1. New England Patriots (4-0) Def. Dallas 30-6. Previously: 1
This was New England’s seventh straight win, dating back to last season’s playoffs. They’ve had some luck facing the Cowboys and Steelers without several stars, but they haven’t taken their foot off the pedal.
2. Green Bay Packers (5-0) Def. St. Louis 24-10. Previously: 2
Aaron Rodgers' interception streak ended, but the real story Sunday was the Green Bay defense, which pressured Nick Foles into four interceptions. Stud quarterbacks and ball-hawking defenses are a pretty good combination come playoff time, just ask the 2009 Saints.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (5-0) Def. Seattle 27-24 (OT.) Previously: 3
Maybe, this isn’t our same old Bengals team. Through three quarters Sunday it looked that way, but give Cincinnati credit for refusing to fold and putting up a monster fourth quarter against the Seattle defense that had been bullying them all day.
4. Arizona Cardinals (4-1) Def. Detroit 42-17. Previously: 5
Arizona bounced back well from their first defeat of the season by dispatching the Lions in much the same blowout fashion they’d won their first three. Also encouraging: the return of Andre Ellington, who replaced Chris Johnson with the game well in hand and scored on a 63-yard touchdown run.
5. Denver Broncos (5-0) Def. Oakland 16-10. Previously: 4
The defense is playing better than any in football, but at this rate questions about the offense are going to follow them throughout the season as Peyton Manning continues to, if not struggle, not look like Peyton Manning, and the running game continues to fail to accomplish anything.
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6. Atlanta Falcons (5-0) Def. Washington 25-19 (OT.) Previously: 6
So far this season we’ve all looked at Atlanta and said we believe in the offense, what about the defense? This was their week. With Julio Jones banged up, Matt Ryan throwing interceptions (and okay, Devonta Freeman continuing to tear up) it was the defense that kept Washington at bay and ultimately, won the game on Robert Alford’s overtime pick six.
7. Carolina Panthers (4-0) Bye. Previously: 7
East to west isn’t an easy trip, but it’s better than the alternative. The Seahawks have to be the favorite at home, don’t they? Maybe not. So far this season, the Panthers have been the team showing the just win mentality that characterized Seattle teams of the past, but this is clearly their biggest test yet.
8. New York Jets (3-1) Bye. Previously: 11
If they can stay focused on the here and now against the Redskins this week, the Jets might be 4-1 heading into a Week 7 matchup in Foxboro.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) Def. San Diego 24-20 Previously: 15
It took all game, but when Mike Vick and the rest of the Steelers’ offense clicked it was beautiful. An overtime loss to Baltimore because of missed field goals and a win in San Diego are a pretty good two weeks spent without Ben Roethlisberger, and it says good things about the team that awaits him when he returns.
10. Minnesota Vikings (2-2) Bye. Previously: 12
The Vikings get two weeks to prepare for the Chiefs, but the first week might have to be thrown out after the news that Jamaal Charles has torn his ACL. This puts a damper on a potential exciting Adrian Peterson-Charles matchup at running back, but it does increase the chance the Vikings will see 3-2.
11. Indianapolis Colts (3-2) Def. Houston 27-20. Previously: 16
The Colts could probably go 8-8 and win the division, because they’d be 8-0 in the division. That said, they’re showing improvement all around after that wretched start to the season. If Andre Johnson can start performing against teams he hasn’t played for, it would be a big help.
12. St. Louis Rams (2-3) Lost to Green Bay 24-10. Previously: 8
The idea that Todd Gurley’s arrival on the scene could help Nick Foles wasn’t on display in Green Bay, as the Packers intercepted Foles four times. This is still a maddeningly inconsistent team, but it looks like Gurley on the ground will give them some semblance of an offense every week.
13. Seattle Seahawks (2-3) Lost to Cincinnati 27-24 (OT.) Previously: 9
Well, Thomas Rawls made sure nobody missed Marshawn Lynch, but this is the second game in a row where Seattle’s defense has allowed potential game winning drives to go right up the field. Between that and coming out flat in multiple games, the killer instinct is missing in Seattle.
14. Buffalo Bills (3-2) Def. Tennessee 14-13. Previously: 10
Tyrod Taylor stepped up and delivered a win, and it certainly wasn't easy (as it had been in blowout victories over Indianapolis and Miami). It's a big step in his development. It looked like a second disappointing week in a row for Buffalo, before Taylor took over the game with some huge quarterback runs.
15. San Diego Chargers (2-3) Lost to Pittsburgh 24-20. Previously: 14
Just one of San Diego’s games so far this season (their 31-14 loss to the Vikings) has been decided by more than five points. It makes for an exciting season, but the Chargers have to start being on the right end of more of those five point spreads. This was one they let get away.
16. New York Giants (3-2) Def. San Francisco 30-27. Previously: 17
If this is the Eli Manning the Giants are getting this season, they have to be the favorites in the NFC East, at least while the Cowboys recover. Yes, a win against the Niners that took 58 minutes and 38 seconds and one leaping catch to come by isn’t the most resounding victory, but it puts them in first place in their division.
17. Chicago Bears (2-3) Def. Kansas City 18-17. Previously: 30
Suddenly that strong performance against Green Bay in the opener looks less like an aberration than it had. This was an impressive comeback, led by Jay Cutler, and featuring a defense that limited the Chiefs to 287 yards a week after they had 461 against the Bengals.
18. Washington Redskins (2-3) Lost to Atlanta 25-19 (OT.) Previously: 21
Where oh where has the running game gone in Washington? When Matt Jones and Alfred Morris are both held to 20 yards or less, any quarterback is going to throw interceptions. This was a better Redskins defense than we’ve seen in the past, as grabbing turnovers kept them in a game they were outgained in 418-270.
19. Oakland Raiders (2-3) Lost to Denver 16-10. Previously: 19
Give Oakland credit for giving Denver a good fight after a heartbreaking loss to the Bears last weekend. The defense is inconsistent to say the least, but they showed up in a big way against Denver’s struggling offense Sunday to keep the Raiders in the game.
20. Kansas City Chiefs (1-4) Lost to Chicago 18-17. Previously: 13
For three weeks, the argument that the Chiefs had simply lost close games to very good opposition was a valid one. Now? Not only have they lost to the Bears, they’ve lose their best player and are facing games against the Vikings and Steelers. They’re staring 1-6 in the face.
21. Dallas Cowboys (2-3) Lost to New England 30-6. Previously: 18
It is what it is in Dallas. A challenge to grind out enough wins while decimated by injuries that they still have a shot at the playoffs once those stars come back. Last week in New Orleans was one they could have had. This game never was. Now they have a bye to decide if Brandon Weeden is still the quarterback for them.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) Def. New Orleans 39-17. Previously: 23
The Eagles sort of put two halves together for the first time this season Sunday, although two threatening first half drives ended in redzone interceptions. This was the offense and defenses’ best performance yet, and that’s a good place to be.
23. Cleveland Browns (2-3) Def. Baltimore 33-30 (OT.) Previously: 29
When Josh McCown throws for twice as many yards as Joe Flacco, maybe it’s not so surprising to see the Browns come out on top. A new receiver is appearing in Cleveland every week it seems. Who needs Josh Gordon?
24. Baltimore Ravens (1-4) Lost to Cleveland 33-30 (OT.) Previously: 20
Similarly, when Josh McCown throws for twice as many yards as Joe Flacco, something is very wrong in Baltimore, and it’s a defense that has now been shredded by the Browns and Raiders. The Browns and the Raiders.
25. Tennessee Titans (1-3) Lost to Buffalo 14-13. Previously: 31
This was the second straight game the Titans have blown a lead at home. They’re talented, and that will keep them playing with their opponents, but they’re inexperienced, and that might keep them blowing games. They’ll be the first team with a shot at Dan Campbell’s Miami Dolphins.
26. Miami Dolphins (1-3) Bye. Previously: 25
If there’s ever a good time to fire your coach, entering the bye week is probably it. New head coach Dan Campbell will start trying to turn around the season at Tennessee. There are worse options.
27. Houston Texans (1-4) Lost to Indianapolis 27-20. Previously: 26
Arian Foster returning and playing effectively is promising, but this is where you find yourself when you don’t have a quarterback. Until April anyway, when you find yourself at the top of the draft, drafting a quarterback.
28. San Francisco 49ers (1-4) Lost to New York Giants 30-27. Previously: 27
Isn’t losing this way more exciting than getting blown out every week? That being said, this was a step in the right direction for San Francisco and perhaps, even more importantly Colin Kaepernick, who was coming off two unbelievably poor performances.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) Def. Jacksonville 38-31. Previously: 32
Doug Martin and the ground game getting it going like they did on Sunday changes everything for Tampa Bay. If they can keep that up, Jameis Winston will feel less pressure to be perfect, and, maybe – cut down on turnovers.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) Lost to Tampa Bay 38-31. Previously: 24
Blake Bortles and the offense keep growing, and you have to think the sky is the limit as they continue to gain experience in the NFL.
31. New Orleans Saints (1-4) Lost to Philadelphia 39-17. Previously: 28
One week after avoiding 0-4 against the Cowboys, the Saints played badly enough to let Philadelphia’s offense get on track. They might not be the worst team, but Drew Brees is just about the only reason why.
32. Detroit Lions (0-5) Lost to Arizona 42-17. Previously: 22
Should they have a win? Yes. Do they? No. Like, Kansas City, the argument that they’ve lost close games to quality opposition only holds for so long. A week after “almost” leading a game winning drive against Seattle, Matthew Stafford played so poorly he was benched. This team is lost.