1. San Diego Chargers (3-1)
First, the Chargers are the best team in the AFC West. I don’t want to hear it Broncos fan, you’re a Jake Plummer playoff beard away from oblivion. But, the AFC West is a division with three teams that would win the NFC West and South if they were in those divisions. Second, the Bolts’ defense is just as good as the Bears defense and both teams have spent the early part of the season beating up on sub-par offenses.
On another note, how did the 49ers, after going 4-12, get the Eagles, Bears and Chargers in a six-week span (one of which is their bye week) while the Bears have only played 2 teams with a winning record all season?
Finally, the Chargers have a definite offensive edge over the Bears. Phillip Rivers and Grossman are, at worst, a wash. So are their receivers. Antonio Gates is obviously better than Bears’ tight end um, um, you know who I mean. And Briscoe High School football star LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael “The Burner” Turner may be better than the Bears platoon of Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, but I’m not sure. I hear that Tomlinson guy is okay, but no one really mentions him in the “best player in the NFL” discussions or anything. Now that Marty Schottenheimer has taken the leash off Rivers, every team the Chargers play the rest of the year should be afraid, very afraid.
2. Chicago Bears (5-0)
I know Bears fans, I know. You blew out the Bills and before that you blew out the Seahawks. Good for you. Except that you beat the Shaun Alexander-less Seahawks at home in a night game. Second, they’re the freaking Bills. That’s not a win to be super proud of. Yet everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. Let’s look at who they have played before ESPN hands them the Lombardi trophy in October. They have played at the Packers, home against the Lions, at the Vikings and home against the Seahawks and Bills. Their next two games are against the Cardinals in Arizona and at home against the 49ers. That, my friends, is a murderer’s row of talented teams. The real story is if they don’t score 40 on everyone.
Second, has Rex Grossman (see photo) been tested even for a second by a real defense? Anyone who saw that Brett Favre-in-2005-esque throw into double coverage for a lucky TD on Sunday knows that they’re in serious trouble. He had only one more completion yesterday than J.P. Losman (15 and 14 respectively) against the same number of attempts. Against a competent defense, or one that isn’t on the field for 35 minutes like the Seahawks were because they couldn’t run the ball, Grossman turns back into a pumpkin.
That said, I’m still giving them plenty of credit. Their defense is for real. Their offense is not. And, isn’t this what the Bears do to us every year? They go somewhere between 14-2 and 10-6, have an amazing defense, and get beat in the divisional round by the second place team from a tough division. G’head, try proove that McNabb and the Eagles don’t win that playoff game against the Bears the way they’re playing right now.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (4-1)
The rest of the teams in the NFL are all flawed enough in some way to keep them from being definite Super Bowl contenders at this point. The Eagles are currently an extremely hot team that also managed to exorcise some demons on Sunday by beating the Cowboys and exacting revenge on some guy named T.O. The Eagles have also had the benefit of a relatively easy early season schedule and, except for that last-second loss to the Giants, have played very well. Their defense is, as always, a force to be reckoned with and Donovan McNabb is his usual excellent self (since it’s not the post season right now).
However, the Eagles still don’t have a running game to speak of. They were afraid to run even on second and goal from the Cowboys’ 2 yard-line, instead calling a pass which fell incomplete. Their D is also overly-aggressive at times (blitzing around 20% of the time) which makes their inexperienced cornerbacks a liability if they face a quarterback that doesn’t hold the ball for 20 minutes looking for a receiver. But they’re still a hot team and in a big game at this point, they’re a tough beat for any team.
The Ravens are the AFC’s version of the Bears. Great defense, mediocre at best offense. Barring an egg-laying in Denver tonight, they should remain undefeated by using their 2000 Super Bowl formula of keeping it close and making a play at the end of the game. Their confidence in each other, now that coach-killer Kyle Boller is on the sideline, is palpable whenever they’re on the field. Nice pick there, by the way.
Which brings me to their biggest flaw: their coach. “Offensive genius” Brian Billick has spent every year trying to prove that the mistake-free play and great leadership of Trent Dilfer wasn’t the real reason they won the Super Bowl. However, every quarterback until McNair has proven that it Dilfer played a HUGE role on that team and got a raw deal in the following offseason. I don’t want to call the Elvis Grbac signing questionable…wait, yes I do. Billick has also hired Former Giants head coach Jim Fassel and gambling expert Rick Neuheisel to be the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach respectively. I just think it’s worth noting.
I’m a superstitious man, so my pumping them up a little had better not lead to a loss in Denver tonight. They better not make me look bad tonight or I’m going to blame some of the people in this room, and then I do not forgive.
***Update: The Ravens did, infact, lay and egg tonight in Denver, thereby removing them from the top 5. Consider the Colts our new #4 because we like 6’5, 230lb quarterbacks with laser rocket arms.
The Seahawks are good, but Jessica Alba is better. What’s the asterisk for? If Shaun Alexander is healthy, they’re one of the best teams in the league. Without him, they’re the 2004 Rams, all hat and no cattle. Has everyone forgotten that this is the NFC’s representative in Super Bowl XL and was some flaky officiating away from winning? Their D is excellent and their offense, with its inventive, never-before-seen in the NFL, “four wide-receiever” formations is a machine when they have Alexander. Take him away and they look like they did in Chicago last week.
**note: I included a picture of Jessica Alba instead of one of Mike Holmgren because of my rule about pictures of fat, mustached guys on this website. Plus, who doesn’t love Jessica Alba?
Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
All of these teams didn’t make the top 5 because of some giant, gaping hole. Whether it’s team chemistry and age (New England), no running game at all (Indy), crappy quarterback play (Denver), or incompetent coaching (Jacksonville), each team has a huge hurdle to clear before becoming legitimate threats to go all the way. But, like Eagles, Ravens, and Seahawks, they’re all a hot-streak away and a bad deal with Sollozzo by one of the teams in the top 5 from being scary.