This season has been one of most entertaining seven weeks in NFL history, and football has proven why it is the alpha male of American sports.
Through seven weeks, we have gathered enough sample size to fairly evaluate each NFL team (or so we think).
1. New England Patriots (13-3)- The Pats look like the same team that dominated the league for much of the regular season last year, and with Brady and Welker playing like absolute monsters every week, this offense is on the verge of unstoppable. Despite some questions on defense, New England will enter the playoffs as AFC favorites.
2. New York Jets (11-5)- The Jets silenced the critics by defeating the Chargers this Sunday, and are now looking to take their stride as they enter divisional play. The team has reinstilled it's swagger on both sides of the ball and will be a very dangerous team when January rolls around. Look for Gang Green to clinch their third straight wild-card berth.
3. Buffalo Bills (7-9)- The Bills have had a tremendous start to the season but simply lack the talent and experience to maintain their great play throughout the whole season. Expect the Bills to enter freefall in the next couple of weeks, as they have a very difficult schedule ahead of them. Buffalo will regain their composure late in the year and will establish themselves as one of the best up-and-coming teams in the AFC.
4. Miami Dolphins (2-14)- The Dolphins have been awful through the first seven weeks of the season, as they are currently winless. The defense has been drastically regressing, and the offense fails to connect each and every week. A long season in Miami will enter them in the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes and will lead the franchise into a rebuilding period this offseason.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)- The Steelers have struggled at times in the early portion of the season, but they still possess one of the stingiest defenses in football. Ben Roethlisberger has shown signs of life recently, and Rashard Mendenhall will find his stride. Pittsburgh will benefit from a cake walk schedule and will get a big win over the Ravens late in the year to claim the division for the second straight season.
2. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)- The Ravens have looked dominating against some of the best teams in the league this season but have also looked vulnerable against some of the AFC's bottomfeeders. The vaunted defense will be terrific, but the offense's lack of consistency will result in another wild-card berth for a very talented Baltimore squad.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)- The Bengals have been pretty impressive through seven weeks, but still lack the experience nessecary to make a run. Andy Dalton and AJ Green form a scary combination, and an ever-improving Cincinnati defense will have them establishing themselves as a divisional contender over the next few seasons.
1. Houston Texans (11-5)- This division is terrible, and Houston possesses much more talent than any other rival. Expect Matt Schaub and company to hit cruise control by Week 12 and keep the talented Texans roster healthy for the franchise's first postseason appearance.
2. Tennessee Titans (6-10)- The Titans showed their true colors on Sunday, as the Texans exposed gaping holes on both sides of the ball. Matt Hasselback's early season resurgence will be a mirage, and Chris Johnson will continue to struggle. All this leads to a Jake Locker appearance late in the year,
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)- The Jaguars have one of the worst offenses in football but also possess a very underrated defensive unit. Jacksonville will win five low-scoring, dull games against weak divisional opponents but be shown up by the league's "big boys."
4. Indianapolis Colts (1-15)- The Colts continue to get worst, and many are believing that an 0-16 season could be a strong possibility. Indianapolis has given up and will try their best to win the "Suck For Luck" sweepstakes. However, Indy's talented and experienced veterans will lead the Colts to one upset win to avoid an imperfect season.
1. San Diego Chargers (11-5)- The Chargers possess a lot of talent but lack the experience and leadership in the locker room to achieve anything beyond a solid regular season. Philip Rivers continues to be disappointing, and the Bolts defense continues to be inconsistent. However, the Chargers will benefit from playing in a weak division and will cruise to a divisional title.
2. Oakland Raiders (8-8)- The Raiders really struggled on Sunday and have many fans questioning the decision to bring in Carson Palmer for such a high price. Oakland has the explosive ground attack and strong defensive stars capable to make a run, but the team's inability to win on the road will end up costing them, as well as the slow development of Carson Palmer to the complicated playbook.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)- The Chiefs are red hot and are currently putting together great performance after great performance. Kansas City's early season struggles can be blamed by the devastating injuries in the clubhouse. Expect Kansas City to be competitive all year long, but the lack of a running game will cost them during the stretch run.
4. Denver Broncos (4-12)- Tim Tebow will put together some great performances, but the lack of talent, leadership and experience in the Denver locker room will lead to a subpar season in the Mile High city.
1. New York Giants (10-6)- The NFC East defines the word inconsistency, but the Giants will reign supreme in 2011. Eli Manning will have a solid season, and the Big Blue defense will be stingy in key battles. New York just edges Dallas and Philadelphia to claim the division title.
2. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)- The Cowboys are a few plays away from being 7-0, with wins at the Jets and at New England. Dallas possesses outstanding talent on both sides of the ball. Tony Romo and company will defy critics and will claim a wild-card spot.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)- The extremely talented Eagles squad will go 7-3 from this point on, but a terrible start to the season will end up costing Philadelphia. Michael Vick and company will run wild the rest of the year and will look like they belong in the playoffs. Sadly, the Eagles will just miss out but will be encouraged to make a playoff run next year.
4. Washington Redskins (5-11)- The Redskins are another team who's terrific start was just a mirage. The offense, led by John Beck, is now without star runner Tim Hightower and elite wide receiver Santana Moss. Washington will be the punching bag for the rest of the NFC East for the rest of the season.
1. Green Bay Packers (15-1)- The Packers boast amazing talent, leadership and experience on both sides of the ball. Only injuries can slow down the defending Super Bowl champions, as they will enter the playoffs as favorites to repeat.
2. Chicago Bears (10-6)- This will have the Lions lovers spewing, but the Bears have been playing outstanding ball the last few weeks. Chicago is one of the most underrated teams in the league by the general public, and they will prove that they belong in the NFC elite this season. The Monsters of Midway capture a postseason spot, behind the terrific play of their great defense and the superb running of star Matt Forte.
3. Detroit Lions (10-6)- Welcome to freefall, Detroit Lions! The Lions have dropped two straight at home, and now are under the threat of losing quarterback Matthew Stafford for an extended period of time. Things are looking down in the Motor City, and the lack of experience will cost the Lions this season. However, Detroit's phenomenal talent will establish them as playoff contenders for years to come.
4. Minnesota Vikings (4-12)- The Christian Ponder era has begun in Minnesota, but a dismal season cannot be avoided. With injuries mounting and controversies spewing, the Vikings will have a long year in 2011.
1. New Orleans Saints (12-4)- The Saints are the only team in the league with an offense as prolific as the Packers. Drew Brees continues to use his weapons effectively, and the New Orleans defense has been opportunistic as usual. Sean Payton and company will enter the playoffs as one of the NFC's elite teams, as they look to claim their second Lombardi Trophy in three years.
2. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)- The Falcons have been playing solid football of late, but they simply lack the firepower to keep up with the NFC's elite teams. Matt Ryan will have Atlanta in the thick of postseason contention all season, only to be ousted by the Saints in the final game of the year.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)- The Buccaneers can look like one of the league's best teams some weeks, but then appear like an average one the next. Tampa Bay struggles with inconsistency, as the young team still goes through the growing pains of a developing contender.
4. Carolina Panthers (6-10)- Cam Newton has the Panthers playing competitive football for the first time in years, as the Auburn product has the dismal Carolina squad in tight contests with some of the NFL's best teams. Newton lacks the talent around him to make a run, but the Panthers still look like an up-and-coming team not to be overlooked.
1. San Francisco 49ers (11-5)- The 49ers have been the most surprising team of the 2011 season, as they have dominated strong opponents and have raced out to a substantial division lead. San Francisco's defense is developing into one of the best in the league, and the offense seems to be finally clicking under Alex Smith. The 49ers will cruise to a divisional title and enter the playoffs as a dark horse to make a run.
2. Seattle Seahawks (6-10)- The Seahawks defense is a vastly underrated unit, but the struggles of the offense have Seattle fans shaking their heads. The awful play of the Seahawks offensive line has been hard to watch, and despite some talented offensive weapons, Seattle lacks a franchise quarterback necessary to make a postseason run.
3. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)- The Cardinals entered the season as one of the favorites to claim the NFC West but have been drastically underperforming early on. Newly-acquired quarterback Kevin Kolb has been underwhelming, and the Arizona defense continues to allow big plays to opponents. The Cardinals will have a long year and will have fans questioning their big signings last offseason.
4. St Louis Rams (2-14)- The third and final team in contention for the "Suck For Luck" sweepstakes is the Rams. The Rams have been absolutely terrible on both sides of the ball, and mounting injuries to key players have many fans believing a winless season is not out of reach. St Louis' disastrous year will continue throughout the winter months, leaving many to question whether Sam Bradford is the answer at quarterback.
Wild Card Round
No. 5 New York Jets defeat No. 4 Houston Texans
No. 6 Baltimore Ravens defeat No. 3 San Diego Chargers
No. 5 New York Jets defeat No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 1 New England Patriots defeat No. 6 Baltimore Ravens
No. 1 New England Patriots defeat No. 6 New York Jets
AFC Champion: New England Patriots
Wild Card Round
No. 4 New York Giants defeat No. 5 Chicago Bears
No. 6 Dallas Cowboys defeat No. 3 San Francisco 49ers
No. 6 Dallas Cowboys defeat No. 1 Green Bay Packers
No. 2 New Orleans Saints defeat No. 4 New York Giants
No. 2 New Orleans Saints defeat No. 6 Dallas Cowboys
NFC Champion: New Orleans Saints
No. 2 New Orleans Saints defeat No. 1 New England Patriots 31-27
Super Bowl Champion: New Orleans Saints