then they laid a dud on Sunday night last week. It was an ugly loss by just about any sort of calculation and it looks even worse now that we know they lost Victor Cruz for the season. Still, I couldn’t bump Giants out of the fringe contenders just yet simply because they’ve come back from the dead more times than Michael Myers. I believe that their young playmakers can ease the loss of Cruz and I doubt the offensive line, which had given up only five sacks in the first five games of the season, will look as helpless as they did on Sunday night again.

17: Houston Texans (3-3)
The Texans could very well be 5-1 right now but they dropped two nail-biters in back to back weeks. Granted, those losses were against the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys, two top seven teams in my rankings, but that’s why the Texans can’t be considered a top-half team. Arian Foster is running like it’s 2011, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is a bottom-tier starting quarterback and the defense hasn’t been as impressive as expected, save for the always dominant J.J. Watt. Jadeveon Clowney’s impending return could give the defense a boost, but how much value does the rookie really have?

16: Cleveland Browns (3-2)
Like I said last week, God might be starting to come around on Cleveland. Maybe he has a nice little cabin on Lake Erie that he likes to vacation to from time to time. Or maybe he just enjoys a good underdog story and at this point, wouldn’t the Cleveland Browns be one of the best choices as the guinea pig for an underdog story? The Browns have an easy schedule coming up—at Jacksonville and then home for Oakland and Tampa Bay—and if they sweep all three of those games they’ll be sitting at 6-2 when they head into Cincinnati Week 10. Look, the Browns aren’t going to go from cellar-dwellers to AFC favorites seemingly overnight, but at least they have an identity. They run the ball a lot and quite well, and Brian Hoyer has been totally competent and made enough big plays in tight games to have more job security than anyone could have expected he would at this point in the season. The Browns need to take care of business against a cake schedule though. Their last eight games—at Cincinnati, Houston, at Atlanta, at Buffalo, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, at Carolina, and at Baltimore—should be a devastating stretch.

15: Chicago Bears (3-3)
I’m taking my mom’s advice and keeping my mouth shut when it comes to my Chicago Bears.

Below are my Week 7 picks. Check back next week for the top 14 teams in the always-changing NFL power rankings.

Home teams in CAPS


Miami Dolphins over CHICAGO BEARS

BALTIMORE RAVENS over Atlanta Falcons

Tennessee Titans over WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Seattle Seahawks over ST. LOUIS RAMS

Cleveland Browns over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS over Cincinnati Bengals

BUFFALO BILLS over Minnesota Vikings

DETROIT LIONS over New Orleans Saints

GREEN BAY PACKERS over Carolina Panthers

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS over Kansas City Chiefs

Arizona Cardinals over OAKLAND RAIDERS

DALLAS COWBOYS over New York Giants

DENVER BRONCOS over San Francisco 49ers


Last Week: 9-5-1
Overall: 58-32-1

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