1. VACANT. Sorry. I watched every good team in football last Thursday and over the weekend, and there isn't a number one. I guess if there were one, I'd take the team that beat Detroit and Cleveland, both in overtime, over the last eight days. That team is ...
2. New York Jets (7-2). Mark Sanchez one day will draft a line of demarcation on his career, and the line will come before Sunday's game in Cleveland. That was a powerfully strong performance against many odds and one very bad calf.
3. New England (7-2). Al Michaels said five minutes into the second quarter Sunday night: "The Pittsburgh Steelers ... 18 offensive plays, 18 yards.'' Tully Banta-Cain, Rob Ninkovich, Devin McCourty -- those are becoming prime-time players and we'd better get to know their names.
4. Atlanta (7-2). Matt Ryan can win big games. That's what I take from Thursday night's pulse-pounder over Baltimore, and it's a great sign for games with Green Bay and New Orleans coming up in the season's last seven weeks.
5. Green Bay (6-3). Now we find out if the Pack's for real: Starting Sunday, three of their games within the next month are at Minnesota (in their last meeting, presumably, with Brett Favre), at Atlanta and at New England. Killer sked, Pack.
6. Baltimore (6-3). Played the Falcons very close in Atlanta.
7. Pittsburgh (6-3). Didn't play the Patriots close at home. That's the difference between 6 and 7. That and the offensive-line injuries to the Steelers. That made the Patriots look like a bunch of jail-escapees on defense Sunday night.
8. New York Giants (6-3). That's the one mulligan for the year. It's allowed. But the problem, as it is with Pittsburgh, is that the Giants' offensive line is so beat up that it could ruin a great offense.
9. Oakland (5-4). No team has had a better bye week in a long, long time. The Raiders were a half-game behind first-place Kansas City in the AFC West entering Sunday's games. Kansas City lost. Oakland has the tiebreaker edge because of last week's head-to-head win over the Chiefs. So now the Raiders and Chiefs are both 5-4, and the Raiders are in first because of that tiebreaker edge.
10. Philadelphia (5-3). Big game tonight, Mike Vick.
11. New Orleans (6-3). Bye week. Interesting two-game stretch in five days now -- Seattle at home, then at Dallas on Thanksgiving. Winnable, certainly, both of them. But that Dallas game is a lot more interesting and more challenging now.
12. Indianapolis (6-3). The Colts will be there at the end. I'm pretty sure of that. I just don't know whether they'll actually win the game when they're there at the end.
13. San Diego (4-5). How amazing is this: If the Chargers beat Denver at home this week, and the Raiders and Chiefs lose, San Diego's tied for first in the AFC West.
14. Chicago (6-3). I don't know any contender with a tougher last seven weeks: at Miami (on a short week), Philly, at Detroit, New England, at Minnesota, Jets, at Green Bay.
15. Miami (5-4). Tampa Bay (6-3). Oops. In an earlier version of the column, I omitted the Bucs from my Fine 15. Don't take it as a slight Bucs fans. Honest mistake.
"Holy cow! We won a game!''
-- Buffalo guard Eric Wood, walking off the field after the Bills' first win of the season, a 14-12 decision over Detroit at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"Yes, I feel that.''
-- San Francisco running back Frank Gore, asked after the 49ers' narrow win over the Rams -- the Niners' second straight win with Troy Smith at quarterback -- if Troy Smith should be the starting quarterback. Troy Smith and Alex Smith will likely be healthy next week, when the 49ers play Tampa Bay.
"To me, this is high treason. An NFL football player does not turn down a play like that. And if I'm Jason Garrett, the first thing that I'm doing when I take over as the head coach of this team, is I'm getting guys like that -- number 21, who absolutely committed treason, let his team down by passing up a tackle and let the ball get in the end zone -- I'm taking him and I'm getting him out of my locker room."
--Former Falcons and Seahawks coach Jim Mora, on NFL Network, after watching Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins back off a tackle against Green Bay's James Jones eight days ago.
The amazing thing is that Jenkins refused to admit his mistake, or apologize, after the game or the next day. I don't believe he should have been cut, but the Cowboys owed it to the dignity of the franchise, and to the fans, to bench Jenkins for part of the next game Sunday against the Giants for this intolerable act. They didn't do so.
My favorite part of the play on NBC was the graphic we put up right after Jenkins went to the bench, showing that Jenkins -- supposedly a Pro Bowl corner, which he's made a mockery of as his team has gone down in flames -- being thrown at eight times in the first 38 minutes of the game against Green Bay , with eight completions, for 94 yards. Way to be tough during adversity, Mike.
"You share a very intimate relationship with Brett Favre.''
-- NFL Network host Stacey Dales, to Steve Mariucci, beginning an interview Saturday on-air.
Mariucci was Favre's quarterback coach at the Packers, and they are good friends. But perhaps slightly different wording would have been in order here.
"No ... No.''
-- Favre, to Mariucci, when Mariucci asked if he would play football in 2011.
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