Division Rankings: AFC, NFC East separate themselves from the pack
AFC East could have three teams reach the playoffs
Inconsistent Saints only team holding back the NFC South
Ravens-Steelers race in AFC North will go down to wire
We've got miles and miles to go until we get there, but after watching Week 10's results, I'm already starting to wonder if there's a Super Bowl rematch in the cards next February? Only this time, in an ironic turn of events, the Matt Cassel-led Patriots would be the heavy underdogs, and the steamrolling Giants the prohibitive favorite.
Wouldn't that be fun? Unbeaten Tennessee, of course, might have something to say about that in the AFC, but would any of us really be shocked if it's Patriots-Giants, Part II, down in Tampa Bay? Call it the Redemption Bowl for New England, and the Repeat Bowl for a New York team bent on its second consecutive ring. Let's tee it up.
Just a little past the midpoint of the NFL regular season, we're back with our monthly divisional rankings, and it's clear to me that the league's best football is being played in the East. Both in the NFC and AFC, where all eight teams feature winning records through nine games. That's how we can start to envision a Giants-Patriots redux.
1. NFC East
The 8-1 Giants created some real separation in the division with that road win at Philly on Sunday night, and now are well positioned to win their first NFC East title since 2005. One word of caution: All seven of New York's remaining opponents currently have winning records, so it won't be a cake-walk. The NFC East is an NFL-best 24-12, but half of those dozen losses are in head-to-head games. While I don't like the Cowboys' chances of making a second-half playoff drive, it wouldn't surprise me a bit if the division put three teams into the postseason for the third year in a row.
Team on the move: New York.
Team on the slide: Dallas.
Playoff-bound team(s): New York, Washington.
Best player: Clinton Portis, Washington, running back.
Best rookie: DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia, receiver.
2. AFC East
No division has turned it around in 2008 like this one, with four winning teams and a combined 22-14 record through 10 weeks. Last year it was the Perfect Patriots and the Three Stooges. All four teams have winning records at home this season, and Buffalo's 2-3 road record is the division's only blemish in that department. Thursday's Jets at Patriots showdown will give someone the inside track on the division title, but I can still see the AFC East advancing three teams into the playoffs. Keep an eye on the surging Dolphins, who have won three in a row and still have games against losers like Oakland, St. Louis, San Francisco and Kansas City.
Team on the move: Miami.
Team on the slide: Buffalo.
Playoff bound team(s): New England, New York, Miami.
Best player: Chad Pennington, Miami, quarterback.
Best rookie: Jerod Mayo, New England, linebacker.
3. NFC South
No other division has three teams with six wins or more, and the NFC South's cumulative record of 23-13 is second only to the NFC East's 24-12. The disappointing Saints -- who some idiot has picked to go to the Super Bowl for two consecutive years now -- have sunk comfortably to the bottom of the standings, but the Panthers, Falcons and Bucs all have legitimate playoff hopes. I give Tampa Bay the slight edge over Atlanta for a wild-card berth, mainly because the Bucs have the easier schedule down the stretch, with automatic wins still remaining against the Lions and Raiders.
Team on the move: Atlanta.
Team on the slide: New Orleans.
Playoff bound team(s): Carolina, Tampa Bay.
Best player: Drew Brees, New Orleans, quarterback.
Best rookie: Matt Ryan, Atlanta, quarterback.
4. AFC South
With the Colts saving their season courtesy of wins the past two weeks against New England and Pittsburgh, you can't count out the guys with the horseshoes on their helmets. But here's my dream scenario, and listen closely for the sound of sweet irony: In Week 17, the Colts are playing host to the Titans (again), and this time, it's Tony Dungy's team that needs to win and get help to make the playoffs. The Colts win, but alas, they don't get the mandatory Cleveland win at Pittsburgh, as the Browns tank it to gain revenge for last year's Indy fold-job in Week 17. Ouch.
Team on the move: Tennessee.
Team on the slide: Houston.
Playoff bound team(s): Tennessee.
Best player: Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee, defensive tackle.
Best rookie: Chris Johnson, Tennessee, running back.