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

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystOctober 2, 2017

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

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    Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

    I was fortunate enough to be around some tremendous coaches during my time as an NFL player and scout. One thing I learned from guys like Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick is the most successful teams are the ones that don't consistently beat themselves.

    Another thing I learned is that depth is extremely important. Belichick especially stressed quality depth at certain positions, because those positions allowed him to run the schemes he wanted even in case of injury.

    These are two of the biggest factors that go overlooked during an NFL season. We can analyze 53-man rosters at the beginning of the season and think we know which teams are going to be good. However, those rosters—specifically the starting lineups—aren't going to be the same all season.

    Just look at some of the injuries suffered in Week 4. From Davante Adams and Dalvin Cook to Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota, a number of key players went down. It's early in the NFL season, but I can tell you that after a month, the physicality of the game is taking a toll on players and rosters.

    Depth is important, and so is limiting those self-inflicted mistakes. That's the biggest difference between this year's 3-1 teams and the 2-2 and 1-3 clubs at the quarter mark. Teams aren't going to be perfect in all 16 games, but the ones that don't beat themselves every couple of games are going to steadily rise up the standings.

    With all of this in mind—along with the results on the field, of course—here's how I view the league's 32 teams with Week 4 in the books.

    Last week's rankings can be found here (and here).

32. Cleveland Browns

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 32

    Oh jeez, did the Cleveland Browns look bad Sunday. Of course, this is to be expected. This is a team with a rookie quarterback in DeShone Kizer who was inaccurate last year in college. He's going to be inaccurate this early in his NFL career too.

    Cleveland doesn't have the pieces in place to help Kizer be better. The Browns don't run the ball well, and they're severely lacking in receiver talent.

    With Jamie Collins, Myles Garrett and Danny Shelton out, there are no difference-makers on defense. The front seven is decent when healthy, but the Browns have below-average cornerbacks and safeties. When they play a team that has weapons, like the Cincinnati Bengals, it can be a disaster.

    We're seeing big plays in the passing game against the Browns defense every week. That only increases the pressure on Kizer, who has to play catch-up.

    Cleveland is still looking for its first lead of the season.

31. San Francisco 49ers

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 31

    The San Francisco 49ers do a lot of positive things offensively. The offense is able to move the ball at times. The problem is that Brian Hoyer isn't a quarterback who can consistently get the ball into the end zone.

    Defensively, San Francisco has a sound unit. Coordinator Robert Saleh has it playing physical football, particularly up front. We saw that Sunday, as the 49ers defensive line made life rough for quarterback Carson Palmer and completely shut down the Arizona Cardinals running game.

    There are pieces in place here, but the 49ers are going to struggle to pull out tight games—as we saw against the Cardinals. Hoyer and the offense drove down the field in overtime but had to settle for a field goal. The secondary then surrendered enough big plays for the Cardinals to march down the field and answer with a game-winning touchdown before the clock ran out.

    The 49ers had chances to put the game away before overtime. The bottom line, however, is that Hoyer misses too many routine NFL throws for the team to put games away early. That's going to cost the 49ers all season long.

30. Los Angeles Chargers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 28

    The Los Angeles Chargers defense is not good. Period. There's Joey Bosa, there's Melvin Ingram and there's not much else to speak of. Injury hurt the defense on the back end in a huge way.

    Jason Verrett wasn't going to help this run defense, though. The Philadelphia Eagles ran on the Chargers to the tune of 214 yards. Every team has run on the Chargers this season.

    Offensively, L.A. is inconsistent. Philip Rivers can still be great, but he does make mistakes. The running game has been a disappointment. With Fletcher Cox out for the Eagles, the Chargers should have had an easier time getting Melvin Gordon going, but the ground game again struggled.

    This means the offense is all Rivers. When he does make a mistake—he has four interceptions in four games—the team is doomed. The defense isn't capable of getting big stops. Philadelphia was 9-of-16 on third downs and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes of the game.

    Even when Rivers is phenomenal, the Chargers are going to struggle to win when the defense plays like that.

29. Indianapolis Colts

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 29

    As I've been saying for weeks, the Indianapolis Colts are not the worst team in the NFL. However, they failed to address the quarterback position during the offseason, even though it was apparent Andrew Luck wouldn't be ready to start the season.

    While there's no guarantee another quarterback would be a better option than Jacoby Brissett, the Colts could at least have brought in someone to compete with Scott Tolzien—who isn't cut out for a starting role—and given him offseason reps. Brissett was rushed into the job and is still learning how to lead the team a month into the season.

    This is why Indianapolis is off to a 1-3 start.

    Brissett is playing well given the circumstances, but nights like Sunday are going to happen. Brissett was responsible for two defensive touchdowns by the Seattle Seahawks. That ruined any chance Indianapolis had of winning at CenturyLink Field. It doesn't help that Indianapolis struggles to run the ball.

    The Indianapolis defense plays hard and is sneaky physical. However, that's all that can be said about it. The Colts lack legitimate playmakers on that side of the ball. For a team that doesn't have its franchise quarterback to carry it, that's a problem.

28. New York Giants

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 22

    The first thing we have to address—and this has been a recurring theme with the New York Giants—is the poor game management of Ben McAdoo. This is a team that has a lackluster running game and should want to rely on an efficient short-passing game and stout defense. Some of McAdoo's decisions are making that plan difficult.

    His decision to go for it on fourth down early in the game in field-goal position cost the team points. His decision to challenge what he thought was a Mike Evans catch/fumble in the second half cost his team a much-needed timeout. Anyone who has watched football over the last three years knew that wasn't a catch. Calling a timeout before a two-point play is also inexcusable.

    The Giants are not built to score loads of points, and they're not good enough to overcome McAdoo's questionable decision-making.

    What's also alarming is how inefficient the defensive line has been, albeit without highly paid pass-rusher Olivier Vernon. New York is getting run on, and it's struggling to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Yes, Vernon was out, but this has been a trend.

    The secondary is still terrific, Odell Beckham Jr. is great as always, and the Giants may have found their running back in Wayne Gallman. However, the Giants keep beating themselves and have a winless record because of it.

27. Miami Dolphins

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 21

    The Miami Dolphins have to get their run game going. It would open some things up in the passing game that just aren't there right now.

    The passing attack has been conservative so far, and it's not entirely because Jay Cutler was brought out of the media world to play quarterback. The offense needs to find a way to be more aggressive. A better ground game—and the added benefit of play-action—could help that.

    Miami also needs to figure out a way to be more efficient on defense. The Dolphins aren't getting gashed by huge plays, but the defense is consistently bleeding out a slow death. This isn't a top secondary, and teams are finding easy yards with too much consistency.

    A strong running game helped mask some of Miami's deficiencies on defense and in the passing game last season. The difference this year is that Jay Ajayi and the rushing attack is struggling. Ajayi had a productive game against the Chargers in Week 2, and that's the only game Miami has won.

    That's not a coincidence.

26. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 30

    Look, the Cincinnati Bengals are the most talented 1-3 team in football.

    They have great running backs, they have an above-average quarterback in Andy Dalton and they have a stud receiver in A.J. Green. The Bengals offense finally got clicking Sunday, taking advantage of a weak Cleveland secondary. Tyler Kroft (68 yards, two touchdowns) was especially dangerous filling in for injured tight end Tyler Eifert.

    The defense was dominant throughout as well. Once Cincinnati got done feeling things out in the first quarter, the Bengals just started whipping the Browns. Giovani Bernard's 61-yard touchdown reception just before the half was a back-breaking play.

    Unfortunately, the Bengals don't get to pick on the Browns every week. We now need to see them put together a full four quarters versus a quality opponent.

25. Chicago Bears

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 23

    I've been saying for two weeks now that the Chicago Bears need to start Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. And they will next week versus Minnesota, the team confirmed.

    Look at what Deshaun Watson is doing for his team as a rookie, after all.

    Would Watson be the same player on Chicago? Probably not. The Bears aren't the same caliber team. However, it was clear Watson was more talented than Tom Savage, so the move was made. Trubisky is more talented than Mike Glennon.

    The bigger reason, though, is that Glennon has been a disaster. He's a step too slow as an athlete for 2017, and he isn't careful with the football. His interceptions Thursday night were inexcusable, and they put Chicago behind the eight ball right away.

    The Bears defense is still above average. However, when you repeatedly give a short field to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, you're not going to win.

24. Arizona Cardinals

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 25

    The Arizona Cardinals, in typical fashion, looked great driving down the field at the beginning of the game. Then, in typical Cardinals fashion, Palmer threw an interception.

    This is a talented team. However, it also repeatedly shoots itself in the foot. This is why Arizona is sitting at 2-2 instead of 3-1 or 4-0.

    The Cardinals are all over the place in what they do to hurt themselves. There are too many penalties at times, Palmer is shaky under pressure, the offensive line isn't good and the team struggles to run the ball with David Johnson sidelined.

    Arizona's defense does a great job of keeping the Cardinals in games. However, a defense can only carry a team for so long. Yes, the Cardinals got the win in Week 3, but this is a team that is going to beat itself too often to be a contender.

23. Baltimore Ravens

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 14

    The Baltimore Ravens defense isn't as effective as it can possibly be because Brent Urban is on injured reserve and Brandon Williams is injured. That's two of the team's best defensive players. This is a major problem because Baltimore relies on its defense to win.

    Is the Ravens defense still a top-tier unit? Yes, but there's only so long it can hold down the fort. The Ravens offense is atrocious, and it's costing the team games.

    Joe Flacco is way too careless with the ball, and he had two interceptions against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Running back Alex Collins gave the offense a bit of a spark, but he also had a disastrous fumble. This is one of the worst offenses in football. When it makes mistakes and the defense isn't able to dominate, the Ravens can't win.

    Right now, the defense is banged up and can't hold things down. That's why we've seen two blowout losses in a row.

22. New York Jets

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 27

    If you want to know the recipe for how to nearly end a game in disaster, watch the film from the New York Jets game.

    New York was up 10 points and on the verge of adding to its fourth-quarter lead. Then quarterback Josh McCown threw a backward pass without first making sure the running back was ready for it. Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack scooped up the ball and returned it 81 yards for a touchdown. Another interception then set the Jaguars up with a game-tying field goal and overtime.

    The Jets ended up pulling out the win, but the end of the game shows where New York has a major problem. For a veteran, McCown makes a lot of bonehead turnovers.

    The game should never have been close because the Jets dominated it. McCown is obviously not a long-term solution.

    Still, the Jets deserve credit. They're 2-2, they're beginning to run the ball well and McCown is capable of making big plays with his arm. If he can limit stupid mistakes, the Jets can be a dangerous team.

21. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 20

    The Jacksonville Jaguars are not a complete team. When the defense and the running game are dominant, the group struggles in a big way. That's what we've seen in each of the team's two losses.

    In losses to the Jets and the Tennessee Titans, the Jaguars have had to rely on Blake Bortles' arm more than they'd like. That isn't a recipe for success.

    The Jacksonville defense does deserve credit for making plays at the end of the game to give the team a chance. Overall, though, the Jaguars were thoroughly outplayed by the Jets. It was shocking to see New York run the ball the way it did—with 256 total rushing yards—against what has been a solid defensive front.

    Jacksonville can be a tough opponent, but this isn't a team capable of winning in multiple ways.

20. New Orleans Saints

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 26

    For the second week in a row, we've seen improvement from the New Orleans Saints on defense. The Saints should build on what we've seen from rookie running back Alvin Kamara. He's the stud of the offense, and he should be getting more carries. He's the only back capable of making big, explosive plays.

    Drew Brees can still be a surgical quarterback when he's on. When he's balanced by a solid ground game, the Saints offense is hard to stop. We saw that against the Miami Dolphins, as the Saints never lost control of the game.

    This was the type of game that plays to New Orleans' strengths. Neither Brees nor the defense had to take risks because they knew the game was in control. The Dolphins drove down the field early, but Ken Crawley intercepted the ball and ended it. The Saints never gave momentum back. The result was a dominant 20-0 win.

    When the Saints get down early, that's when there can be trouble. We haven't seen that over the last two weeks, and New Orleans hasn't seen a loss in that span.

19. Seattle Seahawks

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 17

    It's time for the Seattle Seahawks to turn it loose in the passing game. This is the best way for Seattle to put points on the board. Pass first. Run second. The team might have found something in J.D. McKissic at running back, but the line struggles to open holes when the passing game isn't backing defenses off.

    Opening up the passing game would also benefit the defense. I know all of this sounds weird for this team, but if the Seahawks can get into shootout mode, the defense can pin its ears back and rush the passer. That's what it did against the Colts, and Seattle dominated in the second half.

    Seattle is a team with several issues, but it's one that never stops showing fight. That's what we've grown accustomed to seeing from the Seahawks, and that's why they'll remain a tough, albeit flawed, opponent.

18. Tennessee Titans

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 10

    The Tennessee Titans are an every-other-week football team right now. Marcus Mariota's hamstring injury is concerning—and could be a major factor going forward—but the play against Houston was also an issue.

    Tennessee's pass game isn't where it needs to be. The team has some weapons, but consistently challenging downfield is a challenge. Mariota's draft-mate, Jameis Winston, has a reputation for being careless with the ball, but perhaps Mariota gets a pass—and I don't know why. He was careless in the second half of last year, and he had two early picks against the Texans.

    The Titans are a team that needs to dominate on the ground and play efficient defense to win. When these things don't happen and a game turns into a track meet, there isn't enough consistency in the passing game to keep pace. The defense disappointed in Week 4, the Titans were physically dominated on both sides of the ball, and the result was a blowout loss.

    Tennessee is a solid team, but it isn't one of the upper-echelon clubs at this point.

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 18

    Pulling out a late win was huge for the Buccaneers. They suffered a blowout loss in Week 3 and have the New England Patriots coming up on a short week. Beating the Giants the way they did should help the Buccaneers get some confidence back.

    The offensive line was particularly impressive against the Giants. It opened up holes in the ground game and gave Jameis Winston time to make downfield throws. The line was a question mark coming into the season, so seeing it perform well is encouraging.

    The Buccaneers defense might not be anything to write home about, but it doesn't beat itself. Tampa's defense doesn't tend to blow coverages or assignments, and it forces opponents to earn their yards. I'll give the Buccaneers credit for that because it's not like this is the most talented defense in the world—especially without T.J. Ward, Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David in the lineup.

16. Houston Texans

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 24

    Wow. We can officially say that Houston Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson has arrived. He had his second strong performance in a row in Week 4. What's been particularly impressive is the way he's throwing the ball from the pocket.

    Watson's arm seems to be stronger than it was at Clemson. I believe that's because he's been around NFL throwers—including Tom Savage, who does have a heck of an arm—and realized that's an area he needed to improve. We've seen a lot of on-target 100 mph fastballs from him to go with the athleticism he showed in college.

    We know the Houston defense is phenomenal. The Texans can create turnovers and get to the quarterback. With this version of Watson under center, Houston is one of the better teams in the AFC and one to watch out for.

15. Dallas Cowboys

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 9

    There are a lot of concerns with the Dallas Cowboys. This is not a good defense, and there aren't any defensive playmakers outside of Demarcus Lawrence. The defense relies on a game-controlling offense to have any success.

    The offense is hit and miss. Dak Prescott is a solid quarterback, but he misses some throws he should hit at times. The ground game is capable of taking control, but it can also be a letdown.

    The Cowboys got out to a 24-13 lead over the Rams and then went through a lengthy period where they accomplished very little. A little over a quarter later, Dallas was looking at a 32-24 deficit. This team is built around the offense, and the offense failed to grind out the clock or build on its lead.

    With the run game the Cowboys had in 2016, an 11-point lead was something the team could protect. Against the Rams, however, that long game-sealing drive never came. The Cowboys let the Rams hang around, and they lost.

14. Los Angeles Rams

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 19

    The Los Angeles Rams are officially a team to watch out for. I don't think they're going to the Super Bowl, but after what we've seen in the first month of the year, it shouldn't be surprising to see them in the playoff conversation come December.

    Head coach Sean McVay has the offense going, Todd Gurley seems to have confidence again, and Jared Goff is making plays. More importantly, Goff isn't making as many game-killing mistakes as he did as a rookie.

    Defensively, the Rams may give up some big plays, but they're going to make some as well. Mark Barron had an interception, and L.A. forced a fumble. Against a team with a dynamic offense like the Dallas Cowboys, those plays are huge.

    We should also give a shout-out to kicker Greg Zuerlein, who was 7-of-7 on field-goal attempts. This just goes to show that the Rams are capable of winning in all three phases.

13. Minnesota Vikings

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 7

    The Minnesota Vikings are going to be mad at themselves when they go back and watch film from their game against the Detroit Lions. The Vikings were the better team, but they killed themselves with two turnovers at the start of the second half.

    The Vikings started the half with a 7-3 lead, and then Jerick McKinnon fumbled. A series later, Dalvin Cook fumbled. Those mistakes were the difference in the game. When you give Matthew Stafford a short field, he's going to make something happen.

    Cook also appeared to suffer a serious knee injury on the play, which will hurt this team long after Week 4. Missing Sam Bradford due to injury was another issue. Case Keenum wasn't horrible against the Lions, but he missed some throws and some reads that Bradford would have made.

    This defense is still special, but when injuries and mistakes affect the offense, it's hard to win.

12. Oakland Raiders

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 8

    We have to be concerned with Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. He suffered a back injury against the Denver Broncos that reminded me of Tony Romo's back injury from last preseason. The injury doesn't seem to be nearly as serious, but if Carr misses significant time, the Raiders are going to have issues.

    Oakland's offensive line has struggled to open holes in the run game as of late. This makes the offense one-dimensional and more dependent on Carr.

    We knew the Raiders defense wasn't going to be great this season, but it's been solid. The offense has let the team down the past two weeks. I know Carr was out, but Amari Cooper has disappeared from the offense, and third downs have become a real issue. Third down used to be the money down for Carr.

    The Raiders' passing offense doesn't have the same magic it did a year ago.

11. Carolina Panthers

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 16

    The Carolina Panthers got a huge win in Week 4. They went into Foxborough, got their offense clicking again and knocked off the Patriots.

    We also saw a big bounce-back from quarterback Cam Newton. We saw more designed runs for him, and he took advantage. He was phenomenal in the passing game, with 316 yards and three touchdowns. He also managed to get everyone involved.

    Defensively, the Panthers were also solid. Did they let up some plays to Tom Brady? Sure, but who doesn't? Carolina was stout against the run, and the defense was able to get off the field on third down. Brady and the Patriots were 50 percent on third down, but sustaining long drives wasn't easy. That was a huge part of the game.

    The defense also harassed Brady enough to keep the New England offense out of rhythm.

    When teams cannot regularly sustain drives against the Panthers—as the Saints did in Week 3—the Carolina offense has the tools to get going.

10. Buffalo Bills

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 15

    Hey, I'll admit the Buffalo Bills have surprised me this season, and I'll give them much respect. What they're doing on the defensive side of the ball is incredible. I just can't say enough about Sean McDermott and the way he's raised the level of discipline on that side of the ball.

    This isn't a team with a lot of superstars on defense, but it forces teams to play mistake-free football. When they don't, they pay. The Bills proved that with a major win over the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

    Micah Hyde had two interceptions, and Jerry Hughes had a sack-fumble that was returned for a touchdown. These were turning points in the game, and they show how this Buffalo defense can force a team to beat itself with mistakes.

9. Washington Redskins

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 11

    The Washington Redskins could easily be 4-0 or 3-1 right now. The defense has gotten better every week, and what Greg Manusky has done with that unit should earn him big-time credit. Washington doesn't have the most talented defense, but it plays physically and it plays hard.

    Had defenders like Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar not gone down with injuries on Monday night, the Redskins might have been able to fend off the Kansas City Chiefs. We'll never know, but the Redskins are undoubtedly banged up and in need of the upcoming bye week.

    Washington's offense is terrific, and it's only going to get better with Jordan Reed healthy and Josh Doctson finally emerging. I still believe Washington should give the ball to Chris Thompson more, but this is one of the 10 best teams in the NFL for me as is.

8. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 13

    We're finally beginning to see what we've been waiting for with LeGarrette Blount and the Eagles' running game. Against the Chargers, we saw just what they can do when running downhill.

    There were concerns about Blount in the preseason, but he wasn't the problem. The scheme, which utilized a lot of runs to the outside, was the issue. Blount isn't that kind of runner.

    That downhill running against L.A. was big. The defense was missing Fletcher Cox and did give up some big yardage to Philip Rivers and the passing game. However, the defense also got some key stops, and that ground game helped the Eagles control the tempo when it did.

    If Philadelphia can continue running downhill like this, the team will be better for it. It will help keep a questionable secondary off the field, it will lessen the pressure on Carson Wentz and it will open up the play-action game.

    The Eagles need more play-action because they don't have receivers who can consistently win downfield on their own.

7. New England Patriots

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 1

    I don't think I've ever seen the New England Patriots blow as many coverages in a four-week period as we've seen this year. I'm shocked how often we've seen receivers running completely uncovered through the New England secondary.

    This defense is poor...there's no other way to put it. There's no difference-maker in the front seven, and the Patriots cannot cover well enough to get off the field on third downs. We cannot expect Tom Brady to make magic in the fourth quarter every week.

    Speaking of Brady, is it me, or does he seem to miss the easy throws and make the remarkable ones? He missed a couple of easy ones Sunday, but he also made some passes that most quarterbacks cannot make. Regardless, he was phenomenal once again and nearly led the Patriots to another comeback victory.

    The offensive line is an issue, though. Brady was sacked three times by the Panthers defense. That brings the total to 13 sacks on the season. He was only sacked 15 times in 12 games last year.

6. Green Bay Packers

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 12

    The Green Bay Packers didn't have their greatest overall performance against the Chicago Bears last Thursday. However, the defense forced some early turnovers, giving Aaron Rodgers short fields.

    You can forget about it when he has a short field. Have we ever seen a more dangerous player in the red zone than Rodgers? Um, the answer is no.

    Rodgers did the damage, but the defense deserves a lot of credit. It forced turnovers, kept pressure on Mike Glennon and prevented the Bears from utilizing the ground-and-pound—which was how they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3.

    When your defense gets four turnovers, it has had a good game.

    The Packers also deserve credit for overcoming some big injuries. Green Bay came into the game with a banged-up offensive line, and then the team lost Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery to injury. Injuries could be a major issue moving forward.

5. Detroit Lions

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 6

    In years past, these are the types of games the Detroit Lions would have lost. However, Detroit is tougher than in years past. The first thing that shows that is the run game. It's gotten better each week, and the Lions almost had a 100-yard rusher Sunday. 

    Amazingly, Detroit hasn't had a 100-yard rusher in the Jim Caldwell era.

    The rushing offense prevented Detroit from being one-dimensional on offense and the Vikings from teeing off on Matthew Stafford. The defense, even without Jarrad Davis, played a great game on the road against a divisional opponent. It closed the game out by forcing an Adam Thielen fumble.

    It's refreshing that Stafford doesn't have to pull three magical rabbits out of his butt to win every week.

    This defense is tough and physical, Stafford is being careful with the football, and we're finally seeing a running game. It's safe to say Detroit is a complete team.

4. Atlanta Falcons

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 3

    I'll give the Atlanta Falcons a lot of credit, even in a loss. They lost Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and they faced a stellar Buffalo defense. This is still a great team.

    The problem is that Atlanta has had some uncharacteristic mistakes over the past couple of weeks. Matt Ryan has committed six turnovers in that span, which makes it hard to win. It's a testament to the overall talent of this team that it was able to win last week and pull within a touchdown this week, given the injuries and mistakes.

    The Falcons have been able to stay competitive because the defense is tremendous. It's one of the better units in football, and it might be the fastest defense in the NFL. The run game also helps the team stay competitive when mistakes are made.

    Some of those mistakes could stem from the fact Steve Sarkisian is still getting initiated with the team and with the NFL. If Atlanta can put those mistakes and these injuries in the rear view, watch out. This is still one of the best teams in the NFC.

3. Denver Broncos

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 5

    The Denver Broncos controlled the game against the Oakland Raiders all day long. It should never have been as close as it ended up being.

    The one thing with Denver this year is the team needs to find ways to close out games. The Broncos had a chance to do that with a chip-shot field goal in the second half that would have made the game 19-10 and really put it out of reach, but it was missed.

    Fortunately, safety Justin Simmons was able to seal the game with an interception. He's showing why the Broncos were able to let T.J. Ward go.

    Offensively, Denver has a strong running game. When Trevor Siemian takes care of the ball, the offense can be dangerous because he can make some plays with his arm and with his legs. The strength of this team is still the defense, though, and we saw that Sunday.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 4

    We're beginning to see that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense is stout. It's fast, it's physical, it harasses quarterbacks and it creates turnovers.

    This is a team that could, and possibly should, be 4-0 because of the improvements on defense.

    It was comforting to see Pittsburgh finally get the ground game going. This was the first time I've watched Le'Veon Bell and felt he was anywhere close to the player we saw last year.

    That adds a whole new element to the Pittsburgh offense and makes it much more difficult to defend. Still, I don't think the Steelers are scratching the surface of what they can be on that side of the ball.

    When the offense does get firing, Pittsburgh is going to be dangerous. The Steelers are without a doubt one of the best teams in the AFC.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 2

    The Chiefs are the best team in the NFL right now. The offense is creative—it makes opponents defend all areas of the field—and there are plenty of explosive weapons on that side of the ball.

    Kareem Hunt's ability to run between the tackles and Alex Smith's aggression in the passing game are taking the offense over the top.

    Defensively, Kansas City has athleticism, size and speed. The unit did enough to hold off a good Washington offense, and it did so without Tamba Hali and Dee Ford. When both players return (Hali is on PUP), the defense will be even better.

    As we saw against Washington, the Chiefs defense will give up some big plays from time to time, but it will make impact plays of its own. The important thing is the defense always makes it tough for opponents to finish drives with touchdowns.

    Kansas City is the most complete team in football, and the Chiefs' status as the only undefeated NFL team reflects that.


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