In my opening last week, I mentioned that the good teams were starting to separate themselves. This week showed the separation even more starkly. Good teams can get lucky and catch breaks, too. Also, the AFC clearly looks to be the stronger of the two conferences at this point of the season. Could that change as the season moves on? Certainly. But for now, the power teams are heavily skewed toward the AFC. Let's go!
1.) NY Jets (5-1) [no change]
It's always nice for me when teams are on a bye and already in the Rankings. No movement, no thinking, no questioning. Plus, the Jets are one of the three prospective "great" teams that have shown up so far. Not to be premature, or anything...because the Jets could come out in Week 8 and lay an egg. But I have confidence that they'll continue to play well.
2.) New England (5-1) [no change]
Going into San Diego and playing late is better than playing early. Still, the Patriots were not at their best. But as I said above, good teams find a way...even if it means watching a kicker bounce one off the upright after a stupid penalty. This is another team I have confidence in, though, so I'm sure they'll play at a higher level in the weeks to come.
3.) Pittsburgh (5-1) [no change]
Some might get hung up on the fact that the Steelers pulled out a victory when they probably didn't deserve it. They might complain about the call being a fluke, that Miami clearly had possession, and such. It just fits into my theme of finding ways to win. And not every win will be pretty. This one sure wasn't pretty...but there were uglier ones this week as well.
4.) Indianapolis (4-2) [no change]
The Colts were on a bye, yet they lost Dallas Clark for the season and might be without Austin Collie as well. Ouch. That means someone will have to step up in the interim. Of course, since they have Peyton Manning at QB...it probably won't be as difficult to adjust. Probably. We'll see next Monday.
5.) Tennessee (5-2) [no change]
The Titans owned the 4th quarter against Philadelphia. Kenny Britt played well with Kerry Collins, and some people might wonder if there's a QB controversy brewing. This isn't like the Eagles' situation; Vince Young is the Titans' starter. The situation in Philadelphia is not as clear-cut. Tennessee now leads the AFC South, and they've got what looks like stiff competition.
6.) Baltimore (5-2) [+1]
It went into overtime, but the Ravens got the win. It does concern me that they had to go to OT against Buffalo, of all teams, especially after losing in OT to New England. Now that Ed Reed has come back, I think the already surprising defense gets better. The AFC North will probably be a dogfight down the stretch, though the loser probably gets a wild card for their trouble.
7.) Atlanta (5-2) [+1]
Best team in the NFC? At the moment, I think so. Why? They've played three games against the AFC and are 2-1. OK, so the two victories are at Cleveland and against Cincinnati, not exactly "elite" teams. Their lone loss was at Pittsburgh, in overtime. So it's possible that I've underrated the Falcons. We'll see in a couple weeks when they take on Baltimore. If the Falcons win in two weeks and win against Baltimore, they'll be 7-2 and in the driver's seat in their division.
8.) NY Giants (5-2) [-]
In this case, there's nothing wrong with second-best. Especially in the NFC. It's hard to imagine the Giants losing home-field advantage or the NFC East at this point. If they keep playing like this, 10 wins will come with ease, and they could end up with 12. Why are they behind Atlanta? Well, they've played two games against the AFC and lost both. Granted, they looked better on Monday. So they're clearly rising. But are they the best in the NFC? Not just yet.
9.) Kansas City (4-2) [-]
A solid win against Jacksonville after outscoring them by a count of 28-7 in the second half. The Chiefs have one of the easier schedules out there, too. It would not be shocking to see them end up with 12 or 13 wins. Matt Cassel appears to be rounding into form; he's got weapons in TE Tony Moeaki and WR Dwayne Bowe. And he's got a hell of a running game behind him spearheaded by Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles. With San Diego and Denver looking pretty pathetic, KC has run with the ball and have a solid lead in the AFC West. It's still the weakest division in the AFC, but don't be surprised if the Chiefs give teams a run for their money in the playoffs.
10.) Tampa Bay (4-2) [-]
There are a couple other teams that I could have put here in the 10th spot. But for some reason I like Tampa Bay; even if they got demolished by the Saints (who in turn got demolished by the CLEVELAND Browns, of all teams), they still had the resiliency to hand the Rams a loss via Josh Freeman's bread-and-butter: the 4th quarter comeback. Tampa Bay looks like they're for real...but if they can put together some consistent performances in a row, it'd do them better.