1. Denver Broncos (5-1): Peyton Manning is Mr. September, Mr. October, Mr. November and Mr. December, but we need to see him come through in the clutch in January and February before we definitively call him the G.O.A.T.. Remember, in the postseason he actually won a Lombardi Trophy (2006), his touchdown to interception ratio was 3:7 and he didn’t have a QB rating over 82.0 in those four playoff games. It’s a harsh critique during the week when he became the all-time TD pass leader, but there are far too many people anointing him a God right now.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (5-1): The Eagles sneak into the No. 2 slot this week even though they were idle this past weekend. The reason is because Arizona struggled with winless Oakland and the Cowboys’ only loss this season (to San Fran) came at home. Philly’s only loss this season (also to San Fran) came on the road.
3. Dallas Cowboys (6-1): Jerry Jones said that Tony Romo may have played the best game of his career against the Giants on Sunday. A statement like that may have been mocked in years past, but when you’re 6-1 you can say just about anything you want. Dallas has beaten the teams it should beat and you can only play the teams that are on your schedule, but keep an eye on the fact that not one team the ’Boys have beaten so far currently has an above-.500 record.
4. Arizona Cardinals (5-1): No good-to-great team plows through a season nowadays without struggling with a crappy team, so we’ll give the Cardinals a pass for being up by just a point over the winless Raiders late in the third quarter. Andre Ellington is a legit star this season as he led Arizona in both rushing and receiving Sunday.
5. Indianapolis Colts (5-2): It’s like Colts fans have a horseshoe up their bums or something. They get 14 years of Peyton Manning and now they have Andrew Luck, who shredded what was once believed to be a great Bengals defense for 344 yards and a pair of touchdowns this past Sunday.
6. Baltimore Ravens (5-2): The Ravens are much like the Cowboys in that we’re not entirely sold on them just yet due to a soft schedule. The teams they’ve beaten so far: Steelers, Browns, Panthers, Buccaneers and Falcons. The teams they’ve lost to so far: Bengals and Colts.
7. Green Bay Packers (5-2): The “Keep Calm and Carry On” Packers have won four straight and Aaron Rodgers is playing like the MVP we predicted him to be before the season began. Rodgers has thrown 17 touchdowns with –get this – ZERO interceptions after having a so-so game against Seattle on opening night.
8. San Diego Chargers (5-2): Philip Rivers looked like Philip Rivers from, say, 2013, or 2012 or 2009 against the Chiefs. Not so surprisingly, the Chargers lost. The most disturbing thing about San Diego’s performance at home was that Alex Smith had little trouble moving the KC offense in the fourth quarter.
9. Seattle Seahawks (3-3): Seattle is finding out what it’s like to be on the receiving end of everyone’s best punch and it seems like eons ago that people were whispering about an undefeated season after their Week 1 win over Green Bay. Truth is, Seattle hasn’t played well since their Week 4 bye, barely beating the Redskins in Week 5, losing to the Cowboys in Week 6, and falling to the lowly Rams this past Sunday.
10. New England Patriots (5-2): The New England defense is about to face, in a row – Jay Cutler, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers. The Pats will have to be better than they were against Geno Smith last Thursday if they want to be in the mix for a postseason bye come December.
11. Detroit Lions (5-2): No Calvin Johnson, no problem. Well, that’s sort of a lie. They were down 23-10 with less than four minutes left, at home, to a two-win New Orleans team this past Sunday. They now turn their focus to a game in London against the Falcons. We’re absolutely, 100 percent positive there will be fans in the stands at Wembley for this game, right?
12. San Francisco 49ers (4-3): The bye week comes at the absolute perfect time for this exhausted group. The positives: they’re the only team to beat the Cowboys this season and they’ve gotten through the worst part of their schedule with an above-.500 record. The negative: They looked like absolute dog caca in Denver this past Sunday night.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1): Remember trust falls in summer camp? Is there any doubt that Marvin Lewis and his coaching staff would leave you concussed if they had to perform as spotters? The Bengals currently have 30/1 odds to win the Super Bowl. Not low enough. Who in the world would lay down any money on them?
14. Buffalo Bills (4-3): The Kyle Orton – Sammy Watkins connection is the most exciting quarterback – receiver combo in upstate New York since “Kelly to Reed.” Yes, you read that correctly. Buffalo can slide into their Week 9 bye week with an above .500 record if they can beat the Jets in the Meadowlands on Sunday.
15. Kansas City Chiefs (3-3): The Chiefs have beaten Philip Rivers and Tom Brady this season and they hung tough against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver in Week 2. That 16-point home loss to the Titans in Week 1 will sting for the rest of the season and could ultimately cost KC a playoff spot.
16. Miami Dolphins (3-3): The Dolphins have had to endure a pretty tough schedule to start the season but there’s some relief coming this Sunday as they’ll be in Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars. Ryan Tannehill is finally coming into his own as he completed his first 14 passes on Sunday in a big road win over Chicago.
17. Carolina Panthers (3-3-1): The Panthers have given up 37-plus points in four of the seven games they’ve played so far this season. Having a bye this week would really help. Unfortunately that bye isn’t until late November and Carolina will host a steaming mad Seahawks team this Sunday.
18. Cleveland Browns (3-3): The Browns defense made Denard Robinson (yes, the same Denard Robinson that was quarterback at Michigan) look like Maurice Jones-Drew circa 2009 on Sunday. The offense wasn’t any more impressive as it did not score a single touchdown and did not score at all in the second half.
19. Houston Texans (3-4): Arian Foster looked like the best running back in football at times on Monday night. But he had a costly fumble and Ryan Fitzpatrick is still the team’s quarterback. That’s not going to cut it on the road, even if that road date is in mediocre Pittsburgh.
20. Chicago Bears (3-4): Typically, we’d say that a locker room airing of grievances would be a good thing for a team. Just get it all out there. But when Brandon Marshall is the main voice in a football Festivus, things are probably going South before they go North.
21. New Orleans Saints (2-4): Sean Payton’s Bill Parcells routine at the postgame press conference is not nearly as cute when his team is 2-4. Payton barked at a reporter following Sunday’s collapse against the Lions and New Orleans may not be able to dig out of this hole.
22. St. Louis Rams (2-4): Jeff Fisher is once again being hailed as the smartest head coach to never win a Super Bowl, due to the trickery that upset the Seahawks on Sunday. The big picture for Fisher in St. Louis is this: he’s getting a free pass this year due to the early injury to Sam Bradford. He’ll have to be above .500 at this time next season to keep his job.