NFC rankings: Saints to top, Falcons to fourth, Bucs to Div. II

Eli Manning congratulates Drew Brees for taking over the No. 1 spot in the NFC rankings.

That was pretty classy of Eli Manning to congratulate Drew Brees for New Orleans taking over the No. 1 spot in the NFC rankings.

The New Orleans Saints have played five games this season and have yet to trail. They’re outscoring opponents by 20 points a game. At the current pace, they will score 614 points and overtake Kazahkstan by early January. Anybody wonder who sits atop our weekly NFC rankings? Didn’t think so.

(Last week’s spot in parenthesis).

1. (2.) New Orleans (5-0): They just beat the Giants, 48-27. Drew Brees: 13 touchdowns, two interceptions. His only flaw: He’s not on my Fantasy League team. Something you really don’t want to think about right now: What will they do to the Falcons’ secondary?

2. (3.) Minnesota (6-0): The Vikings nearly blew a 27-10 fourth-quarter lead to Baltimore but held on to win by two (33-31). But that doesn’t overshadow the fact that Brett Favre, despite being sacked three times by the Baltimore defense, did not throw an interception (again) and has numbers nearly equal to those of Brees (12, 2), albeit in one more game. Next test: at Pittsburgh.

3. (1.) N.Y. Giants (5-1): Maybe the Giants got soft after beating up on the Raiders, Chiefs and Buccaneers. Maybe we overrated their defense. But it’s mindboggling what Brees did to New York. Every time he threw a pass, it looked like somebody kicked a fire ant pile in the Giants’ secondary. Comment from coach Tom Coughlin: “A little bit of humility is not a bad thing.”

OK, you're only fourth. Don't go all gaga over it.

OK, you're only fourth. Don't go all gaga over it.

4. (5.) Falcons (4-1): They weren’t great on either side of the ball against Chicago. But it says something that the offense scored when it had to – Matt Ryan started 4-for-9, then completed eight straight – and the defense didn’t break, despite a weak pass rush and the loss of cornerback Brian Williams. What the team lacks in personnel on defense, it makes up for in mental and physical toughness.

5. (6.) Green Bay (3-2): The Packers emerged from their post-Favre, post-bye funk by pounding Detroit. This week, they play Cleveland. A three-week nap between Green Bay games probably would’ve saved a lot of travel expenses. Meanwhile, the mayor of Green Bay has asked fans for “tasteful” suggestions on how to welcome Favre back to town. Any chance Atlanta officials do this before the Philadelphia  game?

6. (4.) Philadelphia (3-2): Somewhere it’s written that losing to the Oakland Raiders should mandate a drop of at least five spots in the rankings. I decided to be nice and chalk it up to a 24-hour virus. But if the Eagles lose to Washington this week, push down on the elevator. They’re not stopping until they hit the Lions. Philly’s biggest concern: It can’t run the ball.

7. (6.) Chicago (3-2): Last week’s game was a microcosm of Jay Cutler: He has great talent but he’s prone to making awful decisions and disappearing in clutch situations. The Bears had three red zone possessions in which it failed to come up with any points. Can’t happen. If Cutler doesn’t evolve into a leader, Chicago will not make the playoffs.

Hear no evil, see no evil . . .

Hear no evil, see no evil . . .

8. (8.) Dallas (3-2): Still have no idea how good (or mediocre) the Cowboys are. Their three wins have come over the Buccaneers (0-6), Panthers (2-3) and Chiefs (1-5). But at least they have a really cool stadium. Owner Jerry Jones has had a week off, giving him time to prepare Wade Phillips’  game plan for the Falcons’ game.

9. (9.) San Francisco (3-2): The 49ers’ offense should get a boost with the debut of wide receiver Michael Crabtree and the return of running back Frank Gore. Quarterback Shaun Hill hopes so. They might be the only two guys who can keep him out of the UFL.

10. (10.) Arizona (3-2): I still see an offense with Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Tim Hightower and think: They won’t miss the playoffs. Slight hints of a breakout: The Cardinals have started their last two wins by jumping out to leads of 17-0 and 21-0, respectively.

11 (11.) Carolina (2-3): The Panthers have won consecutive games over the Redskins and Bucs. It doesn’t mean they’re good. It just means they’re not the Redskins or the Bucs.

12. (12.) Seattle (2-4): The Seahawks went from beating Jacksonville, 41-0, to losing to Arizona, 27-3. Their performances run parallel to Jim Mora’s mood swings. Meanwhile, how does a coach’s comment like this project six games into an NFL season? Mora: “We’re going to not focus on the playoffs right now. We’re going to focus on getting better and more consistent as a football team.” Sell, baby.

PRACTICE SQUAD

sadsackcbcover

13. (13.) Detroit (1-5): The Lions have lost three straight. That is not a franchise record.

14. (14.) Washington (2-4): Sherman Lewis, playing shuffleboard in retirement until being hired as a consultant two years ago, will call plays next game. Need a job? Send Dan Snyder an email.

15. (15.) St. Louis (0-6): The Rams just lost to the Jaguars, who were coming off a 41-0 loss to Seattle. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has reconsidered and decided Rush Limbaugh can’t possibly devalue the product.

16. (16.) Tampa Bay (0-6): The Bucs might as well get comfortable. Their next five opponents: Patriots, Packers, Dolphins, Saints, Falcons.

138 comments Add your comment

Larry

October 21st, 2009
6:25 am

I’d probably put Washington ahead of–by a whisker–Detroit–but other than this I’d say you’re spot on!

We’re going to learn everything about our Falcons the next two games!

Bill

October 21st, 2009
6:53 am

Larry, I might agree except for the fact that Detroit’s only win came at Washington’s expense.

Ed

October 21st, 2009
7:00 am

I CAN REMEMBER A FEW YEARS AGO WHEN THE FALCONS WERE IN THE BUCS SEAT, AND THE BUCS WERE WINNNING SUPER BOWLS AND NFC SOUTH TITLES WHILE THE FALCONS WERE JUST TRYING TO HOLD ON TO A COACH. YOU CAN BE CRITICLE OF THE BUCS BUT EVERY TEAM HAVE BAD YEARS. TRY WHINNING A SUPER BOWL FIRST, BEFORE YOU SLAM THE BUCS. I’M SURE THE WHEELS WILL COME OFF OF MR. RYAN, AND YOU FALCON FANS WILL BE CALLING FOR HIS HEAD BECAUSE YOU WILL BE SELLEER DWELLERS ONCE AGAIN.

Cheese

October 21st, 2009
7:07 am

You are an idiot. Where are the Colts in your so-called rankings? And @Ed, the Bucs suck but they have a long way to go before they suck as much as their fanbase does…

AZ Jacket

October 21st, 2009
7:11 am

Ed, that was one fine post. Ever thought of reading it before you send it. Oh, you did and it sounded good to you, figures.

Getaway

October 21st, 2009
7:14 am

Wow, Chese, Shultz, is an idiot for not putting the Colts in a ranking of the top NFC teams?

Terrell

October 21st, 2009
7:14 am

Ed,
Last I checked it’s what have you done for me lately? You can hold on to that one single Super Bowl trophy that’s fine, but it’s because of that mindset the coach whose players won that Super Bowl retired and the one who was in love with veteran QBs is an average commentator for MNF

and Cheese,
this is the NFC rankings not NFL

RC35

October 21st, 2009
7:15 am

Er, Cheese…the Colts are in the AFC. These were NFC rankings. Oops!

AZ Jacket

October 21st, 2009
7:19 am

Ed and Cheese are in a different world.

AZ Jacket

October 21st, 2009
7:20 am

Cheese, be careful who you are calling an idiot.

John

October 21st, 2009
7:25 am

LOL at Ed and Cheese.

MiltonDawg

October 21st, 2009
7:30 am

minnesota will have it’s bubble popped by PIT this wknd. Saints look unstoppable

midnite

October 21st, 2009
7:33 am

The Count was like Mike Vick yesterday. He showed up late and left early. Must have been all of that bright, beautiful sunshine. I don’t guess we should invite the frisbee catching dogs at halftime for the Eaglets Dec. 6 game.

FalconDawg

October 21st, 2009
7:33 am

There are some angry, bitter people out there (Ed and Cheese). They absolute hate the fact that the Falcons are finally a legitimately good team!

DJ

October 21st, 2009
7:42 am

Saints put up great numbers as they did last year….remember Brees flinging it downfield in week 17 for the record (and to even their record at 8-8). The Saints, year in and year out, experience collapse usually due to reading their own press.

Worry about this – Brees put up 422 against the Falcons and lost by 14 points going away.

Never mind the NFC East – the Saints are making a living against them and haven’t faced their own division YET. PLEASE keep propping these guys up for at least one more week. Then, we can have a real Monday night reality check.

Chuckles Dimry

October 21st, 2009
7:43 am

Boy, getting rid of Gruden is working out great for Tampa Bay! I can’t wait for my prized pupil Chris Houston to skate all over the field against them!

dean

October 21st, 2009
8:18 am

Think the Bears jumped the gun a bit on “rewarding” Cutler with a contract extension?

AlternateReality

October 21st, 2009
8:24 am

Chuckles -

Gruden was overrated. Granted, he took Dungy’s players and brought the spark to win the Super Bowl, but then he proceeded to slowly and consistently hurt the team with his terrible handling of the QBs.

The real loss was Kiffin. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Tampa Bay has won a game since he announced he was leaving.

Chef menteur

October 21st, 2009
8:24 am

Go SAINTS!!!!!!!!!

Jim Rockford

October 21st, 2009
8:32 am

Bucs are a laughable team. Their head coach has never even been a coordinator. Drafted Gaines Adams #4 overall in ‘07 and already gave up on him. Josh Johnson, Josh Freeman, and Leftwich are their QBs. No head coaching experience + no talent is a recipe for disaster.

Jim Rockford

October 21st, 2009
8:33 am

dean- No, I don’t. Cutler is an excellent QB, and once he gets a couple of weapons on the outside Chicago will be a contender again.

Jim Rockford

October 21st, 2009
8:44 am

The line is around 7 for the Saints-Fins game Sunday. Should be an EASY cover.

Ross

October 21st, 2009
8:53 am

Dave – were you watching the same game as I was? The rush got only the one HUGE sack, but Cutler was constantly running for his life. Only his great play-making skills saved Chicago from being routed. We won the game precisely because of the great D-line play, stopping the run and hurrying Cutler in key situations. Take away the face-guarding and the Bears have only a couple of good drives in the second half. Abraham was inches from a sack in the end zone when Cutler scrambled out and ran for 40 yards – tackled from behind – by Abraham.

Ross

October 21st, 2009
8:54 am

Sorry, Jeff. Don’t know why I was channeling the 74 Flyers.

dean

October 21st, 2009
8:54 am

Jim Rockford, Cutler is in fact very, very talented. But I see the shadow of Jeff George in his persona. Leadership was never a huge trait of his, imo.

ME

October 21st, 2009
8:55 am

The Falcons will not beat the Saints this year. Sorry, facts are facts.

BigEasy830

October 21st, 2009
8:58 am

Saints R 4 REAL!!!!! I see a 16-0 season and a trip to the superbowl!!!

AlternateReality

October 21st, 2009
9:05 am

Gotta agree with Ross about the pass rush. Although Cutler occasionally had too much time, we knocked him down several times and forced him to hurry his throws all game. There were several instances where we held because the rush forced him to dump it off over the middle just short of the first down.

Blue Fender

October 21st, 2009
9:11 am

BigEasy830, if you get cocky, it’ll bite you in the butt. How many times has a team been a lock for the Superbowl, only to lose to a hot team in the playoffs (Giants last year)? You better let them play the game before you start parading the trophy around.

slow roller

October 21st, 2009
9:13 am

The real problem with the Falcons running game is the loss of Norwood. Turner is too one dimensional as a North South runner. Plus Turner is paranoid about fumbling, so he can’t run as wild/hard as he might have before he started fumbling. So the defense can key on Turner and make easy tackles.
Turner is not a threat this year and won’t be until someone else shows up to run the ball. This makes Matt Ryan very nervous, which he was the entire Bears game. Falcons need another threat at running back.

MightyQuinn

October 21st, 2009
9:13 am

BigEasy830, Remember your tagling, “Falcons ‘09: 4-12. Back to earth, back to reality.” Think the Falcons are 0-11 the rest of the way? Man up and admit you were wrong. WAY wrong.

Robert M

October 21st, 2009
9:18 am

DJ
Spoken like a fan of a team that has NEVER put together two winning seasons in a row. And do you really think playing the NFC South right now is that difficult? Look at Carolina and Tampa and what do you see? Total disarray. We should both know what that looks like, we’ve seen our own teams like that often enough. Tampa is winless, and has looked bad doing so, and Carolina’s wins are against Tampa and Washington?

Falcons look very good this year, but the Saints are more complete. This is a team that has been built over the last 4 seasons to get to this point. I still predict a split this season, with each team winning at home. But your secondary won’t be able to stop the Saints. Saints win comfortably in the Superdome, Falcons win a shootout in Atlanta.

Elysian Fields

October 21st, 2009
9:24 am

Falcons are a good team who is getting better every week and the games they play with the Saints this year will be classic. I’m a long time Nawlins fan and the team I’m most concerned with on the ‘09 schedule is Atlanta. I think we’ll split the games this year.

At end of the season, I think both Falcons and Saints make playoffs.

azcat225

October 21st, 2009
9:27 am

Jay Cutler is a Prima Donna (caps intentional), which is rather ironic considering his college pedigree. Methinks the Broncos came out ahead on that trade…

Roark

October 21st, 2009
9:28 am

Nice column today JS – only one vick reference and the mora line was hilarious.

Jim Rockford

October 21st, 2009
9:28 am

dean- agreed Josh McDaniels smells like roses right now, but he smelled more like fertilizer when he wanted to trade Cutler for the “great” Matt Cassel. You can’t compare Cutler to George based on that.

Tell it like it is

October 21st, 2009
9:32 am

The saints are who we think they are,OVERATED.They will have thier worst game of the year on mnf vs falcons and that will lead to thier downfall. They will have to crawl and scratch to make the playoffs at the end of the season. The wheels will be comeing off babby.

azcat225

October 21st, 2009
10:13 am

Ranking the Countdowns—-10/20/09: Bottom three of all time. C’mon, Jeff, you’re better than that. You mailed that one in, so to speak.

sunday

October 21st, 2009
10:19 am

cheese, ed…..wtf?

BamaBirDawg

October 21st, 2009
10:20 am

The brotherhood of pain; Saints and Falcons… both teams know how to lose but are finally learning how to win.

Having a legacy in the NFL means winning consistently to holding on to your name-talent. Without one, you will never get the other… in any order. For both the Saints and Falcons, it means keeping the QBs healthy, drafting well from the bottom of the stack and being the first to the other guy’s fire sale.

TigerBait

October 21st, 2009
10:29 am

Tell it like it is, that’s too funny! Saints overated? You realize we haven’t trailed all year? No RB has rushed for 100 yards against us! The past few years if we won it was because we outscored the other team in a shootout! This year, we still outscore but our defense doesn’t let the score be close at all!

DJ in NC

October 21st, 2009
10:36 am

The cowboys were called mediocre becuase their wins are against the bucs, Cheifs and Panthers……… The eagles beat the exact same teams. The cowboys lost to the Broncos and Giants on last minute plays (had leads in both games with less than 30 seconds to go). The eagles lost to the Saints (not bad) and Raiders!?!?!?. Both teams are shaky just thought the rationale was weak. Wouldn’t care if both were not ranked in your top 10…….

BRAD

October 21st, 2009
10:51 am

Dont annoint the Saints just yet. Remember a few years ago, the Falcons started out 2-0 and were killing teams with the D-V-D backfield and version of the wildcat run by Vick. They started 6-2, but finished 2-6 for a 8-8 season. Injuries happen to all teams, and they will happen to the Saints too.

PMC

October 21st, 2009
10:55 am

Awesome, Jorts and boat horn clad Tampa fans still talking crap with that pathetic abomination of a team.

I respect the Saints. I hate Tampa with a passion. If it’s possible to run up the score just to make it hurt a little more and put a few classless dances on top of it. I want to see it.

BigTimeTECHFan

October 21st, 2009
10:56 am

If Turner is back to form we can beat the Saints. They have 4 receivers that make plays, Brees can just throw the ball anywhere and those guys get the ball. Saints are very nice team but Falcon can beat them with ball control offense.

PMC

October 21st, 2009
11:00 am

The Saints finally helped thier secondary by getting Sharper. They’ve been stout up front for a while. They’ve drafted well for several years now getting much more physical through the middle and getting more athletic in the secondary with Usama Young… Malcolm Jenkins etc. Then they pickup Jarmon Bushrod who was perfect for what they do. Brees is terrific and thier defense is solid. They are a few years further along than the Falcons are right now. I hope we can beat them but you have to respect what they have built thus far. Defense was a huge issue but they had talent. They’ve got a great coordinator now too.

Decatur Native

October 21st, 2009
11:01 am

The Saints look great this year but if your a”FAN”(like follow your team year in year out) then you should know that both teams always show up for this one regardless of their record.

Grahzny Bratchny

October 21st, 2009
11:03 am

Hey ME, that’s an opinion, get your facts straight.

Going to Dallas to watch the game this weekend, but I can’t find a single interesting thing to do there and the few people I spoke with say it’s not a very memorable city. Should I stay in Ft. Worth, Dallas, or Arlington?

WTF?!?

October 21st, 2009
11:04 am

By the way….how the hell is Grant still playing for the Saints when he has a manslaughter indictment against him in Blakely, Ga. for the shooting of a 19 year old, pregnant woman. Grant and his “posse” got in to it at a club and shots were fired and a woman was killed. He was indicted along with several others, yet he is still playing?!? wtf?!?

Paul H

October 21st, 2009
11:06 am

I think Tampa beats St. Louis 6-5.