1. Green Bay Packers: The Pack remain the only undefeated team in the NFL, and right now appear unstoppable. Aaron Rodgers is playing out of his mind right now, and the Packers offense has been able to score at will.
2. Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens had an impressive win over a Texans team that has been reeling. While Baltimore might have caught Houston at the right time, their double digit win is still pretty impressive. Baltimore’s defense looks like a top unit, while their offense continues to get better.
3. New England Patriots: The Patriots needed 59 minutes and 30 seconds to take a lead that the Cowboys couldn’t come back from, but it was still an impressive win by New England. The Patriots defense looked the best they have all season, and while their offense struggled some, it was unrealistic to think it would stay at that scoring pace. If the offense goes back to their normal performance, this team will be in it up until the end.
4. San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have had a really tough schedule so far, but it hasn’t phased them at all. They’ve won on the road, come from behind in multiple games, and shut down some of the top offenses in the league. On top of that, their rushing game is looking to be one of the leagues best. While their passing attack is lagging, Alex Smith has done a great job managing the game and not making bad decisions.Their schedule only gets easier from here, and they could be well on their way to earning a bye.
5. Detroit Lions: The Lions are no longer undefeated, but they played a really good game against San Francisco and showed that they are a team to contend with all year. Their offense is still their strong suit, but that defense has played better than expected and could continue to surprise this year.
6. New Orleans Saints: The Saints lost a tough one to Tampa Bay, but they are still among the better teams in the NFL. They are starting to get healthier, and should be able to rebound from that loss. In the end their only two black marks on the season are both on the road and against the Packers and Bucs.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers: While overall their win against the Jaguars wasn’t too impressive (and they didn’t cover the point spread…grrr), Pittsburgh is looking better these past few weeks, and seem to be finding their rhythm again. They are an experienced team, and despite some disappointing performances are ranked in the top 15 in run and pass offense and defense (number 1 overall against the pass).
8. Oakland Raiders: Losing Jason Campbell was a body blow, but the trade (however bad the long term implications might be) for Carson Palmer cancels that out. Right now the Raiders sit at 4-2, and have one of the top rushing attacks in the league. The Raiders have played good football against some really tough opponents, and if Palmer can get settled quickly, they should be a playoff team.
9. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers were on bye so I didn’t want to move them too much. They do have an impressive 4-1 record, but with the exception of the Patriots (their loss) they’ve had a very easy schedule. And in their wins, they’ve struggled to put teams away.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: You have to be impressed with the way the Bucs responded after being embarrassed by the 49ers the week before. They came out and simply beat the Saints. While I think they are a playoff team, the Bucs have been pretty inconsistent this year, and will need to improve in that area going forward.
11. Buffalo Bills: The Bills have been impressive so far, scoring at least 20 points in all of their games (and 30+ in 4 of them), but their defense has also allowed quite a few points, and Buffalo hasn’t shown an ability to put teams away. They will be in the playoff hunt this year, but the wild card could be out of their reach if the defense doesn’t improve.
12. Dallas Cowboys: I know, I know, the Cowboys lost. But there is no tougher task than going into Foxboro against Tom Brady and trying to come away with a victory. Yet for 59:30 on Sunday, the Cowboys were in the game, and even winning. This is a Dallas team, who has now lost three tough games, while beating a pair of good teams as well. Their schedule gets easier coming up and I really could see them going on a run.
13. New York Giants: The Giants had a nice win over the Bills, after a tough loss the week before against the Seahawks. New York is sitting atop the NFC East right now, but they have an extremely tough road ahead. They play the Dolphins in two weeks (they have a bye this week), but after that they face the Pats, 49ers, Eagles, Saints, Packers, Cowboys, Redskins, Jets, Cowboys. If you figure that they need to probably win 6 of their remaining games to make the playoffs, they have pretty long odds of doing so.
14. Houston Texans: The Texans might have gotten beaten bad against the Ravens, but I’m still a believer. Andre Johnson should be back soon and when they finally have Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Johnson all on offense together, I think this team will take off.
15. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are a surprise 4-2 team, and while they haven’t really been challenged too much yet, they definitely appear to be a team on the rise. Andy Dalton is the most impressive rookie so far because he is eliminating mistakes, and has shown great poise leading them back to victory.
16. New York Jets: The Jets did pick up a win against Miami, but it was far from pretty. The Dolphins made a number of miscues that kept them from the end zone, while the Jets offense continued to be inconsistent. The Jets defense also wasn’t as dominant as the score suggests.
17. Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles looked the best they have all season (though Rex Grossman helped that alot). Their offense moved the ball consistently, showing big play ability through both the air and on the ground. While their defense confused Rex Grossman, and intercepted the ball 4 times, while their run defense held the Skins to under 3 yards a carry. Their playoff chances are still a bit slim, but if they continue to play like this, they will be one of the toughest teams to beat throughout the year.
18. Washington Redskins: The Redskins went into Sunday’s game atop the NFC East with the chance to all but knockout their hated rivals, the Eagles, from the playoff race (while putting themselves in a strong 4-1 position). Instead they not only lost, but they were beaten in all facets of the game. Two injuries wrecked their offensive line, and turned their running game into one of the leagues worst (according to YPC). A quarterback ‘controversy’ sprung up, and their defense showed zero ability to stop the run. What makes it all worse, is that game was at home after a bye week. Now the Redskins need to settle on a QB, patch together an offensive line, and figure out some way to generate a ground game if they want to stay relevant in the NFC this year. This week’s game against Carolina becomes a ‘must win’, as Washington can’t afford to lose games like this.
19. Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons improved to a .500 record, and had their best win of the year, but it was against Carolina and at home. Overall Atlanta has a pretty easy schedule going forward, but they need to show they can win some of these tougher games.
20. Chicago Bears: The Bears had a blowout victory over the Vikings Sunday night, which should help their confidence. They are still alive for a playoff spot, but the field is very crowded right now, and they’ve struggled for most of the year. They have a tough schedule ahead, and I have a hard time believing they can survive.
21. Tennessee Titans: I really don’t like dropping the Titans like this, but the more I look at this team, the more I wonder when the other shoe will drop? They are in an easy division, but overall I think they might be a 7 win team, unless Chris Johnson just goes off the rest of the season.
22. Cleveland Browns: The Browns haven’t been playing great football, but they also aren’t getting crushed by teams either. The real question is, what kind of running game will they have with Peyton Hillis, as that will be key for them to stay in games. Their defense looks better going forward and a year from now this team could vault up the ranks.
23. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have been playing teams close this year, and could be a player or two away from really being a contender in the NFC West.
24. Kansas City Chiefs: Kansas City has played a lot better this year of late, and look to potentially play spoiler throughout this season. Their lack of a running attack and all-around defense will limit their chance for rebounding this year.
25. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers still have just one win, but overall they are looking pretty solid. Steve Smith and Greg Olsen give them two good targets, while Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams give Cam Newton some weapons out of the backfield as well. Their defense is still porous, but I could see them getting 5-6 wins this year.
26. Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals defense has been just woeful this year, and that offensive line isn’t blocking anyone. Both those areas need to be addressed next season if Kevin Kolb and the Cards are ever going to rebound.
27. Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings are turning over the reins to Christian Ponder for the rest of this year, and while at times it could get ugly, I think it is the right call. I really like Ponder’s upside, and with Adrian Peterson in the backfield his job won’t be as hard as other young quarterbacks. They will still be a bad team, but they should be competitive and win about 5 games.
28. St. Louis Rams: I really didn’t like the move to acquire Brandon Lloyd, despite me thinking him a good receiver. It just doesn’t make any sense to surrender a draft pick when you didn’t have too. The Rams are going to be miserable with or without Lloyd, and I think they will be lucky to make 4 wins.
29. Denver Broncos: It’s Tebow Time in Denver, and to top it off they just traded away his best receiver (though that was the right call). It will probably be an ugly year going forward for Denver, but at least they are going to see what Tebow can do.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Blaine Gabbert Era hasn’t been too pretty so far, and while much of the blame is on the lack of pass catchers or blockers, it is also clear that Gabbert might not be ready just yet.
31. Indianapolis Colts: Another week, another loss for the Colts. While I don’t see them going 0-16, it’s going to be ugly this year.
32. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have some talent on both sides of the ball, but they can’t put it together. I’m thinking Tony Sparano doesn’t have too much more time as the Dolphins head coach, though maybe the team will keep him around for the season to help ensure the Andrew Luck pick.