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2016 NFL power rankings, Week 4: Broncos and Patriots prove they’re the NFL’s elite

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It’s hard to argue against the merits of the Broncos and Patriots after they dominated September.

Denver Broncos v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

On Thursday when the New England Patriots demolished the Houston Texans 27-0, there wasn’t much reason to think they didn’t deserve the top spot in anybody’s power rankings. But it’s hard to move the Denver Broncos away from No. 1 after they beat the Cincinnati Bengals on the road Sunday.

It wasn’t as dominant of a victory as New England’s shutout performance, but it was a coming-out party for Trevor Siemian, who looked like more than a placeholder with 312 passing yards and four touchdowns.

The Broncos' defense is a nightmare to deal with, and C.J. Anderson is leading a more than competent rushing attack, so the last thing the rest of the NFL needs is a Denver quarterback capable of burning secondaries deep.

But make no mistake, the race between the Patriots and Broncos for top spot is neck-and-neck.

New England somehow survived without Tom Brady to start 2-0, and then the team somehow had its best game of the season after losing Jimmy Garoppolo too. Jacoby Brissett is injured now and the Patriots are keeping quiet about who the starter will be in Week 4, but it hasn’t seemed to matter much who's under center for them.

After those two teams, it gets a lot tougher to sort out. The Minnesota Vikings deserve a high ranking for beating up Cam Newton, but many of the other teams that earned a spot in the postseason last year looked flat-out terrible.

Deep falls

Early starts for West Coast teams in the Eastern Time Zone are difficult. But it’s tough to look past the fact that the Arizona Cardinals have looked remarkably mediocre in 2016 after dominating most of 2015.

The Buffalo Bills jumped on the Cardinals early, and it was never a close game as the Cardinals dropped to 1-2 with a 33-18 loss. Carson Palmer had five touchdowns and no interceptions in the first two weeks but finished with four interceptions on Sunday.

Newton also had a rough go in Week 4, getting abused by the Vikings' defensive line for most of the day. The defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers lost only one game during the regular season last year, but they already have two losses through three weeks, and it’s the Atlanta Falcons out in front of the notoriously flip-flopping NFC South.

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Among the many other highly regarded teams with poor showings were the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Texans.

Big jumps

With so many teams falling from grace, there was plenty of room for teams that picked up wins to fly up the boards.

If you’re not yet a believer in Carson Wentz, there isn’t much more he could’ve shown at this point. Despite the big jump from the FCS to the NFL that was supposed to take a long time to make, Wentz has arguably had the greatest start to his career than any rookie quarterback ever.

While the tougher matchups are still on the way, Wentz looks plenty capable of leading the Philadelphia Eagles to the postseason.

The Baltimore Ravens are also climbing quickly, even though the schedule has been favorable to start the year. With aging players like Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, and Terrell Suggs all coming back and still getting back to full speed after suffering serious injuries a year ago, the team is playing strong defense and has a big-play receiver in Mike Wallace.

Only four teams survived the first three weeks undefeated, so the Eagles and Ravens have earned their spots near the top.

The bottom of the trash heap

Good job, good effort, Browns. But mostly just Terrelle Pryor, who essentially tried to beat the Miami Dolphins all on his own. He might’ve been able to pull it off too if the rest of his team wasn’t so Cleveland Browns-y.

Still, getting to overtime was much better than what's happening with the Chicago Bears, who just rolled over and died for the third straight week. Whether it's Brian Hoyer or Jay Cutler under center, it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference — the Bears are a long way from being a factor in the NFC North.

Joining the group at the bottom are the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that entered the 2016 season with hype as a possible dark horse playoff contender but is one of four teams that hasn’t found the win column.

Firing coaches at the bye week isn’t uncommon, and the Jaguars have Week 5 off, so it wouldn’t be shocking at all if Gus Bradley is shown the door after the team’s trip to London this weekend to play the Indianapolis Colts.

Week 4 Team Last week
1 Denver Broncos 1
2 New England Patriots 2
3 Minnesota Vikings 5
4 Seattle Seahawks 11
5 Philadelphia Eagles 14
6 Baltimore Ravens 10
7 Kansas City Chiefs 15
8 Cincinnati Bengals 7
9 Green Bay Packers 13
10 Carolina Panthers 3
11 Oakland Raiders 16
12 Pittsburgh Steelers 4
13 New York Giants 9
14 Arizona Cardinals 6
15 Atlanta Falcons 18
16 Dallas Cowboys 17
17 Washington 19
18 Houston Texans 8
19 New York Jets 12
20 Buffalo Bills 22
21 Miami Dolphins 21
22 Los Angeles Rams 28
23 San Diego Chargers 20
24 Indianapolis Colts 30
25 Tennessee Titans 24
26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25
27 Detroit Lions 26
28 Jacksonville Jaguars 23
29 New Orleans Saints 27
30 San Francisco 49ers 29
31 Cleveland Browns 32
32 Chicago Bears 31

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The Texans tried to cross Malcolm Butler