By David Helman
FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer
Not since Jimmy Eat World has the middle been this popular.
Pardon the truly horrific wordplay, but that’s the song I find myself singing as I put together these latest power rankings, sorting out the middle of a league that looks more wide open than ever. As long as your team looks passable, don’t write yourself off yet.
San Francisco’s romp over the L.A. Rams on Monday night hammered the point home. The entire NFC West sits at 2-2 — a microcosm of a league where 15 of 32 teams are sitting at that same .500 record. A mere seven teams have winning records, and perhaps most impressively, only one team is still without a win after four games.
And then of course, there’s just one unbeaten remaining, and that’s where we’ll start this week. But remember, no matter how much you may disagree with my rankings, “everything, everything will be alright.”
1. Philadelphia Eagles: And then there was one. A Thursday night loss by Miami, coupled with Sunday’s 29-21 win against Jacksonville, leaves the Eagles at the top as the NFL’s lone unbeaten after four weeks. On a nasty, rainy day in Philly, the Eagles’ ground game and pass-rush flexed their muscles in a game they largely controlled after a slow start.
Are Eagles clearly the best team in the league?
The Eagles came from behind to defeat the Jaguars 29-21 in Week 4. LeSean McCoy explains why his Eagles are the best team in the NFL.
2. Buffalo Bills: Win your clunkers, as my friends over at The Solid Verbal podcast like to say. No one’s going to confuse this with a classic. But rainy conditions make things tough on a high-flying offense like Buffalo’s, and the Bills still managed to roar back from a 20-3 deficit against the Ravens. Not Josh Allen‘s most amazing day, but he led his offense 75 yards when it mattered most. Even more importantly, he chewed up four minutes of clock on the way to the game-winning kick, denying Baltimore a chance to answer.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: Yeah, the Chiefs are probably going to be alright. One week after a head-scratching loss to the lowly Colts, they shredded the best defense in football to the tune of 417 yards and 41 points. This was Patrick Mahomes at his magical best, spreading the ball to eight receivers for three touchdowns and trying throws most others can only dream about. For now, they get ranked below the Bills because of that Colts loss, but those two teams get to lock horns in Week 6 and settle it on the field. Can’t wait.
Patrick Mahomes bests Tom Brady, Chiefs redeemed in Week 4
This win pushes Nick Wright to call for everyone to admit that Mahomes looks like the best QB in the league — not Brady, or Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.
4. Miami Dolphins: It’s hard to evaluate where things stand with the Dolphins until we know more about Tua Tagovailoa. And after watching him get carted off the field just before halftime on Thursday night, it’s hard to care about more than his health. The injury puts a damper on an exciting start to Miami’s season, and hopefully it won’t impact Tagovailoa long-term.
5. Minnesota Vikings: Truth be told, it shouldn’t have been so stressful. The Vikings’ defense and special teams set them up with two big takeaways in Saints territory, and they just couldn’t capitalize. Minnesota was 2-of-5 in the red zone, which is how the outcome winds up coming down to the final play. However it might happen, though, they avoided overtime. Working out the kinks is way more tolerable at 3-1.
6. Green Bay Packers: A win’s a win, but it’s hard to fathom how Green Bay needed four quarters and every snap of overtime to put away a Patriots team that was down to its third-string quarterback. It’s not even that the offense was clunky — that’s to be expected as the Packers figure out who they are. Don’t overlook the fact that their defense surrendered two second-half touchdown drives to Bailey Zappe, who was making his first career NFL appearance.
7. Baltimore Ravens: I’m never going to roast coaches for being aggressive, because not enough of them are willing to do it. But this felt like an occasion for caution. It was rainy and sloppy in Baltimore, and both offenses had struggled to find the end zone. Why, then, would John Harbaugh pass up a go-ahead field goal from the 2-yard line with just four minutes to play? That miscue also overshadows the fact that the Ravens have choked away a big second-half lead in both of their losses this season.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Granted, the Chiefs make a lot of defenses look silly. But given that defense is the strength of this team, and the thing that has kept the Bucs afloat through the first month of the season, it was disconcerting to see them get gashed so thoroughly on Sunday night. Fortunately for them, the schedule eases up a bit after a brutal start.
9. Dallas Cowboys: No quarterback in Cowboys history had ever started his career 4-0 — not Dak Prescott, nor Troy Aikman nor even Roger Staubach. Until Cooper Rush. The Cowboys’ backup is the talk of the NFL, as he continued to press all the right buttons en route to a dominant win over Washington. Of course, having a defense that can fluster Carson Wentz into two sacks, 11 QB hits, two grounding penalties and two interceptions doesn’t hurt either.
Cowboys defeat Commanders, move to 3-1 on the season
Emmanuel Acho, LeSean McCoy, David Helman and Joy Taylor discuss the Cowboys’ latest win. The crew debate whether it says more about the Cowboys’ defense or Cooper Rush and the offense.
10. San Francisco 49ers: Well, that looked familiar. The 49ers got a few big plays from their skill players — most notably Deebo Samuel in this instance — and let an incredible defense do the rest against the Rams. When the 49ers are clicking like this and making life that difficult on the opposing quarterback, it almost doesn’t matter who’s calling the huddle for their own guys.
11. Los Angeles Rams: Is it OK to be worried about the Rams’ offensive line? The protection last year was an underrated aspect of this team’s success, and it’s so jarring to watch this offense try to function with such a depleted situation up front. It’s easy to pile on Matthew Stafford because of his reputation as a gunslinger, but the guy hardly had a chance against a ferocious 49ers front. It’s going to be tough sledding all year for L.A. if there’s no improvement in that regard.
12. Cincinnati Bengals: It’s too early to say the Bengals have fixed all their problems, especially since Tua Tagovailoa exited early on Thursday night. But they did a much better job of protecting Joe Burrow against a solid Miami pass rush, and they got key plays on defense. A big test is waiting this week in Baltimore.
13. New York Giants: Are the Giants really as good as this ranking suggests? Maybe not. It’s hard to take a team that threw for 71 yards against the Chicago Bears seriously. But 3-1 is 3-1, and both Saquon Barkley and the New York defense have been bright spots in the early season.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars: For about 30 minutes, it looked like the Jags were about to put the entire league on notice. Then the second quarter started. Rainy conditions are a pain to deal with, but five turnovers — four of them fumbles — in an NFL game just isn’t going to cut it. Two of those happened in Eagles territory, and Trevor Lawrence was intercepted in the red zone. Not good enough, which has to be disappointing for them after jumping out to a 14-0 lead.
15. Arizona Cardinals: A win is a win, but the Cardinals stay right where they were after arguably the most forgettable game of the NFL season. Marquise Brown did make a circus catch to put the game away, but other than that, it was hardly an inspiring day for the Arizona offense. The defense put in a nice effort against Baker Mayfield & Co., but given the state of the Panthers, it’s fair to wonder how impressive that really is.
Cardinals’ defense forces three turnovers in victory over Panthers
The defense led Arizona to a win against Carolina in Week 4.
16. Los Angeles Chargers: Let’s not overreact to a win against Houston — especially since the Chargers allowed the Texans to crawl back into the game. Still, with everything L.A. is missing from the lineup, it was encouraging to see Justin Herbert look like Justin Herbert, while Austin Ekeler had his best game of the season.
17. Cleveland Browns: The Browns need to get healthier on defense, stat. Thankfully, Myles Garrett is mostly OK after that scary car accident last week, but the Cleveland defense looked awfully leaky without Garrett or Jadeveon Clowney.
18. Tennessee Titans: Is it too simplistic to say that the Titans’ viability hinges on their ability to get Derrick Henry going? Probably, but it’s hard not to notice that Henry helped Tennessee race out to a 24-3 lead over Indy despite a pedestrian day from Ryan Tannehill. Winning the turnover battle 3-0 against a woeful Colts offense didn’t hurt, either.
19. Denver Broncos: Yes, it’s counterintuitive to have the Broncos ranked above a Las Vegas team that just beat them. But the Raiders are 1-3 and it’s hard to make complete sense of the logjam of teams stuck in the middle of this league. Even in defeat, the Broncos showed glimpses of being more competent on offense — which would be a step in the right direction.
Is Nathaniel Hackett on the hot seat with Broncos’ slow start?
The Broncos fell to the Raiders 32-23 in Week 4 and are now 2-2. Does this mean new coach Nathaniel Hackett is officially on the hot seat? Colin Cowherd weighs in.
20. Las Vegas Raiders: It’s a lofty ranking for a team that’s 1-3, but again — there’s too much talent on this roster to believe the Raiders are as bad as they’ve looked. Sunday’s win wasn’t even particularly pretty, but the Raiders ran the ball effectively, got Davante Adams involved and made complementary plays on defense. There’s a recipe for success there, but it’s going to be tested mightily against the Chiefs on Monday night.
21. New England Patriots: There are no moral victories in the NFL, but maybe we can make an exception for New England. Already without Mac Jones, the Patriots lost Brian Hoyer to injury early in this game and had to turn to untested rookie Bailey Zappe. With some help from a feisty New England defense and a surprisingly effective offensive scheme, Zappe took it all the way to the wire in defeat. The record is still 1-3, but it feels a heck of a lot better than it could.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Perfect timing for the Kenny Pickett Era to begin, because this team was starting to look incredibly uninteresting. Yes, the Steelers lost a third straight game and Pickett did throw three interceptions after replacing Mitchell Trubisky. But already we’ve seen signs of a more dynamic offense with the rookie in charge. Good luck, Kenny. The Bills are on deck.
Steelers expected to move forward with Kenny Pickett
The Steelers are reportedly sticking with Kenny Pickett as the team’s starting QB moving forward. Emmanuel Acho, LeSean McCoy, Joy Taylor and David Helman react to the news.
23. Atlanta Falcons: It shouldn’t be surprising that Arthur Smith has the Falcons’ ground game clicking, considering what he was able to do with Tennessee’s rushing attack in years past. The Falcons managed to get a win against a banged-up Browns team despite completing only seven passes, thanks to their effectiveness with the run. Doesn’t seem like a recipe for long-term success, but it’s interesting at the very least.
24. Seattle Seahawks: Maybe the Seahawks aren’t great, but they’re a lot more fun than anyone could’ve guessed. Granted, part of that is a product of playing Detroit’s woeful defense. But it’s hard not to be impressed by Seattle putting up a fantasy football player’s dream day, highlighted by Geno Smith‘s 369 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. We’ll see what it means in the long run, but let’s just give the Seahawks some props for being fun to watch.
25. Detroit Lions: How is it possible that a team averaging 35 points per game is currently sitting on a 1-3 record, with that one win coming against the lowly Commanders? (A topic Carmen Vitali touched on yesterday!) It’s even more impressive the Lions were able to put up 45 points on Sunday considering who they didn’t have — Amon-Ra St. Brown, D.J. Chark and D’Andre Swift, among others. But until they find a way to get a stop, it’s hard to say how much any of it matters.
26. New Orleans Saints: This might have been the most painful of the Saints’ three straight losses, and not just because of the double-doink field-goal miss. New Orleans got a strong effort from backup quarterback Andy Dalton, and it forced a tie with less than two minutes to play. The Saints just couldn’t find an answer for Vikings WR Justin Jefferson — and a whopping 10 penalties didn’t help, either.
27. New York Jets: It was far from the best performance of the weekend, and maybe the Steelers aren’t actually any good. The point remains: Zach Wilson and the Jets trailed by 10 with less than one quarter to play, and they rallied to win. Wilson drove his offense down the field on each of his last two possessions to take the lead, and a team that we keep writing off keeps fighting its way back to .500.
Zach Wilson’s season debut results in Week 4 win for Jets
Craig Carton starts off this week celebrating after his New York Jets and New York Giants both won in Week 4. Mark Schlereth also shares his thoughts on Robert Saleh as a coach, and elicits a dubious response from Craig as a result.
28. Chicago Bears: It feels problematic that you can look at Justin Fields‘ stat line from Sunday’s loss to the Giants — 11-of-22 for 174, no touchdowns and no picks — and feel encouraged. That’s how bleak the offensive situation looks in Chicago. It’s fair to point out that the Bears don’t seem to have any kind of identity, but it’s also fair to wonder how much that even matters when your quarterback gets sacked six times.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Perhaps the surprising win against the Chiefs was fool’s gold, because this looked like more of the same from one of the most disappointing teams in the league. The Colts’ run game was supposed to be a dominant force, and instead it has looked toothless in three of four games. That’s just one problem of many, but it feels like the most glaring. Ben Arthur’s warning about the Colts’ trench issues despite the league’s highest-paid offensive line seems prescient.
30. Washington Commanders: The Carson Wentz Experience is starting to look awfully familiar. Harassed by the Cowboys’ pass rush all day, Wentz threw two picks and was hurried into two brutal intentional grounding penalties. To make matters worse, the Washington secondary got picked on by Cooper Rush and his receivers. The Commanders’ defensive front is nice enough. Beyond that, it’s hard to identify much they’re good at.
31. Houston Texans: One thing you’ve got to admit is the Texans fight. Down 27-7 going into the half, they scored 17 unanswered to at least make the Chargers uncomfortable. The bottom line, though, is this was still a two-possession loss and a game the Texans never led. With the Raiders getting into the win column, Houston is now the only winless team in the league.
32. Carolina Panthers: The Texans might be winless, but no team in the NFL played a more brutal game than Carolina this week. The final score says the Panthers lost in respectable fashion — 26-16 to Arizona. But man, this was tough to watch. Baker Mayfield couldn’t get anything going, as there was no rhythm in the passing game and no room in the running game. Finishing with 220 yards of offense when you have your starting quarterback in the game is hard to wrap your head around.
David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter @davidhelman_.
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