Some movement around the league but I'm not ready to bury too many teams just yet. The Texans and Titans big wins over Pittsburgh and Cleveland ended the seasons of the Colts and Jaguars, while Denver, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Seattle also lost their games and seasons this week. The Chiefs won their first game, but they still may be the worst team in the NFL when it's all said and done. The 1-3 Panthers have amended themselves out of the dead based on how fun they are to watch right now.
At the top of the league, the Patriots and Ravens may be separating themselves from the rest of the AFC while the NFC looks like they have the three best teams in the NFL with Green Bay, New Orleans, and perhaps Detroit.
01. Green Bay Packers - The Packers have a test this week @Atlanta, but if they get through it then things start to look like smooth sailing unitl November. Aaron Rodgers is the NFL's MVP until he loses it. It doesn't matter what Brees, Calvin Johnson, Tom Brady, or anyone else does, it'll be about what Rodgers does or doesn't do.
02. New Orleans Saints - The Saints are quietly the second best team in the NFL, and they're a yard shot of being considered the best right now. This is a team that really wants a one seed, and looking ahead at the schedule this is 13-3 team at worst. The 2009 Saints were a 13-3 team as well. Or should I say 16-3.
03. Detroit Lions - I said it at the beginning of the season and friends called me crazy, but I'll continue to say it. The Lions can win the Super Bowl. Stafford is young, but so was Aikman when he won his first Super Bowl, and like Aikman, Stafford has a supporting cast filled with a few elite players, particularly Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh.
The Very Good
04. New England Patriots - The Patriots may have the best offense in the NFL, but their defense continues to look average at best. Losing Mayo at Linebacker for an extended period of time will likely prevent that defense but getting any better. We'll have a better understanding of what the Patriots are about after these next two home games against the Jets and Cowboys.
05. Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens won ugly on Sunday night but they still beat a Jets team that were considered one of the toughest on their schedule. The Ravens goal needs to be to win the division and take it from there. The defense can carry this team to a home playoff game, but they can't carry them to a bye.
06. Houston Texans - The Texans continue to impress, beating the Steelers this week. A home game this week against Oakland will continue to define whether or not this team is for real, but the win over the Steelers put them in great shape for 12-4, maybe 13-3, and potentially the one seed in the AFC.
07. San Diego Chargers - The Chargers are quietly 3-1 and have an easy game against the Broncos this week. Rivers isn't the MVP candidate many thought he will be, but the quieter this team stays, the better off they'll be in the long run. 3-1 is the best start to a season this team has had in a while.
08. Washington Redskins - The Redskins enter their bye week on top of the NFC East but the signs of Rex Grossman erupting with turnovers are beginning to show. Still, no one expected this team to be 3-1, and they have two weeks to prepare for Michael Vick and the Eagles.
09. New York Giants - The Giants pulled off a cardiac win this week against the Cardinals and they're now 3-1 after a week one loss that had a lot of people writing Eli Manning off. Home games against Seattle and an improved Buffalo, followed by a bye and the Dolphins could have the Giants at 6-1 before their schedule gets really difficult.
10. San Francisco 49ers - The 49ers are in control of their division and just need to hang on. Alex Smith had his first convincing victory this week and this is a team who could only benefit from a playoff berth moving forward.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The Buc's squeaked one by Indianapolis this week but a win is a win and you'll take them however you can get them. I'm not convinced that this is a playoff team, but they'll definitely be around all season.
12. Buffalo Bills - Just when you thought the Bills might turn a corner they go an lose to the Bengals. I think that will be that for Buffalo and they'll be below .500 by Thanksgiving, but I hope I'm wrong. As of this moment in time they're still in first place in the AFC East.
13. New York Jets - The Jets offense looked awful on Sunday night, and this is a team that may be in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. @ New England and vs San Diego are sandwiched by vs Miami. This team could be 3-4 heading into their bye with games on their schedule remaining against New England, the Giants, @ the Eagles, and @ Washington. There is no room for division game slip ups if they fall to 3-4, and the AFC wild card teams will need to be 10-6 this year.
14. Tennessee Titans - The Titans are surprisingly 3-1 and Matt Hasselbeck looks pretty good right now. The former Seahawk Pro Bowl QB has gone from keeping the seat warm for Jake Locker to giving the Titans a legitimate shot at a postseason berth. The game this week at Pittsburgh is a must win if the Titans want to be playing meaningful football in January.
Hanging In There
15. Dallas Cowboys - The Cowboys had another disastrous collapse, causing Romo and company to fall to 2-2. Still, despite the awful loss on Sunday to the Lions, this is a team that is talented, has been in every game until the final play, and can potentially get it together and win their division. They're only a game out of first.
16. Oakland Raiders - The Patriots proved this week that the Raiders are good, but they're not legitimate contenders. Jason Campbell's red zone interception in the second quarter is the leader thus far for most hilarious interception of the year.
17. Chicago Bears - The Bears have to opportunity on Monday Night to bring the Lions down to Earth, and this is a huge game for the 2011 Bears. A loss and the Bears will be playing catch up with Detroit and Green Bay until they're eventually knocked out of the playoffs sometime in early December, a win, and it's a brand new race in the North.
18. Atlanta Falcons - Mediocrity seems to be the defining word of the 2011 Falcons, though disappointment may be the final word. The fact that the game against the Seahawks was a game in the fourth quarter is a bad omen for the Atlanta who face Green Bay this week.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers - They're 2-2 and James Harrison is out indefinitely. The truth is the 2011 Steelers simply aren't very good and they'll continue to linger around mediocrity the rest of the season, living off a reputation that they built in season's past. They were in the Super Bowl last year because the Patriots had a fluke loss and the Colts were beat up.
20. Philadelphia Eagles - The Dream Team are 1-3 right now, but they're not awful. The losses to the Giants, Falcons, and 49ers could have all been wins, but now these next two @Buffalo and @Washington are must wins. If this team fails to make the playoffs this year what do they do?
21. Cleveland Browns - The Browns squandered an opportunity to legitimize their season and now the focus has to be to just get better. This team is probably not a playoff team, but they're not awful either. They need to continue to develop Colt McCoy and eventually get him a go to weapon.
22. Cincinatti Bengals - The Bengals beat a Bills team this week that many expected to roll past Cinci. This is playing hard for Marvin Lewis, a coach that has been on the hot seat for about five years.
23. Carolina Panthers - The Panthers may be losing games but at some point they'll be winning them. Cam Newton continues to prove that he's the real deal and that's good for the Panthers and their fans, they needed it.
24. Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals aren't a playoff caliber team but it's not because of Kevin Kolb. The defense is pretty bad. This is a team that might be able to make waves in the NFC as the season progresses and beyond.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars - Despite the atrocious output thus far, the Jaguars are doing the right thing throwing Gabbert into the fire. He'll be better for it one day, and so will the Jaguars.
26. Seattle Seahawks - This team isn't very good and due to the 49ers recent string of victory's, the Seahawks 2011 is toast. This team has a long way to go but a Barkley/Carroll reunion in Washington would be a great first step.
27. Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs got a win against the Vikings that they probably didn't need, but they're still contenders for Andrew Luck. A loss this upcoming week to Indianapolis would go a long way, a win and this team will either draft Barkley or Jones, or be stuck in average-QB-ville where they've resided since Len Dawson called it a career.
28. Denver Broncos - John Fox put Tim Tebow in for one play on Sunday. The play went for -1 yards and Fox didn't go back to Tebow again. This Tebow thing is going to end badly for all party's involved.
29. Minnesota Vikings - At one point in time Donovan McNabb was without a doubt a top five quarterback in the NFL. McNabb will also end up in Canton one day, and he's probably the greatest Eagles quarterback of all time. Right now McNabb isn't the problem in Minnesota, but he's not the solution either, and once Leslie Frazier makes the move to Christian Ponder that will be curtains on the starting quarterback career of Donovan McNabb.
30. Indianapolis Colts - For the second week in a row the Colts made a game that they were written off in interesting. If Peyton Manning was playing right now the Colts would be 4-0 and in control of AFC.
31. St. Louis Rams - What happens if the Rams go 2-14 and end up with the worst record in the league? Do they draft Luck and trade Bradford? Do they sell the pick for as much as they can get? They could probably get a lot for Sam Bradford as well, and Luck's contract won't be half as crippling as Bradford's. The contract is what makes it something to think about.
32. Miami Dolphins - This is a team that not only needs Andrew Luck, but unlike the Chiefs it looks like they actually want Stanford's current starting quarterback. The question now is, will this team lose enough games? And will Sparano last all season? I say "yes" and "yes."