Pickwatch Power Rankings Week 4
The 2020 season is turning out to be one for the ages. Which teams are on top of the pile and which have lost out?
28 Sep, 2020
Kansas City 3-0 (Up 1) It says more about us as columnists and pundits than it does about the Chiefs that after one slightly off week where they still won, there was a doubt about their ability to knock off the Ravens. We had the Chiefs at no.1 last week and they deservedly remain the best team in the NFL after a comprehensively incredible performance against Baltimore. The receiving combination corps of Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce and Clyde Edwards-Helaire is frightening.
Green Bay 3-0 (Up 1) Controversial? It could be, I think the good thing about this year’s NFL is that any of the three teams below the Chiefs could make a case to be their biggest rivals. The Packers edge it after winning as underdogs on the road in New Orleans in fairly clinical fashion. I’m quite down on the Saints this year (not sure I mentioned that?) but it was still an impressive prime time showing from Aaron Rodgers and co.It’s a novelty for the Packers to have a back like Aaron Jones who gives them a legitimate run game to threaten opponents with, going back over Rodgers’s career, that’s a novelty for him, and one that he’s clearly enjoying.
Seattle 3-0 (-) The Seahawks keep pace with the elite teams by disposing handily of the Cowboys. Let’s not pretend the game was as close as the final score indicates - the Seahawks dominated 3 quarters and let Dallas have a sniff of the lead, but the time always seemed to be working towards them having a decisive final score. As with Green Bay, there is a tiny worry about how many points they’re giving up in victory, but the prospect of Tyler Lockett and Russel Wilson consistently torching defenses the way they have so far outweighs the doubts and the Seahawks remain a strong Super Bowl contender.
Baltimore 2-1 (Down 2) The Ravens were up against the class of the NFL, so losing is no great shame, but for the first time in over a year, it felt like the question mark may have reappeared about whether the Ravens can win a Super Bowl in their current guise. I think on the positive side, they will get a chance to demonstrate one way or another, because they’re still set for a deep playoff run. Mildly concerning that the pass game for the Ravens ranks dead last this season, while last year they had a great running game that exposed defenses for big plays through the air. Lamar Jackson has some work to do…
New England 2-1 (-) The Pats took down a solid Raiders team as if they were a bad Raiders team. The defense allowed very little, the offense moved as if the Las Vegas defense didn’t exist. Their spiderweb from our game page reminds me of the Baltimore spider from last year, the shape being weighted heavily towards the run, but not as dramatically as this year’s Ravens. The Pats rank 22nd in passing, but are they a match for the Chiefs? We get to find out in yet another great matchup in week 4.
Pittsburgh 3-0 (Up 1) I was very wrong about the Steelers - I had them in for a down year, but Ben Roethlisberger is defying all time and logic by continuing to lumber around and win games with his arm. The Steelers D is the real star of the show though, ranking first in the league with 15 sacks and giving up just 19.3ppg. If the defense plays like this, they will have a chance to usurp the Ravens in what looks like a strong AFC North. They overtake Tennessee in these rankings, and have a chance to demonstrate that when the two teams play on Sunday.
Tennessee 3-0 (down 1) A little switcheroo for Tennessee who fall behind the Steelers after a narrow victory over a poor Minnesota team. The Titans seemed to be in control for much of the game on Sunday, but the way they have scraped to three wins (by a combined total of 6 points) leaves something to be desired. Are they this year’s Seahawks, adjusting their play to fit the opponent? The comedy of errors on the long Justin Jefferson TD catch and run was not befitting a team that wants to be a defensive powerhouse, but all that aside, they remain a strong team in a weak division that should see them comfortable playoff contenders.
San Francisco 2-1 (Up 1) I worry that their injuries may be a bigger problem against a team with an offense, but Nick Mullens was enough against the bottom-feeding Giants. The 49ers have a schedule that toughens up dramatically over the back end of the season and I fear that if Jimmy Garoppolo and <assorted Running Backs> are out for an extended period, it could hurt their playoff chances, but if they can overcome Philly and Miami in the next 2 weeks, that will significantly help their hopes.
Dallas 1-2 (Down 1) How long can the Cowboys be considered a top team if they don’t beat the top teams? Since their 13-10 DEMOLITION of the Saints in week 13 of 2018, the Cowboys are 1-7 against teams with a winning record. A coaching change has not inspired the hope I believed they had of being the class of the NFC, but will it matter? The other teams in the NFC East have won a single game between them in 3 weeks, and the others look like they’re going backwards at a slightly more rapid pace than Dallas. The playoffs beckon, but only because they are given a participation award on behalf of the NFC East.
Buffalo 3-0 (Up 6) Time to believe? Not quite. I think there’s a lot to like about Buffalo, but ultimately they’re beneficiaries of a poor PI call that otherwise saw them blow a 25 point lead. Let’s file this team under ‘could implode at any moment and has done already’. Still, Josh Allen has improved since his week 1 travails and they have some kind of offensive rhythm. In a slightly discombobulated AFC East, they have a chance to make some moves, but they’ll need to beat New England twice to realistically signal a changing of the guard for me.
Tampa Bay 2-1 (Up 1) I mean… ok they beat Denver, but it was the Broncos, who fielded their second and third string QB’s in just week 3 of a lost season for them. Credit where it’s due, the Bucs passing game got going, but no run game isn’t a good sign, especially when you’re up by 3 scores. The Bucs rank 28th in the league despite signing all of 2017’s best running backs, but their schedule is nice and they have a good chance to finish top of the mediocre NFC South
LA Rams 2-1 (up 2) I like the Rams but they just have some weird games and the flaws are there for all to see. Going down 28-3 isn’t the death knell it once was, but it’s still not a great sign on either side of the ball. The positives? Jared Goff got going, the offense seemed to click and Aaron Donald got dominant. A tough loss that they can’t afford in the battle for an NFC wild card spot, but being able to play the Giants after that loss may ease their pain.
Las Vegas 2-1 (Down 3) The Raiders were roundly shown up by New England on Sunday and have a chance to continue some bad AFC East vibes as Buffalo come to town this week. I have a feeling that Vegas may be a team that still gets a sneaky home advantage from their new stadium, but getting some fans in would help their defense enormously. They currently give up 30 points per game and that could well be exactly what they give up on Sunday against a BIlls team that scores 31 per game.
Cleveland 2-1 (Up 7) The Browns make a big leap because they have found their way to win. It’s a powerful idea for a flawed team, but this team can run like very few in the league and has taken the weight off it’s 30th ranked passing game. It would be easy to say that the Browns have only beaten the Washingtons and the Bengals, but the manner of those victories has given them momentum. They have a strength vs weakness matchup this week, where their 3rd ranked rush attack takes on the 23rd ranked Dallas defense. The down side? Their 22nd ranked pass defense takes on the top ranked Dallas passing game…
Arizona 2-1 (Down 2) On the outside looking in? With the expanded playoffs getting 14 teams to this year’s postseason, the Cardinals could become - theoretically - the first 4th place team to qualify for the playoffs. Unfortunately, their biggest problem is that they are in the toughest division and losing games against the Lions does not bode well. Kyler Murray was not at his best on Sunday, but he did play well enough and the lack of a deep threat (Christian Kirk was injured) seemed to limit the Cardinals. There’s something here to build on, and they have a good chance against Carolina and the Jets in the next 2 weeks.
New Orleans 1-2 (Down 6) So… I may be one of the few people unsurprised by the current situation playing out in New Orleans, but teams are going to quickly cotton onto the idea that the Saints cannot throw the ball downfield anymore. He averages a career low of 3.9 yards through the air per completion this season. For reference, Joe Burrow, a rookie, averages 5.4. Brees is at the end and the only thing saving this team from disaster is Alvin Kamara, a one man wrecking ball who gives the Saints some hope of 8-8.
Chicago 3-0 (Up 2) The Bears have moved to Nick Foles, but that won’t convince me that they’re ready for the top half of these power rankings yet. It’s the right move, but the Bears were in a hole for more reasons than Mitch Trubisky’s poor play. Tarik Cohen getting hurt is a bigger deal than it seems. I worry about this team's ability to overcome the quarterback drama, but there is a talent base there that can compete for a wild card spot.
Miami 1-2 (Up 6) The Dolphins chalked up their first win on Thursday night football and played pretty much as well as they have done for 2 years. Make no mistake, they are severely limited by Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB, but that does not prevent them winning games, nor does it prevent Fitzpatrick being an integral part of that success. Confused? That’s how they get you...
Indianapolis 2-1 (Up 7) The good news is that this defense looks legitimately good. The bad news is they still have Philip Rivers wilding out at QB. He’s 3:3 in his touchdown to interception ratio, but the Colts have beaten nobody of note. Their schedule is kind enough that they could hit week 9 without facing a 2020 playoff calibre team (Baltimore) but it toughens considerably after that. I can’t get behind them yet, but games against Chicago and Cleveland should iron out the midfield.
Jacksonville 1-2 (Down 5) The Jags are big fallers after losing to Miami. Those games do define your season at the lower end of the NFL standings, so it’s a pretty good indicator of where Florida’s 8th favorite football team is. The good news is that this week they face Cincinnati and that should help pad some stats, but the Jags are who we thought they were. They’ll win a few, they’ll upset some teams, but they’re not headed to the playoffs and Gardner Minshew is still not safe from Trevor Lawrence’s shadow...
Detroit 1-2 (Up 4) Nice win on the road for the Lions who actually tied the same fixture last season. The perception that the Cards were unfortunate will underplay how well the Lions D played. 3 interceptions and limiting the Cards to 109 yards rushing (they had averaged 170) was a successful day. If Stafford and Golladay hook up as they can, this team has some chance to usurp the flawed Bears and take second place in the NFC North. They’re ranked 9th of the NFC teams here, a playoff spot is still possible even after a poor start.
Carolina 1-2 (-) No change for the Panthers after a win that we called in Upset Watch. The Panthers were +5.5 underdogs, a faintly ridiculous number given the Chargers starting Justin Herbert. Mike Davis is as we said, a good replacement for Christian McCaffrey and it was nice to see Teddy Bridgewater throwing no turnovers. There’s a lot to like about the foundations the Panthers have, but possibly another season before we get carried away.
LA Chargers 1-2 (Down 4) The Chargers just don’t have a good enough team to absorb their QB situation. Justin Herbert is clearly their guy, but like Joe Burrow (see below)... (that means worse in power rankings parlance) he is not going to be able to get the Chargers over the line in close games. The other worrying thing is Melvin Ingram going down for at least 3 weeks. That defense is a key part of their ability to try and ride out the Taylor-Herbert transition, but right now, it doesn’t look like the Chargers will be able to make the most of some winnable games on the horizon.
Cincinnati 0-2-1 (Down 5) The first of the officially downright bad teams. A tie against Philly was deeply unsatisfying, but for the Bengals who just need good vibes this season, it will not hurt as much as it could have done. Cincinnati have big holes on offense and defense and this year is a bust already, but I think their moxy will keep them in games and they’re not as far away from wins as some of the teams in this zone of mediocrity. Of note, Joe Mixon is set for just 864 yards at the current pace. He needs Joe Burrow to get the air game going asap.
Houston 0-3 (Up 2) Do the Texans deserve to raise two places? No, but the teams below definitely deserve to fall 3 or 4 places, so get over it. This is surely the end of Bill O’Brien as head coach, or at least someone needs to stop him pissing off all-world talents like DeAndre Hopkins in exchange for a running back who is leading the Texans to a 31st ranked running game. You can see some signs of life in DeShaun Watson, but he can’t do it alone.
Minnesota 0-3 (Up 3) Like Houston (who they play this week, Covid allowing) the Vikings do not deserve to go up, but they did show some fight against the Titans that frustratingly, is a perfect example of what this team is theoretically capable of offensively. The pieces are all there, but at some point, the Vikes will need to realize that Kirk Cousins will have a lot of bad games that require everyone else to be perfect in order to overcome them.
Denver 0-3 (Up 1) Why are the Broncos moving up? Because they’re playing hard. Last week was bad, so bad that theoretically, they should be down and out the bottom of this list, yet such is the standard at the bottom of the NFL this season that it is almost impossible that the Broncos can lose to the Jets, even while starting their third string QB who had never played before Sunday.
Washington 1-2 (Down 5) Dwayne Haskins is a disaster. FC Washington have some pieces but you cannot overcome a QB who completes 56% of his passes and brings nothing else to the table. He isn’t agile, he isn’t quick, he doesn’t play within himself, he just can’t bring Washington to the level they are aspiring to. They face a Ravens team that matches up extremely well against them and this is going to be a 1-3 team that somehow is still not the worst in their division.
Atlanta 0-3 (Down 9) I picked the Bears to upset the Falcons because I felt the psychological damage of the Cowboys defeat would overwhelm the Falcons. I think we can call that a good prediction, but the manner of the Falcons collapsing for the second time in two weeks caught even me by surprise. Expecting them to lose is not expecting them to be mentally so fragile that they don’t trust themselves to win from 16 points ahead. And that score? It was flattery. The Falcons benefitted from a questionable call against Allen Robinson on a jump ball TD catch, and a 4th down drop while going to the ground in the end zone by Anthony Miller. In some ways, it would have been better if the Falcons had never led. It certainly won’t get better against the Packers on Monday night.
Philadelphia 0-2-1 (-) No change for Philly, they are beyond salvation, possibly worse than I thought in the season preview article. The NFC East currently doesn’t have a team with a winning record and the Eagles are not contenders to break that pattern, with Carson Wentz averaging an NFL low 5.6 passing yards per attempt. That’s NFL low as in below Brett Rypien, Jeff Driskel, and any other player who has thrown more than 5 passes this season. Wentz is not solely to blame by any stretch, but absent a running game and an offensive line, his lack of dynamic playmaking ability will get a lot of attention.
NY Giants 0-3 (-) Saved from bottom spot by the Jets being bad is not a recommendation of the Giants and their qualities. The hobbled Niners presented an opportunity to win, or at least be competitive, and the Giants simply couldn’t figure out how to move the ball. They rank 31st (behind you-know-who) with just 12.7 points per game and don’t rank above 23rd in any main offensive category. There is something fundamentally broken in NYC, and the Giants travel to LA to take on the Rams in what is almost certainly a pathway to 0-4.
NY Jets 0-3 (-) The Jets are still the worst team in football by some way. They are underdogs at home against the Broncos, who are starting Brett Rypien, a player who was the Broncos third string QB in week 1. Sam Darnold is just above Carson Wentz in yard per attempt, but unlike Wentz, Darnold has no resumé to back up his credentials as a starter in the NFL. Somehow, the Jets manage to underwhelm every time and head coach Adam Gase will surely be fired if the Jets lose to Denver on a national stage, and not before time.