NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 5?

Sean Tomlinson@@SeanGTomlinsonNFL AnalystOctober 5, 2015

NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 5?

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    On Sunday, we learned that kicking a ball through two goalposts separated by just over 18 feet is hard—so hard, apparently, that professionals can miss many times in one day from chip-shot distances.

    NFL kickers have missed 14 field goals so far in Week 4, with one game left to play on Monday night. Among the lowlights of a day that featured a vast collection of shanks: two misses by Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Jason Myers during an overtime loss and Philadelphia Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis missing a field goal and an extra point, all during a game decided by three points.

    So it was a sorrow-filled Sunday, but it had plenty of shining triumph, too. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers dazzled with his twinkle toes again, leading his still undefeated team to another win. And Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman scored three more times, because doing that every week is his thing now I guess.

    Let's try to make sense of it all with some power rankings. Remember, these rankings aren't the standings. Instead, what follows is an analysis of how each team stacks up based on performance, regardless of what its record says. It's subjective, sure, but agreeing on everything (or anything) isn't fun, right?

    And remember, I probably hate your favorite team.

32. Houston Texans (1-3)

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Last Week: 27

    This Week: 32

    Change: -5

    It's amazing that the Houston Texans won a football game this season. Their record and that single victory say much more about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Houston's Week 3 opponent—than the quality of this Texans team.

    The Texans will remain rudderless until their quarterback play begins to approach replacement level. Through four games, both of their top two quarterbacks have received playing time, and they've taken turns being awful. The latest outing came on Sunday, when Ryan Mallett was pulled during a 48-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons after completing only 44 percent of his throws at an average of 5.6 yards per attempt.

    The team that employs defensive end J.J. Watt—who's also known as the best defensive player in footballis already destined to have a wasted season.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)

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    Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 30

    This Week: 31

    Change: -1

    You expect mistakes from a rookie quarterback. You expect poor outings and forgettable afternoons, too. You expect them because being even adequate as an NFL quarterback is exceedingly hard, so it's often unrealistic to want immediate stardom.

    But you also want to see flashes of what made the quarterback worthy of a high draft pick. And so far, those moments have been fleeting for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Winston threw four more interceptions during a loss to the Carolina Panthers. He's now chucked seven picks four games in his NFL career, setting a rookie-season pace for 28.

    It's still somewhat early, sure, and flaws can be corrected. But setting yourself up to post one of the 20 highest single-season interception totals is, well, less than ideal.

30. San Francisco 49ers (1-3)

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Last Week: 32

    This Week: 30

    Change: +2

    Yes, it's odd to see a horribly inept football team rise two spots. But the San Francisco 49ers make a puddle jump only by default, as the odor coming from Tampa and Houston is just a little stronger.

    It really doesn't make much of a difference where the 49ers fall when compared to those teams. As long as we all understand they're among the NFL's absolute worst after four weeks.

    The 49ers were expected to be sliced and diced by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday because he does that to pretty much every defense he plays. But they actually did a decent job of bending without breaking defensively, limiting Rodgers to 224 passing yards.

    Offensively, though, there was nothing. Or more accurately, there was just slightly more than nothing.

    The 49ers scored three points and have now put up a grand total of 10 points over the last two weeks. They also finished with only eight first downs against Green Bay.

    Running back Carlos Hyde's booming start to 2015 is a distant memory. He ripped the Minnesota Vikings apart for 168 yards in Week 1 but logged only 20 yards Sunday. Over the past three games, Hyde has averaged 3.2 yards per carry.

    The 49ers are looking like a team that will be lucky to limp through 2015 and finish with a .500 record.

29. Chicago Bears (1-3)

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    Last Week: 31

    This Week: 29

    Change: +2

    2015 will be a rebuilding year for the Chicago Bears, one with periodic happiness sprinkled on a general landscape of despair. A win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday provided that brief break from darkness, and it also may have featured a second victory for the Bears front office.

    A possible trade-deadline fire sale could see Matt Forte depart, which would make sense because the 29-year-old running back is playing on an expiring contract and isn't in the team's long-term plans. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported Forte could be "had for the right price," and that price will likely be a second- or third-round pick.

    Talent and production could quickly make a team in need look past Forte's age, which is why there are wide smiles throughout the Bears' executive suites. Forte is now averaging 125 yards from scrimmage per game, with 155 more yards coming Sunday.

    Forte is a multidimensional threat, and his value will grow as the trade deadline nears. 

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)

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    James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 28

    This Week: 28

    Change: None

    The Jacksonville Jaguars lost to an Indianapolis Colts team that called Matt Hasselbeck its starting quarterback for one day. This is when I remind you that Hasselbeck is 40 years old and has the arm strength of Charles Montgomery Burns.

    Much like the Cleveland Browns (I'll get to their horror in a minute), the Jaguars found a creatively haunting way to lose Sunday. Jaguars kicker Jason Myers missed what would have been a game-winning 53-yard field goal with six seconds left. That's not exactly a chip shot, but the 48-yarder he missed in overtime was from a more comfortable distance.

    Two opportunities to win sailed by, but the Jaguars can still take some positives from the loss. Rookie running back T.J. Yeldon busted out with 105 rushing yards, averaging 4.8 per carry. And wide receiver Allen Hurns is building on his connection with quarterback Blake Bortles. He was on the other end of 11 of Bortles' 28 completions.

27. Miami Dolphins (1-3)

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 21

    This Week: 27

    Change: -6

    It seems not even Heathrow Airport wanted to be associated Joe Philbin, who's now the Miami Dolphins' former head coach.

    The Dolphins fired Philbin Monday morning after consecutive drubbings advanced his expiration date. The latest came on Sunday, with the Dolphins unable to limit their embarrassing performances to one continent.

    They were thumped 27-14 by the New York Jets and have now been outscored 68-28 over the past two weeks. It's hard to pick one low point from the beatdown in London, but let's go with Jets running back Chris Ivory gashing Miami for 166 rushing yards. The Dolphins are now allowing an obscene 160.5 rushing yards per game.

    They're a talented yet vastly underachieving team in need of new leadership and a fresh direction. Exhibit A that Philbin was out of ideas: The Dolphins attempted five straight passes during a fourth-quarter goal-to-go situation.

    The reality, however, is that in-season head coach firings are little more than a desperate attempt to provide better optics. An interim coach won't suddenly come with a magic solution for core team issues and locker-room dysfunction. Especially not Dan Campbell, who will replace Philbin and has only ever served as a tight ends coach.

    Firing the head coach in early October is a statement. Franchise ownership is communicating to fans, and saying there's an awareness of a deep-rooted problem. Now the first step in addressing that issue is underway.

    The process will take time, and the Dolphins have a head start on the handful of other teams that will also be searching for new head coaches come Black Monday in January. But there's no quick fix here.

26. Detroit Lions (0-4)

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Last Week: 20

    This Week: 26

    Change: -6

    Botched calls tied to obscure rules follow the Detroit Lions. The late-game buffoonery Monday night will come with a deep, long-lasting burn, as the Lions are now 0-4. They're the NFL's only remaining winless team.

    The missed call on Seattle Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright when he batted a fumbled ball in the end zone came during the final minutes. To be exact, it came with 1:46 left in the fourth quarter, which means the Lions' rushing offense had already logged nearly a full game of doing just slightly more than nothing.

    Lions running backs are repeatedly being hit in the backfield, and offered little space by a leaky offensive line. The result Monday was a typical one we've come to expect each week: No support for quarterback Matthew Stafford as pass-rushers teed off.

    The Lions averaged only 2.9 yards per carry against Seattle, and overall they've now fallen to a league low 2.7 YPC this season. They'll keep losing until that number rises.

25. Oakland Raiders (2-2)

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    Last Week: 22

    This Week: 25

    Change: -3

    Eventually, the Oakland Raiders were going to hit a speed bump offensively. That happens when your offense is led by a promising but young quarterback who is still growing.

    The stumble came during Oakland's last-second loss to the Chicago Bears Sunday. Prior to Week 4 they had been averaging 387.7 offensive yards per game. But they posted only 243 yards on Sunday.

    The Raiders have more than enough talent to make Week 4 a memory and an offensive blip. But it won't matter if a core defensive flaw isn't fixed fast.

    Oakland is allowing a whopping 95 receiving yards per game to opposing tight ends, as noted by NFL.com's Alex Gelhar. That hammering has also included six tight end touchdowns.

24. Tennessee Titans (1-2)

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    Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 24

    This Week: N/A

    Change: N/A

    The heartache attached to the blown fourth-quarter lead in Week 3 will linger a little longer for the Tennessee Titans. The Titans allowed 21 points during the final 15 minutes of a loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and a fierce Buffalo Bills defensive front lies ahead following a Week 4 bye.

23. Cleveland Browns (1-3)

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    Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 23

    This Week: 23

    Change: None

    Simply losing isn't good enough for the Cleveland Browns, as their losses often have to be emotionally scarring, too.

    Everything was clicking for the Browns Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. Quarterback Josh McCown looked surprisingly competent, passing for 356 yards with two touchdowns. He even led a 67-yard game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter, complete with a successful two-point conversion.

    Then Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers spearheaded a long drive of his own, advancing into field-goal range with two seconds left. It seemed for a moment, however, that someone high above was smiling on the Browns when Chargers kicker Josh Lambo whiffed on his gimme 39-yard attempt. Then those powers above turned evil: Browns cornerback Tramon Williams jumped offside, giving Lambo a second shot.

    It was a very Browns way to lose, and they'll surely top it next week.

22. Washington Redskins (2-2)

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 29

    This Week: 22

    Change: +7

    It's difficult to know which Kirk Cousins you'll get on any given week—or for that matter, any drive. The Washington Redskins quarterback who has thrown 23 career interceptions over only 560 pass attempts is often mixed in next to this other guy we saw Sunday who looked confident.

    The overall image is one of a quarterback who is, at best, a borderline NFL starter, but has enough flashes of accuracy to sustain drives and make key throws. If the effective Cousins shows up more often, Washington can fight for the NFC East. The division likely won't have a winner. Instead, one team will lose just a little less than the other three.

    The good Cousins surfaced often enough during a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite averaging only 6.3 yards per attempt, Cousins came through with a critical late-game drive that ended with his touchdown pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon. He threaded it through a tight hole between two defenders, showing both touch and velocity.

21. Baltimore Ravens (1-3)

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    Associated Press

    Last Week: 25

    This Week: 21

    Change: +4

    The Baltimore Ravens no longer have a round number in their win column, taunting them at every turn. But Thursday night's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers came at a potentially significant cost.

    An already thin wide receiver depth chart reached five-alarm status because of two back injuries. Michael Campanaro is now on injured reserve, and Steve Smith has already been ruled out for Week 5 after suffering four microfractures, according to a report from ESPN's Ed Werder.

    Smith's absence is the most concerning. He erupted over the first three games this season with 349 yards on 25 receptions and was the foundation for everything the Ravens did offensively.

    Head coach John Harbaugh told CSN's Lou Holder the team is hoping to be without Smith for only that one game (via Ravens.com). But having multiple back fractures isn't exactly ideal for a 36-year-old early in his final season.

20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Last Week: 12

    This Week: 20

    Change: -8

    Until this week, I stubbornly remained among the few who believed in a Philadelphia Eagles turnaround, hence the overdue spiraling drop in these rankings.

    Sure, the Eagles completed a second-half comeback against the Washington Redskins Sunday as quarterback Sam Bradford threw three touchdown passes, two of which were of the long-distance variety (a 62-yard bomb to wide receiver Riley Cooper and a 39-yarder to wideout Miles Austin).

    But that comeback was required because the Eagles went an entire half without scoring a single point.

    Throughout the offseason, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly went about the business of conducting an experiment with this central question: Does the effectiveness of a scheme outweigh continuity among the players executing it?

    So far the answer is a loud "nope."

    For the second straight game, Kelly's new quarterback completed less than 55 percent of his pass attempts (Bradford had a completion percentage of 53.6 Sunday), and an offense that averaged 396.8 yards per game in 2014 is moving along at a meager 294 yards a week now.

19. New Orleans Saints (1-3)

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 26

    This Week: 19

    Change: +7

    The New Orleans Saints already have a massive hole to dig themselves out of in their division, with the NFC South led by two 4-0 teams. But their chances of climbing from that gutter are a whole lot better if the healthy Drew Brees we saw Sunday night keeps appearing every week.

    Brees sat out one game with a shoulder injury. Your shoulder is pretty important when you throw footballs great distances for a living, so there was some legitimate concern about Brees and if he would truly be himself against the Dallas Cowboys.

    All of those worries faded away fast. In typical Brees fashion, he spread the ball around to nine different receivers, leading an offense that scored a season-high 26 points while racking up 438 yards.

    The Saints will need a superhuman quarterback to rise from their early-season grave. Brees can be that guy.

18. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3)

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    Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 13

    This Week: 18

    Change: -5

    The Kansas City Chiefs are responsible for a strange stat from Week 4 that proves football can be downright wacky.

    They allowed four rushing touchdowns Sunday in their loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. How many rushing touchdowns had they allowed prior to Week 4 this season? Zero. How many rushing touchdowns had they allowed to running backs over the previous 20 games? Zero, as Walter Football's Chet Gresham noted.

    Maybe that will be a one-week outlier, and maybe it won't. But winning gets difficult fast when vulnerability against the run is combined with a touchdown drought and settling for seven field goals.

17. New York Giants (2-2)

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Last Week: 19

    This Week: 17

    Change: +2

    A few weeks ago, the New York Giants' season was beginning to circle the drain. Now, two weeks and two wins later, they're alive and well. The NFC East is a forgiving place like that.

    The Giants' latest win was a Buffalo Bills gift. The Bills took 17 penalties and were inept offensively until late in the second half.

    To keep winning, the Giants will need to develop some sense of respectability in their backfield. Over four games, they're averaging only 3.5 yards per carry.

16. St. Louis Rams (2-2)

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 18

    This Week: 16

    Change: +2

    The St. Louis Rams invested heavily in Todd Gurley, selecting him with their 10th overall pick after two straight drafts without a running back hearing his name during the first round. They need him to grow into an offensive centerpiece, and they need him to become a grinding workhorse who can withstand the punishment of a heavy load each week.

    He was all of those things and more during his first NFL start.

    Gurley was stuffed throughout the first half during a win over the Arizona Cardinals. But then he exploded late for chunk gains of 23 and 52 yards, finishing with 161 total yards on 21 touches.

    He's a powerful runner between the tackles with breakaway speed in the open field. That means a healthy Gurley will make the Rams' pedestrian average of 4.1 yards per carry in 2014 a distant memory.

15. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 14

    This Week: 15

    Change: -1

    The Dallas Cowboys experienced a warp-speed shift from pure joy to sheer terror Sunday night. The former came when New Orleans Saints kicker Zach Hocker smacked a potential game-winning 30-yard field-goal attempt off the left upright. It should have been a routine kick, but instead the Cowboys suddenly had life.

    Then they didn't. On the second play of overtime, Saints quarterback Drew Brees connected with running back C.J. Spiller, who exploited blown coverage and sauntered for an 80-yard touchdown. But despite the stinging loss, Dallas can still find sources of encouragement in this game.

    The Cowboys offense returned to its bulldozing style, with their top three running backs combining to average 4.6 yards per carry. And most importantly, Brandon Weeden still isn't a liability as the backup quarterback tasked with replacing the injured Tony Romo. He completed 61.5 percent of his passes, and led an impressive 91-yard game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter.

    There's still hope that the Cowboys can do just enough until Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant return. Like it or not, most of that hope runs through Weeden. 

14. San Diego Chargers (2-2)

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 17

    This Week: 14

    Change: +3

    An even 2-2 record during tight end Antonio Gates' suspension was likely the best-case scenario for the San Diego Chargers, and the most realistic one.

    Quarterback Philip Rivers was the driving force behind San Diego's win Sunday, twice lofting rainbow throws just beyond the reach of defenders and into friendly, waiting hands for touchdowns. The most impressive was a 28-yard heave to wide receiver Keenan Allen that floated perfectly over Cleveland Browns cornerback Pierre Desir's head and into the narrow throwing window shy of the sideline.

    Rivers finished with 358 passing yards and averaged over nine yards per attempt for the second time this season.

13. Minnesota Vikings (2-2)

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    Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 11

    This Week: 13

    Change: -2

    Are you the type of person who can easily identify the positives poking out from a mostly crushing experience? Then the Minnesota Vikings are your team this week.

    Teddy Bridgewater is still an inexperienced quarterback who made only his 16th NFL start Sunday, and it came after a shaky Week 3 showing when he completed just 54.2 percent of his pass attempts. So how would he respond against the Denver Broncos and their top-ranked defense? Surely being down 13 points midway through the second quarter would lead to his unraveling, right?

    Not so much. Bridgewater completed 14 of his 16 second-half throws to erase that deficit. Unfortunately, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning then responded with a game-winning drive, and Denver's pass rush planted Bridgewater repeatedly to ice a win.

    But it still felt like a character-building afternoon for the young Vikings quarterback, with his passer rating jumping from 50.9 in Week 3, to 92.4 in Week 4.

12. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Last Week: 9

    This Week: 12

    Change: -3

    The Indianapolis Colts needed overtime and two missed field goals by Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Jason Myers to win their second game.

    They were handed a win they didn't deserve. Even with quarterback Andrew Luck sitting out, there's still enough talent spread throughout the Colts offense to post more than 16 points, especially on a defense that's given up 26.8 points per game overall.

    But at 2-2, the Colts are sadly still division leaders, and they're somehow weathering an early-season rough patch without sinking far out of contention.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Last Week: 8

    This Week: 11

    Change: -3

    Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin wasn't wrong to keep much-maligned kicker Josh Scobee on the sideline during overtime Thursday night, opting instead to attempt two fourth-down conversions.

    He was wrong to put a divisional game in the hands of 35-year-old backup quarterback Michael Vick. Twice.

    The resulting failed attempts on 4th-and-2 and 4th-and-1 just shy of field-goal range ultimately sealed Pittsburgh's fate in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The second was especially excruciating, with Vick missing wide receiver Antonio Brown on what should have been a routine short completion.

    The Steelers blew a 13-point lead, and on those two critical plays, running back Le'Veon Bell—who posted 150 total yards Thursday—watched as the game slipped away.

10. Carolina Panthers (4-0)

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    Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 16

    This Week: 10

    Change: +6

    Any team in any sport can only beat the scheduled opponent that day. Ancient sports cliches are always filled with wisdom, which has made evaluating the Carolina Panthers a challenge.

    They have yet to lose, and ranking an undefeated team this low could lead to a lot of rage in my direction. Fair enough if that's the case, because the Panthers winning four straight at any point in the season feels remarkable, considering the lack of support around quarterback Cam Newton.

    But speaking of quarterbacks, consider the opposing passers Carolina has feasted on. In order, here's who the Panthers have faced: Blake Bortles, Ryan Mallett, Luke McCown and Jameis Winston.

    That's a shaky sophomore (Bortles), a backup replacing the injured starter (McCown), an embarrassment who was benched this week (Mallett) and a developing rookie making his fourth career start (Winston). The Panthers' first true test comes in Week 6 after their bye, when they travel to Seattle.

9. Buffalo Bills (2-2)

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    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 7

    This Week: 9

    Change: -2

    The numbers that matter most—the ones on the scoreboard—say the Buffalo Bills lost their second game of 2015 Sunday. But many of the other numbers from their game against the New York Giants say that must be a lie, and a loss was impossible.

    They held Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to only 38 yards on five receptions, and his longest catch netted all of nine yards. The Bills also ensured Giants running backs averaged only 3.7 yards per carry. And overall, Rashad Jennings, a running back, led all Giants pass-catchers with 54 receiving yards.

    The defensive effort was there, but the discipline wasn't. The Bills took 17 penalties and had to punt six times in the first half.

8. New York Jets (3-1)

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    Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    Last Week: 15

    This Week: 8

    Change: +7

    The New York Jets defense is still frightening, and it's still smacking opponents square in the jaw.

    Its latest victim was the Miami Dolphins, who were held to only three yards per offensive play, and their running backs combined for 26 rushing yards on eight attempts. If the Jets stay that dominant defensively, an offense led by journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick won't face the burden of having to mount late comebacks often.

7. Arizona Cardinals (3-1)

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Last Week: 5

    This Week: 7

    Change: -2

    The blueprint for disrupting the Arizona Cardinals' vertical passing attack isn't advanced architecture. Get pressure on mostly immobile quarterback Carson Palmer, and do it repeatedly.

    This is why the St. Louis Rams presented a less-than-ideal matchup. Their ferocious defensive front finished with nine hits and four sacks on Palmer and handed Arizona its first loss this season. Prior to Week 4, Palmer had been sacked just once over three games and 89 dropbacks.

    The Cardinals should bounce back just fine in Week 5 against the Detroit Lions and their 29th-ranked pass rush.

6. Seattle Seahawks (2-2)

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Last Week: 6

    This Week: 6

    Change: None

    The Seattle Seahawks didn't deserve to win a football game Monday night.

    The NFL rulebook says so, as after Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson fumbled at Seattle's goal line while attempting to score a potential go-ahead touchdown, Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright batted the ball out of the end zone.

    An official standing just several feet away watched the play unfold, and called a touchback. But as head of officiating Dean Blandino later said, via Liz Mathews of 710 ESPN, Wright should have been flagged for illegally batting the ball. The Lions would have then received possession at Seattle's half-yard line down by three with 1:46 left in the fourth quarter.

    The uproar over that call won't settle for days. Which is unfortunate, because it will overshadow the real reason why the defending NFC champs didn't deserve to win Monday, and rise to their .500 record.

    Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is one of the NFL's most skilled at his position when asked to manage chaos. But even a highly elusive scrambler will crumble when constantly faced with swarming pass-rushers.

    Wilson was sacked six times Monday night. It was already the second game this season he's taken six sacks, and overall he's gone down 18 times after only four weeks. Worse, two of the Lions' sacks ended in fumbles, one of which was returned for the touchdown that gave Detroit life.

    The Seahawks have scored an offensive touchdown on only five of their 42 drives this season. Quickly an offensive line that's allowing Wilson to get whacked seemingly every dropback is emerging as a possibly fatal flaw.

    Seattle came one yard, and one botched call away from wasting a near-shutout defensive effort for three quarters. The Seahawks were also one yard, and one botched call away from being 1-3.

5. Atlanta Falcons (4-0)

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Last Week: 10

    This Week: 5

    Change: +5

    Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman has been simply unfair over the past two weeks. He scored three more times during a throttling of the Houston Texans Sunday, and he has now piled up 342 yards from scrimmage with six touchdowns since Week 3.

    Looked at from an even more absurd angle, Freeman has accumulated 448 total yards at this season's quarter pole, and 76.3 percent of that yardage has come over his last two games.

4. Denver Broncos (4-0)

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Last Week: 4

    This Week: 4

    Change: None

    The Denver Broncos are winning with the right approach as their quarterback slowly fades.

    They can still lean on Peyton Manning to make key throws at key times. But a shift has taken place, and now the Broncos are driven by defense.

    The Broncos sacked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater seven times during a win Sunday. It was the highest single-game sack total by a Broncos defense since 1996, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Of those sacks, two came during the Vikings' final drive, when the defense was called on to support its quarterback and seal a win.

    Manning had just driven down the field for a game-deciding field goal. But Minnesota had the ball with just under two minutes left and two timeouts.

    The Vikings then gained 27 yards on the ensuing drive, and it ended with a strip sack by safety T.J. Ward. Game over.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (4-0)

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    Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3

    This Week: 3

    Change: None

    There's no change among the top three teams this week. The New England Patriots were idle with their bye, the Green Bay Packers still have Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback and the Cincinnati Bengals are still making defenses look rather foolish.

    The Bengals are so deep offensively that four different pass-catchers recorded a 30-plus-yard reception Sunday during a win over the Kansas City Chiefs. That happened while running back Jeremy Hill scored three times, and for the second straight week, quarterback Andy Dalton averaged a ridiculous 12-plus yards per pass attempt (he finished at 13.4 Sunday).

    Winning isn't supposed to be this easy.

2. Green Bay Packers (4-0)

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Last Week: 2

    This Week: 2

    Change: None

    Wide receiver James Jones continues to be the ultimate exclamation mark for Aaron Rodgers and proof of how much the Green Bay Packers quarterback elevates those around him.

    Jones was discarded by two teams prior to this season. The Oakland Raiders deemed him expendable after drafting Amari Cooper and signing Michael Crabtree. Then the New York Giants also decided Jones was unfit for their roster at the end of training camp, even though Victor Cruz is still recovering from his patellar tendon tear.

    Now, all Jones has done after being yanked off the scrap heap is catch 17 passes over four games for 317 yards and four touchdowns. That includes 98 yards Sunday during a win over the San Francisco 49ers, with Jones averaging 19.6 yards per reception.

1. New England Patriots (3-0)

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Last Week: 1

    This Week: N/A

    Change: N/A

    The New England Patriots had Week 4 off with an early bye, which cranks the difficulty knob on their title defense a little further. But life should get pretty easy for the Pats over the next two weeks, with games against the injury-riddled Cowboys and struggling Colts.

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