The 2010 NFL Season has been a model season for parity in professional sports. The Chicago Bears, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs all hold at least a share of the lead in their divisions through 11 weeks of the season. That's right, those Oakland Raiders are in first place in the AFC West and would be hosting New England if the playoffs started today.
Meanwhile, enough of the traditional powerhouses and big names are still in the running to keep ratings at an all-time high. For instance, in the AFC the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers all appear to be playoff bound.
The real winners this season have been the fans, as the number of cupcake games on the schedule has been drastically reduced, and the level of competition week in and week out is the best it has ever been. The losers have been those of us trying to make predictions and establish some sort of order in a year that has twenty teams still in the running after 10 weeks of the season.
The Texans are a contender in spirit and talent but certainly not in recent play. They have dropped three consecutive contests including two divisional games. They find themselves last in their division and two games back of the first place Indianapolis Colts.
Things are only going to get worse for the Texans with the schedule reading Jets, Titans, Eagles, Ravens, Titans, Broncos and, finally, the Jaguars to end the season. This murderer's row would be difficult enough as it is without already being in the basement of the division.
A non-factor in any other division, the Rams are lucky to be playing in the depleted NFC West. Literally, any of the four AFC West teams could take home the division crown, not that this will mean much when they're looking at whoever finishes second in the NFC East or NFC South in the wild card round.
The Rams are young and promising but have played one of the league's easiest schedules thus far. Look for games against the Falcons, Saints, 49ers and Seahawks to knock them off future lists of contenders.
This team has played a lot of quality competition and played some good football this season. With that said, if last night is any sign of things to come in Washington, then it is time to abandon ship. McNabb looked lost against the Eagles, and the defense was revealed in basically every manner possible.
This team has some potential but far too many holes to compete in the always difficult NFC East. The Redskins better get comfortable looking up at the Eagles and Giants in the standings this season.
The Chargers are somehow only one game back in the division after one of their worst starts in recent history. Luckily for the Chargers, they are coming off a bye week and still play in the AFC West. The West has been competitively mediocre this season, meaning that if the Chargers can regain their form, the rest of the division will knock each other out.
San Diego has two straight quality wins and is finally putting up results that match their statistical prowess. Look for the Chargers to begin climbing the rankings this weekend against Denver.
Jacksonville has been relying on it's superior rushing attack to stay in contention this season. Games against the anemic Cowboys and Bills may have inflated their record, but a victory against Indianapolis validates this team's talent.
Garrard has been one of the league's most efficient passers this season and has paired well with their run-first offense. The Jaguars were lucky to win against Houston last weekend and will need a substantial amount of that same luck to knock off the Colts for the division title this year.
The Chiefs started the season on a tear but have since faded in divisional play. Last weekends beating against Denver won't help raise spirits in the locker room. The Chiefs still lead the league in rushing yards per game, but they need more production out of Matt Cassel to fend off the Raiders and Chargers in the division.
The Chiefs have two winnable games against Arizona and Seattle on the horizon before a five-game stretch to end the season that includes one game against each of their divisional foes. If nothing else. the Chiefs and the rest of the AFC West will provide entertaining football down the stretch.
So far this season, the NFC West has left many football fans wondering if there is any way to revoke a division's automatic playoff spot. The Seahawks sit atop the division after compiling five victories, three of which came against equally terrible divisional opponents, and four losses by an average of 24.5 points.
Even their best statistical rankings are mediocre at best, but somebody has got to go to the playoffs from the NFC West.
The 2010 Raiders have been so confounding at times that not even Nostradamus would have been able to predict every outcome this season. The Raiders sit atop the AFC West as winners of their last three, and still, nobody is sure what to make of them.
The Raiders are rushing well and not allowing many yards through the air, but they cannot pass or stop the run. Their record has been aided by running the difficult gauntlet that is AFC West divisional games and non conference games against the NFC West.
Look for upcoming games against the Steelers, Dolphins, Chargers and Colts to reveal who these Raiders truly are.
The Bears may be the shakiest leader of a legitimate division this season. There is no doubt that the Bears are a talented club, but they have a few glaring weaknesses that seem to cripple them. Protecting Cutler and turning the ball over have been major issues that will likely be exposed as the games begin to take on more importance.
A wild card berth is possible but beating out the runner ups in the AFC South and AFC East will be no easy task for a team with the Eagles, Jets, Packers and Patriots left on the schedule.
Victories over the Vick-less Eagles, hapless Cowboys and a Week 1 Raiders do not exactly instill confidence in anybody evaluating this Titans team. Statistically, they are about average, which is reflected in their record.
With two games apiece left against division rivals Indianapolis and Houston, the Titans will need a miracle of sorts to compete in a loaded AFC playoff picture.
The Buccaneers have been one of the NFL's pleasant surprises this season as one of the league's youngest teams has found a way to compete through the first 10 weeks of the season. However, Tampa Bay has had one of the easiest roads thus far, having yet to win a game against a legitimate contender.
The Steelers and Saints have both dominated this young team, which isn't quite ready for playoff football yet but should be a force to be reckoned with in years to come.
The Defending Champions have followed a loss to the Browns with two consecutive wins going into the bye week. They are entering the soft spot in their schedule before finishing with three crucial games in a row against contenders.
The Saints have still yet to regain their Super Bowl form, and Drew Brees needs to limit his turnovers, but this team is a favorite to take home a wild card spot if they fall short of catching Atlanta in the division.
The Giants had won five consecutive ballgames before being absolutely befuddled by the normally lackluster Cowboys at home in Week 10. The loss hurts as it pulled the red hot Eagles into a tie with them for the division lead.
The Giants have been putting up big numbers all season long, but Michael Vick may just be the kryptonite to their blitz-happy pass defense. If the Giants cannot contain Vick, they could very easily lose both of their upcoming showdowns and struggle to capture a wild card spot.
Aside from their always dominant rush defense, this Steelers team has been mediocre in virtually every other phase of the game. While they have handled mediocre competition soundly in collecting their six wins, they have struggled mightily against talented opponents.
The Ravens, Saints and Patriots were all able to knock off the Steelers while Pittsburgh needed overtime against Atlanta and some help from inconclusive video evidence to outlast the Dolphins. This Steelers team could be among the league's most overrated, but a weak schedule will likely see them capture a wild card spot.
The Packers have battled a slew of injuries and yet are still tied for the division lead in the NFC North. They are coming off a bye week, which was preceded by a shellacking of Dallas and a statement game against the Jets. The Packers should be back in Super Bowl talks after beating Brett Favre again this Sunday.
The Packers have lost three games this season, two of them in overtime, by a total of nine points. Their point differential of plus 78 simply does not match up with their record. This team is on a mission to win this division and will start pulling away down the stretch now that they are healthier.
The Ravens have lost three games this season by a total of 13 points. They still possess one of the league's top defensive units, as well as, one of the league's most balanced offenses. The Ravens are one of the deepest teams in the league at the skill positions, and Joe Flacco has the help he needs to make a serious playoff run.
The Ravens still win games with their defense, and their well rounded team structure should carry them to a division title and a potential first round bye in the playoffs.
The Jets are one of the last three remaining two loss teams through the first 10 weeks of the season. They have played in some of the closest games this season, winning two consecutive games in overtime against weaker opponents.
While some people will trumpet that a win is a win and the Jets will take them however they come, they have been limited to one quality win this season, against New England, while playing too many bad teams close. Their running game is also on the decline as Tomlinson, again, seems to be showing his age.
The Jets no doubt have talent but are being propped up by a below average schedule difficulty. If the Jets keep playing down to their opponent, they might lose out on the division crown and the bye.
The Falcons have very quietly joined the class of the NFL this season. After injuries lead to a disappointing season last year, many people forgot about the promise Matt Ryan and Michael Turner had shown in Ryan's rookie campaign.
Both Turner and Ryan are back on track this season and with receiving threats likes Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White, the Falcons offense is a tough match up for anybody.
While the Falcons have been solid, their two losses have been to two of their best opponents, and they needed overtime to dispatch the Saints. The Falcons aren't quite ready to be number one but are definitely the favorite in the NFC South.
The Patriots have been one of the league's most interesting stories this season. After disposing of Randy Moss in a trade to Minnesota, the Patriots have seemingly reverted to the team-first mentality that brought them three Super Bowl victories at the beginning of the Century.
Brady is playing with a renewed sense of fire and different offensive weapons have stepped up almost every week to lead alongside him. Last weekend, it was Bruce Gronkowski and his three touchdown receptions that stole the show.
The Patriots' only real blemish came against the Browns who caught the Patriots in the midst of their worst off day in years. One oft forgotten storyline from that game is that Browns head coach Eric Mangini holds a special hatred in his heart for the New England Patriots. Chances are this was his Super Bowl and his team certainly played and prepared like it.
The Patriots must navigate one of the league's toughest schedules and this week's showdown with Peyton Manning will be a good barometer of the Patriots' defensive improvement.
The Philadelphia Eagles are the hottest team in the National Football League after Week 10. Following a Monday Night demolition of the division rival Redskins, the Eagles look to be unstoppable on the offensive side of the ball. Michael Vick has turned into the most dangerous player the NFL has seen in a long time, if not the most dangerous of all time.
Vick is running the ball with the same proficiency as he always had but has increased his accuracy tenfold. Vick has yet to throw an interception this season and has finally developed a commanding pocket presence that pairs perfectly with his ability to escape and make plays with his feet.
Still not convinced that a six win team is the best in the league, consider that Vick either missed, was knocked out of or was inserted late into all three of the Eagles' losses. When Michael Vick is healthy and starting, the Eagles do not lose football games and that's a pretty solid qualification for the league's best.