A quarter of the way through the season, we have five undefeated teams -- and a new No. 1.
@Harrison_NFL if you even think about ranking Denver 2nd next week under Seattle there will be widespread riots in Colorado.— Brian Lamers (@BrianLamers) September 29, 2013
Well played, Brian. I recently watched a Star Trek episode about a planet on which there was rioting in the streets at 6 p.m. every day because of a super computer. Thankfully, Kirk and Spock were there to outsmart it. Considering they are both 82 years old now, I figured I'd better handle this myself. Thus, the Broncos are No. 1 in the Power Rankings. Oh, and also, they're simply blowing out teams. How about the special teams Sunday?
Meanwhile, several other clubs are less than special, making the bottom of these rankings ugly. Three Sunday losers moved up just by being competitive, but then there's one 0-4 team that isn't even staying in games. Otherwise, the No. 6 through 27 spots are completely up for grabs -- and that's where we figure to get the disputes. Per the usual, feel free to share your opinion ... @Harrison_NFL is the place.
Let the dissension commence ...
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)
The Broncos are averaging 44.8 points per game, 13 more than the next closest team. Only the 1966 Dallas Cowboys scored more points (183) through the first four weeks of a season. That team featured a little-known 22-year-old tailback who tied for the league lead with 16 total touchdowns. His name? Dan Reeves. Yes, that Dan Reeves, the one who took the Broncos to three Super Bowls as a coach -- the very pinnacle to which Denver aspires this season. How's that for historical symmetry?
That's the NFL these days: The
Chiefs go from 2-14 to 4-0. So was Romeo Crennel that awful as a head coach, or is
Andy Reid the chubby
The answer: Probably neither. The difference between good and bad teams is so slim that turnarounds consisting of a 6-8 win improvement -- à la the Colts last season -- happen. It helps when Alex Smith converts nine third downs and runs for 37 yards, as he did for Kansas City on Sunday. He's now scampered 30 times for 151 yards on the season.
Nice recovery after a mediocre first two weeks for
Andrew Luck and the
Sunday's win came against the Jags, but 37-3 is 37-3.
So you want an idea of how big a threat this Indianapolis football team truly is? We'll see what happens when the Seahawks come to town this weekend. Let's hope Luck doesn't channel his inner Schaub.
Would you believe the Lions, losers of their last eight games of 2012, are 3-1 and in FIRST place in the NFC North? For all the love being thrown the Chiefs' way -- and deservedly so -- Detroit has made a comeback almost as strong as Kansas City's. The key here is that while the Chiefs probably won't topple the Broncos in the AFC West, the Lions have as good a shot as the Packers or Bears to win their division. We'll learn a lot Sunday at Lambeau.
A lot went wrong for the
Sunday in Detroit. What stuck out most was
Jay Cutler's maddening tendency to just flick the ball, often inaccurately. While aiming never works for a pro quarterback, proper footwork does. Note
Tom Brady. Note
In a key early sequence against the Lions, Cutler missed an open Martellus Bennett in the end zone, then failed to get the back-shoulder fade high enough for Alshon Jeffery. And we're not even getting to Cutler's three interceptions.
49ers seem to use so many ball-carriers that their running back committee has its own sub-committees. (It's why nothing gets done in Congress.)
LaMichael James and
Bruce Miller all got playing time for San Francisco
Miller, by the way, is a beast. He made several big blocks, like on this play. And he can catch the football, too. Old. School.
Some narratives just won't go away.
Andy Dalton might look effective in practice or on "Hard Knocks,"
but not in games. He's still not producing the big plays downfield for the
In 42 attempts Sunday, Dalton threw for 206 yards -- not even 5 yards per attempt. After passing 148 times this season, Dalton has accumulated just 1,003 yards, or less than 7 yards per throw. That won't win many games, unless the defense bails him out (as it did in Week 3). Maybe Cincinnati can swing a trade with Cleveland for Brian Hoyer.
Packers drop slightly after their bye week, only because the 3-1
Lions (who won another game) and the
already beat Green Bay) leapfrogged them. Week 4 was an appropriate time for a bye, as Green Bay has several injuries to contend with, starting in the backfield.
Here's something for all you franchise historians out there: Did you know that the Packers were the subject of the first game NFL Films ever shot? If you missed it when it aired on NFL Network, be sure to find " A Football Life: Steve Sabol." It's excellent.
Titans would have gotten a much bigger boost if they hadn't just
lost their starting quarterback for three games.
Jake Locker's hip injury spoils Tennessee's 3-1 start.
In other news, the Titans' defense recorded five sacks and four takeaways against the Jets on Sunday, allowing 13 points and scoring a touchdown, courtesy of Karl Klug. Not bad. Karl Klug: You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him. Enjoyed hearing Terry Bradshaw call him "Klawg." That's always fun.
Don't have an energy drink in Buffalo on Sundays; you just might flat-line.
Holy cow, these guys' games are stressful. First, there was the loss to the Patriots on a last-second Stephen Gostkowski field goal. Then the Bills beat the Panthers with two seconds left in Week 2. In Week 3, Buffalo overcame several injuries to darn-near pull off an unlikely comeback versus the Jets. On Sunday, they had to pick off Joe Flacco a fifth time with a minute left. Oh, and that was with three starting defensive backs out.
"Reports are slowly trickling in that the Ravens are considering running the ball once every 10 minutes, a stunning departure from Baltimore's winning formula of 'Pass, pass, pass, pass, sack, interception, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, sack, run, pass.' We'll try to get more information from one of our NFL Insiders, next on 'NFL Total Access.' "
You might not know this -- that is, unless you're a
Texans fan -- but
Matt Schaub has a rare streak going: He's thrown a pick-six in three straight games. That's like a pitcher giving up grand slams in three straight starts.
With upcoming games against the 49ers, Chiefs and Colts -- teams that won their Week 4 matchups by a combined score of 103-21 -- Houston hardly can afford more Schaub turnovers.
You've got to tip your hat to
Philip Rivers. No quarterback -- save maybe
his opponent last Sunday -- has received more disrespect over the past couple of years, and yet Rivers is playing well. The 10th-year vet completed 35 passes
against a much-improved Dallas defense on a day when his club needed it.
There's a huge difference between 2-2 and the abyss of 1-3. San Diego certainly can play with Kansas City in the AFC West.
Hate to say it, but coaching failed
the Cowboys on Sunday in San Diego -- which, considering all the cheering going on for the visiting team, actually felt more like Dallas. But we digress.
First, the Cowboys failed to adjust on defense; Bruce Carter and Sean Lee were consistently left to cover Antonio Gates, who caught 10 passes for 136 yards and one touchdown. Jason Garrett's decision to attempt a 56-yard field goal on grass (rather than punt or go for it on fourth down) midway through the second quarter was an equally significant mistake, as Dan Bailey's miss gave the Chargers premium field position and, ultimately, a field goal of their own. Those three points loomed large at the end, when the Cowboys were scrambling for two scores instead of just pushing for one.
Falcons are still one of the league's better teams, but this is not the
same team that started 2012 with an 8-0 record.
The Atlanta defense was chasing a lot of jerseys in the second half of Sunday night's loss to the Patriots. Yes, that happened at times last season. But there's a key difference: Receiver Roddy White clearly is not healthy, which means opponents can single-cover him. Thus, Julio Jones often faces a defensive back over the top and underneath, and the offense is forced to go through tight end Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez obviously can make ridiculous plays in coverage, but it's tough to win that way.
not have their bye week at an optimal time. Who would want to go on a break after
routing the Giants, 38-0?
Check out this upcoming schedule: at Cardinals, at Vikings, vs. Rams, at Bucs ... there's a chance the Panthers could go from 0-2 to 5-2 in time for their Nov. 3 home matchup with the Falcons. #justsayin'
Great team win for Cleveland.
"Hoyer-to-Cameron" is starting to resemble "Fouts-to-Winslow", "Sipe-to-Newsome" and "Anyone-to-Gonzalez." Don't you wish the
Browns would decide to tank it
every year? This is fantastic.
Next up: Buffalo Bills on "Thursday Night Football." We'll be covering it on NFL.com/Live at 8 p.m. ET.
Hand it to
Patrick Peterson and that
Cardinals defense. After allowing an early touchdown drive Sunday, Arizona's defenders tightened their chin straps and
kept it close on the road.
Peterson intercepted two balls in the last three minutes and change -- the first to set up the Cards' first touchdown, the second to seal the deal. Watch the first pick again; that was a big-time play, the way he established position on Vincent Jackson. Then he completed the catch. #clutch
All the enthusiasm sparked by that
opening-night win and the prospect of
Chip Kelly changing the NFL is starting to wane now. That's what happens when the defense is, uh, less than viable. This is a point
we raised early on, and it will be relevant until the
Eagles prove they can hold the fort.
Coming into last Sunday's matchup in Denver, Philadelphia ranked 31st in the NFL in forcing three-and-out drives, doing it on just 10.5 percent of opponents' possessions. Safe to say that number didn't improve much against the Broncos.
The Jets resumed "Campaign 2013: Ugly Football" in Tennessee with some of the same mistakes that made their Week 3 win over the Bills too close for comfort. Lost in the aftermath of Sunday's mess is the fact the Jets can play on defense, particularly against the run. Of course, when the offense turns the ball over four times ... well, you get the point. A little ball security and some healthy receivers would make a huge difference for this New York team, which is not as bad as everyone thinks (or as it looks).
Here's resilience: You're 0-3 and your franchise quarterback doesn't look right. You're on the road, and you go three-and-out on the first series. You go three-and-out again. Then, the ensuing punt gets blocked for a touchdown, and just like that, you're down 7-zip. Washington fans were slipping into panic mode when that happened
Sunday at Oakland. But the players didn't.
Rookie defensive back David Amerson stepped up, and that franchise QB we mentioned spread the ball around in a quiet, efficient showing. Believe it or not, Robert Griffin III and the 1-3 Redskins are just one game back in the NFC East. #NotYourFathersNFCEast
Minnesota is back in the win column and -- thankfully -- Greg Jennings is back to being involved in an NFL offense. Jennings has been so absent this season that your hack of a writer nearly dropped him from his fantasy team. Jennings' line from London was stellar: three catches for 92 yards and two scores. That's a lot of bang for the buck -- something the Vikings hadn't been receiving from the $17.8 million they guaranteed Jennings back in March.
There's not much hiding the fact that St. Louis has been outscored by 48 points over the past two weeks. What's particularly embarrassing is the complete lack of a running game. Gaining 35 yards on 12 carries against Dallas certainly was bad enough, but running 19 times for just 18 yards at home against the Niners? Rams fans must be pretty frustrated.
After yet another loss for Pittsburgh, let's go positive. Forget about Le'Veon Bell's numbers, which were modest (16 carries, 57 yards, two touchdowns) in his debut on Sunday. There's no way you can watch the guy and not think he's three steps ahead of the three-headed Astro van that is Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Felix Jones. Yes, the Steelers have a player in Bell, who is explosive, unafraid to run between the tackles and possesses excellent balance.
Against the Redskins on Sunday, we saw why the
Dolphins took a pass on
Matt Flynn in the spring of 2012, why
Russell Wilson beat him out for the
Seahawks' starting job last August, and why Oakland rolled with
Terrelle Pryor this year. Flynn doesn't have the mobility to evade a lot of sacks or make plays on the run, and he doesn't exactly make up for it by being careful with the football. The pick-six collected by
David Amerson was the result of a horrible decision by Flynn, and it changed the complexion of the game.
I'll tell you what, though: This Raiders defense has potential. The unit was not the reason this team fell Sunday.
We agonized over the
Giants' position. Considering this essentially is the same group that won
Super Bowl XLVI and went 9-7 last season, New York would have to be 29th or 30th, right? Nope, can't do it. The
Giants -- who have been outscored 69-7 over the past two weeks -- HAVE to be 31st.
Perhaps throwing over two-thirds of the time isn't working. The running game showed a little juice Sunday at Arrowhead. We know David Wilson has his fumble problems, but right now, giving the offense a different look by putting the ball in his belly would be worth the risk.
OK, Power Rankings peeps, we've tried like heck to find something wonderful to write about the
Jaguars, which is like attempting to write a glowing review for
"2012", John Cusack notwithstanding. That said, can the
Blaine Gabbert experiment end now?
On Sunday, he made his 26th career start for Jacksonville, and there apparently has been zero development in his game.
Forget the three interceptions versus the Colts. Gabbert's career passer rating is well below 70, and yet he's out there starting. Now, back to those three interceptions. The coaching staff told Gabbert to play more "loose." Well, he did. Jags fans deserve a better product than this.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.