Green Bay turned in a wonderful performance to close the week. Baltimore peed itself again, and just when Houston looked ready to make a claim for AFC favorite with a balanced approach and another dominant win, the Schaub injury throws it all in doubt. The AFC is a mess at the top, while the NFC is shaping up in a far more structured fashion, with Green Bay at top, San Francisco virtually locked in,
Dallas and the Giants heading for some showdowns, and the Falcons trying to catch the Lions and Bears.
THE AARON RODGERS IS INSANE TIER
Green Bay Packers (9-0): Now that was an impressive performance.
THE OTHER TEAMS JIM PLUNKETT PLAYED FOR TIER
New England Patriots (6-3): You can now return to your regularly scheduled opinions that the Patriots are pretty good.
San Francisco 49ers (8-1): The wins by Seattle and Arizona prevented the 49ers from mathematically clinching this week. A little bummed by that.
GOOD TEAMS ON A BYE TIER
Houston Texans (7-3): I would have had the Texans up a group before the news that Matt Leinart will start. They get a week off at the right time to get him ready. The rest of the team will keep them going, but not buying that Leinart will have discovered how to play quarterback. He can check it down to Foster though.
Baltimore Ravens (6-3): That’s now three bad road losses for the Ravens, offsetting what may be the best set of three wins of anyone (Houston, Pittsburgh twice).
New Orleans Saints (7-3): A month ago, having Ryan Fitzpatrick as a backup to Drew Brees for the bye week seemed like a good idea.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3): With the news of all the quarterbacks going down, Big Ben let us know he is hurt too. But he will tough it out.
Chicago Bears (6-3): No team has seen their fortunes change as much as the Bears over the last three weeks. Now in great shape for a playoff spot.
THE MOST LIKEABLE TEAMS IN THE LEAGUE TIER
Dallas Cowboys (5-4): It’s official, Felix Pipp will serve as the change of pace back.
New York Giants (6-3): Giants must put the Eagles out of their misery or they open the door for . . . the Cowboys, based on division tiebreakers.
Detroit Lions (6-3): An embarrassing performance for Detroit, who has started poorly in too many road games and couldn’t recover this time.
New York Jets (5-4): Revis Island will become connected by a land bridge this Thursday, as there will be no air traffic.
THE CLOSE BUT NEED TO WIN MORE TIER
Buffalo Bills (5-4): The Bills have turned in two straight bad performances, but I expect the truth to be somewhere in between the start and the last two.
Atlanta Falcons (5-4): Mike Smith probably thought the Saints would miss a short field goal in overtime again.
Oakland Raiders (5-4): The AFC West favorite when McFadden comes back and Palmer gets even more comfortable with his receivers.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-3): The Leon Hall injury won’t help them catch the Ravens and Steelers.
Tennessee Titans (5-4): The Titans need to win enough games to keep the pressure on Houston going into the week 17 game. Probably need to go 4-2 over the next six and win the division games, then hope.
THE NORV TURNER VS. ANDY REID TIER
Philadelphia Eagles (3-6): Embarrassing. Talked about no bad losses based on opponent, so they went out and did something about that.
Seattle Seahawks (3-6): The scourge of survivor pools everywhere.
San Diego Chargers (4-5): When your best win might be against the Dolphins, you aren’t playing very well. The offensive tackle position with McNeill out was a major issue.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6): The defense continues to impress, and if the offense can get anything going this team will be a dangerous late season opponent for playoff contenders.
THE ACCURATE FORWARD PASSES ARE OPTIONAL TIER
Miami Dolphins (2-7): Reggie Bush has suddenly become a touchdown vulture.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5): Can we now put a bow on the thought that this team is bad but just gets lucky in some close games?
Washington Redskins (3-6): Who is the third string quarterback? I just need to know now who the Shanahans think can be a NFL starter next year.
Arizona Cardinals (3-6): The John Skelton versus Kevin Kolb debate is getting ready to heat up the desert.
Carolina Panthers (2-7): The Panthers turned in their first truly awful performance of the year.
Denver Broncos (4-5): The most recent clutch quarterbacks to win a game with 3 or fewer completions: Derek Anderson, David Carr, Akili Smith, Sammy Garz, and Shawn Halloran. The last two were replacement quarterbacks for the Cardinals in 1987.
WHAT ELSE IS ON WHEN THESE TEAMS ARE IN PRIMETIME? TIER
Minnesota Vikings (2-7): I feel bad for Adrian Peterson. Hopefully his team will get a punky quarterback and a dominant defense and turn into a contender before he is done.
St. Louis Rams (2-7): Sam Bradford beat Colt McCoy’s team, though the fried corndogs on a stick and funnel cakes were not in attendance.
Cleveland Browns (3-6): Over half the remaining games are against Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-5): Monday night football next week, then Sunday night football. Get ready, ‘merica.
THE LUCK IS LOCKED UP TIER
Indianapolis Colts (0-10): This team has managed to get worse every week recently. Someone tell them their job is done and they can now at least try to be competitive. They are a 13 point home dog against the BYE.
[photo via Getty]
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