Brady/Welker/Gronkowski may be the top trio in the league.
In the past decade we've discovered that there are two, distinct ways to win Super Bowls: Construct and refine a deep, multi-faceted offense that is virtually impossible to stop, or develop a star-laden defense that keeps its team in the game no matter what the circumstances.
If you're always in the game, victory is always within reach.
Right now, there's a little bit of both atop my power rankings. Defensively we have the Ravens, 49ers and Steelers, but I would argue that the most dangerous teams in the NFL are the offensive-minded Packers, Saints and Patriots.
Offense may reign supreme at the moment, but that won't necessarily be the case come playoff time.
Alright, let's get to the good stuff...
Orlovsky had quite a debut as the Colts starting QB.
Given QB Dan Orlovsky's incredibly impressive performance in Sunday's loss to the mighty Patriots (353 yards, two touchdowns), it's safe to say Jim Caldwell should have pulled the plug on Curtis Painter a little earlier.
Maybe he knew that, and was simply trying to secure Indy's position in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.
Just kidding—the Colts are too classy an organization for something like that.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if the Colts draft Luck or use the leverage of the No. 1 pick to pull off a blockbuster deal.
"Spags" is pleading for someone to help him win a game.
Well this is certainly a season to forget for the St. Louis Rams and their faithful.
It started with the injury to then-WR1 Danny Amendola and progressed to QB Sam Bradford (ankle) and nagging issues for RB Steven Jackson.
This is a lower-echelon team without injuries, so they were doomed once key players began to miss time.
A poor offense with one of the premier offensive players.
I don't think Jack Del Rio is a spectacular NFL head coach, but seriously, what did Jacksonville's management expect him to do with this team?
The Jaguars have the least-talented receiving corps in the AFC, a rookie quarterback and a banged-up defense.
Was there really any way for this team to be successful this season?
A tenacious pass rusher on a crappy defense.
Haden is arguably the second-best CB in football.
They aren't very explosive overall, but at least they have two of the best players relative to their positions: LT Joe Thomas and CB Joe Haden.
I feel like Ronde's been in the NFL for 20 years.
For much of the season I've been saying the Bucs are an "average team" going nowhere fast; turns out they're a below average all-around squad.
Things won't get any better without Josh Freeman either.
There's Shane Falco at work.
No Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry or Tony Moeaki—yikes.
And yet the Chiefs have scrapped out five victories thanks to respectable head coach Todd Haley and three defensive stars: CB Brandon Flowers, OLB Tamba Hali and LB Derrick Johnson.
Maybe they could make a late run at the division title if Kyle Orton learns the offense and gets under center. Doubtful though.
Four interceptions...is that good?
LaRod Stephens-Howling is a freak in the open field.
C'mon, we all knew the Cowboys (-4.5) was a fishy line, right?
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. And it was. And I wasn't the least bit surprised.
Vegas knows. How? They just do.
I'm still not entirely sure that Kevin Kolb is better than John Skelton, but what the hey, they found a way to win at home this week.
RB Beanie Wells was hobbled for awhile, but his bounce is back. He looks sharp of late.
Please tell me where the Fountain of Youth is.
Is Marshawn Lynch getting younger or am I just imagining that?
I really don't think I am. He's an absolute monster right now.
Generally speaking, I admire Pete Carroll's Seahawks. Like the Chiefs, they are another example of a team that remains competitive despite injuries because of a steady coach and resilient defense.
In addition, QB Tarvaris Jackson is a "Fro guy." My friends call me Fro, and apparently I'm more of a Tarvaris supporter than anyone else.
I know, he's not really that good.
One of the Skins' true bright spots.
As I watched the Redskins battle hard against my Jets Sunday, I thought to myself, "They have more quality players than I give them credit for."
Offensively they have explosive rookie RB Roy Helu, outstanding TE Fred Davis and experienced receivers in Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney.
Defensively they boast one of the premier veterans in the game in LB London Fletcher, alongside beasts Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.
Mike Shanahan's boys are a quarterback away from being good.
Can't touch this.
I am fully entrenched in my position on the Cam Newton bandwagon.
Carolina's run defense is bordering on embarrassing, but who cares? They have Cam.
And he's only getting better...
I'm sorry Ms. Jackson...the Bills can't win without your son.
My, how the mighty Bills have fallen.
C.J. Spiller is an electric option as a back-up running back, but Chan Gailey's offense revolved around Fred Jackson's versatility as a rusher and receiver. Spiller has flex ability, he's just not as good.
I suppose their devolving defense is as much (if not more) of an issue than the loss of Jackson. Gailey's always been regarded as an offensive-minded coach, and that shows with this struggling team.
It's taken Reggie long enough to emerge, hasn't it?
When the Dolphins were winless and floundering and the Bills were riding high in the AFC East, you knew Miami would be ahead of Buffalo after Week 13, right?
What a stunning turnaround.
I had a feeling Matt Moore wouldn't be much of a downgrade from Chad Henne (he's turned out to be a clear upgrade), but I wonder if he's done enough to be viewed as next season's No. 1 gunner.
When Moore was given the opportunity to start for the Panthers, he fell flat on his face. Maybe he's improved; maybe he's relishing the lack of pressure.
I thought Moore would be fine, but had no idea Reggie Bush would morph into a reliable, go-to back. He's been truly impressive.
Seriously, what happened to this guy?
Aren't we all kind of sick of waiting for the Chargers to take command of the AFC West?
They have the strongest talent pool in the division, but that doesn't seem to amount to much. There's an outside chance they'll finish last, but it's unlikely as long as Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd can stay on the field.
And there went the Bears' season...
Caleb Hanie's been even worse than expected, and now MVP candidate Matt Forte is out of commission for at least a couple of weeks.
Chicago needs help, and they need it now.
Man, these 7-5 teams are nearly impossible to differentiate.
A couple of weeks ago the Titans were an average team with injuries, fighting to hover around .500.
Now they're a playoff contender with one, explosive X-factor ... Chris Johnson. Let's see how far he can take them.
Is this guy ever coming back?
I know it was a road game, but damn, the Raiders looked awful against the streaking Dolphins.
I believe this is a top 12 or 13 team with a healthy Darren McFadden; I'm just not sure a healthy McFadden exists in the near future.
Michael Bush is a solid, bruising rusher in his absence, but McFadden is one of the most electrifying players in the NFL. There's a difference between a runner (a la Rashard Mendenhall) and an all-around threat (Arian Foster).
Oakland needs that all-around threat to be a legitimate contender.
The "Red Rifle" is a lot of fun to watch.
I was riding this feel-good story for a while, but the powerful Steelers really exposed Marvin Lewis' young team last weekend.
It might be too much of a logjam in the AFC for a team led by two rookies—Andy Dalton and A.J. Green—to squeak out a Wild Card spot. My money would be against it right now.
Turner is one of the most consistent and reliable runners.
I think two games over .500 is about right for this team. Their defense isn't strong enough for them to be much better than 7-5 through 12 games, and Matt Ryan hasn't been consistent enough at the quarterback position.
They could go either way down the stretch.
Was Jabar Gaffney alive on Sunday?
What a headache this season has been.
Everyone wants to blame Mark Sanchez for a team that downgraded from Jerricho Cotchery to Jeremy Kerley, Brad Smith to Joe McKnight, Damien Woody to Wayne Hunter and Steve Weatherford to T.J. Conley.
It was a terrible offseason for the Jets, and it shows on the field. Specific to ball protection and field position, their special teams are worse this year than the entire preceding decade.
New York's safeties, Eric Smith and Jim Leonhard, have been laughably bad in both coverage and play completion, and Rex Ryan's pass rush hasn't existed excluding the surprising Aaron Maybin.
Simply put, this isn't a great team. They clearly aren't as good as they were the past two seasons.
The Jets are on the outside looking in at the class of the conference: The Patriots, Steelers, Ravens and Texans.
The man, the myth...the legend.
You better believe it.
A ball control offense added to an improving defense equals a winning formula.
Miller is a freak. I wish he had fallen to the Jets in the draft. I'll stop whining now.
Is Suh the dumbest player in the NFL?
Head coach Jim Schwartz has to get control of this team. Their personal foul total is really getting ridiculous.
Ndamukong Suh's behavior has been embarrassing all season, and a good portion of his teammates embarrassed themselves against the Saints on Sunday Night Football.
Maybe if they didn't give up so many yards in penalties, they'd win some games like they did earlier in the year.
On the bright side, few combinations are better than Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson.
Cruz is the most improved offensive player in the game.
When there are nine teams at 7-5, it's very possible for a .500 team to crack the top 10.
And here they are, Tom Coughlin's 6-6 New York Giants.
Honestly, I cannot believe how brutal their schedule has been. The 49ers, Saints and Packers in three of the last four games? Really? That's painful.
As far as personnel goes, you have to like the G-Men.
Eli Manning is one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL, and the Hakeem Nicks/Victor Cruz wide receiving duo is easily one of the best.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw is back, and he's a handful when healthy.
New York also has three excellent pass rushers in Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora (if he could ever stay on the field).
The rookie rusher who turned this team around.
Yes, they lost to the Arizona Cardinals this weekend and should be a little ashamed. It was a game they really needed to win, too.
However, of the nine 7-5 teams, I believe Jason Garrett's Cowboys are the most talented and balanced.
Tony Romo is a good quarterback, DeMarco Murray is one of the hottest rushers in the league and they have plenty of strong options through the air, including Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, breakout player Laurent Robinson and Miles Austin (when healthy).
Defensively they have one of the top players in the world in DeMarcus Ware, and they've been better collectively than they have been in recent years.
Arian Foster is scary good.
Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart both go down?
Who cares? We'll just give the ball to Arian Foster and play phenomenal defense.
Sounds like a plan to me.
Crabtree's health and skill are improving simultaneously.
Following the blueprint of the Steelers, Ravens and Jets certainly wasn't a bad idea.
The 49ers have proven they are currently superior to Gang Green, but I cannot say the same of the Steelers and Ravens. They are established, battle-tested playoff teams, and Jim Harbaugh's squad is not.
Not to mention the fact that the Ravens completely outplayed them in a head-to-head battle of defense/ball protection teams.
Nonetheless, I don't think there's any doubt that the Niners are truly one of the top three teams in the NFC as we progress towards the postseason.
Antonio has emerged in a major way.
This is where we start to nitpick.
I'll be honest, I'd have no problem with someone saying the Steelers are the second-best team in the NFL.
I think the Steelers, Ravens, Saints and Patriots could really be ranked in any order.
I have Pittsburgh at No. 5 because they lost twice to John Harbaugh's Ravens, and the Saints and Patriots seem completely unstoppable offensively right now.
Ngata is "not" a guy you want to see in your path.
Based on live action, the Ravens are the best defensive team in the league this year. I'd have the 49ers second and Texans third.
Could you possibly have a better foursome than Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis?
I highly doubt it.
Baltimore's streaky offense worries me at times, but they always have RB Ray Rice to fall back on.
Feel the electricity in the air when Sproles has the ball.
Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Jimmy Graham—that's eight legitimate offensive weapons.
We can even stretch and add WR4 Devery Henderson to that list.
Is there any way to contain Sean Payton's high-octane offense at the moment?
It certainly doesn't seem that way.
Throw in back-to-back admirable defensive performances against good offenses (Giants and Lions), and the Saints are looking like the best bet to challenge the untouchable Packers.
Where would this Patriots team be without "Gronk"?
Four weeks ago I was ready to count Bill Belichick's boys out.
His defense was looking like one of the worst three or four in the entire NFL, and his usually explosive offense was sputtering.
The Pats haven't looked back since.
In my opinion, Gronkowski is a top five MVP candidate; he's big, long, strong, fast, sure-handed and versatile. He is unstoppable in the redzone. No opposing defense seems to have an answer for the Brady/Gronkowski combo.
Throw in Welker and you have a complete and utter defensive nightmare.
Yes, Jordy Nelson is literally flying.
This team is an absolute joy to watch.
QB Aaron Rodgers is on another planet right now. With each and every passing day, he becomes less of a human and more of a perfectly assembled robot.
When receivers are open, he hits them with beautifully stunning passes.
When they aren't, he shows off his surprisingly speedy wheels.
He's inside of the pocket, he's outside, he's throwing on the run, sideways, upside down and blindfolded—everything's being completed.
What a tremendous receiving corps in Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson (freakishly good), TE Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver and James Jones.
Defensively they bend but don't break, and that's all this team needs right now.
They may very well go undefeated the entire way.