Unbeaten Cardinals remain No. 1, Ravens crack top five
NFL power rankings entering Week 7 of 2021 season (previous rank in parentheses):
1. Cardinals (1): The league’s only unbeaten team is struggling on COVID-19 scoreboard. Though Arizona reported its roster was fully vaccinated last month, Cards have NFL-high 24 coronavirus cases within organization entering Week 7. The schedule is being far kinder than the pandemic, serving up Houston next, but the scalding Packers come to desert after that.
2. Rams (2): WR Cooper Kupp appears headed for a career year, leading the league in targets (68) – the only NFL player with at least 10 in every game – receptions (46) and TD grabs (7).
3. Buccaneers (3): They’re throwing the ball 68% of the time. Tom Brady may be the GOAT, but is that a sustainable formula for a 44-year-old quarterback?
4. Cowboys (4): The Dallas defense may only rank 24th overall, even after surrendering season-low 335 yards to New England, but it leads NFC with 14 takeaways – with at least two in 10 consecutive games for the first time since 1976-77. Coordinator Dan Quinn and Co. are getting it done.
5. Ravens (7): First-round WR Rashod Bateman made his NFL debut Sunday and caught four balls. A surging team that’s won five straight now getting healthy around potential MVP Lamar Jackson? Look out.
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6. Packers (9): They have won five in a row and could soon get All-Pro LT David Bakhtiari, who tore an ACL in December, back in the lineup to protect QB Aaron Rodgers. Stock up.
7. Titans (11): The latest bullet point for RB Derrick Henry’s MVP résumé? He personally hung 18 points Monday night on a Buffalo defense that entered the game allowing a league-low 12.8 per game and hadn’t let a back into the end zone.
8. Bills (5): Their four-game streak with at least 35 points came to an end in Nashville as did their status as prohibitive AFC favorites, Buffalo is now projected as the conference’s fourth playoff seed through six weeks.
9. Chargers (6): After converting all three fourth-down attempts in Week 5, Bolts were 1-for-4 in Sunday’s blowout loss at Baltimore. They’re also now the league’s worst team defending the run.
10. Chiefs (10): They’ve had a lot of great backs and tight ends here over the years. But Tyreek Hill is staking claim as best wideout in team history, his 63 TDs most in Kansas City history among receivers and one behind RB Jamaal Charles for third place overall.
11. Saints (13): Though somewhat skewed after bye week, who would have guessed a Sean Payton team would have attempted 29 fewer passes than any other club in the NFL?
12. Browns (8): It’s never ideal to have your entire offensive backfield torn up, but even less so when you’ve got to turn around and play Thursday night.
13. Bengals (15): Remember back in August, when we were so obsessed about all the passes rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase was dropping? Now that we’re playing real games, he’s averaging 20.5 yards per reception, and his 553 receiving yards are second-most ever by a rookie six games into his career.
14. Vikings (18): They’ve returned to relevance after winning three of four. They could graduate to legitimately dangerous once a running game that has the fewest TDs (2) in the league starts humming.
15. Panthers (12): After allowing 573 yards over the first three weeks, Carolina’s defense got torched for 571 by Minnesota on Sunday.
16. Bears (14): Rookie QB Justin Fields has now started four games … so what next to animate the league’s worst overall offense?
17. Raiders (23): WR Henry Ruggs III makes his receptions, all 20 of them, count – he tops NFL with 22.3 yards per grab.
18. Steelers (16): Noticed All-Pro FS Minkah Fitzpatrick has been invisible this season? He had 12 takeaways during his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, but nada in 2021.
19. Seahawks (19): Backup QB Geno Smith has been adequate during Russell Wilson’s absence but also hasn’t produced any wins. Enter Cam Newton? “So I talked to him a couple times,” coach Pete Carroll said Monday, “just trying to see what was going on his world and all that.” Serious goings-on indeed.
20. 49ers (20): Hopefully the bye helped clear head of underperforming WR Brandon Aiyuk, who has eight catches for 90 yards – on the season.
21. Broncos (17): They’ve been rudely reality-checked back to .500, they’re 3-0 start as dubious as it seemed. Our advice? More carries for the RB duo of Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, who are collectively averaging 4.7 yards per rush.
22. Colts (24): They’re showing signs of life despite brutal early schedule, and QB Carson Wentz is a major reason. He’s only been picked off once in 193 throws this season, his 0.5% INT rate pacing the league.
23. Patriots (26): Damien Harris could be New England’s first 1,000-yard rusher in five years … of course, these days, that only means you need to average 59 yards a week.
24. Eagles (21): Since a strong performance on opening day in Atlanta, QB Jalen Hurts has completed fewer than 60% of his passes and is averaging just north of 240 yards through the air. His ability to make plays with his legs is nice, but the arm better do more if he wants to keep this job into 2022.
25. Washington (22): Rough start for defending NFC East champs and now this – they’ve only got four more home games in the season’s final 12 weeks.
26. Falcons (25): WRs Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage appear ready to return to a 20th-ranked offense that can use the reinforcements.
27. Jets (29): Coming out of their bye week, they’ll catch a salty Patriots team in New England … a place the Jets haven’t won since their stunning upset in the 2010 playoffs. “Can’t wait,” right?
28. Jaguars (32): The Jags are 4-4 (.500) in the United Kingdom … and 174-240 (.420) in the United States. London calling, Mr. Khan?
29. Dolphins (27): Brian Flores got outcoached by Urban Meyer on Sunday, one of the bigger upsets of a young NFL season.
30. Giants (31): Among their numerous flaws, a league-worst 41.2% touchdown conversion rate in the red zone.
31. Texans (28): Congratulations to OLB Whitney Mercilus, the latest Houston player to escape NFL purgatory and a good guy who deserves a better football fate.
32. Lions (30): If they become totally disillusioned with QB Jared Goff – in case you were wondering – David Blough, Tim Boyle and Steven Montez are the in-house replacement options. So … yeah.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL power rankings Week 7 2021: Cardinals stay No. 1, Ravens in top 5