1. Tennessee Titans – The Titans have won eight straight games and have Baltimore and Cleveland coming to town in the coming weeks. They came a yard short of winning it all last year. Barring injuries, this is the team to beat right now.
2. Oakland Raiders – It wasn’t too long ago when the Raiders had this record under coach Mike White and ended the season at 8-8. But, that’s not happening this season. The silver and black are en route to the playoffs with the title of AFC West champions.
3. Miami Dolphins – Tony Martin and O.J. McDuffie are getting healthy for a Miami team that got to first place in a competitive AFC East without them. That’s a great sign for the Dolphins, who were not expected to win this division with Jay Fiedler at quarterback.
4. New York Giants – Every week the same thing is said about the Giants: that they’re really not that good or eventually they will crumble. Well, if that’s the case, the NFC East is that bad. Kerry Collins and Tiki Barber and Amani Toomer are all playing well at the same time. As a result, New York is 7-2.
5. Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings botched a game-winning field goal Monday night and it all went downhill from there. Minnesota is starting to lose some games they should be winning. Although a road game at Green Bay is never a sure bet, the Vikes let it slip away in the rain. Watch out for Tampa.
6. St. Louis Rams – The Rams lost to Carolina at home. This just doesn’t happen to St. Louis. But, without Kurt Warner and now Marshall Faulk, the Rams are becoming more and more mediocre. Once the entire team gets healthy, they should become the elite of the NFC. Right now though, they’re only a game ahead of New Orleans.
7. New Orleans Saints – This team has won five straight and that’s because Ricky Williams and Jeff Blake and Joe Horn are hot. Are the Saints really 6-3 and one game behind the champion St. Louis Rams? Yep. Look out for this team.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Bucs are beginning to work things out. Keyshawn is getting the ball and the defense is shutting down opponents. Green Bay and then Chicago are up next for Tampa. That should be two more wins.
9. New York Jets – The Jets almost tied Denver at the end Sunday, but Vinny and the Jets fell just short. In a tight AFC East race, upcoming road games in Indy and Miami are crucial for the Jets, especially with road contests at Oakland and Baltimore also on the schedule.
10. Indianapolis Colts – The Colts shouldn’t have lost to the Bears, but this is why the games are played out. Even a 24-point comeback wasn’t enough to beat host Chicago, who entered the game winless at home.
11. Washington Redskins – Apply for place kicking within. They dominated the Cardinals but still lost. Brad Johnson is out and although The Danny said Norv Turner’s job status is fine, one’s got to wonder what the deal is with this team.
12. Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs got more than 500 yards passing from Elvis, but Kansas City still lost by over two touchdowns. They’re still in the wild card hunt and anything can happen, especially when Derrick Alexander is on your team.
13. Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles have no running game without Duce Staley and their wide receivers are just not good enough to make Philly an NFC East contender. However, the Birds have Donovan McNabb and that meant Philly’s first season sweep of rival Dallas since 1990.
14. Baltimore Ravens – Hey, Baltimore scored a few touchdowns – against Cincinnati. They’ve got to start somewhere. If the defense can hold Tennessee and if the offense can somehow show up against the Titans Sunday, the Ravens will be a legitimate top wild-card contender. But, right now, Baltimore is just slightly better than average.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Bill Cowher really does deserve credit for the job he has done with the Steelers. They nearly won in Tennessee Sunday and have Philly at home in the Keystone state battle.
16. Buffalo Bills – It’s always fun watching Wade Phillips at the end of games. The Bills always seem to be in last second games decided by a field goal. Phillips should keep Flutie in place of Rob Johnson. Flutie wins the close games and can go for the kill in the final two minutes better than anyone.
17. Denver Broncos – Great win in New York. Terrell Davis is back and with Griese and Rod Smith and Ed McCaffery, the Broncos are a tough team in the AFC West. It’ll be quite a race with Kansas City for the second spot in the division.
18. Detroit Lions – Well, Bobby Ross had it. Frankly, with the way the Lions have been playing as of late, Ross might just be the smartest man in Detroit. There’s no drive, no energy and Detroit isn’t playing nearly as well as it did at the start of the season.
19. Green Bay Packers – It was pretty much a miracle Monday night in a season where Monday Night Football has seen some of its greatest games. What a catch by Antonio Freeman in overtime. It was simply spectacular. Minnesota should kick itself for blowing the field goal attempt at the end of regulation. The last time that happened was a Monday night game between the Eagles and Dallas when Philly blew it. Mitch Berger and Gary Anderson blew in for Minnesota. They both happen to be former Birds. Coincidence?
20. Carolina Panthers – Panthers roared in St. Louis. Great win for a Panthers team that shows up one week then disappears the next.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars – Well, Jacksonville had a bye and it still managed to fumble the ball twice. Jaguars really have fallen from the top ranks, though Brunell is starting to play a little better.
22. Arizona Cardinals – So will Arizona get a new stadium or not? The best thing for Arizona Sunday was Washington’s kicking game. Whatever gets a win.
23. Dallas Cowboys – Dallas is just not good. They’re a losing team and they blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter to the Eagles. Emmitt Smith still looks fresh as can be, but other than that, there’s little offense in Big D.
24. Seattle Seahawks – Seattle is just not a good franchise. Just when it looks like they’re coming around the corner, they stumble and suddenly fall right back to where they were a few years ago. Where’s Dave Krieg and Steve Largent for the one-two combo.
25. Atlanta Falcons – Chandler is funny to watch because you know it’s only a matter of time before he falls apart. While Jamal Anderson and Terance Mathis are playing well, the Falcons now have to rely on Danny Kanell.
26. New England Patriots – Start focusing on probable free agents and college players. This team needs a lot of help.
27. Chicago Bears – Great win against Indy at home. While they almost blew it, the Bears found a way to win at Soldier Field. They’re still not a good team, but a win’s a win.
28. San Francisco 49ers – Strange to think the 49ers are arguably the worst team in the NFC. Their defense is awful and they can’t win. That’s what makes them bad. We’re quite the analysts over here.
29. Cincinnati Bengals – The Ravens brought the two-win Bengals back to reality Sunday. Surprised Dick LeBeau didn’t quit. That’s what Bruce Coslet did when Baltimore blew them out earlier in the season.
30. Cleveland Browns – Ah, this team is awful.
31. San Diego Chargers – Congratulations on a perfect season thus far.