NFL Power Rankings Week 5: Records vs. Reality Edition

Thomas GaliciaContributor IIOctober 4, 2012

NFL Power Rankings Week 5: Records vs. Reality Edition

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    "You are what your record says you are."

    Those famous words came from former New York Giants, New York Jets, New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells. The sentiment of this quote was that there weren't any could haves, should haves, or would haves in the NFL; rather that if your record was 8-8 at the end of the season, you were an 8-8 team. Even if four of those losses came by less than three points.

    But is that often the case? Bill James created the Pythagorean Theorem of baseball to predict a team's future. According to James, a team's future could be better predicted using their runs scored and runs allowed, and it would be a better indicator of their future.

    Football Outsiders uses a similar formula and calls it the Pythagorean Projection. This formula has been used to not only project which teams would improve from year to year, but also which teams will win the Super Bowl in any given year.

    Does this mean it's perfect? No, but what it does do is provide a means to measure each team.

    For today's power rankings, we will be taking each team's Pythagorean wins into account (provided by profootballreference.com) as well as some other factors to assess where each team really is in comparison to Matt Miller's Week 5 power rankings. For some teams you will notice that they will be exactly in the same place, while other teams will move up or down.

    I should also note that when I list the Pythagorean win-loss total, I round up the total. Hence if a team has a Pythagorean record of 1.9-2.1, then their rounded up record would be 2-2. However if a team's record total is 1.1-2.9, their record would be rounded up to 1-3. Point differential will be the tie-breaker.

32. Tennessee Titans

1 of 32

    Record: 1-3

    Pythagorean Record: 1-3

    Point differential: -70

    Matt Miller's power rankings have the Titans at number 20, but with so many Pythagorean 1-3 teams—plus the way this season's Titans' seem to be playing—I actually think this might be the worst team in the league.

    Tennessee has the worst point differential in the NFL at -70. While their schedule hasn't exactly started off with cupcakes (three of their first four opponents happen to be the New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers and Houston Texans), it's almost as if the Titans didn't show up for those games.

    Their lone win came in an overtime thriller against the Detroit Lions, and from the looks of the Titans schedule, this might be their lone win for quite a while. Coming up: a trip to Minnesota to take on a very good Vikings team, then they host Pittsburgh. This is followed by a trip to Buffalo, then welcoming the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears into the Music City before heading down to Miami.

    Based off of what we've seen with the Titans (who's defense has allowed the most points in the NFL), does this seem like a team that can go .500 against that schedule heading into their bye week?

    Absolutely not. The Titans will likely find themselves getting ready to clean house by the end of the season. They could point to the fact that Jake Locker's shoulder injury derailed this season, but they weren't exactly that good with him.

31. Oakland Raiders

2 of 32

    Record: 1-3

    Pythagorean Record: 1-3

    Point Differential: -58

    You might say that bad luck plays a part into Oakland's record.

    They were a few bad snaps away from losing to San Diego. I might accept that as bad luck.

    They did have to travel to Miami on a short week and wear black for a Sunday 1:00pm ET (10:00am PT) game. While that's not the best situation to be in, there are ways to prepare for that, though.

    They did beat the Steelers. I'll give them that; it was a great game.

    Denver, on the other hand, showed what the Raiders really are: not that good.

    Their point differential is an astounding -58 and the Raiders are 29th in points scored and 28th in points allowed.

    Unlike the Titans, the Raiders do have some hope: the Jaguars come to town on October 21st.

    Actually, it could possibly be October 22nd since the A's did win the AL West and would host a potential Game 7 of the ALCS on October 21st.

    Oakland, consider yourselves lucky you have the A's, some of these other bad teams don't have such distractions.

30. Kansas City Chiefs

3 of 32

    Record: 1-3

    Pythagorean Record: 1-3

    Point Differential: -48

    I didn't really think the Chiefs were this bad, but wow was I blown away by the stats.

    Their lone win came against a Saints team that sits at 0-4 and is going through their personal season from hell (we will discuss them later, obviously). While they did have the misfortune of playing their first game against the Atlanta Falcons, it's not like their other two losses were against teams that Kansas City can't beat. 

    The Chiefs have been very good against the Chargers in years' past, but lost to them last week, while the Bills are a bit incomplete. Are the Chiefs better than those teams? No, but they should be able to at least compete in those games, and possibly win them. Not lose those games by three scores.

    Much like the Titans and Raiders, this is a team that should consider cleaning their house completely at the end of the season. Kansas City has teased NFL fans in the last three years and even won the AFC West only two years ago. But now they look depressing and will have a tough time turning their season around.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

4 of 32

    Record: 1-3

    Pythagorean Record: 1-3

    Point Differential: -35

    It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the NFL this year. Between an uninspiring head coaching choice (Mike Mularkey) and the fact that they've scored a league-worst 15.5 points per game, the shocker in their point differential is that it's actually so low.

    Jacksonville can thank a decent-enough defense for that. The Jaguars defense is ranked 19th in the league, but have only allowed 24.2 points per game. That's still better than contenders like Cincinnati and Buffalo.

    Jacksonville's schedule hasn't done them any favors either, with games against the Vikings, Texans, and Bengals already played and the Bears coming to town on Sunday.

    Jacksonville can steal a couple of more wins this season, but it won't be very easy. They aren't as bad as we expected them to be, but that's still different from their cross-state brethren in Miami, who actually show some signs of being pretty good.

28. Cleveland Browns

5 of 32

    Record: 0-4

    Pythagorean Record: 1-3

    Point Differential: -25

    Cleveland is ranked so high because despite an 0-4 record, they have only been outscored by 25 points in their first four games, which is what pushes the team's Pythagorean record to 1-3 (1.3-2.7 before rounding the numbers up).

    Simple math will tell you they've only been outscored by 6.25 points per game, and that's with a team with very little talent anywhere.

    This team shows up for every game, and has started off with a tough schedule featuring the Eagles, Ravens, Bengals and Bills. As a by-product of being in the AFC North, their schedule won't get much easier, but they do have games coming up against Kansas City and Oakland, which should be Browns victories.

    This team won't be making a miracle turnaround anytime soon, but don't count them out of any game just yet. They play much better than their record and talent would indicate, and could steal a win or two from some contenders later on in the season.

27. Carolina Panthers

6 of 32

    Record: 1-3

    Pythagorean Record: 1-3

    Point Differential: -29

    My opinion of Carolina changed after they laid that egg on Thursday Night during Week 3. I really thought that this team could step into the vacuum caused by the Saints implosion and claim the wild-card coming out of the NFC South. But after seeing that game against the Giants, followed by their two-point loss to the Falcons, I'm done with the Panthers for now.

    The main reasons are turnovers and attitude. Carolina has the 29th worst turnover differential in the league at -6. The attitude problem with the Panthers seems to be that when something doesn't go their way, they just give up, as if to throw their hands up in the air and say, "I can't do it."

    That's not only what I saw against the Giants, but appeared to be how they played against Tampa Bay in Week 1 and Atlanta in Week 4. Mind you, the Panthers only lost to the Bucs by six, then lost to Atlanta by two, yet their defense suffered from mental lapses on Atlanta's game-winning drive.

    What happened in Tampa was also bad, allowing Doug Martin to run for 15 yards to seal the deal when the Panthers still had 2:00 left. That entire last drive of the Buccaneers game was a disaster for the Panthers, as they started on defense with 2:50 left and all three of their time outs. Knowing that, the Buccaneers were going to run the ball. Yet the Panthers seemed powerless to stop them.

    I don't like this team this year. Cam Newton might be able to pull off a few miracles, but I'm not counting on them matching their 6-10 record from last season.

26. New York Jets

7 of 32

    Record: 2-2

    Pythagorean Record: 1-3

    Point Differential: -28

    If Tim Tebow can save this team, then maybe we might want to consider the possibility that he might actually be divine.

    That's how bad this Jets team is. After destroying the Bills in Week 1, what have the Jets done? Their lone victory is known more for who they lost in the game and for inspiring hope in the opposing team (after that game against Miami you would've thought the Jets lost that game based off of the reaction), then they followed that up by completely lying down against a 49ers team that does what the Jets claim to want to do, only better.

    Now Santonio Holmes is likely out for the season, leaving them with nary an offensive weapon. The Jets seem to be sinking at a fast rate, and on top of that, it's not like they were that good to begin with.

    They've been outscored by 28 points, and both their offense and defense have struggled. They could get away with Mark Sanchez' inconsistencies in the past due to their running game, but now it's non-existent.

    They're also in the middle of a hellish schedule run that next week will bring the undefeated Houston Texans to town. This is followed by the Colts, a trip to New England, and a rematch with a Miami team that will have revenge on their mind and likely has more talent overall than the Jets.

    This isn't looking too good, by Halloween this Jets' season might become a lost season. If there's any saving grace it's the fact that they are 2-0 against the AFC East and tied for first place, meaning if the playoffs started today, they'd be in.

    But with their three division rivals all having an upward trajectory (while the Jets are on their way down), it won't look this pretty the rest of the way out.

25. Dallas Cowboys

8 of 32

    Record: 2-2

    Pythagorean Record: 1-3

    Point Differential: -23

    I try not to over or under-react to the Dallas Cowboys and how they play. Yes, Romo was terrible on Monday Night against Chicago, but we all know that he's due for at least one or two stinkers like that a year. He usually recovers well the next week after hearing the constant questions and criticism about him.

    We all know the Dallas Cowboys drill, and I never thought I'd rank them that low. But then I saw their Pythagorean Record and their point differential, so I had to look closer.

    Yikes, I don't know how to say this, but this team just isn't that good. After getting a hot start against the Giants, Dallas has lost in two blowouts and just barely beat the Buccaneers. Their turnover differential is -7 (thanks in part to Monday Night's game), they're ranked 31st in the league in scoring, while their defense is a middle-of-the-pack defense.

    Oh, and their schedule doesn't get much easier after the bye week: at Baltimore, then after a trip to Carolina, a contest with the Giants at home (and the Giants always play well in Dallas), then trips to Atlanta and Philadelphia.

    That sounds to me like 3-6 by the time they get to Cleveland, and the Browns could give Dallas more trouble than they'd think.

24. New Orleans Saints

9 of 32

    Record: 0-4

    Pythagorean Record: 2-2

    Point Differential: -20

    The Saints have had the season from hell. Only the Jets could really compare, and even then at least the Jets can say they have their head coach (which probably isn't much of a positive).

    No one is saying the Saints will be a playoff team. But would you really be surprised if the Saints went 8-4 in their last 12 games? Most of their problems have come on defense, which is still adjusting to not having Jonathan Vilma as well as this being the first year under a new defensive coordinator.

    They were in every game they played in, and in fact are good enough to have a Pythagorean Record of 2-2. That's actually somewhat incredible.

    I won't predict an 8-4 finish, but the Saints will finish this season strong. This team has too much pride to just quit and lay down, and are too talented to do so as well. Remember this is the same team that has gone 38-10 in the previous three seasons and won a Super Bowl.

23. Indianapolis Colts

10 of 32

    Record: 1-2

    Pythagorean Record: 1-2 

    Point Differential: -22

    No fractions or rounding necessary, the Colts are what their record says they are.

    That's not a bad thing. While I am shocked that the loss is against Jacksonville, but the win is against Minnesota, those are the growing pains a young team faces.

    Indianapolis is on the right track, and as I'm sure you've noticed are the second-best team in their division. Their defense has improved in every game, as has Andrew Luck.

    I might seem crazy, but while looking at their schedule, there is some 9-7 (possibly even 10-6) potential here. When you have three more games against those bad Titans and Jaguars teams, plus games against Kansas City and Cleveland, winnable games against Miami and Buffalo—and you're already improving—that's eight wins. That's not counting a Detroit team worse than we think and a possible Texans game the last week of the season with a Houston team that will likely have everything already wrapped up.

    Keep an eye out for this team going forward.

22. Detroit Lions

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    Record: 1-3

    Pythagorean Record: 2-2

    Point Differential: -14

    For a 1-3 team, this point differential isn't the worst thing in the world as the Lions have lost some heartbreakers to Tennessee and Minnesota.

    But it is telling that Detroit failed to put away a bad team, yet also kept it close against two good teams. I do wonder where this team's head is.

    The defense has allowed a lot of points, and while the offense has scored enough to keep it close, they're still playing from behind most of the time.

    Detroit is seeing a regression from last season right now, and I don't see that reversing course this season. They still have five division games left in a very tough division, and still have games against the two best teams in the NFL.

    This season will be a learning experience for the young Lions, how they do on this test will tell us where this young team will be going in the next five years.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

12 of 32

    Record: 1-3

    Pythagorean Record: 2-2

    Point Differential: -9

    The improvements the Buccaneers have made on defense have thus far provided dividends on the turnover ratio (right now they're at +3), while the offense does show some flashes of improvement.

    The Bucs have fought hard in each game, and are a team that other contenders won't want to see on their schedule. I see plenty of wins for the Buccaneers on the other end of their bye week, and possibly a second place finish in their division.

    Playoffs? Well let's not get too ahead of ourselves just yet. But it is an attainable goal.

20. St. Louis Rams

13 of 32

    Record: 2-2

    Pythagorean Record: 2-2

    Point Differential: -12

    Statistically speaking, nothing about this team just jumps out at you.

    But they do have some impressive wins over Seattle and Washington (both at home), while both their losses came on the road.

    This does make me wonder about their game against the Patriots in London. It is a "home" game for St. Louis, but will they have the same home field advantage? (Obviously not).

    St. Louis this season has the team I expected them to be last season before it all imploded around them. Their defense has more discipline, while their offense is more consistent. They still have more work to do, but thus far Jeff Fisher has this team on the right track.

19. Buffalo Bills

14 of 32

    Record: 2-2

    Pythagorean Record: 2-2

    Point Differential: -16

    I still don't know if Buffalo is actually a good team.

    They've beaten two bad teams in Kansas City and Cleveland, but are already at 0-2 and well behind the eight-ball in their division.

    Then their upcoming schedule isn't much cause for hope as they face San Francisco and Arizona on the road in the next two weeks, while their defense has been an underachieving unit for the money they spent upgrading it.

    I'm leaning towards saying that the Bills are frauds, even though every stat points to them being exactly where they are right now. The games they won, were convincing, but so were the games they lost.

    I'm going to have to watch them for a few more weeks to really see where they are.

18. Miami Dolphins

15 of 32

    Record: 1-3

    Pythagorean Record: 2-2

    Point Differential: -4

    Dare I say this team is at least one year ahead of schedule? I didn't see them being this fun going into this season, nor did I see Ryan Tannehill perform as he has. Considering that his first game was a disaster, he recovered very well.

    The defense has its holes in the secondary, but their front seven is among the top-5 in the NFL. It's almost impossible to run against this team. On offense it is still the running game that sets the tone, but their passing game can hurt you, too.

    Miami's -4 point differential is one of the most astounding point differential's I've seen in comparison to their record.

    Between the Pythagorean Record and the point differential, this team looks legitimately good. While closing games is an issue that keeps them not-yet-ready for contention, there is a good team there.

     


17. Washington Redskins

16 of 32

    Record: 2-2

    Pythagorean Record: 2-2

    Point Differential: 0

    The Redskins have been an exciting watch all season, but if you want a perfectly even team in every sense of the word, here they are.

    They're the fourth highest-scoring team in the league, but their defense has given up the fifth-largest amount of points. Their turnover differential is at +7, but their scoring differential is a goose-egg.

    They could be a contender, but that's a question that won't be answered until later this season. But they have been a fun to watch team. I really don't know what to make of them right now, other than the fact that Robert Griffin III is the odds-on favorite for offensive rookie of the year, and this team is one of the most fun to watch in a long time.

16. Seattle Seahawks

17 of 32

    Record: 2-2

    Pythagorean Record: 2-2

    Point Differential: +12

    Seattle looks to continue their quest to be the most unbeatable team at home (and most beatable team on the road).

    Currently the Seahawks have both of their wins at home, and both of their losses on the road. Their point differential, Pythagorean Record, and real record all synch-up with one another.

    Their offense tends to sputter at times, but their defense has been scary, as they're ranked second in the league in points allowed.

    Seattle plays quite ugly, and the results aren't always pretty, but in this case, they're a team that is exactly what their record says they are.


15. Cincinnati Bengals

18 of 32

    Record: 3-1

    Pythagorean Record: 2-2

    Point Differential: 0

    Cincinnati has been great in their last three games after an awful start in Baltimore, but there's a lot about this team that gives me reservations.

    Their defense isn't a playoff-caliber defense. They rank 25th in points allowed and tend to let teams that have no business hanging around, well, hang around.

    If this isn't a warning flag for the Bengals going into this week's contest with Miami, I don't know what is.

    On top of that, this team should actually be at .500 according to the numbers. A 2-2 Pythagorean record and a point differential of zero doesn't scream 3-1, it screams "on their way to 8-8."

    Yes, this team can beat the bad ones, but they're nowhere near being elite yet. More time is needed.

14. San Diego Chargers

19 of 32

    Record: 3-1

    Pythagorean Record: 3-1

    Point Differential: +29

    I somewhat feel like 14 is selling the Chargers a bit short. Their only loss came against one of the best teams in the NFL, and they've dominated just about everyone else on their schedule.

    But then I remember that the other three teams on their schedule are three of the worst teams in the NFL, with another game against the Saints coming up on Sunday (that's my upset alert). Yes, it will be interesting to see that the Chargers could be 5-1 (more likely 4-2 as I see the Saints upsetting them) going into their first game against the Broncos, but how authentic is it?

    Their Denver games will be the true tests for this team.

13. Minnesota Vikings

20 of 32

    Record: 3-1

    Pythagorean Record: 3-1 (really 2.5-1.5, but they get the benefit of the doubt).

    Point Differential: +18

    Minnesota is so legitimately good that it actually pained me to put them at No. 13 on this rankings, but if anything that shows the strength of the 12 teams ahead of them.

    The Vikings have not only beaten the teams they should beat, but also beaten teams that should've beaten them. They gave us the formula to how to beat the 49ers, and will make things really difficult on the rest of the NFC North.

    This team is also progressing ahead of schedule with one of the best defenses in the league, and an offense that won't screw up very often. They've been well-coached and are a disciplined unit.

    Am I under-rating them a bit? Perhaps, but they'll climb if they continue to win (which they should).

12. Green Bay Packers

21 of 32

    Record: 2-2

    Pythagorean Record: 2-2

    Point Differential: +4

    The following statement will likely be deemed controversial by many of you fans out there: The Green Bay Packers of 2012 are being constantly overrated and will likely not even make the playoffs.

    Yes, I'm even overrating them, too, by putting them ahead of Minnesota at 12, but that's only because I see the Packers beating Minnesota (once).

    Green Bay's defense has done well, but part of that has been the fact that they've faced an anemic offense in Seattle, and a bi-polar Bears offense that was having a bad day.

    As for the Packers offense, well, they seem to be having too many problems protecting Aaron Rodgers for my liking.

    The Packers are in a tough division, and face a tough road ahead schedule wise. I'm really not too optimistic about the rest of the 2012 season for them, and their usual power rankings placement (the top-5), seems a bit high for a team that looks a bit average.

    Green Bay earned that respect their last two seasons, but this season they look ordinary.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers

22 of 32

    Record: 1-2

    Pythagorean Record: 2-1

    Point Differential: +2

    Much like the Packers, the Steelers always get the benefit of the doubt in power rankings (save for Miller's Power Rankings, as he ranked Pittsburgh at 15), and much like Green Bay, it's earned.

    However, I'm more flexible with Pittsburgh because in their first three games, two of them involved trips out West. One of those trips was to Denver, which means no Ryan Clark.

    Pittsburgh does have a tough road ahead of them in a division with Baltimore and Cincinnati, but the rest of their schedule isn't too daunting of a task for this team. They won't have to worry about traveling too much either, as the farthest they'll have to go in their last 13 games is to Dallas.

    The Steelers will be back in the playoffs and will continue to be a threat to Baltimore's AFC North reign.

10. Philadelphia Eagles

23 of 32

    Record: 3-1

    Pythagorean Record: 2-2

    Point Differential: -17

    After all of this talk of Pythagorean Records and point differentials, you might be asking why I'd place the Eagles at number 10 when they have the Pythagorean Record of a .500 team and the point differential of a 1-3 team.

    It's simple: This team just finds ways to win as long as you keep them in the game.

    Their horrible game in Arizona aside, Philadelphia has shown me something that they haven't seemed to have during the Andy Reid-era: guts. Last season's team would be 0-4 with the games they've played so far.

    What's their secret to success? Did something switch on with both Reid and Vick?

    The main question that many are wondering is if it can last. I say yes. Look at two of their victories: the Giants and the Ravens. Pretty good list of teams to beat.

    Much like with the Steelers, their schedule isn't too daunting outside of their division. In some way they'll likely find their way back to the post-season despite the poor point differential. Usually one would use those stats to predict the Eagles would finish 8-8, but with how the Eagles have been winning, I think there's more to the story in this case.

9. New York Giants

24 of 32

    Record: 2-2

    Pythagorean Record: 3-1

    Point Differential: +27

    New York's 0-2 division record sets them back, but everything else seems in order for them, save for their record.

    The Giants defense is as aggressive and good as you've expected them to be, and their offense ranks ninth in points scored. They've beaten the teams they're supposed to have beaten—save for their opening night disaster against the Cowboys.

    In a weird way they're overrated, but at the same time properly rated. Their schedule on the other hand? Murder. They'll have to travel to San Francisco, Atlanta and Baltimore. That's not counting Green Bay's trip to the Meadowlands, or their remaining four divisional contests.

    The Giants could be one of those 8-8 teams that should be 12-4.

8. Chicago Bears

25 of 32

    Record: 3-1

    Pythagorean Record: 3-1

    Point Differential: +40

    The Chicago Bears are one of those all-over-the-place teams, yet the numbers say otherwise.

    Their Pythagorean Record and point differential say that the Bears are what they're supposed to be. This time, even if they are who you thought they were, losing to them isn't exactly letting them off of the hook.

    But despite the numbers, their great defense and everything that seems to go in Chicago's favor, do you really trust them right now?

    I'm still uneasy about them, and yes, it's due to Jay Cutler. He can't have another bomb of a performance like he did in Week 2 if the Bears are to truly be an elite team. Also with the team as a whole, I'm going to have to see them beat Green Bay later this season at Soldier Field.

    But they are very close to being elite.

7. Arizona Cardinals

26 of 32

    Record: 4-0

    Pythagorean Record: 3-1

    Point Differential: +30

    Fans may look at the Cardinals and think that they're lucky. They're lucky that Seattle and Miami couldn't close the deal, lucky that the Eagles always choke (even though Philadelphia was dominated by the Cardinals, so I don't see how that was a choke), and their lucky that they got out of New England with the victory.

    I don't think Arizona is lucky, they're just good. Their defense might have been torched by Ryan Tannehill, but that said more about Tannehill than it did about Arizona's defense (who was swarming him all afternoon). Their offense is pedestrian, yet finds ways to win.

    They have discipline, they execute, and they just win. This isn't luck, it's the sign of a contending team.

    The Cardinals actually have the formula in place for how to play in the post-season. Already they're well on their way to the playoffs, and in fact have the perfect team for topping their division rival 49ers. I'd be scared of this team if I was the rest of the NFC.

6. Denver Broncos

27 of 32

    Record: 2-2

    Pythagorean Record: 3-1

    Point Differential: +31

    Peyton Manning faced a lot of doubts and questions after the Broncos lost two of their first three games of the season. Most of the questions centered around whether he's still got it.

    I'd say he's at 75 percent of what he used to be, which is still 100 percent better than any quarterback in the NFL not named Brady, Rodgers, or Brees. As long as he has that head, Peyton Manning will be alright.

    Also let's put those losses into perspective. One of them came on the road to the team with the best record in the NFC, the other came at home to the best overall team in the NFL. Both games were six point losses.

    Denver is going to be alright. Their point differential is strong, as is their Pythagorean record, and on top of that they get to feast on the AFC West. How does this team not go to the playoffs is the main question.

5. New England Patriots

28 of 32

    Record: 2-2

    Pythagorean Record: 3-1

    Point Differential: +42

    Much like Denver, New England is at 2-2. They didn't face any questions as to whether Brady still has it or not, but they did face some questions as to whether they were a true contender, or the product of a bad division.

    They are both. At worst they'll go 5-1 in the AFC East, which is already a pretty good foundation. They'll struggle in two of their remaining games against the NFC West (Seattle and San Francisco), while doing what they've always done in beating teams outside of their division that they're supposed to beat.

    This Patriots team isn't much different from last seasons' team, but remember they did win the AFC last year and came within a few dropped passes from a Super Bowl. I can't just call them the product of a bad division without acknowledging the fact that they would be competitive in every other division as well.

4. Baltimore Ravens

29 of 32

    Record: 3-1

    Pythagorean Record: 3-1

    Point Differential: +38

    Baltimore made a statement opening night with a thrashing of Cincinnati. Since then, they've more than backed it up with two more primetime wins and offensive dominance.

    Baltimore's offense is fifth in scoring, while their defense has been respectable, ranking 10th in points allowed. They've been unbeatable at home with their lone loss coming on the road.

    As for the Ravens defense, well any reports of their demise is premature. They've done a great job at forcing turnovers, and while they might give up more yards than they have in the past, it's still pretty tough to score on them.

    So far, Baltimore has been as solid as you could expect a team to be.

3. Atlanta Falcons

30 of 32

    Record: 4-0

    Pythagorean Record: 3-1

    Point Differential: +48

    The Falcons have been great on both sides of the ball this year. They've scored the third most points, and rank eighth in points scored against. It's tough to get anything going on this team, and Matt Ryan is one of the best closers in the NFL.

    There's not much to nitpick with this 4-0 team, but I have found something that at least to me is a bit off-putting.

    They do have problems closing teams out at home.

    Yes, I just said that an undefeated team has problems closing teams out, but here's what I mean:

    Week 2, their home opener against Denver. Peyton Manning throws three interceptions which leads to Atlanta taking a 20-0 lead.

    However Denver manages to outscore the Falcons 20-7 in the last two and a half quarters, leading to the Falcons winning 27-20.

    On the surface, that's not such a big deal. Manning does lead come backs. However, against Carolina, that worried me. It took Matt Ryan setting up a Falcons field goal to win the game.

    Both of these games were at home. On the road, Atlanta dominated against Kansas City and San Diego.

    Is this something to be scared of? For right now, I don't know. But if I were a Falcons fan, I would enjoy the ride thus far, it's been an ice one.

2. San Francisco 49ers

31 of 32

    Record: 3-1

    Pythagorean Record: 3-1

    Point Differential: +39

    The 49ers are the one team in the NFC that I would consider to be a bit stronger than the Falcons, and it's only by a hair.

    The reason for this is that defense. San Francisco's defense is ranked fourth in points allowed and third overall.

    It's hard to do anything on them, and to make matters worse, they have an offense that can kill you in multiple ways.

    Their backup quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, has even become a weapon, doing for the 49ers everything the Jets wish Tebow could do.

    This team is as close to perfect as you can find (well with one loss), as finding their flaws is a difficult thing to do.

1. Houston Texans

32 of 32

    Record: 4-0

    Pythagorean Record: 4-0

    Point Differential: +70

    This Houston Texans team is excellent in every quantifiable football sense of the term "excellent."

    They lead the league in point differential, they're second in the league in points scored, they're first in the league in points allowed, and they have the top-ranked overall defense.

    What is wrong with this team? For right now, nothing.

    Now you might say that their opening schedule was soft and that their division is weak, but this level of butt-kicking translates all over the place.

    The defense is the key, and it is the nastiest and most brutal the league has. I mean that as a compliment; they never let the quarterback breathe, you can't run against them, and if you're able to score in double digits against them, you have a good day.

    I tried my best to nitpick this team to find some flaws, but when even your Pythagorean Record says you're undefeated (it does give Houston half of a loss at 3.5-0.5, but I gave them the obvious benefit of the doubt), you're in great shape.

    To the 1972 Dolphins, you're going to have to wait a long time before you pop that champagne this season.