The first bye week of the season saw our top three teams taking breaks. So it’s little surprise that the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals are still firmly planted at the top after their inactivity. But there are plenty of other big changes in our power rankings folllowing a week of upsets. That said, let’s look at who’s moving up and down as we enter Week 5 of the 2014 NFL season.
1. Denver Broncos (2-1); bye week, retains same ranking – Denver faces another tough test this week with the Arizona Cardinals visiting. However, we don’t expect this to be an overly difficult game for the Broncos for two reasons: 1) They’re playing at home, and 2) Arizona QB Carson Palmer seems doubtful to play because of the “misfiring” nerve in his shoulder.
2. Seattle Seahawks (2-1); bye week, retains same ranking – As if Seattle wasn’t already expected to win against the Redskins this week, they get a shaky Kirk Cousins coming off a 4-interception game. The Seahawks defense should feast in this one since they can both put major pressure on opposing QB’s and have excellent corners.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0); bye week, retains same ranking – Are the New England Patriots really as hopeless as they’ve seemed over the past two weeks? The Bengals are hoping so as they visit Foxborough this Sunday while trying to keep their unbeaten record intact. Even if they survive the Patriots, though, they’ll continue the gauntlet by facing the Panthers, Colts and Ravens after that.
4. Arizona Cardinals (3-0); bye week, moves up two spots – Arizona jumps into the upper echelon courtesy of teams above them losing. Along with Cincinnati, the Cardinals are the only undefeated squad left in the NFL. However, it’s difficult to see this remaining the case as they travel to Denver with backup Drew Stanton likely to start again. He fared really well against San Francisco, though, so it’s not inconceivable for Arizona to pull of the road upset.
5. San Diego Chargers (3-1); beat Jacksonville Jaguars 33-14, moves up three spots – We’re not that impressed with a blowout win over the Jaguars. However, San Diego has been very impressive throughout the season – including being the only team to beat Seattle – so they belong in the top 5. The injuries at running back are a definite concern moving forward, but Philip Rivers seems to keep getting it done, and the defense has far exceeded expectations.
6. San Francisco 49ers (2-2); beat Philadelphia Eagles 26-21, moves up three spots – San Francisco got their rushing attack going again, piling up 218 yards – 119 of them coming from Frank Gore. The defense also played well, picking Nick Foles off twice en rout to a second-half comeback. The latter is key because the Niners had been getting dominated in the second half and were finally able to reverse this trend.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1); lost to San Francisco 49ers, drops three spots – The Eagles have been flirting with a loss in every game they’ve played, falling behind early, only to come storming back. But this time, they went up early and faltered in the second half. They should easily win the NFC East, but Nick Foles’ inconsistency will be this team’s Achilles tendon.
8. Indianapolis Colts (2-2); beat Tennessee Titans 41-17, moves up three spots – It’s hard to gauge where Indianapolis is after two blowouts of lower-tier teams. However, they did play both Denver and Philadelphia tough in losses, adding legitimacy to their top-10 ranking. Assuming the Colts can eventually surround Andrew Luck with some real weapons, this team will be contending for the Super Bowl.
9. Detroit Lions (3-1); beat New York Jets 24-17, moves up seven spots – The fact that Calvin Johnson had just 16 receiving yards and this team won on the road shows that the Lions have truly become complete. This is backed up by the fact that Detroit was previously 0-6 when Johnson had 20 or fewer yards. With great players on both sides of the ball, they could continue moving up.
10. Baltimore Ravens (3-1); beat Carolina Panthers 38-10, moves up four spots – As expected, Steve Smith played like a man possessed against his old team – posting 139 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Not bad for a 35-year-old! Our main question here, though, is if Justin Forsett will really be the answer at running back.
11. Green Bay Packers (2-2); beat Chicago Bears 38-17, moves up two spots – One week after putting up a measly 7 points against Detroit, the Packers exploded for 38 points on the strength of Aaron Rodgers’ 302 passing yards and four TD throws. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb also turned in excellent performances with multi-touchdown games.
12. New England Patriots (2-2); lost to Kansas City 41-14, drops seven spots – It’s hard to give up on the New England Patriots four games into the season. But things are looking pretty bad right now – especially with regard to Tom Brady. The 37-year-old QB has one of the league’s worst passer ratings, promoting talk of if he’s washed up.
13. Dallas Cowboys (3-1); beat New Orleans Saints 38-17, moves up seven spots – Nobody has defied preseason expectations quite like the Cowboys have. First off, the defense was SUPPOSED to be dreadful after losing three top players from a unit that gave up the third-most yardage in league history. Secondly, DeMarco Murray has went from an oft-injured tease to an MVP candidate. His latest claim for this title: 149 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
14. Chicago Bears (2-2); lost to Green Bay Packers 38-17, drops seven spots – We’re beginning to see an 8-8 season ahead of the wildly inconsistent Chicago Bears. As Jay Cutler goes, so too does his team. And considering his 7-for-13, two-interception performance in the second half, it’s little surprise that a close game turned into a rout.
15. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2); beat New England Patriots 41-14, moves up three spots – We’re still not sure how seriously to take the Chiefs this season, given that they don’t have the same cupcake schedule as last year. But over the past two games, they’ve looked like future Super Bowl champs with blowouts of Miami and New England.
16. New Orleans Saints (1-3); lost to Dallas Cowboys 38-17, drops eight spots – One stat that’s been thrown out quite often regarding the Saints is that less than 15% of 1-3 teams make the playoffs. If there’s a 1-3 team that has a shot at defying the odds, it’s definitely New Orleans. However, they’ve got to be more than just a team that can throw the ball.
17. Carolina Panthers (2-2); lost to Baltimore Ravens 38-10, drops four spots – Carolina continues their tumble after a second-straight terrible outing. And Cam Newton watched the end of another game from the bench. A huge reason why everything is going wrong for the Panthers is that they haven’t forced a turnover in the past two games. That’s quite a turnaround from the six they forced in their first two contests.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2); lost to Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-24, drops three spots – The Steelers are still in shock after giving this game away in the fourth quarter, where they were outscored 10-0. What’s amazing about the result is that Ben Roethlisberger threw for 314 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, which is usually a recipe for a win.
19. Miami Dolphins (2-2); lost to Kansas City 38-14, moves up two spots – The Raiders’ strategy was to keep bringing pressure against Ryan Tannehill. But this time, the third-year QB responded by going 10-for-15 with 145 yards and a TD on throws where he was pressured. With the way that everybody is playing in the AFC East, the division is still wide open if Miami can take advantage.
20. Buffalo Bills (2-2); lost to Houston Texans 23-17, drops one spot – Moving from one QB who excelled under pressure to one who faltered big time, EJ Manuel was 5-for-18 with 36 yards and two interceptions on throws where he was blitzed. He’s fared badly against pressure ever since taking over as the Bills starter, which is why veteran Kyle Orton will now be under center.
21. Atlanta Falcons (2-2); lost to Minnesota Vikings 41-28, drops four spots – Matt Ryan continues to put up impressive numbers, but he’ll have more trouble doing so after three of his O-linemen went down with injuries. The defense did a pretty poor job of stopping the run after giving up 241 yards on 44 rushes to Minnesota.
22. New York Giants (2-2); beat Washington Redskins 45-14, moves up one spot – After having such a poor running game last year, New York seems better able to balance their attack thanks to Rashad Jennings. Plus, the addition of Larry Donnell at tight end has given Eli Manning a very reliable weapon – just look at his three TD’s last game for evidence of this.
23. Houston Texans (3-1); beat Buffalo Bills 23-17, moves up two spots – We’re hesitant to put much stock into the Texans’ 3-0 start, given who all they’ve played. But now everybody gets to see what they’re truly made of as they travel to Dallas, play the Colts at home, then head out to Pittsburgh.
24. St. Louis (1-2); bye week, retains same ranking – Will Austin Davis be able to continue exceeding expectations? He’d better if St. Louis is to have a chance against the Eagles. This is especially the case when considering that Philadelphia will be hungry for a win after losing to San Francisco.
25. New York Jets (1-3); lost to Detroit Lions 24-17, drops three spots – The outcry for Geno Smith’s benching continues to grow after yet another lackluster performance by the second-year QB. Rex Ryan’s refusal to sit Smith will end up costing him a job as the Jets enter a tough mid-season stretch.
26. Cleveland Browns (1-2); bye week, moves up one spot – Don’t be surprised to see Cleveland be .500 within a month. They play Tennessee, Jacksonville and Oakland in three out of their next four games. Given how tough the Browns have played against better competition, they should have no trouble grabbing a few wins with their schedule lightening up.
27. Minnesota Vikings (2-2); beat Atlanta Falcons 41-28, moves up two spots – Minnesota might be on to something with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and Jerick McKinnon running the ball. The latter rushed for 135 yards on just 18 carries, showing that the rookie is more than capable of taking over starting duties. Going back to Bridgewater, he’s a game-time decision for tonight’s contest against the Packers.
28. Tennessee Titans (1-3); lost to Indianapolis Colts 41-17, drops one spot – It’s a good thing that Jake Locker is expected to play this Sunday against Cleveland because Charlie Whitehurst just won’t get it done. Now we finally get to see second-round pick Bishop Sankey take over the starting running back role – will he pay dividends?
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3); beat Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24, moves up two spots – Mike Glennon made a case for keeping his starting job for good after racking up 302 passing yards and two TD’s. His last completion – a touchdown to Vincent Jackson – gave the Buccaneers their first win.
30. Washington Redskins (1-3); lost to New York Giants 45-14, drops two spots – This loss is easy to sum up when looking at Kirk Cousins’ stats: 19-for-33, 257 passing yards, 1 TD and 4 interceptions. The last number was killer as Washington continually gave the ball up on their home field.
31. Oakland Raiders (0-4); lost to Miami Dolphins 38-14, drops one spot – After playing inspired during a 16-9 loss at New England, Oakland fell completely flat against the Dolphins. They could really use their bye week to come back with a new plan, and to get rookie QB Derek Carr healthy again.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4); lost to San Diego Chargers 33-14, retains same ranking – Jacksonville has finally begun their youth movement, starting Blake Bortles and featuring Denard Robinson as a passing-down back. We doubt the moves will pay off in many wins this season. But at least they’re building towards a better future.