The Cowboys have finally moved up in Jason Cole's rankings to make both writers' top three consistent for the first time this season. New England, after another easy win, remains No. 1 for the third straight week, followed by Indianapolis and Dallas at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
Things get interesting further down in the rankings where Arizona has crept up to the top 12 for one of the writers; Philadelphia has suffered a huge drop; and Tampa Bay has made a significant climb upwards.
Here are the complete rankings following Week 4 action.
New England Patriots
Green Bay Packers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cole: All you need to know about the erratic nature of the NFL right now is that Detroit, Tampa Bay and Arizona are at the back end of the top tier right now. These teams were selecting No. 2, 4 and 6 overall, respectively, in April's NFL draft. All three franchises are doing it despite odd circumstances. Tampa Bay lost starting running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams in the first half against Carolina and still hammered the Panthers. Detroit put up 34 points against the Bears in the fourth quarter even without dynamic rookie wide receiver Calvin Johnson. And Arizona beat the previously stout Steelers (who didn't fall far despite the loss) with a revolving quarterback situation. The season may be only four weeks old, but it's shaping up as one of the most unconventional years of all time. This is going to be a fun ride.
Robinson: I thought long and hard about putting the Colts in the No. 1 slot this week since they've amassed their undefeated record against better teams than New England. But the Patriots are dominating opponents, which gives them a miniscule edge at this point. The Packers still feel over hyped at No. 5, particularly considering they've run the table against teams with a combined 5-11 record. However, they can erase those doubts with wins over Chicago and Washington in the next two weeks. Tennessee is legit at No. 6. Don't be shocked if the Titans go 4-0 in October.
New York Giants
San Diego Chargers
San Francisco 49ers
Cole: OK Raider fans, bring it on. I deserve it. The Raiders moved up to the second tier with a thrashing of the once-proud Dolphins defense (299 yards rushing, yikes). I'm not quite buying that quarterback Daunte Culpepper is back to his old self, but he's getting close and he played a very smart game in his return to Miami, where the Dolphins got a taste of the wrong end of redemption. Don't expect Culpepper to see the bench anytime soon because managing general partner Al Davis loves him (think second-coming of Jim Plunkett). Coach Lane “Lance” Kiffin wasn't sold on Culpepper, but after Josh McCown tossed his lunch all over his shoes in the first 2½ games, Kiffin may not have much of a choice. At least until JaMarcus Russell is ready for some PT.
Robinson: Every team in the muddled middle has serious flaws. The Lions are definitely overrated at No. 13, but they are gaining confidence, and that can go a long way in this league. The dominating defensive performance against Philadelphia could be a major turning point for the Giants, who suddenly have a very nice backfield rotation with Brandon Jacobs getting healthy again and pairing with Derrick Ward. What has gotten into the Browns? Had they not gotten pooched out of that field goal against Oakland, they'd be 3-1 and the buzz of the AFC. Arizona should just bite down and name Kurt Warner the starter while there is still time to seize the NFC West.
BOTTOM OF THE PACK
Kansas City Chiefs
New Orleans Saints
New York Jets
St. Louis Rams
Cole: To reiterate the point about the erratic NFL, four of the bottom 10 teams were in the playoffs last season (and San Diego is oh so close to joining this group). Some people may question the big drop of New Orleans despite the fact that they didn't play last week. I simply didn't move the Saints far enough down after the loss at home to Tennessee. As for the bottom of the barrel, Miami and St. Louis are getting some of the most dreadful quarterback play you'll ever see from a pair of veterans like Trent Green and Marc Bulger. On Sunday, each of them threw two of the dumbest interceptions you'll ever see from guys who should know better. It's simply ridiculous to watch that kind of stuff.
Robinson: Don't look now, but Larry Johnson and that Kansas City offense could be finding its groove. And the AFC West is totally up in the air. The Eagles at No. 26 is no joke. That is simply a bad, bad team with a brutal schedule. But is there a bigger disappointment than Miami's defense? Atrocious doesn't begin to describe how bad that unit has been. Lee Evans (six catches, 72 yards in win over Jets) lives in Buffalo. And after seeing Trent Edwards against the Jets, J.P. Losman better hope he's able to retain his starting job. How much longer can Marc Bulger hang on behind that St. Louis offensive line?