1. New England Patriots, 6-1 (3) – The Patriots have earned the right to be regarded as the top team in the League. New England has been more consistent, week in and week out, than any other team. The defense might not be good enough to make it out of the AFC, but for now, they’re #1 in both conferences.
2. Indianapolis Colts, 5-2 (4) – Even without Dallas Clark and Austin Collie, the Colts had their revenge against Houston. Peyton Manning is an amazing quarterback – there’s no way around that. The defense played pretty well, too. But like the Patriots, it’s hard to imagine the Indy D allowing this team to play for a championship.
3. Baltimore Ravens, 5-2 (5) – The Ravens had their bye to think about how close they came to losing to the Bills. The defense needs to get back on track. The offense has been potent at times, especially when they can run the ball behind that big offensive line. Anquan Boldin has been the best acquisition of any team at this point in the season. They get a dangerous Miami team this week. The Dolphins are 4-0 on the road.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers, 5-2 (1) – Pittsburgh lost a tough game in New Orleans and falls from the top spot. The Steelers haven’t been as dominating with Ben Roethlisberger back in the lineup. Any other year, that would leave me baffled. This year, that sounds about right.
5. New York Jets, 5-2 (2) – Just when the Jets are poised to take over the top spot in our NFL Power Rankings, they get shut out at home against the Packers. New York was coming off their bye, too, so it’s hard to understand why the offense was so ineffective. The defense played well enough to win, but the offense regressed against Green Bay.
6. Atlanta Falcons, 5-2 (7) – The Falcons come out of the bye as maybe the best team in the NFC. When they’re healthy, Atlanta can play with anyone. They get the surprising Bucs at home this week. The winner will be tops in the NFC South.
7. New York Giants, 5-2 (8) – The Giants – like the Falcons – are coming off their bye. And like the Atlanta, New York can stake a legitimate claim to being the best team in the NFC. But they have to go to Seattle this week where many teams struggle. It’s hard to travel cross-country.
8. Kansas City Chiefs, 5-2 (11) – It took all of five quarters, but the Chiefs finally managed to get by the Bills at home. Kansas City keeps running the football better than any other team. They have a key divisional showdown in Oakland this Sunday afternoon. That’s right – a key divisional showdown in Oakland.
9. Miami Dolphins, 4-3 (12) – Miami won another game on the road. The Dolphins should think about completely forgoing their home schedule and offering to play every game on the road. If they win in Baltimore this Sunday, that might not seem like such a stupid idea. Ok, maybe it is, but the Fins are awesome on the road.
10. Green Bay Packers, 5-3 (13) – Green Bay turned in a remarkable defensive performance in New York and shut out the Jets. The Pack has been riddled with injuries, but they still find themselves atop the NFC North. They get the Cowboys at home this week, which should move them to 6-3.
11. Tennessee Titans, 5-3 (6) – The Titans caught San Diego on the wrong day. Believe it or not, San Diego didn’t beat itself and the Titans fell. Vince Young was back, but it didn’t matter. The Tennessee defense has been spotty this year. They head into the bye this week.
12. New Orleans Saints, 5-3 (15) – The Saints aren’t dead yet. They took down maybe the best team in football and move to 5-3 on the year. As bad as things have been, New Orleans is only a ½ game back in the NFC South. Lots of season left.
13. Philadelphia Eagles, 4-3 (10) – The Eagles are coming out of their bye with a healthier Michael Vick. But even if Vick struggles, Kevin Kolb has proven to be capable. They have to host the Colts on Sunday, which is never an easy task.
14. Houston Texans, 4-3 (9) – Houston isn’t quite there yet. They handled the Colts at home, but were outmatched in the rematch, even with Indy’s significant injuries. They host the Chargers this Sunday. And if San Diego finally has their crap together, look out Texans.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 5-2 (17) – The Bucs won again to move to 5-2. Who would’ve thought Tampa Bay would be tied for first in their division going into week 9? Not me. But Josh Freeman is progressing well, and parity is the norm this season. They have a big game in Atlanta this week.
16. Chicago Bears, 4-3 (18) – It was a good time for a bye in Chicago. After starting out undefeated, the Bears have been on a downward spiral in recent weeks. The defense isn’t bad, but the offense is. What happened to Jay Cutler’s accuracy? It was never great, but it wasn’t this bad. But hey, they’re better than the Vikings … for now.
17. Oakland Raiders, 4-4 (21) – Oakland followed up their shocking performance in Denver with another dominating day. The Raiders were unbeatable. Their running game is actually pretty good and Jason Campbell is starting to look more comfortable. The defense needs to keep playing that well if they hope to make a run in the AFC West. Even with two lopsided wins, though, it’s hard to jump on the Oakland bandwagon. If they beat Kansas City this week, maybe.
18. Seattle Seahawks, 4-3 (16) – The Seahawks ran into the Raider buzz-saw in Oakland. Seattle couldn’t do anything right and ended up getting spanked. Not as bad as the Broncos in Denver, but bad enough. They go home to regroup and get ready for the Giants.
19. Washington Redskins, 4-4 (14) – Washington looked to be on the right track, but then lost in Detroit. Granted, the Lions aren’t as bad this year. But they aren’t that good, either. Donovan McNabb’s hamstring is a concern. If the ‘Skins pick up JaMarcus Russell, Oakland fans everywhere will laugh their butts off.
20. St. Louis Rams, 4-4 (20) – St. Louis managed to beat the Panthers at home to move back to .500. The Rams are as good as any other team in the NFC West, but that isn’t saying much. Nonetheless, give credit to St. Louis for being MUCH more competitive this season.
21. San Diego Chargers, 3-5 (25) – Holy San Diego! The Chargers didn’t implode! When I saw the Titans were up 2-0 about 2 minutes into the game, thanks to a blocked punt, I laughed out loud by myself. Philip Rivers is having a stellar season and the defense has been great. But as long as special teams are a part of the game, no Charger lead is safe.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars, 4-4 (22) – After getting clobbered in Kansas City, Jacksonville bounced back with a big win in Big D. They get their bye this week, and then it’s back to Texas to take on the Texans. If the Jags plan on continuing their rollercoaster season, expect a disappointing effort in that one.
23. Arizona Cardinals, 3-4 (19) – The Cardinals lost a shootout to the Bucs at home. If Arizona hopes to steal the NFC West, they need to win games like that. Max Hall is getting some good reps, but that defense needs help. They head to Minnesota to play a reeling Vikings team.
24. Minnesota Vikings, 2-5 (23) – What does one say about Minnesota? Asher Allen might have single-handedly lost the game in New England. The Randy Moss experiment is officially over. Brett Favre is getting beaten like a piñata. And Adrian Peterson is still a tremendous running back. I hope Tavaris Jackson gets more playing time in the off-chance some announcer will refer to him as Action Jackson. That would make my day.
25. Cincinnati Bengals, 2-5 (24) – The Bengals organization should send thank-you cards to Dallas and Minnesota. If not for those two bumbling teams, more people would be focusing on Cincy’s miserable season. Carson Palmer might be getting dealt in the offseason.
26. Cleveland Browns, 2-5 (26) – The Browns had a bye to get ready for their home game against New England. Schedule makers didn’t do Cleveland any favors. After playing Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans, the Browns play the Patriots and Jets. Welcome to the NFL, Colt McCoy.
27. Detroit Lions, 2-5 (29) – The Lions welcomed back Matthew Stafford who led Detroit to a big win over the Redskins. Stafford had 4 touchdown tosses with 3 going to Calvin Johnson. The defense isn’t great, but they’re getting better. Detroit is a shocking 6-1 against the spread. They get the Jets at home this week.
28. San Francisco 49ers, 2-6 (31) – San Francisco picked up its second win in eight tries, but the Niners have won 2 out of 3. They get their bye this week and come out against St. Louis at home.
29. Denver Broncos, 2-6 (27) – The Broncos didn’t have enough to get by the 49ers in San Fran. Did you know that dating back to last season, Denver is 4-14 in their last 18 games? Josh McDaniels won’t be around for long if the Broncos can’t turn it around.
30. Dallas Cowboys, 1-6 (28) – Dallas lost again, this time to the Jags at home. The Cowboys have been so bad that Jerry Jones actually apologized to Dallas fans after the game. I don’t think he should apologize; I think the Dallas players should. They’re the talented prima donnas who tanked the season.
31. Carolina Panthers, 1-6 (30) – The Panthers just about turned their one win into a winning streak in St. Louis, but fell short. They head back home to take on an unpredictable Saints squad. Carolina usually plays them tough, too. The Panthers opened as 6 ½ point home ‘dogs.
32. Buffalo Bills, 0-7 (32) – It’s hard not to feel bad for Buffalo. The Bills dropped another overtime game on the road against a quality AFC opponent. They took the Chiefs to the brink in K.C., but lost on a field as time expired in overtime. I imagine the Bills could’ve lived with a tie, but it was not to be. They get the Bears at home this week. Maybe …