Let's just get to it:
Denver (4-0): I think most were willing to ascribe the Broncos' quick start to a tepid schedule until last week. After all, that "fluke" Stokley deflection in week 1 against Cincy was all that stood between them and running with the conference bottom-feeders. But beating the Cowboys, apparently having an elite receiver back in the fold and posting +54 point differential will be turning some heads going forward. Do I think this team is going to win the Super Bowl? Absolutely not, they won't even earn a bye. Games against New England, Baltimore and The Giants all loom too large to allow for that. But they're spreading the ball around nicely (8TDs by 6 different guys) and they'll take this division, I'm just about certain of it.
Indianapolis (4-0): Maybe it's because Pey-pey is on my fantasy team or the fact that Brady is drawing more ire from me this year, but I'm not as strong in my hatred for the Colts. Manning continues to impress and with different pieces in his large-foreheaded puzzle. Garçon is making people everywhere search for and find the "ç" button as well as offer a better 2nd receiver to Wayne than Harrison was last season and running back Donald Brown is going to challenge for ROY, mark my words. Indy's D always seem to play a large role in how high of a ceiling they have, because Manning's consistency delivers an above average offense. With games against two win-less teams and the bye week coming up, these guys are going to be 6-0 and the media's darling soon enough. Alright, I hate them again.
NY Jets (3-1): Remember when Pete Carroll was openly miffed at his QB's decision to bail on USC early? I'll admit, I was a bit surprised at his decision to walk away from another BCS title shot and year of limitless blow-jobs from perky-titted cheerleaders. But Sanchez's decision, of course, elicits the time-honored sex debate: New York "cooz" or California "punta?" Sanchez is in for a ton of the former as the Jets' impressively stout defense and paddy-cake schedule (upcoming games: MIA, BUF, OAK, MIA) will punch their ticket to the postseason. It does warrant mentioning that like the Broncos, my confidence that this squad will make it past the opening round of the playoffs is limitted: a platoon approach of average running backs and wide outs plus a rookie (albeit, talented) QB just won't hold water come January.
New England (3-1): The loss to the Jets was a big blow, but the win against the Ravens was a bigger step forward for Belichek's Aging Wonders. I'm not ready to say Tom Brady has lost a step. Yet. He isn't in the top half of the league in Passer Rating, TDs or Yard per Attempt. Where this team does lack is establishing the run. Fred Taylor is not a very stable primary option for the whole season and I'm sorry, but I can't see Sammy Morris or Lawrence Maroney stepping up, either. Much like the Steelers, their defense and arial attack have been what has delievered the wins. Because of their divisions' scheduling tie to the soft NFC and softer AFC South, I think it'll be a photo finish between the Pats and Jets for the division with one likely snagging a Wild Card.
Baltimore (3-1): Well, I hate to say it, but the Ravens are not to be trifled with this year. Joe Flacco's progression from doofy unibrow-having rookie to mostly stoic unibrow-shaving starter has meant a marked upturn in the Baltimoron's offensive production. In fact, they're in the top 5 of all three major offensive categories. However, a closer look at their schedule reveals Kansas City, Cleveland and San Diego as their victims. This team is probably the best example of one where the jury is still out. Personally, I look for the Ravens' game every weekend right after the Steelers' in order of importance for our squad. Sufficed to say: They'll be giving us more of a run for the title than last season.
Cincinnati(3-1): And the Bengals could go a long way in answering some of the lingering questions about the Ravens as well as themselves this Sunday. Seeing as how their AT Baltimore and they just barely eeked out a win versus Cleveland I wouldn't hold out hope they can beat the Ravens, but they are more than likely to pose a threat to Baltimore's surprisingly vulnerable secondary. Cincy will not make the playoffs, of that I am certain.
"Too early to say it's over."
Jacksonville (2-2): David Garrard continues to fly under the radar as a serviceable quarterback in my opinion. The problem for the Jags is he's really all they've got. Earnest Wilford, a talented and tall receiver is toiling away due to a lack of balls being thrown his way. Maurice Jones-Drew has chops, but is their only real option in short yardage situations and teams stack the box to negate him. However, the news is not all bad for the Jags: Their schedule should deliever four wins out of their next six games. That's right: Mark it down. And remember 'ole DixieNormess said it when we're back here after Week 8 saying they may challange for the Wild Card.
Houston (2-2): Every year New Years' Eve comes around and every year you think "This'll be great, I'll hang out with my friends, get some drinks, maybe get laid, really enjoy myself." Then, you wake up with stale Tostitos as the only thing in bed with you, a blinding hang-over and memories of some asshole name 'Twan that may or may not be trying to kill you. That's the Texans: Shitty Reality. They've been trendy preseason picks for like four years running and it's just not happening. Not while Pey-Pey's in their division and not while they don't have a blue-chip QB of their own. No, I don't give a frosted fuck that Matt Schaub is the second highest rated signal caller right now. No, Steve Slaton is not the next Curtis Martin. No, I don't think starting three rookies in your secondary is wise. No, you will not contend down the stretch: fuck off.
San Diego (2-2): Probably the most talented team of the .500 bunch. But, as my Grandma likes to say about such things, "Take that in one hand and a shit in the other and see which one gets full first." The Chargers' defense is a huge disappointment and as was evidenced this past Sunday: their offensive tools are not enough to overcome an above average opponent. This, combined with the fact that they have not had to play any of the NFC East games yet puts The Laser Kings on the outside looking in. I'd say a 9-7 playoff whiff prediction is just about right. Not sure what kind of ship they're running out here but missing the playoffs with this roster's "talent" should lead to some serious job insecurity from the top down.
"Circling the Bowl."
Miami (1-3): Only team here with a shot at a .500 season. A surprisingly adept Chad Henne, useful Pat White and most importantly: more dependable defense would go a long way in keeping them ahead of the Bills.
Buffalo (1-3): Reports of an overdue T.O. melt-down are mounting, but I suspect he'll wait until the after the Bye Week to speak his mind. If anyone should it's Trent Edwards whose O-line is simply hanging him out to dry with a lofty 15 sacks already. The Bills could make a run if Marshawn Lynch and Lee Evans are able to make an impact with some easier opponents around the middle of the schedule, but they still have to face Atlanta, New England and The Jets (twice).
Oakland (1-3): Every game Jemarcuss Russell starts is a game this team will lose. With McFadden out, they'll be lucky to post another win.
Tennessee (0-4): Wow. I certainly thought a drop off was likely, what with Father Time spooning Kerry Collins every night, but no wins? I have to believe that Collins gets the hook and that their running game alone delievers some wins...but not soon with Indy and New England heading into the bye. Which team do you think is horrified by their Quarterback situation The Titans or The Panthers? Yikes.
Kansas City (0-4): No one has caught or rushed for 100 yards on this team. Matt Cassell is not a failed experiment, but their defense is.
Cleveland (0-4): This team is worse than their record. In the words of my Uncle, "If they were playing in the backyard, I'd close the blinds."
The landscape this year is an interesting one. Just looking at the direction some of the teams seem to be headed in causes one to see a line of demarcation between those that will contend and those that won't. Already you have your probable division winners in The West and South. The North and East will come down to RAVENS/STEELERS/BENGALS (gulp) and PATS/JETS with the loser having a respectable shot at the Wild Card. And as I said, The Jags are going to make their move. So basically, The Bungles and Jags are the two teams I'm worried could snag our ticket to the tourney. Then again, maybe it's the Ambien talking.
The Playoff Picture as I see it:
NORTH: Ravens (12-4)
SOUTH: Indianapolis (13-3)
WEST: Denver (11-5)
EAST: New York (10-6)
Wild Card: Pittsburgh (10-6)
Wild Card: New England (10-6)