Another week in the books from the 2011 NFL season and once again, Week 4 lived up to all of the hype as numerous teams pulled off major upsets–with one of the biggest stories coming from Philadelphia where the San Francisco 49ers overcame a 20-point deficit in the second half to pull off the 24-23 win over the Eagles. Here’s a look at the 2011 NFL Power Rankings for Week 4–with the team’s previous rank listed in parenthesis.
1. (1) Green Bay Packers 4-0: Talk about an impressive performance against the Denver Broncos. Aaron Rodgers had a career day by throwing for 408 yards and four touchdowns to go along with two rushing touchdowns of his own–showing why he may be favorite to take home MVP honors this season. However, despite their high-powered offense, the Packers realize there is still plenty of areas in need of work on defense and the fact that they allowed Kyle Orton to throw three touchdown passes shows defending their title won’t be easy–but they’re still off to a great start.
2. (2) New England Patriots 3-1: After their surprise loss to the Bills in Week 4, it only seemed right that Tom Brady and company would bounce back with a strong outing against the Raiders. Wes Welker seems nearly impossible to contain (nine receptions for 158 yards with one touchdown) on the field and appears to be heading towards a record-breaking season. The defense still has plenty to work on if New England has any chance of coming out on top in the AFC–but anytime a team can hold Darren McFadden to just 75 rushing yards is a positive sign.
3. (3) New Orleans Saints: 3-1: The Saints made it clear last season how they believed Jimmy Graham would end up being one of the biggest steals of the 2010 NFL Draft–and it looks like they may be right after all. Graham continues to develop into one of the most dangerous pass-catching tight ends in the NFL and caught 10 passes against the Jaguars for 132 yards–including a 59-yard touchdown catch from Drew Brees. Even though it was against the Jaguars, this team continues to show why they should be considered one of the top teams in the NFC and should remain near the top of the list throughout the rest of the season.
4. (5) Detroit Lions 4-0: Once again, this is not a typo as the Lions continue to impress and live up to their offseason hype. This team has all of the potential in the world to make a strong run at the postseason, but falling behind in games early on and waiting until the second half to show up on offense can only work for so long. The back-to-back comebacks in the second half have been impressive over the last two weeks–but it’s important for Detroit to take advantage of their high-powered offense and figure out a way to get points right off the bat.
5. (4) Baltimore Ravens 3-1: It says a lot about a defense when a team puts up 34 points in a game despite recording just one offensive touchdown. The Ravens’ defense had a field day against the Jets after forcing four turnovers on Mark Sanchez (three of which were returned for touchdowns), but the offense looked terrible. If this team has any chance of finally getting over the hump this season by reaching the Super Bowl, Joe Flacco will need to display better performances than he did against New York’s defense (10 of 31 passes for 163 yards and one interception) on Sunday night.
6. (7) Houston Texans 3-1: Just think–this team could have been 4-0 if it wasn’t for a second-half collapse against the Saints in Week 3. The fact that the Texans managed to pull off the win over the Steelers without having Andre Johnson for most of the game shows just how dangerous this can be. Thank goodness Arian Foster–who rushed for 155 yards with one touchdown after missing the first three games–was healthy enough to play this week or Houston may have come up on the losing end in this one.
7. (11) New York Giants 3-1: If the Giants end up finishing the season one game up in the NFC East or Wild Card hunt–everybody will point back to their Week 4 game against the Cardinals and talk about what may end up being the most controversial call of the 2011 season. Whether he should have been down by contact or not–the only thing that matters now is New York came up on the winning end after trailing late in the fourth quarter to pick up their third-straight win to stay on top of the NFC East with the Redskins.
8. (6) Buffalo Bills 3-1: Instead of coming from behind in the second half like they did the previous two weeks, it was the Bills who jumped out to a big lead only to give it away to the Bengals in the second half. This was Buffalo’s worst offensive performance of the season, but there’s no reason to be worried quite yet considering Cincinnati’s defense that ranks first overall in the NFL through the first four weeks–as hard as that may be to believe. After seeing what the 49ers pulled off against the Eagles, look for Fred Jackson and the Bills’ offense to bounce back in Week 5 against a defensive unit that is allowing opponents their opponents to gain 139.5 yards per game on the ground.
9. (10) Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-1: The Colts looked like they were in control for most of the game, but it was the Buccaneers who came through when it mattered the most. Impressive performances by both Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount to help Tampa Bay pick up their third-straight win after falling to Detroit in Week 1. This team was considered a strong sleeper in 2011 after a surprise 10-6 finish last season with one of the youngest teams in football and at this rate–the Buccaneers seem ready to put up a strong fight for the NFC South title.
10. (19) Tennessee Titans 3-1: Besides the Bills and Lions, the Titans may be one of the biggest surprises through the first four weeks of the regular season after three impressive wins in a row following their Week 1 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even with Kenny Britt sidelined for the rest of the season, this team looks dangerous enough to give the Texans a run for their money in the AFC South. Not only did Matt Hasselbeck (10 of 20 passes for 220 yards with three touchdowns and one interception against the Browns) look impressive once again, but Chris Johnson finally recorded his first 100-yard game of the season–which is a great sign.
11. (18) Washington Redskins 3-1: After putting up just 17 points on offense, it’s the Redskins’ defense that deserves most of the credit for their Week 4 win against the Rams on the road. Washington applied plenty of pressure on Sam Bradford all afternoon as they managed to record six sacks against the 2010 Rookie of the Year and held him to just 164 passing yards. The defense has yet to allow an opponent to score more than 21 points in a game and the Redskins remain on top of the division along with the Giants heading into the bye week–which not many people could have predicted.
12. (13) San Diego Chargers 3-1: The Chargers should consider themselves lucky for a favorable schedule at the beginning of the season other than their Week 2 matchup against the New England Patriots. San Diego’s offense continues to struggle and it seems like only a matter of time before Philip Rivers begins to display those monster-type numbers we’re used to seeing from him. Still, the important factor here is this team is 3-1 heading into Week 5–which is a plus considering their history of getting off to rough starts over the last couple of years.
13. (15) Chicago Bears 2-2: Where would this team be without Matt Forte? It’s safe to say the fourth-year running back proved his value against the Panthers on Sunday after rushing for 205 yards to go along with one touchdown. The secondary clearly still has issues and Chicago should consider themselves lucky for holding on against Carolina since they managed to keep it close for most of the game. The Bears look nothing like the defending NFC North champions from a year ago and still have plenty of work on their plate if they have any chance at making another run at the postseason.
14. (21) San Francisco 49ers 3-1: Considering their offense ranked 32nd overall heading into Week 4, nobody gave the 49ers much of a chance against the Eagles–but they shocked the world after overcoming a 20-point deficit in the second half to improve to 3-1 on the season. Philadelphia’s defense made Alex Smith look like Joe Montana after leading his team to three impressive scoring drives in the second half and if the defense continues to play this well–it’s safe to say San Francisco has the best chance to finish on top of the weak NFC West this season.
15. (8) New York Jets 2-2: Back-to-back losses after a 2-0 start can’t be easy for Rex Ryan and company to deal with. As if their loss to the Raiders in Week 3 wasn’t painful enough, the Jets were simply embarrassed by the Ravens on national television as they allowed Baltimore defense to record three touchdowns off four turnovers by Mark Sanchez. This team claims to be one of the top contenders in the AFC, but if they continue to play at this low level with no offense–there’s no way the Jets reach their third-straight conference championship in January.
16. (9) Pittsburgh Steelers 2-2: One thing is certain after four weeks of the 2011 season–the Steelers are nowhere near the dominant level we’re used to seeing them at from the last couple of seasons. Pittsburgh always had the reputation as a team that was impossible to gain any yards on the ground against and through four games–they’ve already allowed two running backs to break the 100-yard mark this season. Combine that along with all of the problems with the offensive line protecting Ben Roethlisberger–it doesn’t look good for Pittsburgh.
17. (16) Atlanta Falcons 2-2: The Seahawks contain the 31st overall ranked offense and had only scored 27 points heading into Week 4–so it’s not a good sign that the Falcons allowed them to put up 28 points on Sunday. A win is a win, no matter how a team manages to obtain it–but Atlanta should consider themselves real lucky after this one. Considering they were up 20 points at one point in the third quarter–there’s no reason why a team with as much talent as the Falcons should only win by two against a team like the Seahawks.
18. (12) Dallas Cowboys 2-2: Let all of the talk about how terrible of a quarterback Tony Romo is begin once again after the Cowboys latest loss to the Lions. It’s hard to believe a team like Dallas when on to lose this game considering they were up 27-3 at one point in the third quarter–but it happened. After throwing two costly interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, it’s easy to see why most of the blame is being put on Romo after this loss–but this is a team sport. The Cowboys need every win they can get and it’s a shame to see them surrender two double-digit leads in the fourth quarter during both of their losses this season.
19. (14) Oakland Raiders 2-2: As bad as it sounds–this was expected from the Raiders in Week 4 considering they were the unfortunate victims of playing against Tom Brady and company–who were anxious to bounce back after their embarrassing loss to the Bills in Week 3. In the end, Wes Welker (nine catches for 158 yards with one touchdown) was just too much for Oakland to handle on defense and they fell behind quickly in the second half–forcing Jason Campbell to throw more than he would have liked to instead of using Darren McFadden more in the ground game.
20. (17) Philadelphia Eagles 1-3: Where to even begin with this team? Easily the biggest disappointment of the 2011 season so far after all of the offfseason hype after all of the key additions made during training camp. Michael Vick has lost five of his last six starts and the Eagles have given up double digit leads in the fourth quarter in each of their last three games–which are all losses. The offensive line and group of linebakers on this year’s team is absolutely terrible and it’s embarrassing to see Philadelphia at this level considering they could easily have been at three or four wins already.
21. (31) Cincinnati Bengals 2-2: Forget Carson Palmer–Andy Dalton has this team playing at a level nobody expected this early in his career. Their win over the Bills was a huge confident boost for this young team, but they still need to figure out a way for the offense to perform at a high level on a consistent basis. And who would have thought after four weeks–the Bengals would contain the No. 1 overall offense so far. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Marvin Lewis and company and while they still seem like a long-shot to make the playoffs–it’s games like these that will help Cincinnati out in the long run.
22. (22) Carolina Panthers 1-3: Once again, it’s hard to consider Sunday’s loss to the Bears a disappointment considering the Panthers continue to exceed expectations. The fact that Carolina was close to pulling off a surprise win at Soldier Field–a stadium where most teams tend to struggle playing in–says a lot about this young team. Cam Newton was able to take advantage of another weak secondary and displayed another impressive performance by throwing for for 374 yards with one touchdown along with two more touchdowns on the ground.
23. (20) Cleveland Browns 2-2: Cleveland may be one of the most difficult teams to figure out at this point in the season–mainly because it seems like a different team shows up each week. After back-to-back impressive wins over the Colts and Dolphins, the Browns were embarrassed by the Titans at home and were doomed from the start of the game. Colt McCoy should never have to throw 61 times in a game and this team has plenty of questions heading into the bye week.
24. (25) Seattle Seahawks 1-3: The Seahawks almost rallied to pull off what would have been a huge win over the Falcons–but fell just short in the final minutes. If Seattle had to take away anything positive from the outcome of this game, it would have to be the production of Sidney Rice–who caught his first touchdown of the season and finished the game with three catches for 79 yards. Rice has looked impressive over his first two games of the season after missing the first two games to injury and is wasting no time making an impact in Seattle’s passing game.
25. (26) Arizona Cardinals 1-3: The argument can be made that Arizona should be 2-2 considering the questionable call at the end of the game involving Victor Cruz and whether or not he fumbled–but there’s nothing they can do about it now. It was good to see Beanie Wells gain some confidence after finding the end zone three times against the Giants, but the Cardinals need to get better numbers out of Kevin Kolb. It’s safe to say Kolb’s been mediocre so far–but he should be displaying bigger numbers with the type of money Arizona is paying him.
26. (23) Jacksonville Jaguars 1-3: Give the Jaguars some credit considering they played better against the Saints than most people expected–but the end results were still disappointing. Not only has Jacksonville scored just 23 points over the last three weeks, but they have yet to score more than 16 points in a game this season–which is a huge reason to be concerned. Unfortunately, they face a difficult task next weekend against a surprising Cincinnati team that ranks No. 1 overall in defense–so Jacksonville’s offense could be in for another long game.
27. (24) Denver Broncos 1-3: With three losses over their first four games of the season, the Tim Tebow talk continues to heat up even more in Denver–but Kyle Orton is clearly still the team’s best option to win games. Sunday was a day to forget after the Broncos allowed the Packers to generate over 500 yards on offense on top of Aaron Rodgers recording six total touchdowns (four through the air and two on the ground). This game was over in the middle of the third quarter and the Broncos appear to be on their way to yet another disappointing season.
28. (32) Kansas City Chiefs 1-3: Finally–the Chiefs no longer have to worry about going the entire 2011 season without a single win. In a battle between two winless teams, Kansas City managed to pull off the win over Minnesota thanks to an impressive performance by Matt Cassel and the passing game. However, the real hero of the game may have been kicker Ryan Succop after he connected on all five of his field goal attempts–including two kicks that were beyond 51 yards.
29. (29) Indianapolis Colts 0-4: Give this team credit considering they looked to be in control for most of the game against the Buccaneers on Monday night and only lost by seven. Curtis Painter looked impressive at times in his first career start (13 of 30 passes for 281 passing and two touchdowns) and if Jim Caldwell was smart–he would go with him as his starting quarterback over Kerry Collins next weekend against the Chiefs. If Painter can figure out a successful way to use Pierre Garcon–who caught touchdown passes from 87 and 59 yards against the Bucs–and Reggie Wayne in the passing game, there’s no reason why Indianapolis can’t pull off a couple of wins this season while Peyton Manning continues to recover from his neck injury.
30. (28) Miami Dolphins 0-4: It seems like only a matter of time before Tony Sparano gets the boot and the Dolphins begin their search for his replacement. On top of their 0-4 start, Miami is averaging just 15 points per game over their last three contests and can’t seem to figure out a way to get anything consistent going on offense. The sad thing is–this team actually showed potential during the first game of the season against the Patriots. Since then, this team looks like they would struggle to win against a college football team.
31. (30) St. Louis Rams 0-4: The Rams have been outscored 113-46 by their opponents over the first four games and there’s a good chance they could be looking at an 0-7 start with matchups against the Packers, Cowboys, and Saints after their bye week. Washington was the perfect opportunity to pick up their first win of the season–but it’s difficult for St. Louis to come up on the winning end when they allow Sam Bradford to be sacked six times. With all of the injuries suffered through the first quarter of the season, no team is in need of a bye week more than the Rams and let’s hope they find a way to recuperate with the extra time off.
32. (27) Minnesota Vikings 0-4: The only way the Vikings start to the 2011 season could get any worse is if they lost to a Chiefs’ squad that had recorded just 27 points over the first three weeks of the season–and that’s exactly what happened. There’s no excuse for this team to be winless at this point in the season considering the type of talent they have on both sides of the ball. Leslie Frazier continues to insist Donovan McNabb is his starting quarterback, but at this rate–it’s hard not to wonder if the Christian Ponder era will begin sooner than expected with the way things are going in Minnesota.
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