1. New Orleans Saints – THE GOOD – The Saints just keep rollin’, although they had a close one at home against the Falcons Monday night. Offense has so many weapons, they can run it and everyone is a threat to catch the ball. The WR’s and TE Jeremy Shockey are making great catches for Drew Brees. The Saints new aggressive defense thrives on creating big turnovers. THE BAD – Defense still gives up yards and points, still question marks about playing in bad weather stadiums, although it won’t matter if the Saints get the #1 seed in the NFC. CONTENDER? Yes.
2. Indianapolis Colts – THE GOOD – Manning is still playing at a very high level. Offense moves the ball when it needs to. Defensive secondary is playing very well and should only get better with Bob Sanders back in the lineup. Colts are giving up a league-best only 13 points a game THE BAD – Run defense is still pretty bad (Frank Gore ripped off a 50+ yard TD run on Sunday), running game is only 30th in the league in yards. That’s usually not the recipe for a SB champ, but things are a little different in today’s NFL so time will tell. CONTENDER? Yep.
3. Minnesota Vikings – THE GOOD – With impressive road games against the Steelers and Packers, the Vikes are looking great right now. Favre continues to look really good out there. Running game is still great. O-line is playing very well. Defense seems to be actually playing better as the season progresses, the secondary is blanketing WR’s. THE BAD – Will Favre’s play hold up throughout the season or will it dip like last year? Playing home games in a dome could help. Defense has given up a lot of yards so far this year, but has gotten better. CONTENDER? Yep.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers – THE GOOD – With a bye the Steelers are where they were last week. Big Ben is playing great, defense is still stout, James Harrison is still James Harrison (8 sacks through 7 games) the WR corps is one of the more underrated ones out there. O-line is playing better than they have in years. THE BAD – Still question marks about the run game, will it continue to improve as the season progresses or will it become a non-factor like last year? Questionable coaching decisions at times. CONTENDER? Yep.
5. New England Patriots – THE GOOD – Also with a bye, the Pats get ready for their stretch run. Offense is putting up yards and points, defense is playing well for the most part. THE BAD – Still question marks about the run game and how good the defense will be against the better offenses in the league. CONTENDER? Looks like it, but let’s wait until they play some better competition.
6. Denver Broncos – THE GOOD – Defense is this team’s backbone and is still playing great for the most part, allowing a league-best 266 yards and under 14 points a game. O-line looks very solid. Orton is doing a good job as a game manager. THE BAD – Is this a complete team? Offense is pretty average, which puts a lot of pressure on the defense. Is the defense as good as the numbers indicate or are they overachieving? Are the Broncos this year’s 2008 NY Jets? A great start only to flounder the rest of the way and miss the playoffs? Lots of questions which should be answered over the next month or so. CONTENDER? Maybe, still too early to tell with this team.
7. Philadelphia Eagles – THE GOOD – After demolishing the Giants, the Eagles may have turned a corner on the season. Young talent on offense is paying handsome dividends for the team. McNabb, at this point in his career, seems to play great or pretty mediocre. Usually the former. Defense has been playing better. THE BAD – Offense is very inconsistent. Andy Reid seems to make questionable coaching decisions at times. Defense may not be as good as it used to be, although injuries have something to do with that. CONTENDER? Not convinced, but with remaining games against Dallas (twice), road games against San Diego, Chicago, Giants, Atlanta and home games against the 49ers and Denver, the Eagles can definitely prove they are!
8. Cincinnati Bengals – THE GOOD – With a bye, the Bengals are playing smart sound football and perhaps overachieving a little with their record. RB Cedric Benson is having a great season so far, Carson Palmer has looked fairly solid at QB. Defense is improved from season’s past. THE BAD – Defense is giving up a ton of yards through the air, offense doesn’t put up a lot of points with a more ball-control offense than previous Bengal offenses. CONTENDER? Probably not.
9. Baltimore Ravens – THE GOOD – With an impressive 30-7 win over Denver, the Ravens could use that as momentum for the rest of the season. Jim Harbaugh is definitely one of the best young head coaches in the NFL. Joe Flacco is the real deal at QB. Offense is moving the ball and is very balanced. Defense can still make big plays, especially at home. O-line is playing great. THE BAD – Defense isn’t as good as past Raven defenses. WR corps is aging. Even with Ed Reed in the secondary the Ravens are only ranked 19th in pass yards allowed. CONTENDER? Even with a 4-3 record, the Ravens are a contender. This team could easily be 5-2 or even 6-1 if they got a couple breaks here and there.
10. Dallas Cowboys – THE GOOD – Tony Romo has over 900 yards, 8 TD’s and 0 INT’s in his last 3 games. Not too shabby, even if 2 of those games were against the Chief and Seahawks. Offense is balanced and productive with the run and pass. Cowboys defense has done a good job against the run so far. THE BAD – Defense has given up a lot of yards, Tony Romo is still a question mark in terms of consistency. Wade Philips is still the head coach. CONTENDER? This team is a real enigma, who knows if they are or not, I’m going to have to say no right now. Team is way too inconsistent and Wade Philips is still the head coach to consider them legit.