The Cleveland Browns have cracked the top 10 of the NFL Power Rankings. I repeat: The Cleveland Browns are in the top 10 of the NFL Power Rankings. According to my research (I didn't actually do any research), this is the first Browns team to achieve that feat since 1947.
Yep, we live in strange times and everything is in play. Unless your favorite team plays at the Meadowlands.
Let's get to it.
Hitting No. 1 in the Power Rankings during your bye week -- everything's coming up Packers these days. This nugget, from The Athletic's Bob McGinn, says a lot: Green Bay is the first team in NFL history to score at least 150 points without a turnover in its first four games. That speaks, of course, to the tremendous play of the resurgent Aaron Rodgers, but excellence is everywhere for the Packers during their 4-0 start. Za'Darius Smith entered Week 5 tied for the league lead in sacks. Aaron Jones is on a 1,500-yard rushing pace. Allen Lazard emerged as a playmaker before going down with an injury. Mason Crosby hasn't missed a field goal. We saw teams enter this pandemic-altered season looking ragged and unready for the challenge. The Packers were the opposite.
The Chiefs were eventually going to lose. It hadn't happened since last November, so really, they were overdue. But it was how Kansas City lost that makes you wonder. Derek Carr and the Raiders piled up nearly 500 yards of total offense -- with five plays of at least 40 yards -- and Patrick Mahomes was regularly running for his life against a Vegas pass rush that had been lifeless before Sunday. Mahomes was pressured 16 times on Sunday, the second-most pressures he has faced in an NFL game, per Next Gen Stats. Mahomes' first interception of the season, a huge turnover midway through the fourth quarter, came on a throw made from a crumbling pocket. Was this merely a bad week … or a sign of bigger issues?
The Ravens' defense threw a party on Sunday. Seven sacks, each one by a different player, and 15 quarterback hits in a 27-3 win over the Bengals. Baltimore's front seven made Joe Burrow look like a rookie, holding the No. 1 overall pick to just 183 yards passing with two turnovers (one INT, one fumble). The Bengals managed just 205 total yards in a game that felt like it was over by the second quarter. The defensive dominance provided cover for a pedestrian performance by Lamar Jackson, who will need a hellacious run in the final 11 games to repeat as league MVP. Eye-popping stat of the day: Jackson finished the game with three rushing yards. The offense exists as a work in progress, a surprise through five weeks.
Previous rank: No. 5
The Steelers are 4-0 for the first time in 41 years (how is this possible?) and Chase Claypool has officially arrived as the organization's latest bull's-eye hit at wide receiver. Claypool, the second-round pick out of Notre Dame, flashed his playmaking ability in Pittsburgh's first three wins, but he exploded on Sunday with four touchdowns in a 38-29 win over the Eagles. Like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson before him, Claypool's arrival shows off Pittsburgh’s uncanny ability to find first-round-caliber talent outside the top 32 picks of every draft class. It's no coincidence why certain teams remain competitive year after year.
Previous rank: No. 7
The Titans refuse to let COVID-19-related challenges derail their season. Mike Vrabel’s team stepped on the field Tuesday night and made the Bills look like they were the short-handed squad coming off an endless layoff in a 42-16 win. Malcolm Butler was the star on defense with two interceptions, the second punctuated by a brilliant return that set up what was essentially the clinching touchdown. Ryan Tannehill continues to run the offense with deadly precision in the red zone. Tennessee scored touchdowns on all six of their trips inside the Buffalo 20-yard line, including a pair of Derrick Henry scores and a Tannehill scamper where he damn near blew out his knee during a celebratory skip across the goal line. This was the Titans’ first complete performance of the year, and it serves as a reminder they should be considered a legit contender in the AFC.
Previous rank: No. 6
Pete Carroll is the perfect coach for this Seahawks team. At halftime, with Seattle facing a 13-0 deficit, Carroll told NBC's Michele Tafoya the scoreboard was irrelevant midway through the game. "We haven't even started yet," he said. The Seahawks proceeded to score three touchdowns in a 1:53 span of the third quarter, got a game-saving fourth-and-1 stop deep in their own end, then Let Russ Cook on a 13-play, 94-yard drive in the final two minutes to steal a win from the desperate Vikings. Minnesota held the ball for nearly 40 minutes and outplayed Seattle for about 55 minutes of game time. And yet, it was Carroll and the Seahawks celebrating in the end. This is a team that believes.
Previous rank: No. 4
The Bills had been so stellar this season that it was jarring to watch them struggle so mightily on Tuesday night in Nashville. Ill-timed penalties, killer turnovers, defensive lapses; Buffalo was not nearly sound enough against a Tennessee team that played crisp football despite a long layoff. Josh Allen made his usual collection of big throws, but was held back by accuracy issues that recalled his first two seasons. The defense struggled mightily in the red zone, playing without starters Tre'Davious White, Matt Milano and Levi Wallace. The Titans scored a touchdown all six times they entered inside Buffalo’s 20-yard line. A night to forget.
After an ugly win over the Giants in Week 4, the Rams were back to looking like a balanced, high-functioning unit in a 30-10 win over Washington. Jared Goff started the game 13 of 14 for 194 yards and two total TDs (one rushing), and the incomparable Aaron Donald had a monster day, finishing with four sacks, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble. The DT leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks and is on pace for 24 this season. (Make the Sack Record Great Again!) Donald led a stifling Rams defense that allowed just 108 total yards, the fewest they’ve given up since holding Archie Manning and the Saints to 96 in a Week 12 conquest in 1980. If only the Rams could play an NFC East team every week -- L.A. swept the division before the arrival of sweater weather.
Previous rank: No. 13
The Browns are 4-1 for the first time since 1994 after they once again got key contributions from both sides of the ball. Indy entered the game with the league's stingiest defense, but the Browns piled up more yardage in one half than the Colts had been allowing all season to a slate of lesser opponents. Baker Mayfield played extremely well in those first two quarters, and when the offense cooled off after the intermission, the defense closed the game out with big plays, including a pick-six by Ronnie Harrison Jr. Cleveland's fierce pass rush also forced a frazzled Philip Rivers into a crucial intentional grounding penalty that created a safety. A fascinating showdown looms this week in Pittsburgh.
Previous rank: No. 11
Can we officially pause the funeral procession on the career of Drew Brees now? The early portion of this season has featured endless hand-wringing over the veteran QB and his inability to attack defenses with deep throws (as if that was ever the heartbeat of his game), but on Monday night, we saw how Brees can still move an offense when it matters. Brees went over 300 yards passing and accounted for two touchdowns as New Orleans wiped out a 17-point second-quarter deficit en route to a 30-27 overtime win over the Chargers. Brees has found his rhythm with Emmanuel Sanders, and the eventual return ofMichael Thomas (assuming he can cease punching teammates in the face) will make the Saints' attack that much stronger.
Previous rank: No. 10
The Patriots had another player test positive for COVID-19 on Sunday morning, leading to a third shutdown of the team facility in 10 days and the postponement of the scheduled Week 5 matchup against the Broncos. New England will now hope to play its game against Denver in Week 6, one of a slew of schedule changes announced by the league on Sunday.
Previous rank: No. 8
Much of the focus after Thursday night's disappointing one-point loss to the Bears was on Tom Brady's failures in basic math (just own it, Tommy!), but a more disturbing development for the Bucs is the loss of Vita Vea. The third-year defensive tackle fractured his leg late in the game, an injury that will end his season. Vea was off to an All-Pro start, with two sacks and 16 pressures from the nose tackle position, and his presence commanded double-teams that freed up the rest of Tampa Bay's front seven to make plays. Brady and the offense get the headlines, but it's been Todd Bowles' defense that was primarily responsible for the Bucs' hot start. Don't be surprised if the unit takes a step back without Vea.
A perfect day for the Raiders. Derek Carr and Henry Ruggs III teamed up to torch the Chiefs' defense. Meanwhile, Las Vegas' defense pestered and confused Patrick Mahomes in a stunning second-half effort. The end result was a 40-32 win at Arrowhead, the Raiders' first victory at Kansas City in eight years. Suddenly, the Raiders look like a team that can beat anyone when things are going right. Carr deserves special attention: The quarterback, often criticized for his conservative play, threw touchdown passes of 72 and 59 yards. He led the Vegas offense with poise and precision. His fourth-and-1 sneak near midfield allowed the Raiders to run out the clock and keep Mahomes pinned to the sideline. This one was for the haters.
Previous rank: No. 15
The Panthers are 3-0 without Christian McCaffrey, and the star running back's understudy has a lot to do with it. Mike Davis continued his inspired play on Sunday against the Falcons, reaching career highs in touches (25) and scrimmage yards (149) while scoring a touchdown in his third consecutive game. McCaffrey's in zero danger of losing his role once healthy enough to return, but head coach Matt Rhule now has a proven alternative if he wants to avoid CMC's extreme usage levels of recent seasons. Robby Anderson was another star against the Falcons. The ex-Jet has started his Panthers career with at least 99 yards receiving in four of five games, and his 36 catches are the most through five games in Panthers history. A major free-agent hit.
If you want to get right as an offense, play the Jets. Kyler Murray was back to looking like a rising superstar in Week 5, throwing for a career-best 380 yards in a 30-10 win at MetLife Stadium. Murray's connection with DeAndre Hopkins was again a big story: Hopkins had his third outing of at least 130 yards in five weeks and iced the game with a beautiful one-handed TD grab on a pretty Murray deep ball in the fourth quarter. Hopkins said after the win he's happy he's getting to show in Arizona that he's more than a possession receiver. It was a thinly veiled shot at Bill O'Brien and also a nod to Kliff Kingsbury, who is getting the most out of his best player.
Previous rank: No. 22
"There's something special about this team." That was Bears coach Matt Nagy after his team's 20-19 win over the Bucs on Thursday night, Chicago's third victory this season in which it's overcome a double-digit deficit. I'm not sure these Bears are special -- that's actually one of the last words I'd use to describe them -- but 4-1 is 4-1, and they possess a commendable closer's mentality. While we're tossing out some faint praise, how about some love for Jimmy Graham, who's become something of a punching bag in recent years as his skills have receded from All-Pro levels? His one-handed touchdown catch against the Bucs marked his fourth score in five games, a reminder that he remains a solid red-zone option at age 33.
You just knew Mike Badgley was doomed the moment ESPN's Steve Levy told America the kicker had trademarked his "Money Badger" nickname. Moments later, Badgely's 50-yard game-winning field-goal attempt banged off the right upright and fell to the turf, the beginning of the end in a painful 30-27 overtime loss to the Saints. Even in defeat, the Chargers have to be feeling incredibly optimistic about their future after Justin Herbert delivered the greatest performance by a rookie QB in Monday Night Football history. Herbert sees the field in a way that is so rare for a passer of his experience -- if a corner bites on a double move or a safety wanders out of position, he punishes defenses without impunity. He's a silver lining in the form of a lightning bolt.
Previous rank: No. 12
Frank Reich said after Sunday's loss to the Browns that Philip Rivers was "the least of my worries." You wonder if the coach feels the same way behind closed doors after Rivers gave the Browns nine points -- on a pick-six and intentional-grounding penalty in the end zone for a safety -- in a 32-23 defeat. It's the second time this season Rivers' turnover-prone ways cost the Colts dearly in a loss. This wasn't all on the quarterback, however: Indy's defense was shredded by the Browns in the first half, raising concerns that the unit's No. 1 ranking entering Sunday was more the product of an easy schedule than anything else. This remains a very difficult team to judge.
The Vikings did just about everything right on Sunday night, but they couldn't close out the Seahawks in a 27-26 loss that will haunt them. The game's final two minutes were harrowing: Minnesota failed to convert a fourth-and-1 from Seattle's 6-yard line, then could do nothing to stop Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf as Seattle marched 94 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Minnesota held the ball for nearly 40 minutes and showed resilience in regaining control of a game that seemed to slip away when Seattle scored three touchdowns in 1:53 of play in the third quarter. In effect, the Vikings controlled 55 of the contest's 60 minutes and still got beat. It's almost impossible.
My favorite stat from Week 5 … and maybe, ever: With his brilliant performance against the 49ers on Sunday, Ryan Fitzpatrick now has more games of 300-plus yards passing and at least three TDs (12) than John Elway managed during his entire Hall of Fame career with the Broncos. Does this mean that Fitzpatrick is a better quarterback than Elway? Well … probably not ... but it's a testament to the enduring nature of Fitzmagic. Fitzpatrick's 16th season has been the best of his career by various metrics, and it puts Dolphins coach Brian Flores in a very interesting position with first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa waiting on the sideline.
Previous rank: No. 14
A troubling setback for the Niners in Week 5. The Dolphins came to Levi's Stadium and blew the doors off the home team in a 43-17 shellacking that exposed holes on the defense and led to major questions about the quarterback position. Jimmy Garoppolo's return to the lineup after missing two weeks with a high ankle sprain was supposed to stabilize the offense, but Jimmy G struggled through two quarters, then was replaced by C.J. Beathard after halftime. Kyle Shanahan said after the game that Garoppolo was benched to physically protect the quarterback, which begs the question of why he was allowed to return to the field in the first place. With a ridiculous stretch of elite opponents ahead, the Niners are at risk of sliding into irrelevance by Thanksgiving.
Previous rank: No. 20
Complete disaster. That's the only way to describe what happened on Sunday in Jerrah World, a last-second 37-34 win over the Giants that will be remembered for the awful ankle injury that ended Dak Prescott's season after a brilliant month. Enter Andy Dalton, whose smart offseason signing looks genius now that Dallas will be forced to go with a backup QB the rest of the way. Dalton, 32, has shown in his years of starting experience that he can play at a high level when surrounded with the right parts. He's got that now in a way he never had in Cincinnati. Dalton has the ability to keep the Cowboys relevant, but there's no sugarcoating the ugly nature of Prescott's loss. For a team that entered 2020 with Super Bowl aspirations, it’s an absolute crusher.
There were positives to take out of Sunday. Miles Sanders ripped off a 74-yard touchdown run in his return to his hometown of Pittsburgh. Travis Fulgham is officially a thing after a sterling 10/152/1 performance on 13 targets. But the Eagles' defense had no answers for Ben Roethlisberger or rookie Steelers wideout Chase Claypool (four TDs) in a 38-29 loss. Philadelphia showed heart in nearly rallying back from a 31-14 deficit in the second half, but there were too many mistakes, both by Carson Wentz (two more interceptions) and the defense, which had a number of ugly coverage breakdowns and a quiet day rushing the passer. Things don't get any easier this week against the 4-1 Ravens.
Previous rank: No. 29
Let's give some love to Romeo Crennel, who became the oldest head coach in NFL history on Sunday, then led the Texans to their ever-elusive first victory of the season. Deshaun Watson threw for a season-high 359 yards and three touchdowns, and the Houston defense took advantage of Jacksonville mistakes to put the game away in the second half. Two performances that stood out: A week after being shut out in a loss to the Vikings, Brandin Cooks enjoyed season highs in catches (eight), receiving yards (161) and touchdowns (one). Houston also finally got a lift from its ground game in the form of David Johnson, who went over 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time since Week 1. Things get interesting in the AFC South if the Texans can beat the Titans in Week 6.
Previous rank: No. 24
You have to wonder whether Matt Patricia would still be employed right now if the Lions hadn't edged out the Cardinals in Week 3. The Week 5 bye looked ominous for the embattled head coach as far back as August. Up next is a pair of winnable road games at Jacksonville and Atlanta (teams with a combined record of 1-9). Getting back to 3-3 hardly qualifies as an impossible ask ... but what have the Lions shown us in the Patricia era to make us think they'll take advantage of this opportunity to reboot their season? Do-or-die time in Motown.
The Bengals lost a game Sunday that featured very little in the way of positives. Joe Burrow was beaten up once again, sacked by seven different Ravens and hit 15 times in his least productive day as a pro. Joe Mixon failed to build off his breakout Week 4 (a wrecked game script played a role there), and Cincinnati managed just 205 total yards in a 27-3 loss. There was also this, which was all kinds of depressing. The Ravens are a tough assignment for any offensive line, but the Bengals are flirting with disaster in their failure to protect Burrow, who has been sacked and battered more than any other passer in the league through five games. You must protect The Future at all costs.
Previous rank: No. 27
Some Broncos players expressed unhappiness with the NFL's decision to postpone Sunday's scheduled Week 5 matchup against the Patriots after another positive coronavirus test in New England, thus turning what would have been a game week into their bye for the season. Said safety Justin Simmons: "Injuries at an all-time high and our bye week was burned up with practices." Running back Melvin Gordon shared a similar sentiment, and you can understand their frustration. The league made the right decision to put the safety of the teams first, but players are creatures of habit, and bye weeks are hugely important as physical and mental breaks during an arduous season. There's no avoiding the reality that the 2020 campaign is an imperfect machine.
Previous rank: No. 26
The Jaguars make way too many mistakes to win games right now. On Sunday, it was a pair of ugly field-goal misses by kicker Stephen Hauschka, a bizarre fourth-and-1 call in the red zone that led to a James Robinson lost fumble, and a Gardner Minshew sack/fumble/turnover in the fourth quarter that doomed a final comeback attempt. The Jacksonville defense actually showed improvement against the Texans despite the injury absences of linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Josh Allen and cornerback C.J. Henderson, but the Jags have been unable to put together a complete effort during this four-game losing streak. The margin for error is too tight for Doug Marrone’s team.
Previous rank: No. 28
The hammer falls. Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff were both fired on Sunday night, hours after a 23-16 loss to the Panthers dropped the Falcons to 0-5. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris takes the reins of a Falcons team that has slowly drifted out of contention in the years since the crushing events of Super Bowl LI. This is an organization headed toward a reboot under the direction of owner Arthur Blank and team president Rich McKay. The head coach and GM vacancies must be filled -- and some difficult conversations are sure to be had over the quarterback position. Does Matt Ryan, 35, still fit on a team that’s ready to start over?
Week 1 seems so long ago. Back on Sept. 13, Washington sacked Carson Wentz eight times in an upset win over the Eagles. The Football Team has managed just seven sacks total in the four games since, all losses by at least two touchdowns. The defense hasn't lived up to lofty early expectations, while the offense has cratered. Dwayne Haskins watched from home as Washington managed 108 total yards in a 30-10 loss to the Rams. Kyle Allen provided little spark before exiting with a shoulder injury, and Alex Smith got hit way too often in his first game action since his harrowing leg injury in 2018. Ron Rivera said after the loss that Allen will remain the starter if he's cleared to play ahead of this week's matchup against the winless Giants.
Bad teams find a way. The Giants did it again on Sunday against the Cowboys, who lost Dak Prescott to a season-ending ankle injury and still managed to secure a 37-34 win. The Giants coughed up an early 14-point lead, had two touchdowns taken off the board by penalties, let Andy Dalton march Dallas to the winning field goal and watched another Daniel Jones fumble turn into a touchdown in their fifth straight loss to open the season. Jones is up to 31 turnovers in 18 games, and it's becoming increasingly clear he'll need to lift his play to a much higher level in the season's final 11 weeks to ensure he remains a part of this franchise's future. Change is coming for Big Blue.
Le'Veon Bell is history, and the Jets are winless through five games for the first time since 1996. That was the final year of the Rich Kotite era, believed by many fans to be the bleakest period for a franchise that's had more than its fair share of valleys. After that '96 season, Bill Parcells took over the organization and turned the Jets into a Super Bowl contender within two years. Will a figure emerge to save the present-day Jets? You know it won't be Adam Gase -- the only question that remains is whether acting owner Christopher Johnson waits to make a move or follows a more immediate path blazed by the Texans and Falcons last week.