1. Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) | Last week: 1
Watching the Chiefs right now is like watching a great college football team. They’re basically doing whatever they want on offense and using creative play-calling with excellent play from the entire unit to put up big numbers each week. The running back and quarterback are both putting up college-like numbers, and Kansas City is on pace for the ninth-highest scoring total in NFL history through five games.
2. Atlanta Falcons (3-1) | Last week: 2
Atlanta had a bye last week, and it sounds like all-world receiver Julio Jones will be ready to go after leaving Week 4 with a hip flexor injury. The touchdowns should come for Jones, and it might happen this week against the Dolphins. The Falcons just need to focus on the game this Sunday—not focus on their matchup with New England in Week 7—and they should be able to improve to 4-1 coming off their bye.
3. Green Bay Packers (4-1) | Last week: 3
Though it was a shootout where they had no choice but to score a lot of points, the Packers offense looked great in their win over Dallas. Davante Adams, with his near-40-inch vertical, continues to build on his huge 2016 season and has become a lethal weapon for Aaron Rodgers on throws to the end zone. Defense is obviously a concern after the it looked like Swiss cheese against the Cowboys, and they’ll have to be better late in the season.
4. New England Patriots (3-2) | Last week: 4
Their win over the Buccaneers might not have been pretty, but the Patriots got the victory to avoid falling to 2-3. When I hear pundits have New England out of their top-five in the power rankings, it’s a bit comical—and it makes me think they are doing it for attention. Tom Brady is getting hit too much, obviously, but the defense took positive steps in last week’s win even without cornerback Eric Rowe (groin) in the lineup. The Patriots will be fine.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) | Last week: 8 (+3)
As of right now, the Eagles are up there with the elite in the NFC. But remember: They started last season 3-1 but cooled off considerably and finished 7-9. Nelson Agholor, who had an electric 72-yard touchdown in Sunday’s win over Arizona and leads Eagles wide receivers in yardage and touchdowns, is playing with great confidence. He deserves a lot of credit for blocking out the spitefulness from Eagles fans over the first two years of his career to come back and be a huge difference-maker so far this year. This Thursday will be a great test against the Panthers.
6. Carolina Panthers (4-1) | Last week: 12 (+6)
After what was frankly a terrible start to the season for Cam Newton, he’s clearly found his groove and has thrown six touchdowns compared to one interception over the last two games, while also completing over 75% of his passes in both games—that’s a huge recipe for success, obviously. The defense continues to play very well, despite Matthew Stafford nearly leading a big comeback against them on Sunday.
7. Denver Broncos (3-1) | Last week: 7
No games are easy in the NFL, but the Broncos return from their bye to face the Giants on Sunday night in what could be an ugly game for New York. It’s probably going to be difficult for the Giants to even move the ball on Denver’s elite defense.
8. Detroit Lions (3-2) | Last week: 6 (-2)
With 14 fourth-quarter points, the Lions nearly made another comeback against a tough Panthers defense, but they came up short. Their two losses to two of the best teams in the NFC (the Falcons and the Panthers) by a combined seven points. Detroit’s next three games are against New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Green Bay—so we’ll find out where they really stand soon, as their most-impressive win was against a Vikings team without Sam Bradford.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) | Last week: 5 (-4)
Ben Roethlisberger is a great quarterback and can turn it on at anytime, but you’d be fooling yourself if you aren’t at least slightly concerned about his talk of not having it anymore. Big Ben can be a bit dramatic at times, though, and he’ll probably be feeling fine if the offense gets going. This won’t be an easy one on Sunday against the Chiefs, though.
10. Houston Texans (2-3) | Last week: 9 (-1)
Houston lost to the Chiefs and they lost two of their best players—J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus—for the season in the process. They’re both huge losses, especially the three-time Defensive Player of the Year Watt. But the defense led the league in yards allowed last season, and rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is reason enough to still be optimistic about this team. Watson has ten touchdowns over his last two games and it should be safe to say the Bill O’Brien and Texans have found their franchise quarterback.
11. Minnesota Vikings (3-2) | Last week: 11
Everyone should feel just terrible for Sam Bradford, who—by no fault of his own—just hasn’t been able to stay healthy for much of his career and now this season. The bone bruise in his knee forced him out of the Monday night game against the Bears, but Case Keenum came in relief and played very well. Behind Keenum’s play off the bench and their stellar defense, the Vikings picked up a hard-fought win in Chicago. Minnesota would be higher if Bradford, who has elite ability, was healthier than he is.
12. Baltimore Ravens (3-2) | Last week: 15 (+3)
The Ravens scored seven and eight points in two straight losses in Weeks 3 and 4, but they bounced back in a big way against the Raiders. The deep ball started working for Joe Flacco and the offense, as Flacco and Mike Wallace connected three times for 133 yards in the win. If they can get that passing attack with Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, Breshad Perriman, and company to open up in tandem with the much-improved running game (sixth in the NFL) and tight defense, the Ravens could be strong AFC contenders.
13. Tennessee Titans (2-3) | Last week: 13
With Marcus Mariota out with a hamstring injury, the Titans struggled to get anything going offensively against the Dolphins. But, while Miami has been one of the worst offenses in the NFL so far, the Titans did do a good job defensively after they gave up 57 points to the Texans in Week 4. Tennessee remains at #13, as the hope is Mariota is good to go on Monday night against the Colts.
14. Seattle Seahawks (3-2) | Last week: 20 (+6)
It was a close one in which the offense didn’t do much against the Rams, but the Seahawks came out on top in a defensive battle. The Rams entered the game as the highest scoring offense in the league, so Seattle giving up only ten points was impressive. Now they enter their bye and will look to carry the momentum when they emerge from it in Week 7.
15. Washington Redskins (2-2) | Last week: 16 (+1)
Washington had one of the early Week 5 bye weeks, so they remained at .500 and are now in second place in the NFC East after Dallas’ loss. Kirk Cousins and the Redskins will now face Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers in what should be an interesting game, with so much discussion around Cousins going to the Niners after the season. How the defense performs without cornerback Josh Norman will be something to watch.
16. Los Angeles Rams (3-2) | Last week: 10 (-6)
The soaring offense of the Rams was grounded against the Seahawks in a close game where they had a few opportunities to tie or win it at the end. A huge momentum swing in the game came early, as Todd Gurley’s run that was initially ruled a touchdown ended up being a fumble out of the end zone for a touchback, taking six (probably seven after the extra point) off the board in a 16-10 loss. They have another test against a tough defense when they face the Jags this Sunday.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) | Last week: 24 (+7)
The Jaguars by far lead the NFL in rushing attempts, with 175, and rushing yards, with 165.2 per game. Fourth-overall pick Leonard Fournette is close to Ezekiel Elliott’s rookie pace, but he isn’t getting the hype Elliott did because he plays for the Jaguars. But there’s obviously no doubt the guy can tote the rock and isn’t afraid to deliver punishment to defenders—something that energizes the entire team, including their defense that’s looking like it might be the best in the NFL. Despite losing by 21 to the Titans in Week 2, the Jaguars lead the league in point differential.
18. New Orleans Saints (2-2) | Last week: 18
Coming out of their Week 5 bye, the Saints traded free-agent acquisition Adrian Peterson to the Cardinals, but obviously things just didn’t work out between the two sides. Rookie Alvin Kamara is a big part of that, as the Saints likely wouldn’t have had much of an issue splitting work between Peterson and Mark Ingram, but Kamara threw a wrench into things. The trade should work out for both sides.
19. Dallas Cowboys (2-3) | Last week: 17 (-2)
Perhaps this is too low for the Cowboys, but the defense is giving up the most points in the NFC and it certainly looks like Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have their number. I commend Jerry Jones for wanting his players to stand up for the National Anthem, and it’s how I would run an NFL team too. He’s the owner of the team and can run it the way he chooses. Just as players are free to kneel for the National Anthem, Jones is free to bench them for doing so. It’s simple as that.
20. Buffalo Bills (3-2) | Last week: 14 (-6)
A defensive battle between the Bills and Bengals was easy to predict, and Buffalo came up just short on the road. Again, the running game isn’t where it needs to be to complement the strong defense, but they might be able to use the bye week to sort things out. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make a move for a running back before the November 1st trade deadline.
21. Miami Dolphins (2-2) | Last week: 22 (+1)
As Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said, there’s no column for “style points.” A win is a win, and they’ll take one any way they can. The offense that has yet to top 20 points this season might need to turn it on big-time this Sunday against the Falcons coming off a bye, but maybe the change in offensive line coach (Chris Foerster resigned, and you’ve probably seen the video of him doing cocaine) should improve the play at that position—it probably can’t get much worse.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) | Last week: 19 (-3)
Now in his third-season in the NFL, accuracy and decision-making is a real concern for Jameis Winston. He left throws out on the field against New England, including overthrowing DeSean Jackson by not throwing the ball out there to let him run under the it with his amazing speed. Winston has the upside, but he needs to get more consistent to carry the Bucs. If the defense gets Lavonte Davis and Kwon Alexander back this week, it’d be a huge boost for them against Arizona.
23. Oakland Raiders (2-3) | Last week: 23
They did not have Derek Carr (back) in their loss to Baltimore, but that now makes it three straight losses after starting the season 2-0. Amari Cooper continues to struggle mightily, the running game is not what many might have expected, and the defense has not been great this season. There’s just not a good vibe for me with the Raiders right now. But Derek Carr is pushing to play and is expected to in a big one against the Chargers this week, and he would be the guy to give them a jolt and get them back on track.
24. Arizona Cardinals (2-3) | Last week: 21 (-3)
There really isn’t anything good to say about the Cardinals’ performance in their blowout loss to the Eagles. The offensive line was awful, there was no running game, and the defense was torched by Carson Wentz. The big trade to acquire Adrian Peterson from the Saints will hopefully bring more balance to the offense and take pressure off everyone else. AD has played behind subpar offensive lines in the past, so he might be able to make a big impact—he’s not someone you bet against.
25. Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) | Last week: 27 (+2)
It was actually a very good game between 0-4 teams on Sunday, but the Chargers came out on top over the Giants to get Anthony Lynn his first win as the team’s head coach. Melvin Gordon (two receiving touchdowns) getting heavily involved in the offense again is a recipe for success, and LA will attempt to make it two straight as they face the Raiders. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram (7.5 sacks this season) need to get after Derek Carr and make things difficult for Oakland.
26. Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) | Last week: 28 (+2)
The offensive coordinator change continues to work well for Cincinnati. Since the switch to Bill Lazor, they are averaging 25 points per game and are 2-1—with their loss coming in overtime at Lambeau against the Packers. Now the Bengals have a bye week to get ready for what is sure to be an intense game against the Steelers in Week 7.
27. Indianapolis Colts (2-3) | Last week: 26 (-1)
Andrew Luck (shoulder) remains out indefinitely, but the Colts remain a game behind in the AFC South after their win over the Niners. Without Luck, T.Y. Hilton has had a couple of games over 150 receiving yards, taking advantage of soft pass defenses, and he might have another huge game against a vulnerable Titans defense on Monday Night Football. The Colts also have a vulnerable defense, though, and it might be tough to stop Marcus Mariota if he plays after missing Week 5 with a hamstring injury.
28. New York Jets (3-2) | Last week: 29 (+1)
Many might not have expected three wins all season for the Jets, but they’ve won three straight and are keeping pace in the AFC East. The best offense they faced (the Raiders in Week 2) put up 45 points on them, but we’ll see if they can keep it up on Sunday against the Patriots—the highest scoring team in the AFC.
29. Chicago Bears (1-4) | Last week: 25 (-4)
The stats weren’t eye-popping for Mitchell Trubisky in his first career start in the NFL, but the rookie quarterback’s play did pop out. His athleticism and arm talent is evident, and there’s a lot to work with there. He only started one season at North Carolina, remember, so he could use all the experience he can get. A win agasint the Vikings would’ve been huge, but don’t sleep on the Bears for the rest of the season.
30. New York Giants (0-5) | Last week: 30
I like to keep things positive and don’t like when people criticize teams and players like most of the media does. But there honestly isn’t much good to say about the Giants this season. They were dealt about as bad of luck possible when they lost Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall to the year, and things were already going very bad before that. And now cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was suspended for arguing with the coaches. There’s been talk of an Eli Manning trade to the Jaguars, but that’d obviously be a major shock.
31. Cleveland Browns (0-5) | Last week: 32 (+1)
The Browns lost, 17-14, to the Jets in Week 5, but they scored 14 points in the second half with Kevin Hogan. Rookie DeShone Kizer simply wasn’t ready, and I’m intrigued to see how Hogan (who went to Stanford and took over after Andrew Luck there) does. The upcoming schedule for Cleveland looks brutal, though, starting this Sunday against the Texans.
32. San Francisco 49ers (0-5) | Last week: 31 (-1)
Two of the best players for the 49ers—Carlos Hyde and NaVorro Bowman—were kept on the sideline for much of the game against the Colts on Sunday. Bowman still led the team in tackles, and it’s fair to wonder if the two of them out there more would’ve helped the team in what was a very close overtime loss. And a large number of players on the team continue to kneel for the National Anthem, which caused Vice President Pence to leave the game out of principle.