The 11th Sunday of NFL play shed some light on how the teams stack up. Here’s how I see it …
1. Saints — They should get Jabari Greer and Sedrick Ellis back on D next week in time for their showdown with the Patriots.
2. Colts — Finding ways to win, and riding a nice streak of good fortune as well.
3. Vikings — Another vintage day from Brett Favre.
4. Patriots — No hangover from tough loss to Colts. The offense needs to escape its trend of second-half slow downs.
5. Chargers — From here on down, I don’t feel like we are dealing with truly elite teams. Philip Rivers is having another huge season, they’re hot and the defense is ascending. But there’s a dropoff after the top four.
6. Cardinals — Probably not getting enough respect. Their run game is getting amped. Kurt Warner’s second-half absence was largely precautionary.
7. Steelers — From what it appears, Ben Roethlisberger escaped serious injury in Pittsburgh’s loss to Kansas City. The rate at which he takes hits is staggering, however. Troy Polamalu‘s absence was felt, too.
8. Bengals — They need to prove they can handle success. They also need Cedric Benson back.
9. Eagles — You won’t find many three-game losing streaks on Andy Reid‘s resume. They still could be the class of the NFC East.
10. Giants — Losing Antonio Pierce is tough and the defense has issues, but they’re built for this time of year.
11. Texans — I’m putting them here begrudgingly, because I have a feeling they will lose to the Titans. This is another big game for them.
12. Ravens — They are four plays away from being 9-1, and have some tough losses to good teams. Cam Cameron needs to rediscover his 2008 template and spark the offense.
13. Dolphins — They keep suffering big injuries, but they keep fighting for their season. Ricky Williams is the key now. What a season he’s having.
14. Jaguars — Their record is deceiving to me. They had some games handed to them … But give them credit for accepting the gifts.
15. Packers — They will have to finish the season without Al Harris and Aaron Kampman, which would be tough. They do have key wins against the other NFC wild-card contenders, however, which should help them out. Aaron Rodgers is a stud, and the run game is coming around.
16. Cowboys — I just don’t believe in them. They should have lost Sunday to the Redskins. I don’t buy them winning that division. They usually wait until December to falter.
17. Broncos — They are who we thought they were.
18. Falcons — They nearly pulled off a comeback in New York, but injuries to their running backs hurt and the defense lacks bite.
19. Bears — Good news for them — they have no more prime-time games upcoming. They are 0-4 on the big stage this season.
20. Titans — Chris Johnson is about the most explosive player in the game right now. I’m loving what Vince Young is doing, too.
21. 49ers — That was a valiant comeback attempt in Green Bay, but they win games on the ground. If they aren’t able to feed Frank Gore enough, they can’t win.
22. Panthers — I guess a prime-time game on the NFL Network would be the most fitting time for Jake Delhomme‘s brief interception-free streak to end.
23. Jets — Their free fall ain’t over, I don’t think.
24. Chiefs — Arrowhead was rocking Sunday like the good ol’ days. Jamaal Charles is giving them a spark and the defense is making strides.
25. Seahawks — A front office shake-up could be on the horizon.
26. Raiders — Sunday’s win over the Bengals was their second scalping of a playoff-caliber team already this season (they earlier beat the Eagles). When they exude effort, they can be effective and the quarterback change gave the team life.
27. Rams — They are putting a scare in some people, but they lack the ability and talent to close the deal.
28. Lions — Fantastic comeback in Draft Bowl I vs. the Browns. Good spirit for a franchise that has seen dark, dark days.
29. Redskins — They are playing more competitive football, but their offensive limitations can be staggering.
30. Buccaneers — The Saints destroy rookie quarterbacks, and Josh Freeman was the latest example.
31. Bills — I can’t see firing Dick Jauron changing anything.
32. Browns — Eric Mangini‘s timeout allowed Matthew Stafford back in game, and doomed his team to painful defeat. Ugly.