1. Houston (6-1). J.J. Watt had neither a sack nor a deflected pass over the weekend. Of course, the Texans didn't have a game.
2. Atlanta (7-0). Any doubt Matt Ryan's the leader in the clubhouse for the 2012 NFL MVP disappeared in the first half at Philadelphia. Ryan went 17 of 20 for 197 yards with three touchdowns and no picks in said first half, and it was 24-7 entering the break.
3. New York Giants (6-2). This is the fourth year of Jerryworld, the Stadium With No Corporate Name In Arlington, vs. the Fourth Quarter Surgeon, Eli Manning. The scores of the four Giants-Cowboys game: New York, 33-31; New York, 41-35; New York, 37-34 and yesterday, New York 29-24. Average points per Eli start at the new place: 35.0.
4. Chicago (6-1). Bears 23, Panthers 22 at Soldier Field Sunday. Another margin of one here: Bears six interceptions returned for touchdowns this year, Cam Newton five touchdown passes this year.
5. San Francisco (5-2). In the last four weeks, the Niners have allowed 8.8 points a game. In the last three weeks, the Cards have averaged 11 points a game on offense. I sense a trend continuing tonight in Glendale.
6. Green Bay (5-3). Donald Driver, 37 years and 9 months old, the oldest receiver in the game, scored his 61st receiving touchdown Sunday in a totally unimpressive show by the Packers. "It's good to be on this side of an ugly win,'' he said.
7. New England (5-3). After the best end-zone celebration of the season (by far), the one with Rob Gronkowski looking very much like a Buckingham Palace guard, Gronk was asked what his touchdown celebration was, exactly. He said: "That little nutcracker dude who's guarding the house."
8. Baltimore (5-2). So the Ravens were able to take a collective breath Sunday as Hurricane Sandy roared into the area. Entering the second half of the season, they have to get better play from Joe Flacco or January's going to be ugly, whether the Ravens make it that far or not. He has to be better than a quarterback with an 84 rating, better than a 59.5-percent passer.
9. Miami (4-3). Most surprising team in the league right now. Tell me: At the end of September, when the Dolphins were 1-3, with losses to the Texans, Jets and Cards, did you think there was any chance they'd be above .500 at any time before 2014? I didn't. But you're always in the game when you can play defense, and the Dolphins can play defense.
10. Pittsburgh (4-3). Well, I was wrong. I thought the Steelers' season was in the dumper. Wins over two decent teams have the men of steel back in it.
11. Denver (4-3). Impressive win over the Saints and suddenly the schedule turns friendly: at Cincinnati, at Carolina, San Diego, at Kansas City, Tampa Bay, at Oakland. Combined record: 14-22.
12. Minnesota (5-3). Vikes at Seattle Sunday. They'll have to prove that nightmare the other night was an aberration.
13. Seattle (4-4). If I were Seattle GM John Schneider, I'd call Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, and ask if there's any way he'd dump Dwayne Bowe for a fourth-round pick. And if he would, which I doubt, I'd be a buyer. You might say that Bowe could be a free agent after the season, and why would the Seahawks spend a fourth- on a guy they could lose after the season? Simple. They'd franchise him if they couldn't reach a long-term deal, and that would give Seattle one season of a quality receiver (plus one-half of a shaky season this year, depending how quickly he could pick up at least some of the Seahawks offense) for, say, the 115th player in the draft. I'd do it.
14. Dallas (3-4). Yeah, they turn it over too much. Way too much. Something about the Cowboys, though, makes me think they're not done. I think they'll give the Falcons a good game this week.
15. Indianapolis (4-3). Played four games in October with the specter of Chuck Pagano's leukemia hanging over them. Went 3-1. The Dolphins and Colts meet in Week 9, with both teams over .500. Yeah, we all saw that coming.
Offensive Players of the Week
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay. Greg Schiano had workhorse Ray Rice at Rutgers. That's who Martin is turning into at Tampa. In the rout of the Vikings Thursday night, Martin touched the ball 32 times rushing and receiving, for 214 yards and two touchdowns. He has the deceptive speed to get outside and outrun outside linebackers, and enough power to push the pile on 3rd-and-short.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas. Witten looked crushed after the Giants' 29-24 win over Dallas Sunday, even though he set the franchise record for receptions in a game -- 18, amazingly, including 13 in the second half -- for a total of 167 yards. Everyone in the park knew where Tony Romo was going with the ball, but the Giants had trouble stopping it.
Defensive Players of the Week
Stevie Brown, DB, New York Giants. He accounted for three of the Giants' six takeaways in Dallas, picking off Tony Romo twice and recovering one fumble. He and linebacker Keith Rivers tied for the team lead with six tackles. The Giants just keep finding these guys.
Jimmy Wilson, CB, Miami. The seventh-round pick from Montana in 2011 had one of the best all-around days any player had Sunday, recording a sack of Mark Sanchez, two tackles, a pass deflection and a blocked punt when he and a fellow punt rusher ran a twist on the Jets' line, fooled long-snapper Tanner Purdue and rushed in and smothered the punt, which Olivier Vernon recovered in the end zone to give the Dolphins a 10-0 lead they'd never relinquish.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Justin Medlock, K, Carolina. On a typical late October day in Chicago -- chilly, winds gusting up to 25 mph -- first-year kicker Medlock, from UCLA, kicked four field goals in the first three quarters to give Carolina a 19-7 lead. When Cam Newton gave the lead back, Medlock stepped up and nailed a 45-yarder through the wind with 2:27 to play. Carolina, 22-20. Not his fault the Panthers blew the lead and lost it on a Robbie Gould field goal. Medlock spent last year with Hamilton of the CFL, making 49 of 55 field goals. That's what got the NFL's attention.
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.
Ryan Clady, T, Denver. It's tough to keep a clean sheet against a good defensive end like Will Smith of the Saints, but Clady allowed no sacks or quarterback hits by Smith in the 34-14 win over New Orleans Sunday night. He also steamrolled a couple of Saints to help Willis McGahee rush for 122 yards. A very good night for one of the league's most reliable left tackles.
Coach of the Week
Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator, Atlanta. In 2011, Matt Ryan threw 20 screen passes all season, and the Falcons were intensely interested in seeing him throw more, especially to quick running back Jacquizz Rodgers. So Koetter, who replaced the departed Mike Mularkey as offensive coordinator, brought in some ideas to get more deep balls and more screens into the offense. On Sunday, in Philadelphia, Koetter called 10 screens. He got Rodgers the ball 13 times on rushes or receptions, for 80 yards. Atlanta built a 24-7 halftime lead and coasted, 30-17.
Goats of the Week
The Washington receivers. Nine drops. Nine! A disgraceful performance in Pittsburgh.
Bradley Fletcher, CB, St. Louis. As if Tom Brady needs help, Fletcher got whistled three times for pass interference in a 45-7 loss to the Patriots -- and every one was on third down, meaning that three times he gave the Patriots new life.
Robert Meachem, WR, San Diego. With the Chargers sleepwalking their way through a dismal performance at Cleveland, Meacham broke into the clear and turned for a Philip Rivers pass, thrown perfectly over Cleveland coverage. Meacham dropped it. He blew a clear touchdown. Cleveland beat the Chargers 7-6.