Power rankings aren't standings, nor are they directly affected by standings. That's why a team with one loss can be ranked ahead of undefeated teams. That's why a team without a win can be ranked ahead of teams who have won a game.
Instead, think of it like this: If the two teams met on a neutral field, who would win? That's the logic and rationale behind our new No. 1 overall team—and all the rankings that follow.
Who is the new No. 1-ranked team, and where does your favorite team rank?
The Cleveland Browns aren't the least talented team in football, but they can't find a way to win games. That's why they are ranked dead last.
There's enough talent here that, eventually, the Browns will win a game. The defense is solid enough to win a game or two on its own. Once Joe Haden is back from suspension, things will start to come together for this attacking defense.
The issues are on offense. While Trent Richardson has been great and the offensive tackles very good, the passing game doesn't exist. Blame Brandon Weeden; blame the wide receivers; blame the play-calling. Something is broken, and with a soon-to-be 29-year-old rookie quarterback, the new Browns ownership needs to figure out what that something is.
Close only counts in handgrenades and horseshoes, and the New York Jets unfortunately play football.
This isn't the worst team in the NFL, but they are in a downward spiral that's spinning out of control. Did the Houston Texans overlook the Jets? Yes. Could the Jets capitalize? No. That's the issue with this team, and it trickles down from the head coach to the players.
When a team doesn't believe it can win, it won't, and that's the takeaway from watching the Jets play. There are leaders who want it--like Antonio Cromartie--but the bulk of the team doesn't play like they believe they can win.
Thanks to a well-placed bye week, the Oakland Raiders don't move up or down in this week's rankings. Instead, they're able to rest and re-collect for a tough road game in Atlanta.
The Raiders aren't out of it in the AFC West, which says a lot about parity in the NFL and the sad state of the West right now. If Carson Palmer can get hot and the defense finds itself, the Raiders could surprise their division down the stretch.
It's time to move on from Blaine Gabbert. It's time to move on from Gene Smith. Hell, it might be time to move on from Mike Mularkey.
The Jacksonville Jaguars would be hard-pressed to identify the good in the aftermath of Week 5. The Chicago Bears put a big-brother-style beatdown on the Jaguars, exposing them as an unprepared and under-talented team. Yes, injuries definitely hurt this team, but every NFL team experiences injuries. Good teams overcome the injuries.
The season will be a tough one in Jacksonville, and it shouldn't be long before Chad Henne at least gets a chance to steal first-team reps in practice. It can't be worse than the on-field product thus far.
The old Chris Johnson is back, and for that matter, the old Tennessee Titans are back.
With a 1-4 record and an embarrassing Week 5 display, the Titans inch closer and closer to a top-10 draft pick instead of a wild-card berth. With a 9-7 record last season, many people expected at least that level of success this year, but so far, this team hasn't developed together.
The talent level is surprisingly high for a team with one win. As the season progresses, expect the Titans to find their rhythm and knock off several wins.
To steal a line from Harvey Dent, "The night is darkest before the dawn."
That's something that fans of the Kansas City Chiefs are hoping for right now. With a 1-4 record, the 2012 season has a bleak feeling for those who are faithful to the red and yellow.
The problems in Kansas City seem to point to the poor play of quarterback Matt Cassel, and it is fair to ask that the team at least consider giving Brady Quinn first-team minutes this week as Cassel recovers from an injury that knocked him out of the game early.
A good team finds a way to win when the defense holds the opponent to just nine points. Right now, the Chiefs are not a good team.
The New Orleans Saints get their first win, at home, on a night when Drew Brees sets the record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass. Pretty big day, New Orleans.
The Saints need to use this one win to build momentum, but with a bye coming up, it will be interesting to see if this fuels the Saints or if the bye week comes at a terrible time and kills their energy. It's never been about talent for the Saints but more about execution and bad luck.
If ever there was a team that could get hot and run through the rest of the season, that team is the Saints.
If ever a team needed a bye week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are that team. Unfortunately, this means they'll spend Weeks 6 through 17 without a break.
The Bucs are one of the youngest starting teams in the NFL, especially on defense, and that tends to come with a brute learning curve. Add in injuries to defensive ends Da'Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn, and you have a Tampa Bay team that's playing from behind before the game even begins.
The biggest spotlight falls on quarterback Josh Freeman. For Tampa Bay to win, Freeman has to play more like he did in 2010 than 2011.
How 'bout those Indianapolis Colts?
No one was betting on the Colts to beat the Green Bay Packers. No one thought this team could win without Chuck Pagano on the sidelines. Even people in Indianapolis were worried about the sheer number of Packers fans filling the stands in Indianapolis.
Everyone was wrong.
Andrew Luck took over the game in the second half, and the Colts have a signature win on the season thanks to Luck's decision making, clock management and accuracy down the stretch. The Colts may not be a playoff team, but beating the Packers in the final minute of the game is a pretty damn good victory.
Cam Newton's sophomore slump has been a bit exaggerated, but there is no doubting that the Carolina Panthers are struggling this season. That's not all on Newton, but he has to share the blame.
Newton's play in Week 5 bounced between great and terrible, but that's the story for the entire Panthers roster this season. This is a team without the talent to win close games, and those expecting a one-year turnaround will learn that the 2012 season is about the development of Cam and the other young players on both sides of the ball.
As fans in other cities start to make their wish lists for the 2013 NFL draft, those following the Buffalo Bills should start looking at quarterbacks.
There's considerable talent here, even if the San Francisco 49ers dismantled this team thoroughly in Week 5. With Stevie Johnson, Cordy Glenn, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, there are legitimate stars waiting for a quarterback who can carry the team to victory. As much as we all like Ryan Fitzpatrick, he's not that guy.
A healthy Mario Williams, one more year of development in the secondary and a competent quarterback would put Buffalo in the playoff hunt.
The one fact from the Detroit Lions' season that you need to know: Calvin Johnson has one touchdown catch. One.
While Johnson isn't the only key to the Lions' success, he's the catalyst to everything they want to do on offense. Johnson going deep opens up the intermediate passing game. Johnson running deep pulls safeties out of the box for the run game. When Johnson's not producing at his scary rate, the Lions are much easier to defend.
The bye week could prove to be the changeup this team needed to get rolling again. We'll find out soon enough.
If you haven't seen my public apology to the Miami Dolphins for their drafting of Ryan Tannehill, here's another one.
Tannehill was the right pick for the Dolphins at No. 8 overall. A team that's been searching for a franchise quarterback since Dan Marino's retirement has finally found one. Who knew they'd find their quarterback by actually drafting one in the first round? (Yes, that's sarcasm.)
Tannehill and Brian Hartline are developing unstoppable chemistry. Reggie Bush looks like a major factor, and the defense is starting to find its groove after the move to a base 4-3 scheme. Things are looking up in Miami.
Losing by one touchdown to the New Orleans Saints in an emotional road game isn't season-ending, but for those of us who weren't sold on the San Diego Chargers, it says a lot.
The Chargers haven't had a signature win this year, which is why—even at 3-1—they weren't ranked very high in last week's rankings. Now that they've lost to a winless team, the Chargers' ranking of No. 19 is fitting for a team that's talented but struggles to win high-pressure games.
The Seattle Seahawks' 2012 season will be the story of the ups and downs of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. As he goes, so goes this team.
The Seahawks won again in Week 5, and that's really what matters most at the end of the day. Wilson was solid again, showing an efficient style of play but never fully opening things up in the offense. Much of the reason Wilson started over Matt Flynn was because the offense took off under his watch in the preseason. Now is the time for Wilson and the coaching staff to start opening things up.
With a defense as good as Seattle's, if Wilson can spark the offense, big wins will result.
When the Washington Redskins spent their fourth-round pick on Kirk Cousins, I was not a fan of the pick. Now that we've seen Robert Griffin III ignore conventional quarterbacking wisdom and take unnecessary shots, that pick looks much smarter.
Griffin has been electric—easily the Offensive Rookie of the Year so far—but he's taking kill shots from defenses. His 220-lb frame won't hold up long against NFL hits. That's why the pick of Cousins was so smart, and in Week 6, we'll see more of Cousins if RG3 cannot pass his concussion test this week.
The Redskins are still alive, and had Griffin not gone down on Sunday, they very well could have won. Their season will be defined by his ability to stay healthy.
The bye week comes following a five-interception week by Tony Romo—pretty good timing for the Dallas Cowboys.
With the NFC East a colossal mess this year, the Cowboys are very much alive at 2-2. It's not unthinkable for Dallas to get hot and rip off a run through the schedule that leads to the division title, but for that to happen, Romo has to play better. Sure, not all of the interceptions were on him in Week 4 vs. Chicago, but his overall play has been weak this year.
It's said every year that Dallas has the talent to win the East (and more), but the Cowboys' execution has yet to live up to the on-paper ability.
At 3-2, the Philadelphia Eagles are still in control of the NFC East. Michael Vick hasn't managed to fumble that away.
There is so much talent here, but watching the Eagles, it's tough to believe that Vick can be the quarterback Andy Reid needs (or wants) to get them over the hump and into the deep playoffs again. Vick, for all his brilliance, is becoming more liability than electrician.
It might not be time for Nick Foles just yet, but unless you believe Michael Vick can get the Eagles to the Super Bowl, why wait on giving Foles the reps he needs to develop?
My crush on the Cincinnati Bengals has taken a hit. It's not quite time to panic, but the on-field display in Week 5 wasn't encouraging.
The problems are multiple for the Bengals, some of them resting on Andy Dalton's decision making and others on the defense not shutting down the Miami Dolphins offense. The game plan didn't challenge Miami deep, which was surprising given A.J. Green's abilities downfield.
Until the Bengals can find consistency on both sides of the ball, they'll continue to be a team ranked in the Top 15, never the Top Five.
The optimism in Denver has taken a hit at the hands of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, but this is still a very good team.
The Broncos were outmanned in Week 5 by a better team, but that shouldn't sound the alarms on the season. Take away from this game that Peyton Manning is still getting better each week. Joel Dreessen continues to emerge as a threat in the red zone. The defense is still coming together and still not quite filled out completely.
The 2012 season might not see the Broncos making a Super Bowl run, but if Manning can stay healthy and John Elway can build around him in the offseason, they'll be a heavy favorite in 2013.
The New York Giants survived in Week 5, and even though the score was 41-27, the Giants definitely survived.
Until linebacker D'Qwell Jackson left the game, the Cleveland Browns were controlling the game. With a 17-7 lead at one point in the second quarter, it was Cleveland capitalizing on the Giants' mistakes. The rest of the game would prove to be the exact opposite, as the Giants found their run game and dominated the second half.
The trouble with the Giants right now is that, week to week, no one knows which team will show up. With the San Francisco 49ers on the schedule next, the Giants need to figure that out.
One loss to the St. Louis Rams won't end the Arizona Cardinals' season, but it does give the rest of the NFL a blueprint for beating the Cardinals. That blueprint is man coverage on the outside and plenty of stunts from the defensive line to confuse the Cardinals' front five.
No one outside of Arizona expected this team to stay unblemished for long, but we'll learn a lot about the Cardinals in how they respond to their first loss. After the offense only put up three points, it will be interesting to see if any changes are made at quarterback or wide receiver from here on out.
The Green Bay Packers are 2-3. They only lost one game during the 2011 regular season.
It doesn't take a football analyst to tell you that's not good. What's most troubling (and frustrating) is that the Packers are losing close games. They may not have had a prayer against San Francisco in Week 1, but their losses to Seattle and Indianapolis were totally avoidable.
You can't say enough about how big Cedric Benson has been for Green Bay, and once he went down on Sunday, the offense went with him. The pressure has to be on reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers to pull the Packers out of the abyss and shake off the dust.
Did anyone have the Minnesota Vikings as the NFC North leader after five weeks?
It's improbable, for sure, but the Vikings are proving week after week that they're for real. A win against the Tennessee Titans in Week 5 pushed the Vikings to three straight wins, and they're one field goal away from a perfect 5-0 record.
Credit Leslie Frazier for his vision and execution, but the front office has done a great job by adding Christian Ponder, Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith over the last two drafts. Getting a healthy Adrian Peterson back earlier than expected helps, too, but this feels like a team that's finally getting "it."
Ask yourself this: Would you want your favorite team playing the St. Louis Rams in a one-game playoff to the postseason?
Jeff Fisher's Rams are for real, and that was on national display in Week 5's Thursday night game against the Arizona Cardinals. The Rams did what the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles could not: They beat the Cardinals, and they beat them soundly.
St. Louis' chances of finishing the season as a wild-card team may be remote, but at 3-2, they're very much in it at this point. If we're talking about teams you'd least like to play, well, the Rams are very high on that list.
The Pittsburgh Steelers remain an enigma, but an enigma that's bound to improve once its injured stars return on defense.
The play from a healthy Rashard Mendenhall was a nice spark for the Steelers in Week 5, and if they can get that same level of spark from James Harrison and Troy Polamalu on defense, then this team will be set for the long run to the playoffs.
The only concerns with Pittsburgh are that seven starters on defense are older than 30 and that three key starters have missed considerable time in 2012 (Harrison, Polamalu and Casey Hampton). If those three or any other starters on defense miss time, the team's playoff hopes take a big hit.
No matter what you may think of the Chicago Bears, they're 4-1. No matter what you think of Jay Cutler, his team is winning, while Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning all quarterback teams with losing records. The Bears are for real.
With or without Matt Forte and with or without Michael Bush, the Bears are finding ways to win. Take their 41-3 embarrassment of the Jacksonville Jaguars as proof that this team can win—and win decisively. Cutler will make mistakes, and the offensive line will fail at times, but the overall product is stellar.
The Baltimore Ravens see a small bump down this week based on their narrow win over the then-1-3 Kansas City Chiefs and due to the strong play of the teams ranked ahead of them.
Week 5 wasn't kind to the Ravens, but they managed to escape and secure a win on the road. That's definitely worth something. The team seems to be gelling at the right time, and with Terrell Suggs set to return within the next month, one of the NFL's best defenses is about to get a whole lot better.
The Ravens' hopes in the postseason all rest on Joe Flacco's shoulders. If he repeats his Week 5 performance, the Ravens will be one-and-done in the playoffs.
The New England Patriots are playing with renewed vigor after two straight losses in Weeks 2 and 3. Since those rare back-to-back losses, Tom Brady and company have scored 52 and 31 points, respectively. New England has reemerged as one of the toughest teams in the NFL.
Credit for the turnaround should be shared, but Bill Belichick adapts his team as well as any coach in NFL history. Having Brady there to execute sure helps things, but how well the Patriots adjust and adapt is an underrated aspect of what makes them so great—and has for so long.
Sitting at 3-2 right now, it wouldn't be surprising to see New England finish 13-3.
The Atlanta Falcons have scored at least 24 points in each of their five games. Matt Ryan has an NFL-best quarterback rating of 112.1. When the Falcons will lose is becoming a mystery.
Few teams are playing as well as the Falcons are right now, and the fact that they can win close games against the Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers goes a long way in showing that this year will be different than any other Mike Smith year for the Falcons. With Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan in place as coordinators, these Falcons are more aggressive, more thorough.
Your Offensive Player of the Year right now is Matt Ryan. That'll look good on his resume, but the way Ryan is playing, Super Bowl MVP is within reach, too.
The loss of Brian Cushing at linebacker was the shift in a game that the Houston Texans barely escaped with a victory. However, a win is a win, and the Texans are the AFC's lone undefeated team. A No. 1 seed in the playoffs and a Super Bowl run are very likely if this team can stay healthy.
The Texans are a solid argument for the NFL's best team, but the Jets did expose some weaknesses on special teams and in the offensive play calling in Week 5. The Texans lack the killer instinct on offense to take a lead and extend it. Where the San Francisco 49ers turned a 10-0 halftime lead into a 34-0 beatdown, the Texans never did pull away from a team they should have completely shutdown.
Why are the 4-1 San Francisco 49ers ranked ahead of the undefeated Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons?
Go back to our intro if you must. Power rankings are based on who would win on a neutral field if the two teams met right now. With the way the 49ers are playing, no one would beat them. Jim Harbaugh's team is on a tear after losing to the Minnesota Vikings, ripping off 79 points versus only three allowed in their last two games.
The Texans would be held in check by the 49ers run game. Matt Ryan would be a good matchup, but the 49ers would outscore the Falcons if the game went to a shootout.
Let's all face it: No one is better than the 49ers right now.