Last week, we mentioned what a crazy season it was that New England could drop from No. 1 to No. 10 in a week (based on our formula) after one loss.
So, is it any surprise that the Patriots managed to climb back near the top after one win?
Yes, we use a formula to assign a score for each team based on results, play, schedule and recent form, and what the formula says is what we use. And this week, it says New England is back up to No. 2, courtesy of a dominant win in Pittsburgh. Forget the final stats – the Patriots' defense won all the battles through three quarters before Bill Belichick went into a shell and allowed Pittsburgh to pile up the yards.
But the Patriots aren't No. 1, either overall or in the AFC East – that distinction goes to the Jets, who still represent a pretty soft clubhouse leader through nine weeks. The Eagles will likely get some support for the top spot after their huge effort Monday night, and they have yet to turn in a real clunker all year. It's amazing that the loser of this weekend's Giants-Eagles game will be 6-4, yet could still be the best team in the league by season's end.
Is a Patriots-Eagles rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX in our future? We wouldn't bet on it just yet. But they're the top two offenses in football, both led by explosive quarterbacks and both fresh off big primetime victories.
It's probably worth noting that last year at this same stage of the season, of the 12 teams ranked in our top six in each conference 11 made the playoffs. Only Pittsburgh missed it, and the Steelers went down to a tiebreaker.
1. N.Y. JETS (7-2)
Last week: 26-20 win at Cleveland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Not only has Mark Sanchez trimmed his interceptions from 20 in 15 games last year to six in nine games this year, he's also throwing 33.1 times per game as opposed to 24.2 per game last year. Our little Sanchize is becoming a man. So cute.
2. NEW ENGLAND (7-2)
Last week: 39-26 win at Pittsburgh
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Tom Brady is on pace to throw 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions this year, which would be his second season of 30+ TDs and single-digit intereceptions; it's only been done four other times in history. He's also had a 100+ rating in 22 of his last 42 starts. In other words, Tom Brady has a shot at the Hall of Fame if he can just improve on his 14-4 playoff record.
3. PHILADELPHIA (6-3)
Last week: 59-28 win at Washington
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Only mercy kept the Eagles from topping the 600-yard mark in Washington, a mark that has been reached just 25 times in history. They settled for the 59 points, which had only been done 27 times in history. In other words, yeah, Michael Vick is pretty good.
4. GREEN BAY (6-3)
Last week: Bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Packers are a surprising No. 1 in scoring defense (15.9) despite suffering more injuries than the average run with the bulls in Pamplona.
5. N.Y. GIANTS (6-3)
Last week: 33-20 loss vs. Dallas
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Losing to Dallas was both surprising and oddly inevitable at the same time. But nothing can stop this Giants offense – they've put up 497, 487 and 480 yards the last three weeks, and if they can ever stop the turnovers (at least one every week, and 3+ six times), they are going to be hard to beat.
6. ATLANTA (7-2)
Last week: 26-21 win vs. Baltimore
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Falcons boast the best record in the NFC. Should they be higher in our rankings? Most probably think so. But allowing 5.8 yards per play while averaging 5.2 yards per play just doesn't equate to a high-quality team. Their schedule is soft and getting softer, so home-field advantage in the NFC is a good possibility, but that defense isn't Super Bowl caliber.
7. INDIANAPOLIS (6-3)
Last week: 23-17 win vs. Cincinnati
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Peyton Manning has now put forth three sub-par game ratings in his last five – 65.0 vs. KC, 67.0 vs. PHI and 69.8 vs. CIN. He hasn't had a stretch with three bad games like that in a concentrated bunch since his rookie year. In three weeks since the bye, he averages a dismal 5.6 YPA with a 75.5 passer rating. He could use some help from the running game: the Colts are tied with Dallas for fewest runs of 10+ yards (16).
8. BALTIMORE (6-3)
Last week: 26-21 loss at Atlanta
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Ravens are certainly considered one of the elite teams in the league, but they can't seem to build championship momentum. Their longest win streak under John Harbaugh was four games during his rookie coaching season of 2008.
9. NEW ORLEANS (6-3)
Last week: Bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Despite a lack of pass rush, the Saints allow just 6.1 yards per pass attempt, trailing only Chicago. They were tied for 15th in this category last year at 6.9, but also had 26 INTs to just six this year in nine games.
10. PITTSBURGH (6-3)
Last week: 39-26 loss vs. New England
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Ben Roethlisberger's return was supposed to boost Pittsburgh, but the defense has struggled since he got back; 10.0 PPG allowed without him, 22.4 PPG allowed with him.
11. SAN DIEGO (4-5)
Last week: Bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Remember how the Chargers were left for dead three weeks ago? They're now a game behind Oakland and Kansas City. Anyone planning on betting against another AFC West title?
12. OAKLAND (5-4)
Last week: Bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Raiders are built around speed ... yet they haven't played a single game on artificial turf and won't all season.
13. CHICAGO (6-3)
Last week: 27-13 win vs. Minnesota
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bears' pass blocking has bounced back a bit, allowing just a single sack in back-to-back weeks on 67 Jay Cutler dropbacks.
14. TENNESSEE (5-4)
Last week: 29-17 loss at Miami
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The dawn of what will probably be short-lived Randy Moss Era was a dud: Vince Young had arguably his worst game of the year (50%, 5.1 YPA) with his first INT since Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh. Kerry Collins failed to complete even half his passes (9 of 20) for the first time all year and posted a season-low 52.1 rating.
15. KANSAS CITY (5-4)
Last week: 49-29 loss at Denver
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Not sure what was more surprising, the Chiefs defense allowing 49 points and six separate long drives, or Matt Cassel throwing for 469 yards without an INT. Should be an interesting trip to the film room.
16. MIAMI (5-4)
Last week: 29-17 win vs. Tennessee
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Dolphins have played one of the toughest schedules in the league, they're down to their No. 3 quarterback, and they trail our No. 1 and 2 overall teams in their division alone. Other than that, things are really going Miami's way.
17. TAMPA BAY (6-3)
Last week: 31-16 win vs. Carolina
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bucs have six (6) wins vs. other NFL teams in the first nine games of the 2010 season. That is all.
18. ST. LOUIS (4-5)
Last week: 23-20 loss at San Francisco
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Sam Bradford has now gone four+ games and 138 passes without suffering an interception. He's on pace to throw 594 passes this year and just 15 INTs; Peyton Manning in 1998 was the only rookie to throw 550+ passes, and he was picked 28 times.
19. CLEVELAND (3-6)
Last week: 26-20 loss vs. N.Y. Jets
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Browns finally get a break on the schedule, with games against Jacksonville, Carolina, Miami, Buffalo and Cincy the next five weeks ... but four of them are on the road. Looks like the Browns will have to settle for being the spunkiest 6-10 team we've ever seen.
20. JACKSONVILLE (5-4)
Last week: 31-24 win vs.Houston
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: David Garrard for MVP? He's got a fourth-quarter passer rating of 137.2 this year. His total 104.9 passer rating is second only to Michael Vick's gaudy 115.1.
21. SAN FRANCISCO (3-6)
Last week: 23-20 win vs. St. Louis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Troy Smith had two pretty decent games as a starter for the Ravens in 2007 (77.7, 90.2 ratings), went to the bench behind Joe Flacco for two years, and then attracted no interest in free agency. And it took Mike Singletary half a season of Alex Smith (and a cameo from David Carr) to give T. Smith his second shot – which he has dominated (116.6 rating and two wins). Didn't this guy with the Heisman? Maybe people thought this was a different Troy Smith.
22. MINNESOTA (3-6)
Last week: 27-13 loss at Chicago
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Is it any surprise that a matchup between BrettFavre and Jay Cutler would produce five interceptions? Not to us. If Favre does make all 16 games this year, he's on pace to throw 28 picks, which would be the second most of his career (29 in 2005).
23. DENVER (3-6)
Last week: 49-29 win vs. Kansas City
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Brandon Lloyd is on pace for 85 catches, 1,721 yards and 11 touchdowns, just like we all thought he would. That's the reason he was on the cover of all those preseason fantasy mags, right?
24. HOUSTON (4-5)
Last week: 31-24 loss at Jacksonville
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The streak is alive. Houston has now allowed at least 24 points in 10 straight games dating back to last year. Defensive coordinator Frank Bush's job security is about as solid as that lady in accounting who keeps showing up 30 minutes late from lunch smelling like Vicks Vaporub.
25. SEATTLE (5-4)
Last week: 36-18 win at Arizona
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Trying to predict what the Seahawks will do on any given Sunday is like trying to use chopsticks to drink water. It was fitting that the final score Sunday between two of the league's most unpredictable teams was the first 36-18 game in NFL history.
26. WASHINGTON (4-5)
Last week: 59-28 loss vs. Philadelphia
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The good news is that the humiliating Monday night defeat to the Eagles counts only once in the standings. The bad news is that Washington is on pace to allow 6,656 yards, which would be just shy of the record of 6,793 set by the 1981 Colts – a 2-14 team universally accepted as one of the 10 worst since the AFL-NFL merger.
27. CINCINNATI (2-7)
Last week: 23-17 loss at Indianapolis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bengals have played seven of their nine games against Quality Opponents, most in the league, and have been within eight points in six of those seven games (1-6 record).
28. DETROIT (2-7)
Last week: 14-12 loss at Buffalo
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jahvid Best was supposed to energize the Lions' running game. But he's been a bust thus far with 3.1 YPA and just one big 75-yard reception in the Big Play department.
29. DALLAS (2-7)
Last week: 33-20 win at NY Giants
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jason Garrett has the best winning percentage of any head coach in NFL history.
30. BUFFALO (1-8)
Last week: 14-12 win vs. Detroit
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: There are 190 different players with an interception this year. Tied with the rest of the league (and the world at large) with zero is Buffalo's Jairus Byrd, who had a league-leading nine last year as a rookie. In other news, the Bills won a football game last week.
31. ARIZONA (3-6)
Last week: 36-18 loss vs. Seattle
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Explain to us again why a team with arguably the worst QB situation in the league has the highest pass-run ratio in the league (65.6 percent pass, 34.4 percent run).
32. CAROLINA (1-8)
Last week: 31-16 loss at Tampa Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Oh wait, the Panthers have the worst QB situation in the league. Go ahead and pass away, Arizona, it's cool.