There were several big tests for teams with Super Bowl aspirations, and other contenders were taken down to the wire during a frenetic Week 4 of the NFL season.
As the calendar turns to October, and the identity of teams beginning to truly reveal themselves, here's a look at where things stand with this week's NFL Power Rankings:
1. San Francisco 49ers (4-0)
Previous: No. 2
With one month of the season in the rearview mirror, the San Francisco 49ers have been the most consistently dominant team, so far, and might have the most complete roster.
Sunday wasn't just about the Niners remaining undefeated, or making easy work of the overmatched division rival Arizona Cardinals, but also featured head coach Kyle Shanahan continuing to show just how dangerous Christian McCaffrey is in a multitude of ways. The 49ers are now 14-1 in the regular season, since acquiring McCaffrey last fall. San Francisco's +16.8 points differential is third-best in the NFL, but there might not be a better team at playing complementary football in the entire league.
2. Buffalo Bills (3-1)
Previous: No. 5
Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills aren't ready to relinquish the top spot in the AFC East, any time soon.
Against Miami, Allen issued a strong reminder of why he remains very much in the MVP conversation and why the Bills are still among the teams to beat in the AFC. Over the last three games, Allen has passed for 812 yards with eight passing touchdowns along with 70 rushing yards and two more scores. But, the biggest key to Buffalo knocking off the Chiefs, holding serve against the Dolphins in the season finale, or barnstorming all the way to the Super Bowl might just be a defense that held Miami to just 3-of-10 on third down, forced two turnovers, and sacked Tua Tagovailoa four times.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (4-0)
Previous: No. 3
The Eagles held serve and overcame a punchy upset bid from the division rival Washington Commanders to remain alongside the 49ers and the league's last remaining undefeated teams.
Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown were magnificent, and while his numbers weren't nearly as gaudy as the past two games, D'Andre Swift's touchdown run belied the fact that he is in the midst of making as significant an impact on the Eagles' offense, as A.J. Brown did upon his arrival last season. However, Commanders quarterback Sam Howell carved up the Eagles' secondary for 290 yards and a touchdown, and had Washington gone for two rather than attempted a game-tying extra point as time expired, it might have been a much unhappier ending in South Philly. While the Commanders fell short, Sunday's game showed how vulnerable Philadelphia's defense can be when the pass-rush doesn't get home.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (3-1)
Previous: No. 4
Sunday night in the swamps of Jersey offered a perfect synopsis of the Patrick Mahomes experience.
Even on a night where Mahomes uncharacteristically tosses a pair of interceptions and never quite gets in a rhythm with his pass-catchers, the reigning MVP is still capable of delivering a dagger, such as his 9-yard scamper and slide to the 2-yard line to allow time to expire on a well-earned 23-20 win. Kansas City wasn't perfect, and arguably played down to its competition at MetLife Stadium, but Week 4 showed just how difficult it is to close out Mahomes and the Chiefs. Not many teams are capable of it.
5. Miami Dolphins (3-1)
Previous: No. 1
Miami's three-week streak top these rankings came to an end, as did the Dolphins' bid for a perfect season, in Sunday's 48-20 wakeup call in Buffalo against the division rival Bills.
However, drawing too many conclusions and letting the Dolphins' speed and prolific offense that powered a 3-0 start slip too far from memory could prove costly. There aren't many teams in the entire league — let alone the AFC, who boast both the offensive firepower, and swarming front-seven defensively that the Bills proved necessary to knocking off the Dolphins. Fortunately, for Miami, the Dolphins face the NFL's No. 19 toughest remaining strength of schedule, offering ample opportunity to rebound from Sunday's second-half shellacking.
6. Dallas Cowboys (3-1)
Previous: No. 6
A 12-point loss to the Arizona Cardinals, behind a banged up offensive line, not withstanding, the Cowboys have shown to be one of the most balanced and explosive teams through the season's first month.
The the Arizona game out of the equation, and the Cowboys have outscored opponents by a combined 108-13 in the other three games. It's fair to point out that Dallas hasn't been truly tested, yet, but next Sunday night's clash with the 49ers will be telling. Week 5 should be a barometer for how much closer the Cowboys are to having the pieces in place to be considered a legitimate Super Bowl threat in the NFC.
7. Detroit Lions (3-1)
Previous: No. 9
Dan Campbell has the Lions playing a ferocious brand of bully-ball, thanks to a relentless defensive front, effective ground-and-pound running game, and steady quarterback play from Jared Goff.
Already having knocked off the Chiefs in Arrowhead, and the Packers in Lambeau, these Lions have legitimacy and appear to easily be the class of the NFC North. If rookie Jahmyr Gibbs can get going, this is going to evolve into one of the more multiple offenses in the league with a pair of explosive complementary running backs. As it stands, the Lions can win rather easily with defense, as they showed Thursday night by sacking Jordan Love five times, intercepting him twice and keeping the Packers to a meager 27 rushing yards ... for the whole game.
8. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
Previous: No. 11
No Odell Beckham Jr. or Rashod Bateman, no problem for Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens' offense against the stifling Cleveland Browns defense.
Sure, Browns rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was overmatched when he was pressed into action in the hours leading up to kickoff on Sunday afternoon, against the physical Ravens defense. But, Jackson and Mark Andrews proved this offense can score even without its explosiveness on the perimeter as the quarterback-tight end duo connected on five passes for 80 yards with a pair of touchdowns. The AFC North is already turning into a battle of attrition, and the Ravens — at least for now, seem best built to withstand it.
9. Seattle Seahawks
Monday night was Seahawks defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt's magnum opus.
Seattle unleashed a relentless barrage of pressure on Daniel Jones, sacking the Giants' quarterback 10 times, hitting him 13 times, and Seahawks rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon took an interception 97 yards for a touchdown as the Seahawks ambushed New York 24-3. Meanwhile, even with the offensive line banged up and Geno Smith knocked from the contest, the Seahawks' offense showed plenty of its trademarked physicality in the running game and big play potential on the perimeter in the passing game. This is a very young core, but nights like Monday night show that this team's best days are in front of it.
10. Los Angeles Chargers (3-1)
Previous: No. 15
Suddenly, the Chargers are consistently playing like the contenders many expected them to be prior to 2023 kicking off.
Justin Herbert only passed for 167 yards with one touchdown and one interception against the Raiders, but gutted out a strong finish despite suffering a second-half hand injury. Sunday, it was all about the Chargers defense getting a key stop late in the game to preserve the win, and a balanced offensive attack leading the charge. Without Chargering away a victory ...
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)
Previous: No. 16
Baker Mayfield reuniting with offensive coordinator Dave Canales has the veteran quarterback in the midst of the best stretch of football of his career.
The Buccaneers bounced back from a disappointing loss to the Eagles by dropping the hammer on the division rival Saints, as Mayfield passed for 246 yards with three touchdowns to one interception. Meanwhile, Tampa sacked Derek Carr three times and held the Saints to a pedestrian 3.2 yards per play. Suddenly, the Buccaneers look like they are easily the team to beat in the NFC South.
12. Los Angeles Rams (2-2)
Previous: No. 14
The youth movement surrounding quarterback Matthew Stafford has the Rams improving each week.
Sunday, the Rams escaped Indianapolis with a thrilling overtime win over the colts that say second-year back Kyren Williams rush for a career-high 103 yards with two touchdowns as rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua continues to be an absolute revelation with 163 receiving yards and a touchdown. Los Angeles is unlikely to catch the 49ers for the division crown, but this is a young and confident team that's punching above its weight and should make a strong playoff push.
13. Washington Commanders (2-2)
Previous: No. 19
Washington was unable to finish the job against the Eagles, but it's easy to see that the talent is there for this team to be competitive against just about any team in the league.
The defense is going to need to tighten up in coming weeks, and after deciding not to go for two after scoring a game-tying touchdown at the buzzer, Ron Rivera deserves to have his "riverboat" moniker permanently removed.
14. Houston Texans (2-2)
Previous: No. 22
Not only did the Houston Texans find their quarterback, but C.J. Stroud is both getting the most of the weapons around him and playing his way up the rankings at the position.
Stroud has surpassed 300 passing yards twice in the past three weeks while throwing six touchdowns in his first four games. Significantly more importantly, the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft has yet to throw an interception. The Texans already have a victory over the Jaguars tucked away for safe keeping, and are already beginning to embody the mentality of head coach DeMeco Ryans, which could make this a pretty dangerous team throughout the season.
15. Green Bay Packers (2-2)
Previous: No. 13
Green Bay was woefully one dimensional against the Lions, posting just 27 rushing yards, and, that was with Aaron Jones returning to the lineup for the first time since Week 1.
Jordan Love nearly led the Packers all the way back in the fourth quarter last Thursday night, but he still only managed 246 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Packers' wildly inconsistent running game is going to need to find an identity, and — related, the offensive line is going to need to get healthy if this team is going to make any sort of realistic run.
16. Cleveland Browns (2-2)
Previous: No. 10
Sunday was supposed to be a barometer showdown against the division rival Ravens, until Deshaun Watson was ruled out with a shoulder injury.
All of a sudden, injuries are starting to mount for key plays to the Browns' trajectory this season. Perhaps the bigger worry for Cleveland is the fact that even before getting injured, Watson has offered little resemblance to the franchise quarterback that he was during his career with the Houston Texans.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)
Previous: No. 21
Sunday in Wembley Stadium, against the Falcons, served as precisely the get-right game that Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars desperately needed, one week removed from a disjointed showing and disheartening loss to the Houston Texans.
Jacksonville's defense forced three turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown, while Lawrence was sharp as ever with 207 passing yards and one touchdown. This was what the Jaguars expected to be in Doug Pederson's second season and Lawrence's third. When the Buffalo Bills make their way across the pond on Sunday morning, we'll find out just how capable the Jaguars are of competing with the league's best.
18. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)
Previous: No. 20
Yes, it's true that the Colts were unable to get the job done in an overtime loss to the Rams. But, more importantly, Sunday was another example that the Colts appear to have found a franchise quarterback.
Anthony Richardson passed for 200 yards, rushed for 56 with a touchdown, and more importantly didn't turn the football over in his return from a concussion. Now, the Colts are getting Jonathan Taylor back, potentially as early as Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, and all of a sudden Indy's ceiling looks just a bit higher.
19. Tennessee Titans (2-2)
Previous: No. 28
It helped that the Titans matched up against a hobbled Joe Burrow and the Bengals, but Tennessee's defense looked as menacing as ever and had its way with Cincinnati for 60 minutes.
Offensively, Tennessee returned to form with Derrick Henry as the offense's battering ram, rushing for 122 yards with a touchdown, while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Stacking wins such as Sunday's are going to keep the Titans competitive. Is it possible that Tannehill and the offensive turned a corner?
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
Previous: No. 8
The Steelers were lambasted by C.J. Stroud and the Houston Texans, but adding injury to insult, lost quarterback Kenny Pickett to a knee injury that could keep him sidelined for several weeks.
Pittsburgh still hasn't figured out how to run the ball, averaging just 4 yards per rush in Houston, and the dam broke in the secondary as Texans receiver Nico Collins went off for 168 yards with two touchdowns. Mike Tomlin might actually be forced into making significant changes to this offense, because the status quo isn't working.
21. New York Jets (1-3)
Previous: No. 29
For about 12 minutes of game time on Sunday night, Zach Wilson looked like a competent NFL quarterback. Heck, for a brief spell, Wilson even outplayed Patrick Mahomes, who tossed two interceptions.
Maybe, just maybe, the Jets can find a way to dictate to teams with running backs Breece Hall and Michael Carter while playing an attacking style of defense and just asking Wilson to manage the game. There's a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but Robert Saleh and the coaching staff must find a way to hide Wilson, or find a way to limit the damage his limitations can do to New York's chances of winning.
22. Atlanta Falcons (2-2)
Previous: No. 18
Arthur Smith committed to Desmond Ridder remaining the Falcons' starting quarterback, but, perhaps maybe he shouldn't have?
Ridder was dreadful Sunday in London, telegraphing consecutive passes in the second quarter that were intercepted by the Jaguars, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Meanwhile, Atlanta struggled to get off the field defensively as Trevor Lawrence was a model of efficiency for the Jags, passing for 207 yards with a touchdown. Given the abundance of talent on the Falcons' offense, Atlanta should be better than this. But, there are legitimate questions about whether Ridder is the quarterback to maximize all that potential.
23. New Orleans Saints (2-2)
Previous: No. 23
Derek Carr was wildly ineffective, might not have been fully healthy, and the Saints looked lightyears behind the Buccaneers during Sunday's 26-9 blowout.
For everything the Saints gave up to acquire Carr this offseason, he's come woefully short of meeting expectations. It's still early, but it's getting late for the Saints in this division race ...
24. Minnesota Vikings (1-3)
Previous: No. 24
The Vikings beat the Panthers, but Kirk Cousins did just about everything he could to keep Carolina in the game, while passing for 139 yards with two touchdowns to two interceptions in a 21-13 victory.
Minnesota has no plans to tear things down, or trade Cousins, or shop Justin Jefferson. But, a few more Sundays like this, and the Vikings should probably consider forging on with a rebuild.
25. Arizona Cardinals (1-3)
Previous: No. 26
Hey, the Cardinals played hard against the 49ers.
There's no question that this is an undermanned roster, especially against a team that's loaded with star-power at every position, as the 49ers are. But, Joshua Dobbs and Co. kept it close in San Francisco, one week after knocking off the Cowboys. That's what a young coaching staff, such as Jonathan Gannon's, wants to see.
26. Cincinnati Bengals (1-3)
Previous: No. 12
Joe Burrow doesn't look right ... at all, and his mobility is severely hampered by the lingering effects of a calf injury suffered during training camp, now, wide receiver Tee Higgins is hurt, too. And, worse for Cincinnati, the defense can't get off the field. It's a brutal combination, and time already feels like it is running out for the Bengals to fight back into playoff contention.
27. New England Patriots (1-3)
Previous: No. 17
Mac Jones was benched, the Cowboys horsewhipped Bill Belichick while handing the future Hall of Fame coach the most lopsided loss of his career, and suddenly the whispers about what the long-term future holds in New England might be growing into murmurs ...
28. New York Giants (1-3)
Previous: No. 25
What exactly is the Giants' identity? What does New York do well?
Between Daniel Jones now losing 24 fumbles since being draft in 2019, after losing one on Monday night against Seattle and tossing a brutal interception that was returned for a touchdown, and the Giants owning a -68 first-half scoring differential, there might not be a more disjointed offense in football. It's difficult to win when your team rarely has the better quarterback, when your team rarely has the more talented defense, and — to date, has dug an early hole as deep as the Giants have habitually done this season. Maybe 2022 was just the outlier for Jones and this entire offense ...
29. Las Vegas Raiders (1-3)
Previous: No. 27
It hasn't mattered who was at quarterback, because even with Jimmy Garoppolo out and Aidan O'Connell in, the Raiders' offense remains a disjointed mess. Las Vegas has lost three in a row, and now Davante Adams could be dealing with a shoulder injury suffered in Sunday's loss. New season, same old Raiders.
30. Carolina Panthers (0-4)
Previous: No. 30
Not only are the Panthers winless, but there's starting to be an argument gaining evidence that Carolina should have taken C.J. Stroud over Bryce Young with the No. 1 overall pick in last spring's NFL Draft.
"He was the best quarterback prospect coming out," an NFC North personnel executive told FanBuzz, of Stroud. "By far. His ceiling is very high."
Instead, the Panthers are suffering through Young's growing pains, as the former Alabama standout has now failed to surpass 250 passing yards in any of his first three starts, and has thrown just two touchdowns to two interceptions, so far this season.
31. Denver Broncos (1-3)
Previous: No. 31
Sean Payton and Russell Wilson beat the Bears on Sunday. In comeback fashion. Expectations were soo much higher than that for this team just over one month ago.
32. Chicago Bears (0-4)
Previous: No. 32
The Chicago Bears would hold the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, if the season ended today, and face little resistance towards securing the top-pick. Chicago will likely also have a new coaching staff by then, if not significantly sooner.
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