NFL Week 4 Power Rankings

Five Quick Hits

* The Pro Football Hall of Fame released its list of nominees for the Class of 2013. My favorite 25 to advance: Larry Allen, Morten Andersen, Tiki Barber, Bobby Beathard, Tim Brown, LeRoy Butler, Cris Carter, Don Coryell, Terrell Davis, Henry Ellard, Kevin Greene, Joe Jacoby, Joe Klecko, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells, Art Rooney Jr., Steve Sabol, Clark Shaughnessy, Will Shields, Michael Strahan, Paul Tagliabue, Herschel Walker, Aeneas Williams, Ron Wolf, George Young.

* Washington kicker Billy Cundiff was cut by the Ravens for being unreliable on field goals. This week in Tampa, he made the game-winner, but missed three others, including a chip-shot 31-yarder. Cundiff is 6/10 on FGs this year, with the most misses in the league and the worst FG%. He's great on kickoffs.

* My favorite thing Jon Gruden has ever said: "I don't know about this music. I kind of feel like I'm on a hayride."

* Kudos to FOX for restoring starting lineups to the broadcast, and for covering the end of the Falcons/Panthers game.

* The Texans' defense lost Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans, and it's better than ever. Bravo, Wade Phillips.

***

The NFL does a great job of promoting October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You can buy pink stuff at nfl.com/pink, or go to charities like Breast Cancer Fund and The American Breast Cancer Foundation and support their efforts directly.

As we jump into this week's power rankings, brackets show last week's rank.

1. Houston Texans [1] — Scored as many touchdowns on defense (2) as the Titans did on offense. They haven't played the hardest schedule in the world, but the Texans have won three of their four games by more than 20 points. They easily lead the NFL in point differential (+70).

2. Atlanta Falcons [2] — In his ninth season and 120th game, Michael Turner scored his 58th career rushing touchdown, and his 1st career receiving touchdown. Speaking of firsts, Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high 7 times against Carolina. However, Ryan also showed again why they call him Matty Ice. The Falcons took over at their own 1-yard line, down 28-27, with under a minute left ... and Ryan immediately completed a 59-yard bomb to Roddy White to set up the game-winning field goal.

3. Arizona Cardinals [3] — Darnell Dockett didn't play, Ryan Williams rushed for just 26 yards, Kevin Kolb got sacked 8 times and tossed 2 interceptions, and Miami's Ryan Tannehill and Brian Hartline nearly re-wrote the record books. They won anyway, mostly because they generated 4 turnovers (2 INT, 2 fumbles). Adrian Wilson, back from injury, had a big game (7 solo tackles, 3 passes defended, sack, forced fumble).

4. San Francisco 49ers [6] — Not as dominant as the 34-0 final score suggests, but they nearly tripled New York's first downs (26-9), including 16 rushing first downs, and gave up nothing defensively. Sunday's win marked the 31st shutout in franchise history, including two in 20 games under Jim Harbaugh. The offense remains merely adequate. Think fast: who was the last Niners QB to pass for 300 yards in a game? Troy Smith, Week 10 of the 2010 season. Who was the last Niners QB to pass for 4 TDs in a game? Jeff Garcia, in 2003.

5. New England Patriots [7] — Two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers against Buffalo. The Patriots scored 45 points in the second half, including 31 in the fourth quarter, and at one point scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives. All this without Logan Mankins, Aaron Hernandez, or Julian Edelman, all of whom missed the game with injuries.

6. Baltimore Ravens [5] — Thursday night heroes were Anquan Boldin and Haloti Ngata. Thursday night duds were pass rusher Paul Kruger, left guard Ramon Harewood, and kick returner Deonte Thompson. Kruger committed a selfish personal foul that prevented the Ravens from running out the clock, and could have cost them the game. Harewood repeatedly got beat, and is clearly the weak link on the offensive line. Thompson ran the opening kickoff of the second half out of the end zone, from 9 yards deep. He made it back to the 11. Not only is that 9 yards of valuable field position, but kickoff returns are the most dangerous play in football, and you can keep yourself and your teammates safer by taking a knee. Kick returners want to return kicks, but Thompson's decision, at the pro level, is unforgivable.

7. Green Bay Packers [4] — The replacement refs nearly stole another game from them. They failed to call an obvious offensive pass interference on Marques Colston's touchdown catch, and a clear fumble by Darren Sproles was ruled down by contact, putting the game in jeopardy. These things would never happen with a qualified, experienced referee like Jeff Triplette.

8. Chicago Bears [11] — Lovie Smith improved to 8-2 on Monday Night Football. The Bears lead the NFL in takeaways (14), and they scored two defensive TDs in Dallas. This might be the best defense in the league. They're 3-1, with all three wins by at least 16 points.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers [8] — I hate early-season byes, but this may have been good timing for the Steelers, who are expected to return Rashard Mendenhall, Troy Polamalu, and James Harrison when they take the field in Week 5.

10. Philadelphia Eagles [10] — Plagued by early-season turnovers (12 in three games), they held onto the ball Sunday night and edged the defending Super Bowl champions, though Andy Reid almost blew the game with his "icing the kicker" nonsense. I get the sense that conventional wisdom is finally beginning to turn against this ridiculous practice. Not because it's unsporting (though it is unseemly), but because it backfires at least as often as it accomplishes anything. In Reid's defense, it does carry the added benefit of wasting everybody's time.

11. Denver Broncos [12] — Ate up Oakland's laughable defense, and won by the largest point spread (31) in the teams' last 100 meetings. The Raiders won by 45 as recently as 2010, but Denver hadn't won by more than 30 since October 1962. The Broncos' brutal schedule — they've already played the Texans and Falcons — continues with road games at New England and San Diego. The team has to feel good about its chances if it can go into the bye at 3-3.

12. San Diego Chargers [15] — They began 3-1 last season, too, but went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. They're 2-0 in the division, and 2-0 on the road, but got blown out in their only game against a team with a winning record. I'm not ready to crown them yet. The defense (6 takeaways against Kansas City) looks better this season, but this team isn't a contender without better play from the offense.

13. Seattle Seahawks [9] — People forget what a different team this is on the road. The Seahawks are 2-0 in Seattle and 0-2 away. Since CenturyLink Field opened in 2002, the Seahawks are 53-29 at home (.646), but 30-52 on the road (.366). In the post-Holmgren era, 2009-present, the Seahawks are 15-11 in Seattle (.577) and just 6-20 away (.231). CenturyLink is a notoriously loud stadium, and Seattle provides the longest road trips, both for themselves and for opponents, in the league.

14. Cincinnati Bengals [17] — Lead the NFL in sacks (17). They got to Helpless Blaine Gabbert 6 times in Week 4, including 2 sacks by Geno Atkins, who leads the team (5).

15. New York Giants [14] — Almost three times as many rushing first downs in wins (14) as losses (5). Andre Brown was the leading rusher in both wins, and Ahmad Bradshaw in both defeats. The Giants are 0-2 in division games.

16. Dallas Cowboys [13] — Trent Dilfer noted Monday that they routinely seem to compound mistakes with more mistakes. Twelve active quarterbacks have thrown 5 INTs in a game, a list that now includes Tony Romo twice, though I still don't understand how 4 picks and a fumble became 5 picks. He wasn't as bad as either stat implies, but did seem to fall apart in the second half, compounding mistakes.

17. Buffalo Bills [16] — Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the NFL in both touchdowns (12) and interceptions (7). Technically, he's 2nd in INTs, but that's because Monday night's official scorer either doesn't like Tony Romo or can't tell the difference between a fumble and an interception.

18. Minnesota Vikings [26] — Only 4 passing first downs in their victory over the Lions. Adrian Peterson hasn't scored since Week 1, but he did record his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

19. St. Louis Rams [22] — Danny Amendola leads the NFL in receptions (31), but the Rams have been out-rushed in every game this season. They'll put their 2-0 home record on the line in Week 5's Thursday night game, when the Cardinals return to St. Louis.

20. Carolina Panthers [24] — Cam Newton in Weeks 1 and 3: 10 rushing yards, 61.9 passer rating, 2 TDs, 5 turnovers. Newton in Weeks 2 and 4: 157 rushing yards, 124.1 rating, 5 TDs, 1 turnover. Fantasy owners, Mr. Newton is to be played only in even-numbered weeks.

21. Washington Redskins [28] — Under Mike Shanahan, they've won more than twice as many road games (9-10) as home games (4-13). Washington is tied for last in the NFL in third-down percentage (26%). The team is +7 in turnovers, but if that ever evens out, this club is going to lose a lot of games.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [20] — The Bucs have lost three in a row, mostly because of offensive inconsistency. Doug Martin ranks 17th in rushing yardage (247), behind a quarterback (Robert Griffin III, 252 yds). Martin is averaging 3.5 yds/att and has only scored 1 touchdown.

23. Detroit Lions [18] — Allowed KR and PR touchdowns for the second week in a row. Detroit and Oakland are the only teams not to intercept a pass this season.

24. New York Jets [19] — Lost 34-0, and the team is clearly in a bad place, but probably not quite as bad as it seemed on Sunday, when injuries turned 2 first downs into 2 lost fumbles, one of them returned for a San Francisco touchdown. Mark Sanchez is the 20th quarterback since realignment to record a completion percentage below 50% in the first four weeks of the season. The worst was JaMarcus Russell in 2009 (39.8%). Sanchez is at 49.2%.

25. Miami Dolphins [27] — Lost in overtime for the second week in a row. Ryan Tannehill passed for 431 yards, Brian Hartline caught 12 passes for 253 yards, and Cameron Wake got 4.5 sacks. Hartline's 455 receiving yards lead the NFL, and are the third-most ever by a Miami Dolphins receiver in the first four games.

Chart

Hartline's career highs are 43 receptions and 615 yards (both 2010). This year, he has a decent shot to double those.

26. Oakland Raiders [21] — Allowed more than 30 points for the third week in a row, and they still can't get the run game going. Opponents have more than twice as many rushing yards (514) as the Raiders (243), with three times as many rushing first downs (30-10) and five times as many rushing TDs (5-1). Darren McFadden is averaging 3.5 yards per carry, and the team has 1 rushing TD in four games. There's been a lot of talk about Chris Johnson's early-season struggles in Tennessee, but if you were a fantasy football owner, would you rather have Johnson or McFadden right now? DMC broke a 64-yarder in Week 3, but other than that he's got 56 carries for 135 yards (2.4 avg) and no touchdowns. Even with the long run, he's on pace for 804 yards, and his average is awful. The Raiders have been outscored by almost 2-to-1 (125-67), and their -58 point differential is 2nd-worst in the league.

27. New Orleans Saints [29] — Four losses, but all by single-digits, and with such an explosive offense, they're always a threat. The defense, of course, is a sieve. Fantasy football players, start all your Chargers in Week 5.

28. Tennessee Titans [23] — They've played three pretty good teams, and lost by more than 20 to all three. Their lone win, over Detroit, was the strangest game of the year.

29. Kansas City Chiefs [25] — Committed five first-half turnovers, and lost by more than two touchdowns for the third time this season. Matt Cassel (5 TD, 7 INT) has basically the same passer rating (70.4) as Mark Sanchez (69.6), but he's been sacked twice as often (13-6) and lost more fumbles (3-1).

30. Cleveland Browns [30] — They were outmatched in Baltimore, though kicker Phil Dawson hit three field goals of 50 yards or more. The Browns have never beaten the Ravens in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era (0-9).

31. Jacksonville Jaguars [31] — Last in yards per game (254.3) and points per game (15.5). The Steelers and Colts, who have only played three games apiece, both have more offensive yardage this season than Jacksonville.

32. Indianapolis Colts [32] — Head coach Chuck Pagano has been diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia and is expected to miss a month or two. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will serve as interim head coach. Fans around the league wish the best to coach Pagano.

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