Slowly, very slowly, the haves and have-nots are starting to separate. Among the have-nots are several teams many believed were playoff bound but those prospects are looking very slim right now.
Key: [(current record), Last 4: team’s record for weeks 5-8, Prev: their ranking in the Week 4 Power Rankings]
NEXT FOUR: a team’s next four games, with “bye” indicating that the team is not playing that week
01) New England Patriots (6-1 | L4: 3-0 | Prev: 8)
Several tough wins for New England have left them as the only team that has yet to lose twice. Games against the Steelers and Colts await the Patriots this month.
NEXT FOUR: @CLE, @PIT, IND, @DET
02) New York Giants (5-2 | L4: 3-0 | Prev: 14)
New York’s defense was firing on all cylinders for awhile. The loss of Mathias Kiwanuka is starting to show its signs: letting Jon Kitna and Dallas get back to within a score and an onside kick attempt late isn’t a good sign. Hopefully the bye week worked those kinks out.
NEXT FOUR: @SEA, DAL, @PHI, JAC
03) Atlanta Falcons (5-2 | L4: 2-1 | Prev: 2)
A difficult schedule awaits the Falcons this month, whose success depends greatly on the success of Michael Turner and its running game.
NEXT FOUR: TB, BAL, @STL, GB
04) Baltimore Ravens (5-2 | L4: 2-1 | Prev: 1)
A tough OT loss to NFL best New England was followed by an OT win against NFL worst Buffalo. An NFC South-heavy schedule awaits the Ravens this month.
NEXT FOUR: MIA, @ATL, @CAR, TB
05) Indianapolis Colts (5-2 | L4: 3-0 | Prev: 12)
The injury bug has suddenly hit the Colts, and Peyton Manning has a lot of new faces around him. The defensive issues that plagued their loss at Jacksonville have subsided for now though their upcoming schedule is not easy.
NEXT FOUR: @PHI, CIN, @NE, SD
06) Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2 | L4: 2-1 | Prev: 4)
Ben Roethlisberger has been fine following his return from a four game suspension. After a lucky win against the Dolphins, the Saints have set them back a bit.
NEXT FOUR: @CIN, NE, OAK, @BUF
07) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2 | L4: 3-1 | Prev: 11)
Let’s just forget that awful loss to New Orleans. Three very close wins (by a combined total of seven points) have people talking great things about Josh Freeman, who has been quite clutch in those victories.
NEXT FOUR: @ATL, CAR, @SF, @BAL
08) Kansas City Chiefs (5-2 | L4: 2-2 | Prev: 9)
A pair of tough losses at Indy and at Houston has not sent Kansas City’s ship on a downward spiral quite yet. A pair of tough divisional road games up next will really prove this team’s might.
NEXT FOUR: @OAK, @DEN, ARI, @SEA
09) New York Jets (5-2 | L4: 2-1 | Prev: 3)
The bye week did the Jets no favors, as they failed to score a single point against a Packer defense which isn’t that good. Throw in that poor offensive showing in Week 1, and it may seem like the Jet offense is one that works best when it’s in constant play. This is something to keep in mind should the Jets secure a top-2 seed in the AFC.
NEXT FOUR: @DET, @CLE, HOU, CIN
10) Tennessee Titans (5-3 | L4: 3-1 | Prev: 17)
Lost in the injuries plaguing the team is that Chris Johnson has essentially been shut down the past two weeks. A bye week comes just in time for the Titans.
NEXT FOUR: bye, @MIA, WAS, @HOU
11) New Orleans Saints (5-3 | L4: 2-2 | Prev: 7)
The injuries to the running game have slowed the offense down, sure, but it still doesn’t excuse Drew Brees for throwing four interceptions to Cleveland. A strong win against Pittsburgh combined with an easy November should get the Saints back on track.
NEXT FOUR: @CAR, bye, SEA, @DAL
12) Green Bay Packers (5-3 | L4: 2-2 | Prev: 6)
A pair of tough OT losses is followed by huge wins against the Vikings and Jets. Following the bye week, road games against the Vikings and Falcons will be another challenge for the Packers whose offense has also struggled recently. Credit the defense for shutting out the Jets in New York, though.
NEXT FOUR: DAL, bye, @MIN, @ATL
13) Miami Dolphins (4-3 | L4: 2-1 | Prev: 22)
Miami is 4-0 on the road, yet 0-3 at home. It is also important to note that all the road games have been in cold weather cities (though Minnesota plays in a dome). Of course, Miami’s home games have been against the Jets, Patriots and Steelers, so you can’t really blame the Dolphins for going 0-3 in that span.
NEXT FOUR: @BAL, TEN, CHI, @OAK
14) Philadelphia Eagles (4-3 | L4: 2-1 | Prev: 20)
Kevin Kolb has shown to be very capable as was the case in their win against Atlanta, but Michael Vick is ready to come back against the Colts. With the Giants and Bears on the slate this month, Vick will have to be careful not to get injured again.
NEXT FOUR: IND, @WAS, NYG, @CHI
15) Houston Texans (4-3 | L4: 1-2 | Prev: 5)
Houston has given up at least 24 points in every game this year. Their pass defense has been terrible and Andre Johnson has been battling injury. The Texans’ push for their first ever playoff berth doesn’t get any easier in November.
NEXT FOUR: SD, @JAC, @NYJ, TEN
16) St. Louis Rams (4-4 | L4: 2-2 | Prev: 16)
The Rams play very well at home and, excluding that blowout against the Lions of all teams, they have played their opponents very close, losing by 1, 2, and 4 points in those other three losses. The Rams have a very good chance to win the NFC West at this point.
NEXT FOUR: bye, @SF, ATL, @DEN
17) Chicago Bears (4-3 | L4: 1-2 | Prev: 10)
It’s become the same old story for the Bears offense in recent weeks, Jay Cutler’s four interceptions – all to DeAngelo Hall – is the most prominent example of that. Hopefully the upcoming game against Buffalo fixes some things. Hopefully.
NEXT FOUR: @BUF, MIN, @MIA, PHI
18) Oakland Raiders (4-4 | L4: 3-1 | Prev: 28)
That benching was just what Jason Campbell needed, apparently. After Bruce Gradkowski went down to injury, Campbell has been great and Darren McFadden has come into his own the past two weeks as the Raiders were able to win three times in October. Suddenly, a home game against the Chiefs means a whole lot for Oakland who haven’t had such a big game since perhaps 2002.
NEXT FOUR: KC, bye, @PIT, MIA
19) Seattle Seahawks (4-3 | L4: 2-1 | Prev: 21)
The Seahawks are unbeaten at home, Mike Williams has been a pleasant surprise, and the Seahawks still have a strong chance at winning the division. Not bad for Pete Carroll’s first year back in the NFL.
NEXT FOUR: NYG, @ARI, @NO, KC
20) Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4 | L4: 2-2 | Prev: 23)
Perhaps one of the more underrated teams in the NFL, the Jaguar’s biggest problem is that they are in the same division as Indianapolis, Houston and Tennessee. That, and their suspect defense. Great game by David Garrard against the Cowboys though, scoring five total TDs in a dominant victory.
NEXT FOUR: bye, HOU, CLE, @NYG
21) Washington Redskins (4-4 | L4: 2-2 | Prev: 19)
The day when someone considers replacing Donovan McNabb with the likes of Rex Grossman or even Jamarcus Russell is the day Donovan McNabb really needs to think about the state of his career. These out-of-nowhere excuses for McNabb’s benching really don’t help either.
NEXT FOUR: bye, PHI, @TEN, MIN
22) Arizona Cardinals (3-4 | L4: 1-2 | Prev: 24)
You take a look at their QB situation, and you may ask “Matt Leinart really couldn’t do any better than these two?” Frankly, I’m not sure he could do better but given the investment and how poorly Derek Anderson and Max Hall have played, he should’ve been given a shot.
NEXT FOUR: @MIN, SEA, @KC, SF
23) San Diego Chargers (3-5 | L4: 1-3 | Prev: 13)
The Chargers are 0-4 on the road. Their next two road games? At Houston, at Indianapolis. They must win at least one of those two games, or better yet both, if they want to have any hopes at a playoff spot.
NEXT FOUR: @HOU, bye, DEN, @IND
24) Detroit Lions (2-5 | L4: 2-1 | Prev: 30)
The Lions have played very well in nearly every game and finally it’s yielding results as the team has won two of its last three games. An AFC East-heavy schedule will give the Lions a good challenge, but after the return of Matthew Stafford yielded two comeback drives against Washington, I’m sure they’ll be ready for it.
NEXT FOUR: NYJ, @BUF, @DAL, NE
25) Cincinnati Bengals (2-5 | L4: 0-3 | Prev: 18)
Besides having a banged up secondary and that Cedric Benson has not been his 2009 self, people are starting to realize that Carson Palmer is not the QB he may have once been. A tough November schedule may well end their postseason hopes.
NEXT FOUR: PIT, @IND, BUF, @NYJ
26) Cleveland Browns (2-5 | L4: 1-2 | Prev: 27)
The Browns surprised many when they intercepted Drew Brees four times and beat the Saints at the Superdome handily. Injuries at QB have given Colt McCoy his first two starts of his career, and he hasn’t been terrible.
NEXT FOUR: NE, NYJ, @JAC, CAR
27) Minnesota Vikings (2-5 | L4: 1-3 | Prev: 26)
Only a win against an even more hapless Dallas team has been a bright light on an otherwise miserable month. Between Brett Favre’s injuries and the short-lived Randy Moss experiment ended rather abruptly, the Vikings now have to try to at least avoid finishing dead last in the NFC North.
NEXT FOUR: ARI, @CHI, GB, @WAS
28) San Francisco 49ers (2-6 | L4: 2-2 | Prev: 29)
The Niners are starting to get their act together. Troy Smith played well in the London game against Denver. If he keeps it up he may get to remain the starter upon Alex Smith’s return from a shoulder injury. Frank Gore has turned it on lately as well. NEXT FOUR: bye, STL, TB, @ARI
29) Denver Broncos (2-6 | L4: 0-4 | Prev: 15)
Getting beat down by Oakland in record fashion was the low point for the Broncos the past four weeks, all losses. The lack of a running game, a long time Denver tradition in the past, has been among Denver’s many problems as of late.
NEXT FOUR: bye, KC, @SD, STL
30) Carolina Panthers (1-6 | L4: 1-2 | Prev: 31)
The Jimmy Clausen experiment has been halted for now. Matt Moore has played better than Clausen, but unless DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart can finally break through (they’ve been close), the Panthers will continue to have difficulties.
NEXT FOUR: NO, @TB, BAL, @CLE
31) Dallas Cowboys (1-6 | L4: 0-4 | Prev: 25)
The loss of Tony Romo to a shoulder injury doesn’t excuse the defense or the receivers from having such poor efforts as was the case against the Giants and Jaguars, respectively.
NEXT FOUR: @GB, @NYG, DET, NO
32) Buffalo Bills (0-7 | L4: 0-3 | Prev: 32)
The Bills have taken two straight opponents to OT where a key mistake does them in at that point. With offensively inept Chicago, road-inept Detroit and struggling Cincinnati all due this month, Buffalo may very well get its first win.
NEXT FOUR: CHI, DET, @CIN, PIT