Although a handful of teams had their BYE Week this past Sunday, the vast majority of NFL squads have navigated through one quarter of their sixteen game schedule. Let's fly around the league and look at where some teams stand.
Let's kick it off with teams whos prospects are looking up in an unimaginatively titled section called...
New York Jets: After a 1-2 start that included consecutive losses to New England and San Diego, the Jets needed a win in the worst of ways this past weekend against Arizona. They got it thanks to Brett Favre and his 6 TD passes. Now they enter their BYE week before facing a hapless Bengals team, a dysfunctional Raiders team on the road, then the Chiefs at home. 5-2 and in the mix for a playoff berth as November begins is entirely possible, and if they can string together those three victories, it would set up a AFC East showdown with frontrunner Buffalo in Week 9. This team has flaws, and could easily drop one of those very winnable games, but it's nevertheless a team to watch over the next month.
San Diego Chargers: The Bolts did their usual sleep-walk through September, dropping thrillers in their first two to Carolina and Denver before thumping the Jets and the Raiders to finish the month. LT still doesn't seem quite right, but when you look at the total package for SD - the offense, defense, and special teams - there's little reason to think they won't eventually pass and probably lap their foes in the AFC West, Denver included.
Jacksonville Jaguars: We'll see first hand if the Jaguars of 2008 still give us matchup nightmares when we travel there this weekend for Sunday Night Football. Jacksonville has rebounded nicely on offense after having to replace multiple components of their offensive line. The rushing attack is up over 120 yards per game (12th best), and David Garrard turned in his best performance of the year last week against Houston. His 23-of-32 for 236 yards 1 TD, and 0 INTs was the type of line that we grew accustomed to last year. If he can protect the ball against Pittsburgh, they'll have a great shot at improving to 3-2 and re-emerging as contenders in the AFC. Beware of the defense if you're a Jags fan. The pass defense, which showed signs of being a liability last year (15th in NFL), has truly stuck out as a weakness for the Jags. It's currently the 24th worst pass defense, yielding over 220+ yards per game.
New Orleans: A miss by Martin Gramatica in the final seconds against Denver kept all the attention on the Denver after Week 3 instead of on a New Orleans team that has been only remotely close to slowed down by a defense against Washington in Week 2. The reason New Orleans' stock is rising is the return of Deuce McAllister. When the Saints made their magical SB run in '06, McAllister was vital to their offense. Not only did he accumulate 1057 yards on the year, he gave the Saints the legitimate inside the tackles rushing threat that's desperately needed to compliment one of the league's elite QBs. When defenses are forced to be honest against NO, they're as tough as anyone to defend. When they're one-dimensional, they can be stopped, like all teams. Two more home games against Minnesota and Oakland wrap up 3 straight at the Super Dome for NO, and the Saints should should move to 4-2 before facing Carolina on the road in a game that will have high stakes in the NFC South.
Denver Broncos: It's just a matter of time before the Denver defense sends them on a multiple game losing streak tailspin. In fact, it may already be under way. Denver's next three opponents are Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and New England. The first two are home, so don't count them out yet, but also don't discount the strong possibility of them falling under .500 before the month of November arrives.
Green Bay Packers: Two straight wins to start the season had Packers fans saying 'Brett, who?' but with Aaron Rodgers dealing with soreness in his shoulder, Cheesheads are suddenly concerned about their fledgling offense. It's not really Rodgers who has been the problem. It's been Ryan Grant and the running game. No huge surprise though, really. It makes sense that teams are taking Grant out of the game (just 3.4 ypc) and forcing Rodgers to beat them. The defense, a strong suit last year for the Pack, has regressed substantially. The rush defense in particular is troubling, giving up 157 yards per game (26th in NFL). Fortunately for GB, the NFC North is a mess and 9 wins may be more than enough to take home the divisional crown.
Cleveland Browns/Cincinnati Bengals: This duo from the AFC North has performed far below expectations. Browns fans might want you to believe that everything's fine following their late victory over the Bengals, but really, it was just another sad showing from a Cleveland offense that was expected to be explosive this year. Instead, Cleveland's offense ranks second to last in points per game, dead last in yards per game, and dead last in passing yards per game. The Browns do enter the BYE week on a high note (sorta) but when they return to action, they better be ready to turn things up a gear (or four). They play host to the Giants, then travel to Washington and Jacksonville. If they aren't ready to compete, they'll find themselves in an insurmountable hole in both the AFC North and the AFC Wild Card picture. As for the Bengals? Well, Cedric Benson might help?? Err, not likely actually. This team's dead and we've only seen the beginning of the antics that are going to arise in Cincy before it's all said and done in 2008.
2) New York Giants
3) Buffalo Bills
4) Washington Redskins
5) Dallas Cowboys
28) Kansas City Chiefs
29) Detroit Lions
30) Oakland Raiders
31) Cincinnati Bengals
32) St, Louis Rams