(NOTE: Rankings are considered by wins and losses, margins of victory and defeat, quality of opposition, and recent record trends)
1. Atlanta (7-0) (Last week: 1)
COSTUME: The collective team as Mike Tyson
No, not the crazy Tyson that chewed ears and found himself on the wrong side of the law. I’m referring to the Tyson that built a 37-0 record beating ham-n-eggers and has-beens, looking almost invincible in the process. Whether a Buster Douglas or Evander Holyfield awaits remains to be seen.
2. Houston (6-1) (Last week: 2)
COSTUME: JJ Watt as a tree
Watt’s wingspan is estimated to be between 7 and 14 feet, which accounts for the plethora of tipped passes that the Wisconsin lurcher has amassed. Watt is the tree in our childhood backyards that would knock down our passes in our after-school football games. Bonus: his 9.5 sacks lead the league.
3. San Francisco (6-2) (Last week: 3)
COSTUME: Frank Gore as the Energizer Bunny
You’d think being among a four-headed running back system with battery-mate Kendall Hunter, veteran Brandon Jacobs, and rookie Lamichael James means less carries for the injury-prone Gore. Instead, he’s sixth in the league with 601 rushing yards, with a 5.8 YPA average, and still going strong.
4. Chicago (6-1) (Last week: 4)
COSTUME: Jay Cutler as Carl Grimes
After Cutler’s debacled night against the Green Bay Packers, the Bears have won 5 straight games, forcing 16 turnovers, picking up 15 sacks, and scoring 7 defensive touchdowns along the way. In essence, they’re pretty good at rescuing the hapless-at-times Cutler when they have to.
5. New York Giants (5-2) (Last week: 5)
COSTUME: The collective team as Kristin Davis
With a 2.5-game lead over the directionless Eagles, the self-killing Cowboys, and incomplete Redskins, Coughlin’s crew resembles Ms. Davis, aka the only female on Sex and the City that’s actually notably attractive. There’s also a Jerry Jones/Sarah Jessica Parker/facelift joke in there somewhere.
6. New England (5-3) (Last week: 7)
COSTUME: Rob Gronkowski as Ogre
The Patriots’s hulking brute with the wacky family leads all tight ends with 580 receiving yards (second place is Jason Witten with 487) and 7 touchdown receptions. The costume doesn’t tie into his performance, but it’d just be funny to see him sniff someone and yell “NEERRRRRRRD!”
7. Green Bay (5-3) (Last week: 8)
COSTUME: Aaron Rodgers as a plank of wood that happens to be athletically gifted
Rodgers will essentially be going as himself for Halloween, as he helped lead the Packers out of a 2-3 hole with 11 touchdown passes and 0 picks over their next 3 wins. Dynamic as he can be, his lack of personality in those horrifically bad StateFarm and Pizza Hut ads is just as noticeable.
8. Baltimore (5-2) (Last week: 6)
COSTUME: Ray Lewis as Jim Morrison
“The Lizard King” is apropos for Lewis who, while he didn’t perish in a tub at age 27, may as well be crooning “The End” after his triceps tear. The Ravens’ D has generally diminished, allowing 400+ yards of offense 3 times, and Lewis, who dropped 20 pounds to maintain quickness, lacks his trademark punch.
9. Pittsburgh (4-3) (Last week: 12)
COSTUME: The running backs as a cover band that does weddings
There’s Harris, Bleier, Foster, Bettis, Parker…..and these guys. That tradition of bruising backs has whittled down to a group consisting of the injured Rashard Mendenhall, ineffective Isaac Redman, barrel-scrapers Baron Batch and Chris Rainey, and Jonathan Dwyer, the only one that looks competent.
10. Minnesota (5-3) (Last week: 9)
COSTUME: The run defense as a Tootsie Roll Pop
Gradually, teams have been giving lick after lick after lick to Minnesota’s equivalent of border patrol, and it appears the candy has been whittled down to its center. Redskins ran for 183 on the ground, then Arizona added 126. Tampa Bay crushed them with 159 (135 from Doug Martin).
11. Denver (4-3) (Last week: 13)
COSTUME: Peyton Manning as The Terminator
The PM-800 is a fusion of the old Peyton Manning with some industrial-grade titanium steel, and it’s hard to tell one from the other. The old man has thrown 6 touchdown passes and 0 INTs over his last 6 quarters, upping his totals to 17 TDs on the year, against just 4 picks.
12. Seattle (4-4) (Last week: 10)
COSTUME: The collective team as a disoriented traveler
After 8 games, the Seahawks have played 5 of them on the road, losing all but 1, which was to the hapless Panthers. The 3-0 record at Qwest Field is attributed by some to the “Twelfth Man” cheering them on, but Seattle needs more balance in where they win if they’re going to contend.
13. Miami (4-3) (Last week: 20)
COSTUME: Cameron Wake as The Invisible Man
Tebow this, Romo that, RG3 this, bounty scandal that. Too many good players and stories go under the radar thanks to the modern “trending keyword search” news coverage, and the best may be Wake. After 7 games, the linebacker has 7.5 sacks, giving him 35.5 sacks after 3 and a half years of playing.
14. Indianapolis (4-3) (Last week: 21)
COSTUME: The collective team as Harry Houdini
Margins of victory for the Colts: 3, 3, 4, and 6. Indy could very well be 0-7 if not for Josh Gordon losing the ball in the lights, Mason Crosby hooking a kick, and had Vick Ballard fumbled on his corkscrew dive. Andrew Luck and others show flashes of brilliance, but right now, they’re escape artists.
15. Arizona (4-4) (Last week: 11)
COSTUME: The offensive line as a balsawood fence
Kevin Kolb and John Skelton have each felt the wrath of injury after being sacked a collective 35 times over the first 8 games of the season. Kolb’s rib injury helped spell Arizona’s 4-game downfall, as Skelton has proven ineffective in his own right. I couldn’t think of a good “free fall” costume concept here, sadly.
16. Philadelphia (3-4) (Last week: 14)
COSTUME: Everyone as the cast/characters of the Transformers trilogy
Loud, overhyped, overrated, and ultimately disappointing to anyone who invests their time believing the gospel about how this Eagles team is the best it’s ever been. The narrow victories, coughed-up leads, turnover madness, and internal confusion will end the Reid era without a Lombardi trophy.
17. San Diego (3-4) (Last week: 15)
COSTUME: AJ Smith as Mr. Short Term Memory
Mr. Short Term Memory was a Tom Hanks character featured on some SNL episodes nearly a quarter century ago, but it applies to Smith. He turns over the running game year after year, driving All-Pro players out, lets Norv Turner manage over-conservatively, and wonders why the Chargers never win.
18. Dallas (3-4) (Last week: 16)
COSTUME: Dez Bryant as Mayhem
“I’m an NFL wide receiver. I don’t run the right routes, allowing passes to be intercepted with ease. I also like to take jewelry without paying, and strike my crazed mother. But none of this gets me benched or cut, because Dallas thrives on idiots. And if you have cut-rate insurance, I could be on your team….”
19. Detroit (3-4) (Last week: 25)
COSTUME: The defensive line as a spike strip
A more frightening fivesome is hard to find. Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Corey Williams, and Cliff Avril have combined for 15 of the team’s 17 sacks. Stepping up in the pocket is a daunting challenge for any quarterback. Just ask Jay Cutler how much it hurts.
20. Tampa Bay (3-4) (Last week: 28)
COSTUME: Josh Freeman as Rodney Dangerfield
The beloved “I get no respect” comedic legend is a fine choice for Freeman, who has played exceptionally well since his Dallas fiasco. His four QB ratings since: 83.2, 124.7, 115.2, and 104.2. Tampa’s 2-2 over that stretch, and both losses came down to the wire. Are the Bucs for real?
21. Oakland (3-4) (Last week: 27)
COSTUME: Denarius Moore as Psy
What better representation could there be than to fuse K-Pop sensation Psy (whose Gangnam-Style dance has become an NFL staple) to Moore, who will be catching on as a craze in his own right in future fantasy drafts. The young wideout has 419 yards and 4 touchdowns so far this year.
22. St. Louis (3-5) (Last week: 17)
COSTUME: The fanbase as Bernie Madoff investors
The faithful at the Gateway invested their hopes in Jeff Fisher’s revamped defense. It was a slow start, but there was reason to believe, at 3-2, that the investment was sound. Follow that with a trip against the Dolphins, stumble against the Packers, and free fall in London, and harsh reality sets in.
23. New York Jets (3-5) (Last week: 18)
COSTUME: Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez as Rhianna and Chris Brown
Maybe this is a little extreme, but it fits. Ryan won’t give up Sanchez, no matter how abusive, destructive, and self-destructive he is. Despite flirting with that wholesome boy Timmy next door, Ryan insists upon living in the good times of the past, while Sanchez gets a neck tattoo of a battered Rex.
24. Washington (3-5) (Last week: 19)
COSTUME: Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris as humanitarian aid workers
No matter how much RG3 and Morris do, it’s never, ever enough. There’s a new problem every time, and it mainly comes from the secondary. Despite Morris and Griffin combining for 150 rushing YPG, and RG3 completing two-thirds of his passes for a 97.3 rating, the pass defense undoes their best efforts.
25. Buffalo (3-4) (Last week: 23)
COSTUME: Mario Williams as a $100M Band-Aid
If you and your mother haven’t gotten 150 or more rushing yards against the Bills, it’s because you haven’t played them yet. Williams was brought in to fix the shoddy run defense, who gave up 311 yards to San Fran, 247 to the Patriots, 197 to the Titans, 182 to the Cards, and 150 to the Chiefs.
26. Cincinnati (3-4) (Last week: 24)
COSTUME: Marvin Lewis as Jim Belushi
According to Jim remained on the air for 8 seasons, despite poor reviews and hackneyed writing. Marvin Lewis has remained Bengals coach for 10 seasons, despite 3 playoff berths and a sub-.500 winning percentage. Difference is Lewis doesn’t have a more talented brother that is fondly remembered.
27. Tennessee (3-5) (Last week: 22)
COSTUME: Chris Johnson as Elvis Presley
Appropriate, considering that both men are associated with the Volunteer State. The last three weeks for CJ2K have been the equivalent of Elvis’ ’68 Comeback Special, as Johnson’s racked up 385 yards on 6.64 YPA rushing, and 2 touchdowns. Tennessee went from 1-4 to 3-5 during this run.
28. New Orleans (2-5) (Last week: 26)
COSTUME: The entire defense as The Brooklyn Brawler
Everybody beat the Brawler, from Ultimate Warrior to Bret Hart to even The Red Rooster. The Saints defense is no different, giving up 500 yards of offense 3 times, and never less than 421 yards in any of their 7 games. The Million Dollar Man may need to offer Brawler a cash incentive to hurt opponents.
29. Cleveland (2-6) (Last week: 30)
COSTUME: Josh Gordon as Cris Carter
Name every supplemental pick since Carter that was worth cashing in draft picks for. Once you’ve said “Ahmad Brooks”, all you’re left with is Gordon, the deep threat with 379 yards and 4 touchdowns that is proving to be one of the better rookies in the league, even compared to teammate Trent Richardson.
30. Carolina (1-6) (Last week: 29)
COSTUME: Cam Newton as MC Hammer
Please Newton, don’t fumble ‘em? Hammer was the shizzle in the early 90s, and Newton’s rookie season is comparable to that heyday. Last season, parachute pants may well have been in style again as Newton tore apart defenses. Now he’s a predictable one-hit-wonder in dire need of reinvention.
31. Jacksonville (1-6) (Last week: 31)
COSTUME: The franchise as a nearly empty can of Pringles on your shelf
You keep forgetting they’re there. They were only desirable when the Fred Taylor/Mark Brunell/Jimmy Smith label on the can wasn’t faded. Now they sit on the shelf, and you don’t have the heart to throw them away. Because screw it, man, you just don’t care. Like I said, you keep forgetting they’re there.
32. Kansas City (1-6) (Last week: 32)
COSTUME: Jamaal Charles as The Omega Man
If Kansas City was a nuclear wasteland, Charles would be the last man living. Sure seems like that, as the defense is deader than disco, and it’s apparently too much trouble to look for a franchise quarterback. And yet Charles toils away, averaging 5 yards a carry and serving as the team’s brightest hope.