Lots of people like to do power polls for the NFL. Why bother? What matters is the standings and who gets into the playoffs. After the first four weeks, here's what we have to work with:
1) Chicago Bears (4-0, lead North)
2) Seattle Seahawks (3-1, lead West)
3) New Orleans Saints (3-1, lead South)
4) Philadelphia Eagles (3-1, lead East)
5) Atlanta Falcons (3-1, 2nd in South)
6) St. Louis Rams (3-1, 2nd in West)
The Bears are the overwhelming favorite to secure home field advantage, and in a few weeks, people will start comparing them (wrongly) to the 1985 team (the best football team ever in the history of the NFL, and we will NOT discuss it) and start asking the inevitable 1972 Dolphins question. Seattle will need to show that they can win on the road without Shawn Alexander. The Saints will fall back behind Carolina (who's getting healthy) and Atlanta. The Eagles can consolidate power in the East by beating the now doubly-hated Cowboys (as if they needed further reason to hate anything in Philly). The Falcons will compete with Carolina for the South title. The Rams have to prove that they can win on the road and that their offense can produce like it did against a bad Lions defense when it faces better competition. Right now, I can only designate Chicago and Seattle as sure-fire playoff locks; Philly and Atlanta look good; I don't see New Orleans or St. Louis staying in playoff contention.
1) Indianapolis Colts (4-0, leading South)
2) Baltimore Ravens (4-0, leading North)
3) New England Patriots (3-1, leading East)
4) Denver Broncos (2-1, leading West)
5) Cincinnati Bengals (3-1, 2nd in North)
6) San Diego Chargers (2-1, 2nd in West)
Indy's a lead-pipe cinch to clinch home-field advantage for the entire playoffs; I don't see them losing more than 2 or 3 games all season. They have already shown a toughness and resiliency in the past two weeks that we haven't seen in the past. The Ravens can't be for real, can they? Sure, their defense is great again, but can they really limit opponents to less than 16 points each week? I'm still not convinced. New England is Jason Voorhees, Mike Myers and Freddy Kruger all rolled up in one. Just when you think they're dead, they jump back up and kill you. They'll win that crummy division because of the crummy competition. The Broncos won't win more than 9 games with Plummer at QB, so they'll fall back. Cincy got cocky and got knocked in the dirt against N.E.; we'll see if it helps them grow up or throw up. I still think the Chargers will win the West. All six teams have a legit shot to make the playoffs, with Indy and N.E. locks, Cincy and S.D. better than 75% chance, Baltimore and Denver less than 50% chance. We'll take another look at the state of the league after halftime--week 8.