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NFL power rankings 2017, Week 5: Deshaun Watson is a beacon of hope for the Texans

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The Texans are 2-2, and it’s still hard to imagine any team being more excited about its 2017 season.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans are 2-2, but No. 1 in the rankings here. Why? Deshaun Watson. That’s why.

The rookie has been getting better every time he steps on the field. In Week 4, he torched the Titans with 283 passing yards, four touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown. The five total touchdowns tied a rookie record and buried the Titans in a 57-14 landslide.

With J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and others leading one of the NFL’s better defenses, the Texans look like a terrifying contender for the rest of the AFC. The 4-0 Kansas City Chiefs are still the ones to beat in the NFL, but it’s hard to imagine any team is more hopeful about the rest of 2017 after Week 4 than Houston.

In Week 5, the Texans and Chiefs will be able to settle which team really deserves that No. 1 spot when they meet in Houston.

Riding high

Both teams from Monday Night Football

Kansas City and Washington looked like two of the best teams in the NFL prior to Monday, and the game only validated that. It was an exciting, back-and-forth battle with excellent play from both quarterbacks.

It’s not often that the stock for two teams can go up in one game, but Alex Smith and Kirk Cousins have their squads on the right track.

Buffalo Bills

This was supposed to be one of the teams on the tanking path after trading Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby just before the season. Instead, the Bills are in first place in the AFC East, which the Patriots have won 13 out of the last 14 seasons.

Buffalo’s defense is really difficult to score on, and the Bills are actually good.

Los Angeles Rams

Yes, the Rams were 3-1 last year before the season went to hell. But with Sean McVay on the sideline, Jared Goff playing well, and Todd Gurley back to form, 2017 feels way different.

Beating the Cowboys on the road is no joke, either. The Rams look like the real deal.

Low spirits

Tennessee Titans

Get smoked by a division rival? Check. Get Marcus Mariota injured? Check.

Mariota is day-to-day with a hamstring injury, and if the Titans have to start Matt Cassel — who managed to turn the ball over three times in 18 plays against the Texans — there’s not a whole lot of reason for the Titans to expect Week 5 will be a bounce back.

New England Patriots

How in the world did a Bill Belichick-coached team get a defense this bad? No team in the NFL has given up more yards, and 128 points is the most the Patriots have ever allowed through four games.

Tom Brady is still shredding opposing secondaries, but it’s going to be a problem if New England needs his late-game heroics on a weekly basis like it did in a dramatic win over the Texans in Week 3.

0-4 teams

The 49ers, Chargers and Giants all came really close to picking up a win, but all landed at 0-4 anyway. The Browns didn’t come anywhere near beating the Bengals in a 31-7 loss. Is it actually possible that Cleveland is getting worse?

The 1992 Chargers are the only team to ever start 0-4 and land in the playoffs, but don’t expect any miracles this year. It’s a wrap.

Full hope rankings

Weekly disclaimer: These aren’t your average power rankings and are instead an attempt to measure the current state of mind — or “hope” — for each team.

There will be weeks when a bad football team can come away feeling good about its future, or a good team will show serious weaknesses that damper spirits — like the Falcons this week.

If you’re looking for a ranking of who would beat who, this isn’t always going to be the best gauge:

Hope rankings, Week 5

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

Highlights from Week 4 in the NFL