NFL Power Rankings: Week 5

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles

Sep 29, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) runs after a catch against the New York Giants in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won the game 31-7. John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Titans shoot up the rankings this week after improving to 3-1 with a beat down of the New York Jets. However, with starting quarterback Jake Locker hurt, how long will they stay there?

Let’s start with Locker’s injury. The current prognosis has Locker out four to six weeks, as he has suffered no major structural damage, just a sprained hip. Considering how brutal the injury looked, that’s fantastic news, but it’s still a long time. It’s disappointing as Locker was having the best season of his young career. Hopefully, he’ll be able to come back quickly without missing a step. In the best case scenario, he only misses three games, which is survivable.

In comes Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will always be associated with the ill-fated six-year $59 million contract extension Buffalo signed him to after half of a great season. He quickly regressed back to previous career trends and was let go. That doesn’t make him a bad quarterback by any stretch of the imagination, just an overpaid one. He completes more than 60 percent of his passes and has a career interception percentage of 3.6 percent. He’s a solid backup who can be expected to mind the ship for a few weeks while Locker recovers. It was a good move signing him this offseason once Matt Hasselbeck left town. On a run-and-defense oriented squad like this one, Fitzpatrick should be able to keep things moving, if not as successfully as Locker was doing.

As for the schedule, it’s a tough time to be breaking in a backup. Week 6 at Seattle was always going to be a loss, but hosting both Kansas City this week and San Francisco two weeks from now were targetable matchups for victories with Locker in play. With Fitzpatrick, they do become less likely. All of these teams have been good against the run specifically and Fitzpatrick has a much weaker arm than Locker does, meaning they’re less likely to be able to take advantage. It will be rough sledding from here on in. If they go 1-2 in these next three games, they should consider themselves well set.

Your power rankings for week 5.

Team
Trend
Rank
Notes
Denver Broncos(1)(4-0) Peyton Manning is averaging 12.5 yards per completion; his highest average since 2004.
Seattle Seahawks(2)(4-0) They survived a bullet in Houston, and now have to turn around and to the same thing in Indianapolis. Rough bit of the schedule here for Seattle.
New Orleans Saints(3)(4-0) Drew Brees won his 15th NFC Offensive Player of the Week award after his impressive show on Monday night.
New England Patriots(4)(4-0) Don't look now, but the offense is clicking, with Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski expected back soon
Carolina Panthers(5)(1-2) Going out on a limb here, but I'm seeing five straight wins for this club coming up -- with a possibility for as many as nine, if some luck bounces their way. I'm fully prepared to reel this one back in if they keep losing, but I still like this team on paper. Eventually they need to translate that onto the field, though.
Green Bay Packers(6)(1-2) Another team with a losing record high up, albeit one more people would agree with me on actually being good. It's possible this team could run the table from here on out -- though Detroit, Chicago, and Baltimore might have a thing or two to say about that.
Kansas City Chiefs(7)(4-0) It's time to stop beating around the bush and talking about the soft schedule -- 4-0 is 4-0.
Tennessee Titans(8)(3-1) Horrible timing for that Jake Locker injury. At least, it Ryan Fitzpatrick, thy have one of the best backups in football to try to game-manage their way through the next month.
San Francisco 49ers(9)(2-2) I said last week, the team was playing like a 6-10 squad. Now they're up to, oh,9-7 or so -- not at full power yet, but a bit more respectable, as it were.
Chicago Bears(10)(3-1) You have to expect some games like this with Jay Cutler -- he's the latter-day Favre of the modern era. Ball security has never been his forte.
Houston Texans(11)(2-2) You had Seattle dead to rights, Houston, and you let 'em off the hook.
Indianapolis Colts(12)(3-1) Huge game against Seattle on Sunday -- the best game of the week's also the most important. More about this game tomorrow.
Baltimore Ravens(13)(2-2) This STILL might be too high. That five-interception game was rough. They're still atop the division, however.
Detroit Lions(14)(3-1) If the season ended today, Detroit would win the NFC North.
San Diego Chargers(15)(2-2) It'll take fairly hardcore fans to stay up and watch the end of their game with the Raiders, delayed until late Sunday night.
Cincinnati Bengals(16)(2-2) Andy Dalton had his worst game of the season against the surprising Browns, putting up his third-lowest yards-per-attempt figure of his career.
Buffalo Bills(17)(2-2) I can't justify putting them over the Ravens team they just beat from here on out, but these Bills are a truly...well, they're average. That's a huge step up from last season.
Atlanta Falcons(18)(1-3) Looking up at the 4-0 Saints, the Falcons are in serious trouble, and need to right the ship quickly.
Miami Dolphins(19)(3-1) Good news: Cameron Wake has returned to practice.
Washington Redskins(20)(1-3) RGIII's getting a bit better each week, but there's still some ways to go. Cue the NFC East roll-call!
Philadelphia Eagles(21)(1-3) The worst defense in the NFL. If they even had a below-average one, they'd be in first place.
Dallas Cowboys(22)(2-2) Hey, they're still atop the NFC East! That counts for something, right?
Cleveland Browns(23)(2-2) Still not convinced they're for real just yet, but they've certainly surpassed expectations, post-Richardson trade.
New York Jets(24)(1-2) Oh dear -- I thought we had put the Buttfumble behind us, but then Smith had to go sit on the ball against the Titans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers(25)(0-4) This week, on as the Bucs Turn, Josh accuses Greg of trying to undermine him with his co-workers! Meanwhile, Mike is thrust into a position he's just not prepared for yet.
Pittsburgh Steelers(26)(0-4) Trading for Levi Brown is not going to turn this season around.
Minnesota Vikings(27)(1-3) They've announced Ponder's the starter, when healthy. Let's see how long that lasts.
Arizona Cardinals(28)(2-2) Mike Glennon giftwrapped that win for them, but credit to them for not giving it right back.
Oakland Raiders(29)(1-3) And so ends any thought of Matt Flynn being an NFL starter.
St. Louis Rams(30)(1-3) Not often you're this low down on the rankings, and yet heavily favored to win next week. Jacksonville cures all wounds.
New York Giants(31)(0-4) Look on the bright-side -- you're still alive in the NFC East!
Jacksonville Jaguars(32)(0-4) The fire sale has begun.
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Bryan Knowles is a writer and hopelessly devoted sports nut, with strong opinions that are subject to revision near-daily. A graduate of UC Davis and San Jose State University, Bryan spends his days teaching high school English and his nights watching far too many sporting events.
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