1. Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) Def. Houston 42-34. Last Week: 1
And there’s your road win against a suddenly fearsome opponent. The Chiefs appear to have it all clicking while several of the other top AFC contenders have been having pretty glaring weaknesses exposed. They’re about to host one of those strugglers, the Steelers, who embarrassed Kansas City 43-14 a season ago in Pittsburgh. Last year, Pittsburgh was coming off a 34-3 loss to Philadelphia. This year? A 30-9 stinker against Jacksonville. Can the Chiefs avoid a repeat?
2. Green Bay Packers (4-1) Def. Dallas 35-31. Last Week: 5
It’s a great thing Davante Adams had that long week to get back to the field, for Packers fans and football fans alike. Aaron Rodgers is outstanding, and he’s the reason that as long as Green Bay keeps winning they’ll always feature higher on this list than some close competition, but somebody has to make those highlight reel catches. Aaron Jones looked suspciously like a feature back for this team Sunday evening. Who’d have thought?
3. Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) Def. Arizona 34-7. Last Week: 7
Already one-and-a-half games clear of their nearest competition in the NFC East, the Eagles are looking to keep proving they belong among the contenders in the NFC. Carson Wentz turned in some of the best throws of his young career, hitting Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor for 59 and 72 yard touchdowns. A bust through two seasons, Agholor is the Eagles leading wide receiver through five games this season, with more yards and touchdowns than Smith or Alshon Jeffery.
4. Carolina Panthers (4-1) Def. Detroit 27-24. Last Week: 9
What back-to-back road wins for the Panthers. Cam Newton might be making the wrong headlines off the field, but he’s making all the right ones on it the past two weeks, with 671 passing yards, six touchdowns and just one interception over the last two games. The top of this list is sure to get a shakeup after their Thursday night matchup with the Eagles. That’s right, a primetime matchup of good teams is about to happen.
5. Denver Broncos (3-1) Bye. Last Week: 3
It’s hard to think of a much more lopsided matchup than the one that is about to happen this week in Denver between the Giants’ suddenly decimated receiving corps and the Broncos star-studded secondary. It’s a shame, because at the start of the season you’d have to have circled this matchup as one of the best battles-within-a-game around.
6. Atlanta Falcons (3-1) Bye. Last Week: 6
The Falcons, after losing a bevy of players in Week 4, have to feel lucky they missed out on the injury ridden week that was this past one in the NFL. Even better news is that it looks like Julio Jones, et. al will be available for this weeks game. Even better news is that that game is at home against the Dolphins.
7. Detroit Lions (3-2) Lost to Carolina 27-24. Last Week: 4
Falling behind dragged Detroit out of their new offensive style this season, but their ability to mount a comeback was still on display Sunday against the Panthers. They’ll try and get back to the run and avoid another shootout this week against the Saints. Yeah, that should be about exactly as easy as it sounds.
8. New England Patriots (3-2) Def. Buccaneers 19-14. Last Week: 12
No matter how badly the Patriots struggled on defense the first four weeks of the season, you never really expected the adjustment wouldn’t be coming, did you? And there it was on display Thursday night, on a short week, on the road against a team loaded with offensive weapons. The Patriots came out and refused to let the Buccaneers play their vertical game and frustrated them for four quarters Thursday. Despite Jameis Winston’s final gaudy stats this was a completely different performance than this defense has had this season.
9. Buffalo Bills (3-2) Lost to Cincinnati 20-16. Last Week: 2
It was a short stay for the Bills towards the top of this list, but they had earned it, and don’t write them off after a road loss to a Cincinnati team that looks very different from the dismal squad that opened the season. They get the bye to try and figure out an offense that is going to have to do more if this team is going to do more than be “better than expected.”
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) Def. Pittsburgh 30-9. Last Week: 23
Sunday’s game was exactly what the Jaguars want this season: 181 yards and two touchdowns (including a 90-yarder!) from Leonard Fournette, and 14 attempts and only one interception from Blake Bortles. It’s hard to overstate how much Fournette’s arrival has changed the run game in Jacksonville. A year ago T.J. Yeldon finished the season leading the team with 465 yards. This year, Fournette is at 466 and the Jaguars rank first in the league.
11. Seattle Seahawks (3-2) Def. Los Angeles Rams 16-10. Last Week: 18
Without Chris Carson, it looks strictly like a running back by committee situation in Seattle for the time being. Neither Thomas Rawls (eight carries for 20 yards) or Eddie Lacy (nine for 19) made the job theirs, and J.D. McKissic was more of a factor in the passing game (three catches, 36 yards) than he was in the rushing.
12. Washington (2-2) Bye. Last Week: 13
A pretty good bye week for Washington, who got to get healthier while watching Dallas and the Giants lose, and New York do anything but get healthier. They still fell further behind the Eagles in the division, who they’ve already dropped one game to this season, so they’ll have to prevent any slipups against the 49ers this coming weekend.
13. Los Angeles Rams (3-2) Lost to Seattle 16-10. Last Week: 10
It’s still the Seahawks’ division until further notice then. The Legion of Boom put the brakes on Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and the Rams breakout offense with a couple picks, a couple sacks, and a couple forced fumbles. Los Angeles has to clean that up, as they’re about to face a Jacksonville squad that just intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five (!) times.
14. Houston Texans (2-3) Lost to Kansas City 42-34. Last Week: 11
Call it garbage time highlights all you want, but after ten touchdowns over the last two games, it appears the Texans have found their quarterback. That only partially blunts the pain over what they’ve lost, however, which is J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season. In the case of Watt, it’s the second season in a row dismantled by injury for the three-time AFC Defensive Player of the Year.
15. New Orleans Saints (2-2) Bye. Last Week: 16
The biggest news out of the Saints bye week is their trade of Adrian Peterson, breaking Tuesday, to the Cardinals. Getting anything for Peterson has to be considered a success for the Saints, as the running back was clearly not fitting into his new surroundings. Now the team can focus on Alvin Kamara, as they should.
16. Minnesota Vikings (3-2) Def. Chicago 20-17. Last Week: 19
Things couldn’t have gone much more differently for Sam Bradford than his season debut than they did in his (brief) return from injury Monday night. Case Keenum, Jerrick McKinnon (146 total yards and the clear early favorite at rb) and the Vikings defense did enough afterwards to sink the Bears. It remains to be seen if they’ll be enough against the Packers.
17. New York Jets (3-2) Def. Cleveland 17-14 Last Week: 21
Three wins in a row for a team that probably wasn’t supposed to win that many this season. It’s about to get a lot tougher for New York with New England in town this week, but this team evidently knows how to win. How else do you explain winning on the road when Cleveland outgains you 419-212? (You explain it with turnovers.)
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) Lost to Jacksonville 30-9. Last Week: 8
If Ben Roethlisberger’s post game comments weren’t disheartening enough, his play certainly has been. He has more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six) this season and is posting his lowest QB rating (75.8) since his third season and lowest yards per attempt (6.5) ever. What’s wrong in Pittsburgh?
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) Lost to New England 19-14. Last Week: 15
It seems like if Tampa had just been willing to take a little more of what New England gave them (and they were willing to give a good bit – see Doug Martin’s 13 carries for 74 yards in his return to action) things might have gone different in Tampa Bay last Thursday. Chemistry is starting to be there between Winston and his receivers, but it isn’t perfect yet.
20. Dallas Cowboys (2-3) Lost to Green Bay 35-31. Last Week: 14
Are the Cowboys better than some of the teams in front of them? Probably. Has Dak Prescott been playing lights out this season? Absolutely. Did Dallas leave Aaron Rodgers too much time once again? Definitely.
21. Baltimore Ravens (3-2) Def. Oakland 30-17. Last Week: 25
Mike Wallace still has a big play or three in him, which is exactly what Joe Flacco (with a 28 yard game and four interceptions during the last two weeks) needed. Buck Allen getting back to the endzone (21 carries for 73 yards and the score) is exactly what Baltimore needed.
22. Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) Def. Buffalo 20-16. Last Week: 26
A.J. Green has been on an absolute tear – his latest effort: seven catches for 189 yards and a touchdown – and it’s starting to open up room for the running game. Joe Mixon has been getting carries for weeks now, but he’s starting to get yards and touchdowns to go with them.
23. Oakland Raiders (2-3) Lost to Baltimore 30-17. Last Week: 17
It seemed unlikely a switch from Derek Carr to E.J. Manuel would be what fixes the Oakland offense, but this situation passed troubling long ago. From the world of truly horrifying statistics: Amari Cooper has failed to hit ten receiving yards in any of the last three games, totalling four catches for 23 yards.
24. Indianapolis Colts (2-3) Def. San Francisco 26-23 (OT.) Last Week: 27
Another game without Luck is in store this week against the reeling Titans, if Chuck Pagano is to be believed. Still, whomever is quarterback for the Colts, they’ll always have T.Y. Hilton. In his first action since Week 2, Marlon Mack turned in a very different statline: nine carries for 91 yards is a lot nicer than the six for negative three he had three weeks ago.
25. Miami Dolphins (2-2) Def. Tennessee 16-10. Last Week: 28
The Dolphins really know how to spread the ball around. Of the 12 whole passes Miami completed Sunday, seven went to different receivers. That wasn’t enough to get them over 100 yards passing. Or rushing. But how often to you gain 178 yards and get to say you won?
26. Tennessee Titans (2-3) Lost to Miami 16-10. Last Week: 20
Speaking of the reeling Titans, how often do you allow 178 yards and lose? When you’re only gaining 188 yourself, it’s probably more common. To exactly noone’s surprise, the offense was less dynamic with Matt Cassel behind center than Marcus Mariota. But where has Derrick Henry gone? After 27 carries in Weeks 2 and 3, he’s got just 10 over the last two weeks.
27. Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) Def. New York Giants 27-22. Last Week: 30
Something had to give when the Chargers met the Giants, unless a tie was in the works. Give credit to the 0-4 team that traveled the country and played at 10 a.m. on their local clocks, because they’re the one that came away with their first win. After serious kicking struggles the first four weeks, Nick Novak was an easy two-for-two in his first game.
28. Arizona Cardinals (2-3) Lost to Philadelphia 34-7. Last Week: 22
Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are playing their regular games, but without a running game opponents can just pin their ears back and come at an offensive line that’s leaking pass rushers every play. Maybe acquiring Adrian Peterson will fix that, but it’s less likely he’ll do anything to prevent their once feared secondary from being picked apart.
29. Chicago Bears (1-4) Lost to Minnesota 20-17. Last Week: 24
The Mitch Trubisky show looked okay in Chicago, but the turnovers are what the Bears are likely to be dealing with for awhile. Of more note was the really fearsome performance by the Bears pass rush, with Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks noticing two sacks apiece and terrorizing both quarterbacks the Vikings sent out Monday.
30. New York Giants (0-5) Lost to San Diego 27-22. Last Week: 29
The Giants suffered truly absurd and devastating losses Sunday, along with their now commonplace one in the win-loss column. Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Dwayne Harris all suffered season-ending injuries against the Chargers. Sterling Shepard, the only surviving receiver, injured his ankle as well, to much less serious extent.
31. San Francisco 49ers (0-5) Lost to Indianapolis 26-23 (OT.) Last Week: 31
Back-to-back overtime losses for the 49ers. The good news is the passing offense continues to hum, resulting in a bunch of yards. Now just for those pesky points.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-5) Lost to New York Jets 17-14. Last Week: 32
After Week 1, we said the Browns might not turn to their 25th starting quarterback for awhile. Sorry.