NFL top-10 rankings: 49ers clear No. 1; Dolphins, Lions climb; Cowboys, Bills fall

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By Samantha Rose

The game of the early season turned out to be a 49ers blowout over the Cowboys, cementing San Francisco’s spot at the top of these rankings. The Chiefs and Eagles stay right on the Niners’ heels, while the inconsistent Cowboys and Bills drop out of the top five. Replacing them are the resurgent Dolphins and Lions, who are staking their claims as legitimate contenders. One new team enters the rankings, the Jaguars, who went to London and found their identity.

With Packers-Raiders still on the Week 5 docket, here is my NFL top 10.

1. San Francisco 49ers 
Record: 5-0; Last Week: 1

Kyle Shanahan has his team playing at another level this season. The 49ers have pummeled opponents with their bruising brand of football that tests every player’s mental and physical toughness on the field. Moreover, they run a series of complex schemes on offense and defense that keep opponents in conflict while freeing up their blue-chip players for big-play opportunities. With the formula producing blowouts against elite squads, the 49ers are the undisputed No. 1 team in the league.


2. Kansas City Chiefs
Record: 4-1; Last Week: 2

It has not been pretty, but the Chiefs keep stacking wins, utilizing a workmanlike approach that meshes a rugged defense with a ball-control offense. Although Patrick Mahomes has been forced to adopt a more managerial style with limited offensive firepower, the two-time MVP will jump into superhero mode in the clutch to seal a win. Considering the Chiefs are sitting atop the AFC without playing their best ball, the defending champs are setting themselves up to make a serious run at a back-to-back title.

3. Philadelphia Eagles
Record: 5-0; Last Week: 3

Style points do not matter in this league. The Eagles find ways to win by relying on efficient quarterback play and a nasty defense that is finding its way under a new coordinator. With few teams possessing the talent and depth to hang with the Eagles for four quarters, Nick Sirianni’s squad will be a tough out for any NFC opponent.

Dave Helman reacts to Cowboys being crushed by 49ers

Dave Helman reacts to Cowboys being crushed by 49ers

4. Miami Dolphins 
Record: 4-1; Last Week: 6

The Dolphins’ speed and explosiveness overwhelm opponents at every turn. Whether it is Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle on the perimeter or De’Von Achane and Raheem Mostert scooting through holes between the tackles, Miami’s offense turns every game into a track meet. As Mike McDaniel adds another speedster (Chase Claypool) to the lineup, the Dolphins’ offensive firepower and big-play potential make them the most feared team in the league.

5. Detroit Lions
Record: 4-1; Last Week: 7

Dan Campbell has built a bully in Motown that no one wants to face down the stretch. The Lions can beat opponents up at the line of scrimmage on each side of the ball but also possess the offensive firepower to light up the scoreboard if they need to engage in a shootout. With their confidence and swagger growing with each win, the Lions are inching toward contender status in the NFC.

Dave Helman, Daryl Johnston and Chris Meyers recap Lions’ win

Dave Helman, Daryl Johnston and Chris Meyers recap Lions' win

6. Dallas Cowboys 
Record: 3-2; Last Week: 5

The primetime beatdown at the hands of the 49ers makes it hard to include the Cowboys in the conversation as an elite squad. Despite their impressive collection of talent, Dallas lacks the grit to knock off the league’s heavyweights at this point. Perhaps Mike McCarthy can help his squad develop the edginess needed to go to the next level before the end of the season. Otherwise, it could be another quick playoff exit for America’s Team.

7. Buffalo Bills
Record: 3-2; Last Week: 4

The injuries and inconsistent performances make it hard to predict which Bills team will show up down the stretch. While Sean McDermott typically finds a way to get his team together in big moments, the simmering feud between Stefon Diggs and the team leads to concerns regarding the chemistry and connectivity of the squad.

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Record: 3-1; Last Week: 9

Baker Mayfield has been the perfect “game manager” for a team that wants to play complementary football under Todd Bowles. The former No. 1 overall pick has taken care of the ball and has delivered timely playmaking in crucial moments. If Mayfield can continue to operate efficiently from the pocket, the Buccaneers have enough firepower on each side of the ball to make a surprising run at a division title. 

Is Baker Mayfield raising expectations for the Buccaneers?

Is Baker Mayfield raising expectations for the Buccaneers?

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9. Seattle Seahawks
Record: 3-1; Last Week: 10

A 3-1 start has the Hawks in position to battle the 49ers for NFC West supremacy and another spot in the postseason tournament. The defense has shown signs of life with Jamal Adams returning to give Pete Carroll a chance to run some three-safety packages with the former All-Pro positioned near the line of scrimmage as a pass-rushing hybrid safety. If the Seahawks continue to get strong play from Devon Witherspoon and their other young defenders, the Legion of Boom 2.0 could have this team surging up the charts.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars
Record: 3-2; Last Week: NR

Doug Pederson took advantage of back-to-back games in London to conduct a mini training camp that helped his squad discover its identity. Instead of the high-flying offensive team that was expected to take the league by storm, the Jaguars have become an old-school football team that wins behind an opportunistic defense and ball-control offense. Though the team’s playing style could change as Trevor Lawrence & Co. develop better chemistry, the Jaguars’ methodical approach has produced back-to-back wins against competitive foes. 

Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He also breaks down the game for NFL Network and as a cohost of the “Moving the Sticks” podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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