The Elite 18
1. New York Giants (4-0). Jints entered the weekend first in the league in yards per game, points per game, rushing yards per game and in the top three in points allowed and passing yards allowed. This is the best all-around team in football right now.
2. Tennessee (5-0). "Cortland Finnegan's a heck of a player,'' said Marcus Stroud the other day. Not often a defensive tackle admires a cornerback, but Finnegans's getting a lot of that from players around the league who admire the Samford kid's feistiness and ball-hawking.
3. Pittsburgh (4-1). The Steelers can only hope that on the seventh day (of rest), Ben's shoulder finally started feeling better.
4. Indianapolis (3-2). I know this is a precipitous hike from last week, but let me ask you a question: Who should I put fourth, if not the resurgent Colts -- even though Sunday's rout of Baltimore was the first really good game Indy has played all season?
5. Tampa Bay (4-2). How admirable is Jeff Garcia? He goes 15-of-20 with no picks or sacks against a formidable Panther D, and all he talks about after the game, in effect, is how he appreciates the chance to be an NFL quarterback.
6. Washington (4-2). I see where Clinton Portis thinks the media was the problem with the Redskins' loss to St. Louis. We pumped up the 'Skins too much for his tastes, evidently. I wouldn't blame the media, fella. I'd blame three lost fumbles, the first three lost fumbles by your team this year.
7. Philadelphia (3-3). Congrats, Donovan McNabb, on breaking the final two of Ron Jaworski's team passing records (yards and attempts). You're the most accomplished passer in Philly history.
8. Dallas (4-2). Your turn to steer the ship, Brad Johnson.
9. San Diego (3-3). Fairly predictable result last night. Chargers have a quarterback you can trust. Patriots don't. Doesn't Philip Rivers throw a beautiful deep ball?
10. Buffalo (4-1). Sometimes, examining schedules can backfire, because you never can tell what a team's going to be a month down the road. But examine the Bills' last 11, and tell me they don't have a heck of a chance to go 7-4 and host a wild-card game Jan. 3: San Diego, at Miami, Jets, at New England, Cleveland, at Kansas City, San Francisco, Miami (in Toronto), at the Jets, at Denver, New England.
11. (tie) New England (3-2). They play Denver on Monday night and St. Louis the following Sunday, both in Foxboro. Then, for the 89th straight year, Pats and Colts play on the first Sunday of Sweeps Month (November, for all you non-TV-o-philes)
11. (tie) Jacksonville (3-3). Other than the Giants, Jacksonville is the best road team in football.
13. Carolina. (4-2). Panthers lost by 24 at Tampa Bay on Sunday. If the two played at Charlotte next Sunday, I would almost expect (and I am serious about this) Carolina to win by 24. That's the nature of the NFC South. Nothing, ever, is permanent.
14. New Orleans (3-2). Drew Brees was 26-of-30 Sunday against the Raiders. He is completing 71 percent of his throws -- and for a guy who likes to throw downfield as much as he does, that is amazing.
15. (tie) Atlanta (4-2). The sound of paper crumpling that you just heard was Arthur Blank throwing away Bill Cowher's résumé.
15. (tie) Arizona (4-2). Amazing how this team doesn't miss Anquan Boldin.
17. (tie) Chicago (3-3). Not to paint the town rosy, but the play of Kyle Orton is more good than bad.
17. (tie) Green Bay (3-3). The thing I liked most about the win at Seattle was Aaron Rodgers playing well, almost Favrian, with a bum shoulder.
Quote of the Week I
"Call me old, or whatever you want to call me, at the end of the season. Don't call me old [five] games into the season.''
Quote of the Week II
"He's literally on a high wire without a net.''
As my buddy Andy Friedland said at NBC on Sunday, "I'd like to see video of that.''
Quote of the Week III
"He really has a great attitude. I'm not sure I could be as up as he is. In the end, please God, we hope to have him here for another 10 years.''