NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Rank for Every Team Entering Week 6
Five weeks into the 2018 NFL season, some things are becoming apparent.
It's a good year to be an offensive powerhouse; both of the league's remaining undefeated teams chew up yardage and score points by the bushel.
It's a bad year to be a football fan in the Bay Area; the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers are a combined 2-8 after both lost on Sunday.
We know that the Cincinnati Bengals are better than we thought they'd be. We know that the Atlanta Falcons aren't nearly as good as we thought they'd be. And the funerals for the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers may have been premature.
Oh, and the weirdest thing of all: The Cleveland Browns might be….good?
Just as they have every week this season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brent Sobleski, Gary Davenport and Brad Gagnon have gathered to rank the league's teams from worst to first.
And after the events of Week 5, there's been movement aplenty.
32. Arizona Cardinals (1-4)
Last Week: 32
Week 5 Result: Won at San Francisco 28-18
And then there were none.
By virtue of their 10-point win in San Francisco Sunday, the NFL's last winless team has finally tasted victory.
It was, in the words of Shakespeare, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen completed all of 40 percent of his passes, although he did throw a touchdown pass. David Johnson's depressing season continued, although he did find the end zone twice.
That cheer you heard was Johnson's fantasy owners.
In honesty, this game says more about how bad the 49ers are than it does how good the Cardinals are.
Mark that down—it's the last time you'll see "good" and "Cardinals" in the same sentence anytime soon.
OK, that's enough piling on the Redbirds for one week. After all, they won. Plus, we need to save some of the sarcasm and vitriol for next week when the Cardinals get pasted in Minnesota.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-4)
Last Week: 26
Week 5 Result: Lost vs. Arizona 28-18
In a season that's been one low after another, the San Francisco 49ers found a new nadir on Sunday by losing at home to the only team in the NFL that entered Week 5 without a victory.
There were some bright spots in the game. For the second straight week, C.J. Beathard threw for two scores. The 49ers also ran for over 140 yards.
Oh, who are we kidding? The Niners are hot garbage. Despite outgaining the Cards 447-220, San Fran lost—because Beathard turned the ball over four times. As a team, the Niners committed five.
San Francisco doubled Arizona's yards and time of possession. But when you turn the ball over five times and the other team has zero, you're going to lose in the NFL—even to a team as awful as Arizona.
There's no light at the end of the tunnel for the 49ers. Just 11 more games in a wasted season ruined by injuries.
"To be the worst, a team must lose to the worst," Sobleski said. "That's exactly what the 49ers did when they fell to the previously winless Cardinals. Without Jimmy Garappolo behind center, San Francisco is rudderless. An ankle sprain to the team's leading rusher, Matt Breida, doesn't help. Too many key injuries sank the 49ers season."
30. Oakland Raiders (1-4)
Last Week: 27
Week 5 Result: Lost at Los Angeles Chargers 26-10
Are Jon Gruden's Raiders good again yet? Asking for a friend.
If you've watched much of the Raiders in 2018, you're well aware that the answer to that question is an emphatic "no." Were it not for an overtime win against the Cleveland Browns with the assist of some curious officiating, the Raiders would be winless.
They may have played their worst game of the season against the Chargers. After falling behind quickly, the run game was abandoned. Oakland was outdone in every statistical category. It was a good old-fashioned whoopin'—a game that wasn't as close as a final score that wasn't close.
Oakland just doesn't do anything well. The offense is inconsistent. The defense is porous. The team, for lack of a better descriptor, is just bad.
Really bad. Like bottom-five in the NFL and trending in the wrong direction bad.
"Oakland should be 0-5," Gagnon said. "Didn't deserve to beat the Browns at home and didn't even put up a fight against a division rival that is known for playing down to competition. This is a lost season in the making."
29. Indianapolis Colts (1-4)
Last Week: 30
Week 5 Result: Lost at New England 38-24
A pretty compelling argument can be made that the Colts actually took a step forward in Thursday's loss to the Patriots.
For starters, it wasn't really the Colts who lost the game so much as the JV Colts. Indy went into the game without its best wide receiver, leading tackler and starting tight end. Several more players got hurt during the game—possibly due to a short turnaround after playing to the end of overtime against the Texans the week before.
That the Colts were able to battle back from a 24-3 deficit and make a game of it speaks well to the team's effort. There's no quit in these Colts. As a matter of fact, the Colts actually outgained the Patriots, albeit by a single yard.
They have been competitive every week and have a trio of winnable games up next (at the Jets, Buffalo and at Oakland), but the NFL is all about results.
And 1-4 isn't good.
28. Buffalo Bills (2-3)
Last Week: 31
Week 5 Result: Won 13-12 vs. Tennessee
Some football games are poetry. A symphony of athletic excellence and precision execution.
Then there's Sunday matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans, in which the only thing executed was the happiness of the poor fans who were subjected to 60 minutes of unwatchable misery disguised as a sporting event.
Granted, the home team's fans left happy after the Bills pulled out a last-second win. We're just not exactly sure what else there is to be happy about.
Rookie quarterback Josh Allen was miserable, passing for just 82 yards with an interception. Both offenses were putrid the entire game, combining for fewer than 500 total yards.
If you want to find something to like about this W for Buffalo, the defense played well. Outside of that, all it did was cost the team better draft position in the 2019 NFL draft.
27. New York Giants (1-4)
Last Week: 25
Week 5 Result: Lost at Carolina 33-31
Given how the season started out for the New York Giants, it was hard to imagine how things could get significantly worse for Big Blue. As it turns out, we just weren't using enough imagination.
The G-Men had this one. They hadn't played a flawless game by any stretch, but thanks to huge games from Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants had a 31-30 lead late. They were going to get the win on the road. Move to 2-3. Get a little momentum going.
And them Graham "Dream-crusher" Gano hit a 63-yard field goal at the end of regulation that tore out the Giants' collective heart and showed it to them as it beat one…last…time.
Now the 1-4 Giants, who are a game back of the Jets in the battle to be mocked less by the New York media, have a week to think about that devastating loss before hosting a desperate Eagles team in Week 6.
So far, the Pat Shurmur era looks a lot like the Ben McAdoo era. Eli Manning looks like he's already halfway retired.
And the Giants look headed for another three- or four-win season.
26. New York Jets (2-3)
Last Week: 28
Week 5 Result: Won vs. Denver 34-16
We'll say this for the New York Jets: They may not be an especially good football team, but when they do win a game, they don't play around.
For the second time this season, the Jets morphed into a big-play machine. Quarterback Sam Darnold threw a pair of long touchdown passes to Robby Anderson, who had spent most of the first month of the season in witness protection. Tailback Isaiah Crowell, just as he did in New York's Week 1 win in Detroit, went bananas—219 yards on 15 carries.
That's over 14 yards per carry.
Did the game solve New York's problems? Hardly. Darnold connected on just 10 of 22 pass attempts and New York lost the turnover battle.
But Gang Green also piled up over 500 yards of total offense and notched four sacks and an interception of Case Keenum in a rout.
It may not be easy being green usually, but in Week 5 at least, it was glorious.
25. Houston Texans (2-3)
Last Week: 29
Week 5 Result: Won vs. Dallas 19-16 (OT)
Not too long ago, the Houston Texans looked to be dead in the water. As recently as the fourth quarter of Week 4, as a matter of fact.
But a late comeback (and some questionable coaching by Frank Reich of the Colts) got Houston its first win of the season a week ago. Now, thanks to the overtime heroics of wideout DeAndre Hopkins and a game-winning field goal, the Texans are 2-3 and just a game out of first place in the AFC South.
It's a remarkable turnaround for a team that looked better on paper than its September record. And Davenport thinks Houston's surge up these rankings may only be getting started.
"The Texans should be able to get past the Bills at home next week, " he wrote. "And who knows which Jaguars team will show up in Jacksonville in Week 7? Add in the Titans' propensity for playing ugly, and it's entirely possible a Texans team we thought was finished a couple weeks ago could be leading the division a fortnight from now."
That's two weeks. He uses two-dollar words in a futile attempt to sound intelligent.
24. Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
Last Week: 22
Week 5 Result: Lost at Houston 19-16 (OT)
The Dallas Cowboys are displaying quite the affinity for familiar surroundings in 2018. Dallas is undefeated at home, but Sunday night's loss in Houston marked the third time in as many road trips that the Cowboys have lost away from AT&T Stadium.
The reason for this loss is no harder to pinpoint than the last two were: Once again, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas offense struggled.
Against Houston, a Dallas offense that entered the week in the NFL's bottom five was outgained by 180 yards. Dallas managed well under four yards per carry, committed seven penalties, turned the ball over twice and was just 4-of-14 on third down.
Dallas has little in the way of an outside passing game. Only one wideout had even 20 yards in the game: Tavon Austin, who accrued all 44 of his yards on a single long catch.
The Cowboys are bland and predictable on offense. Run Elliott, run Elliott, hope for a manageable third down. So, the Texans stacked the line and took Zeke away.
It's a blueprint you can expect to see on a weekly basis, including most assuredly in Dallas next Sunday against a seething Jaguars team.
That undefeated home record is in serious trouble.
23. Atlanta Falcons (1-4)
Last Week: 18
Week 5 Result: Lost at Pittsburgh 41-17
It's fork-sticking time. The husky lady is singing…loudly. Turn out the lights, the party's over.
The 2018 Atlanta Falcons are toast.
Sunday's trip to Pittsburgh was about as close to a must-win as you're going to find in Week 5. A loss would drop the reeling Falcons to 1-4—potentially three games back of the division-leading Saints.
With a head-to-head loss, to boot.
The Falcons did not, in fact, win. They didn't come close. Instead, an injury-ravaged Falcons defense was embarrassed yet again. It marked the third consecutive contest in which Atlanta surrendered at least 37 points.
It's only early October, but Davenport's seen enough.
"It's not Atlanta's fault that the team's two best defenders were lost to major injuries," he said. "But that doesn't change the fact that the Falcons are awful defensively. They can't stop anyone. At home or on the road. And there's no reason to think that's going to change any time soon. There won't be a home-team Super Bowl this year, either. This team is done. Kaput. Finished."
22. Miami Dolphins (3-2)
Last Week: 21
Week 5 Result: Lost at Cincinnati 27-17
The Miami Dolphins had a golden opportunity to make the analysts at Bleacher Report eat some crow for slotting them outside the top 20 last week despite a 3-1 record. To show that they're less the team that got blasted by the Patriots in Week 4 than the squad that won its first three. And at the end of the third quarter in Cincinnati, the Dolphins were up 17-3 and cruising.
Then Miami remembered something important: The Dolphins are not very good.
The fourth quarter against the Bengals was a fiasco. A disaster. Miami allowed 24 unanswered points to Cincinnati, including a pair of back-breaking defensive touchdowns after Ryan Tannehill turnovers.
Presented with a shot to re-legitimize themselves after last week's meltdown against the Patriots, the Dolphins squandered it in spectacular fashion—and legitimized their spot in the bottom half of these rankings.
21. Seattle Seahawks (2-3)
Last Week: 20
Week 5 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Rams 33-31
When the Seattle Seahawks travel to face the Oakland Raiders in Week 6, it will be with visions of what might have been dancing in their heads.
On one hand, it can be argued that Sunday's home loss to the undefeated Rams was actually a step forward for the team. The Seahawks gave the Rams all they could handle, and it looks like Seattle has found an offensive identity as a smashmouth, power-running team.
But the Seahawks also had a fourth-quarter lead in this game and couldn't hold it. The defense allowed a staggering 468 yards of total offense. A once-formidable Seattle defense is now bad.
And that makes Seattle's battle for a wild-card spot for an uphill one.
The Seahawks came close on Sunday—close to upsetting the NFC's best team and creating a little doubt about the NFC West.
But close doesn't count—and the doubt that came after is whether this Seattle team can make the playoffs at all.
20. Denver Broncos (2-3)
Last Week: 16
Week 5 Result: Lost at New York Jets 34-16
Remember when the Denver Broncos won their first two games and some people thought they might be good?
Neither do we. And we've blocked out that we kept Denver in the top half of these rankings after it lost a close one to Kansas City last week. Maybe Week 5's blowout loss in New York was the result of a hangover from that game. Maybe it was the trip east for a 1 p.m. start. Or maybe it's just that the Broncos are a middling team on a good day—and this was definitely not a good day.
The Broncos allowed over 14 yards per carry to Isaiah Crowell, 41 yards per catch to Robby Anderson and over 500 yards of total offense to the Jets.
That makes three straight losses for the fighting Keenums, who didn't have much fight in them Sunday.
"Case Keenum keeps throwing picks," Davenport said, "which is bad enough. But 500-plus yards to a Jets team led by a rookie QB who didn't even complete half his passes is embarrassing. The only thing stopping Denver from being the worst team in the AFC West is Oakland."
19. Detroit Lions (2-3)
Last Week: 24
Week 5 Result: Won vs. Green Bay Packers 31-23
Raise your hand if you correctly predicted that the Detroit Lions would peel off 24 unanswered points to open their game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday.
If your hand is up you should really run for office, because you are completely full of it.
That's exactly what happened at Ford Field in Week 5, though. And while the Lions nearly squandered that lead (Matt Patricia needs to buy Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby a fruit basket or something), they didn't.
This is a Lions team that was all but written off after losing for the third time in four games last week. Sure, the Lions shocked the Patriots in Week 3. But outside that one Sunday night, the Lions had looked decidedly bad.
However, with a second win this season over what most would call a good Packers team, the Lions kept the season on the rails for at least one more week.
With a win next week at Miami, the Lions can sneak their way back to .500—and that's not out of the realm of reason.
18. Tennessee Titans (3-2)
Last Week: 15
Week 5 Result: Lost 13-12 at Buffalo
The Tennessee Titans have been the kings of ugly football in 2018. Whether it's been a loss to the Miami Dolphins or a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Titans are most assuredly not accruing many style points this season.
On Sunday in Buffalo, they took ugly to an entirely new level.
Against the Bills, the Titans managed just 221 yards of total offense. Tennessee turned the ball over three times. Marcus Mariota threw for all of 129 yards and a pick.
And most importantly, the Titans lost to what might be the worst team in the National Football League.
There's no sugarcoating this one. The Titans laid a big, fat, rotten egg and then choked on the stench when it cracked open.
This, after beating the defending Super Bowl champions the week before.
On a rough day for the AFC South's front-runners, the Titans somehow found a way to out-stink the Jaguars. And as we'll discuss a bit later on, that took some doing.
17. Cleveland Browns (2-2-1)
Last Week: 23
Week 5 Result: Won 12-9 vs. Baltimore (OT)
The Cleveland Browns are trying their level best to give each and every one of their loyal and long-suffering fans an aneurysm in 2018.
For the third time in five games, the Browns played in overtime. For much of the second half, the game had the feel of yet another crushing loss. Another fourth-quarter lead squandered. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.
But then something strange happened, The Browns made a few plays in OT, rookie Greg Joseph coaxed a knuckleball over the uprights from 37 yards out and the Browns won their first game on a Sunday in 37fƒ tries and their first AFC North contest since October of 2015.
Five games into the season, the Browns have already equaled the number of wins the Detroit Lions had the year after they went 0-16. Cleveland's five games have been decided by a total of 13 points—and two of those games came against playoff teams from a year ago.
The Browns may not be good yet. But they're getting there.
"Cleveland might be the most difficult team to read so far this season," Sobleski said. "The Browns have played three overtime contests, found ways to lose and pulled off a couple last-minute victories as well. Any further success will be based off two factors: Baker Mayfield playing more like a veteran than a rookie, and the defense continuing to create turnovers. Cleveland leads the NFL with 15 forced turnovers."
Gagnon did Sobleski one better.
"The Browns should be 5-0," he said. "And no, they aren't 5-0, but these are power rankings, not standings. Few teams in football have been as consistently competitive this season, and it's time to start considering them legit contenders."
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2)
Last Week: 17
Week 5 Result: Bye
It's already been a wild ride for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After shocking the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles in the season's first two games, the Bucs were the talk of football. However, back-to-back setbacks (including a blowout loss in Chicago a week ago) sent Tampa crashing back to earth and caused a change at quarterback.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was red-hot in his first two starts this year, but after a miserable game in Chicago, Tampa turned back to Jameis Winston, who will make the start when the Buccaneers travel to Atlanta next week.
Tampa has shown the ability to rack up yardage (the team entered Week 5 third in the NFL in total offense). But the Buccaneers have also struggled mightily to stop anyone; only the Kansas City Chiefs have allowed more yards per game than the Buccaneers' 445.8.
If the team keeps allowing upwards of 450 yards a game, it isn't going to matter who the quarterback is.
15. Washington Redskins (2-2)
Last Week: 19
Week 5 Result: Lost 43-19 at New Orleans
There's no shame in losing to the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome. The Saints are one of the best teams in the NFL.
But the way the Redskins were waxed Monday night has to be concerning for head coach Jay Gruden. A unit that entered the night first in the NFL in scoring defense had no answer whatsoever for Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense.
Washington was blitzed for 43 points and almost 450 total yards. The Saints could have had more—they chewed the last 10 minutes off the game clock before taking mercy on a Redskins defense that was thoroughly outclassed.
Alex Smith and the offense weren't much better. Smith threw for 275 yards, but a big chunk of that was in garbage time. And Smith turned it over twice. Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson were non-factors—Washington gained just 39 yards on the ground and averaged only 2.2 yards per carry.
In a week in which the NFC East went winless, the Redskins are still in first place.
But with the Panthers coming to the nation's capital Sunday, that may not be for long.
14. Green Bay Packers (2-2-1)
Last Week: 9
Week 5 Result: Lost at Detroit 31-23
Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby needs a hug.
Granted, Crosby's shaky day wasn't the only reason that the Packers fell in Detroit on Sunday. Crosby didn't spot the Lions a 24-0 lead at halftime. Or lose three fumbles in the game. Or allow Lions tailback Kerryon Johnson to average almost six yards a carry.
But what Crosby did was miss five kicks. Five. Four field goals and an extra point…in one game.
That's 13 points Crosby cost Green Bay that were left off the board—in an eight-point game.
He's not the scapegoat—Green Bay was blasted in the first half and just couldn't recover. But those missed kicks will probably be the main topic of talk radio in Titletown this week.
After all, it's easier to talk about that than the defensive lapses and offensive sloppiness that cost the Packers a game in which they had almost twice as many total yards as the Lions.
Week 5 wasn't even a little short on weirdness. But the Packers-splat in Motown might be the oddest happening of all.
13. Baltiimore Ravens (3-2)
Last Week: 12
Week 5 Result: Lost at Cleveland 12-9 (OT)
Heading into Sunday's matchup in Cleveland, the general consensus was that the Baltimore Ravens would handle the Browns and move to 4-1 on the season. The Ravens were fresh off an impressive win over the rival Steelers, and the Browns hadn't won a game on Sunday since 2015.
Someone forgot the tell the Browns.
The Ravens did not look especially sharp. Joe Flacco completed just over half of his 56 pass attempts and threw a red-zone interception. Baltimore was held out of the end zone and outgained by a Browns team that hadn't won a game in the division in almost three calendar years.
That last one—in 2015—also came against the Ravens.
On a day when the Steelers appeared to turn things around and the Bengals kept right on winning, the Ravens picked an unfortunate time to play uninspired football.
Luckily for them, next week they play the kings of uninspired football in Nashville.
12. Los Angeles Chargers (3-2)
Last Week: 14
Week 5 Result: Won vs. Oakland 26-10
Like last week's tilt with the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday's matchup with the Oakland Raiders was a classic Chargers trap game—a chance for the Bolts to again display their maddening habit of playing down to an inferior opponent.
For once though, Philip Rivers and the Chargers resisted the urge. The Chargers didn't annihilate the Raiders, but they did race out to a significant early lead then methodically cruised to an emphatic win.
It's been lost in Kansas City's phenomenal start, but this Chargers team has quietly been pretty good. Their two losses are to the NFL's two undefeated teams, and the Chargers were at least competitive in those games.
The task for these Chargers will be consistently putting forth an effort like in Week 5. If they do so, next week's road trip to Cleveland and a home matchup with the Titans after that are winnable games.
But the Chargers are the lone team to lose to the Browns two years ago and barely beat the awful 49ers last week. Nothing can be taken for granted with this team.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)
Last Week: 6
Week 5 Result: Lost vs. Minnesota 23-21
There's trouble brewing in Philadelphia.
Getting back quarterback Carson Wentz was supposed to be a shot in the arm for the defending champs. But after Sunday's loss to Minnesota, the Eagles are 1-2 with Wentz in the lineup and under .500 for the season.
It's not all Wentz's fault—he threw for over 300 yards against the Vikings with a pair of touchdowns and no picks. But Wentz did lose a fumble that was returned for a score.
The defense is the real reason for worry. Philly's run D is solid, but the secondary continues to be a mess. Kirk Cousins topped 300 yards himself in Week 5, and the wideout duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs torched the Eagles for 207 yards and a score.
It's not time to panic just yet, as no one's really pulling away in the NFC East. But this team is looking less and less like a defending champion as we move farther into the season.
And that is no bueno.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2-1)
Last Week: 13
Week 5 Result: Won vs. Atlanta 41-17
We may look back at Week 5 as the pivotal moment in the season of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Backed into something of a corner by an embarrassing home loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week (the second time this year that the Steelers had been flattened at Heinz Field), Pittsburgh was something of a desperate team as the Atlanta Falcons came to town.
They looked it. And that's meant as a compliment.
The Steelers came out swinging in Week 5, posting easily their best effort of the year in a dominant win over the reeling Falcons. Pittsburgh was efficient and opportunistic, but Davenport believes the key to a turnaround for Pittsburgh lies on the ground.
"The biggest stat for the Steelers Sunday was 29/131/4.5," he said, "as in 29 carries for 131 yards and a 4.5 yards-per-carry average. That, from a team that entered Week 5 dead last in the NFL in rushing. If the Steelers can run the ball that effectively against the Bengals next week, they'll hit the bye just a half-game back of Cincy with a head-to-head win. And they will reportedly get Le'Veon Bell back then, too."
Maybe Pittsburgh wasn't in as much trouble as we thought after all.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (4-1)
Last Week: 11
Week 5 Result: Won vs. Miami 27-17
For the first three quarters of Sunday's matchup with the Miami Dolphins, it appeared that the Cincinnati Bengals were hell-bent on reminding us why they can't be trusted as serious contenders in the AFC. The Bengals were outclassed on both sides of the ball and trailed 17-3.
But NFL games have four quarters. And in the final 15 minutes of the game, the Bengals put it into overdrive.
Cincinnati outscored the Dolphins 24-0 in the fourth quarter Sunday, burying Miami in a deluge of scoring that included two defensive scores en-route to a 10-point win that leaves the Bengals in sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
Davenport was both impressed and skeptical after the comeback.
"The Bengals deserve credit for not folding Sunday and roaring back for the win," he said. "But that doesn't erase the fact they looked pedestrian for 45 minutes against a mediocre Dolphins team at home. If Andy Dalton and Co. play like that next week against a Steelers team they've lost six straight meetings to, the Bengals are going to get smoked. Beat Pittsburgh and I'll pull the asterisk off your contender status. Until then, you get the raised-eyebrow treatment."
Sobleski's buying, however.
"Beyond the undefeated Chiefs and Rams, the Bengals sit with a 4-1 record," he said. "The Bengals already have impressive victories over the Bears, Falcons and Dolphins. The Bengals rattled off 27 straight points Sunday to overcome a 17-point deficit. Two of those scores came from the defense, courtesy of Sam Hubbard and Michael Johnson. Impressive offensive weapons coupled with an opportunistic defense leads to good things."
8. Minnesota Vikings (2-2-1)
Last Week: 8
Week 5 Result: Won at Philadelphia 23-21
After falling on the road to the Los Angeles Rams a week ago, the Minnesota Vikings entered Week 5 facing a tall task. Travel to Philly for a rematch of last year's NFC Championship beatdown staring at the possibility of a 1-3-1 start.
It was gut-check time. And when the bell rang, Minnesota answered. Despite having no ground game to speak of, the Vikings rode Kirk Cousins' right arm and a record-setting performance from Adam Thielen to one of Week 5's most important victories.
It wasn't flawless by any stretch. The Vikings led 20-6 late but had to hold on to get the W. Though it was tough, the important thing is that the Vikings did hold on, and after a brutal stretch to open the season, they get a couple of tomato cans before hosting the Saints in a few weeks.
Of course, the last time the Vikings played a tomato can, the Bills beat the snot out of them.
But for now at least, Minnesota appears to be back on track.
"We may have declared them dead too early," Gagnon wrote. "They hung with the NFL's best team on the road in Week 4 before dominating the defending champions on the road in Week 5. Kirk Cousins has been somewhat quietly fantastic, and the Vikings are on track to make another run."
7. Carolina Panthers (3-1)
Last Week: 10
Week 5 Result: Won vs. New York Giants 33-31
Graham Gano deserves a raise.
Carolina's kicker bailed his teammates out in a huge way in Week 5, hitting a game-winning 63-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Panthers to 3-1.
You read that right. Sixty-three yards. Tied an NFL record.
However, the Panthers never should have been in this position. Not coming off the bye week. Not against a bad New York Giants team.
Quarterback Cam Newton was inconsistent and sloppy with the ball, tossing a pair of interceptions. Christian McCaffrey and the ground game were quiet. The Panthers managed just a single sack against a bad New York line.
Carolina's schedule tightens up from here. Of the team's next five games, just one is against a team that presently has a losing record.
If the Panthers want to keep pace with the Saints, they need to tighten things up as well.
"I know a win's a win," Gagnon said, "but it's rather embarrassing that the Panthers needed a miraculous walk-off field goal to beat the lowly Giants at home coming off a bye week. They're still a contender, but I'm worried about a potential lack of consistency."
6. Chicago Bears (3-1)
Last Week: 7
Week 5 Result: Bye
Had you said before the season that the Chicago Bears would enter the month of October in first place in the NFC North, we would probably have recommended you cut back on the day-drinking.
Liquid lunches are nothing but trouble.
And yet here we are, with the Bears headed into their bye at 3-1 after blasting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in Week 4.
Chicago's defense has been dominant. Khalil Mack was an expensive acquisition, but he looks to have been a smart one as well. The edge-rusher is the front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year honors after a September rampage in which he had at least one sack in all four games.
The surprise last week was quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who torched the Buccaneers for six touchdowns. In 12 starts a year ago, Trubisky had seven.
He's the key. If the Chicago offense can come close to matching the defense's level of play, the Bears will be in the division race for the long haul.
Long-suffering Bears fans will no doubt drink to that.
5, Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2)
Last Week: 4
Week 5 Result: Lost at Kansas City 30-14
There is one quarterback above all others who strikes fear into the hearts of the Jacksonville Jaguars. It's not Tom Brady. Or Ben Roethlisberger. Or Patrick Mahomes.
It's Bad Blake Bortles—and boy oh boy was Triple-B in rare form Sunday in Kansas City.
Only Bortles could turn a 430-yard passing day into a nightmare. Of course, that's what happens when you single-handedly account for all five of the turnovers that led to the Jags getting smoked by the Chiefs.
This was Jacksonville's chance, after dropping a clunker two weeks ago against the Titans, to show that the real Jaguars are the team that smacked around the defending AFC champs a few weeks back.
Instead, Bortles sent a clear reminder to the AFC's other front-runners that while Jacksonville's defense is stout and he's capable of a big stat line, Bortles is equally liable to choke on a magnitude that all the Heimlich maneuvers in the world can't fix.
4. New England Patriots (3-2)
Last Week: 5
Week 5 Result: Won vs. Indianapolis 38-24
So, about the New England Patriots being in trouble.
As it turns out, the only folks in trouble may well be the rest of the AFC—again.
For the second straight week, the Patriots handled an inferior opponent with relative ease. This week it was a beaten-up Colts team that got a thumping in a game that really wasn't as close as the score.
It was also a game in which New England showcased some new offensive weaponry. Josh Gordon made his first big catch as a Patriot, and rookie tailback Sony Michel piled up 110 total yards. Both had 34-yard touchdowns in the second half that blew this game open.
A so-so New England defense will be tested in a big way against the Kansas City Chiefs next week, but for now, it appears the Patriots are back on track after their September stumble.
Per Sobleski, we shouldn't be surprised by any of it.
"The Patriots are who we thought they were," he said, "and we never let them off the hook. Two straight impressive victories over the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts placed the Pats where they belong atop the AFC East with a 3-2 record. Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman's additions to the lineup are a legitimate boost to Tom Brady's surrounding cast."
3. New Orleans Saints (4-1)
Last Week: 3
Week 5 Result: Won 43-19 vs. Washington
It was a safe bet that there was going to be a party in New Orleans on Monday night. With 201 passing yards, Drew Brees would pass Brett Favre and Peyton Manning to become the NFL's all-time leading passer. A victory over Washington would make things all the sweeter.
Breaking the record on a 62-yard touchdown was just showing off.
The Saints played their most complete game of the season in blasting Washington in Week 5. With Mark Ingram back from suspension and rookie Tre'Quan Smith emerging as a complementary deep threat, the offense might be even scarier than we thought.
The defense also put forth its best effort of the year, holding Washington to 13 points over the first three quarters and winning consistently at the line of scrimmage.
Brees will get some time to enjoy his achievement, as the Saints are headed into the bye.
But they have preparations to make as well—their schedule toughens up with road trips to Baltimore and Minnesota in Weeks 7 and 8 and then a home date with the currently undefeated Rams.
In fact, the Saints' next four games are all against teams that have at least a .500 record.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-0)
Last Week: 2
Week 5 Result: Won vs. Jacksonville 30-14
The marquee matchup of Sunday's slate took place in Kansas City. It was supposed to be a classic battle of offense vs. defense—the Jaguars' stifling D against the Chiefs' high-flying O.
It wound up being a rout.
Mind you, it wasn't the Kansas City offense that won the day here; Patrick Mahomes had easily his worst game of the season, throwing a pair of interceptions. Tyreek Hill was held in relative check, managing just 61 yards on four catches.
But while Kansas City's porous defense allowed over 500 yards of total offense, that number is misleading. Most of it came in garbage time after the Chiefs had a huge lead compliments of five Jaguars turnovers and a defensive score.
The Chiefs have now routed two of the AFC's Super Bowl front-runners entering the season—first the Steelers and now the Jags.
One more test remains—a final hurdle before the Chiefs stake an irrefutable claim as the AFC's best team: a trip to Gillette Stadium next week to battle the Patriots.
1. Los Angeles Rams (5-0)
Last Week: 1
Week 5 Result: Won at Seattle 33-31
Over the first month of the season, the Los Angeles Rams hadn't been tested. They also hadn't played a game outside the state of California.
In Week 5 both happened—and the Rams passed the test.
This isn't to say there's no room for concern after the Rams eked out a two-point win in Seattle. The Rams were gashed on the ground for an eye-popping 190 yards by the Seahawks and were minus-two in turnovers.
But the L.A. offense was nigh unstoppable yet again, racking up 468 yards of total offense and topping 30 points for the fifth time in as many games.
Not every game will be a cakewalk—even for a team as talented as the Rams. Seattle is arguably the hardest road environment in the NFL. And the Rams took the best the Seahawks had to give and still got out of there with a win.
With a pair of less-than-stellar opponents, the Rams have a great shot at heading into a Week 8 home date with the Packers with a chance for a perfect first half.