*The rankings incorporate offensive, defensive and special-teams metrics, with a focus on yardage per play, adjusted per-possession efficiency (including points per possession) and the rate at which teams gain and prevent first downs. Strength of schedule and error rates (penalties and giveaways) are also factored into the calculation. *
Possession data is adjusted to eliminate kneeldowns or other obvious scenarios where the offense is not attempting to advance the football.
1. Green Bay Packers (4-0) Last week: 7
Defense and mistake-free football in a 17-3 win over San Francisco fueled the Pack's rise to the top. The Packers rose from 27th to 15th in adjusted defensive per-possession efficiency, 18th to seventh in yardage per play allowed and 28th to 18th in first-down rate.
2. Atlanta Falcons (4-0) Last week: 9
It's possible that the Falcons would have flown to the top spot had they not pulled off the throttle late against Houston -- especially on defense. Atlanta ranks 28th in adjusted defensive per-possession efficiency, 27th in yardage allowed per play and dead last in first-down rate. But the Falcons avoid turnovers, commit few penalties and rank in the league's top 10 in most offensive categories and on special teams. Dan Quinn's club has some holes, but if the defense improves, a playoff run is possible.
3. New England Patriots (3-0) Last week: 3
4. Denver Broncos (4-0) Last week: 6
Joe DeCamillis' special teams have been a strength for the Broncos. Brandon McManus' accuracy on placekicks and distance on kickoffs help the Broncos to an overall special-teams ranking of fourth. When McManus' kickoffs are returned, opponents are averaging just 16.3 yards a runback, the second-lowest figure in the league. Special teams and defense continue to compensate for an offense that is 22nd in adjusted per-possession efficiency, 31st in yardage per play and 28th in first-down rate.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-0) Last week: 2
6. Arizona Cardinals (3-1) Last week: 1
7. Carolina Panthers (4-0) Last week: 7
The league's best giveaway-takeaway margin and the No. 3 defense in yardage per play makes up for an offense that ranks 26th in yardage per play (but 15th in adjusted per-possession efficiency).
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) Last week: 4
The Steelers fell from first to sixth in yardage per play and and fourth to seventh in first-down rate and adjusted per-possession efficiency in their first full game without Ben Roethlisberger.
9. New York Jets (3-1) Last week: 11
10. Seattle Seahawks (2-2) Last week: 10
Seattle's defense is back to normal, holding the Lions to just three offensive points -- although if the proper call had been made on K.J. Wright's end-zone bat of the football, it would have likely been 10.
11. St. Louis Rams (2-2) Last week: 20
There's one reason why the Rams are this week's biggest risers (nine spots) -- the Gurley Effect.
Todd Gurley's 146-yard performance -- on just 19 carries -- allowed the Rams to soar from 22nd to second in yardage per carry, and 17th to ninth in yardage per play. Excellent special teams (ranked No. 3) and a defense rounding into form the last two weeks (fifth in adjusted per-possession efficiency) and a pair of strong wins over Seattle and Arizona give the Rams the air of a legitimate contender -- as long as they can avoid any more toe-stubbings like at Washington in Week 2 -- as long as Gurley remains healthy. He is the fuel that could power the Rams to their first winning season in 12 years.
12. New York Giants (2-2) Last week: 12
13. Buffalo Bills (2-2) Last week: 5
14. Oakland Raiders (2-2) Last week: 15
- Minnesota Vikings (2-2)**Last week: 13
16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) Last week: 10
Rod Marinelli's defense has collapsed since the middle of the second quarter of their Week 3 loss to the Falcons, allowing 3.41 points per possession -- which, if sustained over the entire season to date, would be the league's worst rate.
17. Baltimore Ravens (1-3) Last week: 17
18. Tennessee Titans (1-2) Last week: 18
19. Washington Redskins (2-2) Last week: 22
20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) Last week: 14
The defense had a late letdown Sunday, allowing Washington to march 90 yards to the game-winning Kirk Cousins-to-Pierre Garçon touchdown pass, but overall it ranks sixth in adjusted per-possession efficiency and fifth in yardage per play and first-down rate allowed, making up for an offense that in in the bottom four of those three categories.
21. San Diego Chargers (2-2) Last week: 24
22. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) Last week: 16
The Chiefs have played the league's toughest schedule, with all three of their losses coming against undefeated teams: Denver, Green Bay and Cincinnati. They don't play another team that currently has a winning record until Week 10 at Denver, and with three of their next four at home or on a neutral field (against the Lions at London's Wembley Stadium on Nov. 1), the Chiefs are well-positioned to climb back into the AFC playoff race.
- Cleveland Browns (1-3)**Last week: 26
24. New Orleans Saints (1-3) Last week: 31
25. Indianapolis Colts (2-2) Last week: 19
Why did the Colts fall six spots following a win? Because their offense fell from 19th to 23rd in per-possession efficiency without Andrew Luck, averaging just 1.33 points per possession against the Jaguars on Sunday, and from 12th to 22nd in yardage per play.
26. Miami Dolphins (1-3) Last week: 25
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) Last week: 29
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) Last week: 28
29. Houston Texans (1-3) Last week: 21
Only some window-dressing drives in the second half arrested the Texans' descent.
30. Detroit Lions (0-4) Last week: 30
31. Chicago Bears (1-3) Last week: 32
If only the drives led by Jay Cutler counted, the Bears would rank seventh in adjusted points per possession, with 2.61. By comparison, they averaged 0.47 points per possession the 19 drives led by Jimmy Clausen in Weeks 2 and 3.
With Cutler, this is a competitive team powered by an efficient offense that can hang with the league's best, as evidenced by their close Week 1 loss to the Packers and their effort in the first half of the Week 2 defeat to Arizona. Without Cutler, the Bears have little to no chance.
32. San Francisco 49ers (1-3) Last week: 27
The 49ers earned this distinction by virtue of ranking dead last in adjusted per-possession efficiency, yardage per play, yardage per pass play and net points. They rank in the league's bottom six in 12 of the 21 statistics used to compile these rankings. By the eye test and by the metrics, this is the worst team, even though it doesn't have the worst record.