There’s a new team at the top that can’t be ignored them any longer.
The Atlanta Falcons aren’t putting up a lot of points on teams but they keep putting themselves in position to win games — and then they’re doing so. That’s the mark of a good team, and it’s why they’ve beaten supposed stronger teams the recent few weeks.
On the other end of the scale, we’ve had enough of the Arizona Cardinals. Without Kurt Warner, they truly have gone from eating caviar to eating out of the garbage.
1. Atlanta Falcons 9-2 (2 last week)
THE GOOD: Some teams know how to lose. This team just knows how to win. They set themselves up in positions to succeed and have the players with the character and talent to come through.
THE BAD: Some of that tackling against Green Bay is concerning.
THE UGLY: Mike Smith and Arthur Blank dancing in that Play60 advert. They’ve ruined the Go! Team for me!
2. New England Patriots 9-2 (3)
THE GOOD: The offense is looking better and better with each passing week.
THE BAD: The Jets can do a lot of things to put a halt to that.
THE UGLY: Does it not worry you a little bit that a better team than Detroit could have put them away in that first half?
3. New York Jets 9-2 (4)
THE GOOD: From top to bottom the most talented roster in the NFL. The pre season predictions were right in that respect.
THE BAD: Mark Sanchez is still erratic. He’s too inconsistent to show up and play great football, week in and week out for four quarters.
THE UGLY: It’s a quarterback-driven league, and this quarterback could just as easily drive them off a cliff as to the promised land.
4. New Orleans Saints 8-3 (7)
THE GOOD: They’ve really started to find their offensive rhythm and with more players to come back they seem to be getting stronger in every sense.
THE BAD: There is no way the Cowboys should have gotten themselves back in that game after the first quarter. No way. That defense just gives up too much.
THE UGLY: A potential playoff matchup between them and the winner of the NFC West. Blowout.
5. Baltimore Ravens 8-3 (5)
THE GOOD: The defense really held the Bucs in check and got after Josh Freeman all day.
THE BAD: When you watch the Ravens, there’s something utterly unconvincing about them at times.
THE UGLY: With Pittsburgh coming up you want your physical players fit and healthy. Big loss in losing McClain at full back.
6. Green Bay Packers 7-4 (6)
THE GOOD: They showed they’re a very good team against the Falcons.
THE BAD: They lost.
THE UGLY: The running game is ugly like me in the morning after a heavy night out. And that is not a pretty sight.
7. Philadelphia Eagles 7-4 (1)
THE GOOD: They will learn a lot from the way the Bears played them.
THE BAD: Because the Bears taught them a lesson.
THE UGLY: The prospect of an Andy Reid versus DeSean Jackson conflict. Andy could eat him for breakfast and still have room for seconds.
8. San Diego Chargers 6-5 (11)
THE GOOD: That’s as good a performance as you’ll ever see from the Chargers, and they did it without their top line receiving options.
THE BAD: They don’t get to play the decimated Colts every week.
THE UGLY: Vincent Jackson’s season looks like being a wash even when he recovers from this latest injury. Coupled with the assumption Gates won’t get back to 100% and injuries to their other receivers and this is a situation that could haunt them.
9. Chicago Bears 8-3 (13)
THE GOOD: They were superb in beating the Eagles.
THE BAD: The protection was still terrible and shows no signs of improvement.
THE UGLY: The rollercoaster ride they’re putting us all on. One minute they’re for real, the next fatally flawed, and now they’re ones to watch. Make up your mind what type of team you want to be!
10. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-3 (8)
THE GOOD: They won.
THE BAD: They shouldn’t have.
THE UGLY: How their offensive is playing. It’s horrendous, and it’s all of them. They need to get better quickly.
11. Kansas City Chiefs 7-4 (11)
THE GOOD: They really dominated the Seahawks, and Jamaal Charles was a joy to watch run the ball.
THE BAD: They let the Seahawks stay in the game far too long. This one should have been over long before it was.
THE UGLY: What is it with the AFC West and special teams? A blocked field goal and a blocked punt in one quarter? Come on, man!
12. New York Giants 7-4 (10)
THE GOOD: They really needed to get back to winning ways and did so.
THE BAD: But the question marks remain about this teams’ ability to mix with the best units out there.
THE UGLY: Those injuries aren’t going to make things easier for this team.
13. Indianapolis Colts 6-5 (9)
THE GOOD: They normally respond to adversity pretty well.
THE BAD: Which is good because they’re dealing with a lot of it right now.
THE UGLY: You could pick a number of things, but a couple of those Peyton Manning interceptions were just bad decisions as he tried to force the ball to Reggie Wayne. If he’s making bad decisions, this team can’t overcome them — bad defense, no running game.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-4 (15)
THE GOOD: In defeat, they made a believer out of me. Despite being inferior in the talent department they hung with the Ravens impressively.
THE BAD: They remain without a win against a winning team.
THE UGLY: With Sabby Piscitelli cut and not playing against the Falcons I won’t be able to make any witty reference to him missing tackles next week. Now I need to think of something to do with my weekend.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars 6-5 (14)
THE GOOD: They played tough, but that’s a big loss, and a bigger opportunity missed.
THE BAD: Somehow the Jags lead their division.
THE UGLY: A division I said they’d finish bottom of with 4 to 6 wins. D’oh!
16. Miami Dolphins 6-5 (16)
THE GOOD: Chad Henne returned and the offense found life. They can start smelling the playoffs again.
THE BAD: But best not get too intoxicated with that odor of success. They’re still in the AFC East.
THE UGLY: With six 300-yard games, Henne now has the second-most in Dolphin history. Just 57 more to catch some chap named Dan Marino. Heard of him?
17. Dallas Cowboys 3-8 (20)
THE GOOD: They should have beat the defending Super Bowl champions.
THE BAD: Roy Williams made sure they didn’t. Ball security, ball security, ball security.
THE UGLY: That first quarter is about as horrendous a quarter as you can play. They need to come out better.
18. Houston Texans 5-6 (21)
THE GOOD: This Texans team got a shutout? Wow.
THE BAD: Ah Rusty Smith got shut out. That makes sense.
THE UGLY: Come Thursday, it will probably be their secondary getting toasted as per usual. Michael Vick, meet the Texan DBs.
19. Washington Redskins 5-6 (18)
THE GOOD: How can you not like Brandon Banks returning kicks? Dude is dy-na-mite.
THE BAD: So bringing in all those backs in the off-season has really, um, paid off?
THE UGLY: They missed their chance and they seem incapable of the five-game win streak they’ll need. When opportunity knocks you can either answer or not … seems like the Redskins aren’t ready to open that door.
20. Oakland Raiders 5-6 (17)
THE GOOD: They’re better than they were last year.
THE BAD: Because last year they were beyond terrible.
THE UGLY: Just when you start to think this is a new Raider team, their play drops. What is it with this team?
21. St Louis Rams 5-6 (23)
THE GOOD: A road win for the rookie! That was mighty impressive and the biggest sign yet this side could be a playoff team.
THE BAD: An NFC West playoff team, whatever that’s worth.
THE UGLY: The Rams are going to have to beat a good team eventually. Can they?
22. Cleveland Browns 4-7 (22)
THE GOOD: A win is a win sometimes. This team needed that.
THE BAD: They should have done it in far more convincing fashion.
THE UGLY: The decision to return to Jake Delhomme, even if it’s just until Colt McCoy gets healthy. Delhomme will lose you games. It’s a fact. It’s the player he has been since that playoff game against the Cardinals. He may be a great leader. He may be a great guy. But he’s done.
23. San Francisco 49ers 4-7 (25)
THE GOOD: They’re still in contention for the playoffs somewhat remarkably after a convincing victory.
THE BAD: That convincing victory was against the Cardinals.
THE UGLY: The state of Frank Gore’s cracked him, and maybe their postseason potential.
24. Tennessee Titans 5-6 (19)
THE GOOD: You can blame their recent slide on injuries. They’ve got as many big ones as anyone.
THE BAD: Rusty Smith. Yeah you’re a rookie. But still. Ugh. One of those interceptions was floated so much the ball seemed like a balloon.
THE UGLY: You get shutout. Your star corner gets beaten up (and everyone laughs). Yep, this season went from promising to demoralizing pretty quickly.
25. Minnesota Vikings 4-7 (27)
THE GOOD: Brad who?
THE BAD: Did one of their directors mention something about an L.A. move?
THE UGLY: My fantasy team needs you, Adrian Peterson. Badly.
26. Seattle Seahawks 5-6 (24)
THE GOOD: They can throw the ball down field pretty well.
THE BAD: Not as well as teams run right over them. They seemed allergic to Jamaal Charles at times.
THE UGLY: The prospect of them playing a playoff game. Too much too soon for a team that has made massive strides but still has a ways to go.
27. Buffalo Bills 2-9 (28)
THE GOOD: Kyle Williams. And boy is he good. Best display for a defensive tackle all season.
THE BAD: Steve Johnson. Yeah you saw the first four drops …
THE UGLY: And then the 5th one? Ouch. Just pure ouch. Still, credit the guy for taking accountability for it.
28. Denver Broncos 3-7 (26)
THE GOOD: They do provide a lot of talking points don’t they?
THE BAD: Most of them end up with you saying “Fire McDaniels!”
THE UGLY: This franchise has got itself into a mess on so many levels. They have to see through the McDaniels experiment because so much has been invested in it, but sometimes a franchise just needs to be tweaked, not demolished and rebuilt. This was one of those cases.
29. Detroit Lions 2-9 (29)
THE GOOD: They looked better than the Patriots for a half of football.
THE BAD: True to themselves, they couldn’t keep it up.
THE UGLY: How many penalties does this team give up? What is it about the allure of a yellow flag they find so desirable?
30. Cincinnati Bengals 2-9 (30)
THE GOOD: They have plenty of talent.
THE BAD: But a coach who doesn’t seem to know how to use it right now.
THE UGLY: That some people (cough Sam Monson cough) thought this team would be a contender. You were wrong, buddy.
31. Carolina Panthers 1-10 (32)
THE GOOD: They put themselves in position to win.
THE BAD: Surely they couldn’t miss the game-winning FG?
THE UGLY: They missed it. And don’t call me Shirley. (RIP, Leslie Nielsen).
32. Arizona Cardinals 3-8 (31)
THE GOOD: They looked dashing in their black uniforms.
THE BAD: They played like a team that doesn’t care. The laughing of quarterback Derek Anderson was overblown, but strangely indicative of a team that appears to have given up on the season.
THE UGLY: If I’m a receiver, I beg the coach to take Derek Anderson out of the game. He has too much trust in his own arm, and not enough concern for the well being of the guy catching the ball the way he hangs them out there.