1. Seattle Seahawks (5-0) | Last week’s rank: 1
The Seahawks return from their bye to play two straight division games, first at Arizona on Sunday and then at home against the 49ers. There are no easy games in the rugged NFC West.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) | Last week’s rank: 2
The running game, led by rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, got it done Monday evening in soggy Buffalo. Now the Chiefs add Le’Veon Bell to the running back mix. The guess is that Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy will get far more out of Bell than the Jets did.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-0) | Last week’s rank: 5
Sunday’s victory over the Browns was thorough and convincing. The Steelers are a legitimate contender for AFC supremacy, and next up is an intriguing matchup Sunday with the Titans in a rescheduled game. But losing LB Devin Bush to a torn ACL is significant.
4. Tennessee Titans (5-0) | Last week’s rank: 6
The Titans are formidable. Their overtime victory over the Texans on Sunday, behind the exploits of QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Derrick Henry, was enthralling. But perhaps it shouldn’t have been quite as exciting against a one-win opponent. The loss of LT Taylor Lewan with a torn ACL hurts the offensive line.
5. Baltimore Ravens (5-1) | Last week’s rank: 3
Lamar Jackson topped 100 rushing yards and 100 passing yards in Philadelphia, and the Ravens sprinted to a big lead. But they let the Eagles back in the game. There’s something missing here. This team is not functioning at the level that last season’s team did. But there’s still time.
6. Chicago Bears (5-1) | Last week’s rank: 10
Nick Foles wasn’t great against the Panthers, but the defense led the way with two interceptions and four sacks. The Chicago defense hasn’t returned to a dominant level, but it has been pretty good.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) | Last week’s rank: 16
Tom Brady didn’t even need to remember what down it was this time. The defense led the way in Sunday’s lopsided triumph over the Packers. The offense did its part, and TE Rob Gronkowski was a factor with five catches and a touchdown.
8. Green Bay Packers (4-1) | Last week’s rank: 4
The costly interceptions thrown by Aaron Rodgers in the loss to the Bucs were an anomaly. So in that sense, it’s fine to R-E-L-A-X, as Rodgers once instructed. But it’s more troubling that with Rodgers struggling the Packers seemed to shrink from the moment.
9. Las Vegas Raiders (3-2) | Last week’s rank: 8
The Raiders could savor their victory over the Chiefs during their bye week. They return for an interesting Sunday night game at home against the Buccaneers.
10. Indianapolis Colts (4-2) | Last week’s rank: 17
It was tougher than expected against the Bengals, with the Colts overcoming an early three-touchdown deficit and then holding on to win with a late interception. But they remain difficult to beat whenever QB Philip Rivers doesn’t throw too many interceptions.
11. Arizona Cardinals (4-2) | Last week’s rank: 15
They dominated the Cowboys on Monday night, taking advantage of many Dallas mistakes. It made for a victorious return to his home state for QB Kyler Murray, and it kept the Cardinals in the thick of the NFC West race.
12. San Francisco 49ers (3-3) | Last week’s rank: 24
The defending NFC champs aren’t done yet. Jimmy Garoppolo was far better in the second game of his return than he had been a week earlier. And the 49ers got what felt like a season-saving win Sunday night over the Rams.
13. Los Angeles Rams (4-2) | Last week’s rank: 7
Aaron Donald was not a factor, and the offense sputtered in Sunday night’s loss to the 49ers. There’s plenty of room to wonder if the Rams can keep pace with the Seahawks in the NFC West, or even if they can stay ahead of the Cardinals and 49ers.
14. New Orleans Saints (3-2) | Last week’s rank: 13
The Saints had their bye week to sort out all of the issues with WR Michael Thomas. They need Thomas healthy, in the lineup and back to his usually productive ways.
15. Buffalo Bills (4-2) | Last week’s rank: 11
Josh Allen has regressed after his early-season success. The defense got pushed around Monday evening by the Chiefs. The Bills might still be the class of the AFC East, but losses to the Titans and Chiefs following their 4-0 start provide reason for concern.
16. Cleveland Browns (4-2) | Last week’s rank: 9
Same old Browns? Maybe so. Maybe not. They regrouped from their 32-point loss to the Ravens in the season opener and now must regroup from Sunday’s 31-point defeat to the Steelers.
17. Denver Broncos (2-3) | Last week’s rank: 21
The Broncos got field goals instead of touchdowns against the Patriots as Drew Lock returned with a two-interception outing. But it was enough for a win, thanks to the performance on defense. Credit goes to Coach Vic Fangio for not complaining about the schedule disruptions and getting his team to make the most of the situation.
18. New England Patriots (2-3) | Last week’s rank: 12
Not practicing didn’t work nearly as well for the Patriots as it did a week ago for the Titans. No one should count out a Bill Belichick-coached team. Not now. Not ever. But the loss at home to the Broncos was troubling, and the Patriots are not very good at this point. Belichick must get it fixed.
19. Miami Dolphins (3-3) | Last week’s rank: 19
The decision to switch to Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback has been made with the Dolphins on their earlier-than-planned bye week. It’s the right move. This is about Tagovailoa’s long-term NFL development and getting that process started, not about short-term results. The Dolphins weren’t going to win a Super Bowl this season with Ryan Fitzpatrick. They might win one someday with Tagovailoa.
20. Carolina Panthers (3-3) | Last week’s rank: 14
The three-game winning streak ended with the loss to the Bears. That doesn’t change the fact that the Panthers have probably overachieved, given all the offseason changes and the injury to Christian McCaffrey.
21. Detroit Lions (2-3) | Last week’s rank: 23
The Lions took advantage of playing the Jaguars to earn their second win. They can reach .500 if they can beat another one-win team Sunday at Atlanta.
22. Dallas Cowboys (2-4) | Last week’s rank: 18
That was an ugly performance in a loss Monday night to the Cardinals, from Ezekiel Elliott’s fumbles to Andy Dalton’s interceptions to the dropped touchdown pass to more issues on the offensive line. The Cowboys weren’t even competitive in their first full game without Dak Prescott.
23. Atlanta Falcons (1-5) | Last week’s rank: 30
The Falcons finally found a lead they could hold and got into the win column in Raheem Morris’s first game as interim coach. Matt Ryan, with help from Julio Jones, was very productive after owner Arthur Blank declined to commit publicly to keeping the quarterback.
24. New York Giants (1-5) | Last week’s rank: 31
All it takes is one win for the Giants to move into contention in the NFC East and prove decisively they’re the finest NFL team in the Meadowlands.
25. Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) | Last week’s rank: 27
It’s all about the continued development of rookie QB Justin Herbert, who has provided glimpses of potential stardom, as the Chargers return from their bye to play out what looks to be a lost season. Mixing in a few wins would be nice, and facing the Jaguars on Sunday should help in that regard.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (1-4-1) | Last week’s rank: 20
The Eagles fought back into the game against the Ravens but couldn’t get the late two-point conversion they needed to tie. At this point, near-misses like that should be considered wins for NFC East teams.
27. Houston Texans (1-5) | Last week’s rank: 22
The Texans gave a spirited performance Sunday at Tennessee before falling in overtime. The quibble here is that interim coach Romeo Crennel’s choice to try for a two-point conversion with a seven-point lead late in regulation was overly aggressive. Kick the extra point for an eight-point lead and make the Titans get both a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie and force OT.
28. Cincinnati Bengals (1-4-1) | Last week’s rank: 26
A 21-0 lead disappeared, and the Bengals lost at Indianapolis. They’re greatly improved with rookie Joe Burrow at QB. But able to actually win games with any regularity? Not yet.
29. Minnesota Vikings (1-5) | Last week’s rank: 25
Kirk Cousins was right: He won’t keep the Vikings’ quarterback job all season if he keeps throwing interceptions at this rate. Or at least he shouldn’t. But Cousins is far from the only problem on this underachieving team.
30. Washington Football Team (1-5) | Last week’s rank: 28
There won’t be any criticism of Ron Rivera here, not with what he’s enduring to keep coaching. The decision on the failed two-point conversion attempt was perfectly acceptable. Play to win; that’s fine. Maybe just keep the public messaging consistent from this point on, after the early-season reluctance to use timeouts amid the talk of player development.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) | Last week’s rank: 29
Remember when the Jaguars were 1-0? No one else does, either.
32. New York Jets (0-6) | Last week’s rank: 32
Consider Le’Veon Bell fortunate. He escaped and no longer has to be part of all of this.