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2018 NFL Power Rankings: Quarter Pole Review

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Matt Weston ranks the NFL teams 32-1 through the first four games of the season.

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Traditional power rankings suck, dude. They overreact to one HUGE win and one SAD(!) loss. Rarely do they take in account the entire season or even the last few weeks. To give a more accurate representation of what’s going on and where these teams stand, I will not equivocate or give into the quick tug of heartstrings the NFL season brings by default.

Here’s my opinion on where these teams stand through the first four games of the season.

Why Bother?

32.) Buffalo Bills—Record: 2-3. Point Differential: -55 (32). DVOA: -42.4% (32).

The Bills have won two more games than they should have. The first was a turnover fest where Josh Allen was a wild horse enjoying the pre-Manifest Destiny West. He really should sprout some vibrant, golden flow. The other was a roll in the slop with the Titans, a game that Marcus Mariota should go to jail for, where Allen threw for less than 100 yards and still won. I can’t wait to see those future stats that say the Bills are 17-3 when Allen throws for less than 100 yards. He’s a rock star.

31.) San Francisco 49ers—Record: 1-4. Point Differential: -28 (27). DVOA: -22.6.% (29).

This team is no longer handsome. Their secondary is that trash juice that slides out of the cracks in the big brown canister, polluting ground water, staining white socks, and runining weeks. Unless you are watching All-22 of San Francisco’s front seven, or just [kittening] love play action passes, there’s no reason to watch this team for the rest of the season.

30.) Arizona Cardinals—Record: 1-4. Point Differential: -47 (31). DVOA: -25.8% (30).

The defense is everything you want in this post-modern NFL where everyone scores all the time, where there are no repercussions, where nothing matters and nothing means anything. Arizona’s defense is fast. They have like 17 defensive backs who can all blitz and tackle. They can rush the passer. They can cover.

They’re held back by their Stegosaurus-brained offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy, who finally realized that David Johnson should get the ball more. McCoy was fired as the Chargers’ head coach after his first season saw the team go 9-7 and coaching a scared short pass offense against bright, orange pumpkin Peyton Manning, only to follow that up by going 9-7, 4-12, and 5-11. McCoy was then fired as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator last season. Once they fire McCoy, Josh Rosen will take off. The offense will take off. And this team will be good. However, McCoy’s green little fingers have cratered 2018 for Arizona.

29.) Oakland Raiders—Record: 1-4. Point Differential: -42 (30). DVOA: -16.8% (26).

Who could have known that trading Khalil Mack was a terrible idea? He had the most plays made by an edge defender last season. The Raiders had the worst defense in football last season. Once again, they are 29th in defensive DVOA. Trading the most important part of an already awful defense hasn’t worked out well. Mack’s the type of player you hope to pick when you have multiple first round picks. Derek Carr is unplayable when there is any pass rush. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer once the NFL completely disallows tackling the quarterback.

28.) New York Giants—Record: 1-4. Point Differential: -24 (25). DVOA: -5.8.% (19).

Retire, Eli Manning. The Giants used the number two pick on Saquon Barkley. They’re 25th in rushing offense DVOA and he’s averaging 4.3 yards an attempt.

27.) Indianapolis Colts—Record: 1-4. Point Differential: -20 (24). DVOA: -2.8% (18).

I’m proud of Chris Ballard. He’s manufactured a surprising defense. Despite having zero high draft picks on it aside from Malik Hooker and investing zero dollars into it, it’s been rambunctious. Darius Leonard is rapid and can blitz well. Jabaal Sheard is forever underrated. Margus Hunt is in berserk mode. And their stable of late round and undrafted cornerbacks shouldn’t play this well.

Yeah, Andrew Luck’s arm isn’t all the way there. He’s rehabbing on the football field. But next year when they put some money into this roster, this team is going to contend again.

26.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Record: 2-2. Point Differential: -27 (26). DVOA: -21.9% (28).

I’m glad Fitzmagic is over. I’m still bitter I had to watch him play like 12 games in 2014.

25.) Atlanta Falcons—Record: 1-4. Point Differential: -30 (28). DVOA: -16.9% (27).

Atlanta has the exact defense you want in 2018. It’s young and fast. They have a lot of amphibious players who can play multiple positions. Their defensive line can play the run and pass. Their linebackers can cover. But because of injuries and stagnant progression, the defense is once again horrendous, just like it was to start last season. I hope 2016 wasn’t Matt Ryan’s single shot at this thing. More and more, it looks like it was. Sometimes magic doesn’t happen twice. Sometimes you can’t get that feeling back.

Medium In The Middle:

24.) Miami Dolphins—Record: 3-2. Point Differential: -18 (T-22). DVOA: 16.2% (7).

Let’s keep on free-falling. The Dolphins started off 3-0 by beating the Titans, Jets, and Raiders by one possession, and then they were splattered by the Patriots and Bengals in back-to-back weeks once they played good teams.

I love Ryan Tannehill being intriguing enough to stick around. He’s 30 years old! Some things just never happen. As long as this team keeps their toothpaste squirted dolphin and mermaid sequin aquamarine colors, I want them to lose every game. Bring back the green and orange. Bring back that helmet wearing, football holding Dolphin. That’s fun. Minimalism isn’t.

23.) Cleveland Browns—Record: 2-2-1. Point Differential: +1 (T-14). DVOA: -13.7.% (25).

I have no idea. I’m not watching this team until Hue Jackson gets fired. This is just a guess based on their numbers. I can’t wait to finally watch Myles Garrett play once Hue is exorcised.

22.) Denver Broncos—Record: 2-3. Point Differential: -31 (29). DVOA: 1.5% (16).

The Broncos can run block well, and they have a great run game. But they can’t pass block, and Case Keenum is trying to be Russell Wilson without the athleticism again instead of climbing the pocket. In Denver, Keenum can no longer just lob it up and let the receiver take care of the rest. Anybody can throw the ball to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Vance Joseph looks constantly lost, like a 24 year old fresh off taking six years to get a bachelor’s degree. The defense can’t stop the run long enough to allow Denver to continuously run the ball. I think Von Miller knows this team sucks and regrets naming a chicken after Case. He’s domesticated out there, no longer rabid and slobbering all over the field.

21.) New York Jets—Record: 2-3. Point Differential: +18 (8). DVOA: 0.7% (17).

I do like their safety configuration and front seven. I like the running backs they have. I like how Sam Darnold loves to throw interceptions and can throw 200 yards on 10 passes. He’s good for two stupid throws and two sublime deep balls a game.

20.) Detroit Lions—Record: 2-3. Point Differential: -12 (20). DVOA: -25.9% (31).

This offense should be a top ten offense in the league. I don’t get it. I really don’t. The defense is horrendous.

19.) Dallas Cowboys—Record: 2-3. Point Differential: -13 (21). DVOA: -12.9% (23).

Dallas has the best run high volume rushing offense in the league. Ezekiel Elliott explodes past the offensive line and is carrying the offense on his own. It’s even more impressive when you consider that no one can or does run the football anymore. Dallas’ defense is fine. The problem is their passing offense is broke. Everything is short and slow. In a garbage can NFC East, anything is possible, though.

18.) Tennessee Titans—Record: 3-2. Point Differential: +1 (141). DVOA: -6.3% (20).

The Titans aren’t good. They’ve won three one-possession games. They’ve lost two others. They’re just the Ravens with a worse defense. I’m starting to think Marcus Mariota isn’t a franchise quarterback. Derrick Henry is an outside the tackles scaredy cat.

17.) Houston Texans—Record: 2-3. Point Differential: -9 (19). DVOA: 1.8% (15).

A team that finally hasn’t lost one of their integral players in the beginning of the season has squandered their talent by being terribly coached. The last two weeks have been better. The super cool offense is back. Romeo Crennel is creating some nice inside pass rushing situations.

Now, they can’t score in the red zone, but at least they can get there. I’m just rooting for them to make the playoffs, beat Cincinnati, lose to New England, and then give the Mularkey Treatment to O’Brien. A boy can dream.

Playoffs?

16.) Washington Redskins—Record: 2-2. Point Differential: -4 (18). DVOA: -9.0% (22).

Alex Smith has to throw deep. When he climbs into the shower to hide his tears, nothing works. Adrian Peterson deals with a stacked dolly defense. Chris Thompson is devoured right away. If the defense gives up more than 20 points, the game is over. Fine and tasteless. This team is as mediocre as it gets.

15.) Seattle Seahawks—Record: 2-3. Point Differential: +2 (13). DVOA: 2.0% (14).

I still can’t believe Seattle didn’t invest in its offensive line more. Russell Wilson dangling around the pocket and flipping it down field will always be fun, but a right tackle would have been a better use of resources than a running back who can’t get on the field. It’s cool seeing this defense morph from the Legion of Boom to a team dominated by its front seven. Frank Clark is spectacular.

14.) Green Bay Packers—Record: 2-2-1. Point Differential: +1 (T-14). DVOA: 3.6% (13).

Aaron Rodgers has a peg leg. Yet he still thinks and tries to do the things he did when he was younger and always healthy. Those two strip-sacks against Detroit last week were hideous. The defense is playing better, Aaron Jones needs more carries, and if they hang around until Rodgers is fully healthy, the Packers will work this thing out.

13.) Philadelphia Eagles—Record: 2-3. Point Differential: -1 (17). DVOA: -6.6% (21).

Drink some Pedialyte, put on “Planet Earth,” and eat some pizza. If not, the Eagles will continue to slog through a groggy season. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to try to repeat that feat. Every time I run five miles to train for the Space Force, I immediately feel like I won’t be able to ever do that again.

12.) Minnesota Vikings—Record: 2-2-1. Point Differential: -18 (T-22). DVOA: -24.0% (24).

Minnesota has the worst rushing attack in football. Kirk Cousins has been better than expected. The problem here is the defense has been crappy. It’s the same defense minus Everson Griffin. It’s still early. I think talent wins out, and the defense improves.

11.) Pittsburgh Steelers—Record: 2-2-1. Point Differential: +10 (11). DVOA: 7.0% (10).

They have to play Le’Veon Bell when he gets back, right? Against competent teams, their offense becomes Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball 50 times out of the shotgun. Nobody wants that.

10.) Baltimore Ravens—Record: 3-2. Point Differential: +55 (2). DVOA: 16.2% (6).

Joe Flacco is competent again. Those two games against Denver and Pittsburgh were the best he’s played since Gary Kubiak was calling the plays in Baltimore. This resurgence—I can’t think of a watered down word that means that—plus the same monstrous defense, makes Baltimore a likely playoff team. More importantly, John Brown is back. I love watching little receivers who are great downfield.

9.) Los Angeles Chargers—Record: 3-2. Point Differential: +7 (12). DVOA: 16.7% (5).

The Chargers’ two losses were against the Rams and Chiefs. They have stamped out everyone else. Joey Bosa isn’t even here. Philip Rivers is a top five quarterback. It’s going to break my heart when they start losing one-possession games and miss the playoffs once again.

The Contenders:

8.) Carolina Panthers—Record: 3-1. Point Differential: +13 (10). DVOA: 3.8.% (12).

Norv Turner is an offensive mastermind. He’s running cool screen passes. He’s using Cam Newton as a runner. He’s turned Christian McCaffery into a running back instead of a Father’s Day gadget. The Panthers are running a ton of play action. The weirdest marriage in football is working. Carolina can turn anyone into a great offensive lineman.

7.) Cincinnati Bengals—Record: 4-1. Point Differential: +23 (7). DVOA: 3.8% (11).

Football is better when Andy Dalton is good. Seeing him quick toss touchdown passes and deal with pressure is lovely. The kitty-cat pajama jerseys are always hilarious. If you love defensive line play, there isn’t a better team to watch at all four positions.

6.) Jacksonville Jaguars—Record: 3-2. Point Differential: +16 (9). DVOA: 14.3% (8).

The Jaguars are two different teams. There’s the team that has a lead and Blake Bortles is somewhat accurate. Then there’s the team that falls behind early and Bortles can’t find the ground falling out of an airplane.

Jacksonville’s pass defense has regressed some, but their run defense is better. The expected injuries have come on the offensive side of the ball. This team misses Leonard Fournette, especially when Bortles is Bad Bortles.

5.) Chicago Bears—Record: 3-1. Point Differential: +46 (T-3). DVOA: 34.0% (2).

Mack is a franchise defender. The Bears have the best pass defense in football this year. Mitchell Trubisky stat lines are my Bible verses.

4.) New England Patriots—Record: 3-2. Point Differential: +25 (6). DVOA: 8.2% (9).

Well, what do you know? The Patriots aren’t dead. They survived 2-2, have Julian Edelman back, and picked up Josh Gordon for nothing at all. I already hate having to watch them in this year’s Super Bowl.

3.) New Orleans Saints—Record: 4-1. Point Differential: +40 (5). DVOA: 17.3% (3).

This season started off as bad as it could for the Saints, yet they are still 4-1. The pass defense should improve. And when it does, this team is going to be the only team in the NFC that can challenge the Rams.

2.) Kansas City Chiefs—Record: 5-0. Point Differential: +46 (T-3). DVOA: 33.9% (3).

I’m happy for Andy Reid and the city of Kansas City that they finally have a quarterback. I’m going to be even happier when they lose their first home playoff game again.

1.) Los Angeles Rams—Record: 5-0. Point Differential: +75 (1). DVOA: 39.1% (1).

This offense is like watching “Cops.” I sweat and turn the couch into a puddle watching all the pre-snap motions, crossing routes, screens, and the quick tempo they play at.

The Rams are going to go 14-2 at a minimum.