Chiefs still reign; Bills, Packers on the move in latest NFL Power Rankings
Written by: Greg Lehr | @greglehr3
Power Rankings by: The Blitz Team | @Blitzalytics
To say it has been an interesting first quarter of the NFL regular season would be a vast understatement. The quality of play, considering the absence of all preseason games and all the uncertainty coming into the year, has been mostly strong. Despite the plethora of injuries (including many stars and starters) around the league, offensive firepower has not been lacking out of the gate. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs continue to put together highlight reels week in and week out, Josh Allen and Russell Wilson have played their way into the early MVP discussion, and Brady and Belichik each seem to be doing alright without each other (who would've thought?). The elephant in the room, of course, is that week four brought the first tangible COVID-related concerns and impact to the likes of the Titans, Steelers, Chiefs, and Patriots - all of whom saw schedule adjustments due to positive tests. While nobody realistically expected zero positive tests for the entire season, let’s hope this is not a weekly occurrence. Otherwise, schedule realignments can create some challenging dilemmas later in the season. With four games down, the no-preseason excuse is long gone and we have begun to get an idea of how all 32 teams stack up. Here are the biggest movers from the first quarter of the season (full rankings below).
We were high on the Bills coming into the year, especially with Tom Brady out of the AFC East, but they have gone above and beyond, exceeding every expectation up to this point. There are not enough good things to say about Josh Allen, who ranks inside the top ten in all major quarterback statistics through four games and has put his name firmly in the early MVP discussion. Stefon Diggs has been a significant factor in opening the offense up for Allen and is tied for the league lead in receiving yards.
Green Bay Packers
Even though they went a cool 13-3 last year, most people viewed Green Bay’s blowout playoff loss in San Francisco as an indicator that they were a lot farther off from competing with other elite teams than their record showed. Then they went and drafted a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft. Then they ignored the wide receiver position altogether. So naturally, they’re sitting at 4-0 while averaging 38 (THIRTY-EIGHT!) points per game thanks to an ultra-focused (and probably still a little angry) version of Aaron Rodgers. He ranks second in touchdowns (13 TD, 0 INT), fifth in passing yards, fourth in yards per attempt, second in QB rating, and first in QBR. Oh, and that is without Davante Adams for two games as well. Whew.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams came into the year in a surprisingly under-the-radar fashion and it seemed to continue even after opening their brand new stadium with a primetime win over Dallas. Part of the reason is due to the strength of the division, particularly with Arizona trading for DeAndre Hopkins in the offseason to pair with Kyler Murray. However, the Cardinals are still trying to build consistency, San Francisco is battling a litany of injuries, and Seattle is among the best teams in the league at 4-0. Sean McVay and the Rams are quietly creating momentum and could very well be undefeated with an impressive comeback in Buffalo, had it not been for a tough defensive pass-interference call on a fourth-and-goal situation in the final minute of the game.
New Orleans Saints
Yes, we are aware Michael Thomas has been injured. However, just about every team in the league is dealing with a plethora of major injuries, so that excuse just doesn’t fly (except for maybe a starting quarterback, a la Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers). Besides, Alvin Kamara has been arguably the best (non-quarterback) offensive player in the entire league through four games. The opening win against the Bucs looks even better now that Tampa is a streaking 3-1, but back to back losses to the Raiders and Packers is the real reason for the double-digit drop. While there may not be any shame in losing to Aaron Rodgers, the reality is if the Saints want to reclaim their spot among the elite teams, they cannot be losing two weeks in a row and be in second place in their division. Does 123 points scored and 123 points scored-against sound elite to you? We don't think so either.
If you told Mike McCarthy in August that after four games his team would be ranked second in the league in points scored (31.5 ppg), he would likely take that in a heartbeat. The only problem? That’s about the only thing that has gone right for his new team up to this point. Sure, the offense is putting up huge numbers, but they are mostly due to playing in catch-up mode for the majority of the time. The Cowboys are 1-3 and could easily be 0-4 if it were not for their miraculous comeback against the Falcons. They have the worst turnover differential in the league (-7) and the defense ranks last in points allowed (franchise-worst 146 points in four games) and is second-worst in total yards allowed. Jerry Jones continues to stay the course with the players and coaches they currently have, but the skepticism of that line of thinking is widespread.
It would be tough to find any team with a more difficult three-game stretch to open the season than the Texans, who consecutively lost to the Chiefs, Ravens, and Steelers (currently a combined 10-1). Difficult as it may have been, the final straw for Bill O’Brien was losing at home to the 0-3 Vikings, leading to his departure as head coach and GM in the organization. Romeo Crennel will take over as interim head coach, with the rest of the staff safe for the time being as well, but that will likely change substantially following this season. The Texans are in danger of being in no-mans-land despite having Deshaun Watson in the prime of his career. The toughest pill to swallow with the 0-4 start is the reality they have no first or second-round picks in the 2021 draft (Miami). Yikes.
Full Power Rankings:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) 2. Buffalo Bills (4-0) 3. Seattle Seahawks (4-0) 4. Green Bay Packers (4-0) 5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) 6. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0) 7. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) 8. Tennessee Titans (3-0) 9. Indianapolis Colts (3-1) 10. Cleveland Browns (3-1) 11. Los Angeles Rams (3-1) 12. New England Patriots (2-2) 13. New Orleans Saints (2-2) 14. San Francisco 49ers (2-2) 15. Arizona Cardinals (2-2) 16. Las Vegas Raiders (2-2) 17. Chicago Bears (3-1) 18. Carolina Panthers (2-2) 19. Minnesota Vikings (1-3) 20. Los Angeles Chargers (1-3) 21. Dallas Cowboys (1-3) 22. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2-1) 23. Cincinnati Bengals (1-2-1) 24. Miami Dolphins (1-3) 25. Detroit Lions (1-3) 26. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) 27. Washington Football Team (1-3) 28. Denver Broncos (1-3) 29. Houston Texans (0-4) 30. Atlanta Falcons (0-4) 31. New York Giants (0-4) 32. New York Jets (0-4)