NFL Power Rankings Week 5: 1-32 poll, plus the biggest surprise for every team

Despite not being at the quarter-final mark yet, the NFL Power Rankings felt this week was the best time to talk about each team's greatest surprises.
Some of these surprising results are very good. For example, Cooper Kupp is one of the top NFL receivers for Los Angeles Rams. Lamar Jackson shows increased passing skills for the Baltimore Ravens. The Arizona Cardinals became the most popular team in the league's hottest Division. Some are not so good, such as the Washington Football Team's decline in defense and the Indianapolis Colts' inability to keep their key players healthy, or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers running low on cornerbacks. We asked all 32 team reporters to name the thing that they find most surprising about their teams.

How we rank in our Power Rankings. Our power panel, which includes more than 80 TV personalities, editors, and writers evaluates how teams perform throughout the season.


Jump to:






Previous ranking: 3

Biggest surprise: Defensive dominance

It's surprising: While it is not surprising that the Bills defense is performing well, it is the unsurprising numbers the unit has produced that are truly remarkable. In the last three games, Buffalo has had at least three turnovers and has held opponents scoreless in four of its games. This includes a win against Houston that was 40-0. It doesn't matter what the opposition offense is, the team has faced three backups quarterbacks. That's an impressive accomplishment in the NFL. This success has resulted in a plus-90 score margin. In the last 20 years, the Bills have been the fifth team to score plus-80 in four of their games. -- Alaina Getzenberg

Previous ranking: 8

The biggest surprise? Success happens so fast

It's not surprising that the Cardinals are good, but that everything is clicking early in the season. It was expected that the offense would add some key pieces to this season's success, but for it all to work together, to lead the NFC West, to have one of best offenses in the league, and to have a early MVP candidate at quarterback -- that is what's unexpected. The Cardinals are fortunate to have the early integration of all their pieces. This year's start is different, even though Arizona was hot at the beginning and fell into a tailspin last year. -- Josh Weinfuss

Previous ranking: 1

Biggest surprise: WR Cooper Kupp

It's not surprising: Cooper Kupp, quarterback Matthew Stafford's favorite target in his fifth NFL season has become one of the most prominent receivers in the league. Kupp is leading the NFL with five receiving touchdowns, and third with 431 receiving yard. Kupp was also targeted 46 times and caught 30 passes. This is a league record. Kupp was expected as a high-performing player in the Rams' offense. However, few could have foreseen that he would become one of the most productive receivers the league. -- Lindsey Thiry

Previous ranking: 2

Surprisingly, there are so many injuries.

It's surprising because the Buccaneers were able to have a great training camp in terms injuries after making it all the the way to Super Bowl. After Carlton Davis' Week 4 loss to the Patriots, all three of the starting cornerbacks are now in danger. Jason Pierre-Paul, who has suffered multiple rib fractures in his games, has been out of action for several games, while Antoine Winfield Jr. is now in the concussion protocol. Four weeks into the season, defense that was once strong has been a major hit. -- Jenna Laine

Previous ranking: 4

Surprisingly, the offensive line is holding strong

It's surprising because life without All-Pro linebacker LT David Bakhtiari (recovering after ACL surgery) or Pro Bowl G Elgton Jones (missing the last two games due to an ankle injury) hasn’t been as devastating for the offense. With one veteran lineman (Billy Turner), two rookies (Josh Myers and Royce Newman) as well as second-year pros at left guard and left tackle (Yosh Njman and Jon Runyan), the Packers have been able to hold their own.

After facing the Steelers and the 49ers, Aaron Rodgers said it best Sunday. "If you had told me earlier in the season that we would be without two of our most important linemen for a few games and then play those two fronts, I would have been thrilled with two wins." Rob Demovsky

Previous ranking: 6

The biggest surprise? How fast the defense has come together

It's surprising because the Browns finished 19th in defensive efficiency last season. They rebuilt their defense in the offseason and brought in or drafted eight new starters. It was obvious that the talent pool had been upgraded. It is amazing to see how fast this defense has improved in just four weeks. The league's No. 1 pass rusher, the Browns are already leading the charge. The Browns have a defense with the looks of a championship-caliber unit, and are already led by the league's No. Jake Trotter

Trevon Diggs, Lamar Jackson & Cooper Kupp ESPN

Previous ranking: 7

The biggest surprise? Lamar Jackson ranking in top half of NFL for passing yards

Why it's a surprise This has been a huge step forward. Last season, Baltimore was last in the NFL for passing. Jackson finished 22nd in both passing yards and passing yards the previous two years. Jackson has really pushed the field this season. Jackson's 19 completions of over 20 yards rank third in NFL, behind only Tom Brady (23) or Derek Carr (21). -- Jamison Hensley

play 1:39 Why Stephen A. doesn't trust Cowboys Stephen A. Smith would like to see the Dallas Cowboys' defense take on more experienced quarterbacks before he can support their success.

Previous ranking: 14

Biggest surprise: Defensive takeaways

It's not surprising: The Cowboys have ten takeaways in their four games. This is second in the league, and the highest in the NFC. How is this possible? From the first game of the season, they didn't record their 10th takeaway from a year ago. Trevon Diggs has had a breakout season, with five interceptions in his first four games. Terence Newman, Cowboy cornerback in 2010, was the last to record five interceptions in one season. While the defense has its faults, it is still able to get takeaways and give offense more possessions. The Cowboys are a great team for complementary football. -- Todd Archer

Previous ranking: 9

Biggest surprise: CB Asante Samuel Jr.

It's surprising because nobody knew what Samuel was getting when he was selected with the 47th pick. Although he is not his father, he has been surprising everyone with interceptions in consecutive weeks (the first being against Dak Prescott in Week 2 and the second being against Patrick Mahomes in Week 3's red zone). Samuel has four passes defended and was named Defensive rookie of the month. However, he says that he still has a lot to learn. Samuel is already a well-known member of the Class 2021. Shelley Smith

Previous ranking: 5

Surprising: The Raiders defense

It's surprising because it happened last season. A season ago, late falls against the Chiefs Chargers, Dolphins and Dolphins made the difference between an 11-5 playoff campaign and the disappointing 8-8 that the Raiders ended with. Although four weeks may seem like a small sample, Gus Bradley, defensive coordinator, has reimagined his scheme to get off the field and make plays. The greatest benefit to Las Vegas is the better play on defense that's helping quarterback Derek Carr. -- Paul Gutierrez

Previous ranking: 10

Biggest surprise: Red zone defense

It's not surprising. The Chiefs have spent a lot of time and effort on the practice field in an effort to improve their defense within the 20 yard line. This was the worst defensive position in the league last year. Seventy-nine percent of Chiefs' red zone touchdowns this season have been allowed, ranking fifth in the league and two percentage points below last year. This is the main reason that the Chiefs rank 31st in allowed points. -- Adam Teicher

Previous ranking: 12

Biggest surprise: QB Sam Darnold

It's surprising: Anyone who claimed Darnold would lead in the NFL in rushing touchdowns (five) during the four-week season would be lying. Darnold only had five rushing touchdowns during his three seasons with the Jets. Darnold was not considered a running threat. Darnold is grabbing these opportunities because of the open lanes that are being created by teams. These aren’t quarterback sneaks. These are read-options and QB draw-type plays. Carolina was used to watching Cam Newton run. -- David Newton

Previous ranking: 17

Jamal Adams has a surprise for all: He doesn't own a bag

It's surprising because the Seahawks don't give Adams as many chances to rush the passer this season as they did last year, when Adams set an NFL record with 9.5 sacks in 12 games. Ken Norton Jr., the defensive coordinator suggested that Adams may not be blitzing as often this season. It is still surprising that Adams isn't blitzing as much, considering how strong Seattle's pass rush is -- with nine sacks in just four games. The Seahawks don't get the most from their $17.5million-per-year safety budget by not taking advantage Adams' greatest strength. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Adams has rushed passer 13 times in four games. This is compared to an average 8.25 rushes per match last year. -- Brady Henderson

Previous ranking: 13

Surprise of the century: The woes of special teams

It's surprising because it's not expected. However, it shouldn't surprise anyone since it has been a while since Broncos special team's units and consistency have been paired together. The investment in speed in the offseason has resulted in the Broncos giving up a 38-yard kickoff returning in the season opener, and a 102 yard kickoff return for a TD Week 2. They were also penalized for a taunting penalty for downing a punt and a 42-yard punt return Week 4. None of these plays cost them in a 3-1 season. If this team wants to be in playoff conversation, they need to make repairs or these kinds of plays could cost them. Jeff Legwold

play 2:14 Will Deebo Sam keep up his fantasy productions? Matthew Berry and Field Yates discuss whether Deebo Sam's fantasy production is worthy of keeping him on rosters.

Previous ranking: 11

The biggest surprise? WR Deebo Samson

It's surprising because Samuel arrived at training camp looking leaner, more healthy and a better receiver. Samuel looked ready for a huge season. But even Samuel's biggest fans probably didn’t see it coming. Samuel is now first in the NFL in receiving yardage (490), yards after catch (266), and yards per reception (17.5). His 490 yards of receiving through four games is second to Jerry Rice's 522 from 1995. -- Nick Wagoner

Previous ranking: 18

Biggest surprise: The Bengals' strong defense

It's surprising because the Bengals failed to provide a quality defense during Lou Anarumo’s first two seasons. Through the first four games, the Bengals have been among the most successful in the NFL. Cincinnati is ranked fifth in yards allowed per play and seventh in points allowed per drive. While the opposing offenses aren't great, Anarumo's unit's performance has improved. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Trey Hendrickson (defensive end) is second in the NFL for pass rush first pressures. -- Ben Baby

Previous ranking: 15

Surprisingly, the 31st-ranked offense of passing is

It's surprising because the Saints average just 144 passing yards per match while Alvin Kamara has set career records with 26 and 24 carries over the past two week. This kind of run-pass disparity was effective when the Saints were winning big over Green Bay and New England, but it has been questioned now that they allowed the Giants to win a dramatic comeback victory Sunday. Sean Payton might have to rely on Jameis Winston more and the passing offense at some point. It will be a great help if WR Michael Thomas recovers from his ankle injury after the Week 6 bye. Mike Triplett

Previous ranking: 16

Surprisingly, the offense is so difficult

It's not surprising: Last year, the Titans averaged 30 points per contest. After Julio Jones' addition, Tennessee was expected to continue its high-scoring ways. Tennessee has averaged 23.8 points per match through four games. A.J. has scored one touchdown while Jones has not yet recorded one. Brown has only one. The Titans did not have a receiver last week, but they scored 24 points. They should have scored more, however. The Titans aren't as efficient in red zone. They have gone from 75% red zone touchdowns last season to just 50% this year. Turron Davenport

Play for FREE! Play Now! Play Now

Previous ranking: 22

The biggest surprise? Defensive struggles

It's surprising because Washington was ranked fourth in points and second in yards last season. It had a young, talented line that included the defensive rookie of year (Chase Young), and it added more parts through free agency (corner William Jackson III), and the draft (linebacker Jamin Davies, corner Benjamin St–Juste). They are 29th in yards allowed, and 30th for points after four games. This is not about having a tough schedule. It's about coaching and playing poorly. They're not applying enough pressure and there has been a huge blown coverage assignment each week. Another surprise is that Quarterback Taylor Heinicke has saved the defense. The belief was for the opposite scenario when he was made the starter. John Keim

Play 1:50 Clark - Bill Belichick was at his absolute best vs. Brady, the Bucs Ryan Clark & Rex Ryan praised Bill Belichick’s game plan vs. Tom Brady & the Buccaneers’ offense on Sunday night.

Previous ranking: 19

The biggest surprise? Struggling offensive line

It's a surprise because the Patriots' offensive group of Isaiah Wynn, Mike Onwenu, David Andrews (C), Shaq Marshall (RG), and Trent Brown (RT), was supposed to be a strength. But rookie QB Mac Jones has only taken 34 hits in four games. The running game is inconsistent as demonstrated by the minus-1 yard gained on eight carries against the Buccaneers. Brown's right leg injury to his right calf has kept him out of action for all but the first series, but it is not the only factor. -- Mike Reiss

Previous ranking: 26

Surprisingly, the number of injuries sustained by key players

It's surprising because Carson Wentz doesn't know what it's like being behind the projected starting offensive tackle line. The group has already dealt with injuries. Right tackle Braden Smith remains out with a foot injury. Quenton Nelson, left guard, is on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Eric Fisher, left tackle was out of the first game due to his Achilles injury. This is just the beginning. T.Y. T.Y. Hilton is currently on the IR after suffering a disc injury. Khari Willis (starting safety), Kwity Paye (pass-rusher), and Rock Ya-Sin (cornerback) all have missed games due to injuries. The game is not without its injuries, but the Colts have suffered with them for the first four weeks. Mike Wells

Previous ranking: 20

Biggest surprise: CB Bashaud Breeland

It's not surprising: Minnesota signed Breeland as a secondary player and placed a veteran with good coverage skills opposite Patrick Peterson at the outside corner. Breeland has had a terrible four-game run. Breeland has been targeted 23 times, allowed 20 receptions for 281 yard (14.1 yards per reception), and has allowed four touchdowns. His passer rating is 157.2. After six plays against Cleveland, Breeland was diagnosed with "illness" and was unable to play. He also missed the next five plays after being the closest defensive defender for a 21-yard pass that resulted in a third-and long for the Browns. Courtney Cronin

Previous ranking: 27

Biggest surprise: LB Robert Quinn

Quinn has been a force for good in the Bears defense's four-game win streak. Quinn is the veteran pass-rusher and leads the team with 4.5 tackles for loss. Quinn stated that he feels better mentally and spiritually and it shows on the field. The Bears' edge rusher duo of Quinn and Khalil Mack is one of the best in the NFC North. Jeff Dickerson

Play 2:09 Clark and Orlovsky get heated about Big Ben's future as Steelers Dan Orlovsky debates with Ryan Clark and Rex Ryan about why Mike Tomlin should move on from Ben Roethlisberger.

Previous ranking: 21

The biggest surprise? Pass rush

It's surprising because the Steelers received a lot of pressure from the four-man rush in Week 1. However, they have not been able to repeat the same results in the past two weeks. The Steelers did not record a single sack in Week 1 against the Bengals. They had only two against the Packers -- one of which appeared to be a Watt trip. Watt, who suffered a groin injury in Week 1, said that he was feeling well enough to play against Packers. However, he and the rest on the Steelers' front haven't performed at the same level as they did in Week 1. The Steelers have demonstrated an ability to play championship-level defensive, but it is not easy to replicate that performance. -- Brooke Pryor

NFL on ESPN+ Enjoy the NFL's greatest games and original series. You can watch ESPN+

Previous ranking: 24

Biggest surprise: RB Miles Sanders' usage

It's surprising because Sanders, the Eagles' leadback, has only 37 carries through four games. This is tied for 33rd place in the NFL with No. 1 Cowboys. Tony Pollard, the Jets' rookie running back, and Michael Carter, the Jets' rookie running back. In the last two weeks, he has nine rushes. The rookie Kenneth Gainwell, with 89 yards and a touchdown vs. Chiefs, is heating up. Sanders and QB Jalenhurts were expected as a dynamic backfield 1-2 punch, but Sanders has been slow to get started. Tim McManus

Previous ranking: 23

The biggest surprise? Poor offensive play

It's surprising: Name an offensive category, and the Dolphins will be near or below the bottom of the NFL's ranking. As of Monday night, Miami was 31st for scoring, 31st for total yards, 30th for first downs and 30th overall in passing yards. 26th overall in rushing yards. Although Tua Tagovailoa is currently on injured reserve, it hasn't helped. However, even he cannot solve Miami's offensive problems. The Dolphins' offensive defense ranks 29th in pass win rate, and has allowed the fourth-most sacks, despite having seen the eighth most blitzes in league play. This season has seen a surprisingly poor start for a team with playoff hopes in 2021. Marcel Louis-Jacques

Play 1:28 Why Berry sees Patterson's value on fantasy rosters Matthew Berry believes that Cordarelle Patterson is more valuable as a fantasy player than as a trade item.

Previous ranking: 25

Biggest surprise: RB Cordarrelle Patterson

It's surprising because Patterson is a revelation in an otherwise struggling Atlanta offense. He has already had 27 carries for just 119 yards and his best receiving season with 18 catches for 295 yards. Arthur Smith has found a way for him to make opportunities, which resulted in him scoring three touchdowns against Washington -- more than he's had in his past four seasons. Patterson has been an unexpected delight for Atlanta in all aspects. -- Michael Rothstein

Previous ranking: 29

The biggest surprise? Defensive struggles

It's surprising because defense was supposed be the Giants' strength. It's not. It ranks 22nd in the NFL, allowing 382 yards per match. It's unlikely to get any better. The Giants have not found the right answer at the edge rusher, so they won't be starting Blake Martinez as their middle linebacker for the rest of the season. With a pedestrian pass rush, it's difficult to have a top defense. -- Jordan Raanan

Previous ranking: 32

The biggest surprise? Defense has outperformed

It's surprising because the defense ranks in top half of league in yards and points allowed, despite some difficult circumstances. In the preseason, top pass-rusher Carl Lawson was injured in an injury that ended his season. Jarrad Davis, linebacker, has not played since then. Free safety Lamarcus Joyner also suffered an injury that ended his season in Week 1. Three rookies will be starting. Talk about hardship. Good coaching and great starts by LB C.J. The Jets defense has held together thanks to Mosley and DT Quinnen Williams. -- Rich Cimini

ESPN's survivor pool has returned! Get $7,000 worth of guaranteed prizes by competing! Play for free

Previous ranking: 28

The biggest surprise? RB Phillip Lindsay's insufficient production

Why it's a surprise: The Texans expected Lindsay would be their running back when they entered training camp. Lindsay is trailing veteran running backs Mark Ingram II, David Johnson and has only 31 yards and one touchdown in 24 attempts. Houston's running game has been poor since Week 1. It ranks 31st among Football Outsiders' rush DVOA. The Texans might have a bit more luck in Week 5 as the New England Patriots' defensive ranks 28th in rushing DVOA. This allowed Tampa Bay to run for 119 yard on Sunday night. -- Sarah Barshop

Previous ranking: 30

Biggest surprise: Starting 0-4

It's surprising: While nobody expected the Lions would be a playoff team in their first season, starting with 0-4 isn’t an ideal situation for any team. They failed to score on four red zone drives against Chicago, which was tied for the most losses by any team since 2000 and Detroit's worst in one game. Quarterback Jared Goff is now out of the game after losing six consecutive regular season starts. This streak is the longest among QBs. This isn't all Goff's fault. There have been injuries and costly mistakes that have haunted this team. However, the Lions must improve their ability to score in scoring situations to win games. Eric Woodyard

Previous ranking: 31

Josh Lambo's troubles are the biggest surprise

It's surprising because Lambo has been the only thing the Jaguars have had to rely on in the past few seasons. Lambo was nicknamed "Lambomatic" because he made 95% of his field goal attempts with the Jaguars (76 out of 80) since October 2017, when he joined the team. This spans the entire time from the start of October 2017 to the 2020 season. Urban Meyer, the head coach, said that Lambo would have to take on Matthew Wright this week as he is 0 for 3. A Jacksonville offense that averages 18.5 points per week needs a reliable kicker. If Lambo fails to rebound, his time in Jacksonville will likely be over. Mike DiRocco