Welcome to yet another addition of, “Everything you think you know about football is wrong.”
No Teddy Bridgewater? No Adrian Peterson? No chance for the Minnesota Vikings. No, just kidding. They’re the NFL’s last undefeated team.
Well, at least the fluky Atlanta Falcons got laid to rest this week, right? Oh, no, what’s that? They soundly beat the defending champion Denver Broncos, that’s what.
And thus, those two wacky NFC darlings nobody saw coming join in the top five in this week’s edition of the Today’s Pigskin NFL Power Rankings.
Thankfully, the AFC (mostly) held serve and kept some semblance of normalcy as the traditional powers in New England, Denver and Pittsburgh remain in that elite tier. Read on to see who slots where in our top five and where your (lesser) favorite team might’ve landed.
And, remember, these rankings are intended to inspire discussion, so, whether you agree or disagree, let us hear it in the comments below.
- Cleveland Browns (0-5) Last Week: 32
The Browns have now played five games and have had the same amount of players throw a pass. As you’d expect, that hasn’t exactly gone well for the downtrodden franchise. On the bright side, Andrew Hawkins’ touchdown celebration was both fire flames and league-friendly.
- Miami Dolphins (1-4) Last Week: 31
How do you solidify yourself as a bottom-tier team? Get thoroughly outclassed by another squad that most see as middling at best. That’s exactly what the Dolphins did in their loss to the Titans. Miami got trounced, giving up 235 rushing yards to Tennessee and allowing a struggling Marcus Mariota to score four times as well. Ryan Tannehill, meanwhile, continues to see ghosts in the pocket.
- San Francisco 49ers (1-4) Last Week: 29
After another subpar week from Blaine Gabbert, Chip Kelly has finally decided to hand his offense over to Colin Kaepernick. This will surely lead to much Twitter outrage regarding the controversial quarterback. On the field, though, is a different story. Regardless of who’s under center, this team simply isn’t talented enough to compete.
- Chicago Bears (1-4) Last Week: 30
In a bubble, Brian Hoyer impressed on Sunday. The veteran journeyman threw for nearly 400 yards, two scores and didn’t commit a single turnover. It’s the throw Hoyer didn’t make, one on fourth down to a wide open Alshon Jeffery downfield late in the game, that cost the Bears a potential victory, however. Hoyer’s done enough to retain his hold of Chicago’s starting quarterback job right now, but it’s hard to imagine the 30-year-old suddenly becoming a long-term fix.
- San Diego Chargers (1-4) Last Week: 26
It’s almost unfathomable that the Chargers are 1-4. San Diego has scored the second-most points in the league and has just a -10 point differential. Its last three games have been decided by a total of eight points. Continually keeping their games tight keeps the Chargers out of the basement, but continually finding new and inventive ways to lose those games makes San Diego a bottom-five club.
- New Orleans Saints (1-3) Last Week: 25
Yes, even during a bye week the Saints manage to slide a few spots. This is due, largely, to the fact that some of the teams they were ahead of put another tally in the win column. That said, the fact that a week off can’t cure what ails this team, and that the outlook isn’t so rosy for the weeks and months to come, certainly played a part as well.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) Last Week: 23
Like New Orleans, the Jaguars slide a bit by virtue of some other perceived bottom-feeders getting into the win column. Unlike New Orleans, however, there is some room for optimism regarding Jacksonville. It’s no secret that the Jaguars are loaded with young talent, now it’s just a matter of whether or not we see some progress out of that talent after a week off. If not, it could well be Gus Bradley’s last year at the helm of this franchise.
- New York Jets (1-4) Last Week: 21
Yes, the schedule’s been brutal. Yes, an erratic Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t helped matters. But this Jets team was expected to contend for a playoff spot and right now they seem worlds away from doing that. Even in a week where they came out ahead in terms of turnover margin, New York got absolutely torched by Pittsburgh in an 18-point loss that put its postseason hopes on life support.
- Indianapolis Colts (2-3) Last Week: 24
A six-point win over an underwhelming Bears team that wasn’t secure until the game’s final minute is far from sexy. But it counts as a win in the standings all the same. With the W, Indy finds itself just a game back of the AFC South lead. Given the state of its roster, it can’t ask for much more than that right now.
- Tennessee Titans (2-3) Last Week: 27
Like their division brethren, beating a bad team in the Dolphins wouldn’t do the Titans many favors. Beating up on that hapless foe, however, does give Tennessee a nice little boost. The Titans dominated on the ground and Marcus Mariota finally seemed to get his mojo back in a four-touchdown outing. If he can string together a few of those performances against not-so-awful teams, then Tennessee could crack the top-20.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) Last Week: 28
In a span of just a few minutes, Roberto Aguayo went from a potentially unemployed all-time draft bust to primetime hero. Football is funny like that. If the inconsistencies continue, Aguayo’s Monday night game-winner will soon become a distant memory. But, for the narrative’s sake, one can’t help but to hope that his big kick will be the one that gets his career on the right track.
- Detroit Lions (2-3) Last Week: 22
The Lions can be maddeningly inconsistent. A week after shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly against a hapless Bears club, Detroit came up big in crucial situations to topple the then-undefeated Eagles. Given Detroit’s dubious history, it’s unlikely that this win will be the catalyst for a winning streak. But it was at least a reminder of why these Lions are one of the league’s more dangerous sub-.500 teams
- Carolina Panthers (1-4) Last Week: 19
As with the Jets, one can’t help but to feel like the Panthers are better than their record. They didn’t slide quite as far as New York this week primarily because they were forced to start a backup in Derek Anderson, whose end zone interception against Tampa Bay may well have cost them the ballgame. Nonetheless, this loss is one that could prove damning to the Panthers if they ever manage to right the ship.
- New York Giants (2-3) Last Week: 16
When was the last time Eli Manning managed a strong outing from top-to-bottom? There certainly haven’t been any in the year 2016. Manning has perhaps as gifted a group of wide receivers as there is in the NFL and, yet, he completed just a third of his passes to them on Sunday night. The final score may say that the Giants fell to a strong Packers team by just seven, but New York’s clash with Green Bay never felt like a seven-point game.
- Los Angeles Rams (3-2) Last Week: 14
The Rams’ loss to the Buffalo Bills was a masterpiece in bad coaching. First, the Rams kicked a 22-yard field goal with less than six minutes to play to cut the Bills lead to 23-19. With the kick, the Rams went from needing a touchdown to needing a touchdown. They later got stuffed in their own territory on a fake punt that all but iced the game. Wouldn’t a better time to coach aggressively be when you’re already within an arm’s length of the end zone?
- Arizona Cardinals (2-3) Last Week: 20
Last Thursday’s victory over the 49ers wasn’t exactly a hallmark win, but it was one the Cardinals needed. And it was one in which the stars stepped up. David Johnson (157 yards, two scores), Larry Fitzgerald (81 yards, two scores) and the defense (seven sacks, three turnovers) all came up big and kept Arizona afloat with backup quarterback Drew Stanton under center.
- Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) Last Week: 8
Losing competitive matchups with Pittsburgh and Denver can be forgiven, both are considered among the class of the AFC. Getting stomped by a rookie-led Cowboys team, though, is inexcusable. That’s not a knock on Dallas, but more of a testament of what we’ve come to expect out of Cincinnati. If the Bengals can’t right the ship this weekend against the Patriots, a daunting task in itself, Marvin Lewis’ seat ought to start getting pretty warm.
- Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) Last Week: 15
The Chiefs got a week off to stew over the whooping the Steelers dealt them. Jamaal Charles also got another week to (hopefully) return to the dynamic form he’s come to be known for. Both were much needed after a three-week span in which Kansas City managed 12, 10 and 14 points on offense. With a date against the high-scoring Raiders coming up, the Chiefs will need their own scoring unit to do a little more, well, scoring.
- Baltimore Ravens (3-2) Last Week: 13
The Ravens don’t slide much because as far as teams with comparable records go, they’ve been kept on the lower side of these rankings. Baltimore’s turned to addition by subtraction to spark a struggling offense, cutting ties with starting tailback Justin Forsett and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. The Ravens have enough offensive talent to be better than they have been thus far, so it’ll be interesting to see if the shake-up gets things moving in the right direction.
- Washington Redskins (3-2) Last Week: 18
Maybe they’re just slow starters? The Redskins hopes to defend their NFC East crown looked dead in the water after Week 2, but Washington’s rallied back to win three straight. It hasn’t always been pretty, especially not in this past Sunday’s 16-10 triumph over the Ravens. Good teams are often in the business of winning ugly and, so long as Washington can continue to do so, then it has chance to become the first back-to-back NFC East Champion since the Eagles in 2003-04.
- Houston Texans (3-2) Last Week: 12
What have we seen out of the Texans so far? That they can beat bad-to-average teams (Chicago, Kansas City, Tennessee) and can’t hang with far superior ones (New England, Minnesota). In a weak division, that’ll likely be enough to make them a playoff qualifier. But nobody expects anything out of Brock Osweiler and co. come January. Yeah, 12th seems about right.
- Buffalo Bills (3-2) Last Week: 17
Firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman once seemed like a desperation move out of the oft-criticized Rex Ryan, but it was a decision that’s paid off handsomely. One can’t help but to harp on the fact that two of Buffalo’s three wins this year came against teams quarterbacked by Jacoby Brissett and Case Keenum, but if LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor continue to play as well as they have over the last three weeks then Ryan just might earn himself another year in Buffalo
- Oakland Raiders (4-1) Last Week: 11
Raider Nation would probably prefer that its team didn’t make things so nerve-wracking on a week-to-week basis, but, hey, as long as it’s working they’ll deal. Gambling Jack Del Rio and his high-flying offense have made football fun in Oakland again. With dates against Kansas City, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay next on deck, don’t expect that fun to stop anytime soon.
- Dallas Cowboys (4-1) Last Week: 10
At this point, it’s fair to wonder just how impressive a win over a Bengals team that’s only beaten the Jets and the Dolphins really is. However, dominating a team that coming off five consecutive playoff seasons is impressive no matter how you slice it. One can’t help but to wonder if, with the roll these Cowboys have been on, Jerry Jones’ declaration that Tony Romo will start upon his return is the right move.
- Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) Last Week: 4
No, the Eagles and Carson Wentz weren’t exposed. A one-point road loss to a Lions team that’s better than they’re given credit for doesn’t serve to take all the shine off a quarter-season in Philadelphia that’s been better than anybody expected. That said, we will find out plenty about this Eagles team over the next few weeks. Will they learn from and correct their mistakes, or will a tough loss shake the confidence they built over their first three games?
- Seattle Seahawks (3-1) Last Week: 7
The Seahawks got hit with the dreaded early bye week just as they were starting to roll. However, that may’ve been a blessing in disguise. Seattle got an extra week to prepare for an Atlanta Falcons team that’s blown everybody away thus far. The matchup between Atlanta’s explosive offense and Seattle’s dominating defense should make this NFC showdown the game of the week.
- Green Bay Packers (3-1) Last Week: 6
After posting just 132 yards in his first three games of the year, Randall Cobb came on strong in prime time. The sixth-year man went for 108 yards against the Giants, his first 100-yard day since Week 2 of 2015. Cobb looked rejuvenated on Sunday night, producing several nice runs after the catch. He may not be the star his fantasy owners were hoping for, but when he’s producing as he did on Sunday this offense reaches another gear.
- Atlanta Falcons (4-1) Last Week: 9
With convincing wins over defending conference champions in consecutive weeks, nobody’s questioning the legitimacy of the Falcons any longer. Atlanta’s offense was a known strength coming in to the year, but its defense is beginning to round into form as well. Vic Beasley, a top-10 pick in 2015, starred on Sunday with 3.5 sacks for a defense that racked up six quarterback takedowns altogether.
- Denver Broncos (4-1) Last Week: 1
Paxton Lynch, making the first start of his pro career, had a reasonably efficient game statistically. That said, he was ineffective for much of the day, piloting Denver to just three points in the first three quarters during its loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Lynch has shown some promise through a game-and-a-half, but, for the time being, Denver will certainly welcome Trevor Siemian back with open arms.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) Last Week: 5
The Steelers have won their past two games by a combined score of 74-27. Injuries continue to take their toll, Cameron Heyward joins Ryan Shazier, Bud Dupree, Senquez Golson, Robert Golden, Marcus Gilbert and Ladarius Green as critical pieces who’ve missed time this year. The resolve the Steelers have shown in dominating opponents without those guys, though, suggests they’ll be a fearsome foe when (or if) fully healthy.
- New England Patriots (4-1) Last Week: 2
A New England Patriots tight end is on pace for 67 receptions, 1,004 yards and nine touchdowns. Ho-hum, right? Rob Gronkowski does (at least) that every year. But those projections don’t belong to “Gronk,” they belong to Martellus Bennett. Bennett’s been New England’s best offensive weapon thus far while playing with three different quarterbacks. Now with a fully healthy Gronkowski and Tom Brady joining him in the lineup, the Patriots’ arrow continues to point upward.
- Minnesota Vikings (5-0) Last Week: 3
The NFL’s lone unbeaten makes its first appearance in the top spot and it’s a well-deserved debut. Minnesota’s defense remains otherworldly, having yet to allow as much as 17 points in any of its five games played. For all the press the defense (rightfully) receives, though, it can’t be understated how quickly and impressively Sam Bradford has developed chemistry with a group of no-name pass-catchers.