It was inevitable. This is the AFC. It was only a matter of time before the concession needed to be made. God save The Patriots, now, and maybe forever, the Tiebreaker.com top team in the conference’s power rankings.
1. New England Patriots
By virtue of the win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Patriots leapfrog into the No. 1 spot. We still have our doubts about the Patriots defense, which has just seven sacks, three in their last five games. But Tom Brady, bless his soul, has the offense rolling with the rushing combination of Sony Michel and James White opening up the passing game. Like we’ve said before, the first four weeks of every Patriots season is just an extension of the preseason. Now let’s see how they do against the Chicago Bears’ defense.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs scored 31 points in the second half of their 43-40 loss to the Patriots, so we wouldn’t advise anyone to jump off the Pat Mahomes bandwagon. Kansas City still is averaging 35.8 points and Mahomes did throw for a career-high 356 yards and four TDs. If only he had made some better throws early in the game, we might still be talking about an unbeaten season. But man, as their defense bad. It is among the bottom feeder in points (28.7) and yards (468.20) allowed.
3. Los Angeles Chargers
Philip Rivers continues to have an impressive season, but it was the 246 yards rushing the Bolts had against the Browns which captivated last week. The defense is very close to getting defensive end Joey Bosa back from injury. If they can avoid a mental letdown against the reeling Tennessee Titans in London on Sunday, we may be having serious discussion about the playoffs.
4. Baltimore Ravens
We swear on a stack of media guides Ray Lewis was not playing when the Ravens put Marcus Mariota on his back 11 times. But it did conjure memories of the 2000 defense that gave up only 970 rushing yards, five rushing TDs and only 165 points. If the Ravens defense continues to dominate in this fashion, no one is going to want to deal with it. But Drew Brees is in its immediate future. It will be the Saints offense (424-yard average) and against the Ravens defense (the only allowing less than 300 a game).
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Now on a two-game winning streak, it appears the worst is over for the Steelers, whether or not Le’Veon Bell decides to return to the team during its upcoming bye week. In his case, absence has not made the heart fonder. There are teams in the league that need him more – like the Philadelphia Eagles, perhaps – and James Conner has been an unexpectedly delicious condiment to the offense. Just let Big Ben and Antonio Brown keep doing their thing.
6. Houston Texans
While on the subject of renaissance, we should mention the Texans, who looked just awful at the start of the season. They are back to 3-3 and in the middle of a divisional race and that’s step in the right direction. And by the way, is there a more under-the-radar receiver in the league than DeAndre Hopkins? He’s on pace for 117 receptions. They will face angry Jacksonville this week.
7. Cincinnati Bengals
Vontaze Burfict is our choice for the most annoying defensive player in the league. In case you are wondering, Odell Beckham, Jr., wins the award on offense. Burfict’s continued contemptuous behavior on the field gives non-Bengals fans the reason they need to root against this team. If he even breathes in the direction of Mahomes this week, we are calling the authorities. And that’s too bad because Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis deserve better.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
What an utter disappoint and fall from grace. The Jags have lost three of their last four. There was no logical reason for that defense to let the Dallas Cowboys destroy it during last week’s 40-7 romp. But that’s just the tip of spear. Blake Bortles is probably making Tom Coughlin think twice about pursuing Eli Manning, something ESPN’s Matt Hasselbeck called for. That’s saying a lot considering Eli’s current circumstances. But the Bortles’ offense ran only 47 plays in Dallas.
9. New York Jets
Sam “Broadway Joe” Darnold completed 24-of-30 for 280 yards and two TDs against the Indianapolis Colts last week, proof positive the kid is getting more comfortable. But the thing we like most about the Jets is the energy they bring to the field. What’s certain is, their defense will be inspired this week against Minnesota by the return of its coordinator, Kacy Rodgers, who has been ill. Now, if they could only figure out how to beat the Patriots.
10. Tennessee Titans
The Titans suffered through an 11-sack nightmare against the Ravens that gave the Nashville the Blues in a way not even B.B. King could have managed. Yes, those are the blues, for sure. And Marcus Mariota’s elbow likely isn’t healthy enough to move the offense, even if the offensive line could protect him. But we still believe they have a better future than the Miami Dolphins.
11. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins started 3-0 and all was well. Now, it’s not so well. The loss to New England in Week 4 set into motion a return to the norm for The Fish. And when they looked up last Sunday against the Bears, it was Brock Osweiler and not Ryan Tannehill playing QB. Brocktober – NFL version – threw for 380 yards in his fill-in role and the Dolphins won. But how many times can you depend on that? Trivia: Osweiler is the 33rd QB to start a game for the Dolphins. Remember Cleo Lemon?
12. Cleveland Browns
Bad news: Baker Mayfield is hobbling. And come to think of it, that’s a perfect metaphor for the current state of the Browns. The Chargers made their defense, the strength of the team, look sick. Perhaps this is where the momentum ends and the reality begins again. The good news is that Mayfield gets to toy with Tampa’s putrid secondary on Sunday.
13. Denver Broncos
During the first three weeks of the season, the Broncos defense allowed an average of 78 yards rushing. On Sunday, the Broncos defense became the first in NFL history to allow consecutive 200-yard rushing games to individual running backs when Todd Gurley lit them up. Now on a four-game losing streak, with Case Keenum looking unlike the Viking he was last season, linebacker Von Miller predicts Denver will kick Arizona’s tail on Thursday Night.
14. Indianapolis Colts
It’s hard not to feel bad for Andrew Luck, stranded like he is on the island of mediocre offenses. He once had a Hall of Fame arm, but like the strength of his injured wing, the personnel he has around him has been failing him. Luck leads the league with 288 pass attempts, but is average yardage per attempt (6.2) is last overall.
15. Buffalo Bills
The Bills announced that rookie QB Josh Allen will miss at least 2-to-3 weeks with a sprained throwing elbow that apparently is one twist away from Tommy John surgery. This is not good news, but not because Allen is impacting the league like Darnold has. It’s because the Bills have to turn again to Nathan Peterman who has been spectacularly suspect whenever he has played.
16. Oakland Raiders
Jon Gruden said this week that the 1-5 Raiders are not tanking. We believe him. But they are slowly sinking into the mud and swampland that surrounds their Stone Age stadium. This really isn’t the year to judge Gruden, although it’s been popular to do so. Give him time to get rid of the players he doesn’t want and collect the ones he does. And if the Raiders aren’t straighten out by the time they hit the Las Vegas strip, he can join Fox and breakdown rookie QBs for them.