A clash of the titans in New England and Favre-fueled media frenzy in Minnesota highlighted the NFL action over the weekend.
New Orleans delivered a football lesson to the Jets’ rookie QB, the Broncos continue to convert believers, and the Bengals (yes, the Bengals!) have some serious momentum as we head into week five. Let’s count them down from No. 1 to No. 32.
1. New York Giants (4-0)
There is a case to be made that the Giants early-season schedule has been too easy for them to remain in the top spot. But, the way they are easily dispatching of their opponents is reason enough to keep them here.
Plus, they hold a top five ranking in both offense and defense.
2. New Orleans Saints (4-0)
The Saints possess the league’s No. 1-ranked offense and also lead the NFL in turnover ratio, meaning they have finally figured out a way to play some solid defense. Now, they head into their bye week at a perfect 4-0.
3. Indianapolis Colts (4-0)
Peyton Manning is making things look very easy for the Colts right now as he heads up the league’s most prolific passing offense.
They will need to balance things out with the running game and tighten up on defense. But with the combined 0-8 Rams and Titans sandwiched around their bye week, 6-0 is a very realistic possibility.
4. Minnesota Vikings (4-0)
Brett Favre is looking increasingly comfortable in Vikings’ purple as he beat his old squad, becoming the first ever QB to defeat all 32 NFL teams. With that lethal pass rush delivering eight sacks against Green Bay, the Vikes look every bit of a contender in 2009.
5. Denver Broncos (4-0)
One can analyze the schedule all one wants but the Broncos have allowed only 26 points in four games—that’s a surefire recipe for success.
The next stretch of games against New England, San Diego, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh will give us an even better idea of how strong this team is.
6. New England Patriots (3-1)
This may not be the most impressive 3-1 start ever, but it is a good start nonetheless. Considering how banged up the Pats are on defense and that Brady is still trying to get his rhythm back with Moss, Welker, and Co. this first quarter of the season is a success.
7. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
The Ravens might be kicking themselves over the loss to New England that was low-lighted by a couple of controversial penalties and a terrible dropped pass at the end of the game. But, they need to have short memories as they will be playing Cincinnati this Sunday for control of the division.
8. San Francisco 49ers (3-1)
The Niners shook off the last-second loss in Minnesota and promptly went out to destroy the Rams. This weekend’s clash against the Falcons will provide another measuring stick for how far they have come over the last 12 months.
9. New York Jets (3-1)
By all accounts, this has been a good first month for rookie QB Mark Sanchez and the revitalized Jets defense. But, the aforementioned signal-caller will need to secure the football if they are to have any chance of earning a spot in the playoffs.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)
A well-placed bye week and a lighter slate against Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Washington may help them get back to full strength without having to sacrifice anything in the win column.
11. Atlanta Falcons (2-1)
The Falcons have had a week to think about the loss at New England, but now they need to focus on another tough opponent as they travel to San Francisco to take on a stingy Niners defense.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)
I will refrain from saying they are one miracle tipped-pass away from being 4-0…each Bengals contest has had its own last-second drama. But they are finding a way to win. They take on the Ravens to try to get to 3-0 in the division and assume the driver’s seat, which is an amazing turnaround.
13. Chicago Bears (3-1)
It seems that all the Favre drama has created a vacuum of media coverage regarding the NFC North. The Bears offense led by Jay Cutler is looking more and more comfortable by the week as they fly under the radar at 3-1.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
The Steelers ranking should be quickly on the rise the next couple of weeks as they see Detroit and Cleveland. But, they have to learn to stop opposing offenses in the fourth quarter and not wait for Polamalu to come back from injury to do so.
15. Green Bay Packers (2-2)
Not many people thought that Green Bay was going into Minny to spoil their Monday Night Favre party. Their defense getting shredded by Brett was a more disturbing result.
16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
There was already a growing sentiment questioning Romo’s ability to lead this team to the promised land, but allowing him to get pounded by Denver is no way to get him out of his slump.
Perhaps this week’s matchup with the Chiefs will provide a soft landing for the Cowboys.
17. San Diego Chargers (2-2)
Don’t let the fourth quarter near-comeback and final score fool you. This team looked out of sync and overmatched versus the Steelers on Sunday night.
The next three weeks against divisional opponents provide San Diego every opportunity to seize control of their destiny in 2009.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)
A press-conference tongue-lashing by head coach Jack Del Rio two weeks ago appears to have worked. The Jags officially have me confused as to what their identity is this season.
19. Arizona Cardinals (1-2)
Hopefully, the bye week provided some respite for a team who needs to turn it around this week to get back on the right track towards the playoffs.
20. Washington Redskins (2-2)
There are not too many teams out there that are harder to watch than the Redskins. They’ve played three of the worst teams in the league in Tampa, Detroit, and St. Louis and, unfortunately, they’ve looked like they belong among that group.
21. Houston Texans (2-2)
The offense appears to be clicking again in Houston but they need to prove they can stop teams when it counts—and, no, the Raiders don’t count…
22. Seattle Seahawks (1-3)
At some point, injuries cannot be an excuse. The Seahawks lone win was against the basement-dwelling Rams in Week One, and they have looked like a bad team since.
23. Miami Dolphins (1-3)
Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams ran wild in Chad Henne’s first start (and win) against the Bills. Expect to see a lot more of that game plan over the brutal next month of opponents (NE, NO, and NYJ twice).
24. Tennessee Titans (0-4)
Perhaps they should be lower on this list but this ranking isn’t exactly a vote of confidence, either. It’s panic time in Nashville.
25. Buffalo Bills (1-3)
There appears to be just as many people jumping off the Trent Edwards bandwagon as there was jumping on it in preseason. Playing the Browns at home should help turn things around this week.
26. Detroit Lions (1-3)
The Dolphins turnaround last year was the exception, not the rule. This is about progress not a massive turnaround in one year, so don’t expect them to upset the Steelers this Sunday.
27. Oakland Raiders (1-3)
Head coach Tom Cable is under criminal investigation for assaulting one of his assistant coaches in the preseason. On the field? JaMarcus Russell completes less than 40 percent of his passes so it will probably get a bit uglier.
28. Carolina Panthers (0-3)
The offense needs to stop putting the defense in terrible positions in Carolina by turning the ball over. I don’t think they are actually this bad.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (0-4)
Playing the Ravens, Eagles, and Giants in the first month is not a way any team would want to start out, but there is very little sign of improvement in KC. They are near the bottom of the league in almost every major statistical category on both offense and defense.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4)
New QB, same old lack of offense. Their schedule does not line up very nicely for them the rest of the way so buckle your seat belts in Tampa, this ride could get bumpy.
31. Cleveland Browns (0-4)
Derek Anderson has breathed some life into the lifeless Browns offense and will start under center for now. Their porous defense, however, will keep them from winning most games this season.
32. St. Louis Rams (0-4)
The Rams were shut out again leaving their season points scored total at 24 through four games. Scoring six points per game will not win you many, if any, games in the NFL.