1. PATRIOTS (6-1, NO. 13 LAST TIME)
Considering how down we were about New England’s chances before the season, this is stunning. But it’s reality. However they’ve done it, the Patriots have simply outplayed the rest of the league so far this year. They’ll roll this week, but the next four after that are brutal: Pittsburgh, Indy, Detroit, New York Jets.
2. COLTS (5-2, NO. 2)
Any team with Peyton Manning at the helm is going to be pretty good. This year’s Indy squad isn’t as solid as in years past, but we’d still take them over 29 other NFL teams.
3. RAVENS (5-2, NO. 4)
We’re not rooting for any playoff matchup more than Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh. The only thing pushing the Ravens past the Steelers right now is their Week 8 results.
4. GIANTS (5-2, NO. 21)
In this year of parity, four-game winning streaks have been hard to come by. But the Giants — New York’s “other” team in the preseason — is riding one right now.
5. STEELERS (5-2, NO. 1)
Pittsburgh is beating the teams it should beat, but it’s run into trouble against two of its most challenging foes so far: Baltimore on Oct. 3 and New Orleans last Sunday.
6. JETS (5-2, NO. 3)
Too many snacks, not enough points. No matter how good they’ve been, a 9-0 loss is pretty pathetic. Lucky for Rex Ryan, New York will be 7-2 after Detroit and Cleveland.
7. FALCONS (5-2, NO. 7)
Either the AFC East or the NFC South is the best division in football this year. Matt Ryan’s Falcons have been perfect at home (3-0) in taking the lead over the Bucs and Saints.
8. CHIEFS (5-2, NO. 9)
It’s shocking, but you can’t deny what Kansas City has done this season. No team wants to run into this sneaky good defense: The Chiefs have given up just 122 points, fourth-best in the NFL.
9. TITANS (5-3, NO. 14)
With Randy Moss in the fold, the Titans will do one of two things: Shoot straight up the board (like his first team this year, NewEngland) or plummet to the bottom (like Minnesota).
10. PACKERS (5-3, NO. 16)
Injuries have caught up with Green Bay in what could have been a landmark season. But Aaron Rodgers still has them in good position to land at least one home playoff game.
11. EAGLES (4-3, NO. 16)
Ernie Sims doesn’t read memos closely enough. The Philadelphia LB was docked $50K (or 6,451.6 cheesesteaks at Geno’s) for a hit on a defenseless receiver against the Titans.
12. SAINTS (5-3, NO. 8)
It’s tough, on some level, to count these guys out so soon after a Super Bowl championship. But is any team that loses to the Cardinals and Browns in a three-week span really a contender?
13. DOLPHINS (4-3, NO. 11)
Pity the ’Fins. Coming into the season, we figured they’d be fighting it out with the Jets for the division crown. But with New England streaking, they’re second fiddle, once more.
14. BUCCANEERS (5-2, NO. 17)
Undrafted LeGarrette Blount (you remember him from when he got a bit punchy against Boise State) is one of the year’s big surprises. He has 222 yards on the ground in four games.
15. BEARS (4-3, NO. 5)
This team is an absolute enigma. They looked great in a 3-0 start, but then lost to the Giants, Seahawks and Redskins (!) in quick succession. Who are the real Bears?
16. TEXANS (4-3, NO. 12)
Houston exposed Kansas City in Week 6, then got exposed against Indy in Week 8. From the looks of the season so far, this is right about where they’ll end up — middle of the pack.
17. RAIDERS (4-4, NO. 27)
If we thought anybody in this organization was capable of humor, we’d say everybody in the Oakland camp was laughing this week when the Redskins worked out JaMarcus Russell.
18. RAMS (4-4, NO. 25)
If Sam Bradford had anybody at all to target, this team would have a winning record. Their top
WR is Danny Amendola, a 5-foot-11 undrafted youngster out of Texas Tech.
19. SEAHAWKS (4-3, NO. 18)
Is anybody else stunned Pete Carroll reportedly didn’t put a claim in on Randy Moss? Not that
Seattle would have anybody to throw to him, with Matt Hasselbeck hurt.
20. CHARGERS (3-5, NO. 19)
Passed over in the Randy Moss mess this week was San Diego waiving Shawne Merriman. The Bills nabbed the 2005 Defensive Rookie of the Year with the very first claim.
21. REDSKINS (4-4, NO. 22)
“You have to be a professional,” Donovan McNabb said of his late-game benching Sunday. Kinda. You know what a pro QB can do, Donovan? Run a passable two-minute drill.
22. JAGUARS (4-4, NO. 29)
By almost every metric, this is one of the worst defenses in football. They’ve given up 28.3 ppg and 386.3 ypg — both third-worst in the league. Eight INTs is respectable, though.
23. 49ERS (2-6, NO. 28)
Contrary to popular opinion, San Francisco is not a terrible team this year. They’re close — a loss to Carolina will do that — but they’re going to run off six wins or so.
24. BROWNS (2-5, NO. 31)
It could be (and has been) a lot worse in Cleveland. Beating New Orleans on the road will be the highlight of a five-win season, but Colt McCoy is a heck of a building block.
25. LIONS (2-5, NO. 30)
Even with Matt Stafford missing a good portion of the season, Detroit has scored the most points (183) in the NFC. If their defense could stop anybody, they’d be decent.
26. BENGALS (2-5, NO. 15)
From a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review review of the “T-Ocho Show”: “Oh my. This might be the worst television show since ‘Harry and the Hendersons,’ ‘Life on a Stick’ or even ‘The Marriage Ref.’”
27. VIKINGS (2-5, NO. 20)
What a disaster this season has been in Minnesota. First Brett Favre realized what you can do with a camera phone, then they traded a solid chip for Randy Moss. Chilly, you’re gone.
28. CARDINALS (3-4, NO. 23)
A terrible defense and a punchless offense adds up to a disappointing season in the desert. But they’re still one of the bad teams that’s managed to knock off the Saints.
29. BRONCOS (2-6, NO. 24)
And on the eighth day, Tim Tebow failed to justify his draft position. There’s some young talent here, but this has the looks of a situation that’s going to get worse before it gets better.
30. COWBOYS (1-6, NO. 16)
You thought things were bad in Minnesota? Check out this trainwreck. The only good thing out of Big D this year is the video of a lapdance in the stands Deadspin posted yesterday.
31. PANTHERS (1-6, NO. 32)
Carolina is the only team in the entire league that’s managed to score less than 100 points so far (85). Matt Moore or Jimmy Clausen — pick your offensive poison.
32. BILLS (0-7, NO. 26)
Let’s be fair: This is partially a product of a brutal schedule. Buffalo has played Green Bay, New England, the Jets, the Ravens and the Chiefs so far. Still, if the Browns can beat the Saints, a team with any hope would have pulled out one win. Nope.