What happened to consistency in the NFL? It basically doesn’t exist any more. The Patriots have long been the only thing that defies the constant turnover in the league, but even they were tested in Week 4. Vaunted defenses got torn apart. Prolific offenses sputtered. As the dust settles on the first quarter of the season, only three teams are still undefeated as the Lions, Rams, Bills, Cowboys and Packers all lost. Parity has been the league goal for some time, but this is taking it to a new level.
I know I sound like a broken record, but it is so hard to rank these teams. The level of mediocrity in the NFL is at an all-time high (or at least I feel like it is). It is nearly impossible to figure out who the true contenders are outside of New England and Kansas City. Pretty much every club has its clear flaws, even the Patriots. As a result, we have a massive shake up in the top five and movement all over the rankings.
1. New England Patriots: 4-0 (Last Week: 1)
Buffalo pushed New England to the brink. It took an incredible effort from the Patriots defense to stay perfect. There were question marks around the offensive line heading into the year and those have not faded as injuries have mounted. Tom Brady threw for 150 yards, managed no touchdowns and tossed an interception. Brady posted a 19.5 QBR and spent much of the game running for his life. The defense continues to play better than anyone could have imagined, even if they gave up 6.1 yards per carry in this one. Coming up with four interceptions makes the job a whole lot easier.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: 4-0 (Last Week: 2)
The usually stalwart offense saved its best for last as Patrick Mahomes led a game-winning drive to top the Lions. It was a very atypical performance. Mahomes failed to throw a touchdown pass, but picked up 50 yards on the ground. Three different players fumbled for Kansas City in the contest as well. Bashaud Breeland returned a fumble 100 yards for a touchdown and that proved to be the difference. The Chiefs will need to clean up a lot of the mistakes they made in this one, but survived a good test from what looks like an improved Lions team.
3. New Orleans Saints: 3-1 (Last Week: 10)
No Drew Brees? No problem. Well not really, as the Saints won in a slugfest without scoring a touchdown, but they moved to 3-1. This group is still working to iron out some issues its had moving the ball offensively, but the defense is playing lights out. They bottled up Ezekiel Elliott and made Dak Prescott look pedestrian. New Orleans gets an up and down Tampa team coming to town next week. Judging by the amount of scoring the Bucs tend to do, Teddy Bridgewater will need to play better in Week 5.
4. Los Angeles Rams: 3-1 (Last Week: 3)
This can’t be what the Rams expected when they invested $134 million in Jared Goff. Goff committed four turnovers and struggled to identify where the Tampa pressure was coming from. He is not alone when it comes to assigning blame. Los Angeles gave up a ridiculous 55 points in their loss, the most the Buccaneers have scored in franchise history. Constantly taking the field in change-of-possession situations didn’t help, but that is unacceptable for a defense that held the Patriots to just 13 points in the Super Bowl last year.
5. Green Bay Packers: 3-1 (Last Week: 4)
So maybe the defense isn’t as fixed as everyone thought. Philadelphia racked up 176 yards on the ground for 5.3 yards per carry. Carson Wentz also torched the secondary for three touchdowns and never really felt the pressure, as Green Bay never manged to register a sack. The offense definitely deserves some blame too, after failing to find its way into the end zone on its final two red zone possessions. One close loss to the Eagles does not undo everything the Packers had accomplished to this point, but it certainly provided a wake up call to a defense that had looked so strong for the first three weeks.
6. Dallas Cowboys: 3-1 (Last Week: 5)
After a cupcake schedule to open the year, Dallas got punched in the mouth on Sunday night in NOLA. The offense had shown some signs of starting slow already this year, but this took it to a whole new level as the Cowboys managed 2.3 yards per carry and just one touchdown. Dak Prescott played better than the stat line would indicate. Crucial fumbles from Ezekiel Elliott and Jason Witten crushed a lot of early momentum. Thankfully, the defense still looks pretty strong, sacking Teddy Bridgewater five times. Dallas still leads the NFC East, but it is going to need more out of its offense if hopes of a Super Bowl run are going to come true.
7. Chicago Bears: 3-1 (Last Week 9)
For the second straight week I will ask, is this the seventh-best team in the NFL? I feel pretty confident in those top six teams. After that, it’s a total toss up. Chicago lost Mitchell Trubisky, but shut down the Vikings offense. Stopping Kirk Cousins isn’t all that impressive, but slowing down Dalvin Cook and sacking the quarterback six times is. Cook managed 2.5 yards per carry. Chase Daniel should be able to do enough at quarterback to win if the defense plays at this level again when facing Oakland.
8. San Francisco 49ers: 3-0 (Last Week: 14)
Take a week off and move up 6 spots? Yeah, that logic seems kind of flawed, but the NFL doesn’t make a whole lot of sense right now. San Francisco is alone atop the NFC West and while their competition hasn’t been great (Steelers, Bengals, Buccaneers), they are winning without playing their best football. With this team set to get healthier with the return of Tevin Coleman and Jalen Hurd coming soon. We will see if this team is for real with a Monday night visit from the Browns up next.
9. Philadelphia Eagles: 2-2 (Last Week: 12)
This might not have been the best game the Eagles have played this season, but it was a critical win on the road. Jordan Howard flashed some of the talent he displayed so often over the past two years in Chicago. The defense made just enough plays to come away with a win. Carson Wentz took care of the ball and the offensive line took care of him. Philly is looking for the next man up in a couple spots on defense due to injuries and will likely be without Avonte Maddox for a few weeks. Still, the Eagles are just a game behind the Cowboys for the lead in the NFC East.
10. Baltimore Ravens: 2-2 (Last Week: 6)
Giving up 33 points to the Chiefs is one thing. Giving up 40 to the inconsistent Browns offense is another. The Ravens defense is not looking as dominant as we are used to seeing in the past, allowing 25 points per game through four weeks. Lamar Jackson has also struggled following his incredible start, throwing two interceptions in this contest. Ball security is going to be important, but so is a higher level of play from this defense.
11. Detroit Lions: 2-1-1 (Last Week: 16)
Lose a game and move up? When it’s your first loss of the year and it was a final-minute defeat to the Chiefs, you betcha! I will admit that I have long been a Detroit doubter, but after four weeks, and wins over the Eagles and Chargers, its time to give them some respect. The Lions have definitely been the surprise of the season so far. Matt Stafford played his best game of the young season and the defense forced a number of turnovers to slow down that high-powered Kansas City attack. The Lions have rebounded very well from that opening week tie and now seem like a true playoff contender in the NFC.
12. Buffalo Bills: 3-1 (Last Week: 15)
That was maybe the best defensive performance anyone has ever thrown at Tom Brady. The Bills held Brady to just 150 passing yards and just 46 percent passing. Unfortunately, Buffalo’s offense could not do enough to pull out the win. The Bills are making a compelling case to be a wildcard team in the AFC this season. The issue now will be the status of Josh Allen after a scary hit to the head on Sunday. Matt Barkley will likely fare better against other defenses, but Allen gives this team the best chance to win.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: 2-2 (Last Week: 13)
For about 30 seconds, I got really worried about picking the Chargers in my survivor pool this week. Then I remembered they were playing the Dolphins and so did they. Los Angeles cruised to a 30-10 victory, nothing special when playing Miami, but it was the first time the franchise won in Miami since 1982. Yes, you read that right. The biggest concern is the running game. The Chargers averaged just 2.9 yards per attempt against a defense that came into the game giving up 5.4 yards per rush. Melvin Gordon is coming back, but will be eased in. Los Angeles opens it divisional slate with the Broncos visiting this week.
14. Houston Texans: 2-2 (Last Week: 7)
Can someone please block for Deshaun Watson? He does have a tendency to hang onto the ball too long, but he is often running for his life. This was a game the Texans really needed to win to take control in the AFC South. Instead, they are now tied with every other team in the division at 2-2. The defense did it’s job, allowing just 16 points. It did allow Christian McCaffrey to run wild, but the Texans offense needs to be able to win when the defense holds an opponent to just 16.
15. Seattle Seahawks: 3-1 (Last Week: 17)
Seattle picked up a solid win over a division rival. The defense got after Kyler Murray, sacking him four times and never allowed him to get into a rhythm. Jadeveon Clowney endeared himself to Seahawks fans with a pick-six as well. Chris Carson had his best game of the year, topping 100 yards rushing and hanging onto the football this week. Beating the lowly Cardinals does not build a ton of confidence in what is to come next, but it gives Russell Wilson and company something build off as they enter a tough three-game stretch, starting with the Rams.
16. Cleveland Browns: 2-2 (Last Week: 18)
Where was this team for the first three weeks of the year? The Browns offense exploded for 40 points against the Ravens. Cleveland played a much more complete game than any outing up to this point this year and showed much of the potential everyone believed it had entering the season. Nick Chubb looked like an absolute monster, gashing the Baltimore defense over and over to make things easy on Baker Mayfield. While this was a great sight to see, it’s hard to shake the memory of the blowout versus Tennessee or the dud against LA. It’s going to take another good performance for me to start trusting this team.
17. Minnesota Vikings: 2-2 (Last Week: 8)
I can think of $84 million reasons Vikings fans are fed up with Kirk Cousins right now. It was another brutal showing from the offense, who could not find a way to take advantage of the Bears playing their backup quarterback. Cousins did not get much help despite his own struggles. He was sacked six times and that explosive ground game completely disappeared. Minnesota is only one game out of first place in the NFC North, but the offense’s propensity to disappear makes this a tough team to get behind.
18. Indianapolis Colts: 2-2 (Last Week: 11)
Maybe this is a bit extreme following a seven-point loss, but when there are 13 teams at 2-2 right now, something has got to give. Indy lost a tough one missing their best two players. However, the concerns that cropped up didn’t really rely very much on the absence of Darius Leonard or T.Y. Hilton. The lack of a running game is shocking. Marlon Mack and company managed a pedestrian 3.5 yards per carry on 23 attempts. The Colts will not win too many games where Jacoby Brissett has to throw the ball 46 times. That run game needs to come back.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-2 (Last Week: 20)
Don’t look now, but Gardner Minshew has started a winning streak in Jacksonville. Leonard Fournette deserves way more of the credit after ripping off 225 yards on the ground, but Minshew has this offense headed in the right direction. He engineered the drive to set up the game-winning field goal. The Jags got just enough production out of their defense to pull out the victory. This team is about as middle of the road as it gets, but that might be all it takes to win the AFC South.
20. Carolina Panthers: 2-2 (Last Week: 21)
Kyle Allen continues his undefeated run as the starter for the Panthers this year. It was not as impressive a showing as the week before, complete with three fumbles. This win is a credit to the Panthers defense. Carolina has the best pass defense in the league through four weeks. Christian McCaffrey, who might have the best nickname in the NFL, dominated again. The Panthers need to keep leaning on Run CMC as Cam Newton heals up. This isn’t college football, so style points don’t matter. Carolina is .500 and trending in the right direction.
21. Tennessee Titans: 2-2 (Last Week: 22)
I complained about consistency in the open and the Titans are the perfect example of what I was talking about. Marcus Mariota has toggled between being a quality starting quarterback and one of the worst passers in the league. Tennessee is 2-2 because it cannot find consistency right now. If the Titans get the most recent version of Mariota, this team would be hard to beat. The fifth year pro tossed three touchdowns and no interceptions in a convincing win over the Falcons. With Buffalo coming to town next, the offense will need to play well to earn a win.
22. Oakland Raiders: 2-2 (Last Week: 24)
So that’s what happened to the team that smacked around the Broncos in Week 1. The Raiders just seemed to take two weeks off from being competitive. Consistency nowhere to be found. But this was a big win for Oakland, who shutdown the Indy ground game and forced Jacoby Brissett to beat them with his arm. While Brissett did toss three touchdown passes, he struggled with efficiency and threw a back-breaking pick-six to now hero Erik Harris.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-3 (Last Week: 23)
Mason Rudolph picked up his first win of his career, but the defense was the story in this one. Pittsburgh sacked Andy Dalton eight times, intercepted him in the end zone and picked up an early fumble. The running game still hasn’t really gotten going, but those will be things the Steelers worry about at a later date. Right now, the focus is on building some momentum with Rudolph under center and continuing to climb back into the AFC North race. The Steelers could really shake things up with a win over the archrival Ravens.
24. New York Giants: 2-2 (Last Week: 26)
Going back to back. Well back-to-back wins at least. The key will be winning three in a row. That hasn’t happened since 2016, when New York reached the postseason. Playoff talk is a little premature, especially given Daniel Jones’ struggles against a bad defense, but Wayne Gallman filled in admirably for Saquon Barkley and suddenly Big Blue is one game back in the NFC East. There is no question the Giants have looked better the last two weeks, but with a test against Dalvin Cook and a much tougher Vikings defense coming up, the level of play will need to rise.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-2 (Last Week: 27)
Once again, consistency remains elusive for an NFL team, this time the Buccaneers. I understand that the Bucs just waxed the Rams in LA, but they also blew an 18-point halftime lead the week before against a rookie quarterback in his debut. So which Tampa team are we going to see next week? Jameis Winston played about as well as we’ve ever seen him and the defense thrived on turnovers. Giving up lots of points and yards is still a major concern, but Bruce Arians seems content to win games in shootouts.
26. Atlanta Falcons: 1-3 (Last Week: 19)
The lowest ranked team that has a win on its resume? That would be the Falcons. Atlanta squeaked by a battered Philadelphia squad that missed a number of chances to win for their only victory of the year, but otherwise, has failed to show up in a meaningful way. The Falcons are wasting another season of Matt Ryan’s prime. There was no run game to be found for the Falcons either, as they managed just 58 yards. The offensive line also allowed four sacks and the defense barely bothered Marcus Mariota. Dan Quinn’s seat has to be getting a bit warm following this performance.
27. Denver Broncos: 0-4 (Last Week: 25)
The good news: the Broncos defense finally showed up! The bad news: Denver lost another heartbreaker on a last-second field goal. This team could very easily be 2-2, but there is no question Denver is struggling this year. The offensive line has not been good enough and the defense, while finally picking up a few sacks, is nowhere near as fearsome as in the past. Leonard Fournette ran all over them for 225 yards. This team needs to hit the reset button and reevaluate everything. A good place to start would be handing the ball to Phillip Lindsay more. He had 60 yards on 10 touches Sunday. He should be getting the ball more than that and the results support that fact.
28. New York Jets: 0-3 (Last Week: 29)
It wasn’t a great week for the rest of the AFC East, but that won’t matter much if Sam Darnold is not able to go in Week 5. The second-year quarterback is still working his way back from mono and his status will go a long way to determining if the Jets even have a chance against the Eagles. New York has a brutal three-game stretch out of the bye with Dallas and New England to follow Philadelphia. Things will almost definitely get worse before they get better.
29. Washington: 0-4 (Last Week: 28)
That’s not how you want to break in a rookie quarterback. With Case Keenum missing receivers all over the place, Dwayne Haskins made his first NFL appearance and it didn’t go well. He threw a pair of interceptions, including a pick-six, and could not find a way to punch in the ball from a 1st and goal from the two yard line. Not having Terry McLaurin definitely hurt, but the offense had the wheels completely fall off. Washington is hurdling towards a top-five pick.
30. Arizona Cardinals: 0-3-1 (Last Week: 30)
All the optimism that surrounded this team following the incredible Week 1 comeback to force a tie is gone. Kyler Murray struggled for the fourth straight week, forcing the ball into tight windows and taking costly sacks. The running game was fine, but that did not matter much with the defense putting up little resistance. Terrell Suggs is a nice story, racking up 1.5 sacks in the game, but the Cardinals have way too many holes along the offensive line and in the secondary for that to make a difference right now.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: 0-4 (Last Week: 31)
The Bengals should be thankful for the existence of the Dolphins with how they have been playing. While a lot of teams have been building week by week, Cincinnati seems like it is only getting worse as the year goes on. Andy Dalton got mauled and continues his trend towards being a backup quarterback somewhere else next year. The run defense finally showed up, but Mason Rudolph got in a groove. There is no question this team is heading towards a major rebuild. It’s time to start talking about who will be the team’s starting signal caller next year.
32. Miami Dolphins: 0-4 (Last Week: 32)
For one glorious moment, the Dolphins were leading in a regular season NFL game. It didn’t last long, but it did happen. Josh Rosen showed some early signs of improvement and the run game almost showed up. Miami is slowly getting better this year, but the gap between them and pretty much every other NFL team is fairly large right now. This team will spend the year seeing what it has in some young players and look to unearth a couple of diamonds in the rough to help them back to being competitive next year.
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