1. Pittsburgh Steelers, 3-1 (1) – The Steelers lost at home to the Ravens, and any other year that’d be enough to unseat the top team in a power rankings poll. But this year is different. Parity is the norm. No team is decidedly better than the rest. The Steelers have been very good, and they’ve done it without Ben Roethisberger. He’s back now, so the Steelers stay #1.
2. Baltimore Ravens, 3-1 (4) – The only reason Baltimore is not the top team is because Roethlisberger didn’t play for Pittsburgh. Credit the Ravens for going into the Steel City and finding a way to win. Joe Flacco looked good, and so did the Raven defense. That could end up being a huge win in the AFC North.
3. New York Jets, 3-1 (7) – The New York Jets might be the best team in the NFL. Their defense takes a backseat to no one, and the offense is clicking. LaDanian Tomlinson is making a comeback, but it’s still the regular season, which has never been Tomlinson’s problem. Mark Sanchez has been superb.
4. New Orleans Saints, 3-1 (3) – The Saints squeaked out a win at home against the Carolina Panthers. While that might be seen as further evidence of the Saints slipping, Carolina always plays them tough. The Saints get to play at Arizona this week, which should help their rhythm.
5. Green Bay Packers, 3-1 (5) – The Pack isn’t looking as dominating as they should. After losing at Chicago they came home and nearly lost to the Lions. Not having Ryan Grant is taking its toll, and Shaun Hill had too much success against the Packer D.
6. New England Patriots, 3-1 (6) – The Patriots looked poor in the first half against Miami, but they responded in the second half with a blowout win. The special teams sealed the game with a blocked punt and field goal, each returned for a touchdown, along with a kick return touchdown. The Pats are starting to run the ball effectively, too, which makes their offense much more dangerous.
7. Atlanta Falcons, 3-1 (8) – After beating the Saints, the Falcons came home and nearly lost to the 49ers. Matt Bryant saved the day again. Matt Ryan is a quality quarterback. The Falcon defense is underrated. The team’s only loss is at Pittsburgh in overtime, and there’s no shame in that.
8. Indianapolis Colts, 2-2 (2) – Just when the Colts were starting to look trustworthy, they drop a game to the lowly Jags. It took a 59 yard field goal by Josh Scobee, but a loss is a loss. Indy goes home to face the League’s only undefeated team, the Kansas City Chiefs. (I can’t believe I just wrote that.)
9. Kansas City Chiefs, 3-0 (14) – The Chiefs are now the only undefeated team in the NFL. That probably won’t last, though. The Chiefs have to travel to Indy to play an angry Colts team. It’s hard to see Indy dropping to 2-3, but then again, it’s hard to believe the Chiefs are 3-0.
10. Houston Texans, 3-1 (16) – Houston managed to win in Oakland, but it wasn’t easy. Arian Foster is having a monster season. The Texans need Andre Johnson to get healthy. They get the Giants at home this Sunday.
11. Chicago Bears, 3-1 (9) – Just when you think the Bears might have a good team they go to New York and lay an egg against the Giants. The offense couldn’t do anything all game, and ended up with just over 100 yards. The defense wasn’t bad, but they need some help. There’s still work to be done in the Windy City.
12. Cincinnati Bengals, 2-2 (10) – Terrell Owens broke out for a big day, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Browns. Cincy is a hard team to read. They beat a team like the Ravens, so they’re good enough to beat anyone. But they lose to a team like the Browns, so they’re bad enough to lose to anyone.
13. San Diego Chargers, 2-2 (17) – The Chargers smoked the Cardinals at home. Antonio Gates is still an elite tight end, and without Vincent Jackson, he’s Philip Rivers’ only go-to guy. They’re still looking for their first road win, and chances are they’ll get it in Oakland.
14. Minnesota Vikings, 1-2 (13) – The Vikes had the week off, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. If Brett Favre can get into rhythm with his receivers, this could be a dangerous team. They have to go to New York to play the Jets on Monday night, which might be the best game of the week.
15. Dallas Cowboys, 1-2 (15) – Like Minnesota, the Cowboys went into the bye on a high note. Dallas has the weapons to make a run at the Super Bowl. They look to get to .500 against the Titans at home.
16. Philadelphia Eagles, 2-2 (11) – The Eagles didn’t have enough to dispose of the Redskins at home. Donovan McNabb had his revenge, and Michael Vick got hurt. It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia.
17. Denver Broncos, 2-2 (21) – Denver scored a nice road win at Tennessee to get back to even on the season. Kyle Orton is one of the most underappreciated players in the NFL. The Broncos are still awaiting the return of Knowshon Moreno. The schedule gets tougher as Denver has to travel to Baltimore to play the Ravens.
18. Tennessee Titans, 2-2 (12) – The Titans are another one of those tough reads. They follow up a butt kicking of the New York Giants with a sub-par performance against the Broncos. Chris Johnson might not get to 1,500 yards, let alone 2,500. At least Vince Young didn’t get benched.
19. Washington Redskins, 2-2 (24) – The ‘Skins got back on track in Philadelphia. Donovan McNabb exacted his revenge against the team that let him go to a division rival. The Washington defense stood tall, but it certainly helped to have Vick on the sidelines for the majority of the game. Green Bay comes to town this weekend, which means the Redskins don’t have much time to enjoy the win.
20. New York Giants, 2-2 (20) – The Giants responded by stomping the Bears at home. The defense played lights out, and the offense played well enough against a solid defense. Tom Coughlin can breathe a sigh of relief.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2-1 (22) – Tampa Bay limped into the bye week after getting rolled by the Steelers. They look to get back on track against the Bengals this week. The Tampa D has to account for Terrell Owens, who appears to be hitting his stride.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars, 2-2 (26) – Just when it seems safe to throw dirt on the Jaguars’ coffin, they shock the Colts with a miracle field goal to win the game. Importantly, the Jags were balanced, David Garrard was effective, and the team had no turnovers. That usually equals a win for Jacksonville.
23. Miami Dolphins, 2-2 (18) – The Dolphins started well against New England, but ended up getting crushed. Special teams were a disaster. Chad Henne was awful. It’s hard to find anything good about Miami’s effort against the Pats, but hey, they started well.
24. Seattle Seahawks, 2-2 (19) – If the Seahawks hope to win the NFC West, they’re going to need to figure out how to win on the road. It doesn’t get much easier than at St. Louis, but they got whooped by the Rams. They get a bye this week to talk things over.
25. Arizona Cardinals, 2-2 (23) – Arizona has some serious problems. The defense has given up more than 40 points twice, and the offense has yet to get into rhythm. They were never in the game against San Diego, and they could very easily be 0-4. Oakland should’ve beaten them, and St. Louis probably should have, too.
26. St. Louis Rams, 2-2 (28) – How ‘bout them Rams? They’re 2-2 and could easily be 4-0. Sam Bradford has played well, considering he’s a rookie on a bad team. And the defense was especially good against the Seahawks, holding them to only a field goal. St. Louis travels to Detroit this Sunday, which might be their third win in a row.
27. Oakland Raiders, 1-3 (27) – Oakland dropped another game, this time to the Texans. Tom Cable’s crew hasn’t been too bad, but they’re still 1-3. Darren McFadden is developing into a fine back, but the Raider defense was gashed by the Texans’ offensive line and Arian Foster. Will Cable make it through the season?
28. Cleveland Browns, 1-3 (30) – The Browns got into the win column with a solid victory against one of their division rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals. Seneca Wallace has enough tools to be a starter somewhere, but I doubt Mike Holmgren wants him to go. The Cleveland rush defense needs another stellar performance to have a chance against Atlanta.
29. San Francisco 49ers, 0-4 (25) – The Niners remain winless after losing a hard fought game in Atlanta. They played well against a good team on the road, but a last second field goal sealed their fate. Even with an 0-4 start, it is not inconceivable that San Fran can make the playoffs. The NFC West is awful.
30. Carolina Panthers, 0-4 (29) – Carolina nearly took down the defending champs at the Super Dome, so perhaps they’re starting to right the ship. The rushing game needs to be more productive to take pressure off Jimmy Clausen. The Panthers get Chicago at home, which might be their first win of the season. At any rate, it should be a boring, low scoring game.
31. Detroit Lions, 0-4 (31) – The Lions almost shocked the Packers in Lambeau. Calvin Johnson is maybe the most underrated receiver in the NFL. Shaun Hill had a lot of success against a top-notch secondary, though a pick 6 by Charles Woodson was too much to overcome. The Lions have a better chance to get their first win this Sunday as they play host to the St. Louis Rams.
32. Buffalo Bills, 0-4 (32) – Not much is going right in Buffalo. The rush defense is terrible; they’ve given up 473 yards on the ground in their past 2 contests. The offense only managed 223 yards against the Jets, but they averaged over 7 yards per carry, so that’s something to build on. They get the Jags at home this Sunday, and Jacksonville has a tendency to implode. Maybe they’ll find a way to get a win.