Sep. 26, 2016
Week 4 NFL Power Rankings
By Angelo Inglisa.
Week 3. If your team is 3-0, you’re feeling pretty good about this season. If they’re 1-2 or worse, than you probably are starting to feel a little concerned, unless you root for the Browns. Or maybe your quarterback went out and decided to threw six interceptions, four in the fourth quarter and three in the redzone, and last Sunday tested your sanity. After sorting through the raw emotions, I continue my weekly power rankings, along with if I’m buying or selling the potential around each team.
Biggest Riser: Philadelphia Eagles (19->10)
Biggest Faller: Jacksonville Jaguars (20->28)
1.) New England Patriots (+/-0)
BUYING. Death, taxes, and Bill Belichick coaching a team to 10 wins. The dude knows how to gameplan. The Texans came into last week’s Thursday Night Football game 2-0 and looking to etch their names into the AFC’s elite, and ended up tucking their tails and slinking back to Houston after getting shut out and embarrassed by a third-round rookie quarterback and LeGarrette Blount. It’s early, but 16-0 is in play should the Pats be 4-0 when Tom Brady comes back.
2.) Denver Broncos (+4)
BUYING. Well, if a team is testing the Patriots for the AFC crown, it looks like Von Miller is going to pick up the mantle. Miller and this opportunistic defense rattled Andy Dalton all day and kept AJ Green in check. If Trevor Siemian can pull out a 300 yard, four touchdown performance every now and again, the Broncos may be even better than last year.
3.) Minnesota Vikings (+6)
BUYING. Well, only the defense. Sam Bradford will inevitably get hurt, or worse, play like Sam Bradford, and the Vikings use Stefon Diggs to run Wildcat every down. But damn, did the defense punish Cam Newton. Last year’s MVP was sacked eight times and had three interceptions, mostly because Everson Griffen kept ending up in his lap. This defense is legit and has the Vikings 3-0.
4.) Green Bay Packers (+1)
SELLING. It’s hard to write, but there are reasons. The Packers did trounce the Lions, but it took the entire playbook AND the Lions made it interesting late. If Jordy Nelson can keep up the 100 yard games, I may end up eating crow, but the offense isn’t explosive enough to keep defenses guessing.
5.) Seattle Seahawks (+3)
SELLING: Russell Wilson hasn’t been healthy all year, which is a problem considering how the rest of the offense has looked. Christine Michael finally had a good game, but he hasn’t been able to string them together whenever he gets starts. The defense is still among the best, but it doesn’t have the depth to play 40 minutes a week.
6.) Pittsburgh Steelers (-2)
BUYING. The latest team to get run over by the Wentz Wagon, the Steelers will likely rebound from this loss. They get Le’Veon Bell back this week, and adding him back to the Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger pitch and catch offense will open up the field for other players. Especially with the Ravens on top of the AFC North, expect the Steelers to come out, guns ablazing against the Chiefs.
7.) Carolina Panthers (-4)
BUYING. The blueprint is out on the Panthers. Get pressure often on Cam Newton and take advantage of the below average offensive line and force turnovers, you have a great chance of walking out with a win. But Newton is still the most dynamic QB in the league, and that defense still packs a wallop despite losing Josh Norman. Also, the NFC South looks like one of the worst in the NFL, so getting a guaranteed 5 wins is a nice advantage to have.
8.) Cincinnati Bengals (-1)
SELLING. I respect the Bengals consistency, and they’ll probably still make the playoffs this year. But the offense is hurting for another weapon besides AJ Green, and the secondary looks like it’s finally starting to age. Andy Dalton has done a great job all things considered, but he alone isn’t getting his team to 10 wins.
9.) Arizona Cardinals (-7)
BUYING. Carson Palmer should at least have enough games left in the tank to get Cardinals to the playoffs, but Arizona will need to have someone else take over next year. For now, the defense is still potent, and David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are game breakers that demand attention. Bruce Arians will straighten this team up.
10.) Philadelphia Eagles (+9)
BUYING. Fly, Eagles, Fly. Sorry, I got caught up in the Wentz Wagon. He has looked super composed in the NFL despite coming out of an FCS school, and still hasn’t turned the ball over. Along with a stifling defense crafted by Jim Schwartz, led by Fletcher Cox, the Eagles are easily the most well rounded team in the NFC East. Sorry about trashing your team in the offseason, Philly.
11.) Baltimore Ravens (+1)
SELLING. I have a lot of friends who are Ravens fans who are going to be mad about this. While the defense has returned to an elite form, the offense has looked little better than whatever the heck the Rams are trotting out nowadays. Joe Flacco, who I suspect still isn’t fully recovered from the Achilles injury, is being asked to carry an offense without any running game. That’s a lot to expect out of a guy who has turned the ball over a lot this season.
12.) Houston Texans (-2)
BUYING (reluctantly). In any other division, I’m hopping off the Osweiler train. But due to the lack of competent defense being played in the AFC South, Brock might be good enough to guide the Texans to 10-6. Although with JJ Watt going to the IR, Houston needs production out of Jadeveon Clowney ASAP.
13.) Kansas City Chiefs (+3)
BUYING. Andy Reid’s offense won the game simply by letting the defense do all the work. The opportunistic defense racked up 8 turnovers along with 2 return touchdowns en route to stomping the Jets. Reid needs to get Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin the ball more often since it’s beginning to look like not having Jamaal Charles is hurting the offense more than they thought he would.
14.) New York Giants (-3)
BUYING. There’s only one team right now that looks like they can keep pace with the Eagles, and that's the Giants. The defense was a letdown this week against the Redskins, as Kirk Cousins produced his first turnover-free game of the year. OBJ’s meltdown also was concerning, but there is too much talent on both sides of the ball to not be competitive every week.
15.) Oakland Raiders (-1)
BUYING. Huh, look at that. Playing Karl Joseph helped tighten up the leaky secondary, not allowing Marcus Mariota to get comfortable. Khalil Mack still hasn’t gotten free, but the offense has proved to be capable enough to keep the Raiders competitive. It’ll be interesting to see how they do against the rest of the AFC West.
16.) Indianapolis Colts (-1)
SELLING. Yeah, they picked up their first win of the season, but the Chargers are the Colts without the skill players at this point. Andrew Luck struggled for the first time all year, but dropped a beautiful dime into the arms of T.Y. Hilton for the game winner. While it’s disappointing to have had happen, Luck is probably thankful he doesn’t have to see JJ Watt Week 6.
17.) Atlanta Falcons (+5)
BUYING. The Falcons offense is currently the league’s best, averaging around 35 points through these first 3 games. The options at Matty Ice’s disposal are numerous, and Alex Mack has brought consistency along the O-line. The defense is still a wreck, but if the Falcons make every game a shootout, watch out.
18.) Dallas Cowboys (+7)
SELLING. A slide could be imminent, with Dez Bryant subject to miss at least 3 weeks with a hairline fracture in his knee. That leaves only Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott as the explosive components on the offense, which is slightly concerning. The defense has looked better than most pundits expected, but unless the Cowboys get creative, the recent success could come crashing down.
19.) Washington Redskins (-1)
SELLING. The Redskins finally put together a complete game, and Kirk Cousins managed to not turnover the ball. They did get a huge assist from Eli Manning and his poor decision making, but it is concerning that Josh Norman hasn’t helped the pass defense. The run game is still a mess, and until the defense sorts themselves, they look to be the worst team in the NFC East.
20.) New York Jets (-7)
SELLING. Please don’t make me talk about them. When your starting QB throws 6 interceptions, and you know that he’s still the best option your team has, you start to question why you hopped on the bandwagon in the first place. The defense once again played well, holding the Chiefs to 10 points on that side of the ball, but the offense has looked like a trash pile against the 2 playoff teams they’ve played, and the schedule does not get any easier.
21.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4)
SELLING. The hype train is delayed for this young team yet again. This time, their defense was their undoing, allowing the Rams to put up 30 points after scoring 12 in their first 2 games. Jameis Winston had an INT and a fumble but otherwise played well. This team is probably destined to 6-10, but the talent is growing in Tampa Bay. Just not this year.
22.) Detroit Lions (-1)
BUYING. After digging themselves a 31-7 hole in the first half, Stafford got himself on track as Marvin Jones had a Megatron-like box score of 200 yards and a couple of touchdowns. The run game really misses Ameer Abdullah, and the defense isn’t quite what it used to be in recent years. Still, Jim Caldwell and Jim Bob Cooter have this offense humming, and the Lions could be in the hunt for a playoff spot if things break their way.
23.) Los Angeles Rams (+3)
SELLING. And selling it all. Enjoy it while it lasts, Rams fans, this will be the only time this year that LA has first place in the NFC West. The Cards and Hawks will figure out their warts, but until Jeff Fisher finds a legitimate QB that can hand the ball off to Todd Gurley AND generate some kind of threat as a passer, the Rams aren’t to be taken as a serious threat.
24.) Buffalo Bills (+4)
SELLING. Ahh, the old fire a coordinator to rally the troops trick. Amazing what wonders it can do for a week. I did like the ground and pound game plan that Anthony Lynn drew up to utilize LeSean McCoy, as he has been woefully underused in Buffalo. The front seven finally generated a decent pass rush, but can Buffalo do this every week? I know they still have at least one week in them, the week after they fire Rex Ryan.
25.) New Orleans Saints (-2)
SELLING. Drew Brees is going to spend his last years toiling around on Saints teams destined to go 4-12. The defense, despite 3 years of knowing that it’s a weakness, is still a total joke, getting gashed for 200 yards on the ground. Brees still has the offense moving, but unfortunately you can’t win a lot of games scoring 30 points if your defense is giving up 40.
26.) Miami Dolphins (-2)
BUYING. The only reason I’m buying is because Adam Gase looks like he’s going to make heads or tails of the mess known as Miami. Even though they should’ve lost to the Browns, it’s clear that Tannehill looks better in a hurry up offense, something that Joe Philbin never would have run. The talent isn’t there in the back field or secondary to be a playoff threat, but give Gase time and the Dolphins might be on their way to being the second best team in the AFC East.
27.) San Diego Chargers (+/-0)
BUYING. You can’t blame Philip Rivers for the 1-2 start. He can’t play every position. Melvin Gordon has looked better running the ball, and much like Drew Brees, Philip Rivers makes any receiver look good. The defense is still, for lack of a better term, bad, and things look like they’ll only get worse with Manti Te’o missing time. The 2 losses were both one score games, so I’m thinking that San Diego might be better than we give them credit for.
28.) Jacksonville Jaguars (-8)
SELLING. This was the year that Jacksonville was supposed to be a respectable team, but sadly that isn’t the case. Bortles looks worse than he did last year, and even with Chris Ivory back, the ground threat was nothing. The ending of the Baltimore game was a mess, and I can’t find one bright spot on this team other than Allen Robinson. Gus Bradley is going to need to do something, and do it fast.
29.) Tennessee Titans (+/-0)
BUYING. I can’t believe I typed that. But here we are, Week 3 of 2016, and one could make the case that DeMarco Murray is the best back in football. He’s racking up the yards, he’s been a capable receiving threat out of the backfield, and he has a nose for the endzone, keeping Derrick Henry on the bench. The defense still slows opposing team down enough to keep the Titans in the game, but Marcus Mariota still looks lost playing in the NFL.
30.) San Francisco 49ers (+/-0)
SELLING. The calls for Colin Kaepernick to start are beginning, and they aren’t likely to quiet down any time soon. The defense lacks any established players other than NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks, while the offense relies on Carlos “Unremarkable” Hyde on being their best playmaker. The good news for Chip Kelly is that an amazing coaching gig just opened up in Louisiana, and I’m not talking about the Saints.
31.) Cleveland Browns (+1)
BUYING. Call it out of pity. Hue Jackson has turned Terrelle Pryor’s career around, as he was everywhere on the field. Had it not been for Cody Parkey shanking 3 field goals, the Browns would’ve won! Jackson has a plan in place, so even though this year will be yet another lost season, at least they have a coach who’s here for the long haul.
32.) Chicago Bears (-1)
SELLING. John Fox’s second year with the Bears is going about as smoothly as sandpaper. Other than an improved linebacking core, there really isn’t any redeemable qualities about Chicago. Their top young corner Kyle Fuller is heading to the IR, and Jeremy Langford is also set to miss some time. The Bears could prove to be a big seller around trade deadline, as it looks like a rebuild is imminent and a lot teams would gladly give up a 1st rounder for Alshon Jeffery.