Week 4 of the NFL season was another wild one. Last week’s top team fell and a few bottom-feeders got on the board with the first victories of 2021.
With only two undefeated teams going into Monday night, there’s a logjam developing among three- and two-win teams. Some of the established contenders are starting to flex and a new powerhouse is rising. On the flip side, some teams are fading fast out of the playoff picture after a month.
Here’s how Sporting News breaks down the league hierarchy from 1-32 going into Week 5:
NFL power rankings
1. Arizona Cardinals 4-0 (previous rank: 4)
The Cardinals didn’t waste their big opportunity to prove they are the best team in a loaded NFC, and therefore the entire NFL, as they made a ton of big plays on both sides against the Rams. Their offense is even more multiple, versatile and dangerous around MVP front-runner Kyler Murray and their defensive leadership keeps shining through.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-1 (2)
The Buccaneers did what they were supposed to do in New England, Tom Brady drama aside. They are fighting through a lot more injuries than last season but also have avoided a slow start as a runaway-division-winner-to-be. The offense rolled without some key components while the defense got a much-needed get-well game.
3. Los Angeles Rams 3-1 (1)
The Rams got sloppy against the Cardinals as Matthew Stafford crashed to earth and LA proved its offense isn’t unstoppable. The run defense has to be a growing concern; it may continue to burn them in big games. Overall, though, they are still in good playoff shape out of the gate.
4. Buffalo Bills 3-1 (5)
The Bills’ defense has pitched two shutouts in four games. It’s finally living up to the expectations Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier have for every level. Josh Allen is back to taking care of the rest on offense.
5. Green Bay Packers 3-1 (6)
The Packers should be thrilled more about their Week 1 disaster against New Orleans; they are now refocused around Aaron Rodgers and are starting to respond better to Joe Barry’s defensive coaching. They are right where they should be with Matt LaFleur.
6. Cleveland Browns 3-1 (3)
The Browns are winning with the running game and defense. They’re not getting many style points, but that shows how high of a floor they have. The key to jumping up to “impressive” status and emerging as the AFC North favorite is getting better play from Baker Mayfield.
7. Baltimore Ravens 3-1 (8)
The Ravens’ offense took a big step Sunday with Lamar Jackson and their running game contained. They found enough big pass plays with Jackson, which allowed the defense to play with complementary confidence. The Ravens, Browns and Bengals are headed to an epic three-team division race.
8. Dallas Cowboys 3-1 (13)
The Cowboys are feeling it with Dak Prescott. He’s locked into the offense and getting plenty of help from Ezekiel Elliott. The defense still has its share of holes but Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons continue to be game-changers.
9. Kansas City Chiefs 2-2 (10)
The Chiefs were determined to get back to .500 and play up to capacity with Patrick Mahomes. They got the big plays to Tyreek Hill again, and that set up the defense to tee off in key spots with the Eagles in chase mode. The running game is also seeing a good situational revival.
10. Los Angeles Chargers 2-1 (9)
The Chargers must love what they’re seeing from Justin Herbert and all of his weapons in Joe Lombardi’s offense, and as expected, Brandon Staley is getting more out of the pass defense. Don’t sleep on them becoming a bigger factor in the AFC after their win over the Chiefs.
11. Seattle Seahawks 2-2 (15)
The Seahawks needed their big road division win Sunday to get back on track. Their defense continues to have major fundamental issues around Jamal Adams; good thing their offense has Russell Wilson to do whatever it takes to keep them a winning team.
12. San Francisco 49ers 2-2 (7)
The 49ers’ defensive injuries have been dififcult to overcome, especially with a transition on offense from Jimmy Garoppolo to Trey Lance in store. Kyle Shanahan needs get the team into running more and playing better complementary football, stat.
13. Las Vegas Raiders 3-0 (12)
The Raiders are red-hot with Derek Carr and their crazy convention-defying winning formulas. They are bound for a quick cooldown and regression to the mean as per usual, with defense becoming a bigger culprit.
14. Cincinnati Bengals 3-1 (18)
The Bengals have Joe Burrow and that gives them a high floor to be competitive every week, especially with their improved defense turning in gritty play. They are in the mix to win the AFC North or steal a wild card.
15. Carolina Panthers 3-1 (16)
The Panthers put up a valiant effort with Sam Darnold and D.J. Moore at Dallas, but their defense had a big reality check against the dominant Cowboys offense. Darnold is running well, but questions about his passing linger.
16. Denver Broncos 3-1 (17)
The Broncos also faced a strong opponent but didn’t pass the test because of anemic offense, which got worse after having to go from Teddy Bridgewater to Drew Lock. Von Miller and the defense remained a pretty strong backbone, however.
17. Tennessee Titans 2-2 (11)
What was that? The Titans were down their top two wide receivers but still ran well with Derrick Henry, yet still lost in overtime to the Jets. Ryan Tannehill’s play is concerning, but the defense will keep them from doing anything except winning a weak AFC South.
18. New Orleans Saints 2-2 (14)
The Saints are a hard team to figure out after four weeks, given they’ve beaten the Packers and Patriots but lost to the Panthers and Giants. They are trying to win battles of attrition with just enough offense from two quarterbacks, with downfield passing and power running when needed. That’s a classic .500 identity.
19. Washington Football Team 2-2 (22)
Taylor Heinicke is playing the type of quarterback WFT would have gotten from Ryan Fitzpatrick, with help from his offensive weapons. The bigger question is: How can a defense with that much talent be so undisciplined and bad?
20. Chicago Bears 2-2 (24)
The Bears didn’t look great everywhere against the LIons but they got back to the basics of running game and defense once they improved the downfield passing with Justin Fields. Fields does give them their best chance to win games.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers 1-3 (19)
The Steelers’ defense is trying to hold up its end of the bargain, but it’s getting tougher every week with Ben Roethlisberger struggling. There’s no easy solution for the offense until 2022.
22. New England Patriots 1-3 (21)
The Patriots fought as hard as they could against the Buccaneers with Mac Jones playing well, but the Bucs just had too much with Brady in the end. As well as Bill Belichick can coach to get the best out of them, it’s not close to a playoff team.
23. Philadelphia Eagles 1-3 (20)
The Eagles’ offense is looking good with Jalen Hurts but it’s still making critical mistakes. Their defense is starting to show its true colors against more legitimate offenses.
24. Minnesota Vikings 1-3 (23)
The Vikings are having more trouble closing out close games with Mike Zimmer. Just as their defense looked better, their balanced offense went into the tank. They might already be running out of time to put it all together.
25. Indianapolis Colts 1-3 (27)
The Colts were overdue for their kind of run-heavy and defensive-minded performance in Miami with requisite gritty play from Carson Wentz. The AFC South title, the only ticket to the playoffs, is well within reach again with the Titans falling.
26. Miami Dolphins 1-3 (25)
The Dolphins are doing their best to generate enough offense with Jacoby Brissett but it’s hard to overcome a terrible run defense no matter how good Miami is against the pass.
27. Atlanta Falcons 1-3 (26)
Matt Ryan is operating well in the new offense and diversifying his weapons, but the defense cannot stop anything anywhere.
28. New York Giants 1-3 (30)
The Giants saw something special in Daniel Jones operating a short-handed passing game and leading a big comeback road win against the Saints. He looks like more of a keeper as he plays off a Saquon Barkley who’s at full strength.
29. New York Jets 1-3 (31)
The Jets had to be encouraged with what Zach Wilson did to take down a weak Titans pass defense while running a one-dimensional offense. They have a chance to go on a winning streak with the Falcons in London next.
30. Houston Texans 1-3 (28)
The Texans are not competitive with overwhelmed Davis Mills at quarterback and Deshaun Watson wanting nothing to do with them.
31. Detroit Lions 0-4 (29)
The Lions keep fighting and working hard but the major talent deficiency on defense keeps coming back to bite them. Their offense has to be mistake-free and that doesn’t happen with Jared Goff.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars 0-4 (32)
The Jaguars saw the flashes of a special Trevor Lawrence, helped by a special James Robinson. But their defense will keep dragging them down and befuddling Urban Meyer.