As I sat down to think through who the five best teams in the NFL are today, the #1 team was super easy to decide upon. After that…not quite as clear…
1- Green Bay Packers (9-0) – This offense is filthy. The defense is good enough to make plays when plays need to be made. Their schedule down the stretch isn’t anything crazy (Tampa Bay, @Detroit, @NYG, Raiders, @Chiefs, Chicago, Detroit). They’ll handle TB and Detroit on the road, but at the Giants and the home game against the Bears are going to be tough. No question this is our Super Bowl favorite. And thank you for the thumbs up fist pound. Very refreshing.
2- San Francisco 49ers (8-1) – An overtime loss against a good team away from being undefeated. Each week shows that they’re more of a complete team than we all expected. They came out this last week against the Giants planning to throw the ball, basically just to put a middle finger out there so everyone knows that they can do more than run Frank Gore 35 times per game. This team could beat the Packers in a cold game at Green Bay in the playoffs. Tough games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh remain, but they also get Arizona and St. Louis twice by season end. Expect a first round bye.
3- New Orleans Saints (7-3) – Let’s just pretend like the loss to the Rams didn’t happen. Other than that disaster, the Saints have proven to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Brees looks as good as ever, and his dynamic backfield of Ingram, Sproles, and Thomas makes them even more dangerous. Sean Payton always makes me feel like he knows something that no one else does. They’ll win the NFC South.
4- New England Patriots (6-3) – Everyone made a big fuss after the Pats lost two straight (reminder – they lost on the road to a great Steelers team, and a close one to a pretty good Giants team and a surging Eli Manning…did I just say that?), and their only other loss came in dramatic fashion against the Bills when the Bills weren’t playing like they are now (at least Fitzpatrick’s beard is disgusting/awesome). Here’s the deal, the Pats have maybe the easiest schedule in football down the stretch (Chiefs, @Eagles, Colts, @Redskins, @Broncos, Dolphins, Bills) and we know this team can beat any team when the chips are on the table. This is my pick to come out of the AFC.
5- Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) – After a 2-2 start, the Steelers have proved that they are just as good as they were last year. Impressive wins against the Bengals and the Patriots sandwiched a tough close loss to the division rival Ravens. Big Ben is proving that he can throw the ball to win them games now (How about him doing a pretty solid job in cleaning up his image? The guy has been a saint since he made an idiot of himself.). If they get Mendenhall running the ball well, this is going to be a really tough team to beat. They’ll edge out Baltimore and Cincinnati for the AFC North crown.
On the fence – Bears (slowly starting to prove that they’re the real deal), Ravens (one week they look like they’re the best team in football, the next…they lose to the lowly Seahawks or Jags), Giants (they’ll be lucky to make the playoffs with the schedule they have left), Texans (Matt Leinart as the starting QB?)