Octoberfest Begins: NFL Top Ten List After Week Four
October has now arrived. Halloween, tricks, and treats are on the rise. It is one of the best sports months of the year, and it is the time when NFL teams begin to hit the gas peddle on making big moves in the standings that will shape the spine for the stretch run of the NFL season.
Four weeks in the books? Hard to believe, but here is the new top ten list.
10: New York Jets (3-1)
The Jets continue their precipitous fall on my top ten list. After they beat the Patriots, the Jets jumped to No. 4 in the standings. Then after a deep breath against Tennessee, the Jets fell to five; now, after Sunday's horrible showing in New Orleans, the Jets are falling fast, and one could make the case that they should not BE in the top 10 any longer.
To quote Dennis Green, the Jets "are who we thought they were." Translation: they are a team with a great defense, and no offense to speak of. That was on display Sunday when Mark Sanchez threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball in the end zone for a Saints' touchdown.
Sanchez looked like a rookie against the Saints because he failed to read the Saints' blitz-happy packages, and he misread many of his receivers. He has got to do a better job of protecting the football. The Jet coaches grilled him on it last week, and it apparently didn't sink in, which is a bad sign.
It doesn't help matters that the Jets' running attack was a joke. Thomas Jones looks like a man running through quicksand; furthermore, does anyone know where Leon Washington has disappeared to? Anyone?
At least the Jets' D was excellent against Drew Brees and the high powered Saints' offense; however, the defense can't score points all the time; the offense has to do some of the dirty work.
The Jets should, SHOULD win their next five games against inferior opponents in Buffalo, Miami, Oakland, and Jacksonville before they square off against New England. If they should win the next five, the question will be whether the Jets are a soft 8-1 team.
9: Chicago Bears (3-1)
Okay, so it was against the Lions, but when was the last time the Bears scored 48 points in a game? Can't remember, eh? Welcome to the Jay Cutler version of the Monsters of the Midway.
Cutler's numbers weren't gaudy against the Lions, 141 yards passing in fact, but he did throw two touchdowns and ran for another in the 48-24 victory. Add to that the fact that Matt Forte added 121 yards and a touchdown on the afternoon, and the Bears have one of the more dynamic offenses in the game.
It is also a plus that the Bears still have one of the better defenses in the game. They gave up only three points in the second half of the Detroit game, and sacked rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford five times on the day.
The Bears are doing a nice job keeping pace with the Vikings.
8: Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
So the Ravens were faced with the biggest test of the season, and they proceeded to get smacked around by Tom Brady, the Patriots, and a bunch of zebras known as officials.
Apparently, Ray Lewis, the Ravens' outspoken leader, is upset at officials for "protecting" Tom Brady too much when he gets hit. Lewis has a gripe, but it is not only Brady who is getting away with something here. All NFL quarterbacks are treated like prima donnas by officials, who will flag defenses for even standing next to a quarterback as roughing the passer.
Still, the Patriots took it to the Ravens' defense. Brady threw for 258 yards and had his first TD pass to Randy Moss. The Ravens' vaunted D has not been great this year. They gave up 319 yards and 25 first downs to New England. They have even surrendered 24 or more points in three of their first four games.
Offensively, Joe Flacco continues to dazzle, throwing for 264 yards and two TDs. Ray Rice is getting into the action as well, rushing for 103 yards on 11 carries.
The Ravens need to bring their A game next week when the square off with the Bengals for a battle for first place in the AFC North. That is right, THE BENGALS?!
7: Denver Broncos (4-0)
All right, Broncos fans, I am throwing you a bone here.
Last week, I needed to see Denver go out and actually beat a top NFL team to even crack my top 10 list. Well congrats! The Broncos are now on the list, and what a start they have had this year.
Sure Josh McDainels is a dummy when it comes to player personnel moves, i.e. trading Jay Cutler and almost trading Brandon Marshall, but the guy is a genius when it comes to hiring assistant coaches. Mike Nolan has changed that Denver D into one of the NFL's best units. That's right, the Broncos' D may be better than the Jets, Giants, and Ravens combined!!
They have given up only 26 points this year and are second in total defense, surrendering 239 yards per game. The Broncos kept Marion Barber (41 yards) and Tasard Choice (33 yards) in check all afternoon, and sacked hapless Tony Romo five times in the effort.
Offensively, Kyle Orton is not Cutler, but he hasn't killed Denver, yet. He threw two touchdowns and completed 69 percent of his passes.
Now the Broncos have to square off against the Patriots at home. A tough test that, if they should pass, would elevate Denver into top five status.
6: New England Patriots (3-1)
So the Patriots are older. They are not as dominating as they used to be on either side of the ball, yet the Patriots have not forgotten how to win football games. That is a trait that should serve them well as they try to overtake the Jets for first in the AFC East.
Tom Brady had a good day, and his favorite target, Wes Welker, was back in the fold, hauling in six catches to lead the team.
Are there concerns for New England? Sure. They do not have a solid ground attack, and their defense has been average this season. But the longer Tom Brady gets used to playing on that bum knee, the better the Patriots will be in December when it really counts.
5: San Francisco 49ers (3-1)
If you thought the Broncos were a shocking surprise this year, how about the 49ers?
No, these are not the Joe Montana/Bill Walsh 49ers, nor is it the Steve Young/Jerry Rice 49ers, but these guys can really play.
The Niners blanked the Rams 35-0 Sunday and looked really good doing it. Patrick Willis had five tackles, two sacks, and an interception return for a touchdown. Talk about a full day's work.
Shaun HIll continues to play well. He threw for two touchdowns and is not losing the game for the 49ers, who have a solid running game. Glen Coffee did a nice job in place of Frank Gore, rushing for 74 yards on 24 carries.
The 49ers have heeded the message of coach Mike Singletary, playing with incredible passion and reckless abandon. The NFL has missed the 49ers since Steve Young was TKO'd by Aneaus Williams in 1999, so it is nice to see that the Niners could be on the way back to the top.
4: Minnesota Vikings (4-0)
You know that he had to love it Monday night against his former team the Green Bay Packers.
For 13 months we have heard constantly about how much Brett Favre wanted to get even with the Packers for not welcoming him back to training camp before the 2008 season; hence, on Monday, Favre finally got even.
He was brilliant, throwing three touchdowns and showing the kind of snap, crackle, and pop on his fastball that fans have grown used to seeing from the 'ole gunslinger in years past.
Say what you will about Favre the person, when it comes to the way he treated the Jets, and the way he strung along the Packers, Brett Favre still has what it takes to be one of the league's top quarterbacks.
Let's see if it can last into December, the month that Favre has broken down the past two seasons.
3: Indianapolis Colts (4-0)
How about 'dem Colts!!
The Colts rolled over the Seahawks 34-17; Peyton Manning threw two more touchdowns to tie Drew Brees for the most TD passes in the league. To top that, Manning already has thrown for more than 1,000 yards (1,336), and it is early October.
The Colts' D is doing its job. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeny each own five quarterback sacks, and, if this keeps up, the Colts look poised to roll to the AFC's No. 1 seed.
2: New Orleans Saints (4-0)
One could make the argument that the Saints are the best team in the NFL right now. They put up 40 points with the flick of Drew Brees's wrist, and they play a very physical brand of defense, as they smacked Mark Sanchez to a pulp in Sunday's 24-10 victory.
The Saints look like the best team in the league and move into a bye week on a roll at 4-0. When the Saints return in week six, they will get another shot to derail a New Jersey team: the New York Giants. If the Saints win that game over the G-Men, then the bayou boys may be No. 1 for a very, very, very long time!!
1: New York Giants (4-0)
It's nice to have an easy start to a season; isn't it? I know, I know: teams play the schedule that is in front of them, but the Giants really need a challenge right about now.
They went through the Kansas City Chiefs like a knife through butter and figure to do the same against the Raiders, with or without Eli Manning.
Manning bruised his heel in Sunday's 27-16 victory, and there is question as to his status for Sunday, but the good news is that it is not an Achilles tendon injury, which would have sidelined the Super Bowl XLII MVP for the year.
Even though they are running through bad football teams, it is hard to imagine anyone better than Big Blue right now. The Giants can run over people with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, and they are developing a sweet passing attack with Steve Smith, Kevin Boss, and Mario Manningham.
In addition, the Giants' defense was outright nasty against the Chiefs, forcing Matt Cassel to make some rather uncomfortable throws into tight double and triple coverage.
The Giants will remain No. 1 for now, until their next big test in two weeks against the Saints in New Orleans. They pass that test, the NFL needs to watch out for the 2009 N.Y. Giants.