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NFL Power Rankings: Projecting Where Each Team Will Stand in Week 5

Nick KostoraContributor IIISeptember 26, 2012

NFL Power Rankings: Projecting Where Each Team Will Stand in Week 5

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    Three unbeaten teams will enter Week 4 of the NFL season, but how many will stay atop the power rankings without a loss?

    The Houston Texans look like the best team in football, but a trap game against the Tennessee Titans could pose serious problems.

    Are the Arizona Cardinals really 3-0? And can they keep surprising everyone week after week?

    These questions will all be answered in due course, but it is more fun to predict how things will shake out ahead of time.

    Let's predict how the Week 5 power rankings will turn out, and compare them to the Week 4 rankings B/R has already produced.

    Oh, and try not to get too upset if your team is expected to lose. They still get to take the field on Sunday anyway.

32. Cleveland Browns

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    The Cleveland Browns are not going to win many games this season.

    There are nice, young pieces in place to build around for the future, but the fact that the Browns have not won a game through three weeks is not exactly a shock.

    Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson have both had moments of brilliance surrounded by larger periods of struggles.

    And the defense is solid but not spectacular.

    A Week 4 meeting with the Baltimore Ravens is not going to help the Browns out of the power ranking basement.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 32

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 32

31. Indianapolis Colts

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    Andrew Luck is a tremendous rookie quarterback, but he is still a rookie and there is a reason the Colts had to take him with the No. 1 pick.

    There is a lack of talent around him.

    Sure, some standout pieces are in place, but by and large Indy has a long road ahead before returning to playoff contention.

    The play of Luck, however, has been everything the Colts could have hoped for and there is definite potential on this roster.

    Unfortunately, potential is not going to win them many games this season.

    A Week 4 bye will likely mean little movement in the power rankings.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 28

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 31

30. New Orleans Saints

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    The New Orleans Saints offense is better than an 0-3 start to the season.

    The Saints defense, however, is as terrible as advertised.

    New Orleans appears lost without Sean Payton on the sidelines and having Drew Brees promise to get better in postgame interviews does little to make this season seem like anything but a lost cause.

    The Saints are in the unenviable position of having to play an angry Packers team in Week 4 and are headed for an 0-4 start.

    Making the playoffs is a pipe dream at this point.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 27

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 30

29. New York Jets

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    Where does one start when describing the current state of the New York Jets?

    Mark Sanchez and "He-who-must-not-be-named" are clearly not forming the type of dynamic quarterback duo they envisioned, and the Jets have struggled accordingly.

    New York has managed to scrape out a 2-1 record, but this is a team with clear offensive issues, and with Darrelle Revis out, this season will be tough sledding moving forward.

    In the next four weeks, the Jets have meetings with the 49ers, the Texans and the Patriots.

    Ouch.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 29

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 29

28. Miami Dolphins

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    With Reggie Bush injured, the immediate future of the Miami Dolphins becomes a little grimmer.

    Luckily, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller are capable of picking up the slack and giving Ryan Tannehill the help he needs.

    The help that he is not getting from a lackluster receiving corps.

    The Dolphins are a competitive team, but not competitive enough to make any type of run at the playoffs this season.

    Still, they can make a big statement if they beat the Cardinals in Week 4, but that's a tall order with how well Arizona is playing right now.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 31

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 28

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    A Week 3 war of attrition with the Dallas Cowboys did not turn out in favor of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    They are playing close football games, but this is not a team that is quite ready to get over the hump. 

    Josh Freeman's 110 yards passing in Week 3 was just the latest sign that this offense is not where it needs to be. Doug Martin has been solid, but Tampa Bay needs to be more than solid to make waves in the NFC South.

    Playing the Washington Redskins in Week 4 means another close battle, but again the Bucs are likely to come up short.

    Their bottom-ranked pass defense needs to prove its worth before the Bucs can start stringing wins together.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 25

    Projected Ranking After Week 4: 27

26. Carolina Panthers

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    Are the Carolina Panthers capable of rebounding after a disappointing loss to the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football?

    Cam Newton's mental fortitude will definitely be put to the test, especially after having over a week to think about his poor showing.

    The Panthers actually have an underrated defense and an offense that can compete when firing on all cylinders.

    The problem is that the engine won't start and Carolina has a Week 4 meeting with one of the NFL's hottest teams, the Atlanta Falcons.

    Things are only going to get worse before they get better in Carolina.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 24

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 26

25. Tennessee Titans

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    The Tennessee Titans tried with all their might to lose to the Lions in Week 3, but they somehow hung on for a victory and improved their record to 1-2.

    That said, the offense was all kinds of impressive as it posted 44 points in the game.

    Chris Johnson is still not the "CJ2K" of old, but Jake Locker has this offense scoring points in bunches and believing it can stay in games against superior teams.

    Giving up 116 points in three weeks is a serious cause for concern though, and the Titans need to figure out something on defense to avoid more shootouts in the future.

    Locker is developing nicely, but he can't lead the offense to 40 points every week. 

    And playing Houston on the road in Week 4 should not help matters any more.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 17

    Projected Ranking After Week 4: 25

24. San Diego Chargers

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    Is it time to completely abandon hope for the San Diego Chargers?

    San Diego refuses to ever live up to the talent on the depth chart and Philip Rivers has lost the "elite" status he earned just a few seasons ago.

    Norv Turner is on the ultimate hot seat and the Chargers do not have the firepower or consistency to be good right now.

    This is a 2-1 football team that is in first place in the AFC West, and yet a Week 3 blowout at the hands of the Falcons leaves serious question marks.

    San Diego has enough skill to compete, but it never puts the puzzle together.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 23

    Projected Ranking After Week 4: 24

23. Oakland Raiders

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    The Oakland Raiders have serious issues along the offensive line, but if those issues are ever addressed, this team has potential.

    Darren McFadden is simply too good to contain all season and that was glimpsed on his touchdown run over 50-plus yards against the Steelers.

    Carson Palmer is starting to look like the 2004-06 version of himself and Oakland has a chance to jump-start an age-old rivalry with the Broncos in Week 4.

    The Raiders still have a way to go to be serious contenders, but the AFC West race is wide open this year.

    Another upset against the Broncos could set them up nicely.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 30

    Projected Ranking After Week 4: 23

22. Minnesota Vikings

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    Well, that was impressive.

    Who here had the Minnesota Vikings beating the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3?

    If you raised your hand you are a liar.

    Minnesota looked great in the upset and Christian Ponder put himself on the map. He was smart with his decision making, tucking and running when he needed to and delivering well-timed passes when necessary.

    The Vikings are not deplete of talent, but the NFC North will be one of the most competitive divisions in all of football.

    A Week 4 win over the Lions would mean we could entertain the question of the Vikings being playoff contenders, but that will be a tough game to win.

    Detroit needs a win desperately and is better than Minnesota.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 21

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 22

21. Seattle Seahawks

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    Whether or not you consider the Seattle Seahawks 2-1 or 1-2 is irrelevant. The fact is that this team has a stout defense that can create instant pressure and nicely balance out the power of a Marshawn Lynch-led rushing attack.

    The Seahawks have only an average passing game thus far under rookie Russell Wilson, but with the prowess of Lynch and the skill of the defense, Seattle has an outside chance to compete in the NFC West.

    Even before the Hail Mary controversy against Green Bay, the front seven of Seattle's defense managed eight sacks on Aaron Rodgers in the first half alone.

    If the defense continues to pressure opposing QBs and the secondary is as good as it was on Monday Night Football, the Seahawks could be for real.

    However, they may struggle to concentrate on the Rams in Week 4 after all the controversy this week provides.

    The Seahawks' power ranking will go up higher eventually, but after a close loss to St. Louis it will only move up one spot.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 22

    Projected Ranking After Week 4: 21

20. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars are not as bad as most people seem to assume.

    Having an elite running back and a far-too-underrated defense should gain a team more respect, but the Jaguars are consistently forgotten about.

    2012 may be their chance to get back (or finally?) on the radar.

    Blaine Gabbert is not the same bumbling, hesitant and nervous rookie from a year ago. He is standing tall in the pocket and delivering accurate passes, like the game-winning Week 3 touchdown passes he threw to Cecil Shorts III.

    Brilliant.

    Jacksonville has another chance to prove its value in Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and this is a team fully capable of pulling the upset and moving to .500 overall.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 26

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 20

19. Washington Redskins

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    After Robert Griffin III took the football world by storm in Week 1 there was reason for playoff optimism in Washington.

    The combined loss of Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker has quickly erased that optimism.

    The Redskins will undoubtedly be a fun team to watch all season, but the defense does not have the man power to keep Washington in too many games the rest of the way.

    The Redskins are on the right path, but injuries this early in the 2012 season will be too hard to overcome.

    However, Washington should be able to get their record back to .500 after a Week 4 win over the Buccaneers who refuse to get their offense in order.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 19

    Projected Ranking After Week 4: 19

18. St. Louis Rams

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    The St. Louis Rams are playing competitive football games to start the season.

    Maybe that is enough at this point in the rebuilding cycle.

    Head coach Jeff Fisher has this team playing tough and forcing close games every week, even scraping out a win against the Redskins in Week 2.

    The additions of Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan have vastly improved the play of the secondary, and Sam Bradford is coming into his own as the franchise quarterback.

    St. Louis is in a nice spot to sneak up on the Seahawks at home in Week 4, but don't expect more than seven or eight wins this season.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 18

    Projected Ranking After Week 4: 18

17. Kansas City Chiefs

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    In Week 3 the Kansas City Chiefs discovered a clear blueprint to success: 

    Give Jamaal Charles the ball, and let him rush for 233 yards every game.

    That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but Charles is clearly the reason this is a team that can win the AFC West. 

    Not giving Charles the ball will result in more poor showings like in Week 1 and 2.

    Kansas City has a rock-solid defense and an offense that is more than competent.

    Matt Cassel may never be elite, but having weapons like Dwayne Bowe and Charles at his disposal will help keep Kansas City in the division race.

    Week 4 brings an all-important meeting with the San Diego Chargers. These teams are equally matched, but the Chiefs are finally finding their footing and building momentum.

    Look for them to make a move up in the power rankings:

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 20

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 17

16. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    When the Pittsburgh Steelers are losing to the Oakland Raiders something is wrong, seriously wrong.

    The Steelers sit at 1-2 on the season because the defense is full of holes and injuries are piling up.

    James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and Rashard Mendenhall will definitely help this situation once they return from injury, but are they enough to right the ship completely?

    Games with Tennessee, Cincinnati and Washington in the coming weeks should help, and a showdown with the rival Eagles on Sunday will be important for both teams.

    Philly is desperate and Pittsburgh is depleted enough on defense that the Eagles should win this game.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 13

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 16

15. Chicago Bears

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    Can the Chicago Bears consistently play like the team we saw in Week 3 against the St. Louis Rams?

    That is the million dollar question and it probably won't have an answer for a couple more weeks.

    For now, the Bears are one of the most unpredictable teams in football. The defense is solid, but the output from the offense can be either amazing or pathetic.

    It all sort of depends on how Jay Cutler and his offensive line feel from week to week. However, this team has the talent to make a run at a Wild Card spot.

    A Week 4 showdown with the Cowboys will be a statement game for both teams. The winner will show they can put together back-to-back wins, while the loser will face an endless supply of questions about their focus and mindset.

    Two evenly matched teams headed for a ballgame that could go either way. Being at home may give Dallas the slight edge, but there really is no favorite in this contest.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 12

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 15

14. New England Patriots

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    The New England Patriots have a losing record for the first time in seemingly forever.

    A lot of their issues stem from the lack of a quality secondary. The Patriots offense can be as potent as it wants, but a weak secondary could be their Achilles heel all season.

    Losing to the Ravens in Week 3 was tough, but the season is early and New England has more than enough time to rebound, especially in the wide open AFC East race.

    Buffalo will come to play in Week 4 and has the passing game to take advantage of the Patriots defensive backfield, but again, there is time for the Pats to straighten things out.

    They just need to start winning the close games.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 6

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 14

13. Buffalo Bills

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    C.J. Spiller was the early season shot in the arm the Buffalo Bills needed, but this team can succeed without him.

    Fred Jackson (remember him?) is on the mend and the Bills have a passing attack that can fly with anyone.

    Buffalo always steps up in meetings with New England and Week 4 should be no exception.

    The Bills have the type of all-around balance that can keep them in a tight AFC playoff race, and a tight win over their AFC East rivals, the Patriots, should give them a nice power rankings boost as they wait for the return of Spiller.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 16

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 13

12. Denver Broncos

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    Denver is a tough team to place because they have already been thrown right to the wolves in the forms of the Falcons and Texans.

    Those were both tough losses, but this is a team still developing its offensive identity.

    Peyton Manning's arm strength has certainly been questionable so far, but his ability to execute the hurry-up offense has not.

    The more often Denver plays to his strengths and picks up the offensive tempo, the better off the Broncos will be.

    A tough division clash with the rival Oakland Raiders is in store for Week 4, and if Denver can shut down Darren McFadden it will be in a great position to win.

    Oakland just seems poised for its second upset in two weeks.

    Still, look for the Broncos to hover between 10-15 in the power rankings all season.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 11

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 12

11. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Michael Vick has been sacked nine times and thrown six interceptions through three games this season.

    Oh well.

    Philadelphia has escaped with victories against the Ravens and Browns, finding themselves at 2-1 despite not playing anywhere close to the team's full potential.

    The question now is: When will the Eagles put it all together?

    Vick is better than we have seen and LeSean McCoy has yet to be fully unleashed, rushing for over 100 yards only once through three games.

    Philadelphia better shift into gear quick because it has to run the gauntlet of New York, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Atlanta in the next four weeks.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 15

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 11

10. Dallas Cowboys

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    Will the real Dallas Cowboys please stand up?

    The entire world is waiting for this team to consistently look like the Week 1 unit that knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

    Yes, a Week 3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was nice, but following that up with a win over a good Bears team will do wonders for this team's confidence moving forward.

    Dallas has all the necessary pieces to be a playoff contender, even in a tough NFC East division, and rookie defensive back Morris Claiborne has been an early standout.

    Let DeMarcus Ware keep wreaking havoc on offensive lines and get Dez Bryant the ball.

    These formulas will ensure the Cowboys keep winning games.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 14

    Projected Ranking After Week 4: 10

9. Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Cincinnati Bengals are flying under the radar at the moment, and that is likely just fine by them.

    The Bengals have all kinds of young playmakers on offense, and a defense that can compete with anybody.

    Watching the relationship between Andy Dalton and A.J. Green develop this season should be a treat for fans, and Cincinnati could make a strong case for winning the AFC North.

    Pittsburgh is not its usual dominant self, so Cincy will likely be fighting with the Ravens for division supremacy down to the bitter end of the regular season.

    In Week 4, the Bengals do head into a trap game against the Jaguars where they will have a tough time squeaking out a win, but playing Miami and Cleveland in the weeks following should put the team right back on track.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 8

    Projected Ranking After Week 4: 9

8. Detroit Lions

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    The Detroit Lions are better than a 1-2 record.

    Matthew Stafford has not been himself so far this season, the defensive line has not been as dominant as it should be, and the secondary...well the secondary is just terrible.

    Still, this team has to turn things around at some point.

    Right?

    A Week 4 divisional test could be a make-or-break game as far as the Lions' location in the power rankings is concerned, as right now they are clinging to the 10th spot.

    A loss to the Vikings would mean a cataclysmic drop, but Detroit is too talented to fall to 1-3.

    Look for a bounce back from the Honolulu Blue and Silver.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 10

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 8

7. New York Giants

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    Never doubt the New York Giants, they will always prove you wrong.

    When most pundits and prognosticators picked the Panthers to take home the win in Week 3, the Giants responded by blowing Carolina out 36-7.

    Players like Ramses Barden and Andre Brown proved that this offense can succeed no matter who surrounds Eli Manning.

    It does not matter if New York finishes with 10, 11, or 12 wins because they know how to kick things into gear come playoff time, and that is a trait most teams can only hope to attain.

    New York's power ranking is unlikely to move much in either direction after they play the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4, but they will remain a force in the NFC all season.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 7

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 7

6. Arizona Cardinals

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    The Arizona Cardinals are 3-0.

    Yes, you read that correctly, 3-0.

    The Cardinals are proving that having an elite defense is still enough to win football games in the NFL, and they are showcasing that every week.

    Signature wins have come over the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, despite the fact that Arizona has been anemic on offense all season.

    Week 4 may actually provide the Cardinals' best mental test yet, in the form of the Miami Dolphins.

    Miami is only an average team, and if Arizona can show the focus and drive that they bring against the NFL's best, this is a team that could make waves all season.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 9

    Projected Ranking After Week 4: 6

5. Baltimore Ravens

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    The Baltimore Ravens look great now, and Terrell Suggs isn't even on the field yet.

    Imagine how good this team can be once it gets arguably its best player back.

    Scary.

    Still, Joe Flacco is finally haunting defenses with his ability to utilize the vertical passing game and spread the ball to speedsters like Torrey Smith.

    With the balance that a top-flight running back like Ray Rice provides, Baltimore is poised for at least 12 wins this season.

    A Week 4 home match up against the Cleveland Browns will provide the Ravens with a slightly easier game after winning a nail-biter against the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 4

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 5

4. Green Bay Packers

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    The should-be 2-1 Green Bay Packers have not looked like themselves from a season ago.

    They lack that "could score at any moment" energy that surrounded every possession of 2011.

    However, the Packers still have one of the most fearsome defensive pass rushes in all of football and Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.

    As soon as he and the offense flips the switch back on everything will be fine.

    Assuming, of course, that they can get over the travesty that occurred on Monday Night Football, but I digress...

    A Week 4 game against the winless Saints gives Green Bay the chance to take their frustrations out on one of the league's worst defenses.

    Watch out.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 5

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 4

3. San Francisco 49ers

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    Last week, San Francisco was the consensus best team in football and few people argued.

    Then the 49ers lost to the Vikings and chaos ensued.

    Well, everyone can calm down. San Fran is still a great team that was simply outplayed at its own style of football one week of the season.

    If the 49ers continue to lose then there is cause for concern, but a Week 3 loss after two impressive showings is not much reason to worry.

    Beating the Jets in Week 4 should restore all confidence in the NFC juggernaut, but another impressive Falcons win will allow them to jump the 49ers in the power rankings.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 2

    Projected Ranking After Week 4: 3

2. Atlanta Falcons

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    Can anyone slow down the Atlanta Falcons offense?

    So far, the answer is no.

    And with superb play from the defense, this is a team primed for that elusive Super Bowl push.

    A Week 4 meeting with the Carolina Panthers looks like a trap game, but this Falcons team feels different than in years past.

    Matt Ryan's confidence and consistency are not wavering, and everyone is contributing.

    Atlanta is easily the best team right now in the NFC, and they have the talent to hold onto that moniker all season.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 3

    Projected Power Ranking After Week 4: 2

1. Houston Texans

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    The Houston Texans are the best team in the AFC, and possibly the NFL.

    And that statement is made knowing this team parted ways with Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans in the offseason.

    Wow.

    The Texans have looked great on both sides of the ball so far in the young season, and their continued success is contingent on their offensive stars finally putting together a year of collective health.

    Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster make up one of the most explosive offensive units in football, and J.J. Watt is quick becoming one of the best pass rushers in football.

    Houston has an interesting matchup with the Titans in Week 4, but that may just prove to be another opportunity for Chris Johnson to register more carries than rushing yards.

    The Texans will hold onto the top spot in the power rankings for at least one more week.

    Current B/R Power Ranking: 1

    Projected Ranking After Week 4: 1

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