1. Seattle Seahawks (5-0) | Last week’s rank: 2
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks found a way to win Sunday night against the Vikings. Maybe the fourth-down conversions and touchdown pass in the final seconds shouldn’t have been needed against such a downtrodden team, and the Vikings certainly helped. But it all reinforced the notion that this just might be one of those special seasons for Wilson and the Seahawks.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) | Last week’s rank: 1
The loss to the Raiders can be forgiven, for now. Just don’t make it a habit. Actually, not having the burden of trying to chase a perfect season might work in the Chiefs’ favor as they seek to repeat.
3. Baltimore Ravens (4-1) | Last week’s rank: 3
The Ravens are in a very forgiving portion of their schedule, beating the Bengals on Sunday a week after beating the Washington Football Team. The Eagles are up next before the Ravens have a bye, after which they return for a big meeting with the Steelers.
4. Green Bay Packers (4-0) | Last week’s rank: 4
It’s Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady on Sunday in Tampa as the Packers return from their bye. The Packers, at this point, are vying with the Seahawks for NFC supremacy while Rodgers and Russell Wilson dominate the early-season MVP conversation.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-0) | Last week’s rank: 5
The Steelers are 4-0 for the first time since 1979. That seems odd, given all their success. They’re right in the thick of an ever-more-crowded mix of top AFC contenders. And suddenly, rookie WR Chase Claypool is a star after his four touchdowns Sunday.
6. Tennessee Titans (4-0) | Last week’s rank: 7
Mike Vrabel is a very good coach. There was no way to know how the Titans would play Tuesday night after barely practicing for two weeks. And they played splendidly in a dominant victory over the previously unbeaten Bills.
7. Los Angeles Rams (4-1) | Last week’s rank: 8
The Rams are 4-0 against the NFC East and 0-1 against legitimate NFL competition. If only they could transfer divisions.
8. Las Vegas Raiders (3-2) | Last week’s rank: 19
The win in Kansas City was impressive and adds credence to the idea that the Raiders can be a legitimate playoff contender. They have a bye week now but need to show afterward that they can play with more consistency.
9. Cleveland Browns (4-1) | Last week’s rank: 13
Don’t look now but the Browns are 4-1. Yes, the Browns. Maybe all those expectations going into last season simply arrived one year too soon. This Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh is significant, by mid-October standards.
10. Chicago Bears (4-1) | Last week’s rank: 14
Nick Foles beat Tom Brady again. The Bears are staying right on the heels of the Packers in the NFC North.
11. Buffalo Bills (4-1) | Last week’s rank: 6
Josh Allen reverted to his past inconsistencies and the Bills gave a dreadful performance in Tuesday night’s loss at Tennessee, filled with turnovers and costly penalties. The Bills, not the Titans, looked like the team that had barely practiced.
12. New England Patriots (2-2) | Last week’s rank: 11
The postponement of the game against the Broncos until Sunday increases the chances that Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore will be back on the field for the Patriots.
13. New Orleans Saints (3-2) | Last week’s rank: 12
Nothing came easily Monday night against the Chargers, as the Saints had to overcome a 17-point deficit and endure a missed field goal by L.A. as time expired in regulation. The OT win nudged the Saints back above .500 and Drew Brees had a 41-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cook. But the return of WR Michael Thomas is much-needed.
14. Carolina Panthers (3-2) | Last week’s rank: 15
It can’t be said often enough: It’s pretty remarkable what Matt Rhule and Teddy Bridgewater are doing, winning games under these circumstances as a first-year NFL head coach and a quarterback who just changed teams.
15. Arizona Cardinals (3-2) | Last week’s rank: 16
The matchup with the Jets came at a convenient time, as the Cardinals got back into the win column Sunday after two straight losses.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2| Last week’s rank: 9
Did Tom Brady really not realize it was fourth down? It certainly appeared that way. Whatever the case, there was no late-game magic Thursday night in Chicago for Brady and the Bucs. The next step is to regroup and get Brady’s supporting cast on offense healthy, with Sunday’s meeting with the Packers looming.
17. Indianapolis Colts (3-2) | Last week’s rank: 10
Philip Rivers threw two interceptions in Sunday’s loss to the Browns. It really is very much about whether Rivers can avoid mistakes.
18. Dallas Cowboys (2-3) | Last week’s rank: 24
The tears in Dak Prescott’s eyes as he left the field on a cart after suffering his fractured ankle Sunday made for a moving scene. But the Cowboys must gather themselves and try to win with Andy Dalton at quarterback. Beating the Giants was a first step.
19. Miami Dolphins (2-3) | Last week’s rank: 25
The decisive road victory over the 49ers certainly was a surprise. The Dolphins are playing better and can reach .500 if they beat the lowly Jets on Sunday. Of course, the recent wins are a mixed blessing, with rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s NFL development still on hold while veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick keeps the starting job.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3-1) | Last week’s rank: 17
Even the 10-catch, 152-yard exploits of unheralded wide receiver Travis Fulgham couldn’t keep the Eagles from losing Sunday in Pittsburgh. Philadelphia’s one-game winning streak, which qualifies as making a big run in this season’s NFC East, was ended.
21. Denver Broncos (1-3) | Last week’s rank: 21
Coach Vic Fangio took the postponement of the game at New England in stride, saying he had known it was possible and it’s part of the flexibility required of all participants in this season. Some of his players seemed more annoyed, focusing on competitive issues. But the delay might give quarterback Drew Lock a chance to play against the Patriots as he works his way back from his shoulder injury.
22. Houston Texans (1-4) | Last week’s rank: 27
Romeo Crennel won his first game since being promoted to head coach after the Texans fired Bill O’Brien. Of course, taking over for a game against the Jaguars helped.
23. Detroit Lions (1-3) | Last week’s rank: 23
The Lions return from their bye with road games at Jacksonville and Atlanta up next. If they don’t win both of those games, there’s little reason to hope that anything good can come from this season for Detroit.
24. San Francisco 49ers (2-3) | Last week’s rank: 18
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s return solved nothing as he was benched in favor of C.J. Beathard during an ugly loss to the Dolphins. Maybe the 49ers don’t have enough talent, after all, to overcome the injuries they’ve had. This is alarming.
25. Minnesota Vikings (1-4) | Last week’s rank: 20
Kirk Cousins made costly mistakes before regrouping. Mike Zimmer made an ill-fated coaching decision on that fourth-down try. The Vikings’ inability to close the game properly Sunday night in Seattle added to the unraveling of their season.
26. Cincinnati Bengals (1-3-1) | Last week’s rank: 22
Joe Burrow and the Bengals can only hope there’s eventually a rivalry with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. For now, it’s too one-sided to qualify.
27. Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) | Last week’s rank: 26
Justin Herbert was terrific Monday night in New Orleans but the near miss losses continue for the Chargers. All four of their defeats this season are by seven or fewer points, after they had nine losses in one-score games last season.
28. Washington Football Team (1-4) | Last week’s rank: 28
Alex Smith’s return to the field added to the inspiring stories on this team this season. Unfortunately, the football being played remains dreadful.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) | Last week’s rank: 29
Need your first win? Play the Jaguars. That formula has worked three weeks in a row for the Dolphins, Bengals and Texans.
30. Atlanta Falcons (0-5) | Last week’s rank: 30
Owner Arthur Blank performed a housecleaning with the firings of coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff following the loss to the Panthers. There were some very good moments for Quinn and Dimitroff with the Falcons. But the time had come.
31. New York Giants (0-5) | Last week’s rank: 31
Another game that the Giants could have won slipped away Sunday at Dallas. It’s another lost season for a franchise headed toward missing the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years.
32. New York Jets (0-5) | Last week’s rank: 32
The decision to release running back Le’Veon Bell isn’t all that shocking. He has not had much on-field relevance as a player since leaving the Steelers. With Bell exiting, how far behind can Coach Adam Gase be? Bill O’Brien was fired in Houston. Dan Quinn was fired in Atlanta. Is Gase next?