If you have an elite offense, there's a good chance you're going to win a lot of games.
Someone apparently forgot to tell the New Orleans Saints.
OK, cheap shots at the Saints aside, it's clear as you look back at past Super Bowl Champions (New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, the Saints—there you go, Saints fan) that there is one common factor:
A powerhouse offense led by an elite quarterback.
Having a top-notch defense always helps (see Steelers, Pittsburgh and Ravens, Baltimore), but being able to score 40 points every Sunday (or Thursday. Or Saturday. Or Monday.) makes things a lot easier.
Note: These teams are in italics.
1. Atlanta Falcons (6-0)
The Falcons didn't look like a powerhouse during their ugly home win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, but know this: That is as bad at Matt Ryan will look all year.
When you can throw for 249 yards and a touchdown and lead the last-minute game-winning drive during the worst game of the season, that's usually a good thing. Yes, the three turnovers were atrocious, but it's a small blip that the Falcons were able to work through.
Throw in the best wide-receiver duo and best WR-WR-TE trio in the league, and it's not surprising Atlanta is sixth in the NFL in points, fourth in points per play and still seventh in turnovers per game.
It would be nice if Michael Turner could start moving those waists he has for legs for some yards, but the Falcons are just as unstoppable without any resemblance of a run game. That's scary.
2. Houston Texans (5-1)
Is Brian Cushing really worth 18 points? That remains to be seen since Houston's first loss of the season was the first without the dynamic linebacker, but I'm more inclined to say that Aaron Rodgers is the one who's worth 18 points.
Rodgers lit up the Texans on Sunday night, but I'm not faltering. This defense is still elite, J.J. Watt is still a robot and the offense, albeit fairly stagnant at times, still has plenty of weapons.
3. Chicago Bears (4-1)
Here's a stat you won't believe: The Bears are second in the NFL in scoring with 29.8 points per game.
It turns out, however, that is often helps to have an elite defense that seemingly scores as many touchdowns as the offense. The Bears have problems, but don't mistake them for a pretender.
4. Green Bay Packers (3-3)
Will the real Green Bay Packers please stand up?
Unfortunately for the rest of the league, I'm pretty sure the Pack you saw dismantle a previously unbeaten Texans team on Sunday night—as opposed to the Pack that loses to Indianapolis—is the real Green Bay.
So, despite the 3-3 record, when Aaron Rodgers is playing like he did on Sunday, the Packers are a legitimate Super Bowl contender and I have no problem putting them at No. 4.
Much like the Falcons, the Packers running game is in flux, but when A-Rod puts up six Discount Double Checks in one game, it doesn't really matter.
This offense is still a powerhouse and this team is still making the playoffs.
5. New York Giants (4-2)
Twenty-six points against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick. 'Nuff said.
OK, Eli Manning was only able to throw for 193 yards, so it was far from a dominant performance, but consider this: Ahmad Bradshaw became the second running back in the last 44 games—44! Forty-four! Quatro Quatro!—to rush for 100 yards against San Francisco.
Even when Manning isn't able to lead a normally dominant pass attack, the Giants' incredible balance makes up for it.
It's also worth noting that even with Hakeem Nicks and Bradshaw nicked up for most of the season, New York is still fourth in the league in scoring and third in yards per game.
Once everyone is 100 percent healthy, watch out.
6. San Francisco 49ers (4-2)
Even after Sunday's 23-point loss, the Niners are an incredible plus-58. That's the same as the 6-0 Falcons.
Don't lose faith in this team. The defense is too good, and Alex Smith has come too far to revert back to his old self.
7. Baltimore Ravens (5-1)
It's a good thing Joe Flacco, according to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, is the best thing since sliced bread.
The formally-mustached QB, Ray Rice and a bunch of talented receivers make up a hard-to-stop offense, but the defense is ranked 26th in the NFL in yards allowed per game and just lost Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis for the season.
8. Seattle Seahawks (4-2)
Not only do the Seahawks have one of the best defenses in the league in terms of numbers, but they rank high in hard-hitting and Tom-Brady smack talking.
9. New England Patriots (3-3)
I'd like to see the Packers and Patriots battle it out for title of "Best 3-3 Team in the NFL."
New England's struggles continue, but Tom Brady, an endless amount of talented receivers, a legitimate running attack and a stifling defense against the run won't stay at .500 for long.
10. Denver Broncos (3-3)
The 3-3 record isn't anything to brag about, but all three losses have come against top-notch teams. With an easier portion of the schedule coming up and Peyton Manning playing like the Peyton Manning of 2004, expect this team to roll to the playoffs.
11. Minnesota Vikings (4-2)
They won't have to face Robert Griffin III every game, so there's that.
Seriously, though, the Vikings quietly boast a top rushing attack, an ever-improving passing attack and a defense that still ranks fourth in the NFL in yards allowed per play. Just consider the loss as a way to help them fly under the radar.
12. Washington Redskins (3-3)
Speaking of the Chosen One.
The Redskins pass defense is horrendous, but it's becoming clear very quickly that you never bet against RGIII. The rookie has turned the Redskins into one of the best offensive teams in the league.
The playoffs may be a tall task in the crowded NFC, but the 'Skins are very close to the promised land.
13. Arizona Cardinals (4-2)
It's not too often that two losses can outweigh four wins by so much, but the Cardinals have done a good job of doing that in the past two weeks. With games upcoming against Minnesota, San Francisco, Green Bay and Atlanta, they are about to be renamed the Arizona Baumgartners.
You know, because they are going to freefall. Fast.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)
One of the more underrated teams in the NFL. The Bucs only have two wins, but they could very easily have five.
Josh Freeman is closer to 2010 Josh Freeman than 2011 Josh Freeman, there are plenty of playmakers on offense and this run D is one of the best in the league.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
Does this team almost have as much talent as anyone else in the NFL? Yes. Does it also have Michael Vick, King of the Turnover (and not the delicious kind)?
Unfortunately for Eagles fans, very much yes.
Vick has shown some bright spots (three fourth-quarter comebacks already), but he needs to find some consistency if this solid squad is going to avoid disappointment.
16. San Diego Chargers (3-3)
The Chargers have some solid pieces in place (Ryan Mathews is a stud when healthy and the defense is capable of making some big plays), but as long as Philip Rivers is playing more like Ryan Leaf, San Diego is in trouble in the weak AFC West.
17. Miami Dolphins (3-3)
If, at the beginning of the season, you thought Ryan Tannehill would be improving this quickly, the Dolphins would have one of the best run defenses in the league and be tied at the top of AFC East with three wins, raise your hand.
Put your hand down, Joe Philbin. You don't count.
18. St. Louis Rams (3-3)
The Rams have a very good, young defense, and Sam Bradford is finally starting to improve, but the lack of talent in the receiving corps and an average running game means this team is still a year away from the playoffs.
19. Detroit Lions (2-3)
The Lions can move the ball just as well as anyone in the league. They are also quietly ninth in the NFL in terms of yards allowed per game.
It's just putting the ball in the endzone and keeping other teams from doing the same that has caused problems.
20. Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
This team seemingly finds new ways every week to make it the laughing stock of the NFL. Nonetheless, there are worse things than having two wins and a ridiculous amount of talent. The 'Boys just need to put that talent together.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (3-3)
Remember when the AFC North was full of defensive powerhouses and grind-it-out offenses? You know, like, last year?
Well, that changed quickly.
The Bengals, much like the Ravens and Steelers, are moving the ball just fine thanks to Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, but the defense is 22nd in points allowed.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3)
See Bengals, Cincinnati.
Ben Roethlisberger might throw for 350 yards every game with his talented receivers, but injuries are stacking up and the defense is old.
23. New York Jets (3-3)
The Jets have the most dominant punt protector in the history of the NFL, so there's that.
They also have an elite pass defense (even without Darrelle Revis) and are quietly floating above water at 3-3 despite an inordinate amount of key season-ending injuries and Mark Sanchez.
24. New Orleans Saints (1-4)
You could have Peyton Manning, Matt Hasselbeck, Andy Dalton and Blaine Gabbert making up your secondary, but if you have Drew Brees under center with this many talented offensive weapons around him, you won't stay this bad for long.
Don't worry, Saints fans. Things are going to get a little better.
25. Buffalo Bills (3-3)
The Bills are 3-3 and the win at Arizona was (kind of) impressive, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is the epitome of inconsistent and the defense can't really stop anyone.
Cherish this moment, Bills fans. You won't be in first place for long.
26. Carolina Panthers (1-4)
Cam Newton really isn't playing all that much worse than last year in terms of a yards and accuracy standpoint, but he needs to cut down on his turnovers (five interceptions and three fumbles through five games).
Until he does that, the Panthers will forever be an average team.
27. Indianapolis Colts (2-3)
This team has plenty of players who will continue to make fantasy owners happy, and Andrew Luck is continuing to justify the preseason hype, but this team really isn't that efficient on either side of the ball.
The Colts are 27th in yards per play and 20th in yards per play allowed.
28. Tennessee Titans (2-4)
The defense is as bad as everyone thinks, but the offense is also better than everyone thinks.
Matt Hasselbeck is a capable backup under center until the talented Jake Locker returns, which should be soon. Chris Johnson is impossible to figure out, but as proven on Thursday, the talent is in there somewhere. Same goes with Kenny Britt and this loaded receiving corps.
29. Cleveland Browns (1-5)
Brandon Weeden has shown some signs of improvement, but the real intrigue on this team resides with Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon and a playmaking defense (fourth in the NFL in takeaways).
30. Oakland Raiders (1-4)
The Raiders aren't the worst in the NFL at any one thing, but they are also far from the best at any one thing.
Essentially, they are an average team, but with Darren McFadden, the team's best offensive weapon, seeing so few running lanes, they have slipped down to the mediocre-to-bad range.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)
"Dont Win for the Trojan." "Wiff for Smith." Meh.
The Chiefs have some talent, but the quarterback situation is a mess. It wouldn't be a surprise if they had their eyes on Matt Barkley or Geno Smith right now.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
Speaking of bad offenses. The Jaguars are averaging just 13.0 points per game, which is more than four behind the next worst team.
Throw in a defense that is 29th in the NFL in yards per game allowed, and you have the No. 1 contender for the No. 1 pick.
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