NFL Power Rankings: Week 4

Posted at 6:37 AM, Sep 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-28 07:38:22-04

Three weeks into the NFL season the teams with the best records may be the usual suspects, but the guys quarterbacking those teams are not.

You might have expected to see the Patriots, Broncos, Eagles and Vikings to be leading their respective divisions, but the fact they're doing it with Jacoby Brissett, Trevor Siemian, Carson Wentz and Sam Bradford at quarterback is where the real intrigue of this season comes in.

In a league usually dominated by elite quarterbacks, those teams are winning with defense and balanced offenses, and not necessarily the record numbers we've seen from quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and others in the past.

Here is the top five to my power rankings after week 3, plus where I'd have the Titans ranked.

1. Patriots

It doesn't matter who's suspended, who's injured or who leaves for another team, the Patriots just keep on winning. With Tom Brady suspended the first four games due to Deflategate, the Pats turned the keys to their offense over to former second round pick Jimmy Garoppolo. He shined for six quarters, throwing for 498 yards and four touchdowns before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. So then New England turned to rookie Jacoby Brissett, a guy who had thrown just nine NFL passes. That wasn't a problem, either. Brissett completing 11 of 19 passes, despite and injured thumb, while leading the Pats to a 27-0 rout of the Texans and former Patriots' nose tackle Vince Wilfork and former Bill Belichick assistants Bill O'Brien and Romeo Crennel.

I didn't think the Patriots were this good entering the season, especially without Brady available for the first month. Now I think they'll beat the Bills Sunday even if they started me at quarterback (which they might have to depending on the health of Garoppolo and Brissett). Whatever happens this week, look at league when Brady returns to the helm in week five.

2. Broncos

I also didn't believe that the Broncos would be a serious threat to defend their Super Bowl 50 title without Peyton Manning, or even Brock Osweiler, running their offense. Trevor Siemian emerged from an underwhelming training camp competition with Mark Sanchez and rookie Paxton Lynch and not only won the job, but has shined in the regular season.

Siemian's completing 67 percent of his passes and Sunday threw four touchdowns as Denver won 29-17 in Cincinnati. Couple quarterback play like that with a defense that hasn't skipped a beat from the unit that led the Super Bowl run a year ago and it's easy to see why the Broncos are 3-0.

3. Vikings

Minnesota lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a week before its season opener to a broken leg and torn knee ligaments, yet they may just be the best team in the NFC. Shuan Hill did just enough to help the Vikings win a sloppy opener over the Titans, buying time for the newly-acquired Sam Bradford to pick up the team's offensive system. Bradford has proven to be a quick study, completing 68 percent of his passes and throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions in back to back wins over the Packers and Panthers, the latter win coming without star running back Adrian Peterson who's likely done for the season with a knee injury.

It's no surprise that Mike Zimmer's team would have a strong defense, but this team excels in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Is it possible that Bradford, the one-time no. 1 overall pick of the Rams, has finally found the right fit to flourish in the NFL?

4. Eagles

Someone should really tell Carson Wentz that he's a rookie. The no. 2 overall pick in the Draft has been outstanding, throwing for 250 yards per game and five touchdowns while leading Philadelphia to a 3-0 start. And the scary thing is he seems to be getting better each week. On Sunday against the Steelers, Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-3 romp.

If he can keep it up, the Eagles will quickly become the team to beat in the NFC East.

5. Steelers

The team at the top of my power rankings the first three weeks of the season drops all the way to no. 5 after that no-show performance in Philly. I don't remember the last time I saw a Pittsburgh team just taken to the woodshed in the manner they were beaten on Sunday. The Steelers managed just 29 yards rushing on 10 carries, Ben Roethlisberger turned it over twice and the defense offered little resistance, allowing the Eagles to score on six of their first seven possessions while racking up 426 yards of offense.

For now, I'll consider the performance a blip on the radar for the team I think has a great shot to get to Houston for the Super Bowl.

23. Titans

Even with Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Raiders, I'm convinced this is a much improved football team. But it's clear the Titans have zero margin for error. They've turned the ball over three times in both losses to the Vikings and Raiders, and have now racked up a whopping 20 penalties the past two weeks, including two costly ones on their final drive Sunday. Those two areas have to get cleaned up and it starts with Marcus Mariota. The second-year QB is the face of the franchise, but is turning over the ball at an alarming rate. After posting a nearly 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio last year, Mariota's thrown as many picks (4) as touchdowns through three games this season, and also lost a pair of fumbles. I don't know whether it's the new offense, lack of weapons in the passing game, or just a young QB simply trying to do much, but whatever it is, Mariota has to take better care of the ball for the Titans to have a chance.