The Fine Fifteen
1. New Orleans (4-0). OK, OK. I blew this one big-time in May. Putting the Saints 24th in my offseason power ratings totally discounted the impact Gregg Williams would have in rebuilding the defense of this team. That's a tough, tough D.
2. New York Giants (4-0). Guess what game is 13 days away? Give you a clue: Eli Manning going home, gumbo, two very fine Fine Fifteen teams. That's going to be a great one.
3. Indianapolis (4-0). The art of the strip-sack aided and abetted the Colts once more. Robert Mathis told me it's something defensive line coach John Teerlinck has the Colts work on every day during practice, in almost all pass-rush drills. The Colts are riding a more aggressive defensive front to a good two-way team right now.
4. Minnesota (3-0). The Metrodome, in 52 hours, hosts a sudden-death baseball game (the Twins won), the biggest regular-season football game in years (tonight) and then a one-game playoff for the American League Central title Tuesday afternoon. Nice to be a sports fan in Minneapolis these days.
5. Denver (4-0). I still don't know how good the Broncos are. But they're this high for this reason: 26 points allowed in four games, by far the lowest in the league. That's a touch less per game than any team in football. Amazing. Totally unexpected. Josh McDaniels for governor. Mike Nolan for mayor. Elvis Dumervil for ... well, whatever he wants.
6. New York Jets (3-1). Mark Sanchez will take a very important lesson from the 24-10 loss to the Saints. He can't telegraph his throws. Even when he thinks he's not. Twice Darren Sharper knew exactly what was coming, resulting in two picks.
7. New England (3-1). Hey, sometimes good teams have to escape. The Patriots were breathing a pretty big collective sigh of relief after the most catchable ball of this NFL Sunday bounced off Mark Clayton's chest in the final seconds.
8. Baltimore (3-1). The Ravens probably should be 4-0, but that doesn't mean I haven't started to have a little skepticism. Can anyone in the back end cover? I mean, the Browns are playing the pass more efficiently than the Ravens.
9. Pittsburgh (2-2). I'm not sure where to put the Steelers. They're sixth defensively after four weeks, but does the sixth-ranked defense in football allow a good offense to track-meet downfield on them for 79-, 67- and 54-yard touchdown drives in the last 20 minutes of a game?
10. Green Bay (2-1). The calm before tonight's storm.
11. San Francisco (3-1). Shaun Hill might be a little more than a caretaker. Through four weeks, he's a 62 percent thrower, with five touchdowns and one interception.
12. Chicago (3-1). Jay "Helicopter'' Cutler is winning friends and influencing people, playing not like some finessy quarterback, but like a Monster of the Midway.
13. Philadelphia (2-1). Bucs at Eagles on Sunday. Phils at Rockies on Saturday, and possibly Sunday. The game at the rockpile's going to be a lot more interesting.
14. Atlanta (2-1). In four weeks we'll know if the Falcons are real challengers for the Saints in the NFC South. Atlanta's upcoming sked: at 49ers, vs. Bears, at Cowboys, at Saints. Ouch.
15. (tie) San Diego (2-2). This year at the bye there won't be a defensive coordinator's firing, as there was last year (Ted Cottrell). Although there might be a few fans calling for it.
15. (tie) Cincinnati (3-1). I'm not a Bengal buyer.
Quote of the Week I
"What's it gonna be next week? Two-hand touch?''
Quote of the Week II
"That's like changing the inflight snack on the Hindenburg. It won't help.''
Quote of the Week III
"Being at a loss for words is a good way to put it.''
Tweet of the Week
"That's a nice tie you're wearing tonight on NBC. Can we fire Wade Phillips now?''
Stat of the Week
Forty percent of the Green Bay active roster has never met Brett Favre. Of the 53 players eligible to dress for the Packers in the Metrodome tonight, 21 joined the team after Favre's departure in March 2008.
Add eight practice-squadders and two of three injured-reserve players who weren't on the team in Favre's last season there, and Favre would have a pretty strange time if he walked in to the Green Bay locker room at these days. He wouldn't know 31 of the 64 players in there.
NFL Truth & Rumors