Week 4 of the 2014 NFL season is in the books. The first set of byes hit this week and with the top four teams in our power rankings all idle, you may note an anticlimactic lack of dethroning, disgracing or otherwise exciting movement at the top. Don't fret though, because thanks to some upsets, crazy finishes and breakout performances, there were plenty of shakeups from the fifth spot to the last one.
With another dazzling, near-perfect performance out of Philip Rivers -- who might be playing better than any other quarterback in the NFL right now -- the Chargers move up and into the top five with an easy win over the struggling Jaguars. San Diego's offense, particularly Rivers, picked up where it left off last year despite injuries to the top two running backs, and the defense is better than expected. This is a hot team right now.
Right behind San Diego, the Ravens' shellacking of the normally stout Panthers defense propelled them up the rankings. Baltimore has won three in a row. Not only is the team's defense performing as well as we've come to expect, but the offense has stepped up its game. Led by Joe Flacco's 22-of-31 passing performance for 327 yards and three touchdowns, the Ravens found balance in the run vs. pass (30 rushes, 31 pass attempts) against the Panthers, and also balance in production from both veteran and young players -- Steve Smith, Torrey Smith at receiver and Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro at running back.
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The Lions too continue to rise in the power rankings with a win over the Jets on the road, moving to 3-1 and first place in the NFC North. Detroit's offense is still as good as we've come to expect, but its defense is the surprising force behind much of the team's success. Jim Caldwell has brought balance to Detroit, and it's working thus far.
San Francisco moves back into the top 10, and does so on the back of a dominant defensive beatdown of the previously undefeated Philadelphia Eagles. Chip Kelly's explosive, injury-decimated offense could not get anything done, managing only 213 total yards and 3.8 yards per play. The Niners appear to have gotten their mojo back on defense, and now they just have to get some consistency on offense and special teams to keep moving up. Crazily enough, even with that San Francisco defensive performance, the Eagles were actually in a position to take the lead very late in the game before the Niners put up a goal-line stand, so for now, balance is a big red flag for San Francisco.
These power rankings are an attempt to assign a numerical order for which teams are the "best" in the NFL (what could go wrong?), and weight goes both to the current level of play and the legitimate outlook for the rest of the season. Talent, depth and major injury situations are factors. The hope is that these aren't just simply regurgitated standings -- though obviously each team's record comes into play -- but a gauge for the overall quality for each team. Here are this week's rankings, with more thoughts after the table.
|1||Seattle Seahawks, 2-1 (Last Week: 1)||Field Gulls|
|2||Denver Broncos, 2-1 (Last Week: 2)||Mile High Report|
|3||Cincinnati Bengals, 3-0 (Last Week: 3)||Cincy Jungle|
|4||Arizona Cardinals, 3-0 (Last Week: 4)||Revenge of the Birds|
|5||San Diego Chargers. 3-1 (Last Week: 6)||Bolts from the Blue|
|6||Baltimore Ravens, 3-1 (Last Week: 7)||Baltimore Beatdown|
|7||Detroit Lions, 3-1 (Last Week: 12)||Pride of Detroit|
|8||San Francisco 49ers, 2-2 (Last Week: 14)||Niners Nation|
|9||Philadelphia Eagles, 3-1 (Last Week: 5)||Bleeding Green Nation|
|10||Pittsburgh Steelers, 2-2 (Last Week: 8)||Behind the Steel Curtain|
|11||Dallas Cowboys, 3-1 (Last Week: 21)||Blogging the Boys|
|12||Green Bay Packers, 2-2 (Last Week: 16)||Acme Packing Company|
|13||Houston Texans, 3-1 (Last Week: 19)||Battle Red Blog|
|14||Kansas City Chiefs, 2-2 (Last Week: 20)||Arrowhead Pride|
|15||New England Patriots, 2-2 (Last Week: 10)||Pats Pulpit|
|16||Chicago Bears, 2-2 (Last Week: 11)||Windy City Gridiron|
|17||Carolina Panthers, 2-2 (Last Week: 9)||Cat Scratch Reader|
|18||Indianapolis Colts, 2-2 (Last Week: 18)||Stampede Blue|
|19||Atlanta Falcons, 2-2 (Last Week: 13)||The Falcoholic|
|20||New York Giants, 2-2 (Last Week: 27)||Big Blue View|
|21||Buffalo Bills, 2-2 (Last Week: 17)||Buffalo Rumblings|
|22||Cleveland Browns, 1-2 (Last Week: 22)||Dawgs by Nature|
|23||New Orleans Saints, 1-3 (Last Week: 15)||Canal Street Chronicles|
|24||Miami Dolphins, 2-2 (Last Week: 24)||The Phinsider|
|25||Minnesota Vikings, 2-2 (Last Week: 26)||Daily Norseman|
|26||Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1-3 (Last Week: 31)||Bucs Nation|
|27||New York Jets, 1-3 (Last Week: 23)||Gang Green Nation|
|28||Washington, 1-3 (Last Week: 25)||Hogs Haven|
|29||St. Louis Rams, 1-2 (Last Week: 29)||Turf Show Times|
|30||Tennessee Titans, 1-3 (Last Week: 28)||Music City Miracles|
|31||Oakland Raiders, 0-4 (Last Week: 30)||Silver and Black Pride|
|32||Jacksonville Jaguars, 0-4 (Last Week: 32)||Big Cat Country|
The Steelers drop with a shocking loss at home to the previously winless Bucs. Right now, it's hard to figure out who they are or how good they are. Likewise, the Chiefs completely dominated the Patriots at home and are finally starting to look like the playoff team they were last year.
The Cowboys jump all the way to No. 11 with a convincing defeat of the slumping Saints. Behind excellent and important offensive line play, Tony Romo was efficient and the run game was punishing. The 'Boys are 3-1 and the offense looks explosive, but Dallas' defense remains the big question mark.
Meanwhile, the Packers and Giants have apparently figured out how to score points, and the Panthers have seemingly forgotten how to prevent them. The Colts have done what they're supposed to do and buried inferior opponents, while the Falcons and Bears remain models of inconsistency.
The Jags have been outscored by 94 points in four games, so there's really no sugarcoating it: they're bad right now. Hopefully Blake Bortles will help reverse their fortunes. The Raiders just fired their coach four games in: they're bad too. The Titans have looked listless in three straight losses. I'm not sure anyone knows how good or bad the Dolphins are at this point. No matter how you slice it, parity remains one of the NFL's strongest draws, and there's still a lot to learn about every team as the year goes on.