1. Denver Broncos - Peyton Manning could have thrown for six touchdowns against the Jags, but he decided to hand off three goal line plays to Knowshon Moreno. No matter how the Broncos score, they are far and away the best offense in the NFL. I do have some questions about the defense, which is what cost them in the AFC Divisional Playoff game a year ago. They will get better when Von Miller comes back and Champ Bailey gets into game shape, but right now they look vulnerable. It’s still not enough to keep them out of the top spot.
2. Seattle Seahawks – Pete Carroll’s crew is barely holding onto this ranking. They have looked very sluggish on offense in at least three games this year, including an ugly win at home on Sunday against the Titans. They’ll get Percy Harvin back in a few weeks, which should help the offense, but it will take him a while to get into football shape. In the mean time, their defense and “Beast Mode” is enough to carry them into the playoffs.
3. New England Patriots – Everyone thinks of Tom Brady being the Golden Child and the reason this team is as good as they are. The truth is, the Patriots go as the defense goes. Those championships that Brady won was aided by having a top five defense. This year the offense has been sluggish with Brady sitting at the bottom of the division in completion percentage. The defense held the Saints explosive offense in check on Sunday and stopped Drew Brees when they needed to so Brady could do his thing. I know they have a loss, but I really can’t imagine the Chiefs beating the Pats anywhere.
4. Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid simply needed a fresh start in a different environment, as did Alex Smith. Together they are making beautiful music together in Kansas City. A stingy defense, great rushing game, and a quarterback that protects the ball is a recipe for success, and has given the Chiefs a 6-0 start after winning just two games a year ago. The style they play will keep them in any game. It will be fun to see Manning and that explosive offense match up with this formidable defense.
5. New Orleans Saints- Drew Brees was a first down away from being 6-0. I chalk Sunday’s loss up to a horrible play call on third and seven. Nonetheless, this team is back on top with Sean Payton at the helm, and Rob Ryan has the defense playing much better than that disaster season a year ago. Saints faithful are keeping their fingers crossed that Jimmy Graham’s injury isn’t too serious. With the Falcons banged up, the Saints should have no problem wrapping this division up.
6. Indianapolis Colts – Went in to San Francisco and beat the 49ers…check. Beat the Seahawks at home…check. This team is starting to play physical football and actually pushed around the Niners a few weeks ago, who many think have the best trench guys in the league. I have them sitting at sixth because I need to see them go to San Diego and win a game that they’re supposed to win. They’ve struggled against the Chargers over the years and this will be a huge test for them. If they win tonight, they will have a solid two game lead over Houston before hosting Peyton in the house that he built.
7. Cincinnati Bengals – If Andy Dalton can play like he did on Sunday, this Bengals team will be a tough out in the playoffs. The division isn’t that strong this year so it looks like they shouldn’t have much trouble wrapping things up this year and getting in. The good news is it doesn’t look like they’ll have to play the Texans in the post season this year. They showed resiliency in the win at Buffalo on Sunday, which should give them confidence going forward.
8. San Francisco 49ers – I’m really hesitant about this team. They don’t look as dominant this season and Kaepernick has looked pretty average since week 1. They are in a tough, physical division that will take it’s toll on San Fran and could leave them banged up and vulnerable come playoff time.
9. Chicago Bears – The emergence of Alshon Jeffries has been huge for the Bears offense and takes pressure off of Brandon Marshall to do everything. Jay Cutler has been Bipolar with his play this year, so it’s hard to tell which QB you’re going to get on a given night. The defense has taken a beating already this year and has some guys out for the year, but this is still a good football team that has a chance to win the North this year, as long as Forte can stay healthy.
10. Detroit Lions – It’s hard for me to put the Lions and Bears above the Packers, but Aaron Rodgers has built too much animosity with his teammates for him to be the same player he was two years ago. Matt Stafford has been incredible this year, even with Calvin Johnson banged up. Reggie Bush has been the most valuable player on that team, and they will only get better when Johnson is 100%.
11. Green Bay Packers – Eddie Lacey had a break out performance on Sunday with 120 yards rushing. A running game could be exactly what this team needs now that Randall Cobb and James Jones are going to miss significant time with injuries. The defense played well despite Clay Mathews being out. Right now they are sitting in third place in the North with plenty of time to catch the Bears and Lions.
12. Tennessee Titans – I have the Titans ranked fairly high because of their defense. This is a physical team that has come out of nowhere this year. Lucky for them they have a solid backup quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick. He does turn the ball over at inopportune times, but he can also sling the ball and put up points.
13. Dallas Cowboys – Don’t look now but dare I say… “How bout them Cowboys?” Tony Romo is having a spectacular season and has a lot of weapons on offense. This team has already scored 185 points and is able to offset a paper machete defense that Monte Kiffin is orchestrating. Everyone likes to criticize Romo for not winning in big moments, but this may be the year he gets the Boys over the hump in a now suspect NFC.
14. Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins are a game above .500, but I’m worried about a defense that was supposed to be the strength of this team giving up 24 points a game, which by the way is more than the offense is averaging. The loss of Reggie Bush has been noticeable and Mike Wallace is proving to be another overpaid wideout. Tannehill looks like a solid sophomore quarterback with a promising future in this league. They just aren’t ready to compete with the likes of Belichick and Tom Brady.
15. Baltimore Ravens – What do you get when a mediocre quarterback wins a Super Bowl in the last year of his contract? A very rich mediocre quarterback with a depleted roster and an average team. The Ravens sit at .500 a game behind Cincy in the North, tied with the Browns for second place in the division. The defense is still very good but the offense has been suspect at best. Ray Rice looks like a portion of what he used to be, and Flaaco is, well, an average quarterback. The Ravens will probably be the next team to win a Super Bowl and fail to make the playoffs the following year.
16. Carolina Panthers – Some people will snicker at this ranking, but just look at the numbers. The Panthers have given up a mere 68 points through five games, second best in the league. The running game is starting to flourish again which is allowing Cam Newton time in the pocket. They are 2-3, but I like their schedule and really feel like this could be an eight or nine win team.
17. New York Jets – Let’s face it, this isn’t a playoff team, but they are playing a lot better than most people thought they would. Many experts asked before the season began if we could have two winless teams for the first time, one being the Jets. All they’ve done is win half of their first six games and sit two games out of first in the AFC East. Gino Smith has looked good at times, but has also looked bad at times. He is a rookie, so the Jets aren’t concerned. If they can maintain a .500 record, Rex may just be able to keep his job another year.
18. Cleveland Browns – If this team had a legitimate quarterback, they could be 5-1 and one of the best teams in the AFC. Instead, they are led by a 30 year old pitcher who has no pocket presence, holds the ball too long, and is inaccurate. The Browns have weapons in Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon, and also boast the third best defense in the NFL. Unfortunately, they don’t have a signal caller.
19. St Louis Rams – The Rams may have finally found their running back in rookie Zac Stacy. He’s posted big numbers the past two weeks and Sam Bradford has been afforded time in the pocket because of a surging running game. The defense plays tough and physical, which is a huge plus in the NFC West containing teams like Seattle and San Francisco.
20. Arizona Cardinals – I really thought Carson Palmer would be better than what he’s been, but he is apparently well beyond his prime. They’ve only managed 111 points through six games, but they are still sitting at .500. The defense is very good and the special teams is always a threat, but they have a minimal rushing attack, which adds more pressure on Palmer. This is a good team, but not good enough to be competitive down the stretch.
And the rest of the league is as follows:
21. Philadelphia Eagles
22. San Diego Chargers
23. Buffalo Bills
24. Oakland Raiders
25. Atlanta Falcons
26. Washington Redskins
27. Houston Texans
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
29. Minnesota Vikings
30. New York Giants
31. Tampa Bay Bucaneers
32. Jacksonville Jaguars