#1 Indianapolis: Dominated by Jacksonville and the Colts still found a way to win. Indy got off the deck twice in final five minutes to put down feisty Jets. The Colts next three road games are at Denver, New England, and Dallas and then we’ll talk about an undefeated season.
#2 Chicago: Undefeated and with the easiest schedule in the NFL from here on out. The NFC championship looks like it’ll go through Soldier Field. Offense appears for real but can Grossman stay healthy an entire season. I want Bears put together complete game on the road versus opponent with a pulse before bumping Indy.
#3 New England: The Patriots are through and through a professional outfit that’s been there before. The Pats already have a stranglehold on the AFC East and the 1-2 punch of Corey Dillon and Lawrence Maroney will buy Brady enough time incorporate brand new receiving corps. The defense is underrated and this team will be tough to beat in January.
#4 Baltimore: Looking more and more like an instant replay of 2000. Big defense with an offense that does just enough to win. The Ravens have already dodged two bullets and still must go on the road to Denver, Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Pittsburg. Defense travels but McNair and offense still raise questions.
#5 Philadelphia: The Eagles have dispatched three bottom feeders and should be unbeaten heading into Sunday’s showdown with TO and the Cowboys. The injuries are starting to mount and not at a very good time. The Eagles need to make hay on early part of schedule as they close at Indy, Carolina, (three straight division roadies – Skins, Giants, Cowboys), and then home to Atlanta.
#6 Denver: The Broncos have gotten off to their traditional slow start and are fortunate to be 2-1 and well rested after a bye. The defense is rock solid but it remains to be seen if Jake the Snake can win with the money on the line. Much like the Broncos have owned the Pats, the Colts have owned the Broncos. The October 29th showdown with Indy will be important if to nothing else the Denver Psyche.
#7 Seattle: Hard to say whether you can give the Seahawks a mulligan for their total meltdown in Chicago. Even without Shaun Alexander, the Seahawks should have done more on offense. The defense was a no show. The bye this week comes at opportune time. A win at Kansas City on the 29th should have Seattle 10-1 entering December 3rd showdown with Broncos.
#8 San Diego: The Chargers manhandled the Ravens for three and a half quarters before questionable coaching and poor execution snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. Sixteen total yards on their final 16 offensive plays is inexcusable. The Bolts have an excellent offense and defense and a team that thrives on the road. Marty has to take the leash off of Phillip Rivers and let the chips fall where they may.
#9 Dallas: The Cowboys have the complete package but the question remains, can Drew Bledsoe get the job done in an important game on the road? He’s 0-1 this year giving away the opener at Jacksonville. This week, TO returns to Philly. The NFC East is still arguably the toughest in football.
#10 Cincinnati: The Bengals are knocking on the door but just not quite ready to join the elite. The Bengals can’t stop the run and injuries are starting to mount on an already paper thin stop unit. We’ll find out more about the Bengals right away as they travel to Tampa Bay, before Carolina, Atlanta, at Baltimore, and San Diego out of this week’s bye.
On the bubble: Jacksonville, Atlanta, and Carolina
Jeff Allen is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at www.procappers.com/Jeff_Allen.htm