Read as Nick Springer takes us through his weekly NFL Power Rankings, which are uploaded every Tuesday or Wednesday during the NFL season.
Minnesota Vikings (5-0)- Previous rank: 3- The Vikings continue to roll early in the season, and Houston just became their next victim. Bradford may get the headlines, but Minnesota’s defense is the real story. The Vikings get a bye before traveling to Philadelphia in two weeks.
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1)- Previous rank: 2- Big Ben picked up right where he left off last week against Kansas City, facing the New York Jets on Sunday. Next to Atlanta, the Steelers have the most explosive offense in the league right now. Le’Veon Bell’s return has boosted an already prolific passing game, as he had nine catches for 88 yards on Sunday.
Green Bay Packers (3-1)- Previous rank: 5- However uncharacteristic it may be for Aaron Rodgers to throw two interceptions at home, the Packers came away with a victory at Lambeau. Eddie Lacy played a great game before exiting with an injury, and the Giants had no answer for Randall Cobb. Green Bay hosts the red-hot Cowboys next week in a significant game.
Seattle Seahawks (3-1)- Previous rank: 4- The early bye week could not have come at a better time for Seattle. Franchise QB Russell Wilson has to get healthy if the Seahawks are hoping for a deep postseason run. Seattle hosts Atlanta next week, which will be a difficult test for the secondary.
New England Patriots (4-1)- Previous rank: 6- It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Wait, it’s Tom Brady! Pats fans can finally rejoice, and no matter what you think about the whole deflategate situation, Brady’s back and better than ever. The most controversial player in the league returned from suspension and threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns against the Browns. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, the Browns have one of the worst defenses in the league; however, Brady appears to be in midseason form already. The Pats are scary.
Atlanta Falcons (4-1)- Previous rank: 8- Julio Jones was bottled up by Denver’s defense, but Atlanta still got the job done on the road for a big time win. Matt Ryan didn’t turn the ball over, Atlanta’s offensive line played well, and Devonta Freeman finished with 88 yards rushing, plus a touchdown. It won’t be any easier for Atlanta next week when they travel to Seattle, but so far the Falcons are passing this road test with flying colors.
Denver Broncos (4-1)- Previous rank: 1- Paxton Lynch’s rookie debut didn’t exactly go as planned. He was sacked six times and threw an interception. Denver’s defense did all they could to slow down the top offense in the league, but in the end it wasn’t enough to keep the Broncos undefeated. Denver is at San Diego next week with Trevor Siemian expected to return to the starting lineup.
Dallas Cowboys (4-1)- Previous rank: 9- I can’t say enough about this fantastic rookie duo in Dallas. Each week they just get better and better. Dak Prescott has yet to throw an interception, and Ezekiel Elliot currently leads the league with 546 yards rushing. The Dallas defense has been equally impressive so far this season. Jerry Jones appears to be adamant about Tony Romo starting once he’s healthy, but at this point I’d be hard-pressed to leave Prescott in as long as the Cowboys keep winning.
Oakland Raiders (4-1)- Previous rank: 10- The Raiders found a way to squeak out a victory against San Diego and now find themselves tied with the Denver Broncos atop the AFC West, heading into a critical showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs. Amari Cooper went off for 138 yards and a touchdown, and the Raiders will need him again next week.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)- Previous rank: 7- Well, Carson Wentz is human. The rookie phenom finally threw his first interception of the season while attempting to lead the Eagles on a game-winning drive against Detroit. The Eagles came out flat and got down early to Detroit and couldn’t take the lead late. Wentz was still very impressive in this game, but Philly’s defense took a step back. The Eagles are at Washington in an important divisional matchup next week.
New York Giants (2-3)- Previous rank: 11- OBJ made peace with his arch nemesis the kicking net on Sunday night, but the Giants still fell short in Green Bay. Eli Manning struggled, and the offensive line had problems in run blocking. New York is hosting Baltimore next week, which has become a big game for the under .500 Giants.
Washington Redskins (3-2)- Previous rank: 15- After opening the season 0-2, Kirk Cousins and the Redskins have figured things out. Cousins looks like he’s much more comfortable than he was early in the season. The offense wasn’t great against Baltimore, but the defense played very well. Washington hosts Philadelphia next week in an important divisional matchup.
Houston Texans (3-2)-Previous rank: 12- Houston’s offense was effectively shut down against Minnesota. Brock Osweiler has not been very impressive so far this season, but he has led the Texans to a 3-2 record so far. Luckily for Houston, everyone else in the AFC South have gotten off to horrible starts to this season.
Los Angeles Rams (3-2)- Previous rank: 13- OK, maybe Case Keenum is not the guy. He struggled against Buffalo when Todd Gurley wasn’t running the ball well, and LA’s normally stout defense couldn’t contain LeSean McCoy. If the Rams want to continue some of their early season success, they’ll need to turn those field goals into touchdowns. The Rams look to get back on track next week against Detroit.
Baltimore Ravens (3-2)- Previous rank: 16- Once again, Joe Flacco attempted 46 passes against Washington. The funny thing is Terrance West rushed for 95 on just 11 carries. If I’m John Harbaugh, I want West to get at least 20 carries a game, and I want Flacco to throw no more than 30 passes a game. Then again, I’m not John Harbaugh, so what do I know?
Buffalo Bills (3-2)- Previous rank: 18- After dropping their first two games of the season, the Bills have ripped off three straight victories to get Rex Ryan off the hot seat for now. I imagine Ryan understands that his job is in jeopardy until he leads Buffalo to the playoffs. The Bills should improve to 4-2 next week when they host the struggling San Francisco 49ers.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)- Previous rank: 14- I’m sure the Bengals were not hoping to be sitting at 2-3 through five games, but here they are. Andy Dalton played well against Dallas, but with no running game and no answer for Zeke Elliot, Cincinnati will have to do some soul searching if they want to get back into the race for the AFC North.
Kansas City Chiefs (2-2)- Previous rank: 17- The Chiefs got an extra week to recover from the beatdown they suffered at the hands of Pittsburgh last Sunday night. The bye week should ensure that Jamaal Charles is 100% ready ahead of a critical road game next week against Oakland.
Arizona Cardinals (2-3)- Previous rank: 22- David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald carried Arizona to a much-needed victory on Thursday night. With all the expectations surrounding Arizona coming into the season, the Cardinals have struggled mightily through five games. Drew Stanton stepped in and did what he needed to do in order for Arizona to secure a victory over San Francisco. The Cardinals will host the equally disappointing New York Jets on Monday night.
Tennessee Titans (2-3)- Previous rank: 26- Marcus Mariota played what was by far his best game of the season on Sunday. It came against a porous Miami defense, but Mariota looked very comfortable all game. Murray picked up 127 yards on the ground, and Tennessee’s defense smothered Miami all game. The Titans host Cleveland next week, and they have a strong chance of getting to .500 through 6 games.
New Orleans Saints (1-3)- Previous rank: 20- After avoiding what would have been a disastrous 0-4 start against San Diego, New Orleans got a bye to prepare for Carolina next week. Things still aren’t looking very great for the Saints, but if Cam Newton can’t go next week, they could capitalize with a very important divisional victory.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)- Previous rank: 23- After picking up their first win of the season in London, the Jaguars got the week off ahead of traveling to Chicago next Sunday. Jacksonville will hope to continue to establish their running game in order to free up the passing game with Blake Bortles. Chicago is certainly a game that Jacksonville is capable of winning, and the Jags need to build on their success across the pond.
Indianapolis Colts (2-3)- Previous rank: 24- Even though the Colts beat Chicago on Sunday, they still can’t protect the highest paid player in the league. Andrew Luck was sacked five more times, but he still managed to throw for over 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Frank Gore provided some relief on the ground, but T.Y. Hilton is the biggest reason the Colts came away with a victory. Indy has a tough divisional road game coming up against Houston.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)- Previous rank: 25- The Bucs improved to 2-3 against a Carolina team without its starting QB or RB. A win is a win, and the Bucs desperately needed that one. Even though Tampa is 2-3, both of their wins have come against divisional opponents. Jacquizz Rodgers had 101 yards while filling in for Doug Martin and Charles Sims. Tampa Bay will get a bye before traveling to the Bay Area to take on San Francisco.
Detroit Lions (2-3)- Previous rank: 31- The Lions jumped out to an early against Philadelphia and never looked back as they improved to 2-3 on the year. Stafford had three touchdown passes and, more importantly, no interceptions on Sunday. This was a hard-fought, confidence-building victory for the Lions, and they’ll look to improve to .500 when they host Los Angeles next week.
Carolina Panthers (1-4)- Previous rank: 19- Carolina’s nightmare start to the season continued on Monday Night against Tampa Bay when they fell to 1-4 through five games. The Panthers have already lost twice as many games this season as they did last season. As long as Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart remain on the sidelines, I don’t see things getting better in Charlotte.
Chicago Bears (1-4)- Previous rank: 28- For the third straight game, Brian Hoyer played out of his mind. He torched Indy’s secondary for 397 yards and two scores; however, the Bears couldn’t get the job done at Lucas Oil Stadium. The offense played fantastic, and for the first time in a while the defense was the reason the Bears lost on Sunday. Howard rushed for 118 yards as well, but Chicago’s defense had no answer for T.Y. Hilton. The Bears host Jacksonville next week, and if Brian Hoyer continues to play the way he has, they should have an opportunity to bring home a win.
New York Jets (1-4)- Previous rank: 21- When it rains, it pours. The Jets are in the middle of a torrential downpour, and if they don’t turn things around soon, their playoff hopes will be washed away. On the bright side, Fitzmagic didn’t throw an interception on Sunday against Pittsburgh. On the down side, the offense only produced 13 points. The Jets are at Arizona on Monday Night next week in a critical game for two teams that have struggled so far this season.
San Diego Chargers (1-4)- Previous rank: 29- Same old story for Phillip Rivers and the Chargers. After controlling the game through three quarters, the Chargers let another lead slip away late. This can’t be overstated: The Chargers could be 5-0 right now. They’ve had the lead in the 4th quarter of all four of their losses this season. There’s no worse way to lose a football game than to have the lead late and then allow your opponent to come back and win. The Chargers host Denver next week.
Miami Dolphins (1-4)- Previous rank: 27- Miami went out and signed Arian Foster in the offseason only to see him get injured early in the season. Jay Ajayi struggled on Sunday, but the Dolphins have bigger problems. They can’t protect Ryan Tannehill, and when they do, he makes poor decisions with the football. Tannehill was sacked six times and he threw two interceptions. Miami’s season is swirling down the drain at a rapidly increasing pace.
San Francisco 49ers (1-4)- Previous rank: 30- After clobbering Los Angeles to open the season, the 49ers have dropped four straight games with their loss to Arizona on Thursday night. The 49ers are at Buffalo next week, and once again the questions surrounding the quarterback position dominate the conversation in San Francisco. Will next week be Colin Kaepernick’s time to shine?
Cleveland Browns (0-5)- Previous rank: 32- Things went from worse to worser on Sunday when Cody Kessler went down with an injury, forcing the Browns to call upon their 5th quarterback in five games this season. Charlie Whitehurst performed admirably, and Cleveland’s lord and savior Terrelle Pryor even attempted a couple of passes for the Browns. The Browns are at Tennessee next week in a potential upset alert game. Let’s not get too excited, but if the Titans come out flat and the Browns somehow manage to get an early lead, they could potentially pull off the upset of the century. Keep dreamin’, Cleveland.