1. New Orleans Saints (8-0) Previous Rankings: 2, 2, 1 (Average Ranking: 1.5)
1. This isn't a one-dimensional team. They are seen as a passing juggernaut, but they score every other way as well. They have so many weapons on the ground and in the secondary.
2. Darren Sharper would be the defensive player of the year if voting were right now. It seems like every games he picks on off and ends up in the end zone.
3. No team can defend the Saints. If they guard the pass, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, and Mike Bell will run all over them. Most teams won't dare Drew Brees to beat them however, so Thomas, Bell, and Bush will all be putting up good numbers this season.
2. Indianapolis Colts (8-0) Previous Rankings: 7, 1, 2 (Average Ranking: 3)
1. Reggie Wayne is showing why he belongs in the conversation of the best receivers in the league. He was overshadowed by Marvin Harrison for year and now is tearing secondaries apart as Manning's top guy.
2. The Colts, like the Saints, can win in offensive or defensive battles. With Bob Sanders now really fully healthy, the Colts should be even tougher to beat. Scary.
3. No quarterback can make receivers like Peyton Manning can. This is the guy who made Brandon Stokley a 1,000 yard receiver. He's made Garcon and Collie look very good so far.
3. Minnesota Vikings (7-1) Previous Rankings: 8, 4, 4 (Average Ranking: 4.75)
1. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. As much as everybody hates him, everybody loves to see story unfold. If the Vikings win the Super Bowl, the Packers should never retire his number and strip him from the record books. He didn't have to come back with Minnesota; it was clearly a slap in Green Bay's face.
2. Percy Harvin is a big-play machine. Who says rookie wide receivers aren't big time difference makers?
3. Vishante Shainco is a touchdown machine. Favre loves him down in the red zone.
4. Denver Broncos (6-1) Previous Rankings: 13, 7, 3 (Average Ranking: 6.75)
1. Mike Nolan may have been a horrible head coach, but he's a terrific defensive coordinator. He's completely turned that defense around.
2. Knowshon Moreno looks like he'll be in Denver for a long time. He hasn't been spectacular, but he's going to be a workhorse back for many years to come.
3. Brandon Marshall is one of the best receivers in football. He might be a trouble maker off the field, but on the field, he is money.
5. New England Patriots (5-2) Previous Rankings: 12, 6, 5 (Average Ranking: 7.5)
1. The Pats' offense is in full force. Just imagine if they had some good running backs. They'd be unstoppable.
2. After a few weeks, there were rumblings that Randy Moss and Tom Brady were slowing down. Those rumblings have faded away now.
3. They are going to show no mercy on teams yet again. Didn't Belichick learn anything when Brady got hurt last year?
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) Previous Rankings: 9, 12, 8 (Average Ranking: 8.75)
1. Troy Polamalu is the biggest impact defensive player in football. When 100 percent he makes two or three game altering plays every week. EVERY week.
2. Big Ben is out to prove something this year. He's now definitely a top-five quarterback in the league (with Manning, Brady, Brees, and Rivers). He still makes some questionable decisions, but he's been the reason they've won a couple of games this year.
3. The offensive line is still horrible. Ben isn't going to get up without a scratch every time.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) Previous Rankings: 18, 15, 9 (Average Ranking: 12.25)
1. Cedric Benson and Chad "Johnson" Ochocinco. Can't say enough about their career revivals. Amazing.
2. The Bengals defense is scary for the first time in a while. They've had a few slip-ups but have a lot of talent.
3. Carson Palmer is slowly rising as far as elite quarterbacks go in the NFL. He's been great in the past few weeks. He threw more touchdowns than incompletions in his last outing.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (5-2 ) Previous Rankings: 16, 13, 13 (Average Ranking:12.5)
1. DeSean Jackson is the best big-play receiver/return man in the NFL. He has six touchdowns of 50 or more yards this season.
2. LeSean McCoy is a good contrast from Westbrook. A big bruiser compared to a a shifty, pass catching back.
3. The D is finally rounding into shape. Well, it's been fairly solid since the blowout against the Saints.
9. Baltimore Ravens (4-3) Previous Rankings: 1, 5, 11 (Average Ranking: 6.5)
1. The defense is back. They got things straight after their bye and totally shut down Denver,
2. There's a reason McGahee and McClain aren't getting the ball much. Ray Rice is the real deal.
3. Derrick Mason never gets the respect he deserves. Every year he plays every game and gets 1,000 yards. He so consistent.
10. Houston Texans (5-3) Previous Rankings: 15, 19, 18 (Average Ranking: 15.5)
1. Steve Slaton makes one or two big plays every game, he just needs to carry the ball a little bit better.
2. Brian Cushing has continued USC's tradition of great linebackers that have been drafted recently. He's made some big plays.
3. After get run all over in the first few weeks, the Texans have total shut down opposing runners. Nobody can run on them.
11. Dallas Cowboys (5-2) Previous Rankings: 14, 17, 20 (Average Ranking: 15.5)
1. Tony Romo is finally not making mistakes. That's the key for him. He's very good when he's not throwing picks.
2. Miles Austin has turned into a top 10 receiver all of a sudden. He's no fluke.
3. Where's Jason Witten? He hasn't had 100 yards in a single game yet. Once teams start paying attention to Mile Austin his numbers might see a rise.
12. San Diego Chargers (4-3) Previous Rankings: 10, 14, 15 (Average Ranking: 12.75)
1. The knock on Philip Rivers, for a while, was that he didn't throw a great deep ball. It may not be the prettiest, but Rivers might throw the most accurate deep ball in the NFL nowadays.
2. They need to get Sproles more touches. How can a guy as explosive as him get so few touches on offense. Especially when the other running back is barely averaging three yards per carry.
3. Vincent Jackson has been ignored long enough. He's a top-five receiver right NOW and for many years in the future.
13. Atlanta Falcons (4-3) Previous Rankings: 5, 10, 7 (Average Ranking: 8.75)
1. In 2008, Michael Turner finally woke up. He killed the Saints on Monday Night Football . Expect more good things from him.
2. They are very weak in the secondary now. That will be a big problem for their playoff hopes.
3. John Abraham needs to be more a factor. He hasn't been getting to the QB with as much regularity as usual. He's getting up there in age, but he will bounce back.
14. Green Bay Packers (4-3) Previous Rankings: 19, 16, 10 (Average Ranking: 14.25)
1. Aaron Rodgers won't make it through the year if he keeps getting the protection that he's had for the first seven games. When one player (Jared Allen) sacks the quarterback seven times in two games, that's a big, big problem.
2. Clay Matthews is another USC linebacker now dominating the NFL. He's going to be great.
3. Greg Jennings needs to show up. He's not getting a chance to get deep because of protection though. It all comes back to the defensive line.
15. Chicago Bears (4-3) Previous Rankings: 11, 11, 12 (Average Ranking: 12.25)
1. No team has faster receivers than Chicago. Johnny Knox and Devin Hester can flat out fly.
2. Da Bears' defense is not very good. Add Urlacher and it's different, but he's not there. Lance Briggs can only lead a team so far.
3. Matt Forte is finally showing signs of life. He still didn't average four per carry against a bad Browns defense. He remains great catching balls out of the backfield.
16. Arizona Cardinals (4-3) Previous Rankings: 17, 20, 16 (Average Ranking: 17.25)
1. The Cards' running game needs to improve if they want to win the division. The Panthers just totally disrespected their run game and focused on the pass and it worked. They need that to change.
2. Where'd did there revamped run D come from. The Panthers may have run all over them, but they can do that to anybody. The Cards have shut down some very good backs.
3. Adrian Wilson doens't get nearly as much recognition as he deserves. He is one of the best playmakers on defense in the NFL.
17. New York Giants (5-3) Previous Rankings: 3, 3, 6 (Average Ranking: 7.25)
1. By his play in the past few weeks, Eli is showing why he is third best QB in the 2004 draft class behind Rivers and Roethlisberger. He might have a ring, but he also has cost his team many, many games.
2. What happened to the defense? Maybe great coordinators make more of a difference than we think. Spagnulo hasn't done much in St. Louis, but he was obviously important to them.
3. Ahmad Bradshaw should be getting just as many carries as Jacobs. He might be hurt, but he's still running much better than Jacobs right now. He can explode for a touchdown at any moment.
18. San Francisco 49ers (3-4) Previous Rankings: 6, 9, 14 (Average Ranking: 11.75)
1. Vernon Davis is finally playing to his talent level. He's still a crazy fast and strong tight end, now he's finally part of the offensive game plan. The Niners just wish that they would have realized that Davis could play earlier.
2. Patrick Willis is the best middle backer in the game. Ray Lewis might still be able to fire his boys up and make some big plays, but Willis is just a monster.
3. Their offensive line is trouble. They've lost tackles in consecutive weeks.
19. Miami Dolphins (3-4) Previous Rankings: 27, 21, 17 (Average Ranking: 21)
1. Ricky Williams is back from the dead. What season he's had so far. He's been one of the top three backup running backs in the league right now.
2. Ted Ginn might be a crappy receiver, but man can he return kicks. Two in one quarter is insane.
3. Remember when the Dolphins' secondary was the best in the league. Those days are long over.
20. New York Jets (4-4) Previous Rankings: 4, 8, 19 (Average Ranking: 12.75)
1. Somebody needs to tell Thomas Jones that he's supposed to be getting worse at this point in his career. He's quietly been one of the most consistent back of the past five years.
2. The Braylon Edwards trade was huge for them They still have weak receiving corps with him, but he gives Sanchez a great red zone target.
3. Kris Jenkins is one of the most dominating defensive tackles in the NFL. His loss might be the most devastating injury for his team than any other players injury for their team.
21. Carolina Panthers (3-4) Previous Rankings: 22, 25, 21 (Average Ranking: 22.25)
1. The coaches need to realize that the way to win games with this team is to run, run, and run some more. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart=good. Jake Delhomme=bad.
2. It's impossible to see the logic behind John fox sticking with Jake Delhomme. He hasn't had one actually good game yet. He's had a few where he played alright, but hasn't played a "good" game yet. Delhomme is much more likely to blow a game than win it at this point in his career. It's not 2004 John.
3. After getting off to a slow start Julius Peppers is earning his million a game right now. It seems like every week he forces a fumble or gets to the QB at a crucial point in the game.
22. Buffalo Bills (3-5) Previous Rankings: 21, 26, 29 (Average Ranking: 24.5)
1. Fred Jackson needs to split carries more evenly with Marshawn Lynch. Lynch just doesn't bust big plays. Jackson does.
2. Dick Jauron and the coaching staff just need to realize that Trent Edwards stinks. He's not the QB of the future there. Before the concussion, he had tons of weapons, he just couldn't execute.
3. Terrell Owens must be hating it Buffalo right now. He finally caught a few balls last week, but he can't be liking the losing and cold right now. That's not how T.O. rolls. Another messy end is inevitable.
23. Seattle Seahawks (2-5) Previous Rankings: 23, 23, 22 (Average Ranking: 22.75)
1. T.J. Houshmandzadeh must be kicking himself. He could be in Cincy, catching just as many balls and winning twice as a many games. Instead he's in rainy Seattle, with an injury-prone QB and below average team.
2. Aaron Curry will be a star in the league. He won't be a James Harrison-type pass rusher, but his tackling ability is great.
3. Walter Jones not being there kills them. When healthy, he's easily one of the best tackles in the game. With Jones they might have won a few of the games that they've lost so far.
24. Tennessee Titans (1-6) Previous Rankings: 20, 22, 30 (Average Ranking: 24)
1. Jeff Fisher has somehow got a free pass and everybody just assumes he is a good coach. When was the last time a Fisher coached team won a playoff game?
2. Chris Johnson is going to be a star in the NFL for a long time. He blows by defenders like they are ghosts.
3. The Titans are the perfect example that proves that a good pass rush is the key to pass defense. Haynesworth's loss has really put them in a hole.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4) Previous Rankings: 26, 18, 23 (Average Ranking: 23)
1. For some reason they aren't giving Maurice Jones-Drew the ball. How does a guy who had 79 and 80 yard TD runs in the first quarter only get 8 carries? Horrible coaching.
2. Torry Holt is barely an average receiver anymore. He is now Gerrard's third option at wide receiver. Disappointing.
3. Jack Del Rio is supposed to be a defensive minded coach, yet his defense continues to stink like rotten broccoli. They need a coaching change.
26. Oakland Raiders (2-6) Previous Rankings: 24, 30, 24 (Average Ranking: 26)
1. No team is as inconsistent as the Raiders. It seems like for the past three or four seasons they always beat a team that they shouldn't and then lay an egg the next week. They've done it again this year.
2. Al Davis needs to get arrested instead of Tom Cable. What was he thinking when he traded a near future first rounder for one year of Richard Seymour? That was a while ago, but Davis really needs to go.
3. Michael Crabtree had more catches in his first game in week seven than Darrius Hayward-Bey had in the six weeks leading up to that week. Again, Al Davis horrible talent evaluation is on display once again.
27. Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) Previous Rankings: 29, 31, 25 (Average Ranking: 28)
1. It's a mystery why Larry Johnson is still there. He's been trouble for three straight years and they've kept him around. The question is, who is going to pick an over the hill, locker room cancer, big ego running back when the chiefs do let him go. LJ might have a hard time finding himself a gig.
2. Dwayne Bowe needs some help. Chris Chambers might help a little bit, but Bowe is the only dangerous guy on the KC offense.
3. Arrowhead does not carry a home field advantage anymore. Even Chiefs fans cannot name the last time they won in Arrowhead. It might also be because of the team playing in the stadium.
28. Washington Redskins (2-5) Previous Rankings: 25, 24, 26 (Average Ranking: 25.75)
1. It would be a huge loss for them if Chris Samuels career is over. He;s been there the whole decade and has been a staple on their team and on the NFC squad in Hawaii every February.
2. They don't have the worst quarterback situation in the league, but it's worthy of being top three. When Todd Collins is getting snaps, that's bad.
3. They've actually been solid on defense. They are just susceptible to the big play. That kills any team.
29. St. Louis Rams (1-7) Previous Rankings: 32, 32, 32 (Average Ranking: 31.25)
1. Steven Jackson is a man among boys. Despite getting in the end zone only once, he is near the top of the league in rushing yards. He's always going to get his 80 yards, no matter what.
2. Injuries+minimal talent are a bad combination. Unfortunately for St. Louis that is the predicament they are in.
3. Hard to believe Marc Bulger once seemed like a better long term option than Kurt Warner. Warner put up MVP type numbers last season, Bulger is all but finished.
30. Detroit Lions (1-6) Previous Rankings: 30, 27, 27 (Average Ranking: 28.5)
1. Just as the Clippers' draft picks are cursed in the NBA, the Lions picks are cursed in the NFL. Barry Sanders worked out, but the failings have been horrible. Not to say that Matthew Stafford won't eventually be a good quarterback, but missing two games in his rookie season isn't a good sign for the future.
2. Calvin Johnson needs to get healthy. They are worthless without him.
3. It must be horrible to go from Super Bowl team to the hopeless Lions. At least Larry Foote has the bling to console him at night.
31. Cleveland Browns (1-7) Previous Rankings: 31, 28, 28 (Average Ranking: 29.5)
1. Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn are a two-man wrecking crew. Usually on a football team, if wrecking crew is associated with a player then it is good. Not when the team that those players are wrecking is their won. Quinn and Anderson are as incompetent as it gets.
2. This was a bad defense without D'Qwell Jackson. Now, it's VERY, VERY bad.
3. They need to get James Harrison on the field more. In the action he's had, he's been much more effective than Jamal Lewis. It is inexplicable why the Browns continue to stick with Lewis as their hopeless season continues to progress.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7) Previous Rankings: 28, 29, 31 (Average Ranking: 30)
1. Raheem Morris has been a horrible disaster. What was their thinking? "Let's hire a coach with barely any NFL experience at any coaching level and put him in charge of a young, rebuilding team." Doesn't make a lot of sense.
2. This defense went from annually being one of the best D's around to being one of the worst, if not the worst. The way Monte Kiffin's defense is working at Tennessee, it's safe to say that he was one of the best defensive coordinators to never get a head coaching job. Ever.
3. Carnell Williams total revived his career. Many thought his career was over going into last season. Instead, he's now the Bucs starting back. Yes, he had some bad games, but he's been a solid back.
End of the Year, If I Had to Pick...
MVP: Peyton Manning
Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees
Defensive Player of the Year: Jered Allen
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Percy Harvin
Defensive Rookie of the Year: James Laurinaitis
Comeback Player of the Year: Tom Brady
Coach of the Year: Josh McDaniels
NFC Division winners (seedings in order): New Orleans, Minnesota, Arizona, Philadelphia
NFC Wild Cards: Atlanta, Chicago
AFC Division winners: Indianapolis, New England, Pittsburgh, Denver
AFC Wild Cards: Baltimore, San Diego
NFC Champion: Minnesota
AFC Champion: New England
Super Bowl Champion (MVP): New England (Brady)
Last Week: 9-4 (vs spread: 7-6)
(Game of the Week: 0-1, Upset of the Week: 1-0, Lock of the Week: 1-0)
Overall: 72-44 (vs. spread: 65-51)
(Game of the Week: 5-3, Upset of the Week: 2-4, Lock of the Week: 5-1)
*spread pick in parenthesis
Atlanta vs. Washington: Atlanta 27-14 (Atlanta -10.5)
Chicago vs. Arizona: Chicago 21-20 (Arizona +3.5)
Cincinnati vs. Baltimore: Baltimore 24-20 (Baltimore -2.5) (Game of the Week)
Indianapolis vs. Houston: Indianapolis 28-24 (Houston +9.5)
New England vs. Miami: New England 41-21 (New England -10.5)
Tampa Bay vs. Green Bay: Green Bay 34-10 (Green Bay -10.5) (Lock of the Week)
Jacksonville vs. Kansas City: Jacksonville 26-17 (Jacksonville -6.5)
Seattle vs. Detroit: Seattle 35-10 (Seattle -10.5)
New Orleans vs. Carolina: Carolina 34-31 (Carolina +14.5) (Upset of the Week)
New York vs. San Diego: San Diego 27- 24 (San Diego +4.5)
San Francisco vs. Tennessee: Tennessee 17-13 (Tennessee +4.5)
Philadelphia vs. Dallas: Philadelphia 27-21 (Philadelphia -3.5)
Pittsburgh vs. Denver: Pittsburgh 21-17 (Pittsburgh -3.5)
Game of the Week: Cincinnati vs. Baltimore
Upset of the Week: Carolina over New Orleans
Lock of the Week: Green Bay over Tampa Bay