NFL Week 5 power rankings: Top five, bottom three
With the dust settling on week five of the NFL season, a general understanding of both the top and the bottom of the league has come clear. Both the top five and the bottom three seem to have solidified.
Statistically, the top defences find their home in the NFC West with Seattle possessing top honours and San Francisco ranked second.
Offensively New England possess the most prolific unit while Drew Brees takes out individual honours by passing for both the most yards and touchdowns, showing how meaningless certain statistics are.
Looking past statistics, the following are in my view the best five teams in the NFL at the moment, and the worst three.
1) Houston Texans (5-0)
The Texans did not quite deliver the dominant performance that they are capable of when showcased on Monday Night Football. The Texans are clearly the best team in the league at this moment.
With 8.5 sacks J.J. Watt is the clear frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year, Arian Foster is one of the three best running backs in the league and Wade Phillips’ defence is relentless.
The loss of Brian Cushing is a serious concern, with the star linebacker ruled out for the year with a torn ACL and the under performance of Andre Johnson is disappointing. The next two games will be an interesting test to gauge the standard of the Texans.
After playing weak opponents in their first five games, the Texans will host the Packers and the Ravens the following week. Right now the Texans have not quite distinguished themselves as the best team in the league, they are given that based upon their defensive excellence and their potent rushing attack.
If the Texans are to win the next two games they will immediately announce themselves as the league’s benchmark.
2) Atlanta Falcons (5-0)
The Falcons are right up there with the Texans. Matt Ryan is the standout performer so far this season and is the frontrunner for MVP.
The Falcons passing offense sends nightmares to defensive coordinators and receivers Roddy White, Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzales are shoo ins for the pro bowl with surefire Hall of Famer Gonzales producing one of the best seasons of his career.
In the long run, the major change this season is the Falcons’ defensive production. New coordinator Mike Nolan has installed a dangerous defensive scheme that confuses even the best quarterbacks with the most notable of these being Peyton Manning’s abysmal first quarter three interception output on Monday Night Football in week two.
The concern for the Falcons has been their inability to run the football. Michael Turner is continuing to slide but Matt Ryan is compensating fantastically for this lack of production. Secondly, the Falcons have found themselves in deep holes against poor opposition, relying on mistakes from Kirk Cousins and Cam Newton to secure victory.
A victory is a victory and the Falcons have more than anyone in the NFL with the Texans, but relying on mistakes late to win games is not a habit that an elite team should get into the habit of.
3) San Francisco 49ers (4-1)
In their past two games, the 49ers have outscored their opponents 79-3. Their defence is as potent as it was last year but the real revelation with this year’s 49ers is their improvement on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Alex Smith is the most efficient quarterback in the NFL.
He has a touchdown to interception rate of 8-1 and is completing passes at 68.8%.
Smith is not a volume passer like a Rodgers or Brady. He exploits defences that sell out to stop the 49ers running attack – an attack which is also the league’s top ranked with a weekly output of 195.8 yards per game.
The 49ers are on offense as balanced as a team can possibly be.
4) New England Patriots (3-2)
Despite dropping two games, the Patriots have sent a serious warning to every single team in the NFL. After years of having an explosive, wide open passing game that used short passing in substitute of a running game, the Patriots now have both.
Stevan Ridley is the best back to play for the Patriots since Correy Dillon and currently ranks as the fifth most prolific back in the league.
The Patriots other running backs have combined to generate the league’s third best rushing attack. With Tom Brady still being Tom Brady, the Patriots offense is arguably more dangerous this year than any other year due to how defences will need to prioritise their personnel.
The Patriots defensive improvements are also paying dividends, their pass rush is rejuvenated and the secondary is not a constant liability as it has been since Asante Samuel left.
5) Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
The Ravens struggled to win against the Chiefs but ultimately were able to pull out the victory. The Ravens are prone to underperforming against weak opposition (see Tennessee last year) but they also happen to be one of the most reliable teams against quality opposition in marquee games.
The key for the Ravens is to feed Ray Rice the ball and for Joe Flacco to cut down on mistakes, exploit secondaries deep with Torrey Smith and let the defence take care of everything else.
The Ravens can beat any team in the NFL and should be considered one of the teams in the league and certainly have the potential to win the Super Bowl.
Week seven looms as a key date with the Ravens travelling to Houston to face the undefeated Texans. This will figure as a litmus test for both teams and possibly an AFC Championship preview.
1) Cleveland Browns (0-5)
The only team who has failed to secure a victory is the Browns. Although Trent Richardson has given some justification for his high draft position, this team just seems to have absolutely no offensive vigour.
Brandon Weeden has shown some signs that he can perform in this league but he has also produced shown shockingly poor outputs.
At receiver the Browns have zero threats, Richardson almost leads the team in receptions from the backfield. Defensively the Browns have done little to nothing to slow opponents, ranking 26th in both rushing and pass defence.
In Richardson, Joe Thomas and Joe Haden, Cleveland have some promising pieces but they just lack in so many other departments that it is hard to see them even a threat to have a winning season for quite some time.
2) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
If not for a miracle 80-yard pass at the end of their game against Indianapolis, the Jaguars would be without a win. Blaine Gabbert has done next to nothing to show that he is a long term solution for Jacksonville and their defence is languishing near the bottom of the league.
The miracle for the Jaguars has been Maurice Jones-Drew’s performance this season. Jones-Drew is somehow averaging 4.9 yards per carry despite being the only offensive weapon the Jaguars have. That Jones-Drew is producing this for such a terrible offensive unit and despite his lengthy holdout is a testament to how good a player he is.
3) Tennessee Titans (1-4)
The Titans have a pedestrian offense that does not immediately signify just how terrible this team is. The Titans have some interesting pieces, rookie Kendall Wright appears to have a bright future as a wide receiver and the injured Jake Locker has shown some promise as a quarterback having cut down on mistakes and improving his accuracy.
The Titans have been derailed by an atrocious defence that has conceded over 30 points every game they have played. They have been outscored by a staggering 93 points over just five games. The ineptitude of the Titans on the defensive side of the ball is remarkable and will undermine the Titans no matter how good they can be in offense.