What an absolutely insane first few weeks in the NFL have been. Seventeen teams, 17 !!!, are still over .500. And it’s crazy how one week a team (say, the Giants) can look like total crap and then the next week to go out and smoke a top-five team like the Falcons. Powerhouses like the Bengals losing to junk teams like the Buccaneers and upsets like the Saints are making this season something to watch. It is almost impossible to know who will be left standing at the end of the year.
Especially after Monday night’s Bears-Cardinals game. Chicago has been seen as, by far, the best team in the NFL. The offense was racking up points, the defense was closing teams and he seemed to be playing with such consistency. Then Arizona, a poor team, takes them home and blows the doors off them. But, in the blink of an eye, two lucky defensive plays, a special teams marker and a lost FG from Neil Rackers later, the Bears are still undefeated.
What Monday night’s game showed me is that the Bears are not invincible. In fact, they may not be as good as we all think. They have played most of their home games and have yet to face a tough away challenge. Rex Grossman and Bernard Berrian have yet to show what they can do against good defense on the road. I am not sold. However, they remain at n. 1.
The big boosters this week, the Carolina Panthers, jumped nine spots to # 5, while the Falcons dropped 11 spots to # 16. Meanwhile, the Birds’ second tough loss of the season leaves them out of the top 5, but not out of the top 10. Not yet, anyway.
Now … in the rankings …
(1) Chicago Bears (5-0) – They escaped the desert through the skin of their teeth, in one of the strangest games I have seen in my life. Having your quarterback flip the ball six times and come back 20 points down in the second half without an offensive touchdown is just incredible.
(2) Indianapolis Colts (5-0) – His trade for Bucs DT Booger McFarland should help that running defense, which has been the Colts’ Achilles heel so far in 2006. However, they paid a high price, giving up a second-round pick. We’ll see if choosing a mucus works for Indy.
4) San Diego Chargers (4-1) – The Colts are taller because they are undefeated, but for my money, the Chargers are the best team in the AFC, if not the NFL. Of course, Schottenheimer will find a way to sabotage his Super Bowl chances, but we’re still at least a couple of months away from that. Philip Rivers is real.
(9) Seattle Seahawks (4-1) – It hasn’t been pleasant for the Hawks this season, with Shaun Alexander’s foot injury and the loss of Steve Hutchinson drastically affecting the running game. However, last Sunday’s monstrous comeback victory at St. Louis, with the division leadership at stake, was monstrous. Seattle needed that game.
(14) Carolina Panthers (4-2) – Since Steve Smith returned to the lineup, the Panthers are 4-0. It’s hard to believe that a wide receiver can make a big difference, but the facts are the facts. That was also an impressive performance from Jake Delhomme in Baltimore on Sunday.
(7) New England Patriots (4-1) – The Pats drop one spot on bye week amid rumors of a possible trade for disgruntled Raiders WR Randy Moss. It did not happen. Can you imagine Moss and Belichek coexisting? Talk about oil and vinegar. Of course, Tom Brady still doesn’t have anyone to pitch to.
(10) Denver Broncos (4-1) – I hate his offense and think Jake Plummer is a terrible quarterback. But their defense has convinced me to finally make them go up a bit. Just one touchdown in the first five games of the season? It had never been done before.
(8) Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) – These guys might be scoring too high right now, I realize. They are a very lopsided team, you just don’t know what you’re going to get out of these guys. But I feel like this team is ready to start clicking on offense. Once that happens, be careful.
(12) New Orleans Saints (5-1) – I don’t think they are more talented than the Eagles, but they definitely proved they are for real on Sunday. After the Birds stole momentum from New Orleans early in the quarter, the Saints got it back and dominated the entire fourth quarter. A pretty impressive win for a quality team.
(3) Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) – Yes, they should be 6-0 but they are not. Frankly, the defense hasn’t been good enough for this team to be undefeated. And we can talk about all the mental crises and the talent level all we want. But until this team is able to tacitly commit to the running game and stop the big play at D, they will continue to beat themselves.
(6) Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) – What’s happening in Cincinnati? Maybe all the police activity has caused these guys to lose focus, but there is no way, NO WAY, a Super Bowl contender should lose to a winless team, I don’t care where he is. These guys have had their ups and downs all year and they better get it fixed soon.
(11) St. Louis Rams (4-2) – Despite losing a great division game at home to the Seahawks, they were quite impressive on Sunday. It was a great fight between Hasslebeck and Bulger. Unfortunately, the Hawks got the last ball and scored on a monster FG when time expired. But the Rams appear to be real, too, as long as Bulger continues to play football flawlessly.
(16) Dallas Cowboys (3-2) – One question … Do you think Bill Parcells is happy or upset that Terrell Owens caught three touchdown passes on Sunday? It’s an absolute zoo in Dallas, with a fight between Owens and his catching coach, rumors of fines or suspensions that never came, and reports of heavy friction between Owens, Jones and Parcells. Oh!
(17) New York Giants (3-2) – Despite an impressive win over the Falcons on Sunday, I can’t put these guys any higher, not until I see him more regularly. This team, along with the Redskins, are two of the most amazing teams in the NFL. Some weeks they look like Super Bowl contenders, other weeks they look like shit. I have no idea what the Giants are, so I’m going to put them here in the middle of the pack until I find out.
(13) Baltimore Ravens (4-2) – Again, another team with very good defense but serious problems on offense. The solution? Fire Jim Fassel. I have no idea if this is going to help anything, and the bye week should give Steve McNair time to get ready after his concussion on Sunday. But the offense was failing even with McNair there, and Brian Billick believes he is the solution. We’ll see.
(5) Atlanta Falcons (3-2) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you stop Mike Vick from running and shut down Warrick Dunn, you beat the Falcons. It is not a difficult formula. Congratulations to the Giants for showing us once again how it’s done.
(15) Minnesota Vikings (3-2) – It’s becoming apparent that no one catches the Bears in the North, so the Vikes should turn their attention to the Wild Card. The bad news is that there are a lot of more talented occasions that seem to have the inside track.
(20) Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3) – Finally, the Steelers looked like the Steelers of old. The extra bye week seemed to do Ben Roethlisburger a lot of good, Willie Parker showed that glimmer that makes him special, and Hines Ward found the end zone. They still have a long way to go, but the Stillers aren’t dead yet.
(22) New York Jets (3-3) – This looks like an 8-8 team to me. They don’t have any running games, you just don’t know what you’ll get from Chad Pennington from week to week, but they have a bad enough schedule to allow them to beat some of the most boring teams in the NFL.
(18) Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) – Did I mention that Herman Edwards can’t be a coach? Of course, they played the world champions after a week off at their home field. That’s like lambs to the slaughterhouse. Objective 45-7? Good teams don’t lose like that.
(19) Washington Redskins (2-4) – How the heck, with all that talent and all that money and all those high-profile coaches, lose a home game to a rookie quarterback and the Tennessee Titans? How could such a thing happen? The Skins are proving once again that money is not always the answer.
(21) Buffalo Bills (2-4) – While Willis McGahee may be having a good year in yards, he still can’t seem to find the end zone. The Bills’ red zone offense is almost non-existent and they do enough each week to lose.
(23) San Francisco 49ers (2-4) – Alex Smith continues to play well, but San Fran’s defense is a disaster. They have given up 48, 41, 38 and 34 points in their four losses. However, they have beaten the Rams. This is a crazy league, folks.
(30) Tennessee Titans (1-5) – Despite my punches against the Redskins just now, that was a pretty impressive win for a team that had most counted backwards and outwards. And while they certainly won’t go to the playoffs this year, they have a young quarterback they can get excited about … Vince Young. He showed the poise of a much older player and calmly led the Titans to a big victory on the road on Sunday.
(24) Cleveland Browns (1-4) – Unfortunately, the Browns don’t have any great young players to give them hope. Unless you’re counting Kellen Winslow, Jr., who has yet to prove it will be worth the investment. It’s a long climb for the Brownies.
(25) Miami Dolphins (1-5) – Okay, so we’re officially declaring that this season for Miami has been a wash, right? I mean, Daunte obviously came back too early from injury, which is why the whole team has flushed their season down the toilet, correct? Come on guys, show a little heart! This season has been as much about the putrid play of the offensive line and terrible defense as Culpepper has. There is no heart in Miami.
(27) Green Bay Packers (1-4) – During the bye week, Brett Favre threw three interceptions during a family picnic. His QB rating really went up.
(29) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4) – A very impressive first win of the season for Jon Gruden and the Bucs, beating the Bengals at home. You’ve got to like how Steve Gradkowski has kept them up in the two games they’ve played since Sims went down with a ruptured spleen. And Cadillac Williams is finally starting to show some life, too.
(31) Detroit Lions (1-5) – Congratulations to the Detroit Lions on their first win of the season over the Bills. And kudos to Roy Williams, who, after I traded him in week 3 of my fantasy football league season, finally showed a little heart and had a great week. Folks, if you have Roy Williams on your fantasy team, get rid of him now. Because you won’t do that again until week 12.
(28) Houston Texans (1-4) – How many teams were free this week? Caramba! I hate this new goodbye system. It appears that a third of the league did not play in Week 6.
(26) Arizona Cardinals (1-5) – Wow. What to say about the Monday night loss. Just a jaw-dropping mind-blowing choke job. It wasn’t just the fact that they blew a 20-point lead, it’s the fact that they did so without allowing an offensive touchdown. Think how difficult it is. It’s almost impossible! But not for the Cardinals. The only bright spot … Matt Leinart is going to be a very good quarterback in this league for a long, long, long time.
(32) Oakland Raiders (0-5) – The good paddle on the boat was in high spirits during the bye week. Randy Moss was almost traded to the Patriots and Jerry Porter was suspended. How come these two guys weren’t traded for draft picks, especially considering how many teams could use a good catcher? I do not understand.