The NFL Power Rankings are back for Week 4, but they look a bit different than in the past. Ranking the teams from 1-32 is the cookie-cutter way of things, but it’s so early in the season that doing things that way makes little sense. Ultimately, we are still learning about each of these teams.
That’s why this week, and perhaps moving forward, we’re ranking them in tiers. Note that the listing within each tier is in alphabetic order by city name and not by any sort of rank.
NFL Power Rankings Week 4: Tier 7 | The winless wonders
Playoff hopes are beginning to dwindle as the two teams in Tier 8 — the Houston Texans and Las Vegas Raiders — are still winless.
Houston made a good decision to forgo drafting a QB in the 2022 NFL Draft. But through three games in 2022, it appears they’ll be firmly in the market for (insert your favorite QB prospect here). Davis Mills has struggled so far this season, and his interception to Roquan Smith sealed the Texans’ fate against Chicago in Week 3.
Houston has appeared to hit on both Jalen Pitre and Derek Stingley Jr., who have both been factors on a young defense that’s starting to stack together some talent.
Las Vegas Raiders
A season ago, the Raiders made a magical run to the playoffs with interim head coach Rich Bisaccia with what was objectively a worse roster. Now, they’re 0-3, the offensive line looks even more broken than a season ago, and the pressure is starting to crack Derek Carr’s decision-making.
Las Vegas’ first three games of the season were all versus contending teams, but the Raiders haven’t played up to their potential. They have been disappointing, and things don’t get any easier before their bye. Las Vegas has Denver next week and Kansas City the week after before taking what will be a much-needed breather.
Tier 6 | The one-win teams who probably aren’t contenders
Each of the nine teams in Tier 7 appears to have massive flaws that will keep them from competing for the playoffs in 2022. Let’s take a look at each of them, starting with the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers.
It feels good to see Marcus Mariota get a win as the starting quarterback again. It was also nice to see Arthur Smith remember that Kyle Pitts existed.
The game plan against Seattle was solid. The Falcons ran the ball well and were able to isolate their playmakers in space against the Seattle cornerbacks, who are young and still have a ways to go in their development.
Baker Mayfield completed fewer than 50% of his passes, but in Week 3, the Carolina offense remembered that Christian McCaffrey existed!
While we can’t be sure that the win saved Matt Rhule’s job, with the Panthers’ upcoming schedule, there was a possibility that the team was looking at 0-7 had they not walked away with a win today.
Carolina needs to find their passing attack. If this offense could even be average, this defense will keep them in games.
The Detroit Lions are hilarious if you’re not a Lions fan. Their historical mediocrity is well-known, and it appears little changes with time. Or they’re a next-level tanking team.
We see their talent. They’ve played more great quarters in 2022 than bad quarters. But they just can’t seem to learn how not to lose, even when they appear culturally clean for the first time since Jim Caldwell.
Detroit’s loss to Minnesota was like most of their losses. They competed and even should have won, but ultimately came up short.
New England Patriots
Mac Jones looked a lot like Jameis Winston against Baltimore. By that, I mean he looked like the pre-LASIK Winston. Jones has never been the most athletic player, but he must have taken inspiration from Lamar Jackson this week because he did a great job avoiding pressure and picking up yards with his feet.
But he’s also making head-scratching decisions as a passer. There was always a chance that this offense would struggle without Josh McDaniels. But replacing him with Matt Patricia is a little more than a step in the wrong direction.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints’ offense is broken. It’s not broken as in they can’t move the ball, they just can’t get out of their own way. Penalties and turnovers are killing their offensive drives.
And while Jameis Winston’s two interceptions look bad on the box score, his first one was tipped at the line, and his second was a desperation heave from his own end zone with under 20 seconds left.
New Orleans had drives of 67, 70, 62, 89, and 90 yards. They need to finish.
New York Jets
Joe Flacco’s heroics from a week ago has worn off in time for there to be absolutely no controversy in New York about Zach Wilson’s return from injury.
Garrett Wilson is the real deal, and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner has a ton of talent at the cornerback position. The Jets are an improved roster from a season ago, but they’re not competitors yet.
The Steelers’ passing attack doesn’t have the juice it needs to consistently compete in games. The offensive line is a massive struggle, and they can’t get the running game going.
At this point, the only question is, “When will Kenny Pickett start playing meaningful snaps?” If they’re willing to punt on the season, Pittsburgh could maybe wait until their bye week in Week 9. But if Mike Tomlin wants to avoid his first ever losing season, he may want to insert Pickett sooner rather than later.
The Seahawks are awful in the red zone. They’re 2-8 inside the 20 through three games, which is a mark that shouldn’t be sustainable throughout the course of an entire season. Something’s got to give.
They need to make a good impression and beat the Lions if they want to climb in the NFL Power Rankings moving forward. They’re moving the ball, and Geno Smith is playing better than many expected, but they have to start finishing drives.
Now, for a team whose defense won’t keep them in games. The Commanders’ defense has more leaks than the Iraqi Navy! They’re playing undisciplined football against the run at the first and second levels, and it’s led to gaping holes.
The Washington offensive line struggled against the impressive Philadelphia pass rush. Carson Wentz was sacked nine times against his former team, which pretty much sums up part of the reason why he’s no longer the Eagles’ QB. And while he didn’t throw an interception, he did fumble twice.
Tier 5 |The one-win teams who might contend
Things haven’t gone well for the teams in Tier 6, but they could still be playoff contenders in January. Here are six one-win teams who might ultimately push for a playoff spot.
The Arizona Cardinals remain arguably the most confounding team in the NFL. Their defense was atrocious in Week 1 and didn’t turn things around for their first six quarters of football. However, they’ve only given up 20 points over the next six quarters.
But their offense could only manage nine points against Los Angeles, and Rams head coach Sean McVay moved to 11-1 against the Arizona Cardinals for his career. Kyler Murray must carry this team if they want to win enough games to compete, but he hasn’t proven he can do that consistently.
The Bengals handled their business against a team they should thoroughly dominate. They’re still playing some very irresponsible football on the offensive side of the ball. They’re also struggling to run the ball, which doesn’t help relieve pressure on Joe Burrow.
Cincinnati’s defense played well against the Jets. Their defensive backs made multiple big-time plays, and the pass rush was consistently forcing Joe Flacco into early decisions.
With Miami and Baltimore in the next two weeks, they’ll need to bring their A-game to come out of this stretch 3-2.
A week after the Colts looked like they could be one of the five worst teams in the NFL, they beat one of the five best teams in the league. How very NFL of them that is.
The NFL has become a show like college football. It’s as unpredictable as ever. The randomness of teams week-to-week and play-to-play make predictions a practice in futility.
Indianapolis completely disrupted the Chiefs’ rushing attack and did everything they could to stop Travis Kelce from killing them. Kansas City didn’t look sharp offensively, but the Colts deserve credit for rebounding from a week ago.
Los Angeles Chargers
Despite the Raiders being winless, the Chargers have seemingly played against three talented teams thus far in 2022. Even though their blowout loss against Jacksonville is embarrassing, Justin Herbert was playing with a debilitating injury, and they were still without Keenan Allen.
But this team still has a legitimate offensive issue with their lack of speed, and Jacksonville toyed with their defense in Week 3, particularly in the absence of Joey Bosa, who left the game early with a lower-body injury.
They must take care of business against the Texans next week if they want to earn some respect in the NFL Power Rankings.
San Francisco 49ers
I never thought that I’d see another Dan Orlovsky back of the end zone moment, but here we are. The difference in the 49ers game against the Broncos was Jimmy Garoppolo running out of the back of the end zone.
But the end zone mishap actually saved San Francisco five points because Garoppolo threw a pick-six on the play. Losing Trent Williams on that play was salt in the wound. The 49ers lost 11-10 in just the second instance of that score ever happening in NFL history.
The 49ers’ pass rush was outstanding all night. Their defense flies to the football. But Denver’s defense also had an answer for everything San Francisco threw at them.
The 49ers went just 1-10 on third downs on Sunday Night, and their three turnovers made the difference in the game.
The AFC South breathed a sigh of relief in Week 3. The two teams seen as their preseason front-runners finally got into the win column. Tennessee’s running game still isn’t where it needs to be, but the passing attack found enough soft spots in the Raiders’ defense to win the game.
On defense, the Titans’ secondary is still outrageously talented. But it was their pass rush against Las Vegas that stepped up. They found pressure on the edges despite not having much talent at the position without Harold Landry III on the field.
Tier 4 | The two-win teams who are imitators
Maybe the four teams in this category could contend for the playoffs, but we didn’t think much of either of them before the season. And while they each have two wins, neither has been particularly impressive.
Chicago needs to show a whole lot more before we start to take them seriously in 2022. They’ve beaten a winless Texans team and the 49ers in some of the most ridiculous weather circumstances in recent memory.
The defense certainly looks fun. Their defensive stars are making big plays, which is exactly what they needed to be competitive. Justin Fields and the passing attack need to find their way if they want to be competitive.
The Cleveland Browns needed a few things if they wanted to win a few football games early in the season without Deshaun Watson. They needed the rushing attack to be outstanding, Jacoby Brissett to play it safe with the ball, and their defense to play well.
Well, the young and incredibly talented secondary has been the biggest issue for the team so far. There have been far too many miscommunications in coverage for such a talented group.
However, they didn’t have to really worry about that versus a putrid Steelers passing attack. Cleveland has a good opportunity to be 3-1 with a game against Atlanta next week.
Cooper Rush has played as well as any Cowboys fan could have hoped for when they heard the news that Dak Prescott would miss an extended period of time. The Cowboys’ offensive line is playing better than expected also. And while Ceedee Lamb has struggled at times this season, he came up big when the Cowboys needed him most on Monday Night.
The Dallas defense is very good. They’re getting pressure at will, and the defensive backfield is changing up looks pre and post-snap and playing assignment-sound football. Dallas still can’t stop shooting themselves in the foot, however. They remain a highly penalized team in 2022.
Dallas can definitely climb into the contending tier, but we’ll need to see how the offense evolves as the season progresses and Prescott returns.
New York Giants
The New York Giants are exactly who we thought they were. Their offense is more of an imitation than anything else. If Saquon Barkley isn’t breaking a chunk run, the offense struggles to get anything going. There’s absolutely no explosiveness in the passing attack. Between receivers not finishing plays and separating or Daniel Jones continuing to struggle in Year 4, there is nothing to write home about in this offense aside from Jones’s rushing ability.
Not having Leonard Williams made a big difference on Monday Night Football. The Giants’ rushing defense struggled against both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in prime time. Otherwise, the Giants’ defense has played pretty well through the first three weeks of the season.
NFL Power Rankings Week 4: Tier 3 | The wait-and-see two-win teams
“Wait and see” still seems like the right approach for these three teams for different reasons.
Before the game, I said that if Denver wanted to beat San Francisco, they’d have to be better in the red zone. Well, they only got there once, but they scored in their only opportunity there.
The Broncos’ passing attack is not where it needs to be. Russell Wilson isn’t playing particularly well, and they struggled to get anything going on the group against the 49ers’ defense. They haven’t scored more than 16 points in a game yet.
They’re 2-1, but they don’t feel like contenders or imitators just yet. We need to wait and see if things come together in this offense before we make any final judgments.
I want to say that the Jaguars are a contender. They’ve been one of the more impressive teams in the league so far this season through three games. Their Week 1 loss to Washington seems a bit embarrassing at this point.
Jacksonville has thoroughly obliterated the Colts and Chargers. That’s why I want to say they’re a contender, but we have to also remember that they’re still the Jaguars team that a year ago only won three games.
It would be an unbelievable turnaround to win the AFC South a year later. They get a chance to prove themselves again next week against the undefeated Eagles.
Was Minnesota’s Week 1 domination of Green Bay simply a product of a Packers’ meltdown? Was their embarrassing loss against Philadelphia a letdown game from them, or how good the Eagles are?
After a huge Week 1 performance where Kevin O’Connell appeared to get Justin Jefferson the ball at will, he’s been nearly invisible over the past two weeks.
The Vikings have the Saints, Bears, and Dolphins before their bye in Week 7. They might be contenders if they can land at 4-2 heading into the bye, but this is a team that also ran hot and cold a season ago.
Tier 2 | The two-win contenders
The six teams in Tier 2 are all serious contenders to win their division and make a run in the playoffs.
The now-defunct Crusty Crab Seafood Shack in Greenbackville had a burger that was rumored to have caused a heart attack at the table on multiple occasions.
That’s what it feels like to watch the Baltimore Ravens play football. There’s exhilaration as they score 30+ points and a feeling of despair and hopelessness as their defense allows the opposing offense back into the game. It was the same last season while Lamar Jackson was healthy.
They need to find a way to stay healthy. They’ve already lost multiple left tackles after already not having their starting LT to begin the season. But this team is talented, and Jackson is playing some incredible football.
A week ago, I said Buffalo was the most talented team in the NFL but that they wouldn’t go 17-0. Bold, I know. They’re still as talented as they were last week when they were burying the AFC’s top seed from a season ago.
The Dolphins game was incredible to watch. Players were dropping like flies because of the heat. The defenses were making huge plays, and Buffalo’s offense was doing everything it could to keep Miami’s offense off the field.
They almost did enough at the end to get into field-goal range after a safety brought the game within two points, but the Bills essentially ran out of time at the end.
Green Bay Packers
While the Packers’ offense struggled against a tough Buccaneers defense, Green Bay is back on the same track that they were on a season ago for the top seed in the NFC after being embarrassed in Week 1 of the NFL season.
This game always felt like it would be a slugfest. Both teams’ receiving corps were brutalized by injuries (and a suspension), and the Tampa Bay offense had been sabotaging itself for three weeks now.
Getting to 2-1 was massive for Green Bay’s playoff bye hopes.
Kansas City Chiefs
NFL teams are big, and humans are imperfect. Football is known as the ultimate team game. And one weak link can crush a team’s dreams of success.
The Chiefs had what looked like an off day against Indianapolis. It’s not often that a defense constructed like that can defend Patrick Mahomes. After all, Gus Bradley’s Las Vegas defenses consistently struggled against Mahomes.
Things won’t get any easier next week, as the Chiefs will head to Tampa Bay to face Brady and the Buccaneers.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams’ boring win against the Cardinals is a good thing. It appears they’re back on track after being bullied by the Bills in Week 1. They dominated from top to bottom against Arizona and only missed out on a larger difference in score after a Cam Akers fumble on the goal line late in the fourth quarter.
LA’s defense dominated the Arizona offense, which we should have seen coming, considering the Cardinals’ interior OL is underwhelming, and they had to face Aaron Donald.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers’ offense needs to get healthy. They’ve lost nearly their entire receiving corps and multiple starters on the offensive line. Once healthy, this offense should get back on its feet.
Defensively, there’s nothing to be upset about. They dominated the Cowboys offense in Week 1 and the Saints in Week 2. They had another strong showing against Green Bay in Week 3, allowing just 14 points to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
NFL Power Rankings Week 4: Tier 1 | The Undefeated
What more is there to say? The two teams here — the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles — have perfect records.
One week after a ridiculous comeback victory against the Baltimore Ravens, Miami one-upped themselves by winning an absolute bloodbath against Buffalo.
Tua Tagovailoa hit the back of his head on the turf and got up wobbly. While that rightfully freaked everyone out, he returned in the second half of the game. Jevon Holland looks pretty special, and Xavien Howard came up huge on multiple occasions against Stefon Diggs, who struggled with cramps late in the game as well.
Miami gets another chance to prove themselves against Cincinnati in Week 4, and WR Tyreek Hill is ready, sending a message to Bengals CB Eli Apple after Sunday’s game vs. the Bills.
The Eagles’ receivers are making huge plays, Jalen Hurts is flourishing on downfield passing attempts, and the offensive line is dominating. Additionally, Philadelphia’s rushing attack is as dangerous as it was a season ago.
While wins against Detroit and Washington don’t feel impressive, winning when you’re supposed to is the name of the game. However, the Eagles did that a season ago, too, but lost every game they played against teams with a winning record.
However, the Eagles’ schedule is incredibly lenient. There will only be a few chances to really see how good they may be in 2022 before the playoffs roll around, but they’ll meet their former coach in battle next week.