Another amazing week in the National Football League gave us a bunch of barn-burners as the pretenders and contenders start to show their true colors.
No real changes at the top, Nos. 1-4 remain the same, but watch out for the Packers and Steelers — longtime stalwarts getting their grooves back.
Anyway, away we go football fans …
1. Falcons (5-0): There is something special brewing in Hotlanta. Matt Ryan continues to scream MVP — with the best receiving corps in football — and this team knows how to win tight games, which will help them come playoff time.
2. Texans (5-0): Settled for too many field goals Monday night, but that zone blocking scheme — especially on the back side, right Jon Gruden? — is fun to watch.
3. 49ers (4-1): That’s 79 points for (three points against) in their last two wins. With Alex Smith protecting the ball (one turnover) and a defense that is one of the best ever assembled, Niners show no sign of slowing down.
4. Ravens (4-1): Showed they can win ugly and that was as ugly as they come. Harbaugh Bowl still very much alive, so long as they shore up that porous run defense.
5. Patriots (3-2): Bill Belichick is pounding the rock (254 rushing yards last week) all of a sudden, and no one can adjust. Pats have most explosive/well-balanced offense in NFL. Gronkowski’s neck hickeys don’t lie.
6. Cardinals (4-1): We’ll stick with Cards for another week. That was a tough divisional road game, plus they were due for loss. Got to stop losing starting running backs, though. Where’s Ottis Anderson?
7. Vikings (4-1): Matty Ice is still front-runner, but you could make a legitimate case for Percy Harvin as MVP. He’s definitely the most explosive player right now, able to change games with one cut.
8. Bears (4-1): Monsters of the Midway are back. The defense, with five touchdowns already, can out-score more than a few offenses (ahem, Jets) in this league.
9. Eagles (3-2): They lost a game they weren’t supposed to win and nearly won it after playing well below their potential. Memo to Mike Vick: Ball security is everything.
10. NY Giants (3-2): You don’t want to get Ahmad Bradshaw (200 yards) angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry. Giants showed lot of fight in comeback win.
11. Seahawks (3-2): Finally put “scab-gate” behind them in much-needed win. Trust the Pete Carroll Guide to Winning: aggressive defense with sound run game.
12. Steelers (2-2): Big Ben is the best quarterback on third down, proving it twice last week on a morale-killing final drive. The fact that Rashard Mendenhall looks healthy adds extra juice.
13. Packers (2-3): Simply ran into an emotional buzz saw in Indianapolis. Not many teams outside our top-3 could have overcome that. That, and Aaron Rodgers needs better pass protection.
14. Bengals (3-2): Two-for-14 on third down. Two-for-14. Needed to play much, much better, particularly in a winnable game vs. Miami.
15. Chargers (3-2): Rookie mistake by Melvin Ingram cost them a huge road win — and potentially awoke a sleeping giant in New Orleans.
16. Broncos (2-3): Might be the best sub-.500 squad of all-time. Fatal flaw is late-game miscues (Manning, McGahee, whomever). Have to limit those to stay in hunt.
17. Rams (3-2): Jeff Fisher has this defense swarming. Have 15 sacks and eight interceptions on the year. If only the offense could get going …
18. Cowboys (2-2): The best thing about a bye week? We didn’t have to hear all the national pundits (extra long look at you Skip Bayless) defend Tony Romo.
19. Colts (2-2): Andrew Luck looked as poised as a young Peyton Manning. Yes, we said it. And now Indy has something to inspire them all season, #chuckstrong.
20. Redskins (2-3): As we wait for Robert Griffin III to officially be cleared after suffering a mild concussion, we can only hope the electric rookie learned his lesson.
21. NY Jets (2-3): Mark Sanchez got booed. Tim Tebow looked decent on a handful of plays. Special teams is their strongest unit. And Rex Ryan’s nightmare intensifies.
22. Dolphins (2-3): Say at with us now, all together: Miami isn’t that bad. In fact, they boast one of the best run defenses in football and were two plays away from a winning record.
23. Lions (1-3): Detroit stays put thanks to the bye. Tough test this week in Philly: original Wide-9 vs. new and improved Wide-9. Expect a lot of screen passes.
24. Bills (2-3): How do you rebound from a 52-28 loss? Not by losing 45-3.
25. Buccaneers (1-3): Bye week so we’ll repeat what we said last week: three straight losses by a 5-point average margin of defeat.
26. Saints (1-4): Is it a coincidence that the night Sean Payton is there, the Saints win? Maybe. Either way, Drew Brees and Co. are off the snide and still have time to do some damage.
27. Raiders (1-3): The top story on the team website’s news feed (at time of publish) was a story about Kobe Bryant possibly retiring. That’s all you need to know about Oakland.
28. Jaguars (1-4): The one good thing you could say about the Jags was at least they have Maurice Jones-Drew … but take out his 177-yard game in their lone win and he has just 231 yards in four games.
29. Panthers (1-4): Either Cam Newton isn’t who we thought he was (Denny Green anyone?) or opposing defenses have figured him out. We think it’s a little of both.
30. Titans (1-4): Jake Locker isn’t walking through that door anytime soon. And Chris Johnson is a lost soul. Apologies to all you fantasy suckers, er players out there.
31. Chiefs (1-4): We’ve preached for years about the ineffectiveness of Matt Cassel, but booing an injury to one of your own is a new low. Kansas City is an absolute train wreck, from the front office to the fans. Sell while you can.
32. Browns (0-5): They actually have some nice pieces in place. Just looks like the coaching staff might be in over their heads. Don’t worry, Browns fans, new owners are on the way.