Week 5 of NFL action got underway on Thursday Night Football between the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns in what turned out to be an entertaining game.
Cleveland managed to win its third game in a row despite shipping star running back Trent Richardson out of town a few weeks back. The Browns lost starting quarterback Brian Hoyer to a season-ending injury, while Buffalo lost EJ Manuel for around six weeks.
The outcome of the contest has a major impact on where the league hierarchy stands. Here's how things shake out heading into Sunday's slate of games.
1. Denver Broncos (4-0)
Expecting something else?
Denver is playing out of its mind thanks to quarterback Peyton Manning, as the team leads the league with a jaw-dropping 44.8 points per game.
So far, there has not been a team that can line up and stop the plethora of weapons Denver fields. Don't expect that to change.
2. Seattle Seahawks (4-0)
Seattle notched a comeback victory in overtime against Houston last week, showing it can hang with the big boys in a tight game.
Two weeks ago, the Seahawks dominated San Francisco, and Russell Wilson and Co. have now shown they can win a close, physical contest when necessary. There isn't a more complete or balanced team in the NFL.
3. New Orleans Saints (3-0)
Sean Payton is back, and the New Orleans Saints are playing their best football since the 2009 Super Bowl season.
The biggest change in New Orleans? Rob Ryan's new 3-4 defense led by impressive rookies Kenny Vaccaro and John Jenkins. The Saints are the No. 5 team against the pass.
4. Houston Texans (2-2)
Houston suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Seattle in front of their home crowd last week, primarily thanks to the questionable play of quarterback Matt Schaub, who thought it was a great idea to throw a lob pass in Richard Sherman's direction (who returned it for a touchdown).
Now Houston must clash with the No. 5 team on this list. Something has to give.
5. San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco have had an up-and-down first month as referenced by its schedule, but they have had plenty of time off after dominating St. Louis.
The key for the 49ers to remain in the top five is simple—get Kaepernick going. He's been laughably bad since his hot 400-plus-yard performance in Week 1.
6. New England Patriots (4-0)
What can't Tom Brady do? He has been without star tight end Rob Gronkowski all year and has missed slot receiver Danny Amendola, yet the Patriots have still put together an undefeated mark thus far.
The defense has been better than expected, so New England doing anything but rise in the rankings once Gronkowski and Amendola return would be a shocker.
7. Green Bay Packers (1-2)
Aaron Rodgers and Co. were humiliated at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals two weeks ago as the team committed costly turnovers that Cincinnati was able to turn into touchdowns.
After a bye week, Green Bay has a date with the red-hot Detroit Lions on Sunday. It's going to be a pretty display of offense, to say the least.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)
Suffice it to say the Andy Reid experiment in Kansas City has gone exactly as planned. The talent on the defensive side of the ball is finally playing at a stellar level, and Reid has implemented the perfect playbook to suit quarterback Alex Smith's needs.
The Chiefs are a tough out for any team as long as they stay healthy.
9. Chicago Bears (3-1)
Marc Trestman has helped to turn things around in Chicago and for quarterback Jay Cutler. Things seem to have not skipped a beat on defense despite the absence of Brian Urlacher.
Chicago has the firepower and defense to go a long way this year, and them taking a dive out of the top 10 is hard to fathom at this point.
10. Miami Dolphins (3-1)
Despite being embarrassed on Monday Night Football by New Orleans, Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins are a great team poised to compete in the AFC East this year.
The defense, led by corner Brent Grimes, is outstanding, and Tannehill has improved drastically from his rookie year. Tannehill just needs his line to actually keep him upright and the Dolphins will be even more dangerous.
11. Indianapolis Colts (3-1)
A playoff team last season, Indianapolis has started things off on a positive note this year and is even better thanks to the addition of Trent Richardson, who is still learning the offense.
Richardson will hit his stride and the Colts offense will be hard to stop. The team lacked balance in that regard, but now Andrew Luck and Co. will be able to keep up with any team in a shootout.
12. Detroit Lions (3-1)
Detroit scores 30.5 points per game, and as usual, Calvin Johnson has been unstoppable.
The biggest factor to the team's success is the addition of running back Reggie Bush, who fits the offense perfectly and has been as advertised thus far.
13. Baltimore Ravens (2-2)
Baltimore needs to answer a lot of questions in a hurry.
Quarterback Joe Flacco was intercepted five times last week, and star back Ray Rice has been a non-factor on offense.
The team desperately misses Anquan Bold (San Francisco) and Dennis Pitta (injury). Expect the ranking to continue to drop.
14. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)
Cincinnati has been mediocre at best this season, but it's hard to argue against the talent on the roster.
Cincinnati needs to see better coaching and execution to be ranked any higher, as dropping a game to the Cleveland Browns without scoring a touchdown is not going to cut it.
15. Atlanta Falcons (1-3)
The free-fall for Atlanta continues after a loss to New England, and the fact that Roddy White continues to be hobbled with an injury is a major reason why Matt Ryan and the offense cannot get things going.
Atlanta has a matchup with the New York Jets Monday, but should be on upset alert having played nothing like a playoff contender so far.
16. St. Louis Rams (1-3)
St. Louis was a sexy pick as a team that could shock the world this year after playing the NFC West tough a year ago, but Sam Bradford has once again proven to be a liability.
Despite the presence of weapons such as tight end Jared Cook and receiver Tavon Austin, Bradford has struggled, and the team has sunk with him.
17. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Once again, Dallas looks like nothing more than a .500 club thanks to a horrific defense and an offensive line that struggles to protect Tony Romo.
It's a shame, really, because a team with Dez Bryant should be able to out-gun any team in the league. Except Dallas, apparently.
18. Buffalo Bills (2-3)
Buffalo is a much better team than given credit for thanks to an outstanding defense led by Mario Williams, but the loss of EJ Manuel for about six weeks is huge.
The Bills struggled on offense before the injury, and backup Jeff Tuel won't help the issue much.
19. San Diego Chargers (2-2)
San Diego has been a pleasant surprise this year behind the arm of quarterback Philip Rivers.
Running back Danny Woodhead finally broke out last game as a serious weapon, which will do nothing but make the Chargers even more dangerous moving forward.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)
Philadelphia is supposed to be the team with a hot offense thanks to Chip Kelly, but last week the defense allowed 52 points to Denver.
Against quality teams, the Eagles will have a hard time winning games, as the defense has clearly been neglected in the transition process away from Andy Reid.
21. Cleveland Browns (3-2)
Cleveland notched a huge win Thursday and deservedly sits atop the AFC North, but the team now has a major issue—Brian Hoyer is out for the year, meaning the team has to revert to Brandon Weeden.
The new regime does not like Weeden, so it will be interesting to see how things play out. Can the Browns continue to surprise? We'll see next week.
22. Tennessee Titans (3-1)
Tennessee is another team off to a surprising start but will eventually be derailed thanks to injuries.
Starting quarterback Jake Locker will miss about a month of action thanks to a wicked hit that resulted in a hip injury.
Tennessee is a quality team, but not without Locker under center.
23. Arizona Cardinals (2-2)
Carson Palmer is not the savior at quarterback many thought he would be for Arizona.
Palmer has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and is too immobile behind a shaky offensive line to make a major difference.
A victory over a rookie quarterback in his first NFL start last week isn't something to write home about.
24. Carolina Panthers (1-2)
News flash! Carolina continues to neglect the offensive talent around quarterback Cam Newton. As a result, the offense has lagged behind one of the NFL's brightest young defenses featuring names like Luke Kuechly and Star Lotulelei.
25. Washington Redskins (1-3)
The Washington Redskins and Robert Griffin III got things back on track last week against Oakland, but the defense is laughably bad and the offense continues to struggle along with RGIII.
If RGIII can turn things around, so can Washington.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4)
Coach Greg Schiano and the Buccaneers are a joke on the field and off. After running starting quarterback Josh Freeman out of town, the future is bleak with rookie quarterback Mike Glennon under center.
No disrespect to Glennon at all, but one of the NFL's most talented defenses is severely wasted this season as a result.
27. New York Jets (2-2)
New York has been more competitive than initially thought thanks to rookie quarterback Geno Smith, but wins have come when he has done it all on his own.
The defense is playing average, and there is a stunning lack of talent on offense around Smith. The ranking won't change much all season.
28. Minnesota Vikings (1-3)
Minnesota made a quarterback change away from Christian Ponder in favor of Matt Cassel and already looks like a different team.
Expect an above-average team like Minnesota to consistently climb the rankings the next few weeks as a result.
29. New York Giants (0-4)
The Tom Coughlin era in New York may be coming to a close as the Giants have started off in a horrific manner this year.
Quarterback Eli Manning simply cannot stop throwing interceptions, and the defense is horrific, so much so that the team took a chance by trading for Carolina's Jon Beason.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4)
It's rebuild time in Pittsburgh. Clearly, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is past the point of being able to do it all on his own, and that includes overcoming years upon years of horrific drafting—especially along the lines.
31. Oakland Raiders (1-3)
Oakland is a team that will hang tough in every contest thanks to versatile quarterback Terrelle Pryor, but will ultimately lose most thanks to a serious lack of talent on both sides of the football.
Things are looking up, but Oakland has a long way to go.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4)
Jacksonville is in the infancy stages of a rebuild and is playing historically bad football. It's easy to place the blame on quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, but most positions have been equally woeful.
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