1. Pittsburgh (5-1). Trick or Treat. Steelers at the angry and embarrassed Saints on Sunday night. It's going to be tough for the Steelers to stay on top in the last 10 weeks without football's most underrated player, defensive end Aaron Smith, lost with a torn triceps muscle. That one hurts. A lot. Just ask Dick LeBeau.
2. New York Jets (5-1). The Jets come back from the bye to face Green Bay at home, then Detroit and Cleveland on the road.
3. New England (5-1). You see the drive Tom Brady directed at the start of the third quarter in San Diego? Masterful. A 17-play, 75-yard drive, taking 8:35 off the clock, with six first downs, finishing with a one-yard touchdown run by the law firm -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
4. Tennessee (5-2). "We're a force right now,'' cornerback Alterraun Verner said Sunday, and no one who's been steamrollered by the Titans in the past 15 days -- Dallas, Jacksonville, Philadelphia -- is arguing.
5. Baltimore (5-2). Head coach John Harbaugh is right. He found some fault with just about everything the Ravens did Sunday against outmanned Buffalo. But in January, when the Ravens host a playoff game, all anyone will remember from the ugly Week 7 conquest of Buffalo (and I use the word "conquest" very loosely) is the W.
6. Indianapolis (4-2). Good thing the Colts had the bye this week. Peyton Manning went to Lourdes, from what I hear, and brought back some holy water for his battered receivers.
7. Atlanta (5-2). There's no really good team in the NFC. I'm not sure which one is the best. If the game's in Atlanta, probably these Birds -- because they've lost only three games in the Georgia Dome since the start of the 2008 season -- and only once with Matt Ryan as the starter.
8. Miami (3-3). I explained the weird, killer fumble call higher in the column, but I don't expect you to agree with me that it was the right call. So I'll move on. Weirdness of the Week Dept.: Dolphs 3-0 on the road, 0-3 at home. I've got Miami this high because it has beaten Minnesota and Green Bay on the road and came within a controversial call Sunday of beating the best team in football.
9. New York Giants (4-2). Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) questionable for tonight. The Giants are going to have to score some points to stay with Dallas. Heal, Hakeem, heal.
10. Kansas City (4-2). All of a sudden, Matt Cassel's gone from liability to lowering the boom. In the past two weeks, he's led Kansas City to 73 points, is a 70-percent passer, and has thrown five touchdown and no interceptions.
11. Washington (4-3). The Redskins play defense well enough to be the best team in the NFC. Sometimes.
12. Philadelphia (4-3). The Eagles play offense well enough to be the best team in the NFC. Sometimes.
13. Green Bay (4-3). Talk about a momentous win, beating Favre, at Lambeau, with the old man dragging the Vikings downfield toward a possible winning touchdown in the final seconds. Almost made me forget how someone has kidnapped the chemistry between Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings. Come on. Bring it back.
14. Houston (4-2). A week from tonight we'll see if the Texans have it in them to sweep the Colts.
15. Minnesota (2-4). I know. How can a 2-4 team be here over the Saints, Bucs or Seahawks? I give you the power of the column. Pick one. I'm not right. You're not right.
"We're a team of coulda-woulda-shoulda, a team of almosts right now.''
-- Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen on the 2-4 Vikings after their 28-24 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field Sunday night.
"It's definitely embarrassing to be 2-4. Or whatever we are.''
-- Terrell Owens of the, indeed, 2-4 Bengals after their 39-32 loss to the Falcons in Atlanta.
-- New England quarterback Tom Brady, asked about his team's performance in the first half, after the Patriots mustered 38 net yards in the first two quarters of a 23-20 win over the Chargers in San Diego.
"Let's face it: It's inevitable that someone's going to get hurt really bad out there. When? I don't know. But it's going to happen.''
-- Dallas linebacker Keith Brooking, to me, about the near futility of the league's efforts to police the helmet-to-helmet and other violent hits.
"I think the skirts need to be taken off in the NFL offices.''
-- NFL Players Association president Kevin Mawae, angry that the league is fining players for what he considers legal hits, to ESPN Radio in Los Angeles, via sportsradiointerviews.com.
That's an amazingly incendiary quote from a man who will sit in the negotiating sessions with the owners in the coming months.
"I feel fine ... I've had way worse. I've lost a day before."
-- Washington tight end Chris Cooley, on the feeling he experienced after suffering a concussion last week against Indianapolis, to 106.7 The Fan in Washington, via sportsradiointerviews.com.
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