ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 09: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons scrambles away from A.J. Hawk #50 of the Green Bay Packers at Georgia Dome on October 9, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Several teams are starting to pull away in the NFL standings after five weeks, while other divisions get more cramped. What do the NFL standings reveal after five weeks of play?
It's not exactly shocking that the Green Bay Packers are 5-0 at this point in the season. Healthy and looking unstoppable, they lead the NFC North. Detroit, the NFL's only other undefeated team, can maintain a tie for the division lead with a win over fellow NFC North rivals, the Chicago Bears. A win would put Lovie Smith's Bears above .500, but still looking up at the Lions and Packers in the standings. Minnesota managed to get their first win yesterday, but it would be a minor upset if they finished the season anywhere but in the cellar of their division.
The Atlanta Falcons might be the most disappointing team in the NFL right now. They lost to the Packers in prime time last night, their second straight loss. Matt Ryan's team is 2-3, third in the NFC South. They traded a boatload of draft picks to get wide receiver Julio Jones to make their offense more dynamic. So far, they average barely more than 20 points a game. New Orleans leads the division, having won a close battle with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, the division's last place team, yesterday to put them at 4-1. Tampa Bay won three straight games prior to yesterday's ambush in San Francisco. Which Tampa team will show up next week against New Orleans?
San Francisco's win yesterday made rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh's team the most surprising of the NFL's 4-1 teams. They lead the lowly NFC West by a comfortable two games. Behind them is Seattle, who knocked off the New York Giants on the road for their second win of the season. Arizona was steamrolled by Adrian Peterson and the Vikings to drop to 1-4, and the lowly St. Louis Rams were mercifully given a bye week.
The Giants failed to consolidate their lead against what should have been a gimme, hosting Seattle. Tom Coughlin's schizophrenic team is 3-2. Washington, 3-1, had a bye this week, as did the 2-2 Cowboys. And what about the Philadelphia Eagles? Needing a win to salvage their season and all the expectations that come with all those headline free agent signings, they lost to the Buffalo Bills. It was their fourth straight loss. Watching the fallout in Philly now becomes the league's premier sideshow.
Buffalo's win yesterday keeps them in a tie with the New England Patriots, both at 4-1, for the lead in the AFC East. The Bills technically have a lead over the Patriots, having beaten them once this season. New England dispatched the New York Jets, who are now two games behind in the division with a 2-3 record. Miami had the week off to get Matt Moore up to speed as their new starting quarterback, at least until they can get to Andrew Luck in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Pittsburgh won a statement game against the Titans yesterday, a big statement game after losing last week to the Houston Texans. Ben Roethlisberger limped around the sidelines before the game on a bum foot, and then tossed five touchdown passes to keep his team in a log jammed NFC North. Like the Steelers, the Bengals are 3-2 after beating the Jaguars yesterday. Baltimore had the week off, which kept them at 3-1. Cleveland, 2-2, also had a bye.
Houston's offense looked lost without Andre Johnson in yesterday's loss the Oakland Raiders. That dropped them to 3-2, tied with the Titans, who lost to the Steelers yesterday, for the lead in the NFC South. How long will Houston survive with Mario Williams possibly dealing with a torn pectoral muscle? Jacksonville and the Colts both lost yesterday too. Indianapolis did get some quality play from Curtis Painter, but it was not enough to beat the Chiefs. Indianapolis is 0-5.
Whether John Fox was giving into pressure from his fan base or just acknowledging that Kyle Orton was playing poorly, his decision to make Tim Tebow the starter at the half almost led to an upset over the visiting Chargers. San Diego hung on to win, and preserve their division lead with a 4-1 record, the best start of the Norv Turner era. Kansas City showed some vital signs beating the Colts yesterday. Their second win, it put Todd Haley's team at 2-3, one better than the Broncos in the AFC West.