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NFL Power Rankings, Week 5: Most Surprising and Most Disappointing Teams at the Season’s Quarter Mark
Welcome to the this week’s Power Rankings column on fansfirstsports.com. We’re shaking things up after a wild September that saw a ton of movement from top to bottom amongst the NFL’s 32 squads. Everything we thought we knew heading as a summer of speculation came to a close has seemingly been debunked, with some promising squads and supposed juggernauts looking lost while other less touted units are stepping up in this young season. With that in mind, instead of giving you a straight ranking 1 to 32, let’s take a look at the 5 most surprising and the 5 most disappointing teams of 2023.
MOST SURPRISING TEAMS OF 2023
1. ARIZONA CARDINALS
New Head Coach Jonathan Gannon was dismissed this offseason as a quirky, uninspiring hire for a franchise gunning for the tank job of the century. Let’s be real here: the Cardinals have a talent-poor roster overall and should not be competing at half the level we’ve seen so far in 2023. Gannon deserves massive amounts of credit for making this squad a totally fun, watchable, spunky group no matter who the competition is. They decimated my NFC Super Bowl pick, the Dallas Cowboys, in Week 3, and were the biggest challenger yet to the high-flying 49ers this last week. From where we thought they were heading into the season to where they are now, this is the most surprising team of the young season so far.
2. HOUSTON TEXANS
Rookie head coach. Rookie playcaller. Rookie QB. No problem for these Houston Texans. Bobby Slowik’s version of Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme is making things easy for C.J. Stroud, who is on a historic rookie pace and playing like a 5-year veteran, while the defense is just scrappy enough to make things tough on their opponents. The Texans shellacking of the Pittsburgh Steelers a week after handily toppling the Jaguars, the consensus favorite in their own division, has put them on the map. Right now, they’re playing like a potential playoff contender. A far cry from the team many pundits pegged for an early first round selection in 2024.
3. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
I, like many of my fellow league analysts, was too focused on the terrible results of the 2022 season and the loss of Tom Brady heading into this year to recognize that this team actually has a lot of good players on both sides of the football. Mike Evans continues to be a matchup nightmare for defenses, and the Buc’s defenders are flying around making plays. The biggest surprise here has to be the play of Baker Mayfield so far, though. He is playing the best, most consistent football of his career in Tampa. It’s hard to believe, but this team is currently leading the NFC South at 3-1.
4. LOS ANGELES RAMS
Sean McVay can coach offense, and Matt Stafford is slinging the rock like a top 5 QB in his 15th season. Aaron Donald is reminding the NFL world just how dominant he can be, and this team that many left for dead before the season even started boasts one of the most efficient and fun-to-watch offensive attacks in the league, offsetting a young defense that has often looked overmatched through 4 weeks. It’s enough to make them interesting players in a tough NFC West.
5. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Anthony Richardson is the real deal. Already a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators, Richardson’s skillset is translating to winning performances much earlier than anticipated for Shane Steichen’s offense, and the rest of the team is playing solid football all around, specifically on offense where the offensive line has rebounded nicely from a poor 2022, allowing a Jonathan Taylor-less running attack operate efficiently and make things easier for the Rookie QB. The Colts will be a tough out for any team in the AFC.
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAMS OF 2023
1. CINCINNATI BENGALS
It’s been an unmitigated disaster for the Bengals to start 2023. Joe Burrow is playing injured, the offensive line is a seive, and the defense is struggling to employ its new pieces in a consistently effective manner. If not for a brief offensive flurry against the Rams in a strange Monday Night Football game in week 3, this Bengals squad is 0-4 and probably already cooked in a strong AFC field. If Burrow gets healthy, they could turn it around, but that seems to be a longshot at this point in time.
2. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
The Steelers were supposed to be an offense on the rise with 2nd year QB Kenny Pickett making a significant leap and Matt Canada’s scheme finally coming together with impressive talent around the young signal caller. Instead, it’s been a raging firestorm of ineptitude, and the defense, which was supposed to be one of the league’s stingiest, is a virtual open door for opposing running games and toothless in the secondary. Mike Tomlin’s squad looks lost, and for the first time to many on the outside looking in, so does he. If not for having the best pass rush duo in football in TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith, this team is 1-3 with no light at the end of a dark tunnel offensively.
3. NEW YORK JETS
Aaron Rodgers’ Achilles tear in Week 1 is the most devastating injury for a single franchise in recent memory. The Jets felt like a Super Bowl contender with the future HOFer at the helm, but now, despite an encouraging performance from Zach Wilson in Week 4, they feel like the team they were last year: a competent QB away from being special. It’s been tough to watch even for outsiders. For Jets fans, it’s been absolutely brutal.
4. NEW YORK GIANTS
How are they this bad? The offensive line is an unmitigated disaster. Daniel Jones looks cooked after just signing his massive offseason extension. The defense is playing ok, and with Saquon Barkley set to return, maybe better days are ahead, but for now, these Giants are virtually unwatchable. It doesn’t help that we’ve been subjected to 3 primetime appearances for this team in the first 4 weeks of the season. The shipwreck has had a national audience.
5. DENVER BRONCOS
Sean Payton was feeling himself all offseason, calling out the former regime for it’s truly awful job, and promising a massive turnaround immediately in 2023. Not only have the Broncos not been good again this season, the defense, which was the only silver lining for this team last season, has regressed horribly through 4 contests. For what it’s worth, QB Russell Wilson at least looks competent again in this offense, but their only win is over the equally depressing Bears, and it took a massive meltdown from Bears QB Justin Fields in the final quarter to get that win. For a team and fanbase with high aspirations, it’s been a virtual disaster so far.
Thanks for reading this week’s Power Rankings special. Who else has surprised and disappointed so far in 2023? Let me know in the comments below. Stay tuned to the Fans First Sports Network for all the latest NFL happenings
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