One would think that you could not ask for a better game than matching up the top two teams in the power rankings. Only, a blowout left us…unfulfilled.
Tom Brady had Patriots fans thinking of the glorious days of yesteryear (it was 2007, relax), Favre-mania is running wild in Minny, and the QB passing numbers across the entire league had fantasy geeks awkwardly high-fiving each other on Monday morning at the water cooler.
Here we go from the NEW No. 1 New Orleans Saints all the way to ol’ reliable Rams at No. 32…
1. New Orleans Saints (5-0) —The marquee matchup was ALL New Orleans as Drew Brees & Co. played nearly flawless offensive football and torched the Giants for 48 points. The Saints topped the 40-point mark for the third time this season and did it this time against the league’s previously top-ranked defense. They have officially earned this No. 1 ranking on the field.
2. Indianapolis Colts (5-0) —The Colts bring their well-rested and increasingly healthy team to St. Louis after the bye week, which almost seems unfair.
3. Minnesota Vikings (6-0) —Another fantastic finish in Minnesota as the Vikings and Ravens combined for 34 fourth-quarter points. While the Vikes defense does not seem as dominant as they were a year ago, the Adrian Peterson-Brett Favre combo is providing a well-balanced punch that can put away any team in the league. Next up: They go to Pittsburgh for another stern test of their undefeated record.
4. Denver Broncos (6-0) —The Broncos defense came up with five sacks and held San Diego to just 2-of-11 on third downs; they continue to impress the entire NFL-watching nation. Oh, by the way, Eddie Royal returned a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown, only the 11th player to do so in league history.
5. New York Giants (5-1) —When it rains, it pours. The Giants No. 1 pass defense looked anything but that on Sunday against the Saints as they allowed four touchdowns and 369 yards through the air. This is still a team that will be fighting for home-field advantage at season’s end, but they lost some leverage after this past week’s performance against New Orleans.
6. New England Patriots (4-2) —A little film study and an 0-5 opponent can go a long way to boosting a team’s confidence. Skewering that team for team records of 59 points, 651 yards, and five passing TDs in one quarter is like a Tony Robbins infomercial boost…in the snow.
7. Atlanta Falcons (4-1) —While Matt Ryan and the rest of the offense took advantage of their scoring opportunities, the real story for Atlanta was their defense, which created two Chicago turnovers in the red zone. The Falcons travel to Dallas needing every win they can get to keep pace with divisional rival and top-ranked New Orleans.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) —Their inability to run the ball effectively led to their second loss of the year as Houston also tore their defense apart all day. The loss of DE Antwan Odom is a big one for the Bengals, who will need to rally quickly as they take on a desperate Bears team this Sunday.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) —Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to over 500 yards of offense as they beat the Browns for the 12th consecutive time. Three lost fumbles prevented a blowout and showed signs that Pittsburgh is still having trouble putting teams away, but Troy Polamalu’s return from injury will be a big key for their success moving forward in 2009.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) —The Eagles were able to pick up 4.8 yards per carry on the ground, yet called only 14 rushing plays on the afternoon in Oakland. The one-dimensional offense provided the Raiders the opportunities for six sacks and led to QB Donovan McNabb having an inaccurate day under center (22-for-46). I would guess the Redskins are in for a heavy dose of an Eagles bounce-back win on Monday night.
11. Baltimore Ravens (3-3) —Heartbreak city again for the Ravens as kicker Steven Hauschka missed a 44-yard field goal with no time left. This was their third consecutive last minute loss, so they will use this bye week to get past the frustration and figure out how to slow down opposing offenses; they rank 22nd in the league in pass defense.
12. Arizona Cardinals (3-2) —Kurt Warner had a very efficient day as he passed the 30,000-yard mark for his career and put Arizona back on track as they head to New York to take on the Giants. The Cardinals pass defense, which ranked dead last before Sunday, held Seattle to just 112 yards through the air and 128 total—great sign for them moving forward this season.
13. San Francisco 49ers (3-2) —The Niners probably spent most of their bye week erasing the 45-10 shellacking from Atlanta out of their memories. They get RB Frank Gore back and will head to Houston to try to slow down their offensive attack.
14. Green Bay Packers (3-2) —It may be difficult to find negatives in a 26-0 win, but I am up for the challenge. The Packers have allowed a league-high 25 sacks and committed 13 penalties for 130 yards against the Lions. They were a favorite amongst many to be the dark horse this season, but look every bit the also-ran at this stage of the season.
15. Chicago Bears (3-2) —The Bears may be shaking their heads over this one for awhile, losing by seven points after coming up empty in the red zone three times. They will need to regroup quickly as the Bengals are up next. The 27th-ranked rushing attack needs a boost as well…
16. Dallas Cowboys (3-2) —The Cowboys have managed to make every game seem tough, but their opponent coming off the bye week, the Atlanta Falcons, will likely prove to be more than just a worthy adversary this week.
17. New York Jets (3-3) —For all the people who bought tickets to the Mark Sanchez bandwagon, they are non-refundable…five interceptions by the rookie killed a 300-yard rushing performance by Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. This was an inexcusable loss for the Jets, who have now dropped three straight and look every bit a .500 team.
18. Houston Texans (3-3) —The Texans are arguably the hardest team in the league to figure out, but their offense seems to be very straightforward right now. Matt Schaub threw for nearly 400 yards and four TDs in a key victory over the Bengals. They stuffed the run and dominated the clock with over 36 minutes of possession, providing them with great momentum as they take on the Niners this Sunday.
19. San Diego Chargers (2-3) —After this week’s loss to the undefeated Broncos, the division crown already looks lost, but there are plenty of games left and an immediate turnaround is necessary. The transformation needs to begin on defense, where they are near the bottom of the league in points allowed.
20. Seattle Seahawks (2-3) —Seattle’s offense looked inept just a week after posting 34 points on offense. They held the ball for only 17 minutes and roll into their bye week a very up-and-down team.
21. Miami Dolphins (2-3) —After the way the Saints looked on Sunday, the Dolphins should be happy to have had two weeks to prepare for them. They may need every last minute.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) —The squeaky wheel got the grease as Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 133 yards and three TDs against the lowly Rams. MJD said last week that he was upset with his “decoy” role, yet manned up and helped earn a victory for the Jags despite three crucial turnovers that forced this contest to overtime.
23. Carolina Panthers (2-3) —The Panthers got back to their strong suit by rushing for 267 yards in a victory over Tampa Bay. Despite continually shaky play by QB Jake Delhomme, their ability to pound opponents on the ground will win them some games going forward and this is not a team that should be counted out yet.
24. Washington Redskins (2-4) —The ‘Skins have yet to play a team that has a win entering the game in which they face off. Head coach Jim Zorn’s days are clearly numbered as he was relieved of his play-calling duties by the team’s management and QB Jason Campbell was benched. Maybe Sherm Lewis can get things on the right track…I’m not buying that either, but I had to try.
25. Buffalo Bills (2-4) —It doesn’t matter how you win, just if you win. Trent Edwards was added to the long list of injured Bills players and K Rian Lindell made up for his miss in regulation by nailing a 47-yarder in OT to win it. The Bills will have a long road to climb in the AFC East, but they can get some momentum going by taking out Carolina this Sunday.
26. Oakland Raiders (2-4) —The Raiders played their most complete game of the season and earned a shocking win over the Eagles. Oakland controlled to clock and put Philly in a position to throw the ball downfield, amazing considering they ranked 30th against the run going into the game. They host the Jets this weekend in what should be a very ugly contest.
27. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) —This one was not pretty, but the Chiefs toughed it out by controlling the ball for over 37 minutes. They have been embroiled in close battles all season and will be in for a brawl this Sunday versus the Chargers.
28. Detroit Lions (1-5) —It’s a good thing the Lions grabbed that win when they had the chance a few weeks ago because they have been awful since. They managed only 149 yards of offense total and have run their winless streak in Green Bay to 19 games.
29. Cleveland Browns (1-5) —Less than 200 yards of offense and four turnovers led to a 12th consecutive loss to the Steelers. They rank 31st in the NFL in total offense and will probably not climb much further than that if this QB play continues.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6) —The Bucs are off to their first 0-6 start since 1985 and are in the midst of a 10-game losing streak. Five fumbles, four sacks allowed, and two turnovers really do not point to any signs of improvement on offense. This week, they get to take their show on the road to London, where the Pats will likely put on an offensive clinic for our international fans.
31. Tennessee Titans (0-6) —The wheels fell off the wagon a few weeks back, but who would have thought it would come to this? The 59-0 shutout at the hands of the Pats was the largest point margin in an NFL contest since 1976 and shockingly has the league’s longest tenured head coach, Jeff Fisher, on the hot seat.
32. St. Louis Rams (0-5) —It will be no consolation to Rams Nation (is there one?) that their 16th straight defeat was a hard-fought one that went into overtime. Yielding 500 yards of offense and scoring only one offensive touchdown is simply nowhere near getting it done on the field. Lastly, playing the Colts coming off a bye week is about as bad a way to try to build momentum as there could be in the NFL…good luck, Rams.