As we near the halfway point of the season, some of the good teams are starting to separate themselves, and the division races are becoming clearer. Well, sort of. The AFC South, for example, is a three-team crapshoot. The AFC East could be won by anybody but Buffalo. Both West divisions are in a horrific state of disarray. It makes for an exciting season, especially down the stretch, but what I wouldn't give for a couple of these one-loss teams to really take off. Here we go!
1.) NY Jets (5-1) [+1]
Best team in the NFL? Yes, for this week. They've got the longest current win streak, have only lost by a single point, and just pulled out a road win in a game they could have easily lost. In a word, real. Why #1? Because they've got the most wins. The two teams just below are nothing to sneeze at either, though.
2.) New England (4-1) [+1]
An OT victory in hand, the Patriots move up to 2nd this week. Apparently, Ron Jaworski was right: "No Moss, no problem". Deion Branch came in and played just like he had never left. Can that keep going? Maybe. But even if it doesn't, Brady has plenty of receivers who can get open and get the ball. They're narrowly ahead of Pittsburgh because they beat a team I figured was great. And they might still be. But for this week, the Pats were just a little better.
3.) Pittsburgh (4-1) [+5]
Into the breach jump the Steelers again. With Baltimore's OT loss to the Pats, some real estate at the top opened up. Also, Ben Roethlisberger re-entered the league with style, putting on a nice beatdown of the Browns. Clearly, I don't expect much from the Browns, so that's why the Steelers are currently third. That's not a slight, though; the Steelers are a hell of a team. And it's looking like everyone will slip up once or twice this season.
4.) Indianapolis (4-2) [+5]
Another beneficiary of Baltimore's OT loss, Indianapolis shoots up the Rankings to claim the 4th spot after beating the Redskins. It was closer than I thought it would be. Peyton Manning is playing well; too bad he can't help the defense. It's also too bad that they lost to Jacksonville. A 5-1 record in the 4th spot would look much better than 4-2.
5.) Tennessee (4-2) [+5]
I had a good feeling about the Titans going into their Monday Night game yesterday. As it turns out, I was rewarded by seeing one of the bigger beatdowns of the week. It's nice to be right, I guess. Though I guess if I was following my own rules about who teams beat vis a vis moving up in the Rankings, I should probably have Philadelphia ahead. Oh well.
6.) Philadelphia (4-2) [-]
The Eagles are looking sharp no matter who lines up under center. In fact, it's probably better for them to have Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb. We'll see how that situation develops through the season, of course. Right now, with Vick still recovering and Kolb playing pretty well, it's no tough decision. But once Vick gets healthy...well, it's a nice problem to have.
7.) Baltimore (4-2) [-6]
No matter what, a loss leads to a big drop in the Rankings. Even in OT, to a team that they had beat. This is not an indictment of Baltimore specifically; notice that Tampa Bay and Kansas City have been bounced out. I still believe in the Ravens long-term. But it's obvious at 4-2 that they're not better than the top three as it stands today. At the end of the season, it could be something else. We'll see when we get there. I like the Ravens, though, and I'm confident they'll be a solid playoff team.
8.) Atlanta (4-2) [-4]
I considered dropping Atlanta out entirely. But I didn't really see a replacement that looked better at this time. And I still believe the Falcons are a playoff team, though they might have gotten exposed somewhat against Philly. But honestly, how many teams are going to throw over the top like that? How many have the guts AND the personnel? In the NFC, not that many. And the ones that do are dealing with a whole bunch of issues (I'm looking at you, Green Bay and Dallas).
9.) Chicago (4-2) [-4]
Again, I'm really disappointed in Chicago. This is another team that I considered dropping out entirely, because I just don't trust them. But who could have replaced them? Well, omit the 3-2 teams, firstly. Then take a look at who else is 4-2: Houston, and the NY Giants. Are either of them trustworthy? No. Are either of them BETTER than the Bears? Well, the Giants certainly have an argument. I guess this is where my personal bias shows again, since I also can't stand those two. I'm not a huge fan of Chicago either, obviously.
10.) New Orleans (4-2) [-]
The other team to re-enter the Rankings this week is the defending champion Saints. What a surprise to see them go to Tampa and beat up the Bucs in all phases of the game. To be honest, this is the kind of performance I was expecting since the opening Thursday night against Minnesota...a performance which the Saints have not provided until this past week. Well, good for them.
Thanks for reading. See you next week.