Well, the first quarter of the season has been crazy, as I don’t remember there being this much parity in the NFL. Teams have beaten up on each other, and it’s still very difficult to tell where teams stand right now (take the AFC South, for example, as the Jaguars destroyed the Texans, the Titans destroyed the Jaguars, and the Texans destroyed the Titans). I thought the power rankings would start to settle down by now, but the opposite has happened. These are the most difficult power rankings I’ve done.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) | Last week: 2
They’ve beaten the defending Super Bowl champions, they’ve scored the third-most points in the NFL, they’ve won close games, and they are the only unbeaten team remaining in the league, so the Chiefs are the unquestioned number one team in the power rankings right now. Alex Smith continues to shut people up, and the defense is so far getting through the loss of Eric Berry (Achilles) for the season.
2. Atlanta Falcons (3-1) | Last week: 1
Matt Ryan had another two interceptions, making it five in two weeks for last season’s league MVP. There’s no reason to panic, as two weeks ago against the Lions were kind of fluky interceptions, and Ryan lost both Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu during their loss to the Bills—who have a very stingy defense. The Falcons have a bye before facing the Dolphins in Week 6.
3. Green Bay Packers (3-1) | Last week: 5
After throwing an interception in each of the first three weeks, Aaron Rodgers had a great four-touchdown performance in a blowout win last Thursday night against the Bears. Ty Montgomery going down with broken ribs was a concern, but it sounds like he’ll only miss one game, if that. Now the Packers face the Cowboys, who they’ve won three out of four against in the last three seasons (including two playoff wins).
4. New England Patriots (2-2) | Last week: 3
Coming into the season, I thought the defense had a chance to be the best in the NFL. The Patriots have three excellent corners and two good safeties, but the defense is still giving up huge plays to opposing offenses through four games. Still, I’m not panicking. Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia, and company will get the defense turned around, and they have the best player in the NFL at quarterback. If they lose to the Bucs on Thursday night I’ll have no choice but to move them out of the top five, but they’re only one game behind anyone in the NFL ahead of them except the Chiefs. To me, having New England out of the top ten is a little ridiculous.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) | Last week: 7
Pittsburgh lost to the Bears in Week 3, but they bounced back in a big way with a dominant and convincing win over the division rival Ravens in Baltimore. The sideline blowup by Antonio Brown, who was wide open for a touchdown but Ben Roethlisberger was pressured, was surprising and something you don’t want to see, but hopefully they can put it behind them. The defense is second in the NFL with 15 sacks, and the play the team that leads the NFL in sacks when they face the Jags this Sunday.
6. Detroit Lions (3-1) | Last week: 8
A big win in Minnesota got the Lions to 3-1, and they are inches away from being undefeated. The offense is playing mistake-free and riding the defense—which is surprisingly giving up the fewest points per game in the NFC (tied with Carolina)—to close wins. Detroit should be in another close one this weekend, as they face the Panthers in a potential defensive battle.
7. Denver Broncos (3-1) | Last week: 10
The Broncos only beat the Raiders by six points on Sunday, but the game never really felt close. Despite the pass defense being great over the last few seasons, the run defense started to struggle some last season—but that’s changed in 2017. Through four games, the Broncos have limited Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy, and Marshawn Lynch to a combined 96 yards on 49 carries (1.9 yards per carry). Good luck trying to score on the Denver.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) | Last week: 12
Off to a great start for a second-straight season, the Eagles have won three close games and lost another close one to the only undefeated team in the NFL (the Chiefs in Arrowhead). The overdue commitment to the running game has taken pressure off second-year quarterback Carson Wentz, and they took nearly seven minutes off the clock as they didn’t give Philip Rivers the ball back in Sunday’s win over the Chargers.
9. Houston Texans (2-2) | Last week: 16
Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson has gotten better and better the more he’s played this season. The former national champion totaled five touchdowns in Houston’s blowout win over the Titans, and the defense played a very good game, too. It’s still early, but I said he was the best player in the draft and it certainly looks like he is so far. I’m still not sure why the Browns decided to pass on Watson a couple times in the draft.
10. Los Angeles Rams (3-1) | Last week: 21
As I wrote last week, the Rams would shoot up the rankings with a win over the Cowboys. My main concern—surprisingly, with Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator—was the defense, which was giving up a bunch of points. But after giving up 24 first-half points against Dallas, the Rams made halftime adjustments and only gave up six in the second half. With Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and the offense dominating on offense (and Goff quieting the people calling him a bust after several games), the Rams look for real.
11. Minnesota Vikings (2-2) | Last week: 4
This feels too low for the Vikings, as they are expected to have Sam Bradford back from his knee injury on Monday night against the Bears. The defense is clearly one of the best in the NFL, and the extremely underrated Bradford will give the offense a boost with his great decision-making and precision passing. If Bradford returns and isn’t rusty and the Vikings get a win, they’ll move up in the rankings.
12. Carolina Panthers (3-1) | Last week: 15
Before the season, it would’ve been surprising that a trip to Foxoborough against the Patriots would get Cam Newton on track. Newton recovered after again starting the game poorly, and he was able to drive the ball down the field to his big receivers down the field. The defense did enough against New England, despite giving up 14 points in the fourth quarter, to help the team improve to 3-1.
13. Tennessee Titans (2-2) | Last week: 6
They lost by 43 points to the Texans, so that, paired with Marcus Mariota injuring his hamstring, means Tennessee had to move down in the power rankings. Mariota was called day-to-day by head coach Mike Mularkey, so hopefully we see the young star quarterback out there on Sunday against the Dolphins. The defense needs to figure things out, though, as they are giving up 14 points per quarter over the last five quarters.
14. Buffalo Bills (3-1) | Last week: 22
The Bills have by far had the best defense in the NFL through four weeks. They faced their toughest test in Atlanta against the Falcons, and they passed by handing the defending NFC champs their first loss of the season. The run game hasn’t even gotten going yet, as the Bills are averaging only 3.4 yards per carry, so watch out. Sean McDermott, along with fellow first-year head coach Sean McVay, is the leading candidate for Coach of the Year so far.
15. Baltimore Ravens (2-2) | Last week: 9
After a 2-0 start that included two division wins (over the Bengals and Browns) and suffocating defense, the Ravens have really struggled. They allowed the Steelers to come into M&T Bank Stadium and dominate almost the entire game, and Pittsburgh hasn’t played very well away from home recently. It’s clear the Steelers are ahead of them right now, but the Ravens have the ability to turn it on.
16. Washington Redskins (2-2) | Last week: 13
Although the Redskins lost a close one to the Chiefs and dropped to 2-2, they have looked very good the last three weeks. The consistency from the receivers on offense remains a concern, but the defense has been solid under new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Washington might be higher in the rankings if not for a serious rib injury to top cornerback Josh Norman that’ll keep him out at least a couple weeks.
17. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) | Last week: 11
Through four games, the Cowboys don’t appear to have the same magic they had in 2016. They only have three rushing touchdowns on the year, and Ezekiel Elliott is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry. Though he had some athletic plays in Sunday’s loss, he doesn’t look quite as explosive to me this season, and even physically he doesn’t look as good. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what I’m seeing right now.
18. New Orleans Saints (2-2) | Last week: 23
The Saints fell into an 0-2 hole to start the season, but it was against two very tough teams: the Vikings and the Patriots. Since then, they’ve outscored the Panthers and Dolphins by combined 54-13, as the defense has made big improvements over the last two games. Now at .500 and just one game back in the NFC South, the Saints have a bye week before playing three of their next four games at home in the Superdome.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) | Last week: 20
The defense is getting carved up by opposing offenses, but the Bucs are now 2-1 after their close win over the Giants. Jameis Winston again showed he’s one of the best with the game on the line, as he drove the team down the field to set up a game-winning field goal by Nick Folk as time expired. Tampa Bay has a tough task on Thursday night, as they face the Patriots, who are coming off a loss.
20. Seattle Seahawks (2-2) | Last week: 17
Seattle ended up defending their home field with a huge second half against the Colts, but the Seahawks haven’t been that impressive to me so far. The offense isn’t running the ball with their running backs well, and it’s a good thing Russell Wilson is so good and can carry an offense. The game this Sunday against the Rams in Los Angeles will be interesting.
21. Arizona Cardinals (2-2) | Last week: 24
The Cardinals are 2-2, and it took two overtime wins against the Colts and 49ers to pickup the victories. But a win is a win, and they’re at least keeping pace with Seattle in the division. Now they face the Eagles this week, a team Larry Fitzgerald has gone off against throughout his career. It’ll be a tough test for the Cardinals in Philadelphia, but it should be one of the best games of the week.
22. Miami Dolphins (1-2) | Last week: 18
A trip to London obviously did not go as planned for anyone on the Dolphins, as the team was shutout by the Saints. The offense does not look good right now, but Adam Gase knows how to fix the issues they’re having. Remember: the Dolphins were 1-4 last season before going 9-2 down the stretch and making the playoffs. This Sunday, they’ll need to take advantage of a Titans team that’s struggled defensively the last two weeks.
23. Oakland Raiders (2-2) | Last week: 14
With Derek Carr out 2-6 weeks with a transverse fracture in his back, things are not looking good for the Raiders. It’d be one thing if the running game was looking good this season, but Marshawn Lynch seems borderline disinterested this season. Though he threw an interception toward the end of the game, I thought E.J. Manuel looked pretty good when he came in for Carr during their loss to the Broncos. The Ravens are a difficult first start of the season for Manuel though, as it starts a brutal schedule for the Raiders.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) | Last week: 19
The Jaguars had a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Jets, which included Jets RB Bilal Powell falling down not getting touched before getting up and running 75 yards for a touchdown. Jackonsville continues to commit to the run, and they have the most rushing attempts (138) in the league so far. It should help keep them in games, including this week against the Steelers.
25. Chicago Bears (1-3) | Last week: 25
The time is now for Mitchell Trubisky, as the Bears named the second-overall pick the starting quarterback. After this excellent preseason, Trubisky has a difficult game against the Minnesota Vikings and their defense, but the team will look to ride a strong running game led by Jordan Howard to take pressure off the rookie. Trubisky’s presence in the lineup will add more athleticism and ability to run bootlegs. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Chicago emerge with the young gunslinger under center.
26. Indianapolis Colts (1-3) | Last week: 26
Indianapolis got off to a nice start in Seattle on Sunday night, but the Seahawks pulled away in the second half. The good news is the Colts are only one game back in the division, Andrew Luck will practice this week, and they have more of a winnable game against the 49ers on Sunday. Indy has been lucky to not have any division games yet, while the other teams in the division have each gotten wins/losses against each other.
27. Los Angeles Chargers (0-4) | Last week: 27
The Chargers lose about every way imaginable. This week, it was a seven-minute draining of the clock by the Eagles at the end of the game which did not allow Philip Rivers to get the ball back down by two points. It’s difficult to blame a loss on the fans, but it’s flat-out embarrassing the way the stadium was taken over by fans of the opposing team. To me, LA fans simply aren’t a good fit for the NFL. I’m admittedly not sure money-wise if moving from San Diego was a mistake, but from the outside looking in it certainly looks like it was.
28. Cincinnati Bengals (1-3) | Last week: 29
Offensively, the Bengals continue to look a lot better after Bill Lazor switched things up as the new offensive coordinator. Andy Dalton completed 83.3% of his passes and threw four touchdowns in their first win of the season over the Browns, as the Bengals had the run shut down but torched them through the air. Cincinnati might be able to get on a roll here, starting with a big one in Week 5 against the Bills.
29. New York Jets (2-2) | Last week: 30
Throw Todd Bowles in the mix for early Coach of the Year leaders. The Jets, who many inaccurately said were “tanking,” are now .500 and tied for second in the AFC East through four games. With a game this Sunday against Cleveland, the Jets should have a solid chance of improving to 3-2. Many fans want them to get the first pick in the draft, but it should be great to see the team playing hard and winning games. Things should work out in the end with getting a good player in the draft.
30. New York Giants (0-4) | Last week: 28
Who would’ve thought the Giants would be the worst team in New York? Before the season, I thought there was major potential for things to go south if they started losing games and the receivers started to complain about not getting the ball enough. And I was also concerned about the offense and the offensive line, but the defense was supposed to be really good again. Obviously, things are going about as bad as possible, and I’m not sure the Giants can turn it around.
31. San Francisco 49ers (0-4) | Last week: 31
I think Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch might be able to turn things around, but I agree with Sam Ponder, whose husband Christian played for Chip Kelly last season.
This team is a lot more talented than last year’s, but it hasn’t led to any wins yet.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-4) | Last week: 32
Again, the Browns passed on Deshaun Watson twice. It’s impossible to know who made the call on the quarterback during the draft, but if things keep going in this direction someone will be fired after the season. I’m not going to hope for Hue Jackson to get fired, but it’s fair to wonder about it. And forgive me if I think about what a Chip Kelly-led Browns team with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley in the backfield would look like.