NFL Power Rankings: Week 5
NFL Power Rankings: Week 5
Wednesday October 1st, 2014

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough," states a quote attributed to Albert Einstein.

Safe to assume he was not referring to the NFL standings, but it is applicable to the 2014 season nonetheless. Tampa Bay winning in Pittsburgh? Dallas' defense putting the clamps on Drew Brees? The Eagles scoring only on special teams and defense?

• Sour Rankings: The worst of Week 4 | Complete coverage of Week 4

What in the holy Y.A. Tittle is going on here?

Through four weeks of the NFL season, a handful of teams look consistently formidable and a couple have been absolutely horrendous, with a whole bunch clustered in between. Even Einstein would have a tough time sorting through it all.

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Sans his assistance, here are the Week 5 Power Rankings:

NFL Power Rankings
  • 1
    1Cincinnati Bengals
    last week: 1
    record: 3-0
    The three quarterbacks Cincinnati has faced so far -- Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Jake Locker -- have a combined 56.9 QB rating in those games. To put that in some perspective, the Giants defense has the next best mark at 73.4; Geno Smith, at 75.1, has the worst QB rating of any Week 4 starter.
    The defense, and the Bengals' undefeated start, will be tested in the coming months. Up in October are Tom Brady (albeit a struggling Tom Brady), Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and a rematch with Flacco.

  • 2
    2Seattle Seahawks
    last week: 2
    record: 2-1
    If everyone agrees that a player is "underrated," does that mean he is no longer underrated? We've probably reached that point in the discussion with Seattle LB Bobby Wagner, who lives in the shadows of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas but may be every bit as good as rising stars such as Lavonte David and Luke Kuechly.
    Wagner, to the Seattle Times this summer: "I don’t like the term ‘underrated.' That’s like saying someone is better than you expected. Well, I want the expectation for me to be high."
    Consider it done.

  • 3
    3Denver Broncos
    last week: 3
    record: 2-1
    Interesting Denver development through three games, if only because of what went on last season: The Broncos currently have allowed 154 more yards than they've gained. Remember that in 2013, Denver ran up 7,317 yards -- 1,600-plus in front of what opponents gained (5,696).

  • 4
    4Arizona Cardinals
    last week: 4
    record: 3-0
    The last time that Drew Stanton started three games in a row -- a streak he will match Sunday, barring a late change -- came in 2010, when he was a Detroit Lion. The last time he started four games in a row: 2006, as a Michigan State Spartan. Can he maintain his play over the long haul, if the Cardinals need him to do so?

  • 5
    5San Diego Chargers
    last week: 6
    record: 3-1
    Arguably the most impressive aspect of Philip Rivers' incredible start to 2014? He's lighting it up without almost no semblance of a run game helping him. Ryan Mathews' eventual return from injury will help, but the Chargers are averaging 2.4 yards per carry. Rivers could QB sneak his way to more production.

  • 6
    6Baltimore Ravens
    last week: 9
    record: 3-1
    Trying not to oversell it here, especially since those tip-drill touchdowns probably won't happen all that often. But through four weeks, the Steve Smith signing looks like Baltimore's best pickup since it acquired the Browns.

  • 7
    7Philadelphia Eagles
    last week: 5
    record: 3-1
    "We’re not very good up front right now," Chip Kelly said after a bizarre loss in San Francisco, which featured three Philadelphia touchdowns but none by its offense. "We’ve got a lot of guys banged up. That’s not an excuse, it’s just the reality."
    Kind of sounds like an excuse, but we might allow it given how those O-line issues have turned LeSean McCoy into 2013 Willis McGahee.

  • 8
    8Detroit Lions
    last week: 10
    record: 3-1
    In previous seasons when Calvin Johnson was out of the lineup or limited to decoy status, as he was on Sunday due to an ankle injury, the Lions may as well have started a mailbox with a "Gone Fishin', Back Next Week" sign hanging from it at quarterback. The 2014 Lions got the job done anyway, knocking off the Jets -- perhaps the most concrete evidence yet that this season might be different for the long-struggling franchise.

  • 9
    9Indianapolis Colts
    last week: 12
    record: 2-2
    Andrew Luck is slinging the ball around like if he doesn't throw it 40 times per game, the team bus will explode. (Speed 3: As Luck Would Have It, coming next summer.)
    Hopefully, his through-the-roof stats hint that O.C. Pep Hamilton finally has accepted what many people have been saying: that Luck would be best off in an up-tempo offense that features the passing game.

  • 10
    10Dallas Cowboys
    last week: 17
    record: 3-1
    The Cowboys' stunning 3-1 start really boils down to two guys: running back DeMarco Murray and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. The former is on pace to shatter all sorts of single-season franchise rushing records; the latter has resurrected a defense that Baylor might have been able to hang 40 points on last season.

  • 11
    11San Francisco 49ers
    last week: 15
    record: 2-2
    Jim Harbaugh's team is now 2-0 after reports that the San Francisco coach is losing the locker room. It happened prior to the 49ers' Week 1 victory in Dallas, and then more rumors of disharmony emerged ahead of Sunday's much-needed triumph over the Eagles.

  • 12
    12Kansas City Chiefs
    last week: 23
    record: 2-2
    The Royals are a popular darling pick in the MLB playoffs. And the Chiefs might be a little higher on a few fans' list this week, mainly because few teams have succeeded in making Tom Brady look as sad as he did Monday night.

  • 13
    13Green Bay Packers
    last week: 19
    record: 2-2
    There were plenty of reasons for Packers fans to heed Aaron Rodgers' "relax" suggestion last week, including a matchup with Jay Cutler, who is now 1-9 all-time against Green Bay. Here's another: Rodgers' team might have just traversed the toughest four-game stretch on its schedule -- at Seattle, N.Y. Jets, at Detroit, at Chicago -- with a 2-2 record.
    A Carolina-New Orleans-Chicago-Philadelphia gauntlet awaits later, but only the New Orleans game is away from Lambeau, and there's a bye week midway through.

  • 14
    14Houston Texans
    last week: 21
    record: 3-1
    Back in college, my roommates and I competed against each other in an NCAA Football dynasty on Playstation 2. One season, I had a dominant outside linebacker who just piled up sacks. To win him the Heisman, however, I also had to use him as a goal-line running back so he could score touchdowns.
    Now, I'm not telling the Texans how to ensure J.J. Watt the MVP this season, but since they already know that play-action pass to him works ...

  • 15
    15New England Patriots
    last week: 8
    record: 2-2
    The frustrated Patriots have now gone three straight games without hitting 300 total yards on offense. That hasn't happened with Tom Brady at the helm since Weeks 13-16 of the 2003 season, a four-game "slump" that coincided with a 15-game win streak ... and a Super Bowl title.

  • 16
    16Chicago Bears
    last week: 7
    record: 2-2
    I sort of characterize the Bears the way one might view, say, James Spader in really any of his roles. Are we supposed to love him? Hate him? Be confused by his presence?
    There has been no point trying to figure out this Chicago team yet. Its roller-coaster tendencies do make an 8-8 finish seem more probable than 11-5, though.

  • 17
    17Pittsburgh Steelers
    last week: 11
    record: 2-2
    On a 2nd-and-13, up by four in the final two minutes Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger completed a pass to Markus Wheaton. Then on the ensuing 3rd-and-5, the Steelers ran it. They came up well short, punted and eventually lost.
    Why throw on second down but not on third? Why put the game on the shoulders of your depleted defense?

  • 18
    18New York Giants
    last week: 25
    record: 2-2
    Sure, Kirk Cousins was handing out interceptions like Scrooge thew money around after the Ghost of Christmas Future visited him. The Giants still had to take advantage, and they did in a big way. This team might not be much fun to play against the rest of the way.

  • 19
    19Atlanta Falcons
    last week: 14
    record: 2-2
    After announcing that two starting offensive linemen had been placed on injured reserve, head coach Mike Smith said that the Falcons had to adopt a "no-blink mentality." Of course, that advice was mostly directed at QB Matt Ryan, who definitely will be sacked if he loses focus for even a nanosecond behind what's left of his line.

  • 20
    20Cleveland Browns
    last week: 20
    record: 1-2
    NFL front offices rarely chase restricted free agents, at least not successfully. Could the Browns' score with Andrew Hawkins cause a reevaluation of that approach? The 5-foot-7 receiver leads Cleveland in targets, receptions and receiving yards through three games.

  • 21
    21New Orleans Saints
    last week: 16
    record: 1-3
    The Saints forced and recovered a Julio Jones fumble on their second defensive possession of the season. Their opponents have not committed a turnover since. Meanwhile, Drew Brees and Co. have coughed the ball up seven times, leaving New Orleans with a league-worst minus-six turnover margin.
    It's not just the defense or offense struggling. It's everyone.

  • 22
    22Miami Dolphins
    last week: 26
    record: 2-2
    Quite a week for the Dolphins, with head coach Joe Philbin and QB Ryan Tannehill volleying back and forth through the press. All that was missing was Tannehill sitting behind Philbin on the flight to London, asking, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
    Whatever happened, it worked. Tannehill played one of the better games of his career in a 38-14 win and -- poof! -- the Dolphins are tied for first place in the AFC East.

  • 23
    23Carolina Panthers
    last week: 13
    record: 2-2
    After losing Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Stewart to injuries in Week 3, the Panthers welcomed DeAngelo Williams back for Week 4 ... and then he got hurt. They never should have built the running back's lockers on top of that ancient Indian burial ground.

  • 24
    24Minnesota Vikings
    last week: 27
    record: 2-2
    The youth movement is on in Minnesota. Teddy Bridgewater shined in his starting debut; RB Jerick McKinnon earned himself more work with a 135-yard effort; and the Vikings' other 2014 first-round pick, Anthony Barr, has a sack in back-to-back weeks.
    Now, if the Vikings could only remember where they left Cordarrelle Patterson.

  • 25
    25Buffalo Bills
    last week: 18
    record: 2-2
    In case the Bills were having any second thoughts about swapping out EJ Manuel for Kyle Orton at quarterback, a move made possibly at the expense of the team's quarterbacking future, reassurance came Monday night. That's when the Patriots -- the odds-on AFC East favorites -- were manhandled by the Chiefs to drop them to 2-2. The division is wide open, which is why Buffalo is rolling the dice.

  • 26
    26New York Jets
    last week: 22
    record: 1-3
    Rex Ryan continues to back QB Geno Smith, saying this week, "I believe we're going to get it done and I believe he's going to be one of the main reasons we get it done."
    How much longer until Ryan decides the Jets are not "getting it done"? They're 1-3 and facing a daunting three-games-in-11 days stretch: at San Diego, vs. Denver, at New England on a Thursday night.

  • 27
    27Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    last week: 31
    record: 1-3
    Just when you think they're about to break apart, when the wind blows hard and the sky is black, and when everyone says it can't be done ... Bucs fly together. Wait, that's supposed to be "Ducks fly together." Sorry. Still works here, though.

  • 28
    28St. Louis Rams
    last week: 28
    record: 1-2
    Because of the ever-backfiring commitment to Sam Bradford at quarterback, one could argue that Jeff Fisher has not had a real fair shake as St. Louis' head coach -- the Rams showed promise with a 7-8-1 mark in 2012, but Bradford has played all of seven games since then.
    So, maybe Fisher deserves more time. But it still feels like he could be the next head coach on the chopping block.

  • 29
    29Washington Redskins
    last week: 24
    record: 1-3
    Start the timer for 13 weeks -- that is how long Washington has to figure out its plan at quarterback, whether that plan be to turn things back over to Robert Griffin III, let Kirk Cousins work through his issues or toss everything in the trash and start again. The Redskins simply cannot go into 2015 with the same questions they asked in '13 and '14.

  • 30
    30Tennessee Titans
    last week: 29
    record: 1-3
    The last three weeks have been absolute misery for the Titans -- three losses by a combined 100-34. "I think we're having growing pains on this team in a lot of spots," head coach Ken Whisenhunt said this week.
    Hey, it's understandable -- new staff, new schemes, etc. A favorable October schedule (three of four at home, all against teams that missed the playoffs last season) provides a chance to fast-forward the maturation process. Otherwise, Whisenhunt can start planning for next year.

  • 31
    31Oakland Raiders
    last week: 30
    record: 0-4
    New coach, maybe a new GM, and once again it is hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel in Oakland. Because of an offseason plan to add a few veterans, this is a rebuilding team that has not started actually rebuilding yet.

  • 32
    32Jacksonville Jaguars
    last week: 32
    record: 0-4
    The Jaguars probably are not bad enough to threaten 0-16. Of course, before the season, everyone assumed that the Jaguars probably would improve as a team and that their defense probably would lead the way, so ...

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