The 2011 NFL season has brought thrillers week in and week out that have shown how teams are improving from one season to the next.
After five weeks of football, there are a number of teams who have demonstrated the ability to compete on a week-to-week basis. More importantly, these teams appear to rise to an elite status as the season moves along.
With that said, here are the 10 teams that other NFL teams should worry about.
Although the Steelers are struggling on defense and have suffered several injuries, the team has demonstrated they can still compete on any given weekend.
Last Sunday's win against the Titans showed how quickly a team can bounce back after a struggling first month. Although we do not appreciate the work coach Mike Tomlin has done with the Steelers, it is evidence that he can prepare his team to be ready on Sunday.
If teams have the Steelers in their upcoming schedule, expect them to have a difficult matchup. Once Pittsburgh finds its identity, which I expect to happen soon, teams should fear a defensive-minded team that is eager to return to the top of its division.
That is all you need to know about the emerging Carolina Panthers. With Newton controlling the offense and giving his team a chance to compete, it is only a matter of time until he learns how to finish games and become an elite quarterback.
I think it was best said from Packers QB Aaron Rodgers after a 30-23 win against the Panthers in Week 2, "I think someone said in the locker room that I'm kind of glad we played him early in the season because when he figures it out fully, he's going to be even tougher to stop."
Expect the Panthers to win some late games as the season rolls along when they get better at closing games.
With Darren McFadden as the leading rusher in the NFL, the Raiders will be difficult to stop in the running game. Not only that but QB Jason Campbell has made great decisions with the football.
Although the defense struggles over the course of a game, expect the Raiders to be a dangerous wild-card team that will be playing with extra emotion as they will try to echo Davis' "Just Win Baby" ideology.
For some strange reason it seems that after five weeks, Ray Lewis and the Ravens are not getting the amount of attention that other elite teams have. Instead, they have been flying under the radar with a top-10 defense and a much improved offense.
With a balanced team, the Ravens can exploit many opponents and demonstrate how difficult they are to beat. Coach John Harbaugh has done an amazing job building a franchise into a consistent contender.
If you have to face the Ravens during the season, expect a hard-pounding matchup as they will create many problems for the opposing team (just ask the Jets).
The Buffalo Bills are perhaps the most surprising team in the NFL. Not only that, but they have shown they can play on both sides of the ball.
With an increasing offensive threat and a strong defense, the Bills are a dangerous team to face. Their defense has intercepted Michael Vick and Tom Brady a combined eight times. At the same time, the Bills can comeback and win games, as they did so against the Raiders and Patriots.
Expect this team to compete for the AFC East.
Although John Harbaugh is not receiving much credit for the work he has done in Baltimore, his brother Jim is a clear favorite for coach of the year.
He has transformed a 49ers team that had a lot of talent but has not succeed. He has shown how a team can be a completely different football team from one season to the next.
Their 4-1 record will be tested this Sunday against the 5-0 Lions, but I expect Harbaugh to come prepared. With Frank Gore and Alex Smith leading the way, the 49ers have a great chance of winning the NFC West and competing in the playoffs.
If they continue to get confidence as they did against the Buccaneers, the 49ers are a dangerous team that I currently would not want to face.
The Saints are another team that is becoming stronger as the season moves along. After a first-week loss to the Packers on opening night, the Saints have put up 20-plus points in each of their five games.
Similar to the Packers' offense, the Saints can spread the ball and cause mismatches all around the field. With the additions of Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram, the Saints have added a balanced package to the offense.
The team has had injury problems over the first month of the season and has still been able to score on opposing defenses. Now that they are getting healthy, expect the Saints to create havoc and expose the weaknesses.
The Eagles come in at No. 3 because of the talent and desperate moment the team is facing. A 1-4 record was not what the team and fans in Philadelphia expected.
Now they have to win and if they cannot get a win this Sunday, then all the pressure will continue to built and may result to one of the worst seasons of all time.
Although they are struggling on both sides of the field, the Eagles still have Michael Vick and the explosive offense that can strike at any moment. Last Sunday, we saw how dangerous they can be at scoring points when the Eagles got within seven points against the Bills.
I would not want to face the Eagles in the next month as coach Andy Reid will solve the issues the team faces and compete each week.
Who would have thought after five weeks the Lions would be 5-0?
A win on Monday Night Football showed how explosive their defense is as they have eight to nine linemen who can come in and cause problems. Not only that but the Lions' crowd is energetic and can cause problems for teams who have to go to Detroit.
We cannot forget about the Lions' balanced offense with Calvin Johnson as perhaps the best wide receiver and Jahvid Best improving the Lions' running game.
Be afraid to play the Lions as they are a legitimate team who can easily go undefeated for a couple of more weeks and make a strong push into the playoffs.
The defending Super Bowl champs appear to have not missed a beat even though the lockout took place. The Packers are 5-0 with a commanding way of winning games.
Last Sunday night against the Falcons, the team proved once again how it can score at any moment and take control. With QB Aaron Rodgers probably being the best quarterback in the league and a candidate for the MVP, the Packers control their own destiny in reaching the Super Bowl.
At the same time, the team is currently healthy and only getting better as the season progresses. The team's offensive threat is hard enough to stop and will create problems for opposing teams.
Expect teams to fear the Packers as they appear to be rolling back into the playoffs.