Five up Five Down: 5 Best and 5 Worst NFL Teams Week. There are some significant changes in the rankings. What did we learn in Week 3? The refs hate Clay Matthews and the new roughing the passer rule is a joke. Many teams have not invested in an offensive line properly. Baker Mayfield might be the answer in Cleveland. We also learned that being heavy favorites doesn’t guarantee anything in the NFL, costing some of us some money in Vegas. Just ask the Vikings, Jaguars, and Patriots fans about that. Minnesota was a 16.5 point favorite on Sunday and lost by 21 points at home, a historic upset indeed.
5 UP: 5 Best NFL Teams
1. LOS ANGELES RAMS (3-0) Last Week: 2nd
The Los Angeles Rams are the most complete team in the NFL. The Rams are number one in our 5 Up due to an NFL best, plus 66 point differential. They dominated the Chargers in winning the Battle of Los Angeles. Todd Gurley broke out for 156 total yards including 105 on the ground, and Jared Goff continues to get better (80 % completion level vs. Chargers 354 yards and 3 TD’s), which is scary for opposing teams. The Rams did suffer some devastating injuries losing both stud Cornerbacks Marcus Peters (might miss 1-2 weeks currently a game-time decision vs. Vikings) and Aquib Talib (for 4-6 weeks). If the team has a weakness right now, it’s stopping the run (giving up 5 yards a carry). Next up: a battle with the Minnesota Vikings (1-1-1) on Thursday night, who come into L.A. with all kinds of red flags. Some viewed this game as a possible NFC Championship preview. The Rams want revenge for a 24-7 loss last year in Minnesota. L.A. is currently 6.5 point favorites with an 80% probability win rate against the Vikings even though Minnesota leads the all-time series 27-16-2 with five straight wins against the Rams.
2. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (3-0) Last Week: 4th
Patrick Mahomes II (896 Yards, 13 Touchdowns, 137.4 QBR, with zero INT’s) is just awesome! If you have him on your fantasy team, you are winning a lot. After three weeks he is not only the best QB in the NFL, he is the league’s best player. Check out this TD pass by Mahomes against the 49ers, which is utterly ridiculous. I still think after three weeks the Chiefs defense is soft (allowing 472 yards per game). How long can this last? Lots of pressure on the 7th ranked offense to make-up for the 32nd ranked defense. The Chiefs need more out of RB Kareem Hunt and his 3.2 yards average, but then again Andy Reid is not a running back guy (runningbacks under Reid are not in the top 20 in looks since 2013). Chiefs are 4.5 point road favorites against AFC West Divison rivals the Denver Broncos (2-1) on Monday Night. Kansas City leads the all-time series 61-54.
3. MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-0) Last Week: Unranked
Indeed one of the best surprises this year has been the Miami Dolphins. Some experts did think that Adam Gase was going to get this team headed in the right direction, but 3-0 no way! Well, the fins are a perfect 3-0 and leading the AFC East. Let’s check it a bit. They have beaten the Titans, Jets, and Raiders (teams with a combined 3-6 record), but they are doing the little things right and are having fun as witnessed by this TD vs. the Raiders.
The loss of DE William Hayes is going to hurt. Hayes tore his ACL on this play trying to avoid getting a penalty for roughing the passer. Ryan Tannehill is playing within the system, and it’s paying off (73% completion ratio, 7 TD’s only 2 INT’s with a 121.8 QBR). Miami can make a believer out of all of us with a win in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon against the suddenly desperate (1-2) New England Patriots. This game is at Gillette Stadium, where Tom Brady is 14-1 vs. Miami and the Dolphins and despite being unbeaten, will be heavy underdogs by getting 7 points. Vegas wants a show me win as well, but hey, maybe Tom’s daughter, Vivian will be pulling for Miami! The Patriots lead the all-time series 54-51.
4. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-1) Last Week: 3rd
Well, the Jaguars were ranked number one by many in the power ranking, but not mine. I still think the Jaguars will be representing the AFC in the Super Bowl, but some red flags have developed. The loss of LT Cam Robinson could be huge, and the lack of depth at the WR position is very concerning. After a huge week against the Patriots, Blake Bortles came back to earth vs. the Titans (155 yards, zero TD’s). The Franchise is fully invested in #5, who they feel is a “champion.” Look, Jacksonville’s defense will continue to be strong, but the offense needs to pick up the pace. If they can put up 17 points, the defense will win most games by themselves. The Jags only move down one spot in our Five Up, but they better take care of a rookie QB and the (1-2) N.Y. Jets on Sunday at home. Vegas has the Jags as 7.5 point favorites but the Jets hold a 7-6 series lead, including last years dramatic 23-20 win in overtime.
5.) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (2-1) Last Week: Unranked
Carson Wentz is back! The future NFL MVP makes all the difference in the team’s chances at repeating. The Eagles defense is still excellent and can cause nightmares for opposing teams offensive lines. The running game has room for improvement, but RB Wendell Smallwood might become a new Philly favorite (17 carries 84 yards 1 TD 4.9 avg). What makes the Eagles so tough is that the offensive line has been so strong and underrated. The offense is going to get a lot better, and that defense is just incredible! Philly will be in Tennessee to battle the stingy Titans on Sunday as 3 point favorites. The Eagles are 0-2 in Nashville but are 7-4 vs. Titans/Oilers all-time.
Closing in on the top 5: Honorable Mention
Baltimore Ravens (2-1), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1), Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)
5 DOWN: 5 worst NFL teams
28. BUFFALO BILLS (1-2) Last Week: 32nd
Oh my, how one week can change everything! The Bills were the NFL’s worst team last week. It looked hopeless. I bought into an on-air host from a big network saying the Vikings were going to cover easily. Buffalo, not only beat the heavily favored Vikings (-16.5), they embarrassed them 27-6. Josh Allen (196 yards, 1 TD, no interceptions, numerous big runs) showed some serious athletic prowess and bravery with this effort on Anthony Barr that sparked the Bills to a big win.
The Bills defensive line lead by Jerry Hughes terrorized the Vikings offensive line all day, creating three critical turnovers. The Bills will try to make it two for two over the NFC North as they battle the Green Bay Packers (1-1-1) at Lambeau. Vegas isn’t buying the Bills colossal upset over the Vikings. The Packers are 10-point favorites, but the Bills hold an impressive 8-4 advantage in the all-time match-up vs. Green Bay.
29. SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (1-2) Last Week: Unranked
This has been a disastrous stretch for the San Francisco 49ers. Fans must be in a deep depression. They have played okay, but losing your starting RB before the season starts and now losing Jimmy Garoppolo to a torn ACL is a nightmare no team can recover from. This ranking is more about the future of this season than it is reflective of how they have performed so far. When your season is in the hands of C.J. Beathard or someone from off the streets (Tom Savage gulp!), it’s a recipe for failure. They will travel down the coast to play the (1-2) Los Angeles Chargers. Vegas sees this as a blowout and have made the Chargers 10.5 point favorites. The series is tied at seven games apiece. The Chargers have won 4 in a row, but the 49ers have the biggest win in the series with a 49-26 win in Super Bowl XXIX.
30. OAKLAND RAIDERS (0-3) Last Week: 29th
31. HOUSTON TEXANS (0-3) Last Week: Unranked
What is going on with The Houston Texans? I thought this team would be ready for a significant turnaround. Unfortunately for Houston fans, losing has been very prevalent with the team now holding an ominous streak of 9 straight loses dating back to last year. Many are getting restless and tired of Head Coach Bill O’Brien (31-36) and his generic play calling. Will he become the latest Patriots assistant to fail as a Head Coach?
The key to this team’s issues has been the play of the offensive line and defensive secondary. DeShaun Watson, who is back after devastating injury, has been sacked ten times already and has run away from pressure on numerous occasions. He is not at the level he played at last year (871 yards 5 TD’s 3 Int’s 89.9 QBR) but is getting closer. A tough match-up against the Colts (1-2) in Indy is up next on Sunday. The Texans will be 1.5 point underdogs and, unfortunately, historically are woeful vs. the Indianapolis Colts (7-25). They lost both contests to Indy last year.
32. ARIZONA CARDINALS (0-3) Last Week: 31st
Awful! At one point, the Cardinals were beating the Chicago Bears 14-0. It appeared that the Cards were going to get out of the Five Down list. Nope! They scored no points in the 2nd half. Sam Bradford continued to look awful (3 turnovers), which lead to the Josh Rosen era beginning. With a talented roster, Arizona should be better than this. I feel the Cardinals are making a huge mistake putting Rosen behind this weak offensive line (6 sacks numerous pressures). Somehow, RB David Johnson, the Cardinals best player, is averaging just 3.4 yards and the team needs more from him in the running game. The Cardinals rank dead last in every offensive category with a date against a very aggressive defense looming. The Cardinals are an NFL worst, minus 54, which makes new Head Coach Steve Wilks cringe. The Cards have another home game coming up against the Seattle Seahawks, and it will mark the 39th meeting between the two clubs. The Cardinals have a slight 19-18 lead in the series. Seattle is favored by 3 points on Sunday afternoon.
Knocking on futilities door:
N.Y. Jets (1-2), Seattle Seahawks (1-2), New England Patriots (1-2)
Come back next Wednesday for Five Up Five Down, The 5 best NFL Teams and the 5 worst NFL Teams Week 5.