Three quarterbacks have guided their respective teams to 5-0 records so far this season: Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and... Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs?
Yes, Smith and the Chiefs are still undefeated a year after the team went 2-14 and got the first pick in the NFL draft. Much has changed in KC.
New head coach Andy Reid has the team winning at an impressive rate and holding their ground in the standings against Manning and the Denver juggernaut. The Chiefs’ play may not be drawing the rave reviews the Broncos are receiving, but 5-0 is 5-0.
All three of the aforementioned teams are referenced early in this week’s power rankings.
The Elite Teams
1. Denver Broncos, 5-0
Denver’s defense wasn’t in top form on Sunday as they surrendered 48 points to the Dallas Cowboys, but with a little help from Tony Romo, Manning and Co. did enough to win.
Romo’s interception on his own 24-yard line late in the fourth quarter gave the Broncos the ball and the game. Matt Prater’s field goal as the clock expired made it official.
Denver is dead last in passing yards allowed after Romo threw for 506 yards and five touchdowns. However, their 230 points through five games is the most in NFL history. Is Denver unbeatable? No, but they are still the best team in the league so far this season.
2. New Orleans Saints, 5-0
The most impressive thing about the Saints' 26-18 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday was the fact that New Orleans protected the ball.
Playing on the road against a team that has feasted on opponents’ miscues the past two seasons, the Saints were focused, efficient and mistake free. Their most-recent road win lands them in the second spot.
3. Indianapolis Colts, 4-1
Ric Flair once said, “to be the man, you gotta beat the man.” The Seattle Seahawks may not be the proverbial “man,” but they were certainly a group of distinguished gentleman.
On Sunday, the Colts found a way to defeat them despite being doubled up in rushing yards, committing one more turnover and losing the time-of-possession battle. Andrew Luck led two scoring drives in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks’ vaunted defense to clinch the win for the Colts.
Chuck Pagano’s team now owns a win over the San Francisco 49ers and Seahawks.
How high will the stakes be for Manning’s Week 7 return to Indy? It is setting up to be an epic Sunday night football clash.
4. Kansas City Chiefs, 5-0
Some may scoff at the Chiefs being ranked No. 4, but what’s the difference between the Chiefs 2013 resume and the Broncos? The two teams have beaten almost the exact same teams.
Both own wins over the Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and the winless New York Giants. The Cowboys pushed both teams to the brink while both handled the Giants and Eagles with relative ease.
Smith and the Chiefs offense isn't as sexy as Manning and the Broncos attack. However, with KC’s win over the Tennessee Titans, style points are all that separates the teams in the standings.
5. Seattle Seahawks, 4-1
On paper, the Seahawks still have the most complete team, but their lack of third-down efficiency has become a concern over the last two weeks. Russell Wilson and Co. have only converted five of their last 26 opportunities on third down. It is hard to win when a team is only successful on 19 percent of the third downs you face.
The loss at Indy was just one game, but if the team continues to struggle on the game’s most crucial down, more losses are on the way.
Knocking on the Door, or Recently Slipped
6. San Francisco 49ers, 3-2
With Seattle’s loss, the Niners are now just one game out in the NFC West. The team experienced a few bumps in the road against Seattle and Indy, but both of those teams have proven to be the cream of the crop.
The Niners manhandled the Houston Texans 34-3 on Sunday night in an era-defying defensive performance.
With a home game against Arizona next, followed by road games in Tennessee and Jacksonville, a winning streak could be on the horizon for San Francisco.
7. New England Patriots, 4-1
The Pats are the worst 4-1 team in the league. The Cincinnati Bengals dealt them their first loss on Sunday, and while this was just the team’s first blemish, the teams New England has beaten aren’t the class of the league.
The combined record of the Pats’ victims is 5-12; yet, New England has only beaten one team—the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers—by more than seven points.
8. Green Bay Packers, 2-2
For the Packers, beating the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field is as automatic as Cal Ripken Jr. in the Baltimore Orioles’ starting lineup in the 1980s.
Detroit hasn't won in Wisconsin since 1992, and the streak was extended on Sunday. The bye week did the Pack some good and they responded by throttling their rival and NFC North division leader 22-9.
9. Baltimore Ravens, 3-2
The Super Bowl champions have some issues on offense, but they are still leading their division. They beat a tough Miami Dolphins team on the road on Sunday with a persistent run game that went well over 100 yards.
Ray Rice found the end zone twice and Baltimore still looks like the class of the AFC North.
Decent, But Still With Much to Prove
10. Miami Dolphins, 3-2
Yes, the Fins have lost two in a row, but losing to the Saints on the road is understandable. Sure, the fanbase can be a little perturbed by the home loss to the Ravens, but the team does own a win over the Colts.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to show his maturation. The second-year quarterback threw for 307 yards and no picks in leading his team on a spirited, yet unsuccessful, comeback attempt against the Ravens on Sunday.
11. Detroit Lions, 3-2
In the Lions’ defense, the team did lose in Green Bay without their best player. Calvin Johnson missed the game and it was clear how much the team depends on his presence.
Matthew Stafford didn’t throw any interceptions, but he was sacked five times while waiting for Johnson’s supporting cast to get open. Even after losing this contest, Detroit is still tops in the NFC North—at least in the standings.
12. Chicago Bears, 3-2
Jay Cutler rebounded with a solid game after playing poorly in Week 4, but his offensive line let him down and the Bears defense struggled to force the turnovers it depends on to win.
Forcing turnovers seems like an inappropriate thing to depend on for a football team, but the Bears have done it so regularly, it is a viable game plan for them. Luckily, the team will host the winless Giants on Thursday night. That should cure what ails them.
13. Cleveland Browns, 3-2
Don’t look now, but the Browns have won three games in a row. The defense ranks in the top 10 against the run and pass, and the team showed the ability to put points on the board Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills.
Brian Hoyer's unfortunate injury, per NBC Sports, puts Brandon Weeden back in the saddle.
He looked good on Thursday, but can he keep the ball rolling? The Browns are part of a three-way tie for first place in the AFC North and own a win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
14. Cincinnati Bengals, 3-2
Who are the Bengals? Yes, they just handed the Pats their first loss of the year and also beat the Packers, but they gave a game away in Chicago in Week 1. The Bengals were also shut down and held to six points by the Browns in Week 4.
Andy Dalton is still playing shakily as evidenced by his inexplicable interception in the red zone on Sunday. He must play better if the Bengals want to climb the ladder.
15. Tennessee Titans, 3-2
With Jake Locker out with a hip injury, per John Glennon of USA Today, the Titans' already mediocre offense is even less dangerous.
On Sunday, Chris Johnson had just 17 yards rushing on 10 carries against the Chiefs. In a game where the Titans never trailed by more than 13 points—which was in the first half—and was decided by just nine points, it is perplexing that the team’s star back had just four more carries than quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
16. Arizona Cardinals, 3-2
The Cardinals have won two in a row, but their biggest test comes up on Sunday when they travel to San Francisco. Despite his three interceptions in Week 5, there is no doubt Carson Palmer’s presence has made the offense more formidable than last year’s, and the run defense is ranked second in the NFL.
Still, the team needs another big win to legitimize itself.
Hope You’re In a Weak Division
17. Dallas Cowboys, 2-3
Sunday’s loss to the Broncos was a painful one. Dallas played the NFL’s best to a draw until Romo’s pick eliminated an amazing passing performance.
Because of the NFC East’s futility, the Cowboys are in a tie for first place, despite being on the wrong side of the .500 mark.
18. Houston Texans, 2-3
The last two weeks have been disastrous for the Texans. From blowing a game against the Seahawks in Week 4, to being blown out by the Niners in Week 5, things are trending the wrong way in Houston.
Has any quarterback in the NFL thrown worse interceptions than Matt Schaub this season? Operation Sports' Steve Noah captures Schaub in his misery.
19. Oakland Raiders, 2-3
Did you ever think this would be a valid statement? With Terrelle Pryor in the lineup, the Raiders are a different team.
On Sunday, Pryor returned to the lineup an led the team to a 27-17 win over the San Diego Chargers. Some experts may have believed that the Raiders would only win two games all year. Oakland has equaled that total through five weeks.
20. San Diego Chargers, 2-3
Just because the Chargers are better than some expected doesn’t mean they are very good. Philip Rivers doesn’t have a running game to lean on as the team is ranked 21st in the league in that category.
The defense has been suspect as it ranks 26th against the pass and 24th against the run.
21. New York Jets, 2-2
The Jets should be 1-3, but thanks to Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker LaVonte David’s odd penalty for a late hit in Week 1, the Jets were gifted a win.
Heading into Monday night’s matchup with the Falcons, the Jets are the weakest .500 team in the NFL. Expect them to be 2-3 hours after you read this.
22. Buffalo Bills, 2-3
Despite the team’s losing record, the first five weeks of the season should be considered a success. Rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel has shown positive flashes and looks like a true leader.
23. Philadelphia Eagles, 2-3
Being a part of the NFC East is like carrying an American Express card, membership has its privileges. Because every team is struggling to a degree, the Eagles are tied for first place with the Cowboys.
Philly already has two division wins that are almost sure to help in potential tiebreakers late in the season.
24. St. Louis Rams, 2-3
The Rams were happy to see the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. After losing three games on the road, the leagues’ worst team was a welcomed sight for the Rams and their fanbase.
St. Louis’ defense has been inappropriate all season. Sunday's game against the Jags broke a streak where the Rams had allowed at least 31 points to opponents in three straight games. Even the Jags managed 20 points in defeat against them.
25. Atlanta Falcons, 1-3
This is surely not what Tony Gonzalez had in mind when he decided to postpone his retirement. The Falcons have played a very difficult schedule, but as a team most considered to be a legit contender before the season, you’d think they would at least be at the .500 mark.
Ranking 28th against the pass doesn’t help matters.
26. Washington Redskins, 1-3
Folks can talk about Robert Griffin III’s less-than spectacular stats through four games, but that's just part of the reason the Skins are 1-3. He has thrown four interceptions and fumbled four times, but the Skins’ biggest issue is their defense.
Most knew the secondary wasn’t stellar, so seeing the team ranked 27th against the pass is no shock. However, ranking 31st against the run only compounds the issue.
27. Carolina Panthers, 1-3
After the Panthers’ tight 12-7 Week 1 loss to the Seahawks, it seemed they would be a tough group to handle this season.
A close loss to the Bills in Week 2 was followed by an absolute beatdown of the Giants in Week 3. However, Sunday’s loss at Arizona featured three interceptions from Cam Newton. This team has me scratching my bald head wondering what the issue is.
28. Minnesota Vikings, 1-3
The Vikings can’t be as bad as they seem. The team did lose its first three games, but the losses came by a combined 15 points.
Minnesota just signed Bucs’ castoff Josh Freeman to create a three-man QB controversy, per Dave Campbell of the Associated Press, via ABC News.
Matt Cassel led the team to their first win of the season in Week 4. Christian Ponder seems to be on the outside looking in, but no matter what happens under center, the Vikings’ 29th-ranked pass defense needs to improve as well if the team wants to get better overall.
Who Wins a Game First?
29. N.Y. Giants, 0-5
Per Kevin Patra of NFL.com, Antrel Rolle said he believed the Giants could run the table—and then they lost to the Eagles on Sunday.
I don’t blame Rolle for his boast. He’s a competitor, but the Giants have some serious issues on defense and a punchless running game. The team has allowed at least 31 points in every game and the run defense ranks 32nd overall. Through five games, David Wilson is leading the team in rushing with 146 yards.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers, 0-4
The offense seems to be coming around, averaging 25 points per game in the last two weeks, but the defense is taking a step backwards.
It gave up 40 points to the Bears in Week 3 and 34 to the Vikes in Week 4. The bye week should be a help for the team, but the Steelers have to get back to running the ball and stopping the run. This year, their rushing attack is ranked 31st and the run defense 25th in the league.
Success in these two areas used to be a given in the Steel City.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 0-4
When your pass offense is ranked 32nd in the league, a quarterback change is inevitable. That is part of what prompted the Bucs to release Freeman, but his replacement Mike Glennon didn’t exactly light up the stadium in Week 4. Glennon completed 24 of 43 passes for a touchdown and two picks.
The Bucs have a solid defense, but their passing game is so bad. It will be difficult for running back Doug Martin to find success, and for the team to score points all season.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars, 0-5
The Jags are the worst team in Florida, the AFC South, the NFL and just about every other category where professional football teams compete.
The team is ranked 29th in passing offense, 30th in rushing offense and 32nd in run defense. The only category the team has a favorable ranking is pass defense. This stat is deceiving.
Opponents routinely have a huge lead on the Jags, so they are simply running the ball to put them out of their misery. Jacksonville has not only lost every game, it has failed to finish closer than 10 points in any contest. See Ben, you're not the worst.
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