The CW is wrong in this case, however. Parity still exists and it exists in the worst way possible. Just take a look at the teams ranked between 12 and 24 and try to come up with any real way of separating them from one another. It's awfully difficult to do because all of them are, at best, mediocre teams who stand no more chance of winning the Super Bowl than the Browns or Redskins. That's going to make for an ugly stretch run as there are only three divisions with fewer than two games between the first and second place teams.
- 1. Saints (8-0) Last Week: 1
New Orleans has been tested in each of the last two weeks by divisional foes, each time coming out on top, showing the resolve of a championship team But the Saints should worry a little about their defense. In their first four wins New Orleans gave up 16.5 points per game. In their last four, they have given up 27 per game.-- Knox Bardeen
- 2. Colts (8-0) Last Week: 2
Only one team in the AFC has a higher point differential and it's by a single point. That teams? Their Week 10 opponent, of course. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The Colts already have a stronghold on the division and a win here would give them a similar grip -- at least temporarily -- on the AFC. -- Matt Snyder
- 3. Steelers (6-2) Last Week: 4
If the Steelers go back to the Super Bowl this season, it won't be a surprise to hear the second half of Monday's game in Denver hailed as the moment the season turned for them. Their defense was impenetrable, their offense gained 321 yards (after sputtering in the first half) and Rashard Mendenhall ran like the elite back they hope he is.
- 4. Vikings (7-1) Last Week: 3
They come off a bye well-rested and healthy to face a stretch of Lions, Seahawks and Bears. All at home. Needless to say, they'll have the North wrapped up and begin focusing on home field in a few weeks. They may as well start scoreboard watching New Orleans now. -- MS
- 5. Patriots (6-2) Last Week: 6
We pause now to remind you that Randy Moss remains one of the most freakishly talented individuals to play the game of football. His one-handed grab early in the game against the Dolphins is the stuff that dreams are made of, and he's just one of the reasons to like their chances in Indy this weekend.
- 6. Bengals (6-2) Last Week: 7
They may have done the impossible on Sunday. They shut Ray Lewis's mouth. The Ravens linebacker didn't have a thing to say after the Bengals handled his squad without much trouble. If they do it again against the Steelers, there will be a lot more speechless people around the NFL.
- 7. Cowboys (6-2) Last Week: 9
Everything is going the Cowboys' way right now. The Giants are tanking, they avenged themselves in Philly and Roy Williams actually had a productive game. The schedule sets up quite nicely for them in the second half as well, which may mean Wade Phillips keeps his job for another year.
- 8. Broncos (6-2) Last Week: 5
The Broncos are still leading the division, but I don't think anyone can fault me for thinking the Chargers are better -- Josh McDaniels will probably end up going to the playoffs in his first year anyway, but his team's been a little more exposed after plowing through that soft underbelly of an early schedule. Things only get tougher from here too. -- Will Brinson
- 9. Chargers (5-3) Last Week: 12
I don't think you can reasonably say enough about how clutch and just how massive for this season Philip Rivers' touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson was on Sunday. Beating Eli Manning was probably fun, but the Chargers desperately needed that win to make sure they weren't staring down another typical attempt to get back on track late in the season. -- WB
- 10. Falcons (5-3) Last Week: 13
Michael Turner is back on track, posting back-to-back 100-plus yards rushing games for the first time since Week 12 and Week 13 of last season. Turner is good enough to carry this team on his back for a while, but if they truly want to make a deep playoff run Matt Ryan needs to improve in the passing game. He threw for a season-low 135 yards on Sunday against a tough Redskins pass defense and hasn't posted a quarterback rating above 81.1 since Week 5. -- KB
- 11. Cardinals (5-3) Last Week: 15
After stomping the Bears (although they may have pulled Kurt Warner a little early ...), the Cardinals continue to confuse about whether or not they're elite. Fortunately for 'Zona, they're in the NFC West, where being anything slightly above mediocre means you're probably walking away with a division crown. -- WB
- 12. Eagles (5-3) Last Week: 8
Here's how you know that Brian Westbrook is more injury prone than your average running back: He's missed two weeks of games and practices because of a concussion, but is now sidelined with pain in his surgically repaired ankle. It doesn't make much sense, but little about the bipolar Eagles offense does.
- 13. Texans (5-4) Last Week: 11
Devastating loss on a missed field goal (which, to be fair, would have only tied the game in regulation) against the Houston nemesis Colts. The Texans will have a bye to lick their wounds and will get another shot at Indy in Week 12 at home. A playoff berth is still a distinct possibility. -- MS
- 14. Ravens (4-4) Last Week: 10
There are still plenty of reasons to like the Ravens, Ray Rice chief among them, but you can only spin four losses in five games so many ways before you're left with serious doubts about a team. An aging defense leads the list and unless Ponce de Leon comes walking through those doors, that ain't changing.
- 15. Jaguars (4-4) Last Week: 21
Just a mediocre team sputtering along playing mediocre football. They aren't technically out of the playoff picture, but it's hard to see them winning more than eight games. They rank 16th in total offense and 23rd in total defense. Again, it's just a bastion of mediocrity here. -- MS
- 16. Packers (4-4) Last Week: 14
Aaron Rodgers has a lot of talent as a passer and the offensive line is bad. However, Rodgers needs to make an adjustment and get rid of the football much quicker, otherwise he's only adding to the weakness. At 37, the Packers have allowed more sacks than any other team -- seven more than the second-most (Chiefs). -- MS
- 17. Giants (5-4) Last Week: 17
It says a lot about how aggressively mediocre the middle ground of this year's league is that the Giants nearly moved up in the rankings after losing a fourth straight game. I just couldn't make it happen, though, and they'll need to actually prove they understand what's wrong with them before they can make their way back into the top half of the league.
- 18. Dolphins (3-5) Last Week: 18
Just when the NFL figured out the answers to the Wildcat, the Dolphins have gone and changed the questions. Now we've got the Pistol, led by Pat White, to try and distract us from the fact that the Dolphins are still a few players short of challenging anyone using a traditional offensive set.
- 19. Jets (4-4) Last Week: 19
Big game with the Jaguars this weekend as the loser is going to have a very hard time of finding their way into the playoff mix. Even if they win, they've got a rematch with the Patriots in Week 11 and a slim chance of getting too far away from .500.
- 20. Bears (4-4) Last Week: 16
Good thing Lovie Smith took over the defensive play-calling. They've been embarrassed twice in the past three weeks and Smith appears to be lacking in both preparation and scheming. Perhaps a trip to San Fran to face the scuffling 49ers will help? -- MS
- 21. Titans (2-6) Last Week: 26
This is a totally different team than the one that entered the bye week 0-6. It's likely a combination of coaching adjustments, Vince Young at quarterback, Cortland Finnegan returning to the lineup and more of a reliance on the dynamic Chris Johnson. Speaking of, keep your eyes on Johnson. He's on pace for 1,918 rushing yards and he's still improving. -- MS
- 22. Panthers (3-5) Last Week: 22
Carolina pulled off an upset in the desert two weeks ago and gave New Orleans all they could handle last Sunday. Jake Delhomme didn't throw an interception in those two games and the rushing attack averaged 226 yards per game. Even though the team is 1-1 over that stretch their good play gives hope for the second half.-- KB
- 23. 49ers (3-5) Last Week: 20
Mike Singletary's team, meanwhile, is in a straight freefall. having lost four in a row ... despite being undefeated in their conference. I guess if they're really desperate to justify what's happening they can always call Vince Young a "winner" or something like that -- a loss to Chicago on Thursday night is going to make for a loooooooong weekend for Singletary. And not in that fun vacation kind of way. -- WB
- 24. Seahawks (3-5) Last Week: 24
Is it premature to think that the 'Hawks might be making a play in this division? Well probably ... okay, since they beat Detroit, yeah, it's probably too early. But they're at the very least tied for second in the division with a huge matchup against Arizona coming this weekend. If Seattle can manage to win that (which seems unlikely but isn't impossible) than suddenly we can really start talking about a division run. -- WB
- 25. Bills (3-5) Last Week: 23
From the home office in Orchard Park, New York comes the top one way you know that your season isn't going well: It's Week 10 and you're already talking about signing Michael Vick.
- 26. Raiders (2-6) Last Week: 25
Know what? I actually had to think about who the Raiders played this week before realizing they were on a bye. And lest you think I'm stupid or don't pay attention, I only got messed up because Tom Cable's name was still on the bottom line the ENTIRE FREAKING WEEKEND because he's like a real-life Russell Crowe Fightin' Round the World character.-- MS
- 27. Chiefs (1-7) Last Week: 27
Well, the Larry Johnson saga is finally over. And boy, was that fun. Now, if Dwayne Bowe could kindly punch Todd Haley in the face, that would certainly give us bloggers a little something more to do; after all, there's probably only so much we can write about Johnson once he joins up with the Redskins. Oh, right. Oh yeah, and the Chiefs almost beat the Jags. Woo. Hoo. -- WB
- 28. Buccaneers (1-7) Last Week: 32
Tampa Bay proclaimed the future of the franchise, Josh Freeman, their new starter and threw him into the lion's den as close to defenseless as possible in Week 9. The first-round pick from Kansas State responded by throwing three touchdown passes and leading "his" team to their first victory of the season.-- KB
- 29. Rams (1-7) Last Week: 28
Nothing better than picking up your only win of the season right before the bye, right? Sure, it's a lost season and sure the Rams are just pure-tee awful, but at least they got to have two weeks of that winning feeling -- there's a decent chance it's gonna be the only two weeks they feel that way all season long.-- WB
- 30. Lions (1-7) Last Week: 29
There should be at least one more win on the schedule (in Week 11 they host the Browns). A 2-14 record might seem bad, but that's a two-game improvement and the new administration wasn't cleaning up Matt Millen's mess in one season. It's hard to tell Lions fans to be patient, but patience is needed right now. -- MS
- 31. Redskins (2-6) Last Week: 30
They aren't really thinking of signing Larry Johnson are they? Let's hope that they are actually in talks with the former UNLV, Hornets and Knicks forward and not the newly unemployed running back. Neither will help the team, but at least the basketball one cross-dresses.
- 32. Browns (1-7) Last Week: 31
Welcome back to the bottom of the ladder, proud logoless helmeted warriors! Word is that they want Mike Holmgren to come in and run the football operation, which isn't good news for Eric Mangini. There's only so much room at the buffet table.