We live in a crazy world right now in which the Jets share the same record as the Patriots.
Last week I published an article about how underdogs dominated week three of the season and that trend continued into last Sunday, most notably the Bills winning in Atlanta, the Rams defeating the Cowboys at Jerry World and the Panthers bringing down the reigning world champs at Gillette Stadium. With all that swirling around in the air, it’s hard to point out the teams that are for real, but I tried to rank all 32 of them as of how good (or bad) I think they are right now and going forward. After week six of last season, the Vikings were a team at 5-0 many thought could win the Super Bowl because of how dominant their defense looked and I had to as my number among my power rankings back then, but they went on to finish the year right at 8-8 and miss the playoffs. So you can never know how things will pan out in the NFL, especially with the way the start of the season has surprised us already.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)
Right now these Chiefs are the most complete team in the NFL. They are the only ones, who still own a perfect record, so they have to be number one here. Andy Reid’s troops stay true to the formula that has led them to the postseason every year since his arrival in KC, but they might be more loaded than they’ve ever been. The one big piece that is missing is All-Pro safety Eric Berry, who suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener, but other than that everything looks great for them – Alex Smith is pushing the ball down the field more than he has done at any point of his career while still completing 76 percent of his passes, Kareem Hunt looks like the Rookie of the Year and Justin Houston is finally back to his dominant self. Once again Kansas City is winning the turnover-battle, which has been the key for their success since 2013, having finished in the top two in that department three out of those four years. I’m kicking myself right now for changing one game in my season predictions that put the Raiders in the playoffs instead of the Chiefs.
2. Denver Broncos (3-1)
I might be a little high on this Bronco bunch compared to other analysts, but I think they just deserve a lot credit here. Their defense is playing at a level comparable to their Super Bowl run in 2015 with Von Miller demanding extra-attention on basically every single snap and the No Fly Zone balling out. Offensively, they have taken a big step forward, especially up front. The O-line has done a much better job opening up holes for C.J. Anderson and now a rejuvenated Jamaal Charles, while Trevor Siemian is helping out in protection by showing more mobility than I’ve seen from him all of last season. He’s not putting up any big numbers, but he is playing winning football. The guy who is kind of starting to emerge for them is tight-end A.J. Derby, who they traded for from the Patriots a year ago. He has only been on the field for Denver on 18 percent of their offensive snaps, but leads their tight receptions and yards, including an amazing one-handed snag along the sideline for a touchdown against the Raiders on Sunday. With Shane Ray set to return at mid-season I don’t see them slowing down much right now.
3. Detroit Lions (3-1)
Many people, including me, underestimated the Lions coming into this season, but that one call on the Golden Tate touchdown or no touchdown against the Falcons is the only thing keeping them from a perfect record right now. I didn’t think the Matthew Stafford’s woodoo late-game heroics could work another year, but not only does the highest-paid player in NFL history work his magic, he has gotten some help around him. The offensive line is much improved with free agents T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner inserted into the line-up, Ameer Abdullah has given them at least some balance in the running game and most importantly that Detroit D has made some big plays throughout the first four games, allowing the fourth-least points per contest. Especially Darius Slay and Glover Quinn have played at a Pro Bowl level and right now the Lions lead the league with a turnover-differential of +9. With their style of play it just feels like they have a chance against anybody and they have been one of the most consistent teams in the entire league.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)
Who expected the Eagles to sit alone on top of the NFC East after the first quarter of the season? I had them earning a playoff spot before the season started and I feel pretty good about that right now. Carson Wentz has looked great in his sophomore campaign with the new weapons surrounding him. His ability to avoid the rush and make big plays when his team needs him to are both outstanding. I’m also encouraged by the efforts LeGarrette Blount put up on Sunday, as he wasn’t running through Charger defenders all day long, on his way to 136 yards on the ground. The most underappreciated skill-player in the league right now might be tight-end Zach Ertz, as he is in the top five among all players regardless of position in receiving yards. Defensively they aren’t nearly at full strength with Fletcher Cox missing the last one-and-a-half games and them being down multiple players in the secondary, but they could soon be one of the top units. The Eagles lead the league in time of possession at this point and the bottom line for them is – they just find a way to win.
5. Atlanta Falcons (3-1)
I don’t think many people expected the Falcons to lose at home to the Bills in week four, but this team could easily be 1-3 right now as well. The Bears were two drops in the end-zone away from pulling the upset in the season opener and the Lions at least didn’t get another shot at the end-zone due to a dumb rule in week three. In kind of a muddy landscape in the NFC, Atlanta is still one of the favorites to represent the conference in the Super Bowl at this point, but they don’t put up 34 points per contest like they did a year ago and so far their young defense has been pretty average. The reigning MVP Matt Ryan has played himself out of the conversation among the elites, with five touchdowns compared to five interceptions. He’s not purely to blame, as a couple of those picks have come off deflection by his receivers, but he’s not that guy right now. If Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu are healthy, they play with the lead and let their pass-rushers go to work, they could certainly still see themselves back in the big game though.
6. Green Bay Packers (3-1)
I feel like every single time I talk about this Packers squad, it comes back to one man – Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are playing without both their starting offensive tackle right now and they still blow out the Bears 35-14. And that score doesn’t really tell the story, as even the Bears started burning the clock towards the end of the game before putting up another TD. Randall Cobb coming back is huge for them, as Green Bay’s quick passing-game relies heavily around him, but Davante Adams is going through the concussion protocol right now and Ty Montgomery is dealing with multiple broken ribs. This team needs to put up points to win, as their defense hasn’t shown much improvement from last year despite getting some guys back from injury. The numbers don’t look bad, but none of those teams they have faced are really explosive offensively other than Atlanta, who they allowed 34 points to. Of course they are a whole lot better with their best defender Mike Daniels on the field. With Rodgers at the helm they will always be in the game, but I need to see more from everybody else to put them any higher.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)
With Pittsburgh’s talent at the skill-positions and their defense being ranked second in the league in points and yards allowed, you would think they would be right behind the Chiefs, but Big Ben has shown signs of slowing down. We don’t know how serious he really is about retiring, but it’s in the room now and I can’t stop but think his head might not be completely into it. His numbers are okay, but with the guys around him you’d expect them blowing out opponents. The offensive line is a little banged up right now, but they played really well on Sunday versus the Ravens and Le’Veon Bell took full advantage of it, showing he is the best back in the game, after missing training camp due to his holdout and starting the year a little slow. Ryan Shazier is a freak for them defensively and the return of Cam Heyward up front is a much bigger story than it has been made of. This unit is a lot better than they were a year ago, despite them struggling to stop the Bears’ rushing attack in week three. If Roethlisberger finds his groove around midseason, those Steelers are one of the most dangerous teams out there.
8. Washington Redskins (2-2)
I had severe concerns about the Redskins’ defensive line, but then they got the steal of the draft with Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, who I had rated as the second-best overall prospect. Greg Manusky’s unit shows a completely different attitude than in recent years and D.J. Swearinger has established himself as the vocal leader of the group and makes his presence felt with some ferocious hits. Pffensively they aren’t clicking quite the way they did a year ago when they averaged the second-most yards per play and were third in total yards. The running game has gotten back on track with Fat Rob pounding his way through the middle, but the passing attack has slowed down with the losses of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. Terrell Pryor looked like a beast in training camp, but he and quarterback Kirk Cousins have yet to build a strong connection on the field. Overall I’d say these Redskins are a much more complete team than I thought going into the year, as I wasn’t convinced about their defense yet and I don’t believe in teams who try win shoot-outs each week. If Josh Doctson holds on to that pass in the end-zone, they beat my number one team at their house and people talk about them as true contenders.
9. Buffalo Bills (3-1)
Boy, those two wins over the Broncos at home and at the Falcons were HUGE (all-caps purposefully). Before the season started, the Bills were expected to be fighting for one of the top spots in next year’s draft, but they stand alone on top of the AFC East right now, ahead of the Patriots. I thought they were a formidable bunch, that would finish around .500, yet with the way their defense has been playing so far and a smart Tyrod Taylor with amazing scrambling abilities, they could be in the running for a playoff spot in December. Buffalo gave up their two starting corners, but their replacements E.J. Gaines (via the Sammy Watkins trade) and Tre’Davious White (27th overall pick in the draft) have looked outstanding. Their front-four is as talented as anybody’s in the league and Micah Hyde has been a huge addition for them. Right now they give up a league-best 13.5 yards per game and let that defense carry them.
10. Los Angeles Rams (3-1)
And another team that was counted out before the year even started, which now leads their division. The Rams started 2017 out with a bang, as they demolished the Andrew Luck-less Colts in the season-opener, before coming down to earth in a home loss to the Redskins in week two. In week three they defeated the 49ers in a shootout before going to Jerry World and beating America’s team. After a quarter of the season Sean McVay’s offense leads the league in points per game with a confident Jared Goff, who now has playmakers around him, and all-world running back in Todd Gurley. Defensively Wade Phillips’ unit is giving up 26.2 a contest, but the front-seven has five first-rounders including the best interior defensive linemen in the league – Aaron Donald. Mark Barron has taken on kind of the role Deone Bucannon has done for the Cardinals and hopefully Lamarcus Joyner is soon back to full health. The defense showed me a lot last Sunday with the way they adjusted to the Cowboys in the second half and shut them down. Right now the Rams look like the best in the West.
11. Carolina Panthers (3-1)
Oh, how one week can change my perspective of a team. The Panthers had beaten the 49ers and Bills in not very convincing fashion, before getting whooped 34-13 at home by the then-winless Saints. On Sunday they went into New England and beat the reigning world champs at their field. Cam looked highly suspect over the first three weeks with legitimate concerns about his surgically repaired throwing shoulder, but against the Pats he was money, completing 22 of his 29 passes for more than 300 yards and three TDs, plus another 44 yards and a score on the ground. With the additions of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel they added a quickness-element to the size of their receivers. The Carolina defense came into the weekend as the number unit in terms of points allowed and Luke Kuechly looks like the best middle linebacker in football once again. The defensive line looks much more like they did two years ago on their Super Bowl run, with Julius Peppers as a really important addition instead of just a nice story coming back home. I really want to see how the Panthers fare in Detroit to convince me if they’re back to being a powerhouse in the NFC.
12. New England Patriots (2-2)
I’m not saying it’s time to completely panic about the Patriots, but they are one crazy toe-tip catch by Brandin Cooks away from losing three straight games at home. I’ve never seen anything like it with Belichick and company. Don’t get me wrong, number 12 is still in the highest class only shared with Aaron Rodgers and the passing offense around him is number one in the NFL, but the New England defense gives up 32 points and a league-worst 456.8 yards per game. The next closest surrenders 60(!) yards less. I still thought they’d finish as the number one seed in the AFC coming into the season, but I always thought the idea of them finishing the year with a perfect record was ridiculous and so I predicted them to go 12-4. I didn’t think two of those losses would happen this early, but there’s some serious concerns with the reigning champs. The pass-rush is basically non-existent and for some reason it feels like there’s a couple of breakdowns in communication throughout games. If Dont’a Hightower returns to full health as the leader of this bunch and Brady is as brilliant as he has been so far, they should still return to elite status in their conference towards the playoffs.
13. Houston Texans (2-2)
Let me tell you – DeShaun Watson is the real deal. After an inconsistent first start against Cincinnati, he has gone tit-for-tat with Tom Brady in Foxborough before going off on the Titans with five total touchdowns. He and DeAndre Hopkins beat Tennessee’s cornerbacks for first downs time after time on Sunday and if Will Fuller can stay healthy he will give them a dynamic deep threat. Lamar Miller was off to a slow start, but kind of found his groove and got involved in the passing game. The offensive line has been a concern early on, but Watson’s mobility has helped sweeping that under the carpet to some degree. The defense isn’t really healthy right now, especially in the secondary, but they are loaded with dominant players in the front-seven. J.J. Watt isn’t quite back to Defensive Player of the Year form, but Clowney and Mercilus are picking up the slack and offenses won’t be able to focus on Watt as much as they have done in recent years. If Watson can play anywhere close to this level for the rest of the year and keep the Texans ahead of their opponents, they will be able to close them out with their defense.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)
These Bucs kind of have this feel of a Hard Knocks team. They start the year with a blowout win against the Bears, but got crushed in Minnesota the following week, before just inching out a win against the 0-3 Giants at home. What I mean with that analogy is the fact the Bucs have a lot of talent in different spots and seem to be ready to take off, but over the course of the season, some of their flaws show up and they don’t really gel as a unit. If you check the facts, you can see that they were pretty banged up on defense. Lavonte David was a tackling-machine before leaving the Vikings game with a severe ankle sprain, leading to him missing week four in addition to Kwon Alexander and T.J. Ward. Star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has had to play through some lingering issues as well. The bad news for this bunch is the fact they won’t have any time to recover, as they have a short week to prepare for the Patriots and basically lost their bye week by having the first week off. Jameis Winston and his offense can be very explosive, but he just doesn’t seem to be able to reign himself in and take better care of the football. There’s a lot of young talent, so let’s see if they can grow together over the course of the season.
15. Tennessee Titans (2-2)
Mariota’s injury was way more a scare according to the reports of a simple hamstring strain. The Titans offensive line is challenging the Cowboys for the title as the premiere unit in the game and has two powerful backs running behind them. Tennessee doesn’t have a true number one receiver with fifth-overall pick Corey Davis still out with a hamstring injury, but Mariota spreads the ball around on the outside to keep opposing defenses honest. To me the real concern for this team is their own defense, as they give up the third-most points and fourth-most yards in the league. Jurrell Casey is a force when healthy and they have some good edge-rushers, but so far they haven’t able to stop anybody really if they don’t control the ball with their run game. With the way DeShaun Watson has played since being inserted into the starting line-up, the Texans still seem like the front-runner in that division for me, but Tennessee has shown their formula works. They just have to stay true to it and stay healthy.
16. Seattle Seahawks (2-2)
Finally the Seahawks have shown some life. It still was the Colts, whose lone win came in a close contest against the winless Browns, but Seattle showed the energy we’re used to from them. Indy was actually up 15-10 at halftime, but in the second half those Hawks flipped a switch and dominated their opponents defensively. More importantly an offense that had struggled mightily up until that point converted 66 percent of their third down attempts thanks in large part to being set up with manageable situations with almost 200 yards rushing. It won’t get any easier from here on out with rookie lead-back Chris Carson out for a while after suffering a significant ankle injury, but this team needs to establish the run to open up play-action and have Russell Wilson on the move, as the protection has been atrocious through three weeks. Once again, I don’t want to overstate a home win verus a pretty bad team, but this has the feel of Seattle starting to get into mid-season form if they can follow the aforementioned recipe on offense and rely on a championship-calibre defense.
17. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
I predicted the Cowboys to miss the playoffs by a hair and right now they don’t show anything that suggests they can go on a run similar to what they did last year when finishing as the number one seed in the NFC. The offensive line and ground attack have taken a step back, as Ezekiel Elliott doesn’t look the same he did when leading the league in rushing as a rookie. That has put the ball more into Dak Prescott’s hands and he’s just not the guy who will win games by himself for you. His receiving corp hasn’t given him anything like consistent production and Dez Bryant clearly isn’t among the elite wideouts anymore, he’s just not. Rod Marinelli’s defense once again is overachieving for the most part with a revamped secondary, but on Sunday versus the Rams we saw they can’t get it done without Sean Lee in the middle. Demarcus Lawrence has been playing out of his mind with a league-high 7.5 sacks, but the rest of the unit only gives them one additional and turns the opposition over less than once a game.
18. Oakland Raiders (2-2)
The Raiders are this low in large part due to Derek Carr being out for two to six weeks with back problems, but this offense was sub-par already over the last two week. Amari Cooper seems to overthink every single ball that’s thrown towards him and the offensive line isn’t nearly as dominant as they were a year ago. On defense, Oakland certainly still has question marks for me outside of reigning DPOY Khalil Mack. I like Karl Joseph in his second year as a tone-setter for the unit with a knack for the football, but they have had to ask a late-round rookie linebacker Marquel Lee to take over right in the middle for them. The Silver and Black just don’t match up very well against anybody on the outside. I think the Raiders could still recover from the injury to their star QB and earn a playoff spot in the end, but once again I certainly feel bad about making a late call on them winning one of their matchups against the Chiefs and take away their division crown. Should have trusted my initial thoughts.
19. New Orleans Saints (2-2)
Isn’t it amazing how Drew Brees has at least kept the Saints competitive in recent years, despite the fact the average NFL fan probably knows about one of their defensive players? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Cameron Jordan, I predicted Sheldon Rankins would break out in his second year as a pro and Marshon Lattimore clearly was the best cornerback in the draft to me, but after them giving up 65 points over the first two weeks, I thought this unit would be horrific once again. I thought shutting out the Dolphins in London was more about the lackluster performance by Jay Cutler and company, but give those Saints some credit for flipping the script defensively. They picked off Cam Newton three times at Carolina and then held the Miami scoreless. Combine that with a Hall of Famer at the helm, some weapons around him and a versatile backfield and you definitely have something to build on. The loss of right tackle Zach Strief is a big blow, but if Terron Armstead returns to the blindside and you keep Ryan Ramczyk opposite of him, New Orleans probably still has one of the better O-lines in the league.
20. Minnesota Vikings (2-2)
I would have certainly put the Vikes four or five spots higher if Dalvin Cook didn’t tear his ACL against the Lions on Sunday. Zhat guy is special and he was the only one giving Kareem Hunt a run for Rookie of the first month. The receiving duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen has been outstanding for Minnesota, while the offensive line went from worst in the league to at least average. Sam Bradford could return to the line-up in week five, but even if not, Case Keenum has played admirably is his absence, after losing his job with the Rams last season. Those Purple People Eaters have made life pretty hard on opposing offenses, outside of a disappointing loss in Pittsburgh, in which Bradford went down. Xavier Rhodes has been an absolute shutdown corner over the first quarter of the season, giving up minimum production to the likes of Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans and Marvin Jones. I want to see how Minnesota looks like without the amazing rookie carrying the rock before I put them any higher, but they are a much more complete team than last year when they asked the defense to carry them throughout the season.
21. Arizona Cardinals (2-2)
I can give you the good and the bad here with the Cardinals. Let’s start with the positive – their two losses came against two playoff teams from last season. The negative? – They barely won their other two games against teams who combine for one win on the year. Make no mistake, the loss of David Johnson has had significant impact on their fortunes, as Arizona ranks dead-last in rushing without him. Even with a banged up offensive line, last year’s leader in yards from scrimmage would not have let this happen. The Cards drop back to pass 68 percent of their offensive snaps – the highest rate in the league. Carson Palmer more than likely is in his last year in the NFL and just can’t do it all by himself, especially as the most-sacked man in the league. Of course it helps having a living legend in Larry Fitzgerald to rely on though. Defensively, they are just getting up to full strength with Deone Bucannon returning to the line-up in week four and hopefully soon Robert Nkemdiche, who I had listed as a breakout candidate. If this Arizona team can hold the ship until their star-back returns and the defense produces takeaways like they did in their NFC Championship run two years ago, they might still have a shot at winning the NFC West.
22. Baltimore Ravens (2-2)
It hurts me to put the Ravens this low because of how great their defense could be if not counted on to carry them all day long, but this offense just way too often can’t move the ball. Just like two years ago they lead the league in players on IR and at some point they just can’t overcome those injuries anymore. Neither of their top three receivers really have established themselves as a go-to target and they barely have anybody to dress on the offensive line. Terrell Suggs has taken some of the young Raven defenders under his wing and has brought them together to play as a unit, but now with the best guard in the league – Marshal Yanda – out for the season, this team can’t run the ball very effectively to take the load off their D and Joe Flacco either dumps the ball of to his RBs or makes you anxious when he does throw the ball beyond the sticks, as he is the only guy in the league with a pick thrown in each of his last ten games. In the end, Baltimore has beaten the Bengals and Browns, who have one win combined, which came in their direct match-up last Sunday – you just can’t weigh that very heavily.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)
The way the Jags’ season has gone so far is pretty crazy – they blow out the Texans in Houston in an emotion-packed game due to the hurricane catastrophy, then they go back home to lose by multiple scores to another division rival in the Titans. In London they destroy the Ravens 44-6 before losing to the Jets the week after. I don’t really know what to do with this team, because based on talent-level they could be a playoff candidate, but they have yet to show any consistency. Leonard Fournette is a human battering ram and as long as they let him punch defenses in the mouth they can win games. When they run the ball effectively, it sets up play-action, where Blake Bortles looks decent. As soon as they are behind and put their luck into the hands of their signal-caller they are in trouble. Defensively they are loaded on all levels. Up front they have invested heavily in free agency and the draft, Telvin Smith and Myles Jack might be the two fastest linebackers overall in the league and the cornerback duo of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye is only be topped by what Denver has. This bunch just has to learn how to win games.
24. Chicago Bears (1-3)
Nobody really pays attention to them, but the interior three of the Bears O-line is as good as anybody’s in the league. That pairs perfectly with the brutal running style of Jordan Howard, who is complemented by a guy nicknamed as the ‘Human Joystick’. the Bears had to make the switch to second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky, especially with John Fox and his coaching staff having their jobs hang in the balance. Mike Glennon didn’t push the ball down the field for them and while that is okay with their heavy-running attack, it’s not like he took care of the football. He has accounted for eight turnovers so far while Chicago averages only 189 yards through the air. If Trubisky is ready, he will add another element to their offense, as far as taking shots off play-fakes go. On defense they don’t allow a lot of yardage, but they are 27th in points surrendered. That is in large part due to them losing the field-position battle through turnovers and opposing teams loading the box against them. Like I said a week ago – this unit is taking on shape. The front seven can control the line of scrimmage and those corners on the outside are holding up pretty darn well.
25. New York Jets (2-2)
The Jets have already surpassed the win total I predicted for them – by two games. I still think this combination of quarterback and receivers is one of the worst in the NFL, but theyir ground game has been much better than anticipated. If Bilal Powell was on a contender we would think of him as a Pro Bowl back. What has turned this defense around to some degree is the energy they play with. Last year guys like Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, as talented as they are, just didn’t play very hard. It seems like this unit is all in and I think the addition of Jamal Adams as their new leader has made all the difference in the world. Outside of those three guys mentioned, they don’t shock you with any big-name contributors, but over the last two weeks they have basically given up ten points a contest if you don’t count a fumble taken back to the house by a Jacksonville defender. They are still the worst 2-2 team in the league, but they have already exceeded my expectations. Kudos to Todd Bowl and his team.
26. New York Giants (0-4)
If the season started today, I would still pick the Giants again to make the playoffs, but with a 0-4 record they have dug themselves in too deep of a hole now. The offense showed sparks over the last two weeks and defensively they have everything they need. During the offseason we talked about how the G-Men have the best receiving corp out there, but with Odell Beckham Jr. recovering from injury, opposing defenses could play those guys straight up at the start of the year. When the star-wideout is double-covered, we’ve seen the other guys can make plays. Unfortunately, the offensive line has been atrocious early on, neither being able to give Eli time to hold the ball, nor the ball-carriers room to run. Defensively they still have one of the best combinations of pass-rushers and cover-guys in the league. On paper they can wreak havoc on anybody, but they haven’t gotten any help from their offense early in games. There’s only about a five-minute difference in time of possession for them compared to their opponents, but the fact only 11 of their first downs have been picked up via the run game tells you they have been in catch-up mode for most of this young season.
27. Cincinnati Bengals (1-3)
These Tigers are better than people give them credit for. They couldn’t get anything going in week one versus an overpowering Raven defense, but have played fairly well since then. Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher are the biggest weakness for this team and they simply couldn’t handle the Texan edge-rushers, but Cincy was up pretty big at Lambeau before the Aaron Rodgers magic took over and then they blew out their division rival Browns at their place. Andy Dalton started the year pre-occupying his receivers and missing some open targets, but he has started to work through his progressions and has thrown six touchdowns and no interception since that Baltimore game. I’m still waiting for Joe Mixon to become the star they drafted him to be, but I’m sure he will get going at some point. Everybody always said how loaded the Bengals defense was in recent years, but still they basically have the same guys, only that they have some young edge-rushers off the bench now. With Vontaze Burfict back as the heart of this unit, they will play some better ball and show attitude.
28. Miami Dolphins (1-2)
That London trip had to be incredibly frustrating for the Phins. Jay Cutler looked like the same guy he has been for the majority of his career and Jay Ajayi now has rushed for a total of 62 yards over the last two weeks. I’m not sure what to think of Adam Gase’s bunch, but the offense hasn’t really done anything since their defeating the Chargers, who are still winless themselves. Cameron Wake and Ndamokung Suh are getting after it defensively, while Reshad Jones once again is one of the top box-safeties in the NFL, yet that side of the ball seems to draw unnecessary penalties way too often and has forced just one turnover so far – worst in the league. I never thought Miami would make it back to the postseason and at this point they just haven’t shown anything that would convince me otherwise. I expected the duo of Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker to be one of the best in the game, but they and Cutler didn’t just haven’t connected often enough yet. Right now, the only way I see them getting back to relevance would be riding the J-Train and letting those wideouts make some plays for them.
29. Los Angeles Chargers (0-4)
If the Giants didn’t share this record with them, I would say the Chargers are the most talented 0-4 team I’ve seen in quite a while. Philip Rivers might be slowing down, but he’s still a pretty good starter. Keenan Allen is finally back to full strength and he has a tremendous connection with the guy throwing him the ball. The Bolts simply haven’t gotten the ground game going the way they wanted to under former RB coach Anthony Lynn as their new head coach and while that has been to some degree because they have been down early quite a bit, Melvin Gordon has averaged just over three yards a carry. I predicted the Chargers going 9-7 before the season started because I thought this defense could really make some noise. Melvin Ingram has been dynamite so far, even though he’s off to a slow start, Joey Bosa is just coming off a Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign, Casey Hayward led the league in INTs last year and the returning Jason Verrett is the best cornerback nobody talks about. The secondary has been slimmed down and they just haven’t been able to stop the run without middle linebacker Denzel Perryman. Either way, there are no excuses for this team. The bottom line for them is – they just can’t close games out.
30. San Francisco 49ers (0-4)
This first quarter of the season had to be frustrating for the 49ers. They were in all three games against their division rivals up until the final moments and just couldn’t pull one out. In addition to that, two of their best defensive players – rookie linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Eric Reid – have missed large parts of the year already. This defense has a lot of talent and they are starting to grow as a unit. Their two corners Dontae Johnson and Rashard Robinson deserve a ton of credit for playing the way they have performed despite nobody really knowing about them. On offense, San Francisco has had their moments, but Brian Hoyer seems more like a short-term option. Carlos Hyde and the running game have taken a load off Hoyer’s shoulders and Pierre Garcon has been a true number one receiver. Their record might not indicate it at this point, but I believe the Niners are a lot further into their development than experts anticipated before the year started.
31. Indianapolis Colts (1-3)
I didn’t expect the Colts to win even one game without Andrew Luck at the helm, but Jacoby Brissett has been outstanding for them. I know the numbers don’t blow anybody away and they have only won against the Browns, but the man who they traded for from the Patriots at the start of the season has been the lone reason they were in games. Heck, he led them to a 15-10 halftime lead against the 12s in Seattle, before their defense just man-handled all the other ten guys in half number two. I’ve been telling you for a while now – this roster might be the worst in the league. T.Y. Hilton went off on the Cleveland in week three, but outside of that favorable match-up he had to go up against Trumaine Johnson, Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman. The Indy defense has given up more points than anybody else and they are 31st in yards allowed. The two bright-spots on that side of the ball have been Jabaal Sheard putting the heat on opposing QBs and first-round pick Malik Hooker, who has continued to be the ball-hawk he was for Ohio State, having picked off three passes in their four games already.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-4)
Once again, the Browns are back to the all-too-familiar number 32 spot. I thought they would have at least one win against the Colts by now, but they don’t. DeShone Kizer hasn’t nearly been the same guy I thought he would be based off his preseason performances, his favorite target Corey Coleman is hurt once again and they have yet to lead in any game I believe, which hasn’t given them a chance to hand the ball to Isaiah Crowell nearly often enough. Defensively they have some guys who can play, but they just don’t work as a unit the way they probably imagined it. I know they want to work out this ‘Moneyball’ strategy, but I didn’t understand why they released their primary corner Joe Haden. Number one overall pick Myles Garrett has yet to see the field and their best player on that side of the ball – Jamie Collins – has missed some time too. I really thought this Cleveland team could win three or four games this year, but their 31-7 defeat to the Bengals at home last Sunday was a sad showing. Maybe they shouldn’t have passed on Carson Wentz or DeShaun Watson. Those guys are doing alright.
Find more from Halil’s Real Footballtalk at https://halilsrealfootballtalk.wordpress.com/