We’re through the quarter-mark of the 2018 NFL season and starting to get a better idea of where teams stand this year. The 2018 NFL Week 5 power rankings include an AFC South team making the jump into the top five, with the Falcons, Steelers, and Vikings dropping.
1. Los Angeles Rams (4-0) | Last week: 1
The defense gave up some big plays to Kirk Cousins and the Vikings last Thursday night, but the offense continues to play as well as ever with Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Sean McVay leading the charge. As they’ve displayed through four games there’s obviously no concern about defenses “figuring out” the Rams offense—in part, because a great offensive line gives Goff time to get the ball out to his weapons to all areas of the field. Goff had the most attempts (33) ever in a game with a perfect passer rating, and it remains funny and ridiculous that people called him a bust after seven games as a rookie; McVay is great, but Goff has been a huge part of this offensive turnaround as a poised and precise passer. It’s early, but the Rams have the look of a team that could push for an undefeated regular season.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) | Last week: 3 (+1)
There are no concerns about the Chiefs offensively, but the defense has them clearly a notch below the Rams through four games. Kansas City is giving up 28.8 points per game (eighth worst in the NFL) and the most yardage; part of it is because the offense makes it so other teams have to try and keep up with them, but the Chiefs have not tackled well this season. For that explosive offense, it was a great sign that Patrick Mahomes played well from behind and helped lead his team to a comeback victory. He is playing with the magician-like gunslinger mentality while keeping things reigned in to avoid mistakes, which makes the offense very difficult to stop no matter what defenses do.
3. New England Patriots (2-2) | Last week: 5 (+2)
The Patriots were going to turn it on at some point, and it’s not surprising that it came in a divisional matchup in Foxboro. Josh Gordon’s team debut went well, as he flashed the big-time No. 1 receiver ability that should give the entire offense a boost this season and potentially beyond. Also, Julian Edelman returns to the lineup after his four-game suspension for a positive PED test, so Tom Brady gets back his most-trusted target alongside Rob Gronkowski. Brady still hasn’t looked quite as sharp as usual this season, but he should have a lights-out, pinpoint stretch soon.
4. New Orleans Saints (3-1) | Last week: 4
The Saints also get a key piece of their offense coming back from suspension, as Mark Ingram II returns to the team after his own four-game ban. In New Orleans’ Week 4 win against the Giants, Alvin Kamara put up a career-high 134 rushing yards and three touchdowns to help the team get to 3-1. The explosive second-year back could probably be the league’s leading rusher if the Saints wanted to hand him the ball 15-20 times each week, but they prefer limiting his touches to some extent; Ingram’s return will help bring more balance to the offense. The defense is a concern at the quarter-mark, but they should get better as the season progresses.
5. Tennessee Titans (3-1) | Last week: 14 (+9)
Coming into the season, I thought the Titans might be knocking on the door of the AFC’s elite, and it looks like might do just that through four games. Remember, their Week 1 loss was in an extremely weird weather-delayed game against the Dolphins, and the game probably would’ve turned out different if not for a phantom holding call on a long Derrick Henry touchdown run. Since that game, the Titans have responded with wins against the Texans, Jaguars, and Eagles. Marcus Mariota might not be fully 100%, but he certainly looks like he’s playing without limitations. The former Heisman Trophy winner has established himself as one of the best clutch performers in football, and he showed his elite ability by navigating the pocket and delivering strikes down the field against the Eagles on Sunday.
6. Washington Redskins (2-1) | Last week: 6
The Redskins were on a bye, and with a Monday night matchup in the Superdome against the Saints coming up, they’ve had plenty of time to prepare for Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and company. We’ll have to keep an eye on Adrian Peterson, who is dealing with an ankle injury. “All Day” has 336 total yards and three touchdowns in three games, and he and Chris Thompson form a running back duo similar to the one in New Orleans with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.
7. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) | Last week: 10 (+3)
Aside from a 28-point first half allowed against the Bengals in a Thursday night game (games in which weird things tend to happen), the Ravens have been excellent defensively. Now, they add Jimmy Smith back to the cornerback group after a four-game suspension, giving the Ravens a very strong and deep room—I just don’t know how the playing time will be split with Brandon Carr playing so well to open the season. Joe Flacco continues to play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is doing a good job of keeping defenses off balance. John Brown has been one of the best offseason additions of any team, as he’s averaging 22.5 yards per reception with three touchdowns as a reliable and lethal deep threat for Flacco.
8. Green Bay Packers (2-1-1) | Last week: 8
Aaron Rodgers, though still limited, looks better by the week as he makes progress from his Week 1 knee injury. Green Bay recorded their first shutout since 2010 in their win against the Bills, as the defense showed the type of upside they have if the corners play well. Receivers Randall Cobb, who missed Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, and Geronimo Allison are banged up, so hopefully they’re OK for a matchup with the Lions this week—if not, young receivers like Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown will have to step up.
9. Carolina Panthers (2-1) | Last week: 9
The Panthers were the other team with the early Week 4 bye week, and they’ll now play 13 straight weeks of football with hopes of making the postseason for the fifth time in six seasons. Carolina faces the Giants this week to start a stretch of three straight matchups with NFC East foes, and Cam Newton has been great in his last two games against the Giants (in 2013 and 2015), with nine total touchdowns and 38-point showings by the Panthers in each game. It’ll be interesting to see if the Panthers give Christian McCaffrey 25+ carries like they did in the final game before the bye; I believe he can absolutely handle it all season.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) | Last week: 2 (-8)
They could have remained in the top five or six of the power rankings, but there are a lot of good teams in the league right now, so the Eagles drop to the No. 10 spot entering Week 4. Alshon Jeffery’s return was a major positive, as he had a great performance in his first game action since the Super Bowl. However, the offense has yet to score 25+ points in a game this season, which is a surprise after the run they went on last season. The issue is difficult to pinpoint, but teams are blitzing and getting to Carson Wentz, so that must be corrected. Philadelphia threw 50 passes compared to 20 rush attempts by running backs despite averaging 5.5 yards per carry, so perhaps they need more balance on offense, which might help slow down the pass rush.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) | Last week: 17 (+6)
Andy Dalton bounced back from his four-interception Week 3 with a big performance in Atlanta, including a game-winning 13-yard touchdown to A.J. Green with under ten seconds remaining. The defense giving up 36 points is a concern, but the Falcons are one of the NFL’s toughest offenses to defend; and linebacker Vontaze Burfict returns from his suspension and should deliver some attitude on defense if he’s immediately active. And second-year running back Joe Mixon (knee) should return to the lineup after missing the last two games, which would give Cincinnati a boost in the running game.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-1) | Last week: 15 (+3)
This weekend’s matchup against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs should be a lot of fun. It’s the No. 1 scoring offense against the No. 1 scoring defense, and the Jaguars are an emotional team that should be locked in for the game. Jacksonville will climb back up the power rankings with a win, but a loss could potentially send the team reeling a bit. Leonard Fournette is likely to miss at least another couple of games with his hamstring issue, so we haven’t had the opportunity to see what the Jaguars offense would look like at full strength this season.
13. Los Angeles Chargers (2-2) | Last week: 16 (+3)
It was closer than they would have liked against the Niners, but the Chargers battled for a 29-27 win to get to .500 at the quarter-mark of the season. This was a solid first four games for the Chargers, as their two losses were to the two remaining unbeaten teams, and they’ve been without Joey Bosa all season. The backfield duo of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler is delivering excellent balance with Philip Rivers and the talented receiver group. Gordon and Ekeler are on pace to combine for 3,304 total yards and 30 total touchdowns this season.
14. Atlanta Falcons (1-3) | Last week: 7 (-7)
The injuries are showing on the Falcons defense, and it looks like the team will have to get into shootouts to win games. The good news is Matt Ryan is playing as well as any quarterback in football, and the offense looks a lot like the one that helped Atlanta get to the Super Bowl a couple seasons ago. Their two consecutive losses have come at home, which is not a good sign, with the defense unable to get stops late in games. I expect the offense will keep putting up points, so Dan Quinn must get the defense to raise their level of play as we enter the second quarter of the regular season.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2-1) | Last week: 11 (-4)
The defense of the Steelers is arguably just as big of an issue as the defense of the Falcons, so this could be one of the most high-scoring games of the season (which is saying something) between the two teams this Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are allowing 60% completion percentage, which is the fourth best in the NFL, but they’ve allowed the fourth most passing yards in the league. They are simply giving up too many big plays down the field. Expect them to get back on track offensively this week, though, and Ben Roethlisberger will probably enjoy this type of game.
16. Minnesota Vikings (1-2-1) | Last week: 12 (-4)
Mike Zimmer says what’s on his mind, and he said he’s never had a pass defense this bad in all his years in the NFL, which indicates he’s really not sure how they’ll get it fixed moving forward. They certainly have the talent and the coaching to be the best unit in the league, but they just are not playing well this season. Now they must go to Philadelphia, where they were blown out in last year’s NFC title game, so this could be a turning point in the season one way or another.
17. Chicago Bears (3-1) | Last week: 18 (+1)
The Bears could certainly be closer toward the top ten, and this ranking again indicates how deep the NFL is right now. Mitchell Trubisky, who was being called a “bust” through the first three weeks, exploded for six touchdowns in Chicago’s blowout win over Tampa Bay, showing his superb anticipation on throws down the field along with his plus athleticism. The defense is playing as well as expected, with a league high 18 sacks while allowing 16.2 points and under 300 yards per game entering their bye week.
18. Miami Dolphins (3-1) | Last week: 13 (-5)
The previously-3-0 Dolphins probably ran into the wrong team at the wrong time playing a Patriots squad coming off two consecutive losses, in Foxboro. The offense couldn’t find the magic from its first three games of the season, and they were shut out until a Brock Osweiler touchdown late in the blowout. Kenyan Drake curiously has just ten touches in the last two games, including four against New England despite a big game in their last matchup last December. I expect Adam Gase will get things figured out offensively, though, and the defense might be the bigger concern after they were attacked both on the ground and through the air in the Week 4 loss. But if injuries on the offensive line hit hard enough, the Dolphins might have trouble sustaining their early-season success.
19. Seattle Seahawks (2-2) | Last week: 21 (+2)
The Seahawks have had just one home game through the first four weeks of the season, so a 2-2 stretch isn’t a bad start. However, they have the Rams coming to town for their second home game of the year this Sunday, and All-Pro safety Earl Thomas is out for the season with a leg injury. I get that Thomas is angry he was hurt, and it’s unfortunate; but I don’t get everyone making it like Seattle had to pay Thomas whatever he was asking for. Thomas was under contract like everyone else in the NFL, and the team wanted him to honor the deal he signed. They weren’t the ones that told another team to trade for him last year, as Thomas requested of the Cowboys.
20. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) | Last week: 28 (+8)
That was the type of game the Cowboys want if they’re going to compete for a playoff spot in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott was fed the ball and did damage with his touches, while Dak Prescott played mistake-free and made accurate throws short, intermediate, and deep. Dallas has held serve at home, and they’ll look to get their first road win of the season when they take on the Texans on Sunday Night Football. Sean Lee is expected to remain out with a hamstring injury, but first-round rookie Leighton Vander Esch is flashing in a big role with Lee out.
21. Oakland Raiders (1-3) | Last week: 24 (+3)
It looked like Jon Gruden and the Raiders were going to suffer their third straight close loss, but the offense came through with 21 fourth-quarter points, and the defense came through with key stops despite giving up 42 points for Gruden’s first win as Oakland’s head coach since 2001. Derek Carr threw for 437 yards and four touchdowns (along with two interceptions) in the shootout win, and he was clutch with a late touchdown to Jared Cook and a game-tying two-point conversion to Jordy Nelson, who continues to show he can still play at a high level. The Raiders offense is second in the NFL with 441.8 yards per game, and the Gruden offense can be really scary if they cut down on the turnovers.
22. Cleveland Browns (1-2-1) | Last week: 20 (-2)
There are a lot of complaints about the overturned Carlos Hyde first down in the loss to the Raiders, but I thought it was clearly not a first down and a good overrule after instant replay. The Browns just need to move forward and not dwell on that loss, especially with a matchup against a stingy Ravens defense. Baker Mayfield played pretty well in his first career start and threw his first NFL touchdown, but I expect him to get sharper and more comfortable as he gains experience against NFL defenses.
23. Denver Broncos (2-2) | Last week: 22 (-1)
They couldn’t contain Patrick Mahomes and KC’s offense all night, but the Broncos did a good job of limiting the dynamic attack for much of the game. The rookie running back duo of Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay (along with Devontae Booker mixing in on passing downs) has given the offense a boost, and I expect offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will commit a bit more to the running game moving forward. Case Keenum played better than his numbers from last night indicate—and the interception wasn’t really on him—but he’d be at his best with more balance on offense.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) | Last week: 19 (-5)
I have never been high on Jameis Winston as a franchise quarterback, but I don’t think it was fair for Ryan Fitzpatrick to get such a short leash after playing exceptionally well to start the season. Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said it himself after the game that no one played well for the team. But it’s the former No. 1 overall pick’s team again, and he has the pieces to lead one of the league’s best offenses and a squad that can compete for a playoff spot. However, if Winston doesn’t play well, the locker room could quickly turn south.
25. Detroit Lions (1-3) | Last week: 23 (-2)
Rookie Kerryon Johnson (nine carries, 55 yards, touchdown) again outperformed his backfield mates, but he didn’t get a lot of work in a close two-point loss to the Cowboys. Maybe more playing time for Johnson wouldn’t have made a difference in the game, but they traded up in the second-round for the 2017 SEC Player of the Year yet are taking things slow with him. Detroit had the league’s No. 1 pass defense in terms of yardage entering the week, so it’s a concern that a struggling Cowboys pass offense was able to get on track against them.
26. Houston Texans (1-3) | Last week: 30 (+4)
It took overtime, but the Texans were finally able to get a win and end their nine-game losing streak dating back to last season. Deshaun Watson probably had his best game of the first four games in the win, and he continues to efficiently hit his wide receivers—including rookie Keke Coutee, who had a modern-era-record 11 receptions in his first career NFL game. The defense—particularly the pass defense—is a concern, and we’ll see how they perform against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys on Sunday night.
27. New York Giants (1-3) | Last week: 25 (-2)
Because of struggles on the offensive line and the type of defenses opposing teams are playing against them, the Giants are having trouble getting anything going down the field. The team’s pass defense has been really solid through four games, which is a bit of a surprise, but the run defense is struggling and couldn’t get the offense the ball back late in Sunday’s loss to the Saints. Now the Giants have to face the Panthers coming off the bye week before playing the Eagles on a short week the next week.
28. Indianapolis Colts (1-3) | Last week: 27 (-1)
Hindsight is 20/20 so of course everyone is criticizing Colts head coach Frank Reich for going for it on fourth down in overtime, which led to the Texans getting good position to move into range for a game-winning field goal, but I liked the move. The Colts were playing to win, and they simply didn’t execute on the play—it happens. If you think about it, while it didn’t work out, the aggressive decision still might be something that galvanizes the team more than playing for a tie would.
29. Buffalo Bills (1-3) | Last week: 26 (-3)
The Bills went from a big-time upset win in Minnesota to getting shutout in Lambeau Field, but inconsistency isn’t surprising from a team that has some work to do on its roster. Josh Allen is getting a lot of pressure from opposing defenses behind a subpar offensive line, but the rookie quarterback doesn’t seem like the kind of person that will let the negativity affect him. The defense has played a lot tougher than they did the first two weeks of the season, and they’ll look to help keep the team in the game this week against the Titans.
30. San Francisco 49ers (1-3) | Last week: 29 (-1)
As was the case last year before Jimmy Garoppolo arrived and eventually started in San Francisco, C.J. Beathard was not afraid to put his body on the line in a close loss to the Chargers. Beathard has a tough task of helping the Niners compete for a playoff spot, but his attitude should keep them in most games. Beathard’s college teammate George Kittle has quickly emerged as one of the top tight ends in football this season as a bright spot for the team.
31. New York Jets (1-3) | Last week: 31
Considering the running game couldn’t get anything going against the Jaguars, Sam Darnold played pretty well against perhaps the best defense in the NFL. The franchise just needs to remain patient with a roster that probably isn’t quite where it needs to be yet. After starting the season with three of the first four on the road, the Jets have three straight home games starting this Sunday against the Broncos.
32. Arizona Cardinals (0-4) | Last week: 32
The Cardinals are the only winless team in the NFL after four weeks. The offensive gameplan looked better in Josh Rosen’s first career start, as David Johnson got the ball 25 times, but they can probably get more creative and use DJ on more outside runs. Also, the offensive line was exponentially better than they were the first three games of the year, giving Rosen time to sit back in the pocket and scan the defense. I thought the defense would be one of the league’s best this season, but the scheme change is seemingly taking time for the players to adjust.