As the weeks roll on, things begin to take shape in both the AFC and NFC. At the moment, the latter appears to be the stronger conference, boasting contenders in each of the four divisions, while the AFC is a bit top-heavy.
The Vikings continue to absolutely dominate every opponent they come across despite the fact that it’s hard to explain their shocking success without Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson.
There are a couple of risers in the top 10, but the top of the heap has remained somewhat consistent in recent weeks.
Brace HemmelgarnBrace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns (last week: 32)
The Browns are stuck at 32 for another week after being crushed by an angry Tom Brady and his Patriots. Cody Kessler’s injury doesn’t help things, but at least there’s Terrelle Pryor! He’s the lone bright spot offensively in Cleveland, while the defense is short on talent at all three levels. An 0-16 record isn’t likely, but it’s still in the realm of possibility.
San Francisco 49ers (last week: 31)
It’s about time Blaine Gabbert gets the boot. He’s at the bottom of the league in passer rating, yards per attempt and yards per game, and there’s no sign of him getting any better. Carlos Hyde might be the only significantly talented playmaker on offense, and even he can’t carry the team on his shoulders.
Miami Dolphins (last week: 25)
The Dolphins are bad on defense and even worse on offense, which is saying something considering the amount of money they’ve paid Ryan Tannehill. They had just 200 net yards against the Titans, who boast one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The clock may be ticking on Tannehill, though better protection would certainly help.
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Chicago Bears (last week: 29)
Brian Hoyer played lights out once again, even though it wasn’t enough to earn Chicago a win. He’s solidified his spot as the starter even after Jay Cutler returns by throwing for two touchdowns and more than 300 yards in each of his three games, while also protecting the football (zero interceptions). The Cutler era is likely over in Chicago.
New York Jets (last week: 27)
Ryan Fitzpatrick probably saved himself from being benched by throwing zero interceptions against the Steelers, but that’s hardly the Jets’ biggest problem. They still lost. The Jets’ defense is an aging disaster that’s given up more big plays than any other in the NFL.
USA TODAY SportsWilliam Hauser
Jacksonville Jaguars (last week: 28)
Jacksonville, unlike the Colts, received a bye following its trip to London. The Jaguars remain toward the bottom of the league at 1-3, though.
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New Orleans Saints (last week: 24)
The Saints were off last week, which hurts their momentum following a stunning Week 4 comeback win over the Chargers.
USA TODAY SportsDerick E. Hingle
Carolina Panthers (last week: 18)
At this point in the season, sitting at 1-4 and three games back of the Falcons, the Panthers might be done. It’s unclear when Cam Newton (concussion) will return, and the offense simply isn’t the same without Jonathan Stewart (hamstring). Carolina will likely need to win nine of its last 11 games to make the postseason after Monday night’s crushing loss.
USA TODAY SportsJeremy Brevard
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (last week: 26)
The Buccaneers were fortunate that Cam Newton wasn’t on the field Monday night because had he been out there, they likely would have lost. That, of course, is hypothetical as the Buccaneers won their second game of the year thanks to Roberto Aguayo’s game-winner. There are still issues all over the roster – namely Jameis Winston’s carelessness – but they’re no longer in last in the NFC South.
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Detroit Lions (last week: 30)
Detroit was fortunate to beat the Eagles thanks to two late turnovers in the fourth quarter – one of which probably should have stayed with Philly. However, Matthew Stafford played well once again, and Darius Slay shined at cornerback. At 2-3, it could certainly be worse.
San Diego Chargers (last week: 22)
The Chargers are inventing ways to lose football games with the latest edition coming by way of a botched hold on a potential game-tying field goal. They have the best point differential (plus-10) of any team with fewer than two wins, and it’s even better than those of the Texans (minus-22) and Raiders (plus-5). The 1-4 Chargers have been in position to win games, they just haven’t closed them out.
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New York Giants (last week: 19)
While Odell Beckham Jr. found the end zone for the first time this season, New York’s issues are far from being solved. The 2-3 Giants can’t run the ball without Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, and Eli Manning has seemingly regressed this season. Unless he can take over games by throwing for 300-plus yards consistently, the Giants are going to be in trouble. At least the defense forced a couple of turnovers Sunday night – their first defensive takeaways of the season.
Associated PressMike Roemer
Tennessee Titans (last week: 23)
Marcus Mariota had one of the best games of his career, but it came against the paltry Dolphins. Miami is a mess on both sides of the ball, and while that takes away from Tennessee’s win a bit, the Titans remained dominant on the ground. They’re probably a tad better than their 2-3 record indicates.
Indianapolis Colts (last week: 21)
Coach Chuck Pagano may have saved his job by beating the Bears on Sunday, but he remains on the hot seat. The Colts’ offensive line played better against Chicago, allowing Andrew Luck to see the field for more than a second or two. Still, there are too many problems on defense and not enough protection for Luck on a weekly basis.
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Los Angeles Rams (last week: 14)
Despite getting unspectacular quarterback play from Case Keenum, the Rams have managed to remain above .500. Their schedule is somewhat favorable going forward, but unfortunately, Keenum doesn’t have the ability to take over games and win consistently. He’s benefiting from Los Angeles’ great defense, which will be tested in the coming weeks.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
Washington Redskins (last week: 20)
Kirk Cousins has turned his game around the past three weeks, throwing six touchdown passes and just two interceptions in that span. As a result, the Redskins are above .500 at 3-2 and could move into second place in the NFC East with a win over the Eagles on Sunday. A balanced offense has not surprisingly helped Cousins in recent weeks.
Houston Texans (last week: 12)
Brock Osweiler has led the Texans to a 3-2 record, but he shouldn’t get much credit for their winning record thus far. In the team’s two losses, he’s been abysmal, and he’s been that way for most of the season. Running back Lamar Miller also needs more than eight carries, which is how many he received Sunday. If Osweiler and DeAndre Hopkins don’t get on the same page, this offense will sputter.
Associated PressJim Mone
Kansas City Chiefs (last week: 15)
The Chiefs were off last week, which should allow Jamaal Charles to see a bigger role in Week 6. He’ll bring a spark once fully healthy.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY SportsCary Edmondson
Baltimore Ravens (last week: 11)
The Ravens’ 3-0 start was the result of an easy schedule and a handful of fortunate breaks. The offense needs retooling, and new coordinator Marty Mornhinweg may not be capable of making that happen given the lack of athleticism and talent he has to work with. Joe Flacco needs help because Steve Smith Sr. can’t be their best playmaker each week.
Cincinnati Bengals (last week: 10)
The Bengals were beat by a very good Cowboys team, but they have issues on both sides of the ball. The secondary struggled against a Dez Bryant-less receiving corps, and the offense failed to sustain drives outside of garbage time. A.J. Green is obviously their best playmaker, but beyond that the Bengals lack game-changing talent. Tyler Eifert needs to get back as soon as possible.
Arizona Cardinals (last week: 17)
We're not saying Drew Stanton is the Cardinals’ best option at quarterback, but perhaps Carson Palmer’s injury will help them see the light on offense. That light is David Johnson, who should touch the ball 30-plus times a game. If they lean on their star running back, the Cardinals can get it back on track in no time.
Buffalo Bills (last week: 16)
What has gotten into Rex Ryan’s Bills? They’ve won three straight after firing their offensive coordinator, doing so without the help of injured receiver Sammy Watkins. Ryan has the Bills playing hard once again, both offensively and defensively. It’s not easy going across the country and playing on the road, which they did in Sunday’s win. Just ask the Cardinals how they feel about that.
Philadelphia Eagles (last week: 4)
Rookie QB Carson Wentz showed he’s human after all on the Eagles’ final snap of Sunday’s loss, throwing a game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter. The Eagles have an incredibly tough road ahead after feasting on easy opponents to start the year. We’ll see what they’re really about in the coming weeks.
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Seattle Seahawks (last week: 7)
The Seahawks were off this week, but they’re unfortunate fallers due to wins by the Cowboys, Raiders and Falcons. The bye should help Russell Wilson and the ailing Seahawks recover, hopefully bringing them to full strength for Week 6.
Getty ImagesJonathan Ferrey
Oakland Raiders (last week: 9)
QB Derek Carr looks like an MVP candidate through five weeks, and Jack Del Rio has proved he’s one of the gutsiest coaches in the league. A combination of the two has the Raiders sitting at 4-1 and appearing to be contenders in the West. Perhaps their resurgence is coming sooner than we all expected.
Dallas Cowboys (last week: 8)
The Cowboys are surprising just about everyone this season, even owner Jerry Jones. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are one of the best rookie duos in NFL history and have Dallas on a four-game winning streak. The Cowboys haven’t just emerged as the best team in the NFC East, but they’re serious threats in the conference.
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Atlanta Falcons (last week: 13)
The Falcons have proved they’re legitimate contenders by beating the Broncos, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Atlanta started 6-1 last season only to finish 8-8. Additionally, the Falcons beat the Broncos without Trevor Siemian, which takes a bit away from the win. Still, they’re fast risers in the NFC.
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Denver Broncos (last week: 1)
Denver suffered its first loss of the season, but the Broncos get a bit of a pass for two reasons: It was the Falcons, and Paxton Lynch played quarterback. Trevor Siemian is obviously the better of the two, and it’s not often Denver will face a high-powered offense like Atlanta’s.
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New England Patriots (last week: 6)
The Patriots don’t get resounding praise for beating the winless Browns, especially considering Tom Brady was on the field. Still, a win is a win, and the Patriots are 4-1 with Brady starting the next 11 games. They’re among the best in the AFC.
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Green Bay Packers (last week: 3)
The packers are 3-1, but their wins have been somewhat underwhelming. The Giants nearly came back Sunday night, as did the Lions two weeks prior after the Packers jumped out to a huge lead. That’s not to say the Packers aren’t a great team, but Aaron Rodgers has been unusually inconsistent.
Associated PressMike Roemer
Pittsburgh Steelers (last week: 5)
Aside from a bizarre and embarrassing loss to the Eagles, the Steelers have been nearly unstoppable. Now that Le’Veon Bell is back in the fold and Sammie Coates is a significant deep threat, the offense is only going to get better as the year goes on – and that should scare every team in their path.
APAaron M. Sprecher
Minnesota Vikings (last week: 2)
The Vikings are the best team in football, and not just because they’re the lone undefeated squad remaining. They’ve overcome numerous devastating injuries only to completely dominate each and every week. They made the Texans defense look mediocre, even without Stefon Diggs. They’ll remain No. 1 for another week, too, with a bye coming up.