NFL Power Rankings: Buffalo Bills reclaim top spot after Week 5 – Sports Illustrated

In this business, you’re either doing power rankings half asleep or losing sleep doing the power rankings. This isn’t some effort to puff out Sports Illustrated’s chest and say that our power rankings are better than other power rankings, but it is something I think a great deal about because, if you’re here, it matters to you. In the past, I’ve written about what we really mean by power, and I think it’s O.K. to have a somewhat fluid definition so long as you’re honest about it.

In society, we equate power with money and influence. So, in NFL terms, that means: If each team were a stock, with the ultimate goal of becoming the last team standing, or the team(s) that everyone wants to be like and crib ideas from, who would we invest in?

Power rankings could also be “who is good right now.” But we have a measure for that already, and it’s called the standings. So without further ado, I present the power rankings this week, which I definitely haven’t spent a disproportionate amount of my time thinking about. 

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Last week: win vs. Pittsburgh, 38–3
Next week: at Kansas City

As we mentioned on this week’s MMQB podcast, the Bills are one of those teams that can play a horrendous game but ultimately still whip an opponent by 30 points. Even on a day when a pedantic quarterback analyzer would take to Twitter and say Josh Allen was pedestrian, Allen is still big and tough and fearless and difficult to bring down. He also plays with one of the deepest offenses in the NFL, and the whole thing is incredibly well-schemed. They may lose a silly game in the playoffs, but that doesn’t change the fact that everyone is looking for the next Josh Allen, and that everyone is going to keep hiring Bills coaches and executives. 

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Shawn Dowd/USA TODAY NETWORK

Last week: win vs. Las Vegas, 30–29
Next week: vs. Buffalo

I’m not getting sucked into a trap this year where I somehow believe the Chiefs have been figured out. I’m not going to let it happen. Even if they lose four games in a row and it would make a really easy column, I’m not going to invite that mistake into my life (note to editors, as well). What we saw Monday was one of the best teams in football winning in one of the myriad ways they can. The Chiefs will continue to do so. 

Last week: win at Arizona, 20–17
Next Week: vs. Dallas

While mind-boggling throws are the norm now, it’s worth looking back at Jalen Hurts’s game against the Cardinals and see the fluidity with which he’s escaping pressure and finding open receivers with expert ball placement. The latter part sometimes makes balls seem like they’re just lame-ducked in the air, when, in reality, they’re down and away on purpose: the only place where a good pass catcher can find it.

Last week: loss vs. New York Giants, 27–22
Next week: vs. New York Jets

The Packers were sleepwalking in London, which seems to happen to good teams from time to time. A good coach (like Matt LaFleur) uses this weekend as an example to get the team refocused and motivated.

Last week: win vs. Atlanta, 21–15
Next Week: at Pittsburgh

From an analytical perspective, more than half the plays Tom Brady runs at age 46 are considered a “success.” Of all the stats we’re in possession of, this might be the most amazing to me personally. In a league where immobile quarterbacks are getting absolutely punished on a regular basis, Brady remains a hot knife through butter. 

Last week: win vs. Cincinnati, 19–17
Next week: at New York Giants

Lamar Jackson is missing some big throws, but he makes up for it. Baltimore, in spurts, against the Bengals were starting to embrace their size and physicality on offense. On defense, zone never looked so good in Purple and Black.

Last week: win at Los Angeles Rams, 22–10
Next week: at Philadelphia

The Cowboys are surfing right now with Cooper Rush, meaning they’re handling the waves of a season. When Dak Prescott returns, they’ll be downright dangerous, assuming they can continue to attack the passer and play efficient offense. 

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Last week: win at Cleveland, 30–28
Next week: vs. Denver (Monday)

I care not what fourth downs Brandon Staley goes for, as long as he keeps the spirit alive. Austin Ekeler has run for 233 yards and three touchdowns in the last two weeks. The Chargers are slowly creeping up the board in terms of opponent rushing success rate. Staley’s vision for this team has been crystal clear; the spotty execution is slowly ironing itself out.

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Phil Masturzo/USA TODAY NETWORK

Last week: loss at New York Jets, 40–17
Next week: vs. Minnesota

We can’t punish a team down to its third-string quarterback too severely. The Dolphins are still dangerous, and they’re fifth in the NFL in EPA per dropback. This is still astounding, even if Tua Tagovailoa was under center for every down.

Last week: win at Carolina, 37–15
Next week: at Atlanta

The 49ers were the knockout blow to the Matt Rhule era in Carolina. They are a great test of preparation for an opponent. We don’t expect every team to beat the 49ers, but who is giving up more than seven yards a carry against them? 

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11. Los Angeles Rams (2–3)

Last week: loss vs. Dallas, 22–10
Next week: vs. Carolina

The Rams are like a clock with only one hand working. While it’s enjoyable to watch Cooper Kupp catch 30 passes a game, there needs to be a terrifying counter punch to this plodding offense. 

Last week: win vs. Chicago, 29–22
Next week: at Miami

The Vikings have the third-best play success rate in the NFL behind the Bills and the Chiefs. Is that good? We should stop making fun of every team who hires Sean McVay’s friends. It seems to be working. 

13. New York Giants (4–1)

Last week: win at Green Bay, 27–22
Next week: vs. Baltimore

At what point do we start to look at what Daniel Jones is doing and legitimately appreciate it? It seems like he’s spending dozens of snaps at a time stepping into difficult throws and getting plowed. Being 16th in the league in EPA+CPOE composite doesn’t do his system justice. 

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Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Last week: loss at Baltimore, 19–17
Next week: at New Orleans

If the Bengals are complaining about missing one of their three incredible wide receivers as a reason to why this isn’t working, spare me. Then it’s time to take some of the responsibility off Joe Burrow’s plate and design something a little more user-friendly. 

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Last week: loss vs. Houston, 13–6
Next week: at Indianapolis

We correctly predicted a Jaguars slump game against the Texans, which was always fertile ground to show Trevor Lawrence something he hasn’t seen before coverage-wise. I’m still betting big on this athletic, young roster. 

Last week: win at Washington, 21–17
Next week: BYE

The Titans are heading into a much-needed bye week, conveniently following a gimmie against the Commanders, one of the worst teams in football. We’ll see whether the time off gives them the ability to shift from survival mode to thriving mode. 

Last week: win vs. Detroit, 29–0
Next week: at Cleveland

Bill Belichick doesn’t need to remind everyone that he’s the greatest coach of all time, but playing Jared Goff certainly helps. Something about facing Goff brings out the truly sadistic nature of Belichick the game plan designer. A humbling week for the high-scoring Lions as well. 

Last week: loss vs. Indianapolis, 12–9 (OT) (Thursday)

Next week: at Los Angeles Chargers (Monday)

Nathaniel Hackett put the game on the quarterback’s shoulders just like everyone asked him to a few weeks ago, and Russell Wilson missed a wide-open wide receiver. The Broncos aren’t going to ride anywhere until they figure out how to maximize Wilson amid a very prickly situation. 

19. New York Jets (3–2)

Last week: win vs. Miami, 40–17
Next week: at Green Bay

The Jets haven’t been this relevant this deep into a season (I know it’s only early October) in a long time. Zach Wilson is playing within himself, and while the sample size is small, his bad throw percentage has been almost halved from a year ago, according to Pro Football Reference.

20. Seattle Seahawks (2–3)

Last week: loss at New Orleans, 39–32
Next week: vs. Arizona

Who has two thumbs and regrets not putting Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron on his future head coaches’ list based on an incorrect assumption about his Russell Wilson–based offense and not the fact that he’s putting up comical levels of efficiency with Geno Smith? This guy. The Seahawks remain one of the most fun and weird teams in the NFL, and are now more enjoyable to root for. 

Last week: Win vs. Seattle, 39–32
Next week: vs. Cincinnati

Here’s a promise you can take to the bank: If the Saints continue to be weird and give Taysom Hill 10 touches per game, I will move them up five spots on the power rankings each week regardless of whether it results in a win or a loss. This is what they should have been doing four weeks ago. 

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Stephen Lew/USA TODAY Sports

Last week: loss at Kansas City, 30–29
Next week: BYE

The Raiders are the best 1–4 team I’ve ever seen. That’s not necessarily a distinction Josh McDaniels wants to have, but the latter moments of Monday Night Football showed just how comfortable this offense has become with one another. I would not be surprised if they finish the year above .500. 

Last week: loss at Tampa Bay, 21–15
Next week: vs. San Francisco

The worst part of the Tom Brady roughing-the-passer call was that it spoiled an absolutely beautiful-looking Dean Pees stunt to try to get Atlanta the ball back. How dare the referees take that away from us. In all seriousness, the Falcons lost by one, four and six points respectively this season. This team is on its way up despite not much help from an inherited personnel standpoint. 

Last week: loss vs. Philadelphia, 20–17
Next week: at Seattle

We are starting to see materialize a Cardinals team that was removed from some of its good fortunes a year ago. Credit to them for fighting their way back into a game against one of the best teams in football, but they are what we’ve seen for most of this year: a team with a talented quarterback that is a tier below any serious contenders.

Last week: win at Broncos, 12–9 (OT) (Thursday)

Next week: vs. Jacksonville

This week, the Colts take on the Jaguars for a second time in what will be a telling stretch of games for Frank Reich. By Halloween, he’ll have all of the divisional games against the best of the AFC South behind him. What will their record look like against the Jaguars and Titans? 

Last week: loss vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 30–28
Next week: vs. New England

Regardless of when their franchise quarterback is arriving, this is still a defense that is allowing the third-worst EPA per play in the NFL. And Justin Herbert was the first real, Pro Bowl–caliber quarterback they’ve played all season after games against Baker Mayfield, Joe Flacco, Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky.

Last week: loss at New England, 29–0
Next week: BYE

Getting blanked by the Patriots was a heartbreaking moment for the Lions-will-turn-this-around crowd. With all the talent offensively (both on the field and in the coaching booth), it’s stunning to see this team sitting at 1-4. 

Last week: loss at Buffalo, 38–3
Next week: vs. Tampa Bay

I respect Mike Tomlin for flipping the switch to Kenny Pickett, though it had to be a difficult proposition to make his first start against the best team in the NFL. Pickett will ultimately be fine in Pittsburgh, but there are going to be some grimace-worthy moments. 

Last week: loss at Minnesota, 29–22
Next week: vs. Washington

If you would have told me that five weeks into the season, Matt Eberflus would have only a minus-20 point differential and a top-15 team in terms of points allowed, I would consider mailing in my ballot for coach of the year now (Mike McCarthy also deserves my early season consideration, though the haters and losers won’t give me an actual ballot). 

Last week: win at Jacksonville, 13–6
Next week: BYE

Boy is Dameon Dameon Pierce fun to watch. This might be the only show in town this year in Houston, so let’s savor each moment. 

Last week: loss vs. Tennessee, 21–17
Next week: at Chicago (Thursday)

Ron Rivera’s comments on Carson Wentz, which will inevitably be sloppily clarified and reclarified in the coming weeks, sounded like the flailings of a desperate man. Nothing about what Washington has put together has been good. That doesn’t just fall on the easily scape-goatable Carson Wentz. 

Last week: loss vs. San Francisco, 37–15
Next week: at Los Angeles Rams

Matt Rhule is out. Baker Mayfield is out. At this point, it’s about following Carolina’s scouts around to see which SEC and Big 10 games they’re attending later in the season, and which of the top quarterbacks they might prefer. 

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