WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 5
|10.04.11 at 7:32 am ET|
Just two undefeated teams remain as the first quarter of the season is in the books. Offense has defined the 2011 season so far. We’re seeing record numbers reached each week. Four of the top five teams (No. 1 Packers, No. 2 Saints, No. 4 Patriots, No. 5 Lions) have dynamic offenses that are ranked in the top of the league in almost every offensive category. One team that hasn’t forgotten defense is the Ravens. They retain their No. 3 spot as they come off an impressive defensive performance against the Jets.
Before the season started, backup quarterback Vince Young said the Eagles were a “dream team.” Four weeks into the season, Young hasn’t played a snap and the 1-3 Eagles are dangerously close to falling out of the top 20. In the AFC, the two teams that played for the right to represent the conference in the Super Bowl last year have fallen hard. After an embarrassing loss, the Jets drop to No. 9 and the struggling Steelers plummet to 14.
Week 5 is next and it has the potential to cause a major shakeup in the rankings. The Bears take on the Lions, the Jets and Patriots will square off, and the underachieving Eagles face the Bills.
Bye week teams: Browns, Ravens, Dolphins, Cowboys, Redskins, Rams
1. (1) Packers (4-0) ‘ The MVP of the Super Bowl is making a strong case to be MVP of 2011. Aaron Rodgers has thrown 12 touchdowns and just two picks over the past four games. The Packers offense has looked unstoppable. Rodgers utilizes all of his weapons in the passing game, James Starks and the running game has added a great balance, and they protect the football. The defending champs are cruising.
2. (2) Saints (3-1) ‘ The Saints finally have a running game. The three-headed monster of Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas has been consistently solid. They’ll take on the Panthers in Week 5 before they play a key divisional game against the Bucs in Week 6.
3. (3) Ravens (3-1) ‘ Unbelievable performance from the Ravens defense on Sunday night. Ray Lewis captains a defense that sent a message throughout the league. The relentless, intimidating D of the Ravens is made up of plenty of playmakers who cause turnovers and create havoc on the field. The defensive unit scored more points than the entire Jets offense on Sunday night.
4. (4) Patriots (3-1) ‘ Tom Brady and the Patriots offense have to continue putting up 30-plus points per week in order to win. That shouldn’t be a problem. Wes Welker is having the best season of his career. He’s averaging 10 catches per game. On top of that, Brady is getting production from the running game. The pass rush is a lingering problem. Once again, the Patriots failed to effectively put pressure on the quarterback and once again allowed over 300 yards through the air.
5. (7) Lions (4-0) ‘ What a fun team to watch. The Lions have overcome two 20-plus-point deficits over the past two weeks and remain undefeated. Even more impressive, this team has won eight straight games dating back to last season. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are turning into the Brady-Moss connection of 2007. In the first four games, “Megatron” has eight touchdown catches. Moss had seven at this point in ’07.
6. (11) Texans (3-1) ‘ It could be worse — just ask the Chiefs. As soon as the Texans got Arian Foster back they lost Andre Johnson to a similar injury. It will be interesting to see who Matt Schaub leans on in the passing game with the All-Pro expected to miss some time. The good news is Foster looked healthy and Peyton Manning isn’t coming back any time soon. The Texans have taken a giant leap forward as far as their defense goes. Wade Phillips has done a great job improving one of the worst defenses in the league in 2010.
7. (9) Giants (3-1) ‘ It’s amazing the Giants can boast a 3-1 record a quarter of the way into the season with the number of injuries they’ve endured. Eli Manning has played the best football of his career while many of his regular offensive tools are gone or nursing injuries. Osi Umenyiora looked like vintage Osi. It was hard to believe he hadn’t played a game all year.
8. (14) Chargers (3-1) ‘ It was virtually impossible for the Chargers to get off to a slow start. The team’s three wins have come against opponents who have a combined record of 1-11. Philip Rivers and the Chargers will enjoy one more week of an easy schedule until the more challenging part begins.
9. (6) Jets (2-2) ‘ The Jets are dangerously close to spiraling downhill. This team has endured back-to-back, double-digit losses for the first time under Rex Ryan. On top of that, the level of frustration is reaching all-time highs within the team. One of the team’s captain’s, Santonio Holmes, called out the poor play of Mark Sanchez and the offensive line. A loss to the Patriots this week could add fuel to the fire. Sanchez has had an awful start to the season. Week after week, he continues to make poor decisions with the football. It doesn’t help that the running game has been a non-factor and the offensive line has looked lost. Adding to all the negativity surrounding this team, veteran linebacker Bryan Thomas suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury.
10. (8) Bills (3-1) ‘ This Bills team still has a lot to prove. Coming off an enormous win, the Bills showed how young they are by not responding well against an inferior team. They face a challenging stretch ahead that starts with the Eagles in Week 5. We’ll learn a lot about the Bills after Sunday’s game because they’ll be coming off a tough loss while facing a very desperate but talented Eagles team.
11. (18) Titans (3-1) ‘ It took four weeks, but finally Chris Johnson rushed for over 100 yards. Matt Hasselbeck did a good job utilizing his tight ends in the first game without Kenny Britt. Hasselbeck has had a great year and will need that strong running game and other receivers to step up if the Titans want to stay in the race for the AFC South title. One shocking statistic in the Titans favor is that they have allowed just 56 points in four games. That’s the best in the league.
12. (10) Buccaneers (3-1) ‘ It wasn’t pretty, but the Bucs beat the Colts and remain tied with the Saints for first place in the NFC South. This young team has learned how to make key plays down the stretch and close games out. However, if the Bucs want to compete against the elite teams in the NFC, they’ll have to play more disciplined football. Tampa was flagged for 14 penalties Monday night. Luckily for the Bucs, they were playing one of the worst teams in the league.
13. (12) Falcons (2-2) ‘ Four weeks into the season, there are more question marks than answers in Atlanta. After the Falcons squeezed out a victory against an inferior Seahawks team, it’s obvious they aren’t playing as well as they can. The Falcons allowed one of the worst offensive teams in the league to score 28 points and pass for more than 300 yards. Michael Turner scored two touchdowns but averaged just 2.7 yards per carry. Perhaps the most alarming stat is Roddy White has six dropped passes. White was the league leader in receptions last year and dropped just three passes all season. In 2011, White leads the league in drops through four games.
14. (5) Steelers (2-2) ‘ A minus-10 turnover ratio might be the most telling statistic about the Steelers. This is a team in danger of falling apart. The beleaguered offensive line might get Ben Roethlisberger killed by season’s end. Big Ben has been sacked 15 times this year and has taken at least a dozen brutal hits from opposing defenses. Ben’s a warrior, but his toughness might not be enough to get him through the year. On the other hand, the Pittsburgh run defense has been surprisingly awful. Behind Arian Foster, the Texans racked up 180 yards on the ground. In 2010, the Steelers allowed 100 yards rushing just twice and never allowed over 110 yards.
15. (16) Bears (2-2) ‘ We saw a change of offensive philosophy from Mike Martz‘s offense on Sunday. Jay Cutler‘s 17 pass attempts were dramatically lower than any other game he’s played this year. In Week 4, the Bears relied on Matt Forte and it paid off in a tremendous way. Forte averaged 8.2 yards per carry. Limiting the amount of times Cutler can get sacked or throw an interception while pounding the ball with Forte seems like the recipe for success offensively for the Bears.
16. (19) Redskins (3-1) ‘ The Redskins have to be happy entering their bye week in a tie for first place in the NFC East. Through four games, the Redskins have benefited from a strong Mike Shanahan-style rushing attack. In 2010, that running game was non-existent. First-round draft pick Ryan Kerrigan has also made an immediate impact on a Redskins defense that has been great at rushing the passer.
17. (15) Raiders (2-2) ‘ Once again, the Raiders beat themselves. Mistakes have defined Al Davis‘ team for the past few years. In Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, the most penalized team in the NFL added nine more and turned the ball over twice. This team has talent but plays undisciplined week in and week out.
18. (17) Cowboys (2-2) ‘ All five of Tony Romo‘s interceptions this season have come in the second half. The quarterback continues to make the same type of mistakes that have prevented him and the team from being successful. Until Romo learns how to protect the football and make smart plays on the field, the Cowboys will continue to be a mediocre team.
19. (20) 49ers (3-1) ‘ The 49ers enjoyed Frank Gore‘s first 100-yard rushing game of the year Sunday, and that made the difference in the team’s comeback win. Yes, the Eagles did all they could to give the 49ers the game; but key rushes down the stretch by Gore and a head’s-up play by defensive end Justin Smith also contributed to the team’s third victory of the year.
20. (13) Eagles (1-3) ‘ The Niners were 30th in the league running the ball, but the Eagles still managed to allow 168 yards rushing to Frank Gore and company. It’s clear the frustration has reached a new level for Mike Vick and company. The Eagles are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, and during that time they’ve been outscored 36-0 in the fourth quarter.
21. (27) Bengals (2-2) ‘ Rookie QB Andy Dalton wants some of the attention Cam Newton is getting. Dalton has had his fair share of growing pains but also has been impressive over his first four games. Dalton showed poise and led an efficient game-winning drive in the fourth quarter that beat the undefeated Bills. The surprising Bengals not only won, they stifled the league’s highest-scoring offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills offense looked human for the first time this year.
22. (25) Panthers (1-3) ‘ Another loss for the Panthers, but they can feel good once again about the play of Cam Newton. No one expects this team to make the playoffs. As long as Newton continues to improve, the Panthers should be happy. The schedule doesn’t get much easier for Newton and crew. He’s already had to face the Super Bowl champs and will take on the Saints, Falcons and Redskins in the weeks ahead.
23. (24) Browns (2-2) ‘ The Browns are trying to develop Colt McCoy into an elite quarterback, but 61 pass attempts in one game is far too many for the youngster. Peyton Hillis is a game-changer and needs more touches. Falling behind early was certainly a factor in McCoy setting a career record in pass attempts on Sunday, but the Browns have had just one game with over 20 rushing attempts.
24. (31) Chiefs (1-3) ‘ The Matt Cassel-Dwayne Bowe connection is finally coming alive in 2011. This ailing team has shown improvement and fire over the past couple games. Cassel and Todd Haley were jarring back and forth on the sidelines on Sunday. Maybe that exchange can spark some life into this team going forward despite the poor start and the countless number of injuries. With the first win finally under their belt, the Chiefs now have to put the Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry injuries behind them.
25. (22) Broncos (1-3) ‘ It came as no surprise that the Broncos didn’t have a shot against the defending champs. Kyle Orton hasn’t lived up to his coach’s confidence in him. Orton has thrown six picks, five in the last two games. It will be interesting to see at what point, if any, John Fox caves in and starts Tim Tebow.
26. (29) Seahawks (1-3) ‘ Tavaris Jackson is a bad enough quarterback with a productive run game. The Seahawks ground game isn’t doing Jackson any favors. Marshawn Lynch has been inconsistent and unable to help prolong drives and keep the chains moving. The Seahawks were limited to less than 20 minutes of total offense against the Falcons. It’s tough to win games that way.
27. (30) Cardinals (1-3) ‘ Kevin Kolb has looked like a backup quarterback, not a quarterback who just signed a six year, $65 million deal. The Cardinals starter is developing a habit of making poor decisions with the football, especially when the game is on the line.
28. (26) Jaguars (1-3) ‘ The Jaguars average less than 10 points per game. What more can you expect from a team that released its starting quarterback days before the season began?
29. (21) Rams (0-4) ‘ New week, same old problems for the Rams. Sam Bradford has been besieged all year by defensive linemen. The young quarterback has been sacked 18 times in all four of the team’s losses. That’s more than Cutler, that’s more than Roethlisberger, that’s the most in the league. The poor play of the offensive line is stunting the growth of the franchise QB, and coach Steve Spagnuolo should be concerned.
30. (28) Dolphins (0-4) ‘ The latest report says that Tony Sparano‘s job is safe through the bye week, but it’s hard to believe he won’t get fired in the near future. The poor start, the awful record at home, and the fact that the team was interested in John Harbaugh in the offseason means Sparano’s days in Miami are numbered.
31. (23) Vikings (0-4) ‘ It’s safe to say the Vikings have no shot at a playoff appearance. One of three winless teams in the NFL, the Vikings are in a division that occupies the only two undefeated teams in the league. It’s only a matter of time before we see Christian Ponder take over at quarterback and begin the next phase in Vikings history. Don’t worry Vikings fans; the 30-plus-year-old quarterback phase is almost over in Minnesota.
32. (32) Colts (0-4) ‘ The Colts’ unprecedented streak of success will surely come to an end in 2011. Since 2002, Peyton Manning has led his team to 10 or more wins in each season. This year the Colts will be lucky if they win more than three games.
Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.