NFL Power Rankings Week 4: Rams dethroned?

The undefeated Cardinals headline this week’s power rankings.

A photo of the Arizona Cardinals vs. the Los Angeles Rams football game on Sunday, October 3, 2021.

Welcome to Week 4′s NFL Power Rankings. Ahead of Monday night’s game each week, I’ll be evaluating Sunday’s games and ranking the top 10 teams in the NFL.

Before we begin, here are a few things to keep in mind that I take into consideration when making my choices:

1. I do take a team’s record into account; the games have to matter to some degree. However, a team with a good record will not always land in my top 10, and vice versa. Denver is 3-1 through four games, but you won’t find them on this list. There are also 13 teams with a better record than Kansas City, but I don’t think there are 13 teams better than the Chiefs. Remember, these are power rankings.

2. One team beating another team does not automatically mean they are the better team in my eyes. For example, Pittsburgh beat Buffalo in Week 1, but I don’t believe for a second that they’re the better team right now.

3. The direction that teams are trending is a factor. A team that started slow but has been hot for the last couple of weeks will be evaluated more favorably than one that won their first few games and has cooled off since.

So, let’s begin!

1. Arizona Cardinals, 4-0, W 37-20 @ Los Angeles Rams in Week 4

Okay, I know I said that one team beating another doesn’t make them the better team, but bear with me here. Last week, the Rams were the best team in football, and the Cardinals just walked into SoFi Stadium and dominated them for four quarters. Kliff Kingsbury’s offense has looked unstoppable so far, and putting up 37 points against one of the league’s best defenses only proved its legitimacy. Kyler Murray has easily been a top-five quarterback this season and should be an MVP candidate through four games.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals’ pass rush is very formidable, a necessity in the NFC West. Furthermore, in order to beat the Cardinals, you have to score a lot of points, which means you have to throw the ball. That becomes a lot more difficult against JJ Watt and Chandler Jones, the latter of which recorded five sacks in their season opener. We’ll see how they hold up in football’s toughest division as the season progresses.

2. Los Angeles Rams, 3-1, L 37-20 vs. Arizona Cardinals in Week 4

The Rams were my Super Bowl pick to start the season, and I’m not ruling them out of contention for a championship after one loss. Aaron Donald is still the best defensive player (and overall best player in my opinion) in football, Jalen Ramsey is still the best cornerback in football and the Rams should still have the best defense, although the stats don’t show that so far.

Los Angeles is certainly missing running back Cam Akers, but Darrell Henderson Jr. has stepped up in a big way, averaging nearly five yards per carry. Their upgrade at quarterback has paid off as well; the Rams’ offense looks so much more dynamic with Matt Stafford running the show. He’s simply a better arm talent than Jared Goff, which opens up a lot of opportunities for Sean McVay’s game plan and the Rams’ receiving weapons, like Cooper Kupp, whose production has been off the charts so far.

3. Buffalo Bills, 3-1, W 40-0 vs. Houston Texans in Week 4

The Bills have bounced back strongly after dropping their season opener to Pittsburgh. Buffalo’s offense took some time to get going but appears to have returned to last year’s productive form, although it’s worth noting the Texans’ defense didn’t put up much of a fight on Sunday. Still, a 40-point shutout win is impressive, as was their 35-point shutout win over Miami in Week 2. Defensively, the Bills are very strong, leading the league in points and total yards allowed per game. This is a very well-coached team, and they should win a lot of games in their weak division. I expect to see them competing in the AFC Championship Game down the road.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3-1, W 19-17 @ New England Patriots in Week 4

The Bucs escaped with a win in the pouring rain in Tom Brady’s return to Foxborough Sunday night, improving to 3-1 on the season. Their only loss on the year is to the Rams, which I’m not going to hold over them too harshly. Although Tampa is riddled with injuries in the secondary right now, their front seven is still among the best in football, easily leading the league in rushing yards allowed. On Sunday, they allowed negative one rushing yard, albeit on just eight carries by the Patriots. The defending champs returned all of their starters from last year, which we’ve never seen before by a championship team, so there’s no reason to expect that this team won’t be right back in the mix in a few months, barring significant injuries.

5. Kansas City Chiefs, 2-2, W 42-30 @ Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4

I’m not putting the Chiefs any lower than this. If the regular season ended today, nobody would want to play Kansas City in the playoffs, even if they haven’t looked like the same dominant team they have been for the last couple of years. Their two losses could easily have gone the other way, and this is largely still the same team that made the Super Bowl last year. An entirely new offensive line is still taking time to click, but the weapons are still just as dangerous. There’s really no game planning for Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill is the best big-play threat the NFL has seen in a long time and Travis Kelce at tight end should be in the conversation of the league’s best receivers. Defensively, they’ve given up a lot of points early on this season, but if there’s one team I’m confident can consistently win shootouts, it’s the Chiefs.

6. Cleveland Browns, 3-1, W 14-7 @ Minnesota Vikings in Week 4

The Browns are 3-1, and they’re a dropped snap on a punt out of their own red zone from beating Kansas City and a 4-0 start. When healthy, Cleveland has the best offensive line in the NFL and the best rushing attack between Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who would start on most other teams in the league. Although Jarvis Landry is out for now, and Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t seem to have fully recovered from his ACL injury last year, the passing attack will have potential down the stretch of the season between those veteran receivers and tight ends Austin Hooper and David Njoku. Defensively, the Browns have continued to improve, and Myles Garrett is an absolute nightmare to block. Cleveland will make noise in the AFC playoffs.

7. Green Bay Packers, 3-1, W 27-17 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4

Although the Packers suffered a humiliating 35-point loss to the Saints in Week 1, Green Bay has looked better each week since then, and they’ll continue to slide up these rankings if they keep winning games. One concern is cornerback Jaire Alexander’s shoulder injury on Sunday. Alexander is the Packers’ best defensive player and one of the best defensive backs in the NFL. Losing him for an extended period of time would be a devastating blow to a secondary that otherwise is not impressive. However, the Packers should not be underestimated. They were a game away from last year’s Super Bowl and retained the reigning MVP in Aaron Rodgers, still a top three NFL quarterback, for at least this season.

8. Dallas Cowboys, 3-1, W 36-28 vs. Carolina Panthers in Week 4

Similar to Cleveland’s situation, the Cowboys were a missed field goal from beating Tampa Bay in Week 1 and starting 4-0. Still, they’ve won three straight since then and aren’t yet playing at full strength. The offense, among the most talented in the NFL, is clicking, and Dak Prescott has bounced back very strongly from his ankle injury last year. Ezekiel Elliott looks a bit better than he has in a few seasons, and backup running back Tony Pollard has made another jump this year, becoming a very productive second option out of the backfield.

Defense has been a glaring weakness for the Cowboys for several years, but new coordinator Dan Quinn has the Cowboys looking very sharp on that side of the ball. Trevon Diggs has emerged as a young star at the cornerback position, recording his league-leading fourth and fifth interceptions through four games on Sunday. Rookie linebacker Micah Parsons has shown flashes of greatness and will only continue to improve, and once Demarcus Lawrence returns from injury, Dallas’ defense might finally be respectable.

9. Baltimore Ravens, 3-1, W 23-7 @ Denver Broncos in Week 4

It’s hard to be critical of what Baltimore has done this season; they beat Kansas City, and their only loss was an overtime Monday night classic in Las Vegas. The Ravens have done well with the cards they were dealt this year. This is a team that relies heavily on its rushing attack, and injuries have ripped through the Ravens’ running backs. Baltimore cracks the top ten this week, but I’m not sold on this team yet. Lamar Jackson hasn’t proven to me that he can win playoff games and win games when trailing against tough teams. Injuries are another concern, and I don’t feel like they’ve improved on either side of the ball from last year.

10. Seattle Seahawks, 2-2, W 28-21 @ San Francisco 49ers in Week 4

The Seahawks blew back-to-back 10-point leads in Weeks 2 and 3, but bounced back with a quality win on the road over a solid 49ers team. Good teams respond well to bad losses, and I liked what I saw from them on Sunday. Seattle’s run game is fine, and their passing attack will always be dangerous if the line can protect Russell Wilson enough to utilize his weapons in D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, one of the NFL’s most underrated players. Defense is a concern, as Seattle ranks dead last in total yards allowed per game. However, I expect that to improve; Pete Carroll is a defensive-minded coach and still one of the best in football anywhere. Carroll’s experience, paired with Wilson’s veteran leadership, leads me to believe the Seahawks will turn it around and make the playoffs, even in their highly competitive division.

Note: This story was written before Monday night’s game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers’ impressive performance likely would have landed them in the top 10 this week.