Four of the top six teams in last week’s power rankings lost last week, as the NFL’s parity has been evident through the first month of the season. There are a whopping thirteen 2-2 teams after Week 4, including all four teams from the AFC South.
1. New England Patriots (4-0) | Last week: 1
It wasn’t a “pretty” win, but the Patriots got a huge victory at Buffalo to remain undefeated and get an early one-game lead on the Bills in the AFC East with the next matchup to be played in Foxboro. Tom Brady made an uncharacteristic mistake in the red zone and had one of the worst games of his career overall, but Sean McDermott’s defense will do that to a lot of teams. The passing attack should get going soon, and it’ll help if Sony Michel can get rolling to set up play-action passes—the Patriots looked to establish the run in the Week 4 win, and it led to a few key runs by Michel. This Sunday could be a get-right game for the offense, and the defense continues to look like a legit elite unit.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) | Last week: 3 (+1)
As stated last week, the Chiefs had been knocking on the door of the No. 2 spot in the power rankings, and they take it this week as one of two 4-0 teams in the league. Kansas City got all they could handle at Detroit, but they were able to escape with a tough 34-30 victory after 14 fourth-quarter points. Patrick Mahomes is an exceptional player, but he continues to miss some throws—particularly to the intermediate and deep areas of the field. I just think the praise for Mahomes can go a little over the top considering all the weapons he has to work with (even with Tyreek Hill and Damien Williams out of the lineup) while playing for Andy Reid.
3. Los Angeles Rams (3-1) | Last week: 2 (-1)
The offense had been concerning through the first three weeks of the season, and their inefficiency likely had an effect on the entire team—but it was the Los Angeles defense that struggled mightily after flashing top-notch potential in the previous two weeks versus the Saints and Browns. Giving up 55 points with some continued sloppiness on offense should be a wake-up call for the team, and it could be good news that the Rams have a short week to get back on the field and quickly get past their first loss.
4. Chicago Bears (3-1) | Last week: 7 (+3)
I was initially thinking the Bears would be a team I’d have trouble ranking in the Week 5 power rankings after the Mitchell Trubisky injury, but veteran backup Chase Daniel looked very good filling in at quarterback against a tough Vikings defense. Daniel is going to run Matt Nagy’s offense and get the ball out to one of the better supporting casts in the league, and he won’t have to do too much—nor will Trubisky when he returns—if the defense keeps playing like it has. One major concern is the status of stud second-year linebacker Roquan Smith, who didn’t play on Sunday because of personal reasons that remain mysterious to this point.
5. New Orleans Saints (3-1) | Last week: 8 (+3)
Back after Drew Brees’ thumb injury, I dropped the Saints down to No. 14 in the power rankings despite remarking that I really like Teddy Bridgewater. Simply put, I did not expect the Saints to beat the Seahawks and Cowboys in back-to-back games without Brees, but—especially with the struggles of the Falcons—they look to be in excellent shape after a quarter of the regular season. This defense has stepped up with Brees out, and Bridgewater has again shown he knows how to win games in the NFL—he’s playing well with a similar recipe to his days as a Pro Bowl quarterback in Minnesota. New Orleans is back in the top five.
6. Dallas Cowboys (3-1) | Last week: 4 (-2)
Bad games happen, and the Cowboys had a bad night offensively in a tough environment to play in the Superdome. Despite their three wins coming against the Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins, they shouldn’t be discounted too much after one loss. Ezekiel Elliott is likely to catch fire at some point, and the potent passing attack for Dallas will benefit in a major way when he does. The Cowboys will also get a nice boost when emerging second-year receiver Michael Gallup (knee) returns from the lineup. All that said, a loss this week could drop the Cowboys quite a bit in next week’s power rankings.
7. Seattle Seahawks (3-1) | Last week: 9 (+2)
I don’t buy “East Coast bias” anymore because to me it seems things are slanted in the opposite direction toward California at this point, but the start to Russell Wilson’s season is going under the radar through four games. Wilson is typically a slow starter, but he has ten total touchdowns (eight passing, with no interceptions) through four games; two of the defenses were the Bengals and the Cardinals, but Wilson is playing very well regardless. Running back Chris Carson apparently had a great week of practice leading up to a bounce-back Week 4 after dealing with fumbling issues to open the season, and Seattle’s balanced offense is one of the league’s best. I’m interested to see how the secondary holds up against the Rams on Thursday night.
8. Buffalo Bills (3-1) | Last week: 6 (-2)
There are no moral victories, but the Bills know they can compete with the Patriots after a tight 16-10 home loss. The defense did a fantastic job of limiting Tom Brady and New England’s offense, and Buffalo has the playing style to compete with any team. Josh Allen just appeared to be pressing a bit too much when trying to make plays for his team against Bill Belichick’s defense, but he probably realized he has a great defense to work with on his own team and doesn’t need to carry the squad—also, it helped when Buffalo went to more quick passes in the second half before Allen’s unfortunate concussion. Hopefully Allen doesn’t miss more time, but Matt Barkley has become a really good backup that will do his job leading the offense. Buffalo is the lone 3-1 team in the AFC.
9. Green Bay Packers (3-1) | Last week: 5 (-4)
The Packers drop four spots after their loss last Thursday night, and their run defense is a major concern through the first four weeks of the season. Green Bay is giving up 5.0 yards per carry (fourth worst in the NFL), and they were abused on the ground against the Eagles. On offense, young receivers are going to have to step up if Davante Adams misses time with turf toe, but Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling both made plays in the Week 4 loss.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) | Last week: 15 (+5)
Thursday games sometimes give you less to work off of when evaluating teams because they are often weird, but the Eagles still showed grit winning at Lambeau Field, with the defense getting a key stop late despite giving up a bunch of yards through the air all night. The cornerback group is an obvious concern, but Philadelphia’s run defense looks like one of the best in football. Jordan Howard scored three touchdowns in the win over the Packers, and the Eagles should keep giving him at least 15 touches per week with explosive rookie Miles Sanders mixing in for a dozen or so touches, too.
11. San Francisco 49ers (3-0) | Last week: 14 (+3)
Coming off the bye, San Francisco is one of three remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL. And now, they should be healthier with Tevin Coleman (ankle) having a chance to return to the lineup after missing the last two games.
12. Indianapolis Colts (2-2) | Last week: 10 (-2)
The Colts had a bunch of dropped passes in their home loss to the Raiders, and they also struggled to get the run game going with Marlon Mack—for as well as Jacoby Brissett has played this season, Indy would prefer not to throw the ball 46 times in a game. The defense was the bigger issue in the loss, though, and hopefully star second-year linebacker Darius Leonard is feeling better and can soon clear concussion protocol after missing the last two games. This Sunday night at Arrowhead will be an enormous test.
13. Detroit Lions (2-1-1) | Last week: 13
It was ultimately a loss for the Lions, but Matt Patricia’s squad had a very promising performance against one of the league’s best teams. Even without top cornerback Darius Slay in the lineup, Patricia got his defense to contain Patrick Mahomes and company as well as any team has through the last season-plus. Detroit probably outplayed Kansas City in the game, but two lost fumbles with a chance to punch it in deep in scoring territory were costly for the Lions. After their Week 5 bye week, the Lions will face the Packers at Lambeau on Monday Night Football.
14. Tennessee Titans (2-2) | Last week: 19 (+5)
The Titans move up five spots in this week’s power rankings, as their Thursday night road loss in Week 3 was put behind them in a convincing win at Atlanta. Marcus Mariota is the only quarterback to start all four games that has not turned the ball over this season, and the offense has committed to giving the ball to Derrick Henry (tied for second most carries in the NFL behind Christian McCaffrey). This weekend against the Bills will be a test for the Titans, and it should be a close game in the style they like to play—with Mariota potentially having a chance to win it at the end.
15. Los Angeles Chargers (2-2) | Last week: 17 (+2)
Philip Rivers carved up Miami for 310 yards and two touchdowns as the Chargers improved to 2-2, and now they’ll get running back Melvin Gordon back in the lineup after he was active but did not receive any work in his return to the team. The Chargers are dealing with a bunch of injuries, but the ability to rely on a couple of all-around running backs in Gordon and Austin Ekeler for easy completions and explosive plays will be a boost—and Gordon will certainly help at the end of games when LA is trying to grind out wins. Melvin Ingram missing time with a hamstring injury is another tough blow to the defense.
16. Atlanta Falcons (1-3) | Last week: 12 (-4)
Especially with an upcoming schedule that looks challenging on paper, this might not be low enough for my preseason Super Bowl pick. The offensive line held up well against the Eagles in Week 2, but it looks like that was because they were facing a pass rush that’s been below average this year. The unit is clearly a problem, and the offense doesn’t appear to have an identity partly because they aren’t playing well up front. With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman, and Austin Hooper all on the offense, they have the talent to turn things around and help carry a team with a defense that’s been inconsistent—but the offensive line must play a lot better.
17. Oakland Raiders (2-2) | Last week: 21 (+4)
While defenders have been put in a bind in recent years and there are too many bad calls on hits over the middle, it’s hard to argue with Vontaze Burfict receiving a 12-game suspension (the longest ever for an on-field incident) after his helmet-to-helmet hit to Colts tight end Jack Doyle. Burfict’s long history is concerning, and he might seriously hurt someone with the way he plays. Anyway, the situation took away from a strong bounce-back effort by the Raiders, and they’ll now look to keep things going in London against Khalil Mack and the Bears. If Oakland can protect Derek Carr against an elite defense, they’ll have a chance.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3) | Last week: 20 (+2)
The Steelers did a nice job of making things easier on Mason Rudolph, getting him in a rhythm with short completions and push passes while mixing in some “wildcat” with Jaylen Samuels taking direct snaps. Defensively, Pittsburgh showed their major upside with eight former first-round picks on the unit, as they completely overwhelmed Cincinnati’s undermanned offensive line. And with James Conner getting going a bit, the Steelers appear to have an approach that’ll work for them without Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. It’s refreshing to see young receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster take his 15-yard performance in stride, as he’s an unselfish player that was just happy his team won.
19. Houston Texans (2-2) | Last week: 16 (-3)
Houston’s offense has looked really good for two weeks and weak for two weeks through a quarter of the season—and a lot of that stems from the play of the offensive line, but Deshaun Watson could probably get rid of the ball and take some easier completions at times. Watson’s quick breakdown of Carolina’s defense was great to hear, and I don’t think he was making the reporter (whom seemed to understand Watson knows way more than he does, which is the opposite of many know-it-all media members) look bad as some have said—it was simply an insightful answer.
20. Cleveland Browns (2-2) | Last week: 24 (+4)
This group of 2-2 teams could vary in terms of Week 5 power rankings, and the Browns are among the teams that could be as higher as about No. 16 after they pulled away and coasted to a win at Baltimore. If it wasn’t clear to Freddie Kitchens before, it should be clear now that Nick Chubb needs to be the centerpiece of the offense for the Browns to be at their best. Steve Wilks is doing a good job with Cleveland’s defense despite a few injuries to starters, and it’ll be interesting to see how the team performs with upcoming games against the Niners, Seahawks, and Patriots. One issue is that it appears Odell Beckham Jr. was moping because he didn’t have a good statistical performance, despite his team dominating a critical early-season game. We’ll see if OBJ is a ticking time bomb if he doesn’t get the ball when his team loses.
21. Baltimore Ravens (2-2) | Last week: 11 (-10)
The Ravens have the biggest drop in this week’s power rankings, and they had to be lower than the Browns after giving up 40 points at home to them. Defensive lineman Brandon Williams missing the game really hurt Baltimore, but the defense was also gashed through the air—there were too many open receivers throughout the game, including tight end Ricky Seals-Jones getting wide opena couple of times. Hopefully the reported heated talk between Williams and offseason addition Earl Thomas isn’t something that continues to be an issue moving forward, but it’s weird to see Baltimore’s defense perform the way they did on Sunday.
22. Minnesota Vikings (2-2) | Last week: 18 (-4)
Playing the Bears at Soldier Field is no easy task, but that was a concerning game for the Vikings. Everyone around him must play well too, but Kirk Cousins hasn’t been able to pick up the slack when the running game isn’t working, and the Bears absolutely shut down the running game in Week 4, which led to the Vikings getting shut down overall. Clearly, Minnesota wants to run the ball with Dalvin Cook, but the offense has a bunch of money tied to their quarterback and two top receivers—a trade might help the situation.
23. New York Giants (2-2) | Last week: 23
These next four teams are kind of grouped together and could shoot up the rankings in the coming weeks, but they look like the low-end 2-2 teams for now. The Giants forced four interceptions in their 24-3 win against the Redskins, and the offseason additions including two first-round picks on defense (Dexter Lawrence and Deandre Baker) have helped the unit turn things around in the last six quarters, allowing just six points. Wayne Gallman is a very underrated player and did well in his first start of the season for the injured Saqoun Barkley, totaling 118 yards and a couple of touchdowns in the victory.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) | Last week: 25 (+1)
Todd Bowles continues to do an excellent job of turning around this Buccaneers defense, and it starts with the defensive line led by Nndamukong Suh and Vita Vea. They’ve led one of the stoutest fronts in the league through four weeks, which helps take pressure off the secondary. The issue with the Buccaneers, despite how well he’s played the last two weeks, is quarterback Jameis Winston being too inconsistent. We’ll see if the former No. 1 pick can keep up his hot streak this Sunday at the Superdome.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) | Last week: 22 (-3)
The Jaguars drop three spots in the power rankings simply because the Browns, Giants, and Buccaneers are all ahead of them this week after being behind them. But rookie Gardner Minshew continues to play well at quarterback, and Leonard Fournette went off for 225 rushing yards at Denver. After the game, Fournette was unhappy with left tackle Cam Robinson—likely after Robinson was among those that almost got a penalty after being egged on by the Broncos late in the game—and it looked like more immaturity at first glimpse; but it actually might have been Fournette maturing (which would be a great sign) and making it clear to his teammate that he needs to be smart at the end of games. Or maybe the former LSU star and former Alabama star were discussing the matchup between their schools later this season.
26. Carolina Panthers (2-2) | Last week: 26
The Panthers are a tough team to rank, and they could easily be a lot higher than No. 26 in the power rankings. They have the best pass defense in terms of yards per game after four weeks, and the defense has looked excellent in the past two games. However, they lost defensive tackle Kawann Short for the season, which is a big blow to the group. The offense is feeding league-leading rusher Christian McCaffrey the ball, and the former Stanford running back has shown he can handle it and that it gives Carolina the best chance to compete every week. The Panthers probably have shaken off the funk they were in dating back to last season, so they could be a team on the rise.
27. Denver Broncos (0-4) | Last week: 27
That was a brutal loss for the Broncos, and it was their second game in three weeks where they took the lead late only to lose by two points on a field goal. Denver is not playing terribly, but they’re just having trouble winning games to this point (obviously, considering they are 0-4). This defense getting back to being a top-notch unit looks unlikely after outside linebacker Bradley Chubb’s season-ending knee injury.
28. Arizona Cardinals (0-3-1) | Last week: 28
Kliff Kingsbury’s offense could not get much going against the Seahawks, and it led to Arizona being unable to run the offense at a fast pace like they want. Defensively, they gave up another touchdown to a tight end (Will Dissly), and the Cardinals must figure out how to stop getting continuously gashed by the position. As stated in the past, Kyler Murray is not used to losing games like this—I’m anxious to see how he reacts if they lose this Sunday to an 0-4 Bengals team.
29. New York Jets (0-3) | Last week: 31 (+2)
Sam Darnold returning after the bye week would be a huge boost for the Jets, and they can start climbing back up the power rankings with some wins. But the next three weeks are a gauntlet, as they’ll face the Eagles, Cowboys, and Patriots.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (0-4) | Last week: 29 (-1)
It’s basically impossible to have success with the offensive line playing as poorly as it did on Monday night against the Steelers, and there’s frankly not much Zac Taylor can do with his offense if the line doesn’t block. You could tell Andy Dalton was extremely frustrated with the performance in front of him, which is understandable in a potential make-or-break year for him. The Bengals did have some success running the ball with Joe Mixon, so we could see more of that against the Cardinals this Sunday.
31. Washington Redskins (0-4) | Last week: 30 (-1)
Jay Gruden has not been put in a position to succeed this season, and the insertion of Dwayne Haskins into the game for Case Keenum felt like an attempt to get some kind of spark for the entire team. Haskins struggled mightily, and now the quarterback situation is up in the air, with Colt McCoy also back in the mix. Things could get ugly this week versus the Patriots.
32. Miami Dolphins (0-4) | Last week: 32
At least the Dolphins were able to get their first lead of the season in their Week 3 loss to the Chargers, but there isn’t a ton of good shining through for Miami through four games. The Dolphins now have their Week 5 bye before perhaps their most winnable game of the season when they host Washington in Week 6.