Similar to what I did last week, with the top five college players at each position a month into the season, I wanted to take a look at the landscape of the NFL, only from a team perspective, ranking them from number one all the way to 32. Due to the addition of a 17th game last year, the quarter-pole isn’t quite exact, but I think this a great time to give a resumé on what we’ve seen so far.
These are not “power ratings”, but rather rankings based on my film study, putting performances into context and using (advanced) statistics to support my case. Therefore you will see teams with worse records or even those who have lost to others in their direct matchups, be higher up than those other squads.
This is what I came up with:
1. Philadelphia Eagles (4-0)
It’s not like I really had another choice than putting the lone undefeated team at the top of the rankings, but in kind of a three-team race at the top, the Eagles are probably the most complete and healthiest among them. They don’t have a superhuman at quarterback like the other two, but Jalen Hurts is playing at as high a level as he’s ever done, ripping the ball over the middle of the field to A.J. Brown with confidence and lofting it down the field to DeVonta Smith, as long as putting the touch on the ball for Dallas Goedert on crossing routes and then killing teams with his legs when the first two reads aren’t there. You combine that with the fifth-ranked rushing attack (165.3 yards per game) and a defense that has already shown an ability to change things up a little bit from what coordinator Johnathan Gannon put on display last year and in week one. They are currently number three in yards allowed per play (4.5) and DVOA (-24.8), tied for first in takeaways (10) and alone at the top in sacks (16) and pressure rate (33.3%). Plus, their turnover differential of +8 is also three better than the next-closest group.
2. Buffalo Bills (3-1)
The order of number two and three wasn’t easy to decide, but I ultimately settled on my pick for the Super Bowl winner before the season started. My initial hold-up was Buffalo’s health status, particularly on the offensive line and the secondary, but the front-five was back at full health at Baltimore and while the loss of Micah Hyde is big, they’ve been able to put that inexperienced back-end defensively in position to succeed. When you look at their schedule, they blew out the reigning Super Bowl champs and top-seeded AFC team from last year by a combined score of 72-17, more than doubled the Dolphins offensive yardage and simply needed two more seconds to kick a game-winning field goal, and just found a way to come back from 17 down at a tough place to win in Baltimore. The Bills lead the league with 99 first downs gained and a third-down conversion percentage of 55.8% offensively, where Josh Allen is an absolute cheat-code, because he can carve you up within the structure of plays, but then also create something out of nothing and run over a linebacker if needed, as he’s gained 146 yards on 17 scrambles alone. And while the defense has been banged up, especially in the secondary, they’re still currently behind only the 49ers in yards per play (4.2) and DVOA (-28.0%), with Von Miller looking like a DPOY candidate again and one of the best units at rallying to the football.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (3-1)
At the most fundamental core of the modern NFL, these are the three biggest questions you ask about a team: Who is your quarterback? Can you protect him? And can get after the guy for your opponents? Well, Patrick Mahomes showed once again on Sunday night that he can play at as high level as anybody has ever done in football, when he put 41 points on what was the top-ranked Bucs defense in DVOA, and he’s back to number one in EPA per play for the position. He has only been sacked on 3.3 percent of his dropbacks (third-lowest in the league) and the offense overall is averaging a league-best 2.93 points per drive. And KC’s defense has pressured the quarterback at a top-five rate in the league (28.9%), along with holding opponents to the fewest rushing yards per game (65.8) defensively. The loss of Tyreek Hill has made them a little less of a vertical passing attack, but they’ve attacked the middle of the field and spread the ball around more, with a league-high eight different players having scored touchdowns already. And they should really be 4-0 right now, if not for a couple of messed up field goal tries or a personal foul on Chris Jones extending a drive at Indianapolis.
4. Green Bay Packers (3-1)
There is certainly a drop-off after the top three, even though the Packers are equally 3-1. Having collected all these statistics, there just wasn’t really anything that really stood out about this team. They are tenth in offensive yards per play and tied for 17th on defense in that regard. The defense is top-seven in total yards and points respectively, but outside of holding the Bucs to just 34 rushing yards – which has actually been one of the least-efficient offenses overall in the NFL – they’ve allowed their other three opponents to average 157.7 yards on the ground. And DC Joe Barry has shown a lack of willingness to adapt from his scheme, to take full advantage of his personnel, I believe. This is certainly a different style of offense that we’ve seen in the past with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, as they’ve use a lot of pony personnel (two true halfbacks) and leaned even more heavily into the RPO and quick game. Aaron Jones is averaging a league-best 6.8 yards per carry and Rodgers has managed games exceptionally well, but you have to question how well this style can hold up in more high-scoring affairs or negative game-scripts, as you rely on 11-year veteran Randall Cobb to convert third downs.
5. Baltimore Ravens (2-2)
I’m fully aware that Baltimore is ten spots higher than a 3-1 team and that they actually lost at home to the group I have right below them. Not having the direct tie-breaker over the Bills and Dolphins could hurt them down the road for playoff seeding, but it doesn’t make me question the quality of the team, since they should have probably won both those contests. Lamar Jackson wasn’t great in the second half versus Buffalo this past Sunday, but he’s been tremendous throwing the ball from the pocket, along with what he can add as a runner, pushing the offense to the fourth-highest yards per play (6.2) and number one in DVOA (23.1%). They could get an All-Pro level left tackle in Ronnie Stanley back any day now and J.K. Dobbins has already shown some juice in his return. The three major areas that worry me about Baltimore’s defense – they can’t create consistent pressure without blitzing (15.3% pressure rate overall), they’ve been a bad tackling team (28 missed being second-most to only the Texans) and we’ve seen their young guys have some bad mental errors. However, they’re at least tied with the Eagles for a league-high ten takeaways. They’re also number one in yards per punt and kick return respectively, with what Devin Duvernay presents, and they’re tied with the Falcons for the second-fewest penalty yards responsible for (114).
6. Miami Dolphins (3-1)
I have no problem with people wanting to put Miami a couple of spots higher, because when Tua Tagovailoa suffered that scary concussion against the Bengals, they were only down by one point and might still be undefeated if he stays healthy for the game. First-year head coach Mike McDaniel has designed an offense that puts their two main play-makers – Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle – in position to create huge plays and made Tua look like an MVP candidate, as he’s currently behind only Patrick Mahomes in EPA per play, while ranking behind only the Lions in yards per play (6.4) and the Ravens in DVOA (20.6%) as a unit. Defensively, we’ve seen Lamar Jackson carve up their man-blitzes with hot routes and guys being able to create some separation off the line. However, when they faced Josh Allen, they ran a ton of cover-two and got to it in a myriad of different ways. Right now, they actually only blitz quarterbacks at the eighth-highest rate (24.4%) compared to finishing second the two prior seasons, but they also only create pressure at the second-lowest rate (13.4%), as they’re focused on having largely space-eaters in the middle to stop the run. Two things that concern me about their offense – other than Tua’s health, which is a completely different discussion – their QB is pressured on 26.4% of dropbacks (fourth-highest rate) and they have yet to rush for more than 86 yards in a game.
7. San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
Week one was definitely a shocker, seeing the Bears win 19-10 in that rainstorm, and then second-year quarterback Trey Lance was lost for the year with a badly fractured ankle early on the next game. They still beat up on the Seahawks that day and then were Jimmy Garoppolo stepping on the end-line for a safety in Denver away from being 3-1 right now. Don’t get fooled by the final score this past Monday night – the Niners dominated that matchup against the Rams, as they’ve done in the Shanahan-vs.-McVay era. San Francisco’s defense has been phenomenal so far, allowing the fewest points per game (11.5) and yards per play league-wide (3.8), while pressuring quarterbacks at the second-highest rate in correlation to their blitz rate (27.6% pressure on 9.2% of blitzes). I was worried about the offense early, because those limitations from the QB position remain, which is why I had to smirk a little bit when I saw Jimmy just force those deep shots outside the numbers all of a sudden when he got inserted. But what I saw against the Rams, with all the creativity in the run game, mixing in wind-back blocks and counter-like cutback action in the backfield, plus all the YAC opportunities Kyle creates off that (55.1% of receiving yards coming after the catch), I think they have the formula to be a major player in an NFC, which currently seems like a one-team show.
8. Minnesota Vikings (3-1)
The Vikings are one of the teams, where I’m not totally sure what to make of their offensive structure. Week one they come out and make the Packers secondary point fingers and roll their eyes, because of the way they force them to pass off routes and receivers are catching the ball with nobody else in the vicinity, but then Kirk Cousins looks like he’s never seen a zero-blitz and throws the ball into no-man’s land the week after at Philly, where they only score seven points. Justin Jefferson has been basically uncoverable, unless he’s facing true brackets, but they’ve been inconsistent running the ball, with zero carries of 20+ yards, and converting third downs and red-zone opportunities as a unit, where they’re 28th and 26th league-wide respectively. Minnesota’s defense is clearly built to slow down aerial attacks and relied on those big bodies they added up front to control the line. They’ve forced at least one turnover in all four games so far, but it simply feels too easy for opponents to move the ball on them(bottom-eight in plays and yards per drive, first downs, yards per play). Still, they are the only team in the league with less than 100 penalty yards (95) and they’re number one in the Halil’s Real Footballtalk statistic, with an average +6.9 yards of field position, comparing starting points of drives between them and their opponents.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2)
When Tom Brady announced his un-retirement this summer, I don’t think anybody expected the Bucs to need a couple of garbage time touchdowns in the fourth quarter (plus a few seconds) of week four against the Chiefs, to finally score more than 20 points in a game. Considering Leonard Fournette gashed the Cowboys for 127 yards in the season-opener, it’s pretty shocking that they’ve gained the second-fewest yards on the ground as a team, as they’ve barely matched that total over the past three weeks combined (258 altogether now). The issues through the air are more understandable, considering how banged up their receiving corp has been basically from the jump. Still, up until SNF, when they were quickly down by three scores and needed to catch up, only the Colts had averaged less points per drive offensively (1.25) so far, despite Brady being the least-pressured QB once again (10.5% of dropbacks). On the flipside, their defense was number one in the league, both in points allowed per possession (0.75) and DVOA, before Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs got their revenge from their Super Bowl two years ago, shredding them for 41 points just now on Sunday night. After that, they’ve slid down a few spots, but in terms of the ability to make offenses one-dimensional, the way they can pressure the passer with six legit rushers on any play and the tight coverage they can play on the back-end, they’ll remain as one of the toughest units.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)
I know the Jaguars lost week one to Washington and just had a 43-minute scoring drought after starting off 14-0 at Philadelphia and ultimately losing by eight, but I believe they are clearly the best team in the AFC South. Let’s play a little game – Can you list the teams with a better scoring margin than the Jags? If you go by my rankings, you can stop after the top two in the Bills and Eagles, as they sit at +9.5 PPG. Their youth certainly showed in their season-opener against Washington, but they’ve shown major growth already and went on to blow out the Colts and Chargers by a combined score of 62-10, before putting up a valiant fight at Philly. Their offensive play-designs under Press Taylor have been highly impressive and creative, as they had scored at the highest and turned the ball over at the lowest rates in the NFL respectively, prior to playing in that Philadelphia rainstorm. I love the combination of pieces defensively and how Mike Caldwell has brought it all together, throwing a bunch of different pressure looks at opponents and disguising the coverages behind it, which it’s how they’ve allowed opponents to score at the third-lowest (24.4%) and turned over at the third-highest rates (20.0%) respectively. And having Doug Pederson has just taken them to a completely different level of competency.
11. Los Angeles Chargers (2-2)
Don’t get me wrong – if this team can survive some of the early injuries and get to the tournament at (close to) full strength, I believe they have the capability to take out pretty much anybody, but it’s just not a disclaimer I wanted to give this soon and they haven’t been the team I thought they could be. The Chargers lead the league with 307.3 net passing yards per game, while Justin Herbert has been sacked less than any other full-time starter (four). However, they are dead-last with just 64.5 yards rushing per game and 2.7 yards per attempt. And while the rate of Herbert being allowed to attack down the field conceptually is starting to climb, too much of what Joe Lombardi has designed for him feels static and their receivers aren’t really allowed to catch the ball on the run. On the flipside, as much as I lauded this improved defense – and Khalil Mack has looked a lot more like the Defensive Player of the Year version than what we had seen in Chicago over the past couple of years – particularly talking about how all those big bodies they can rotate through on the D-line may improve their run defense, still only the Lions have given up more yards per carry than them (5.4). I do like Brandon Staley’s willingness to change things up schematically for specific matchups though.
12. Los Angeles Rams (2-2)
I almost want to move the Rams down a couple of spots further, because they’ve been so disappointing against the two actual contenders they’ve faced, losing by a combined score of 55-19 to the Bills and 49ers. They still have some true star players and Sean McVay’s track record makes you feel good about their ability to get this thing back on the right track, yet I’m just not excited about what the reigning champs currently are. So far, their offense has just been a mess. Everything but Stafford hitting Kupp over the middle seems so hard for the Rams right now – there are no easy plays it feels like. I’m starting to feel like Matt is back in Detroit, as only Carson Wentz has been sacked more often this year (16) and they’re rushing for an NFL-low 54.3 yards per game, which then makes him try to force the issue and lead the league in interceptions (six). Plus, after they gushed about Allen Robinson all offseason, he’s caught nine passes for 95 yards so far. Defensively, they’re pretty average across the board, other than being the only team to pressure opposing quarterbacks on less than 10% of dropbacks. That’s where I have belief in Raheem Morris continuing to mold his scheme around strengths of their players though, as they need somebody not named Aaron Donald to start creating more negative plays.
13. Dallas Cowboys (3-1)
This is just so not the team I – or many others I’m sure – envisioned the Cowboys to be. When Dak Prescott broke his thumb late in their season-opener against the Bucs, I felt really good about my bet involving them missing the playoffs, because I was concerned about what this re-shuffled offensive line and the defense as a unit would look like, with all the personnel losses they suffered this offense. Ever since that happened, I feel like this has gone from a team wanting to push up the score and then let their D-line rush the passer, to more of an old-school approach generally. Their offense has taken care of the ball, as they are tied with the Eagles and Cardinals for the fewest giveaways in the NFL at just two, and the defense has been able to continue their dominance from last year, but in a different, more sustainable way. They are third in points per game (15.5), fourth in yards per play (4.6), second in sacks (15) and pressure percentage (32.7%), second in tackles for loss (27) and top-eight in third-, fourth-down and red-zone TD percentage. The fact that they allow five yards per rush so far can be called a flaw, but that’s the way they ask you to win and we haven’t seen anybody but the Bucs do, back in week one.
14. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)
I released an in-depth video breakdown on the issues the Bengals had on offense when they were off to an 0-2 start, talking about how they structure their protections in a sub-optimal way, individual breakdowns along the front, Joe Burrow starting to let the rush affect his whole process and just their inefficient early-down tendencies, leading to rushing average of just 3.1 yards (tied for second-lowest in the league). Well, they have scored 27 points since against the Jets and Dolphins each – as much as they had through their first two weeks combined – and only turned it over once total. They’ve now had three different 100-yard receivers and as long as they understand their limitations based on the O-line – like not being able to create any push in goal-line situations – and Burrow stays healthy, they should be fine. Their defense has really picked things up over the last two weeks as well, taking the ball away six times and holding teams to just 9-of-28 on third downs (32.1%). Trey Hendrickson in particular has been a menace, racking up 11 combined pressures and 2.5 sacks on less than 100 total snaps. I look at the Ravens as the clear favorite to win the AFC North, but now all of a sudden if the Bengals can win at Baltimore Sunday night, they all of a sudden take the lead in that division.
15. New York Giants (3-1)
To be honest, it’s kind of refreshing to see a team win games with more of an old-school approach offensively, even if I don’t the Giants’ record may not be fully representative of how good this team is. New York is averaging a league-low 4.6 net yards per pass attempt, with their four passes of 20+ yards so far being only half of the next-closest team, and they’re ahead of only the Bears – who are in their own stratosphere – in net passing yards altogether (558). This makes what Saquon Barkley and the ground game have done all the more impressive, as he individually (463) and the team as a whole (770) lead the league in rushing yards. It makes total sense for them to feature that kind of special talent heavily, particularly considering they can’t keep Daniel Jones on his feet, as he has been pressured at by far the highest rate in the league (35.8%). Defensively, Wink Martindale has done a great job of getting this unit to excel situationally, as they’re number two on third downs (29.4%) and red-zone touchdown percentage (35.7%), along with going after the ball and forcing a league-high six fumbles. Wink has stayed true to his philosophy, blitzing at a league-high 45.3% of snaps, but it’s been more fire-zones than flat-out man along with it. Most importantly, Brian Daboll’s staff has given this franchise some belief and direction again.
16. Atlanta Falcons (2-2)
Getting back to what I said about the Giants two paragraphs ago, it’s pretty cool to see a team go against what modern offenses typically look like and play winning football. Only the no-fly zone offense of the Bears has run the ball at a higher rate than the Falcons this season (55.5%). They just won a game against the Browns, where their quarterback completed seven(!) passes. When they do throw the ball, they want to attack down the field, particularly from more condensed formations and taking play-action shots, as Marcus Mariota is behind only Jameis Winston with 10.8 intended air yards per attempt. Arthur Smith deserves credit for the creativity he’s showcased and the diversity that unit challenges opponents with. Their one issue is, while being second in percentage of drives yielding points (47.5), they’ve also turned the ball over at the eighth-highest rate (17.5%). I think their defense will end up breaking their back ultimately, as they’ve pressured the opposing quarterback on the third-lowest rate of dropbacks (14.3%) and currently are 21st in both yards per pass and run. However, they’ve forced seven turnovers and only missed seven tackles on the season so far, which is tied for the fewest along with Tampa Bay. And they’ve been disciplined, being tied with the Ravens for the second-fewest penalty yards responsible for (114).
17. Cleveland Browns (2-2)
Continuing our trend of offense flowing through the run game, the Browns have been absolutely dominant on the ground once again this season. They’re currently second to only the Giants with 187.3 rushing yards per game, they’ve picked up a league-high 46 first downs on the ground and eight 20+ yard carries, with Nick Chubb averaging 5.7 yards per attempt. And Jacoby Brissett has done a great job of managing games, whether it’s about standing tall inside the pocket and drilling throws over the middle or being automatic on QB sneaks in short-yardage situations. He’s currently top-ten in EPA per play among quarterbacks (0.152), while the offense is top-six in percentages of drives leading to points (46.3%) and turnovers (7.3%) – which is actually way up with two of their three total giveaway coming this past Sunday – as well as being comfortably number one in time of possessions, by nearly two minutes (35:38). There’s still a lot to like about Cleveland’s defense as well, looking at how all those top-50 picks in the secondary have looked like and their edge pass-rush, but they’re banged up along the front, with unproven commodities on the interior, and they’re 30th in DVOA on that side of the ball right now. I mean after Marcus Mariota threw an interception this past Sunday, they couldn’t do anything against a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with all run plays.
18. Tennessee Titans (2-2)
It’s hard for me to get really excited about this Titans team now winning back-to-back games, when those have come against a couple of one-win teams and both of them nearly came back in those contests after slow starts. I mean really what it comes down to is that they’re 21st in yards per play on offense (5.2) and 30th on defense (6.3). We’ve seen the Derrick Henry were typically used to these past two weeks (50 touches for 290 yards) and they lead the league with a red-zone touchdown rate of 90%. So if they can lean on that and then see rookie receiver Treylon Burks grow into a guy they can hit on those digs and crossers on the run off that, at least in the mold of what they had with A.J. Brown, that side of the ball can do enough, if the defense plays at the level they have done in the past – unfortunately they don’t. Without Harold Landry, they haven’t been able to rush the passer nearly as effectively, with a pressure rate of 24.5% (14th in the NFL) and their corner group has been shockingly bad, allowing 7.2 net passing yards per attempt (tied for fourth-most). They allowed a run and pass play of over 60 yards to the Giants, the Bills laid 41 points on them, Raiders receiver Mack Hollins more than doubled his previous career-high in receiving yards (158) and even broken-down-looking Matt Ryan averaged 9.6 yards per pass this past Sunday. At least they have a weapon in rookie punter Ryan Stonehouse, who leads the league with an average 56.2 yards per boot.
19. Denver Broncos (2-2)
There’s no way around – the Broncos offense has been incompetent considering the pieces they have (had) theoretically. The bulk of the blame has to go to Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett, for putting together this monstrosity of a merge between a Shanahan/West Coast-style and the Russ offense, where they don’t ever seem to gain any easy yardage, because they spread the field only to take shots down the sideline anyway and the open looks they can create through horizontal spacing, Russ isn’t comfortable with. Under Hackett, they’ve been the most-penalized team in the league (37 for 286) and their offense has converted easily the lowest rate of red-zone possessions into touchdowns (30% – three of ten). And now they lose their most promising player on that side of the ball, in second-year running back Javonte Williams. The defense looked good through three weeks, when they allowed just 36 combined points, and still is promising, but now they just let the Raiders score a season-high 32, nearly match their previous season total with 212 rushing yards and get their first W. At least on special teams, Montrell Washington has given Denver a true difference-maker in the return game, after they ranked 20th and 32nd in punt and kick return yardage respectively last season.
20. Arizona Cardinals (2-2)
Unlike popular belief would tell you – this is not an explosive Cardinals offense, as only the Commanders have averaged less than their 4.8 yards per play and Kyler Murray actually is dead-last with just 6.0 intended air yards per pass attempt. However, they are tied with two NFC East teams – the Eagles and Cowboys – with a league-low two giveaways. And thanks to the defense going after the ball, they are third in the NFL overall with a turnover differential of +4. That Chiefs game week one certainly is a huge factor here, when Patrick Mahomes had a nearly perfect game dicing up Arizona’s blitz-heavy approach, but opponents had scored on a league-high 57.1% of drives against them, before facing the worst offense in the league in the Panthers – now they’re down to number three. A big factor in that has been the lack of negative plays created, being tied with the Saints for a league-low 12 TFLs and alone at the bottom with just four sacks. We’re two weeks away from DeAndre Hopkins returning, which is huge for Kyler as his always-trusted alert on the backside, whenever he’s one-on-one basically, but James Conner is averaging a miniscule 3.2 yards per carry and there’s nothing Kliff Kingsbury does still from a design perspective that gives his quarterback any lay-ups.
21. New Orleans Saints (1-3)
Man, the numbers all say I should put the Saints even lower than this, but then without their starting quarterback, running back and number one(?) receiver, they a double-doink field goal miss away from going to overtime against a fully healthy Vikings team in London this past Sunday. New Orleans currently has the worst turnover differential in the NFL at -7, due a league-high 11 giveaways. That is certainly a huge factor in being the worst team in what I labelled the HRF-statistic last year, with a negative drive-start average compared to their opponents at -10.14, where they’re 32nd on both sides. Having seen Jameis Winston turn a 3-3 game with four minutes left into a 20-10 loss to the Bucs a couple of weeks ago, you understand that they are at risk of giving away games in that fashion. However, in the past they’ve been able to bank on strong offensive line play, which they simply don’t have, being dead-average in rushing yards and pressure percentage on dropbacks. Defensively, only three other teams have actually pressured the opposing passer on a lower rate of dropbacks (14.8%). They’re still a top-ten run-stopping unit and have the players on the back-end to challenge offenses with press-man coverage or fitting the ball into cover-two holes, but without the rush to complement that, they won’t be able to reach those heights we’ve seen in recent years.
22. New York Jets (2-2)
Talking about turnovers, only the Saints have given the ball more often this season than the Jets (nine). Having led in games a grand total of seven minutes so far on the year is definitely a huge factor in this, as they’re clearly number on in pass-play percentage at 70.2% – the next-closest team is the Bucs at 66.1%. While they came just two yards short of it on Sunday and finally got into the end-zone that way, they have yet to hit the century-mark in rushing in any of their matchups so far, for a Mike LaFleur-coordinated offense. They’ll need to support second-year QB Zach Wilson more in that regard, who looked good working against static zone looks, but is still gaining confidence in his talented group of young receivers to win in man. On the other side of the ball, despite losing their best run-defender in nose-tackle Folorunso Fatukasi, suprisingly they’re currently number six in yards allowed per carry (3.7). Yet, they’re still second-to-last on third down percentage allowed (51.0%) and 25th in defensive DVOA (9.3%). Robert Saleh may need to change up their looks a little bit, as they’ve used a ton of four-man rushes and zone coverage behind it. They have two rangy linebackers to mug up and bring some fire-zone blitzes, so I’d like to see them take advantage of that.
23. Detroit Lions (1-3)
Detroit’s offense averages a league-best 6.5 yards per play and 5.9 yards per rush in particular, which is very impressive considering the two closest teams – the Giants and Ravens – have legit running threats at quarterback, unlike Jared Goff. To the quarterback’s credit however, he also leads the league with 18 completions of 20+ yards so far. They’ve kept the him clean, allowing sacks at the second-lowest rate per dropback (3.2%), and they’re behind only the Titans with an 88.2% rate of red-zone trips being converted into touchdowns (15-of-17). So that’s all great. Why are the 1-3 and down here in my rankings? Well, their defense couldn’t stop a runny nose right. They have allowed 26 more points than any other team in the NFL, as they are currently on pace to shatter the record for most points surrendered in a season by 66. Opponents are gaining a league-high 5.6 yards per rush against them, while also being dead-last in third-down (52.8%) and red-zone conversion percentage (86.7%). They need to make some adjustments with playing less man-coverage, Aidan Hutchinson has to consistently create pressure like with those three sacks week two and they need to have a better plan for scrambling quarterbacks in key situations. The reason I didn’t drop them down even further is that they’ve been banged up so far and I have a tough time imagining them continuing to play at that record-setting-ly bad pace defensively.
24. Las Vegas Raiders (1-3)
I didn’t expect Detroit and New Orleans to be 1-3 at this point either, but at least for those teams injuries have played a major role and they’ve faced some tough opponents. The three Raider losses have come by four, six and two points respectively, but we’ve already seen them both start slow and finish badly, without a whole lot of great in-between that. They’re actually the only team other than the Chiefs to score on exactly half of their offensive possessions, but thanks to the fourth-lowest TD conversion rate in the red-zone (44.4%) and their defense not getting the ball back, they’re somehow only tenth in points per game (24.0). Other than Maxx Crosby making multiple splash plays every week, there’s just nothing to get excited about with that unit. Their run-defense has been surprisingly stout, considering all the new faces on the interior D-line (only 3.9 yards per carry), but opposing QBs average 7.3 net yards per pass (third-highest) and have a cumulative passer rating of 103.2 against them. One way to put more pressure on their opponents – I’d like them to be more aggressive with going for it themselves on fourth down, because if you don’t count the Steelers making their lone attempt this season, the Raiders are number one in conversion percentage (80% – four of five).
25. Seattle Seahawks (2-2)
For a lot of objective Seahawks fans, I think they would have been happy with beating Russell Wilson in his return and being 2-2 a month into the season. Their 48-point explosion against the Lions certainly made up for a big portion of it, but only Detroit and Miami have averaged more than their 6.3 yards per play and they’re also tied for second with the Dolphins in offensive DVOA (20.6%). Here are the quarterbacks that have put up a higher EPA per pass this season than Geno Smith – Patrick Mahomes, Tua Tagovailoa and Josh Allen. They’re behind only the Bills in third-down percentage offensively (55.1%), but unfortunately only the Broncos – who they defeated in week one – have converted a lower rate of red-zone possessions into six points (41.7%). The defense has actually been the issue, as they’ve given up 0.8 yards more per pass than any other team in the league (8.2), as well as being tied for the third-most yards per rush (5.1). They can’t really stop anything, as teams are running more plays, gaining more yards and points per drive against them than anybody else. They’re the only defense opponents average more than a field goal against (3.03 points) every time they take the field. And that’s with the Broncos only scoring six points combined on four red-zone possessions on opening Monday night.
26. New England Patriots (1-3)
I’m still pretty shocked how the Patriots were able to take the Packers to overtime this past Sunday at Lambeau Field and it feels bad to how them this low, but the numbers bear that out. Mac Jones has been one of the better deep-ball throwers since entering the league, so once he returns, they’ll inevitably move back up the list. However, I don’t see Brian Hoyer or Bailey Zappe provide those explosive plays through the air, and they haven’t gotten them on the ground, as one of five teams in the NFL without a rush of 20+ yards, despite averaging 21 more carries than the other four squads. Considering they turn the ball over at the second-highest percentage of drives (21.4%), that’s just not a recipe for success. New England’s defense has performed better than I expected for the most part, considering the overhaul of personnel we’ve seen for them, but they’re bottom-five in yards per rush (5.1) and third-down percentage (46.3%). Bill Belichick and has his coaching staff have done a solid job I’d say considering what they have at their disposal, the margin of error to still win games is razor-thin. Their next five opponents before the bye have eight combined wins. This would be the time to rack up W’s before a much tougher second half to their schedule.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3)
It’s Kenny Pickett time! I know that he tossed three picks in that second half on Sunday against the Jets for his debut, but I also thought he made some inspiring plays. It can’t be much worse than Mitch Trubisky being 30th in EPA per play and the offense averaging just 4.8 yards per play (tied for second-fewest). With Najee Harris averaging just 3.5 yards yet again behind that line however, they need to take advantage of those talented receivers down the field, to make things feel less condensed. Pittsburgh’s defense has certainly felt the loss of T.J. Watt from the season-opener, but Alex Highsmith has stepped up in a major way in his absence (currently second in the league with 5.5 sacks) and Minkah Fitzpatrick might be your front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year right now. They haven’t really been able to get off the field on third downs, allowing opponents to convert 45.3% of those (26th in the league), which certainly is a big factor in them being 31st in time per drive on either side of the ball and time of possession overall. Let’s see if their offense can put some pressure on the opposition going forward, so they don’t have to count on takeaways as frequently.
28. Indianapolis Colts (1-2-1)
It’s just been so disheartening to watch the Colts go through QB purgatory throughout the years and now bringing in Matt Ryan, who has looked old since coming to Indy, but also the infrastructure around him simply not being the same as we’ve seen in the past. Their offensive line in particular has gone from one of the best in the league to an abject disaster. The Colts are currently 30th in the NFL in pass-block win rate according to PFF and if you take out their 177-yard rushing showcase week one against one of the worst defenses in that regard in the Texans, they’ve averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and 58 yards per game on the ground. All of that has them averaging a league-low 1.3 points per drive. Matty Ice has already fumbled three times (his career-high is five) and they’re tied for the second-worst turnover differential in the league at -6, with Washington being the only team to take it away less (three). Their defense is at least holding opponents to just 3.1 yards per rush (second-fewest in the league), but on ten red-zone trips against them, opponents have scored eight times. All-in-all, they’re 32nd in total team DVOA and losing games by exactly a touchdown on average – second-worst to only the Commanders. For a team that was favored to win their division over the field, that’s highly disappointing.
29. Chicago Bears (2-2)
As I mentioned in a prior paragraph already – Chicago’s offense is in a completely different stratosphere to the rest of the league, in terms of play-selection. Only the Giants have averaged less net yards per pass attempt (4.7) and they have averaged fewer than 100 yards total via the pass per game (390), which is 268(!) less than the next-closest team – once again the Giants. On the flipside, they are behind only New York and Cleveland, as the third team with over 700 rushing yards on the season. Justin Fields has only attempted 67 passes, completed just over half of those (50.7%), with a two-to-four TD-to-INT ratio and been sacked on an absurd 19.7% of dropbacks – the next-closest team is yet again the Giants at 11.5%. I know I’ve already thrown out a lot of numbers here, but the fact that they are passing the ball on just 37.9% of offensive plays in 2022 just blows my mind. The defense at least has been opportunistic, taking the ball away seven times and holding the teams out of the end-zone on half their defensive red-zone possessions (7-of-14), but they simply haven’t been able to stop the run, as teams have run the ball more often (143) for more yards (733) than anybody else, whilst still averaging 5.1 yards a pop.
30. Washington Commanders (1-3)
Purely going by the numbers, you could absolutely argue that Washington has been the worst team in the NFL. They currently have the league-worst average point differential at -8.5, their offense has averaged a league-low 4.6 yards per play and their defense has only taken the ball away once – no other team has fewer than three. That’s also a big factor in being tied for the second-worst turnover differential in the league at -6. Now, the reason I don’t have them dead-last is not only is there a team with zero wins and they have played against some very stiff competition, including two 3-1 teams most recently, after actually beating a very good Jacksonville team week one and then putting together a solid comeback effort against the Lions, but there are some positive areas. I still like Scott Turner’s ability to design plays and Carson Wentz at least provides the arm strength to take those vertical shots – their protection has just been very leaky, surrendering an NFL-high 17 sacks. Their defense simply hasn’t been disruptive enough – which Chase Young being eligible to return this weekend could help with – but when they have been able to get opponents to those crucial downs, they have been top-ten in third, fourth down and red-zone percentage surrendered.
31. Carolina Panthers (1-3)
To be honest, I just feel bad for the defensive players on this team. In terms of tackles for loss, sacks, third-down percentage and multiple other statistics, they’ve been well above-average since the start of 2021, with DC Phil Snow doing some stuff I definitely like in terms of their pressure looks and how they tie in coverages with those. However, since Matt Rhule has arrived in Carolina, their offense has been nothing but disastrous. Now with three different starting quarterbacks and offensive coordinators, they have gone 1-and-26 when the opposing team has scored at least 17 points. Once again, they are on track for finishing 32nd in passing efficiency, but they are also dead-last in the league with 56 first downs picked up, time of possession (24:18) and third-down conversion rate at just 25.5%. Baker Mayfield has looked even worse than he did last year in Cleveland with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, as he is comfortably dead-last among starting quarterbacks in EPA per play (-0.219) and QBR (15.3). He also just had six(!) passes batted down at the line. They have offensive skill-position talent, but their protection has been an issue and they haven’t been able to design plays for those pieces to touch the ball adequately.
32. Houston Texans (0-3-1)
Just like the Eagles having the top-spot for being the lone undefeated team left, I had to make the Texans number 32 for being only squad without a win. They came out and had a chance to get on the board week one against the Colts, as they were up 20-3 entering the fourth quarter, but ultimately punted that way in overtime and instead added a third column to their record with that tie. They were also up 9-6 entering the fourth against the Broncos, before allowing the final ten points. And then were tied at 20 with the Bears, with a chance to put together a two-minute drill, before it ultimately ended in a Roquan Smith interception, which set up a game-winning kick for Chicago. What a fool I was last week then to bet that they’d be able to keep it within a touchdown against the Chargers. It only finished as a ten-point loss, but that was due them finally scoring any points in the final 15 minutes for the first time this season. The things that matter most – on offense, they are 31st in third-down rate (26.9%) and EPA per play from the quarterback position with Davis Mills (-0.166). The defense has been a little bit better, but they’ve missed a league-high 31 tackles already and they just faced an offense for the first time, which isn’t in the bottom-seven in points per drive – and they scored 34.
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