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NFL Power Rankings, Week 4: Falcons continue rise, Steelers fall

If any team can beat Green Bay in Green Bay, please step forward ...

Week 4 Power Rankings are here, and there is no movement at the very top. Why? Because Aaron Rodgers keeps Meryl Streeping his peers.

We should state that the top five remains fully intact, a rare occurrence in the Power Rankings. The real movement starts in the six hole, once the residence of the Chiefs. One of the surprise outfits in the NFL -- and Week 3 -- lives there now, led by a quarterback who technically has a Super Bowl ring (even though he only threw 29 passes during said title campaign).

As for your favorite team, take a gander below. Per the usual, your take on such subjects are always appreciated: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Sept. 22 Power Rankings.

PREVIOUS RANKINGS: Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Preseason | Post-draft

The Packers continue to roll, making the football masses wonder if anyone can beat them in Lambeau. One potential way to accomplish that: running right at them, a la Dallas in last year's playoffs. Then have a receiver catch the ball *through the catch* -- or something like that ... Otherwise, no one has a shot. In 30 years of watching football (and understanding it -- not counting when I was 5 years old), not sure I've ever seen a quarterback play at Aaron Rodgers' level for this long a stretch. Only Joe Montana in the postseason can match this kind of run.

New England made a serious claim for the No. 1 spot Sunday. Everybody's getting into the act: Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis and what is apparently a really ticked-off Tom Brady. The Jags were never in it, truthfully. Even the one defensive play they seemingly made -- Davon House's pick of Tom Brady in the third quarter -- was called back courtesy of James Sample's mugging of Gronk in the end zone. That was about the only mugging Jacksonville did all day.

Gosh, how pleasant Sunday mornings must be in New England these days ... I'll take the clam chowder and a side of 119 points in three games, please.

These guys are for real. Carson Palmer -- minus one forced throw toward the end of the first half Sunday -- is performing magnificently in his 13th season. And something -- or maybe someone with a Kangol -- has gotten into Chris Johnson. On his 30-yard gallop in the second quarter, CJrejuvenatedK turned it back upfield when he could've merely jogged out of bounds, eliciting contact. In other words, the 2012 CJ was nowhere to be found on Sunday. Great coaches push buttons -- the correct buttons -- with their veterans. And in the interest of looking ahead, let's note that the 3-0 Cards face the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 10, the week after Arizona's bye. #can'twait

Big win for Andy Dalton and company. The much-maligned Cincy quarterback hasn't endured as much, well, maligning this season. People are starting to show the Red Rifle some love. Other than a forced red-zone throw to A.J. Green (and who could blame him for doing that?), Dalton was clutch.

As for Green ... 227 yards and two scores, including the game-winner. I couldn't quite read Green's lips after that last touchdown catch, but I think he might have said "Have fun watching 'Martin' reruns on your couch in January, Ravens."

Tip of the proverbial hat to Peyton Manning. The game-clincher to Owen Daniels on Sunday was a dandy, in heart, mind and body. As Cris Collinsworth pointed out, that play unfolded as it did because Manning had adroitly set up his pass protection. The throw displayed the kind of touch 49ers fans can only dream of seeing in Colin Kaepernick by 2020. Watching Manning push himself out there on every play reminds me of Nolan Ryan grunting on every one of his fastballs late in his career. Speaking of fastballs, Manning might not carry any in his repertoire at this point, but he ain't carrying no clipboard or TV remote, either.

That was a butt-kicking by the Bills down in Miami. Everyone got in on the act: the pass rush, Ronald Darby, Corey Graham, Chris Hogan, Bacarri Rambo, Tyrod Taylor, Marcell Dareus, Karlos Williams, Joe Ferguson ... OK, maybe not the last guy. But don't tell me the guys from the '70s and '80s Bills didn't love watching Miami get dominated from kickoff to gun. Week 2's loss to the Patriots already seems well in the rearview -- that's how you answer a Sit down! from the ruler of your division.

Back to those old Bills for a moment. Did you know Buffalo lost all 20 of its meetings with the Dolphins from 1970 to '79? Power Rankings Trivia: The Bills finally beat Miami in 1980 behind 131 total yards and a touchdown from whom? (@HarrisonNFL)

If you watched the first half of Sunday's win over the Cowboys, Atlanta fans, admit it: You panicked. The Falcons got that field goal to close the gap to 28-17, then headed into the third quarter confident they could get the matchups (translated: Julio Jones on anybody in white) they needed. Who saw that kind of game comin' from Devonta Freeman? Good grief. Freeman, who put up 193 total yards of offense and three scores, was running like the love child of William Andrews, Gerald Riggs and Warrick Dunn. And while we're there ... why doesn't Riggs get more love?

We don't see many shutouts these days in the NFL. Too many illegal-contact calls, lame rules geared toward the offense (heck every rule is geared towards the offense) and Dwayne Bowe Fantasy Memorial Garbage Time touchdowns. That was pure domination by the Kam Chancellor-sporting Seahawks on Sunday. (Do you older Seattle fans remember when you'd get electronic football by Mattel and the batteries weren't included? So deflating.) Chancellor had a quiet day, but the Seahawks' D did not, allowing just 146 yards total. The Bears averaged 3.2 yards and a cloud of ground-up tires.

The biggest story of Week 3, hands down, was Ben Roethlisberger's knee injury, which is expected to keep him out for several weeks. Without overstating the impact of that development, I have to say it changes everything in the AFC, not unlike Le'Veon Bell's Week 17 knee injury last season, which many analysts attributed to ruining the AFC tournament. (Perhaps the Patriots would not have been able to slow down the Steelers that postseason.) Here's hoping Michael Vick gives it all he has in Pittsburgh, as his effort came into question in New York. Thinking he will.

Gut-check win for the Panthers, who looked like a group that didn't respect the other team's quarterback early on -- it became apparent, though, that Luke McCown came to play (as noted below). In other news, Cam Newton continues to succeed without much help on his side of the ball. If Carolina takes care of business in Tampa this week, Ron Rivera's club will be undefeated with a chance to get healthier during a Week 5 bye.

Dominant performance in front of the home folks. The Vikes look totally unlike the guys who got their hides dusted by 'Los Hyde a few weeks ago. While Adrian Peterson appears discernibly slower, he still clearly has the drive to finish every run like he's 25 years old.

Random note: Saw Fran Tarkenton on the CBS broadcast, and he mentioned the four Super Bowls this franchise went to under Bud Grant. Sure, the Vikes didn't win one, but four trips to Super Bowl Sunday in an eight-year span -- from 1969 to 1976 -- cannot be overlooked.

So ... For most of Monday night, Chiefs at Packers really was a rematch of Super Bowl I. Ugh. The Kansas City pass rush actually did pressure Aaron Rodgers at times; unfortunately, the Chiefs' secondary was letting receivers run around like club kids with backpacks and glowsticks.

On the plus side, the Chiefs made a push at the end and actually produced a wide receiver touchdown! My goodness, was that the most tired stat in sports ... Now we can all watch K.C. games in peace.

Please don't worry about Jets fans. You see, years of being Jets fans prepared them for Sunday's letdown against a rudderless Eagles team. There were defensive breakdowns, special-teams breakdowns (see here) and general offensive ineptitude in the first half (five three-and-outs in the first six drives). Once they woke up, it was too late. Not shocking -- again, Jets fans are used to this sort of deal. Interesting that Ryan Fitzpatrick devolved from wily veteran to Geno Smith's waterboy in six days. Wild spectrum there.

Music City Miracle: Colts edition. How Indy pulled out a win in Nashville on Sunday is anyone's guess. Andrew Luck must have been bracing himself for some intense criticism after the two interceptions he threw, the second of which was simply inexcusable. What is admirable about Luck is that he doesn't make excuses for his poor play. There's a maturity with him that the Geno Smiths and RGIIIs of the world don't have. It's that kind of demeanor that makes us think Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr -- two prominent guys in the next group of uber-young franchise quarterbacks -- could be players.

Not sure if you heard, but Brandon Weeden throws the prettiest ball you've ever seen. Or not. Meanwhile, his awareness -- particularly in the pocket -- might remind Cowboys fans of that lady who holds up 26 people in the express lane at Piggly Wiggly while looking for a 20 cents off detergent coupon. Don't worry, though: Word out of Dallas this week is that Matt Cassel's custard Hall of Fame jacket is the prettiest you've ever seen. By the way, what happened to the Cowboys' vaunted running game in the second half (see: -5 yards)? Speaking of running games ... Hello, Devonta Freeman! The Cowboys' defense hasn't been chewed up by an RB with such a low profile since Duce Staley dropped two bills at Texas Stadium back in Y2K.

Tell you what: These aren't your pop's Raiders. They aren't your older brother's Raiders, either. These guys still might not reach nine wins (if they did, it'd be for the first time since 2002), but they ain't going 6-10, either. (Please don't let me down, Derek Carr.) Wonderful team win in Cleveland on Sunday, highlighted by something new and something old. Rookie Amari Cooper set the tone early, with 103 receiving yards in the first half alone, while Charles Woodson sealed the deal late, with some old-man craftsmanship on an interception in the game's final minute. I'd like for the latter to re-caulk my bathroom. #craftsmanship

"Same old Rams." It was a mantra former 49ers safety Tim McDonald delivered straight to the NFL Films camera during San Francisco's 44-10 smackdown of St. Louis 20 years ago, which helped send the Rams spiraling from 5-1 to 7-9. In 2015, Rams faithful got all "Fifty Shades of Grey" hot over a 1-0 start after an opening win over a Kam-less Seahawks team in OT. Now, two weeks and two losses later, the reality of another 7-9ish season is starting to creep, creep, creep up on these guys. Next up: Litmus test 101, at Arizona.

Not the way coach Mike McCoy -- or the Chargers' run defense, or the stinkin' offensive line -- drew it up, surely. Holy cow did San Diego's front five get blown off the ball on some key sequences. Bolts rookie Melvin Gordon is physical on certain runs, tentative on others. Meanwhile, coordinator John Pagano's defense was mostly solid, allowing only 284 yards of offense in the loss to the Vikings. Still think the Chargers will come through. They have the Browns and Vick-led Steelers, both at home, coming up.

Appropriate bounceback by the Giants, who once again entered the fourth quarter with a double-digit lead -- only this time, they didn't blow it! Nice to see Rueben Randle out there making big plays, bad knee and all. (He still looks a bit hobbled.) Andre Williams needs to take it easy on those defensive backs, man. If the second-year pro trucks any more guys like he did that poor Redskins safety, Rashad Jennings might be asked to block more punts.

Respond. That's what you do when fans are questioning your character, motives, desire and so on. Darren Sproles' return TD was absolutely huge -- and the oomph he gave the offense in the second half comeback in Week 1 wasn't discussed nearly enough, either. But the biggest props here go to the Philly defense, which forced four costly turnovers, three of which came courtesy of two rookies ( Jordan Hicks and Eric Rowe).

The Matt Jones touchdown-run-turned-fumble-out-of-the-end-zone almost perfectly defines Redskins football since 1993. Ugh. At least he looked big and fast doing it! But yeah, maybe that's why Alfred Morris still gets much work. (In case you were wondering, Morris hasn't lost a fumble since 2013.)

All that talk about culture change in Washington will be tested (again) this week, per the 15-year story arc of a franchise always in need of said culture change.

Before we get to the Ravens' awful start, how about Steve Smith Sr.? He is the most competitive player I've ever seen. He always shows up, and he tried to singlehandedly will Baltimore to a win Sunday with 186 yards and two scores. Bravo.

As for the 0-3 start, fans will have to accept that Joe Flacco needs pieces around him for Baltimore to succeed -- starting with a secondary that can cover the other QB's wideouts.

Somehow, this team moved up a spot. Not entirely sure how that happened -- I blame the teams below.

Watching the Lions feels like watching that scene in "Cast Away" where Tom Hanks extracts his molar with an ice skate. Many thought Detroit, fresh off the franchise's winningest season since 1991, would continue to roll sans Ndamukong Suh. Not exactly. Suh, of course, has yet to make much of an impact in South Beach, but I'm thinking the Lions could've used the big man's services to get some pressure on Peyton Manning in key moments Sunday night. (Though Suh wouldn't have made a difference on the nail-in-the-coffin TD strike to Owen Daniels -- Peyton read Detroit's defense like a book and got the ball out of his hands before the blitz could take effect.) Felt bad for Darius Slay, though. How can you cover better than this? And that wasn't the only time he got posterized on national TV Sunday night.

Oh man, was that loss a heartbreaker. Significant sequence: the three-and-out following the Donte Moncrief touchdown. That's what really did Ken Whisenhunt's club in -- three incomplete passes by Marcus Mariota. Significant silver lining: Even with the loss, Tennessee is right there with everyone else in the division at 1-2. The AFC South, everyone ...

Very quietly, Houston got its first W on the books for 2015. Despite scoring a relatively underwhelming 19 points, the Texans picked up a staggering 30 first downs. Alfred Blue ran the football 31 times. The run-pass play count was 46-to-40. In some respects, Houston won with a half cup of Gary Kubiak's formula. The beauty of it all? At 1-2, they are tied for first place in the AFC South. (And last place. But I digress.)

Showed a lot of faith in putting the always-lousy Jaguars at No. 18 last week. I recommended Blake Bortles as a sleeper fantasy start on "NFL HQ" -- which you can see weekdays at 8 a.m. ET on NFL Network. (Shameless plug? Affirmative!) Then I doubled down on Jags respect in the Game Picks, predicting Jacksonville would give New England a contest. Well, the Jaguars were absolutely terrible in a 51-17 thrashing. Bortles actually ended up being a viable fantasy start, thanks to garbage time. Still, it'd be nice to see the Jags make hay in non-garbage time versus contending teams. How about this weekend in Indy?

Another one of Week 3's brutal games. In the offseason, Miami shelled out more than $200 million on Ryan Tannehill and Ndamukong Suh. Here's the return on investment from Sunday: a 59.7 passer rating, zero impact plays and a 41-14 home loss.

 *Dear Fin fans,   

We feel for you.

Power Rankings*

Josh McCown did his very best to make it fun late, but then he got played by one of the few guys who's been playing professional football longer than him. No, I'm not talking about Sebastian Janikowski. Charles Woodson, two years McCown's senior at 38, baited the quarterback into a regrettable throw, finishing off the Brownies with a majestic interception. The loss dropped Cleveland two games back of AFC North leader Cincinnati, with a challenging stretch of games on the horizon. Of the Browns' next seven contests before a Week 11 bye, five come on the road and five come against playoff teams from last season. Can Mike Pettine and staff prevent yet another lost season in the land of Brian Sipe jerseys?

The contest down in Arizona was still slightly in doubt after the pick-six by Justin Bethel. The contest down in Arizona was decided after the pick-six by the Honey Badger. The contest down in Arizona revealed how much of a mirage the season-opening win was. The contest down in Arizona -- well, I'm using "contest" pretty loosely here -- was almost as good as "Maid in Manhattan."

Perhaps Jameis Winston was too happy-go-lucky about facing J.J. Watt -- or anybody on the Texans' defense, for that matter. Third down, where aspiring young quarterbacks often go to die, was indeed the grim reaper for the Bucs' green signal caller on Sunday. Although he took no sacks, he didn't exactly do any damage, either. Tampa was a pitiful 1-for-12 on third down in Houston -- as big a reason as any why they flew home at 1-2.

Say what you will about Luke McCown, but the dude went out and competed Sunday at Carolina. McCown completed 31 of his 38 passes, with one interception that was more incredible play by the defense than errant throw by the offense. The Saints' backup quarterback converted some big third downs while looking the part of a starter. Ultimately, the defense doomed New Orleans -- you must be completely floored by that development, huh?

The only interesting aspect of the Bears' performance in Seattle was just how stunningly futile they really were. Everyone knew Jimmy Clausen was starting, Kam Chancellor was back, and that this contest was the easiest to prognosticate on the weekend slate. But 146 yards. Really? 146 freakin' yards? That's it? Chicago managed 48 net yards passing. That wasn't even good in 1935, much less now. Feeling comfortable about keeping the Bears at this spot in the rankings. Real. Comfortable. (Jeans.)

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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