By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
The NFL has played 25% of its schedule â time to abandon our three sets of three for the first of our three power rankings. The second will come after week 9, when all but four teams will have had their bye weeks, and the final one will come before the final week of the regular season. So away we go.
1. Green Bay Packers (4-0) â Best team in the league with the QB playing the best football right now. Shouldn’t be a surprise here.
2. New England Patriots (3-1) â One week after Tom Brady threw four picks and the Jets lost in Oakland, the Pats made a statement by beating the Raiders on the road. Class of the AFC yet again.
3. New Orleans Saints (3-1) â A bad final play in the season opener in Green Bay is all that separates this team from swapping with the Packers. Anything less than a Saints-Packers rematch in the NFC title game would be a letdown.
4. Detroit Lions (4-0) â Yes, I get that they haven’t lost yet, but they’re also not quite at the level of the three teams above. Yet.
5. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) â I’m still not sold on their offense, but their abuse of Mark Sanchez and the Jet offense Sunday night gives them a major boost up the poll.
6. Houston Texans (3-1) â The “second-five” starts with the AFC South co-leaders, who have all the makings of a legitimate contender and have finally started putting it together.
7. New York Giants (3-1) â More of an indication on how good they looked in week three in Philadelphia, but it’s still important that they avoided a classic “let-down” game in Arizona last week as well.
8. San Diego Chargers (3-1) â Still haven’t beaten any good teams yet, which keeps them from moving too far up the rankings. Philip Rivers is a stud, though.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) â There’s something to be said for doing just enough to win. Save for the week one loss to Detroit, that’s exactly what Tampa’s done, and they’re in a position now to ride it to the postseason.
MORE STILL TO PROVE
10. Washington Redskins (3-1) â Never again did I think Rex Grossman would lead a contending team. And he’s not. The defense is.
11. Oakland Raiders (2-2) â Since their week one win over Denver, they’ve gone 1-2 against the AFC East, but that one win was impressive enough to me to put this team right in the thick of the playoff hunt.
12. Tennessee Titans (3-1) â Cleveland and Denver aren’t good teams, so they should have beaten them. Beat Pittsburgh and Houston in the next two games, and then we’ll really take this team seriously.
13. New York Jets (2-2) â The talent is clearly there, but the offense needs to do more to keep that defense from wearing down. And Rex needs to just shut up.
14. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) â To quote Denny Green, “They are who we thought they were.” A mediocre team with an inconsistent QB that will sometimes win games they should lose (SF, WAS) and sometimes lose games they should win (NYJ, DET).
15. Buffalo Bills (3-1) â Let the hatred begin. I get that they beat the Patriots. They also barely outgunned Oakland, beat a bad KC team, and just lost to Cincinnati. It’s a long season, fellas.
16. San Francisco 49’ers (3-1) â The other fan base that’s about to send me hate mail. But they lost the only game they played against a team I ranked above them. Tampa and Detroit the next two weeks give a great opportunity to prove this team is legit.
THE “GOOD” BAD TEAMSâ¦ OR THE “BAD” GOOD TEAMS
17. Atlanta Falcons (2-2) â If Michael Vick doesn’t crash into his right tackle, we’re talking about this 1-3 team instead of the Eagles. They have two bad losses and two “just barely wins. Not good for the team with the best record in the NFC last year.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) â How the mighty have fallen. Without James Harrison now for at least a couple of weeks, this is slowly going from bad to worse for the defending AFC champs.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) â They’re not as bad as their record, but they are the worst team in the division. Sorry, Eagles fans. Truth hurts sometimes.
20. Chicago Bears (2-2) â I can’t get a good read on this team, and I just don’t buy into Jay Cutler being a winner. Maybe he and the Bears will prove me wrong, but they’re quickly falling behind two other teams in their own division.
21. Arizona Cardinals (1-3) â I know they’re under .500, but they have the single best player in the division in Larry Fitzgerald. They’re not done yet.
BAD, WITH SIGNS OF LIFE
22. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) â How they’re here, I have no idea, but wins over Cleveland and Buffalo already have them ahead of how many I thought they’d get this season.
23. Carolina Panthers (1-3) â Even with a rookie QB playing every snap this season, they’ve been competitive in every game. Kudos to Ron Rivera and Cam Newton â I’m beginning to believe in the new Panthers era.
24. Cleveland Browns (2-2) â With the way the Jets, Steelers, and Colts have all played this season, now is the chance for the Browns to make a move. The offense needs to step up, though, scoring only 74 points through the first four games.
25. Seattle Seahawks (1-3) â Homefield almost helped them rally against Atlanta last week. The bad news is they still have to play six more games somewhere other than Qwest Field.
26. Denver Broncos (1-3) Ââ Yes, their defense got torched Sunday, but Aaron Rodgers does that to everyone. I was more impressed with the 24 points scored. John Fox at least has this team starting to show signs of improvement.
JUST PLAIN BAD
27. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) â There’s no way this team was as bad as they showed the first two weeks. A 3-point loss to San Diego and a win over Minnesota at least has to give the Chiefs a bit of that confidence back.
28. Indianapolis Colts (0-4) â I find it truly unbelievable how, even with all of the talent still on the team, that just losing Peyton Manning has basically turned this team into one of the six worst in the entire league. All the more proof why he’s better than Brady.
29. St. Louis Rams (0-4) â This team is the only winless team besides Indy that really doesn’t deserve to be winless. Injuries, and not a lack of talent, have but the Rams in the NFC West cellar.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) â That week one win over Tennessee looks like a really long time ago, doesn’t it? They might win the Andrew Luck sweepstakes yet â and then not even take him!
31. Miami Dolphins (0-4) â Proof that talent alone doesn’t win football games. This should not be an 0-4 football team, but sometimes a record really is the only necessary tool to use to judge a team â and this one just stinks.
32. Minnesota Vikings (0-4) â But not as much as this one! Two blown leads of 20 points in the second half, and then a loss to a team that had been outscored 89-10 in its first two games. The only upside is that the city of Jacksonville stopped showing up years ago, so Los Angeles will likely try to poach the Jags instead of the Vikes this offseason.