Week 4 Power Rankings
Thomas Zwiller | Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Unlike in seasons past, Week 4 is here, but it is not exactly a quarter of the way through because of the expanded regular season. But because this is as close as we can get to a quarter of the season, I thought it would be a good idea to see where my NFL model places the top-10 teams. As I did with my ZLO AFC Power Rankings Column, I will explain why each team is where they are and how I see them doing as the season progresses.
#1 Dallas Cowboys
I am not surprised by the Dallas Cowboys at #1. Their defense is improved from last season, and Dak Prescott has not missed a single step. They jumped from the top five directly to number one after their offensive performance against the Eagles and Panthers. I anticipate the Cowboys’ rank and rating drop as they enter a tougher stretch of their schedule.
#2 Buffalo Bills
The Bills are not a surprise either; since losing their first game to the Steelers 23-16, the Bills have won their last three games 118-21. My only skepticism is that the three teams they played were the Dolphins, Washington Football Team and Texans: their combined record is 4-8. I think the Bills are good and can stay highly ranked, but both their offense and defense should come back to Earth.
#3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I was a little surprised that Tampa maintained such a high ranking after their mediocre offensive outing in Week 4 against the Patriots. The main reason that the Buccaneers were able to stay so high is mainly that they were able to compensate for it with their defense, which shut down the Patriots’ run game. I believe this is where the Buccaneers will stay throughout the season unless they continue to have the injury bug.
#4 Kansas City Chiefs
ESPN currently has the Chiefs at #11, which feels like a knee-jerk reaction to me. The Chiefs have had close losses to the Chargers and Ravens, both of whom are 3-1 and looking like two of the best teams in the Conference. Kansas City has a great offense, and they are merely a few fumbles away from winning both games. The only thing holding them back is a pretty poor rushing and red zone defense.
#5 Arizona Cardinals
I know ESPN had the Cardinals at #2, which again feels like a knee-jerk reaction. Arizona got a huge win this weekend over the Rams, and they deserve to move up. But it is also worth noting they needed a missed field goal to beat the Vikings and struggled against the Jaguars. While promising, I also think that the NFL defense will catch on and limit their offense later in the season. My best theory as of right now is to drop back seven or eight people into coverage and try to rush only three. The problem with that strategy is it is hard for three rushers to get to the QB. The Cardinals are great, but, so far, I do not have them as top two in the league.
#6 Los Angeles Rams
Since they traded for Matthew Stafford, the Rams have been my #1 team; he simply was that much of a game-changer. I wrote a column recently where I picked them to be a Super Bowl favorite. On my podcast, The Touchdown Rundown, I chose them as my Super Bowl Champion in my season simulation in the offseason. So, one loss to the Cardinals has not shaken my faith in them. On the other hand, my model has suffered a noticeable drop-off, dropping them from 3rd to 6th. I think the Rams can get back on track by this week when they take on the Seahawks on Thursday Night Football, and I expect them to recover from their stumble against Arizona.
#7 San Fransico 49ers
With the Jimmy G injury, now is the best time for the 49ers to switch to Trey Lance. I think he can make San Fransisco’s offense much more explosive, forcing defenses to have to worry now about a mobile quarterback. I also believe that the 49ers have a good defense as they could handle both the Packers and the Seahawks. Realistically, the 49ers are 37 seconds and an Aaron Rodgers highlight reel from being 3-1 right now.
#8 Minnesota Vikings
I do hate this one, legitimately hate it. The Vikings are not the best team in the NFL, but they are not as bad as 1-3. They could have quite easily won against the Bengals by simply not fumbling. They could have beaten the Cardinals by making a standard field goal. I will not try and explain away the Browns’ loss; that was just a loss. But the point is the Vikings are not #22 like ESPN has them. But they are by no means a top-10 team. I think high teens are fair.
#9 Los Angeles Chargers
I love this spot for the Chargers. The Chargers boast a great offense, and their defense was able to limit the Raiders for all of the first half and clamp down when they needed to in the second. Their only loss comes to the Cowboys, which as of right now is an acceptable loss. They also boast wins over the Chiefs and Raiders, which significantly boosts their chances of making the playoffs. They can go toe-to-toe with the best in the division, and after seeing the Broncos play the Ravens, there is no reason they cannot beat Denver.
#10 Seattle Seahawks
I like Seattle in the top-10, and I was surprised to see them lower in ESPN’s Power Rankings. The Seahawks once again seem to have a good offense (as always, Russell Wilson is getting sacked an unhealthy amount — 2.75 times per game — which worries me). I was legitimately worried about their defense after their back-to-back losses to the Titans and Vikings, who ran the ball efficiently, but after beating the 49ers, I feel a little more confident. The only problem for the Seahawks is that they are still in a tough division and two games back of the Cardinals. Seattle could be a great team, but they could still miss the playoffs entirely in a division as tough as the NFC West.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.