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  1. All smiles in Jacksonville after the win over the Chiefs Week 5 is just about when the real ceilings of team become apparent--early season coaching missteps are usually corrected by now for main contenders, injuries are beginning to pile up, but not so significant that teams with a real chance are lost to the training table, and defenses are either figuring out how to defend bad offenses or they aren't. Call it the first REAL weekend of football. At least that's what I'm going with this week. Remember, if you don't like where you are in these Rankings...play better! Their Toughest Opponents Might be the Injury Report 1. Green Bay Packers 2. Miami Dolphins 3. New York Jets 4. Las Vegas Raiders The Jets were primed for an upset: scrambling QB vs. Grv, tons of injuries, no WRs to throw to besides Paul Howell…and the Jets pulled it out. Three more injuries to defensive starters put them seriously behind the 8-ball this week at the Dolphins, who look very much like a Ferrari approaching 6th gear, but with an injury question of their own in Marcus Barry. Green Bay is finding new and exciting ways to get emotionally invested in games each week, and the Raiders look like their singular mission is to get back to the Super Bowl (and maybe get Nick Hall an MVP along the way). Clearly in the Playoff Hunt, These Teams are One Injury Away from the Top Tier 5. Philadelphia Eagles 6. Tennessee Titans 7. Jacksonville Jaguars 8. Kansas City Chiefs 9. Chicago Bears The Eagles handling of the Saints in New Orleans was impressive on a couple counts, but it was no coincidence that it came with a healthy backfield. The Titans made minced meat of the Chargers, but yet another ding, this time to Tyler Jones, leaves the Training Staff as the MVP of the Tennessee sideline. The Jaguars, no strangers to exotic offenses, abruptly quieted the Kansas City cheers. Christian Barkley has not been asked to do much more than make a few throws and not turn the ball over, but he put the team on his back and threw darts. The Chiefs fell back to earth a bit, but they still have a solid cushion and a run-based offense that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The Bears beat the Vikings again, but three of there 4 wins are against Minnesota and San Fran—not the caliber wins of the teams just ahead of them. The NFC South is the Terry Crews Version of the AFC North 10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11. New Orleans Saints 12. Carolina Panthers 13. Atlanta Falcons 14. Dallas Cowboys Yes, I know that Dallas is not in the NFC South…but they really should be. They are the team that completes the South: run-oriented beasties that counter the slick-passing Panthers, edge-rushing Falcons, dual-threat Bucs, and airing it out Saints. So, for the purposes of this list, Dallas is in the South. Now…at this point, the South is a toss up, just like AFC North. Unlike the AFC North, all of these teams have legit playoff aspirations, and all would be favored by 10 points over any AFC North team. I give a slight edge to the Bucs and Saints, but only because their wins have been in-division and I think they have a bit more consistency (which is crazy to say) at QB than the Panthers and Falcons. If Dallas loses to the Broncos this weekend, they’ll be sent back to the mostly-pathetic NFC East. Slightly Above-Average Teams that Play Brutally-Tough Schedules 15. Houston Texans 16. New England Patriots The Pats are the best 2-3 team in the League, but they aren’t gonna win many more, because they have 6 more games against teams ranked higher than they are here. That, rightly, sucks for the Pats and Reggie Watkins. The Texans have shown some muscle at times, but couldn’t put it together for a home win against the struggling Broncos. And THEY play 7 more games against teams ranked above them here. That sucks for Leshoure and the Houston faithful as well. The other thing these two teams have in common: defend the pass and they have no answers. Who Freaking Knows?…5-11 or 9-7 is in the realm of possibility 17. Washington Redskins 18. Los Angeles Rams 19. Denver Broncos 20. Arizona Cardinals 21. Buffalo Bills The Rams, Cardinals, and Bills all had a bye in Week 5, which was probably good, considering what happened to the Redskins. The blasting at the hands of the Cowboys indicates that Tanner Bowman, as one would expect of a rookie, is going to have some terrible games. Accordingly, Washington is going to have an up-and-down season. I lean slightly toward more ‘up’ than ‘down’ for the Skins, but who knows. The Rams, clearly one of the more talented teams in the League, just hasn’t had a season they are used to, but have the ability to turn it on. The Bills and Cardinals appear to be identical entities: bright spots in a cloudy sky. But the Broncos are coming off a win at Houston that felt less like an aberration and more like a team (and a coach) that have shaken off 4 weeks of rust and are starting to play like division winners again. I know it’s only one week, but says here Denver walks into Dallas and beats the Cowboys for two in a row. ABSOLUTELY Should be in the Top Half of these Rankings 22. Indianapolis Colts 23. Pittsburgh Steelers These two teams are too talented not to be ranked higher. Yes, the Colts have the rest of the AFC South to contend with, and just lost to the Raiders. The schedule can be uncompromising at times. But, c’mon Colts—you have Aaron Shea in his prime. This is getting awkward. (DISCLOSURE: Colts beat the Broncos in week 1) And the Steelers should have walked away with the AFC North this season. They stole Chester Henson and had it all on a platter. Losing to the Patriots in London is only Example D of why this has been a massive disappointment in the Steel City. The Power Rankings are officially angry at both franchises for not being better right now. It’s Up to the Coaches to Makes Some Adjustments 24. Detroit Lions 25. San Francisco 49ers 26. Baltimore Ravens 27. Cleveland Browns 28. Minnesota Vikings 29. Cincinnati Bengals Baltimore, in their close Monday night loss to the Jets, showed some underrated coaching prowess, moving their secondary offense to the wishbone. That move gave them a real chance against the Jets, and opened Brett Fisher to have the best game of his career, albeit against a Gravy-coached team. That type of coaching innovation/adaptation/exploration will be necessary for all these teams, if they hope to be drafting outside the Top 5…let alone make a push for the playoffs. Kudos to Blake Shell and the Lions for getting win #1…boo to the Niners for not realizing they were playing Blake Shell and blitzing accordingly. The Best BAD Team in the League 30. Seattle Seahawks I’ll say it: the Seahawks are bad. Like, almost-lose-to-the-Giants-then-score-3-points-against-the-Packers BAD. And they deserve to be ranked here at present. But…I would wager on the Seahawks to beat the two teams below them, and half the teams ranked #24-29, so…I’m calling them the Best BAD Team in the League. And that makes them kinda fun or funny, in a way. Not Funny Ha-Ha, but Funny Uh-Oh. Who’s Getting a Win First? Answer: Neither 31. Los Angeles Chargers 32. New York Giants I now believe that, given their talent and schedules, neither of these teams will win a game this season. And then in week 7, when the Chargers beat the Broncos, I will bury my face in snow until March.
  2. Tampa Bay sniped the Bears in Florida on Sunday The season is only four weeks old, but some rather obvious trends are emerging already, as are some favorites for postseason spots. Injuries, the main theme of 2021 so far, have played a huge part up to this point, and will only continue to impact performances across the board. Who's rising, who's falling, who has hope, who has none? Read on for this week's answers! Remember, if you don't like where you are in these rankings...play better! Battle For the #1 Seed 1. Green Bay Packers Who are the battling for the #1 seed? Factual consideration could include the Eagles and even the Bears. But I’ll take a more metaphysical approach. The Packers are really battling complacency, the Pipe, and the changing winds of offensive innovation. Can they win again with the same model as 2020? Possibly, but they’ll have to adapt some to stay ahead of the curve. 2. Miami Dolphins 3. New York Jets 4. Kansas City Chiefs 5. Las Vegas Raiders These teams are the most interesting Top Dogs in their respective divisions at present. Yes, you could throw the Titans/Jags/Texans in as well, but – and – will be primetime viewing all season. Only one of these will ultimately get the #1 seed (or not) in the AFC, so the Tier Title is a bit of misnomer. Recent Injury(s) = Some Doubt 6. Philadelphia Eagles 7. Tennessee Titans 8. Chicago Bears 9. Jacksonville Jaguars The clearly miss the spark that Marshawn Miller brought to the offense. Even more now falls on Allen Taylor and Troy White, and if the battle with the Chiefs is any indication, that may not be enough against the best teams in the league. The just got gobsmacked by a triple-injury Sunday, even in a win. The Pipe has clearly settled on TENN as the recipient of most of its hatred. How long can they continue to play at a high level with so few bodies? The desperately missed David Gaines, who went out early in the loss to the Bucs. Brooksheer was noticeably poorer without his top wideout, who will be sidelined for a couple weeks. And the have one of the larger casualty lists in the league, so it’s more a question of “when” rather than “if”. Should the Jags buck the trend and stay healthy, I think they could end up the top of this Tier easily. Could Be #3 Seed, Could Miss Playoffs 10. New Orleans Saints 11. Carolina Panthers 12. Houston Texans 13. Washington Redskins New Orleans beating the Panthers on the strength of Sterling Brown’s rushing and a receiver not named Sean Jenkins leading the team in catches and yards bodes well for the going forward, and really is a validation of how they’ve played up to this point. They addressed their injury-prone WR corps with the trade for Cotton Lewis and that’s what you do when you’re currently staring at first round bye in the playoffs. Could it go off the rails for the Saints? Maybe, but I think they look more of sure bet at this point than the . Tanner Bowman has been fantastic, but the Bye week hit at the worst time: no chance to build on the momentum of their last win. The are beating everyone they “should” beat so far, but the reason they are in this Tier: when the schedule turns nasty in a few weeks, where will they be? will deal with the loss of Mike Latta for a couple weeks, but should continue to play well. I envision Carolina as a classic #5 seed in the NFC. The Last Two Playoff Spots in the NFC Are a STRAIGHT TOSS UP 14. Atlanta Falcons 15. Los Angeles Rams 16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17. Arizona Cardinals 18. San Francisco 49ers That was a quick slip for the and , after looking terrific the first two weeks. At least Atlanta put up a good fight vs. NO and JAX—both losses were at home. Whereas Arizona got steamrolled twice in a row and now have to regroup during the Bye week. (Aside: the Cardinals were the biggest headscratcher for me in the new revealed offensive game plans—why are they running that with that team?) The bounced back with a nice win on Sunday night over the Cowboys, but the Cowboys aren’t REALLY the Cowboys right now, so jury is still out on the 2-2 Rams. The , winners of two straight (when’s the last time we could say that??!) whipped the Bears and did so in style. Says here Tampa takes ANOTHER step up in the NFC South by beating the Panthers this weekend. Not much to say about the after the Bye week, but 1-2 is not good. They have some serious work to do in order to ensure a playoff spot. Hell, they have work to do to stare a winning record in the face. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back 19. Buffalo Bills 20. New England Patriots 21. Dallas Cowboys 22. Indianapolis Colts If Arizona is the hardest team to predict in the league (and they are…), the are the most frustrating. They look excellent in weeks 1 and 3, complete doo-doo in weeks 2 and 4. Kamau Davis has been his mostly consistent self, but everyone around him is riding a giant yo-yo every time out. holds the dubious distinction as the 1-3 team that has looked the best. The need to get healthy ASAP—Luke Williams is not the answer, especially when teams can gang up on the run EVEN MORE now. Also, the defense hasn’t stopped anybody for a while. And…it’s time for honest truth: the , while injury depleted somewhat, are simply not as good as I thought they were at the beginning of the season. They are not the only team that equates that statement (ahem…Broncos, Lions, Rams), but they are most surprising, I’d wager. Can Anyone Figure Out the AFC North? 23. Pittsburgh Steelers 24. Cleveland Browns 25. Baltimore Ravens Where are the Bengals? Look below. Why these three and not the Bengals? These teams have shown consistent effort and a hint of talent. Why can’t I figure out the AFC North? No idea, other than these teams are being asked to carry out game plans that are different from what their skills favor. I expect the to win 8 games (or maybe more), but that’s all I expect out of this division. I’m really disappointed in the after three weeks of playing pretty well—that stinker against the previously-winless was not a good look. Doing Some Serious Draft Evaluations Over Here... 26. Minnesota Vikings 27. Seattle Seahawks 28. Cincinnati Bengals 29. Denver Broncos The got a win that surprised a bit, but the holes in this team are plain as day. The got a win that was actually kind of a loss (16-13 at the Giants—IN OVERTIME—is crazy-making). The dropped a heartbreaker to Steelers, but also failed in the Front Office area, again. And the got taken behind the woodshed by the dirty, rotten Raiders, to extend their streak of unimpressive performances to four in a row. Yes, I’m being harsh on my own team, but our only win is over the Ravens…and they are struggling mightily this season. Injuries have been unkind to a couple of these teams, but it’s not like any have shown moments of brilliance either. Drafting in the Top 10 is a new experience for the Seahawks and Broncos…an experience both are hoping to avoid yet this year. 0-fer, Trades Are Now Open 30. Detroit Lions 31. Los Angeles Chargers 32. New York Giants The were on a Bye, luckily for them. The and were not. It’s impossible to see where the next win will be for these three, and most likely not Week 5: Lions host the Niners in primetime, the Chargers host the Titans (Wheeler will feast on that secondary), and the Giants travel to Atlanta, where Mike Thomas is currently trying to secure a court-ordered stay of execution from Early Davis and Eric Jennings.
  3. Justin Davis deflects an Aaron Shea pass Week 3 brought a couple of very interesting matchups and performances to the fore. The list of undefeated teams whittled down some, and a couple of previously winless squads got 'W's'. Who's going to stick around the top all season? Who's going to make the long journey up and down the rankings? Stay tuned, as this week we break the ranking apart for some tiered action! Remember, if you don't like where you are in these rankings...play better! The Undefiled 1. Green Bay Packers Pack are the class of the League, though one might have suspected a slightly more convincing win over the Luke Williams-led Cowboys on Monday night. A Green Bay-Miami Super Bowl would be amazing, but the Pack have to get past the über-hot Eagles and the in-division Bears. Miami : Jordan-era Chicago Bulls :: Jets : Isaiah’s Pistons. Can the Dolphins get over the hump of the Jets stranglehold on the East? Oh, and the Chiefs just keep winning. Terrence Rodgers is making a weekly pitch for the Pro Bowl…or is that the MVP trophy he’s staring at…? 2. Miami Dolphins 3. Philadelphia Eagles 4. New York Jets 5. Kansas City Chiefs 6. Chicago Bears One Loss, Feeling Pretty Good 7. Las Vegas Raiders 8. Carolina Panthers 9. Tennessee Titans 10. Arizona Cardinals 11. Atlanta Falcons I was going to label this the “One-loss Contenders,” but really I’m not sure that Arizona and Atlanta ARE contenders. They’ve played well, but the Falcons’ loss to Tampa Bay raised an eyebrow, and the Cardinals looked all sorts of lost against Tanner Bowman and Washington. Titans look legit and just had a stumble, ditto the Panthers and of course the Raiders. Damn, I hate the Raiders. Best Two-loss Team 12. Jacksonville Jaguars Why are the Jags here and not lower in the 2-loss Disappointments? Well, their losses are by 3 to the Titans and by 4 to the Jets. Yes, both were in JAX, which makes me wonder about the mental toughness of this team, but we’re going with the Jags as the best 2-loss team that will bounce back and challenge for a playoff spot. One Loss, Feeling FUCKING GREAT! 13. New Orleans Saints 14. Houston Texans 15. Washington Redskins 16. Buffalo Bills Absolutely all of these teams (yes, even Rome and the Texans) have to feel pretty amazing about being 2-1 right now. Saints are on top because their close loss to the Falcons showed lots of grit. They took Minnesota’s best shot and mostly parried it away. Bills got to Wheeler and took the Titans down a peg. Anthony Ortiz will absolutely win DPOY…he’s just been amazing. What can you say about Tanner Bowman other than wow! He was efficient versus the Broncos in week 2, and off-the-charts against Arizona. Two-Loss Disappointments 17. Indianapolis Colts 18. Los Angeles Rams 19. Cleveland Browns 20. San Francisco 49ers 21. Dallas Cowboys 22. Denver Broncos All of these teams are looking at the standings, shaking their heads, and saying “What?” Denver is the only team to win in Week 3, but looked awful in the first two weeks (though the Washington loss looks much better now, eh?). Indy ran into Carolina, and then got shelled by the Dolphins. The Rams have dropped two in a row without injuries to blame. The Niners got nipped by the Bears and then lost McBride for the season. The Cowboys actually played the Packers pretty tough, but are still staring at the Luke Williams era for a few weeks. I don’t necessarily expect any of these teams to remain down here for too long, but if they are still here around Week 6 or so, shouldn’t we just admit that they aren’t as good as expected? One Win, We’re Working Stuff Out 23. New England Patriots 24. Pittsburgh Steelers 25. Seattle Seahawks 26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27. Cincinnati Bengals “Working stuff out…” is almost too kind for the Bengals and Steelers, given their off-season front office turmoil, but it’s mostly apt for now. The Seahawks were lucky to hit the Lions without LeCount for a close win, or else they’d be lower. RJ Stanford, one week after looking like he belonged, crashed back to earth in a bloodbath. Bucs got the win over the Falcons, but need to show MUCH more consistency. One thing is clear in the Bay: DeNorris Jackson is a stud. I have absolutely no idea what is going on with the Patriots—are they the team that beat a no-gameplan Bengals by 30? Or the gang that got zipped by the Texans? Need a Win BADLY! 28. Detroit Lions 29. Baltimore Ravens 30. Minnesota Vikings 31. Los Angeles Chargers 32. New York Giants Lions and Ravens lost close ones on the road, while the Vikings put up 31 against the Saints and lost. The Chargers are beginning to show some life on offense, and it was good to see Easely make a stat sheet. The Giants could very well be in their own category of stink, but we’ll lump them here to avoid piling on. Out of these teams, I think the Ravens get a win first.
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