Hard to believe, but we are already a quarter of the way through the 2012 NFL season. Three teams remain undefeated (the Cardinals Falcons, and Texans), as two remain winless (the Browns and Saints). Unlike past weeks, Week 4 was relatively tame in terms of upsets, and so, there was not as much movement in the rankings as there has been previously.
I hope you enjoy this week's version of the power rankings. Remember, rankings from the previous week are the ones in parentheses to the right.
They didn't quit until the final play against the Ravens, but the Browns still dropped to 0-4. Although they are one of two winless teams left in the league, they are showing obvious improvement. I highly doubt they remain in this spot much longer as Brandon Weeden continues to learn and the offensive line develops some chemistry with Trent Richardson.
It appeared they had the game won on a 43-yard field goal before a holding call forced them to re-kick from 10 yards further. Kicker Garrett Hartley was then given five of those yards back on an encroachment call on the Packers, but could not hit from 48 yards out. Drew Brees put up yards in bunches and the defense played much better than they did in the first few weeks.
You can see that they are ready to start winning, but at 0-4 and four games behind in the division, is it already too late?
After that big win against Pittsburgh, the Raiders got absolutely destroyed by the rival Broncos. A stat I heard at the start of the third quarter on Sunday sums up why they have been struggling thus far: Aside from breaking one big run against the Steelers, Darren McFadden is averaging under three yards per carry. That is not going to get it done against anyone, and Carson Palmer is not good enough to make up for it.
It will be interesting to see how the Colts respond coming off of the bye week. After receiving the tough news that head coach Chuck Pagano has been diagnosed with leukemia, it would be a perfect time for them to respond with an emotional win in Week 5. It will be tough to do against Green Bay, but it could just be the spark they need to get the season rolling and surprise the league.
With Jake Locker leaving the game to injury early on, it may be a bit unfair to rank the Titans this low. However, they took a beatdown from the Texans, and I'm not sure Locker would have had much more success than backup Matt Hasselbeck. The good news is that running back Chris Johnson finally got going, gaining over 140 yards on the ground. If he can put together a streak of games like that, the Titans should be able to start competing.
The Chiefs don't really deserve to move up a spot from last week, but a couple teams ranked ahead of them managed to play worse. Calls for Matt Cassel's head have started getting louder as backup Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi (who was drafted by the Browns when current Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel was with the team) have become the most popular players on the team. It may be time for the team to move on.
The defense that was so good in 2011 has not been the same in 2012, and an offense that ranks last in the league is largely to blame. When an offense cannot move the ball, the defense not only is on the field more often, but the opposing team is given better field position which makes it difficult not to give up points.
After his 177-yard performance against the Colts, the Jaguars only gave the ball to Maurice Jones-Drew 13 times, choosing to let Blaine Gabbert throw the ball 34 times instead. This approach was unsuccessful, as the Jaguars were only able to score 10 points, while the Bengals managed that in the last 6:16 of the second quarter alone.
Yes, they almost beat one of the three undefeated teams left in the league. But as you will learn later on, I am not particularly a big believer in the Arizona Cardinals. Ryan Tannehill's 431-yard day is receiving a lot of attention, but when you throw the ball 41 times and are only able to put up one touchdown while throwing two interceptions, is it really that impressive?
Not to rip on Tannehill's performance too much, but when one receiver has over half of those yards, as Brian Hartline did, it may have just been a matchup problem for the defense. Credit Tannehill for recognizing it if that were the case, but slow down on naming him the next Dan Marino based on one singular stat.
After managing a win against the winless Cleveland Browns in Week 3, the Bills met the New England Patriots in an important division matchup and were embarrassed in the second half. After going up 21-7 early in the third quarter, the Bills gave up five straight touchdowns before throwing one of their own. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four interceptions in a game for the second time this season, and for the second time, the Bills gave up over 45 points to a division rival.
If there was any chance the Jets were still legitimate contenders after losing Darrelle Revis for the season, it didn't show on Sunday against San Francisco. The offense managed to do very little and failed to put up a single point. The defense allowed San Francisco's backup quarterback to rush for 50 yards, and the special teams allowed a punt to be blocked.
It was easily the worst performance of any team thus far in 2012, and it has suddenly become clear that the AFC East is probably the weakest division in the league.
They dropped a spot in these rankings during their bye week due to the two teams behind them winning. The good news for Steelers fans is that it appears that Rashard Mendenhall will finally return in Week 5.
Mendenhall's importance to the offense has been obvious during his absence, as his backups have been dead-last in the league in yards per carry. Expect the going to be slow as he readjusts to the game, but as the season wears on, Mendenhall will provide a big boost for this offense.
Giving up a game-winning drive is always tough on a team, but with the Bucs defense, they cannot allow themselves to be in that position. Giving up a league-worst 343 passing yards per game, it is no surprise that Robert Griffin III was able to complete over 74 percent of his passes against them.
Josh Freeman had perhaps his best game of the season, but the running game failed to yield much, as LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin combined for just 50 yards.
The Lions now sit at 1-3, or, in other words, last in the NFC North. How bad is it for Detroit? Its only win came against St Louis at the last minute, and it has since lost to the Titans and Vikings. It hasn't exactly started with a tough schedule, so with the Eagles and Bears coming up after its bye week, it is possible they come out at 1-5.
The good news is that Matthew Stafford is still putting up nearly 300 yards per game; it just needs an area other than the passing game to step up.
After a horrid performance against the Giants last Thursday night, the Panthers regrouped and nearly took down the NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons. The defense was much better this week, harrassing Matt Ryan all day and recording seven sacks.
But it was that 59-yard pass with just over a minute remaining that will be remembered. Roddy White simply took the ball away from the Panthers defenders, as a deflated defense allowed the Falcons to get into a reasonable range for Matt Bryant. Quarterback Cam Newton was better as well, with over 300 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns.
Russell Wilson was bad, throwing three interceptions against St Louis as he continues to lead the league's 32nd-ranked passing offense. To be fair, he only had one interception in the first three weeks of play, but he is not putting up the yardage an NFL quarterback should.
If this continues, you have to wonder if Seattle will make the switch to prized free-agent signing Matt Flynn in an effort to help a defense that has yet to allow over 20 points in a game.
Despite a victory over the Seahawks in Week 4, my concerns about Sam Bradford remain. He completed just over half of his passes for the second straight week, with no touchdowns in either contest. Stephen Jackson also had a tough game, gaining just 55 yards despite breaking one for 23.
Despite the offensive struggles, the defense was able to come up with three interceptions off of Russell Wilson. The field-goal unit scored all of the points, as Greg Zuerlein's four field goals and a fake that resulted in a touchdown powered the Rams to a win.
Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III's back was up against the wall with under two minutes remaining, and he responded to march his team into field-goal position and come up with a win. Griffin III was bailed out on an earlier mistake where he fumbled the ball in the end zone, but Pierre Garcon recovered it for the score.
Keep in mind that while his game-winning drive was impressive, it was against a Tampa Bay defense that currently ranks last in the league against the pass. Still, he got the job done with the pressure on, an important step for any rookie at his position.
It's hard to believe they were that bad against the Bears on Monday night. When the season started, this team looked ready to be a contender, but with Tony Romo throwing five interceptions, they looked more like a team that wont even make a wild card spot.
DeMarco Murray struggled as well in gaining just 2.2 yards per attempt, though he was only given the ball 11 times.
This is where it gets tough. I'd like to rank the Broncos higher after such a dominant win over a division rival, but I would have to punish other teams who also won this week in order to do that. It appeared coming into the game Peyton Manning may still have been readjusting to the speed of the game, but he came out looking like he may be the Peyton of old.
He missed only eight passes while throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, as the Denver defense held Oakland to just six points. The special teams were also able to block a punt, as Denver dominated in all phases of the game.
The Chargers remain in the same spot as last week after disposing of Kansas City, as they should. The defense forced six turnovers against a struggling Chiefs offense, and quarterback Phillip Rivers and company did enough on offense to take advantage and come away with an easy win. The Chargers have yet to beat a good team, so their game against Denver in Week 6 will be a big one.
After an impressive upset over San Francisco, a letdown the following week would have been understandable. Instead, the Vikings chose to take down a division opponent and cement themselves as contenders in the NFC North.
Christian Ponder is still a weak spot for now, but with Adrian Peterson rushing for over 100 yards and the special teams scoring touchdowns, he simply has to manage the game for now. Still, if they are to be contenders at the end of the year, he is going to have to beat people with his arm.
With A.J. Green leading the way, the Bengals' group of receivers is quickly becoming one of the best in the league. The running game hasn't been great behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but has done enough to supplement the passing game. The Jacksonville offense didn't put up much of a test for the Bengals defense, but the Bengals were able to hold the Jags to just 10 points.
Ramses Barden's pass interference may have cost the Giants the game
It may be a bit harsh to drop them this low after they came within inches of beating the Eagles; however, if they dropped any lower, I would be punishing a team who won this week.
Receiver Ramses Barden was called for offensive pass interference, backing the Giants up after already in field-goal range. If not for that penalty, there is a very good chance the game would have gone the other way. We would be celebrating another brilliant fourth-quarter drive by Eli Manning and talking about how the Giants may defend there title. This is still a very good team; it just has to avoid the mental mistakes and come out with wins.
The Bears defense dominated the Cowboys, picking off Tony Romo five times and returning two for touchdowns. Jay Cutler had two touchdowns of his own, shaking off a couple poor weeks in connecting on 18 of his 24 passes for 275 yards. Brandon Marshall was Cutler's favorite target, as the pair connected seven times for 138 yards and a touchdown.
While it was a dominant performance, the Bears have been possibly the most inconsistent team of the last few years, so they will need to do it a few more times if they want to prove themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
The Eagles bounced back from a bad loss to Arizona, and more importantly, Michael Vick did not turn the ball over. LeSean McCoy rushed for over 120 yards as Vick added 49 of his own on the ground. The defense was once again great in stopping the run, holding the Giants to just 55 yards on 19 attempts. They came close to giving it away at the end, but came out with a big win in the division.
The Packers may have won, but they came within five yards of losing to the win-less Saints. Remember how I mentioned they were first in pass defense after three weeks? Well, there is a reason we wait until around midseason to declare that a team has turned it around.
Drew Brees simply picked who he wanted to throw the ball to and found them open, gouging the Packers for and embarrassing 446 yards through the air. Aaron Rodgers responded with 319 yards of his own while throwing four touchdowns. While they came away with the win, it is clear the Packers defense still needs work, particularly in the secondary.
After a slow start, the Patriots came out and dominated the Bills in the second half. After being down 21-7 in the third quarter, the Patriots went on a 45-7 run. All aspects of the game went well for New England. Tom Brady threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns, Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden both had over 100 yards rushing and the defense managed to pick off Ryan Fitzpatrick four times.
It was the type of dominating performance we have gotten used to seeing from the Patriots during the Bill Belichick era, and after two straight losses, they suddenly look like they are back.
I'm not sure what says more about this team, its resiliency in coming from behind to win in overtime or the fact that it almost lost to the Dolphins. Since it is still undefeated, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt, but I still don't believe that this is one of the three best teams in the NFL.
The defense gave up 431 yards through the air to Miami's rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, though they managed to pick him off two times. Kevin Kolb looked like an NFL quarterback himself in putting up 324 yards and three touchdowns, though he also threw two picks.
The running game was a problem for the Cards this week, as they managed just 28 yards, gaining two yards per carry. It wont be until they play the 49ers, Packers and Texans in Weeks 8-10 that they get a true test of whether or not they are one of the league's best teams.
They may have gotten a win against Cleveland, but it shouldn't have had to come down to the last play. Ray Rice, who torched the Browns last season, only managed 49 yards on 18 attempts. Joe Flacco continues to play well, and the defense came up with a very big play in picking off Brandon Weeden and returning it for a touchdown late in the game.
The Browns' rookie quarterback was still able to put up 320 yards on the Ravens defensive backs, however.
If the Jets' performance this week was the worst of the season thus far, the 49ers' performance was quite possibly the best. They were creative on offense, scoring with backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. They were swarming on defense and special teams, forcing three fumbles and blocking a punt. And all of this while pitching a shutout.
It was an impressive victory to say the least, but one thing still troubles me about this team. They still haven't had to rely on quarterback Alex Smith to challenge someone deep and win a game with his arm.
It came down to the wire, but Matt Ryan and Roddy White were able to lift Atlanta in the final minute to avoid its first loss of the season. Ryan continues to put together an impressive season, adding three touchdowns and 369 yards. Michael Turner was also good, gaining over 100 yards on just 13 carries.
It was the defense that had problems containing Panthers quarterback Cam Newton that was the problem on Sunday, but they were able to force a punt on the Panthers' final drive, enabling their offense to put together that game winning drive.
The Texans remain undefeated, and in my opinion, they are the best team in the NFL this season. The Titans may not have been the toughest opponent, but the Texans jumped out to an early lead and never relented. The defense had some problems containing Chris Johnson, but they also were able to intercept two passes off of Matt Hasselbeck and take them back for touchdowns.
Arian Foster did not put up the type of yards he is capable of, and yet it was still an easy win as the Texans continue to roll.
Thanks for reading my Week 5 power rankings. Feel free to share any thoughts. If you feel your team was ranked too low, please provide specific reasons as to why.
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