Week 5 NFL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, plus how to improve playoff chances

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Now that most teams are a quarter of the way through the season, the NFL Power Rankings decided to take a look at what each team needs to do better to increase its postseason chances. To do this, we used Football Power Index figures provided by our friends on the ESPN Analytics team to look at where each team stands and where they could possibly go moving forward.

The FPI figures are updated through Sunday's games and illustrate a couple of teams (Patriots and Chiefs) that already are virtual locks and a few others (Cardinals, Redskins and Dolphins) that are a Hail Mary or two away from being in the conversation. Everyone else? It's up for grabs.

How we rank: Our power panel -- a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities -- evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings: 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

1. New England Patriots (4-0)

Week 4 ranking: 1

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 99.7%

How to increase their playoff chances: Based on the FPI projection, this is like finding a fault in a Picasso. Given how high the bar has been raised by the Patriots in recent years, it isn't so much about qualifying for the playoffs as positioning themselves for a deep postseason run. And the offense has plenty to improve upon -- starting with a more consistent running game. -- Mike Reiss

2. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)

Week 4 ranking: 2

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 99.1%

How to increase their playoff chances: Improved defensive efficiency. The Chiefs have allowed opponents to score on 43% of their possessions, which is 25th in the league. The Chiefs are 4-0 despite this, so they're going to make the playoffs regardless. But cutting down on opponent scoring drives will give them more margin for error. -- Adam Teicher

3. New Orleans Saints (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 7

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 64.4%

How to increase their playoff chances: Wake up the offensive line. With or without Drew Brees at quarterback, the offensive line was the one unit you figured you could count on the most in New Orleans -- with four starters who either were second-team All-Pro or made the Pro Bowl last year. Instead, the O-line might be the most inconsistent unit on the team, thanks in large part to a barrage of penalties. It needs to be much better for backup QB Teddy Bridgewater to find a groove while Brees is sidelined. -- Mike Triplett

4. Los Angeles Rams (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 3

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 71.7%

How to increase their playoff chances: Fix the offense. Yes, you read that correctly. Sean McVay is an offensive mastermind who has directed a top offense over the past two seasons. But through a 3-1 start, it has been apparent that something just isn't right. Jared Goff has passed for six touchdowns and six interceptions. Todd Gurley II has vanished in the running game and has hardly been a threat in the passing game. The Rams have lost their rhythm and they must find it again, quickly. Otherwise, it could be a tough road ahead -- especially as they open division play Thursday night in Seattle. -- Lindsey Thiry

5. Dallas Cowboys (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 4

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 78.3%

How to increase their playoff chances: The Cowboys' season is not just about making the playoffs. It's about doing something in January, either an NFC Championship Game or a Super Bowl appearance. For the Cowboys to make that step, they must have an attacking offense, which was not the case in Sunday's loss to the Saints. The Cowboys were predictable on first down, which was surprising after the first three games. The competition will get more difficult as the year goes on, and coordinator Kellen Moore will have to make sure the Cowboys rely on more than Ezekiel Elliott on the road. If the Cowboys don't make the playoffs, then there are sure to be plenty of changes on the coaching staff. -- Todd Archer

6. Green Bay Packers (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 5

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 56.3%

How to increase their playoff chances: Stop getting gashed on the ground. From Dalvin Cook's 75-yard run to Phillip Lindsay's two touchdowns to the Eagles putting up more yards on the ground (176) than through the air (160), the Packers need to find a way to stop the bleeding. Their pass rush is for real, but they need the run defense to match. -- Rob Demovsky

7. Seattle Seahawks (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 9

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 31.7%

How to increase their playoff chances: Beat the Rams on Thursday, for starters. With the 49ers at 3-0 and the Rams at 3-1, a win over L.A. could have the Seahawks in first place in the NFC West with a game in hand over the team that still seems like their biggest threat. They'll have to stay out of their own way like they did at Arizona on Sunday, when they went through the first half without a penalty, got a fumble-free performance from Chris Carson and had no breakdowns on the back end of their defense. Those were issues that plagued the Seahawks over their first three games and things they have to put behind them. -- Brady Henderson

8. San Francisco 49ers (3-0)

Week 4 ranking: 11

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 74.8%

How to increase their playoff chances: Cut down on turnovers. The 49ers will get their chance to prove themselves against some of the league's best teams, and as they do, taking better care of the ball will become paramount. The Niners were fortunate to escape against Pittsburgh in Week 3 after coughing up the ball five times, and their eight total giveaways were tied for worst in the NFL through the first three weeks. The defense has enjoyed a positive turnaround in takeaways so far, but as the competition gets tougher, the offense must uphold its end of the bargain when it comes to the game's most important statistic. -- Nick Wagoner

9. Chicago Bears (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 14

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 49.8%

How to increase their playoff chances: Continued offensive efficiency. The Bears have a Super Bowl defense and a fairly reliable kicker in Eddy Pineiro (8-of-9 on field goal attempts), but the offense is the biggest question mark. Chicago's offense -- despite being without starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky for all but six plays -- played well against the Vikings and dominated time of possession (35:27 to 24:33). The Bears will be postseason-bound if the offense plays smart, turnover-free football as it did versus Minnesota. -- Jeff Dickerson

10. Baltimore Ravens (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 6

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 55.9%

How to increase their playoff chances: Fix the defense. Last season, the Ravens' defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL and helped lead Baltimore to its first division title since 2012. Now, this defense looks confused, lost and fractured. Receivers are running wide-open and running backs are reaching the end zone untouched. The Ravens have given up 500 yards in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history. Baltimore is missing some core leaders -- Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle -- who left in free agency. Someone needs to step up to get this defense back on track. -- Jamison Hensley

11. Philadelphia Eagles (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 15

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 45.8%

How to increase their playoff chances: Stabilize in the secondary. Hit hard by injuries at cornerback, the Eagles are yielding a league-high 324 passing yards per game. At this point, they need to seriously consider importing talent to fix the issue. Anybody know of any elite corners who would like to be traded? -- Tim McManus

12. Buffalo Bills (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 12

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 56.0%

How to increase their playoff chances: Continue to win the games they're supposed to and stop turning the ball over. The Bills are tied for third in the NFL with eight takeaways, but their offense's 10 turnovers leads the league. This defense is good enough to win games nearly by itself, but it's incredibly hard to win when an offense turns the ball over 2.5 times a game. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

13. Houston Texans (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 10

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 50.7%

How to increase their playoff chances: Do a better job of protecting Deshaun Watson. That was their top priority this offseason, and despite trading for left tackle Laremy Tunsil right before the season, Houston has not been able to do that. After four games, Watson has been sacked 18 times, which is tied for second most in the NFL. If the Texans want to improve their chance of making the playoffs, they need to give Watson more time to throw, as they did in Week 3, when he was sacked only twice and he threw for 351 yards. -- Sarah Barshop

14. Minnesota Vikings (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 8

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 41.4%

How to increase their playoff chances: Be more aggressive in the passing game. The Vikings have made it clear that their offensive identity is centered around the run, but at some point they're going to have to win a game with Kirk Cousins airing it out. That means not settling for quick checkdowns and using play-action to generate explosive pass plays. This new scheme isn't exactly helping Cousins under pressure, either. His pressure rate jumped from 29% in 2018 to 34% in the first four games this season, the third-highest rate, behind Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen. The Vikings need to remedy that element of this offense before things get out of hand. -- Courtney Cronin

15. Detroit Lions (2-1-1)

Week 4 ranking: 13

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 22.2%

How to increase their playoff chances: Fixing the pass rush. One of Detroit's biggest perceived strengths entering the season was its defensive line -- a group that has been hurt by injuries (Da'Shawn Hand, Mike Daniels) and that has three sacks combined. Some of the pressure is instead coming from linebackers, as Devon Kennard has three sacks, but the Lions need more pressure up front. With a secondary that might be among the league's best when healthy and an offense creeping toward balance, a pass rush could make Detroit one of the tougher teams in the NFC and vault it to a playoff berth in the league's most difficult division. -- Michael Rothstein

16. Los Angeles Chargers (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 16

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 29.5%

How to increase their playoff chances: Get healthy. Entering Sunday's win over the Dolphins, the Chargers had six projected starters from before the season out due to injury. The Bolts had another four players leave the game after suffering injuries: defensive end Melvin Ingram III (hamstring), linebacker Denzel Perryman (head), tight end Sean Culkin (Achilles) and receiver Dontrelle Inman (quad). Culkin is out for the year due to a torn Achilles tendon. If Anthony Lynn wants to make the playoffs for a second straight year, he has to figure out how to keep his team healthy. -- Eric D. Williams

17. Cleveland Browns (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 20

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 59.4%

How to increase their playoff chances: Survive the next three games. If the Browns can just get to 3-4, the back half of the schedule opens up for them, with seven games against opponents that have, as of Sunday, not yet won a game. Cleveland can easily outdo the 3-4 threshold if it keeps playing the way it did on Sunday. But at the very least, if the Browns win just one out of the next three, the chances of securing a playoff spot should go up exponentially. -- Jake Trotter

18. Tennessee Titans (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 19

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 57.4%

How to increase their playoff chances: Make the offense Marcus Mariota-friendly. Mariota is at his best when he is forced to be more decisive. The Titans' offense must employ plays that get the ball out his hands quickly, allowing the playmakers to do the bulk of the work. Their stingy defense is always going to keep the Titans in games. If Tennessee can play complementary football, it can beat anyone in the AFC South. -- Turron Davenport

19. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 17

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 30.0%

How to increase their playoff chances: It's not as simple as getting receiver T.Y. Hilton (quadriceps) and linebacker Darius Leonard (concussion) back. Will both players help? Definitely. But arguably the biggest issue the Colts face is trying to get a defense that finished 11th in the NFL last season back on track. They're giving up 363 yards per game, which is nearly 24 yards more than they gave up last season. Getting to the quarterback will help too. The Colts have only two sacks in the past two games, after recording eight in the first two weeks of the season. -- Mike Wells

20. Carolina Panthers (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 21

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 17.1%

How to increase their playoff chances: Get Cam Newton completely healthy. Nothing against Kyle Allen, who is 2-0 as a starter this season and 3-0 in his career. He has proved he belongs in the NFL and that he can win. But can he make plays consistently to make this a playoff-caliber team? The Panthers won on Sunday despite Allen, who had three fumbles on strip sacks. He didn't throw a touchdown pass. If Newton's left foot Lisfranc injury heals to the point he once again can be a viable threat as a runner and passer, it'll make the Carolina offense that much more dangerous. The defense already looks solid enough to advance into the playoffs. -- David Newton

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 23

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 31.9%

How to increase their playoff chances: Consistency. The Bucs are a very up-and-down team. They lost games they should have won at home versus the Giants and 49ers and pulled upsets on the road against the Panthers and Rams. Now that they're finding ways to win, they need to string together consecutive winning performances. A big part of that is Jameis Winston, whose career up until this point has been very erratic. Can Bruce Arians be the steadying force Winston needs? He has thrown seven touchdowns passes over the past two weeks. -- Jenna Laine

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 22

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 28.6%

How to increase their playoff chances: Run the ball like they did against Denver. It's unreasonable to expect 200-plus yards from Leonard Fournette every week, but the ground game needs to be more like what we saw Sunday than what it had been the previous three weeks. The O-line finally opened some creases, and Fournette took advantage. The Jaguars gave Ryquell Armstead some work too. QB Gardner Minshew has been very good, but the Jaguars can't realistically ask him to carry the offense every week. More production out of the running game will help significantly. -- Mike DiRocco

23. Atlanta Falcons (1-3)

Week 4 ranking: 18

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 11.6%

How to increase their playoff chances: Score. The Falcons can't be in the bottom seven in scoring, as they are right now at just 17.5 points per game. Remember, the Falcons led the league in scoring at 33.8 points per game in 2016. Sure, they don't have Kyle Shanahan calling the plays anymore, but they have Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Austin Hooper, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith. That should be good enough for at least three touchdowns per game, no matter which defense they face. Ryan has eight touchdown passes and seven turnovers, which is never a good ratio. -- Vaughn McClure

24. Oakland Raiders (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 24

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 13.6%

How to increase their playoff chances: Finding a middle linebacker who is adept at defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's scheme -- in the wake of Vontaze Burfict's season-long suspension for dirty play-- would be a start. The thing is, the only MLB in Oakland who knows the system, Marquel Lee, is on injured reserve. Entering the Colts game, the Raiders had no one listed behind Burfict on the depth chart. No. One. Here's an idea, for continuity's sake: Move Tahir Whitehead inside permanently, and re-sign Brandon Marshall--who already knows the defense from spending the entire offseason and training camp with the team -- to play outside. -- Paul Gutierrez

25. New York Giants (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 26

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 3.0%

How to increase their playoff chances: Keep trending in the right direction. Daniel Jones has done wonders for the Giants' offense. He now gets Golden Tate back this week and Saquon Barkley in the not-too-distant future. The offense, which has averaged 24.5 points per game in Jones' two starts, is going to need to steal them some games. It's not anywhere near as crazy as it sounded a couple of weeks back, especially with the defense allowing only six points in the past six quarters. -- Jordan Raanan

26. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3)

Week 4 ranking: 25

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 12.0%

How to increase their playoff chances: It all comes down to the run. RB James Conner, who averaged a paltry 2.9 yards per carry before Monday's game, needs to get it going on offense. The only way to get a green quarterback comfortable is to find more balance in the offense, and right now, the Steelers' No. 31-ranked rushing offense isn't getting it done. If Conner can't be effective, then it might be time for the team to look at other options -- including rookie Benny Snell Jr.or second-year back Jaylen Samuels-- to avoid missing the playoffs for the second year in a row. -- Brooke Pryor

27. Denver Broncos (0-4)

Week 4 ranking: 27

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 1.7%

How to increase their playoff chances: The Broncos have to find some kind of balance on defense. Free-agent cornerback Bryce Callahan has not played in a game for the Broncos, and the team doesn't know if he'll be able to at all this season. Toss in Kareem Jackson's hamstring injury and the Broncos are giving significant snaps in coverage to De'Vante Bausby, who was in the AAF last season, and Duke Dawson. Mix in struggles in the middle of the D-line and you have a defense built to create turnovers and get sacks that is doing neither at the moment. -- Jeff Legwold

28. Arizona Cardinals (0-3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 28

FPI chance to make the playoffs: less than 1%

How to increase their playoff chances: Run. The. Table. There's really no other choice for the Cardinals if they want to even sniff the postseason. They have the third-lowest odds of making the playoffs as it is already. But going undefeated in their final 12 games is about as unlikely as them making the playoffs at the moment. There are ways the Cardinals can get better and win games, especially when it comes to their red zone production, but nothing at this point will, realistically, get them to the playoffs. -- Josh Weinfuss

29. Cincinnati Bengals (0-4)

Week 4 ranking: 30

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 3.4%

How to increase their playoff chances: The Bengals need to start putting together wins -- quickly -- to even be in the playoff discussion. Cincinnati must find a balance between the air and ground attacks and be consistent for an entire game. The team has played well in spurts but has lacked quality over 60 minutes. Coming into Monday night's game against Pittsburgh, the Bengals were giving up an average of 6.42 yards per play, which ranks near the bottom of the NFL. -- Ben Baby

30. New York Jets (0-3)

Week 4 ranking: 31

FPI chance to make the playoffs: 3.0%

How to increase their playoff chances: Real simple: Score. The Jets have only one touchdown from scrimmage in their first three games -- a franchise first. The possible return this week of QB Sam Darnold (mono) and next week's return of TE Chris Herndon (suspension) will help, but the problems run deeper than two players. The offensive line has been a huge disappointment, starting with C Ryan Kalil, who came out of retirement. There have been too many scheme breakdowns and blown assignments, and it's on coach Adam Gase to get it fixed. There will be no excuses when Darnold is back in the lineup. -- Rich Cimini

31. Washington Redskins (0-4)

Week 4 ranking: 29

FPI chance to make the playoffs: less than 1%

How to increase their playoff chances: For those who believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, here's what the Redskins need to do: Quit underachieving defensively, start hitting open throws, reduce the penalties and stay healthy. Quarterback Case Keenum failed and rookie Dwayne Haskins isn't ready, so their hope would lie with Colt McCoy returning and then playing at a higher level than he has ever reached. And they must win a few games over the next five weeks before getting running back Derrius Guice back from injury. The Redskins started 0-5 in 2001 and won eight of their next 11, and they did so in 1981 as well. It might be one in a million, but yes, we're saying there's a chance. -- John Keim

32. Miami Dolphins (0-4)

Week 4 ranking: 32

FPI chance to make the playoffs: less than 1%

How to increase their playoff chances: Root for 10 other AFC teams to forfeit the season. Playoffs?!? FPI is right on the money here: There is zero chance Miami makes the playoffs. The goal right now is setting up the team so it can be a playoff contender in 2020 or 2021. The Dolphins have been outscored 163-26 through four games, but the more alarming number is their 81-0 deficit in the second half. The first big step toward winning a game is making better second-half improvements. -- Cameron Wolfe

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