We’re a quarter of the way through the NFL season, which means a more thorough Power Rankings post this week. Would’ve published earlier if I wasn’t working overtime. After Week 4’s Sports Report tomorrow, Power Rankings posts will be every Tuesday and Sports Reports every Wednesday. Happy reading!
1. Broncos (+0)
A quarter of the way through the season and Denver remains my top team. It’s a battle between Denver and Minnesota for the top defense in the league and while the offense is limited, it has got the job done thus far. 21st in yards per game isn’t a bright stat line but the stat that really matters on offense is points per game. Denver is fifth at 27.8.
2. Patriots (+0)
The Patriots lose to the Bills at home and I’m not discouraged. They lost with an injured third-string quarterback. Someone call the fire department. This team is third in rushing through four games without their best player, Tom Brady. Now they have Brady back. The Patriots don’t need the fire department. It’s everyone else that needs them.
3. Vikings (+2)
Minnesota is without Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson, their two biggest offensive weapons. When Bridgewater fell, I said this team could still contend for a playoff spot. When Peterson went down, I said this team could still contend for a playoff spot. They still can. Through four games, Minnesota has allowed 12.5 points per game and forced 11 turnovers. The offense has one. As long as the Vikings remain game managers on offense and allow the defense to do the heavy lifting, they will remain atop the NFC North.
4. Packers (+0)
Bye. As usual, I’m not going to raise or drop a team during the bye week but they won’t be here next week. Narrow wins against Jacksonville and Detroit and losses to Minnesota are not what we’re used to seeing from Green Bay. The offense is 29th in ypg. They’re 11th in ppg (25.0), but against stiffer competition, I’ve got to believe that number will drop. The Packers need to get out of their funk. They have the Giants, Cowboys and Bears for their next three games.
5. Steelers (+2)
A disastrous week in Philly was blasted into the atmosphere with a 43-14 desolation of a defense that had eight takeaways the week before. Antonio Brown is still unstoppable, the two-headed monster that is Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams has just gotten started and the offense is averaging 27 points per game. The secondary is weak and the front seven hasn’t gotten as much pressure as last year, though I think everyone knew those numbers would be hard to replicate for this squad. The fact is, this team can allow 500 yards of offense a game if they want. Their points allowed is what matters and right now, that number is 20, tied for 11th in the league.
6. Bengals (+0)
A.J. Green is a one-man wrecking crew in Cincinnati. The Bengals are great on offense or are they? They’re third in passing (291 ypg) but 24th in ppg (19.5), a number that’s got to change if they want to remain in the top ten. Their defense is still in the top half, but I’m unsure how long that will last, just as I’m unsure how long Dalton-to-Green can carry this offense. The rushing attack is 28th.
7. Falcons (+9)
Matty Ice is freezing the field. He leads the league in nearly every passing category: completion percentage (72.1), yards (1473), yards per attempt (10.52) and passer rating (126.3). Julio Jones is as good as ever and Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are starting their own one-two punch in the backfield. This team is averaging 38 a game. 38! I’m sure that’s an unsustainable pace but impressive nonetheless. The defense is still struggling but are making some improvements. They’re getting to the quarterback (9.0 sacks) and they’re 16th against the rush (102.3). They’re going to have to play their best football. They played Carolina last week and grabbed an upset win. Now they have Denver and Seattle on the road. Their performance against tough competition will say a lot about this team.
8. Seahawks (+4)
Seattle had a slow start to the season but have really bounced back in their past two games, totaling 64 points. Christine Michael in the backfield concerns me, as well as all the pressure the Seahawks have put on Wilson this year. They’re counting on him to be a top-ten master chief behind center. He’s certainly capable, but he’s got a weak offensive line in front of him. Jimmy Graham’s apparent return to form will certainly help, as will a reliable Doug Baldwin. The defense is the same. Second in yards per game (264) and third in points against. With Arizona falling apart, Los Angeles still discovering their identity and San Francisco in a complete rebuild, the West is Seattle’s.
9. Raiders (+0)
Da Raid-as! Oakland has a competitive team! Derek Carr has a bright future, as does the Oakland offense, third in ypg through four games. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree provide Carr with solid stars. Latavius Murray has carried the run game but a cast of characters has given Oakland a fifth-ranked ground attack. The Raiders are now the AFC’s Falcons. Fireworks on offense, a dormant volcano on defense that could have potential as the season goes on.
10. Eagles (+0)
Bye. Quite the run Philadelphia has had thus far. While they did play Cleveland and Chicago their first two weeks, two of the worst teams in the NFL, there’s no discounting their scourge of the Steelers. The 10 spot is probably a bit high for them but they’ve certainly impressed, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I look forward to how they do against tougher competition. Later in the season, they have these four contests: vs. ATL, @SEA, vs. GB, @CIN.
11. Chiefs (-3)
The team is four games into 2016 and Jamaal Charles has yet to play any role, let alone a pivotal one. I think that has always been my problem with the Chiefs. They rely on Charles a lot, perhaps more than any team leans on any one player. Without Charles, this team has an identity problem on offense. They’re 23rd in ypg and the points aren’t coming. Only Kelce and Maclin on offense. This isn’t a team full of weapons. It’s a team that lacks them. Given his injuries and age, I’m unsure if Charles is a long-term option. Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West have the tools but lack the big-play ability of Charles. The defense has a bright future, as it has for the last few years but I don’t know if it’s enough to carry this team through the season and into the playoffs.
12. Panthers (-9)
Lost. More than any other team in the NFL, Carolina looks like a team that’s perplexed as to where to go next. The dominant defense we saw last year hasn’t appeared yet. They’ve allowed 29.5 per through four. The good news is that the team’s first four games were their most difficult, playing Denver, San Francisco, Minnesota and Atlanta. That’s three top-ten teams in four weeks, a difficult task for any team. With that said, those games showed some serious flaws. Without Josh Norman, the corners are struggling in coverage. Injuries at the skill positions aren’t helping. Cam’s getting hit a lot. The offensive line hasn’t been there. They have a lot of questions to answer and they need to answer them sooner rather than later. Atlanta is running away with the South.
13. Texans (+0)
Osweiler. Miller. Hopkins. Fuller. This, in essence, is the entirety of the Texans offense. Four players. Not a wide range of threats, though Fuller has done very well in his rookie year despite the additional attention. The defense is fifth in yards against, though that number is sure to rise with J.J. Watt out for the season, a huge blow. Like they did in the Arian Foster years, Houston will rely on Miller to open space for the passing game and like the “name a quarterback” to Andre Johnson years, it’ll be a mostly two-man show in the air. If the defense plays to their potential, it won’t matter.
14. Jets (-3)
The Jets are likely to slide some more. As you’ll see in my sports report tomorrow, the Jets defense hasn’t shown up. In four games against CIN (23), BUF (31), KC (24) and SEA (27), New York has given up 105 points for a 26.3 average. That, compared to a 2015 squad that allowed under 20 a game, ain’t gonna cut it. They’re getting scorched through the air (26th against the pass) and Ryan Fitzpatrick is, well, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Matt Forte has certainly been a bright spot, as has the defensive line, but the play behind them has been anything but bright. Again, they won’t be here next week. They face Pittsburgh on the road, a team that’s likely to rain hellfire upon the secondary.
15. Ravens (+0)
It’s hard for me to get a read on Baltimore. A struggling Bills team earlier in the season, Cleveland and Jacksonville for their first three contests don’t reveal much, aside from the fact that the Bills were struggling and that the Browns and Jaguars are still bad teams. Baltimore’s stats are likely skewed because of these matchups. They lost by one to Oakland, a game that I think truly demonstrated where they are: not too far behind the pack. The run game is a concern for me but Flacco is doing his thing: winning football games.
16. Rams (+8)
Two road wins against Tampa Bay and a floundering Cardinals nest puts L.A. in the hunt with Seattle for the crown. Gurley has been quiet thus far, averaging a minuscule 2.6 ypc. That’s not a hit on Gurley. The guy needs help. Case Keenum, Tavon Austin and Brian Quick aren’t going to do much this year. Gurley is a second-year player behind an offensive line still in its growth spurt phase. To expect him to go top-five in rushing is ludicrous. The Rams D hasn’t been the citadel that it has been. Two road wins are nice, but it would be more impressive if those teams were top-15. Tampa Bay and Arizona aren’t.
17. Cowboys (+3)
Dallas will likely climb again next week. The Cowboys boast the best offensive line in the league. Elliot and Prescott have certainly benefited from that. Dallas leads the league in third down conversion rate. Elliot’s in the top-five in rushing. More impressive than the offense is the defense. 19.3 in points against.
18. Giants (-1)
The Giants spent on defense. It’s improved. 11th in ypg, 21.3 in ppg. The Giants did not spend on offense. They are 27th in ppg. There’s no reason that should be the case. 16 against the Saints defense? Once again, New York is struggling in the backfield. They haven’t had a top-ten rushing attack since 2010 and have struggled to be middle-of-the-road since then. Ben McAdoo needs to get Eli going. The ship sinks with the captain. Eli is sinking and so are the Giants.
19. Cardinals (-5)
Arizona is falling apart. Carson Palmer has played bad and is now concussed. David Johnson is a machine at runningback. The Arizona defense is holding but that’s not enough to make up for the deficit on the other side of the ball.
20. Lions (-1)
The Detroit offense is at minimal capable. There’s not much else to say, really. Still no running game. The defense can get pressure but not consistently. Stafford is still a gunslinger.
21. Dolphins (-3)
Miami will drop next week. I can virtually guarantee it. Without Foster in the backfield and a so-so defense, there’s not enough going right in Miami to warrant much attention going their way. They own the bottom of the AFC East.
22. Redskins (+1)
After winning the East last year, the Redskins find themselves on the outside looking in. As I expected, Kirk Cousins hasn’t been the Kirk Cousins from last year. Matt Jones at runningback has not worked. The defense is bad against the run, the pass and stopping opponents on third down (league-worst 57.9 conversion rate allowed).
23. Bills (+3)
After a stutterstep start, Buffalo has got the wheels turning. The defense has woke up. LeSean has his own set of wheels turning.
24. Colts (-3)
They let Cromartie and leading tackler Sio Moore walk. GM Ryan Grigson blamed his inability to craft a defense on Andrew Luck’s contract. It’s just a mess in Indy.
25. Titans (+0)
They’ve got some promise. Not playoff promise, but promise for the future. DeMarco has had a nice resurgence.
26. 49ers (+1)
When is it time for Kaepernick? I’ve got to believe that time is soon.
27. Chargers (-5)
As you’ll see on the sports report, San Diego has led in the final two minutes in all three of their losses. They blew another one. They’re the biggest chokers in the NFL right now. To add insult to injury, Jason Verrett is now out for the season. Season-ending injuries keep coming to San Diego.
28. Jaguars (+0)
They beat the Colts in a sloppy game in London. Not getting any points from me this week.
29. Saints (+1)
The Saints are still bad. Get a defense.
30. Buccaneers (-1)
Jameis had an off day and so did the offense. It was against Denver but without Doug Martin, the offense has noticeably lost a step.
31. Bears (+0)
Backup quarterback. Backup runningback. Backup football team.
32. Browns (+0)
How many quarterbacks is Cleveland going to go through? Spread is +5. I’m taking over.
Biggest Climb: Falcons (+9)
Biggest Drop: Panthers (-9)