Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/3/12

(NOTE: Rankings are considered by wins and losses, margins of victory and defeat, quality of opposition, and recent record trends)

1. Houston (4-0) (Last week: 1)
They’ve never been 4-0 in franchise history, so it should come as no surprise that this is the earliest in any of 11 seasons that Houston has had 4 wins; the previous mark was in 2010, when the Texans were 4-2 on October 17. As such, this is also the first time Houston’s had 4 wins before October.

2. Atlanta (4-0) (Last week: 2)
With 31 PPG, the Falcons are on pace for 496 points this season, which would shatter their previous mark of 448 set in 1998, the team’s lone Super Bowl year. The win over Carolina marked the third time Roddy White had over 160 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns in the same game.

3. San Francisco (3-1) (Last week: 3)
The 245 yards on the ground against the Jets were their most since November 29, 2010. Despite a crowded backfield with Kendall Hunter and the yet-to-be-used Brandon Jacobs, Frank Gore is averaging 4.9 YPA rushing on 66 carries, for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns. Guess he’s not done yet.

4. Baltimore (3-1) (Last week: 4)
The Ravens have allowed 20.8 PPG in four games this season, and have yet to hold an opponent to below 13 points. The last season in which Baltimore gave up over 20 points per game on defense was 2007, when they allowed 24.0 PPG, went 5-11, and Brian Billick turned into John Harbaugh.

5. Arizona (4-0) (Last week: 5)
Face it, the Dolphins suck. Kevin Kolb was sacked 8 times, threw 2 interceptions, and he still led his team to forcing 2 lead changes, after being down 13-0. Kolb needed all of 29 completions for 324 yards (both season highs) to snatch the win. An opponent with a more potent offense will provide a challenge.

6. Chicago (3-1) (Last week: 8)
September 18, 2005 was the last time the Bears hauled in 5 interceptions in one game. Just to give you an idea of his timelessness, Lance Briggs got himself a pick in that mauling over Detroit as well. Chicago owns the best total defense right now in the NFL, leading the way in sack/pick efficiency.

7. New England (2-2) (Last week: 9)
Patriots became just the second team since the merger (other being Cincinnati in 1972) to score 45 or more points in the second half of a game. Their 52-28 victory over Buffalo enabled Wes Welker to reestablish himself as a weapon. His 129 yard day boosted him to sixth in receiving yards on the year.

8. Philadelphia (3-1) (Last week: 10)
3 wins by a combined 4 points, and it’s on the third worst scoring average (16.5 PPG). Yet here’s Philadelphia at 3-1, having defeated two of last season’s final four teams after Michael Vick engineered some fourth quarter comebacks. Vick has more 4QC’s with Philly (7) than he did in Atlanta (6).

9. San Diego (3-1) (Last week: 14)
Out of every team with 3 or 4 wins, the Chargers are tied for first, with Chicago, for highest average margin of victory, 17.6 PPG. After beating Oakland by 8, they went on to annihilate Tennessee by 28, and then crush Kansas City early and often, winning by 17 at Arrowhead.

10. Green Bay (2-2) (Last week: 12)
After the Seattle Screwjob, the Packers survived some questionable calls against New Orleans on Sunday, including a Darren Sproles fumble that everyone in zebra stripes missed. Aaron Rodgers threw his third interception of the year against the Saints, bringing him halfway to his total last season.

11. Denver (2-2) (Last week: 13)
Peyton Manning is currently on pace for 4648 yards this season, which would be the second highest of his career, behind his 4700 in 2010. The team’s 114 points after 4 games is their highest opening total since posting 133 points for the eventual 8-8 team in 2008, behind Jay Cutler.

12. New York Giants (2-2) (Last week: 6)
Lawrence Tynes may wish to steer clear of The Price is Right, lest he fail to win on “Hole in One….or Two.” Despite nearly beating the field goal-happy Eagles, New York struggled in several offensive areas, including third down conversions (2 for 10) and running the ball (3.0 YPA on 19 total tries).

13. Dallas (2-2) (Last week: 7)
Where’s Jim Mora to spout, “You can’t turn the ball over five times like that!” in lieu of Jason Garrett’s benign press conference? Tony Romo’s already at 8 INTs for the year (2 less than 2011). Jason Witten may be over his case of the dropsies, but whatever affliction he had, Dez Bryant caught (then dropped).

14. Cincinnati (3-1) (Last week: 16)
Being 3-1 looks good on paper, but they beat 3 teams whose combined record is 3-9, with another 1-3 team, the Dolphins, rolling into town. In what’s hopefully an encouraging sign for the Bengals, the Jaguars were the first opponent this season that they held under 27 points.

15. Minnesota (3-1) (Last week: 19)
One of the surprise teams of the 2012 season, the Vikings have not allowed a 100 yard rusher after four games, with no single opponent garnering more than 77 yards (Maurice Jones-Drew). Christian Ponder has also yet to throw an interception, and next faces one of the league’s worst D’s in Tennessee.

16. Pittsburgh (1-2) (Last week: 15)
Idle in Week 4, the Steelers will likely regain Rashard Mendenhall for Sunday’s game against Philadelphia. The running game needs the boost too, averaging a league-worst 2.64 YPA over their 3 games played. The team’s current leading rusher: Isaac Redman with 72 yards.

17. New York Jets (2-2) (Last week: 11)
The last time the Jets were shut out while allowing 30+ points was October 2006, when Jacksonville hung 41 on them in a one-sided blanking. The Jets managed only 145 yards of offense Sunday; their lowest total since December 1997. Over/under on number of weeks before Tebow’s starting?

18. Washington (2-2) (Last week: 21)
The good: Robert Griffin III led the victory drive on Sunday, even after his radio helmet malfunctioned. The bad: the team giving up 30.8 PPG this season gets Matt Ryan, Adrian Peterson, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger over their next 4 games. The ugly: Alfred Morris’ mother and car keys.

19. Seattle (2-2) (Last week: 17)
Tough loss to the Rams on Sunday, which means their 2 defeats this season have come at the hands of division foes. They’ve yet to play San Francisco, too. On the upside, their run defense has only allowed 251 yards on the year (62.8 PPG), the second best total in the league.

20. Buffalo (2-2) (Last week: 18)
Much like the fight where Vitor Belfort had Jon Jones in that armbar and nearly tapped him, the Bills had New England buried 21-7 in the third. Then they gave up 35 consecutive points in just under one quarter of game time. The Jackson/Spiller Express will be tested by San Francisco’s stout defense.

21. St. Louis (2-2) (Last week: 25)
The Rams that only had 12 interceptions in 2011 are already up to 8 picks for 2012 (second best in the NFL), and have only allowed 2 touchdowns through the air this season. To that impressive tune, the Rams currently have the best defensive passer rating in the NFL, a staggering 64.24.

22. Detroit (1-3) (Last week: 20)
Which stat is more horrifying if you’re a Lions fan: your defense does not have a single interception this season (Oakland being the only other team lacking one), or that your special teams have given up 4 return touchdowns after 4 games, with all of them happening over the last 2 weeks?

23. Tampa Bay (1-3) (Last week: 22)
They’ve yet to lose by more than 7 points, but man does their shellacking of Carolina feel like it happened a year ago. The replacing of LeGarrette Blount with Doug Martin has yielded 291 yards and 2 touchdowns for both men combined. That’s a mere 3.46 YPA, by the way.

24. Carolina (1-3) (Last week: 23)
I don’t think Superman strikes a pose if Metropolis is left in ruins, and he manages to only kill one henchman. Cam Newton’s self-promotion is comical in the face of a 1-3 record, an offense averaging just 20 PPG (eighth worst in the league), and 9 turnovers (5 interceptions, 4 lost fumbles).

25. Miami (1-3) (Last week: 24)
Overtime hasn’t been kind to the Dolphins this year, but by that token, they haven’t been kind to themselves either. The Dolphins managed to hard Arizona off the board in the first half, and then blew 2 fourth quarter leads before allowing Kevin Kolb to lead the victory march on Sunday afternoon.

26. Kansas City (1-3) (Last week: 26)
When Romeo Crennel was promoted to full-time head coach in January, I’m sure the Arrowhead faithful was expecting his trademark demoralizing defense to be on display. Here’s what’s demoralizing: quarterbacks have a 114.7 rating against them, and running backs chime in with 4.21 YPA.

27. Tennessee (1-3) (Last week: 27)
Go figure, Chris Johnson finally floors the gas pedal for 141 yards (5.64 YPA), and it’s in a blowout 38-14 loss to Houston. Take away the 44 points garnered against Detroit in Week 3 during that wild seesaw battle, and the Titans are only averaging 12.3 PPG, with just 4 offensive touchdowns.

28. Oakland (1-3) (Last week: 28)
Dennis Allen was unable to trip up his ex-employer on Sunday, as Denver rolled to a 37-6 victory over the Raiders. Peyton Manning threw for 338 yards, and Denver as a team ran for 165 yards, combining for 503 yards on defensive wizard Allen’s crew. That’s 3 straight weeks giving up 400+ yards.

29. Jacksonville (1-3) (Last week: 29)
Now here’s how you set up a mismatch: take the worst scoring offense in Jacksonville (15.5 PPG), bring the sack-and-pick happy Bears into town (15 sacks, 11 INT, 3 pick-sixes), and let nature take its course. Blaine Gabbert’s been dropped 12 times this year, and the Bears may tack on 12 more.

30. Indianapolis (1-2) (Last week: 30)
The bye week was anything but a restful time for the Colts, as head coach Chuck Pagano is taking a leave of absence after being diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia. Former friendly rival Bruce Arians takes the reins, likely for the remainder of the season, with Pagano possibly helping from the booth.

31. New Orleans (0-4) (Last week: 31)
They haven’t lost a game by more than 8 points, and they’re losing by an average of only 5 points. As Drew Brees chases history on Sunday night, it should be noted that if the Saints lose to San Diego, it’ll be Brees’ first six game losing streak (counting playoffs) since 2002-03, where he dropped 9 straight.

32. Cleveland (0-4) (Last week: 32)
Things Mike Holmgren doesn’t want people to realize. Colt McCoy didn’t throw his seventh career interception until his eighth career game, whereas Brandon Weeden has 7 in his first 4. Weeden’s on pace to have 28 on the season, whereas McCoy has thrown only 20 in 21 games played.


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