The NFL season moves quickly. We're already a quarter way through the campaign, with leafy September leaving plenty of ponderous offseason narratives shattered and scattered behind us in the rear-view mirror. Four weeks in, mounds of assumptions have been destroyed:
Also incorrect: Loads of the headstrong predictions we put into print during our Preseason Power Poll.
With Week 5 around the corner, the Around The NFL gang is back to set the story straight -- we pray -- with our Quarter-season Power Poll.
Here's how this works: We rank all 32 teams from top to bottom, while you attempt to contain your excitement. Let's roll:
Sunday's implosion against the Bills aside, the Patriots have earned the trust of our Around The NFL scribes. A 3-1 start and the return of Tom Brady are enough to keep Bill Belichick's roaming masterwork atop the pack. It's worth noting, though, that New England's three first-place votes (from Chris Wesseling, Dan Hanzus and Marc Sessler) were equaled by three top votes for the Broncos from Gregg Rosenthal, Kevin Patra and Colleen Wolfe. The Patriots, though, netted more second-place votes to ultimately nab the No. 1 spot. Conor Orr shied away from groupthink to name the Steelers as his first-place squad.
The Seahawks land third after earning our No. 1 spot in the Preseason Power Poll. Rosenthal, Hanzus and Sessler all placed Seattle at No. 2, while Patra had them at No. 3. The Wolfe Woman had them fourth while Orr, earning no friends in the Pacific Northwest, dropped them to No. 5.
The Vikings are the real surprise here, landing at No. 4 after maxing out at No. 16 in the preseason version of this exercise. Nobody had Minnesota higher than Colleen, who gave the 4-0 upstarts a No. 2 ranking. That was evened out by Wesseling placing them sixth. As for the Steelers, everyone but Hanzus sees them as a top-five team.
Knocking on the door
A rash of surprises here. The Packers fall to seventh after being seen by the gang as a top-five team before the season. Wentz and the undefeated Eagles fly to No. 6, up 20 spots from August. Orr registered Philly's lowest ranking at No. 10, but nobody else had them lower than seventh. Like the Eagles, the Falcons have made us look like a raging cadre of fools, ignoring their preseason ranking (No. 21) to finish eighth after four weeks.
Playoffs or Bustville
Ugliness abounds for Carolina and Arizona. The offseason-darling Cardinals easily grabbed our No. 3 spot before the games began. A 1-3 start, though, has them floating at No. 13. Most writers agreed with this final ranking, but Patra (No. 15), Wolfe (No. 16) and Orr (No. 17) thought they should be lower.
The equally trumped-up Panthers have floundered out of the gate and paid for it on this ULTRA-IMPORTANT SPORTS LIST, coming in at No. 15. They were helped by Rosenthal and Hanzus, who placed them 10th and 11th, respectively. They were left for dead by a from-the-wilderness Orr, who ranked Carolina as the 28th-best team in the NFL. This wasn't the only fascinating/bizarre/spirit-fueled entry by ConAIR, so read on.
If the football gods smile
Take a bow, Los Angeles. Laughed at by the masses for starting Case Keenum over first-overall pick Jared Goff, the Rams have shrugged off their critics to open the season 3-1 -- good enough for our 16th spot. Should they rank higher than the pair of 1-3 teams we discussed in the previous section? Only Patra and Orr thought so, placing L.A. above both clubs. Quite a climb after the Rams ranked 29th in our Preseason Poll.
The inconsistent Chiefs sit in the middle of the pack after grabbing our No. 8 spot in August, while the G-Men -- with plenty to like on both sides of the ball -- sit at No. 18. This feels fair.
Like the Jaguars, the Titans were the subject of offseason fascination, but Mike Mularkey's "Exotic Smashmouth" attack has proven heavy on the bells-and-whistles and light on the actual "smashing" of anybody. Fed up with Tennessee, Rosenthal and Hanzus dropped the Titans to No. 31, while nobody had them higher than 26th.
Nowhere to go but up
Cleveland wouldn't have been tied for last, though, were it not for a bit of funny business involving the 49ers. While San Francisco was ranked dead last by five of seven scribes, Our Friend Orr placed this Blaine Gabbert-led vehicle up at No. 23. Orr, a Browns fan, ultimately screwed Cleveland on this list, but we adore his uber-unique view of the universe.