Philip Rivers Chargers power rankings Philip Rivers and the Chargers could soon surge into the No. 1 slot. Credit: Getty Images

1. Seattle Seahawks (3-1): The Seahawks hadn’t played since Sept. 21 prior to Monday night’s 27-17 win in Landover, Maryland over the Redskins. The champs looked rusty in that they had several big plays called back due to penalties and the defense was less than stellar as Kirk Cousins looked mighty comfortable in the pocket. The Seahawks will likely expose the Cowboys for the frauds that they are this Sunday in Seattle and they have something close to a bye the following week when they play at St. Louis.

2. Denver Broncos (3-1): Remember a few years back when most NFL observers were convinced that Peyton Manning would be a shell of himself due to the neck issues? Seems like eons ago. Manning threw for 479 yards and four touchdowns as the Broncos offense carved up Arizona Sunday at Mile High.

3. San Diego Chargers (4-1): We don’t buy Geno Smith’s West Coast time excuse, but even if Smith had been a half hour early for that meeting, the Chargers were still going whip the Jets on Sunday. Maybe Branden Oliver is a one hit wonder, but if he can actually play the Chargers could soon supplant Denver as the favorite in the AFC. FYI – the first Broncos/Chargers meeting is Oct. 23.


4. Arizona Cardinals (3-1): Glancing around the Internet, some other outlets are dropping the Cards pretty far in their rankings. We’re the nice guys that will give them a pass for their 21-point loss in Denver. At the end of the day, it was still Drew Stanton vs. Peyton Manning. Carson Palmer is currently getting his “muscles stimulated” (sounds dirty) and it looks as though he could be back very soon.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (4-1): It was chic to rag on the NFC East in the pre-season. But as of now, the division owns two 4-1 teams in the Eagles and Cowboys, a red-hot Giants team and a Redskins team that went toe-to-toe with the defending champs on Monday. It might not last, but this is far from the worst division in football.

6. Green Bay Packers (3-2): Green Bay’s seven-point performance against the Lions on Sept. 21 appears to have been a wake-up call. The Packers scored 38 points against the Bears in Week 4 and posted 42 points on the Vikings this past Sunday.

7. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1): No one was beating the Patriots in Foxboro this past Sunday night, but we really need to see the Bengals step up when the lights are bright one of these days … or years. Marvin Lewis is dangerously close to becoming this generation’s Marty Schottenheimer.

8. Dallas Cowboys (4-1): It’s too easy to poke fun at the 4-1 record and they’re almost sure to get their comeuppance Sunday in Seattle. But talent is talent and there are few teams in the league that wouldn’t give an arm and a leg to have the 2014 versions of DeMarco Murray or Dez Byant on their roster.

9. Indianapolis Colts (3-2): The Colts have been thought of as nothing more than “Andrew Luck and a bunch of Jimmy’s and Joe’s” the past couple of years. But that defense looked awfully good in Sunday’s win over the Ravens. This team could soon be ready to challenge the likes of the Broncos and Chargers in the AFC.

10. San Francisco 49ers (3-2): It’s possible to go very deep in the NFL postseason even if your coach and front office do not see eye-to-eye (see Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys and Bill Parcells’ Patriots). Little chance that Jim Harbaugh is coaching in Santa Clara next year, but this 2014 team still has a shot to do some things.

11. Baltimore Ravens (3-2): The Ravens have endured a brutal schedule to start the 2014 season but catch a break this Sunday when they travel to Tampa Bay to face the Bucs. Joe Flacco had a rough outing Sunday against the Colts but his overall numbers are solid this season (seven touchdowns, three interceptions).

12. New York Giants (3-2): Odell Beckham Jr.’s touchdown celebration against Atlanta was delightfully spastic and the overall excitement regarding the Giants offense is gaining steam by the week. The game at Philly this Sunday night will be a great test to see exactly where we’re at with the Giants.

13. New England Patriots (3-2): Beyond the Tom Brady love from Sunday night, Rob Gronkowski finally looked like Rob Gronkowski again and Tim Wright looked a whole lot like that guy who is sitting in a Massachusetts prison cell right now (on-field activity only). When in doubt, the Pats offense should go to its tight ends again and again going forward.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2): The Steelers offense did not score any points in the second half against Jacksonville as they were bailed out in the fourth quarter by Brice McCain’s 22-yard interception return for a touchdown. The Steelers are 3-2, but they surely aren’t winning pretty.

15. Detroit Lions (3-2): In most every decade, you’re supposed to beat the Buffalo Bills at home. We don’t care if your best receiver (Calvin Johnson) and best running back (Reggie Bush) are banged up. It’s no excuse. Good teams find a way against the Buffalo Bills at home.

16. Carolina Panthers (3-2): The Ravens scored 38 points against the Panthers in Week 4 but the Carolina defense responded in Week 5 against the Bears with a strong effort. The Panthers “D” forced four Bears turnovers in a seven-point win.

17. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3): Alex Smith’s expert “game management” was just not effective against his former team, the 49ers, Sunday as Smith threw for just 175 yards on 17-of-31 passing. The Chiefs’ blowout win over the Patriots 10 days ago was probably more of a perfect storm than a sign that the Chiefs are legit contenders.

18. Miami Dolphins (2-2): The Dolphins are coming off a bye and host the hot Packers this Sunday. The Packers are 3.5 favorites. The best thing we can say about the Dolphins is that they’re getting healthy. Knowshon Moreno practiced on Monday and center Mike Pouncey and linebacker Koa Misi are also close to returning.

19. Cleveland Browns (2-2): Why does it feel like Brian Hoyer will be playing in this coming January’s Pro Bowl? Think about it. Philip Rivers or Peyton Manning will probably be prepping for the Super Bowl and a Tom Brady or Andrew Luck will come up with some fake injury. Hoyer for Pro Bowl!

20. Houston Texans (3-2): Head coach Bill O’Brien is known as something of a quarterback guru, but even he can’t make Ryan Fitzpatrick one of the top 20 signal-callers in the NFL. Fitzpatrick has more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five) this season.

21. Chicago Bears (2-3): This team just seems destined for a clean 8-8 season. But hey, at least Matt Forte kept his fantasy owners happy last weekend. Forte only rushed for 61 yards against Carolina, but he caught 12 balls for 105 yards of receiving.

22. Buffalo Bills (3-2): The Bills are pulling out all the stops in order to have a winning record this year. So what if they gave up on their quarterback 14 games into his career? So what if they carry their defensive coordinator off the field after a win over a blah opponent in early October?

23. Atlanta Falcons (2-3): The Falcons haven’t won a game on the road yet, but are 2-0 at home. Not much of a sample size but certainly something to keep tabs on.

24. New Orleans Saints (2-3): For as much discussion as there has been about Tom Brady aging, maybe it’s time to glance at Drew Brees’ birth certificate. Documents say he’s 35-years-old but in his three-interception outing against Tampa Bay last Sunday, he looked like Bobby Hebert … today.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4): A quick Google search of Buccaneers this week reveals headlines like: “Despite 1-4 start, Bucs on right track” and “Smith sees gradual improvement in Bucs.” Definitely not the worst team in the league.

26. Minnesota Vikings (2-3): Adrian Peterson appears in court Wednesday. The Vikings host the Lions Sunday. LOST. SEASON.

27. St. Louis Rams (1-3): Get a load of Austin Davis’ line from Sunday’s fine effort against the Eagles: 29-of-49, 375 yards, three touchdowns and zero picks.

28. New York Jets (1-4): The Rex Ryan era is on life support, one year after it was on life support. Still think Rex finds a way to make the record look respectable by mid-November … that is, if John Idzik waits that long.

29. Tennessee Titans (1-4): Looks like Charlie Whitehurst is going to have to earn that two-year, $8 million contract. Sucks for him.

30. Washington Redskins (1-4): Kirk Cousins looked good against the Legion of Boom but Washington couldn’t pull of the upset at home.

31. Oakland Raiders (0-4): Mike Holmgren is 66-years-old. He doesn’t need this headache. Holmgren is from the Bay Area, so it would be something of a homecoming – but is it really worth it, Mike? Seriously. Mike!!!! Mike?

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5): At least Blake Bortles, he of the 52.0 QB rating on Sunday, had a better day than Jaxson de Ville.

Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS

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