It’s hard to believe a fourth of the NFL regular season is in the books. While a lot can and will change, there is a decent sample size to assess where all 32 teams rank across the league.
1.Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)
It only took until Week 4 for there to be only one undefeated team left in the NFL. That happens to be the Chiefs and it has not been any fluke. The defense has been as good as to be expected, despite the loss of Eric Berry. The major difference has been the play of Alex Smith, who I’d like to think had a fire lit under him after the team traded up to draft Patrick Mahomes. It also hasn’t hurt that rookie, Kareem Hunt has been the best running back in the NFL through Week 4. Kansas City looks like a team primed for a deep playoff run.
2. Atlanta Falcons (3-1)
The Falcons are very talented on both sides of the ball and have everything it takes to make it back to the Super Bowl. Before a disappointing home loss to the Bills, they were less than a yard away from also losing to the Lions. Therefore, the Falcons could very easily be 2-2 and still have a lot of very tough games ahead on the schedule. As long as the offense plays up to its potential and the defense continues to build off last year, the Falcons should be playing in January again this season.
3. Detroit Lions (3-1)
The Lions have been one of the more impressive and surprising teams to start the year. If not for a heart-breaking and questionable loss to the Falcons in Week 3, Detroit would be the lone undefeated team in the NFC. The most encouraging thing about this team is how balanced they are. Matt Stafford is playing exceptionally well, the running game is solid with a healthy Ameer Abdullah and the defense just keeps making plays. If they can stay healthy and keep it going, they could be a very dangerous playoff team.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)
While the Steelers have gotten off to a 3-1 start that has them in sole position of first place in the AFC North, the offense is yet to flash its full potential. It’s only a matter of time, given the plethora of offensive weapons. I can’t see a scenario where the Pittsburgh offense doesn’t get it together, win double-digit games and get back to the postseason.
5. Green Bay Packers (3-1)
The Packers picked up right where they left off, following a strong close out to the 2016 season. Aaron Rodgers has looked his elite self and is getting contributions from multiple players in the passing game. Mike Daniels may be one of the most underrated defensive players in the NFL, and when healthy helps the Green Bay defense function as an above-average unit. We know what the offense can do. The play of the defense will most likely determine if they can get back to the Super Bowl.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)
The Eagles are off to a 3-1 start thanks to a big second-year jump by Carson Wentz in addition to dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Generally, good QB play combined with strong offensive and defensive line play equates to success in football. The schedule-makers didn’t do Philadelphia any favors, being that they started their first two games and three of their first four on the road. The Eagles overcame the tough opening slate and have the makings of a legitimate playoff contender.
7. Carolina Panthers (3-1)
The Panthers are looking very similar to their 2015 team that went 15-1 and made it to the Super Bowl. In what was the biggest upset of the weekend, they went into Foxboro and defeated the mighty Patriots. Cam Newton isn’t quite playing in top form but he got a lot closer this past Sunday. If he can fully regain his MVP form from two years ago, Carolina could be in line for a postseason berth.
8. Denver Broncos (3-1)
The Denver defense looks like its dominant self through the first quarter of the season. The big difference and possibly the reason for being 3-1 has been the strong play of Trevor Siemian. The Broncos have been trying to solve the quarterback problem since the retirement of Peyton Manning. They’ve attempted to do so by spending a 1st round pick on Paxton Lynch, which is looking like a bust. The Broncos have enough talent on the roster to get back to the postseason as long as Siemian can keep up his performance.
9. New England Patriots (2-2)
It now seems pretty funny that there were a series of debates across the media landscape around the idea of the Pats repeating their 16-0 mark from ten years ago. The offense has been as potent as expected as they have averaged 32.3 points per game. The problem has been on the defense, which severely lacks a pass rush and has led to allowing 32 points per game. For as much of a defensive genius Bill Belichick may be, he has quite the challenge to sort out if he wants to get New England back to another Super Bowl.
10. Houston Texans (2-2)
It looks like Houston hit on Deshaun Watson and Bill O’Brien, who has been labeled a quarterback whisperer, appears to finally have a franchise QB to develop. The defense is elite, and there is very little evidence to dispute that through four games. The Texans will go as far as Watson and the offense will take them.
11. Washington Redskins (2-2)
The Redskins are coming off a hard-fought loss that can be seen as equally frustrating and encouraging. It was encouraging in that they were dominating the only undefeated team left in the NFL for most of the game Monday Night, yet frustrating in how it felt like they gave it away with mistakes and dumb penalties. Nonetheless, Washington is a solid football team that has greatly improved on defense. We’ll see how they deal with the loss of Josh Norman, but I think the Redskins will be in the mix until season’s end.
12. Buffalo Bills (3-1)
The Bills appear to have nailed their hiring of Sean McDermott, as he has led a team that due to their questionable roster moves in the offseason was not making winning a priority in 2017. Even if that was the case, McDermott surely didn’t get the message. They are coming off an extremely impressive win in Atlanta and find themselves in 1st place in an AFC East that the Patriots have owned for the past decade in a half.
13. Los Angeles Rams (3-1)
The Rams are one of the truly pleasant surprises in the first quarter of the season. Jared Goff looks like the QB that deserved to be selected #1 overall and Sean McVeigh is looking like a terrific hire. The offense has been very efficient and the playmakers on defense have done their part in helping the Rams get off to such a great start. It’s not crazy to suggest the Rams could win the NFC West.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)
Despite having a delayed start to the year due to Hurricane Irma, the Bucs are right in the thick of what appears will be a very competitive NFC South race. Their win against the Giants was a great indicator of how mentally tough this team is, considering how desperate their opponent was playing in order to secure their first win. Third-year QB, Jameis Winston has all the weapons to help him have a breakout season and lead Tampa Bay to its first playoff appearance in ten years.
15. Seattle Seahawks (2-2)
While it came against the lowly Colts, the Seahawks got a much-needed dominant win on Sunday Night Football to even up their record at 2-2. The defense is still one of the NFL’s best, but the offense remains a concern due to its dreadful offensive line. Unlike the Giants who have similar strengths and weaknesses, they have a very mobile QB in Russell Wilson who can buy time with his legs in order to make plays in the passing game.
16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
The diagnosis of the Cowboys is fairly simple. The offense is very good and the defense is mediocre at best. When you are very good on one side of the ball and bad on the other side, you have an average football team. Dallas sits at 2-2, an average record. They have playmakers in the front seven who will need to play even better in order to cover up for the inexperience in the secondary if they want to return to the playoffs this year.
17. Tennesee Titans (2-2)
The Titans were the chic preseason pick to come out of the AFC South. A lot of that rests on the health of Marcus Mariota, which is already a concern following an injury in Week 4. When he is in the game and mobile, Tennessee has one of the most dynamic rushing attacks in the NFL. The defense can be very vulnerable, as it showed list past Sunday when they were torched by Deshaun Watson in Houston.
18. Minnesota Vikings (2-2)
The Vikings have one of the best defenses in the NFL, with difference-making players at all three levels. The fate of their season rests on the health of Sam Bradford, which historically has been a pretty bleak bet. Case Keenum has played okay in relief and has managed to grab one win in three starts. But if Bradford doesn’t return soon, the ceiling for Minnesota is likely an 8-8 finish.
19. Arizona Cardinals (2-2)
The Cardinals have had a very up and down first quarter of the season as they sit at .500. Their wins came against teams with a combined record of 1-7 and losses are at the hands of teams with a combined record of 5-3. That is to be expected of a team who lost their best player, David Johnson in Week 1 but has enough talent on both sides of the ball to beat the bad teams.
20. Oakland Raiders (2-2)
The Raiders haven’t quite looked like the dominant 12-win team from a season ago. A lot of their hopes rest on the health of Derek Carr, who will likely be out for a few weeks following a back injury in Denver. Hopefully, EJ Manuel can hold down the fort and keep Oakland in the AFC West race until Carr returns.
21. Baltimore Ravens (2-2)
After starting 2-0 while outscoring their opponents 44-10, the Ravens have dropped their last two while being outscored 70-16. Sunday’s loss to the Steelers made me think they were still shell-shocked by the Jaguars in the drubbing they suffered in London. I don’t want to be too harsh because there is not another team in the NFL that has been hit by the injury bug as hard as Baltimore has. But they’ll have to figure out a way to right the ship or it could have the makings of a very long season.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)
The Jaguars have been very up and down through the first four games. They have had two extremely impressive wins against the Texans and the Ravens and very bad losses at the hands of the Titans and Jets. The defense is playing very well as all of the top draft picks of the past few years are beginning to translate to results. Jacksonville’s season-long success hinges on a balanced offensive attack and needed improvement from Blake Bortles from last year’s disastrous campaign.
23. New Orleans Saints (2-2)
The Saints are off to a start that is very emblematic of who they have been since 2014, an average team that looks destined to be 7-9. The offense has been very good and Drew Brees looks like his usual elite self. Stop me if you have heard this before, but the defense is below average. The difference is the emergence of a few young promising players, specifically the rookie CB Marshon Lattimore. New Orleans is very much in the mix at 2-2 in what looks to be the best top-to-bottom division in the NFL.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (1-3)
The Bengals secured a desperate win this past Sunday after an abysmal 0-3 start. While Cincinnati has been an impressive 58-36-2 since 2011, the slow start to the season can very easily be attributed to the losses in free agency to their offensive line. They have dug themselves in an early hole, but still have enough talent and experience to go on a run and get back in the playoff race.
25. Los Angeles Chargers (0-4)
The Chargers may be the most disappointing team of the season to date. They have enough talent on both sides of the ball to suggest they could be a dark-horse candidate in the AFC West. With all of the talent, Los Angeles has had a tough time closing out games, which has been a chronic issue for this franchise. Three of their four losses have come by a total margin of seven points. If two of those games could have been converted to wins, the outlook for the Chargers would be looking a lot different. But like Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are.”
26. Miami Dolphins (1-2)
The Dolphins are coming off a very embarrassing performance in London, as they were shut out by a mediocre Saints defense. They have beaten up themselves with penalties, which is something they have not been able to afford given their lack of playmakers on defense. Jay Cutler has been very underwhelming and the question has to be asked – Would the-the offense be any worse if it was being led by Matt Moore?
27. New York Giants (0-4)
Despite winning 11 games a season ago, the Giants could not have had a worse start to the season. The achilles heel has been their historically abysmal offensive line. This was their weakness in 2016 and one that the front office completely neglected in the offseason. Due to that, the running game has been nonexistent and passing game has been limited to quick hitters. They still have a very good defense, but it has not been enough to avoid an 0-4 start.
28. New York Jets (2-2)
It may be early. But its nothing short of remarkable that the Jets have already won two games in a season most prognosticators questioned whether they would win two games all season. Given the lack of proven talent on the roster and a true journeyman starting quarterback in Josh McCown, its a great of great coaching by Todd Bowles.
29. Indianapolis Colts (1-3)
As much as the Colts obviously miss Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett has been serviceable in relief. While he may be serviceable, he’s not good enough to make up for the talent deficiencies throughout the Indianapolis roster. If Luck doesn’t return soon, the Colts are likely headed for a 4-12 or 5-11 finish. If he can return and play at the level we can expect, the Colts have a chance to stay relevant throughout the season.
30. Chicago Bears (1-3)
While the Bears have a handful of promising young players on defense, the big bright spots lie within the dynamic running back combo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Chicago may be a year or two away from competing for anything significant and it looks like the team has recognized that with their decision to start Mitch Trubisky for the upcoming Monday Night game against Minnesota.
31. San Francisco 49ers (0-4)
The Kyle Shanahan era has gotten off to an even tougher start than even probably would have imagined. The defense has put out two respectable performances in their losses to Seattle and Arizona, as they surrendered 12 and 18 points, respectively. The problem is that your defense has to be practically perfect in order to win with Brian Hoyer under center. San Francisco has a lot of promising young talent and it may not be until late in the season until we see that start to translate to tangible results.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-4)
After wondering if the Browns regret passing on Carson Wentz in 2016, they now possibly now doing the same with Deshaun Watson. Instead, they have to deal with the growing pains of Deshone Kizer as they attempt to evaluate if he can finally be the guy to end the QB carousel. At this point, that has to be the priority for the Browns as they are likely headed for another year at the bottom of the AFC North.
Source Credit: http://www.businessinsider.com/kansas-city-chiefs-backdoor-cover-2017-10