Tuesday, October 10, 2017

2017 NFL Week 5 Power Rankings

By Brad Oremland

Week 5 Game Balls

Offense — Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers. The Packers had seven offensive possessions, five of which produced 60-plus yard scoring drives. Rodgers passed for 3 TDs and delivered a game-winning two-minute drill.

Defense — Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati Bengals. Ten tackles, including three tackles for loss and a sack, plus he broke up a pass in coverage.

Special Teams — Adam Vinatieri, K, Indianapolis Colts. Six of six, including two 50+ yard field goals, one of them the game-winner in overtime. It was Vinatieri's 10th game-winning field goal in overtime.

Rookie — Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars. Rushed for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Honorable Mentions — WR A.J. Green, CB Jalen Ramsey, PR Tyreek Hill

Five Quick Hits

* I would encourage you to take five minutes and watch ESPN's touching piece on Marty Schottenheimer.

* Even Tony Romo hates the way CBS shows replays. Trying to see whether DeSean Jackson touched both his feet inbounds, the replay inexplicably paused just before his second foot hit the ground. "You didn't show me anything," moaned Romo. Amen.

* Maybe Cam Newton and Jourdan Rodrigue should attend sensitivity training together.

* Twitter user Samuel Sinyangwe on the P.R. stunt in Indianapolis: "White supremacy is the power to define kneeling as more disrespectful than the murder of black lives."

* RIP Y.A. Tittle, the Bald Eagle, one of the greatest quarterbacks in history.

ESPN this week made up an excuse to suspend Jemele Hill, while continuing to showcase openly bigoted Hank Williams, Jr. After Reggie White retired and ESPN decided Tom Jackson was a better football analyst than Rush Limbaugh, I thought we were done with open, brazen racism being condoned in the world of sports. In 2017, that hope is proven wrong nearly every week. I miss when the NFL was just about football.

Onward, though, to the Week 5 NFL Power Rankings. Brackets indicate last week's rank. In Week 5, I always try to re-evaluate the league with a fresh eye, basing my judgements solely on this season, so you'll notice some dramatic movements for a couple of teams.

1. Kansas City Chiefs [1] — Converted 3rd-and-7, 3rd-and-6, 3rd-and-14, 3rd-and-5, and 3rd-and-11, just in the first quarter. They later added another 3rd-and-11, plus a 3rd-and-16. Kansas City finished with 29 first downs, including six 3rd-and-long conversions, defining "long" as six yards or more.

2. Green Bay Packers [2] — Scored 5 touchdowns and only two extra points, with two missed kicks and a failed 2-point conversion.

3. Atlanta Falcons [3] — Following their bye last weekend, early indications are that injured All-Pros Julio Jones and Vic Beasley are on track to play in Week 6, with Mohamed Sanu probably out for another week.

4. Denver Broncos [4] — They're 3-0 at home, 0-1 on the road (at Buffalo). Denver leads the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game.

5. Philadelphia Eagles [10] — Only loss is to Kansas City, and they just won a game by 27.

6. Carolina Panthers [18] — Back-to-back wins against good teams. This is unfair because it includes a couple of Cam Newton kneel-downs, but against Detroit they rushed 28 times for 28 yards. The last time a team with more than 25 attempts averaged 1 yard or less was 2008, before which it hadn't happened in 30 years.

7. Seattle Seahawks [12] — Good on Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy for calling out one my pet peeves: announcers like Dan Patrick carelessly calling players "future Hall of Famer" about five years prematurely. Earl Thomas certainly could be a Hall of Famer some day, but if he retired tomorrow, not a chance.

8. New England Patriots [8] — Fewer yards than the Buccaneers, with fewer first downs, and they lost the turnover battle. They won because Nick Folk missed three field goals, and that's how bad teams lose games, not how good teams win them. Maybe they can get things right during the post-Thursday mini-bye, and Rob Gronkowski should be back next week, but this team's problems are real.

9. Buffalo Bills [5] — Pro Football Talk reports that tight end Charles Clay, their only player averaging 40 receiving yards per game, has a torn meniscus and sprained MCL. Clay is likely to miss roughly a month, leaving the Bills' offense short on weapons.

10. Detroit Lions [6] — Twenty-ninth in offensive yards per game. When the defense doesn't generate turnovers and field position, and when Matt Prater doesn't make 55-yard field goals, they have trouble scoring points.

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [9] — The Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski went 4-of-4 on field goals; Tampa's Nick Folk went 0-for-3, including a 31-yarder. The Bucs lost by 5, with the ball on New England's 19-yard line, so if Folk had made the previous kick, a last-second 37-yarder might have won the game. I feel bad for Folk, now replaced by Patrick Murray, but the team needed to find a new kicker.

12. New Orleans Saints [13] — Defense has allowed 23 third-down conversions in 48 attempts, the worst rate (48%) in the NFL.

13. Washington [15] — The teams they've lost to are a combined 9-1. They beat the 3-2 Rams and trounced the Raiders (when they were undefeated and still had David Carr).

14. Cincinnati Bengals [21] — Next week's bye is well-timed after multiple players left this week's victory with injuries, including starting cornerbacks Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick. They're a new team with Bill Lazor running the offense and Vontaze Burfict back from suspension.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars [22] — Their offseason free agency acquisitions — Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, Barry Church — plus the continued development of some young players, have transformed this defense. It may be time to revive the Teal Curtain nickname.

16. Minnesota Vikings [14] — Sam Bradford went 5-of-11 for 36 yards, with 4 sacks for -35 yards and a safety. Case Keenum replaced him and they won anyway. There's a lesson here about coming back from injury before you're ready. Are you paying attention, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota?

17. Pittsburgh Steelers [7] — Obviously Ben Roethlisberger is on the downside of his career, but he's not going to throw 5 interceptions every week. Wondering, "Maybe I don't have it any more," was an emotional reaction following a tough loss, and we're all reading too much into this.

18. Dallas Cowboys [17] — Allowed 35 points, at home, in back-to-back weeks. They rank 29th in points allowed, and they already have as many losses (3) as all of last season.

19. Baltimore Ravens [25] — Rank 31st in passing yards per game. Joe Flacco is tied, with Colts third-stringer Scott Tolzien, for the worst TD/INT differential in the league. The Ravens are 3-2 and their schedule is pretty soft, but I don't think their passing game is good enough for them to make the playoffs.

20. Oakland Raiders [11] — Scored a combined 71 points in their first two games, a combined 37 in the three games since. They should bounce back against the Chargers in Week 6, especially if Derek Carr is healthy.

21. Tennessee Titans [16] — Matt Cassel passed 32 times for 141 yards, an appalling 4.4 average. That doesn't include 6 sacks for 22 yards, bringing him down to 119 yards on 38 plays, a 3.1 net average, compared to a league-wide figure of 6.2. Marcus Mariota remains day-to-day with a hamstring injury, and is expected to be a game-day decision for Week 6 against the Colts.

22. Houston Texans [19] — All hail Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, the kings of Garbage Time! Down 39-20 with just 3:21 to play, Watson passed for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus he rushed for a 2-point conversion. Watson even spiked the ball — down 16 points — with five seconds left. There's no such thing as a 16-point play, chief. I don't understand the oohs and aahs over carving up prevent defense in a game that was decided half an hour ago.

J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus are both out for the season.

23. Los Angeles Rams [20] — Their great offensive stats were produced against two of the worst teams in the league, plus the porous Dallas defense without Sean Lee. They're obviously better than last year, but they struggled against Seattle, and I expect the same next week at Jacksonville.

24. New York Jets [23] — The Browns out-gained them by over 200 yards, and only repeated takeaways in the red zone saved the Jets. A lucky win over the worst team in the NFL.

25. Miami Dolphins [24] — I agree with Rodney Harrison: "Matt Moore — you owe it to your team to give him an opportunity. Jay Cutler's not getting it done, even despite their win today." The Dolphins have playoff aspirations; they can't just win with heroic defense every week.

26. Los Angeles Chargers [28] — Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa combined for 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a recovery at the 11-yard line that set up the game-winning touchdown.

27. Chicago Bears [26] — Maybe the problem wasn't Mike Glennon, maybe it was that their best receiver is their backup running back. Mitchell Trubisky completed fewer than half his passes, and offense accounted for fewer than half of Chicago's 17 points.

28. Arizona Cardinals [29] — Devastated by the loss of David Johnson. They're last in the NFL in rushing, and haven't scored 20 points in a game since Week 1.

29. Indianapolis Colts [30] — Still the worst point differential (-62) in the NFL. They beat the 0-5 Browns and the 0-5 49ers by three points each, with both games in Indianapolis. If home field is worth 3 points, that implies that the Colts are exactly as good as the Browns and Niners.

30. New York Giants [27] — Last week, I thought they would finish about 4-12, and now their top three WRs are injured, including Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall out for the year. 4-12 is optimistic at this point.

31. San Francisco 49ers [31] — Ten penalties against the Colts. San Francisco "leads" the NFL in penalties and penalty yardage.

32. Cleveland Browns [32] — Zane Gonzalez missed two field goals, including one from just 39 yards, and they lost by a field goal.

Houston is my Week 6 pick in survivor pools, at home against the Browns. I've already taken the Bills, Seahawks, Patriots, Cardinals, and Eagles. If Kevin Hogan replaces DeShone Kizer at quarterback, you might prefer Washington (at home against the 49ers) or Denver (at home against the Giants) instead. The Broncos are probably the safest pick.

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