1. Atlanta (6-0). With the win over the Raiders, Mike Smith tied Dan Reeves atop the Falcons' all-time regular season coaching victories list, with 49. Not to rain on the parade, but this is the Falcons' 47th season. You're telling me they've never had a man win 50 regular season games? I guess that's what having 16 coaches -- only four interim ones, meaning the average tenure is slightly less than four years on the Atlanta sidelines -- does to the all-time win total.
2. New York Giants (4-2). Most impressive win by any team this season, the 26-3 rout of the Niners that no one -- not even Abby Manning -- saw coming in its decisiveness. (Well, I'm sure Ms. Eli thought her husband would pull out a win, but a rout?)
3. Houston (5-1). The Texans catch a major break next week. They play host to the Ravens, who could be without four of their five best defenders.
4. Chicago (4-1). After two straight weeks of scoring defensive touchdowns, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman were held scoreless Sunday. That could be because the Bears had a bye in advance of a Week 7 Monday nighter against Detroit.
5. Baltimore (5-1). John Harbaugh is now 31-5 at home. The Ravens are on a 14-game winning streak at The Big Crabcake. But it's not at home where Baltimore's about to be tested. Next six weeks: at Houston, bye, at Cleveland, vs. Oakland, at Pittsburgh, at San Diego. Yikes.
6. San Francisco (4-2). I guarantee you Jim Harbaugh hasn't slept yet, and is in his office as you read this, saying to the Bill Walsh photo on his laptop, "Coach, don't ask me. I have no idea what just happened.
7. Green Bay (3-3). Just when you thought the Packers were free-falling like some Felix Baumgartner, they lay the wood to Houston and fly home to Green Bay to consider a relative pillow of a schedule coming up: at St. Louis, vs. Jacksonville, vs.Arizona and atDetroit in the next four weeks.
There is a line of demarcation here. A big one, I think.
8. Seattle (4-2). Amazing thing is, I was convinced the Seahawks had to beat the tar out of Tom Brady to win this game, and Brady, with 59 pass drops, was sacked only once and hit while throwing five times. Not a lot, getting hit once every 12 attempts. But this game was won with big plays from Russell Wilson when the Seahawks had to have them.
9. New England (3-3). Ran 85 plays with the quick-strike offense, and rolled up enough yards to win, 475 of them. But Wilson made more big plays down the stretch than the quarterback he grew up loving, Tom Brady.
10. San Diego (3-2). If Philip Rivers continues on this path every week -- 250 passing yards, one interception, which is his average through the first five games -- and if their top two backs (Ryan Mathews, Jackie Battle) continue on a 4.9-yard-per-carry clip, San Diego will win the division. Period.
11. Washington (3-3). Thirteen carries, 138 yards. Robert Griffin III is one incredibly versatile football player.
12. Minnesota (4-2). Look on the bright side, Viking fans: Percy Harvin's on pace for a 131-catch, 1,440-yard season. That was a land mine game Sunday in Washington. Worst thing about the loss for Minnesota is it left the Vikes just one game up on Green Bay.
13. Miami (3-3). Just think: The Dolphins have lost two games by a field goal. Joe Philbin and Jeff Ireland: Perfect together. Wasn't that a slogan for somebody, somewhere, sometime?
14. Denver (2-3). Showing too much faith in these Broncos, I know. But a good portion of the reason is I don't love anyone else.
15. Philadelphia (3-3). The story about Michael Vick carrying the ball around the Eagles' practice facility all week, reminding himself to not drop it so much, didn't work so well in the loss to Detroit. He fumbled for the 30th time in his last 30 games, and threw two more picks. That's 13 turnovers in six games. It has to stop or an 8-8 season will follow.
Offensive Players of the Week
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay. Greatest way to handle everyone asking, What's wrong with the Packers? Go on the road, play a 5-0 team off to the best start in its history, throw for six touchdowns, and look as good on national TV as in any game of the 2011 runaway MVP season. Rodgers (24 of 37, 338 yards, career-high six TDs, no interceptions) made a mockery of the passer rating system in the NFL. His was 133.8. The highest you can have is 158.3. How, pray tell, was Rodgers' rating 24.5 points lower than the maximum? The man can't play any better.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle. Imagine what must be going through this kid's mind, after out-dueling Rodgers and Brady in the first six weeks of his NFL career. "It's the team, not me,'' he said from the Seattle locker room after the 24-23 win over the Patriots. Modesty will get you everywhere. Wilson led Seattle, down 23-10 early in the fourth quarter, to two touchdowns in the last eight minutes, both throws leading his receivers perfectly. Talk about your basic huge surprise. Wilson's one of the biggest stunners of the 2012 season.
Defensive Player of the Week
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants. I could give this to Antrel Rolle, with his two interceptions, but I thought the defensive front paved the way for everything -- the six sacks, the three interceptions, and holding the vastly improved 49ers offense to zero touchdowns. Pierre-Paul had two sacks for 20 yards, another knockdown of Alex Smith and a pass deflection, and the Giants suffocated Smith and the Niners' running game.
Special Teams Players of the Week
Jacoby Jones, KR/WR, Baltimore. His 108-yard kick return for touchdown (duh!) in the third quarter not only broke open a close game with the Cowboys but also tied the NFL record for longest kick return in history. Jones, who came over from Houston, has been a better addition than many with the Ravens thought he'd be, giving the receiving corps a deep threat to loosen up coverage and, obviously, giving Baltimore the breakaway return man every team needs.
Shaun Draughn, RB, Kansas City. He couldn't do much about the Bucs' rout of the Chiefs, but his block of a Michael Koenen punt in Tampa was a textbook example of how to break through questionable blocking at the point of attack and cover up the punt without giving the punter a chance to recover.
Dr. Z Unsung Man in the Trenches of the Week
The award for the offensive lineman who was the biggest factor for his team in the weekend's games, named for my friend Paul Zimmerman, the longtime SI football writer struggling in New Jersey to recover from three strokes in November 2008. Zim, a former collegiate offensive lineman himself, loved watching offensive line play.
The New York Giants offensive line (Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe, David Baas, Chris Snee, Sean Locklear). For keeping Eli Manning clean. No, clean's too mild a word. How about "pristine?" Last year in the NFC title game, Manning was sacked six times and hit another seven times while throwing. On Sunday, in the 26-3 dismantling of the Niners, Manning wasn't sacked, and got knocked down only once. A perfect day for a quarterback and his pocket protectors.
Coaches of the Week
Chan Gailey, head coach, Buffalo. After the Bills had 97 points scored on them the last two weeks, Gailey appealed to the players' dignity, telling them something that a predecessor, Marv Levy, told the old Bills when they trailed 28-3 at halftime of that Wild Card game against Houston two decades ago. "Whatever the result in the second half, you guys are going to have to live with your effort forever,'' Levy told them. And Gailey did basically the same thing to his players here, and they responded. "Coach Gailey handled this week great,'' said safety Jairus Byrd after the game. "He just told us, 'You've got to get your respect back.' '' They did, in overtime at previously 4-1 Arizona.
Pat Shurmur, head coach, Cleveland. He's been unfailingly optimistic around his team, which, after losing 11 in a row, had to be hard. "It wasn't really,'' he said over the phone afterward. "They're so young. You have to teach them everything, and they've been great in taking the lessons. I think it's going to pay off long-term.'' His patience with Brandon Weeden and receivers who drop the ball too much is notable, and it paid off in a 34-24 win over Cincinnati, Cleveland's first victory of the season.
Goat of the Week
Jason Garrett, coach, Dallas. With 22 seconds left and the clock running, and Dallas trying to get one more play off before attempting the game-winning field goal attempt at Baltimore, the Cowboys dawdled and looked disorganized getting up to the line of scrimmage at the Baltimore 33, down 31-29. "Tony was going to get them the ball as quick as he could, knowing he had a timeout in his hip pocket ... It just took too long for everyone to get unpiled,'' Garrett said afterward. But I don't think that was it.
I believe Dallas didn't have a solid plan at the end of the previous play, and certainly should have. The 11 offensive players should have known with certainty they had to get up lightning-fast, run hard to the line of scrimmage, and then be ready to run one more play to get in better position for the field goal attempt. If they'd snapped the ball with 11, 12 or 13 seconds left, they'd have been able to run a play, call the timeout and attempt a possibly shorter field goal. As it was, Dan Bailey missed a 51-yard field goal attempt, and the Ravens had the assisted victory.
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