1. Patriots: "A favorable second-half schedule could set up the Patriots for a 12- or 13-win season." (Clayton)
2. Ravens: "Without much fanfare, the Ravens have quietly won four of their past five." (Walker)
15. Dolphins: "In the game-winning drive against the Bengals, QB Chad Henne had four long-overdue big plays."(Clayton)
1. Patriots: "Well, they continue to win, but aren't exactly pretty while doing it. But who cares, right? New England's young defense is steadily getting better while the offense is starting to find its way. Some might say they aren't as good as their record indicates, but this team is one of the few that does not have a lot of weaknesses."
2. Giants: "After a slow start, the Giants have turned their season around. While they have some injury issues to be concerned with on both sides of the ball, this team is not only the best in the NFC, it's easily one of the top five in the NFL. The balance the Giants are getting on offense is a big reason why they are winning, but the resurgence of their defense can't be underestimated."
5. Ravens: "It will be interesting to see what kind of approach this team takes on offense after the bye. Despite the additions on offense this year, Baltimore is ranked in the lower half on that side of the ball. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron needs to get his 14th-ranked rushing game cranked up if they want to win the AFC North."
15. Dolphins: "Winning ugly may wind up being their moniker this season, but the Dolphins are playing decent football. Still, it's not a good sign that K Dan Carpenter has been their most valuable player on offense of late."
1. Patriots: "Look out, NFL. The Patriots have put together the rag-tag collection of talent that Bill Belichick works best with, and Tom Brady -- with his Tim Lincecum tribute haircut -- is locked in one of those cool and breezy zones."
2. Colts: "The Colts continue to lose players to injury. And the Colts continue to plug those holes with whatever able bodies they have. Oh, the Colts also keep winning -- another nod to how ridiculously good Peyton Manning is. At this point, you could probably lineup Manning and 10 offensive linemen and he'd find a way to throw for 300 yards."
3. Ravens: "Hopefully for the Ravens, they've washed that miserable effort in a Week 7 win over the Bills away and can get back to smashing people after their Week 8 bye. Their AFC North battle with the Steelers looks destined to go to the wire, so they cannot afford any off games."
10. Dolphins: "Everyone's talking about the Patriots and Jets in the AFC East, but the Dolphins just continue lurking -- and could be the team that adds Randy Moss after he's waived by Minnesota. If they can pull an upset Sunday in Baltimore, look out."
1. Patriots: "How is it that the Patriots, with all their youth-related defensive issues and lack of big-name offensive weapons, are the only remaining one-loss team this season? It's another reminder of the edge that superior coaching supplies in the NFL. You can't overstate what Bill Belichick's work has meant thus far this year in New England. But as the Pats visit Cleveland this week, why aren't we hearing anything about Belichick's return to the city that once spurned him or about the latest chapter in his feud with Browns coach Eric Mangini?"
2. Steelers: "So the Steelers lost a road game Sunday night in the raucous Superdome. Big deal. It happens. Especially when Drew Brees gets hot and decides he's going to complete 20 of 22 in the second half. Pittsburgh will bounce back on Monday night at Cincinnati, in its third of three consecutive away games. The Steelers have a score to settle with the Bengals after Marvin Lewis's guys beat them twice by a combined nine points last season, posting their first series sweep of Pittsburgh since 1998."
5. Ravens: "I hope the Ravens are rested and ready for their close-up as their post-bye schedule commences, because they're playing three of their next six games in prime time, drawing a Thursday nighter in Atlanta in Week 10, a Sunday nighter against Pittsburgh in Week 13 and a Monday nighter at Houston in Week 14. I actually think the bright lights bring out the best in John Harbaugh's club, because Ray Lewis and friends tend to get quite geeked when they think everyone's watching their little pre-game convulsions."
16. Dolphins: "In case you haven't done the math, Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter is on pace to kick 41 field goals this season (he's 18 of 20 so far through seven games), which would break Neil Rackers' 2005 league record by one. My way of thinking, this is not a mark any self-respecting offense should aspire to. The Cardinals went 5-11 the year Rackers booted 40 field goals, finishing in third place in their division. At the moment, Miami is in third place in the AFC East. Draw your own conclusions."
My Take: It's funny how a week changes things. Most of the rankings have both the Jets and Steelers: out of the top three spots after their losses last week. The Ravens: remain in the top three in most and the Patriots jump to number one in them all. I can see where the Patriots would be ranked at the top, but I feel like some of their wins were more on the lucky side than anything else.
I still think the Steelers are the best team in the NFL and it pains me to say that as a huge Ravens' fan. Until they lose a few more or have a big injury I won't change my mind. That defense is the best in the NFL. I would rank the Patriots second because they can beat any team out there. They have the weapons and the coaching to do so. Third is where I would rank the Ravens, but they have a lot to prove this week. The bye week came at the perfect time and I think they'll have a dominant second half.