Minnesota's defense is a big reason why the Vikings are 3-0
Three straight weeks the No. 1 team in the Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings has lost, which is giving the Sports Illustrated cover jinx a run for its money. Of course it’s early in the season and teams are still figuring themselves out as much as they are their opponent — leading to some surprising upsets.
Even at this point though, we’re starting to see some clear separation between a few elite teams at the top and the rest of the parity-filled league. Factoring in everything from overall roster strength, to quarterback play, to the head coach’s track record, here is the latest edition of NFL power rankings and where every team stacks up from 1 to 32.
Week 4 NFL Power Rankings
1. New England Patriots
Last week: 2
Three straight losses by the No. 1 team in the Power Rankings but the Patriots will put a stop to that no matter what by getting Tom Brady back after next week. Not only that, New England is already incredibly a full two games up on the rest of the division.
2. Denver Broncos
Last week: 3
Trevor Siemian saved his best game of the season for the road and really impressed with his ability to get the ball down the field. This team is only going to get better offensively, which is a scary thought for everybody else.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Last week: 6
The defense is for real after clamping down on Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton in back-to-back weeks. If the offense can continue to push through injuries and Sam Bradford can continue to pick things up, this team will be the class of the NFC the rest of the way.
4. Green Bay Packers
Last week: 8
The first-half version of the Packers has been terrific but at some point the team has to get going after halftime. Aaron Rodgers was on point against the Lions and needed just 24 pass attempts to get four touchdowns.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week: 19
The defense has improved rapidly under Jim Schwartz and the Carson Wentz Show rolls on. It’s time to ponder if the Eagles are the NFC East favorite now and in contention for hosting a playoff game.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: 1
An off-day for the offense came at a bad time for a team that still has to sort out some issues on defense.
7. Carolina Panthers
Last week: 4
At the rate things were going in their game against Minnesota, are the Panthers going to be able to count on Cam Newton being around all season? After giving up eight sacks, it’s a question that needs to be asked in Charlotte.
8. Seattle Seahawks
Last week: 14
Getting back on track against the 49ers was nice but the injuries to Russell Wilson will be a theme in the coming years unless the team fixes its offensive line.
9. Baltimore Ravens
Last week: 13
Winning ugly: John Harbaugh’s team is 3-0 in unimpressive fashion against three bottom-tier teams. The next three will really determine if Baltimore is a contender or pretender.
10. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 11
The defense had eight turnovers against the Jets, enough said.
11. New York Giants
Last week: 9
It’s going to be interesting to see how Ben McAdoo deals with a little adversity but you can bet he’ll be focusing on turnovers and penalties in practice this week.
12. Dallas Cowboys
Last week: 12
The game plan worked to perfection for Jason Garrett on Sunday night: Run the ball, control the clock and let Dak Prescott pick apart a defense.
13. Houston Texans
Last week: 5
Nobody looked as listless as the Texans did on Thursday night but at least they can take some comfort knowing they’re still the class of the AFC South (which admittedly, isn’t much).
14. Arizona Cardinals
Last week: 7
Not sure anybody saw the Cardinals sitting at 1-2 at this point in the season given the talent on the roster. If they can’t get things going against two divisional opponents on a short week, things could get interesting in the desert.
15. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week: 10
The Bengals are better than their record but at some point the team will need to start to look like it on the field or else they won’t even get the chance to lose in the first round of the playoffs.
16. Atlanta Falcons
Last week: 23
Atlanta’s offensive balance was impressive on the road at New Orleans and that should give the team some hope as they embark on a rough stretch of back-to-back games against the two teams in last year’s Super Bowl.
17. Oakland Raiders
Last week: 16
A much better showing by the defense against the Titans but Khalil Mack still hasn’t found the quarterback for a sack.
18. Miami Dolphins
Last week: 17
Being taken to overtime by a Browns team starting a rookie at quarterback is not a good look. At least the Dolphins won though.
19. Detroit Lions
Last week: 22
The second half of their game against the Packers was at least a little encouraging despite losing to a division rival.
20. Indianapolis Colts
Last week: 20
The Colts cannot be dropping games at home if they want a shot to win the division and Sunday probably wasn’t the last time they’ll need some late heroics to win a game this season.
21. Washington Redskins
Last week: 24
Five field goals and a couple of late-game interceptions to win a division game on the road? It’s a start after looking so dreadful the first two weeks.
22. New York Jets
Last week: 15
A six-turnover day from Ryan Fitzpatrick made Jets fans pine for Mark Sanchez, that’s how bad Sunday was for New York.
23. San Diego Chargers
Last week: 18
There are giving games away, and then there’s not covering T.Y. Hilton and giving the game away twice. Guess which one San Diego did at Indianapolis this past week?
24. Los Angeles Rams
Last week: 30
It’s still a bit concerning that Todd Gurley is not going off like he did as a rookie but at least the offense is starting to move the ball with a tad more consistency.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: 21
On the bright side, the weather delay probably allowed many Bucs fans to miss that ending against the Rams.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week: 25
0-3 for the third time in four years and Gus Bradley might not make it to Halloween at this rate.
27. New Orleans Saints
Last week: 26
About the only positive on the night for the Saints, aside from Drew Brees putting up good numbers (minus the pick-six), was that they held a clearly hobbled Julio Jones to one catch for 16 yards. Not good when the moral victories come at home for New Orleans either.
28. Buffalo Bills
Last week: 31
Quite the outing for new OC Anthony Lynn as the team re-established the run game but it was the defensive improvement that really jumped out on the tape against the Cardinals.
29. Tennessee Titans
Last week: 27
The team isn’t good enough for Marcus Mariota to turn the ball over like he has been and still win but the quarterback also is turning the ball over because the team isn’t very good.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Last week: 28
The 49ers have been outscored by 19 points a game in their two losses to make that opening win look more and more like a mirage.
31. Chicago Bears
Last week: 29
As bad as the score seemed, it could have been a lot worse had the Cowboys not committed to slicing up the defense slowly and methodically.
32. Cleveland Browns
Last week: 32
Missing three field goals and losing in overtime seems like a perfect way to sum up the season for the Browns.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.