In the song Ms. Jackson, Andre 3000 declared the famous yet simple words, “I am for real.” Of course, this was always true of Andre 3000 in the literal sense, but I like to think there was a deeper meaning behind his statement, perhaps a foreshadowing of sorts. Maybe it’s a stretch—especially since the song came out 17 years ago—but I think the Outkast rapper was speaking on behalf of the 2017 Kansas City Chiefs, who are indeed for real.
Just look at all the obstacles thrown in Kansas City’s way. To recap, the Chiefs 1) inexplicably parted ways with their best receiver during the offseason (Jeremy Maclin hasn’t exactly torn it up in Baltimore, so maybe that was for the best), 2) lost their starting running back (Spencer Ware) to a season-ending knee injury in a meaningless preseason game and finally 3) watched All-Pro safety Eric Berry tear his Achilles after a heroic performance against Rob Gronkowski in Week 1. Oh, and they lost their kicker, too.
That should have been a death sentence for a team playing in the NFL’s toughest division but here we are, four weeks into the season, with the Chiefs remaining as the league’s lone unbeaten team. The Chiefs haven’t employed the usual blueprint. Their success has come on the strength of a quarterback who, until this year, had never thrown a pass longer than 10 yards (don’t fact-check that), a freaky-fast gadget receiver, a reality star tight end whose aesthetic would best be described as post-Gronk and of course, a rookie who has already graduated to the upper echelon of fantasy running backs. Having an All-Pro cornerback at your disposal isn’t a bad technique, either.
Meanwhile, the Patriots, a franchise that has etched its name on the Lombardi Trophy two of the last three seasons, have been among the league’s biggest disappointments. Sure, the offense still hums under the leadership of dark sorcerer Tom Brady but New England’s defense has been the NFL’s leaky faucet, bleeding both yards and points at equally alarming clips. The Patriots have endured slow starts before—they started 2-2 before capturing their fourth Super Bowl in 2014—but there’s certainly cause for concern heading into a tough road matchup with the Buccaneers on a short week.
Let’s see where the surging Chiefs and slumping Patriots fall in this week’s Power Rankings.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 1
Harrison Butker’s career got off to a rocky start when he shanked a 46-yarder in the first half of Monday night’s game against the Redskins but he redeemed himself later by booting through the game-winner with four seconds remaining. Another week, another monster performance by Rookie of the Year frontrunner Kareem Hunt, who has already piled on 659 yards from scrimmage with six touchdowns. His 502 rushing yards are 140 more than Todd Gurley, who ranks second in that category.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 2
All-Pro receiver Julio Jones bowed out with a hip flexor injury early in Week 4 but he’ll have the bye week to heal up. While Julio’s injury appears to be a non-issue, the Falcons could be without Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) for 2-3 weeks. Matt Ryan has thrown five interceptions in his last two games after being picked off seven times all of last season. Sunday was Atlanta’s first regular season loss since Week 13 of 2016.
3. Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 4
With Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams banged up, fifth-round rookie Aaron Jones went for 49 yards and a touchdown in Thursday night’s win over the Bears. Look for Jones to be among the most sought-after players on the waiver wire this week. Jordy Nelson has now secured 10 touchdowns over his last nine regular season games. And that includes Week 2 when a quad injury limited him to just seven snaps.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 7
We witnessed the full spectrum of human emotion on Sunday with Antonio Brown throwing a fit on the sideline and JuJu Smith-Schuster—the NFL’s youngest player at age 20—regaling us with a Dragon-Ball-Z-themed celebration (JuJu confirmed it was indeed a Kamehameha and not a Hadouken as some had speculated). Meanwhile Le’Veon Bell broke out of his season-long slump by hanging 186 yards (144 rushing, 42 receiving) on Baltimore while scoring his second and third touchdowns of the season.
5. Detroit Lions
Last Week: 6
The Lions turned to their ground game in Week 4 with Ameer Abdullah rushing for a career-high 94 yards in a win over Minnesota. His rushing touchdown in that game was his first since Week 15 of his rookie season in 2015. Golden Tate impressed with 107 yards in his season debut against the Cardinals, but has managed just 14 catches for 112 yards in three games since.
6. Denver Broncos
Last Week: 9
The Broncos keep giving us mixed signals. In Week 3 they used a committee with C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles each logging 10 touches. Sunday it was advantage Anderson. He out-touched Charles 24-6 while eclipsing 80 yards rushing for the third time in his last four games. Demaryius Thomas laid an egg against the Raiders’ Swiss-cheese secondary, corralling just one-of-five targets for 11 yards in Week 4. Sunday extended his touchdown drought to 10 games.
7. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 11
Zach Ertz’s price keeps going up on FanDuel—he’s up to $6,600 for Week 5—but at this point, I’d pay any price for him. He’s contributed at least 80 yards or a touchdown in eight of his last nine games going back to last season. LeGarrette Blount compiled 136 rushing yards in Week 4, which is more than he totaled in his previous three games combined.
8. New England Patriots
Last Week: 3
The Patriots broke the bank for Stephon Gilmore this offseason, alienating their best corner Malcolm Butler in the process. How’s that working out so far? Through four weeks, Gilmore holds PFF’s No. 94 grade out of 110 qualifiers at cornerback. Meanwhile former lacrosse standout Chris Hogan has visited the end zone four times in his last three games and is now the WR10 in PPR leagues.
9. Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 16
It probably won’t last, but at the season’s quarter pole, Buffalo is alone atop the AFC East. Despite losing the aforementioned Gilmore in free agency and trading Ronald Darby to the Eagles before the start of the season, the Bills have allowed one touchdown pass through their first four games. Sunday was Charles Clay’s first 100-yard receiving game since Week 4 of 2015.
10. Washington Redskins
Last Week: 12
With Washington on bye this week, fantasy owners have to ask themselves, “Is Jamison Crowder droppable?” You could definitely make that argument after Monday’s disaster against the Chiefs (one catch for -7 yards). Josh Doctson nearly came down with the game-winning touchdown on Monday night but couldn’t seal the deal. Terrelle Pryor’s Week 4 touchdown was his first as a member of the Redskins.
11. Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 21
Either Cam Newton’s shoulder is feeling way better or New England’s defense is completely broken. Maybe it’s both. Either way, Sunday’s four-touchdown (three passing, one rushing), 316-yard performance was easily Newton’s best of the season. Devin Funchess totaled 23 catches all of last season (15 games) but already has 17 through his first four games of 2017. Sunday marked the first multi-touchdown game of his three-year career.
12. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week: 15
Beating the Colts and 49ers is one thing. But winning on the road at Dallas—that’s how you move up in this guy’s Power Rankings. Todd Gurley kept the engine running with another productive game in Week 4, pummeling the Cowboys for 121 yards on the ground and another 94 through the air. He leads all running backs with three touchdown catches and is second behind Chris Thompson in receiving yards with 234. After scoring the league’s fewest points last season, the Rams lead the NFL with 142 through four weeks.
13. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 14
It’s back to the drawing board for Seattle’s run game. With impressive rookie Chris Carson (broken leg) out for the year, the Seahawks will be forced to go with some combination of Thomas Rawls (a healthy scratch last week), Eddie Lacy, C.J. Prosise and J.D. McKissic. Russell Wilson got off to a painfully slow start this year but has turned it on by delivering seven touchdowns (six passing, one rushing) over his last two contests.
14. Houston Texans
Last Week: 20
Deshaun Watson pulled out all the stops in Week 4, demoralizing the Titans by throwing for 283 yards and four touchdowns while adding 24 yards and another touchdown on four carries. He’s gone up against a pair of subpar defenses the past two weeks, so the real test will come Sunday versus Kansas City. Will Fuller’s two touchdowns in Week 4 were as many as he had all of last season.
15. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 10
We knew it was only a matter of time until Ezekiel Elliott got cooking. And boy did he bring the thunder in Week 4, torching the Rams for two touchdowns and 139 yards from scrimmage. He’s now rushed for at least 80 yards in three of four games this season and 17-of-19 overall since entering the league last season. Only Tom Brady and Drew Brees have thrown more touchdown passes (10 each) than Dak Prescott (eight) in 2017.
16. Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 5
This isn’t how the Raiders drew it up. Marshawn Lynch has been hitting brick walls all season (30 yards on 15 carries over his last two games), Amari Cooper can’t get out of his own way (12 catches, seven drops) and now Derek Carr is on the shelf with a fractured back. Michael Crabtree’s status is also up in the air after sitting out last week’s game with a bruised lung. E.J. Manuel’s last win as a starter came in Week 2 of 2014, which is also a concern heading into Sunday’s game against the Ravens.
17. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 13
Dalvin Cook faces a long road to recovery after tearing his ACL Sunday against Detroit. With Cook down for the season, Latavius Murray, who led the Raiders with 12 touchdowns a year ago, will take over the lead role in Minnesota’s backfield. Nobody misses Sam Bradford more than Kyle Rudolph. The tight end has followed up last year’s breakout by averaging just 27.3 yards per game and hasn’t scored since Week 1, which, coincidentally, was the last time Bradford suited up.
18. Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 8
Well, Week 4 probably could have gone a bit better. For starters, Marcus Mariota got hurt again and could miss Week 5 (Brandon Weeden to the rescue!). It was also a tough week to own Tennessee running backs as DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry combined for just 38 yards on 17 carries. And not to be a pain or anything, but when is this supposed Eric Decker (10-104-0) breakout happening? I’m tired of waiting.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 17
Cameron Brate had his best game of the season in Week 4, soaking up four-of-six targets for a team-high 80 yards in a win over the Giants. He’s found the end zone in eight of his last 12 games going back to last season. Doug Martin is back from suspension but what kind of role can he expect on a short week? Remember, Martin averaged a league-worst 2.9 yards per carry in 2016.
20. New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 22
Showing up was enough to beat the Dolphins last week but the Saints can still take away plenty of positives from their trip to London. Third-round rookie Alvin Kamara enjoyed his biggest week yet, pulling in 10-of-11 targets for 71 yards and a touchdown. Michael Thomas also made his presence felt by scoring for the second straight week. He’s gone for at least 85 receiving yards in five of his last six games dating back to last season.
21. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 23
Larry Fitzgerald saved his best for last on Sunday, rescuing Arizona with a walk-off touchdown. It’s a red flag the Cardinals even needed overtime to beat the Niners, but let’s try to tackle one issue at a time. Fitzgerald may have delivered the finishing blow on Sunday, but it was Jaron Brown’s hard work that kept the Cardinals afloat. His 105 yards in Week 4 were a new career-high, as were his eight catches.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 18
A week after slinging four touchdowns in London, Blake Bortles was back to his usual ineffective self on Sunday, completing just 15-of-35 passes for 140 yards in a loss to the Jets. He ranks 30th in the league in passing yards per game. Meanwhile, Leonard Fournette continues to move mountains. He jogged all over Gang Green, compiling a career-high 145 yards on 28 touches. The fourth overall pick has scored in every game this season.
23. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 19
It took almost a month but Mike Wallace is finally showing signs of life. He paced the Ravens with six catches for a season-high 55 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. Alex Collins ran hog-wild with 82 yards on nine carries in Week 4, though he was briefly benched for committing his second fumble in three games. That’s been the knock on Collins since his days at Arkansas when he coughed up the football a whopping 17 times in three seasons.
24. New York Jets
Last Week: 29
The Jets got busy on the ground in Week 4, amassing 256 yards on 32 carries in a win over Jacksonville. Bilal Powell did most of the heavy lifting, stuffing the box score with 190 yards and a touchdown on 25 touches. Rookie Elijah McGuire also had a big day (93 yards on 10 carries), though most of his output came on a 69-yard touchdown dash in the second half.
25. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 28
I vaguely recall myself predicting a breakout week for Joe Mixon in last week’s Live Chat. My bad. In hindsight it’s pretty amazing that Mixon, who is averaging a mere 2.6 yards per carry (not to mention all the off-field baggage he comes with), was drafted 38 picks ahead of likely Hall of Famer Kareem Hunt. At least Andy Dalton has righted the ship, contributing six touchdowns without throwing an interception over his last two outings.
26. Chicago Bears
Last Week: 25
John Fox’s instincts are impeccable, aren’t they? It only took him four games to surmise, “Yeah maybe this Mike Glennon guy isn’t the answer.” Second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky should be an improvement on Glennon but don’t expect him to immediately turn water into wine. Even Tom Brady would struggle to put points on the board with a bare-bones receiving corps featuring Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton and a slew of randos you’ve probably never heard of.
27. New York Giants
Last Week: 26
The Wayne Gallman Era has begun in East Rutherford. The fourth-round running back impressed with 50 yards and a touchdown on 13 touches Sunday at Tampa Bay and should maintain his lead status, even with Orleans Darkwa (back) due back this week. It may not feel like it, but Eli Manning is actually having a productive year for the G-Men. So far he ranks fifth in passing yards (1,113) and third in completion percentage (69.9) behind only Alex Smith and Josh McCown.
28. Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 24
With the way the Dolphins have played in the early going—they’ve scored a combined six points over their last two games—it’s a wonder this team snuck into the playoffs last year. Julius Thomas, the subject of many offseason puff pieces, has yet to top 30 yards in a game while Jarvis Landry has averaged an abysmal 6.6 yards per catch. Not a fan of the wildcat are you, Jay?
29. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week: 27
The Chargers haven’t won a game since ‘Nam (okay it was actually Week 12 of last season) and in a rather amazing twist of fate, that’s not even their biggest problem. The Bolts have struggled to sell out a 27,000-seat soccer stadium and got a ton of bad press by alienating their biggest fan. Melvin Gordon’s regression is also concerning. He ranks just 41st out of 48 qualified rushers in yards per carry (3.1).
30. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 30
This might be one of those, “it gets worse before it gets better” situations. Andrew Luck will resume practicing this week, but who knows how long it will take for him to be “game-ready.” In the meantime, Jacoby Brissett’s safety blanket, Jack Doyle, is out with a concussion while T.Y. Hilton continues to be more miss than hit. At least Week 4 gave us a rare Donte Moncrief sighting.
31. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 31
I’m not sure if this counts as progress, but the 49ers have lost their last three games by a combined eight points including Sunday’s overtime defeat at Arizona. Maybe there’s a reason Brian Hoyer is on his sixth team in six years. He’s been brutal in the early going, completing under 60 percent of his passes with twice as many picks (four) as touchdowns (two).
32. Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 32
Falling to the Steelers and Ravens is understandable but losing back-to-back games to Cincinnati and Indianapolis including a 24-point loss to the Bengals at home—that’s red flag territory. Here’s a slice of good news—Duke Johnson ranks third among running backs with 207 receiving yards this year. Now for the bad news—Deshaun Watson, who the Browns could have selected with the No. 12 pick, is running circles around fellow rookie DeShone Kizer.
Biggest Jump: Panthers10
Biggest Drop: Raiders11