Not all records through four weeks are created equal, but the further we get into the NFL season, the more we have to trust the results on the field.
There are a number of teams we might have expected to be playoff contenders based on past results and talent, but without wins, it is time to start rethinking initial projections. As Bill Parcells famously said, "You are what your record says you are."
That said, there are still a few squads whose records might not tell the whole story. At this early point of the season, it's understandable to be hesitant about moving these teams too far high or low in the power rankings. Here is a look at the latest outlook for the league with a breakdown of the organizations with still more to prove.
|2015 NFL Power Rankings - Week 5|
|1||New England Patriots||3-0|
|2||Green Bay Packers||4-0|
|9||New York Jets||3-1|
|11||St. Louis Rams||2-2|
|13||San Diego Chargers||2-2|
|16||New York Giants||2-2|
|20||Kansas City Chiefs||1-3|
|24||New Orleans Saints||1-3|
|25||San Francisco 49ers||1-3|
|32||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1-3|
Carolina Panthers (4-0)
The Panthers finally move into the top 10 of these rankings, but they still are a step behind the rest of the undefeated teams to this point. They also are the most likely to take a big drop once they suffer their first loss.
Carolina has gotten to 4-0 thanks to a relatively easy schedule for the first month. The opposing quarterbacks so far on the list have been Blake Bortles, Ryan Mallett, Luke McCown and Jameis Winston, none of whom exactly strikes fear in opposing coordinators. There are also major question marks about the skill positions offensively with mediocre play at running back and receiver.
Despite these doubts, head coach Ron Rivera isn't concerned with what others think:
This is the right attitude to have as the Panthers try to prove everyone, myself included, wrong. There is obviously a lot to like with this team, from Cam Newton's MVP-type start to the year to Josh Norman's excellent play at cornerback. They have faced the teams on the schedule and come out victorious.
The Panthers have a bye in Week 5 and will have a much tougher test in Week 6 with a road game against the Seattle Seahawks. If they can win that one, it will certainly shut up any doubters.
Baltimore Ravens (1-3)
Through four games the Ravens have one win, and even that game wasn't impressive. It took terrible quarterback play, poor coaching and miserable kicking by the Pittsburgh Steelers to finally get Baltimore a victory.
Greg A. Bedard of Sports Illustrated summed it up:
Obviously, 1-3 is much better than 0-4, so the overtime victory arguably saved the Ravens' season. When examining those three losses, there is real reason for optimism in Baltimore despite the rough start.
First of all, the three losses to begin the year were all decided by less than a touchdown. Meanwhile, those three teams (Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals) have a combined 10-2 record with two of them still undefeated. Even the road game against the Raiders is tougher than many would have expected before the season.
This changes quickly with the schedule opening up over the next couple of months. Starting with Sunday's matchup against the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens could legitimately be favored in seven of their next eight games. Only a road trip against the Arizona Cardinals appears to be a serious challenge in that stretch.
Even without healthy receivers, Joe Flacco and Co. have the talent to navigate this schedule and get back into the playoff picture.
Detroit Lions (0-4)
A controversial no-call at the end of Monday night's game cost the Lions a chance at victory, although a win was far from guaranteed even with the correct ruling. In any case, Detroit fell to 0-4 and is now the only winless team in the NFL, a spot the franchise knows all too well:
Despite the record and the obvious problems offensively, though, this is far from the worst team in the league.
In fact, there were positives to take away from the recent loss, as noted by Jeff Risdon of RealGM:
The defense sacked Russell Wilson six times and forced two fumbles to keep the team in the game. Meanwhile, the offense looked poor but is coming off consecutive weeks against arguably the two best defenses in football in the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. These two units rank first and second, respectively, in yards allowed per game and have been devastating on opposing offenses.
Against weaker competition, playmakers like Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Ameer Abdullah and others should have more success.
Unfortunately, that might not come in Week 5 with another tough battle against the Cardinals. Still, four straight home games should provide the Lions with some chances to finally get a win.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for more year-round sports analysis.