The 2011 NFL regular season is one-quarter of the way completed. We now have a pretty good idea of which teams are contenders and which teams are pretenders.
While the teams' actual records to this point of the season might not mean a whole lot, they are a pretty good indicator of whether a team is strong or weak. The teams that have the best chances of winning the Super Bowl this year are in most cases at least 2-2.
The following takes a look at each team's likelihood of winning the championship this year, starting with the team that has the least chance and ending with the best.
32. Miami Dolphins (0-4): Who didn't see this coming? Neither head coach Tony Sparano or quarterback Chad Henne were given much of a chance this year. Henne may now be out for the rest of the season as well, leaving them with Matt Moore to run the team.
31. Indianapolis Colts (0-4): The Colts finally know now what it's like to be without their star quarterback, Peyton Manning. If there was ever one guy that held an entire team together, it would be Manning. The team has already gone through two quarterbacks this season with him on the sidelines just watching a putrid offense.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3): I wonder how Jacksonville feels now about letting David Garrard go. The Jaguars do have Maurice Jones-Drew, but he can't do everything alone, especially if their defense can't stop anybody.
29. Minnesota Vikings (0-4): Two years after nearly advancing to the Super Bowl, the Vikings now find themselves near the bottom of the pecking order. Donovan McNabb is a declining quarterback without many weapons to work with.
28. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3): The injuries the Chiefs have faced this season have a lot to do with why they haven't gotten much going. Their best offensive and defensive players (Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry) are lost for the season.
27. St. Louis Rams (0-4): The Rams had to enter the 2011 season with a lot of confidence that they could at least win the NFC West division. They came up just short in 2010, and Sam Bradford was supposed to get better. However, issues with the offensive line and injuries have really put all that talk to a halt.
26. Denver Broncos (1-3): The Broncos have a bad combination in that they are one of the worst defensive teams as well as one of the worst running teams. You are probably going to see Tim Tebow take the field shortly, as they are going nowhere in the short team and he is their future.
25. Seattle Seahawks (1-3): Seattle's 2011 stats aren't all that great, but Pete Carroll's club looked much better the last two weeks. You never know what can happen in the lackluster NFC West as well, and the Seahawks came from way back last year to win it. The return of Sidney Rice really gives this offense some life.
24. Arizona Cardinals (1-3): A loss to Seattle in Week 3 may prove to be a major blow to the Cardinals season. Kevin Kolb has given them a better passing game in 2011, but they have struggled to win in close games.
23. Cleveland Browns (2-2): The Browns have had one of the easiest schedules in the league thus far, as their wins are against the winless Dolphins and Colts. They have a decent offense and defense, but nothing that is going to threaten any of the stronger teams in the NFL.
22. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2): It's actually quite a surprise that the Bengals are .500 to this point. They were expected to be near the bottom of the NFL when this season started, but Andy Dalton has been better than advertised. That being said, this team has probably over-performed so far and there is not much upside.
21. Chicago Bears (2-2): Chicago has a good running game and good special teams, but that's it. The Bears passing game has been near the bottom of the league and they don't exactly have a dynamic defense anymore.
20. Carolina Panthers (1-3): Rookie quarterback Cam Newton might just be the most surprising story of 2011 so far, but Carolina still just has one win. He is likely to get better throughout the season, but the Panthers really need to work on their defense if they want to make any giant leaps forward.
19. San Francisco 49er's (3-1): The Niners have looked pretty good in 2011, mostly due to their defense. They lack strong quarterback play, however, and if they do win the NFC West they are unlikely to win any playoff games. Frank Gore also doesn't seem to be the same player he once was.
18. Oakland Raiders (2-2): Over the last year-plus, the Raiders have done very well in their division, but not so great outside of it. They are no longer in the laughing stock of the NFL but still need to make further strides. Darren McFadden is now of the elite players in the league and they are an improving franchise.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1): The Bucs passing game hasn't been nearly as good as it was last year, but they still find themselves at 3-1. They have been a bit lucky as their points scored are just barely above their points allowed, but Josh Freeman and Mike Williams need to regain their level of play from last year if they are going to enter the realm of contenders.
16. Tennessee Titans (3-1): Matt Hasselbeck has had a revival season playing in a new city, but the loss of wide receiver Kenny Britt really caps the potential of this team. Chris Johnson is going to have to close out the year strong to give this team a chance. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with due to their strong defense.
15. Dallas Cowboys (2-2): The Cowboys have done well to enter their bye with a 2-2 record, considering all of their injuries. The issue with this team is that it has failed to win close games and close out opponents.
14. Atlanta Falcons (2-2): The Falcons have had their fair share of troubles one year after looking like a strong contender for the title. Matt Ryan and company have looked better over the past two weeks, however, and the development of Julio Jones should make them a dynamic offense. Their biggest issue is that they have been struggling to stop their opponents.
13. New York Jets (2-2): The Jets have made the AFC Championship game in the last two seasons, but this year's team has not looked very special at all. Their running and passing offenses are seemingly a mess and they have also been easier to run against than they have been in the past.
12. New York Giants (3-1): Eli Manning had an abysmal preseason and start to this season, but he has really turned it on of late. He has a nice receiving corps to get the ball to as well, and this team has some nice momentum right now.
11. Washington Redskins (3-1): Washington has been a revived team in 2011 and has been led by a strong defense. Rex Grossman has been better than anybody could have expected but is probably not going to take this team to the promised land.
10. San Diego Chargers (3-1): The Chargers are pretty lucky to have won three games as quarterback Philip Rivers hasn't quite been himself so far. Their health has been the best in quite some time, however, and the emergence of Ryan Mathews really makes this team a force to be reckoned with.
9. Houston Texans (3-1): The Texans would actually be undefeated right now if they didn't lose a big lead in Week 3 to the New Orleans Saints. They now also have to deal with an injury to star wideout Andre Johnson, but at least Arian Foster is fully healthy to help lead one of the top rushing attacks in football. Their defense is the actual reason why they are finally starting to have something to show for all their offensive talent.
8. Buffalo Bills (3-1): Buffalo certainly shocked the league by coming back to defeat the stalwart New England Patriots earlier this season. The Bills had a bad loss after that win to Cincinnati, however, and can't really be trusted to stay at the top for an entire year. Ryan Fitzpatrick has yet to put together a complete season as a top quarterback, either.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3): The Eagles may be the best 1-3 team in the history of the league. They had leads heading into the fourth quarter in all three of their losses but couldn't score a single point in each. The truth of the matter is that this team is one of the top overall talents in the NFL and can easily make a big run as the season progresses.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2): Pittsburgh hasn't looked all that great throughout the first four games, but we all know what this team can do. Injuries will probably limit the Steelers from getting back to the Super Bowl, but they aren't going to be a tough out. Mike Wallace has emerged into a real football player.
5. Detroit Lions (4-0): The Lions are one of just two remaining undefeated teams in the league, but that doesn't mean they are without their faults. They need to start playing better in the first half of games, as well as set up Jahvid Best for better running lanes. The Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson connection and an elite defense means this team is legit, though.
4. New Orleans Saints (3-1): Drew Brees has been as good as ever in the early portion of this season, and this team now has a better NFL version of Reggie Bush in Darren Sproles. No. 1 wide receiver Marques Colston hasn't even been able to contribute much to this team. Look for them to challenge for the NFC title yet again.
3. New England Patriots (3-1): Tom Brady has been absolutely ridiculous this season. The emergence of running back Stephen Ridley should add yet another dimension to an already dynamic offense. While you can never count Brady and Bill Belichick out (they have three championships together), issues in the secondary could be their breaking point.
2. Green Bay Packers (4-0): Aaron Rodgers is the best player in football and is looking to lead Green Bay to back-to-back championships. The Packers look unbeatable right now, but everyone will be gunning for them as this season progresses. Besides, repeating is one of the hardest things in sports today, especially football. Many of the Super Bowl champion teams in recent history have not even been able to win even one playoff game the next year.
1. Baltimore Ravens (3-1): Baltimore has given up the second-fewest points in the league and also boasts an above-average offense. Feature running back Ray Rice and the normally steady Joe Flacco gives them enough of an offensive punch to complement their defense. Ray Lewis is more than likely playing in his last season of his career, adding another dimension into this team's run in 2011. Look for rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith to be the wild card that helps lead this team to win it all this season.