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NFL Power Rankings 2017: Shaken, Not Stirred Edition

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When weird things become trends, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Oakland Raiders v Denver Bronco Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Last week, I went conservative with my rankings due to a very odd week of football. Some things normalized, some things didn’t. And now that the quarter mark of the season has passed, it’s time to make some more thorough adjustments. It’s time to shake things up.

And that’s good, because there appears to be something of a shakeup happening in the NFL’s power heirarchy of recent years as well.

NFL Power Rankings, Week 4:

1. Kansas City Chiefs

Last Week: 1 (0)

The Chiefs are now the NFL’s only remaining unbeaten team. But let’s not pretend there aren’t cracks in their armor. They trailed for nearly 30 minutes of the game, and held the lead for a bare 5:46.

2. Denver Broncos

Last Week: 5 (+3)

It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t even necessarily pretty. But the Broncos’ No Fly Zone was in full effect in the most critical game any teams played in the first quarter of the NFL season. But the real star of the show Sunday afternoon? Ground Control; the Broncos’ utterly dominant front seven. Marshawn Lynch rushed 9 times to the tune of a paltry, embarrassing 12 yards.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

But what really matters is this: regardless of style points, the Broncos are 3-1 and already own a 2-0 division record. They have a bye week to address what issues they have, and great prospects of making the postseason.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

Last Week: 4 (+1)

It was an important divisional win for the Steelers, but... come on. Anyone who saw this game going any other way bought into the Ravens’ fluky early turnover differential way too hard. The Jaguars and Chiefs will be the true test of this team (did I really just write that?) that has essentially faced just one competent defense (Vikings) and no competent offenses so far this season.

Worth Noting: In Week 3 the Steelers gave up 222 rushing yards to the Bears, 18 more than the Broncos have given up total through 4 games.

4. Green Bay Packers

Last Week: 7 (+3)

Welcome back, Pack. Look, all the issues aren’t fixed, but at least Aaron Rodgers and the Packers looked dominant when they should have.

5. Atlanta Falcons

Last Week: 2 (-3)

Are the Bills just dragon slayers, or what? That’s two weeks in a row they’ve beaten previously dominant teams.

A big part of it may be a Falcons team that is suffering more than they’ve let on since the Super Bowl. Media has portrayed them has having avoided the dreaded Super Bowl hangover, but they’ve scored just 104 points through 4 games versus 152 at this point last season. Fortunately for them, their defense is in a better place, having allowed just 89 points compared to 124 at this point in 2016. Even so, Matt Ryan & company have seen their average margin of victory drop by half, from 7 to just 3.75.

If that doesn’t change, more losses are in Atlanta’s future.

6. Detroit Lions

Last Week: 9 (+3)

The Lions have somehow managed to quietly play some very good football. A loss to the Falcons is nothing to be ashamed of, and a hard-fought division win over the Vikings just put them atop the NFC North. How far can they go? About as far as Matt Stafford’s arm will take them... and that could be a pretty decent distance.

Atlanta Falcons v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

7. Los Angeles Rams

Last Week: 16 (+9)

I tend to be conservative about perennially bad teams that suddenly look good. But I’m ready to believe in the Rams. Sean McVay and Jared Goff have that offense rolling. The defense has... well, issues. But it also has Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator, and the best interior defensive lineman in football in Aaron Donald. I’m willing to bet it’ll improve. But if it doesn’t, I’ll be serving a buffet of roast ram.

8. New England Patriots

Last Week: 3 (-5)

The New England Patriots are in 3rd place in the AFC East... behind the New York Jets. The tanking New York Jets. Yeah, those Jets. And they just lost a shootout to a team whose previous high score for the year was less than the P*ts lowest score. The Patriots’ over-hyped defense has yet to hold any team under 417 yards of total offense. They got crushed in Week 1 and barely made it past the Texans by the skin of their teeth last week.

Could it be that Tom Brady can’t hack it anymore? No, actually (dang it). He’s thrown 10 TDs and no interceptions. But the team around him isn’t getting it done. If that doesn’t change (please don’t change), the Patriots are going to be highly vulnerable to running into a team like the Broncos, Texans, Bills, or Chiefs in early January -somewhere other than Foxboro- and watching expectations of defending their title slip out of their grasp as they go one-and-done in the playoffs.

9. Philadelphia Eagles

Last Week: 10 (+1)

Carson Wentz has led the Eagles to a good start and the top spot in the NFC East. The Redskins win was a boon, and they hung tough against the Chiefs. But the Giants and Chargers are both 0-4, and so there’s room to wonder if this team is for real. If the Panthers don’t step up to the plate, we probably won’t know until after they play the Broncos in Week 9 and face their second major test.

10. Buffalo Bills

Last Week: 20 (+10)

Once is a fluke. Twice in a row is a trend. And in my power rankings you often get to keep what you kill. This week, the Bills are keeping a spot in the top 12 as official playoff contenders. Tyrod Taylor went from potentially losing his job in preseason to posting a line of 65 of 99 for 744 yards, 5 TDs, and 1 Interception. And the defense held offenses that had previously averaged 33 and 29 points, respectively, to just 16 and 17 points. That’s a recipe for success, and it’s got the Bills atop the AFC East right now.

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last Week: 12 (+1)

Still not sure what to make of this team. There’s good, there’s bad, they’re all over the place. Their victory over the Giants helps them maintain, but I could see the Bucs dropping soon if we don’t see better stuff from them.

12. Houston Texans

Last Week: 22 (+10)

Have a day, Deshaun Watson! Wow, that was a hell of a performance from a rookie most people thought would need a year of seasoning. Watson has the Texans’ offense thrumming, enough to force the Patriots to resort to mounting a comeback at home and enough to completely and utterly overwhelm their division rival Titans. Throw in the defense, aside from the secondary, and these Texans are no joke.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

13. Dallas Cowboys

Last Week: 11 (-2)

The Cowboys lost to the Rams. In a shootout. Weird. When Ezekiel Elliott rushes for 189 yards and Dak Prescott throws up 3 TDs to 1 Int and you still lose? It just wasn’t your day, man.

Oh, and that secondary will be the death of their playoff hopes.

14. Carolina Panthers

Last Week: 18 (+4)

Great win by the Panthers! Maybe not as flashy as the Chiefs’ Week 1 rampage, but they just dropped the Patriots to 1-2 at home. And frankly, Cam Newton’s snarkiness toward the press is refreshing and makes for a nice cherry on top of a high quality road win.

15. Oakland Raiders

Last Week: 6 (-9)

The Raiders lost a vital divisional game, and rarely looked like they were in any sort of control of it. But more importantly, and more germane to their steep drop: Derek Carr was injured during the game, and could be out for at least 2-6 weeks. I expect to see the Raiders falter just like they did after losing him in Week 16 last year, and the fall reflects that.

The Raiders are primed to be the Ravens’ bounceback win after two horribly embarrassing weeks. And after that there’s a gauntlet of two more divisional home games vs the Chargers and Chiefs, followed by a trip way out east to Buffalo. Racking up 4-5 losses from Week 3 to Week 8 could throw the Raiders’ season into a death spiral. Their offense without Carr isn’t anything special, and their defense isn’t going to hold the line for them. Derek Carr’s broken back (thoughts and prayers going your way, man) is the biggest/worst injury for a team so far this year, as measured by the damage to their season outlook.

16. Washington Redskins

Last Week: 14 (-2)

No, Mr. Cousins, we didn’t like that. One final chance to upset an undefeated team, and you pull some screwy backward pass to a lateral to a strip sack fumble six bullcrap? Come on, man!

17. Seattle Seahawks

Last Week: 13 (-4)

Stop. Stop right here. Go ahead and scroll down and scream at me in the comments, if you like, then come back up and finish reading. It’ll make you feel better, and I don’t mind.

Now, why did the team that just dropped a 28 point margin of victory on the hapless Colts fall 4 spots? Mostly because I should have dropped them more previously. A team with the Seahawks’ magnitude of offensive line issues didn’t deserve to be where they were. And now their left tackle ended up, however briefly, in the hospital. And, honestly, that game was way, way too close in the first half before the Hawks finally blew it up in the 2nd half.

I’m more than willing to move them back up if they earn it, but the Seahawks have a tough row to plow in order to overcome their issues.

18. Tennessee Titans

Last Week: 8 (-10)

Wow.

Somebody go get some bandages, because Houston just served the Titans up a Texas-sized spanking. It was the most lop-sided defeat since the St. Louis Rams obliterated the Oakland Raiders to the tune of 52-0 back in November 2014. That’s some serious levels of fail.

The Titans might recover. Or they might tailspin. But for now, two huge losses (the L and the injury to Marcus Mariota) deserve a huge drop.

19. Minnesota Vikings

Last Week: 15 (-4)

The Vikings dropped a vital divisional matchup to the Lions, one that may have sorted out the playoff team from the pretender. They also lost excellent rookie running back Dalvin Cook to a torn ACL. Combined with their QB injury woes, that loss makes the Vikings & their good defense look like a poor man’s version of the 2015 Broncos. Unfortunately, only a ridiculously rich man’s version of that roster setup wins you Super Bowls. Minnesota’s prospects just nosedived.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars

Last Week: 21 (+1)

The Jags lost a close one to the Jets, thus proving that they’re still the Jags even if they’re a newer, improved model. These guys are basically last year’s Chargers, who lost a game to the otherwise winless Browns. How the heck do you lose to a team that doesn’t want to win???

Yet they moved up, you ask? It’s mostly due to other teams moving more significantly than they did.

21. New Orleans Saints

Last Week: 25 (+4)

Raise your hand if you bet real money that the Saints would hold an opponent to 0 points anytime in the 2017 season. Go ahead, let’s see ‘em.

.....

Put that hand back down, you liar. I see you back there.

Interestingly, both shutouts of 2017 have had scores of 20-0. The Saints get a nice boost for theirs, but I wouldn’t count on them doing it again anytime soon.

Like the Colts, the Saints are pretty much only capable of wasting excellent QBs for 95% of their careers. Maybe Archie Manning can avenge himself by fixing that when he takes over.

22. New York Giants

Last Week: 17 (-5)

Eli Manning’s crew kicked off the season at #7 on my power rankings. Four games in, they’ve dropped 15 spots. Only one team since the NFL merger has started 0-4 and gone on to make the playoffs: the 1992 San Diego Chargers.

Sorry, Giants fans. Your season is over. It’s time to throw Eli Manning a retirement party and snap a few commemorative photos of his Manning face as you shove him out the door. Tank the season, get an actual QB, and let Eli go play Madden’s owner mode while his brother and dad buy and run the Saints.

23. Miami Dolphins

Last Week: 19 (-4)

I came so close to just using the bag-over-the-logo’s-head image from last week again. But you know what? This was even worse than that. I mean, I know London is a long commute from Miami, but at least show up for work! They ran a wildcat, and Jay Cutler literally just stood there split out wide with his hands on his hips like that dude in your local road patching crew. Meet your Dumpster Fire of the Week!

The NFL seems obsessed with getting a team going in London. It was going to be the Jags, but they’re suddenly doing something. Maybe this was the Dolphins bidding on that dubious opportunity?

24. Arizona Cardinals

Last Week: 26 (+2)

The Cardinals don’t deserve this bump-up. It happened due to the movement of other teams more than due to their “win”. Mustering a last second (of overtime) touchdown against a terrible 49ers squad gets no one any accolades. This team’s wings are clipped without David Johnson. Having Carson Palmer throw for lots of yards and a 1:1 TD/Int ratio from the in-security of his walker is not getting them anywhere.

Not that that will be a problem for long if they keep letting his creaky bones get sacked 6 times a game.

25. Baltimore Ravens

Last Week: 23 (-2)

The Ravens remain winless this season against NFL teams. The Week 1 Bengals and the Browns don’t count. The defense that so many gushed over for two weeks has been getting gashed over and over again. Just how badly? To the tune of 791 total yards in the past two games, including 170 rushing yards a game.

Oh, and those 10 defensive turnovers in the first two weeks? The pot of gold must have run dry, because the Ravens have only mustered 1 in the last two weeks. Meanwhile, they gave the ball away 3 times a game in the same period and now sport a turnover differential of just +2.

26. New York Jets

Last Week: 32 (+6)

Only the Jets could be this abjectly horrible at being bad. Seriously, guys. You’ve got an NFL defensive line surrounded by a mixture of generic Madden-generated 4th rounders and some low-res cardboard cutouts. This is where you definitely don’t screw yourselves out of grabbing a top QB in one of the best QB classes in years. And this most certainly is not where you play your way into 2nd place in the AFC East ahead of the New England Patriots. Pull your heads out of your butts, idiots, and take some plays off to preserve your bodies. It just isn’t worth it. Your front office is planning to replace you all in the next year or two anyway, coaches included. So why bother?

27. Cincinnati Bengals

Last Week: 29 (+2)

The kitties finally stopped chasing their tails! But with the Bills coming to town and the Steelers waiting after their Bye, the forecast in Cincy is calling for furballs.

28. Los Angeles Chargers

Last Week: 24 (-4)

The Chargers remain among the most perplexing teams in the league. They have significantly more talent than their record would indicate. It’s a shame for some of those guys that their season is already over. But as a very distant 4th in a powerhouse AFC West, Philip Rivers should probably just start watching Game of Thrones in that ridiculous SUV rather than game tape. At least it’ll cut down on the number of people getting killed on his screen.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Chargers
Rivers: What gives ref? Does it look like we’re playing well enough to bother calling our penalties?
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

29. Chicago Bears

Last Week: 27 (-2)

After a surprising overtime win vs Pittsburgh, for which Broncos fans may be grateful in a couple months, the Bears are back to their usual form. I hear Jeff Fish...err, John Fox, is already dusting off his resume. Which team can he sucker into trusting him next?

30. Indianapolis Colts

Last Week: 31 (+1)

The Luck-less Colts actually hung with the Seahawks for half a game. Not bad. Then Russell Wilson channeled John Elway’s helicopter play on a try-hard TD run and it was off to the races. Unfortunately, Colts with a bad shoulder can’t run.

31. San Francisco 49ers

Last Week: 30 (-1)

The Niners are here by virtue of their 0-4 record and their recent perennial badness. This ranking reflects mostly that their playoff hopes are dead for all practical purposes and that they’re looking at more of the same in a learning/rebuilding year. Though they’ve lost all three of their last three games by three points or less. There’s hope, at least.

That said, how pathetic is your team when you kill off seven & a half minutes of a 10 minute overtime in hopes of what would probably just be a tie at best?

32. Cleveland Browns

Last Week: 28 (-4)

Everyone’s surprised that the Jets are bad at tanking. No one is surprised that the Browns are bad at winning.

This was supposed to be the beginning of the turn-around for Cleveland. They were going to get a real job, move into their own apartment, and maybe even set the xbox controller aside and go out on the town on Friday nights. Who knows? They might even meet a girl. Instead, they’re moving back into mom’s basement yet again and digging up that hoard of Doritos and Mt. Dew they swore would never again see the light of day.

Poll

Which team that was expected to suck has been the biggest surprise through four games?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Houston Texans
    (56 votes)
  • 46%
    Buffalo Bills
    (268 votes)
  • 36%
    Los Angeles Rams
    (209 votes)
  • 5%
    Jacksonville Jaguars
    (34 votes)
  • 2%
    Other (post it in the comments)
    (12 votes)
579 votes total Vote Now