Well, now comes the question of which team is the second best. And indeed, this is a merit that's truly up for grabs.
The San Francisco 49ers were the consensus just last week, but after losing to the Ravens, does that make the Ravens the second best?
Then which team is the second best?
Well, let's look at the contenders.
San Francisco 49ers
They could be a one-year wonder, but I see the 49ers as a consistent force in the future with new head coach Jim Harbaugh. They have a marvelous defense and the best record out of the contending teams at 9-2.
However, can you really say they're better than the Ravens after outright losing to them?
Before I continue, I must note that these Harbaugh brothers are really something, eh?
The Ravens defeated the 49ers, who were widely considered the second best before the loss. They are 8-3, tied for third-best record in the league.
The Patriots have the best quarterback and head coach tandem of the bunch—the two most important aspects to winning. However, their defense has been notoriously bad statistically this season.
Still, the defense seems to be managing well in limiting points, which has led their 8-3 record. One has to wonder whether this defense will be able to keep it up though? It helps that they're improving drastically without three integral defensive starters in Brandon Spikes, Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty.
Another bash on the Patriots has been their inability to win games against elite teams. None of their victories this season have come against truly impressive teams, with their losses coming at the hands of Pittsburgh, the Giants and the Bills.
The proven warriors are still in it at 8-3. The Steelers have transitioned to a more explosive offense than in previous years, even if their defense hasn't been as firm as before.
The Steelers, however, are set back by the fact that they've lost two games to the Ravens and haven't delivered any truly earth-shattering victories yet that are often indicative of elite teams.
Still, these Steelers could be going under the radar. They are perhaps the least respected of all the teams on this list.
The Saints are not receiving much media hype, but tonight's assertive victory over the Giants is bound to give them some. Drew Brees is playing terrifically, but he's not getting as much love as some other players.
Keep in mind, the Saints were very close to perhaps knocking away an undefeated season for the Packers. The Saints were at the Packers' 1-yard line with three seconds left to play but failed to score and lost 42-34.
I think those are all the contenders for the second-best team. The Texans have won eight games, but their team just took a big hit at the quarterback position. These teams listed are the only teams that are truly second tier.
So who's the best of this second-tier group?
I personally say the Saints. They had a head-scratching loss to the Rams, but other than that, they've played pretty consistently this year. They have a dependable quarterback, unlike the Ravens and 49ers. They've played well against elite teams, unlike the Patriots. They've won in elite fashion, unlike the Steelers.
But certainly, opinions will vary. After all, this is the NFL. Remember when the Lions and Bills used to be in this discussion?
As always though, the cream rises to the top. Now let's see which one of these teams is the "cream" of the second tier.