NFL Power Rankings: Underachieving Teams Ready to Move Up After Week 5

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IOctober 5, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 30:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints points out a defensive formation against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 30, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Saints 28-27.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Everyone loves to overreact when it comes to NFL power rankings.

A win here makes a mediocre team the best squad in the NFL. A loss there turns a Super Bowl contender into a pretender.

It's hard not to buy into the hype sometimes, but it's also good to remember that, more often than not, teams are who we thought they were. 

So, in my newest power rankings, I'll focus on teams that have dropped too far and will surely be making a rise back up very soon. 

Note: These teams are in italics. 


1. Houston Texans (4-0)

You know a team is good when you can't figure out whether their offense or defense is better.

I'd be hard-pressed to go against J.J. Watt and this No. 1 ranked D, but Arian Foster, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson make the debate pretty tough.

Things are good in Houston. 


2. San Francisco 49ers (3-1)

Might as well just call them 1a.

The loss to Minnesota was odd, but a 34-0 win over the New York Jets put to rest any concern that this is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The defense is elite and the offense is constantly improving. 


3. Atlanta Falcons (4-0)

When Matt Ryan is completing almost 70 percent of his throws for close to 300 yards per game, an 11-to-2 TD:INT ratio and a QB rating of 112.1, the Falcons are hard to beat.

So, unless Ryan takes a step back, Atlanta needs to be taken extremely seriously. This looks like the 2012 version of last year's Packers, just with a better pass defense. 


4. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)

The Ravens' win over Cleveland last week was an ugly one, but a win is a win. It's still hard to be mad over how Joe Flacco is playing, even if the defense doesn't look like its normally dominant self. 


5. Chicago Bears (3-1)

The Bears have arguably the most opportune defense in football, but Jay Cutler and that offensive line still scare me.

I've got Chicago in pencil here until I see Matt Forte look healthy for a couple of games, as he is easily their most important offensive piece right now. 


6. New England Patriots (2-2)

I honestly hate the word fluke, but the Patriots are a fluky 2-2. Their first loss came on a Stephen Gostkowski missed last-second field goal, and their second loss came via a Baltimore last-second field goal that could have been called either way. 

Their two wins, meanwhile, were dominant wins.

Essentially, I don't think we have a good read on this Patriots team quite yet, but it's hard not to like a Tom Brady-led offense that can also run the ball coupled with a suddenly top-notch run defense.

Don't be surprised if the Pats are on the way up after this week's battle with the Denver Broncos. 


7. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)

The Eagles are 3-1, but they could easily be 0-4.

Still, the talent level on this team is amazingly high, and as long as Andy Reid has someone constantly reminding him that LeSean McCoy plays for this team, the Eagles will be fine. 


8. Green Bay Packers (2-2)

You have to assume Aaron Rodgers and this offense will start playing to its full potential. Couple that with a defensive unit that is suddenly playing great football, and you have a team that won't drop any farther than No. 8. 


9. Minnesota Vikings (3-1)

The Vikings are 3-1 with wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions, but I get the impression that people still don't believe in them.

Well, with a stout defense, a slew of offensive weapons and an improving quarterback, it's time to start believing. 


10. New York Giants (2-2)

The Giants are just too good for the regular season. 

They proved last year they have the talent to be a Super Bowl contender (obviously), and even with some key injuries, they still do, but the overall inconsistency and troubling secondary (30th in the NFL in passing yards per pass allowed) play are obvious problems. 


11. San Diego Chargers (3-1)

Three wins, yes, but the Chargers have beaten Oakland, Tennessee and Kansas City, and have gotten rocked by Atlanta. 

I don't see them going any higher than this spot. 


12. Arizona Cardinals (4-1)

The Cardinals finally took the step back everyone was expecting on Thursday night. I still really like their defense, but that offensive line needs lots of work if the Cards are going to make a playoff run this year. 


13. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)

See Chargers, San Diego. 


14. Denver Broncos (2-2)

It's been a rough start for the Broncos, but Peyton Manning is starting to hit his groove and the muderer's row part of their schedule will soon subside.

I still like this team to win the AFC West. 


15. Seattle Seahawks (2-2)

The offense is way too inconsistent, but it's hard to get too down on a team that has one of the NFL's top defenses and one of the NFL's top running games.

No more replacement refs, no problem. 


16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)

They wouldn't be an NFC East team if they weren't so enigmatic. 

This team, much like the Eagles and Giants, has so much talent, but has yet to put it together in the right way.

Dez Bryant isn't the smartest guy in the world and DeMarco Murray is being underused, but the defense can hold down the fort while the offense figures things out. 


17. Washington Redskins (2-2)

Speaking of the NFC East. If Robert Griffin III continues to morph into a God, the Redskins have a real shot of making some noise in this inconsistent division, although the 'Skins defense is going to have to get better. 


18. St. Louis Rams (3-2)

Don't look now, but the Rams are 3-2, and much like every other team in the NFC West, they have a scary defense. 

Still, the loss of Danny Amendola is going to hurt Sam Bradford's progression, and thus St. Louis' offense. 


19. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2)

I'm not sure when it happened, but at some point, the Steelers went from hard-nosed-pound-the-ball-down-your-throat team to throw-throw-throw-and-throw-some-more team. 

But that's really not a bad thing, especially when you consider Ben Roethlisberger is on fire and he is throwing to Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace.

What has plagued the Steelers, however, is the lack of running game and mediocre defense. But with Rashard Mendenhall, Troy Polamalu and James Harrison all returning this week against the Eagles, don't be surprised if the Steelers quickly vault back up the rankings. 


20. Buffalo Bills (2-2)

The good: Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the NFL in touchdowns with 12 and this two-headed monster of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson is going to be hard to stop.

The bad: Ryan Fitzpatrick has seven interceptions and this defense can't really stop anyone.

Do with that what you will. 


21. Detroit Lions (1-3)

The offense is averaging 412.2 yards per game (sixth best in the NFL) and the defense is only giving up 315.8 per game (10th best).

If they can get the running game going and if Matthew Stafford can stop throwing interceptions, things are going to get a lot better for the Lions.

Unfortunately, those are big "ifs."


22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)

In the stat department, the Bucs look ugly, yet their three losses to the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins have only come by seven, six and two points, respectively. 

This looks like a seven- or eight-win team to me, meaning they should move up. 


23. Carolina Panthers (1-3)

Carolina's defense, especially on the ground, is atrocious and Cam Newton, contrary to what he believes, isn't Superman. 

The talent with Newton is obviously there, but he won't overcome this defense with the amount of turnovers he is racking up. 


24. Miami Dolphins (1-3)

Ryan Tannehill is already proving critics wrong, but this is still a very young team, so expectations should be tempered. 


25. New Orleans Saints (0-4)

Is this a playoff team? No way, but is it a team that should be 0-4 at this point? Also no way.

The Saints defense is downright atrocious, but that hasn't stopped Drew Brees from winning games in the past. He started to play like his old self during New Orleans' one-point loss last week against the Packers, and that should only continue.

Don't be surprised if the Saints beat the Chargers this week and begin a small ascent up the rankings. 


26. Oakland Raiders (1-3)

It's tough to watch a team with Darren McFadden be dead last in the NFL in rushes per game and rushing yards per game and fourth-worst in yards per carry. 

Blame it on the new zone-blocking scheme, blame it on the offensive coordinator, blame it on the juice, blame it on whatever. Just know that things in Oakland are ugly right now. 


27. Indianapolis Colts (1-2)

This is still a bottom-tier team, but it's hard not to get excited about the development. Lots of the pieces are already in place, and the wins will come very soon. 


28. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3)

The Chiefs are first in the NFL in yards per rush and second in rushing yards per game, yet they are only 17th in rush-play percentage.

Like Keyshawn Johnson would say, just give Jamaal Charles the damn ball! The defense is still a bit of a mess, but the more usage Charles gets, the more wins the Chiefs will get. 


29. New York Jets (2-2)

The Jets are tied for first in the AFC East, but with important players (Darrelle Revis, Santonio Holmes) dropping like flies and Mark Sanchez playing more like Mark Twain, don't expect that to continue for long.

Especially with a defense that is 30th in the NFL against the run. 


30. Tennessee Titans (1-3)

Chris Johnson finally turning into 2009—or even 2010 or even 2011—Chris Johnson would be a huge boost to this offense, but injuries and an anemic defense are only adding to the problem.

It's going to be hard for Tennessee to turn this season around. 


31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)

The Jags are in a similar position as the Colts. Blaine Gabbert clearly isn't Andrew Luck, but this team is actually much better than most people think. The arrow is pointing up. 


32. Cleveland Browns (0-4)

Trent Richardson will soon be one of the best running backs in this league and this defense is secretly good.

If Brandon Weeden plays like he did against the Ravens with some consistency, there are some wins in this team's future.



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