NFL Power Rankings Week 5 | Tier 2
Each team in Tier 2 of the NFL Power Rankings could make a magical run come playoff time. It might take a few lucky bounces or unforeseen growth, but the outline is there.
13) San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco’s defense did darned near everything they could to slow down the Seahawks in Week 4. But the 49ers’ offense just couldn’t get it done against a Seattle defense that has struggled for the better part of two seasons.
Nick Bosa and Co. kept the Seahawks’ splash plays to a minimum and made things uncomfortable for Mr. Unlimited. In the end, San Francisco lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second half and rookie Trey Lance couldn’t do enough to keep up with Seahawks’ 21-point second half.
Garoppolo’s calf injury will be something to watch going forward. Wally Pipp passed away in 1965, but even his ears perked up when he saw what transpired on Sunday afternoon.
12) Las Vegas Raiders
There is no team in the NFL that has surprised me more than the Las Vegas Raiders — and I couldn’t be happier about it. The NFL is more fun when the Silver and Black are good. Derek Carr is playing at an MVP level, and he’s already proven to be one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the NFL.
Las Vegas’ offensive line is surviving because Carr has been a magician, and the receivers are making plays. The defense is somehow doing the same, despite the club failing to make many defensive additions after a woeful 2020 campaign. Maxx Crosby has ascended, and while he might not be an elite-level talent, he’s in the “best of the rest” conversation.
Unfortunately, the offensive line flatlined against the Chargers. They couldn’t open rush lanes for Josh Jacobs if their life depended on it, and Derek Carr was under siege for most of the night. The offense did nothing until the second half, but by that time they were down 21-0.
Still, with the Bears, Broncos, and Eagles upcoming, there’s a decent chance this team could be 6-1 heading into their bye week.
11) Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens beat the Broncos, and Lamar Jackson threw for 316 yards. I had to slap myself multiple times for that to feel real. Jackson is still slinging it, averaging 11.6 air yards per attempt.
Baltimore’s defense suffocated Denver’s passing attack, allowing only 3.5 net yards per attempt. Their aggressive style worked against Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock, who were uncomfortable.
The Ravens need some reinforcements to get healthy to compete, but they’re surviving for now, and their schedule will ease up a bit after starting tough.
10) Seattle Seahawks
Coming into the season, I believed more in the Seahawks than the 49ers because of Russell Wilson — and he came in clutch on Sunday afternoon. Even though things were ugly for this team offensively, Wilson made big plays when Seattle absolutely needed a play.
His spin out of what looked like a sure sack was impressive. His ability to scramble and find a receiver for the touchdown was even more so.
But Seattle’s defense is wholly unimpressive. They’re still allowing yards in chunks. But on Sunday afternoon, they held the 49ers to just two third-down conversions in 14 attempts. That type of stop rate will help a team win football games.
9) Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs might be realizing that it doesn’t matter if you have the best quarterback in the league if your defense can’t get stops. Their offense had to be nearly perfect in order to beat the Eagles. Mahomes and the offense were 9-of-10 on third down and were perfect in the red zone.
Better teams will be able to get a few stops. I’m not sure Kansas City’s defense has the playmakers to do that outside of Tyrann Mathieu. They’ve struggled to rush the passer so far in 2021, and unless there is a drastic change, it doesn’t look like they’ll find be able to stop anyone.
NFL Power Rankings Week 5 | Tier 1
These teams have all shown flashes of pure brilliance so far in 2021. With questions concerning some of the top teams, the league looks more wide open than we originally anticipated.
8) Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert has played like one of the best quarterbacks in the league so far in 2021. He’s the modern mold of an NFL signal-caller, and he’s flourishing in a new offense. Mike Williams is proving to be more than just a vertical threat, and the Chargers are excellent in pass protection (aside from right tackle).
Defensively, Brandon Staley makes things difficult. However, LA’s defensive tackles and linebackers haven’t played well so far in 2021, and that could come back to bite them as the season progresses.
They dominated the previously undefeated Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football. The Raiders only managed one first down in the first half. They tried to turn it on in the second half, but after making it a 7-point game, they were unable to claw their way back.
The Chargers struggled to protect Herbert against a good Las Vegas pass rush, but he managed the pressure wonderfully overall, providing another example of how impressive he’s been early in his career.
It’s a tough road, but if Los Angeles can get to the bye week at 4-2, it’ll say a lot about their playoff potential.
7) Los Angeles Rams
I thought the Rams might suffer a bit of a letdown after their dominant win against the Buccaneers last week, but I was not expecting them to be completely dissected on both sides of the ball.
Their offense didn’t necessarily struggle on the whole, but they did when it mattered. Los Angeles managed only one conversion in the red zone, and their passing attack looked disjointed for most of the game.
I watched four quarterbacks this week for my All-22 reviews: Justin Herbert, Derek Carr, Kyler Murray, and Matthew Stafford. Based on what I saw, I believe Stafford was the least impressive passer of an incredibly impressive group.
He’s a good quarterback, but he’s not the magic entity that will carry this team to a Super Bowl on his own. It’ll be a team effort, and the team struggled on Sunday.
6) Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys might be for real. There are still questions the defense must answer, but they are missing DeMarcus Lawrence, Keanu Neal, Neville Gallimore, and Donovan Wilson, along with a slew of other contributors.
Offensively, they did whatever they wanted against a Carolina defense that was getting love as “the best in the league” before today’s game. Whether it was on the ground or through the air, the Cowboys dominated the young Panthers’ defense.
It appears Dallas finally has a well-coached team, and the players appear completely bought in. With a schedule as strong as dollar-store tissue paper, the Cowboys could dominate the regular season in the NFC.
5) Green Bay Packers
The Pack is back, baby! Aaron Rodgers warmed up after Week 1. He told everybody things were going to be okay, and he’s made good on his promise. Rodgers and the Packers’ offense didn’t have the best day at the office, but that wasn’t necessary. They faced an offensively challenged Steelers team that couldn’t test them.
Green Bay’s defense held tough while the game was still close, and the pass rush looks like it may have woken up after spending weeks missing in action.
With the Bengals, Bears, and Washington coming up, there is a good chance the Packers are 6-1 when they run into Arizona in Week 8.
4) Cleveland Browns
The Browns escaped Minnesota with a win. They overcame a pathetic performance from Baker Mayfield, who simply did not look comfortable throughout the contest.
By pathetic, I mean Mayfield posted a performance that was nearly as bad as Justin Fields’ infamous first career start in Week 3. Mayfield completed 18.2% fewer passes than expected on the day.
Defensively, Cleveland made things very difficult for Minnesota’s offense. They played complementary football, which is something good teams seem to do when one side of the ball struggles. The Browns should still be seen as the favorites in the AFC North, especially with all of Baltimore’s injuries.
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I still believe the Buccaneers are one of the best teams in the NFL, but their defense has struggled to affect the passer on a consistent basis. Additionally, the loss of Sean Murphy-Bunting has caused problems on the back end in coverage.
But Tampa Bay has one of the best offensive lines in the league, the greatest quarterback of all time playing at a high level, and enough weapons to supply an army. There’s no need to worry about this football team until the playoffs.
In addition to Murphy-Bunting, the Buccaneers were also without Jamel Dean for their game against New England. They also lost fellow cornerback Calton Davis to a quad injury during the contest, while safety Antoine Winfield Jr. left to be evaluated for a concussion. After having outrageous injury luck in 2020, Tampa Bay isn’t getting any breaks so far in 2021.
But Tom Brady broke the passing record, and the Buccaneers improved to 3-1 on the year.
2) Buffalo Bills
This might be the most terrifying team in the AFC. The Bills played a few FCS games over the past three weeks, but they’ve handled their business in each contest. They’re just outside of the top spot in the NFL Power Rankings because Josh Allen still isn’t playing at the level we’ve come to expect from him.
This team is built beautifully. Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane constructed a juggernaut, and if Allen plays closer to his MVP-caliber 2020, Buffalo could walk away with the AFC, especially given Kansas City’s defensive woes.
1) Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals are the best team in the NFL … that is something I certainly didn’t expect to actually type in 2021. Kudos to the staff here at the Pro Football Network. Many members of our staff had high hopes for the Cardinals. I saw the secondary and offensive line and believed they would be too poor for Arizona to overcome.
I underestimated Kyler Murray, the Cardinals’ weapons, and their defense as a whole. Earlier this week, I wrote that only Kyler Murray can stop Kyler Murray, and the Rams were another one of his victims on Sunday.
I can’t promise Arizona will keep up this top-tier level of play. But I sincerely hope they do because they’re an endlessly entertaining watch.