2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 5?

NFL StaffContributor IOctober 5, 2021

2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 5?

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    Bleacher Report

    The biggest constant in the NFL is that nothing is constant. Week 4 of the 2021 season was a reminder of that.

    This isn't to say nothing has gone according to plan. The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit at 3-1 and atop the NFC South after downing the New England Patriots on Sunday night. The Green Bay Packers are the class of the NFC North after rolling the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field.

    But there have been plenty of surprises as well. Those Steelers have dropped three in a row and look more like a cupcake than a contender. The Cincinnati Bengals are 3-1 and tied for first in the AFC North after a come-from-behind win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. And in Sunday's showdown in Los Angeles between the Rams and Cardinals, Arizona staked a claim to the title of the NFL's best team—in emphatic fashion.

    Oh, and the New York Jets won…for reals.

    After another week of zaniness across the league, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brad Gagnon, Brent Sobleski and Gary Davenport have gathered once again to sort through Week 4 and rank the league's teams from worst to first.

    It may be a while before you see those aforementioned Cardinals.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Last Week: 32

    Week 4 Result: Lost at Cincinnati 24-21

    In seven seasons as the head coach at Ohio State, Urban Meyer's Buckeyes lost nine games.

    At the rate things are going, his Jacksonville Jaguars will surpass that well before Thanksgiving.

    After blowing a 14-0 halftime lead at Cincinnati, the Jaguars are 0-4 and have lost 19 consecutive games dating back to 2020.

    After the game, Meyer admitted to reporters that the loss was devastating.

    "It's devastating. Heartbreaking," he said. "These guys. Usually, I'm not wrong about stuff like that. I just see a good team in there. I see good guys. I see good hearts. I see guys that work, and I told them I'm not wrong. I'm not wrong about that stuff. This team's going to win some games."

    The Jags have come close of late. Jacksonville held second-half leads against both the Cardinals and Bengals the past two weeks. But with five straight games coming up against teams that won 10 or more games in 2020, it's hard to see where win No. 1 will come from.

    The post-merger NFL-record 26-game losing streak will enter the conversation soon.

31. Detroit Lions (0-4)

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Last Week: 29

    Week 4 Result: Lost at Chicago 24-14

    A lot is different in Detroit this year. The Lions have a new quarterback in Jared Goff. A new coach in Dan Campbell.

    But while much has changed, one thing hasn't—the Lions are still terrible.

    Facing a Bears team that had fewer than 100 total yards the week before against Cleveland, the Lions allowed 24 points and 373 yards. Detroit was putrid against the run, surrendering 188 yards and almost five yards a carry.

    There doesn't appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel for these Lions. After barely falling short against the Baltimore Ravens, the Lions came out flat in Chicago. Campbell continues to be ultra-aggressive on fourth down even though it usually doesn't work (1-of-3 against Chicago) and that his defense can't stop anyone.

    The offense is OK at best. The defense entered Week 4 last in the league. And with four of their next six games on the road (including three matchups with 2020 playoff teams), the losses are apt to keep piling up.

30. Houston Texans (1-3)

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    Joshua Bessex/Associated Press

    Last Week: 28

    Week 4 Result: Lost at Buffalo 40-0

    The Houston Texans are a mess.

    This isn't news. Everyone expected the Houston Texans to struggle in 2021. But over the season's first three weeks, the Texans had at least played hard.

    Sunday in Buffalo, everything fell apart.

    Calling the second start from rookie Davis Mills a disaster is an affront to disasters. Mills completed 11 of his 21 pass attempts for 87 yards—unless you count the four passes he tossed to Bills defenders. On a day when the Bills marched up and down the field to the tune of 40 points and 450 yards, the Texans had 109 yards of offense.

    "Credit the Texans for hanging in there against the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers for at least part of the game, but Houston was exposed against the Bills as maybe the least talented team in the NFL," Davenport said. "Given what we saw in Week 4 and the team's upcoming schedule, it's not at all hard to imagine the Texans hit their Week 10 bye with a 1-8 record. They're terrible."

29. New York Jets (1-3)

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Last Week: 31

    Week 4 Result: Won vs. Tennessee 27-24 (OT)

    The first three starts of Zach Wilson's NFL career were a nightmare. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft entered Week 4 averaging less than 210 passing yards per game with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. Wilson had been sacked a staggering 15 times.

    The New York Jets still aren't a good football team. But after stunning the Tennessee Titans in overtime, the Jets are winless no longer—and Wilson played a big role in that first victory.

    Against a Tennessee secondary that has struggled dating back to 2020, Wilson finally looked the part of a second overall pick: 297 passing yards, two scores and a passer rating of 97.3. Wilson led a long drive to kick off extra time that resulted in the game-winning field goal.

    New York's defense deserves some dap after the team's first win as well. Gang Green gave up a big game to Titans running back Derrick Henry and allowed 430 total yards, but New York was all over Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill, sacking him seven times.

28. Atlanta Falcons (1-3)

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Last Week: 27

    Week 4 Result: Lost vs. Washington 34-30

    Last week, the Atlanta Falcons took some time off from losing to eke out a win in New York over the Giants.

    At home in Week 4, it was time to get back to work.

    If there's good news for the Falcons this week, it's that the offense got on track. The Falcons scored 30 points Sunday after averaging 16 points per game over the season's first three weeks, and veteran quarterback Matt Ryan threw four touchdown passes without an interception.

    But Atlanta's defense continued to struggle, giving up over 30 points for the third time in four games. In news that should surprise no one, all three of those games were Falcons losses.

    Speaking to reporters after the game, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith lamented his team's inability to get the stop that would have put this game away.

    "Obviously frustrating," he said. "We had multiple opportunities to win that game. We didn't."

    It won't be Smith's last lamentation this season.

27. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3)

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Last Week: 22

    Week 4 Result: Lost at Green Bay 27-17

    We have been doing power rankings at Bleacher Report for several years.

    We can't ever remember listing the Pittsburgh Steelers this low.

    Since downing the Bills in Week 1, the Steelers have dropped three straight—the latest a 10-point defeat in Green Bay that wasn't as close as the final score. In all three losses, the story has been the same. Thanks in large part to horrid offensive line play, the Steelers can't get going, Najee Harris has no holes to run through and Ben Roethlisberger takes a pounding nearly every time he drops back to pass.

    Pittsburgh radio host and Tribune-Review columnist Mark Madden put the team on full blast Monday.

    "I hate to cite too much of the play-calling and on surrendering on fourth down," Madden said. "Those things are worthy of criticism. But the offensive line stinks. The quarterback stinks. And the defense ain't that good. Everything after that is just kind of nitpicking."

    The Steelers are alone in the AFC North cellar—a full two games back of Cincinnati, Cleveland and Baltimore.

    And the issues that plague the team aren't easy to solve in-season.

26. New York Giants (1-3)

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    Brett Duke/Associated Press

    Last Week: 30

    Week 4 Result: Won at New Orleans 27-21 (OT)

    After falling at home to a bad Atlanta Falcons team in Week 3, the New York Giants looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL.

    So of course, that same Giants team went to New Orleans in Week 4 and stunned the Saints despite being short-handed at wide receiver.

    The Giants can find multiple reasons for optimism from the game. Quarterback Daniel Jones topped 400 passing yards for the first time ever, and while he threw his first interception of the season, that came on a Hail Mary attempt at the half. Running back Saquon Barkley had easily his best game of the season, tallying 126 total yards and two scores on 18 touches.

    The Giants had come close before, losing on late field goals in Week 2 and Week 3. But Jones told reporters after the game that it was good to get over the hump.

    "We've shown glimpses of what we can be as an offense throughout these first four games," he said. "We made a few more plays and made the plays when it counted. ... We needed a win and there was a high sense of urgency."

    Gagnon is on board with the idea the Giants could be onto something.

    "Since a rough Week 1 loss to the Broncos, the Giants have outscored the competition," he said. "Daniel Jones isn't a Pro Bowl candidate, but he's made obvious progress and has become less sloppy with the ball. He and that offense should only get better as the key cogs spend more time together on and off the field. Don't rule out the G-Men in the always wide-open NFC East."

25. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Last Week: 23

    Week 4 Result: Lost vs. Kansas City 42-30

    In Week 1, the Philadelphia Eagles blasted the Falcons in Atlanta.

    Things have gone downhill since.

    Defensively, that slide has become an avalanche. After getting gouged for 471 yards and 42 points by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, the Eagles have allowed over 40 points in back-to-back contests. The Eagles had three touchdowns nullified by penalties in Week 4 and were 3-of-6 in the red zone—mistakes that didn't sit well with first-year head coach Nick Sirianni.

    "You're furious that you're 1-3," Sirianni told reporters. "The self-inflicted wounds have got to stop."

    A bright spot Sunday was the play of second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts, who threw for a career-high 387 yards.

    But things won't get any easier for Hurts and the reeling Eagles. After a trip to Charlotte to face the Panthers in Week 5, Philly hosts the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers on a short week before a trip to Las Vegas.

    1-3 could be 1-6 before long.

24. Minnesota Vikings (1-3)

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Last Week: 21

    Week 4 Result: Lost vs. Cleveland 14-7

    After losing close games in the first two weeks by a combined four points, the Minnesota Vikings appeared to have figured something out after racking up 23 unanswered points in last week's win over the Seahawks. That held true on the opening drive of Sunday's game when they drove the length of the field with ease and punched it in the end zone.

    However, that touchdown would be the only points the Vikings scored against the visiting Browns. After four games, they find themselves in a 1-3 hole and scrambling to keep the season from spiraling out of control.

    Head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters he's not about to hit any panic buttons.

    "I've been doing this 27 years. I know good teams and I know bad teams," he said. "I know this team has a chance to be pretty darn good."

    Of course, some of that lack of panic may be because Minnesota closes out a three-game homestand next week against the winless Lions.

    "The Browns defense dismantled what was a pretty good Vikings offense through the first three weeks," Sobleski wrote. "Kirk Cousins ranked top-four in QBR, quarterback rating and Pro Football Focus grade entering the contest. The downturn in performance occurred because of weak line play. Cleveland's defensive line dominated. The Vikings are an outside zone scheme, which sets up the entire offensive structure. Defenders in the backfield against the run and collapsing the pocket disrupts the scheme's rhythm. Maybe a healthy Christian Darrisaw will help when plugged into left tackle. Probably not, though."

23. Indianapolis Colts (1-3)

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Last Week: 26

    Week 4 Result: Won at Miami 27-17

    The Indianapolis Colts have had precious little to cheer about over an 0-3 start. But they finally had a few reasons to smile in a 10-point victory in Miami on Sunday.

    For starters, Colts quarterback Carson Wentz played his best game since joining the Colts. The numbers weren't jaw-dropping—228 yards and two scores on 24-of-32 passing. But Wentz didn't throw an interception and posted a passer rating of 115.1.

    Running back Jonathan Taylor had himself a day as well: 103 yards and a score on 16 carries and 11 yards on three catches.

    Beating a Miami team whose offense has fallen off a cliff since Tua Tagovailoa went down won't fix all that ails the Colts. But given the sad state of affairs that is the AFC South, the Colts are just one game back of the division-"leading" Titans ahead of next week's trip to Baltimore.

    "The Colts are in a predicament," Sobleski said. "They finally won a game, but they're not good. Yet they're well within striking distance in the weak AFC South even with a 1-3 record. No one is running away with the division. The organization also has to consider that it will cough up a first-round pick if/when Wentz plays over 75 percent of the snaps this season. Indianapolis will have to consider future implications if the squad doesn't get on track."

22. Chicago Bears (2-2)

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Last Week: 25

    Week 4 Result: Won vs. Detroit 24-14

    To say Justin Fields had a rocky professional debut last week is the mother of all understatements. Against the Browns, the Bears had one net passing yard. For the game.

    Things went a little better in the rookie's first start at Soldier Field.

    In fairness, Fields wasn't great throwing the ball against Detroit—11 completions in 17 attempts for 209 yards with an interception and a passer rating of 82.7. But the Bears got the ground game going (188 rushing yards), the Bears moved the pocket and Fields made plays when he needed to.

    The question becomes whether Fields showed enough to earn the starting job. Head coach Matt Nagy has insisted veteran Andy Dalton will be the team's starter again once he's healthy.

    Nagy left the door open after the game for Fields to face the Raiders in Week 4.

    "We'll work [through] it," he told reporters. "All we wanted to do, quite honestly, today, was, win the game, go to 2-2 and be able to talk about everything else as we go."

    The Bears have something else to work through as well. Running backs David Montgomery (knee) and Damien Williams (quad) both left the game with injuries, leaving their Week 5 status in question.

21. Washington Football Team (2-2)

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Last Week: 24

    Week 4 Result: Won at Atlanta 34-30

    The Washington Football Team has some things to be happy about from Week 4. The biggest, of course, was a hard-fought win over the Falcons that got the team back to .500 and moved it into second place in the NFC East.

    Quarterback Taylor Heinicke was sharp, passing for 290 yards and three scores with a passer rating of 127.1. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin had a huge game, catching six of Heinicke's passes for 123 yards and two scores.

    But Washington's supposedly stout defense was gashed again, surrendering 374 yards and allowing at least 29 points for the third time in four games.

    "Washington's vaunted defensive line isn't dominating the line of scrimmage," Davenport said, "and Chase Young is still searching for his first sack of the season. Washington's defense was supposed to carry the team this season—to keep the offense in games and keep Washington in position to win games. With that not happening, Washington is a clear second-fiddle (at best) in the division to Dallas."

20. Miami Dolphins (1-3)

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Last Week: 19

    Week 4 Result: Lost vs. Indianapolis 27-17

    ESPN's Adam Schefter reported early Sunday that the Miami Dolphins should have starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa back from his rib injury in a couple of weeks.

    The question is whether there will be anything to return to.

    After getting handled at home by the Colts in Week 4, the Dolphins have lost three in a row. Since Tagovailoa got hurt, the offense has imploded. Sunday against Indy, Jacoby Brissett managed just 199 passing yards, and much of that came late with the game effectively decided. With Brissett unable to move the ball through the air, opponents are keying on the run—Miami gained 35 yards on the ground against the Colts.

    Head coach Brian Flores admitted to reporters that Miami's skid is taking its toll.

    "I think we've got to take a look at everything," he said after the game. "We will take a look at everything. I would say it's really across the board—offense, defense, special teams. It starts with me, coaching. I've got to do a better job. I say that every week. I don't want to say that every week."

    Tagovailoa's return may be what it takes to pull the Fins out of this funk.

    A win in Week 5 at Tampa looks…let's go with unlikely.

    "Quarterback is a problem many of us expected to exist in Miami this year, regardless of Tagovailoa's health," Gagnon said. "But what the hell is going on with Flores' expensive and talented defense? This has been an extremely discouraging start for a team that was supposed to take another big step forward in 2021." 

19. New Orleans Saints (2-2)

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    Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

    Last Week: 15

    Week 4 Result: Lost vs. New York Giants 27-21 (OT)

    Good luck figuring out the 2021 New Orleans Saints.

    For the second time this season, the Saints followed up an impressive victory with a lackluster effort. After blasting the Green Bay Packers in Week 1, the Saints laid an egg against the Carolina Panthers. After rebounding in Week 3 against the New England Patriots, it was right back to egg-laying against the hapless New York Giants.

    The New Orleans offense more or less held up its end. Quarterback Jameis Winston avoided turning it over, and star running back Alvin Kamara rushed for 120 yards on 26 carries. But one of Taysom Hill's three pass attempts was picked off, and Kamara wasn't targeted through the air.

    The real surprise was the Saints defense. After an excellent performance against the Patriots, the Saints were gashed for a whopping 485 yards by New York.

    "Every time the thought half-enters my mind that the Saints might be more than an also-ran," Davenport said, "they remind me that while they may not be bad, they aren't especially good either. New Orleans may well get past a flawed Washington team next week, but the Saints aren't more than a one-and-done squad even if they do manage to make the postseason."

    "No team in the league has been as inconsistent as the Saints, who have two 15-plus-point wins, a three-score loss and a defeat at the hands of the previously winless Giants," Gagnon added. "But that shouldn't be surprising because Winston has never been consistent, and he's run into trouble without wide receiver Michael Thomas and left tackle Terron Armstead. The Saints occasionally battle because they've got enough talent to get by with a great head coach, but they're no longer an elite contender."

18. Tennessee Titans (2-2)

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Last Week: 17

    Week 4 Result: Lost at New York Jets 27-24 (OT)

    The Tennessee Titans have problems.

    Despite losing a stunner to the winless Jets in overtime, the Titans remain in first place in an AFC South that is looking more woeful by the week. But it's next to impossible to imagine the Titans we watched Sunday as a legitimate threat in the AFC.

    Yes, the Titans were short their top two receivers against the Jets. But the absence of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones had less to do with Ryan Tannehill's struggles in Week 4 than an offensive line that allowed seven sacks and countless pressures.

    Then there's Tennessee's pass defense, which is awful. Playing against a rookie quarterback who had struggled, Tennessee's leaky secondary allowed almost 300 passing yards. After scoring 20 points in their first three games combined, the Jets put 27 on the board against Tennessee.

    "The Titans are a mess," Davenport said. "They can't move the ball consistently without giving Derrick Henry 78 touches a game, and the defense couldn't cover a bed with a sheet. Isn't much that will send a team plummeting in these rankings more than making the Jets look like an actual NFL squad."

17. New England Patriots (1-3)

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Last Week: 20

    Week 4 Result: Lost vs. Tampa Bay 19-17

    The NFL is a results-driven business. All that matters from Sunday's matchup between the Patriots and Buccaneers is that the Pats couldn't squeak out a win as Nick Folk's potential game-winning kick doinked off the upright.

    But there's room for optimism about the future in Beantown.

    Facing one of the league's better defenses in a game where the Patriots couldn't run the ball, rookie quarterback Mac Jones held his own: 275 passing yards, two scores, one pick and a passer rating north of 100.

    After the game, Jones said that while losing sucks, he believes the team is making progress.

    "We have great leadership on the team, and I can do a better job in practice just being vocal, getting everybody going and I think we made strides but we just have to listen to our leaders and not lose hope," he said. "We have a long season ahead and there's a lot of work to do and we have a lot of progress to make, so we will."

    The schedule cuts the team a break. In Weeks 5 and 7, the Pats face the Texans and Jets, respectively. That those games are sandwiched around a home date with Dallas is…less than ideal.

16. San Francisco 49ers (2-2)

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Last Week: 14

    Week 4 Result: Lost vs. Seattle 28-21

    The Trey Lance era is here—whether the San Francisco 49ers like it or not.

    With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sidelined by a calf injury, the third overall pick in the 2021 draft saw his most extensive playing action of the season Sunday at Levi's Stadium. The results were mixed but encouraging: nine completions in 18 attempts for 157 yards and two scores.

    Lance said after the game that he has much to improve on.

    "Missed some big ones, missed some easy ones, missed some checkdowns, just definitely a few plays that I want back," he said. "I'm going to go back and watch it tonight and I think I'll learn a lot from that."

    Head coach Kyle Shanahan agreed with the assessment.

    "He got thrown in not expecting to get in," Shanahan said. "I thought he ran the ball well, hit some passes, obviously missed some passes, was in a tough situation there when we were down two scores. He did a good job of moving the chains a couple times with his legs. But it looked like a typical first game."

    With Garoppolo set to miss a few weeks, Lance will have a chance to hone his craft.

15. Denver Broncos (3-1)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Last Week: 9

    Week 4 Result: Lost vs. Baltimore 23-7

    It had to happen sooner or later. After games against three teams that were a combined 0-9 entering Week 4, the Denver Broncos would have to up the level of competition.

    That level-up came Sunday in the form of the Baltimore Ravens—and it didn't end well.

    After losing starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a concussion, the Broncos struggled to generate offense, managing 254 total yards and a touchdown. Bridgewater and Drew Lock barely completed half of their pass attempts and gained less than 150 net passing yards.

    Star linebacker Von Miller said the team will have to shake off the moribund effort

    "We just have to respond," Miller said in the postgame press conference. "A week ago, it was a lot of hype. You can't really get caught up in the highs and lows in this game. We all know what problems the NFL presents. It's tough to go 17-0. … We just got to rack 'em up, look at this [game] for a couple hours, get back into the lab on Monday and let's respond."

    With Bridgewater in the concussion protocol, his status for Week 5 is uncertain. That could leave the Broncos with an uphill climb as they prepare to face a desperate Steelers team on the road.

    "Bridgewater won the Broncos' quarterback competition in training camp and played efficient football to start the season," Sobleski said. "He and the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson are the league's only quarterbacks with at least five touchdown passes and no interceptions. Unfortunately, Bridgewater suffered a concussion during Sunday's loss to the Ravens. The Broncos' margin for error is already small. With Lock possibly taking over the offense, his penchant for turnovers could derail the season."

14. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Last Week: 18

    Week 4 Result: Won vs. Jacksonville 24-21

    For a time Thursday night, it appeared the Bungles were going to resurface.

    After booking a decisive victory over the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 3, the Bengals came out looking sloppy on both sides of the ball against the winless Jaguars. It was 14-0 Jacksonville at the half, and were it not for a goal-line stand before the break, it would have been worse.

    However, Joe Burrow and the Bengals came out firing after halftime, peeling off touchdown drives on their first three possessions. By the time rookie Evan McPherson banged through a 35-yard game-winning field goal as time expired, Burrow had thrown for 348 yards and a pair of scores, and the Bengals sat at 3-1 and in first place in the AFC North.

    It wasn't a stylish victory, but pulling out the game after trailing early was a step forward.

    Any celebrations will be short-lived, though. The Bengals need to use their mini-bye to prepare for their biggest test of the season—a visit from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Week 5.

    "It's not great that they dug themselves an early hole against a horrible Jaguars team traveling on short rest Thursday night, but the Bengals a lot of credit for finding a way to recover and salvage the victory," Gagnon said. "We know they have the talent to take a big step this season, and it's encouraging that they seem to be learning how to win."

13. Carolina Panthers (3-1)

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Last Week: 12

    Week 4 Result: Lost at Dallas 36-28

    The Carolina Panthers were one of the league's more surprising teams over the season's first three weeks, riding excellent play from quarterback Sam Darnold and a stifling defense to a perfect record.

    However, that 3-0 start came against teams that are .500 or below a month into the season. Sunday's trip to Dallas was both Carolina's stiffest test to date and the team's first game without star running back Christian McCaffrey, who is nursing a hamstring injury.

    He was missed.

    Carolina's lack of offensive balance wasn't the only reason the Panthers suffered their first loss of the season. Head coach Matt Rhule told reporters he wasn't pleased with any facet of the game in Week 4.

    "Our rush defense has been our sort of calling card," he said. "We were not able to stop the run today, were not able to get to the quarterback, were not able to take the ball away and our offense turned the ball over."

    The setback was unfortunate, but it should also be temporary. Carolina's next four opponents have combined to win four games this year.

12. Seattle Seahawks (2-2)

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    Last Week: 16

    Week 4 Result: Won at San Francisco 28-21

    The Seattle Seahawks entered Week 4 under pressure. Two straight losses left the team at 1-2 and a pair of games back of the NFC West-leading Rams and Cardinals.

    Sunday's victory in San Francisco wasn't pretty. The Seahawks managed just 234 yards of total offense.

    The engine for the win, as it has been so many times in the past, was quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson passed for only 149 yards, but he threw two scoring passes and ran for another, drawing raves from head coach Pete Carroll.

    "I thought Russ was spectacular today," Carroll told reporters. "It was so hard early. He just stayed the course, stayed with it and really kind of recaptured a chance to win this game when you wouldn't think there was any way. It just didn't look like it was going to happen."

    Seattle gutted out a win to get back to .500, but the going doesn't get any easier. Thursday, the Seahawks will play host to a Los Angeles Rams team seething after getting waxed at home by the Cardinals.

11. Las Vegas Raiders

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Last Week: 13

    Week 4 Result: Lost at Los Angeles Chargers 28-14

    Over the first three weeks of the 2021 season, the Las Vegas Raiders twice spotted an opponent a 14-0 lead before roaring back to win the game. Against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Raiders decided to go that one better.

    As it happens, spotting a really good Chargers team three touchdowns is not a recipe for success.

    Losing your first game of the season in the first week of October is hardly cause for panic, especially for a franchise that hasn't posted a winning record since 2016.

    But there were causes for concern Monday night. The Raiders were beaten soundly in the trenches. Las Vegas averaged just 3.8 yards per play and had just 13 first downs. The Raiders tried to mount a second-half rally, but the reality is they were flat-out outplayed in just about every facet of the game.

    The key for the Raiders here may be a short memory—with the Chargers headed to Cleveland, the Broncos off to Pittsburgh and the Chiefs hosting Buffalo, the Raiders home date with the Bears would appear on paper the most winnable game in the division in Week 5.

10. Dallas Cowboys (3-1)

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Last Week: 11

    Week 4 Result: Won vs. Carolina 36-28

    It's time to start taking the Dallas Cowboys seriously.

    The Cowboys have been on fire offensively the past two weeks. Playing the league's No. 1 defense entering Week 4, the Cowboys dissected the Panthers for 433 yards and 36 points. Dallas averaged a robust 7.7 yards per play.

    It is a "pick your poison" situation. Try to play Dak Prescott and the pass, and Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard will gash you on the ground—Elliott carried the ball 20 times for 143 yards Sunday. Load up the box to stuff the run, and Prescott will carve up your secondary. Prescott came up short of 200 passing yards Sunday but threw four touchdown passes.

    Still, as well as the Dallas offense has played, Davenport has been even more impressed with the play of the defense—especially rookie edge-rusher Micah Parsons.

    "The ease with which Parsons has made the switch from off-ball linebacker to edge-rusher is remarkable," Davenport said, "and he added yet another sack Sunday against the Panthers. The rook is carrying the Dallas pass rush right now, and given how well he has done so, he could have Defensive Rookie of the Year locked up by Halloween."

    "The Cowboys are cookin' now," Sobleski added. "While the offense receives most of the attention and deservedly so, the defense has been the real differentiator. The organization has legitimate difference-makers in the front seven and secondary. Parsons is a human wrecking ball as a hybrid linebacker/standup defensive end. Along the back line, cornerback Trevon Diggs has snagged an interception in four straight games. Opponents are moving the ball, but Dallas' defenders fly about and make life far more difficult than they did at any point last season."

9. Green Bay Packers (3-1)

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Last Week: 10

    Week 4 Result: Won vs. Pittsburgh 27-17

    Remember when we were worried about the Green Bay Packers?

    Those were kooky times.

    After dispatching the Steelers with ease in Week 4, the Packers have peeled off three wins in a row and look to be the top team in the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers threw for 248 yards and a pair of scores, Green Bay's two-headed rushing attack of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon gained 129 yards combined on the ground, and the defense held the Steelers to 282 total yards and notched a pair of turnovers.

    It was a win that was as complete as it was businesslike, impressing head coach Matt LaFleur.

    "I thought that was a mature win," LaFleur told reporters. "Just our whole mentality all week, it was very workmanlike. Guys came in very focused. I felt the energy was great."

    The shoulder injury suffered by Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander is a concern ahead of next week's trip to Cincinnati. But the Packers are rolling and arguably playing as well as any team in the NFC.

8. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Last Week: 8

    Week 4 Result: Won at Denver 23-7

    Sunday's win by the Baltimore Ravens in Denver was notable more for how it ended than what happened in the game.

    After handling the unbeaten Broncos easily, the Ravens had the game in hand but were a few yards short of a 43rd straight game with 100 rushing yards—a mark that would have tied an NFL record.

    Rather than take a knee on the game's final play, the Ravens ran the ball and got the record. Head coach John Harbaugh defended the decision after the game in his postgame presser:

    "100 percent my call. That's one of those things that's meaningful. It's one of those things that as a head coach, you've got to be mindful of your team and your players and your coaches and what it means to them. It's a very, very tough record to accomplish and it's a long-term record. I'm not going to say it's more important than winning the game for sure, it's certainly not. As a head coach, I think you do that for your players and for your coaches and it's something they'll have for the rest of their lives."

    The choice didn't sit well with the Broncos, and that kerfuffle has become a bigger story than Lamar Jackson's 300-yard passing game and Baltimore's best defensive effort of the season.

    "The Ravens are an overtime loss in Vegas away from being undefeated and won't play a game on the road until Nov. 11," Davenport said. "A 5-2 or 6-1 record at the bye is a real possibility, and the Ravens are looking the part of the team to beat in the AFC North."

7. Cleveland Browns (3-1)

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Last Week: 4

    Week 4 Result: Won at Minnesota 14-7

    Over the first two weeks of the 2021 season, the Cleveland Browns were all about the offense. But the past two games, the Cleveland defense has held up its end of the deal—and Sunday in Minnesota, the defense keyed the Browns' third win of the season.

    Playing against a hot Vikings offense coming off an impressive effort against the Seahawks, the Browns allowed a touchdown on the first drive of the game. Those were the only points the team allowed.

    While Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield struggled, the Browns defense gave up just 255 yards of offense. Cleveland put the clamps on Dalvin Cook and the Vikings ground game, surrendering 65 yards and less than three yards per carry.

    Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb had no such issue on the ground for the Browns. The duo combined for 169 yards on 35 carries. With Cleveland running the ball and playing defense at such a high level, the Browns are capable of beating anyone.

    But Mayfield will have to up his game next week against Justin Herbert and the Chargers if the Browns are going to keep rolling.

6. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Last Week: 7

    Week 4 Result: Won at Philadelphia 42-30

    The Chiefs entered Week 4 in last place in the AFC West with no shortage of speculation as to what was "wrong" with the two-time defending conference champions.

    Based on what we saw from the Chiefs on Sunday in Philadelphia, the short answer on offense is not a thing.

    The Chiefs moved the ball at will against the Eagles in Week 4. Patrick Mahomes threw for 278 yards and five touchdown passes, and superstar wide receiver Tyreek Hill caught 11 of those passes for 186 yards and three scores. Kansas City had success on the ground as well as second-year back Clyde Edwards-Helaire picked up 102 yards on 14 carries.

    However, they have issues on defense. The Eagles didn't have much more trouble moving the ball than the Chiefs did, racking up 461 total yards and 30 first downs.

    "That the Chiefs are a dangerous offensive team is hardly breaking news," Davenport said. "But the continued defensive struggles are a little worrisome. Still, all it will take for the Chiefs to regain their front-runner status in the AFC is a win at home over the Bills in Week 5."

5. Los Angeles Chargers (3-1)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Last Week: 5

    Week 4 Result: Won vs. Las Vegas 28-14

    Like their roommates at SoFi Stadium, the Los Angeles Chargers entered Week 4 riding a wave of momentum after a huge win the week before. Like the Los Angeles Rams, the Chargers faced another stiff test this week in an undefeated division rival.

    Unlike the Rams, the Chargers took care of business at home.

    After doubling up the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night, the Bolts are 3-1 for the first time since 2014 and sit atop the AFC West. It was a total team effort, from it was Justin Herbert's accuracy and Austin Ekeler's running on offense to Joey Bosa's pass rush and Derwin James' coverage on defense. The Chargers piled up 380 yards of offense while holding Vegas to 213—the Raiders lowest offensive output of the season.

    "I don't know that the Chargers will be able to hold off the Chiefs in the AFC West," Davenport said, "or that they are as decidedly better than the Raiders as the team looked. But what can't be denied is that Brandon Staley has the Chargers playing at a high level, and Herbert is playing as well as any quarterback in the game. This is a legitimate Super Bowl contender."

4. Buffalo Bills (3-1)

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    Joshua Bessex/Associated Press

    Last Week: 6

    Week 4 Result: Won vs. Houston 40-0

    The Buffalo Bills are rather on a roll.

    Since falling to the Steelers in Week 1, Buffalo has peeled off three straight blowout wins. In all three games, the Bills have scored at least 35 points. In two of the three games (including Sunday's dismantling of the overmatched Texans), the Bills haven't allowed a point.

    Granted, Sunday's win carries a partial asterisk in that it came against maybe the most talent-deficient team in the league (especially on offense). The Bills also weren't good in the red zone—three touchdowns in seven trips.

    But Buffalo piled up 450 total yards of offense, allowed 109, forced five Houston turnovers and logged three sacks in about as thorough a thrashing as you'll see at the NFL level.

    The Bills are rolling, but next week's matchup will ratchet up the difficulty just a tad.

    In Week 5, the Bills head to Arrowhead for a Sunday night rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game with the Chiefs.

    At least one analyst expects them to win.

    "With all due respect to the Cardinals, the Bills are the most dominant team in the NFL right now," Gagnon said. "They've outscored the competition 118-21 the last three weeks, and Josh Allen hasn't even hit his stride. They have a real good shot at beating the Chiefs."

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Last Week: 2

    Week 4 Result: Won at New England 19-17

    No game was more hyped in Week 4 than Tom Brady's return to Gillette Stadium—the reunion of Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

    That Brady and the Buccaneers got the win shouldn't be surprising. Most analysts would agree that Tampa has the better roster. But the Super Bowl champions have reasons for concern after the team eked out a two-point win in the rain Sunday night.

    Many of Tampa's offensive issues can be attributed to the inclement weather. But the Buccaneers secondary is becoming a major problem. The Bucs were so thin in the defensive backfield that recently signed Richard Sherman started against the Patriots.

    Now the Buccaneers could also be without No. 1 corner Carlton Davis after the 24-year-old pulled up lame on a punt return and was carted to the locker room with a quad injury.

    It didn't cost the Buccaneers against New England's limited passing attack, and the upcoming schedule doesn't feature many high-octane offenses.

    But the injuries Tampa avoided last season are hitting the roster harder in 2021.

2. Los Angeles Rams (3-1)

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Last Week: 1

    Week 4 Result: Lost vs. Arizona 37-20

    That was quick.

    The Rams' stay atop these power rankings lasted all of one week. After beating Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 3, L.A.'s second big showdown in a row at SoFi Stadium ended much differently.

    The Rams amassed over 400 yards of offense against the Cardinals, but they stalled out in some big situations and turned it over twice. The defense, meanwhile, was a major letdown. The Rams allowed a whopping 465 yards of offense and let the Cardinals convert eight of 13 third downs.

    Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was honest about the team's showing while speaking to reporters after the game.

    "This is a prove-it [sport], and you've got to go out there and do it every time," Stafford said. "I wasn't good enough at doing that today. I think as a team, we probably weren't good enough as far as going out in every single play and executing it."

    It's just one week, and the Rams remain a Super Bowl contender. But with a short-week matchup on the road with the rival Seahawks up next, the Rams need to rally lest they fall too far off the pace in the league's toughest division.

1. Arizona Cardinals (4-0)

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Last Week: 3

    Week 4 Result: Won at Los Angeles Rams 37-20

    It can be important not to read too much into games early in the season. A ton of football will be played before the postseason gets here.

    But it's hard to argue that Arizona's emphatic victory over the Rams in Los Angeles wasn't the biggest win for the franchise in some time.

    Facing a Rams team that posted an emphatic win over the Buccaneers, the Cardinals dominated the game on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Kyler Murray topped 300 total yards without a turnover. Running back Chase Edmonds posted 120 rushing yards and averaged a whopping 10 yards a carry. And Arizona's defense limited a Rams offense that had been playing as well as any in the league to 401 total yards.

    "Just as the Rams earned the top spot last week by knocking off No. 1, the Cardinals have earned their perch atop my rankings after Sunday's big win," Davenport said. "We'll see if Murray and the Cardinals can keep the good times rolling as they enter a bear of a stretch on the schedule, but a month into the 2021 season, there hasn't been a more impressive team in the league."

    "We need to slow down a second and absorb the following statement: The Cardinals are the NFL's best team," Sobleski agreed. "When was the last time those words could even be considered, let alone uttered? To Kliff Kingsbury's credit, his squad continues to ascend with a 4-0 start. Murray is a rock-solid MVP candidate through the league's first quarter of play. Arizona's defense is getting after opponents. The Cardinals are explosive, talented and playing as well as they have since Kurt Warner once led the franchise."


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