We’re five weeks into the NFL season, so it’s a perfect time to take a step back and evaluate where all the teams stand at this point. It’s a pretty competitive year, with many teams looking like they could win the Super Bowl and no clear favorite through five weeks despite two teams being undefeated. There are also a few teams that have singled themselves out as major contenders for the first overall pick in next year’s draft. Here’s how I see things shaping up with credit being given to those still undefeated first.
#1 - Atlanta Falcons (5-0)
One of two undefeated teams in the league, the Falcons get the edge over the Texans because I'd rather have Matt Ryan than Matt Schaub leading my team for a game winning score. They’ll thrive in the playoffs if they can stay in the dome.
#2 - Houston Texans (5-0)
The loss of Brian Cushing for the season is a big blow to the defense. Others stepped up during injuries last year and will have to do so again.
#3 - New England Patriots (3-2)
The Patriots have lost their two games by a total of three points and both were on the road. With Hernandez coming back, their offense has all sorts of potential.
#4 - San Francisco 49ers (4-1)
Can you win a Super Bowl with Alex Smith? He proved he couldn't move the offense against the Giants in the NFC Title Game last year. What's changed?
#5 - Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
Joe Flacco thinks he's an elite QB, but we all want to see it in the playoffs. The Ravens also don't have the same pass rush as long as Terrell Suggs is out.
#6 - New York Giants (3-2)
Eagles fans will be upset I have the Giants ahead of them despite Philadelphia's victory in their first match-up, but the Giants have been convincing in their wins and would've beaten the Eagles had their young receiver not received a bad late offensive pass interference penalty.
#7 - Chicago Bears (4-1)
I give the Bears massive credit for going into Dallas and beating the Cowboys convincingly, but Jay Cutler needs to survive offensive line issues and come through in the playoffs for Chicago to be placed higher.
#8 - Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
As easily as the Eagles could be 4-1, they could also be 0-5. They've only scored over 20 points once this year, which is surprising given all the weapons on offense.
#9 - San Diego Chargers (3-2)
San Diego got jobbed by the officials in last week's loss to the Saints. They play well on both sides of the ball, but Norv Turner and Philip Rivers have both historically come up short in the playoffs.
#10 - Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
The Steelers continue to have offensive line problems, but they've survived them in the past. They need a healthy Troy Polamalu to be completely effective.
#11 - Green Bay Packers (2-3)
It's weird to think a team two years removed from a Super Bowl championship is unmotivated and unorganized, but that seems like the case in Green Bay. There's still plenty of talent to turn things around.
#12 - Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
The Cowboys continue to be an enigma. They're good enough to beat anyone, but also able to self-destruct in a hot minute.
#13 - Denver Broncos (2-3)
The Broncos have lost their three games to the top three teams on this list. The offense is getting there, but their defense needs to help out sometime soon.
#14 - Minnesota Vikings (4-1)
Workmanlike effort is the story in Minnesota. We'll know more about them once they play Seattle, Green Bay, and Chicago on the road.
#15 - Seattle Seahawks (3-2)
The defense in Seattle is legit, but the offense lacks ambition. If Seattle wanted Russell Wilson to be a game manager, why didn't they just roll with Matt Flynn?
#16 - St. Louis Rams (3-2)
I love the pass rush the Rams displayed last week, but their offense just lost its best receiver and the rest of the cast are bottom-barrel.
#17 - Arizona Cardinals (4-1)
I can't put the Cardinals higher than their division rivals after what I saw from their offensive line last week. It was frightening. They've also lost their top two RBs for the season.
#18 - Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)
There are some pieces in Cincinnati, but their defense has been gashed and their running game still leaves something to be desired.
#19 - New Orleans Saints (1-4)
The Saints got the monkey off their back last week, so they should improve from here. Their defense, however, will hold them back throughout the season.
#20 - Detroit Lions (1-3)
Hopefully the bye week cured the ills in Detroit. Matt Stafford and Ndamukong Suh both need to raise their games to expected levels.
#21 - Indianapolis Colts (2-2)
The hopes aren't high for Colts' fans this season, but they can sleep well knowing they have their QB for the next 10 years.
#22 - Miami Dolphins (2-3)
These Dolphins are frisky. They've played pretty well in every game this season and their rookie QB also looks promising.
#23 - Washington Redskins (2-3)
Defensive injuries have impaired the Redskins from being better this season. Here's hoping RG3 protects himself better going forward.
#24 - Buffalo Bills (2-3)
Despite all the off-season defensive moves, the Bills haven't shown improvement on that side of the ball this year. Mario Williams is looking like a waste of money.
#25 - New York Jets (2-3)
Just end the season. (And find us a new QB, RB, WR, O-Line, and pass rusher.)
#26 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
Tampa Bay has a more competitive team than they had last year and that's a reflection of their coach. They just need to start winning the close games to get over the hump.
#27 - Oakland Raiders (1-3)
I was willing to give Oakland the benefit of the doubt earlier in the season, but now I'm not so sure. They at least have some pieces to build around.
#28 - Carolina Panthers (1-4)
Things are getting out of hand quickly in Carolina. The offense has become too gimmicky and the defense was never good to begin with. They need a new GM.
#29 - Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
If Blaine Gabbert is still the starting QB for this team next year, then Shahid Khan has no idea what he's doing. All the rookie QBs look better than the second-year man.
#30 - Kansas City Chiefs (1-4)
The Chiefs can run the ball, but their passing game needs a lot of work. It's no surprise a Romeo Crennel coached team looks this bad.
#31 - Cleveland Browns (0-5)
The Browns may lack talent, but they try. That's why I can't list them as the worst in the league despite being the only winless team.
#32 - Tennessee Titans (1-4)
These guys are terrible. But we'll get to that in a little bit...
Survivor Pick of the Week:
ATLANTA over Oakland
Oakland may be coming off the bye week, but they have two things working against them. The first is that they have to come to the East Coast for an early start. The second, and more important point is that their secondary blows. Atlanta's receivers will run free all day long assuring the Falcons of being able to score at will. The Falcons had a slight scare in Washington last week, but came through when it mattered. That's all you're looking for in a survivor pick, right?
Otherwise the options are slim. Tampa Bay coming off a bye should be able to take down Kansas City and Brady Quinn. Philadelphia hasn't been winning games with style, but Detroit is having issues winning games period right now. Finally, Pittsburgh should handle Tennessee, but I never like picking road teams.
Thursday Night Pick:
Pittsburgh -6 over TENNESSEE
Tennessee's four losses this season are by an average of 24.75 points. Their smallest margin of defeat is 21 points in Week 1, so you can't even say they're improving. Their offense has struggled in those four contests, averaging 11 points scored in each game. Short preparation weeks tend to hamper offensive productivity to begin with, so that only means worse things for Tennessee. But hey, Chris Johnson thinks it's the rest of the team's fault and not his.
Pittsburgh's defense will have to survive without their best player, Troy Polamalu, and that would normally present a problem. But with Tennessee's offensive issues presented above, Pittsburgh will be less concerned. The Steelers found their running game last week with the return of Rashard Mendenhall and their passing attack should be able to look as graceful as always against the poor Titans' secondary. Finally, the Steelers had a bye before last week's game and they likely took that extra time to prepare for both last week's game and this one. Look for them to be a step ahead since Tennessee didn't have that same luxury.
Last Week: 6-7-1