2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 5


What a two-week stretch! I’m back after a week off. I was a bit busy. I got married, then went on my honeymoon. I think that feels like a good reason not to write for a week.

However, it also means that I have a ton to catch up on. As we all expected, the Cardinals are the final undefeated team in the NFL. In much less surprising news, Matt Nagy continues to be criticized and Urban Meyer is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Another slate of surprising results leads to another major shake up in the rankings as we near the quarter-way mark of the season.

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1. Arizona Cardinals: 4-0 (Last Week: 4)
Won 37-20 at Los Angeles
For the third week in a row, we have another new team at No. 1. The Cardinals unquestionably deserve to be here. A statement win on the road in L.A. solidified Arizona as a Super Bowl contender. Kyler Murray is the early frontrunner to win MVP and the defense continues to step up when it matters. Another NFC West showdown is up next with the 49ers.

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2. Buffalo Bills: 3-1 (Last Week: 5)
Won 40-0 vs. Houston
Holy hell, that season-opening loss to the Steelers looks more and more like a bizarre anomaly. Buffalo now owns a pair of massive shutout wins. In fact, Denver is the only other team to post a shutout this season. Now Houston is hardly a tough test, but the stat line Davis Mills posted looks like something when you play defense on rookie mode in Madden. He finished 11-of-21 throwing for 87 yards and four interceptions. This Bills defense is for real.

3. Los Angeles Rams: 3-1 (Last Week: 1)
Lost 37-20 vs. Arizona
Maybe this was an emotional letdown after beating the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 3, but this was a costly loss for the Rams. The margin for error in the NFC West is razor thin and now Los Angeles falls back in the division. There are a ton of games left, but some clear problems cropped up on Sunday. Arizona rumbled for 216 yards on the ground. This defense has to step up if the Rams want to win a Super Bowl.

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4. Cleveland Browns 3-1 (Last Week: 3)
Won 14-7 at Minnesota
In a week full of ugly games, this was easily the ugliest. Cleveland managed just a single touchdown offensively, but notched a pair of field goals and a two-point conversion to claim an important win. Unquestionably, the defense won the game for the Browns. Myles Garrett and company unsettled Kirk Cousins, who was on a tear through the first three weeks, and bottled up a good running game. Baker Mayfield definitely needs to play better, but this defense looks championship caliber so far.

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5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3-1 (Last Week: 2)
Won 19-17 at New England
A look at the record would indicate that all is going well in Tampa Bay. However, a closer look reveals some concerns. Dallas outplayed Tampa for much of Week 1. The team’s only convincing win came against a horrible Falcons defense. New England was also a missed kick away from knocking off the champs. Defensively, this team has not been as good as a year ago. Injuries are mounting in the secondary. There is still a lot to be positive about, but there are cracks forming in the Buccaneers’ offense.

6. Los Angeles Chargers: 3-1 (Last Week: 11)
Won 28-14 vs. Las Vegas
Honestly, the Chargers are a few penalties away from being 4-0. A convincing showing on Monday night coupled with an upset of the Chiefs has Brandon Staley’s team atop the AFC West. Justin Herbert is playing lights out. The team is imposing its will in the trenches as well. With playmakers at all three levels of the defense, this team is starting to look like a real contender. Another big test looms with a visit from the Browns.

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7. Baltimore Ravens: 3-1 (Last Week: 7)
Won 23-7 at Denver
Baltimore certainly benefited from facing Drew Lock for much of the game instead of Teddy Bridgewater, but ultimately played much better offensively against better competition. Denver’s defense offered a real test. However, it was the Ravens defense that truly won the day. Holding the Broncos to just one touchdown was a good look and neither opposing quarterback had much success. With five sacks and an interception, it seems like this group is playing at a high level. A Monday Night Football showdown with the Colts awaits.

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8. Green Bay Packers: 3-1 (Last Week: 8)
Won 27-17 vs. Pittsburgh
Turns out it was just one game on the schedule. The team that slept-walked its way through the season opener has been nowhere to be found since then. Defensively, Green Bay limited Najee Harris and shutdown Pittsburgh’s offense for much of the game. Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb connected for a pair of scores while Rodgers added another on the ground. The Packers seem to be getting into a groove ahead of a matchup with the upstart Bengals.

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9. Dallas Cowboys: 3-1 (Last Week: 10)
Won 36-28 vs. Carolina
The final score line makes this game seem much closer than it truly was. Dallas led 36-14 in the fourth quarter before Carolina went on a furious comeback bid that came up short. With the rest of the division struggling, the Cowboys are cruising. Zeke Elliott seems to have knocked off the rust, racking up 147 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Dak Prescott didn’t throw for a ton of yards but avoided mistakes and tossed four touchdown passes. Don’t look now but this defense seems to be legit as well.

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10. Las Vegas Raiders: 3-1 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 28-14 at Los Angeles
This loss does not wipe out the fantastic start to the season for the Raiders, but it puts a solid dent in their ambitions. The Chargers led 21-0 at halftime as Derek Carr and the offense struggled to get going. Las Vegas had zero yards of offense at the end of the first quarter while the defense could not seem to stop Justin Herbert. Jon Gruden’s group played significantly better in the second half, but it was not enough to turn the tide.

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11. Kansas City Chiefs: 2-2 (Last Week: 12)
Won 42-30 at Philadelphia
Oh look, it’s the AFC West basement dweller. I don’t think it will stay that way for too long. However, the concerns over the Chiefs defense are real. Kansas City surrendered 461 yards of offense and 30 points to the Eagles. Thankfully, Patrick Mahomes shredded the Philly secondary for five touchdown passes. The team also went 9-of-10 on third down conversions. The offense is still championship caliber, but the defense needs to find its way back to being at least league average.

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12. Carolina Panthers: 3-1 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 36-28 at Dallas
Despite having a few extra days to prepare for the Cowboys, the Panthers could not find a way to stop Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott. Carolina hung around early and made it competitive late, but got dominated in the third quarter. Dallas punched in three touchdowns to outscore the formerly unbeaten NFC South side 21-0 in the period. The Panthers will look to bounce back against another NFC East side as the Eagles visit in Week 5.

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13. Seattle Seahawks: 2-2 (Last Week: 18)
Won 28-21 at San Francisco
Seattle was a bit lucky to win this game. Two missed kicks, a muffed kickoff return and an injury to Jimmy Garoppolo for the 49ers certainly set the Seahawks up for success. Credit to Russell Wilson and company for taking advantage when the opportunities presented themselves. However, San Francisco outgained Seattle by over 200 yards and won the time of possession battle. The Seahawks also went 2-for-10 on third down, but also held the 49ers to 2-for-14 in those same scenarios. Things don’t get any easier with a visit from the Rams on a short week.

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14. San Francisco 49ers: 2-2 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 28-21 vs. Seattle
Turnovers and a stagnant offense cost San Francisco its second straight home game. The 49ers could not convert on third down, finishing a lowly 2-for-14 and took too long to truly get going offensively. It also remains to be seen how long Jimmy Garoppolo will be out with a calf injury. There is only so much this defense can do when the offense continues to have drive stalls. Kyle Shanahan has to figure out how to spark his team.

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15. Cincinnati Bengals: 3-1 (Last Week: 17)
Won 24-21 vs. Jacksonville
This was definitely closer than it should have been. Cincinnati held off Jacksonville with a walk-off field goal. It was good to see the Bengals work their way back from a 14-0 hole, but it is worrying that the deficit existed in the first place. Joe Burrow played really well though, finding C.J. Uzomah for a pair of scores. Finding a way to establish the run would certainly solve a couple of the team’s issues, taking pressure off the defense and Burrow. Still, Cincy is 3-1 and looks much improved from a year ago.

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16. Denver Broncos: 3-1 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 23-7 vs. Baltimore
This was a demoralizing loss for the Broncos. Losing Teddy Bridgewater stings. Watching Drew Lock haplessly attempt to lead the offense in his place only worsened the pain. It was Denver’s first loss of the season, but it also served as a major benchmark for the team. After beating up on some of the worst teams in the league, it does not appear that the Broncos truly belong in the conversation with the NFL’s elite.

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17. New Orleans Saints: 2-2 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 27-21 vs. New York
Will the real New Orleans Saints please stand up? So far this season, Sean Payton’s side has shelled the Packers, fallen flat against the Panthers, whipped the Patriots and then choked against the Giants. The latest one might be the most confusing showing yet. New Orleans gave up 11 points in the final seven minutes of regulation and then could not stop New York from reaching the end zone in overtime. The Giants finished the game by scoring 17 unanswered points to claim the victory. Consistency might be hard to come by in the Bayou.

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18. Minnesota Vikings: 1-3 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 14-7 at Cleveland
It was a rough week for the offense, but there are some positives here for the Vikings defense. Holding Baker Mayfield under 50 percent passing is a good sign. Sacking him three times doesn’t hurt either. They did a decent job against the run, but the Browns still had 184 yards on the ground. Unfortunately, the offense did nothing to back up the defense. Kirk Cousins barely cracked 200 yards passing and the ground game averaged 2.8 yards per carry. The offensive line needs to play better.

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19. New England Patriots: 1-3 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 19-17 vs. Tampa Bay
While it was a loss, the defense played incredibly well against a high-powered Buccaneers offense. Mac Jones looked sharp and handled the blitz well all night long as well. In the end, the Patriots came up just short off pulling off a big victory. Things will get a lot easier in Week 5 with a trip to Houston up next. It might not be a 40-0 shutout, but New England should be able to pick up a win.

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20. Washington: 2-2 (Last Week: 24)
Won 34-30 at Atlanta
Washington, we have a problem! Matt Ryan carved up the defense to the tune of 283 yards and four touchdowns. Cordarrelle Patterson had a field day as well. Luckily, Atlanta’s defense might just be slightly worse. Taylor Heinicke led two touchdown drives late in the fourth quarter to win the game. This is not a winning formula when facing most teams in the league. Ron Rivera needs to find a way to revitalize this defense as soon as possible.

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21. Tennessee Titans: 2-2 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 27-24 at New York
Tennessee has already shown this season it is capable of incredible highs and devastating lows. Sunday was clearly one of the lowest points we’ve seen from them in quite a while. The Titans lost a very winnable game on the road against a team with a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach. What made it worse was that one of their former players, Corey Davis, played a major part in their loss. Lucky for them though, they still lead the AFC South, because it’s the AFC South.

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22. Indianapolis Colts: 1-3 (Last Week: 22)
Won 27-17 at Miami
Indianapolis finally got a win, comfortably beating Miami. It took a little while for the offense to get going, but it closed strong with 20 points in the second half. Jonathan Taylor put together one of the best games of his season and Carson Wentz avoided turnovers. Defensively, the Colts didn’t have too many problems with the Jacoby Brissett-led offense. A much tougher matchup awaits with the Ravens on Monday night.

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23. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-3 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 27-17 at Green Bay
The bottom appears to be falling out for the Steelers. Pittsburgh has no offensive identity and clearly one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Losing to the Packers is more than understandable given their recent form. That shouldn’t excuse the 29th scoring offense and 28th offense in total yards per game. The Steelers also rank dead last in rushing yards. This team has to do something to turn it around quickly.

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24. Chicago Bears: 2-2 (Last Week: 27)
Won 24-14 vs. Detroit
While Chicago picked up a solid win, its offense took a significant blow with the loss of David Montgomery. Through four weeks this season, he had the fourth-most carries in the league. How the Bears have found success this season has been by running the ball and trusting its defense to win the game. It remains to be seen if Damien Williams can pick up the slack.

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25. Philadelphia Eagles: 1-3 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 42-30 at Kansas City
It is really tough to come up against Patrick Mahomes in that form. Philadelphia did its best to hang around early, but I don’t think this offense is really built to compete in shootouts. On the defensive side, this has to go down as a disappointment. After a strong start against the Falcons and 49ers, the Eagles have gotten shredded by the Cowboys and Chiefs. Some of that is a better level of competition, but this defense has to get its act together.

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26. Miami Dolphins: 1-3 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 27-17 vs. Indianapolis
So it turns out Jacoby Brissett might not be the problem in this offense. He did lose a fumble, but Miami finished with 35 yards rushing on a meager 2.2 yards per carry. That is not going to win many football games. The offensive line is a mess, surrendering three sacks and eight quarterback hits. Even when Tua Tagovailoa comes back, I’m not sure that it will make much of a difference if this is how the team is going to play.

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27. New York Giants: 1-3 (Last Week: 30)
Won 27-21 at New Orleans
In potentially the unlikeliest result of the weekend, New York overcame an 11-point deficit in the closing minutes and knocked off New Orleans in overtime. Daniel Jones topped 400 passing yards for the first time in his career while Saquon Barkley is starting to look like the player we saw before his injury. The Giants have a long way to go. This team had just 10 points through the first 52 minutes of gameplay. Getting a win is huge though.

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28. Atlanta Falcons: 1-3 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 34-30 vs. Washington
Even though the Falcons beat the Giants head-to-head in Week 3, they showed their unmatched penchant for blowing games against Washington and still very much seem to be headed in the wrong direction. Atlanta gave up two touchdowns in the final four minutes and spoiled one of the best performances we’ve seen from Matt Ryan in some time. It is hard to feel overly confident in this team’s ability to close out games when that defense needs to come up with a stop.

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29. New York Jets: 1-3 (Last Week: 32)
Won 27-24 vs. Tennessee
Could this be a turning point in New York? Probably not, but it is a really positive sign after a few dismal performances. The Jets scored more against the Titans than they had in the first three weeks combined and Zach Wilson flashed the playmaking ability that made him the No. 2 pick in the draft. He routinely extended plays and had a few explosive throws down the field. There were also a few questionable decisions, but that is to be expected from a rookie making his fourth start. It was good to see Jamison Crowder back in action as well.

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30. Houston Texans: 1-3 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 40-0 at Buffalo
Poor Davis Mills. The rookie from Stanford looks totally overmatched and unprepared for life in the NFL. After a solid, but unspectacular first start, Mills was thrown to the wolves and produced one of the worst stat lines we have seen in a while. He finished with a 0.8 Total QBR. Not that he got much help. Houston was held under 50 yards rushing and the defense could only hang on for so long. David Culley will need to revisit the drawing board heading into Week 5 against the Colts.

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31. Detroit Lions: 0-4 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 24-14 at Chicago
Losing while being competitive only gets you so far. Chicago took Detroit’s strength and turned it into a weakness this weekend. The Lions offensive line allowed four sacks and could not get the run game going in earnest. It led to a very underwhelming offensive performance. While Jared Goff threw the ball well, falling just shy of 300 passing yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, he fumbled three times, losing two of them. Detroit’s best bet for success is running the ball, calling play action and keeping Goff clean. Credit the Bears for making that impossible, but this was a tough loss for the Lions.

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32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 0-4 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 24-21 at Cincinnati
Believe it or not, the Jaguars seem to be improving on the field. Jacksonville came close to notching its first win since Week 1 of 2020. Trevor Lawrence looked much improved as the team built a 14-0 lead. Unfortunately, the Jags could not hold on and ended up losing on a last-second field goal. What is potentially more concerning is how much of a distraction Urban Meyer continues to be. The coach got himself in hot water again with a viral video taking center stage over the weekend. It’s hard enough for the Jaguars to overcome the clear talent deficit it faces. These off-field distractions only make life harder.

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