NFL Power Rankings: 7 Biggest Early Season Shockers
One-fourth of the way through the season and the power rankings already have numerous surprises. Who moved up and who fell down? Which teams are quietly gaining momentum?
A quarterly review is in order for the NFL power rankings as we head into Week 5 of this new and wild NFL season. I will be using Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller's Week 1 power rankings and Week 5 power rankings as a point of reference for comparison.
The Week 5 power rankings has a few preseason Super Bowl favorites in a position little predicted they would be in at this point in the season. Other teams that were suspected of putting their hat into the "suck for Luck" sweepstakes have reinforced why we love the NFL: parity.
St. Louis Rams: No. 22 to 31
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The St. Louis Rams were a game away from winning the NFC West last season, though it was the worst division in football—possibly ever.
Optimism poured out of St. Louis in the offseason. QB Sam Bradford had an impressive rookie season and looked to build upon that. The Rams were preseason favorites and were expected to take a step forward by once again winning the NFC West crown.
Now the Rams are sitting at 0-4, and an ugly 0-4 at that. Our NFL scout Matt Miller proclaimed in his Week 1 power rankings that "this team is close, but they aren't there yet."
This team may not be close at all. A toothless defense, zero playmakers at wide receiver and an unproven head coach all have this team one spot away from the worst team in the NFL.
St. Louis could be in the Andrew Luck race if they end up 0-5. I personally will be rooting for them to win it to see how all the beggars plead for a draft day trade.
San Francisco 49ers: No. 30 to 12
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A team that has not garnered enough national attention has been the San Francisco 49ers, until Friday when Frank Gore called out the Philadelphia Eagles' resiliency. They currently sit at 3-1 and atop the NFC West.
Moving up 18 spots in the first four weeks of play should not be overlooked, yet somehow it is. I would even go as far and say they barely crack the top 10 as the No. 10 spot in my power rankings. This franchise has a completely different feel and attitude about it.
Jim Harbaugh sure has great coaching genes. The 49ers have been a talented squad for the past couple years with a freak at tight end in Vernon Davis, the best middle linebacker in the game with Patrick Willis, and a solid running back in Frank Gore. For the record, Gore would be considered a stud but his injury history knocked him down a few points.
Most impressively, Harbaugh seems to have Alex Smith playing smart and confidently.
Fresh off a 20-point comeback in Philadelphia this team, the 49ers will be put to test the next two weeks hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and traveling to Ford Field to play the Detroit Lions.
New York Jets: No. 11 to 16
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Unlike most power rankings from other meaningless sports websites, Miller's Week 1 rankings had a fairly dead-on grade for the New York Jets—though, I would make the argument that out of respect from their 2010 campaign the No. 11 ranking was a bit harsh. Seven to nine range seemed about right for me going into the season.
The Jets lost some playmakers on offense in Brad Smith and Braylon Edwards during the free agency frenzy. Mark Sanchez has struggled to get the offense going up until this point and it shouldn't be a surprise to those who paid close attention.
After last Sunday night's charades of countless defense and special teams returns, the Jets find themselves in third place in their division.
Washington Redskins: No. 27 to 10
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Hail to the Washington Redskins. Rex Grossman's seemingly delusional statement about the Redskins winning the NFC East doesn't seem so crazy after all.
To say the Redskins have been impressive would be a stretch, but they certainly can kick the title of "Deadskins" to the curb for the time being. COach Mike Shanahan has this team unified and winning, the latter of which is the only thing that matters at the end of the day.
Using two different running backs with Tim Hightower and Ryan Torain, Shanahan has been able to unveil his offense that never took flight under Donovan McNabb.
Unlike my colleague here at Bleacher Report, I would not go as far as saying "the Redskins are for real" just yet. They head into their bye week atop the NFC East and 3-1.
If they get to the halfway point of the season still in the driver's seat, then we can use that little phrase above. Until then, we'll all be on Grossman watch as we wait for him to pull off his own version of a Tony Romo-esque meltdown.
Pittsburgh Steelers: No. 6 to 17
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No, Mike Tomlin is not seeking extraterrestrial advise, he's looking at the scoreboard and wondering where his Super Bowl caliber team disappeared to.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have looked anything but sharp in 2011. Week 1 thumped them across the back of the head and they have been staggering ever since. Now we sit here about to head into Week 5 on Sunday and the Steelers aren't even considered to be in the top half of the league.
If it weren't for the pitiful Seattle Seahawks and a Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts, Tomlin's squad could quite possibly be sitting here at 0-4. Ben Roethlisberger needs to kick it into gear and jump start this offense otherwise they'll be left in the dust by a very good Baltimore Ravens team.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense rank 27th in total yards only scoring more points than five other teams this season. The Tennessee Titans bring in a tough defense to Heinz Field Sunday and the Steelers will need to put up more than their 16-point average.
Otherwise the AFC Super Bowl representatives from last season will continue to slide into the bottom half of the power rankings.
Tennessee Titans: No. 26 to 13
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The scariest part about the Tennessee Titans being on this list is the fact that Chris Johnson has been quiet.
This Titans team—much like the San Francisco 49ers—has quietly gone under the radar as a solid 3-1 team. Mike Munchak has started off the post-Jeff Fischer era with a promising start showing the NFL there's life after Fischer in Tennessee.
Matt Hasselback may not be putting up Tom Brady-type numbers, but the former Seattle Seahawks quarterback has settled in seamlessly in Nashville. He has the Titans sitting as one of the league's top 10 passing offenses and has averaged a 104.7 passer rating through four games.
Chris Johnson has yet to have a breakout game in 2011 as he tries to get his legs back underneath him. However, Johnson did pass the century mark in Week 4. Once the Titans get the ground game rolling they will be a tough team to beat.
The Houston Texans were a trendy long-shot pick for a Super Bowl appearance during the preseason, but with Peyton Manning sidelined, the Titans could be the team to watch out for in the NFC South.
Philadelphia Eagles: No. 3 to 22
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Our own lead writer, Matt Miller—clearly bought into the preseason hype of the "dream team" with all the acquisitions made in the offseason. The Philadelphia Eagles had a ton of turnover throughout the roster and it has noticeably taken its toll.
Even for a team with the sheer quantity of talent that the Eagles possess, they must still learn to play together as a unit. If you read my bio, you'll find out my personal affection for this franchise; however, I can say with a clean conscious that I did not become jaded by all the signings.
Sure—for any Eagles fan or Eagles hater—it was very easy to get carried away due to the eye-popping star power reeled in by the Philadelphia Eagles and all the countless hours of media coverage. The problem is, there were parts of this team that were not addressed on the personnel side of things. Linebackers, offensive line, a safety and a rookie kicker were all concerns after the aura of awe wore off for all of Philadelphia.
Coincidentally enough, one or all of those concerns have cost the Eagles a game this year, and we're only in Week 5. I had the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons all ranked higher than the Eagles going into the season for those very reasons. (Well, that and because chemistry doesn't just appear overnight.)
They may be the best 1-3 team in the NFL, but until they can finish out games in the fourth quarter their power ranking status will continue to diminish. I do believe this team is better than their record and their current power ranking, but they must prove it on the field this Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium versus Buffalo.