NFL Nation, ESPNOct 17, 2023, 06:50 AM ET
Welcome to Week 7 of the 2023 NFL season. There are now zero undefeated teams in the league after the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles suffered losses this weekend to the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets, respectively. Were those losses enough to knock both the Eagles and the 49ers from the top five in the updated Power Rankings? How far did the Browns and Jets climb after their big wins?
Below we’ve updated the rankings, 1-32, and our NFL Nation reporters are taking a look at one lesson we have learned from every NFL team so far this season. Which players or units have outperformed our preseason expectations? And who has underperformed? What questionable decisions have turned out to be OK so far?
Here are the updated rankings, starting with a familiar No. 1.
Our power panel of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities evaluates how NFL teams stack up against each other, then ranks them from 1 to 32.
1. San Francisco 49ers (5-1)
Week 6 ranking: 1
Lesson learned: The 49ers’ defense is going to be just fine.
The Niners’ biggest offseason change came at defensive coordinator: DeMeco Ryans left to become the Houston Texans‘ head coach, and Steve Wilks took over in San Francisco. There have been a few hiccups in the first six weeks, but Wilks’ group has largely held its standing as one of the best units in the league. San Francisco is third in points allowed (87), fourth in defensive efficiency (74.5) and third in defensive expected points added (43.31). There’s room for improvement, particularly when it comes to sacks and run defense, but the defense is still a strength for a 5-1 team. — Nick Wagoner
2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-1)
Week 6 ranking: 3
Lesson learned: The Chiefs have a top-10 defense.
Through six games, the Chiefs are second in points allowed per game (14.7), sixth in yards allowed per game (284) and fifth in defensive efficiency (74.3), according to ESPN Analytics’ Football Power Index. The schedule gets more difficult from here as the Chiefs will face five teams currently in the top seven in scoring. But what they’ve accomplished when Patrick Mahomes is not on the field doesn’t look like a mirage. — Adam Teicher
3. Miami Dolphins (5-1)
Week 6 ranking: 4
Lesson learned: The Dolphins were correct in standing pat at running back.
Throughout the offseason, Miami was attached to rumors of acquiring Pro Bowl running backs Dalvin Cook and Jonathan Taylor — but no such move was made. As it turns out, the Dolphins were on to something. Rookie De’Von Achane, a third-round pick, was the AFC’s leading rusher before a knee injury landed him on injured reserve, while last season’s starter, Raheem Mostert, is on pace for a career year and leads the NFL with nine touchdowns. Miami fielded the 25th-ranked rushing offense a season ago, averaging just 99.2 yards per game. This season, the Dolphins lead the league in that category at a whopping 181.8 yards per game. Considering they have a real shot at yielding two 1,000-yard rushers by season’s end, it’s safe to say the Dolphins were justified in their faith in their current running backs room. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
4. Philadelphia Eagles (5-1)
Week 6 ranking: 2
Lesson learned: Injury fortunes can change quickly.
The defending NFC champions had good health through most of the 2022 season, with all 22 original starters playing in Super Bowl LVII. This season is taking on a different shape. Only one member of the starting secondary, James Bradberry, was on the field for the finish of Sunday’s game against the Jets, and the offense took a massive hit when right tackle Lane Johnson exited with a right ankle injury. It’s possible Philly’s health will improve as the playoffs near, but it’s going to be a bumpier ride. — Tim McManus
Stephen A. outlines his worries for the Eagles after loss to Jets
Stephen A. Smith breaks down why he sees the Eagles’ loss to the Jets as more concerning than the 49ers’ loss to the Browns.
5. Detroit Lions (5-1)
Week 6 ranking: 5
Lesson learned: The Lions might be for real.
There was a ton of hype surrounding this team entering the season, based on how the Lions finished last season winning eight of their final 10 regular-season games, and they have picked up right where they left off. Detroit has started 5-1 for the first time since 2011, winning four consecutive games by double digits for the first time since 1991. The offense is averaging the fourth-most points per game (28) and the defense is allowing the seventh-fewest yards per game (285.5). The team is looking to change the losing narrative surrounding this franchise, and coach Dan Campbell has a lot to do with that. — Eric Woodyard
6. Buffalo Bills (4-2)
Week 6 ranking: 6
Lesson learned: Young players are getting significant opportunities.
The Bills’ offense has some serious work to do, and the defense is refinding itself after losing three key starters to long-term injuries. Unlike previous years, however, young players have gotten big chances from the start. Buffalo has received positive contributions from the likes of rookie right guard O’Cyrus Torrence — who has the 18th-best pass block win rate among guards (92.9%) — and second-year linebacker Terrel Bernard, who leads the team in tackles (57) and has made several big plays. Now, the Bills will need more young players to step up, like rookie linebacker Dorian Williams, who played almost the full game vs. the Giants in place of Matt Milano. — Alaina Getzenberg
7. Dallas Cowboys (4-2)
Week 6 ranking: 7
Lesson learned: We can’t trust them.
They are either outstanding (see the blowout wins against the Giants, Jets and Patriots) or poor (see the losses at the Cardinals and 49ers). For a team that won 12 games in each of the two previous seasons, that inconsistency was unexpected. The defense can create turnovers (it has forced 12 so far), but the offense is still searching for an identity. This bye week might be coming at a good time even if the Cowboys will not get a lot of on-field work done. It will allow them to catch their breath after an up-and-down start. — Todd Archer
8. Cleveland Browns (3-2)
Week 6 ranking: 12
Lesson learned: The Browns’ defense is for real.
The Browns’ defense came into the weekend ranked No. 1 in efficiency. Then on Sunday, it shut down arguably the top offense in the league on the way to a stunning 19-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Cleveland’s terrifying pass rush is led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett. The revamped front is stuffing the run. The secondary is locking down the pass with a vise-grip coverage. The Browns have given up just 1,002 yards combined this season. That’s the third fewest through a team’s first five games since the 1970 merger, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The Browns’ defense is not only legit — it has a strong case as the NFL’s best. — Jake Trotter
9. Baltimore Ravens (4-2)
Week 6 ranking: 11
Lesson learned: Roquan Smith is the defensive X factor.
After trading for Smith at midseason last year, the Ravens went from allowing 22.9 points per game to 14.7. This year, Smith’s tackling and leadership have kept Baltimore among the stingiest defenses in the league despite four starters missing at least one game due to injury (CB Marlon Humphrey, S Marcus Williams and OLBs Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo). The Ravens have limited offenses to 15.2 points per game, which is one of the biggest reasons Baltimore is 4-2 and atop the AFC North. Smith has proved he deserves to be the league’s highest-paid middle linebacker. — Jamison Hensley
Kyle Van Noy tells McAfee how impressed he is by Lamar
Ravens LB Kyle Van Noy tells Pat McAfee about how much Lamar Jackson has grown as a QB.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-2)
Week 6 ranking: 10
Lesson learned: The defense is better than expected.
The pass rush still needs work (Jacksonville has 12 sacks, tied for 20th in the NFL), but the Jaguars are third in the NFL against the run, averaging 75.3 yards per game, and have forced an NFL-high 15 turnovers. Second-year defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell has been more aggressive this season: He’s blitzing at a 5% higher rate than last season, and it’s paying off. — Michael DiRocco
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2)
Week 6 ranking: 9
Lesson learned: The Bucs still can’t run the ball.
Despite a scheme change and devoting more resources to the offensive line, the Bucs just cannot run the ball with any sort of consistency. Sometimes it’s the blocking, and sometimes it’s not identifying the holes and hitting them, but the unit is averaging 78.8 rushing yards per game (29th in the league) and just 3.0 yards per rush (32nd). That’s not too far from the 76.9 rushing yards per game and 3.4 yards per rush it averaged in 2022. — Jenna Laine
12. Cincinnati Bengals (3-3)
Week 6 ranking: 18
Lesson learned: Cincinnati lacks a consistent offense.
Quarterback Joe Burrow knows the offense is not where it wants to be through six games. The passing offense is the least explosive in the NFL, ranked 32nd in yards per attempt (4.8). As whole, the Bengals are 29th in points per drive (1.23) and lead the league in three-and-out percentage (29.9%). There is hope that Cincinnati can turn things around now that Burrow’s right calf is feeling better. But the inconsistency the team showed in a Week 6 win over Seattle suggests that this massive problem isn’t rooted solely in Burrow’s health. Cincinnati must get that solved immediately. — Ben Baby
13. Seattle Seahawks (3-2)
Week 6 ranking: 8
Lesson learned: You can get by with backup O-linemen for only so long.
The story of the Seahawks’ first four games might have been how well their offensive line performed despite several injuries, including the losses of both tackles in the opener. They ranked ninth in pass block win rate (60.4%) during their 3-1 start as left tackle Stone Forsythe and right tackle Jake Curhan capably filled in for Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, respectively. In Week 6 against the Bengals, Cross returned, but Lucas remained out, and Curhan struggled mightily in his absence while playing on a turned ankle. Rookie Anthony Bradford, who had played well in fill-in duty, also had some forgettable reps at right guard. Bradford and Curhan were both beat on the game’s decisive play. — Brady Henderson
14. Los Angeles Chargers (2-3)
Week 6 ranking: 13
Lesson learned: Every game is going to be close.
It doesn’t matter if it is the Aidan O’Connell-led Raiders or the record-setting Dolphins offense; the Chargers have found ways to be in close games each week. All five of the Chargers’ games have been decided by seven points or less. It’s a point coach Brandon Staley has attempted to dismiss. “It’s not college football where, you know, Georgia is playing UAB, you know, or, or Austin Peay,” he said. But at some point, this team will need to become more consistent and put opponents away. Until then, the Chargers will always be a step below the contenders in the AFC. — Kris Rhim
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)
Week 6 ranking: 15
We get it, the Steelers’ offense is bad. But what isn’t is the pass rush tandem of Watt and Highsmith, the latter of whom got a four-year, $68 million contract in the offseason. While Watt’s eight sacks is tied for the most in the NFL through six weeks, Highsmith is also putting up solid numbers. Against the Ravens, Highsmith generated a career-high 11 pressures on 35 pass rushes, tied for the most pressures generated by any player in a game this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The pair also scored two of the Steelers’ seven total touchdowns this season. — Brooke Pryor
16. New York Jets (3-3)
Week 6 ranking: 24
Lesson learned: They can function without Aaron Rodgers.
It looked bleak at 1-2, as the Jets played two terrible games in the aftermath of Rodgers’ Achilles injury. There was frustration in the locker room and mounting pressure on QB Zach Wilson. The team was teetering on the brink, but Wilson played well in a loss to the Chiefs and the team has responded with a two-game winning streak. It hasn’t been easy. The Jets have trailed at halftime in all six games, and they’re 3-3, joining the 2022 Colts (3-2-1) as the only teams in NFL history to be .500 or better after trailing at the half in each of their first six games. — Rich Cimini
Is Aaron Rodgers’ presence inspiring the Jets?
Dan Orlovsky, Rex Ryan and Tedy Bruschi examine the impact Aaron Rodgers has on the Jets despite being injured.
17. Houston Texans (3-3)
Week 6 ranking: 22
Lesson learned: The defense has certainly improved.
After six weeks, the Texans are tied for 10th in points allowed per game (18.8) after finishing 27th in 2022, allowing 24.7 points per game. Their pressure rate ranks second (41%) while they’re tied for 12th in red zone defense (50%). They’ve improved their run defense, allowing 651 yards through six games this season (ranked 17th in the NFL). Last year, they allowed the sixth-most rushing yards in NFL history (2,894). — DJ Bien-Aime
18. Los Angeles Rams (3-3)
Week 6 ranking: 20
Lesson learned: Cooper Kupp is still the same star receiver despite injuries.
Kupp has been back for two games after missing the final eight of the 2022 season with an ankle injury and the first four of the 2023 season with a hamstring injury. In those two games, he has a combined 15 catches for 266 yards and one touchdown and has left no doubt he is still one of the best receivers in the NFL. Kupp has now had 18 games in the past three seasons with at least 100 receiving yards, trailing only the Minnesota Vikings‘ Justin Jefferson in that span. — Sarah Barshop
19. New Orleans Saints (3-3)
Week 6 ranking: 14
Lesson learned: The Saints didn’t fix the offense in the offseason.
All of the things the Saints did in the offseason (signing Derek Carr, keeping Michael Thomas) have not solved any of the issues from last season. The Saints are averaging only 18.2 points per game, which ranks 24th in the league and is worse than last season’s average of 19.4, and there doesn’t seem to be a solution on the horizon. That means offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael will continue to be scrutinized until the team improves. — Katherine Terrell
20. Green Bay Packers (2-3)
Week 6 ranking: 19
Lesson learned: Jordan Love needs more time.
Love threw seven touchdowns and just one interception in his first three games, and with a 2-1 record, it looked like the transition period from Aaron Rodgers would be minimal. Then reality hit in Games 4 and 5 — the reality that Love is still inexperienced and is surrounded by even less experience — as he threw five interceptions to one touchdown combined in those two games. His most veteran playmaker, running back Aaron Jones, has missed more snaps than he has taken so far, and Love doesn’t have anyone else he can consistently rely on yet. — Rob Demovsky
21. Washington Commanders (3-3)
Week 6 ranking: 21
Lesson learned: The secondary is holding them back.
Washington ranks ahead of only five teams in yards per pass attempt allowed (7.6), and the Commanders have allowed the most pass plays of 25 yards or more (16). This from a group that limited such gains in the second half of last season (11 in final 8 games) and added first-round corner Emmanuel Forbes and second-round safety/slot corner Jartavis Martin. However, Forbes, the Commanders’ third corner, was benched after five games, and Martin has played just six snaps from scrimmage. The group excelled in the zone match coverage last season but has struggled with it in 2023. Washington’s run defense has been good at times — it shut down Philadelphia’s D’Andre Swift and Atlanta’s Bijan Robinson. But the inconsistencies in the pass defense remain the biggest issue. — John Keim
22. Indianapolis Colts (3-3)
Week 6 ranking: 17
Lesson learned: QB Anthony Richardson has a future.
From a distance, it’s perhaps difficult to assess Richardson’s performance given his rash of injuries (he’s currently on injured reserve and it’s unclear when he’ll play again). But this year’s No. 4 overall pick has acquitted himself well when he has played, rallying from a 23-0 deficit to force overtime against the Rams and averaging 5.4 yards per carry when he runs the ball. His right shoulder injury could be a legitimate setback in his development, particularly if he misses the remainder of the season. But the Colts can move forward with some confidence that they have finally found their future at quarterback after many years. — Stephen Holder
23. Atlanta Falcons (3-3)
Week 6 ranking: 16
Lesson learned: The quarterback answer is still unknown.
Before the season began, anyone who told you they knew whether or not Desmond Ridder would be a good NFL starter would have been lying to you. Six weeks in, there’s not an obvious answer. He has thrown five interceptions over the past three games, and three of the picks looked to be his clear mistake. But he also has thrown for over 300 yards in each of the past two games. There’s more data to look at, and Ridder is still young and growing into the role, but the Falcons can’t say with any certainty they have their quarterback of the future as Ridder is wildly inconsistent in the present. Which might end up being the answer in the long run. — Michael Rothstein
Field Yates: You just wish you could get a bit more from Bijan Robinson
Field Yates explains the notion of wanting a little bit more from Falcons running back Bijan Robinson in fantasy.
24. Las Vegas Raiders (3-3)
Week 6 ranking: 26
Lesson learned: All three quarterbacks need to be ready on a weekly basis.
Jimmy Garoppolo‘s injury history predicted this and, after Garoppolo missed Week 4 with a concussion and left Sunday’s game against the Patriots with a back injury, both rookie Aidan O’Connell and 15th-year vet Brian Hoyer have already appeared in games. And with Garoppolo’s availability for Sunday’s Week 7 game at Chicago in question, Hoyer would already be the third QB to start for Las Vegas this season should he get the call. — Paul Gutierrez
25. Minnesota Vikings (2-4)
Week 6 ranking: 25
Lesson learned: The pendulum swings on one-score games.
During the 2022 regular season, the Vikings were famously 11-0 in one-score games. This season, they are 2-4. And yet there’s reason to believe the quality of the two teams has been roughly the same, at least before receiver Justin Jefferson‘s hamstring injury last week. ESPN’s FPI ranks the 2023 Vikings at No. 15 in the NFL. Their 2022 FPI ranking was No. 16. In truth, the 2022-23 Vikings have been an extreme example of the difference a handful of plays can make on a game and a season. They ranked No. 5 last year in the NFL’s “luck metric,” a measure of win probability added by plays such as dropped interceptions and fumble recoveries. Through six weeks of 2023, the Vikings rank No. 32. — Kevin Seifert
26. Tennessee Titans (2-4)
Week 6 ranking: 21
Lesson learned: Derrick Henry is still the catalyst on offense.
Personnel may have changed for the Titans, but one thing that remains constant is how the offense revolves around Henry. It’s no coincidence that both of Tennessee’s wins came in games in which Henry had 20 or more carries. Even though it was in a losing effort, Henry’s 63-yard run against the Ravens brought energy into what had up to that point been a lifeless offense. The impact goes beyond when Henry has the football. The Titans’ play-action passing game is effective because teams devote many resources to stopping Henry. His presence on the field forces defenders to be moved out of position, opening up passing lanes. — Turron Davenport
27. Arizona Cardinals (1-5)
Week 6 ranking: 27
Lesson learned: Playing hard doesn’t translate to wins.
The Cardinals have defied preseason projections with how well and how hard they’ve played this season. They beat the Cowboys in Week 3, stuck around with the 49ers until the fourth quarter in Week 4. They were regularly considered the worst team with the worst roster in football leading into the season, but showed quickly that this year’s edition of the Cardinals is better than expected. However, that hasn’t translated into more than one win. — Josh Weinfuss
28. New York Giants (1-5)
Week 6 ranking: 28
Lesson learned: The offensive line is holding them back.
There is no way around it. It doesn’t even matter who is at quarterback. The Giants are going to struggle scoring points and sustaining offense behind this makeshift offensive line. No wonder they’ve now gone 205 minutes (three-plus games) without an offensive touchdown. Giants quarterbacks are under too much duress for success — getting sacked on 12.7% of dropbacks, the second-highest rate in the league. — Jordan Raanan
29. Chicago Bears (1-5)
Week 6 ranking: 29
Lesson learned: The 2024 QB picture is becoming clear.
Justin Fields looked better in Weeks 4 and 5, having completed 43 of 64 passes for eight touchdowns and an interception against the Broncos and Commanders. Fields struggled against Minnesota’s ferocious blitz before exiting the game with a dislocated thumb. Unfortunately, those two previous performances for Fields look like a byproduct of playing two bad defenses when the circumstances around him on offense were close to perfect. Depending on how long Fields might be sidelined, the 25-year-old quarterback might not have enough time to prove he’s Chicago’s long-term answer given the team’s 6-25 record over three seasons with him as a starter. As it stands, the Bears currently own the No. 1 pick in 2024 thanks to Carolina’s winless start. General manager Ryan Poles might have no choice but to take one of the top quarterbacks of the 2024 class based on how this season is playing out. — Courtney Cronin
30. New England Patriots (1-5)
Week 6 ranking: 30
Lesson learned: The offense is holding them back.
The Patriots are the only team in the NFL not to score more than 20 points in a game this season. A combination of shaky offensive line play (31st in pass-block win rate, 44.1%), receivers not coming through when the opportunity presents itself (e.g. DeVante Parker‘s drop on a beautiful deep ball late in Sunday’s loss) and Mac Jones‘ turnover struggles (three returned for touchdowns in blowout losses in Weeks 4 and 5) has put the defense in a tough spot — especially early in games. — Mike Reiss
Orlovsky stunned by Stephen A.’s pick for best NFC team
Stephen A. Smith shocks Dan Orlovsky with his pick for best team in the NFC.
31. Denver Broncos (1-5)
Week 6 ranking: 31
Lesson learned: This might be a far bigger rebuild than Sean Payton thought.
Payton was very public about his belief the Broncos could compete for a playoff spot this season. But this is a team that has missed the postseason seven years in a row, looks thin across the depth chart, is often disjointed on offense, has surrendered 70 points in a game this season and doesn’t look to have many winnable games left on the schedule if they play at their current level. Payton has already jettisoned outside linebackers Randy Gregory and Frank Clark and with the trade deadline approaching he has a locker room full of players wondering who’s next. — Jeff Legwold
32. Carolina Panthers (0-6)
Week 6 ranking: 32
Lesson learned: Rookie quarterbacks do struggle.
History supports this as only once since 1967 has a quarterback taken No. 1 overall had a winning record. So Bryce Young, as mature and advanced as he was advertised, being 0-5 for the 0-6 Panthers is not a huge surprise. Young needs more targets, particularly with speed, and upgrades to the offensive line to become successful — as has been evident with an offense ranked 23rd in scoring averaging 18.7 points per game. — David Newton