As we near the halfway point in the 2011 NFL season, how are the 32 teams stacking up? Let's take a look at the best, worst and all those in between this NFL season.
Are the Green Bay Packers still tops overall after getting their seventh straight win? How does a second loss in as many weeks hurt the Detroit Lions? There's only one way to find out, and that's to start reading.
*Games played on Monday Night Football will be updated Tuesday morning
We have a new worst team this week. Congratulations to the Miami Dolphins.
I watched the entire Miami game this weekend to see Tim Tebow's first start (also ugly), and I can honestly say this is the worst team in the NFL. The St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts may also be winless, but they at least appear to be trying. Not in Miami.
A complete overhaul is needed here, including most of the players. Head coach Tony Sparano should be on the unemployed list very soon.
This may be as high as the Indianapolis Colts get all season.
The Colts are getting spanked in a new way each week. This week it was through fumbles and a lack of a defense. It looks like the Colts are fielding eight players to the New Orleans Saints' 11 tonight. It's just ugly.
The Colts need more than a healthy Peyton Manning if they want to compete in 2012. They need help all over the defense and along the offensive line if they hope to keep up with the Houston Texans in the AFC South.
Lost in the ineptitude of the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins this year is the massive disappointment that is the St. Louis Rams.
This is a squad that so many favored in the preseason to win the NFC West and make a run in the playoffs. Now it is just trying to win a single game.
The Rams are reeling due to bad play from the wide receivers and crippling injuries on both sides of the ball. There is hope here, and I do believe Sam Bradford is one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the NFL, but he needs help if the Rams are going to improve.
Why do the Denver Broncos move down after an overtime win?
1. They beat the 0-6 Miami Dolphins.
2. They trailed the Dolphins by 15 when the fourth quarter began.
3. For 55 minutes the Broncos looked like the worst offensive team in football.
The Broncos may have won, but they did so in unimpressive fashion. I would be surprised to see Denver win another game all season if it plays like this.
The Arizona Cardinals are one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL on my personal list. This is a team that I believed could really come together this season, especially over the second half, and show a lot of improvement. It's not happening.
It's easy to blame new quarterback Kevin Kolb for the troubles in Arizona, but the rest of the team is playing equally bad. The offensive line is one of the worst in the league, and the secondary has been penalized more and more each week. Today's game was just sad to watch.
I feel bad for Larry Fitzgerald and Darnell Dockett, because this team isn't getting better any time soon.
The Seattle Seahawks are promptly getting worse each week.
This week's example is a 6-3 loss on the road to the Cleveland Browns. Three points. That's it.
The Seahawks have used high draft picks on players that haven't worked out (Aaron Curry, Russell Okung, etc.), and because of those misses early on they are struggling to find wins. Injuries to Marshawn Lynch haven't helped either.
Seattle needs more than just a new quarterback. It needs a new offensive line coach and a solid infusion of heart and pride.
Welcome to the Christian Ponder era. He's holding on to the job for a long, long time.
Staying within six points of the Green Bay Packers is worth a lot in my opinion. The Vikings were impressive today in Ponder's first career start, enough so that Minnesota just might surprise people down the stretch.
I've been down on Minnesota this season after liking it before the season began. It's becoming clear the team is playing for 2012, but with Ponder and Adrian Peterson it has a great plan in place.
It would seem that we are seeing the real Washington Redskins these last two weeks.
Washington has lost two straight games and is showing that without a good quarterback, it doesn't matter how good the defense is. John Beck and Rex Grossman have each taken turns leading this team, and neither has gotten it done.
The Redskins have a talented defense in place and an improved offensive line, but until they get a real quarterback in there and wide receivers who can separate, they'll continue to lose.
Baylor's Robert Griffin III is looking like a great match for Mike Shanahan's offense.
*The Redskins move down Tuesday morning after a Jacksonville win Monday night.
Another week, another close win by the Cleveland Browns.
Before the season I thought the Browns were an 8-8 team, and they are on track to meet that expectation. Without Peyton Hillis and a true No. 1 wide receiver, the Browns are getting it done with solid defense and timely plays by Colt McCoy.
Speaking of McCoy, it's become fashionable to talk poorly of the second-year quarterback. McCoy is playing behind a patchwork offensive line and without a run game or a legitimate wide receiver option. Let's cut him some slack.
If Tim Tebow won with McCoy's stats, we'd praise him for being a winner. McCoy has the Browns at three wins and he's criticized.
*The Browns move down Tuesday morning after a Jacksonville win Monday night.
Holy, Kansas City. The Chiefs have won three straight after almost beating the San Diego Chargers in Week 3.
Don't sleep on the Chiefs. The AFC West is incredibly weak this year (three of four teams lost this week), and with three wins the Chiefs are right in the middle of the race for the division title. With a schedule that gets much easier down the stretch, Kansas City could conceivably get to nine wins if it can get a consistent run game from Jackie Battle and Dexter McCluster.
That's a big if, but the point is that no one should be counting the Chiefs out yet.
*The Chiefs move down Tuesday morning after a Jacksonville win Monday night.
The Carolina Panthers move down slightly this week after possibly having them too high last week. I expected Carolina to beat Washington, so that win isn't surprising enough to convince me to move Carolina up.
Look at the teams above and below Carolina. How many teams would you pick the Panthers to beat in a game? That's why they are ranked where they are this week.
Now that I've said that, I must mention Cam Newton here. Amazing. That's all that can be said about the No. 1 overall pick from the 2011 draft. The Panthers have someone great to build around.
*The Panthers move up Tuesday morning after a Jacksonville win Monday night.
The Jacksonville Jaguars dismantled the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night, and the rest of the football world should take notice that these Jaguars are for real.
Jacksonville lacked consistency at quarterback and a go-to receiver early this season, but with a settled down Blaine Gabbert and Mike Thomas finding help from Mike Sims-Walker, Jacksonville's offense will be less of a liability going forward.
Gabbert is going to have great and bad games, but Jacksonville showed last night they can win when he's off. The defense, and the huge investments made there in free agency, is paying off.
The Tennessee Titans are probably a bit embarrassed today after the ass-kicking they took from the Houston Texans. A score of 41-7 is not easily forgotten.
The Titans have the talent to come back from this loss and continue playing above-average football and are playing better than most expected when they signed Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.
Time will tell if Hasselbeck can stay healthy and if/when Jake Locker will take over at quarterback, but for the time being the Titans have to continue playing for the playoffs.
Oh, and Chris Johnson...talk about a letdown. Johnson took the money and forgot how to run. Such a disappointment.
The complaint about the San Diego Chargers' four wins was that they came against teams who hadn't proven anything. Sunday's game against the New York Jets was the Chargers' chance to prove they belonged with the top teams in the NFL.
Instead, they proved that they don't belong at all.
San Diego played classic Norv Turner football in dropping a winnable game against the Jets. The Chargers had the lead early and even had a chance to win late, but they couldn't get it done.
San Diego, you are who we thought you were.
The move to bring in Carson Palmer at quarterback may pay off after the bye week, but as of right now the Oakland Raiders look pretty bad.
A loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs was bad enough, but an injury to stud running back Darren McFadden could really set the Raiders back down the stretch.
I'm not counting Oakland out, but if the Raiders play like they did Sunday (six interceptions, 14 penalties), they won't win another game this season. I do think Palmer will be effective once he knows the offense, but as of right now I'm cautiously critical of the Raiders' late-season chances.
The bye week was good to the Philadelphia Eagles, who move up one spot this week due to losses by the Raiders, Chargers, Titans and Redskins.
The Eagles need to get their s*** together with 10 games left in the season. The roster is talented enough that they could win out, or they could keep playing uninspired football and limp to a 6-10 finish. Either scenario is possible.
The New York Jets were impressive in a comeback win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, so they are moving up a bit this week.
I still don't see the Jets making the playoffs, but they will at least make things interesting as the second half of the season unfolds. Of course, nothing less would be expected from Rex Ryan.
Jet fans may disagree, but in my eyes these next nine games by the New York Jets should be used to evaluate the play of Mark Sanchez at quarterback. He has captained the team to two straight AFC championship games, but the play I'm seeing from No. 6 makes me think he's not a lock for a starting position.
I am officially diagnosing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as schizophrenic. One week they are great, the next week they come out flat and lose.
This is a team that in three weeks has been blown out by the 49ers, beat the New Orleans Saints and then lost to the Chicago Bears. How else would you explain that?
Tampa is good enough to be a playoff team, but it needs much better play from Josh Freeman at quarterback if that's going to happen. It also needs a defensive line featuring four top-64 draft picks to start living up to its potential.
Fans of the Chicago Bears were upset with me last week for their ranking. I promised fans that if Chicago won this week, it would move up drastically. Here you go.
The Bears offensive line has impressed the last two weeks. This is a unit that couldn't block a kindergartner the first five weeks of the season, but now it is playing solid football as a cohesive unit. Jay Cutler will benefit greatly from this, but the guy doing the most damage behind the improved line is Matt Forte.
Forte has to be considered the favorite to be an All-Pro running back through seven weeks. He's been simply amazing this year.
So this is what the Dallas Cowboys look like when everyone plays up to their potential. Oh, wait, they played the St. Louis Rams? Never mind.
Don't get too excited about the Cowboys beating a winless St. Louis Rams team on Sunday. I say that even as I move them up four spots, but that's more due to the losses by the Buccaneers, Raiders and Chargers.
I have said all season that Dallas is good enough to make a run at the division title. The Cowboys need to play every week like they are facing the Rams.
That is not a typo. You do not need to adjust your monitor. The Cincinnati Bengals are really No. 12 overall.
Cincinnati was off on Sunday, but its 4-2 record is evidence of solid football this year. I don't see the Bengals keeping it up over the course of 17 weeks, but so far they are one of the most surprising teams in football.
Cincinnati has a great foundation to build on. Quarterback Andy Dalton may win Rookie of the Year, wide receiver A.J. Green could be a Pro Bowler and the offensive line is solid from left to right. A few improvements on defense in the 2012 draft, where they have two first-round choices, will push this team over the top.
The Atlanta Falcons have won two straight heading into their bye week, right in time for quarterback Matt Ryan to rest a knee that took a brutal shot from the Detroit Lions defense on Sunday.
The Falcons have proved themselves over the last two weeks by getting a win in Detroit and on the road against a tough Carolina team. I expected Atlanta to be a playoff team before the season, and I still think it will be when the dust settles after this year.
The schedule has been tough for Atlanta early this season, but things get a little easier after the Week 8 bye with only three games that look like potential losses right now (Saints, Texans, Saints). That would give Atlanta a 10-win season and a shot at the NFC Wild Card.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers were 2-2 going into Week 5, a lot of really smart people overreacted—myself included.
The Steelers settled down in Week 5 and have won three straight games since then, pushing their record to 5-2. That's good for the No. 1 spot in the wild-card race.
The Steelers will struggle to catch up with the Baltimore Ravens in the division, but if they continue to win, they'll be a lock for the No. 5 seed.
Two straight losses by the Detroit Lions has the team falling quickly down my power rankings. The Lions were ranked No. 2 just two weeks ago; now they are on the verge of falling out of the top 10.
The Lions are still the same team, but they've run into two powerful teams (49ers, Falcons) and are finding that without a running game they are not able to control a lead late in games. Without Jahvid Best in the lineup, the Lions will keep losing.
A wild-card spot was all the Lions could hope for this year with the Green Bay Packers in the division. The good news is at 5-2 they are in the lead, but each week pushes the Lions farther from that possibility.
One of just three teams to not move up or down in the rankings this week, the Houston Texans picked up a quality win over their AFC South rivals, the Tennessee Titans.
In beating the Titans by 34 points, the Texans answered critics who thought they couldn't win without Andre Johnson and Mario Williams. Clearly, they can.
Houston may have stumbled on the perfect formula for winning down the stretch in getting both Arian Foster and Ben Tate over 100 yards rushing on Sunday. The more it can involve the two exciting backs, the better.
The bye week was good to the New York Giants, who move up two spots.
The Giants lead a tough NFC East and have a very easy game this weekend in Miami against the Dolphins. If the Giants aren't at 5-2 next Monday, I'll be shocked.
I haven't been the biggest Eli Manning fan, but he's playing great football this season. The Giants are for real and have to be considered a threat to win the NFC. So much is made of the 49ers and Packers, but keep an eye on Manning and co.
The Buffalo Bills move up one spot during their bye week thanks to the Detroit Lions' loss.
Buffalo remains one of my favorite teams to watch this season, thanks in part to Ryan Fitzpatrick and George Wilson. The running of Fred Jackson and the play of an underrated receiving crew has the Bills at 4-2, and it will be the reason they make the playoffs this season.
Without a pass rush and with weak cornerback play, the Bills may not make much noise once they're in the playoffs, but just getting there should be a great feeling for a much-deserving fanbase.
The Baltimore Ravens were embarrassed on the road in Jacksonville this week, putting questions in the minds of those believing the Ravens were ready to take the next step toward the AFC North title.
The Ravens defense played as well as anyone could expect, holding the Jaguars to field goals and getting consistent pressure on Blaine Gabbert. They even managed to largely shutdown Maurice Jones-Drew. The defense isn't the problem.
Ray Rice will need more than seven carries if the Ravens are going to correct this problem in the coming weeks. Rice is the catalyst to the offense, and without him in the game Joe Flacco falls apart at quarterback.
Baltimore is good enough to get past this road bump, and thankfully the game wasn't in the division, but this loss will sting for a while.
The New Orleans Saints earned a lot of respect in the "Matt Miller Book of Respect" on Sunday night. Not because they beat the Indianapolis Colts by 55 points, but because they never let off the throttle.
This is the NFL, and if a team can't stop you, that's its problem. I loved that Sean Payton's team kept going. The NFC South is a tough division, and any amount of intimidation the Saints can add to their résumé is needed. You can bet the Falcons, Panthers and Buccaneers were a little scared this morning after they saw what the Saints did to the Colts.
The Saints, when they are playing consistently, are good enough to win the Super Bowl. If they aren't in the NFC championship game, I'll be surprised.
*The Saints move up Tuesday morning after a Baltimore loss Monday night.
The San Francisco 49ers come off their bye week with a very winnable game at home against the 3-3 Cleveland Browns. They should be 6-1 next Monday morning.
With a 6-1 record, the 49ers would be four wins away from a division title. By Week 13, the 49ers could have the division wrapped up and the playoffs in sight. Quite impressive for a team that few expected to do much this season.
Jim Harbaugh is my pick for Coach of the Year for his work in getting this team ready to play this year. His work with both sides of the ball has been nothing short of amazing.
A bye week for the New England Patriots means no move up or down this week.
The Patriots have to feel good about where they are at right now. With five wins and just one loss, the Patriots are in control of their own destiny. The one loss coming in the division, they do need to beat the Buffalo Bills when the two teams meet in Week 17. Until that game, the Patriots need to keep winning.
This week will bring their toughest test when the Pittsburgh Steelers show up on the schedule. If the Patriots can best the Steelers, you have to believe the Patriots will be the favorites to win the AFC.
Make it 13 straight wins for the Green Bay Packers, dating back to Week 15 of the 2010 season. That includes four wins in the 2010 playoffs.
The Packers are undoubtedly the best team in the NFL right now. They had their closest game Sunday in a six-point win over the Minnesota Vikings that looked much closer on the final score. The Packers are off this coming week, giving them a much-needed break at the midpoint of the season.
Green Bay will stay up here at No. 1 until it loses. Looking ahead at the schedule, it may be a while before that happens.