NFL Power Rankings Week 5: It may be Bengals' year as they jump into top 3

2:15 | NFL
SI's NFL Power Rankings: Week 5
Tuesday October 6th, 2015

There are six remaining undefeated teams in the NFL through four weeks. There are 23 teams with either two or three losses, including the entirety of the AFC South and NFC East.

The line between parity and mediocrity is rather thin around the league these days, but it would appear that the NFL has plenty of both right now. How does that play out in our latest Power Rankings?

NFL Week 5 Power Rankings
  • 1
    1New England Patriots
    last week: 1
    record: 3-0
    Week 4 was a bye week for the Patriots, so I'm taking the scenic route here: Bill Belichick is a member on Bill Parcells' coaching tree, but Belichick's own branch is rather interesting in itself, if only because it's still waiting on a really good NFL head coach to emerge. Nick Saban (Belichick's defensive coordinator in Cleveland) has had the most success, though almost all of it has come in college—his two-year stint with the Dolphins was a mess. Kirk Ferentz has sustained a lengthy NCAA career, too. Then there’s Jim Schwartz, Bill O'Brien, Josh McDaniels and Romeo Crennel: all respected coordinators with a trail of head-coaching disappointments between them; O'Brien is the only one of the four currently in that role now. Since the firing of the Dolphins' Joe Philbin turned this week into a look at potential future coaches, one name to remember is Matt Patricia. McDaniels will get another shot soon, but current Patriots defensive coordinator Patricia could be the breakthrough hire for a team digging into the Belichick roots.

  • 2
    2Green Bay Packers
    last week: 2
    record: 4-0
    At some point we should discuss the Packers' defense. How 'bout now? Thanks to Sunday's 17–3 shutdown of the reeling 49ers, Green Bay now holds the league's No. 3 overall defense and a top-10 scoring defense. Clay Matthews has been brilliant, as usual, but the real story is up front where a resurgent B.J. Raji has provided Mike Daniels with some long-awaited help.

  • 3
    3Cincinnati Bengals
    last week: 5
    record: 4-0
    Every positive performance in August, by any player of a team, tends to be met with a "Yeah, but it's the preseason ..." refrain. A similar phenomenon follows the Bengals into the regular season. "Sure, they're good now, but it's not the playoffs." Consider this an early warning that this could be the year Cincinnati finally breaks through.

  • 4
    4Denver Broncos
    last week: 4
    record: 4-0
    The 103 yards Ronnie Hillman rushed for on Sunday marked the second-highest total of his NFL career. The Broncos also are now 3–0 all-time whenever Hillman tops the century mark. Not impressed? Then try this one on for size: Denver is 16–0 when Hillman finishes a game with 30 yards or more rushing.

  • 5
    5Arizona Cardinals
    last week: 3
    record: 3-1
    Chalk up Sunday's loss to St. Louis as a blip on the radar, at least for now—Arizona was minus-three in the turnover battle and settled for five field goals in a game it lost by two. On the other hand, if you've been itching to point out that the Cardinals' three wins have come over teams with a combined three wins themselves, now would be the time.

  • 6
    6Atlanta Falcons
    last week: 6
    record: 4-0
    Back in August, when the NFC East seemed as if it could be formidable and the Colts were a popular Super Bowl pick, the Falcons' calendar had its fair share of trouble spots. These days, it's a home game vs. South Dakota away from looking like Kansas State's nonconference schedule. Already 4–0, Atlanta should be favored in every game until at least its Week 14 trip to Carolina.

  • 7
    7New York Jets
    last week: 12
    record: 3-1
    It is an overlooked bonus when a team scores a ‘road’ win in London. Not that Miami has been a house of horrors for visiting teams of late, but the trip overseas definitely levels the playing field. New York took full advantage and now holds a 2–0 mark as a visiting team this season.

  • 8
    8Carolina Panthers
    last week: 11
    record: 4-0
    The Panthers' defense forced five turnovers and scored two touchdowns in the rain Sunday against the Bucs, pressing Jameis Winston into such a frustrating day that his highlights should be shown in black and white with a Cranberries song playing in the background. Cam Newton barely had to break a sweat.

  • 9
    9Seattle Seahawks
    last week: 7
    record: 2-2
    Russell Wilson is really good. The defense is great. The offensive line is a stinkopotamus. That about sums it all up for the Seahawks, who drop two spots despite a crucial (and controversial) Monday night win over the Lions. How—apart from the occasional Wilson heroics— is Seattle going to score in the next two weeks vs. Cincinnati and Carolina given the current state of its blocking?

  • 10
    10Minnesota Vikings
    last week: 9
    record: 2-2
    The 2014 Minnesota Vikings started the season 2–2 and then lost their next three games, ending any hopes of a surprise playoff push. This year's team is better, deeper and more experienced ... but sits at 2–2 with a tough home game (Kansas City) and two NFC North road games (Detroit, Chicago) coming out of a Week 5 bye. The time to put up or shut up comes early for the Vikings.

  • 11
    11San Diego Chargers
    last week: 14
    record: 2-2
    I sort of feel the same way about the Chargers' performance so far as I do about the first couple episodes of the new Muppets show—pretty underwhelming but, I mean, it has to get better, right? Also, Philip Rivers and Kermit both have been around forever, are kind of awkward and make hilarious faces.

  • 12
    12St. Louis Rams
    last week: 19
    record: 2-2
    The Jeff Fisher regime continues to be a mystery novel with the last chapter ripped out. You read it, you think you have it figured out, and then you realize there's no real answer and you’re left wondering what the hell just happened. Know this, though: Todd Gurley could be the ticket to making the Rams' success more consistent.

  • 13
    13New York Giants
    last week: 20
    record: 2-2
    On paper, the Giants are a flawed team just about everywhere. But suddenly guys like Uani Unga and Kerry Wynn are stepping up on defense and ... well ... is this the team to beat in the NFC East? It's looked that way over the past two weeks, as New York knocked off Washington and routed Buffalo after an 0–2 start to the season.

  • 14
    14Buffalo Bills
    last week: 8
    record: 2-2
    Big win, crummy loss. It's already a theme for Rex Ryan and not just because of his Buffalo start. Remember the 2013 Jets' stretch where they beat the Patriots, lost to Cincinnati by 40, beat the Saints and lost to Buffalo by 23? Ryan has to find a way to keep his team from getting too high after those strong showings.

  • 15
    15Washington Redskins
    last week: 21
    record: 2-2
    Okay, so if you're not buying the Giants as the new NFC East favorites, how about the Fightin' Jay Grudens? Washington has the league's top-ranked rushing attack and its second-ranked rush defense. The game plan in Sunday's win over Philadelphia also played perfectly to Kirk Cousins's limited but very workable abilities.

  • 16
    16Indianapolis Colts
    last week: 16
    record: 2-2
    A decade or two from now, Colts fans probably will not reminisce about the 2015 team's back-to-back wins over Tennessee and Jacksonville—two games taken by a combined five points, only after the Titans ran the Titanic of two-point conversions and Jacksonville missed two field-goal attempts. And yet, in 2015, those results re-establish the Colts as the clear frontrunner in the AFC South.

  • 17
    17Pittsburgh Steelers
    last week: 13
    record: 2-2
    If there were a Playcalling Power Rankings, the Steelers' Thursday night effort vs. Baltimore would be somewhere down near the bottom. And if there were a Kickers Power Rankings, Josh Scobee would be in about a 16-way tie for last with all the players at his position who caught the yips this week.

  • 18
    18Dallas Cowboys
    last week: 10
    record: 2-2
    Brandon Weeden now has thrown for the exact same number of yards this season as Tony Romo (551). He has a better yards per attempt (9.3 to Romo's 7.7), a longer completion (67 yards to Romo's 39) and higher QB rating (108.8 to 98.8). Sadly, it still feels like the Cowboys are doomed until Romo returns.

  • 19
    19Kansas City Chiefs
    last week: 15
    record: 1-3
    Trying to give the Chiefs some benefit of the doubt because of what their schedule has been through the first four games—at Houston, Denver, at Green Bay, at Cincinnati (on a short week). The Texans are a mess, but otherwise that's the football version of stacking all the hurdles together two steps from the start of a 110-meter race. If Kansas City can't pull it together vs. Chicago in Week 5, we'll talk.

  • 20
    20Baltimore Ravens
    last week: 20
    record: 1-3
    When Steve Martin received the American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award this past June, he borrowed a line from famed comedian Jack Benny: “I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either.” Which brings us to the Ravens' Thursday night win in Pittsburgh—one that should have been a loss, yet might make up for one of the three nail-biting losses Baltimore endured to start the season.

  • 21
    21Philadelphia Eagles
    last week: 17
    record: 1-3
    A lot is being made of DeMarco Murray saying that he doesn't think he is getting enough touches. Go ahead and put this one in the “What is he supposed to say?” file. Of course he wants more touches. Of course he's frustrated with how this season has started. Just imagine the reaction if he had responded to the question by saying, “Nah, eight carries is fine with me. I'm good.”

  • 22
    22Oakland Raiders
    last week: 18
    record: 2-2
    Long-suffering Oakland fans can take solace in the fact that losses like Sunday's 22–20 heartbreaker vs. Chicago only really hurt when the outcome actually matters. This probably isn't a playoff team yet, but it will be competitive all year—there may not be quite as many throwaway results in November and December.

  • 23
    23Cleveland Browns
    last week: 25
    record: 1-3
    Hey, 116 yards from scrimmage for Duke Johnson in Week 4! And three hundred and fifty-six yards passing by Josh McCown! Plus, the Browns held the Chargers to 91 yards on 21 carries! What's not to like? Oh, they lost? Well, some things never change.

  • 24
    24New Orleans Saints
    last week: 30
    record: 1-3
    From the fun-with-stats department comes Drew Brees's yards-per-completion rate on Sunday night. He finished with 359 yards on 33 completions, a respectable 10.9 YPC rate. Take out C.J. Spiller's 80-yard OT touchdown, though, and the number drops to 8.7—nearly a yard lower than the NFL's lowest average this season. The latter is more accurate. Brees readjusted for his ailing arm, living with short and intermediate routes.

  • 25
    25Miami Dolphins
    last week: 24
    record: 1-3
    Being the first team to fire a head coach this season should automatically default Miami down to No. 32. There's still too much talent to take that leap right now. Perhaps interim coach Dan Campbell can find a little magic after the Dolphins' bye, during a trip to Tennessee and subsequent home game vs. Houston.

  • 26
    26Tennessee Titans
    last week: 28
    record: 1-2
    Ken Whisenhunt entered the 2015 season on shaky ground, at least on the fringe of potential candidates to be fired. That view might be changing. A 1–2 start is not ideal in the standings, but QB Marcus Mariota has made rapid progress and Tennessee had Indianapolis on the ropes in Week 3. A few wins here and there, and Whisenhunt can start planning for 2016.

  • 27
    27Detroit Lions
    last week: 26
    record: 0-4
    Ameer Abdullah has the potential to be a terrific NFL running back for years. Right now, however, the Lions' rushing stats are downright embarrassing. Abdullah holds a commanding team lead with a measly 115 yards, and he posted 50 yards in Week 1. Joique Bell is second at 22 yards on 20 carries—1.1 yard per attempt. Third place? Matthew Stafford (6 attempts for 18 yards).

  • 28
    28San Francisco 49ers
    last week: 27
    record: 1-3
    Ten points combined over the past two weeks and 28 in their past three outings. This offense is officially an issue. QB Colin Kaepernick is playing with the effectiveness of a fantasy-camp attendee, and everything around him has been just as miserable.

  • 29
    29Houston Texans
    last week: 23
    record: 1-3
    The final play of Houston's blowout Week 4 loss in Atlanta has to rank among the most regrettable in recent memory. Not only did the Texans fumble their way into an Atlanta touchdown, but also Cecil Shorts dislocated his left shoulder in the process. A loss to Indianapolis on Thursday and this season could turn real ugly.

  • 30
    30Chicago Bears
    last week: 32
    record: 1-3
    Chicago is in year one of what could be a three- or four-year restructuring of the roster. Kudos to GM Ryan Pace for recognizing his team's reality and getting a move on the future by trading away pieces that don't fit. A handful of wins, like Sunday's over Oakland, will come. More will be there for the taking in 2016 and beyond.

  • 31
    31Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    last week: 29
    record: 1-3
    Kind of amazing that Jameis Winston's first pass in each of his first two home games has resulted in a pick-six. The fans who stuck it out Sunday in horrid conditions as Tampa Bay lost to the Panthers deserve some sort of medal ... and/or a sobriety test.

  • 32
    32Jacksonville Jaguars
    last week: 31
    record: 1-3
    Imagine watching one of the great sports underdog movies—“Hoosiers” or “Bad News Bears” or “Mighty Ducks” or whatever. Only instead of those teams rising up through teamwork to win the day, they just remained mediocre the entire time. Tough sell for a premise. Tough life for the Jaguars. If they couldn't drop the Colts down a peg with Matt Hasselbeck starting, when is it going to happen?

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