Sean McVay's group won't slow down. The Rams didn't stop throwing late, despite being up two scores on that Monday nighter against the Raiders. The defense didn't let up in Week 2, demoralizing Sam Bradford. Jared Goff sure didn't take his foot off the pedal this past Thursday night, continuing his air raid until Kirk Cousins could no longer match play. Los Angeles finally looked like a football town in front of a national audience. Not hard when your team is top-shelf, a 12-year-old Scotch in a league full of well drinks.
Then there's the legend of Mahomes. This guy has become a bona fide star after just five NFL starts. There are other quarterbacks who knocked their first five starts out of the park, be it Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisberger or Tony Romo. What we've seen out of the rubber-armed Mahomes defies explanation. Bring his team down the field for a game-winning kick in his first career action? Check. Post silly numbers over his next three starts? Check. Come back from two scores down late in the fourth quarter, with the opponent's crowd screaming its lungs out, and get the win? Yep. Awesome stuff.
What about everybody else? Your tweets ...
How about eight, Ryan? Worried about that run game, though.
See below for the full rundown. While movement pervades, we're heading into the part of the season where the rankings (hopefully) become less frenetic. Of course, that doesn't mean the following will be dispute-free. Send your take: @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 Power Rankings Show." Want to add YOUR voice? Provide your thoughts in a tweet to @HarrisonNFL, and your comments could be featured on air.
If the Rams didn't resemble a Super Bowl outfit (or at least the premier team in the league) to you on "Thursday Night Football," they never will. Sure, you can single out the mass quantity of yardage allowed to the Vikings (446). Two things. First, Kirk Cousins played out of his mind for part of that game. Second, Rams CB Marcus Peters was definitely not 100 percent, while his cohort Aqib Talib was sidelined (and will continue to be). I said last week on both the radio and "The Power Rankings Show" on NFL Network that Jared Goff might be the top intermediate thrower in the NFL. Not sure anyone can disagree now. #SBLIII
Superlatives are thrown around far too often in the NFL, especially with quarterbacks, but how can anyone not be amazed at Patrick Mahomes' performance Monday night? This wasn't a Tecmo Super Bowl outing, where Mahomes and friends posted crazy numbers. Nope, instead this was a hard-fought AFC West showdown, with the Broncos' defense being the first unit to get its second viewing of the league's newest phenom. Perhaps something of a second helping early on, until Mahomes showcased his unbelievable pocket awareness and ability to launch on the run, from any angle. Credit the K.C. defense, which engineered a few clutch plays of its own. Allen Bailey railroaded Case Keenum's third-and-10 scamper to the edge on Denver's second-to-last drive. Wow.
The Jaguars roll along, rebounding from their narrow Week 3 loss to the Titans with another defensively inspired win over the Jets. As deftly as Doug Marrone's defense performed, Sunday's authoritative win was not delivered via a grab bag of interceptions and sacks. In fact, Jacksonville didn't force any takeaways. The Jags merely stifled the offensively challenged Jets over the course of the afternoon. Actually, the only downsides were the turnovers by Jacksonville's offense and the loss of RB Leonard Fournette. The latter issue is a wee bit concerning, because trust me, the Jags don't want to get into a pass-happy aerial battle between Blake Bortles and Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs next weekend.
Statement win for the Saints on Sunday. They proved they could prevail outside of the dome -- any dome -- while also getting a quality day from the defense. You saw the intensity from Sean Payton when Ted Ginn Jr. pulled the knucklehead move of fielding a kickoff mere steps in front of the goal line, dropping it and scrambling to pick it up before getting smothered by the Giants' coverage unit. Payton was furious at Ginn and special teams coach Mike Westhoff for backing his offense up to New Orleans' end zone. Then the offense delivered its own statement, with Drew Brees moving in the pocket and hitting his tight end to pick up a first down and push the Saints out of a hole. That set the table for a 97-yard drive and a 33-18 lead. Ball game. </content:power-ranking>
Many folks thought the Panthers were placed too high -- that is to say, in this very spot -- last week. But who's superior to Ron Rivera's outfit? Outside of the Rams and Chiefs, every team has endured its ups and downs. With the Week 4 bye, Carolina could, presumably, get healthier, though most organizations would prefer a later off week to accomplish that -- you know, around the portion of the season when 80 percent of the roster is somewhat banged up. On that note, over 80 percent of the viewers of "The Power Rankings Show" (Tuesdays, 6 p.m. ET on NFL Network) thought Carolina was too high. With linebacker Thomas Davis coming back from his four-game suspension and injured tight end Greg Olsen ahead of schedule on his return path ... ooh ... yeah ... um ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and sorta disagree with you there.
You have to laugh, don't you? Took so much grief in this space and on THE TWITTER for leaving the Patriots in shouting distance of the top 10 last week. Dolphins fans howled about their team being 3-0. And then New England slaughtered 'em. It was never a contest. Miami couldn't even muster 200 yards of total offense. Here's the deal: For years, we've heard the tired, old story about how the AFC East has sucked during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick Era. Sure, there might be a bit of truth to that theorem. But who do you think made those teams look worse? You can try to say the Patriots have lucked out with their competition while barking about your Fins, but for your argument to hold, Miami ought to have shown up and ... well ... done anything but lose 38-7.
**Side note:** James White continues to make plays, logging 16 touches for over 100 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in a big game. What was supposed to be a big game, anyway. </content:power-ranking>
The Bengals are too high, you say? Ignore your initial reaction and think about what they accomplished Sunday: winning on the road, *without* Joe Mixon and with A.J. Green banged up, to climb to 3-1 despite having only played one game at home this season. Andy Dalton was fantastic in the waning moments of the win over Atlanta. More noticeable was the time Dalton had to show off his moxie. The offensive line used to be the Achilles' heel of this football team. Yet, there was the O-line, stonewalling the Falcons' "pass rush" late, keeping the quarterback clean when it mattered most.
Now that was the performance Bears fans have been waiting for ... No, not the new Monsters of the Midway making the visiting Bucs look silly. Rather, it was their sophomore quarterback throwing for 354 yards and six touchdowns. Mitchell Trubisky's performance was legit. Consider that he accomplished that yardage total on a scant 26 attempts, which means he picked up a whopping 13 yards and change every time he cocked his arm. Trubisky also scurried for 53 yards on just three carries. That's the type of performance that earned Deshaun Watson national acclaim as a rookie with the Texans last year. These fellas were in the same draft class, something most fans in Chicago are more than aware of. Now they are also aware of their young QB's potential ceiling, not just his floor.
Don't see shutouts at Lambeau too often. It's been a minute since the Packers' defense has been able to hold an opponent scoreless in front of the home folk. The last time it happened: in 2009, when Green Bay whitewashed a bad Lions team, 26-zip. Interestingly enough, Packers LB Clay Matthews secured two sacks that day, while his unit as a whole produced five sacks and three takeaways. On Sunday, Green Bay totaled seven sacks and three takeaways, which were huge factors in making rookie signal-caller Josh Allen uncomfortable throughout. The Bills couldn't run a lick, either. While the 22-0 victory was a quiet one for Aaron Rodgers (55.0 percent completion rate for 298 passing yards, one score, one pick and a passer rating of 76.9), confidence abounds that he will rebound.
**Power Rankings trivia:** Until Sunday, the Packers had never won a game by the score of 22-0 in 100 years of football. The closest (and most recent) chance was a 21-zip blowout against the Bucs in 1985. It was played in a blizzard, with Tampa's white uniforms barely visible. Who was the Bucs' rookie QB that day? (Hint: He was later named MVP of the league for a different franchise.) (@HarrisonNFL) </content:power-ranking>
Impressive game plan on Sunday night from offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who utilized his tight ends creatively and created openings for Joe Flacco to deliver the ball. The Ravens quarterback delivered precise throws, even on the multiple Michael Crabtree drops. Pinch yourself if you were surprised by that development. For every Crabtree bobble, there was a clutch Willie Snead catch, which continues to be a thread for this Baltimore team, devoid of stars but loaded with solid contributors up and down the lineup. The Ravens controlled the entire second half of the engagement with Pittsburgh. Next up: at the Browns. That's a fun matchup.
Wait a minute here ... was that passing we saw on Sunday? Like, completions downfield and stuff? Finally, Marcus Mariota and the Titans' air game got something going against the Eagles. They were "Air Coryell" out there. OK, let's not go too far. But understand that Tennessee was ranked 30th in the league in scoring coming into Sunday's matchup with Philadelphia. The passing game was ranked 29th. Mariota completed 30 of 43 passes for 344 yards. He did toss a costly interception. However, the throws that matter are those a quarterback makes late. The game-winner to Corey Davis was right where his young receiver could make a play on the ball -- and exactly where the corner could not. We know Titans DC Dean Pees' defense is stout. If the offense holds up its end of the bargain?
The Eagles plummet in the Power Rankings following the loss to the Titans. If Philadelphia is to repeat (or even have an opportunity to try), DC Jim Schwartz must get better play -- worlds better -- from his corners. Alternatively, he must protect them more with numbers on the back end. Philly's CBs were beaten repeatedly by a Titans air "attack" that, Sunday's explosion aside, barely eked past the century mark the last few weeks. The Eagles' DBs made up for it by not tackling. If Malcolm Jenkins hadn't been playing out of his mind lately, the results could have been even worse. I have no idea what Corey Graham was doing on the fourth-and-forever that extended the Titans' final drive.
Of all the aspects of the Vikings' 1-2-1 record -- from missed kicks to Dalvin Cook's hobbled start or even the unfortunate Everson Griffen situation -- one of the oddest factors might be the regression of Mike Zimmer's defense. It's startling, given the talent and depth on that side of the ball. Minnesota has allowed 110 points already this season. It took seven games for the Vikes to surrender that many last year. Wow.
The Chargers take the rare post-win dive. Head coach Anthony Lynn would probably be the first person to tell you that the Bolts didn't play well against the 49ers. Not in front of the home crowd and certainly not against C.J. Beathard, the Niners backup QB thrust into the starter's role in Jimmy Garoppolo's stead. Philip Rivers wasn't spectacular (especially on that ugly pick-six), but he connected on three touchdown passes and made a few needed throws late. The Chargers also received timely runs from both Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. The defense? Really, really, misses Joey Bosa. Oh, those missed kicks, too. Let's leave this blurb on a happy note: Tyrell Williams' ridiculous catch.
Still not sure what to make of these Redskins. They seem set at quarterback. Adrian Peterson is running hard, but can he be a 20-carry guy all year? For that matter, can Jordan Reed play anywhere near 16 games? ( Fantasy owners missed him this weekend, with Washington being on a bye ... then again, they're used to missing him by now.) The defensive front strikes most analysts as impressive, yet it couldn't impose its will against the Colts in the home opener -- Indy is not exactly the strongest team up front. Many questions, but Washington has enough players to emerge from the heap of wild-card hopefuls.
What we've all gleaned from the Steelers' season thus far is that if Ben Roethlisberger is off, Pittsburgh doesn't win. Despite having a few talented starters, the defense has been riddled by opposing quarterbacks. Even in the fourth quarter of their "Sunday Night Football" matchup, when the Ravens were settling for field goals, Baltimore was marching right down the field with a mix of runs and intermediate throws. The Steeler defense couldn't keep the Ravens off the field, while Pittsburgh's offense couldn't stay on it. All is not lost yet. Nonetheless, there is little question that the Le'Veon Bell situation has been a distraction. Is Pittsburgh headed to 8-8?
Uh ... OK ... How to start this blurb ... Dolphins fans have been all over your friendly writer for picking against them. (I have twice: at the Jets in Week 2, and this past Sunday in Foxborough.) Bottom line: If the Fins belong among the elite, the top five, then they have to do better than being down 38-zip in the fourth quarter, giving Brock Osweiler some snaps. That 172 spot the offense posted in the "Total Yards" box was putrid -- especially coming against a defense that stunk in Detroit one week prior. Flipper would have been pissed.
Falcons supporters aren't going to like this low ranking, especially with the painful way the team has lost three games this season. The problem is that Dan Quinn doesn't possess the personnel he needs on the back end. On that note, what was CB Isaiah Oliver thinking on the A.J. Green touchdown? The guess is that he was concerned about the running back leaking out of the backfield. Yet, Mark Walton was 10 yards from paydirt. Oliver must get depth in that situation, forcing Andy Dalton to attack the tightest of windows between the corner and the safety. If Dalton did dump it to Walton, Oliver (or whoever else) would have had plenty of time to make the tackle. With under 10 seconds remaining, the clock could've struck midnight on the Bengals, too. Ugh. </content:power-ranking>
So, that was rather quick, no? The Fitzmagic era in Tampa appears over, at least for now, after the veteran quarterback's rough outing against the best defense he's faced this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick couldn't even make it to the third quarter in Chicago before Dirk Koetter pulled (yanked) on the leash. Despite the fact that the Bucs are on a bye this week, Koetter wasted no time in announcing Jameis Winston the starter for Week 6. Cool. What about the postgame comment re: firing himself and everybody else? Guess that won't happen. But they will have fun living with the fact that Mitch Trubisky -- Mitch Trubisky -- torched them Sunday.
That was a stinger Monday night, no doubt. Despite the loss, the Broncos move up two spots. Applaud the effort, and guts, if not the results in this particular case. The hook-and-ladder is difficult to pull off in any situation. Not sure it was the right call in the moment, although Courtland Sutton might not have maintained possession of his catch at the first-down line. Then again, perhaps he bobbled the Case Keenum throw because he was worried about the subsequent pitch. Many teams have failed at this play since the Dolphins successfully ran the original in that epic '81 Divisional Playoff against the Chargers. Keenum's miss to Demaryius Thomas beforehand will stick to his ribs for a while. Feel for him. Unreal game.
Seattle's ground game started moving on Sunday in Arizona, which helped everything. The Seahawks, who racked up 171 rushing yards on 34 carries (5.0 yards per), weren't solely leaning on Russell Wilson, nor was the defense asked to stay on the field all day. With that side of the ball not playing in suffocating fashion anymore, the effectiveness of Pete Carroll's running back-by-committee will determine a handful of wins and losses. So will Sebastian Janikowski, because no matter how productive the running backs or Wilson's legs are, Seattle won't be running away from anybody this season. Seabass atoned for two misses (one short, the other from 52) to drill his second attempt from 52 yards out to win the day.
The Cowboys evened the score on the season, putting them in a second-place tie with Philly and just a half-game behind the Redskins in the NFC East. Dak Prescott had much to do with Sunday's outcome, making the accurate throws in small windows that Dallas fans have been waiting for -- especially that nine route to Ezekiel Elliott on the game's final drive. Elliott went off, rushing for 152 yards on just 25 attempts. At center stage, though, should be the offensive line, which gave Prescott plenty of time to make those throws, and paved the way for Elliott. Key for Dak moving forward: maintaining this level of performance against teams that can bring more heat than the Lions, and doing it consistently, week in and week out. The Cowboys are sure glad they don't have to play Golden Tate every week. Good grief.
Hand it to Baker Mayfield: He's fun to watch. The Browns carry an entirely different energy with No. 6 under center. Mayfield's four giveaways hurt on Sunday, yet his resilience was equally on display. For example: His on-time, on-point throw to Antonio Callaway on a deep slant that went all the way down to the 1, setting up the touchdown to give Cleveland a fourth-quarter lead. Ultimately, it was the Browns' coverage that got them deep-sixed. Not T.J. Carrie's best day at the office.
Rough loss. With the dreaded Packers coming to Detroit this week, the Lions find themselves in desperate need of a win to avoid heading into the bye at 1-4. Also needed in the Motor City: a hastening of Kerryon Johnson's development. He rumbled for 32 yards on the first play of the game, then carried the ball all of eight times the rest of the day. Huh? A proposal for this week: Avoid the track meet, provide the defense a couple gallons of oxygen (or however you measure the stuff that allows guys to run after quarterbacks) and grab a much-needed division home game. With quality teams like the Eagles, Vikings and Falcons at .500 or worse, NFC wild-card slots are more open than anticipated. Maybe Detroit doesn't own the pieces on the defensive side of the ball for that. OK. What Matt Patricia *does* have at his disposal is talent outside, a premium quarterback and a viable (even if underperforming) offensive line -- essentially enough to set up the ground game. Figure it out. </content:power-ranking>
The Giants are staring their season in the face. At 1-3, they travel to Charlotte this week to play a rested Panthers group that's performed far more consistently than New York has. Then it's a Thursday home date with the defending champs, who will have Alshon Jeffery at full bore and Darren Sproles back by then. Week 7, the Giants face a Monday road test in Atlanta, against a Falcons offense that is every bit as dynamic as the Saints attack New York just fell to. Then it's back home vs. the Redskins, who look better than the Giants do at this point of the season. It's realistic to expect New York to be 2-6 heading into the bye. Playoffs start now for Eli Manning and Co.
The Texans escaped by their chinny-chin-chin on Sunday, with the help of an early Christmas gift from Colts head coach Frank Reich. The latter's ill-fated (depending on your allegiance) fourth-down decision allowed Houston to scurry for a game-winning field goal as the overtime clock expired. It had seemed as though the Texans lost their chance to win the game outright when DeAndre Hopkins dropped a beautiful deep ball from Deshaun Watson. This was a Jeff Blake lob-ball special that dropped from the Lucas Oil Stadium rafters right past the pylon, a hair inside the sideline, right into Hopkins' fingertips. Difficult grab, no doubt, but Hopkins was sick to his stomach after the ball popped out. Jadeveon Clowney saved the day with a momentous sack in overtime. As did Reich. J.J. Watt: two sacks, two forced fumbles. That's five sacks in two weeks for him.
Blame Frank Reich, if you must, for going for it on fourth-and-short on his own side of the field in overtime. Understanding Reich's lack of affinity for a tie, call it faith in his quarterback. The problem is threefold:
**1)** Giving the Texans the football on the plus side of the 50 was nearly handing them a win.
**2)** T.Y. Hilton was sidelined by an injury. So, in order to get the first down -- and prevent the above from happening -- Andrew Luck was forced to throw to a throng of pass catchers that included Chester Rogers, Ryan Grant and Mo Alie-Cox. Not exactly Harrison, Wayne and Clark ...
**3)** A tie is certainly nicer than a loss in the standings, unless Reich feels the Colts won't be going anywhere this season. Maybe they won't, although Indy has competed in every game, exceeding not only this writer's expectations, but likely their opponents', too. These guys have been one tough out for the Bengals, Eagles and Texans. </content:power-ranking>
What a wild, twisty-turny football game in Oakland on Sunday. The Raiders finally closed the deal. The highlights will show you the Derek Carr throws that made the difference, including a series of clutch catches by Jared Cook and Jordy Nelson. That's great and relevant, but my goodness, did Marshawn Lynch run his tail off, too. His day: 23 touches, 157 yards from scrimmage (130 on the ground). Let me tell you, those were some harrrrrrrd yards. Lynch pushed the pile, refused to go down and ultimately squeezed every inch he could on most of his rumbles. CBS color commentator Ronde Barber couldn't get over it. Neither could I. Gutsy performance II: Carr took a huge blow to the ribs on a big throw to Cook in OT.
Heck of an effort from Kyle Shanahan's team on Sunday. Nobody gave the 49ers much of a chance on the road against the Chargers, not with C.J. Beathard manning the ship. Lo and behold, the 49ers started the game with an interception return for a touchdown, spotting Beathard a seven-point lead before he took a snap. For his part, Beathard fared much better than anyone anticipated, completing 23 of 37 passes for 298 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. The latter were costly, but let's give Beathard a break. He threw for more passing yards than Jimmy Garoppolo did in any of his three starts this season, and one of those interceptions bounced off his tight end's chest.
Is "listless" the right word, or @#^#% listless? I can't decide. The Jets' offense has been quite cruddy the last three weeks, after flashing some promise Week 1 in Detroit. The pressure was way off in that Monday night opener, thanks to five picks by the defense. Yet, even with three takeaways on Sunday, New York couldn't do anything offensively. The numbers are, in a word, brutal: The Jets were outgained 508-178, out first-downed 23-10 and held the ball for all of 22 minutes. Yay.
Yes, the Cardinals move up despite the loss, and despite the fact they've yet to win a game. Josh Rosen provides this organization with bountiful hope, even if he wasn't lights-out Sunday versus the Seahawks. You could see Rosen's immense potential in a bunch of throws he made, especially the perfect laser to Chad Williams that tied the game at 17 late. If Phil Dawson's kick sails just inside the right upright and not a couple feet wide, all the national sports shows might be talking up Rosen right about now. No matter. For the kid to be successful, the offensive line must supply more traction for David Johnson. Been tough sleddin' thus far for the stud tailback.
If Bills fans wanted to crawl into a hole on Sunday -- perhaps a hole in one of those cheddar blocks adorning the heads of Packer Backers -- you can't blame them. To review, Buffalo was shut out in Lambeau. On the season, Josh Allen has outrushed LeSean McCoy by a healthy margin. The wide receivers are the sorriest outfit in the league right now. Allen couldn't even muster 5 yards per throw on Sunday, even though the Packers' defense quit attacking and let him complete throws late (clock ball). Meanwhile, Green Bay rushed for 141 yards. These aren't exactly the Lombardi Packers, fueled by the power sweep. Alright, I'll stop. If you think I'm being hard on the Bills ... well, not as hard as some Buffalo folk.