1. Los Angeles Rams: 4-0 (Last Week: 1)
Talk about a shootout! Thursday Night Football treated us to a thriller in the Coliseum. It is not there yet, but Sean McVay is starting to form the Greatest Show on Turf 2.0. Jared Goff tore apart the Vikings defense to the tune of 450+ yards and five touchdowns. With the number four scoring defense in the league, LA is the team to beat in the NFL. A win in Seattle could make this division race a formality for the Rams going forward.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: 4-0 (Last Week: 2)
The Monday Night Football stage proved to be just the latest chapter in the legend of Patrick Mahomes. The kid from Texas Tech went over 300 yards again and had two scores. Kareem Hunt had a break out game as well. The defense is still struggling but did just enough for a fourth quarter comeback to be possible. Kansas City has a massive matchup with Jacksonville ahead. Top scoring defense, meet top scoring offense. Something has to give.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: 3-1 (Last Week: 4)
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Jaguars won it going away against the Jets. Blake Bortles had another stellar day. Jacksonville leads the league in just about every meaningful statistical category on defense. The concern was the turnovers. The Jags had three of them without forcing one from New York. The Jets aren’t enough of a threat on offense for that to matter, but that is something Doug Marrone is going to have to fix heading into a matchup with the Chiefs.
4. New England Patriots: 2-2 (Last Week: 6)
What’s that? It’s been 8 years since anyone won the AFC East over the Patriots? Right. New England smacked Miami 38-7, silencing all of the talk about the end of an era. This team is not as talented as in years past, but still more than good enough to win the division. The Pats get Julian Edelman back this week as it gets set for to host Indy on Thursday night.
5. Chicago Bears: 3-1 (Last Week: 7)
All of a sudden, Chicago is having some flashbacks to the 2006 NFL season when an incredible defense carried it to a Super Bowl appearance. This time though, Da Bears have a much better quarterback than Rex Grossman. Mitch Trubisky launched six touchdown passes in a rout of the Buccaneers. Matt Nagy almost has to feel disappointed his team is off this week after firing on all cylinders against Tampa.
6. Baltimore Ravens: 3-1 (Last Week: 8)
Baltimore took care of business on Sunday Night Football, winning the best current rivalry in the NFL. Joe Flacco played great and the Ravens defense shut down the high-powered Steelers offense. Jim Harbaugh’s defense is giving up the second fewest yards and third fewest points per game. The next step for Baltimore is finishing drives with touchdowns. Justin Tucker kicked four field goals in the second half.
7. Minnesota Vikings: 1-2-1 (Last Week 5)
It would be really easy to look at the scoreline and think the Vikings just aren’t as good as a year ago. Minnesota played a much better football game on the road with a short week against the best team in the league. At the same time, the Vikings are one Clay Matthews roughing the passer penalty away from being 1-3. The schedule doesn’t get much easier as Mike Zimmer prepares for a road trip to Philly for a rematch of the NFC title game.
8. Philadelphia Eagles: 2-2 (Last Week: 3)
The message so far has been to wait until this team gets healthy. It might take a bit of time for all those previously injured players to gel again as the Eagles drop another close game on the road. Looking at the box score, its tough to figure out where Philly faltered after posting 432 yards of offense and forcing a turnover on defense. The biggest issue was Tennessee going 3-3 on fourth down, all of them coming in overtime. Doug Peterson has some soul searching to do as the Vikings come to town desperate for a win.
9. New Orleans Saints: 3-1 (Last Week: 15)
The Saints are at their best when they run the ball efficiently. It keeps the defense off the field and allows Drew Brees to utilize the play action passing game. In fact, they were 9-1 last season when eclipsing the 100-yard mark on the ground and 3-5 when failing to top 100 yards. Efficiently is putting it mildly as well after averaging 5.3 yards per carry against the Giants. Alvin Kamara had a field day with 181 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. Mark Ingram also returns from suspension this week as New Orleans heads home to host Washington.
10. Carolina Panthers: 2-1 (Last Week: 10)
An early off week for the Panthers allows them to hopefully solve a few of the issues plaguing the secondary. It will start by taking the week to integrate newly-signed safety Eric Reid. Carolina gave up the third most yards per play in its first three games. The cure for that might be the struggling Giants offense, who visits this week after managing only 18 points against what has been a terrible Saints defense this season.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: 3-1 (Last Week: 16)
With several games heading to overtime, the Bengals might have played in the best game of the weekend and it finished in regulation. Beating the Falcons in Atlanta is a big statement for Cincy. The secondary needs to step up after allowing 432 yards passing and three touchdowns. The Bengals have also allowed opponents to convert 57 percent of their third downs, the worst mark in the league. Cincinnati has the firepower, now the defense needs to take some pressure off Andy Dalton until Joe Mixon is back.
12. Green Bay Packers: 2-1-1 (Last Week: 12)
Aaron Rodgers said the Packers were terrible following a shutout over the Bills. The offense might not have been great, but the defense played lights out. Green Bay sacked Josh Allen seven times, forcing a fumble, and picked him off twice. Buffalo only mustered 145 yards of total offense. For a team that has struggled on defense this season, these are all good signs.
13. Atlanta Falcons: 1-3 (Last Week: 11)
Another week, another heart-breaking close loss for the Falcons. The Bengals have looked sharp this season on offense, so the struggles on defense are somewhat understandable, especially given how many injuries the team has suffered. Calvin Ridley also continues to emerge for the offense. Scoring points isn’t the problem. Dan Quinn needs to return to his defensive roots and find ways to hide its weaknesses on that side of the ball.
14. Washington: 2-1 (Last Week: 14)
The week off couldn’t have gone much better for Washington. Both the Eagles and Giants lost. The Cowboys failing in their late comeback would’ve been the icing on the cake, but Washington is still atop the division. It has a tough week ahead with the Saints on Monday night, but Jay Gruden got an extra week to find ways to slow down this New Orleans offense.
15. Tennessee Titans: 3-1 (Last Week: 20)
Mike Vrabel showed everyone that he has the guts to win football games as a head coach in the NFL. The Titans converted on three fourth downs in overtime to topple the defending champs. The offense took a little while to get going, but Marcus Mariota finally scored a touchdown. It was a poor game plan from Philly, but Vrabel and his staff put together a great game plan to maximize what little talent it has at the skill positions on offense. The Titans are going to be tough to beat.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-2-1 (Last Week: 9)
It is time to consider that maybe the Steelers just aren’t that good. Ben Roethlisberger missed open receivers and for the first time this season, Pittsburgh really missed Le’Veon Bell, who announced he will return during week 7. The defense actually improved in a bend don’t break sort of way, but this team has a lot of questions and not too many answers after four weeks of football.
17. Miami Dolphins: 3-1 (Last Week: 13)
Dolphins, meet Earth. Miami came down hard in a blowout against New England. Ryan Tannehill accomplished nothing under center, the running game was MIA and, despite two interceptions, the defense was gashed by Patriot running backs all game long. The Dolphins proved to everyone they are not a contender, not even really close to one, with that loss.
18. Denver Broncos: 2-2 (Last Week: 18)
Denver came agonizingly close to an impressive upset. The ground game and defense powered the Broncos to a 23-13 lead, but faltered down the stretch when it mattered most. This is a gritty team capable of hanging with the top teams in the league. Case Keenum needs to make more plays to push the Broncos over the hump from just competing to winning.
19. Los Angeles Chargers: 2-2 (Last Week: 19)
This was bad, but it could’ve been worse. The Chargers squeaked out a win over the battered 49ers. Los Angeles showed heart in the comeback, but it should never have been required. The defense allowed too many big plays and could struggle again with the Raiders coming to town after finally showing up on offense.
20. Seattle Seahawks: 2-2 (Last Week: 22)
Seattle is an entirely different team on the road. It played poorly enough to lose to Arizona, but the Cardinals couldn’t get out of their own way to pull off the upset. The one positive is the Seahawks looked comfortable running the ball even without Chris Carson. They head home for a date with the Rams and a chance to pull off a major upset. No matter how shaky Seattle might be, going to CenturyLink Field and winning is still one of the hardest things to do in football.
21. Dallas Cowboys: 2-2 (Last Week: 23)
Ezekiel Elliott is making a legitimate case for the MVP award this season. The former Buckeye leads the league in rushing by almost 100 yards through four weeks. He is also second in yards from scrimmage only behind Alvin Kamara. The reason MVP might be in order is only Cole Beasley has more receiving yards for Dallas this season. Zeke is doing it all right now for the Cowboys, who might need his heroics again in Houston to go above .500.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-2 (Last Week: 17)
Goodbye FitzMagic, hello quarterback controversy. Neither Ryan Fitzpatrick nor Jameis Winston played well in a 48-10 laugher against the Bears. The Bucs defense picked up right where it left off, which is giving up massive gains through the air and occasionally frustrating running backs. This is much more the Tampa team many expected to see this season, and it could cost Dirk Koetter his job.
23. Indianapolis Colts: 1-3 (Last Week: 21)
After a tough start, the Colts really turned things around to force overtime and almost pull off the comeback. Andrew Luck put up great numbers, but still does not look like the same quarterback he was before his injury. The running game didn’t produce much, but Nyheim Hines caught a pair of touchdowns out of the backfield. Frank Reich has achieved some positive things in Indy, but the Colts have a long way to go.
24. New York Giants: 1-3 (Last Week: 24)
The Giants limited Drew Brees and Mike Thomas, but totally forgot about Alvin Kamara, letting him rumble for 181 yards of offense and three touchdowns. Offensively, New York has not threatened to throw it downfield and cannot find a way to establish a consistent running game. It seems like the Giants need to start thinking about the future, looking for a long-term answer at quarterback and completely rebuilding this offensive line.
25. Detroit Lions: 1-3 (Last Week: 25)
Going into Dallas to earn a win after pulling off a major upset against New England would have caused many to forget the woeful start to the season. Instead, the Lions are 1-3 and seem unsure how to utilize the talent they have. Kerryon Johnson did not get the ball enough against the Cowboys and Matt Stafford continues to do a lot. The defense had no answer for Ezekiel Elliot though. With Green Bay visiting this week, Detroit needs to have a much better game plan.
26. Cleveland Browns: 1-2-1 (Last Week: 26)
Heading to the West Coast is really tough. There is a lot to take away from this game. The positives are the offense can score a ton of points and the defense can generate turnovers. The negatives are the defense can give up a ton of points and the offense can commit a lot of turnovers. If Baker Mayfield can find some ways to clean up his game (four turnovers in Oakland), the Browns should start winning games.
27. Houston Texans: 1-3 (Last Week: 28)
It required a bit of luck, no pun intended, to beat the Colts after Indy failed to convert from midfield on fourth down. That set up the Texans for the game-winning field goal in overtime. Deshaun Watson played great. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney combined for four sacks. However, the secondary gave up over 450 yards and four touchdowns. The task this week will be containing Ezekiel Elliott.
28. New York Jets: 1-3 (Last Week: 27)
It is games like these that set the Jets back a few years. Todd Bowles seems to be trending ever closer to an exit in New York. Blake Bortles tore apart the Jets defense and New York never adjusted. Bowles continues to blitz on third down in any part of the field and Jaguars were ready for it every time. It is hard to fire a coach after drafting a rookie quarterback, but for the sake of Sam Darnold’s development, the Jets are better off doing it this year rather than waiting.
29. Oakland Raiders: 1-3 (Last Week: 31)
At times, it seems like the Raiders are trying to lose. Oakland made a ton of mistakes on both sides of the ball and benefitted from several questionable calls by the officials. Still, it was a win nonetheless, Jon Gruden’s first in ten years. The Raiders offense showed up against what had been a good Browns defense. Oakland is going to need the offense to keep clicking to even have a chance with how poorly the defense continues to play.
30. San Francisco 49ers: 1-3 (Last Week: 30)
For those who thought San Francisco would just go quietly into the night after losing Jimmy Garoppolo, this was a big surprise. The 49ers came extremely close to knocking off the Chargers. C.J. Beathard knows this offense well after starting several games last season. It is unlikely Kyle Shanahan and company win a ton of games the rest of the way, but they seem like they will at least be competitive.
31. Buffalo Bills: 1-3 (Last Week: 29)
Reality set in once again for the Bills after shocking the Vikings at home in week 3. Josh Allen is still a rookie and this offensive line still isn’t good. Green Bay sacked Allen seven times in the contest. If Buffalo cannot find a way to keep the kid from Wyoming clean, he will continue to force the errors we saw in the second half in Green Bay.
32. Arizona Cardinals: 0-4 (Last Week: 32)
Quietly, Josh Rosen might have had the best week of any of the rookie quarterbacks who started. He only threw for 180 yards and a touchdown, but he considering the Cardinals dropped at least three passes in the game and Phil Dawson missed two field goals, he did a lot to put his team in a position to win. It was improvement from the previous week in Chicago which featured an awful final few minutes for the kid from UCLA. If David Johnson can get on track, this Cardinals offense should be decent at least with Rosen at the helm.