We have whittled our way down to two teams (Colts, Saints) on top of the mountain and they both appear to be poised to remain there for quite some time.
The Ravens sent a message that they are not to be forgotten about and the Cowboys followed suit.
The Rams scratched and clawed their way out of the cellar and we have a new team blazing its way toward a dubious distinction despite a week off. Here we go, from No. 1 to No. 32…
- New Orleans Saints (7-0)— Just another day at the office for Drew Brees, who threw for 300 yards and two scores. You know they are playing at a high level when the offense picks up 437 yards and 28 points and you come away not as impressed as usual. The defense was the difference-maker again, picking off Atlanta QB Matt Ryan three times.
- Indianapolis Colts (7-0) —Good teams win ugly, so the saying goes. Indy struggled at times and QB Peyton Manning failed to throw a TD pass despite racking up 347 yards through the air. But, they were able to control the clock enough to keep Niners’ RB Frank Gore in check most of the day and will face the Texans is a big divisional matchup this week that could be a shootout.
- Minnesota Vikings (7-1)— Favre’s big return to Lambeau was a success for him and left Packers fans feeling betrayed. With the Vikings off to their best start since 2000, they have hit the halfway point of their season and bye week feeling great.
- Denver Broncos (6-1)— The Broncos finally fell from the ranks of the unbeaten and decidedly so. The Ravens controlled the action all day allowing Denver to enter the red zone just one time on the day. This week, they host Pittsburgh in another key AFC contest.
- New England Patriots (5-2)— The Pats have crept into the Top 5 during their week off which is probably where they have belonged all along as they are an elite team. This week’s tilt against the Dolphins will set the tone for them and the AFC East for the remainder of the season.
- Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)— The Bengals’ bye week appears to have been well-timed as they host Baltimore in a huge AFC North matchup. They will be out to prove that the first half of 2009 was no fluke.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2)— Monday Night Football gets another great game as the Steelers travel to Mile High to take on the now once-defeated Broncos. The Steelers are another team that received a well-timed bye, we’ll see if they can take advantage of it.
- Philadelphia Eagles (5-2)— The sheer 40-17 domination of their bitterest rival was enough to make Eagles fans happy for a long time. Hitting three huge plays of over 40 yards for touchdowns got the Eagles’ swagger back in a big way and they will need to show it again on a national stage this Sunday night vs. Dallas.
- New York Giants (5-3)— The Giants are finding ways to plummet down this list every week. Between their inability to attack opposing defenses without turning it over and their linebacking corps getting torched a few weeks in a row (180 yards rushing for the Eagles this week), they look like a team in desperate need of a bye. Unfortunately, they need to play the Chargers before their week of rest.
- Baltimore Ravens (4-3) —The Ravens got back on track after a three-game skid by playing their game. They ran the ball well (125 yards), threw the ball efficiently (20 of 25), and held Denver to only 200 yards of offense. Up next is Cincinnati in a game where the Ravens will seek payback for a loss earlier this season.
- Dallas Cowboys (5-2)— The Cowboys played well in all three facets of the game which paced them to an easy 38-17 victory over Seattle. It was a necessary win as they head to Philly this week for a first-place battle in the NFC East.
- Atlanta Falcons (4-3)— The Monday night game in New Orleans had to be a wakeup call for the Falcons. They will need to be much better than they were to compete with the Saints in that division because giving up over 400 yards and throwing three interceptions is not something that will win you many games.
- Houston Texans (5-3)— Kudos to Houston who, at 5-3, is two games above .500 for the first time in franchise history. RB Ryan Moats filled in nicely for the benched Steve Slaton and the Texans’ defense held the Bills to only 207 yards of offense. Indianapolis will prove to be a much stiffer test and it will put the league on notice if an upset occurs.
- San Diego Chargers (4-3)— The Chargers won their 13th consecutive game against the Raiders and did so by outgaining them 346-180. It was not a win that would earn them any style points but is just what they needed as they travel to NY to face the slumping Giants.
- Arizona Cardinals (4-3)— Kurt Warner was forced into six turnovers in a brutal loss to Carolina on Sunday. His struggles are front and center as the Cardinals have failed to gain any momentum this season. Next up: a trip to Soldier Field to face the Bears.
- Green Bay Packers (4-3)— The Packers are going to need to find a way to protect QB Aaron Rodgers or he won’t be around to finish the season suffering a league-high 31 sacks. Heading to Tampa this week should be a nice way to land safely and get back on track.
- Chicago Bears (4-3)— Matt Forte paced the Bears with two rushing touchdowns as they controlled the clock for over 37 minutes versus the lowly Browns. They will try to keep things moving forward when they take on the Cardinals this Sunday.
- San Francisco 49ers (3-4)— The Niners suffered yet another tough close defeat, this time courtesy of the Colts. Their inability to convert on third down (2 of 10) coupled with two turnovers kept them from holding their 14-6 halftime lead. Tennessee comes to San Fran this weekend trying to make it two in a row, not something the Niners can afford to let happen.
- Miami Dolphins (3-4)— The Dolphins scored 21 third-quarter points without the benefit of having their offense on the field and outlasted the Jets 30-25. Ted Ginn's return heroics were a huge boost for a Miami team looking to get back to the .500 mark. Their trip to New England this weekend will likely set the agenda for the AFC East for the remainder of the season.
- New York Jets (4-4)— Giving up two 100-yard plus touchdowns on kickoff returns is no way to win a football game as the Jets proved against Miami. They head into their bye week looking every bit the up-and-down team their record suggests.
- Buffalo Bills (3-5)— The Bills held the ball for only 20 minutes and simply could not sustain any drives going 2-for-10 on 3rd-down conversions. Buffalo heads into their bye week with a ton of question marks but will be getting Trent Edwards back after the hiatus. Coach Dick Jauron and his young QB will both be on the hot seat in the second half.
- Carolina Panthers (3-4)— The Panthers ran the ball for 270 yards and took advantage of six Cardinals' turnovers in their 34-21 win. They will look to establish the run yet again and get to .500 with a very big test at New Orleans.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4) —Giving up 305 yards rushing and holding the ball for 20 minutes make it very difficult to win in the NFL. The Jags were gashed by the Titans and will look to rebound against the well-rested Chiefs this week.
- Seattle Seahawks (2-5)— Seattle made it look easy for Dallas and with injuries that have piled up; they need to turn it around quick before the season is completely lost. Facing the Lions this week should help but a loss here will effectively end their season.
- Washington Redskins (2-5)— The Redskins have created enough drama amongst their coaching staff and front office to last several seasons and we’re not even at their halfway point yet. Head coach Jim Zorn has his work cut out for him against the Falcons in Atlanta this week.
- Oakland Raiders (2-6)— Another week, another struggle. The Raiders had a difficult time moving the ball against the Chargers and continue to look for answers on the offensive side of the ball as they head into bye week. Hint: JaMarcus Russell is not it.
- Tennessee Titans (1-6)— The insertion of QB Vince Young into the lineup appeared to be just what the doctor ordered as the Titans exploded for 30 points. RB Chris Johnson paced Tennessee with a franchise-record 228 yards rushing as they held the ball for nearly 40 minutes. They head to San Fran to battle a tough Niners team this Sunday.
- Kansas City Chiefs (1-6)— I would imagine that anytime you’re 1-6, an off week is a good thing. But, it’s back to business against the Jaguars this Sunday.
- St. Louis Rams (1-7) —No one wants to see another team go 0-16 so good for the Rams for digging out of last place of the rankings. Steven Jackson was the big factor in their first win after 17 straight losses by ripping off 149 rushing yards and a score. Consider this a bye week well-deserved for St. Louis.
- Detroit Lions (1-6)— That single win is starting to seem like a distant memory. One can appreciate QB Matt Stafford playing hurt but he will have to be better for them to have a chance at the end of games. They go to Seattle this week to try and steal win No. 2.
- Cleveland Browns (1-7)— QBs Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn both saw time in a 30-6 debacle of a loss to the Bears. Five turnovers, less than 200 yards of offense, and a listless defense led to more controversy and the firing of their GM George Kokinis. The downward spiral may very well continue but the bye week gives the organization and their fans a one week respite.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7)— Hopefully, some of the Bucs players were able to take advantage of their off week and stayed in London because the vacation is over—and the reality that awaits them is ugly. Maybe their throwback jerseys can shake things up against the Pack this Sunday. Then again, it could remind us of the good old days.
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