The second segment of the NFL power rankings focuses on the teams that are playing at an extraordinary level, regardless of record. Early-season favorites such as Carolina, Arizona and Pittsburgh are absent from the list for their inconsistent starts. Their falls from grace likely bungled NFL Betting odds from the start of the season. If your favorite team didn’t make it, don’t get mad at me, get mad at your team for stinking it up.
And with that, here are seven of the best teams playing in the NFL today.
1. New England Patriots (7-1)
To no surprise, the Pats are at the top of the NFL power rankings. Prior to Tom Brady coming back from suspension, New England demonstrated the ability to win in many ways with two different quarterbacks: Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. With Brady back in the saddle, the Patriots have been unstoppable. In four games with the Uggs boots aficionado, the offense is averaging 34.0 points per game compared to the 20.2 in his absence.
Outside of having tough games against Denver and Seattle, they could run the table and become the No.1 seed in the AFC in the playoffs.
2. Dallas Cowboys (6-1)
The Tony Romo-less Cowboys are off to a sizzling start thanks to their rookie duo of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Amazingly, Prescott is playing beyond his years. He’s getting better by the game, and as he gains more confidence, it’ll bode well for Dallas. In an overtime thriller against the Philadelphia Eagles, he found Jason Witten alone in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Elliott continually proves he was worthy of the lofty draft expectations placed on him, leading the NFL is rushing with 799 yards.
An underrated element of the Cowboys’ success has been the defense. On paper, the Dallas defenders don’t seem like much, but they are holding teams to 18.6 points per game, which is seventh best in the NFL. While it still seems premature to praise Dallas, the Cowboys have the recipe for success to win their sixth Super Bowl.
3. Denver Broncos (5-2)
The Denver defense is dominant, and it remains the main reason the Broncos are among the best teams in the NFL. DeMarcus Ware is back from injury, and he will add his elite pass-rushing abilities to an already forceful defense.
The Achilles heel of the team is the offense and the quarterback position. Trevor Siemian has played pretty well at times, but he is wildly inconsistent. If the Broncos’ offense can keep up or get near its average of 24 points per game, this is a nearly unbeatable team seeing as opponents have trouble scoring against Denver. The Broncos give up a stingy 17.0 points per game.
Things will get interesting for the Broncos because they are in arguably the toughest division in football. With upcoming games against Oakland (twice), Kansas City (twice) and the Patriots, the Broncos could slip some, but never count out a team with an elite defense.
4. Oakland Raiders (5-2)
Don’t look now, but the Raiders are good again. The much-maligned franchise is back to its winning ways, and Al Davis is smiling in football heaven draped in his all-white Raiders sweatsuit. Oakland is on pace to make the playoffs for the first time since Carson Daly was the host of “TRL” on MTV. It’s hard to believe that it has been 13 years since Oakland made the playoffs, but by the looks of it, the playoffs may become the norm for the Silver and Black.
Oakland has the luxury of having three up-and-coming superstars in Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper and Derek Carr. The youth movement is worth rejoicing, but veterans such as Michael Crabtree, Reggie Nelson, Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith are playing at high levels as well.
Oakland has a perfect blend of youth and experience, and having players on the team with Super Bowl and playoff experience will benefit the Raiders as the season progresses.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)
Looking at the Chiefs roster, one could wonder how in the hell they are 5-2. I have an answer for that: His name is Alex Smith. I have a bizarre dose of affection for Smith. He’s the Rodney Dangerfield of quarterbacks, meaning that he never gets the credit that he deserves.
His numbers don’t compare to elite NFL quarterbacks. He’s far from flashy. His endless seven-yard passes to the tight end will make you grow gray hair, and he was once allergic to wide receivers after not throwing a single touchdown to a WR in 2014. But he wins football games.
The tandem of Smith and coach Andy Reid is an eccentric match made in heaven. Reid is a quarterback whisperer who gets the most out of his signal-callers, and Smith has the skills to run Reid’s low-risk, low-reward brand of West Coast offense. This past Sunday, he left the game with a head injury against the Indianapolis Colts, so it’ll be interesting to see how he bounces back. As long as Smith remains healthy, the Chiefs will be one of the best teams in the AFC.
6. Minnesota Vikings (5-1)
I wouldn’t trust Sam Bradford if my life depended on it, but I do trust Mike Zimmer and the Vikings’ defense. It’s hard to believe that the Vikings sit at 5-1 without Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson. Thanks to Google, I figured out who in the hell was the starting running back for the Vikings. His name is Jerick McKinnon. Prior to injuring his ankle last week, he’s played pretty well. (Editor’s note: McKinnon was ruled out for the Monday night divisional matchup with the Chicago Bears.)
Like McKinnon, Bradford has done pretty well in replacing a Pro Bowler, but if history tells me anything, I am waiting for his Cinderella-like start to come to an end. As of now, the Vikings are atop of the NFC North, but how long will that last?
Since Week 1, the Vikes have been overlooked, and all they continue to do is to win. When will the masses learn their lesson and start to believe in the Vikings?
7. Atlanta Falcons (5-3)
All is well in Atlanta. Rapper 2 Chainz is tearing up the charts, Young Jeezy came out with an album, Dwight Howard is back home, Gucci Mane is home and the Falcons are winning.
As a man of principle, I want to apologize to Matt Ryan. Last year, I stated that Ryan was no longer a franchise quarterback, but he is having an MVP year this season. I hope if Ryan finds this, and we can sit down at Follies strip club and chat over chicken and beer. OK, that’ll never happen, but I do recognize that behind Ryan the Falcons are balling.
It’s predictable to point at the insane production from Julio Jones and Ryan, but the running game led by Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman is providing the perfect complement to the aerial attack. Atlanta is known to be pass-happy, but this year, the Falcons are committing to the run game. The threat to stop both the run and the pass benefits the offense in a multitude of ways. If the Falcons can somehow improve their defense, they will be a tough out in the playoffs.
Best of the rest: Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Houston Texans
Columbus, Ohio born. Ron is a first-ballot healthy hairline hall of famer. He spent the summer of ‘08 eating calamari pasta because of OJ Da Juiceman. He also loves to write about sports while listening to Sada Baby. Follow him on Twitter @Ron_Hamp