We are now five weeks into the NFL season, and the picture is beginning to come into focus. The Packers are obviously not the same team they were in 2011, while the 49ers appear to be just as good.
The NFC West seems to have turned into a very tough division overnight, while the AFC East (aside from the Patriots) appears to be the doormat for the rest of the league.
Now that we have figured all of this out, here are my NFL power rankings heading into Week 6 (previous week's rankings in parentheses).
Week 5 started out promising for the Browns. They capitalized on an Ahmad Bradshaw fumble to start the game, and Brandon Weeden made it 14-0 with a beautiful, deep pass to rookie Josh Gordon.
However, everything went south from there as they were not able to stop Eli Manning and Victor Cruz. After D'Qwell Jackson left due to injury, they couldn't stop Bradshaw either.
Ahead 17-10, Weeden then threw an interception that the Giants turned into a touchdown; and Josh Cribbs fumbled the ensuing kickoff. The Giants put up 27 unanswered points and the Browns were never able to recover.
Joe Haden's return next week will give this defense a huge boost. The question is, will it be enough to beat the Bengals?
After taking a beating against the Broncos in Week 5, the Raiders got a much needed bye week to recover and regroup before taking on the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons.
After the Falcons they get the Jaguars at home, a team they should have a chance to beat. For now, the Raiders' only win is against a Pittsburgh team that clearly wasn't themselves without running back Rashard Mendenhall.
Chris Johnson once again couldn't get anything going in the ground game, and the Titans defense couldn't contain Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin.
The Matt Hasselbeck offense was only able to put up a single touchdown well after the game had been decided, as the defense allowed the Vikings to put up 30. As long as Chris Johnson struggles, the Titans will continue to do the same.
I mentioned last week that the calls for Matt Cassel's head were getting louder, and when he went down with an injury on Sunday, Chiefs fans actually cheered.
Brady Quinn went three-for-three in backup duty and may start Sunday. Meanwhile, Jamaal Charles had over 100 yards before halftime, but was bottled up during the second half.
The defense also played well, keeping Baltimore's offense out of the end zone and forcing three field goals. That still wasn't good enough for the Chiefs offense, who managed only two field goals of their own.
Blaine Gabbert's future is in doubt less than halfway into his second season as the Jaguars starting QB.
He simply hasn't improved, and with two pick-sixes against the Bears and no touchdowns of his own, he is not doing enough to give the defense a chance to help him out.
When a team falls behind early they are forced to abandon the running game, so Maurice Jones-Drew was only given 12 carries. It also tires out the defense, who gave up over 300 yards in the second half.
It's tough to blame one guy for a team's problems, but right now it is looking like Blaine Gabbert is Jacksonville's biggest problem.
Two consecutive blowouts suddenly have the Bills reeling. Against San Francisco the defense gave up over 300 yards through the air to Alex Smith and also allowed over 300 yards on the ground.
The offensive performance wasn't much better as Ryan Fitzpatrick completed just 16 passes for 126 yards and neither Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller managed to rush for over 30 yards.
The defense has now given up over 500 yards twice in a row, which will never get it done in a division that features Tom Brady and the New England Patriots
Mark Sanchez was intercepted on two tipped passes, and his final attempt with four seconds left was also tipped and fell harmlessly to the ground. Sanchez completed just 14 passes on 31 attempts, and no Jet was able to rush for over 30 yards.
On the defensive side, the Jets fared surprisingly well in the passing game, holding Texans quarterback Matt Schaub to just 50 percent on the night. The rush defense wasn't quite as good, giving up 152 yards and a touchdown to Arian Foster.
Reggie Wayne had a career day against the Packers, and wore orange gloves in support of Colts coach Chuck Pagona, who is battling leukemia.
I'll admit it, when the Packers took a 21-3 lead against the Colts just before halftime I assumed the game was over.
But wow, what a day Reggie Wayne had, hauling in 13 passes for over 200 yards. During the bye week the Colts learned that head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia, and was undergoing treatment on Sunday so he wouldn't be able to attend the game.
While October is breast cancer awareness month and NFL players wore assorted pink equipment, Wayne wore orange gloves in support of his coach's battle against leukemia. Now the question is: Were the Colts simply inspired for one game, or are they really as good as they played on Sunday?
Like most QBs that have gone up against Seattle this season, Cam Newton did not fare well.
Completing just over 41 percent of his passes and failing to lead a touchdown drive, Newton did manage 42 yards on seven carries to lead the team in rushing. The defense was able to intercept rookie Russell Wilson twice and return one for a touchdown, but also gave up 221 yards through the air.
The Panthers will need their offense to do more in the upcoming weeks against the Cowboys and Bears.
Tampa Bay had a break this week after a tough, down to the wire loss to Redskins in Week 5.
They follow up their bye week with two winnable games against Kansas City and New Orleans, but will need better play from their offense if they are to start winning.
Quarterback Josh Freeman is completing just 54.6 percent of his passes, and their leading rusher has just 274 yards in four games. They have problems on defense as well, as they are last in the league in stopping the pass.
Drew Brees set the record for consecutive game with a touchdown pass on Sunday night against San Diego
Finally, the Saints get that first win of the season they have been searching for for five weeks.
It didn't come easy, as San Diego lead 24-14 at one point in the second half and was only behind by a touchdown on the final drive of the game. The Saints were up to the challenge as Drew Brees broke the record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass and ended with four on the night (three of them to Marques Colston).
There were no eye-popping numbers this week; no stats that made you question how they blew the game. The Dolphins simply came out and did what they needed to do to beat the Bengals.
Ryan Tannehill played well, but the defense carried the load this week. They picked off Andy Dalton twice, held BenJarvus Green-Ellis to just 14 yards and held the Bengals to just one touchdown. Up to this point, Miami's defense has been the best in the league against the rush, allowing just 61.4 yards per game, and are the only team giving up less than three yards per carry.
The Lions struggled unexpectedly the first four games of the season, but had a much needed bye in Week 5 to regroup and focus on turning their season around.
You wouldn't know it from their 1-3 record, but the Lions rank top 10 in both total offense (third) and total defense (ninth) so far. Special teams obviously haven't had the same success, giving up four touchdowns in the two weeks before the bye.
The Redskins fought admirably against the unbeaten Falcons, but could not finish them off without Robert Griffin III, who left the game with a concussion.
Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins took over and took the lead with a 77-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss, but the Redskins were not able to hang on and Cousins could not replicate his early success.
Coming into Week 5, the Steelers were averaging an NFL-low 2.6 yards per carry.
Rashard Mendenhall made his season debut in Week 5, and averaged 5.8 yards on 14 carries. Mendenhall running well early is a great sign for Pittsburgh, as they are a very dangerous team when the offense is firing on all cylinders. Look for them to climb up the power rankings rapidly over these next few weeks.
They fought throughout and even looked like they were going to win at one point, but in the end the Chargers dropped one to previously winless New Orleans.
Ryan Matthews was running the ball well, but was only given 12 carries—with which he was able to record 80 yards. That is an eye-popping 6.7 yards per carry. Yet for some reason the Chargers stopped giving him the ball, choosing instead to let quarterback Phillip Rivers attempt 42 passes.
Coach Norv Turner has come under fire for not being able to win with what appears to be a talented team, and coaching decisions such as the one made on Sunday will continue to fuel that fire.
The Rams defense was impressive on Thursday night, generating pressure on Kevin Kolb all game and finishing with nine sacks.
The offense performance wasn't quite so strong. Take away the 51-yard bomb to Chris Givens and Sam Bradford's stat-line would have read : six-for-20, 90 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The Rams are going to need better play out of their quarterback if they are going to be a force in the NFC West this season.
The run game couldn't get anything done, and quarterback Andy Dalton added to the offense's struggles with two interceptions against the Miami Dolphins.
In their defense, Miami does currently have the top run defense in the league. The defense didn't play poorly, but they weren't great. They now have two important division games coming up against the Browns and Steelers, with the latter having important implications for who is going to challenge Baltimore and who is going to shoot for the wild card.
Peyton Manning is starting to look like himself since that Week 2 loss at Atlanta where he threw three interceptions. He has followed that up with three straight games of 300-plus yards and no interceptions, and now has gone 19 out of 20 quarters in 2012 without an interception. If he keeps it up, the Broncos will have a winning record again and may still be the favorites to win the division.
After a bad loss to the Bears headed into the bye week, the Cowboys will get a chance to redeem themselves against the Ravens on Sunday.
Expect Tony Romo to bounce back strong from his five-interception performance in Week 4, as the Cowboys should hang with the Ravens in what may be a very close game. If the running game can get itself on track down the stretch, the Cowboys' season will follow suit.
Out of the three unbeaten teams headed into Week 5, it was clear to most that the Cardinals were the overachievers playing above their talent level.
They have a very tough schedule following their Week 6 matchup against Buffalo, and if their offensive line continues to play like they did against St. Louis, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect this team to fall below .500 by season's end.
While their offense may not be anything special, the Seattle defense has been one of the best in the league this season.
Through five games they have yet to let an opponent score over 20 points, and speaking to the depth of the unit, they also did not allow over 20 points in any of their preseason games. The offense on the other hand has put up more than 20 only once, with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson struggling heavily at times.
That offense that was so good last year seems so far away, as the Packers lost yet another game on Sunday to the Colts to drop them to 2-3.
The receivers have dropped too many passes, the offensive line has allowed too much pressure, and Aaron Rodgers has been forced into the types of mistakes he wasn't making in 2011.
Through five games Rodgers now has four interceptions, compared to six in all of 2011. This is not to say that he has been bad, just that his play has fallen off a substantial amount from a season ago.
Aside from their Week 3 loss to the Cardinals, each of the Eagles' games has been decided by less than a field goal. When you let teams hang around that long instead of putting them away, eventually your luck is going to run out.
That it what happened on Sunday against Pittsburgh; they simply ran out of the luck they were having in close games. Michael Vick also continues to be a turnover machine, fumbling twice this week. If those kinds of mistakes stop, perhaps the Eagles will be able to win in convincing fashion.
Aside from the Cardinals' 4-0 start, the Vikings have been the most surprisingly impressive team this season.
With loads of talent on offense—including Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin—it was only a matter of time. The defense has also stepped up, currently ranking seventh in the league in yards allowed as opposed to 21st last season.
The return game has also yielded some big results thus far, with the versatile Harvin leading the way.
The Bears have certainly responded well since their Week 2 embarrassment at Green Bay, outscoring opponents 98 to 27 in the three games since.
They haven't just put up points on offense either, as their defense has been able to reach the end zone on their own four times in the past two weeks alone. They now get a long bye week before taking on the struggling Detroit Lions next Monday as they continue their quest to win the NFC North.
The Ravens may have found a way to beat the lowly Kansas City Chiefs, but it was not at all pretty.
The defense forced quarterback Matt Cassel into four turnovers, but the offense could do little with the extra opportunities, scoring just three field goals in the game. They also allowed over 200 yards rushing. Overall it was a poor performance in what should have been an easy win.
After a close loss to the Eagles in Week 5, the Giants were able to rebound from an early 14-point deficit to beat the Browns handily.
Eli Manning threw for three touchdowns, and once D'Qwell Jackson left the game for the Browns, Ahmad Bradshaw was unstoppable with 200 yards rushing. The momentum of the game shifted their way when they picked off Brandon Weeden and scored on offense, then forced Joshua Cribbs to fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
The Patriots offense managed over 200 yards rushing behind Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden, Tom Brady played mistake-free football and the defense forced two fumbles to help power New England to a 31-21 victory over Peyton Manning's Broncos.
The team has now put up over 30 points in four out of five games behind Brady and a revamped rushing attack.
You could make a case for the 49ers being No. 1 after responding to their sole loss with two consecutive blowouts.
In the past two games San Francisco has dominated by outscoring the Jets and Bills a combined 79-3.
However, the Bills have lost by 20 or more points in three of their five games in 2012. This coming Sunday the 49ers will get a rematch of the 2011 NFC Championship game and a chance at revenge against the Giants. Let's wait to see if they are up to that challenge.
It was a hard fought win on Sunday for Atlanta. Even after knocking Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III out of the game they still had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to win their fifth game of the season.
The defense took advantage of Washington's backup quarterback Kirk Cousins in the fourth quarter, intercepting him twice in the final two minutes to put the game away.
Coach Gary Kubiak was content with trusting his defense to stop the depleted New York offense late in the fourth quarter, and they came away with their second interception of the night to seal the win.
Arian Foster ran for 152 yards and a touchdown as Matt Scahub passed for 200 yards. The defense held Mark Sanchez to just 14 completions on 31 attempts and held the Jets to only 69 yards rushing. They received a bit of bad news after the game however, as they found out linebacker Brian Cushing tore his ACL and will be out for the season.
As always, thank you for reading. Any comments are appreciated. Just remember if you disagree with where your team is ranked, provide reasons why you feel I placed them to low.
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