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.”
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.
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.
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.