Four weeks seem like a nice period of time to see where NFL teams are going, yes? There are a lot of surprises thus far, teams doing better than expected and many teams doing less than expected. It is still perhaps too early to say which teams are playoff bound and which are not but over the course of the next four week those answers should be answered.
These power rankings will be posted following Weeks 4, 8, 12 and 17. NEXT FOUR refers to the team’s next four weeks (with ‘bye’ meaning they have no game that week).
1. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
Baltimore’s defense is as stout as ever. Baltimore’s offense has stagnated, with Ray Rice being a disappointment thus far. Even still, with Rice and wideouts Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the Ravens will eventually start rolling, and with their defense that will be a very deadly combination.
NEXT FOUR: DEN, @NE, BUF, bye
2. Atlanta Falcons (3-1)
An impressive win at New Orleans is followed up by a close and, frankly, rather lucky win at home to San Francisco. Roddy White is perhaps one of the more underrated receivers in the league.
NEXT FOUR: @CLE, @PHI, CIN, bye
3. New York Jets (3-1)
Following a tough loss against Baltimore where the Jet offense couldn’t do a single thing, that same offense has beat up on its divisional breatheren, going 3-0 against the Patriots, Dolphins and Bills. Their next game is pretty huge as well; a Monday Night tilt against their former QB Brett Favre and his Vikings.
NEXT FOUR: MIN, @DEN, bye, GB
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)
Despite a tough loss to the Ravens, the Steelers went 3-1 during Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension thanks to their defense and Rashard Mendenhall. Following a bye week, the Steelers will ease him in with a home game against the Browns, though the schedule gets tough from there.
NEXT FOUR: bye, CLE, @MIA, @NO
5. Houston Texans (3-1)
Questions about Houston’s shaky defense may be answered with the return of defensive rookie of the year Brian Cushing, who sat out the first four games due to a steroid suspension. Arian Foster has been an excellent find for the Texans, though thus far his success and Houston’s passing success have not been inclusive.
NEXT FOUR: NYG, KC, bye, @IND
6. Green Bay Packers (3-1)
It may be an intangible factor, but perhaps the biggest problem facing the Packers – following an 18-penalty loss against the Bears and almost letting the Lions come back on them – is a lack of focus. Their first home game against the Vikings is coming up, perhaps at that time we’ll really see a ‘focused’ Packers team.
NEXT FOUR: @WAS, MIA, MIN, @NYJ
7. New Orleans Saints (3-1)
The Saints have not had any easy games yet this season. Both Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas have suffered injuries, leaving the Saints’ once potent offense rather one-dimensional. Luckily for them they have a relatively easy October. At least, on paper they do.
NEXT FOUR: @ARI, @TB, CLE, PIT
8. New England Patriots (3-1)
The Patriots are one of the more difficult teams to figure out. They beat the Bills but give up 30 points to them in the process, then defeat Miami through the power of Special Teams. Following a bye week, the true New England Patriots will likely be revealed against difficult opposition.
NEXT FOUR: bye, BAL, @SD, MIN
9. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)
THE surprise of the early 2010 campaign, Kansas City’s early success comes from dynamic playmakers such as Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles. While a pair of difficult road games loom for the Chiefs, the schedule eases up from there, leaving the Chiefs primed for a run at the division.
NEXT FOUR: @IND, @HOU, JAC, BUF
10. Chicago Bears (3-1)
The Chicago Bears of last season reared its ugly head in the form of 9 New York Giant sacks against Jay Cutler, who ended up with a concussion from it all. Fortunate wins against the Lions and Packers perhaps have built up the Bears to be better than they actually are.
NEXT FOUR: @CAR, SEA, WAS, bye
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)
While two wins against Cleveland and Carolina do not seem very impressive at this point, the Buccaneers will take any wins they can get. The offense under Josh Freeman still needs plenty of work.
NEXT FOUR: @CIN, NO, STL, @ARI
12. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)
Peyton Manning is having one of the better statistical starts in his career, yet the Colts are only 2-2, both those losses coming against divisional foes. Its just as well, all those hot starts haven’t done Indy any good recently.
NEXT FOUR: KC, @WAS, bye, HOU
13. San Diego Chargers (2-2)
The Chargers are perhaps the Detroit Tigers of the NFL: excellent at home (two blowout wins against the Jaguars and Cardinals), yet downright embarassing on the road (against the Chiefs and Seahawks). That better change in a hurry, their next two games are on the road.
NEXT FOUR: @OAK, @STL, NE, TEN
14. New York Giants (2-2)
The AFC South has not treated the Giants well, with another game against that division coming right up. A strong defensive output against the Bears will help with confidence, but their offense has not been great all season long.
NEXT FOUR: @HOU, DET, @DAL, bye
15. Denver Broncos (2-2)
Kyle Orton has been passing like his job is on the line. Well, it kinda is, but even with Orton’s astonishing efforts Denver is a shaky 2-2 with a pair of defensively minded teams coming up.
NEXT FOUR: @BAL, NYJ, OAK, @SF
16. St. Louis Rams (2-2)
The Rams have won two straight games for the first time in year. If they beat Detroit, the only team they beat last season, they’ll be over .500 this late in the season for the first time in a long time. With the rest of the NFC West struggling like crazy, could the Rams make a run for the division?
NEXT FOUR: @DET, SD, @TB, CAR
17. Tennessee Titans (2-2)
The Titans are another team that is difficult to figure out at this point. Chris Johnson has alternated between good games and bad, him becoming more consistent would really help the Titans find their way.
NEXT FOUR: @DAL, @JAC, PHI, @SD
18. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)
Terrell Owens finally had a breakout game. Rather unsurprisingly, it came in a loss against Cleveland. The Bengals are another hard team to figure out, but with Pittsburgh and Baltimore in top shape the Bengals may be left in the dust real soon.
NEXT FOUR: TB, bye, @ATL, MIA
19. Washington Redskins (2-2)
The Redskins have had two gritty wins against divisional opponents, and outside of that Rams loss they haven’t looked like that bad of a team. They do need to settle on how to handle their run game, however.
NEXT FOUR: GB, IND, @CHI, @DET
20. Philadelphia Eagles (2-2)
The Eagles went from struggling with Kevin Kolb to embracing Michael Vick to seeing Vick get hurt and gong right back to Kolb struggling somewhat less so. If it is assumed Vick will get the starter job back upon his return from injury, perhaps Kolb will fare better without all of that pressure on his shoulders.
NEXT FOUR: @SF, ATL, @TEN, bye
21. Seattle Seahawks (2-2)
Like the Chargers, the Seahawks play well at home (blowing out the 49ers and beating those same Chargers) but play lousy on the road (against the Broncos and Rams). The addition of Marshawn Lynch should give Seattle another dimension to an offense looking to find a real identity under Pete Carroll.
NEXT FOUR: bye, @CHI, ARI, @OAK
22. Miami Dolphins (2-2)
Following two losses to the Jets and Patriots, rumors are starting to swirl that Chad Henne may be on the way out of the starting job. Maybe Henne is not the long term answer for the Dolphins, but is either the injury-prone Chad Pennington or waiver-rider Tyler Thigpen that much better than Henne at this point?
NEXT FOUR: bye, @GB, PIT, @CIN
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)
If you ask some people, the Jaguars are the worst 2-2 team ever. Those people often forget that Maurice Jones-Drew is still in the league. Their defense is a concern, sure, but many other teams have the same issue.
NEXT FOUR: @BUF, TEN, @KC, @DAL
24. Arizona Cardinals (2-2)
So, turns out Derek Anderson isn’t the answer. Chances are, neither is Max Hall. Its kinda silly to say that they should’ve kept Leinart (he probably wouldn’t of fared much better), but even more disappointing is how their defense has fallen apart this season.
NEXT FOUR: NO, bye, @SEA, TB
25. Dallas Cowboys (1-2)
While they did have a redeeming win at Houston, the Cowboys still have a lot of improvements to make as they face a gauntlet of defensively-minded teams coming up the next three weeks.
NEXT FOUR: TEN, @MIN, NYG, JAC
26. Minnesota Vikings (1-2)
Perhaps lost in their offensive ineptitude this season is that their defense has yet to let up more than 14 points in their three games this season. The Vikings have a harsh schedule coming up, so they better of worked out those kinks on offense, or else it might be a long October.
NEXT FOUR: @NYJ, DAL, @GB, @NE
27. Cleveland Browns (1-3)
The Browns have been competitive in every game due in part to the decent play of Seneca Wallace, and moreso the stellar play of Peyton Hillis who is establishing himself as Cleveland’s top running back.
NEXT FOUR: ATL, @PIT, @NO, bye
28. Oakland Raiders (1-3)
Bruce Gradkowski has done well. He did decent last season as well so why did they bother bringing in Jason Campbell? Other Raider failures this year include their usually decent defense which has given up tons of points already, and Sebastian Janikowski who missed multiple field goals in their 1-point loss to Arizona.
NEXT FOUR: SD, @SF, @DEN, SEA
29. San Francisco 49ers (0-4)
San Francisco has been the most disappointing team this season by far, with Alex Smith seemingly regressing. Five of their next six games are at home, however, so if the 49ers are to make a move it needs to be made right away.
NEXT FOUR: PHI, OAK, @CAR, DEN
30. Detroit Lions (0-4)
The Lions have nearly come back to win three of their four games, but no actual wins yet this season. While Stafford is out with a shoulder injury, Shaun Hill has played admirably while Jahvid Best is having a strong rookie campaign.
NEXT FOUR: STL, @NYG, bye, WAS
31. Carolina Panthers (0-4)
Carolina had so little success with Matt Moore, they’ve already begun the Jimmy Clausen era. While he hasn’t been too bad, Carolina should remember that their strength has always been with their running game, which has been substandard for the most part this season.
NEXT FOUR: CHI, bye, SF, @STL
32. Buffalo Bills (0-4)
Trent Edwards is gone. Marshawn Lynch is gone. Buffalo doesn’t have much of a defense. Chan Gailey’s first season with the Bills has been a rather awful one and not even games at home against the Lions and Browns seem very winnable at this point.
NEXT FOUR: JAC, bye, @BAL, @KC