By Angelo Inglisa
Well, here we are. Already at the quarter way point of the NFL season, with more surprises at this point than compared to recent years. Two Super Bowl contenders look wounded, two teams without their starting quarterback are a combined 7-0, b and the NFL has been flagging touchdown celebrations like never before. Week 4 brought about the first bye weeks of the year, with Philly and Green Bay benefitting from the teams around them falling flat. The playoff teams and those looking for primary draft real estate are beginning to come into focus, and with that in mind here are my Power Rankings for Week 5.
Biggest Riser: Atlanta Falcons (17->10)
Biggest Faller: Arizona Cardinals (9->14)
1.) Denver Broncos (+1)
The lone undefeated team in the AFC, the Broncos survived losing Trevor Siemian against the Buccaneers, with Paxton Lynch providing competent QB play. The defense forced 3 turnovers, and Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have adjusted to not having prime Peyton Manning throwing them the ball. In fact, the team hot on their trails is built in a similar fashion.
2.) Minnesota Vikings (+1)
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Much like the Broncos, the Vikings have one of the deepest defenses in the NFL and are getting a productive offense out of Sam Bradford, who’s been with the team for less than 4 weeks, and backup RB Jerick McKinnon. Stefon Diggs requires a defense to closely guard him, opening up holes, and for the most part, Bradford has found them. This team shouldn’t be taken lightly.
3.) New England Patriots (-2)
The Pats stumble a bit due to the shutout at the hands of Rex Ryan and his Bills, but that isn’t a big deal. The true headline is that Tom Brady’s suspension is over and that the Patriots are 3-1 already. Considering Rob Gronkowski has been limited through these first four weeks, the only person who knows just how capable this Patriots team can be is Bill Belichick.
4.) Green Bay Packers (+/-0)
I think that the early bye suited the Packers just fine, considering that the Panthers and Cardinals looked increasingly vulnerable. Green Bay needs to use this bye week to rework their offense and make it a little more dynamic, as the Vikings have looked like the best team in the NFC so far.
5.) Pittsburgh Steelers (+1)
With Le’Veon Bell back, and Sammie Coates finding his hands, the Steelers ran a napalm strike on the Chiefs opportunistic defense. Roethlisberger paced Pittsburgh to 22 first quarter points, and the Steelers never trailed at all in this game. Linebacker Vince WIlliams had quite the game as well, gathering 16 tackles, and 14 of them solo. The best offense in the NFL is back.
6.) Seattle Seahawks (-1)
Despite the fact the o-line still looks like it’s made of toilet paper, there is one saving grace on Seattle’s offense: Jimmy Graham. He’s finally looking like the player that the Seahawks gave up Pro Bowl center Max Unger and a first round pick for. Another 100-yard game for the All Pro tight end, and if he keeps up this production, he may be able to cover the glaring flaws of the Seahawks offense.
7.) Cincinnati Bengals (+1)
Once the Bengals get Tyler Eifert back, which might be this week, their offense becomes increasingly hard to stop. AJ Green has done a good job pacing the offense and giving Andy Dalton someone to throw to besides the ground, and the defense still looks like it can handle the average offense. With the Steelers and Ravens both off to 3-1 starts, Cincy has some ground to make up.
8.) Philadelphia Eagles (+2)
Their Week 3 blowout of the Steelers only looks better after Pittsburgh dismantled a possible playoff team in Kansas City, and with the struggles in Carolina and Arizona, there’s room at the top of the NFC. The Eagles have a swarming defense and so long as Carson Wentz can continue looking like a guy who should’ve went 1st overall, the Eagles can seriously contend for the Super Bowl in a weak NFC.
9.) Oakland Raiders (+6)
The Week 2 loss to the Falcons doesn’t look nearly as bad considering the Falcons have emerged as a top flight offense. Since inserting Karl Joseph into the starting lineup, the defense has tightened up, even if they were gashed by Terrance West. The lack of running game hurt down the stretch as it allowed Baltimore to sneak back into the game, but Derek Carr has done a tremendous job spreading the ball around and making Michael Crabtree relevant as a WR and not as Richard Sherman’s victim.
10.) Atlanta Falcons (+7)
So, who saw last week’s game in the Georgia Dome coming? The Falcons surgically destroyed the Panther, exploiting Carolina’s weak secondary and offensive line. Julio Jones had the 6th 300 receiving yard game ever, Matt Ryan had 200 passing yards to receivers not named Julio Jones, and they finally had a pass rush, from the wily veteran in a wheelchair Dwight Freeney and the young stud Vic Beasley. The Falcons offense just looks too deep to fail them this year.
11.) Carolina Panthers (-4)
Is the Super Bowl hangover real? The same flaws that hurt the Panthers last year are being abused by opposing teams this year. The secondary is a mess of rookies and uninspired vets, the tackles are too slow to handle today’s uber-athletic pass rushers, and not having established RB Jonathan Stewart allows teams to tee off on Cam Newton, who is slated to miss some time with a concussion. Carolina is in some serious trouble if they can’t handle the Buccaneers at home.
12.) Houston Texans (+/-0)
Brock Osweiler has done the impossible: he’s single-handedly shut down elite receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Osweiler held Hopkins to one catch last Sunday, which would be remarkable if Osweiler wasn’t his quarterback. Yes, teams are going to double Hopkins, which has allowed rookie Will Fuller to blossom into this year’s best rookie receiver, but you still have to feed your best player the ball. Luckily for the Texans, the AFC South looks especially weak this year, and they may already have the division locked up.
13.) Baltimore Ravens (-2)
The good news about the Ravens is that it looks like they finally found a run game in Terrance West, and Kenneth Dixon should also inject some new blood after releasing Justin Forsett. Steve Smith refuses to enter retirement quietly, and the offense finally looks like it’s clicking. Last year’s secondary decided to pay the team a visit, but for the most part the Ravens team we saw last Sunday should be able to get Baltimore to the playoffs.
14.) Arizona Cardinals (-5)
Is the NFC Championship Game hangover real? I don’t think that it is, but you wouldn’t know it watching the Cardinals. The defense has struggled a bit against the run, and the offense has just looked out of sync. Carson Palmer took a hit at the end of the Rams game and is going to miss the Thursday Night Football game against the Niners, which now looks like a game the Cardinals could lose. Bruce Arians is still a great coach, but he has to get his team back on track or this could be a mess of the season.
15.) Dallas Cowboys (+3)
It’s starting to feel like 2014 for these Cowboys. They’re winning games with a ground-oriented offense that controls the ball and doesn’t commit turnovers and a defense which is playing better than the sum of its parts. Dak Prescott looks like Drew Brees Junior, which has been a godsend for Dallas, as Dez Bryant has been exceptionally disappointing this year. Ezekiel Elliott is finally rounding into what the Cowboys expected he’d be, and Sean Lee has led the way for this surprising Dallas D. Who would’ve thought the NFC East would be good this year?
16.) Kansas City Chiefs (-3)
They embarrassed the Jets in Week 3, but the Chiefs found themselves on the wrong end of a whupping Sunday night. The Chiefs, while getting back Jamaal Charles, failed to score until the 4th quarter and got picked apart by the Steelers. The defense struggled to keep pace with all of the Steelers weapons, but with their bye week mercifully here, Andy Reid can rally his team and correct the problems from these past four weeks.
17.) New York Giants (-3)
Is it time to panic in New York? It’s not only the Jets that have been stinking up NYC, the Giants offense looks plain bad. Odell Beckham Jr had his worst game of his career Monday night, only catching three passes for only 23 yards. McAdoo’s offense hasn’t translated well over these past 2 years, and the Giants run game was nowhere to be found. The Giants have a lot of work to do, especially with the hot starts in Philadelphia and Dallas.
18.) Washington Redskins (+/-0)
Congrats to the Redskins for not falling victim to a plucky Browns team, which at least 2 teams are going to lose to this year (yes, 2). The Redskins got back-to-back productive games out of Matt Jones, and Kirk Cousins has increased his passing touchdowns every week so far. The Redskins defense still remains a major question mark, and unlike last year, I don’t think 10 wins can wrap up this division.
19.) Los Angeles Rams (+4)
I still refuse to believe that a Rams team that has turned Todd Gurley into a receiving back and that’s coached by Jeff Fischer can have a legitimate shot of going to the playoffs. Yet here they are, 3-1, and can probably go 6-6 to make the playoffs. The defense has come around since that Week 1 embarrassment to the 49ers, and Case Keenum has played slightly better than, well, Case Keenum. You can hop aboard this train if you want, but I’ll comfortably wait for the next one.
20.) Buffalo Bills (+4)
While this is probably a fluke win by the Bills, you have to reward a team that shut out the Patriots, regardless of the situation. The Bills D capitalized on an injured Jacoby Brissett, keeping the Patriots stifled for most of the day. The offense managed 16 points, which will be a problem for future games, but so long as the Bills put an emphasis on running the ball with Shady McCoy, the Bills could be a sleeper team and break their historic playoff drought.
21.) Indianapolis Colts (-3)
Unlike a lot of NFL pundits, I still believe in Andrew Luck. I don’t believe in the rest of the Colts, however. Luck’s offensive-line is still among the league's worst, the receiving core lacks a multi-tool wide receiver, and the defense still couldn’t stop a well-coached flag football team. Luck is doing the best he can, and most “experts” are upset with the fact he’s not in the mold of a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, and more like Brett Favre. Luck has been calling for help for 3 years, and unfortunately, the rest of the Colts organization is deaf.
22.) New York Jets (-2)
In typical Jets fashion, they let an elite opponent get in their head. They abandoned the run extremely early, and tested Richard Sherman a little too much. Ryan Pickpatrick added three interceptions (all in the 4th quarter) to bring his league-leading total to 10. The secondary has looked flat out terrible so far this year, and there is no break in sight, with the Jets traveling to Pittsburgh and Arizona before coming back to New York to face the Ravens.
23.) New Orleans Saints (-2)
The Saints may have won Sunday, but by no means do they deserve to move up these rankings. The Saints trailed by 13 points with 5 minutes’ left, looked dead in the water, and two fumbles by the Chargers deep in their own territory gave the game to the Saints. The defense was shredded by Philip Rivers despite the fact he might be better off catching them himself, and Brandin Cooks has seemingly fallen off a cliff. Considering how the NFC South has shaken out, I can’t see the Saints improving at any point this season.
24.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2)
Buccaneers score during odd weeks: 31, 32. Score during even weeks: 7,7. It’s uncanny that there is that much variation week to week, but so is the Bucs. The defense has been consistently porous this year, despite the amount of talent they have at seemingly every level. Jameis Winston is still committing too many turnovers, and Charles Sims hasn’t lived up to his Week 1 billings. The Buccaneers look like they are a year away, but we’ve been saying this for 5 years now.
25.) Jacksonville Jaguars (+3)
In typical Jaguars fashion, they picked up their first win in their second home of London, taking advantage of a horribly flawed Colts team. Blake Bortles finally looked like the quarterback he was last year, using his legs to make plays when the throws weren’t available. Allen Robinson and Hurns each found the endzone, which was the 1st time they both scored in the same game this season. Jacksonville does have the talent to right this season, but it remains to be seen if Gus Bradley can rally this team.
26.) Miami Dolphins (-2)
The Dolphins mustered only 7 points last Thursday night, which is all you need to know about Miami’s offense. Ryan Tannehill looks like a horribly mediocre QB, and the running backs look like they’re a tackling sled. Defensively, the Phins kept the Bengals out of the endzone most of the night, but the secondary is positively woeful. Adam Gase has to start experimenting with the gameplan, otherwise, he may not be long for the league.
27.) Detroit Lions (-4)
The Jim Bob Cooter hype-tractor has stalled out completely since Marvin Jones’ 200-yard game. The running game has stagnated without Ameer Abdullah, and there’s a chance he can be put on IR. Golden Tate has completely fallen out of favor with this coaching staff, getting benched in the second half. The biggest concern is the defense, which got gashed by backups Brian Hoyer and Jordan Howard.
28.) San Diego Chargers (-1)
The Chargers could easily be 4-0, but end of the game blunders have dropped the Chargers to 1-3. The lack of playmakers on the offense has limited Philip Rivers ability to come through in the clutch, and the defense hasn’t made stops when they needed to. The only upside of the injuries has been the production of Melvin Gordon, Hunter Henry, and Tyrell Williams.
29.) Chicago Bears (+3)
The Bears, for the first time all season, didn’t look like the worst team in football. That title went to the Lions, for making the Bears offense look like a real offense. Hoyer threw for 300 yards and didn’t turnover the ball, and rookie Jordan Howard ran for 100 yards in his first start. On the other side of the ball, the defense goated Matt Stafford into throwing two picks and limiting the Lions deep throws. Even though the Bears looked good, the most likely end result is a top five pick come spring.
30.) Tennessee Titans (-1)
I’ll say this about the Titans: they could still win the AFC South. The reason being is that DeMarco Murray and the offensive line have played at an elite level, which is powering the Titans offense. Unfortunately, Marcus Mariota has been dragging this team down. He has no deep ball in his arsenal, and he’s been especially careless with the ball. Mariota was often compared to Aaron Rodgers in the draft process, but he’s looked an awful lot like Mark Sanchez.
31.) San Francisco 49ers (-1)
It’s funny how two of the worst teams in the NFL are two of the most fun to watch. Chip Kelly’s offense has helped make the Niners competitive, even if they are 1-3. However, there are 2 huge issues for San Francisco. Firstly, NaVorro Bowman was lost to a torn Achilles, making the defense even thinner than it was previously. Second, they need to play Kaepernick. Blaine Gabbert just doesn’t fit this option offense, while Kap’s natural running ability would open the field for himself and Carlos Hyde.
32.) Cleveland Browns (-1)
I actually enjoy the Browns. Even if the defense looks like a bunch of traffic cones, Terrelle Pryor, Isaiah Crowell, and Duke Johnson are exciting, young players that have made the Browns are a competitive team. Since RG3 was moved to the IR, Cleveland has been in every game since. Hue Jackson has a plan in place, and I hope for Cleveland fans sake that it works out, because what Tom Brady is going to them this week might be considered a war crime.