Five weeks into the NFL season, the true contenders are finally starting to emerge over the deceiving early-season pretenders.
Wait...no they aren't.
The 2010 NFL season has been a completely unpredictable jumbled mass of insanity out of which nobody can really legitimately choose a clear-cut favorite.
In light of the utter chaos that has ensued in pro football through the first handful of weeks, we're going to try doing things a bit differently with the weekly power rankings.
Instead of simply listing them in order from 1-32, we're going to go from the bottom to (what we can try to perceive as) the top in an attempt to sift through pretenders and discover who, really, are the contenders in this year's NFL.
Make sense? No? Oh, well.
In the Toilet
32. Buffalo Bills (0-5, Last Week: 32)
Week 6: BYE
The Bills are 0-5 for the first time since 1985, and have been outscored 146-77 over the course of their last four games.
The defense allowed at least 200 yards rushing for the third consecutive game against Jacksonville Sunday.
31. Carolina Panthers (0-5, Last Week: 31)
Week 6: BYE
Q: Which team, despite allowing 29 yards passing and intercepting four passes, still managed to lose in lopsided fashion Sunday?
A: The Panthers, who seem to be awful in just about every phase of the game these days.
Teetering Perilously on the Edge of the Toilet Seat
30. San Francisco 49ers (0-5, Last Week: 30)
Week 6: vs. OAK
The preseason NFC West favorite 49ers being 0-5?
Or the NFC West being so un-trustworthy that an 0-5 team can't even be considered completely out of the race at this point?
Improved Over '09, But Not Quite There Yet
29. Cleveland Browns (1-4, Last Week: 29)
Week 6: at PIT
Down goes Seneca Wallace. Down goes Jake Delhomme...again.
It's looking like former Texas QB Colt McCoy will get the first start of his career Sunday against the Steelers.
Good luck, Colt.
28. Seattle Seahawks (2-2, Last Week: 26)
Week 6: at CHI
Considering Seattle's "one good game, one bad game" pace thus far, they're scheduled to play well against the Bears coming off of the bye week.
27. St. Louis Rams (2-3, Last Week: 23)
Week 6: vs. SD
After taking several steps forward in each of their previous two games, Sam Bradford and Co. were absolutely crushed in Detroit.
Top receiver Mark Clayton missing the rest of the season with a knee injury is a major hit to the Rams' playoff hopes.
Yes. Playoff hopes. For the Rams. Thanks, NFC West.
26. Oakland Raiders (2-3, Last Week: 25)
Week 6: at SF
Despite a mini-comeback game from Jason Campbell, head coach Tom Cable has indicated that Bruce Gradkowski will remain the starter if his shoulder is healthy enough.
The Raiders also blocked two punts in the first quarter of Sunday's win over the Chargers. Two.
25. Detroit Lions (1-4, Last Week: 28)
Week 6: at NYG
Detroit, despite the 1-4 record, is undoubtedly one of the most improved teams in the league.
Veteran Shaun Hill has been doing an incredible job in the stead of the injured Matthew Stafford, having thrown for 335, 237, 331, and 227 yards in each of the last four games, respectfully.
Aren't You Supposed to be Playoff Teams?
24. Cincinnati Bengals (2-3, Last Week: 22)
Week 6: BYE
After appearing to find a rhythm in the loss to the Browns last week, Carson Palmer reverted back to his randomly crappy ways in the loss to the Buccaneers, throwing.
Until this team gets some better play from their former star quarterback, Cincy's hopes of repeating as champions of the AFC North are toast.
23. Dallas Cowboys (1-3, Last Week: 12)
Week 6: at MIN
Despite racking up huge yardage against the Titans on offense, the Cowboys, yet again, were unable to regularly find the end zone, on their way to a 34-27 loss at home.
I know this team has tons of talent, but dumb football isn't going to get you anywhere.
Do you hear me, Marc Colombo?
22. Minnesota Vikings (1-3, Last Week: 13)
Week 6: vs. DAL
After a dormant first half, Brett Favre and the Vikings were nearly able to storm their way back to upset the Jets in the rainy Meadowlands Monday night.
While I still think they're the best team in the NFC North, they have a long way to go before they can prove me right.
21. San Diego Chargers (2-3, Last Week: 11)
Week 6: at STL
Talk about inconsistent.
After losing in week three to the Seahawks, the Chargers dominated the Cardinals in week four.
Now, how will they respond after losing in embarrassing fashion to the Raiders?
Who Are You?
20. Arizona Cardinals (3-2, Last Week: 27)
Week 6: BYE
Regardless of numbers, undrafted rookie quarterback Max Hall was a huge shot in the arm for Arizona in their upset win over the defending-champion Saints.
They'll face the Seahawks when they come out of the bye in week seven. Is it possible for this team, after looking so lowly through the first four weeks, to run away with their division?
Do I think they're better than the Bengals, Cowboys, Vikings, or Chargers?
No, their record is what it is.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2, Last Week: 24)
Week 6: vs. TEN
I know they played the Bills, but the Jags showed some resiliency in coming back from an early 10-0 deficit to win easily Sunday on the road.
While I still don't believe in them long-term this season, it seems like this team is able to get out to a surprisingly good start every season.
18. Miami Dolphins (2-2, Last Week: 19)
Week 6: at GB
The 'Fins have dropped two straight home games to divisional opponents, and, following an impressive 2-0 start, appear as though they might be looking up at the Jets and Patriots all season long.
However, with the unpredictability that has gone on so far this season, this team will go on and finish 14-2, for all I know.
17. Denver Broncos (2-3, Last Week: 17)
Week 6: vs. NYJ
It doesn't get more random than Brandon Lloyd.
An afterthought coming into the season, Lloyd has 30 catches for 589 yards and three touchdowns through five games, including three-straight 100-yard performances.
Jekyll and Hyde
16. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2, Last Week: 16)
Week 6: vs. ATL
Despite Kevin Kolb playing pretty well in the win over San Francisco, I still feel as though this team's chances this season lie with Michael Vick.
If Vick comes back soon and can play at or near the level at which he played before his injury, this team is incredibly dangerous.
15. Washington Redskins (3-2, Last Week: 20)
Week 6: vs. IND
This team lost to the Texans and Rams, but has now beaten the Cowboys, Eagles and Packers.
14. Houston Texans (3-2, Last Week: 7)
Week 6: vs. KC
The Texans have looked incredibly strong against the Colts, Redskins and Raiders.
They were also completely dismantled at home by the Cowboys and Giants.
Which Texans team will show up this weekend against the much-improved Chiefs?
13. Tennessee Titans (3-2, Last Week: 18)
Week 6: at JAX
It's tough for me to buy the Titans, because I think they're rolling with the worst everyday starting quarterback in the National Football League.
Be that as it may, with the way they can play defense and run the ball with Chris Johnson, they're a team that must be taken seriously.
12. Chicago Bears (4-1, Last Week: 15)
Week 6: vs. SEA
Todd Collins channeled his inner 2009 Jay Cutler against Carolina, but, despite his four interceptions and 32 yards passing before being yanked in favor of Caleb Hanie, the Bears managed to defeat the Panthers easily.
Speaking of Jekyll and Hyde, there may be no player in the league that more accurately falls under that category than Matt Forte.
11. New York Giants (3-2, Last Week: 14)
Week 6: vs. DET
Following two straight embarrassments at the hands of the Colts and Titans, the Giants have gone on to completely dominate the Bears and Texans.
I know the best game of his career (12 catches, 130 yards, two touchdowns) came against an incredibly weak Houston secondary, but Hakeem Nicks is looking like an absolute star-in-the-making.
Not Primed for a Repeat
10. New Orleans Saints (3-2, Last Week: 4)
Week 6: at TB
I thought a great matchup with the weak Cardinals was just what the defending champs needed in order to regain their championship form.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Right now, this looks like a completely average football team.
OK, We Get It, You're Actually Pretty Good
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1, Last Week: 21)
Week 6: vs. NO
Tampa was able to come back in the final two minutes to beat the Bengals Sunday in Cincinnati (Thanks, Carson Palmer!).
Despite the doubters, Josh Freeman looks like a player.
Freeman is a Ben Roethlisberger-type player with decent elusiveness and a big arm that can flat-out make plays when he has to.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (3-1, Last Week: 10)
Week 6: at HOU
Matt Cassel has struggled mightily so far, but it doesn't help when your receivers (Yes, you, Dwayne Bowe) drop what should be easy touchdown passes.
Like Tennessee, Kansas City's formula of defense plus a solid running game makes them formidable in their division.
Doomed by the Injury Bug
7. Green Bay Packers (3-2, Last Week: 5)
Week 6: vs. MIA
Every year, it seems as though a legitimate Super Bowl contender is completely derailed due to an array of devastating injuries. Last season, it was the Steelers.
This season, the Packers have already lost Ryan Grant, Morgan Burnett, and Nick Barnett for the season.
Now, it looks as though Aaron Rodgers may miss time with the concussion he suffered in overtime against the Redskins, and Jermichael Finley is going to miss several weeks with a knee injury.
Clay Matthews is listed as "questionable" for this week, and Ryan Pickett, Derrick Martin, and Donald Lee are all expected to be out.
They're in trouble.
You're Contenders, but You've Looked a Bit Shaky
6. Indianapolis Colts (3-2, Last Week: 8)
Week 6: at WAS
Indy rebounded from a disappointing loss at Jacksonville to take down the previously-unbeaten Chiefs, but it sure wasn't easy.
Mike Hart, filling in for the injured Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, scored the only touchdown of the 19-9 win; an 11-yard scamper to put the game out of reach.
5. New England Patriots (3-1, Last Week: 6)
Week 6: vs. BAL
Bill Belichick and co. will have had two weeks to prepare for Sunday's showdown at home against the Ravens, and you can bet that they'll be ready.
It'll be interesting to see how the young defense and special teams units perform after their Herculean effort last Monday night against the Dolphins.
What Are You Doing Here?
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-1, Last Week: 9)
Week 6: at PHI
It hasn't necessarily been pretty, but Atlanta is 4-1 and alone in first place in the NFC South.
If Michael Turner can finally get it going and somehow find a way to regain his 2008 form, this team could be the best team in the wild NFC.
The Real Deal?
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1, Last Week: 2)
Week 6: vs. CLE
Pittsburgh was incredibly impressive during the absence of Ben Roethlisberger, and I think they'll be able to assert themselves as the best team in the league once he finally returns this week against the Browns.
2. New York Jets (4-1, Last Week: 1)
Week 6: at DEN
The Jets were able to fend off the Vikings' second-half surge Monday night, and we're still waiting for Mark Sanchez to commit his first turnover of the young season.
This guy is growing up right before our eyes, and, once he's able to develop a legitimate rhythm with the recently-returned Santonio Holmes, things can only get better.
1. Baltimore Ravens (4-1, Last Week: 3)
Week 6: at NE
I may ultimately have more faith in the Steelers and Jets as the season progresses, but Baltimore's early season track record has been too good to ignore.
They've already beaten each of those aforementioned two teams thus far, but a win in New England over a hungry, new-look Patriots team on Sunday might be the most impressive win of all.
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