Thursday, July 18

NFL Power Rankings Week 6: Lions, Jaguars on the rise, plus rookie check-in

It’s already Week 6 in the NFL. Some things are clear. The San Francisco 49ers are very good. The Miami Dolphins are very fast (and probably very good). And some things are not clear. Two of the most highly respected coaches in the league in the last two decades find themselves near the bottom of this week’s Power Rankings. And the Kansas City Chiefs look out of sorts on offense despite winning.

In the “Becoming Clear” category is how each team’s additions are affecting outcomes this year. For that reason, we’re doing a rookie check-in this week, although we’ve taken the liberty of expanding the category to “notable new guy” when warranted.

(Last week: 1)

Sunday: Beat Dallas Cowboys 42-10

Should we do Sam Darnold here? San Francisco beat Dallas so badly Sunday night that Darnold got into the game, but no, this section is just going to be a 49ers appreciation post since the Niners don’t have any newcomers making a significant impact. Being the best team in the NFL in mid-October is not the goal, but Brock Purdy’s 123.1 passer rating would be the highest for any quarterback in a season since at least 2000, according to TruMedia, and there’s no indication San Francisco will slow down.

Up next: at Cleveland Browns, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 2)

Sunday: Beat Los Angeles Rams 23-14

After coming within four points of a Super Bowl, the Eagles added two of the most productive new guys in the offseason. Defensive lineman Jalen Carter, the No. 9 pick, is tied for seventh in the league with 23 QB pressures. D’Andre Swift, acquired in an offseason trade from Detroit, has 361 rushing yards in the last three weeks. Save the arguments about whether the Tush Push is a football play. Dominating the lines of scrimmage is the essence of football, and that’s what Philly is doing.

Up next: at New York Jets, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

(Last week: 4)

Sunday: Beat New York Giants 31-16

Miami might have missed on second-round cornerback Cam Smith, but the Dolphins made up for it with third-round pick De’Von Achane. After totaling 5 yards in the first two games of the season, the rookie running back leads the NFL with 455 rushing yards in the last three weeks. He’s averaging 12.3 yards per carry in that time and has two of the three fastest speeds in the NFL this year (21.93 mph and 21.76 mph), according to NextGen Stats.

Up next: vs. Carolina Panthers, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 7)

Sunday: Beat Carolina Panthers 42-24

Second-round tight end Sam LaPorta is one of the best rookies in the league and a big reason the Lions are fourth in the league in scoring (29.6). LaPorta leads all tight ends with 25 catches for 289 yards. Throw in the fact that running back Jahmyr Gibbs has shown flashes and second-round safety Brian Branch might be a star, and Detroit is in the running for the best draft of 2023, not to mention the third-best team in the NFC.

Up next: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

(Last week: 5)

Sunday: Beat Minnesota Vikings 27-20

It seems weird to say, but the Chiefs, who are a surprising ninth in the league in scoring (25.6 ppg), could use some help, and they aren’t getting much of it from this draft class. Second-round pick Rashee Rice is second on the team in catches with 17 but has only 173 yards. First-round pick Felix Anudike-Uzomah has four quarterback hurries and half a sack.

Up next: vs. Denver Broncos, Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET


Do the Patriots have a future with Bill Belichick, or without? Sando’s Pick Six

(Last week: 3)

Sunday: Lost to Jacksonville Jaguars 25-20

Tight end Dalton Kincaid, selected 25th, hasn’t exactly transformed the Buffalo offense. Kincaid has been on the field for more than 60 percent of the Bills’ snaps but has barely topped 100 receiving yards for the season (17 catches, 118 yards). Buffalo isn’t getting much out of the rest of its six-man draft class either. The Bills are getting a pass this week for losing in London to a team that spent the week there, but they need a bounce-back game quickly.

Up next: vs. New York Giants, Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET

(Last week: 6)

Sunday: Lost to San Francisco 49ers 42-10

Saying anything bad feels like piling on after Sunday night, after which Dallas has to turn in its contender card, but this year’s draft class doesn’t suggest there’s help on the way. First-round pick Mazi Smith has played only about 25 percent of the snaps and has four tackles on the defensive line. Second-round tight end Luke Schoonmaker has one catch for 1 yard.

Up next: vs. Los Angeles Chargers, Monday. 8:15 p.m. ET

Rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon has lived up to his draft position so far for the Seahawks. (Steph Chambers / Getty Images)

(Last week: 9)

Sunday: Bye

Cornerback Devon Witherspoon was a surprise at No. 5 in the draft. Guess we should have given Pete Carroll the benefit of the doubt about drafting defensive backs. Witherspoon was the NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 4, has one interception, two sacks and a nasty attitude the Seahawks love. Wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, 20th, is off to a slow start due in part — but only in part — to a wrist injury. He has 12 catches for 62 yards.

Up next: at Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 10)

Sunday: Bye

The 2023 draft class has been fine, and second-round offensive tackle Cody Mauch is starting, but the best addition by far has been quarterback Baker Mayfield. The former No. 1 pick looked destined to end his career as a backup. Now he’s top 10 in the league in passer rating (101.9) with seven touchdowns versus two interceptions, and the Bucs are infatuated. Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht called him “a dude” on Peter Schrager’s podcast last week. Crushes on Mayfield have flamed out fast in the past, but the Buccaneers lead the division at the moment.

Up next: vs. Detroit Lions, Sunday, 4:25 ET



What we learned in NFL Week 5: Lions legitimately good, Patriots worst team in football?

(Last week: 16)

Sunday: Beat Buffalo Bills 25-20

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley (22 catches, 333 yards) has helped after being acquired in a trade with the Falcons, but the draft class hasn’t provided much. Jacksonville drafted 13 players in the offseason. First-rounder Anton Harrison is starting at right tackle, but second-round tight end Brenton Strange (two catches, 7 yards) and third-round running back Tank Bigsby (41 yards on 15 carries) haven’t blossomed yet.

Up next: vs. Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 8)

Sunday: Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10

Wide receiver Zay Flowers, the No. 22 pick, is third among all rookies with 317 receiving yards, and he’s carrying a huge chunk of the Ravens’ passing game. He’s 11th in the league in team target percentage (28.6 percent), according to TruMedia. In the “new guy” category, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has a lot fewer catches (seven) than he had offseason headlines during his free agency.

Up next: at Tennessee Titans, Sunday in London, 9:30 a.m. ET

(Last week: 19)

Sunday: Beat New England Patriots 34-0

The Saints took two defensive players in the top 40, but defensive linemen Bryan Bresee and Isaiah Foskey have combined for only 15 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks. Neither has played more than half of New Orleans’ snaps. But how about the old guy? Wide receiver Michael Thomas, who hasn’t had more than 450 receiving yards in a season since 2019, is New Orleans’ leading receiver with 284 yards already.

Up next: at Houston Texans, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 11)

Sunday: Bye

If (when?) Brandon Staley gets fired, this draft class will be thrown into the list of reasons. Not high, but it’ll be there. First-round wide receiver Quentin Johnston, 4.49 speed at 6-foot-4, has six catches for 44 yards. Fourth-round receiver Derius Davis, 4.36 speed, has four catches for 24 yards. Second-round defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu is the only rookie contributing.

Up next: vs. Dallas Cowboys, Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET

(Last week: 12)

Sunday: Lost to Philadelphia Eagles 23-14

Wide receiver Puka Nacua is the King of All Rookies. After being taken with pick No. 177 out of BYU, Nacua is second in the league with 572 receiving yards. Davante Adams and A.J. Brown are the only players in the league who have a higher team target percentage than Nacua’s 32.5, according to TruMedia. He had more catches and yards in his first four games than any player in NFL history, and he had seven catches for 71 yards Sunday with Cooper Kupp back in the lineup.

Up next: vs. Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET



NFL Week 5 takeaways: Patriots, Mac Jones unravel again; Eagles stay perfect with imperfect win

(Last week: 13)

Sunday: Beat Tennessee Titans 23-16

Quarterback Anthony Richardson, the No. 4 pick, has been great. When he has been on the field. He’s averaging 6.9 yards per attempt and has three touchdowns versus one interception. He’s also second on the team in rushing (25 carries, 136 yards). The problem is he left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury and now hasn’t finished three of his four starts because of injury. Early reports say he could miss a month. Third-round wide receiver Josh Downs has quietly been good. He had six catches for 97 yards Sunday and has 23 for 255 this season.

Up next: at Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, 1 p.m.

(Last week: 15)

Sunday: Bye

The downside (or let’s say one of the downsides) of trading away almost everything for Deshaun Watson is the Browns didn’t pick until the third round this year. Still, they got some value. Fifth-round quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was competent in fill-in duty for the injured Watson in Week 4, and fourth-rounder Dawand Jones is starting at tackle.

Up next: vs. San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 22)

Sunday: Beat Houston Texans 21-19

Running back Bijan Robinson, the No. 8 pick, has made Atlanta’s offense better and more fun. Robinson is the second-leading rookie rusher (364 yards on 67 carries) and is tied for the team lead in receptions (21). He also leads the NFC in plays that make you want to rewind your television. He had another one Sunday when he caught a touchdown pass behind his back. Second-round pick Matthew Bergeron has been the Day 1 starter at left guard.

Up next: vs. Washington Commanders, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 14)

Sunday: Lost to Atlanta Falcons 21-19

Remember how much trouble Lovie Smith caused last year when he led Houston to a Week 18 victory and cost the team the No. 1 pick? Turns out he did the Texans a favor. If Houston had the first pick, it might have taken the wrong quarterback. Picking No. 2, it got the right one. C.J. Stroud set the NFL record for attempts to start a career without an interception (186) on Sunday, and he’s third in the league in passing yards (1,461) and has seven touchdown passes. Throw in linebacker Will Anderson and wide receiver Tank Dell (who suffered a concussion Sunday), and the Texans are on the rise despite Sunday’s loss.

Up next: vs. New Orleans Saints, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 26)

Sunday: Beat Arizona Cardinals 34-20

Second-round cornerback DJ Turner is the only member of the rookie class who is contributing much, but nobody in Cincinnati cares after the way Joe Burrow looked Sunday. The Bengals quarterback was 36-for-46 for 317 yards and three touchdowns, all of which went to Ja’Marr Chase, who had 15 catches. Combine this result with Pittsburgh knocking off Baltimore, and Cincinnati believes it has survived an early swoon.

Up next: vs. Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, 1 p.m.

(Last week: 23)

Sunday: Beat Baltimore Ravens 17-10

None of the Steelers’ seven draft picks has played more than half the snaps this season. The closest is mammoth tight end Darnell Washington, but he’s basically been a sixth offensive lineman. Washington has only one catch this season. Sunday’s win against Baltimore, which came on the strength of second-year George Pickens’ 130 receiving yards, might have saved the season.

Up next: Bye

Rookie receiver Jordan Addison has given the Vikings a solid second option behind Justin Jefferson. (David Berding / Getty Images)

(Last week: 17)

Sunday: Lost to Kansas City Chiefs 27-20

Wide receiver Jordan Addison has been what the Vikings drafted him to be, a solid second option behind Justin Jefferson. Addison has 19 catches for 249 yards. Third-round cornerback Mekhi Blackmon is starting to show some flashes. He’s had nine tackles in the last two games he’s played and was active against the Chiefs on Sunday.

Up next: at Chicago Bears, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 25)

Monday: Beat Green Bay Packers 17-13

The bad news for the Raiders, beyond being 2-3, is that No. 7 pick Tyree Wilson and No. 35 pick Michael Mayer have made little impact on the team. Wilson has only five tackles and no sacks, and Mayer has three catches for 41 yards. The good news is Las Vegas may have salvaged something from the draft with a pair of fourth-rounders in cornerback Jakorian Bennett and quarterback Aidan O’Connell. Bennett was playing more than 80 percent of the defensive snaps before being inactive Monday night with a hamstring injury. O’Connell was 24-for-39 for 238 yards in fill-in duty for Jimmy Garoppolo against the Chargers on Oct. 1.

Up next: vs. New England Patriots, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

(Last week: 18)

Monday: Lost to Las Vegas Raiders 17-13

First-round pick Lukas Van Ness has started slowly (eight tackles and one sack), but there’s plenty of depth in the Green Bay draft class. Second-rounders Luke Musgrave (tight end) and Jayden Reed (wide receiver) have combined for 31 catches and 369 yards, and fifth-round wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks has added seven catches for 95 yards.

Up next: Bye

(Last week: 20)

Sunday: Lost to Indianapolis Colts 23-16

The splashiest addition of the offseason, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (who was added through free agency) is 15th in the NFL with 356 yards on 26 catches. First-round pick Peter Skoronski won the starting left guard job in Week 1, but he missed three games after an emergency appendectomy before returning Sunday. Third-round running back Tyjae Spears has 156 yards on 27 carries, but second-round quarterback Will Levis has been a disappointment thus far, failing to push Ryan Tannehill for the starting job and slipping to third team at times.

Up next: vs. Baltimore Ravens, Sunday in London, 9:30 a.m. ET

(Last week: 24)

Sunday: Lost to Cincinnati Bengals 34-20

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs, acquired in a “who cares?” trade from the Browns on Aug. 24, has six touchdowns versus two interceptions and is 17th in the NFL in passer rating (90.8), which is better than Dak Prescott, Derek Carr, Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford among others. Throw in the fact that No. 6 pick Paris Johnson has played every snap at tackle and that Arizona has six picks in the first three rounds next year, and the Cardinals are in good shape for the future.

Up next: at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

(Last week: 28)

Sunday: Beat Denver Broncos 31-21

The new guy of the day in New York is first-year offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who was made a team captain before the game and given a game ball after the game Sunday because the Jets got some measure of revenge against Broncos head coach Sean Payton, who belittled Hackett in the offseason. The whole thing was proof that New York will come up with anything to find a reason to smile. A reason to frown? First-round pick Will McDonald (No. 15) has played fewer than 15 percent of the snaps on the defensive line.

Up next: vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET



The Jets beat the Broncos for Nathaniel Hackett. He can thank Breece Hall

(Last week: 32)

Thursday: Beat Washington Commanders 40-20

There’s DJ Moore. The wide receiver Chicago got as part of the package for the No. 1 pick that became Bryce Young for Carolina had eight catches for 230 yards Thursday against Washington. He had 300 in the first four games of the season. Not coincidentally, Justin Fields had four touchdown passes and a 125.3 passer rating. The two best single-game passer ratings of Fields’ career have come in the last two weeks. Rookie first-round offensive tackle Darnell Wright has played every snap and showed some promise.

Up next: vs. Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 21)

Thursday: Lost to Chicago Bears 40-20

With the season starting to go south, new Washington owner Josh Harris surely is starting to think about cleaning house in the Commanders football offices. Coach Ron Rivera entered the season on shaky ground, and the 2023 draft class isn’t doing general manager Martin Mayhew any favors. First-round cornerback Emmanuel Forbes was benched Thursday night after being torched by DJ Moore, and no one else in the class has made much impact.

Up next: at Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, 1 p.m.

(Last week: 29)

Sunday: Lost to Miami Dolphins 31-16

The Giants lost again, but if you’re looking for a bright spot, at least they are remembering that Darren Waller is on the team. The tight end signed a three-year, $51 million deal in the offseason but has been conspicuously absent from the passing game at times. Sunday, he had a season-high eight catches for 86 yards, and he’s now the only Giant with more than 200 scrimmage yards this season (23 catches, 239 yards).

Up next: at Buffalo Bills, Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET

(Last week: 27)

Sunday: Lost to New Orleans Saints 34-0

It’s not New England’s fault that Christian Gonzalez got hurt. The No. 17 pick at cornerback was the real deal before his shoulder injury. The rest of this mess is the Patriots’ fault. New England’s minus-76 point differential is the second worst in the league, and talk of Bill Belichick being pushed out the door suddenly doesn’t seem crazy.

Up next: at Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

(Last week: 31)

Sunday: Lost to New York Jets 31-21

The Broncos used their first pick of the 2023 draft on Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims (No. 63), so why aren’t they using him more? Mims, who had one catch for 4 yards on Sunday, is playing only about one-third of the offensive snaps, but he’s second in the NFL in yards per target (20.5), according to TruMedia. Maybe he should have more than 12 targets this season?

Up next: at Kansas City Chiefs, Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET

(Last week: 30)

Sunday: Lost to Detroit Lions 42-20

It’s not fair to be worried about Bryce Young’s long-term future, but here we are. Young is last among qualifying quarterbacks in yards per attempt (5.2) and has almost as many interceptions (four) as touchdowns (five). His passer rating (77) ranks 29th in the league, and the Panthers look headed for the worst record in the NFL. The problem is they sent next year’s first-round pick to Chicago as part of the trade that allowed them to draft Young.

Up next: at Miami Dolphins, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Top photo of Lions tight end Sam LaPorta: Rey Del Rio / Getty Images)

The Football 100, the definitive ranking of the NFL’s best 100 players of all time, goes on sale this fall. Pre-order it here.