The NFL’s first four weeks have produced some shocking results. Some teams we thought were going to be great are veritable dumpster fires, while other teams we assumed would stink have come out smelling like roses.
In no way do the current results dictate what will happen during the final three quarters, but we are starting to see a general power structure fall into place.
With that in mind, this is how the teams are stacking up at the quarter mark of the 2015 NFL season.
1. New England Patriots (3-0)
Tom Brady is playing out of his mind right now, and let us not forget the 50-burger the Pats dropped on Jacksonville heading into the bye. Gronk is as unbelievably dominant as ever, and the team’s defense, while not great, is good enough to keep teams from matching the most potent offense in the league when it comes to scoring.
2. Green Bay Packers (4-0)
Is there any quarterback in the league to compare to Aaron Rodgers? No. No, there isn’t.
By now we’ve all heard about his outrageous accuracy and his interception-to-touchdown rate, which is historically unreal, but here is a bit of context, shared after Colin Kaepernick threw his fifth interception in two games in Week 4.
Colin Kaepernick has thrown 5 INT's in his last 67 attempts. Aaron Rodgers has thrown 5 INT's in his last 670 attempts
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) October 4, 2015
Green Bay’s defense is starting to look dangerous, too. Sure, it’s only October, but the Packers look like the team to beat in the NFC.
3. Denver Broncos (4-0)
It’s strange to witness a Peyton Manning-led team that is actually dominating opponents via the defense. But that’s exactly what’s happening these days for Denver. Manning has been quite vulnerable, but he still has more brains about football than anyone else in the league and can do just enough on the physical side to beat teams through the air.
Back to the defense, the Von Miller/DeMarcus Ware combination is the best in the business, bar none.
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-0)
The spirit of revival has visited Atlanta with the coming of rookie head coach Dan Quinn, who has completely turned things around in an astonishingly short amount of time. Julio Jones is the most dangerous receiver in the league right now, and the Falcons feature one of the most exciting defenses in the game. Oh, and now teams have to actually worry about the running game because Devonta Freeman is scoring rushing touchdowns at a rate that hasn’t been seen since 2005.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-0)
Raise your hand if you’re not sure how to feel about Andy Dalton suddenly looking like a franchise passer (raises hand).
Hue Jackson — now in his second year as the offensive coordinator — has engineered a frightening offense that can win at every level. The combination of Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill is working well on the ground, tight end Tyler Eifert is starting to come into his own and A.J. Green is reaping the benefits down the field.
Cincinnati’s defense is shaping up as well, allowing under 20 points per game, totaling 11 sacks and forcing seven takeaways.
6. Arizona Cardinals (3-1)
Don’t let the loss to St. Louis in Week 4 fool you — the Cardinals are dangerous.
Quarterback Carson Palmer is back and better than ever after his knee surgery last year. He’s thrown 10 touchdown passes and just three interceptions while averaging a gaudy 8.6 yards per attempt.
The Cardinals are also a force defensively. Focused on creating turnovers, the secondary is one of the best units in the game, led by Patrick Peterson and his old LSU buddy Tyrann Mathieu.
7. Carolina Panthers (4-0)
Carolina’s offense is still hard to get behind all the way, but there’s no doubt Cam Newton is rising to the occasion these days. He’s carrying an offense that might be the most talent-poor at the receiver position in the entire league. If he continues to play with the same composure and command we’re seeing now throughout the rest of the season then the Panthers will continue to win games.
The defense is doing a fine job right now at creating turnovers while linebacker Luke Kuechly has been out with a concussion, as cornerback Josh Norman is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous cover men in the league.
8. New York Jets (3-1)
The best in the league at forcing turnovers (13), New York’s defense is averaging more than three per game. New head coach Todd Bowles has brought an aggressive mindset to the Jets, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is doing well enough on offense to win more games than he loses as the starter.
9. Minnesota Vikings (2-2)
There is so much to like about the Vikings right now. Second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is being fed the right fertilizer and is blossoming under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has of late remembered Adrian Peterson is a football god.
Second-year linebacker Anthony Barr is also turning into a superstar, and the Vikings feature one of the most relentless defensive lines in all of football.
10. New York Giants (2-2)
It’s really weird sitting here looking down the rankings. There are just so many more teams that are mediocre or worse compared to the good teams in the NFL right now.
At the top of this ledge sit the Giants. After losing the first two games of the season — both of which should have been victories for Big Blue — New York is showing balance on offense and defense. And there is no doubt receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is among the league’s elite at his position. Eli Manning is being careful with the football (just one interception), and if he can continue to do so the Giants will be formidable against any team.
11. Buffalo Bills (2-2)
If the Bills could just play with a little more discipline, then they’d be better than 2-2. As we all know, attitude reflects leadership, though, and Rex Ryan has always leaned a bit more on the let-loose side than on the side of discipline on the gridiron.
That said, quarterback Tyrod Taylor is doing pretty well, and once Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy come back healthy the offense has the potential to do big things.
12. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Before the season began, it was clear the ‘Boys could do something special in 2015 unless the injury bug bit hard. Unfortunately, the “unless” portion of that statement came to fruition, as the injury bug has been trying to separate body from limb with the team’s loaded roster.
Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Randy Gregory, Sean Lee, and other key players are out right now. Until the Cowboys get Romo and Bryant back, they might be lucky to win half their games, which means they could take a tumble down this list in the next few weeks.
13. St. Louis Rams (2-2)
The Rams truly are a “Jekyll and Hyde” team. Nobody ever knows which one will show up from week to week — the dominating bully or the bumbling shell — but when the Rams are on, they’re dangerous. Just ask the Cardinals.
With the emergence of running back Todd Gurley, however, perhaps we’ll see more of the monster in the coming weeks. Besides the fact that he rushed for 146 yards in Week 4, the rookie showed an understanding for the game and a passion for winning at the end of Sunday’s game.
14. Seattle Seahawks (2-2)
The Seahawks aren’t as much of a sure thing as we’ve seen the past few years, but somehow they still manage to find ways to win big games when the pressure is on — even when they do not deserve it. Kam Chancellor’s unbelievable play at the goal line, albeit controversial, at the end on Monday night — knocking the ball out of Calvin Johnson’s firm grasp to win the game — was a perfect example of this.
Yes, the offensive line is a big issue, but Russell Wilson is slippery enough to avoid most pressure and always has his eyes downfield. Now that the defense is heating up with Chancellor’s return, it’s go time for the Seahawks.
15. Oakland Raiders (2-2)
If not for an inspiring last-minute drive by Jay Cutler in Chicago over the weekend, the Raiders would be 3-1 heading into the second quarter of the season. Second-year quarterback Derek Carr is improving by leaps and bounds over his rookie campaign, thanks to the emergence of rookie receiver Amari Cooper and veteran Michael Crabtree. The Raiders will run into plenty of learning experiences but appear to be in capable hands with Carr — not to mention the burgeoning defense, led by Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith.
16. San Diego Chargers (2-2)
The Chargers have got to find a way to keep Philip Rivers from getting blasted, which is hard considering the starters on the line are banged up or out completely. The veteran quarterback is still managing to lead the league in passing through four games. San Diego’s defense is mediocre, meaning Rivers must be razor sharp to get the Chargers into the playoffs.
17. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)
It’s really crazy to think about how close the Colts are right now to 0-4. Still, there is some magic to Andrew Luck (always), as we saw in Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans. Veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck may have had some rub off on him last weekend when he engineered a game-sealing scoring drive against the Jaguars.
Right smack dab in the middle is a perfect place for the Colts to reside, because this team could honestly go either way the rest of the season. Thanks to some internal combustion between the front office and head coach Chuck Pagano, we could see a collapse the rest of the way a la Jim Harbaugh and the 2014 San Francisco 49ers. Then again, we could be on the precipice of something special with Luck, who is expected to start on Thursday against the Houston Texans.
18. Tennessee Titans (1-2)
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has done an outstanding job getting quarterback Marcus Mariota integrated into a pro system. While he has made some bone-headed plays — as all young quarterbacks do — the rookie out of Oregon is adapting in a way we rarely see in this league. He’s a special player, and thankfully the Titans have the right man in place to make the most of his talents.
Defensively the Titans are improving from last year’s dismal showing thanks to the influence of legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, ranking No. 6 in the league in total defense.
19. New Orleans Saints (1-3)
It’s yet to be determined what Drew Brees’ shoulder injury will mean for the rest of the season. He performed admirably on Monday night against the Cowboys, completing 33-of-41 passes (80.4 percent) for 359 yards with a couple of touchdowns, including the game-winner to C.J. Spiller in overtime — which just so happened to be his 400th career touchdown pass.
The defense isn’t any better than average and that’s not going to change, given the overall level of talent available.
The Saints will go as far as Brees carries them. Period.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
Big Ben Roethlisberger can’t come back fast enough for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are stagnant on offense with Michael Vick as the signal-caller. It’s just not explosive at all right now, and Vick is averaging just 5.1 yards per attempt. Thankfully, Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams are doing well on the ground, which is just enough to keep the Steelers afloat until Roethlisberger returns.
There’s a good chance he’ll be out for another five weeks or longer, so buckle up tight, Steelers fans. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
21. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3)
One cannot help but feel a bit sorry for poor Alex Smith, who is just getting annihilated every week as defensive linemen waltz through Kansas City’s Swiss cheese offensive line. Smith is quite capable when given time to deal, but he’s getting pummeled even worse than his former teammate Colin Kaepernick is in San Francisco, with 18 sacks endured in just four games.
The worst part is that things aren’t likely to change any time soon, so the team’s All-Pro running back and stellar defense will continue to go to waste.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)
Really, the only reason the Eagles are up this high in the rankings is because the defense is stout and the offense has playmakers that potentially could become huge weapons. Unfortunately, quarterback Sam Bradford is a liability, due to his immobility, and the offensive line is a sieve.
Just ask center Jason Kelce what he thinks about the sad state of affairs:
“…right now we don’t run the ball when we need to, we don’t pass block when we need to, and it’s a disgrace right now,” he said after losing to Washington in Week 4.
Things better shape up quick, or the locker room is likely to implode before the midway point of the 2015 season.
23. Cleveland Browns (1-3)
Oh, Mike Pettine. Why, oh, why, does’t thou keep Johnny Manziel on the sidelines, so?
The Browns aren’t good enough to make the playoffs. Period. This should be the season that Manziel gets to gain valuable experience while the front office retools and rebuilds a roster that has potential to develop into a playoff-caliber unit.
Football is a consumable product, and Josh McCown is like a bowl of hours-old oatmeal. The product he puts on the field is edible, but you’d never chose it over the plateful of bacon sitting on the counter.
24. Washington (2-2)
Until Kirk Cousins strings together a few games in a row like the one we saw in Week 4, when he played turnover-free ball and kept the chains moving (25 first downs), Washington is going to lose more games than it wins. It’s troubling that the offense can’t seem to gain traction running the ball, which means more throws for Cousins, which usually means more points for the opposing team.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)
There are definitely some positive things happening for the Jaguars right now. They just haven’t been able to put it all together yet. The Blake Bortles/Allen Robinson combination is rocking right now, and rookie running back T.J. Yeldon has a chance to become a big-time playmaker. It might not be long before Jacksonville starts rising and doesn’t come back down.
26. Chicago Bears (1-3)
In a weird turn of events, Jay Cutler is actually playing fairly well this year while his defense stinks up the joint. Sure, he still has bouts of Cutleritis — throwing the ball into traffic in what is almost assuredly an interception waiting to happen — but the guy is otherwise looking sharper this year than he has in seasons past. But that defense, and those trades — Chicago is just bad almost everywhere else.
27. Baltimore Ravens (1-3)
It’s ugly in Baltimore when it comes to injuries. Terrell Suggs is out for the year and the team’s top three receivers are either out or nursing bad wounds. Steve Smith Sr. has micro fractures in four vertebrae and he’s out at least a week, rookie Breshad Perriman is out indefinitely after knee surgery and the team put Michael Campanaro on the IR, prompting the trade for Chris Givens of the Rams.
It’s no wonder quarterback Joe Flacco has already thrown five interceptions this year.
28. Miami Dolphins (1-3)
Joe Philbin has been fired, and nobody knows what to expect from this underachieving team. At this point, it’s looking like Ndamukong Suh could become the next Albert Haynesworth as his four-game tenure has been filled with trouble from the beginning when rumors of him ignoring play calls came out until Monday when it was reported he wore sneakers to practice in defiance of defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.
29. Houston Texans (1-3)
It’s such a shame to see J.J. Watt give it everything he’s got with no hope of witnessing anything more than an occasional glimmer of competence from the Houston Texans offense. He, along with Brian Cushing, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the defensive players, cannot do anything about the horrendous quarterback situation in Houston.
30. San Francisco 49ers (1-3)
Did Kaepernick forget how to play the quarterback position or something this summer when he was supposedly getting better? I mean, my goodness, the feculent play coming out of San Francisco’s offense, which produced just eight first downs and allowed six sacks in Week 4 — is historic.
Not since 1963 have we seen a 49ers offense as ineffective as the effort that was produced against the Packers — at home — on Sunday. The offensive line is as bad as there is in the league and Kaepernick literally couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a handful of rice in the contest. He threw a few grounders and a few well out of bounds while receivers watched with eyes wide in horror.
Additionally Carlos Hyde went for just 20 yards on eight carries, and both starting receivers were visibly upset at various points in the game.
The only reason San Francisco isn’t at the bottom of the heap right now is that the defense was stellar against Green Bay on Sunday.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
Until Jameis Winston stops throwing ridiculous interceptions the Buccaneers are going to continue losing games. Because he’s playing with a defense that is allowing 29.3 points per game, Winston’s rookie struggles will be many but also extremely educational, or so that’s the hope.
32. Detroit Lions (0-4)
As the only team in the NFL without a win, the Lions must occupy the bottom spot here. Matthew Stafford and his receivers aren’t clicking and there isn’t a more impotent rushing attack in the league. Through four games, the Lions have scavenged just 188 yards on the ground. There are some bright spots, like how Ziggy Ansah is developing, but there isn’t much else positive to talk about concerning Detroit right now.