There’s no debating the Kansas City Chiefs‘ role in all those highlights. In the time you took to read the last three sentences, Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen gave up another catch. There were some serious coverage breakdowns from one of the NFL’s worst defenses. The utter lack of a pass rush doesn’t help.
It’s fair to call the Bills’ 38-20 win on Sunday night a statement game. But a statement for which team?
First, the Bills. Getting a marquee, prime-time win at Arrowhead Stadium legitimizes Buffalo as a Super Bowl contender. If you wanted to proclaim the Bills the best team in the AFC, there couldn’t be too many long arguments against it.
While Allen and the offense will get the attention, and it’s not unjustified, the defense has been what’s carrying the Bills. The Bills’ defense was No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA before last week. The Chiefs moved the ball fine, but the Bills made plays. A pick-six by Micah Hyde put a stamp on the win. Holding the Chiefs to 20 points at Arrowhead Stadium, and often frustrating Patrick Mahomes, is a good night. The Bills have balance, which we can’t necessarily say about Kansas City.
The Chiefs don’t have what you’d consider a bad loss. There’s no shame in losing to the Ravens, Chargers or Bills, even if the latter two came at home. But we’re not used to seeing the Chiefs string together losses, period. In Patrick Mahomes’ first three seasons as starter, the Chiefs went 12-4, 12-4 and 14-2. Now they’re 2-3. Defense is the obvious culprit. They need to get healthier. Top lineman Chris Jones missed Sunday’s game with a wrist injury, and Kansas City isn’t going anywhere without him. But since the offense is still great, there’s a foundation to work with. The defense should get better. It won’t be great, but it should be good enough for the Chiefs to still be one of the NFL’s better teams this season.
The problem is that a slow start and the loss to the Bills will linger for a while. The Bills lead them by two games and own the tiebreaker, if we’re talking about the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Chargers currently have the tiebreaker in the AFC West and a two-game lead. There’s a long time for the Chiefs to overcome two-game deficits, but it’s not like the Bills or Chargers will lose many games. The Chiefs will have to win a lot of games while fixing a bad defense to win the division, much less have dreams of passing the Bills or whoever else for a No. 1 seed.
The answer to what happened Sunday is both sides mattered in the outcome. The Bills were, and will be, very good. The Chiefs’ defense is a problem. The latter might get fixed. But Sunday’s Bills win is going to resonate for the rest of the season.
Here are the power rankings following Week 5 of the NFL season:
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5, Last week: 32)
James Robinson had 149 rushing yards and has looked great whenever the Jaguars have leaned on him. Yet, on a fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, the Jaguars decided to hand it to Carlos Hyde, one of Urban Meyer’s old players at Ohio State. Hyde was stopped well short. This is what happens with poorly coached teams.
31. Houston Texans (1-4, LW: 31)
Why on earth did the Texans think trying to be tricky on a punt would be smart? Instead of just punting it like a normal team, they made a mistake that gave the Patriots momentum when they had none. They’re not talented enough to overcome bad coaching decisions.
30. Detroit Lions (0-5, LW: 30)
The NFL can be a cruel profession. The hours and effort put into preparing for each game are draining, and to have a win snatched away on a last-second field goal is tough. The Lions have been competitive four times and have no wins to show for it. It’s not surprising Dan Campbell shed some tears after the Vikings won 19-17 on a field goal to end the game.
29. New York Jets (1-4, LW: 29)
The Jets came out and looked absolutely horrible for a half against a bad Falcons team. The Jets have been outscored 75-13 in the first half this season. Robert Saleh was a popular hire and still might be a great coach, but the Jets consistently looking unprepared to start games is a bad look.
28. New York Giants (1-4, LW: 26)
Reports on Monday said Saquon Barkley will probably miss a couple weeks due to his sprained ankle. That injury was fluky. The torn ACL wasn’t his fault either. But they’re reminders, as the Giants decide what to do with his second contract, how fragile life as a running back can be.
27. Atlanta Falcons (2-3, LW: 28)
It took until the fifth game of the season to figure out that Kyle Pitts needed to be featured, and it only happened because Calvin Ridley was out. Pitts had nine catches for 119 yards on 10 targets. I don’t think Pitts suddenly became a different football player last week. I just don’t know why it took more than a month for the Falcons to properly use the fourth pick of the draft.
26. Miami Dolphins (1-4, LW: 25)
This is not a great sign: Via ESPN’s Jenna Laine, Tom Brady was 17-of-23 for 266 yards and four touchdowns against the Dolphins’ man defense. Of all coaches not named Bill Belichick, you’d think that former Patriots defensive coordinator and current Dolphins coach Brian Flores would know Brady’s tendencies a bit.
25. Minnesota Vikings (2-3, LW: 23)
When the Lions scored and got the two-point conversion to take a 17-16 lead with less than a minute left, here’s what the Vikings were staring down: Blowing a 10-point lead to an 0-4 team at home and losing to fall to 1-4. They were 1-5 at one point last season. It’s not crazy to wonder if the Vikings’ final drive and game-winning field goal prevented Mike Zimmer from being fired this week.
24. Washington Football Team (2-3, LW: 20)
Washington’s secondary just isn’t good enough to keep the team in games. It needs a great effort from the front four, and that hasn’t happened yet. Washington isn’t going to stay in the NFC East race very long playing like this.
23. Indianapolis Colts (1-4, LW: 22)
The Colts looked great for three quarters. Carson Wentz had more than 400 yards. This was the team we expected to see in the summer, before injuries hit. And all it resulted in was a loss and a 1-4 start. When you’re 1-4, it’s hard to look at the bright side of a loss.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3, LW: 27)
Darius Slay deserves the game ball for the Eagles. His two interceptions were a huge difference in a 21-18 win. The Eagles did not play well and probably didn’t deserve to win, but they stole one thanks to their top cornerback.
21. Chicago Bears (3-2, LW: 24)
The Bears are probably the team that most fans couldn’t guess has a winning record after five weeks. But here they are, improving with Justin Fields under center, and a win over the Packers on Sunday would give them first place in the NFC North.
20. Seattle Seahawks (2-3, LW: 16)
Geno Smith looked good when he had to replace Russell Wilson. But we’ve all seen Smith. The drop from Wilson to Smith is steep, to say the least. I don’t know how Seattle stays afloat until Wilson is ready to return.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (3-2, LW: 11)
The story of Jon Gruden being out as Raiders coach, due to some old emails that contained racist, anti-gay and misogynistic language, is one of the most stunning in recent NFL history. This clearly affects the Raiders on the field, but that discussion is for another day.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3, LW: 21)
JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered a shoulder injury that will end his season. The Steelers have a lot of receiver depth, but it’s still a big blow, considering the Steelers’ best chance to be a decent offense is to quickly get the ball to their playmakers, which is exactly what worked on Sunday.
17. New England Patriots (2-3, LW: 19)
I trust Bill Belichick to bring his team along as the season goes on. But for a team that spent a record amount of money in free agency, it doesn’t look a lot better. The two wins are against terrible teams (Jets and Texans), and the Patriots needed a lot of breaks to barely beat Houston. Things can change, but it’s hard to see how a team that spent a ton to turn things around is a playoff team.
16. Denver Broncos (3-2, LW: 14)
The loss to the Steelers wasn’t close. It looked better when the Broncos rallied in the fourth quarter but the offense was a no-show most of the game. That 3-0 start, against three terrible teams, isn’t quite as impressive anymore.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2, LW: 17)
The loss wasn’t fun, but the Bengals have a true star in Ja’Marr Chase. He put up an impressive 6-159-1 line on Sunday and has played well in every game. Guess those preseason stories freaking out about his drops were premature.
14. Carolina Panthers (3-2, LW: 15)
For a Panthers team that is aggressively adding cornerbacks in the trade market, presumably because they think they can be a playoff team, Sunday was a horrible loss. They should have won. Three Sam Darnold interceptions were really costly. For all of Darnold’s moments looking good this season, he can unravel it all if he gets into a turnover slump. That’s always been the knock on him.
13. Tennessee Titans (3-2, LW: 18)
The Titans’ next five games: vs. Bills, vs. Chiefs, at Colts, at Rams, vs. Saints. We’ll know at the end of that stretch if they’ll run away with the division.
12. San Francisco 49ers (2-3, LW: 12)
It was hard to feel good about what the 49ers asked Trey Lance to do on Sunday. He ran way too often, putting himself in harm’s way. He rarely stood in the pocket. Instead, he looked for reasons to run. One reason Lance was a top-end prospect is his movement ability, but the 49ers can’t expose him to this much punishment. It wasn’t much surprise to hear Lance suffered a knee injury. The 49ers need to be more responsible going forward.
11. New Orleans Saints (3-2, LW: 13)
Rookie linebacker Pete Werner barely played the first three games. In the past two games Werner has 21 tackles and has been all over the field. He looks like a good second-round draft pick for the Saints.
10. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3, LW: 6)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire might not be what the Chiefs were looking for when they drafted him in the first round a year ago, but he had played well for two weeks before injuring his knee Sunday. Removing him from the lineup for a few weeks while he recovers from a sprained MCL makes Kansas City’s list of playmakers even shorter. They’re still a great offense but a lot thinner than you’d like.
9. Cleveland Browns (3-2, LW: 8)
Even when the Browns scored 42 points and had 531 yards of offense, Odell Beckham Jr. had two catches for 20 yards. Is he finished? Are the Browns not doing a good enough job calling plays for him? Is there just no connection between him and Baker Mayfield, and if so, why? It’s baffling how a player this good, with a capable quarterback and coach, can be this much of a non-factor.
8. Baltimore Ravens (4-1, LW: 10)
What a stunning performance by Lamar Jackson on Monday night in a comeback win. Jackson completed 29 of 32 passes for 336 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions after halftime and accounted for 504 of Baltimore’s 523 yards. That might hold up as the single-best performance by any player all season.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (4-1, LW: 9)
The Chargers’ defense struggled, but it had been very good before Sunday. The offense was incredible against a Browns defense that has been pretty good. In Justin Herbert’s past three games he has 901 yards, 11 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 118.4 passer rating. The Chargers are serious Super Bowl contenders.
6. Dallas Cowboys (4-1, LW: 7)
Trevon Diggs’ sixth interception this season was a thing of beauty, trailing a post route and then using his speed to close the gap once the ball was in the air. The Cowboys’ defense is light years better than last season. New coordinator Dan Quinn is one big reason. Diggs is another. He’s a threat to win NFL defensive player of the year.
5. Green Bay Packers (4-1, LW: 5)
Davante Adams is on pace for 143 receptions and 1,969 yards. The NFL single-season records are 149 catches and 1,964 yards. It’s early and those paces are for the new 17-game season, but Adams is playing some of the best ball of his career and that’s saying something.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-1, LW: 4)
The Buccaneers lost linebacker Lavonte David to an ankle injury for the next few weeks. It didn’t matter in Sunday’s blowout win over Miami, but the injuries are piling up fast for Tampa Bay.
3. Los Angeles Rams (4-1, LW: 3)
Robert Woods had the “squeaky wheel” game, getting 12 catches for 150 yards on 14 targets after complaining a little about his role. It was good to see that game from Woods, who should be his normal self going forward. Not that the Rams need more options.
2. Buffalo Bills (4-1, LW: 2)
Tight end Dawson Knox’s emergence is one of a dozen or more good signs for the Bills. Knox was an intriguing athlete but hadn’t done much for two seasons, and now he has five touchdowns in five games. The Bills are loaded on both sides of the ball, and that’s why they’ve taken over as the favorites in the AFC.
1. Arizona Cardinals (5-0, LW: 1)
Why the Cardinals over the Bills? It’s the totality of the first five weeks. The Bills had a great, dominant win over the Chiefs, but it’s not more impressive than what Arizona did at the Rams (with the Chiefs’ defensive issues, you could argue Cardinals over Rams was the better win). The Cardinals have played probably a slightly tougher schedule. And the Bills lost a home game to 2-3 Pittsburgh.