Welcome back to the futile exercise of ranking the 32 NFL teams. There are new faces at the top and the bottom after an eventful Week 4. As always, these will be updated weekly, so be sure to watch out as teams move up and down. If teams continue to win, they will rise. If teams continue to lose, they will fall. Similarly, a loss does not necessarily equate to a team being ranked lower than their opponent.
Numbers in parentheses refer to last week’s rankings.
No.32: Houston Texans (-6)
As long as Davis Mills is at the helm in Houston, this team will be stuck to the bottom of the ranking. He had one of the 12 worst games in the QBR era, finishing with a QBR of just 0.8. Mills single-handedly gave the Bills linebacker corps the best games of their career. The rest of the team performed admirably, but quarterback play was so egregious that the Texans stumbled into a 40-point loss. For those that watched on NFL Red Zone, the game consisted of interceptions and the Bills moving the football. The Game Pass version is eerily similar.
No.31: Detroit Lions (-6)
The other bottom feeders of the NFL (besides Houston) were much more competitive in Week 4. Detroit played a sputtering Bears team and got whacked by Justin Fields and the Bears offense. As usual with Detroit, there were several self-inflicted injuries. Today’s foray into body comedy was a mistimed snap that went off Jared Goff’s shoulder, over the line of scrimmage, and into a Bear’s hands. If this was put into a movie, it would likely take a dozen or more takes to pull off successfully. It was that stupid.
No.30: Jacksonville Jaguars (+1)
Urban Meyer notwithstanding, this team is moving in the right direction. Trevor Lawrence played like his pedigree, and Laviska Shenault may have turned into a superstar in front of the prime-time audience. The defense has a long way to go, but at least Jacksonville has not traded a young defensive piece in over a week now. When the Jaguars run the football, they have success on offense. When they abandon the run, they struggle massively. Your move, Urban.
No.29: New York Jets (+3)
We are living in a simulation. The Jets won a football game. Zach Wilson had the best game of his career, and his late-game touchdown to Corey Davis was perhaps the throw of the week. The Titans outplayed the Jets for the most part, but the Jets dominated on third down. New York hit on six of their 14 while holding Tennessee to success on just five of 19 attempts. New York sacked Ryan Tannehill seven times, consistently forcing Tennessee into pass-only situations. They also kept a lid on Derrick Henry, not permitting that one back-breaking run that he always seems to break off. Would the Jets have beaten a fully healthy Titans? Maybe not, but they played (and beat) the team that showed up.
No.28: Atlanta Falcons (+1)
Matt Ryan is finally not a bottom-10 quarterback. He torched Washington for 283 yards (these jokes write themselves!) and a quartet of touchdowns. He even earned a 90.0+ PFF overall grade. Cordarrelle Patterson is diversifying his Hall of Fame speech with a three-touchdown performance. Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts had relatively quiet games, but both contributed to key drives. In the end, Atlanta lost because they could not wrangle in one of the several interceptable passes that Taylor Heinicke launched into the defense. Atlanta did get the benefit of one of the worst roughing the passer calls in NFL history, though.
No.27: Washington Football Team (-3)
Speaking of … Washington is playing with fire. Heinicke seems to have stolen Ryan Fitzpatrick’s shtick of launching a bevy of interceptable passes. He had two big-time throws, which is great. He had three turnover-worthy plays, which is not great. Heinicke did not end up throwing an interception, but any of those three passes could have been easily intercepted. They all fell incomplete, and Washington stole a victory from Atlanta. DeAndre Carter scored his first NFL touchdown, so the Football Team officially has two sides of the ball playing better than its defense.
No.26: Philadelphia Eagles (+1)
Jalen Hurts had a reasonable day at the office, but the Eagles could just not keep up with the onslaught from the Chiefs. However, the Eagles should have different motivations this season. They need their rookies to develop and play well. This goal was achieved. Of Philadelphia’s highest-graded players on their offense, three of the top five were rookies. Kenneth Gainwell and DeVonta Smith had exceptional games catching passes, and Landon Dickerson put several bad performances behind him. As a whole, the defense is terrible, but there are positives to take from the offense.
No.25: Pittsburgh Steelers (-2)
With all due respect to the rest of the Pittsburgh organization, let’s discuss Ben Roethlisberger. What is the point of continuing to play him? He is the sole reason that the Steelers are in the bottom 10, let alone as low as No.25. This season has been nothing but a catastrophe for the future Hall of Famer. It is wearing on the rest of the offense and the defense. No matter how well the rest of the team plays, it seems that No.7 will insist on throwing fourth-down passes short of the marker. It is ugly, and the Steelers need to consider benching Roethlisberger for Dwayne Haskins. Yes, it is that bad.
No.24: Miami Dolphins (-2)
This team desperately needs Tua Tagovailoa back. Jacoby Brissett had a fun stretch against the Raiders, but he was terrible against the Colts. He had five turnover-worthy plays, the only quarterback of the week to put the ball in harm’s way more often than Houston’s Mills. The offense makes stale bread look tasty. Similar to Pittsburgh, when the quarterback position is such a catastrophe, it permeates through the rest of the team. Defensively, Miami is still tremendous, but it matters less when the offense cannot sustain any semblance of competence.
No.23: Chicago Bears (+5)
Justin Fields played quite well against the Lions. He was connecting on down-field shots to Darnell Mooney, flashing what Bears fans will see in the future. Fields did fumble, but the Bears recovered after more physical comedy from the Lions. The defense played at an effective level despite letting Detroit move the ball. It was a well-rounded performance from the Bears, and they are still alive in the playoff race. Not every team is Detroit, but Chicago should grow.
Well, Matt Nagy will be putting Andy Dalton back in as the starting quarterback when health permits, so the growth might be stemmed.
No.22: New York Giants (+8)
Daniel Jones, this is your time. He has been playing at a high level, but it finally led to a victory against the Saints. Jones was practically perfect against New Orleans with his interception coming on a Hail Mary attempt. Jones has played to an 88.0 passing grade in 2021, and he is the last reason why the Giants are 1-3. He was incredible. Saquon Barkley was also incredible. Kadarius Toney looked explosive with the ball in his hands. The defense did just enough, but the Giants move up eight spots because Jones seems to have figured out how to play quarterback at a high level.
No.21: New England Patriots (-1)
With another conservative game plan, Mac Jones and the Patriots nearly knocked off the Buccaneers. It was coming to a storybook ending until Lavonte David swatted a pass into the turf. On fourth-and-3, the Patriots decided to take a 56-yard field goal … In the rain … With a kicker who cannot plant properly. Ugh.
It was the ultimate losing decision. Even if Nick Folk sank the field goal, a certain Tom Brady (remember him, Patriots fans?) would have almost a full minute to drive down the field and win the game for himself.
No.20: Indianapolis Colts (+1)
Indianapolis was able to exorcise their goal line demons, so the offense made progress. Quenton Nelson will be returning soon, and the defense is playing fairly well. The Colts are perhaps the most average team in the NFL, and they are too Carson Wentz dependent to move much higher than No.20.
No.19: Denver Broncos (-5)
Denver’s defense played at a level that they likely could have won if either Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock could adequately man the quarterback position. Both failed spectacularly. It wasted strong games from Alexander Johnson, Von Miller, and Shelby Harris, among others. Javonte Williams did break out as a star, breaking tackles from what felt like the entire city of Baltimore on a special run.
No.18: Cincinnati Bengals (+1)
Joe Burrow has arrived as a top-10 quarterback. He was clinical against the Jaguars, giving him back-to-back sensational games. When he has time to throw, he is deadly accurate, maneuvering members of the defense to open up space for his talented group of receivers. Cincinnati has several defensive stars, led by Trey Hendrickson, and they helped Cincinnati get out of an early hole. This is a good team led by a star quarterback.
No.17: Carolina Panthers (-2)
After a legendary defensive start to the season, Dallas blasted Carolina to the middle of the pack. Through three games, Carolina had the best run defense in the NFL (by yards allowed per carry), but Ezekiel Elliott rampaged through the unit so badly that they now rank at the bottom of their division. Sam Darnold threw a pair of interceptions when the game was within striking distance while he added a pair of touchdowns in the dying moments. The point differential does not match how much Dallas dominated.
No.16: Minnesota Vikings (+0)
Kirk Cousins had his yearly stinker of a game. Dalvin Cook was relatively ineffective. However, the defense had a stellar game. It required several missed throws from Baker Mayfield, but they were able to pressure him for much of the afternoon. Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter both tallied at least five pressures. Despite the good, Minnesota sits at a 1-3 crossroads. They have a slew of difficult games between a Detroit sandwich. After Detroit in Week 5, they have to play five 3-1 teams (three games on the road) and the 49ers (also on the road).
No.15: New Orleans Saints (-2)
New Orleans controlled most of the game, but they let it slip away in the dying moments. Sean Payton had a questionable game of decisions, including asking Aldrick Rosas to make a 58-yard field goal when the fourth-down conversion was reasonable. Jameis Winston had a strong game under center, but it was undermined by Taysom Hill. To his credit, Hill had a pair of rushing touchdowns, but he launched an interception after Winston had played a clean brand of football. This team tripped over itself in a mess of a loss.
No.14: San Francisco 49ers (-2)
Trenton Cannon had an albatross of a game, consistently putting the 49ers in bad situations. Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance were not perfect, but they could not overcome the consistently horrendous field position. On brighter notes, Deebo Samuel is a superstar. He leads the NFL in receiving yards, and he terrorized the Seattle defense, scoring a pair of touchdowns. Ross Dwelley had a productive series of snaps, even if it was just eight. Nick Bosa had an elite game. There are issues in the secondary however, injuries are continuing to mount.
No.13: Las Vegas Raiders (-3)
The Derek Carr MVP hype train went off the rails as he slumped against Los Angeles. Maxx Crosby continues to dominate, posting a 90.3 pass-rush grade and five pressures. Jon Gruden (and Carr) have seemed to forget about Darren Waller. Waller is Las Vegas’ best player, and they are trying their hardest to not use him properly. Kolton Miller had a rock-solid game while Alex Leatherwood was demolished (again). Las Vegas is no longer undefeated.
No.12 Seattle Seahawks (+6)
Russell Wilson. That is the reason why Seattle is No.12. D.K. Metcalf had a strong performance against San Francisco, but it was the Wilson show for three hours. The Seattle defense benefitted from Cannon’s questionable special teams decisions, but they were generally gashed. Jamal Adams had a coverage bust, letting Samuel slip free for a 76-yard touchdown. His safety mate Quandre Diggs had an exceptional day, however.
No.11: Tennessee Titans (-2)
Context matters here. Yes, Tennessee lost to the Jets, but they were without their top receiving options. It was eerily similar to when the Jets beat the Browns when the Browns were missing their receiving corps in 2020. Derrick Henry was spammed into a good Jets’ run defense, and he never broke that run. Ryan Tannehill had a solid game, but he was under consistent duress from four of the five offensive line spots. Sure, Tennessee lost, but they likely win if either A.J. Brown or Julio Jones were healthy.
No.10: Los Angeles Chargers (+1)
Joey Bosa had a special day, posting a 91.9 pass-rushing grade and seven pressures. However, that goes on the backburner. The offense appeared to reach its final form. Justin Herbert was sensational. Corey Linsley seemed to finally get adjusted, and he responded with an elite performance. Austin Ekeler had a great day as a runner. Jared Cook was productive. Rookie Rashawn Slater had another dominant performance. Los Angeles is a terrifying team.
No.9: Dallas Cowboys (+8)
Yep, you can buy into the hype surrounding Dallas. Dak Prescott is an elite quarterback. Top-10 Elliott is back. The receiving corps is the best in the league. Dallas has the best offensive line in the NFL again. The defense is playing at a high level with both Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs in consideration for defensive accolades. Kellen Moore is on a spectacular run as the offensive coordinator. Dan Quinn has been a game-changer as the defensive coordinator. Everything is falling into place for this team.
No.8: Cleveland Browns (-2)
Cleveland’s defense does not deserve this at all, but Baker Mayfield is in a slump. Every team in the top seven is quarterbacked by an MVP-caliber quarterback. Mayfield had been in that tier, but he missed too many throws against the Vikings to warrant that benefit of the doubt. If there is a bright side, Mayfield did not put the ball in harm’s way. Also, Odell Beckham is back to being an elite receiver, so the future is bright. Cleveland has enough talent to get back into the top seven.
No.7: Baltimore Ravens (+0)
Lamar Jackson has been perhaps the best quarterback over the last 11 quarters. He carried the Ravens offense to a triumph over the Chiefs in Week 2. In Week 3, Jackson engineered a nearly perfect deep-passing game that Marquise Brown undermined. In Week 4, Jackson terrorized one of the best secondaries in the NFL, hitting several back-breaking throws to Mark Andrews and a deep touchdown to Brown. The defense did not have the stiffest test, but they played a well-rounded game (when they could tackle).
No.6: Buffalo Bills (-1)
Buffalo is off to one of the hottest starts in the Super Bowl era based on point differential. Josh Allen, ironically enough, is not helping this case. He has posted just one objectively good performance in four weeks. However, the defense is playing at a ridiculous level. While the competition has been weak, Buffalo is pummeling their opponents. If the season ended today, the Bills would likely have several defensive All-Pros, and Matt Milano could even be Defensive Player of the Year. This is a ridiculous start, and Buffalo has the opportunity to make it a legendary start with a win over the Chiefs in Week 5.
No.5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
Tampa Bay won, yes, but they suffered more injuries in the secondary. Richard Sherman looked overmatched against the Patriots, and he will be the No.1 corner for the time being. The pass rush seems to be a tick-off from where it was last season. Tom Brady is slowly falling from his elite start to the season. Antonio Brown did not play like the usual Brown, failing to haul in his famous deep touchdown late. The Buccaneers are still one of the most talented teams in the NFL, but secondary injuries are siphoning off some of the high-end upsides the team had.
No.4: Los Angeles Rams (-3)
The Rams were massacred on Sunday. Matthew Stafford’s MVP candidacy hit a snag. The story of the game was the defense, however. It seems that missing Brandon Staley, Troy Hill, and John Johnson finally began to catch up to the defense as Arizona steamrolled them. It was only Week 4, but Arizona struck first in the NFC West. How will the Rams bounce back?
No.3: Green Bay Packers (+0)
Randall Cobb had a tremendous game. Aaron Rodgers was not quite as dominant as he had been in recent weeks, but he ended with a reasonable stat line. As a whole, Green Bay took care of business against an overmatched Pittsburgh team. They did get the benefit of a questionable offside call before the half, but Green Bay was the better team for 59 minutes and 59 seconds.
No.2: Kansas City Chiefs (+2)
Patrick Mahomes is back folks. He did throw an interception, but he also lofted five touchdowns past the Philadelphia defense. Tyreek Hill had a vintage performance, scoring three touchdowns. The most encouraging performance came from the interior offensive line. Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, and Trey Smith all graded above 85.0 and were close to making the Team of the Week. The defense is still a work in progress, but at least the outside corners had reasonable games. Mike Hughes had multiple pass break-ups despite allowing a touchdown, and DeAndre Baker posted a 73.0 grade in coverage.
No.1: Arizona Cardinals (+7)
Kyler Murray is the MVP of the league through four weeks. He was clinical against the Rams. While he did not have the greatest stat line, he was a chain-mover as the Cardinals connected on eight of their 13 third downs. Maxx Williams had a coming-out party, and the offense will add another fold when DeAndre Hopkins is fully healthy. The defense shut down a strong Rams offense with J.J. Watt and Markus Golden combining for nine pressures. Byron Murphy’s All-Pro season continued with an interception of Stafford. Arizona will look to break the curse of No.1. The Buccaneers lost in Week 3. The Rams lost in Week 4. Arizona should beat the 49ers this week, however.
Follow Ryan Potts on Twitter @MrSplashMan19
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images