Blood will be spilled, hopes will be dashed and these power rankings will look radically different when this week's slate of games are completed. It's finally time to start seperating the men from the boys.
- 1. Saints (7-0) Last Week: 1
In each of the past two weeks New Orleans has been tested, only to come out victorious -- good teams find ways to win. The Saints next three opponents are Carolina, St. Louis and Tampa Bay. It's easy to imagine this high-powered offense at 10-0.-- Knox Bardeen
- 2. Colts (7-0) Last Week: 2
Squeaked out a home win over the Alex Smith-led 49ers. Still, a win's a win, and that's what the Colts do. That is now 16 straight in the regular season, giving them a 82-21 record since the beginning of 2003. -- Matt Snyder
- 3. Vikings (7-1) Last Week: 6
They head to their bye with a cushy lead in the NFC North. They come out of the bye with three straight home games (Lions, Seahawks, Bears). Really, if you look at the whole rest of the schedule and consider how well they are playing, it's hard to see the Vikes finishing worse than 13-3 -- and 14 or 15 wins are reachable. -- MS
- 4. Steelers (5-2) Last Week: 4
The hardest call of the week was who to put fourth in advance of Pittsburgh's trip to Denver this weekend. Ultimately it came down to making a call about who was going to win the game, a call that was decided by the Steelers having two weeks to prepare for a Broncos team that just took a healthy licking. They're really 4A and 4B at this point, though.
- 5. Broncos (6-1) Last Week: 3
Finally. I can't tell you how sick I was of writing "Josh McDaniels" and "undefeated" over and over. But I'm not so sure that these guys are "pretenders" (as my esteemed colleague KB called them recently). I mean, they're not the '72 Dolphins or even the '09 Saints, but at 6-1 and with the Skins, the Raiders and KC (twice) on the schedule, the playoffs still seem pretty likely. -- Will Brinson
- 6. Patriots (5-2) Last Week: 5
They can put a stranglehold on the AFC East this weekend by beating Miami this weekend and there's no reason to think they won't. The offense is clicking, the defense is well-versed in the Wildcat and they've had two weeks to get healthy.
- 7. Bengals (5-2) Last Week: 7
It's prove it time for the Bengals with a home game against the Ravens and a trip to Pittsburgh over the next two weeks. They've beaten both of them once, but it will take at least a split for Cincy to remain in the playoff picture at the top of the stretch run.
- 8. Eagles (5-2) Last Week: 10
Welcome back, Eagles offense! The Eagles took flight against the Giants and showed the productivity we've been waiting to see all season. A showdown with the Cowboys looms, and you have to like the Eagles' chances at home against a team that's been lightly tested during their three-game winning streak.
- 9. Cowboys (5-2) Last Week: 11
Speaking of the lightly-tested devil, Tony Romo and the Cowboys return to the house of horrors that ended his 2008 season. Wide receiver Patrick Crayton said "it's still to be determined" if the 'Boys are better than that team. We'll find out soon enough.
- 10. Ravens (4-3) Last Week: 14
We finally got the defensive performance we've been waiting to see all season. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison may have been a member of Rex Ryan's staff but it still takes time to adjust to a different voice at the top. If the Ravens have made the transition, we're looking at quite a race in the AFC North.
- 11. Texans (5-3) Last Week: 17
This has the makings of the best Houston Texans team yet. They are legitimate playoff threat, especially now that the defense can stop the run. Hopefully Steve Slaton can fix his fumbling woes. They will have a big test in Indy this coming week. -- MS
- 12. Chargers (4-3) Last Week: 18
The division "lock" managed to barely beat a Raiders team that played surprisingly well, but still isn't nearly as talented as the Chargers. Norv Turner & Co. welcome the first half of their NFC East schedule over the next few weeks and not winning at least one of those games is gonna put the Bolts in a serious hole.-- WB
- 13. Falcons (4-3) Last Week: 12
Who couldn't see this coming? Teams that throw the ball well can beat Atlanta. Teams that have handed the Falcons their beat-downs were lead by Tom Brady, Tony Romo and Drew Brees, and each quarterback threw for more than 275 yards while dissecting the Atlanta secondary. The Falcons only face one team over the next five weeks that has a top-ten passing attack. Atlanta can get right back on track. -- KB
- 14. Packers (4-3) Last Week: 8
Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL in passer rating with a mark of 110.4. Of course, he's constantly being compared to Brett Favre, who has a far superior team due to offensive line, running game, special teams and the entire defense. But that's not gonna matter to the masses, because the Vikings are 7-1 while the Packers are 4-3. -- MS
- 15. Cardinals (4-3) Last Week: 9
I don't buy the whole 'revenge factor' against the Panthers; a 2009 regular season win does not equate to last years playoff loss. But the truth might be that the 'Cats are a little better than we thought and the Cards a little worse. -- WB
- 16. Bears (4-3) Last Week: 19
Is it possible to think your favorite team played like horse manure in a 30-6 win? Because that's how most Bears fans feel after Sunday's "victory" over the Browns. The offensive line is a major concern. -- MS
- 17. Giants (5-3) Last Week: 13
If the Giants were a Simpsons character, they'd be actor Troy McClure. You may remember them from such blowouts as 44-6 over the Raiders and 24-0 against the Buccaneers, but they've been a shell of their former selves for three weeks running. The biggest worry isn't whether Eli Manning's foot is still hurt, it's if it isn't and his poor play has no easy explanation.
- 18. Dolphins (3-4) Last Week: 21
Ted Ginn looked closer to the unemployment line than one of Week Eight's standout performers this time last week. That's why they play the games, though. The Dolphins can put themselves into the middle of the playoff discussion with a win at New England, but they're going to need a whole lot more from their offense and defense to make it happen.
- 19. Jets (4-4) Last Week: 15
The Jets have all the confidence and none of the bona fides. Teams that swagger like champions can't beat themselves, but that's what the Jets have done in three of the last four weeks. If that continues they'll be the mouthiest sub-.500 team in NFL history.
- 20. 49ers (3-4) Last Week: 20
Moral victories are not for the pantsless (trust me) and Mike Singletary can't really be that happy that his team eeked out a third straight loss against the Colts Sunday. But on the bright side, Vernon Davis is turning into a stud, Alex Smith is working on redemption and this division is wide open. -- WB
- 21. Jaguars (3-4) Last Week: 16
Need a bright spot after getting stomped by the winless Titans? Maurice Jones-Drew only needed eight carries to gain 177 yards and score twice -- on runs of 80 and 79 yards. Talk about excitement, even in a loss. -- MS
- 22. Panthers (3-4) Last Week: 24
The Panthers defense gave Kurt Warner fits last week and Carolina pulled off an upset in the desert. Few teams are running the ball better than Carolina right now, but they head into a three game stretch against New Orleans, Atlanta and Miami that could leave the Panthers outside of the divisional race looking in. -- KB
- 23. Bills (3-5) Last Week: 22
Trent Edwards is expected to return to the starting lineup following the bye week which is something of a mixed blessing. We're happy that he's feeling better, but the Bills won two of three without him in the mix. That's not really an argument for Ryan Fitzpatrick mind you, just a reminder that the Bills aren't a very good team.
- 24. Seahawks (2-5) Last Week: 23
Somewhere, on a motorcycle or golf course, Mike Holmgren is smiling -- Jim Mora's first season is looking about as hopeful as the walrus' last. But hey, again, at least it's the NFC West.-- WB
- 25. Raiders (2-6) Last Week: 25
An Outside the Lines report indicates that Tom Cable not only punched his assistant coach, but also often beat the women in his life. So that's pretty awesome, right? Wrong, obviously -- in fact, if you believe all the reports that are floating out in the media, you'd understand that Cable beats anyone and everyone except for the team that he's playing that week. -- WB
- 26. Titans (1-6) Last Week: 30
The embarrassment in New England, the bye, getting Cortland Finnegan back and starting Vince Young all seemed to be just what the doctor ordered, as the Titans actually looked respectable again. Chris Johnson is so talented. -- MS
- 27. Chiefs (1-6) Last Week: 26
How in the hell does a team suspending a running back for using homoexual slurs to reporters and calling his head coach out on Twitter suddenly become the second most talked about story in this division? I'm starting to think that Jason Whitlock was right about the Chiefs wanting Larry Johnson around; worst case is he tries to out-publicize Cable, right?-- WB
- 28. Rams (1-7) Last Week: 31
It isn't necessarily "good" to take knees for the first time since 2007 by beating the Lions, but it's certainly better than the opposite outcome, no? One win at a time. -- WB
- 29. Lions (1-6) Last Week: 27
Good thing they already got their win, because if you can't handle the Rams at home there aren't many things you can handle. Looks like they'll have another nice draft slot to continue the rebuilding process. -- MS
- 30. Redskins (2-5) Last Week: 28
Well, they've banned signs from FedEx Field which should fix all the problems for this team. It's hard to win when you're constantly looking into the stands and seeing people reminding you how much you suck. Still, it's a good bet that the team remembers it without any prompting.
- 31. Browns (1-7) Last Week: 29
A round of applause for Browns owner Randy Lerner! It takes a special kind of man to rush into hiring a coach and general manager and then fire that general manager halfway through his first season. That's the kind of leadership that will have people flocking to join your organization, Mr. Lerner, and it is sure to make Daniel Snyder green with envy.
- 32. Buccaneers (0-7) Last Week: 32
The Buccaneers have decided to use their bye week to indoctrinate a new quarterback, their third of the season. Rookie Josh Freeman takes over an offense that can barely pass or run. The lumps he'll take should be considered a lesson in tough love or at best a learning experience. Stay focused on the future Tampa, because your 2009 football team surely stinks. -- KB