NFL Power Rankings: Tiers Week 4
One of the reasons people love the NFL is the parity from year to year. I will do you one better and give you parity week to week, or what is more commonly known as Week 3 of the 2018 Season. Variance is what drives the sport, and we saw it hit hard this past weekend. So what did we learn? What do we know? Probably nothing, just like John Snow. But really, my biggest take away from this weekend was to just relax. Let’s not over react to what we just saw. The Vikings are not 21 points worse than the Bills, Baker Mayfield is not miles better than Sam Darnold (maybe he is, but you can’t say that based off Thursday’s results), Tom Brady is not terrible, and the Packers are not worse than the Redskins. In the famous words of the Green Bay signal caller, let’s all just RELAX. With that said, here is how I see the landscape of the league after week 3.
Tier One: These are the teams that are favorites to be in the Super Bowl. Each one of them are viable contenders, and it would be to the surprise of no one to see them playing in February.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (1, T1): I am keeping the Eagles up top for now, but themselves and the Rams are essentially 1A and 1B. Philadelphia’s secondary looks to be a liability going forward, but they have more than enough to make up for it.
2. Los Angeles Rams (2, T1): They have only punted five times through three games. The only two teams with fewer punts through three games? 1992 San Francisco 49ers and the 2007 New England Patriots.
3. New England Patriots (3, T1): I highly doubt a lack of receivers will keep Brady from being the favorite in the AFC this January. Who are you taking in the AFC straight up over the Pats? They get Julian Edelman back in two weeks anyways.
4. New Orleans Saints (5, T1): What do we make of the defense? They have really struggled to rush the passer, but have shown up in run defense in the early part of the season. I keep them up here because we saw how good the defense could be last year, and I am still holding out hope they can get back to that level.
5. Minnesota Vikings (4, T1): The biggest concern I had for this team was the offensive line, and they got absolutely wrecked vs Buffalo. That said, the entire team is to blame for this egregious loss, from the Mike Zimmer on down. They just put out a “we can show up and win” vibe, and while it’s okay for fans to think that, it is completely inexcusable for players and coaches to ACT (not feel) that way on the field. They got worked, but the sky isn’t falling. I will say though if these offensive line issues persist I will be less optimistic about their outlook.
6. Green Bay Packers (6, T1): It was a let down spot at a good team in Washington. That is it, nothing more. Aaron Rodgers will be healthy at some point, and that is all they need to be NFC contenders.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (8, T2): The Chiefs are probably the most talented offense top to bottom in the NFL, and based off Mahomes’ ridiculous start, they deserve to be grouped with the upper echelon of the league. I am very eager to see how they do when November begins, but until then I will just enjoy the ride.
Tier Two: These teams are favorites, to make the playoffs and could make a run at the Super Bowl come January with some luck or amidst a hot streak.
8. Atlanta Falcons (7, T2): The injuries are really starting to pile up for Atlanta, so much so I may have to drop them into the next tier. Deion Jones is expected to return this season, so there is a tiny bit of good news, but safties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen and guard Andy Levitre are all done for the year, while the team was without Devonta Freeman and defensive ends Takkarist McKinley and Derrick Shelby this past Sunday. I loved this team when the season started, but there is no way you can like them now. On another note, Atlanta is 5/5 in red zone trips since week 1, so there’s that I suppose.
9. Los Angeles Chargers (9, T2): Let us be fair to the Chargers. Yes they are perpetual under achievers, but they have played the Chiefs and Rams two of their first three games, while blowing out Buffalo in their third. I play in the scoreX contest and just bought several shares of the Chargers. Take a look at their upcoming schedule through week 14 (road games are in bold): OAK, CLE, TEN, BYE, SEA, OAK, DEN, vsARI,, PIT, CIN. I think Los Angeles could go on a run here.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (10, T2):They absolutely needed that Tampa win to “save their season” so to speak. Juju Smith-Schuster is on his way to being their WR1 in fantasy this year, while Conner proved Leveon Bell is a luxury, not a necessity, with his runs at the end of the game to ice it for Pittsburgh. Their defense is still a major concern.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (12, T3): I know we have several years worth of Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton to go off of, but this team could be really good when Vontaze Burficit comes back, as long as he stays on the field. What we can say is the offense is really clicking to start the year. The offensive line has shown a major improvement from last year’s debacle.
12. Baltimore Ravens (11, T2): C.J. Mosley is day to day with his knee injury, while Jimmy Smith is expected to return next week from suspension. They absolutely need C.J. Mosley to make a January run.
Tier Three: Teams who will contend for the playoffs and are capable of winning one game in January, but not much else.
13. Carolina Panthers (13, T3): Cam Newton and Norv Turner are off to a really great start. The RB’s in particular have played great thus far, grading out as the most successful group in the NFL according to Warren Sharp.
14/15. Jacksonville Jaguars (15, T3), Chicago Bears (18, T3): The Jaguars had a predictable let down game after their “super bowl” win against New England, while the Bears have actually had two impressive straight up wins following the extreme let down week 1. I am ranking these two teams together because they have every other piece a team needs to win a Super Bowl, just not the QB play. I have already buried Bortles, but the jury is still out on Trubisky.
16. Indianapolis Colts (14, T3): I was in the “”(player-popup #andrew-luck)Andrew Luck”:/players/andrew-luck-13555 is completely healthy” camp all off season. Well that camp was pooped on when Luck was pulled for Briset when the Colts needed a hail mary. On the bright side, the defense has really outplayed expectations this year, ranking #12 overall in DVOA.
17. Washington Redskins (16, T3): I know I was hard on Alex Smith last week, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they aren’t a playoff caliber team. If anyone is going to unseat Philadelphia in the East it will be the Redskins.
18. Miami Dolphins (23 T4): Credit to them for taking advantage of their soft start to the year in going 3-0. This team has some speed, and Adam Gase appears to be getting the most out of the offense and, more importantly, Ryan Tannehill. We will see how they fare this week going into New England to face a pissed off Tom Brady.
Tier Four: These are teams who will be competitive from time to time, but are no real threat to reach the playoffs.
19. Denver Broncos (20, T4): The defense has not been what were used to, ranking just 16th overall in DVOA, including being below average against every offensive position. It is just not a unit we have had to fear this year.
20. Dallas Cowboys (19, T3): By definition of my tiers, they deserve to drop to #4. They just aren’t competing for a playoff spot this year. Sean Lee is expected to be out for 2-4 weeks, but it could easily be longer given Lee’s history. Their play calling, as Warren Sharp points out, has been atrocious.
21.Detroit Lions (21, T4): It is a tough spot this week going into Dallas after their nationally televised thumping of New England. That said, this team has looked miles better since their own thumping on Monday Night week 1.
22. Cleveland Browns (25, T4): Baker Mayfield gave the Browns their first win in over 635 days, or something like that. He is here to stay, and there may just be hope for their playoff chances in the wide open AFC.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (24, T5): If you, for whatever reason, doubt how offensively oriented this league has become, consider that Ryan Fitzpatrick is the first QB in NFL history to throw for 400+ yards in the first three games of the season, and he might be benched by week 5. I admit I undersold this team a little bit, as the offense is extremely talented and they have a few nice players on defense. If they are to continue to win games it will HAVE to be the offense though, as the secondary has been a sieve to start the year.
24. Houston Texans (22, T4): At 0-3, their year is essentially done. The next step will be how long Bill O’Brien will last as head coach.
25. Seattle Seahawks (27, T4): The Earl Thomas situation is pretty interesting. He has basically said he is on his own program, and you have to wonder what kind of example that is setting for the younger guys. That said, the organization has shown they don’t want to invest in him, so I can’t really blame him.
26. New York Jets (26, T4): Despite playing 3 games in 11 days, they had Cleveland on the ropes in their Thursday affair, until Baker Mayfield came in and proved everyone CLE was right in taking him #1 overall!!! Ehh, we will see. I don’t understand the rumors of Todd Bowles being fired, as he has been an under rated coach in my eyes.
27. Tennessee Titans (28, T5): By my tiers definition I had to move them up. Mike Vrabel has done a tremendous job having his team prepared and getting of to a 2-1 start. The defense has played excellent, while the offense has been forced to go run heavy because of their QB situation. It remains to be seen how effective Mariotta will be in this offense, but they can’t go anywhere but up from here. Both starting tackles have been out as well, so, again, credit to Mike Vrabel and the coaching staff for having this team 2-1 to start the year.
28. Oakland Raiders (30, T5): Again, another team I had to move up by my own definition. They have not trailed a single snap in the 3rd quarter all year, they just get gassed or out coached towards the end. Obviously that is not good, but what it tells me is they aren’t as bad as their 0-3 record makes them out to be. By the way, T.J. Hernandez had this gem on Twitter: The Bears defensive line ranks first in adjusted sack rate. The Raiders rank last.
Tier Five: These are the bottom feeders, mouth breathers, 14 point road dogs of the league.
29. New York Giants (29, T4): Good win by NY, still don’t see anything special with this team. They need a QB, plain and simple.
30. Buffalo Bills (32, T5): According to Warren Sharp’s data base (dating back 40 years) the Bills’ victory was the largest ever by a road dog catching at least 10 points.
31. San Francisco 49ers (17, T3): Get out of bounds Jimmy, WTF were you thinking? There is a betting opportunity with SF this weekend, as teams tend to play harder the first week after losing their starting QB, but don’t take it. The rest of the team actually has to be good for that to work, and this team is bad. Even Reuben Foster looked bad upon his return. R.I.P. 2018 SF.
32. Arizona Cardinals (31, T5): What was the coaching staff thinking putting Rosen in when they did last week? They seem like such a lost cause. Steve Wilks looks to be the lame duck coach of the year. I’d be shocked if they kept him after this season.
Tier Changes: There were a few movers. Kansas City enters the first tier due to the torrid start of Patrick Mahomes. I can’t ignore it any longer, no matter how bad that defense may be. I moved Cincinnatti into Tier 2, though I’m still not quite sure they belong there. We know what Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton are in the playoffs. That said, I think Vontaze Burfict will be a real boost to this defense, and I really like the offense.
Dallas moves down to T4, while Tennessee and Oakland move up to join them. For Dallas they lost Sean Lee, and Warren Sharp has pointed out how atrocious they have truly been in their play calling this season. They are in the top 5 in run percentage, and target the RB the most on 3rd downs, where it is the least optimal time to do so. I just don’t think they can over come that level of inefficiency.
As for the Titans, you have to be impressed by them being 2-1 depsite their lmitations. They too are in the top 5 in run percentage, but they have severe QB issues right now. The defense has been phenominal, and if Marcus Mariotta can overcome his elbow mallady, they can surely contend for a playoff spot as long as he has grasped Matt LaFleur’s system.
And regarding the Raiders, they have played really well these first three weeks. Yes, they are 0-3, but they have not trailed for a single snap in any game in the 3rd quarter this year, which is pretty impressive. They could really use a pass rush (ironic) to close out some of these games, but they have not been as bad as I thought they would be. Maybe they fade down the stretch once the players begin to lose hope on the season, but for now I think the tier upgrade is warranted.
Miami moves up to T3 in wake of their 3-0 start. Adam Gase seems to be getting all he can out of this squad, and credit to them for responding well to their coach. I think they get crushed in New Englad this week for what it’s worth, but they deserve to be in my 3rd tier of teams amidst their 3-0 start.
Last, and now certainly least, the 49ers join the bottom feeders in wake of Jimmy Garoppolo season ending knee injury. The organization has secertly expressed concerns about his self awareness and decision making, and it was on full display on the play that knocked him out for the year. Just get out of bounds guy.
Thats all I have this week. Thank you so much for reading. As always feel free to leave comments, suggestions, disagreements, anything below.