NFL Rankings: There are a lot of very good teams sitting at the top of their divisions right now. Until Sunday night, I would have put one second place team, the Green Bay Packers in that group. I've tried to take the records out of the equation and try to evaluate the teams based on how they are playing right now. So here are my top ten NFL teams.
10. Green Bay Packers (7 - 4): I can't ignore Sunday night's game, but I am trying to put it into perspective. The Giants were coming off a bye following two tough weeks dealing with hurricane Sandy and its after effects. They came out strong and just overwhelmed the Packers. Aaron Rodgers is terrific, but his supporting cast is suspect. They should make the playoffs, but they need to play better than they did this past week.
9. Indianapolis Colts (7 - 4): This team has done an extraordinary job this season. Andrew Luck has already tied Sam Bradford for wins as a number one pick and is almost certain to surpass the record. We'll see if they can keep it up. My prediction is that they hit a wall at some point, but for now they appear to be playoff-bound.
8. Chicago Bears (8 - 3): When Cutler plays, this is probably the second best team in the NFC. The problem is, when he doesn't, they're awful. Right now, he's playing, so perhaps they should be higher on my list, but it baffles me why the effort is so different. Cutler gets criticized for his demeanor, but he must be a pretty good leader considering the fall off in play when he's out.
7. Atlanta Falcons (10 - 1): I know what you're saying. How can you put a 10 -1 team at number 7? It's easy. This team is probably 10 or 12 points away from being 7 - 4, that's why. They've outscored their opponents by only 7 points a game, and at some point that will come back to haunt them. Eventually a couple of those close games will go the other way.
6. New York Giants (7 - 4): They looked good Sunday night and need another good performance this Monday against the Redskins to get that late season momentum they need to make another deep playoff run. I would probably have them higher, but there are a number of teams on a roll right now. An impressive win Monday and I could see moving them farther up the list.
5. Baltimore Ravens (9 - 2): You can probably throw a blanket over the top five. I have the Ravens here because their defense is aging and injured. As far as the playoffs go, they have a great chance to finally get a game or two at home, so they should have plenty of incentive to keep their intensity at a high level.
4. San Francisco 49ers (8 - 2 - 1): Given Kaepernick's play the last two games, it appears Jim Harbaugh has perhaps the best QB situation of any coach in the league. While some teams are struggling to find one quality starter, the Niners have two. Not that Alex Smith is great, he did lead them to a 13 - 3 record and a berth in last season's NFC championship game. I have SF this high because of their defense. They're only giving up 14 points a game, and that is a great style of play to win on the road in the NFL.
3. Denver Broncos (8 - 3): The Broncos have won 6 in a row and continue to improve under Peyton Manning. With my top three teams and four of the top five from the AFC, the playoffs should be a dogfight and home field will play a huge part in who gets to the Super Bowl. Look for the Broncos to be there until the end.
2. Houston Texans (10 - 1): These guys could definitely be number one. The Texans are tough on both sides of the ball, they run a balanced offense and they have the best record in the AFC. So why aren't they on top of my rankings? That' because the...
1. New England Patriots (8 - 3): ...have caught fire. They're outscoring their opponents by over two touchdowns a game and they have the top QB and the most successful coach of the past decade. Until they lose, I'll keep them at the top of the heap.