Looking ahead to Week 7 of the NFL season, we break down the top teams from No. 1 to No. 32.
While there are still a lot of unknowns — like, Are the 49ers for real? Will the Packers ever lose? Is Tom Brady human? — one thing is for certain: If you’re going to give a postgame handshake, please make sure it’s a strong one. Anyway, away we go:
1. Green Bay Packers (6-0): Talk of a perfect season is growing louder and, barring a major catastrophe — like Aaron Rodgers pulling a Gus Frerotte — it should continue.
2. New England Patriots (5-1): Tom Brady sure is a beautiful band-aid for the NFL’s worst-ranked defense, which is giving up 423.7 yards per game.
3. Baltimore Ravens (4-1): Most balanced team in football right now. Question is, can QB Joe Flacco be trusted in a big game come January?
4. San Diego Chargers (4-1): Rule of thumb is not to drop teams on their bye week, but their strength of schedule so far gives us serious reservations.
5. San Francisco 49ers (5-1): Jim Harbaugh isn’t going to apologize for Handshake-Gate” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>. He also isn’t going to apologize for that Coach of the Year award.
6. Detroit Lions (5-1): They weren’t going to go undefeated. Getting that loss out of the way early will help them in the long run. Plus, coach Jim Schwartz has a chip on his shoulder.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2): TCOB, as Mac might say. Baby Bucs beat the Saints and now own first place in tough NFC South. Our man-crush on Josh Freeman is huge.
8. New Orleans Saints (4-2): Drew Brees made a rare mistake last week. It won’t happen again, and that’s not good for the Colts this week.
9. New York Giants (4-2): Still can’t get a complete read on them. But this Jekyll-and-Hyde experiment might win a war of attrition in a very watered down NFC East.
10. Buffalo Bills (4-2): Bills are still dangerous, but could have proved all the doubters (read: haters) wrong last week with a win over in-state rival Giants.
11. Oakland Raiders (4-2): If Carson Palmer is half as good as he was a few years back, the Raiders have upgraded at QB. The Al Davis Memorial Tour rolls along.
12. New York Jets (3-3): Is the swagger back? Or did they just beat up on an extremely inferior opponent, in the Miami Dolphins? Time’s yours, Rex Ryan.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2): At times, these Steelers look like a shell of themselves, yet here they are, sitting pretty at 4-2. Would you want to see them in the playoffs? We wouldn’t.
14. Houston Texans (3-3): Still missing Andre Johnson big time, and need to do a better job closing out games. Might have caught a break with a dinged up Matt Schaub.
15. Tennessee Titans (3-2): Matt Hasselbeck and Co. had time to rest up. Now, Titans get must-win showdown with Houston that could decide the division. Seriously.
16. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2): Letting Carson Palmer walk may have been move of the year … in Marvin Lewis we trust. Was there ever a doubt?
17. Dallas Cowboys (2-3): More aggressive play-calling down the stretch and Tony Romo might have stolen Tom Brady’s headlines.
18. Atlanta Falcons (3-3): Finally played Falcons football. Pound the rock with Michael Turner and let Matty Ice take care of business in the fourth quarter.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (2-4): Andy Reid’s off the hot seat for two weeks. Still, Dream Team needs to fix red-zone and short-yardage woes — in a hurry.
20. Chicago Bears (3-3): Don’t put too much stock in a blowout win over the Vikings. Do put stock in Jay Cutler’s frustration with offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
21. Washington Redskins (3-2): Rex Grossman is a turnover machine – and John Beck isn’t the answer, either. ’Skins remain an enigma.
22. Carolina Panthers (1-5): Team Cam can’t buy a win but, boy, are they exciting to watch.
23. Denver Broncos (1-4): Franchise in full sell-out mode, with Tim Tebow under center. What’s the over/under on No. 15 jerseys sold this weekend?
24. Seattle Seahawks (2-3): LeBron James tweeted Pete Carroll that he’s a “TD maker.” Charlie Whitehurst/Tarvaris Jackson say sign him up.
25. Cleveland Browns (2-3): Sorry Peyton Hillis (211 yards, 2 TDs on 60 carries), the Madden Curse is alive and well.
26. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3): Reports are that comeback win over Indy saved Todd Haley’s job. That was two weeks ago, what’s up for the encore?
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5): Five losses in a row matches franchise’s longest losing streak in a decade.
28. Arizona Cardinals (1-4): Kevin Kolb is struggling with his two-minute offense and third-down conversions … sound familiar, Philly fans?
29. St. Louis Rams (0-5): Addition of WR Brandon Lloyd could have supplied boost, but subtraction of QB Sam Bradford (high ankle sprain) won’t allow it.
30. Minnesota Vikings (1-5): Donovan McNabb‘s career — at least as a starter — appears to be over. The Vikes hand the keys over to rookie Christian Ponder.
31. Indianapolis Colts (0-6): Peyton Manning isn’t walking through that door anytime soon. We’re about to see how much Colts trust coach Jim Caldwell.
32. Miami Dolphins (0-6): How bad are the Fish? To increase ticket sales, they have reportedly set aside seats for Tim Tebow fans and Florida Gator booster clubs.