Week 4 NFL Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (09/26/17)

By Ryan Fowler


For two quarters on Monday night, it appeared the Dallas Cowboys' defensive flaws which came to light at Denver would continue through Week 3 in the desert. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer picked apart the Cowboys secondary and Arizona outgained Dallas 152-57 and held nearly a 2-to-1 time of possession advantage during the first half.

As is so often the case, it was a tale of two halves. The Cowboys offense flipped the script, Dak Prescott was efficient completing 13-18 passes with two touchdowns, Ezekiel Elliott bounced back with 80 yards on 20+ carries including a season-long 30-yard scamper. On defense, the Cowboys line finally got to Palmer – often on 3-man rushes – to finish with six sacks for a loss of 42 yards.

With the road win, the Cowboys shoot back up seven spots to No. 5 in our Week 4 Power Rankings, but they aren't the only new team in the Top 10.

Our Power Rankings are developed using players on the active depth chart, which causes fluctuation week-to-week based on injuries and who is in and out of the lineup. To see a full description of how our Power Rankings are created, as well as this week's full list of rankings, please check out our updated Week 4 Power Rankings.


Risers




Over the past two games, the Titans offense has torched the Jacksonville Jaguars – who rank third in total defense and fourth in scoring defense at 17 points per game – and scored 32 points on 420 yards of offense against the Seahawks. Reports suggested running back DeMarco Murray – who has been dealing with a bad hammy – would see his role reduced in Week 3 in favor of Derrick Henry, but Murray finished with 14 carries for 115 yards including a 75-yard touchdown run. As a team, the Titans rank second in rushing at more than 156 yards per contest.

Even with rookie Corey Davis hobbled, Eric Decker has yet to get going with only 10 receptions for 91 yards. Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker have combined for 29 receptions, 369 yards and a touchdown.

The Titans defense still needs to work on closing out game as opposing offenses averaged more than 15 points per game in the second half and 12 points per fourth quarter.

Next 3: AT Texans, AT Dolphins & Colts



After the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl, maybe they deserved a break. Kidding.

One of the most unfortunate and asinine NFL rules cost the Lions a shot at 3-0 after Golden Tate thought he scored the go-ahead touchdown only to have the call reversed and 10-second runoff end the game.

Matthew Stafford can earn the big bucks and headlines as the franchise quarterback, but Detroit's defense continues to improve and make plays that give their team a chance. Despite the 30 points allowed, the Lions picked off Matt Ryan three times including a 37-yard pick six by Glover Quin. Detroit now leads the league in turnover +/- margin at +6.

The Lions do need to clean up the penalties as they hand the opposition 82.6 yards per game following the flag. That'll cost you field position and ball games.

Next 3: AT Vikings, Panthers & AT Saints



Chris Thompson is so hot right now. The 5-foot-8, 190-pound dual-threat running back is averaging nearly 13 yards per touch with three touchdowns this season. However, the phrase “sample size” really does need to come into focus. Thompson has only touched the ball 27 times and head coach Jay Gruden claims he won't add to Thompson's workload because of his smaller frame. Once Rob Kelley returns, he'll assume the role of lead back once again.

Possibly lost in the C.T. lovefest is the play of the Redskins defense, which just held the Oakland Raiders to 128 total yards and forced three turnovers. Their rush defense ranks second only to the Denver Broncos at 62.3 yards per game.

Next 3: AT Chiefs, 49ers & AT Eagles


Fallers




The timing couldn't have been more perfect for Bill Lazor to be promoted to Bengals offensive coordinator heading into a game against a below-average pass defense. Green Bay eventually won, but when Andy Dalton completes 21-27 passes for 212 yards (7.9 YPA) with two touchdowns, it's time to reevaluate the state of your defense.

With so much criticism of Cincinnati's offensive line, it was Aaron Rodgers who was sacked six and hit 11 times in Week 3. The Packers quarterback had to pull a rabbit out of his hat just to push the game into overtime.

By no means should Green Bay be awarded a pass – especially since it impacted both sides - but one should consider how much of an impact the unseasonably hot weather impacted the defenses. It was 90 degrees in Green Bay on Sunday and dehydration/cramps were common among defenders in Week 3.

Next 3: Bears, AT Cowboys & AT Vikings



It doesn't matter if the game was played in the states or across the pond, Blake Bortles shouldn't pass for 244 yards, four touchdowns without an interception against any team and certainly not one who boasts one of the best defenses on paper. Many probably believed Marcedes Lewis had retired two seasons ago before his three-score performance against the Ravens. The 33-year-old tight end hadn't scored more than four touchdowns in a season since 2010.

Although a word of caution was preached about reading too much into the quality of the 2017 Ravens after they shut out the Bengals and held the Browns to 10 points, this performance was befuddling on both sides of the football. Ryan Mallett – who was inserted into the game after Joe Flacco was benched – was Baltimore's leading passer, Alex Collins – who was on the practice squad a minute ago – the leading rusher and tight end Nick Boyle the leading receiver. The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Ravens.

Next 3: Steelers, AT Raiders & Bears



It was just a few months, following the 2017 NFL Draft, that Panthers fans were excited about their new-look offense. By drafting Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, Cam Newton would have some options in the passing game and wouldn't have to rely so much on his own legs or Greg Olsen downfield.

Well, Olsen broke his foot, Newton hasn't looked sharp and the Panthers rank 28th in total and 29th in scoring offense at just 15 points per game. If Carolina can only muster 13 points against the 31st-ranked Saints defense on their home field, McCaffrey isn't going to save you.

It doesn't help when your bread-and-butter, lock-down defense - who held the Bills and 49ers to two field goals combined - allows Drew Brees to light ‘em up for 362 yards and 34 points.

Now, the Panthers have to travel to Foxboro to try and beat the Patriots before heading to Detroit. Ouch.

Next 3: AT New England, AT Lions & Eagles