Week 5 was hard on expectations. The Patriots, Falcons and Seahawks were all toppled, some in rougher outings than the others. Meanwhile, the Broncos got a scare, but kept on scoring points. This week's edition of the NFL power rankings features a reordering of the teams in the top 10 as well as unexpected changes near the bottom.
Last week, Denver's offense had the second-best DVOA rating of any team since 1989 at 53.2 percent through four games, just below the 54.9 percent mark owned by the 1999 Redskins, according to Football Outsiders' efficiency measure. (Defense-adjusted value over average is an efficiency rating that breaks down every single NFL play and compares a team's performance to a league baseline based on situation in order to determine value over average).
What happens to that number after Manning and Co. scored 51 points against the Cowboys on Sunday? Denver's 230 points this season bests what any other team has ever done through five weeks of the season. They're on pace to score nearly 740 points. Now, they might have the best advance statistics of any team five games into the season, which I'm sure will be a hot topic on First Take this week.
The offense is prolific, but what about the defense? Giving up 48 points in a victory is a luxury available to teams with Peyton Manning and a quiver of offensive weapons, but it's not sustainable. Cornerback Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie gave up two touchdowns and a 66.7 percent completion rate on Sunday. It was a bad game in what's been an otherwise positive season.
Denver's pass rush was kept in check by Tony Romo's quick passing. The front seven did manage four sacks, but they had just 12 other pressures. The Broncos have one more game without Von Miller, against the Jaguars, before he resumes play just in time for a Week 7 outing against the Colts.
Drew Brees' record-setting streak of 300-yard games ended this week, at nine in a row. He did complete 29-of-35 passes to push his streak of 25 completions or more to 11 games, another record. But you already knew Brees was an outstanding quarterback. And a 5-0 start is a solid early case for Sean Payton to win Coach of the Year honors. But what's really impressive about the Saints is the defense.
Defensive end Cameron Jordan, with four sacks, is halfway to his 2012 sack total, not bad for a guy switching to a three-man front. Junior Galette is living up to Rob Ryan's August hype. He has three sacks and another 18 pressures this season, second only to Jordan.
Seattle hasn't had a tough loss since losing in the divisional round to Atlanta last season. Wilson's completion percentage is off last year's rookie sensation levels, down to 58.3 percent from 64.1 percent. This was his second game in a row where his completion percentage didn't top 55 percent. He's getting sacked more too, up from two per game last year to three, but that's to be expected without Russell Okung protecting his blind side. Fortunately for Seattle, his legs still give opponents fits. He ran for 102 yards last against the Colts.
Speaking of the Colts, this team is playing lights out football and finding new and exciting ways to beat opponents. Against Seattle, Andrew Luck stood tall when the power run game couldn't get going. Luck was 8-for-9 when blitzed. He owns a 74.5 percent completion rate on 51 drop backs where he's been blitzed this season, according to Pro Football Focus, with two touchdowns and one interception.
Don't forget about Robert Mathis on the other side of the ball. He had two sacks and five more pressures and batted a pass down for good measure. For those of you keeping track at home, that's 101 career sacks for Mathis.
Too high? I suspect some readers will think that, especially when you see the teams listed just below the Chiefs. But 5-0 is 5-0. Not bad after being 1-4 through their first five last season. Andy Reid's getting it done with his defense, a unit that boasts a league-best average of just 11.6 points allowed per game.
However, Kansas City averages just two offensive touchdowns per game. That's not terrible, but it signals potential trouble down the road. For now the Chiefs are rolling, and this is the best football Kansas City's loyal fans have seen in years.
Every organization needs middle management, the soft connective tissue that's useless until it's not there. Such is life as Andy Dalton, who connects running backs with footballs and makes sure Mike Brown's paperwork gets filed in an efficient and effective manner. This was his second week in a row without a touchdown pass. He threw his fifth interception, which happened to be the first red zone interception of his career.
Tom Brady's touchdown streak ended at 52 games, and the Patriots failed to cross the goal line once in a rain-soaked loss to the Bengals. He really needs Gronkowski back in the lineup. How do we know this? Well, he was throwing the ball to Nate Solder in the end zone last week. Solder is an offensive tackle.
Baltimore's front seven brutalized Ryan Tannehill this week, sacking him six times. Terrell Suggs recorded three, bringing his season total to seven. He's got a strong case to be the Defensive Player of the Year. Don't overlook Elvis Dumervil, the loveliest feather in Ozzie Newsome's offseason cap of greatness. The former Bronco leads the team with 13 quarterback hurries.
A tune up against the Rams turned out to be exactly what the doctor ordered for Jim Harbaugh's team, that and a resupply of Xanax. Tramaine Brock's two picks off Matt Schaub, including a pick-six, may mean a long season on the bench for Nnamdi Asomugha ... and Matt Schaub.
San Francisco has to be concerned about the passing game. When defenses take Anquan Boldin out of the mix, Colin Kaepernick looks lost. Adam Schefter reported Monday afternoon that the 49ers were not interested in sending a second-round pick to the Browns in exchange for Josh Gordon. They should rethink that.
Aaron Rodgers is on-pace for his first 5,000-yard season, which is kind of hard to believe if you think about it. He has a running game to balance the load now too. Eddie Lacy had his best outing of the season, rushing for 99 yards and averaging 4.3 yards per attempt. It looks like the NFC North is once again the Packers' crown to lose this year.
11. Chicago Bears
The eight points separating the Bears and the Saints in the final score doesn't tell the full story. Chicago was on its heels all afternoon. Their highest win probability at any point in the game came on the opening kickoff. After the game, Marc Trestman bemoaned his offense's inability to move the ball, but that was never really the Bears' biggest problem in this one. The defense lost another defensive tackle this week, with Nate Collins joining Henry Melton on the injury list. Worse, veterans like Lance Briggs were duped on more than one occasion by a sly Saints offense.
12. Houston Texans
For some reason, putting the Texans at 12th still feels too high. Gary Kubiak's team is in free fall right now. Matt Schaub set a record with his fourth game in a row with a pick-six, and T.J. Yates replaced him in the fourth quarter. Kubiak said that Schaub would resume his role as the starter. He may come to regret that decision at the end of the season if high expectations don't pan out in Houston.
13. Miami Dolphins
Six more sacks last week by the Ravens makes it a total of 24 for the season, the most in the league, for Ryan Tannehill. He's on-pace to be sacked a record 77 times, but the sophomore quarterback isn't going to make it that far at the current rate. What a travesty. Jeff Ireland bought everything he could in free agency, but failed to upgrade the very unit tasked with protecting his franchise quarterback.
14. Dallas Cowboys
I've stayed away from hot takes since Sunday. I just don't want to listen to the Tony Romo choker talk, because it's wrongheaded and just dumb. Romo played an incredible game, and there's no way the Cowboys would have been in it without his record-setting effort.
If there's anything Dallas should be worried about after that game, it's a pass rush that generated just one hit on Peyton Manning.
15. Detroit Lions
Lambeau Field is a tough enough place for the Vikings to play. Asking Matthew Stafford and the Lions to win a game there without Calvin Johnson is next to impossible. Lions fans can find some comfort in the Matt Millen documentaryand think "at least it's not that bad anymore."
16. Tennessee Titans
Raise your hand if you thought Gregg Williams would never work in the NFL again. [raises hand] We should have known better. What he's done with the Titans defense ensures that he'll be working in the NFL for a long time to come, maybe even with better PowerPoints.
Chris Johnson's underwhelming performance on the ground -- 1.7 yards per carry on 10 attempts -- isn't all that remarkable considering how good the Chiefs defense is. And he made up for it with 63 yards and a touchdown as a receiver.
17. New York Jets
So much for the Jets being the NFL's biggest circus. Instead, the Jets have become one of the most entertaining teams to watch ... sort of like a circus. The preseason narrative on the Jets is in ruins, not unlike our understanding of what exactly a circus is. The defense gives them a chance to win every week. Geno Smith wasn't asked to do much against the Falcons, throwing only 20 passes, but three of those attempts resulted in touchdowns. Smith became the first rookie quarterback since Dan Marino in 1983 to throw three touchdown passes in a Monday night game.
18. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are now 1-4 on the season, exactly four games behind the New Orleans Saints. The playoffs are still a possibility, but a slim one. Only six teams since 1990 that started the season 1-4 made it to the postseason. Injuries have hit the Falcons hard, especially on the offensive line. Mike Smith continues to give his critics more and more ammunition. This time, it was his decision to go for it on fourth down instead of kick the field goal at the end of the first half.
19. Cleveland Browns
I don't get why the Browns would want to trade Josh Gordon. Even if they do get a second-round pick for him, they lose a big-play receiver averaging more than 16 yards per catch early in his career. Guys like that just don't grow on trees, and with all the needs the Browns have to fill on offense after this season, why create one more hole?
The Chargers are headed for rough waters without Dwight Freeney. He and Jarrett Johnson made an elderly but productive pass rushing pairing. San Diego's ceiling this season was only so high to start with, and Mike McCoy's team has so far exceeded it. But a loss to the Raiders is not what you want to see. At least the reanimation of Philip Rivers continued this week. He topped 400 passing yards in a game for the third time this week, and his average of 322 yards per game is a career-best.
Just like last year, Arizona's defense is this team's best unit. They haven't allowed a single point in the second half of the last two games. Rookie Tyrann Mathieu notched five tackles and his first sack of his career against the Panthers last week. Bruce Arians doesn't want to use running back Andre Ellington for anything more than part time work. That looks like a mistake considering he's averaging 6.7 yards per carry, the best of any rookie rusher.
Let the Josh Freeman era begin ... eventually. Minnesota spent its bye week acquiring the disposed Tampa Bay signal caller. He's not replacing Christian Ponder yet, but it's only a matter of time.
Chip Kelly's rookie season was never going to match the hype, not with that defense. On the other hand, Philadelphia is the first team to post 1,300 passing yards and 900 rushing yards through the first five games of the season. There are also Michael Vick's limitations passing the ball and staying healthy. Now Nick Foles gets a shot with Vick nursing a hamstring injury.
24. St. Louis Rams
Last week, the Rams gave the struggling 49ers a free tune up. This week, the Jaguars may have done the same for the Rams. The defensive line came alive this week, and the return of linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar gave the unit some much needed fire. Sam Bradford and the offense managed to score 34 points, and a Jeff Fisher coached team managed to actually run the ball.
25. Buffalo Bills
Here's what we know about Thad Lewis. He went to Duke. He's been let go by the Rams and the Browns. Now, he gets his big break filling in for E.J. Manuel against the Bengals.
I hope Ron Rivera went to the beach, painted quaint watercolor pictures and otherwise enjoyed the bye week. He's not going to get another break again until he gets fired. And he's going to get fired. He did manage to go for it on fourth-and-one last week, only to see Brandon LaFell drop Cam Newton's pass.
A bye week means nobody got hurt, no games were lost and Dan Snyder insisting that his team's name is only offensive if you're offended by it, as most people with a sense of decency are.
28. Oakland Raiders
Peyton Manning wasn't the only one writing his name into the record book last week. Charles Woodson tied the NFL record for the most defensive touchdowns with 13. He scored after Chargers running back Danny Woodhead fumbled. Naturally, Woodson was humble about his accomplishment, telling everyone that he was "one of the greatest to ever play this game."
The Steelers had a bye week, too. They resume play on the road against the Jets next week.
30. New York Giants
Another week, another trio of interceptions for Eli Manning. His three picks against the Eagles -- let that sink in for second -- marked the third time this season he's thrown at least three interceptions. He leads the league with 12 interceptions. But at least he doesn't think he's "playing lousy."
Greg Schiano got his wish, shipping off counterculture revolutionary Josh Freeman. He will not rest until all of the tomfoolery in America's strip club capital is erased. He was insistent in a call with the poor season ticket holders, all three of them, that he was RoboCop. He still has Peter King on his side, just not his players.
Are the Jaguars the next 0-16 team? I really don't ask that to disparage Jacksonville fans, who are downright defiant in their loyalty to what looks like an unlovable team to outsiders. They drew first blood against the Rams, but Blaine Gabbert kept St. Louis' hopes alive. Jacksonville doesn't have another sort of favorable matchup until Week 11 against the Arizona Cardinals.