NFL Power Rankings Week 4: Bengals maintain top spot after dominant win

2:16 | NFL
NFL Power Rankings: Week 4
Wednesday September 24th, 2014

Nearly half the 2013 playoff field -- five of the 12 teams who made it -- sit under .500 through three weeks of the 2014 season. Some or all of those struggling teams may wind up in the postseason come January, but so far the results have served as a reminder that the NFL can be utterly unpredictable.

NFL's most surprising team | The most disappointing teams of Week 3

What do all the early surprises mean for our latest Power Rankings?

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NFL Power Rankings
  • 1
    1Cincinnati Bengals
    last week: 1
    record: 3-0
    Cincinnati's win over Tennessee on Sunday sort of drifted into the background of the other games, like the Florida State-Citadel or Oregon-Wyoming matchups did earlier this month in college football. Wyoming might have had as much chance of knocking off the Ducks as Tennessee did of upsetting the Bengals on Sunday. The 33-7 Bengals victory was practically sealed midway through the second quarter.

  • 2
    2Seattle Seahawks
    last week: 4
    record: 2-1
    Did we get a decibel reading from CenturyLink Field after the Broncos converted a late two-point conversion to tie Sunday's game? Not sure the place has been that quiet in the past decade.
    It was rocking again a few minutes later, when Marshawn Lynch scored in overtime to end it. Good teams keep games close. Great teams find a way to win.

  • 3
    3Denver Broncos
    last week: 2
    record: 2-1
    Two conclusions among many that could be drawn from the Broncos' overtime loss: First, if nothing else, Denver's game-tying drive gave the offense some confidence, knowing it can move the ball on Seattle -- an important mental hurdle to clear should these teams see each other again in the Super Bowl. Second, the overtime rules are still stupid. Outside of maybe the Seahawks' own fans, did anyone feel satisfied not seeing one Peyton Manning possession in overtime?

  • 4
    4Arizona Cardinals
    last week: 6
    record: 3-0
    Well, the NFL schedule is going to sap some drama from next week's Power Rankings. Arizona has a bye, as do the Bengals, Seahawks and Broncos -- a setup that could have repeated itself come the wild-card round if not for the Seahawks and Cardinals being in the same division.
    And, yes, Arizona is capable of not just keeping up its current level or winning the West, but competing for the Super Bowl. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles should be patrolling another team's sideline as a rookie head coach next season.

  • 5
    5Philadelphia Eagles
    last week: 5
    record: 3-0
    RB LeSean McCoy wondered aloud back in July if he could reach the 2,000-yard mark this season. To get there he'll need to average a touch more than 140 yards per game after a really sluggish start (175 yards, one touchdown). The overwhelming issue right now is that Philadelphia's O-line continues to grow more depleted by the week. The Eagles are still 3-0 and second in points scored, but will those issues up front spark a slide beyond McCoy soon?

  • 6
    6San Diego Chargers
    last week: 7
    record: 2-1
    How's this for bum luck? (Or, alternatively, do you believe in jinxes?) According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Danny Woodhead delivered a speech to the Chargers before their win in Buffalo, telling his teammates: "You never know when it could be your last game, your last play, so play like it."
    Woodhead then suffered a season-ending injury on his first carry Sunday. With Ryan Mathews already sidelined, the offseason pickup of Donald Brown suddenly looks genius.

  • 7
    7Chicago Bears
    last week: 10
    record: 2-1
    One can only assume that when the Bears bring in cornerbacks for pre-draft workouts they eschew the typical drills in favor of an hour-long game of "Hey, try to knock this football out of my hands." Rookie CB Kyle Fuller went all Charles Tillman on the Jets Monday night, forcing two fumbles using Tillman's patented punch. Chicago is now plus-six in turnover margin over the past two weeks, both road wins.

  • 8
    8New England Patriots
    last week: 8
    record: 2-1
    "We did enough this game," Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski said, via, after his team's 16-9 win over Oakland, "but that’s not always going to get the job done."
    No kidding. It barely got the job done this week. There is not a whole lot of time to get better, either -- starting Monday, the Patriots play four games in 18 days, capped by a Thursday nighter versus the Jets.

  • 9
    9Baltimore Ravens
    last week: 13
    record: 2-1
    Steve Smith to the rescue again. The veteran receiver nearly pulled a win out of the fire for Baltimore in Week 1 on a long touchdown catch, and he hauled in the critical 32-yard reception to set up Justin Tucker's game-winner Sunday. All things considered, the Ravens should be thrilled with a 2-1 start.

  • 10
    10Detroit Lions
    last week: 15
    record: 2-1
    If the offense and defense ever click at the same time, look out. Of course, that's been the same refrain in Detroit since about the Bobby Layne era. It'd be nice to build snowmen in the summer, too, but that doesn't mean it will happen.
    Maybe this is the year ...

  • 11
    11Pittsburgh Steelers
    last week: 22
    record: 2-1
    Chuck Noll was head coach the last time the Steelers produced two 100-yard rushers in the same game: Walter Abercrombie and Earnest Jackson, on Oct. 26, 1986. That is, the last time until Sunday night, when Le'Veon Bell (147 yards) and LeGarrette Blount (118 yards) pulled off the feat -- against a Carolina defense that finished No. 2 versus the run last season, no less.

  • 12
    12Indianapolis Colts
    last week: 16
    record: 1-2
    The Colts lost Andrew Luck's first-ever meeting with Jacksonville 22-17. They've won the four meetings since by a combined score of 138-40. You know what they say: Never get on the bad side of a quarterback who can grow a full beard in less than an hour.

  • 13
    13Carolina Panthers
    last week: 3
    record: 2-1
    "Burn the tape." A popular phrase for when a team gets humiliated -- in essence, there is so little to be gained from reviewing the performance that it's better to just move on.
    I'd suggest the Panthers do this with their film from Week 3 versus Pittsburgh. They were bad enough that tossing the jerseys they wore that night onto the fire might not be a terrible idea either.

  • 14
    14Atlanta Falcons
    last week: 17
    record: 2-1
    You know how, when William Wallace is being tortured to death at the end of Braveheart, the Englishmen and women watching eventually start to cry for mercy? Pretty much how we all felt last Thursday night when the Falcons kicked the living daylights out of what was supposed to be an improved Tampa Bay team.

  • 15
    15San Francisco 49ers
    last week: 11
    record: 1-2
    Trouble ahead. Trouble behind. Jim Harbaugh, you better watch your team.
    Man, if Weird Al ever wants to write a Grateful Dead parody song about the 2014 49ers, I just did him a huuuuuge favor.
    Anyway ... Harbaugh's bunch entered the season amid some turmoil, including questions about his future in San Francisco. After a disappointing 1-2 start, the 49ers might be at a crossroads between galvanizing around their issues or imploding entirely.

  • 16
    16New Orleans Saints
    last week: 21
    record: 1-2
    Ever been to New Orleans? The second you set foot outside, a 50-ounce hurricane drink magically appears in your hand, a brass band starts following you around and the nearest 100 people start screaming "WHO DAT!" from all directions.
    There is no easing into anything. It's full throttle all the time. So it is confusing to see the Saints coast through three weeks of the season. Even Sunday's win over Minnesota was unfulfilling -- the outcome was in doubt until late in the fourth quarter.

  • 17
    17Dallas Cowboys
    last week: 24
    record: 2-1
    Whether you're a fan of Tony Romo miscues, high-scoring games or exciting finishes, the Cowboys are must-see TV this season. This is a flawed team showing the capability to win behind a loaded offense. Five of their next six games are at home -- a very early make-or-break stretch.

  • 18
    18Buffalo Bills
    last week: 12
    record: 2-1
    Perhaps no stat illustrates the limitations of an EJ Manuel-led offense as well as this one: In 13 career starts Manuel has just 14 touchdown passes. The Bills want to minimize any risk for Manuel, so they continue to play it rather conservatively with him. But as Sunday's 22-10 loss showed, at some point they'll have to turn Manuel loose a bit. Is he capable of raising his game?

  • 19
    19Green Bay Packers
    last week: 9
    record: 1-2
    "Five letters here just for everybody out there in Packer-land: R-E-L-A-X," Aaron Rodgers said this week. "Relax. We're going to be OK."
    The natural lean is to believe him -- the Packers have made the playoffs each of the past five seasons, with a Super Bowl win mixed in there. On the other hand, the offense managed all of seven points in Detroit on Sunday and the O-line right now is ... what's the worst thing in the world for Wisconsin natives? Light beer? Vegetarianism? Whatever the answer is, the offensive line is playing like that right now.

  • 20
    20Cleveland Browns
    last week: 20
    record: 1-2
    All three of Cleveland's games have been decided by three points or less. When the margin of error is that small, a team cannot afford to, oh, miss a field goal and have another attempt blocked in the fourth quarter. Cleveland probably should be 3-0 right now; it's 1-2 instead.

  • 21
    21Houston Texans
    last week: 18
    record: 2-1
    We are now three Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions closer to the Ryan Mallett era beginning in Houston. Fitzpatrick was solid in Weeks 1 and 2, but he's still a turnover-prone veteran with limited upside. Probably sooner rather than later, this quarterback switch is going to happen.

  • 22
    22New York Jets
    last week: 19
    record: 1-2
    The Jets were inside the Chicago 25 four different times in the second half Monday and came away with all of six points. There is plenty of blame to go around here: Geno Smith, for a boneheaded interception plus a few more errant passes; the Jets' depth chart for not boasting enough weapons with Eric Decker banged up; and, of course, Marty Mornhinweg for some play calls that I assume he picked randomly using a Ouija board.

  • 23
    23Kansas City Chiefs
    last week: 27
    record: 1-2
    Not even Joe McKnight would have predicted that Joe McKnight would be one of the players tasked with trying to save the Chiefs' season. He came through with a pair of touchdowns Sunday -- the first non-return touchdowns of his NFL career.
    "I didn’t really think I was even going to be back [after] how things went in New York," McKnight, a former Jet, told the Kansas City Star. "I’m happy to be back. I’m happy to have coaches that believe in me. I’m happy to have a team that’s going to back me up, no matter what."

  • 24
    24Washington Redskins
    last week: 26
    record: 1-2
    DeAngelo Hall's Achilles' injury is about one-hundred-and-RGIII times worse for Washington's 2014 chances than the Robert Griffin ankle injury. Kirk Cousins has shown quickly that he fits well in Jay Gruden's offense. There is not anyone near as competent a replacement for Hall in the secondary.

  • 25
    25New York Giants
    last week: 29
    record: 1-2
    Interceptions for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Antrel Rolle and Prince Amukamara, a 176-yard day for Rashad Jennings and Eli Manning at a 75-percent completion rate. When Tom Coughlin had dreams about how the 2014 season would go, they probably looked a lot like Sunday.

  • 26
    26Miami Dolphins
    last week: 14
    record: 1-2
    This is ... bad. Like end-of-the-line Dave Wannstedt/Tony Sparano bad. After a second consecutive blowout loss, this one at home to the Chiefs, the Dolphins are coming apart at the seams on defense and QB Ryan Tannehill reportedly might be benched before long.
    If head coach Joe Philbin plans to survive this season, winning at Oakland on Sunday is probably essential.

  • 27
    27Minnesota Vikings
    last week: 23
    record: 1-2
    It's Teddy Time, you guys. As in Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings' rookie quarterback, who will take over starting duties now that Matt Cassel has landed on injured reserve.
    One thing that might help Bridgewater: If the Vikings also committed to making it Cordarrelle O'Clock. Even with Adrian Peterson deactivated and Kyle Rudolph hobbling, the Vikings have not increased Cordarrelle Patterson's usage at all. They need to rethink that approach.

  • 28
    28St. Louis Rams
    last week: 28
    record: 1-2
    Awaiting St. Louis after its Week 4 bye is this: at Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, at Kansas City, at San Francisco, at Arizona, Denver, at San Diego. The Rams might feel like a kid dreading the end of summer vacation when it's time to get back to work.

  • 29
    29Tennessee Titans
    last week: 25
    record: 1-2
    After Kurt Warner hung up his cleats, then-Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt proceeded to cycle through John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Brian Hoyer, Max Hall, Derek Anderson, Richard Bartel and Ryan Lindley at quarterback over the next three seasons. He cited that disastrous merry go-round as why he wants to stick by Jake Locker --- "One of the things that you asked me when I first got here was what would I do differently. One of the things was patience with the quarterback," Whisenhunt said after Sunday's loss.
    He may be the last person with any patience left when it comes to Locker.

  • 30
    30Oakland Raiders
    last week: 32
    record: 0-3
    Just once in their franchise history have the Raiders finished with the league's lowest-scoring offense: 2006, on a team featuring a disgruntled Randy Moss and quarterbacked by a combo of Andrew Walter and Aaron Brooks. Through three weeks, this Raiders team is on track to match the '06 squad's dubious achievement. This season's Raiders (12.3 points per game) at least have a little hope, thanks to Derek Carr's presence.

  • 31
    31Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    last week: 30
    record: 0-3
    Interesting choice by the Buccaneers to have a "Play like the 1976 expansion team" promotion in Atlanta last Thursday. Heck, the quarterback of that first Tampa Bay team, one Steve Spurrier, might have fared as well against the Falcons as either Josh McCown or Mike Glennon did. And I mean present-day, 69-year-old Steve Spurrier.

  • 32
    32Jacksonville Jaguars
    last week: 31
    record: 0-3
    Let's check in on the Jaguars' rebuilding project ... oh no.
    This is the point on one of those HGTV or DIY network shows where the contractor comes back and tells the home owner he needs to gut the whole property. The silver lining here (/ends renovation metaphor): Blake Bortles has supplanted Chad Henne in the starting lineup, a move that was an obvious one from almost the get-go.

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