With week 4 gone by, the field of truly elite teams on a regular season scale narrows down, as the Denver Broncos distinguish themselves as the best in the league with another huge win, while the New England Patriots put themselves back in the discussion as Tom Brady figures out his receiving crew for the first time. The Seattle Seahawks are showing signs of offensive inconsistency, but just like the Kansas City Chiefs, their defense is strong enough to keep them in games.
On the other side of the rankings, the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars are still quite awful.
1. Denver Broncos (4-0): Looking absolutely perfect on offense, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 52-20, currently averaging a whopping 44.8 points per game, with Peyton Manning throwing 16 touchdown passes and 0 interceptions. The defense is giving up points, but no one seems to be able and keep up with the pace of this offense.
2. Seattle Seahakws (4-0): Like in week 1, the Seahawks needed some big help from their defense to create a turnover, this time Richard Sherman picking off Matt Schaub in order to get the win. The offense isn’t brilliant, but their ground game is doing well (144.3 yards per game) and they’re very hard to score again, allowing only 11.8 points per game.
3. Indianapolis Colts (3-1): The Colts were the lucky recipients of the joke named the Jacksonville Jaguars this week, but they’ve allowed 7 points or less over their last two games and their running game is as good as anyone else at the moment, averaging 149.5 yards per game.
4. New Orleans Saints (4-0): One Sean Payton makes all the difference. Drew Brees is up and running at his usual impressive pace, tossing four touchdown passes in their most recent win, but the most impressive thing might be the defense, not allowing more than 17 points in any game this season, and keeping teams at just over 190 passing yards per game.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0): Statistically, the best defense in the NFL, giving up only 10.3 points per game. Maybe once they finish playing the weak NFC East and teams like the Jags Alex Smith is going to look less efficient all of a sudden.
6. New England Patriots (4-0): Tom Brady finally had himself a big game, throwing for 316 yards and a couple of touchdowns. The biggest key might be the Patriots finally being able to handle the pass, mostly thanks to an incredible effort from Aqib Talib, which does an excellent job inside the endzone.
7. Detroit Lions (3-1): The offense is clicking when Reggie Bush is on the field, but the Lions, ranking fifth in the league in total offense, and doing quite well when they have to face a weak offensive line like the one the Chicago Bears have to offer.
8. Chicago Bears (3-1): Jay Cutler showed his true colors and how far the Bears have to go before his interception problem (6 this season goes away), but the more worrying sign might be the team ranking only 21st in total defense, allowing 384 yards per game, and being overly reliant on scoring off turnovers.
9. San Francisco 49ers (2-2): Vernon Davis is back, and it should help Colin Kaepernick start throwing touchdowns again. However, being able to run the ball and focusing on that, with 219 in the win over the Rams, should keep the 49ers on the right track.
10. Green Bay Packers (1-2): The last week for the Packers to enjoy the benefit of the doubt despite the sub .500 record. Having a bye week to fix their problem of giving up leads in the fourth quarter had to have helped.
11. Miami Dolphins (3-1): Ryan Tannehill needs to start getting some run support or his very impressive sophomore season is going to be wasted away.
12. Tennessee Titans (3-1): Without Jake Locker, things might start to go downhill for one of the most surprising teams early on this season, but the Titans’ defense should be able to keep in them in the game even against better opposition.
13. San Diego Chargers (2-2): You have to like what you see from the Chargers, who have Philip Rivers playing like he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL once again, but their defense giving up so many big plays isn’t going to help them when it’s not the NFC East they’re facing.
14. Dallas Cowboys (2-2): For the second straight road game, the Cowboys are left wondering what went wrong for them. This time? A not-too aggressive front line and the receiving core looking surprisingly mundane, not scoring a single point in the second half despite a strong day from Tony Romo and a decent running performance.
15. Baltimore Ravens (2-2): Joe Flacco had a nightmare performance against the Bills with 5 interceptions thrown, but the Ravens have only 64 yards on the ground per game, and if you look at the source of their problems, it should be the offensive line and Ray Rice.
16. Houston Texans (2-2): A team with a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but defensive leader Brian Cushing can’t remain healthy, and Matt Schaub insists on throwing interceptions that result in touchdowns, which is no way to succeed in the AFC South.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2): Unless Andy Dalton figures out how to become a useful starting quarterback on a playoff team, this impressive amount of talent the Bengals have on both sides of the ball is going to go to waste.
18. Carolina Panthers (1-2): Didn’t get to play, but they’re win over the New York Giants last week proved that this team has enough talent to be more than a bunch of guys constantly kicking the bucket in close games.
19. Atlanta Falcons (1-3): We’re not giving up on the Falcons just yet, due to Carolina and the Bucs not really getting away from them, but this team has to solve their serious issues inside the redzone, punching through on less than 40% of their chances.
20. Minnesota Vikings (1-3): Maybe Matt Cassel is the answer? Or is it playing a win-less team? Adrian Peterson has been looking great this season despite the quarterback problems, and maybe putting Christian Ponder on the bench is what this rather talented team needed to get Greg Jennings going.
21. Buffalo Bills (2-2): It’s hard not to win when a team throws five interceptions against you, but the Bills’ running game might be able to keep them in tougher games. The Bills’ run defense is another issue.
22. Arizona Cardinals (2-2): The Cardinals might have the best cornerback in the NFL in Patrick Peterson, and an offense that can and will look better if the running game picks up.
23. New York Jets (2-2): Geno Smith is going to be one of those coin toss kind of players, and it’s going to be about his defense keeping in games. Right now, the Jets are third in total defense, and if Smith avoids making mistakes, winning isn’t going to be that rare, despite their 25-point loss in Tennessee.
24. Cleveland Browns (2-2): It’s funny what divisional rivalries and a quarterback change does to a team. Brian Hoyer isn’t getting too much help from his running game or some exceptional defense, but without making mistakes it’s not that hard winning against flaky teams.
25. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3): Michael Vick didn’t throw any interceptions and LeSean McCoy continues to put up big numbers, but right now the Eagles have the worst defense in the NFL, which is the main reason for losing three games in a row.
26. Washington Redskins (1-3): Beating the Oakland Raiders with a backup quarterback isn’t a great achievement, but the Redskins, unlike other struggling teams, have a strong offense at both throwing and running to keep them afloat.
27. Oakland Raiders (1-3): The Raiders have an awful offensive line, but it’s harder to see it when Terrelle Pryor, the fastest quarterback in the NFL and an underrated passer, is healthy and playing. Matt Flynn, on the other hand, is a sitting duck.
28. St. Louis Rams (1-3): They say that Sam Bradford is a lot better than his numbers show. However, the Rams average only 47.3 yards per game on the ground, and can’t expect to win in this league with such a bad offensive line.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4): Lost another close game with a strong defensive performance. They’re the 13th best defensive team in the NFL, but bad coaching and a terrible quarterback situation is stopping them from picking up wins.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4): The running game might be picking up with Le’Veon Bell, but Ben Roethlisberger is a turnover machine behind this offensive line, and the defense can no longer be counted on.
31. New York Giants (0-4): Awful on about every aspect, with Eli Manning unable to get any kind of rhythm going. Their defense puts them in the game for about a half before turnovers kill any chance of going anywhere.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4): A total of 896 yards on offense since the start of the season tell the whole story, but it’s actually a lot worse to watch.