Bills return to top five, undefeated Cardinals remain on top … for now

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NFL power rankings, 2021 post-Week 5 edition (previous rank in parentheses):

1. Cardinals (1): The last time they were 5-0 was 1974, which is also the last time the Cards were the league’s lone unbeaten team. Also noteworthy of this century-old franchise? It’s broken from the gate 5-0 on four previous occasions, but those hot starts have never been followed by a postseason victory. Could that happen again? Arizona is currently clean, but this team hardly feels head and shoulders above the competition and has to prove it won’t spiral into yet another second-half fade under coach Kliff Kingsbury.

2. Rams (2): Their next three opponents (Giants, Detroit, Houston) are a combined 2-13. Golden opportunity to keep pace with Cardinals, the only team to beat Los Angeles this season, while padding their cushion on the rest of the NFC field.

3. Buccaneers (3): Here’s a wild stat – Tampa Bay has scored at least 44 points six times since QB Tom Brady joined the team in 2020 … matching the franchise’s six 44+ point outputs from its first 44 years of existence.

4. Cowboys (5): Dallas has lost six in a row to teams coached by Bill Belichick, including an 0-5 record against his Patriots. In fact, the Cowboys haven’t beaten New England since 1996, when Bill Parcells was roaming the sideline at old Foxboro Stadium. Dak Prescott and Co. can put a lot of that negative history to bed Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium by improving to 5-1 for the first time since 2016, Prescott’s rookie year.

5. Bills (6): After exacting retribution in Kansas City, surging Buffalo can get more of the same Sunday in Nashville, where they got blown out 42-16 by the Titans last year during a game played on a Tuesday night due to Tennessee’s COVID-19 outbreak.

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6. Chargers (8): WR Mike Williams has impeccable timing. His salary ballooned to $15.7 million this year after the Bolts picked up his fifth-year option, but the NFL’s leader in TD catches (6) should really cash in following the season, when he’s scheduled to reach free agency.

7. Ravens (7): Credit Baltimore’s resolve – and QB Lamar Jackson’s – as it stole a game it probably didn’t deserve to win. Credit the football gods for withholding the record for consecutive 100-yard rushing games, which John Harbaugh’s team definitely didn’t deserve to claim.

8. Browns (4): In his four NFL seasons, QB Baker Mayfield has been on the losing side three times despite Cleveland scoring at least 42 points – including Sunday’s 47-42 barnburner against the Chargers. No other quarterback in league history has suffered such a defeat multiple times.

9. Packers (10): Sunday was a reminder that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good … though Green Bay may need a few more four-leaf clovers over the next five weeks, when the Pack will face four 2020 playoff teams and the undefeated Cardinals.

10. Chiefs (9): It’s not often when Kansas City is on par with Jacksonville, but this has been a strange season – and the clubs share the NFL lead with 11 turnovers. K.C. QB Patrick Mahomes’ six INTs match his total from 2020 and are halfway to his career high of 12 (2018).

11. Titans (15): Lots of wild Derrick Henry stats out there, and he’s currently averaging a career-best 128.0 rush yards per game – putting him on pace for a single-season record 2,176. But consider this nugget from Elias: Henry has run for 4,792 yards over the past 40 games, eclipsing Jim Brown’s record (4,759) for the best stretch in league history.

12. Panthers (12): OLB Haason Reddick, who exploded for a career-high 12½ sacks last year for Arizona, was one of this offseason’s shrewdest free agent signings. Rookie GM Scott Fitterer landed Reddick for $6 million in 2021, and he’s already responded with an NFC-high 6½ sacks.

13. Saints (13): Now we know why they parted with longtime P Thomas Morstead. Blake Gillikin netted nearly 52 yards on five punts Sunday and pinned Washington inside its 3-yard line three times. Savage.

14. Bears (24): New Bears same as the old Bears? Despite a deeply flawed roster and offense that ranks last in the league, Chicago is in early position to snatch a second consecutive wild-card berth. Give them credit.

15. Bengals (14): WR Ja’Marr Chase may run away and hide with the offensive rookie of the year award as he seemingly improves each week, culminating with a six-catch, 159-yard effort Sunday. He leads all rookies with five TDs and 456 receiving yards.

16. Steelers (22): RB Najee Harris may run away and hide with the offensive rookie of the year award as he seemingly improves each week, culminating with a 122-yard rushing effort Sunday. He leads all rookies with 307 yards on the ground and 28 receptions.

17. Broncos (16): They haven’t scored a TD on their opening drive in 24 straight games, the worst streak in the league at present, and their 28.6% third-down conversion rate is the NFL’s worst. Not sustainable.

18. Vikings (17): After leaving Minnesota in 2020, four-time Pro Bowl DE Everson Griffen is doing a heckuva job rekindling his career with the Vikes. He doubled his sack total to four Sunday after notching two in his first start of the season.

19. Seahawks (18): They’ve lost QB Russell Wilson for an indefinite period. They lost for the first time in their highlighter green jerseys. And they’re on the precipice of a lost season if Wilson doesn’t prove to be “one of the great healers of all time,” as coach Pete Carroll contends.

20. 49ers (19): Week 6 byes are rarely welcome, but this one may have saved San Francisco from starting QB Nate Sudfeld now that Trey Lance (knee sprain) is hobbling along with starter Jimmy Garoppolo (calf).

21. Eagles (25): DT Javon Hargrave has six sacks in five games, best among the league’s interior linemen. He averaged 3.8 sacks over his first five seasons and has never had more than 6½ in any of them.

22. Washington (20): An overhyped defense continues to be a massive disappointment, allowing an NFC-worst 31 points per game. The WFT has already allowed at least 29 points in four games, something it did just five times in the entire 2020 regular season.

23. Raiders (11): This franchise finally seemed to be on solid footing, then the bottom falls out with Jon Gruden’s stunning demise. This could set Silver and Black back years, but outcome was inevitable … and correct.

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24. Colts (23): Injured second-year K Rodrigo Blankenship tried to gut it out Monday night but ended up gutting his team, two missed field goals and a wayward PAT proving fatal in Indianapolis’ overtime loss at Baltimore.

25. Falcons (27): If only they could play a New York team every week. But fear not, Atlanta fans, your team gets to go to Buffalo in Week 17.

26. Patriots (21): They were wholly unimpressive Sunday against downtrodden Houston, a performance at least partially explained by New England missing 80% of its starting offensive line. But that doesn’t explain Texans rookie QB Davis Mills carving up Belichick’s defense.

27. Dolphins (26): Say what you want about injured QB Tua Tagovailoa, but Miami has been outscored by 19 points per game without him.

28. Texans (31): Their season was pretty well summed up by Cameron Johnston’s 0-yard punt Sunday, which ricocheted off teammate Terrence Brooks.

29. Jets (29): Surely playing second-year WR Denzel Mims, who’s averaged 24.3 yards on his three catches, more extensively could help open up the league’s lowest-scoring offense. Injured LT Mekhi Becton, Mims’ 2020 draftmate, agrees.

30. Lions (30): Losing on field goals of at least 54 yards at the gun twice in the span of three weeks is enough to move any man to tears, especially one overseeing a winless outfit. You’re a real one, Dan Campbell.

31. Giants (28): Who’s left to play for Big Blue after QB Daniel Jones, RB Saquon Barkley and WR Kenny Golladay all went down Sunday? Start with first-round rookie WR Kadarius Toney, whose 189 receiving yards at Dallas broke Odell Beckham’s single-game team record (185) for rookies.

32. Jaguars (32): Urban Meyer said Sunday that rookie Trevor Lawrence was “not quite comfortable with” quarterback sneaks. Lawrence said otherwise. Discuss amongst yourselves.

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Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL power rankings Week 5 2021: Bills back in top 5, Cardinals on top





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