Every week of football is a gift in this strange and unsettling COVID-19 world. In Week 4, the Patriots and Chiefs were bumped out of their Sunday slot. The Steelers and Titans taken off the week's slate altogether.
It makes for tricky times in the NFL, and it's impossible to know how many other teams will see their season take unexpected detours before it's all said and done.
Mask up, cross your fingers and let's dig into another edition of the Power Rankings.
The Chiefs won on Monday night because their defense showed it can still deliver a big performance even without the unit's best player. A groin injury sidelined Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones, but the defense still put pressure on the quarterback and forced four turnovers in a 26-10 win over the Patriots. Is this the same game if Cam Newton (out after testing positive for COVID-19) plays instead of Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham? Probably not, but you get the feeling that Patrick Mahomes would've made sure the outcome would be the same either way. The Chiefs are 4-0 for the fourth consecutive year. Crazy stuff.
This Aaron Rodgers comeback season might be the only good thing that comes out of 2020. The Packers quarterback was brilliant again on Monday night, completing 27 of his 33 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns in a 30-16 win over the Falcons. Rodgers remained dominant despite his top two receivers (Davante Adams and Allen Lazard) missing the game with injuries. The new playmaker in town? Tight end Robert Tonyan, who lit up Atlanta's porous secondary for three touchdowns. This, from ESPN: Tonyan's five scores in four games equals the touchdown output that Jimmy Graham managed in two full seasons with the Packers. Rodgers is on fire and young playmakers continue to develop at a rapid rate. Look out.
Now that's more like it. Six days after a humbling loss to the Chiefs in prime time, Lamar Jackson scored on a 50-yard run and threw two more touchdown passes to Mark Andrews in a 31-17 win over Washington. Baltimore looked nothing like the discombobulated unit that was lit up by Patrick Mahomes, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in a game in which Washington never seriously threatened. Marlon Humphrey celebrated his rich new contract with a forced fumble in the first quarter that set up the game's first score. The Ravens lead the NFL in points off turnovers this season with 38. They get another favorable matchup this week against the Bengals.
Previous rank: No. 6
Lost amidst the buzz over Josh Allen's huge Year 3 leap: A suspect start by Buffalo's defense, one of the league's strongest units in 2018 and '19. The defense struggled again early against the Raiders on Sunday before delivering a vintage second half -- forcing a punt and two turnovers in an eventual 30-23 win. The Bills are 4-0 because they no longer need the defense to be perfect to win games. The Allen-led offense hums week after week, and Stefon Diggs proved again why he was the best offseason acquisition made by any team in 2020. His 49-yard catch, coming immediately after a Raiders turnover, set up the game-clinching score. There's nothing fluky about this start.
Previous rank: No. 4
There's nothing the Steelers can do but roll and adapt after their Week 4 showdown with the Titans was rescheduled for Week 7 following an outbreak of positive coronavirus tests within the Titans organization. The rearranged schedule means the Steelers will now play 13 consecutive games to close the regular season. It gives Mike Tomlin's team even more incentive to land the No. 1 seed and the all-important playoff bye that comes with it.
Previous rank: No. 5
Progress for the defense. The Seahawks' D -- an injury-ravaged unit ranked 32nd in football entering Week 4 -- delivered a much better performance on Sunday against the Dolphins, keeping Miami out of the end zone until the game's final minutes in a 31-23 win. Russell Wilson, surely relieved he didn't have to win another shootout, delivered a pedestrian performance (by his standards) and is now up to 16 touchdowns, matching Peyton Manning (2013) for the most TD passes through the first four games of a season. His big-play man on Sunday was David Moore, who had three catches for 95 yards, including the game-clinching TD. The Seahawks are 4-0 for the second time ever.
Previous rank: No. 7
An outbreak of positive coronavirus tests within the Titans organization forced the team to go dark in Week 4 and presents a massive non-football challenge in the middle of a season that had started with much promise. Good news came Monday, when NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the team received no new positive COVID-19 test results to start the week. Same story on Tuesday. The hope is that it stays that way, all while the league and players' union investigate possible protocol violations by the Titans, who've had 21 members of the organization test positive. Football coaches preach about the need for focus and resiliency -- but this is a different animal altogether.
Previous rank: No. 10
"How can you not believe in him? He's the greatest to ever do it." That was Bucs wideout Scott Miller after Tom Brady threw five touchdown passes in a 38-31 win over the Chargers, Tampa Bay's third consecutive victory. This was a version of Brady we didn't see last season in New England -- and Week 4 offered definitive proof that the legendary passer can still be an elite player with the right supporting cast around him. This will not be Johnny Unitas on the Chargers or Joe Namath with the Rams. Brady was accurate with his mid-range throws and showed nice touch on deep balls, playing behind an offensive line that is giving him time to work. The defense struggled some against rookie Justin Herbert, but the Bucs remain a talented, balanced team.
The Rams fell into the trap of playing down to the level of an NFC East opponent in Week 4. Sean McVay's team is better than the Giants across the board, but it took a 55-yard Cooper Kupp touchdown in the fourth quarter and final red-zone stop to ensure a 17-9 win over New York's other winless team. Los Angeles managed just 122 yards of total offense between Gerald Everett's first-quarter touchdown and Kupp's score, a striking lack of production against a mediocre unit. We'll see if the Rams are able to play up to their potential when they get another uninspiring NFC East foe this week in Washington.
Previous rank: No. 8
Right about now, Bill Belichick is thanking his lucky stars another team didn't aggressively target Cam Newton this offseason. With Newton sidelined following a positive coronavirus test, the Patriots' offense was unable to avoid killer mistakes in a 26-10 loss to the Chiefs on Monday night at Arrowhead. Brian Hoyer was benched after an error-filled performance and Jarrett Stidham threw two picks in relief (though Julian Edelman owes his QB an Apple Watch or something after his drop produced the game-clinching pick-six). The Pats' defense did a fine job containing Patrick Mahomes for most of the night, but you need to play a far cleaner game to beat the defending champs.
Previous rank: No. 13
New Orleans entered Week 4 missing six injured starters while enduring the team-wide drama of a COVID-19 scare that led to the Saints not learning the point-of-care test results until 3 a.m. the morning of Sunday's 1 p.m. ET kickoff against the Lions. Despite formidable obstacles, the Saints got it done between the lines, reeling off five unanswered touchdown drives to wipe out an early two-touchdown deficit in an eventual 35-29 win. Alvin Kamara -- football's best running back -- had 119 yards from scrimmage and his league-best seventh total touchdown and Drew Brees averaged nearly 10 yards per attempt in a day of vintage efficiency. The Saints also cut down on penalties -- a major issue during their slow start -- charged with just four in the win. A weird, ultimately successful, weekend.
Previous rank: No. 11
The Colts continue to win with their defense. Nick Foles and the Bears were the latest victims, managing just 269 yards of total offense in Indy's 19-11 win. The Colts did most of their work on Sunday without All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard, who exited in the first half with a groin injury. It shows the improved depth of the unit compared with past seasons under defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. With the defense humming, Philip Rivers and the offense haven't had to do too much. The Indy attack hasn't quite found its footing, but the Colts' newfound balance allows the team to keep winning while they figure it out.
Previous rank: No. 15
The Browns waited more than a year for this Odell Beckham Jr. performance. The Cowboys scored 24 consecutive points in the fourth quarter on Sunday, turning a sure Browns win into a game with the potential of Falcons-level tragedy. That's when Baker Mayfield delivered an underhand toss to Beckham, who dodged Aldon Smith deep in the backfield and turned what would have been a huge loss into a 50-yard touchdown run that saved the day for the Browns. Beckham was a superhero, finishing with three total touchdowns on the day. That was the guy Cleveland thought it was getting from the Giants in March of 2019. If this Beckham hangs around, the surging Browns just got much more dangerous.
Previous rank: No. 12
You hate to put too much of the blame for a loss on one player, but Nick Mullens pretty much got the 49ers beat on Sunday night. His struggles against the Eagles started right out of the gate, when he airmailed a throw to Kyle Juszczyk on a play that should have gone for a huge gain. His final pass was a game-deciding pick-six, thrown directly into the arms of linebacker Alex Singleton in the fourth quarter. That's when Kyle Shanahan pulled the cord and brought in C.J. Beathard, who deserves credit for making things interesting until the final pass, an unanswered Hail Mary in the end zone. The Niners are starting to get healthy on offense; now they just need Jimmy Garoppolo to join George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and friends.
Previous rank: No. 24
The Panthers have something in the pairing of Teddy Bridgewater and 31-year-old offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Carolina appeared to be in major trouble when Christian McCaffrey went down with an ankle injury in Week 2, but the offense has put up points with ease in two straight wins since the All-Pro running back was moved to IR. Bridgewater is thriving, and that 18-yard touchdown scramble -- his first scoring run since his horrific knee injury in the summer of '16 -- told the story of a player who's made it all the way back. The defense also deserves credit: After managing a league-low nine QB pressures in the first two weeks, per Next Gen Stats, the pass rush has come to life behind Brian Burns and Yetur Gross-Matos. The Panthers are certified frisky.
The Cardinals have run into some turbulence after a strong start, and problems can be found on both sides of the ball. Kyler Murray finished with a sub-Gabbert-level 4.3 yards per attempt against the Panthers, and we've yet to see proof that this offense has answers if you can take DeAndre Hopkins out of the game plan, as Carolina managed on Sunday. The Arizona defense has been an issue for the entirety of the Kliff Kingsbury era to date, and it's not a good sign when a Panthers team missing Christian McCaffrey is rolling up nearly 450 total yards while holding the ball for more than 37 minutes of game time.
The Vikings took their season off life support with a narrow win over the Texans, and it looks like Gary Kubiak's offense has found its footing. It all goes through Dalvin Cook, of course, the superstar running back who never seems to get the pub of his similarly gifted contemporaries. When Cook (130 yards rushing, two TDs) is right, it makes life much easier for Kirk Cousins, who -- for all his strengths -- isn't the type of quarterback who can put an offense on his back. There are still concerns about the defense, which needed a goal-line stop in the final minute of the game (aided by an overturned Will Fuller touchdown reception) to avoid a consecutive second-half collapse.
There was bad news on Sunday, like Austin Ekeler's injury, the defense's struggles to stop Tom Brady and a Joshua Kelley fumble that changed the game. But it's important to have a big-picture view when a rookie quarterback is playing, and from that standpoint, the Chargers should feel elated right now. Justin Herbert was excellent against a strong Bucs defense, leading the team on four touchdown drives and hitting on a pair of deep-ball strikes that showed off his big arm and pocket toughness. He's a nimble player for his size, too, buying extra seconds to make a play. Yes, his fourth-quarter interception helped seal L.A.'s fate, and blowing 24-7 leads is never an easy pill to swallow for any team, but Herbert has been a revelation through three weeks.
Carson Wentz's 42-yard touchdown strike to Travis Fulgham (who?) wiped away a night of frustration for the undermanned Eagles, who moved into first place in the woebegone NFC East with a 25-20 win over the 49ers on Sunday Night Football. Wentz got it done without his top four wide receivers, tight end Dallas Goedert, left tackle Jason Peters and -- for parts of the night -- right tackle Lane Johnson, who was in and out of the lineup with an ankle issue. Fulgham began the weekend on the Eagles' practice squad, while Alex Singleton -- the linebacker who plays primarily on special teams -- had the game-clinching pick-six on the ensuing series. If the Eagles turn their season around, this will be remembered as the flashpoint.
Previous rank: No. 17
You officially have permission to panic about the 2020 Cowboys. This team can't cover, can't stop the run and can't get off the field when it counts -- the defense's failures were all laid bare in a 49-38 loss to the Browns at Jerrah World. The struggles were especially painful on a day when Dak Prescott and the offense went on a 24-0 run in the fourth quarter to bring the Cowboys to the precipice of another miracle win. But the defense wilted again on a game-sealing Odell Beckham 50-yard touchdown run that could have gone for a 12-yard loss if Aldon Smith had been able to wrangle the speedy wide receiver. The Cowboys have allowed 146 points through four games, the most in franchise history. How does it get better?
A disappointing second half for the Raiders, who were outplayed on both sides of the ball in the final two quarters of a 30-23 loss to the undefeated Bills in Vegas. The turning point of the game came in the fourth quarter, when tight end Darren Waller had the ball punched out of his hands by Josh Norman, who recovered the fumble in Bills territory. Josh Allen hit Stefon Diggs with a 49-yard deep strike on the next play, setting up the game-clinching touchdown. Just like Week 3 in Foxborough, the Raiders are finding out that they need to play a sharper brand of football to beat the league's best teams.
Previous rank: No. 16
Nick Foles might not be the savior after all. Making his first start for the Bears after the prior Sunday's impressive relief performance, Foles looked less like the Eagles' Super Bowl hero and more like the guy who stumbled through a lost season with the Jaguars. Foles inspired little confidence leading a bland Bears attack that managed just 269 total yards against a Colts defense that has been the league's stingiest this season. A late touchdown pass to Allen Robinson (the lone bright spot) put some lipstick on the pig, but the Bears delivered a performance that validated every critic who didn't take the team's 3-0 start seriously. More trouble looms for the offense with the surging Bucs up next on Thursday night.
Joe Mixon began his weekend in a hospital with mysterious chest pains. He ended it as the workhorse star for the Bengals, piling up 181 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in a 33-25 win over the Jaguars. Joe Burrow had been carrying the Bengals' offense before Sunday, and Week 4's win was a reminder the kid quarterback has an Pro Bowl-caliber running back who can help shoulder the load. Burrow also (finally) got some help from his offensive line. A week after being hit 18 times and sacked eight times in a tie with the Eagles, Burrow was sacked just once by Jacksonville. An encouraging day all around for the Bengals.
Previous rank: No. 22
The Lions are the first team since the 2011 Vikings to lose three of their first four games after holding double-digit leads in each of those defeats. On Sunday, they jumped out to a 14-0 lead over the Saints before surrendering five consecutive touchdown drives in an eventual 35-29 loss. It's rinse-and-repeat in the Matt Patricia era. He is now 10-25-1 in his time in Detroit, and we've officially reached the stage where postgame availabilities with players are peppered with questions about the head coach's viability in the big chair. The Lions are on their bye week, and if management wanted to make a change, it probably would have happened already. Patricia still has time to save his job ... but the sands are slipping through the hourglass.
The final score doesn't tell the story, but the Dolphins defense showed up to play in Sunday's 31-23 loss to Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. Miami held Seattle to 17 points midway through the fourth quarter behind impact play from Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah and Xavien Howard. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, you don't beat Wilson by kicking field goals (five of them from a locked-in Jason Sanders), and the dam eventually broke with two late Seattle touchdowns. Ryan Fitzpatrick has played well overall through four weeks and has been named as the Week 5 starter, but you have to wonder how much longer Brian Flores can keep Tua Tagovailoa on the bench. If they feel comfortable with the rookie from a health standpoint, the time should be coming soon.
Previous rank: No. 26
Forget about "Tank For Trevor" ... how about "Suck For Sacks"? The Jaguars have been fine on offense with Gardner Minshew this season -- it's the defense that's in desperate need of help. Jacksonville's D is allowing 29.3 points and 399.5 yards per game, both marks that would easily set franchise records for futility if they kept pace. The Bengals came into Sunday's matchup winless with a rookie quarterback who's been running for his life, and they rolled up 505 yards of offense. Joe Burrow had been a piñata through three weeks, sacked a league-high 14 times and hit on 31 occasions, but the Jags managed just a single sack and little pressure. Was "Sacksonville" really just three years ago? Impossible.
Previous rank: No. 29
Vic Fangio's defense was more aggressive on Thursday night, and it paid off against the Jets. Denver entered Week 4 with one of the lowest blitz rates in the league, but Fangio repeatedly sent extra rushers at Sam Darnold, leading to six sacks and 10 QB hits in a 37-28 win at MetLife Stadium. Will the Broncos deploy a similar approach going forward? On offense, Brett Rypien mixed in some very good with some very bad in his NFL starting debut. Drew Lock needn't worry about getting Wally Pipp'd out of his job at this point, but Rypien needed just four quarters to prove himself a superior backup option to Blake Bortles.
Previous rank: No. 27
Bill O'Brien got the hook from the Texans. Could Dan Quinn be the next head coach to go? The Falcons didn't blow another huge fourth-quarter lead on Monday night because they couldn't keep pace with the undefeated Packers in a 30-16 loss at Lambeau. The Falcons are 0-4 for the first time since 1999. Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes against just six incompletions, and the Falcons' banged-up secondary made tight end Robert Tonyan look like the next Travis Kelce. Meanwhile, how does Calvin Ridley finish Monday without a catch in a game that saw Julio Jones (hamstring) exit at halftime? Messy.
The Texans’ putrid start has cost Bill O’Brien his job. Houston fired its head coach and general manager on Monday, a stunning move that leaves the organization with a massive leadership void amidst an 0-4 start to the season. O’Brien was a polarizing figure in Houston, but his deeply unpopular trade of DeAndre Hopkins coupled with a winless start to 2020 conspired to end his time with the Texans after four AFC South titles in six-plus seasons. Assistant head coach Romeo Crennel takes over as interim coach, inheriting a top-heavy roster that has struggled on both sides of the ball to start the season. While Crennel is tasked with producing better results on the field, the Texans as an organization will be busy rebooting the machine from within.
What to make of Dwayne Haskins? The 2019 first-round pick set a career high with 314 yards passing (aided by a long strike to Terry McLaurin in garbage time), but too often, the former first-round pick threw short of the sticks in a one-sided loss to the Ravens. On a pivotal fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter, Haskins targeted Isaiah Wright on the sideline on a play that had virtually no chance of producing the desired outcome. As the offense exited the field, CBS cameras caught Ron Rivera -- back to the camera -- stomping toward the bench. You wonder what he was thinking.
UPDATE: Washington has benched Dwayne Haskins and plans to start Kyle Allen on Sunday against the Rams, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Alex Smith will back up Allen, making Haskins the team's third-string quarterback.
You've reached the East Rutherford Doom Zone (ERDZ) of the Power Rankings. The Giants fell to the Rams, 17-9, on Sunday in game that was, yes, dreadfully boring, but also featured some encouraging developments that Joe Judge will attempt to build off. The Saquon Barkley-free running game showed signs of life, and the offensive line did great work by not allowing Aaron Donald to wreck the game plan. The defense had its best week, as well, limiting a powerful Rams' offense to its lowest point total of the season while allowing less than 250 yards. A red-zone interception by Daniel Jones aborted New York's late comeback attempt, but the Giants were competitive against a quality team. This counts as progress.
The Jets faced an undrafted free-agent quarterback ... making his first start ... on a short week ... in their building ... and forced three interceptions ... including a pick-six ... without committing a turnover themselves ... and still lost by multiple scores. Pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Rumors circulated ahead of TNF that Adam Gase would be fired without a win over the Broncos, but the Jets remain committed to their coach ... for now, anyway. There's also the not-so-inconsequential matter of New York's defense being a sloppy, undisciplined mess under Gregg Williams, the presumed interim head coach if Gase is let go. Williams leads a defense that committed six personal fouls against Denver. You can understand why management is in no rush to turn over the keys.