BY ADAM GREENE
It’s the absolute apex of the NFL Week, when we finally put the previous Thursday, Sunday and Monday’s action behind us and focus on the future. And, in so doing, give out some well-deserved praise and scorne.
We have our fourth different team to claim its spot atop the rankings this season, something that’s all but unheard of in Power Rank-ery. We do not have a new No. 32. That team might as well put their chair in the full reclining position. Really get comfortable. It might be a while.
1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (3-1)
No team looked better in Week 4 than the Kansas City Chiefs. Considering what they had to replace in talent in the offseason (and failed to do), no one expected them to look in December form in September. But that’s exactly what happened, landing them atop the rankings for the first time in 2022. Dominating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa the way they did, in front of a Prime Time Audience, has to be recognized. There are statements, and there’s signed and notarized declarations. Mahomes put his John Hancock on one Sunday.
Last week: No. 5
2. GREEN BAY PACKERS (3-1)
While it might seem unfair to drop a team after a win, the Packers haven’t looked like themselves this season. They got the win over the hapless Patriots, but that game should have been a blowout. Speaking of looks, Aaron Rodgers’ hair choice is a bad one. Last season he grew it out to play John Wick on Halloween, catching Covid-19 in the process and busting himself for publicly lying about his vaccination status. This year, he’s apparently trying to trick Covid into thinking he’s already dead by dressing up as the Crypt Keeper.
Last week: No. 1
3. BUFFALO BILLS (3-1)
Dropping after a come from behind victory on the road against a potential playoff team is bad form, but the Chiefs jumped the field. The Bills looked cooked against the Baltimore Ravens for most of the day, but showed up in the only time it really counts. While this game might get replayed in the postseason, the Josh Allen vs Lamar Jackson MVP race is finally on.
Last week: No. 2
4. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-0)
The Eagles have done exactly what they’re supposed to do — dominate inferior teams on their schedule. Luckily for them, most of the teams on the docket are inferior since Philadelphia was blessed with one of the league’s easiest schedules. Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals could be a trap, or it could be a defining moment for the Eagles first half of the season. With the rest of the NFC hovering at .500, this could lay an early claim on NFC home field and keep it.
Last week: No. 7
5. LOS ANGELES RAMS (2-2)
Like the Packers, the Rams haven’t looked resembled their former selves in 2022. It didn’t help that, even last season, LA got swept by the San Francisco 49ers in the regular season. Los Angeles is playing with more than half its starting offensive line missing, but, there’s no excuse to being held completely out of the end zone against the Niners Monday night.
Last week: No. 3
6. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2-2)
With Hurricane Ian just wrapping up and apparently some off the field drama for Tom Brady just beginning, the Bucs needed to be at their best against the Chiefs last Sunday night. And, even then, they probably would have still lost. In what just might be a coincidence, but I’m choosing to believe it’s not, Tampa went 0-2 after signing COVID-19 super spreader Cole Beasley to their roster. The good news for the Buccaneers is, as of Wednesday morning, Beasley left the team and retired.
Last week: No. 4
7. CINCINNATI BENGALS (2-2)
A big win over the Miami Dolphins erases one bad loss for the Bengals. Unfortunately for Cincy, they had two on their record already. Knocking the Ravens off in Baltimore Sunday will clear that up completely.
Last week: No. 9
8. MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-1)
The final AFC unbeaten team fell in the ugliest way possible, not only losing the game, but losing its starting quarterback for at least a week (but probably more). Tua Tagovailoa went down early with a horrifying concussion that made his previous week’s “back injury” look extra suspicious. Miami is now under the microscope and their “unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant” has been fired, because the “unaffiliated” guy’s head is always going to roll first. The team doesn’t lose a lot at the QB position with Teddy Bridgewater in and he might be a better deep ball thrower than Tagovailoa. The shame is, Tagovailoa’s injury and ordeal has shed a new light on the NFL’s current concussion protocols and already forced changes in the rules. It’s a too bad Tagovailoa had to go through that intensely scary moment to make it happen.
Preseason: No. 6
9. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (2-2)
Justin Herbert is starting to look like himself again “just in” time. He was dialed in pretty well against the Houston Texans last week, but will face a true test making the trip to the Cleveland Browns Sunday. He’ll need a lot more help out of the running game. The Chargers rushed for just 81 yards as a team against one of the weaker defenses in the league.
Last week: No. 11
10. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2-2)
For some reason, Jimmy Garoppolo turns into the second coming of Steve Young when he faces the Rams. Against everyone else, he’s Jeff Garcia. Thanks to their schedule, they get the Carolina Panthers this week and even Jeff Garcia could eviscerate those schlubs with this roster around him.
Last week: No. 12
11. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (3-1)
While America slept, attended church or got mimosa drunk at brunch, the Vikings outlasted the New Orleans Saints to end September a half game up in the NFC North.
Last week: No. 12
12. DALLAS COWBOYS (3-1)
Much should be said about the solid job Cooper Rush is doing for Dallas at quarterback, but the defense (especially the pass rush) is what’s really making the difference for the Cowboys. While I’m not one to think Rush should keep the job when Dak Prescott is healthy, there’s no reason to push Dak back this week against the Rams.
Last week: No. 14
13. BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-2)
As good as Lamar Jackson has played, even considering the significant handicap he’s been dealt with offensive coordinator Greg Roman, something is very wrong in Baltimore. In their two losses, both to good teams mind you, the Ravens surrendered significant leads in the fourth quarter. There’s not only a significant defensive issue there, but one with the offense executing when it matters the most. In the fourth quarter of both losses, Baltimore scored a combined three points.
Last week: No. 8
14. DENVER BRONCOS (2-2)
Well, Gordon Ramsay is about to storm Russell Wilson’s kitchen and call him every British-y curse in his vocabulary. The Health Department has hung a giant “D” on the door. DangeRuss needs to pop open his old Tumblr account and look for his best recipes from 2019 or this Kitchen Nightmare will continue. Wilson is currently on pace for one of the worst statistical seasons of his career.
Last week: No. 10
15. TENNESSEE TITANS (2-2)
After an 0-2 start, the Titans have turned their season around. What they can do now is get on a real roll thanks to a trip to the Washington Commanders, a team that looks as if it’s ready to hit the “sim to draft” button on the rest of the season.
Last week: No. 21
16. CLEVELAND BROWNS (2-2)
A week after knocking off the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns fall on the road to the Atlanta Falcons. In so doing, they gave their fanbase great hopes before immediately flushing them down the nearest toilet. In other words, everything is as it’s supposed to be in Cleveland.
Last week: No. 13
17. NEW YORK GIANTS (3-1)
This probably isn’t sustainable, even with their schedule, but Brian Daboll should be the early frontrunner for Coach of the Year. No one expected New York to be a factor after the league’s first month, let alone co-leading the NFC East.
Last week: No. 19
18. ARIZONA CARDINALS (2-2)
With every team in the NFC West sitting at 2-2, Arizona’s early season stumbles haven’t hurt them. What can certainly help is a road victory over the undefeated Eagles. Kyler Murray can shut up a lot of doubters by outdueling his fellow Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts Sunday.
Last week: No. 17
19. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-2)
Their two losses were both by just one score. Trevor Lawrence looks like, and plays like, a real NFL quarterback. This is not a bad Jags team and one with a schedule just favorable enough to shock the world by season’s end. And, by that, I mean land Jacksonville in a Wild Card spot.
Last week: No. 21
20. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (1-3)
The Saints have been blasted by injuries to the point they tossed the keys to quarterback Andy Dalton last week. Dalton wasn’t terrible. He’s rarely that. What he did do is hold down his end of the fort. He just didn’t get much help from the skill positions with both Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas out.
Last week: No. 16
21. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (1-3)
By knocking off the Broncos last Sunday, the Raiders avoided an 0-4 start. Now, they have a shot to become only the seventh team to open 0-3 to make the playoffs since the 1970 NFL merger. They need to stack up another win to build some momentum, but unfortunately their schedule, once again, took a baton to their kneecaps. They play at Kansas City this week.
Last week: No. 23
22. ATLANTA FALCONS (2-2)
With two straight victories, the Falcons are now co-leading the NFC South with the Bucs. And, hey, would you look at that? Atlanta travels to Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium this very weekend. A stadium where the Buccaneers have yet to win this season.
Last week: No. 26
23. NEW YORK JETS (2-2)
If I were to tell you that, a month into the season, the Bucs and Jets would have the same record, you would immediately have thought Tom Brady re-retired and/or had an allergic reaction to a carb. But, no, Brady is fine health wise (home wise, who can say?) and the Jets and Bucs are both 2-2. And they’ve done it as deserved underdogs in the process. And, hey, let’s not ignore the fact that Zach Wilson actually looked like an OK NFL QB against the Steelers Sunday.
Last week: No. 31
24. CHICAGO BEARS (2-2)
I like Justin Field’s potential and loved the pick when the Bears pulled the trigger a year ago. He was my No. 2 rated QB in the 2021 Draft. So, this would be a particularly good time for him to make a little jump and prove me right. Cause it ain’t happened yet and that’s best exemplified by this stat — Fields has thrown 34 completions total this season. Cooper Kupp, Rams WR and last year’s Triple Crown winner, has 42 CATCHES this season. After a lackluster showing against the Giants where he just completed 50 percent of his passes, Fields gets the Vikings on the schedule. Considering the points it’ll take to beat Minny, it’d be great for Fields to show the Bears, and the league, (and me) something Sunday.
Last week: No. 18
25. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (1-3)
So that’s it. We’re just giving up on the season? Mike Tomlin has never once finished a campaign with a losing record. With the Kenny Pickett growing pains ahead, in one of the league’s best divisions, that’s all but unavoidable now. Pickett isn’t joining a loaded team with a Super Bowl roster like his predecessor Ben Roethlisberger did back in 2004. This Steelers offensive line, in particular. will help Pickett get far too well acquainted with opposing team’s pass rushers this season.
Last week: No. 20
26. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (1-2-1)
The two biggest quarterback moves of the offseason have paid off all of diddly squat so far this season. That’s right. I wrote “didley squat.” It’s that serious. The “DS” word has been used. I expected the Colts to be a dark horse Super Bowl team back in August. A month later, they look more like a they could potentially land a Top 5 pick. Lucky for them, they didn’t surrender that particular selection in acquiring Matt Ryan. The Broncos can’t say the same about their guy.
Last week: No. 22
27. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (2-2)
Speaking of the Broncos’ “guy,” Russell Wilson. Currently, four games in, Geno Smith has a higher completion percentage (77.3 to 61.1), more yardage (1,037 to 980), more touchdowns (6 to 4) than Wilson and they’ve both thrown the same number of interceptions (2). In resurrecting his career, Smith has the Seahwaks tied (with every other team in the division) for co-lead of the NFC West.
Last week: No. 29
28. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (1-3)
I thought it was curious that the Patriots selected Bailey Zappe, even in the fourth round of April’s NFL Draft. He wasn’t a bad pick, far from it, but that’s pretty high to take a QB when you feel like you already got the franchise guy the year before. There’s a chance Zappe is the most talented QB on the roster. He might get the opportunity to prove it if Mac Jones is unable to go again this Sunday.
Last week: No. 24
29. DETROIT LIONS (1-3)
Well, it happened. The Detroit Lions officially became the top scoring offense in the league Sunday in, what turned out to be, their third loss of the season. On the bright side, head coach Dan Campbell has done half of a really great job here in his second year.
Last week: No. 25
30. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS (1-3)
The Commanders haven’t hoisted up the white flag just yet, but Ron Rivera made it clear in an interview this week that he’s got it close at hand. Rivera told the Washington Post that he had to “be realistic about what we have and what we’re going to do.” It doesn’t sound like anyone in DC needs to preorder playoff tickets.
Last week: No. 27
31. CAROLINA PANTHERS (1-3)
Don’t ask yourself why the books favored the Panthers last week against the Cardinals. Just collect your winnings and stare long and hard at that 49ers -6.5 spread this week and do what you must. If Baker Mayfield is good at one thing, it’s by making you money by betting against him.
Last week: No. 28
32. HOUSTON TEXANS (0-3-1)
Try as they might, the Texans have yet to dash our hopes of a winless 2022 campaign completely against the rocks. In spite of fielding what I suspect is the worst roster in the NFL, Houston is actually too good to go 0-16-1. Or give us something even more spectacular like an 0-14-3. Really put up a mark that will be nearly impossible for any team to hit again. I think I speak for all civilization when I say, “We want this.”
Last week: No. 32
Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.
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