NFL Power Rankings, Week 4: The NFC's hottest teams storm the top five
- The Cardinals were a popular Super Bowl pick, but as we head into Week 4, they don't even find themselves in the Top 10 of our rankings. Who else is rising and falling?
Hit the reset button.
The No. 3 and No. 6 teams in our previous Power Rankings (Pittsburgh and Houston, respectively) were absolutely throttled in Week 3. Teams Nos. 4 (Carolina), 5 (Arizona) and 7 (Cincinnati) were pushed around in losses. Some of you would be quick to point out that shows a flaw in our Power Rankings, and to those of you I say, “Thank you for your tweets.”
What it also shows is that there is a very thin line between being great and just average in this league, with not many teams clearing that height.
How will this week’s Power Rankings hold up?
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ...” That’s inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, of course, but it’s also how Bill Belichick answers the question, “Whom could you win a game with as your quarterback?”
The only team with fewer yards of offense than the Vikings’ 796 is Los Angeles, which in a roundabout way tells you all you need to know about Minnesota’s defense. The Vikings not only generated eight sacks and three turnovers but also forced Carolina into four holding calls (one declined). Mike Zimmer’s defense is sensational.
That strange apparition you saw during the Chiefs-Jets game was Ryan Fitzpatrick’s soul leaving his body. The Chiefs intercepted six Fitzpatrick passes Sunday—four times during a surreal seven-minute stretch in the fourth quarter.
Given the Steelers’ awful history in Philadelphia—they have lost nine straight games there, including Sunday’s 34–3 abomination—we probably can assume their 2017 draft in the City of Brotherly Love will be a disaster, too. The good news? Le’Veon Bell is back this week, just in time for a key matchup with Kansas City.
The Ravens’ wins have come by an average of 4.3 points against three teams sporting a combined 1–8 record, so your skepticism is understandable. That said, the Ravens haven’t been 3–0 since 2009, and they already have two road wins banked. There won’t be any complaints from them.
A healthy Jimmy Graham (six catches, 100 yards and a TD last Sunday) may be just what the sluggish Seattle offense needs to find its stride. Limiting the hits that Walking Recovery Water Commercial/QB Russell Wilson takes on a weekly basis wouldn’t be a bad thing, either.
Carolina’s pass blocking comes with the same odds of success as Señor Chang’s fire-safety plan in Community: “Fire can’t go through doors, stupid. It’s not a ghost!” Denver (twice) and now Minnesota have lived in the Panthers’ backfield, so this has become an unwelcome recurring theme for Cam Newton.
• Week Under Review: A not-so-bold Super Bowl prediction
The Browns moving the football with Cody Kessler and Terrelle Pryor provided an answer to anyone wondering why Cincinnati would miss Hue Jackson. Tyler Eifert’s impending return will be a great help, but the Bengals’ offense has been out of sync through three weeks.
The injury bug won’t go away—guard La’el Collins (foot) just landed on IR and Dez Bryant (knee) might need an MRI. Still, the Cowboys now look less like a team weathering the storm until Tony Romo comes back and more like one confident it can roll without him.
Say hello to the league’s lone team with three separate players (Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington) who have over 100 yards rushing this season. Is it just a coincidence that Oakland’s run game is enjoying a resurgence the same year those Bo Jackson Tecmo Super Bowl commercials start airing? Yes. It is a coincidence, yes.
Imagine that instead of upsetting the Soviet Union, the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team lost that medal-round game, like, 11–0. That’s how the Texans’ attempt to ascend the AFC ranks has gone whenever they see New England. Houston scraps its way into the conference mix, only to get obliterated by its big, bad rival.
The Cardinals are one or two more no-shows away from testing Bruce Arians’s likeability quotient—coaches with engaging personalities tend to receive more benefit of the doubt from the public and the media. Complete duds like Sunday’s loss in Buffalo should not happen for a team with Arizona’s talent level.
• Cardinals’ loss to Bills raises plenty of questions
New York missed a golden opportunity to take control of the NFC East and now faces back-to-back trips to Minnesota and Green Bay. Oh yeah, and scoring just nine points on offense against the Saints, which the Giants did in Week 2, looks more and more mind-boggling by the week.
The jury’s still out on how good the Falcons are—they started last season 6–1, after all—but the passing attack is on to something. Matt Ryan’s yards per attempt (9.4) and yards per completion (13.3) lead the league through three weeks of the regular season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s meltdown in Kansas City was like watching those videos where NBA players block little kids’ shots. It had been nine years since a quarterback (Peyton Manning, of all people, against San Diego) threw six interceptions in a game before Fitzpatrick pulled it off Sunday.
Behind one door is a land of chocolate mountains and bourbon streams where the Rams beat Seattle and hang 37 points on Tampa Bay. Behind the other door is a bear that definitely will maul you and there’s only Pepsi products but never Coke and the Rams lose by 28 to San Francisco. Choose wisely.
Washington had to have its Week 3 game in New York and now gets a bye ... oops, sorry, the schedule actually says Browns. Basically the same thing. With DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon and an emerging Jamison Crowder, Washington’s passing game should look like it did last Sunday on a more consistent basis.
The NFL could save itself a lot of trouble simply by starting Colts games late in the fourth quarter, with Indianapolis in possession of the ball and down a few points. Feels like every single matchup winds up there one way or another, at least when Andrew Luck’s in the lineup.
The Chargers are well on their way to being the league’s best 5–11 team, which comes with the likely prize package of a top-10 pick and a new coach. And if the Chargers’ bid on their own showcase comes within $100 of being correct, they also win the other showcase: a new stadium, a jet ski and a DVD collection of Alec Baldwin movies.
Be it Lamar Miller or now an Arian Foster/Kenyan Drake/Jay Ajayi combo, the Dolphins might be doomed to have a mediocre run game. On the bright side, when he’s healthy, DeVante Parker looks like he could develop into one of the better receivers in football.
Marcus Mariota now has made 15 career starts; Tennessee has scored 20 or more points in just five of those games. The process of developing a young QB on a rebuilding team can take tons of time, but the output thus far does not exactly qualify as encouraging.
The Saints’ defense was less of a presence on Monday night than Lester Holt. While Sean Payton recently received a five-year contract extension and Drew Brees should be around through at least 2017, there does not appear to be a fairy-tale New Orleans ending waiting for that duo.
Up four spots after another loss because a) The teams below the Browns are in shambles, and b) What Hue Jackson accomplished with his misfit offense in Sunday’s 30–24 loss to the Dolphins was brilliant. If nothing else, at least Jackson’s presence gives the Browns purpose as they tinker with their roster.
The Dolphins fired Joe Philbin after losing in London. Ditto for the Raiders with Dennis Allen. Last year, Detroit canned its offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, just before leaving for the overseas trip. Gus Bradley may not suffer the same fate, regardless of what happens against Indianapolis, but he might want to fill an extra suitcase just in case he has time to add on to his Europe trip.
The last time the Cubs won a playoff game before the Bears managed a regular-season win was 1945—the Cubs took Game 1 of the World Series against Detroit on Oct. 3; the Bears needed until Nov. 4 before beating the Packers. History likely will be repeated if the Bears can’t knock off the Lions this Sunday.