Chris Simms' NFL Power Rankings Ahead of Week 5

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystOctober 3, 2016

Chris Simms' NFL Power Rankings Ahead of Week 5

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    I've preached caution and patience in earlier editions of these power rankings. 

    Enough of that. We're a quarter of the way through the NFL season—it's time to take stock of which teams are one-week wonders and which teams are consistently good.

    The answers are reflected in my Week 5 power rankings. If your favorite team brought it for the better part of 16 quarters, you'll find it at the top. If not…you won't have to scroll this slideshow very long to find it.

    Some quick ground rules for any newcomers. I use two factors to rank these teams: A) how they looked through four weeks of play and B) how they're set up going forward.

    Disagree with where I slotted your team? I know you'll find me on Twitter (@CSimmsQB) to vent.

32. Cleveland Browns

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Current record: 0-4

    Last week: 31 (-1)

    Poor Hue Jackson.

    He coaches one of the scrappiest teams in football. But Cleveland's roster is too injured, young and thin at key spots to nail down his first win with the Browns.

    I see progress, not success. Cody Kessler completed easy throws and went through his reads. Terrelle Pryor scored his first receiving touchdown. And Isaiah Crowell! He's a true workhorse back who's benefited the most from Jackson's arrival.

    Close doesn't count in the NFL, though. Three second-half turnovers—including a big Kessler interception—sunk their chances. Jackson's team is the only winless one in the league.

    Looking ahead: Schedules can't get much crueler than catching Tom Brady in his first post-suspension game. 

31. Miami Dolphins

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 28 (-3)

    The Dolphins' Color Rush jerseys were a total abomination.

    Their on-field play wasn't far behind. They have been outwitted and outclassed in almost every game.

    My big question: How does a team construct itself to not defend the pass? It's 2016, and opponents throw receivers like A.J. Green out there on any given week. Throw Tony Lippett (in his first career start) and Xavien Howard (another rookie) out there and this miserable outcome is expected.

    The Browns gave Miami a run using spare parts and reserves. It's time to start looking at a total 2017 rebuild.

    Looking ahead: Ryan Tannehill will catch some major heat if he can't top the Titans with 10 days to prepare.

30. Chicago Bears

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    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 32 (+2)

    Look guys! It's Jordan Howard!

    The running back I've been touting all offseason—the one I said was right behind Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry—went off Sunday. He brought with him the kind of balance Chicago hasn't had since Matt Forte's prime.

    Hate to say I told you so, but…I did.

    Meanwhile, Brian Hoyer is the anti-Jay Cutler. You'll hear a lot about how he clicked with former first-round pick Kevin White this week. You'll hear even more about a quarterback controversy brewing in Chicago.

    Looking ahead: Andrew Luck is not the quarterback you want your very injured defense to face.

29. San Francisco 49ers

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 29 (same)

    It's clear head coach Chip Kelly has expanded his once-limited passing playbook.

    It's not clear if that change is enough. This offense is led by a castoff quarterback (Blaine Gabbert) and a castoff receiver (Jeremy Kerley). You saw what they could accomplish with the game on the line.

    Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for a 49ers pass rush. It hasn't shown up once all season, and it sure as hell didn't show up against Dallas' O-line.

    Looking ahead: Kelly gets a reeling Arizona team on a short week. Can you smell the upset?

28. San Diego Chargers

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 24 (-4)

    Does San Diego know what to do when it realizes it owns a fourth-quarter lead?

    I'm seriously asking. Because everything I've seen through four weeks suggests the Chargers freeze up and turn over.

    They owned a two-touchdown lead with six minutes to play. Yet they couldn't run Melvin Gordon against a defense that parted like the red sea just six days earlier in Atlanta. And they forgot the point of this game is to possess the ball, not mindlessly hand it to the opponent.

    I have no sympathy for teams that find ways to lose. This Chargers team does that every weekend.

    Looking ahead: San Diego won't need a fourth quarter to fold against a better Raiders team.

27. Tennessee Titans

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    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 26 (-1)

    When Brock Osweiler isn't the most frustrating quarterback on the field, it's a problem.

    That's Marcus Mariota's career in a nutshell. The kid has all the physical tools—as evidenced on one fake option toss that froze Jadeveon Clowney in the second half. For whatever reason (scheme, turnovers, receivers), it's not working.

    Neither is head coach Mike Mularkey's three-headed backfield attack. Derrick Henry does more with fewer carries than DeMarco Murray. Where's his slice of the pie? He's on the bench every week with a limited role to play.

    Looking ahead: Dick LeBeau has seen a hundred Adam Gases in his day. He'll have something ready for Miami's underachieving offense.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 25 (-1)

    I don't put this loss squarely on Jameis Winston.

    Head coach Dirk Koetter wants a passing game like the Pittsburgh Steelers. Winston could only do so much against a defense like Denver's. It's geared to stop every big play.

    Winston isn't playing his best ball. Let's make life a little easier on him with shorter throws and a defense that won't drop so far behind a team with a rookie behind center.

    Looking ahead: Atlanta just revealed the blueprint. Now let's see if Tampa Bay can run on Carolina too. I'm ready for a few carries.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Dan Istitene/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 30 (+5)

    My stance on Blake Bortles isn't exactly a secret.

    He's not the answer this Jacksonville franchise needs. But even a so-so quarterback can shred Indianapolis' defense—and that's exactly what Bortles did.

    Head coach Gus Bradley will take it. Good or bad Bortles (and there was plenty of both in London this weekend), his team's offense is finally showing some scoring potential.

    There's even better news for Bradley on the other side of the football. Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue looked like the franchise-caliber pass-rushers the Jags hoped they'd be. More on them in my All-22 Team later this week…but what they did to the Colts tackles was almost criminal.

    Looking ahead: Great time to have a bye week. They can build on this momentum for two weeks.

24. New Orleans Saints

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 27 (+3)

    We don't need any fancy sports analytics to determine what New Orleans' chances were late Sunday.

    They were down two scores. There were six minutes to play. They didn't have possession of the ball. In short: It wasn't good.

    They ended up with a finish that rivals the Meachem Miracle. The injury-riddled defense recovered two sloppy fumbles—one from Melvin Gordon, the other from Travis Benjamin. Drew Brees and the Saints cashed both in despite netting 275 total yards of offense.

    Looking ahead: NOLA's banged-up defense gets a rest. It's a bye week.

23. Indianapolis Colts

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    Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 21 (-2)

    I can only poke so much fun at this Colts defense.

    It doesn't feel right to do it for a fourth straight week—especially when my previous jokes seem to come at the expense of Andrew Luck's career.

    Every game is the same for this team, regardless of where it plays. The Colts surrender two or three early scores, fall in a hole and expect No. 12 to dig them out. He almost (almost!) did it in London.

    A team with Luck on it has no business getting into a shootout with Blake Bortles. I put Indy two spots ahead of the Jags because I know it shouldn't ever get to this point. But the Colts are definitely an arrow-down team.

    Looking ahead: Uh-oh. They're coming back from London without a bye week to readjust.

22. Detroit Lions

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 20 (-2)

    Man, Joe Montana was pretty good Sunday.

    Did I say Joe Montana? I meant Brian Hoyer. Because that's how bad the Lions defense is right now.

    I get that they're missing Ezekiel Ansah and DeAndre Levy. Those are two playmakers on a defense that suddenly can't make plays. You want proof? Hoyer could've polished off a Gatorade before hitting Eddie Royal on a 3rd-and-11. It went for 64 yards.

    Detroit needs its defense to dominate. The offense is one-dimensional and completely accident-prone. It's just not happening right now.

    Looking ahead: Best of luck to that secondary against Carson Wentz. He's had an extra week to prepare.

21. Arizona Cardinals

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    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 12 (-9)

    Arizona crashed down my power rankings for one simple reason.

    That big-play Bruce Arians offense? It isn't working. All 10 of Carson Palmer's first-quarter drives have ended in punts.

    Palmer took too many hits from Aaron Donald and Eugene Sims—including the one that knocked him out of Sunday's game. Why? I told you four weeks ago when the season started. From guard to guard, Arizona has the weakest interior offensive line among contending teams.

    It's not on Palmer or backup Drew Stanton when they turn the ball over as much as they did. It's on the system that forces the ball downfield or gets away from the run or puts the defense in terrible jams.

    Looking ahead: Not sure if Arizona is that much better than San Francisco right now. 

20. Washington Redskins

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    Current record: 2-2

    Last week: 21 (+1)

    Man, Jordan Reed is good at catching footballs.

    He's a matchup nightmare, and he tortured the Browns defense. Coach Jay Gruden was wise to call his number twice near the end zone.

    He was also wise to stick with the run. Matt Jones isn't my idea of a difference-making ball-carrier, but he finished with 117 yards and 5.3 yards per carry. That kind of production should've helped Kirk Cousins…but did it? He raced the Redskins to an early 14-0 lead and sat on it for the next two quarters.

    Washington's offense can't disappear if it's going to tackle the way it did Sunday. This team still doesn't blow me away.

    Looking ahead: A Beltway Battle against the Ravens? Get ready for about a thousand deep balls.

19. Buffalo Bills

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    Current record: 2-2

    Last week: 22 (+3)

    Tyrod Taylor has never really wowed me as an over-the-middle passer.

    Until Sunday, that is. The Bills' starting quarterback threw nothing but bull's-eyes in a road performance that showed what this Bills offense could truly be.

    New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn isn't dialing up the deep ball as often as his predecessor. The end result? Back-to-back scoring drives that spanned 10 plays or more to start the game.

    More importantly, Lynn found the "sweet spot" of run-pass balance. LeSean McCoy is an asset to this offense again, and when the defense can get to the quarterback—like it did three times against Jacoby Brissett—that's huge.

    Looking ahead: Rex Ryan's rejuvenated defense can keep this going. They've got the Rams.

18. New York Jets

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    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 10 (-8)

    I once said the New York Jets own the league's most talented roster.

    That argument doesn't hold water anymore. They're 1-3 and belong in the same group as the Dolphins, not the Patriots.

    Seattle exposed almost every flaw Sunday. Their pass offense? Matt Forte checkdowns or back-shoulder throws—that's it. Their running game? No power without Chris Ivory. Their pass defense? Much better on paper than it is in man coverage.

    I thought the Jets defensive line would be the great equalizer. They could hardly track down a hobbled Russell Wilson.

    Looking ahead: Seattle was a tough draw for their worse-than-advertised secondary. What do you think Pittsburgh will be?

17. Los Angeles Rams

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    Current record: 3-1

    Last week: 23 (+6)

    Case Keenum has proved me wrong.

    I doubted his ability to lead any offense—even Los Angeles' ball-control one. But he's been much more than a game manager; Keenum makes good reads, is sneaky evasive in the pocket and always delivers a catchable ball. He gave the Cardinals defense some trouble.

    But I've never wavered on this defense. Aaron Donald and this defensive front seven give up tons of yards because they have one goal: Turning an opponent over.

    It's safe to say they succeeded in that Sunday. They forced five turnovers in a game that gave them possession of the NFC West. It's time to recognize that.

    Looking ahead: Buffalo has momentum heading into this week. The Rams have Donald. I'll take Donald.

16. Carolina Panthers

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    Current record: 1-3

    Last week: 7 (-9)

    You think Carolina's concerned about its secondary yet?

    Julio Jones sits atop every defensive coordinator's priority list. He smoked the Panthers for 300 embarrassing receiving yards. Josh Norman ain't walking through that door; it's time to push the panic button.

    Mike Remmers is playing left tackle? Push that panic button again. He was a turnstile against one of the most inconsistent fronts in football. Cam Newton was constantly under fire.

    Looking ahead: Show me a team that can't protect its passer or defend the pass. I'll show you one that's out of the playoffs.

15. New York Giants

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    Current record: 2-2

    Last week: 14 (-1)

    Odell Beckham Jr. is officially in meltdown mode.

    It's like watching a young Brandon Marshall all over again. You never know who or what is going to set No. 13 off. The Giants aren't handling it well at all.

    That was the theme of Monday Night Football. Eli Manning didn't handle the Vikings' pressures well. The running game didn't handle injuries to Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen well. Trevin Wade didn't handle the deep ball, and their linebackers didn't handle Kyle Rudolph.

    I thought this Giants team could show a little more in prime time. Instead, they showed they're not ready to play with the big boys.

    Looking ahead: Aaron Rodgers won't miss the handful of throws Sam Bradford did. Big Blue's in trouble.

14. Dallas Cowboys

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Current record: 3-1

    Last week: 16 (+2)

    It's tough to remember Dak Prescott is a rookie sometimes.

    The kid just doesn't make mistakes. He just posted another ho-hum two-touchdown, zero-pick day like he's not straight out of the SEC. He's made to play NFL quarterback.

    That's not to say this Cowboys offense was a passive attack. They still pushed the ball downfield and took what San Francisco gave them. And they did it without Dez Bryant.

    Instead, Ezekiel Elliott and a bend-but-rarely-break defense (two early touchdowns, nothing after that) carried this team. Prescott just made sure everything ran on schedule.

    Looking ahead: The Bengals defense presents Prescott with his toughest challenge yet.

13. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Current record: 2-2

    Last week: 8 (-5)

    Is Kansas City a good team that plays badly?

    Is it a bad team that sometimes plays well?

    I'm still leaning toward the first option after four weeks of play. But Sunday night's final score isn't doing a good job of persuading me.

    Here's the scary part: K.C.'s secondary is normally pretty damn good. Antonio Brown roasted them (no shame in that), but so did Darrius Heyward-Bey (uh…what?). The Chiefs looked lost at times.

    No team can win after committing costly turnovers like Kansas City did. But the Chiefs barely competed, and that's a red flag.

    Looking ahead: Andy Reid has an extra week to sort his team out. They're on a bye week.

12. Baltimore Ravens

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    Current record: 3-1

    Last week: 13 (+1)

    Baltimore had a first down at the 50-yard line with a chance to win the game.

    Chris Moore dropped a pass. Joe Flacco threw two incompletions. Then Kamar Aiken dropped a fourth-down pass that lost Baltimore a game it should've had.

    That's the Ravens' big issue. All four of their games were decided by six points or fewer, and only five teams have less fourth-quarter yardage. Blame pass protection, penalties and those costly drops for putting them in that situation to begin with.

    Flacco and Co. controlled another game. But they're not as good as their 3-1 record suggests.

    Looking ahead: Baltimore needs to unclog its running back depth chart. Time for a winner to emerge against Washington.

11. Oakland Raiders

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    Current record: 3-1

    Last week: 18 (+7)

    Head coach Jack Del Rio left his thumbprint on this Raiders defense for the second straight week.

    Baltimore's downfield passing game was kept in relative check (except for a 52-yard Steve Smith touchdown). Khalil Mack and others finally brought some heat in the pocket. There were very few impactful running plays.

    That was enough for Oakland to pull out a tough road win. The Raiders offense—led by Derek Carr and sure-handed star Michael Crabtree—did some heavy lifting. So did reserve running back Jalen Richard, who set his team up with two beautiful special teams returns.

    This is an arrow-up group again. Credit Del Rio for keeping it on track.

    Looking ahead: I liked San Diego's secondary heading into the season. Derek Carr might just take a blowtorch to it.

10. Houston Texans

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    Current record: 3-1

    Last week: 11 (+1)

    People always ask me why I'm so down on Brock Osweiler.

    I'll kindly point them to his final three quarters of football Sunday afternoon. The Texans quarterback couldn't maintain a hot start (13-of-14) and threw three passes that made me pull my hair out. Two of them were picked; a third should've been.

    The good news? Even when Brock is off, he has the supporting cast to bail him out. Houston's defense had its bad moments but manned up in its first outing without J.J. Watt. Rookie Will Fuller had DeAndre Hopkins-level production when Hopkins stalled himself.

    I like this team. But I'll like it a lot better after seeing a full four quarters out of Osweiler.

    Looking ahead: Was Bill O'Brien watching Monday Night Football? He saw what happened when a team forgot to involve its No. 1 wideout vs. Minnesota.

9. Atlanta Falcons

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    Current record: 3-1

    Last week: 17 (+8)

    Kyle Shanahan just did it again.

    The Falcons' offensive coordinator is a master craftsman. Few could piece together a better game plan—and even fewer could completely dominate a defense like Carolina's.

    How'd it happen? Shanahan started by imitating the Panthers' power run game; Devonta Freeman churned out yards and set the tone. Then, when safeties crept up…Julio Jones. Julio Jones. And more Julio Jones.

    Matt Ryan wasn't perfect. He tossed one interception and nearly had another when he threw directly at Mario Addison. But when he's protected, this team is dangerous. The Falcons deserve this huge bump in the standings.

    Looking ahead: Matt Ryan should expect far fewer than five touchdown passes against Denver's secondary.

8. Seattle Seahawks

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    Current record: 3-1

    Last week: 15 (+7)

    Russell Wilson looked like he could barely move in pregame warm-ups.

    But count him out at your own risk. The Seahawks quarterback had one of his best throwing days ever against a defense that's tooled to hit quarterbacks. They weren't ready when Wilson hit back.

    Richard Sherman wasn't ready for the back-shoulder fade…at first. Then he made the adjustments like any great player would and sideswiped two Jets throws.

    The rest of the Seahawks defense did its part. Seattle is for real, and I probably underestimated it in weeks past.

    Looking ahead: No Week 5 opponent for Pete Carroll's crew. They're on a bye week.

7. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Current record: 2-2

    Last week: 9 (+2)

    Dominant football teams face a weak opponent and crush its hopes.

    So file the Bengals in the "very good" category for now. They outclassed the Dolphins in every category on Thursday Night Football…but didn't show that killer instinct.

    Instead, I saw a power running game continue to stall. I saw a passing game that consisted of A.J. Green being A.J. Green and not much else. I saw five field goals against the league's most unimpressive defense.

    I want to see more than mistake-free offense and great defense. Can these Bengals dig deeper?

    Looking ahead: Marvin Lewis won't let Ezekiel Elliott carve up his defense...right?

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Current record: 3-1

    Last week: 6 (same)

    Pittsburgh wasn't happy about Week 3's result in Philadelphia.

    The Steelers took it out on the visiting Chiefs. They manhandled a tough opponent and put together the dominant performance I expected seven days ago.

    Better late than never—especially if you're Le'Veon Bell. The best running back in football returned to churn out yards in all kinds of ways. I've never seen a more patient runner.

    Cam Heyward didn't show that patience in getting to Alex Smith. Dude was unblockable; Big Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense just fed off it and turned his big plays into points.

    Looking ahead: Big Ben against the Jets? He'll navigate that tough front and expose them on the back end.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (Bye)

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    Current record: 3-0

    Last week: 5 (same)

    I can't dock the Eagles in these power rankings for not playing.

    They've defeated the teams they were supposed to (Bears, Browns). They beat a team they weren't supposed to (Steelers). Overall, they're in great shape moving forward.

    What could improve? I'd like to see a little more from the running game to balance things out. Maybe rookie Wendell Smallwood gets a bigger piece of the backfield pie.

    Looking ahead: Carson Wentz's hot start should stay that way. He's facing a banged-up Lions defense that has struggled to defend the pass.

4. Green Bay Packers (Bye)

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    Current record: 2-1

    Last week: 4 (same)

    Green Bay's bye week came at the best and worst time.

    On one hand, the Packers defense could use a break. They missed five starters in their Week 3 thriller against the Lions. Stars like Clay Matthews undoubtedly used an extra week off to heal up.

    On the other hand, the offense just found its mojo. Aaron Rodgers carved up Detroit's defense, and his receivers found separation for the first time all season. You don't want to interrupt that with a week off.

    Looking ahead: We'll see which Packers offense shows up against the Giants' pass rush this week.

3. New England Patriots

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    Current record: 3-1

    Last week: 1 (-2)

    Head coach Bill Belichick's beginner's course offense couldn't sneak up on two consecutive opponents.

    He'll accept a 3-1 record with some guy named Tom Brady returning. It'll be tougher for the Patriots coach to swallow a defensive effort that was un-Belichickean from start to finish.

    The Bills converted third downs at a 47 percent clip. They out-possessed the Patriots by nearly 13 minutes. And more than once, Patriots defenders lost contain on Tyrod Taylor or LeSean McCoy and let them bounce outside.

    That shouldn't happen with a defense this deep. It shouldn't be outshined by anyone.

    Looking ahead: Brady can shake the rust off this week. He's got the Browns in his first week back.

2. Minnesota Vikings

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    Current record: 4-0

    Last week: 3 (+1)

    The Minnesota Vikings aren't the NFL's most talented team.

    They're easily its deepest one, though. They rolled seven or eight defensive linemen at Eli Manning on Monday Night Football. They had two quality Adrian Peterson understudies find the end zone. Trae Waynes and Cordarrelle Patterson—two first-round picks—come off the bench.

    Mike Zimmer was forced to play two inexperienced tackles against a Giants front that gets after it. Could you tell? Sam Bradford didn't take a sack the entire game.

    Looking ahead: Houston should try to air it out a little more. Harrison Smith should be ready.

1. Denver Broncos

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    Current record: 4-0

    Last week: 2 (+1)

    Just your usual Broncos-style ass-whupping here.

    Denver is impossible to beat when its defense gets turnovers. Aqib Talib grabbed two of them and—surprise, surprise—the Broncos coasted to a pretty easy road win. They're my new top team in the NFL.

    That's amazing, you guys. Teams aren't supposed to lose their starting quarterbacks and just go about their afternoon. Denver lost Trevor Siemian to an AC joint sprain before plugging rookie Paxton Lynch in and…business as usual.

    You know who looked happy? Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. They got deep looks from one or both passers and took advantage of them.

    Looking ahead: Atlanta's offense looks legit. But it hasn't seen a defense like Denver's.