It was another week of shakeups in the NFC, as a few of the better teams were able to shake off a sloppy September and start to look like the teams we thought they would be. Let’s take a look at the NFC’s top 10 teams five weeks into the season.
1. New Orleans – The Saints move to the head of the class, as the lone undefeated team remaining in the NFC. The Seahawks loss allows the Saints to move up, but beating Chicago on the road was impressive as well. New Orleans continues to look like a whole different team than last season now that Sean Payton is back on the sidelines and Rob Ryan is running the defense. They now have a chance to go into their bye week at 6-0 if they can get a road win against the Patriots this week.
2. Seattle – There’s no shame in a road loss to the Colts, who look like they could be one of the top teams in the AFC, but Seattle’s defense couldn’t quite contain Andrew Luck for four quarters, as the Seahawks took a lead into the 4th quarter but couldn’t close out the game. Offensively, Seattle played better than they have in recent weeks, especially at the wide receiver position, but they definitely took a half step back with the loss to Indianapolis.
3. San Francisco – The 49ers have played the last two weeks more like the team we thought they would be this year. Even without Aldon Smith, San Francisco is clamping down defensively and winning games even when Colin Kaepernick isn’t giving them a lot of production with his arm. The NFC is loaded with good defenses at the top of the conference, and San Francisco appears to have one of them.
4. Chicago – The Bears shouldn’t feel too bad about back-to-back losses against the Lions and Saints, especially since they were within one score of each team. Of course, their biggest win of the season is a three-point win over the Bengals at home, and that’s not terribly impressive five weeks into the season. A loss against either the Giants or Redskins in the next two weeks would send them plummeting down the power rankings, but for now they remain close to the top.
5. Green Bay – Coming out of the bye week the Packers put together a complete game, shutting down the Lions defensively and showing a balanced offensive approach with 99 rushing yards from rookie Eddie Lacy and a solid day from Aaron Rodgers. The question becomes whether Green Bay can play like that on a consistent basis. Beating the Ravens on the road this week would be a nice way to prove that they can.
6. Detroit – The Lions appear to be a little too dependent on Matthew Stafford, who gets a bit of a pass for only getting nine points on the board in Green Bay without Calvin Johnson. Detroit stays on the cusp of the top-5 in the power rankings because they still have a lot of talent and potential, but they can expect to drop considerably if they lose to the Browns this week, even on the road.
7. Dallas – Despite the loss, the Cowboys showed what they’re capable of doing offensively, and a lot of credit goes to a much-improved offensive line, which has given Tony Romo a lot of time to find his receiving targets. However, Dallas also showed how weak it is on defense, especially in the secondary. They have two close losses to two teams that are still undefeated after five weeks, but their only two wins are against the Giants and Rams, so there’s still reason to be skeptical about the Cowboys.
8. Arizona – The Cardinals are a little Jekyl and Hyde this season, but they do have a win over Detroit on their resume, and they’ve only allowed 16 points over their last two games, albeit against Tampa Bay and Carolina. Arizona can definitely stuff the run, which works to their advantage, especially with division foes San Francisco and Seattle on the schedule the next two weeks. However, the Cardinals need to get it going offensively, because the defense isn’t going to hold up forever and they’re far too talented at wide receiver to have only five passing touchdowns in five games.
9. Atlanta – It’s going to be a long bye week for the Falcons, who fell to 1-4 after their Monday night loss to the Jets. Matt Ryan and the offense did well to erase a 13-point deficit in the 4th quarter, but the defense let them down once again. Atlanta is barely hanging on to a spot in the top-10 in the NFC, but what saves them is that all four of their losses have been close and all four losses have been against good teams (yup, even the Jets are considered a good team right now). The Falcons aren’t that far from everything coming together, but they have dug quite a hole for themselves at 1-4, especially with the 5-0 Saints at the top of the division.
10. Philadelphia – The Eagles are another team that you don’t know what to expect from week to week, but more times than not they’re going to move the ball and score points. No one’s saying Philadelphia is going to make the playoffs just yet, but they’ve won both of their games within the division and they have winnable games in each of the next four weeks if the offense can keep it going, even with Michael Vick nursing an injury, but at some point the defense is going to have to give them support.