Five weeks into the NFL season and so far:
- The Browns are tied for the lead in the AFC North.
- The Jets and Dolphins are 3-2, one game back of the Patriots.
- The Chiefs have kept pace with the Broncos at 5-0.
- The Giants are 0-5... and two games back of the lead in the NFC East.
- The Saints hold a four game lead over the Falcons.
The Kansas City thing, most people saw that coming, but the rest of it was about as predictable as a Kenneth Arthur second date. The Steelers are winless, the Bills and Raiders aren't terrible (when E.J. Manuel and Terrelle Pryor are healthy, which is just a whole 'nother 'WTF' moment), the Falcons are terrible, and after a pretty significant run of dominance over the AFC last year, the NFC seems to have taken a step back.
When the Jets beat the Falcons on Monday night, in f***ing Atlanta, it drove home the point that the American Football Conference wasn't ready to just go away for a decade or two just yet (as conferences are wont to do.) And a lot of thanks has to go to -- surprise, surprise -- a rookie quarterback. In a "weak" class of quarterbacks, can Geno Smith lead his team to the playoffs just like three rookies did last season? With another incoming QB class that could include the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, Tajh Boyd, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Keith Price, Stephen Morris, and Logan Thomas, how much longer until the "prototypical QB, like Peyton Manning" is in the minority?
(Remember, MC Hammer predicted this!)
With quarterbacks getting up to NFL speed faster than we've ever seen, and seemingly more and more NFL QBs playing at an above-average level, here are two things I think I know for sure:
- It emphasizes that teams built to stop the pass will be successful.
- Teams that don't have a QB, will be terrible.
That's the theme I'm going with in this week's Un-Power Rankings, where the first is worst.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) Last week: 1
At this point, Blaine Gabbert seems no better than Jimmy Clausen, and like Clausen, Gabbert probably won't play again this season. Unless Gus Bradley rushes him back because it's the only way to ensure the number one pick.
2014 QB: Teddy Bridgewater.
Next: at Broncos
2. New York Giants (0-5) Last week: 2
The first team in 17 years to turn it over at least 20 times in their first five games. I would have thought that if at least Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks had big games, that the Giants always stood a chance to win but that is not the case. The Giants right now are one of the worst teams ever, only emphasizing how bad the Jags are.
Next: at Bears
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) Last week: 5
I kind of hate the fact that I know I'm gonna move the Jets down and the Steelers up, and then Pittsburgh's gonna go win in New York this week. I'm rooting for the Jets? How did this happen? You're not my beautiful wife. This is not my beautiful house.
2014 QB: Ben Roethlisberger, but nothing should preclude them from drafting a QB in the first two rounds. Like Eli Manning, Roethlisberger becomes a cap savings if released after this season.
Next: at Jets
4. St. Louis Rams (2-3) Last week: 6
Beating Jacksonville does nothing to convince me that this isn't one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Still, Sam Bradford is on pace for over 30 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions. Just showing how even the talent level at QB is becoming.
2014 QB: Bradford. He's a contract extension candidate soon.
Next: at Texans
5. Minnesota Vikings (1-3) Last week: 8
Why bump them up when they didn't even play this week? Idle hands, I guess. Those idle hands added Josh Freeman, a player who has gotten by on name recognition based on one successful season of not turning the ball over four years ago. You already had a QB controversy with Ponder and Cassel, how does this help you?
2014 QB: None of those guys. I don't think Leslie Frazier has built up enough goodwill to keep his job based off of one 10-6 season if he goes 4-12. I'll say Brett Hundley, UCLA, because in my made up world that's who the new coach likes. You can't disprove that!
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4) Last week: 4
Either Freeman or Schiano had to go, so there's one step in the right direction. This is still a very good defense and a team that's lost three games by three points or less. I believe they'll steadily move down this list.
I sent Sanderrrr at Bucs Nation some information I gathered after hearing that Schiano and GM Mark Dominik felt like they had to win six games to keep their jobs. Based on the Bucs point differential through four games, I found more examples than not in the last 12 years of teams that rebounded for a 6-10 or better finish. Most of them turned out .500 seasons, and that's why I expect Tampa Bay to rebound.
2014 QB: If Schiano survives, I assume Glennon does too. If not, the new guy may want to draft his own player.
7. Atlanta Falcons (1-4) Last week: 17
I held out for as long as I could. You guys stink. Matt Ryan has attempted 218 passes, tied for fifth-most in NFL history through five games. Typically, that's not a good sign.
Suicide hotline Bye (Edit: The news about Julio Jones came out while I was writing this, so you can just pretend that strikethrough isn't actually there anymore.)
8. San Diego Chargers (2-3) Last week: 16
I didn't expect San Diego to jump this high but then I had to reflect on some things. Like that losing to the Texans looks a lot worse. Beating the Eagles and Cowboys doesn't look as impressive. And losing to the Raiders on late Sunday night gave me no choice but to declare them worse than Oakland, a team that's overall resume (lost to Broncos, Colts, and Redskins when Matt Flynn actually made a start and finally extinguished the flame on his "potential") is much better than San Diego's.
2014 QB: Rivers. But he's going to be 33 next year, and frankly in this era it's just irresponsible to not be drafting young QB projects. Brad Sorenson in the seventh round does not qualify.
9. Oakland Raiders (2-3) Last week: 3
In the middle of the night
I beat the Chargers in my sleep
Terrelle Pryor gives me faith
But Rivers cuts me deep
2014 QB: Pryor! Really!
Next: at Chiefs
10. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) Last week: 10
I'm giving them the benefit of the win, but there are three 5-0 teams in the NFL and the NFC East as a whole is 5-14. If I was forced to bet on an NFC East winner (Odds say that the winner of the division will be 8-8 at best) I would still go with the Redskins.
2014 QB: Johnny Manziel. Drafting Mariota seems so "Doug Marrone will draft Ryan Nassib" that I can't possibly see it. A second round pick on Manziel seems about right for stirring up controversy in my Twitter feed.
Next: at Buccaneers
11. Washington Redskins (1-3) Last week: 7
Meanwhile the Redskins are the fortune of idle hands, as Alfred Morris got an extra week to heal his ribs. Still plenty of holes on the defense, but something tells me better days are still ahead.
Next: at Cowboys
12. Dallas Cowboys (2-3) Last week: 15
The reason I still have Dallas ahead of Washington though is because they did almost beat the Broncos. But every time I think I've seen the most Tony Romo thing ever, he Romo's me back in.
The Cowboys are better today, I think the Redskins will be better in December.
2014 QB: They didn't even give Romo one of those "McNabb extensions." They really do have to pay him a lot of money for awhile.
13. Buffalo Bills (2-3) Last week: 13
Aw nuts. The Thursday night game was a debacle, with Manuel basically leading them to a 24-17 lead before leaving with an injury and then Jeff Tuel attempted 20 passes. If there's anything to their credit, the Bills weren't really winning due to passing the ball -- 28th in passing yards, 3rd in rushing -- but how far is the drop-off to Thaddeus Lewis?
Really f***ing far.
14. Cleveland Browns (3-2) Last week: 12
In position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, the Browns now enter the bargaining stage of grief after losing Brian Hoyer for the season. Wait, was that a sentence that I just wrote? Must be a combination of words that were never meant to be together, perhaps the universe is collapsing.
2014 QB: Marcus Mariota. Relying on Hoyer to do it again would be so stupid, only the Brow-- wait, a minute...
15. Tennessee Titans (3-2) Last week: 14
They hung with the Chiefs for awhile but it wasn't enough. Schedule sets up for them to lose the next two (at Seattle, SFO, probably no Locker) and fall to 3-4, which would start to move them upwards and offwards.
2014 QB: Jake Locker might have actually figured it out! For a few games at least!
Woo! A few games!
Next: at Seahawks
16. Houston Texans (2-3) Last week: 23
Maybe I should bump them up higher like I did the Falcons, but I didn't. Make your own un-Power Rankings.
2014 QB: Matt Schaub. According to OverTheCap.com, Schaub is $21 million in dead money over the next three seasons. I could see him being released after 2014, but they'll bring in someone to compete. I'll say Aaron Murray because I said it.
17. Miami Dolphins (3-2) Last week: 19
So beating the Falcons doesn't look so neat.
Mike Wallace is fourth on the team in receiving yardage... and yet his numbers aren't even all that bad. This 2013 league man, it's something else.
18. Carolina Panthers (1-3) Last week: 25
This is about as much as I can stick up for you.
Next: at Vikings
19. New York Jets (3-2) Last week: 9
As much as I've always hated them, I have to admit that I enjoyed watching the Jets put another nail in Atlanta's coffin. It's probably not fair to say that, because The Falcoholic is great and they were so awesome to us before and after the playoff game last year, but between the two franchises, I just wanted ours to be further ahead at this point.
New York has made me interested in watching them each week, and I hate them for that.
20. Chicago Bears (3-2) Last week: 24
Two-straight eight-point losses to good teams isn't the worst thing in the world. Their Week 6 matchup is the best thing in the world.
21. Detroit Lions (3-2) Last week: 22
Next: at Browns
22. Arizona Cardinals (3-2) Last week: 11
Hmmm. Hmmmmmmm. HMMmmmmmmmm. HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!
Daryl Washington's first game: 2 sacks, one interception, nine tackles, one pass deflection.
If the Cards win their next two games, they'll be leading the division at almost the midway point of the year.
2014 QB: Carson Palmer. Not drafting someone to groom besides Ryan Lindley is just dumb, Cardinals business.
Next: at 49ers
23. Baltimore Ravens (3-2) Last week: 18
Despite their one-dimensional offense, I could still see the Ravens winning ten games.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) Last week: 20
The Patriots may not be what we are used to seeing and the game might have been ugly, but it's just another AFC demon exorcised for Marvin Lewis.
Next: at Bills
25. Green Bay Packers (2-2) Last week: 26
Defense needs work and that will be their ultimate downfall in the playoffs. I don't mind the Seahawks matching up with the Packers, at all.
Next: at Ravens
26. San Francisco 49ers (3-2) Last week: 20
Probably the most interesting thing about San Francisco this season is that Colin Kaepernick's numbers are pretty awful. I don't think that the lack of options is enough of a reason to blame all of it on the injury to Michael Crabtree, because Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis is still more than a lot of teams, and Kaepernick hasn't been much of a threat on the ground either.
I'm sure that he'll be fine, but yes, I'm still much happier to have Wilson.
27. New England Patriots (4-1) Last week: 30
Jets, go ahead and enjoy this moment. The return of Rob Gronkowski could still pretty much change everything.
28. Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) Last week: 28
Their first four opponents have a combined record of 4-16. Their fifth opponent, the Titans, were playing with Ryan Fitzpatrick and still led KC 17-13 early in the fourth quarter. And yet their next four games are Raiders, Texans, Browns, at Bills.
I'm pretty sure I predicted a 9-0 start for the Chiefs in my prediction post, but anyway, where my time traveling martians at?
2014 QB: They might be 5-0, and Alex Smith is plenty fine, but he's not so fine that he blows your mind. The offense has only been meh, and drafting a QB in the third round of next year's draft is what Andy Reid will do.
29. Indianapolis Colts (4-1) Last week: 27
None of you are Colts fans, am I right? Cool. Great. Let's move on.
Next: at Chargers
30. Seattle Seahawks (4-1) Last week: 31
It'll certainly only get more awkward here every time the Seahawks lose. I still think they were the better team and probably better than the Saints too, but it's time to execute better on the road. Or win the number one seed.
31. New Orleans Saints (5-0) Last week: 29
They haven't had a puff schedule. Like, at all. And it doesn't get much easier. Damn it, maybe the Saints really are this good.
Next: at Patriots
32. Denver Broncos (5-0) Last week: 32
So they can be beaten... just turn off your Romo in the final five minutes. I just can't emphasize enough that they're going to be 6-0 without Von Miller. Not cool.