With now five weeks in the books, we’re starting to get a better feel for teams around the league. I so often see “power rankings” across many media outlets on a weekly basis, so I wanted to do something like it here. I’m going to rank teams (based off these last five weeks) in tiers.
Tier 1 (in no order)
New England Patriots 4-1
With Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski back, the Patriots are an easy fill-in to start off my tier one rankings. In all honesty, even without Brady, the Pats still may be in the first tier of NFL teams this season. They’re going to win at least 13 games and are surely headed back to the AFC Championship barring any serious injuries. They won’t move from this list.
Pittsburgh Steelers 4-1
The Steelers are another team I don’t foresee leaving this list. With Le’Veon Bell back, their offense looks absolutely dominant — far and away the most explosive in the NFL. And they may get tight end Ladarius Green back soon, who can fill in as yet another deep threat in an offense that seems to have them everywhere.
Minnesota Vikings 5-0
The Vikings are 5-0 without Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson and with Sam Bradford as their quarterback. That’s because their defense — a unit that’s allowing the fourth-least yards per game — is dominating and leading the way for Bradford to do just enough to win ball games. Bradford’s played surprisingly well (109 QB rating, 6 TDs, 0 INTs); it truly seems he has found a home in Minnesota. I’m not confident this team has enough firepower on offense, nor am I convinced Bradford can stay in the pocket and take hits for a full season without being injured. For now, though, they are certainly a tier 1 NFL team. It doesn’t look like that’ll change anytime soon.
There is certainly no Super Bowl hangover in Denver, where Trevor Siemian is leading the way to a 4-1 record thanks in large part to the league’s most disruptive defense. Von Miller is the best defensive player in the NFL and it’s not even close right now, and the Broncos are a team no one wants to play. The offense has legit weapons — Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas — and they don’t have to score much to win ball games.
Seattle Seahawks 3-1
The Seahawks are off to a 3-1 start, but they haven’t exactly looked like their dominant selves. A slow start is no surprise with Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll — Seattle’s record with them in September and October is significantly less-dominant than it is later in the season — but this team just hasn’t showed enough for me to put them in tier 1. With a bye week to give Russell Wilson and second-year wideout Tyler Lockett some much needed rest, I think this team will show up in the first tier sooner than later.
Green Bay Packers 3-1
The Packers, like the Seahawks, just don’t seem to have it all together yet. They’re 3-1, but they have struggled to separate themselves besides an early blowout against Chicago. I think they’ll figure it out, but I’m not ready to put them in the first tier until I see some consistency on offense; they should be mentioned with teams like the Patriots and Steelers.
Atlanta Falcons 4-1
The Falcons are off to another strong start, but what they do in the next couple of months will be the only thing that matters. This team started 5-0 last year and lost seven of their next eight. Matt Ryan has been great this season, and they have a legitimately explosive offense; they have the best running back duo in Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, and arguably the best receiver in Julio Jones. I’m excited to see them in the next few weeks, and they can be a team that moves into tier 1 rather quickly.
Dallas Cowboys 4-1
The Cowboys are rolling after losing their opener to the Giants at home by one point. They’ve now won four straight and rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have progressively played better each week. But most impressively, this Cowboys’ offensive line is back in 2014 form — when they helped dominate the time of possession, opened massive holes, and protected the quarterback better than anyone in the league. Ronald Leary is filling in for La’el Collins, but it actually seems to be playing in Dallas’ favor. This is a legitimately good football team considering what they can do on the ground, and once Tony Romo and Dez Bryant come back, they can move into the first tier quickly.
Oakland Raiders 4-1
The Raiders are a borderline tier 3 team, but I felt it was impossible to leave them out after pulling out gutsy wins week after week. They opened the season with a big win in New Orleans by one thanks to a ballsy two-point conversion at the end of the game, and Derek Carr has thrown multiple game winning touchdowns — one in Baltimore against the 3-0 Ravens, and one against the Chargers at home. I like this team, and there’s something brewing in Oakland. I’m not sure they’re ready yet, but for now I have them in tier 2.
Philadelphia Eagles 3-1
The Eagles may have found something in second-overall draft pick Carson Wentz. The rookie would have made me think twice about putting the Eagles in the second tier (and not the first) had they won on the road in Detroit after a bye week. A tough set them back, and reality struck. Their offense is still not great, and they may be a year or two away from being one of the best teams in football. I still think this is a good football team, though. Their defense has played great under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, and Wentz has Philly fans more excited than they were with Nick Foles three seasons ago.
Baltimore Ravens 3-2
The Ravens disappointed in back-to-back weeks, losing at home to the Raiders and then to the Redskins by a combined seven points. They’re lacking talent on offense, but their defense — which allows the third-fewest yards per game — has helped keep them in ball games. The offensive line has to pick it up; they allowed a league-high 23 QB pressures Sunday. They need to protect Joe Flacco and open up running lanes in order to slow down the game and win close matchups.
Cincinnati Bengals 2-3
I think everybody is ready to give up on the Bengals after a stinker in Dallas, but I’m not quite there yet. They are really lacking weapons on the offensive side with Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones gone, but once Tyler Eifert comes back this week, I think we’ll see a different team. If they get back to running the football and succeeding in the red zone with their best target back, this could be a team no one wants to play in November.
Arizona Cardinals 2-3
There is something lacking in Arizona this year, but like CINCI, I’m not ready to turn the page just yet. They still have an explosive receiving corps, a top-three running back in the league, and a formidable defense. They need to get it together quick or they’ll get left behind, but I’m going out on a limb and putting them in my third tier. I think they start winning ball games sooner rather than later.
Carolina Panthers 1-4
It’s almost disrespectful to put the Panthers in the third tier despite only having one win, but sorry – I just think they’re a better team than 3-2 teams like the Rams, Redskins, Bills and Texans. Before losing to the Bucs Monday night without Cam Newton, the Panthers’ losses came to teams with a combined 11-1 record. Their third in offensive yards per game, but just haven’t been able to get it together on both sides of the football at the same time. I think Cam will come back from his concussion, play really well, and the Panthers will start winning football games again. If not, they will sink to a bottom-tier team quickly.
Washington Redskins 3-2
The Redskins have won three straight, but I want to see them against the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles before moving them into my generous tier three. They have been bad on defense, and Kirk Cousins has had a rough start to the season. I haven’t been all that impressed with any of their wins, and this next game should tell us a lot more about this football team.
Los Angeles Rams 3-2
The Rams have surprised some people early in the season, but I’m not jumping on that bandwagon — especially after a no-show against Buffalo on Sunday. The Rams offense is terrible, and they have been lucky to win three games this season. I put them in this tier out of respect for their defense, but they’ll sink quickly after losing some more games because of their incompetent offense.
Buffalo Bills 3-2
The Bills have won three straight, but can you really trust a Rex Ryan team? LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor are a serious bright spot, but besides them, I don’t know what to say about this team. They need Sammy Watkins back before I can consider them an actual threat to the league, and it doesn’t look like that’s happening anytime soon.
New York Giants 2-3
I’m not ready to declare the Giants cooked yet, but I’m getting close. I had big expectations for this club, but I was really wrong so far. They seem immature, undisciplined and unmotivated. They signed a ton of guys in free agency, but none have seemed to make a giant impact in terms of winning football games. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt because of a strong defensive line on paper, and I think they have a chance to start breaking out on offense sooner rather than later.
Kansas City Chiefs 2-2
The Chiefs are off to a rather slow start, but what’s most concerning is their constant no-shows in big ball games. They got blown out by Pittsburgh on primetime, and it just seemed like a story we’ve all seen far too often. Their only hope is for Jamaal Charles to come back to his old form, while their defense needs to continue to create turnovers. I don’t think the Chiefs make the playoffs, nor do I think they finish in the top-two of their division.
Detroit Lions 2-3
The Lions won a big game against the 3-0 Eagles last week, and I’m excited to see how it carries over in the next few weeks. Their three losses come by a combined nine points, and they’ve been better than their record shows. I still need to see more on a consistent basis, but the Lions are one of the teams in the NFL who probably won’t contend for anything this year, but they can easily play the spoiler role.
Tier 5: AFC South
This is by far the worst division in football, and I need to dedicate my own tier to dissect the four teams.
Houston Texans 3-2
The Texans got off to a hot start, but things have certainly cooled down after their brutal showing in Minnesota this past Sunday. Brock Osweiler just doesn’t seem to be that good, and I think he’s going to hold this team back. Once JJ Watt was declared out for the season, I pretty much gave up on this team. They aren’t doing anything besides maybe winning the weakest division in football right now.
Tennessee Titans 2-3
I really believe someone other than the Texans win the South, and I’m almost ready to jump on the Titans’ bandwagon. Their second in the league in rushing yards per game and DeMarco Murray is playing like a man possessed. Marcus Mariota is struggling, but the Titans have held their own on defense and have mustered a few wins out. It won’t be that difficult to win this division. The Titans have as good a chance as anybody.
Indianapolis Colts 2-3
The Colts have disappointed, and I don’t know why anyone’s surprised. This roster is terrible besides Andrew Luck and a couple of receivers, and it’s really showing on a weekly basis. They can’t protect the quarterback, can’t stop anyone on defense, and find ways to lose games early. The Colts are in trouble, and they are wasting Luck’s prime years. Luckily, it won’t take much to win this division. They just have to score 35 points a game and keep Luck healthy (gulp).
Jacksonville Jaguars 1-3
The Jaguars are the only 1-win team in this division right now, but I think they have as good a shot as anybody to come back and win it. They have some serious talent on both sides of the ball, and I expected more from them this season. Maybe a London win and bye week can jump-start their season, but it needs to happen now and not later.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-3
The Bucs are a mess on both sides of the football, and they’re lucky to have won in Carolina Monday night. Jameis Winston has been underwhelming considering his second-year expectations, and it just doesn’t seem like he’s fully ready to take that next step. This team is at least a year away from making any noise, but I’m excited to watch Winston grow as the season goes along.
Chicago Bears 1-4
Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer, it doesn’t really matter. The Bears are a bad football team, and I don’t see that changing until they find a new quarterback who brings some life back into their offense.
New Orleans Saints 1-3
The Saints have lost some tough games, but they did so last year too. I’m starting to think the Drew Brees and Sean Payton era is over, but New Orleans doesn’t really think so — they are both under recently renewed contracts. Maybe I’m just overreacting because of their terrible defense, but they aren’t going to win more than eight games this year.
San Diego Chargers 1-4
The Chargers have lost four games by six points or less this season, two of which were by a field goal or less. They just seem to find new ways to lose every single week. They are playing without Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead and Jason Verrett for the season, so I can’t imagine things get much better. I guess they can’t get worse, though, and we’ll have to suffer through another season in which Philip Rivers is great, but the Chargers stink.
New York Jets 1-4
The Jets have had a terrible schedule thus far, but it’s no excuse to win only one game. They begged Ryan Fitzpatrick to come back this offseason, but he’s been terrible. They’re pretty much done this season considering the Patriots are jogging away with the division, and they’re in for a long offseason after a brutally disappointing 2016 season.
San Francisco 49ers 1-4, Cleveland Browns 0-5, and Miami Dolphins 1-4
There’s not much to say about these three teams. They are by far the worst three teams in football, and I don’t see things looking up anytime soon this season.