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The CHARGED Elite: Week Four

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

CHARGED ranks the NFL teams through the first quarter of the season.

The CHARGED Elite: Week Four

The NFL season is a quarter of the way through, and just like every NFL season, this one has had plenty of surprises.  There are just two undefeated teams remaining, and one of them is the Detroit Lions.  The Philadelphia Eagles are just 1-3 after four games.  Chris Johnson has had just one 100-yard rushing game, yet the Tennessee Titans are 3-1.  The Cincinnati Bengals have just as many wins as the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The Buffalo Bills are in first place in the AFC East.  The Indianapolis Colts are winless.  It's been a wild start, so let's sort it out in this week's CHARGED Elite.

1. Green Bay Packers (4-0, Last Week 1) - Aaron Rodgers decimated the Denver Broncos on Sunday.  He accounted for six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) and threw for over 400 yards.  Denver didn't stand a chance.  Through four games, the Packers are far and away the best team in football.

2. Detroit Lions (4-0, Last Week 2) - No deficit is too big to overcome for the Detroit Lions.  Each week they keep upping the stakes.  Against Dallas, they trailed 27-3 early in the third quarter.  Two interceptions returned for touchdowns and two more Calvin Johnson touchdown receptions helped erase that deficit.  This is now the fourth straight game Johnson has scored two touchdowns.  Rob Ryan, choose your words more carefully next time.

3. New England Patriots (3-1, Last Week 5) - A balanced attack from the Patriots?  New England ran it just as much as they threw it against the Oakland Raiders, and rookie running back Stevan Ridley finally broke out.  He rushed for 97 yards on just 10 carries and scored on a 33-yard run.  If New England continues to attack defenses on the ground, it makes Tom Brady that much more lethal.

4. New Orleans Saints (3-1, Last Week 3) - The acquisition of Darren Sproles is paying huge dividends already for the Saints.  He simply does everything for the team.  Through four games, Sproles is averaging 33.5 yards rushing on just four carries, nearly seven catches for 54 yards, and is providing good field position with solid kick and punt returns.  Sproles is a great change of pace for Drew Brees and the rest of the offense.

5. Houston Texans (3-1, Last Week 6) - The Texans took advantage of a battered Pittsburgh offensive line and beat the tar out of Ben Roethlisberger.  The offense did just enough, including a great performance by Arian Foster, but the defense stole the show on Sunday.  Houston could have easily folded after last week's loss to the Saints, but they came right out of the gate with their foot on the pedal against the Steelers and never let up.  Andre Johnson's leg injury, if severe, could be a big blow to the offense.   

6. Baltimore Ravens (3-1, Last Week 7) - Similar to the Texans, Baltimore took advantage of the Jets' offensive line issues and manhandled Mark Sanchez.  The defense scored three times, twice on fumble recoveries and once on an interception.  The big issue with Baltimore is the offense.  The Jets have a solid defense, but Joe Flacco was awful.  He completed less than 33 percent of his passes and kept the Jets in the game.  He failed to complete a pass in the second and third quarters. 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1, Last Week 11) - LeGarrette Blount is running the ball much more effectively now than at the start of the season.  He finally cracked the 100-yard mark and his 35-yard touchdown run put the Buccaneers ahead for good against the Colts.  Blount was a big reason for Tampa Bay's improvement last season, and he is starting to look like the 1,000-yard rusher from last year.      

8. New York Giants (3-1, Last Week 10) - The Victor Cruz play is over, I'm not going to get into that.  Eli Manning, though, is playing some superb football.  He currently ranks third in QB rating after four games (behind Rodgers and Brady) and has thrown six touchdowns to zero interceptions over the last two weeks.  Manning knows he has to be the guy for the Giants to succeed this season, and so far he has put the team on his back, especially late in games.  

9. Buffalo Bills (3-1, Last Week 4) - After everything the Bills did through three games, the last team you would expect to trip them up would be the Cincinnati Bengals.  But that's what happened on Sunday.  Buffalo couldn't do anything against the Bengals' defense in the second half.  Andy Dalton and Cedric Benson carved up the Buffalo defense for 20 second half points.  It was a golden opportunity for Buffalo to go 4-0, but it was wasted.  

10. Tennessee Titans (3-1, Last Week 16) - Chris Johnson finally rushed for over 100 yards this week, but that's not the main story for the Titans.  The defense is playing great so far.  They are allowing just 14 points per game, which is why they have been able to overcome Johnson's slow start.  Let's see if the Titans' defense can do to the Steelers what Houston did to Pittsburgh in this week's matchup.

11. Washington Redskins (3-1, Last Week 17) - The Skins are playing defense too, which is a big reason for their 3-1 mark.  They share the NFL lead in sacks with 15 and are third in PPG at 15.8 allowed.  The defensive front is vastly improved this year.  Veteran free agent acquisition Barry Cofield is having a nice year, Brian Orapko is emerging as a disruptive pass rusher, and rookie Ryan Kerrigan is making a very strong case for defensive ROY.  

12. San Diego Chargers (3-1, Last Week 14) - The Chargers aren't winning games in the most aesthetic of ways, but and ugly win is better than an ugly loss. For a team that has struggled early the past few years, sitting at 3-1 despite injuries to Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson is a good sign.  The good news is Philip Rivers didn't throw an interception on Sunday.   

13. San Francisco 49ers (3-1, Last week 19) - I am going to start sipping the 49ers Kool-Aid, just to see how it tastes.  They are clearly the best team in the NFC West (although weird things happen once they start to play each other) and Frank Gore finally had himself a good day.  Alex Smith is also managing games extremely well so far this season.  He has just one interception all season, and because of his ball security, the 49ers are staying in games.

14. New York Jets (2-2, Last Week 8) - I don't blame Mark Sanchez entirely for what happened to the Jets on Sunday night.  He barely had any time to think before the Baltimore pass rush was on top of him.  Opposing defenses have been able to load up on Sanchez because the Jets haven't been able to run the ball all year.  Now without healthy lineman, Sanchez will get crushed if he has to drop back 40+ times a game.  They desperately need Nick Mangold back. 

15. Chicago Bears (2-2, Last Week 20) - Matt Forte is playing for that contract extension this season.  He was averaging nearly 100 yards receiving through the first three games, but he broke out against the Panthers on Sunday for 205 yards rushing and a score.  Forte is the most dynamic piece of their offense, and he needs a minimum of 25 touches a game.  Also, why do teams still punt to Devin Hester? 

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2, Last Week 13) - Tony Romo did not have a great game.  But why isn't more of the blame being placed on Felix Jones and the rest of the running backs?  Dallas' inability to run the ball forced Romo to throw more than he needed to.  Yes, Romo threw the picks, but if Jones could provide a balanced attack, a lot of pressure would be taken off Romo.  Dallas is averaging just 86.8 yards on the ground through four games.  Jones isn't getting it done this year.  At least Dirk Nowitzki has Tony Romo's back.

17. Oakland Raiders (2-2, Last Week 12) - The play of the game was Jason Campbell's interception in the end zone near the end of the first half.  Trailing 14-10, Campbell's pick cost the Raiders a chance to cut into New England's deficit.  Instead, the Patriots tacked on three more points before the half and then scored a touchdown to open the second half.  Elite teams will make you pay for those turnovers.  

18.  Atlanta Falcons (2-2, Last Week 18) - An easy victory turned into a nail-biter in the second-half. Atlanta was outscored 21-6 in the second half by the Seahawks, and they barely hung on to win by two.  The defense has struggled early on this season, and has to improve if the Falcons are going to be Super Bowl contenders.  Julio Jones is starting to contribute consistently, though.  He recorded his second straight 100-yard receiving game and was targeted 17 times by Matt Ryan on Sunday. 

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2, Last Week 9) - The Steelers are in trouble.  Their offense is anemic right now because of their offensive line.  They can't' protect Ben Roethlisberger (who might now be hurt) and they can't block for running back Rashard Mendenhall.  The defense also showed holes, giving up 155 yards rushing to Arian Foster.  The offense can't score, and the defense isn't what it was.  If Roethlisberger is out, it could get disastrous in Pittsburgh.   

20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3, Last Week 15) - The Eagles' gameplan on Sunday confused me.  Michael Vick has been battered and beaten the first three weeks of the season.  So Andy Reid decides to have him throw the ball 46 times and rush it another eight times.  LeSean McCoy touched the ball just 14 times.  Yes Michael Vick is a dynamic player, but at this rate he won't last the entire season.

21. Seattle Seahawks (1-3, Last Week 25) - The Seahawks might be coming along.  Tarvaris Jackson almost led them back from a 17-point deficit against the Falcons and Sidney Rice is emerging as a playmaker again.  The Seahawks have weaknesses, for sure, but they have enough pieces to get better.  The Giants better not look past them next week, because they are the kind of team that can surprise you. 

22. Carolina Panthers (1-3, Last Week 22) - Another day, another impressive passing performance for Cam Newton.  He threw for 374 yards against the Bears and should have had a few more.  An offensive pass interference call negated this touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey, and the Panthers' tight end was quite upset about it.  Regardless, Newton's poise and presence has kept Carolina in every game this season.  He's the offensive rookie of the year by a landslide.

23. Cleveland Browns (2-2, Last Week 21) - The Browns suffered another loss at home at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, and they did not very good.  Colt McCoy dropped back 61 times after Tennessee jumped out to an early lead.  McCoy's already eclipsed 39 pass attempts in three out of Cleveland's four games, which usually means you are losing. 

24. Arizona Cardinals (1-3, Last Week 20) - Arizona might have a gripe about that Victor Cruz play (might) but they still allowed the Giants to score 14 points in the final 5 and a half minutes of the game.  It was as if the Cardinals thought the game was over after Beanie Wells pounded home his third touchdown of the game.  Where Manning succeeded, Kevin Kolb failed.  They trail the 49ers now by two games in the West, and then need to turn things around fast.

25. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2, Last Week 28) - You have to give the Bengals credit.  They took it to the Bills, who didn't have an answer for Cedric Benson on the ground or AJ Green in the passing game.  What really impressed me was the aggressiveness of the defense.  They really get after the ball and held the Bills to under 300 yards for the first time all season.  With matchups against Jacksonville and Indianapolis coming up, Cincy could have a winning streak on its hands.

26. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3, Last Week 32) - Maybe Todd Haley and Matt Cassel should fight on the sideline more often.  Things got heated between the coach and his quarterback, but Cassel led the Chiefs to their first win of the season over the Minnesota Vikings.  We should have all seen this coming because Gus Johnson was on the call.  Using Gus on this game is like using Vin Scully to call a Royals/Astros game.  Such a waste. 

27.  Denver Broncos (1-3, Last Week 27) - There wasn't much that Denver could have done to stop Aaron Rodgers on Sunday.  But Kyle Orton didn't help the cause, throwing three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.  It's feast or famine with Orton, and on Sunday it was more famine.  At least Willis McGahee continued his strong running.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3, Last Week 31) - It wasn't a terrible loss for the Jaguars.  They held the Saints to just 23 points, and rookie QB Blaine Gabbert wasn't completely ineffective.  Gabbert's got a great opportunity early on to learn how to be a quarterback.  Having Maurice Jones-Drew as a crutch to lean on doesn't hurt either, and Marcedes Lewis should be back to provide another reliable target for him.

29. St. Louis Rams (0-4, Last Week 26) - St. Louis is lucky to have a bye week coming up.  They need to get things figured out in a hurry.  Sam Bradford looks nothing like the player he was as a rookie and the defense has struggled so far.  

30. Minnesota Vikings (0-4, Last Week 24) - Adrian Peterson at least got to carry the ball 23 times this week.  It's clear that Donovan McNabb is not the answer at quarterback for this team.  The Jake Locker watch is now officially in effect. 

31. Miami Dolphins (0-4, Last Week 29) - Daniel Thomas couldn't play, and then Chad Henne went down with a shoulder injury.  That meant Matt Moore at quarterback and plenty of Reggie Bush.  Moore didn't play terribly, and neither did Bush, but this team needs a reliable option at both positions. It seemed like Thomas was becoming that reliable option at running back, but neither Henne nor Moore should be considered long term.  Andrew Luck, perhaps?  

32. Indianapolis Colts (0-4, Last Week 30) - This is the second straight competitive effort from the Colts, but at this point they should be all in on Andrew Luck.  The Colts can put up a fight, like they did against Tampa Bay, but without Peyton Manning this team becomes ineffective.  It will be a tight race for that number one pick and the chance to take Luck. 

Agree?  Disagree?  Let us know what you think in the comment section, and make sure you check out next week's updated rankings of the CHARGED Elite.

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