NFL power rankings: Detroit Lions propped up in poll as bad football reigns

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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Last week, the Detroit Lions cracked the top 20 in my NFL power rankings for the first time since the preseason. This week, after another mind-numbing loss, they slid all the way to No. 25.

And while some would argue they deserve to be lower after blowing a double-digit lead for the third time in four games this year, the Lions’ place in this week’s poll speaks to the number of truly bad teams there are in the NFL right now — and in some way, gives an inkling of hope that the Lions can still scratch their way back into playoff contention before the season is done.

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One quarter of the way through the season, 14 teams have one or no wins.

The Jets and Giants, two of the NFL’s four winless teams, are incomprehensively bad and should bring up the bottom of every power poll entering Week 5. The Jets have a legitimate chance to go 0-16, and the Giants do, too, though playing in the pitiful NFC East should help them avoid that fate.

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The two other winless teams, the Texans and Falcons, are like the Lions in that they’re more talented than their record. They have veteran quarterbacks (Deshaun Watson and Matt Ryan) and at least one other aging star (J.J. Watt and Julio Jones), but have fatal flaws that are holding them back. Well, the Texans did at least, until they fired Bill O’Brien on Monday.

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I put the Texans and Falcons at No. 26 and 27 in my poll, ahead of one-win teams the Jaguars, Broncos and Washington. The Jaguars upset a pretty good Indianapolis Colts team in Week 1, so maybe I’m underrating them a little bit. But I think all three teams are devoid of talent enough — at least until Drew Lock returns at quarterback for the Broncos — that they’ll end up in the four-win bin at the end of the season.

Here’s where my dilemma with the Lions comes in. I think they’re discernibly better than the bottom seven teams in my rankings, and are about on par with the six teams directly in front of them: The Dolphins, Chargers, Bengals, Panthers, Cowboys and Eagles. The Vikings, No. 18 in my poll, are the best one-win team in the NFL and slightly ahead of that group.

In fact, on a neutral field — they kind of all are, these days — the Lions may beat a handful of those teams, including the two-win Panthers. But Carolina is doing what others are not and actually winning games, so they check in at No. 21 on my list.

Credit to first-year Panthers coach Matt Rhule, by the way, whose team is 2-0 without running back Christian McCaffrey, proving once again that injuries are only an excuse if you allow them to be.

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The Lions play seven of their final 12 games against teams that are currently winless or have one win, so we should see some separation within that second-to-last tier of sub-mediocrity before long.

They have winnable games against the Jaguars and Falcons coming out of the bye, but given the state of the NFL right now, Jacksonville and Atlanta are no doubt looking at the Lions saying the same thing.

My full NFL power rankings this week

1. Chiefs (4-0)

2. Seahawks (4-0)

3. Ravens (3-1)

4. Packers (4-0)

5. Bills (4-0)

6. Titans (3-0)

7. Steelers (3-0)

8. Saints (2-2)

9. Buccaneers (3-1)

10. Patriots (2-2)

11. Rams (3-1)

12. Colts (3-1)

13. Browns (3-1)

14. Raiders (2-2)

15. Cardinals (2-2)

16. 49ers (2-2)

17. Bears (3-1)

18. Vikings (1-3)

19. Eagles (1-2-1)

20. Cowboys (1-3)

21. Panthers (2-2)

22. Bengals (1-2-1)

23. Chargers (1-3)

24. Dolphins (1-3)

25. Lions (1-3)

26. Texans (0-4)

27. Falcons (0-4)

28. Jaguars (1-3)

29. Washington (1-3)

30. Broncos (1-3)

31. Giants (0-4)

32. Jets (0-4)

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Lions content. 

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