NFL Power Rankings, Week 4: Titans hit top five; Steelers plunge

Print

What a surreal, unbelievable and surprising NFL weekend.

I'm talking about more than someone deciding to "stick to sports," with plenty else going on in the world. Plenty else was happening in the football universe, as several teams delivered shocking upsets and memorable finishes. But Week 3 of the 2017 season will go down in history for different reasons, with the unpredictability of the games an afterthought.

There are a couple of things to factor in when reading the below rankings:

1) Everyone has beaten everyone. Well, not literally, but you get what I'm saying. This presents an issue when it comes to those folks who want me to automatically place any particular head-to-head winner over the loser. The Bears beat the Steelers, but were blown out by the Bucs ... who got dusted by the Vikings ... who got destroyed by the Steelers. See what I mean?

2) Injuries are important. The Packers' offensive tackles come to mind ...

3) There were larger fluctuations this week than in any other during the seven years I've done the rankings.

Now on to more fluctuation, like falling down ...

If the offensive coordinator's job is to coordinate the offense, that certainly looked coordinated.

The typically strong outfits, like the Seahawks and Packers, don't all look the part. Thus, the top 10 features a couple of teams that haven't resided that high on the list in a long time. Where do you sit on the top 10 -- and beyond? Thoughts welcome ... @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

PROGRAMMING NOTE: For more in-depth analysis on the updated league pecking order, tune in to NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET for the "NFL Power Rankings" show. Want to add YOUR voice? Call (888) 553-7436 and leave a message with your opinion, and your comments could be played on the air.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Week 3 Power Rankings.

RANK

1

3-0 CHIEFS

The Chiefs hold the top spot in the rankings by holding serve in the first half on the road, then taking care of business in the second against the Chargers. While Justin Houston is my too-early Defensive Player of the Year (four sacks, 16 tackles and three batted balls already on the season), there was the unheralded Terrance Mitchell again Sunday. Everybody picking on him, like the frumpy kid picked last at kickball. Except said frumpy kid picked off your stud quarterback twice, notching two of the three key takeaways that pushed the Chiefs to 3-0 and the top of the AFC West. Another reason for Kansas City's reign?? This.

RANK

2

3-0 FALCONS

2

Winning in the NFL is so much about survival. The Falcons have now survived two of the nearest misses of the season. That's not an insult. Why? Even though fans said I overrated the Lions and told me they would go 5-11, not only is Detroit not going to be anywhere near that bad, but the Lions are actually one of the stronger clubs in the NFC. Atlanta took it to them most of the day, and the decisive call at the end on the oh-so-close would-be winning catch by Golden Tate (a call that, by the way, was correct) shouldn't take away from Dan Quinn's squad. Was surprised Desmond Trufant panicked on that DPI to set the Lions up on the 1. It appeared as though he was in decent enough position to not grab Marvin Jones. I secured a lot of flak for not having Atlanta higher in the rankings last week. Wanted to see how they would fare on the road against a viable playoff team with a great quarterback. Question answered.

RANK

3

2-1 PATRIOTS

Exhilarating win followed by a lack of movement in the Power Rankings. With five more touchdown passes against the Texans' defense, including the improbable game-winner to Brandin Cooks in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady poured more cement on his status as the greatest quarterback to ever lace 'em up. The issue here is the fact that the Patriots needed all five of those touchdown passes, at home, against a team featuring a rookie quarterback making his second start. Even the most ardent fans in New England must be concerned about Matt Patricia's defense, which allowed 417 yards and 23 first downs Sunday.

RANK

4

2-1 LIONS

4

What a Lions-y way to lose. Watching the game live, I didn't think Golden Tate was down by contact. After watching the replays and listening to Fox analyst Dean Blandino, my thoughts drifted to whether referee Walt Coleman would have the requisite cojones to overturn Tate's touchdown on the field. Uh, he did. Yet another bizarre Detroit loss at the hands of the NFL rulebook. Remember the 2010 opener at Chicago? Never mind -- please don't think about that. Cancel, cancel. The important takeaway: The Lions could've beaten the Falcons. They can take down any team in the NFC. I mean, did you see Bengals-Packers?

RANK

5

2-1 TITANS

8

Huge plays abounded on Sunday, from the wide-receiver-screen-turned-home-run to Marcus Mariota heaving it deep to Jonnu Smith and DeMarco Murray long-striding behind a convoy of blockers. The Titans took care of business at home against a good team. That's what Tennessee fans have been waiting to see: Could their squad pull off a W against a potential playoff contender? The defense leaked a bit Sunday, unlike in Week 2. That's when Mariota and Tennessee's offense produced in Nashville, to the tune of 33 points.

RANK

6

2-1 EAGLES

8

A few observations from the Eagles' thrilling win at the Linc:

A) Jake Elliott's game-winning 61-yard field goal was the most rousing moment of Upset Weekend.
B) Sure would like coach Doug Pederson to get LeGarrette Blount (12 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown on Sunday) more involved.
C) While we're talking about the backfield, what a brutal development for Darren Sproles. A broken arm and torn ACL on the same play? Jeez. The 34-year-old has considered retirement in the past. If this is it, what a career.
D) More people should notice Carson Wentz's mobility. Vastly underrated aspect of his game.
E) Not feeling the go-for-it on fourth-and-8 from midfield with the lead.
F) The secondary is still paper-thin.
G) Sticking by my prediction of Philadelphia being a playoff team.

RANK

7

2-1 REDSKINS

11

The most impressive win of the 2017 season. That's what you can call the Redskins' complete decimation of the Raiders on Sunday night -- even more so than the Chiefs upending the Patriots on opening night. The only game in franchise history in which I remember Washington being quite this dominant was a playoff win over the Rams way back in 1983 (51-7, Riggins and the Hogs). Not sure I've ever seen the Redskins' defense play at quite that fever pitch. Holding Derek Carr, Beast Mode, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and a talented offensive line to a hair over a hundy was dazzling -- as was the physical manner in which Washington did it.

Random thought: Sure is nice to see Chris Thompson finally receive his due. He's been one of the league's most unheralded players for a minute.

RANK

8

2-1 RAIDERS

6

The Raiders created much drama Sunday night ... Would they eclipse 100 yards? They did, with approximately one minute left in the fourth quarter, trying to scratch out a drive from somewhere near their own end zone. The offensive line was overwhelmed at the point of attack. Amari Cooper caught one pass for 6 yards. Not to be outdone, Michael Crabtree caught one for 7. The run game walked. The defense made up for it by not tackling. OK, we're done here.

RANK

9

2-1 VIKINGS

8

Raise your hand if you thought Case Keenum was going to ball out against the Bucs. Holy Andre Ware and Kevin Kolb, Keenum was the difference on Sunday, keeping drives going to not only push the Minnesota offense, but provide Mike Zimmer's defense with a blow on the sideline. Keenum's unbelievable line: 25 of 33 for 369 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, a career day for the former University of Houston Cougar and Houston Texan. For longtime Vikings fans, Keenum's effort standing in for Sam Bradford reminded me of when Wade Wilson took over for Tommy Kramer and proceeded to lead Jerry Burns' group all the way to the 1987 NFC Championship Game. Thirty years later, and the Vikes are one of the better teams in the conference.

RANK

10

2-1 PACKERS

3

You can't stop Geronimo Allison. The Bengals learned as much on Sunday, when a national CBS audience was introduced to his legend. Tony Romo was quite enthusiastic about Allison's catch-and-run in OT. OK, so maybe the win didn't go the way the Packers drew it up on Sunday. They were one of a handful of presumably solid teams that survived near upsets (or fell) in Week 3. Green Bay is obviously hurt by its starting offensive line not being intact. However, that means Mike McCarthy can expect improvement over the back half of the season. On that note: Rookie cornerback Kevin King is a player to circle. Another note: Aaron Rodgers is still otherworldly, pick-six included.

RANK

11

2-1 BRONCOS

5

What is this Broncos team? A contender for the AFC West that will be there with the Raiders and Chiefs come season's end? Or is Vance Joseph's group a marginal wild-card squad? While many readers wanted them in the top five last week, remember that both of Denver's first two games were at home. Playing a solid defense -- on the road -- evened things out, if you will. And there was nothing fluky about the loss to the Bills. The Broncos have always boasted one of the premier home-field advantages in sports -- which will be tested with the Raiders coming to town this week.

RANK

12

2-1 COWBOYS

The Cowboys pulled out of their doldrums to take a game in Arizona. Dallasites were beyond nervous when Carson Palmer initially made marching down the field on the Cowboy defense look far too easy. That unit -- as well as Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Co. -- responded. Perhaps everyone was inspired by a Mark Bavaro Monday Night rumble from Dez Bryant. Most impressive of all, though, was the constant pressure applied by Demarcus Lawrence. While his name caused many to tweet the "Demarcus" connection with D-Ware, Lawrence reminded me of Greg Ellis in his prime. In fact, Ellis lived in the Cardinals' backfield (before suffering an Achilles injury) during a game in Bill Parcells' last season with the 'Boys. Lawrence, like Ellis for most of his career, made hay Monday night with his hand in the dirt before getting both of them on Palmer. Will move the Cowboys up if the defense continues to provide solid returns.

RANK

13

2-1 STEELERS

8

Did the real Steelers ever come out of the locker room Sunday? Yes, actually, they did. While we all wait for Pittsburgh to perform like the Super Bowl contenders everyone predicted them to be, the harsh reality is, this is precisely what the Steelers have been in the Mike Tomlin era. While there can be no doubt that the quality margins between the 32 teams are slimmer than ever, Pittsburgh has been consistently inconsistent against lesser opponents -- particularly on the road -- throughout the 11 seasons Tomlin has been running the ship. To Tomlin's credit, he usually gets this group ready for the postseason. Last year, they needed a heroic A.B. stretch just to make the playoffs. Can they even get close this year? Well, let's not overreact. Have you seen the AFC North?

RANK

14

2-1 JAGUARS

8

The 44-7 thrashing of the Ravens, the complete dominance from the defense and Marcedes Lewis' three scores were all shocking. After watching three games of the Jaguars' 2017 catalogue, I can say this much is certain: Throwing the football against this group will not be easy. So if the Jags can continue to get turnover-free-ish football from Blake Bortles, there's no reason 9-7 and an AFC South division title isn't possible.

RANK

15

2-1 BILLS

11

While not many people circled Broncos-Bills as a must-watch contest -- or thought, Sure, Buffalo might lose, but the Bills will play Denver tough -- Sunday's matchup at Ralph Wilson Stadium (New Era Field) was perhaps the least-talked-about upset of Week 3. Despite missing a couple of key players, the Bills controlled the engagement all second half. Forcing two Trevor Siemian turnovers and riding an effective Tyrod Taylor performance (20 of 26 passing for 213 yards, two scores and a passer rating of 126.0), all of a sudden, the play-for-next-year fiction has been turned on its ear. Sean McDermott's defense, which has allowed 37 points in three games, has turned into viable-this-year nonfiction. Next up: at Falcons. Oh, boy.

RANK

16

2-1 RAMS

5

The Rams delivered on Thursday in what might be the game of the year thus far. The offense looks completely different from how it did last year, in the best possible interpretation of that phrase. The defense under coordinator Wade Phillips might take a bit more time to gel -- usually, a new offense is slower to develop than a new D, but not in this case. Meanwhile, the nice start for this franchise is not an aberration -- unlike last year's 3-1 record, which was smoke, mirrors and a bushy mustache.

RANK

17

1-2 SEAHAWKS

8

Contrary to national perception, the Seahawks did not lose to the Titans solely because of the offensive line or even the offense as a whole. Yes, in the first half, Seattle's offense stunk. But the unit rebounded to put up 433 total yards and 27 points on the road, while the much-maligned line surrendered one whole sack. Those stats should point to a win. The problem was the defense, from penalties to blown coverage and, most noticeably, not peeling off downfield blocks. Tell me, Seahawks fans, am I seeing this wrong? (@HarrisonNFL)

RANK

18

1-1 BUCCANEERS

8

The Bucs are simply not strong enough in the run game right now to survive subpar play from Jameis Winston, at least not when the defense falters. While Tampa Bay's roster carries plenty of pieces on offense, sans a run game, Winston can't carry the entire team in track meets. The defense really is (we think?) better than it appeared to be while allowing Case Keenum to put up Tecmo Bowl numbers with relative ease. But is it a top-five group? No. Top 10? Maybe. Either way, Dirk Koetter's guys won't win six games, much less go 10-6, rushing for 26 yards and turning the ball over three times. On the plus side: Doug Martin's set to return to action in Week 5. (Hopefully, for the Bucs' sake, it'll be the 2012/2015 Doug Martin.)

RANK

19

1-2 SAINTS

6

Division games are always unpredictable. But you should never overlook the pride of a team not willing to let the season slip away in September. On Sunday, all of Twitter was praising Drew Brees, who was brilliantly efficient, if not prolific, going 22 of 29 for 230 yards, three scores and no picks. Yet, the real stud -- or studs -- from the win over the Panthers: Dennis Allen's defense. Yes, Cam Newton might have stunk as bad as the sports peanut gallery is saying (43.8 passer rating), but someone had to play well enough to make the Carolina QB look inept. Allen's unit intercepted Newton three times, and when it was time to play catch-up, the Panthers simply couldn't answer. Quality, quality win.

RANK

20

2-1 RAVENS

9

OK, running the football and playing defense is an age-old formula for winning -- but teams haven't been able to actually claim a W in a game in which their starting QB threw for 28 yards, as Joe Flacco did Sunday, since about 1928. While it would be easy to point to the defense in a 44-7 blowout loss for Baltimore, an offense that gains all of 186 yards and holds the ball for 25 minutes isn't doing that defense any favors. Larger indignation? Getting benched for Ryan Mallett.

RANK

21

1-2 BEARS

6

Nice effort by the Bears in the win over the Steelers, as Chicago continues to surprise folks this season. Love watching the tandem of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, which feels less like a running back committee and more like the result of an offensive mindset: Push the ball downfield behind a talented line while creating occasional mismatches in the passing game through the use of the running backs. Additionally, the front seven in Chicago has impressed against both the Falcons' Devonta Freeman and the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell. Mike Glennon is still a concern, as Pittsburgh could've won the game, were it not for dropped interceptions.

RANK

22

2-1 PANTHERS

6

Turning point in Sunday's loss to the Saints: the coin flip. Seriously, though, the Panthers played one of their worst games in the Ron Rivera era -- or, at least, in the series with the Saints. Carolina was forced to play catch-up all day, as the defense couldn't impose its will on an offensive line sans multiple starters, while Mike Shula's offense shifted between neutral and reverse for most of the afternoon. Key series: Down 27-13 midway through the fourth quarter, following a screen pass to Christian McCaffrey for a first down, Cam Newton forced a throw over the middle and into the arms of Kenny Vaccaro. Ballgame.

RANK

23

1-2 TEXANS

As a frustrated Bill O'Brien alluded after the three-point loss to the Patriots, there are no moral victories in the NFL. Nearly upsetting the Patriots on the road won't get the Texans any closer to the playoffs. They have gotten much closer to discovering a franchise quarterback. Deshaun Watson, mistakes and all, continues to impress, especially with his ability to improvise. The rookie out of Clemson helped Houston convert six third downs. So, to all those sleeping under a Colts blankie, or in a Jags onesie, or with a Titans night light, this team isn't going away.

RANK

24

1-2 CARDINALS

5

Wonderful opening drive, then ... wot happened? Randomly came across that phraseology recently while perusing the 1979 Pocket Book of Pro Football. (Yes, I. Am. A. Football. Nerd.) Appropriate for this blurb, though, because the late-'70s Cardinals declined after losing coach Don Coryell and dynamic RB Terry Metcalf (to the CFL), with hopes rested on an aging quarterback. Sound familiar? Carson Palmer might not be Jim Hart, but this could be his final season. Maybe Larry Fitzgerald's, too. Bruce Arians', as well? With David Johnson -- who's as dynamic as Terry Metcalf -- out of action, is this 2017 version of the Cards on a similarly depressing downswing?

RANK

25

0-3 GIANTS

1

The chances of making the playoffs at 0-3? Less than 5 percent. Does falling to 0-3 mean the Giants' season is over? No. What it does say is that New York can't wait for an offensive explosion by a fully healthy Odell Beckham Jr. to save its campaign. It's getting more difficult to ignore Eli Manning's interceptions, with two more tacked on this week. The defense played viably -- when it was tackling, anyway. And Paul Perkins can't be running up the backs of his linemen. Heck, that's a lot of stuff to correct. So, of course, the Giants will win this week.

RANK

26

1-2 JETS

6

What a performance from Todd Bowles' defense, which gave the Dolphins absolutely nothing on Sunday. Miami didn't even approach 300 total yards. There was nowhere to go down the field on so many plays, and all too often, the Jets forced Jay Cutler to move around the pocket or throw off his back foot. This after New York failed to even record a quarterback hit against the Raiders in Week 2. As I am typing this, Buster Skrine just sacked Cutler on a corner blitz. Ah, the wonders of Game Pass ... well, maybe I shouldn't be rewatching this game. It was ugly. And beautiful.

RANK

27

1-1 DOLPHINS

12

Losing to a team that many, many people felt had the best chance of going 0-16 since the 2008 Lions -- and falling behind by the score of 20-zip, mind you -- is embarrassing. At one point in the fourth quarter, I checked in on Dolphins- Jets to see that Jay Cutler had thrown 28 passes and barely edged over the hallowed 100-yard passing barrier. Oof. Many fans wanted the Dolphins placed higher last week after surviving the Chargers' missed field-goal try late. Those people really need to Koo it.

RANK

28

0-3 CHARGERS

8

I'm a fan of Philip Rivers, and I totally empathize with how often he must carry the Chargers on his shoulders, but the franchise quarterback will have to shoulder much blame in the loss to the Chiefs. Three first-half interceptions are what they are, so to speak. While Kansas City was in the driver's seat most of the afternoon at StubHub, the lead was seven points for the bulk of the game. That highlights the importance of a takeaway going one way or the other. At least Melvin Gordon finally showed signs of life. Few star players got off to a slower start than Gordon during the first two weeks -- if Gordon is indeed a star.

RANK

29

1-2 COLTS

2

Much to look forward to with the Colts. OK, we get it; They beat the Browns. Still, Jacoby Brissett showed more than a little something, beyond simply being Andrew Luck's caddy for the rest of his career. The throw to T.Y. Hilton to set up Indy's first score was a beauty. So were other downfield throws to the Colts WR1. His circle-button move on Cleveland's front seven on his second rushing touchdown was awesome. Rashaan Melvin's first interception was awesome-er. Melvin eventually went back for seconds, too. The only downside here is that Indianapolis almost blew its 28-7 lead. The defense still really ... isn't good.

RANK

30

0-3 BENGALS

The Bengals showed up Sunday. Perhaps they should have come out more aggressively in overtime, as Tony Romo pointed out during the broadcast. Whether against the Texans at home or the Packers at Lambeau, the Bengals' issue remains whether their offense can close out a game. In the last two losses, the Bengals' attack was given an opportunity to win, be it on the final drive against Houston or after winning the toss in Green Bay. Nice to see A.J. Green enjoy a throwback WR1/A.J. Green-esque performance (10 catches for 111 yards and a score), though.

RANK

31

0-3 49ERS

2

Through a whole two weeks, fans were down on Brian Hoyer and the state of Kyle Shanahan's offense. But the "Thursday Night Football" loss flipped the script. Hoyer made some difficult throws, namely the fourth-quarter teardrop right into the hands of a sprinting Pierre Garcon. No, San Francisco didn't win. The defense didn't play well, but Shanahan's boys gave the Bay Area faithful something to cheer. All 638 of those who showed up, that is.

RANK

32

0-3 BROWNS

4

Not a fan of putting the pesky Browns in the last position, but the effort from the defense in the loss to the Colts earned it. DeShone Kizer must avoid the red-zone turnovers, as well. That said, Kizer absolutely displayed why he belongs. Frankly, I am glad Cleveland is playing Kizer now, effectively working out freshman kinks while expectations are low. What wasn't low? Jordan Leslie's one-handed catch. RIDICULOUS. Definitely worth a rewatch -- here you go.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop