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Blake Pace’s NFL power rankings through Week Five

NFL: New England Patriots at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Power rankings are stupid.

As I’m sitting out on my small patio looking out at the Nashville skyline, I wonder what’s so captivating about weekly power rankings — especially in the NFL. Personally, I always like to read up on different power rankings from different sites, but mostly just to reaffirm my own thoughts on how I visualize the league taking form.

But in a league where the difference between the fifth-best team and the 25th-best team isn’t that far apart, ranking the NFL teams — even over a month into the season — can be easily picked apart. It’s all subjective, yet few sites abstain from rolling one out.

That being said, I’ll be dropping one down every Wednesday afternoon. If you agree with me, let me know. If you don’t, make fun of me or let’s have a conversation about it in the comments. We all have a different lens in which we observe the league through, so I think this will be a fun chance to go back and forth on where teams have positioned themselves through each week of the season.

Heading into Week 6, there’s little separation between a lot of teams in the middle of the pack. I think the bottom four teams are pretty clear, and the No. 1 team should be undeniable at this point too. Let’s dive into it, as I try to sort out how to position the other 27 franchises in-between.

32. The Washington Redskins (0-5)

I’m taking the combination of lack of talent and amount of dysfunction into this one. The Redskins will have a chance to move up this week should they beat my No. 31 team which is ...

31. The Miami Dolphins (0-4)

Definitely the least talented team in the league, but I like Brian Flores and Josh Rosen more than I do Bill Callahan and Dwayne Haskins/Case Keenum/Colt McCoy. If they can’t defend their home turf this weekend, they’ll end back up in last.

30. The Cincinnati Bengals (0-5)

I expect Cincy to give it two more weeks — losses to the Ravens and Jaguars — before unloading some of their older talents for draft capital. Geno Atkins could definitely help someone’s front seven (Indy or Kansas City), and a healthy AJ Green could really aid the New England offense.

29. The New York Jets (0-4)

At least Sam Darnold is coming back? I’m not entirely high on the soon-to-be mono-free quarterback, but maybe he’ll be the right answer for a Jets offense that’s averaging fewer yards per drive than Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey alone.

28. The Arizona Cardinals (1-3-1)

Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray won their first professional games on Sunday, and have two more great chances coming up against the Falcons and the Giants. There are still a ton of holes up and down this roster, but the quarterback and play-caller are hopefully finding their footing.

27. The Denver Broncos (1-4)

Vic Fangio also earned is first win as a head coach, coming out and dominating the Los Angeles Chargers. They still have a depleted roster, a ~meh~ quarterback and no real promise this season in a tough division.

26. The Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4)

Now relying on Devlin Hodges, a rookie otherwise known as “Duck,” the Steelers find themselves ducked through five weeks of play. Their defense has talent, but it’s being severely hindered by a bad defensive coordinator. At leas they have their first-round pic- ... oh wait.

25. The Atlanta Falcons (1-4)

Jay Gruden beat Dan Quinn in the race of “first head coach to be fired,” but Quinn might not be that far off. He’s refused to switch up a defense that’s continually been shown its ability to be exposed, while their offense still dreams of Kyle Shanahan every night.

24. The New York Giants (2-3)

If Daniel Jones thought he had it rough against Minnesota’s defense, just wait until he has to face the Patriots defense — which is on pace to numerically be the best defense of all time — without his top two running backs and several receivers.

23. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)

Jameis Winston was given a slice of humble pie this past Sunday after throwing up seven total touchdowns the two weeks prior. I still don’t understand how hot and cold Mike Evans can be in this offense, and neither can my fantasy teams.

22. The Cleveland Browns (2-3)

This is one of the harder teams to figure out. They looked good against Baltimore and kept things close with the Rams, but were horrendous in their games against the Titans and 49ers. Baker Mayfield seems to be regressing, and Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t seem to be on the same wavelength with the rest of the offense.

21. The Los Angeles Chargers (2-3)

This was one of my “teams that will regress” heading into the season, and they certainly made me feel good after losing to Vic Fangi0-4. The ball seemed to roll their way a lot in 2018, but they haven’t been as fortunate this season. That and injuries find them in an uphill battle for a wild card spot.

20. The Tennessee Titans (2-3)

Just like the Browns, the Titans go from hot to cold with every new opponent. They dominate the Browns and Falcons, but can’t produce against the Colts, Jaguars and Bills. Their season hinges on consistent, solid production from Marcus Mariota, and I don’t feel confident in how that plays out for the.

19. The Oakland Raiders (3-2)

Is this team for real? They got off to a quick starts against both Indianapolis and Chicago, and were barely able to hang on in both of those games. I expect them to turn from 3-2 to 3-5 after facing the Packers, Texans and Lions in the next four weeks.

18. The Minnesota Vikings (3-2)

Congrats, Kirk Cousins. You had a good game against one of the worst (if not the worst) secondary in the league. Stefon Diggs is unhappy, Cousins is weirdly apologizing on podcasts and they’ve got tough matchups coming up against the Eagles and Lions the next two weeks.

17. The Chicago Bears (3-2)

I’m very pessimistic about the Bears, no matter who’s taking the snaps under center. Good defenses don’t naturally travel well to London games, so I’ll cut them some slack this time around. This Bears team would probably be in my top five if they had taken either of the two other quarterbacks selected in the 2017 first round.

16. The Baltimore Ravens (3-2)

Is the Ravens offense good, or did it just look good against the Dolphins, Cardinals and Chiefs to open up the season. Lamar Jackson has continually regressed since Week 1, and their defense — which has always been the strength of this franchise — ranks 21st in total yards allowed per game and 29th in passing yards allowed per game.

15. The Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)

I’m more optimistic with the Jaguars than most, and the only reason I have them as low as 15th is because I’m not as high on some of the teams that’ve beaten them. Their three losses — to the Chiefs, Texans and Panthers — were to three of the four front-runners for this year’s MVP award. I think Jacksonville has a legitimate case to come out on top in the AFC South, or at the very least contend for the final wild card spot.

14. The Houston Texans (3-2)

Listen. I’m not buying the Houston Texans and their 3-2 start, but if Deshaun Watson is about to carry them like Andrew Luck carried some Colts teams then I’ll gladly be wrong. I think they’re still spotty on defense and along the offensive line, and Bill O’Brien has really questionable play-calling progressions. But Watson is special, meaning this team will go as far as he can take them.

13. The Carolina Panthers (3-2)

Christian McCaffery is the most must-watch player of the 2019 season. Kyle Allen is doing his part to keep the passing offense somewhat alive, but McCaffrey is doing things we haven’t seen since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 or Adrian Peterson in 2012. I’m interested to see in how this offense looks when (and if) Cam Newton returns.

12. The Detroit Lions (2-1-1)

I’m probably just lower than usually on the Lions because I didn’t seem them play on Sunday, but I’m excited to see how they show up against Green Bay on Monday. Last year was an adjustment for Matthew Stafford, going from pickup football to a tightly structured playbook, and this offense has been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2019 season through five weeks of play.

11. The Indianapolis Colts (3-2)

Feeling optimistic after their win over Kansas City? You bet I am. Getting Darius Leonard back on the field after the bye week will be huge, and then shortly after that they’ll have Malik Hooker returning on the backend of the defense. Indy only has four games left against opponents currently above .500, making a 10-win season well within reach.

10. The Dallas Cowboys (3-2)

Two weeks ago I would’ve had Dallas up near the 4-6 range, but that was before they actually played somewhat decent teams. The Saints and the Packers (for the most part) humbled Kellen Moore’s offensive scheme, and it really seems like they miss Cole Beasley working around the middle of the field.

9. The Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)

I can’t feel 100% confident in the Eagles until they get healthier and shore up the backend of their defense. They currently rank 27th in pass defense, and have six games remaining against teams in the top-14 in passing yards per game — including a showdown with MVP candidate Russell Wilson and the offensive creativity of the Patriots. Maybe there’s a certain All-Pro corner out there in the trade market they could insert into their starting lineup?

8. The Seattle Seahawks (4-1)

The difference from this team being 4-1 to 1-4 is only seven total points. Extremely narrow wins over the Bengals, Steelers and Rams have this team riding high, but I worry about how often they’ll consistently be able to pull rabbits out of hats. Russell Wilson is playing the best ball of his life, and the skill players in Chris Carson, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and Will Dissly are nice, but I think this lucky momentum has to give way at some point.

7. The Buffalo Bills (4-1)

I really want to put the Bills higher on this list, but I still worry about how their offense can consistently produce against the better defenses in this league — even though theres is second best behind New England. They still have two games against the Dolphins and one against the Redskins, Browns, Broncos, Steelers and Jets, giving them an unbelievable shot at an 11-5 type season.

6. The San Fransisco 49ers (4-0)

The best offensive play-caller in the NFL is Kyle Shanahan and it’s not even close. His unique usage of numerous running backs, tight ends and fullbacks have defender’s heads spinning, and they’ve only continued to get better as the season’s gone along. This is a dangerous team as we get closer to the midway point of the season.

5. The New Orleans Saints (4-1)

Not having Drew Brees has completely changed the scope of this season for the Saints. Instead of trying to overcome the hangover of two utterly disappointing playoff departures in consecutive seasons, they’ve had to throw that storyline to the side and will themselves around Teddy Bridgewater. I’m still not in love with their linebackers or receivers beyond Michael Thomas, but New Orleans should be riding high when Brees returns to the starting lineup.

4. The Los Angeles Rams (3-2)

I’m choosing to chalk up the Buccaneers game as a fluke showing, and the Seahawks game as a foot difference on that final field goal from actually being a win. While I’m very worried about their corners actually wanting to play football, their front seven is solid and their offense is great when Goff isn’t under pressure. I still think this roster is one of the best in the league, and they should be in position for another trip to the Super Bowl later this winter.

3. The Green Bay Packers (4-1)

Give me the team with Aaron Rodgers as the best in the NFC, and he’s not even the real reason why. This defense (aside from the second half against Philadelphia and Dallas) is playing at an elite level, and their offensive weapons are all starting to get comfortable in the Matt LaFleur offense. Just like Kyle Shanahan, LaFleur is one of the best in the business when it comes to scripting plays to begin a game. This was my preseason pick to represent the NFC in Miami this year, and I feel very confident in the direction they’re heading in.

2. The Kansas City Chiefs (4-1)

I was more so impressed by the Colts than I was unimpressed by the Chiefs. They’re banged up on both sides of the ball, and it’s tough to put up high numbers on offense when you only have the ball for a third of the game. I’d like to see a trade that bolsters their run defense, their biggest glaring need, but this team shouldn’t be cast aside despite a loss to Indy and narrow wins over Detroit and Baltimore.

1. The New England Patriots (5-0)

You hate to see it, but this Patriots team might be one of the best in the Brady/Belicheck era. This defense will go down with the likes of the ‘85 Bears and the ‘00 Ravens, and as soon as their offensive line gets healthy they’ll get back to the ground-and-pound mentality they began to establish toward the end of last year. Yes, their schedule has been light aside from the Bills, but I couldn’t even entertain putting another team in this slot.