Week 4 of the 2013 NFL regular season is officially in the books, as the byes have begun and the postseason picture has begun to take shape. At the quarter-mark of the season, only five teams remain undefeated and four postseason teams from 2012 are below .500.
The question is, how does every team look entering a high-stakes Week 5?
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 4: 3-37 loss vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 5: at St. Louis Rams
The Jacksonville Jaguars continue to be the worst team in the NFL, and it's becoming difficult to find a close second. Week 4 marked the third time in four weeks that the Jaguars have been held under 10 points, as well as the third time in four weeks that Jacksonville has failed to score a touchdown.
Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater are all but officially battling to become a member of the Jaguars organization.
The Jaguars' defense has allowed 41.0 points per game over the past two weeks, while the offense has managed 10.0. Through four games, Jacksonville has one passing touchdown, seven interceptions and 18 sacks allowed.
With 196 total rushing yards, the offense is the definition of putrid.
The Jaguars' defense is 25th in sacks, 23rd in interceptions and 19th in fumble recoveries. Even when the defense was strong, the Jaguars scored nine points in a 19-9 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
No matter if it's Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne, Jacksonville has inconsistency throughout the roster.
31. New York Giants
Week 4: 31-7 loss at Kansas City Chiefs
Week 5: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The New York Giants have been downright terrible, getting outscored 110-30 over the course of their past three games. During the past two weeks, New York has been outscored 69-7 against the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs.
Complain all you will about this low ranking, but only the Jacksonville Jaguars have been consistently defeated in such a lopsided manner.
Thus far, Eli Manning has passed for six touchdowns and nine interceptions, and has been sacked 14 times through four games. Curtis Painter, who has four total attempts, has thrown another interception, and the Giants have run for 231 yards per game.
Somehow, the Giants are still only two games out of the NFC East.
The reason New York is ranked lower than any other NFC team is because what's put on the field is more important than what upside a team might possess. Manning is a star at quarterback, but the defense has been demolished throughout the season and the offense lacks any form of balance.
Not even the Bucs have played this poorly.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 4: 10-13 loss vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 5: Bye Week
During Week 1, Week 2 and Week 4, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost three games by a combined six points. The defense has allowed just one team to top 20 points through four weeks, but even still, the offense has faltered and close games have felt distant.
Fortunately, Tampa Bay has a Week 5 bye.
Against the Arizona Cardinals during Week 4, the Bucs blew a 10-point lead by allowing Carson Palmer and company to go on a 13-0 run to win 13-10. After Mike Glennon threw a first quarter touchdown pass, the Bucs' offense fell apart and Doug Martin picked up 45 yards on 27 carries.
What's truly unfortunate is that the defense is playing at an elite level.
The Bucs have 13.0 sacks and six interceptions through four games, with players such as Lavonte David and Darrelle Revis each stepping up to lead the charge. Unfortunately, the defense hasn't received a strong enough form of support from the offense.
It doesn't look like Tampa Bay's scoring will improve any time soon.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 4: 27-34 loss at Minnesota Vikings
Week 5: Bye Week
The Pittsburgh Steelers are the most decorated team in NFL history, owning a league-best six Super Bowl titles. Leading the current core is two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and one-time winner Mike Tomlin at head coach.
When it comes down to it, the absence of a running game has proven to offset even the greatest of football presences.
The Steelers have rushed for 232 yards through four games, with Felix Jones rushing for a team-high 74. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, rookie Le'Veon Bell ran for two touchdowns during his season-debut against the Minnesota Vikings.
On the day that the offense came to life, however, the defense collapsed in a 34-27 loss.
The Steelers enter a bye week with quite a few questions to answer and not too much to feel good about at 0-4. Bell's emergence is big, and the defense is better than it showed against Minnesota, but the Steelers need to win before any praise can be created.
Pittsburgh travels to play the New York Jets during Week 6.
28. Oakland Raiders
Week 4: 14-24 loss vs. Washington Redskins
Week 5: vs. San Diego Chargers
The Oakland Raiders went through the first three weeks with Terrelle Pryor displaying extreme upside at quarterback. During a 24-14 Week 4 loss to the Washington Redskins, Matt Flynn threw a first quarter touchdown in Pryor's absence before getting shut out the rest of the way.
During Week 5, the Raiders will face the San Diego Chargers in a battle between NFC West rivals.
Not only did Oakland lose to the Redskins, but it lost Darren McFadden to an injury during the course of the game.
27. St. Louis Rams
Week 4: 11-35 loss vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 5: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The St. Louis Rams opened the season with a 27-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals and both fans and analysts jumped on the bandwagon. Since then, St. Louis has dropped to 1-3 and has been outscored 66-18 over the course of its past two games.
So much for the bandwagon.
Under the spotlight of Thursday Night Football, the Rams crumbled in a 35-11 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. While St. Louis ran the ball 19 times for 18 yards, the defense allowed the Niners to carry it 40 times for 219.
Jeff Fisher's presence may suggest consistency, but it's worth noting that he's been to the playoffs in just two of his past nine and six of his 17 full seasons as a head coach. St. Louis still has time to recover, and a Week 5 meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars offers promise, but the Rams aren't a postseason contender.
Not until St. Louis makes some major improvements.
26. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 4: 20-52 loss at Denver Broncos
Week 5: at New York Giants
The Philadelphia Eagles started the 2013 NFL regular season strong, defeating the Washington Redskins 33-27. Since the third quarter of that game, the Eagles have been outscored 124-66.
Chip Kelly may be a promising head coach, but things aren't going according to plan.
The Eagles fell 52-20 to the Denver Broncos, allowing the opposition to score 38 consecutive points after bringing it to 14-13 during the second quarter. Peyton Manning was 28-of-34 for 327 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, while Michael Vick was 14-of-27 for 248 yards and no scores.
Nick Foles threw a fourth quarter touchdown, but regardless of who is under center, Philly has questions to answer.
Denver may have the most explosive offense in the NFL, but there's no excuse for allowing 38 straight points. Not only was it embarrassing for the Eagles to fall in such a manner, but it exposed the defense and the offense.
Philly is still only one game back in the NFC East, but that's a product of a terrible division, not a strong football team.
25. Minnesota Vikings
Week 4: 34-27 win vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 5: Bye Week
The Minnesota Vikings enter their bye week with a sigh of relief after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27 to move to 1-3. It wasn't just Minnesota's first win of the season, but it was the best case scenario for a team that had lost two consecutive games in the last minute of the fourth quarter.
The Steelers were driving, but just before we could see the Vikings' third consecutive final-minute collapse, Everson Griffen forced a fumble and Kyle Williams picked it up to secure Minnesota's first win. Finally.
Matt Cassel made his season debut, going 16-of-25 for 248 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He found Jerome Simpson seven times for 124 yards and Greg Jennings caught three passes for 92 yards and two key touchdowns.
As for Adrian Peterson, it was business as usual with 140 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
Defensively, Jared Allen picked up 2.5 sacks, splitting one with Sharrif Floyd to mark the first of the rookie's career. Veteran Chad Greenway and Griffen added sacks, and Greenway also came up with an interception.
Minnesota now has a two weeks to answer one huge question: should Cassel or Christian Ponder be the starting quarterback?
24. Washington Redskins
Week 4: 24-14 at Oakland Raiders
Week 5: Bye Week
The Washington Redskins finally won a game, defeating the Oakland Raiders 24-14 during Week 4. With the win, the Redskins move to 1-3 and reveal just how terrible the NFC East is by pulling within one win of the division lead.
At some point, one NFC East team will emerge as a consistent contender, won't they?
The Redskins fell behind 14-0, and it looked like it would be yet another disappointing result, but David Amerson returned an interception for a 45-yard touchdown to create momentum entering halftime. From there, Robert Griffin III gave Washington the lead with a five-yard scoring pass to Pierre Garcon.
Roy Helu Jr. added a rushing touchdown for good measure and Washington finished with 122 yards on the ground on a day in which RG3 carried the ball just three times.
That was the biggest development for this team, as the run game was able to get going without Griffin III serving as the catalyst. He completed passes in an efficient manner, but it was all about Alfred Morris and Helu Jr. complementing an excellent performance by Washington's defense.
Washington is still struggling to open games up with a strong offensive performance, but a win is a win.
23. Cleveland Browns
Week 4: 17-6 win vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 5: vs. Buffalo Bills
The Cleveland Browns continue to turn heads and open eyes, earning their second consecutive victory with a 17-6 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. The defense was sensational, the offense did what was necessary to win and Cleveland is now 2-0 since the infamous Trent Richardson trade.
It'd be foolish to say Cleveland is better without T-Rich, but the deal certainly lit a fire under the players on the roster.
Brian Hoyer was 26-of-39 for 269 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, as Tom Brady's former backup continued his hot streak with the Browns. Jordan Cameron had 10 receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown, and Josh Gordon caught four passes for 71.
Good luck finding a player who's as dramatically improved as Cameron.
Defensively, rookie Barkevious Mingo recorded a sack for the third consecutive game and Buster Skrine had his first interception of the season. Joe Haden contained the big play and the Browns continued to do the improbable.
Cleveland is now 2-2 and owns a share of the lead in the AFC North.
22. Arizona Cardinals
Week 4: 13-10 win at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 5: vs. Carolina Panthers
The Arizona Cardinals are a postseason contender under new head coach Bruce Arians and new quarterback Carson Palmer. It hasn't been pretty, but Arians has brought a poise to this team that it lacked in 2012, and Palmer has been strong when it counts.
In turn, Arizona is 2-2 and preparing for a Week 5 home game against the Carolina Panthers.
Palmer wasn't great, but he led three fourth quarter scoring drives as Arizona came back from a 10-0 deficit to win 13-10. That includes a 13-yard touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald and a huge 19-yard pass to Jaron Brown to set up a 27-yard Jay Feely field goal with 1:29 remaining.
Michael Floyd and Fitzgerald combined for 11 receptions for 155 yards and a score to continue flashing signs of Arizona's first legitimate wide receiver combination since Anquan Boldin departed.
Defensively, linebacker Dontay Moch came up with a sack in his first career NFL appearance after being drafted in 2011 by the Cincinnati Bengals. Patrick Peterson added two interceptions, including the game-clinching pick in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
Arizona is 2-2 after the feeling-out process, and it's going to be interesting to see what Arians and company can do from here on out.
21. Buffalo Bills
Week 4: 23-20 win vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 5: at Cleveland Browns
The Buffalo Bills continue to rise to the occasion against superior opponents, taking a 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Rookies continued to shine, the defense was dominant and injuries were overcome as Buffalo moved to 2-2.
It all starts with the front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Bills linebacker Kiki Alonso was selected in the second round, but he's doing his best to beat out every other player in his draft class. Through four games, the former Oregon Ducks star has 32 tackles, 1.0 sack, one fumble forced, one fumble recovery and four interceptions.
Aqib Talib and Alterraun Verner are tied with Alonso for the league-lead in the latter category.
Offensively, Fred Jackson continued to be the best running back on the roster with 16 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown. EJ Manuel struggled, but fellow rookie Robert Woods had four receptions for 80 yards and a key touchdown.
Aaron Williams added two interceptions, Jim Leonhard had one, Marcell Dareus had two sacks and Mario Williams registered one of his own. Buffalo is going to be a very good team in years to come.
20. New York Jets
Week 4: 13-31 loss at Tennessee Titans
Week 5: at Atlanta Falcons
The New York Jets moved to 2-2 during the 2013 NFL regular season after falling 31-13 to the Tennessee Titans. This comes just one week removed from New York's 27-20 win over the Bills and saw Geno Smith do his best to top the butt-fumble by dropping the ball during a behind-the-back motion.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In all seriousness, Smith was strong with 289 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions against a tough Titans defense. Bilal Powell added 108 yards of total offense to display the promise that this young Jets offense possesses.
It just wasn't enough to match Jake Locker's three-touchdown performance.
This was the worst that the Jets' defense has looked all season, even as it received a partial pass due to Smith's four turnovers. New York managed just two sacks and failed to force a single turnover against the Titans.
The upside is present, but New York has some strides to make before it contends for a postseason berth.
19. Carolina Panthers
Week 4: Bye
Week 5: at Arizona Cardinals
The Carolina Panthers were on bye during Week 4 after defeating the New York Giants 38-0 in Week 3. Carolina will travel to play the Arizona Cardinals during Week 5 as it attempts to move to 2-2 on the season.
This will be the first time Carolina has played the Cardinals since Arizona won 28-21 during Week 1 of the 2011 regular season.
18. Tennessee Titans
Week 4: 38-13 win vs. vs. New York Jets
Week 5: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Tennessee Titans have done the unthinkable, winning 38-13, moving to 3-1 and emerging in a worse position than they were before. As for why, Titans quarterback Jake Locker has suffered a severe hip injury and was carted off of the field.
Ian Rappoport of NFL.com reports that Locker is expected to end up on injured reserve. That leaves Tennessee with thin options.
Titans will work out David Carr and John Skelton on Tuesday in wake of Jake Locker's injury. They discussed Matt Leinart, too.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) September 30, 2013
Ryan Fitzpatrick is the alternative.
The Titans defense has been excellent and Chris Johnson has been significantly greater than fantasy football owners will recognize. With Justin Hunter becoming a touchdown machine, the Titans' offense does have extreme promise.
The fact of the matter is, the Titans are a sub-.500 football team with any of Fitzpatrick, David Carr, John Skelton or Matt Leinart under center. With a Week 5 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, that means a below-average quarterback will be thrown into the fire against an elite defense.
Forgive me for my pessimism, but losing Locker is a nail in the coffin.
17. Dallas Cowboys
Week 4: 21-30 loss at San Diego Chargers
Week 5: vs. Denver Broncos
The Dallas Cowboys are 2-2 after falling 30-21 at the San Diego Chargers. Unfortunately for Dallas, it wasn't just an evenly matched game that ended in disappointment, but instead a game in which Dallas blew a 21-10 second-half lead by allowing 20 consecutive points.
Even still, Dallas is first in the NFC East.
Tony Romo was 27-of-37 for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, effectively avoiding the blame. Furthermore, Romo found wide receiver Terrance Williams at the goal line 2:42 remaining, but the rookie fumbled the ball while diving for the end zone.
Dallas had all three of its timeouts remaining and would've been trailing by one possession if the touchdown had been executed or a field goal had been converted.
Defensively, Sean Lee had a monster of a game with 18 total tackles and an interception returned for a touchdown. George Selvie, who worked his way onto the roster with a monstrous preseason, recorded his third sack in four games.
Unfortunately, a dismal fourth quarter was Dallas' ultimate undoing.
16. Atlanta Falcons
Week 4: 23-30 loss vs. New England Patriots
Week 5: vs. New York Jets
The Atlanta Falcons continue to lose close games to quality opponents, turning Super Bowl contention into postseason dreams. Week 4 was yet another display of the 2013 slip-ups that Atlanta has experienced, as Atlanta's defense fell apart in the fourth quarter.
During its Week 5 home game against the New York Jets, Atlanta should be in desperation mode.
The Falcons fell 30-23 to the New England Patriots during Week 4, marking just its second regular season home loss since Nov. 13, 2011. Atlanta put up two late scores, but by the time it'd cut it to 30-23, there was only 2:55 remaining.
Yet another wasted opportunity by an Atlanta team that has as many losses through four weeks as it did during the entire 2013 regular season.
Matt Ryan erupted for 421 passing yards and Jacquizz Rodgers had 88 yards of total offense, but it just wasn't enough. The Falcons' defense allowed 17 points in a span of 8:08 during the fourth quarter, and Atlanta found itself in too deep of a hole to recover.
It was a valiant comeback effort, but without a Week 5 win over the New York Jets, the Falcons could be all but eliminated from the race for the NFC South.
15. San Diego Chargers
Week 4: 30-21 win vs. Dallas Cowboys
Week 5: at Oakland Raiders
Before readers harp on name value and reputation, let's acknowledge the facts that surround the San Diego Chargers. San Diego is 2-2 with an explosive passing attack and two losses that have come by a combined margin of six points.
Put those numbers next to a more high-profile organization and the hype is undeniable.
The Chargers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 30-21 during Week 4, with Philip Rivers flirting with perfection at 35-of-42 for 401 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Ryan Mathews had 103 yards of total offense and Antonio Gates caught 10 passes for 136 yards and a score.
Danny Woodhead added 86 yards of total offense and two receiving touchdowns as Rivers continues to make touchdown machines out of low-profile assets.
It wasn't a stellar performance on defense, but the Chargers held the Cowboys to 3-of-9 on third down conversions. Along with preventing the deep ball, San Diego kept Dallas' receivers in front of its secondary to limit the Cowboys to two red zone appearances.
Rivers is making it difficult to do anything but label him as a re-emerging star considering what he's doing with the support he's been given.
14. Green Bay Packers
Week 4: Bye
Week 5: vs. Detroit Lions
The Green Bay Packers had a Week 4 bye after losing 34-30 to the Cincinnati Bengals during Week 3. Green Bay is 1-2 overall and will host the Detroit Lions during Week 5 to attempt to move to .500.
The Packers haven't lost to the Lions in Green Bay since 1991.
13. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 4: 6-17 loss at Cleveland Browns
Week 5: vs. New England Patriots
Just as analysts continued their premature crowning of the young Cincinnati Bengals as Super Bowl contenders, we were reminded of how erratic a Marvin Lewis football team can be. With the opportunity to gain a one-game lead in the AFC North, the Bengals instead fell into a three-game tie for first.
Worst of all, Cincinnati is now behind the Cleveland Browns in the division.
Cincinnati suffered an embarrassing 17-6 loss to Cleveland, failing to score a single touchdown with its supposedly elite offense. As I've said throughout the year, the Bengals' offense is far too inexperienced for that label, and Giovani Bernard reminded us of the fact that he's a rookie for carrying it 10 times for 37 yards.
He did catch six passes for 38 yards to prove his upside, but anyone who thinks Cincinnati is ready to win in 2013 needs to remember one thing: the Bengals are historically inconsistent.
Andy Dalton was 23-of-42 for 206 yards, no touchdowns and an interception, routinely allowing passes to sail on him. The defense was strong as always and Geno Atkins erupted for 1.5 sacks, but this offense has youth and inexperience throughout.
Cincinnati has a very bright future, but this was a reality check.
12. Houston Texans
Week 4: 20-23 OT loss vs. Seattle Seahawks
Week 5: at San Francisco 49ers
It's difficult to fault the Houston Texans for their Week 4 performance, as it took overtime to lose 23-20 to the Seattle Seahawks. Even still, there continue to be concerns in Houston about Matt Schaub's play at quarterback.
With the Indianapolis Colts starting the season at 3-1, Schaub must now prove his status as a star by leading a comeback effort in the race for the AFC South title.
Schaub was spectacular for the most part, going off for 355 yards and two touchdowns against what is, arguably, the best defensive backfield in the NFL. Unfortunately, he also threw a fourth quarter pick-six and another costly interception.
Schaub doesn't deserve all of the criticism he faces, but mistakes like that are inexcusable.
The Texans' defense is still a well-rounded group that can contain even the best offensive units in the NFL. J.J. Watt is a menace coming off of the edge and the defensive backfield has come together nicely during the first four weeks of the season.
With two consecutive losses and a Week 5 road game against the San Francisco 49ers, Houston is now preparing to fight off a sub-500 record.
11. Miami Dolphins
Week 4: 17-38 loss at New Orleans Saints
Week 5: vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Miami Dolphins entered Monday Night Football as a 3-0 team that many had jumped behind as dark horse contenders. When it was all said and done, Miami was left wishing for Week 5 to roll around to re-affirm its status as a team worth monitoring.
That's what happens when a 38-17 loss is generous to the way a game transpired.
Drew Brees picked Miami's defense apart at every turn, going off for 413 yards and four touchdowns, and Ryan Tannehill simply couldn't match him. The second-year quarterback was 22-of-35 for 249 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Tannehill added his league-worst sixth fumble.
Defensively, the Dolphins managed two early sacks and fell apart from there, forcing just one turnover. The game was over by the end of the third quarter and Miami proved to be a step below the Super Bowl contenders.
A home game against the Baltimore Ravens could do a lot to re-establish Miami's contender status, but this was an ugly loss to New Orleans.
10. Baltimore Ravens
Week 4: 20-23 loss at Buffalo Bills
Week 5: at Miami Dolphins
Fresh off of a 30-9 win over the Houston Texans, the Baltimore Ravens fell 23-20 to the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo is an improved football team, but Joe Flacco was almost as bad as the Ravens' play-calling.
He may be a big-game player who shines during the postseason, but Flacco continues to be an unreliable regular season quarterback.
Flacco, who hasn't finished a season with a completion percentage above 60.0 percent since 2010, was 25-of-50 for 347 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. Despite never trailing by more than 13 points, the Ravens proceeded to run the ball nine total times.
When Ray Rice is your starting running back, hobbled or not, that's simply inexcusable.
The fact that the Ravens only lost by three after that bad of an offensive performance is a testament to the defense. Terrell Suggs was everywhere with 17 tackles, and Baltimore did its best to remain in steady competition during this game, but it just wasn't enough.
Now, Baltimore hits the road for a high-stakes clash with the Dolphins.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Week 4: 35-11 win at St. Louis Rams
Week 5: vs. Houston Texans
After ending up on the wrong end of two consecutive blowouts, the San Francisco 49ers rebounded with a 35-11 Week 4 win over the St. Louis Rams. The running game came to life, Colin Kaepernick stopped being allergic to accurate passes and the pass rush was flat-out dominant.
Order has been restored in San Francisco—well, temporarily.
Kaepernick was 15-of-23 for 167 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions after tallying four interceptions and three fumbles in his previous two games. Gore led the charge offensively, running for 153 yards and a score, and Kendall Hunter contributed 49 and a touchdown en route to a 219-yard team rushing performance.
Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis both caught touchdown passes.
Defensively, the Niners came up with five sacks, six tackles for loss, 10 passes defended and eight quarterback hits. NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks combined for 3.5 sacks and Glenn Dorsey registered his second of the season after picking up four during his first five years in the NFL.
A Week 5 home game against the Houston Texans will test just how ready San Francisco is to reclaim its throne atop the NFC, but until then, this is a quality start.
8. Chicago Bears
Week 4: 32-40 loss at Detroit Lions
Week 5: vs. New Orleans Saints
The Chicago Bears suffered their first loss of the season during Week 4, falling 40-32 on the road against the Detroit Lions. It was a disappointing defeat after Chicago had earned three consecutive wins over quality opponents.
Now, the Bears will look to rebound in a Week 5 home game against the New Orleans Saints.
Jay Cutler threw for 317 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, also losing a fumble in his first poor outing of the season. Alshon Jeffery posted his first career 100-yard receiving game, and both Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett had strong performances, but it just wasn't enough.
It certainly doesn't help that Chicago allowed 159 rushing yards.
This is hardly reason to write the Bears off, as Chicago remains one of the better all-around football teams in the NFL. Cutler, Marshall and Matt Forte are leading a well-balanced offensive attack, the defense is strong and Jeffery's emergence at wide receiver is nothing but encouraging.
Unfortunately, the defeat does offer a setback.
7. Detroit Lions
Week 4: 40-32 win vs. Chicago Bears
Week 5: at Green Bay Packers
If not for a 25-21 road loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the Detroit Lions would be a 4-0 football team in the Top 5 of these rankings. Instead, the Lions are a 3-1 team that's in control of their own destiny after defeating the Chicago Bears 40-32 at home.
A healthy Reggie Bush makes Detroit a very scary team.
Bush picked up 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, also catching four passes for 34 yards. He exploited the absence of Henry Melton and opened up the field for Matthew Stafford to go 23-of-35 for 242 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Even with Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman containing Calvin Johnson, Detroit managed 40 points—a scary thought.
Defensively, the Lions came up with three sacks and forced four turnovers, including three interceptions. Louis Delmas had his first two picks of the year and Glover Quin added his second as a member of the Detroit organization.
There's still much for Detroit to prove, but this was a critical win in a game to decide which team would own the lead in the NFC North. That team is now the Lions.
6. Indianapolis Colts
Week 4: 31-3 win at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 5: vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Indianapolis Colts continue to make statement-after-statement, following up a 27-7 win over the 49ers with a 31-3 drubbing of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In turn, the Colts moved to 3-1 and now share the division lead with the Titans.
This is all preparing Indianapolis for its two biggest tests: a Week 5 meeting with the Seattle Seahawks and a Week 7 clash with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
Andrew Luck was 22-of-36 for 260 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and Trent Richardson ran for his second touchdown in as many games as a member of the Colts. Reggie Wayne had yet another 100-yard receiving performance and Coby Fleener came to life with 77 yards and a score on five catches.
It's getting difficult to find a potentially debilitating hole in Indianapolis' approach.
Darius Butler led the defense with a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown, and two other players secured picks. Robert Mathis added 3.0 sacks to bring his total to 7.5 through four games in his first season without Dwight Freeney.
Chuck Pagano and company are turning heads in the AFC and have now become the front-runners in the AFC South.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 4: 31-7 win vs. New York Giants
Week 5: at Tennessee Titans
The Kansas City Chiefs completed Andy Reid's revenge tour through the NFC East in style, winning 31-7 against the New York Giants. As a result, the Chiefs moved to 4-0 on the season and 3-0 against Reid's former division.
Up next is a game against a Tennessee Titans team that just lost its franchise quarterback.
Alex Smith continued his marvelous play, going 24-of-41 for 288 yards, three passing touchdowns and two interceptions, also running the ball seven times for 37 yards against New York. Jamaal Charles added 127 yards of total offense and a receiving touchdown, and Dwayne Bowe caught a 34-yard score.
If that's not enough, Dexter McCluster had five catches for 48 yards and an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown, reminding Chiefs fans of the days of Dante Hall.
Including a 69-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz, the Chiefs held the Giants to 298 yards of total offense on 61 plays. For those who haven't done the math, that's 3.8 yards per play excluding New York's lone touchdown.
This defense is stacked at every position and the offense is moving the ball with efficiency, making the Chiefs a team to watch in 2013.
4. New England Patriots
Week 4: 30-23 win at Atlanta Falcons
Week 5: at Cincinnati Bengals
The New England Patriots entered Week 2 as the most underwhelming 2-0 team in the entire NFL. After narrowly escaping the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets in downright ugly games, the Pats picked up a convincing 23-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With a 30-23 win over Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome, there isn't a single reason to do anything but offer up praise for Bill Belichick's club.
Tom Brady continued to make nobody's into somebody's, hitting Matthew Mulligan and Kenbrell Thompkins for touchdowns. In the end, he finished at 20-of-31 for 316 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, with both Thompkins and Julian Edelman topping 100 yards receiving.
Most encouraging of all, LeGarrette Blount ran the ball nine times for 64 yards and a touchdown, and Stevan Ridley hit 79 total yards on 13 touches.
New England held the Falcons to 58 yards rushing, and although Matt Ryan had his way as a passer, Aqib Talib added his fourth interception in as many games. Defensive tackle Joe Vellano added a sack for the Patriots, which will need him to step up on a consistent basis.
Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston reports that five-time All-Pro Vince Wilfork has a torn Achilles tendon and is likely to miss the remainder of the season. Belichick and Brady are the keys to success in New England, but Wilfork isn't too far behind.
After seeing how resilient this Patriots team has been through four weeks, however, there's no reason to move them down the power rankings.
3. New Orleans Saints
Week 4: 38-17 win vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 5: at Chicago Bears
In 2011, the New Orleans Saints were a 13-3 football team with head coach Sean Payton roaming the sidelines. In 2012, the Saints were 7-9 as Payton was out due to a full-season suspension and multiple starters faced multi-game bans of their own.
Under the bright lights of Monday Night Football, the New Orleans Saints made a statement and moved to 4-0 by dismantling the previously undefeated Miami Dolphins 38-17.
Both offensively and defensively, the Saints were absolutely sensational when it came to quarterback play. Drew Brees finished with 413 yards and four touchdown passes, while the pass rush managed four sacks against a mobile quarterback.
When it was all said and done, the Saints proved that they're still one of the best in the NFC.
Jimmy Graham continues to tear through every defense he faces and Darren Sproles is having similar success. Defensively, third-year defensive end and former first round draft choice Cameron Jordan recorded a sack for the third consecutive week.
A Week 5 road game against the Chicago Bears is starting to look like the game of the week.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Week 4: 23-20 OT win at Houston Texans
Week 5: at Indianapolis Colts
The Seattle Seahawks have done everything possible to affirm their status as a genuine Super Bowl contender. After blowing out the San Francisco 49ers during Week 2, the Seahawks used a pick-six to force overtime and beat the Houston Texans 23-20.
Now, Seattle owns a two-game advantage over the 49ers in the NFC West.
Seattle's run game is working wonders and the pass defense has been sensational, coming up with big plays at every turn. With the defense beginning to get healthier, the NFL will have an even more difficult time dealing with Seattle come the second half of the season.
To think, Russell Wilson has yet to put together four quarters of star-caliber play.
There are injury concerns offensively, specifically to tackle Russell Okung, but when it comes to the Seahawks, there's just too much depth on this roster. Other teams could overtake the Seahawks in the standings in future weeks, but Seattle is a genuine Super Bowl team.
At this point, the only question is whether or not the Seahawks will lose a single home game.
1. Denver Broncos
Week 4: 52-20 win vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 5: at Dallas Cowboys
The Denver Broncos had an intriguing matchup during Week 4, as the Philadelphia Eagles had enough offensive firepower to compete. That belief was quickly disproved as Denver dominated the second half en route to a 52-20 win.
Just imagine how good the Broncos will be with a healthy Champ Bailey and Von Miller.
Through four games, Manning has thrown for 1,470 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions on a completion percentage of 75.0. Against the Eagles, Manning was 28-of-34 for 327 yards, four touchdowns and no picks.
As only Manning could orchestrate, four separate receivers have at least 18 receptions and three have at least four touchdown receptions.
Defensively, both Robert Ayers and Shaun Phillips have 3.5 sacks to lead a pass rush that has been without Miller. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Harris have played well at cornerback, and once Bailey returns, Denver's pass defense will be scary.
It's not fair to the rest of the field, but Denver isn't nearly as good in Week 4 as it will be in Week 16.