1. Green Bay Packers (4-0, 1st last week): They haven’t had a real tough challenge since New Orleans in Week 1. I’m starting to think they make a statement against the Falcons this week.
2. New England Patriots (3-1, 2nd last week): Tom Brady and Wes Welker are on pace to smash yardage records and Aaron Hernandez’s return is right around the corner.
3. Detroit Lions (4-0, 3rd last week): Perfect timing for their first Monday Night Football game in a decade. I’m betting they won’t need to come back from another big deficit in Week 5.
4. New Orleans Saints (3-1, 4th last week): Jimmy Graham has helped take the offense to a whole new level.
5. Houston Texans (3-1, 7th last week): The running game and the feisty new-look defense will help them survive a few weeks sans Andre Johnson. But if Johnson’s out longer than that, Houston’s screwed.
6. Baltimore Ravens (3-1, 5th last week): The defense is more of a point-scoring threat than the offenses in Jacksonville, Seattle and Denver.
7. San Diego Chargers (3-1, 8th last week): They’ve been far from perfect, but they’re still 3-1 with Philip Rivers throwing picks and Antonio Gates hurt. That Week 9 matchup with Green Bay in San Diego should be interesting.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1, 11th last week): A little close for comfort against the Colts, mainly because they made the kinds of mistakes young teams make. That’ll have to improve on that if they want to dethrone the Falcons, Saints, Packers, etc.
9. Oakland Raiders (2-2, 9th last week): Elite teams will know how to control Darren McFadden. Jason Campbell has to do better than that.
10. Buffalo Bills (3-1, 6th last week): The execution disappeared in Cincinnati, but they were bound to have some off weeks. With a loss under their belts lessening the pressure, I think they’ll battle hard against the Eagles and Giants.
11. Atlanta Falcons (2-2, 12th last week): Remember when Roddy White was an elite receiver?
12. Tennessee Titans (3-1, 18th last week): Kenny Britt’s gone and Chris Johnson’s still struggling, but they keep winning. In a weak division, there’s hope for Tennessee. They might get lucky in Week 5 with Ben Roethlisberger hurt for the Steelers.
13. San Francisco 49ers (3-1, 20th last week): Okay, I’m afraid to overreact, but Alex Smith has one interception in four games. And his passer rating has been above 90 in three of his four starts. If the running game can catch fire after a lights-out performance in Philly, the Niners might wrap the NFC West title up by November.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2, 13th last week): Send your anti-aging remedies to Steelers headquarters, 100 Art Rooney Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
15. Washington Redskins (3-1, 15th last week): Playoff teams shouldn’t have to hold on for dear life against the Cardinals and Rams. Rex Grossman is holding them back.
16. New York Giants (3-1, 16th last week): It’s amazing that they’ve started this strongly despite all the injuries, but the Cruz Rule certainly helped in Glendale.
17. New York Jets (2-2, 10th last week): I’m giving consideration to Nick Mangold’s injury, but I still think Mark Sanchez is proving that he’s not a star quarterback. And I’m not sure he’ll ever become one. It could be a long year for the Jets.
18. Dallas Cowboys (2-2, 14th last week): Did you see that last interception from Tony Romo? Sorry, but 31-year-old veterans with Pro Bowl résumés don’t attempt ridiculous passes like those (with one exception).
19. Chicago Bears (2-2, 19th last week): See the difference a little balance on offense makes? Chicago sure took care of business in that one-score home victory against a team that went 2-14 last year… #StillNotAPlayoffTeam
20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3, 17th last week): This sums up Philly’s season neatly in less than a minute, doesn’t it?
21. Carolina Panthers (1-3, 22nd last week): The Panthers are in a great spot because they lead the league in moral victories, but the schedule is too hard for them to win more than four games. Hello, top-10 draft pick.
22. Indianapolis Colts (0-4, 24th last week): More moral victories here. Back-to-back solid performances against good teams in prime time. It’s probably safe to say they’re going with Curtis Painter for the remainder of 2011.
23. Arizona Cardinals (1-3, 27th last week): Their last three losses have come by a total of eight points. Two were on the road; two came against teams with 3-1 records. Not too shabby.
24. Miami Dolphins (0-4, 23rd last week): I didn’t expect anything better in San Diego, but I’m still shocked they’re 0-4. Just look at the depth chart — it doesn’t make sense.
25. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2, 32nd last week): Holy crap, the Bengals have the league’s top-rated defense. Can they play Cleveland, Denver, San Francisco and Buffalo all season?
26. Seattle Seahawks (1-3, 29th last week): Sidney Rice changes the entire offense. Now that Rice is healthy, Tarvaris Jackson will have one final, legit chance to become a real NFL quarterback.
27. Cleveland Browns (2-2, 21st last week): Big loss Sunday; two big losses Monday. They’ll really miss Alex Mack and Joe Haden.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3, 26th last week): Poor Blaine Gabbert. Now he has to face the best defense in the league. That’s right, Jacksonville hosts the Bengals this week. And yes, you read that sentence correctly.
29. Denver Broncos (1-3, 28th last week): And I suppose that this pretty much sums up Denver’s season neatly in less than 10 seconds, doesn’t it?
30. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3, 30th last week): Congratulations to Matt Cassel, who is now on pace to throw double-digit touchdown passes in 2011 despite the absence of Jamaal Charles. I’m a sarcastic prick — but hey, the Chiefs can make it two in a row with the 0-4 Colts on deck!
32. St. Louis Rams (0-4, 25th last week): So it turns out Danny Amendola rushed back too quickly, and now he’s out again. And now they have Green Bay, Dallas and New Orleans looming on the schedule. Hello, 0-7.