And then there were two. With the Chiefs falling on Sunday night, only the Patriots and 49ers remain undefeated in the 2019 season. The ’72 Dolphins can cross another team off the countdown to open the champagne. After five weeks of action, we have seen tons of unexpected results and parity certainly reigns supreme. There is just about no such thing as a sure thing anymore, other than maybe just betting against the Jets and Dolphins.
The top five gets a reorganization again following Kansas City’s loss and an impressive win from New Orleans. While the bottom of the pecking order is pretty clear, even if there is some small movement, it feels like the middle of the pack is shrinking slightly, due to Atlanta’s struggles and Pittsburgh’s quarterback carousel. The middle part of these rankings feels just as murky now as they did Week 1. In fact, I think I probably feel less confident about my ranking of teams 9-22 than I did before the year started. Just goes to show how unpredictable this season has been. We will start with the only form of stability this league has to cling to, and let the madness unravel from there.
1. New England Patriots: 5-0 (Last Week: 1)
It was a slow start from New England as they emerge from Week 5 as the lone undefeated team in the AFC. No one is playing better than New England right now, but this schedule has been as soft as it gets. Wins over Pittsburgh, Miami, New York, Buffalo and Washington came in convincing fashion, but no one other than the Bills have even come close to testing the Patriots. And they won’t for a few more weeks. With games against the Giants and Jets coming up, we should expect the Patriots to be 7-0 heading into a matchup with the Browns.
2. New Orleans Saints: 4-1 (Last Week: 3)
Touchdown Teddy torched the Buccaneers defense to the tune of four touchdowns and 314 yards. Bridgewater followed a pretty simple gameplan: throw the ball to Mike Thomas. Thomas finished with an incredible 11 catches for 182 yards and a pair of touchdown receptions. The defense gave up a meaningless touchdown to make the scoreline look close at the very end of the game. Against a Bucs team that dropped 55 on the Rams last week, the Saints sacked Jameis Winston six times and shutout Mike Evans. This team is rounding into form, and all of this is happening without Drew Brees on the field yet.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: 4-1 (Last Week: 2)
Talk about a dud. After 25 straight games with 25 of more points scored, Kansas City managed just 13 on Sunday night at home against Indianapolis. Credit to the Colts defense for getting after Patrick Mahomes, but this was a troubling performance from the reigning MVP. He was banged up and he missed on a number of passes downfield. Travis Kelce dropped a couple of catchable balls as well. The defense played well enough for the Chiefs to win too. It’s not time to panic about this team yet, but Andy Reid needs to get this team back on track fast.
4. Green Bay Packers: 4-1 (Last Week: 5)
Green Bay loves traveling to Dallas and nobody loved it more than Aaron. Aaron Jones that is. The Packers running back overpowered the Cowboys defense for 182 yards from scrimmage and four rushing touchdowns. With Davante Adams out, this was the type of performance needed to win. The Green Bay defense earned a ton of extra possessions as well, intercepting Dak Prescott three times. Now it wasn’t a perfect performance as Dallas climbed back into things and Amari Cooper ran wild for 226 yards through the air. This team is still figuring things out, but winning in the process.
5. Seattle Seahawks: 4-1 (Last Week: 15)
This was exactly the type of performance I was waiting to see from Seattle. To this point, the Seahawks had squeaked past the Bengals and Steelers, lost badly at home to the Saints and handled the Cardinals. Not exactly a convincing slate of results. Even though it was a really tight win, it is still a massive win over a division rival. Russell Wilson turned in an MVP-level performance and the defense bottled up Todd Gurley. The secondary still needs some work, but at 4-1 the Seahawks are in a good spot to make a playoff run.
6. San Francisco 49ers: 4-0 (Last Week: 8)
So uh, this team might be pretty legit. San Francisco is 4-0 for the first time since 1990. The defense battered Baker Mayfield. Matt Breida got things going early for the offense, but after that it was a ball control offense that racked up 275 yards rushing. San Fran’s schedule hasn’t really been too tough, but this was a dominant showing against a supposedly explosive offense. There are still holes on this team, with a need for corner help and a developing receiving core. This is going to be a very interesting team to watch at the trade deadline.
7. Los Angeles Rams: 3-2 (Last Week: 4)
Back-to-back losses should drop the Rams a ton, but the rest of the NFL is a mess right now, so Los Angeles lands here instead. This secondary needs a shot in the arm after allowing eight touchdown passes in the past two games. Sean McVay has to reestablish the run game to take some pressure off Jared Goff. Given all the major areas of concern, a one-point loss on the road in October is not the end of the world. If the Rams win their next four games against the 49ers, Falcons, Steelers and Bengals to move to 7-2, we will barely remember these two games.
8. Dallas Cowboys: 3-2 (Last Week: 6)
Similar to the Rams, the Cowboys drop two in a row, but to good competition in both games. There is no question Dak Prescott needs to take care of the ball, but this was concerning for a lot of other reasons. The defense had no answer for Aaron Jones, despite the fact Green Bay was missing its best receiver in Davante Adams. No one else on that team should stop you from stacking the box to shut down the run. That is unacceptable. The Cowboys get the week off next week because they play the Jets, but after that is a trip to Philadelphia and this team will need to be playing better by then.
9. Philadelphia Eagles: 3-2 (Last Week: 9)
Sorry Philly fans, beating the Jets does not correlate to a move up the rankings. The Eagles looked very strong in doing so though, hounding Luke Falk and scoring a pair of defensive touchdowns. After a rocky start, Philadelphia is getting healthier and is back in the race for the division. The continuing improvement of Jordan Howard offers some hope that this offense is going to be more balanced. If they can find a way to sure up the secondary, this team will be in business.
10. Buffalo Bills: 4-1 (Last Week: 12)
It was an ugly win, but the defense showed up once again and dominated. It sacked Marcus Mariota five times and held the Titans to 3.8 yards per carry. Buffalo could have used a little more out of Josh Allen and the offense. After all, you can’t count on the opposing kicker to miss four field goals every week. That being said, the Bills now have the same record as the Chiefs. This defense is playing like the best in the league.
11. Detroit Lions: 2-1-1 (Last Week: 11)
The Lions got a week off to watch the Bears lose, but now Detroit has to prove its hot start can be sustained. This might be the most competitive division in the NFL this season. With games coming up against the Packers and Vikings, the next two weeks could make or break the season. The secondary is going to need to find a way to step up, after allowing the third most pass yards per contest through their first four games. The time is now for Detroit to make a statement and a playoff push.
12. Houston Texans: 3-2 (Last Week: 14)
It’s hard to find any faults in the offensive performance after putting up 53 in a big win. Deshaun Watson put together an otherworldly statline with 426 passing yards and five touchdowns while completing 28 of 33 throws. Will Fuller played the game of his life as well, going over 200 yards receiving with three touchdowns. The defense did allow 15 points late in the game, but Houston dominated this contest from start to finish. Finally the offensive line kept Watson clean, and we saw how good he can be when he has time.
13. Baltimore Ravens: 3-2 (Last Week: 10)
Baltimore was lucky to escape with a win. Make no mistake about it, this was not a good showing from the Ravens. Even after Mason Rudolph left the game with a concussion, the defense needed a big play from Marlon Humphrey to set up a game-winning field goal in overtime. The bright side of this is now the Ravens are back in sole possession of first place in the division. Lamar Jackson struggled mightily, throwing three interceptions and just 161 yard. He also took five sacks in the game as well. Baltimore will need to clean up a lot of mistakes with their next three games against Cincinnati, Seattle and New England.
14. Chicago Bears: 3-2 (Last Week 7)
London is calling. The Bears will be all too happy to head home and regroup after a wild game across the pond. Chicago trailed 17-0 at halftime, then scored 21 unanswered to open the second half, only to allow the deciding touchdown in the final two minutes. Chase Daniel did the one thing he couldn’t do and that was turn the ball over. The Bears defense also picked a bad week to suddenly have its pass rush go missing, failing to record a sack. Chicago needs to find its identity after another disappointing showing.
15. Indianapolis Colts: 3-2 (Last Week: 18)
Will the real Indianapolis Colts please stand up? Indy lost Week 1 in overtime to a struggling Chargers team, beat the lowly Titans and Falcons, and then dropped a home game to the Raiders. So logically, they followed that up with a dominant defensive performance against the Chiefs. Give credit to this coaching staff for putting together an incredible defensive gameplan despite missing their best player in Darius Leonard. Malik Hooker was out as well. Thankfully, Justin Houston decided to put on a show versus his former team. It wasn’t a great game from Jacoby Brissett and the offense, so there is still room for improvement, but the Colts are now right back in the thick of the AFC South race.
16. Carolina Panthers: 3-2 (Last Week: 20)
The Kyle Allen experience continues as he moves to 4-0 in his career as a starter. Allen actually struggled quite a bit, but that didn’t matter because he got a lot of help from MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey. The former Stanford standout had 237 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in a dominant display. That dismal outing against the Buccaneers feels like a lifetime ago now as the Panthers are just a game back of the Saints in the NFC South. A rematch with those Bucs awaits, this time in London.
17. Minnesota Vikings: 3-2 (Last Week: 17)
Kirk Cousins took Adam Thielen’s advice and found him early and often all over the field. Thielen and Dalvin Cook ran all over the Giants defense. It was exactly the type of bounce back performance Minnesota needed after laying an egg against Chicago. There is still room for improvement as Cook fumbled at the goal line and the team as a whole committed 12 penalties. It is also a bit disappointing to not see the nearly 500 yards of offense turn into more points. The Vikings can take care of the lower tier, but questions remain about their ability to compete with quality teams.
18. Oakland Raiders: 3-2 (Last Week: 22)
Oakland looked untouchable in the first half and then collapsed after halftime. The Raiders did eventually pull out the win and prove that Khalil Mack is not crucial to winning football games. In fact, Mack and company failed to register a sack, while Oakland brought down Chase Daniel four times. In the process though, Jon Gruden sent a clear message, running the ball 39 times. Josh Jacobs handled 26 of those carries. Gruden clearly trusts his rookie running back and likes his team’s ability to control the clock. The Raiders had the ball for nearly 35 minutes. That formula takes pressure off Derek Carr and the defense, and can clearly lead to victories.
19. Cleveland Browns: 2-3 (Last Week: 16)
Oh Cleveland. After an offseason of hype and hope, the Browns crashed back down to Earth. Even after defeating the Ravens last week, Cleveland has not put to bed any of the concerns about its offensive line or it’s ability to show up in big games. Baker Mayfield put up a better QBR than just one player this week and that was Luke Falk. That’s not good company to keep. He completed just eight passes and spent a good chunk of the game picking himself up off the grass. Given all the injuries to the secondary, you would expect the pass defense to struggle. Instead, the run defense fell apart, giving up 275 yards on the ground. Cleveland has a lot of problems to solve before hosting the Seahawks next.
20. Los Angeles Chargers: 2-3 (Last Week: 13)
The Chargers could be in trouble. Philip Rivers is airing the ball out and completing passes at a high rate, but Los Angeles is not scoring touchdowns. The Chargers are fifth in passing yards per game, but 20th in points per game this season. Desmond King II scored LA’s lone touchdown against Denver on a punt return. It was easily the worst showing of the year so far for the Chargers’ offense, as they committed three turnovers and managed 2.2 yards per carry. It is going to take Melvin Gordon a little time to get up to speed, but this was a full unit meltdown, not just one player.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-3 (Last Week: 19)
Gardner Minshew, DJ Chark and Leonard Fournette create quite the offensive trio. If not for three fumbles by Minshew in this game, the Jags would probably be holding a share of the AFC South lead. The usually stout defense got shredded for 285 yards on the ground though. They did make life difficult on Kyle Allen, but had absolutely no answer for Christian McCaffrey. To be fair, not many people have, but when Jacksonville puts up 27 points, that should be enough given the amount of talent on the defensive side of the ball.
22. Tennessee Titans: 2-3 (Last Week: 21)
This is typical Titans football. The defense plays lights out, but the offense cannot find a way make it count. Derrick Henry carried the load once again as Marcus Mariota failed to do much of anything in the passing game. The offensive line had a rough day in Taylor Lewan’s return from suspension. Tennessee can play at a high level, but when it comes up against a decent defense, things seem to fall apart. Only one game out of the AFC South, there is time to turn things around, but it is starting to seem like the offense will never take that next step.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-4 (Last Week: 23)
It is incredible that Pittsburgh lost Mason Rudolph in this game and somehow managed to hang with the Ravens. Over the past few weeks, the Steelers defense has finally found its stride. The offense is still a bit of a work in progress, even beyond the quarterback position. For Pittsburgh, this running game really needs to get on track now facing playing with it’s third-choice (actually fourth-choice, they traded Joshua Dobbs earlier this season) quarterback of the year.
24. New York Giants: 2-3 (Last Week: 24)
It was a tough week for the Giants defense. Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook had a field day. They allowed an outrageous 490 yards. Wayne Gallman went down with an injury, leaving Jonathan Hillman to handle the backfield duties. Sterling Shepard will miss some time with a concussion as well. Daniel Jones has not been quite as prolific as he was during the second half of his first start. There were always going to be growing pains with a rookie quarterback, but the injuries have not made it any easier.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-3 (Last Week: 25)
How did the Buccaneers follow up shocking the Rams? They could barely find a way to move the ball against the Saints. A last-minute touchdown made the scoreline look respectable. Tampa could not find a way to protect Jameis Winston, giving up six sacks. Mike Evans went missing in action, failing to even reel in one catch. This team has shown flashes of being able to compete with the cream of the crop. It is tough to win divisional road games, but the Bucs gave themselves little chance of doing so with an uneven performance.
26. Denver Broncos: 1-4 (Last Week: 27)
Denver probably should be 3-2, but getting one in the win column is huge for a team that has struggled to get going out of the gates. We saw more signs of the Broncos defense of old with two interceptions and stifling run stopping. The offense still has a long way to go. Its 18 points per game rank tied with Buffalo for 27th in the league, only ahead of Chicago, Cincinnati, Washington, New York and Miami. Moving out of that group is going to be just as critical to the defense continuing to round into form.
27. Atlanta Falcons: 1-4 (Last Week: 26)
The promise that surrounded this team entering the season is gone. Injuries have once again derailed the Falcons, but so has poor defensive play. This seems to be a capitulation of all the struggles Dan Quinn has had on that side of the ball, allowing 53 points. Atlanta also became the first team to fail to bring down Deshaun Watson all year. Unless there is a major turn around, Quinn is going to be out of job. The Falcons have plenty of high-priced and highly-regarded pieces to be a competitive team, but already three games back in the NFC South with a floundering defense, this group seems destined for a top-10 pick.
28. Arizona Cardinals: 1-3-1 (Last Week: 30)
At last, the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray era nets a win. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, the Cardinals almost managed to flip the script on their Week 1 comeback to force a tie by blowing this game late. Arizona led 23-9 in the fourth quarter, but allowed Cincinnati to tie things up. Thankfully, the Murray played his most complete game of the year, completing 62 percent of his passes, not turning the ball over and rushing for 93 yards, to lead the Cardinals to a win. The Bengals do have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, but getting a win here is big for confidence and presents Kingsbury something to build on with a very young group.
29. Cincinnati Bengals: 0-5 (Last Week: 31)
The Bengals are moving up! Not really because of anything they did, but more because of how bad other teams around them have been. Sure Cincy is still winless, but they came a lot closer this weekend and showed some signs of life. Granted it took a while for the offense to get going, but that was without John Ross and A.J. Green. Once the latter returns, this offense should be a bit more dynamic and reliable. Zac Taylor certainly has his work cut out for him when it comes to finding ways to compensate an awful offensive line.
30. Washington: 0-5 (Last Week: 29)
Jay Gruden is gone. It was going to happen eventually, and honestly this might even be a little bit premature given the circumstances. I’m hard pressed to remember the last time a team fired the head coach just five games into the season. Washington actually played fairly well in the first half of the game, holding New England to just 12 points. Things got a lot more lopsided after halftime and it is clear to see this team is in need of a serious rebuild.
31. New York Jets: 0-4 (Last Week: 28)
I don’t think the league has seen a passing offense as inept as the one the Jets have rolled out since the turn of the century. Adam Gase does not have much to work with, as he is starting Luke Falk, who started the year on the practice squad, but this has been downright pathetic. Gase is not free from blame either, after giving Sam Darnold nearly all the first team reps this week. New York is averaging 179.5 yards per game. That’s nearly 50 fewer yards than the freaking Dolphins! The Jets have also scored two offensive touchdowns this year. After allowing nine sacks against the Eagles, the only way to go is up. Unfortunately, the Cowboys and Patriots are the next two teams up. It’s going to be a really long season.
32. Miami Dolphins: 0-4 (Last Week: 32)
Miami took a week off from getting blown out, but only because the league requires every team to have a bye. I don’t really expect it to make a difference, but given how little time Josh Rosen has actually had in this offense, perhaps it will allow him to settle in a bit more. The lack of talent around him certainly does not help either. The Dolphins are going to be drafting first overall, or at least the top three. In reality the focus should start shifting to how this team is going to rebuild with three first round picks this year, which you can see in my latest mock draft!
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