1) Oakland Raiders (Last week: 3rd = +2) 

My concern remains in their secondary which will still remain largely untested for a while so for now, they stand atop. No really, they are the best team in football right now. Sure they beat the worst team in football in the New York Jets this week, but Derek Carr and company dismantled them which is not something they did last year against poor teams. Oakland also hasn’t turned the ball over which is another characteristic of a next level football team.

Who knows what would have happened if they made the playoffs last year, but I think they still would have been a year away. Right now, they look ready to take the step which will be put to the test week four when they travel to Denver.

2) Atlanta Falcons (Last week: 7th = +5) 

While I have expressed my feelings about how good the Packers really are, that was still a very impressive win that vaulted them up the rankings. While I thought the Falcons would win their division still, I did expect to see some type of Super Bowl hangover which we have yet to see…yet.

Everyone knows about Atlanta’s offense which continues to look unstoppable, but what has really grown my confidence is their defense. The Falcons are at the forefront of what I believe to be the new trend with NFL defenses: young and inexperience, but crazy talented, athletic, and fast. How many times have we seen a team do almost everything right against the Packers just for Aaron Rodgers to do a backflip and win the game? A ton. Atlanta didn’t allow them to do that and in my mind stated, “We are here to stay.”

3) New England Patriots (Last week: 1st = -2)

Many people have declared this win over the Saints as a clear notice to the rest of the NFL that they are back. This perception baffles me. You want me to get excited about Tom Brady and the Patriots beating a New Orleans team with a QB and coach on the way out? Not to mention one of, if not the, worst defenses in the league? Sorry you’re going to have to do better than that to impress me.

Mind you, I know what I said last week and I stand by it:

Tom Brady is in decline

What I also said is that he is not going to be terrible. In fact he will probably be pretty good, but not the great we have have become use to seeing, and that continued Sunday. Brady did throw two interceptions on mind boggling decisions that were taken off the board because of penalties and that shouldn’t go over looked.

Plus (it’s a crime I already haven’t mentioned this) the Patriots are really banged up. They already lost Danny Amendola to a head injury last week, Rob Gronkowski (groin), Rex Burkhead (ribs), and Phillip Dorset (knee) all left the game yesterday as well; leaving the Patriots extremely thin at the receiver position. To such an extent that Brady was throwing to a fullback outside the numbers by the end of this game. Reminder: They already lost Julien Edelman.

That defense and those injuries aren’t going to magically go away any time soon.

4) Dallas Cowboys (Last week: 2nd = -2)

Lisen, they are in trouble, but the sky isn’t falling…yet. This is really the first bad loss of Dak and Zeke’s career, and now it is all about how they respond to it. They got their asses kicked and there’s no other way to put it. Zeke gave up and Dak looked average at best. Dez continues to be a thorn in the side of the star and the unbreakable offensive line looked anything but that.

However, they still have the young duo that got him here — and I hate to sound cliche, but sometimes cliches are cliches for a reason — how they respond this adversity will not only shape this season, but potentially their career.

My major concern for the Cowboys is if the Denver Broncos have fixed the code to beat the Dallas Cowboys. What has “America’s team” done so well over the past year? Death by a thousand paper cuts: five-yard run, six-yard run, seven-yard pass, and on and on and on. The Broncos allowed them to do that, but completely stacked the box and played cover-2 so the Cowboys couldn’t break open any big plays. If Dallas can’t figure out how to beat that they are going to be in trouble.

Sure, not everyone has the weapons at their disposal that Denver has, but some teams do: Falcons, Seahawks, Patriots (maybe), and Chiefs just to name a few.

5) Kansas City Chiefs (Last week: 5th = -1)

I can admit that I picked against Kansas City this week because I thought Sunday would be the day they let everyone’s hopes down. Instead, they came out and showed that they are the superior team to the Eagles and didn’t disappoint…yet.

I know I sound like a broken record, but every year the Chiefs have people hopping on the bandwagon train just to let open the doors as they take a corner; it will be no different this year.

For now, they continue to chug forward and will probably do so for several more weeks as they have a favorable (to say the least) schedule ahead.

Rest of my top ten:

6) Denver Broncos (Last week: NR)

7) Detroit Lions (Last week: 9th = +2)

8) Baltimore Ravens (Last week: NR)

9) Pittsburgh Steelers  (Last week: 6th = -3)

10) Green Bay Packers (Last week: 5th = -5)

Tomorrow: The SWN Show and podcast

-Article by Nick Friend

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