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2018 SQ NFL Power Rankings: Week 4

Arizona Daily Star

With the dust starting to settle near the top, where does the team led by the league’s newest star sit?

There are two juggernaut offenses vying for the top spot in our Power Rankings. Both are led by young, talented quarterbacks. Both are led by innovative, offensive-minded coaches. Both sport a bevy of weapons that are finally being used to their full potential. The difference is defense. One has it and the other doesn’t. Find out how our top five stacks up after three weeks and where that leaves the rest of the NFL.

   Ranking (Change)

1 (-)

Los Angeles Rams (3-0)

Los Angeles Rams (3-0)

The Los Angeles Rams are one of three undefeated teams in the NFL. And they aren’t just beating folks, they are straight blowing them out. They are winning by an average margin of 22 points. For context, the next closest team is the 2-1 Baltimore Ravens who are outscoring opponents by 15 points per game, a full touchdown worse than the Rams are. Los Angeles is doing it with offense, and with a few injuries to their secondary that will need to continue. They’ll be put to the test against a good Vikings defense, but the Rams should be firmly in the driver’s seat for the majority of their games this season. (Adrian Nelson)

2 (+2)

Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)

Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)

Patrick Mahomes is on pace for the best statistical season in NFL history and is showing no signs of slowing down. At some point, he is going to regress, but I don’t think it’ll be this weekend against a Broncos defense that let Joe Flacco pick them apart. The Chiefs defense probably isn’t good enough to make a Super Bowl run, but Mahomes has quickly made the Chiefs the team to beat once again in the AFC West. (Max Vukelich)

3 (+3)

Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)

Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)

The Eagles got their franchise quarterback back in Week 3 and the team has got to be ecstatic about what they saw from him. Granted, Wentz didn’t light up the scoreboard, but he showed he’s the exact same guy they expected when they drafted him number two overall. He used his legs to extend plays and make something out of nothing all day, showing the world that his knee was ready to go. The defense looked like its old self and the team is getting key playmakers back from injury in the next couple weeks. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Eagles hit their stride in the next week or two. (Matt Fowler)

4 (-2)

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1)

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1)

Blake Bortles turned back into Blake Bortles against the Titans on Sunday. The biggest hole on the Jaguars roster is still their quarterback and he needs to be better if they are going to achieve their season-long goals. With a struggling Jets offense coming to town led by a rookie quarterback, this should be an excellent chance to get back on track. (Max Vukelich)

5 (+4)

New Orleans Saints (2-1)

New Orleans Saints (2-1)

Few things in life top watching Drew Brees in a shootout, and Sunday’s matchup against the Falcons was just that. The 39-year-old gunslinger was methodical in a 43-37 victory, completing 39-of-49 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns. If that wasn’t enough, he ran for a pair of scores as well. Even without Mark Ingram, Brees has led the league’s second-ranked offense to nearly 35 points per game thus far. The bad news is that New Orleans’ defense is allowing opposing teams to score nearly the same amount. This team has no problem getting into the endzone, but to be a legitimate contender they need to improve on the less-glamorous side of the ball. (Kyle Trapp)

6 (-3)

Minnesota Vikings (1-1-1)

Minnesota Vikings (1-1-1)

17-point favorites. Playing at home. Lining up against Josh Allen. Losing by 21. These statements don’t seem to add up, and yet that’s just how things go in the NFL. While we shouldn’t overreact to a bad game against Buffalo where they were missing their best rusher and couldn’t run the ball, the Vikings performance this season has given cause for concern. They played a one-score game at home against a 49ers team that lacks the talent of Minnesota on paper, they needed a 22-point fourth quarter and an impossible throw and terrible penalty to tie a hobbled Aaron Rodgers, and they were blown out at home against a team most consider to be the worst in the league. Don’t hit the panic button just yet, but the Vikings situation should be monitored closely over the next several weeks. (Adrian Nelson)

7 (-2)

New England Patriots (1-2)

New England Patriots (1-2)

This is what the end would look like, but no one, myself included, is bold enough to say that after being burned the last couple years with the Patriots rebounding spectacularly from slow starts. That being said, Brady is 41 and at some point he has to fall off the cliff. With Edelman and Gordon in limbo, their only wide receivers are Hogan, Dorsett, and Patterson. The defense is full of new pieces and needs to build a competency in one area. But they’re the freaking Patriots and Bill Belichick will figure it out … right? (Adrian Nelson)

8 (+2)

Carolina Panthers (2-1)

Carolina Panthers (2-1)

The Panthers had a strong day on both sides of the ball in their Week 3 win against Cincinnati. The defense picked off Andy Dalton four times, including two by emerging rookie Donte Jackson. Offensively, the Panthers dominated on the ground. Christian McCaffrey had a career-high 184 rushing yards, silencing those who claimed he could only do damage through the air. Carolina should be encouraged going into its bye week. (Nick Cardozo)

9 (-2)

Green Bay Packers (1-1-1)

Green Bay Packers (1-1-1)

Is Aaron Rodgers more injured than he’s letting on? It’s hard to question him when he threw for 265 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions on a rainy day, but the Packers offense was missing some of its juice Sunday. It could be the offensive line or even the lack of commitment to the run, but either way, it wasn’t a memorable game for Green Bay. A home matchup vs. Buffalo should be the perfect get-right game, but one more hit to Rodgers could spell disaster. (Nick Cardozo)

10 (-2)

Atlanta Falcons (1-2)

Atlanta Falcons (1-2)

Atlanta has suffered two key injuries in its secondary to Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen. They have the offense to compete with the best of them, but the team will have to address its issues in the defensive backfield if it wants to have a chance in the playoffs. (Hunter Bonge)

11 (+11)

Miami Dolphins (3-0)

Miami Dolphins (3-0)

Shockingly, the historically mediocre Dolphins find themselves at 3-0. In just a few short weeks they have moved from 30th to 11th in our power rankings, and yet you’d be fooling yourself if you said you knew exactly how good this team is. They’ve beaten the Titans, Jets, and Raiders who have had poor starts (obviously due in large part to losses to the Dolphins). You quickly end up in a circular cell reference of is this team good. While not sure, here’s what we can say: with limited weapons, Adam Gase has built a versatile offense that can score in many different ways. If the offensive line keeps up its stellar play, the Dolphins could make a play for the division. (Adrian Nelson)

12 (-1)

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1-1)

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1-1)

The Steelers finally got into the win column on Monday night, which has silenced the criticisms for now. With that being said, Pittsburgh’s defense still has big problems that don’t look fixable in the short term. With Baltimore coming to town this week, it’s a big opportunity for the Steelers to regain control of the AFC North. (Max Vukelich)

13 (+2)

Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

Baltimore has been one of the league’s more unpredictable teams across the past two seasons, and thus far 2018 looks no different. A week after getting manhandled by the Bengals, the Ravens bounced back against the Broncos, limiting Case Keenum and company to 14 points. On the offensive side of the ball, Joe Flacco was by no means phenomenal, but he was once again good enough to quell any calls for Lamar Jackson. His statline of 277 yards and a score is a good baseline moving forward, and as long as he protects the ball the Ravens should be competitive in just about every matchup. (Kyle Trapp)

14 (-)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)

Credit to the Bucs for making a second-half comeback on Monday night because in the first half nearly everything went wrong and had everyone questioning what they saw over the season’s first two weeks. Despite another week with nearly zero run game to speak of, Tampa Bay’s offense went off yet again, but its defense couldn’t contain the Steelers’ attack as much as it needed to. Rarely does a team shut out its opponent in the second half and lose, but at least the Bucs can dismiss Monday’s first half as an aberration…for now. (Nick Cardozo)

15 (-2)

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)

Even after suffering a 31-21 loss at the hands of the Panthers, Cincinnati remains one of the league’s surprises, as they remain tied with the Ravens (2-1) atop the AFC North entering Week 4. Andy Dalton looks sharp, having completed 64% of his passes for 860 yards and eight touchdowns (tied for third in the NFL). Meanwhile, on the receiving end of Dalton’s passes, it’s not A.J. Green leading the team in receiving, but rather Tyler Boyd, who has emerged as a go-to target for the “Red-Rocket.” Boyd has caught 15 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. If he can maintain his level of play opposite Green and give Dalton another reliable option downfield, this Bengals’ offense could anchor a playoff run this season. (Ryan Grube)

16 (-4)

Los Angeles Chargers (1-2)

Los Angeles Chargers (1-2)

The Chargers may have one of the better 1-2 records out there, given that their two losses have come against, arguably, the top two teams in the NFL right now in the Chiefs and the Rams. The good news for Los Angeles is that they are no strangers to a slow start — just look back to last season, when they started 0-4 before finishing the season 9-7. The offense has not been the issue in 2018, as they’ve scored at least 23 points in every game, but rather their historically-bad defense, which is once again, near the bottom of the league in total defense (surrendering 392.0 total yards per game). A familiar sight for fans, it looks as if the Chargers are going to need to outscore their opponents if they want to win in 2018. (Ryan Grube)

17 (+2)

Washington Redskins (2-1)

Washington Redskins (2-1)

This season in D.C. is looking like a game of which Redskins team will we get each week? If we get the team from Weeks 1 and 3, then Washington will be a playoff team in 2018. However, if we get the team from Week 2 that mustered a measly nine points against a sub-par Colts defense, then we’ll likely see another season of mediocrity from the burgundy-and-gold. The good news is that the Redskins responded well off their disappointing Week 2 performance, and looked dominant against the Packers on Sunday. Alex Smith lit it up through the air in the first half, while Adrian Peterson looked like his old self, rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. The ‘Skins now sit at 2-1, and get an early bye week to rest up in preparation for a Monday night showdown with the Saints in Week 5. (Ryan Grube)

18 (-)

Chicago Bears (2-1)

Chicago Bears (2-1)

If the Bears’ offense can become a bit more consistent, this could be a team that no NFC contender wants to face in the playoffs. The defense is that good. Khalil Mack is wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks and Jon Gruden, single-handedly wrecking games for opposing offenses. The Bears rank first in sacks (14), with Mack contributing four of his own to the cause. They aren’t quite there yet, but if Mitchell Trubisky can work out the kinks, this team can be scary good. (Matt Fowler)

19 (-2)

Denver Broncos (2-1)

Denver Broncos (2-1)

After a 14-point first quarter, the Broncos failed to score again, drawing flag after flag on their way to a loss against the Ravens. The Denver offense is a great big question mark right now, as Case Keenum has failed to show what he had last year in Minnesota. The defense did little to slow down Joe Flacco so it’s safe to say it’ll have its full against Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs this week. Though the Broncos haven’t looked overly impressive, a win vs. KC could have Denver with an early-season division lead. (Nick Cardozo)

20 (+1)

Tennessee Titans (2-1)

Tennessee Titans (2-1)

Entering Week 3, it already felt like the Titans were falling apart with key injuries on offense. And truth be told, they still aren’t in great shape, but the defense deserves credit for stifling the Jaguars all game. Marcus Mariota‘s health is still in question even though he played almost the entire game. Until he gets right, the offense will have a far lower ceiling — and floor. (Nick Cardozo)

21 (+3)

Seattle Seahawks (1-2)

Seattle Seahawks (1-2)

The Seahawks are a shell of the team that nearly won back-to-back Super Bowls, but one thing has remained constant: the excellence of Russell Wilson. His statline in a 24-13 victory over the Cowboys was hardly remarkable (192 yards and two touchdowns), but few in the league can do what he does with an abysmal line and limited playmakers. In that regard, Chris Carson‘s emergence is key for this team’s upside moving forward, and 102 yards and a score against a solid Dallas defense is a good start. (Kyle Trapp)

22 (+4)

Cleveland Browns (1-1-1)

Cleveland Browns (1-1-1)

635 days. That’s how long it took for the Browns to win a football game. Baker Mayfield took the league by storm in his first appearance for the Browns, leading the comeback win against the Jets. With Mayfield named as the Week 4 starter with Tyrod Taylor‘s health in question, the team has to feel good about its chances going forward. Mayfield provided a huge spark to a stagnant offense that can’t be ignored. Could a win streak be on the horizon in Cleveland? (Matt Fowler)

23 (-3)

Dallas Cowboys (1-2)

Dallas Cowboys (1-2)

Without any perimeter threats, Dak Prescott can’t move the chains or get into the red zone. This allows opposing defenses to hone in on Dallas’ key playmaker, Ezekiel Elliott, who hasn’t been able to break free on many runs this season. If you haven’t sold your Dallas stock yet, it’s time to jump ship. (Hunter Bonge)

24 (+5)

Detroit Lions (1-2)

Detroit Lions (1-2)

During the first three weeks, Detroit has suffered an embarrassing loss to the Jets and beaten the Patriots by two scores, so it’s very tough to place them. They’ve probably already had their worst loss and their best win of 2018 and will fall somewhere in the middle. 1-2 is where they deserve to be. (Hunter Bonge)

25 (-)

Indianapolis Colts (1-2)

Indianapolis Colts (1-2)

The Colts had several chances to steal a win from the Eagles, but couldn’t finish drives when it mattered most. Andrew Luck averaged a putrid 4.1 yards per attempt. Either it’s time to run the ball more or let Luck take shots downfield because the dink-and-dunk game isn’t working and doesn’t fit who Luck is. If Luck isn’t capable of regularly going deep, then that’s a different issue. On a positive note, the defense has been surprisingly stingy and rookie LB Darius Leonard already looks like a star in the making. (Nick Cardozo)

26 (-10)

San Francisco 49ers (1-2)

San Francisco 49ers (1-2)

Losing Jimmy Garoppolo for the season has all but ended the 49ers playoffs aspirations. CJ Beathard has not proven that he is worthy of being a starter at the NFL level. If the 49ers are going to remain competitive going forward, Kyle Shanahan is going to have to have excellent gameplans that allow the 49ers to protect Beathard and allow him to just be a game-manager. (Max Vukelich)

27 (+1)

New York Giants (1-2)

New York Giants (1-2)

Days after Odell Beckham Jr. made headlines for suggesting the Giants could score 35 points a game, the G-men notched their highest offensive output of the season in a 27-22 victory over the Texans. OBJ failed to find pay dirt himself, but the wideout topped 100 yards for the second time this season as he benefited from Eli Manning‘s most efficient games in recent memory. The quarterback completed 86% of his passes for 297 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and if he can play like that consistently, New York has the weapons to make some noise. (Kyle Trapp)

28 (-1)

New York Jets (1-2)

New York Jets (1-2)

The Jets are never going to live this one down — losing to a team that saw their first win in 635 days (more than two years!). However, it’s nothing to hang their hats on. The Browns are a much-improved team in 2018, especially with Baker Mayfield at the helm. The good news is that they reside in one of the weaker divisions to this point, as the Patriots are a meager 1-2, while the Dolphins are sure to regress at least a little following their impressive 3-0 start. However, if New York has any hope of a remotely successful season, they’re going to need rookie quarterback Sam Darnold to cut down on the turnovers, as he’s thrown a league-high five interceptions through his team’s first three games. (Ryan Grube)

29 (-6)

Houston Texans (0-3)

Houston Texans (0-3)

This may be a beating a dead horse, but there’s no denying that on paper, the Texans have one of the more talented rosters in the league. At the very least, it’s a top-heavy unit with what should be enough starpower to mask some of its flaws. But as we all know, football isn’t played on paper, and on the field Houston has looked like one of the league’s worst teams thus far. The season is just three weeks old, so there is still time to turn things around. But a loss to the previously winless Giants heightens the pressure, especially for Bill O’Brien. (Kyle Trapp)

30 (+2)

Buffalo Bills (1-2)

Buffalo Bills (1-2)

I want to take this space to publicly apologize to the Buffalo Bills organization for roasting them in last week’s SQ Power Rankings. The Bills went to Minnesota and embarrassed the Vikings last week, proving to the league that there might be more to the Bills than we previously thought. Although I’m not ready to deem them a playoff team — or even a good team for that matter — I have to give credit where credit is due. The Bills defense is good, and the NFL spotlight doesn’t look too bright for Josh Allen. (Matt Fowler)

31 (-1)

Oakland Raiders (0-3)

Oakland Raiders (0-3)

The second Jon Gruden era in Oakland has gotten off to a rocky start, as the Raiders, who reside in one of the more competitive divisions in the NFL, currently sit at an underwhelming 0-3 (last in the AFC West). It’s gotta be tough to watch for Raider fans, as so far this season, they have led or been tied for 157 minutes and 36 seconds, while trailing for 22 minutes and 24 seconds. Absolutely unbelievable. Part of the problem has been touchdown production in the passing game. While quarterback Derek Carr is sixth in the NFL in passing yards with 936 (312 yards per game), he has just two touchdown passes and a whopping five interceptions (tied for the league lead). If the Raiders want to turn this season around, they’re going to need more out of their $125 million signal-caller. (Ryan Grube)

32 (-1)

Arizona Cardinals (0-3)

Arizona Cardinals (0-3)

The Cardinals have wandered the desert into a sea of quicksand and there seems to be no way out. They simply don’t have the roster to compete in the NFC, and now it looks like rookie quarterback Josh Rosen is about to be fed to the wolves. (Hunter Bonge)

Edited by Jeremy Losak.

SQuiz
How many TD passes has Patrick Mahomes thrown through Week 3 of the NFL season?
Created 9/25/18
  1. 8
  2. 10
  3. 13
  4. 15

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