1. Green Bay (8-0). When a team gets halfway through a season without a loss, it's natural to analyze whether that team can go undefeated. Let's look at the next four games for the Packers: Minnesota at home, Tampa Bay at home, at Detroit on a short week for Thanksgiving, at the Giants with an extra three days of rest. What a Thanksgiving date this should be: the 10-0 Packers, potentially, in the early game at the 8-2 (potentially) Lions. Keep the turkey in that foil tent, families.
2. San Francisco (7-1). Four road games for the Niners this year, all in Eastern Time. Niners 4, Foes 0. Niners 81 points, Foes 61.
3. Baltimore (6-2). How sweep it is: Ravens win the season series 2-zip over Pittsburgh for only the second time ever.
4. New York Giants (6-2). Mea culpa, mea culpa on these guys. For three quarters, the Giants played defense against New England like it was the Super Bowl of four years ago, and in the fourth quarter, they played offense like it was.
5. Detroit (6-2). On his bye Sunday, Ndamukong Suh read the rule book.
6. Pittsburgh (6-3). You rarely see Troy Polamalu emote negatively on the field, but when Flacco threw the winning touchdown bomb to Torrey Smith, I was surprised to see Polamalu throw his arms up and act upset. All of Pittsburgh follows his lead.
7. New England (5-3). Chad Ochocinco was targeted by Brady five times Sunday. Caught none.
8. Houston (6-3). Seriously: What team in the NFL has a better 1-2 punch at running back right now than the Texans with Arian Foster (19 carries, 124 yards in the rout of Cleveland) and Ben Tate (12 for 115)?
9. New York Jets (5-3). The defense that took the field in Orchard Park? That's a championship defense.
10. New Orleans (6-3). The year the two leagues merged, 1970, John Brodie led all passers with 2,941 yards passing in 14 games. Today, Drew Brees has 3,004 after nine games.
11. Philadelphia (3-4). As I wrote earlier, Nnamdi Asomugha is getting comfortable in the Eagles defense, and is texting and emailing his defensive coordinator during the week. Just what teams on the Eagles' schedule need -- Nnamdi getting it.
12. Atlanta (5-3). Thomas Dimitroff boarded the charter home from Indy with a little puff in the chest. Rookie Julio Jones finally had the kind of game you trade up 21 spots in the first round to see.
13. Cincinnati (6-2). I have to say that I'd to switch to Andy Dalton as my offensive rookie of the year, a week after I chose Cam Newton in SI.com's midseason report. The rookie out of TCU is 6-2, Newton's 2-6, and like Newton, Dalton walks into the offensive huddle like he owns the place.
14. Chicago (4-3). Bears lose tonight and they're four games out of first in the NFC North and two games out of second. That would be trouble.
15. Buffalo (5-3). Marcell Dareus is the genuine item. Even in a bad loss with the offense showing absolutely nothing, that was patently obvious ... The Bills are at Dallas, at Miami and at the Jets in the next three weeks, by the way. Bad time for the offense to go into mothballs.
Offensive Players of the Week
Sorry. I have to give out four of these this morning. Just way too many great performances to limit it to one or two ... and I regret sincerely NOT including Aaron Rodgers, who threw four touchdowns, and Vincent Jackson, who caught three scoring passes, and Atlanta left tackle Will Svitek, who, pressed into duty with the back injury to incumbent Sam Baker, held Dwight Freeney to one tackle, no sacks and one quarterback hit in 25 Matt Ryan pass drop-backs.
Denver RB Willis McGahee. The total game was good enough -- 20 carries, 163 yards -- but consider that he played with a fractured bone in his right hand, didn't fumble and had the two biggest runs of the day. His 60-yard touchdown run on the last play of the third quarter was stunning because he outran the fleet Raider D; that tied the game at 24. His 24-yard scoring run with two minutes left in the game iced it. Denver 38, Oakland 24. All week he said his hand would be fine, and he was right. "Shake my hand! I'm telling you it will be fine!'' McGahee said to writers during the week. Interesting how much of a leadership role he's taken in Denver.
New York Giants QB Eli Manning. Throw the stats out the window (20-39, 250 yards, two touchdowns, one pick). I couldn't care less if Manning completed 20 of 139 at Foxboro. In the last seven minutes of a football game that closely resembled a Stieg Larsson thriller, Manning drove the Giants 85 and 80 yards, and threw touchdown passes to cap both drives. I can think of only two better games by Manning in his career -- Ice Bowl II, when he and the Giants defeated the Packers in the NFC title game four years ago, and the Super Bowl win over the Patriots two weeks later.
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco. Ditto on the stats thing. "This Steelers-Ravens game is a game for men, big men,'' coach John Harbaugh said postgame. "And nobody shined more brightly tonight than Joe Flacco.'' I couldn't agree more. On the winning 92-yard drive, Flacco converted three third downs and one fourth down, and survived two crucial drops by his receivers en route to leading the Ravens to a 23-20 victory.
Atlanta WR Julio Jones. The Man Dimitroff Traded A Few Drafts For scored his first NFL touchdown, a 50-yarder, on a full-out diving goal-line catch with three minutes left in the first quarter. Six minutes later, he took a short post from Matt Ryan and turned it into an 80-yard touchdown. He had but one more catch on the day, but his explosive impact turned this from a game into a 31-7 rout.
Defensive Player of the Week
Pittsburgh LB James Harrison. In his first game back since he fractured his eye socket five weeks ago, Harrison was the best defender in the league in Week 9. He led all tacklers in the Baltimore-Pittsburgh game with eight solo stops. He sacked Flacco three times and forced a Flacco fumble in the fourth quarter that led to a go-ahead Pittsburgh touchdown. Of course, no one in Pittsburgh is looking for individual trophies this morning, but Harrison swarmed the field all night.
Special Teams Players of the Week
Arizona DE Calais Campbell and PR Patrick Peterson. Campbell blocked a potential game-ending St. Louis field goal attempt at the end of regulation that forced overtime. Peterson, meanwhile, fielded an extra-period punt way too deep in his own territory instead of letting it hop into the end zone, but then wove and bobbed to an electrifying 99-yard touchdown. What an incredible return.
Dallas LB Anthony Spencer, for one of the best blocked field goals of this, or any, season. Steve Hauschka of Seattle lined up for a 41-yard field goal attempt that could have brought Seattle to within 13-9. However, Spencer jumped over the center, regained his balance, leapt again and blocked the field goal try. Brilliant, brilliant play.
Coach of the Week
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh. He and brother Jim are a combined 13-3 this year. (I guess they can coach.) On this night, John slew the dragon that has dogged his every step since he took the coaching job in Baltimore in 2008, completing his first series sweep over the Steelers in four seasons. He even managed to quote Teddy Roosevelt from 1910 too, bringing up his "man in the arena'' quote after the game. As in: "It's not the critic who counts. It's the man in the arena.''
Harbaugh and his staff have melded some valuable vets they inherited with the influx of Ozzie Newsome-drafted youth, and he's made it all work. For the Ravens to beat a hot Pittsburgh team after skunking the Steelers to open the season has to make owner Steve Bisciotti feel like he made a brilliant choice against the grain when he hired Harbaugh, the Eagles' special teams coach, in 2008.