WAYNE ALLYN ROOT's NFL TOP 10....WEEK 9
1) BALTIMORE---Without much fanfare, the Ravens have quietly won four of their past five. Baltimore's new look offense has provided the goods for the Ravens this season. 5-2 on the season, Baltimore have managed to maintain a steady pace in the AFC North, while competing with some of the conference's top dogs. BUT...one week the Ravens can topple the New York Jets, while the next they struggle to keep up with the Buffalo Bills. As it stands, the Ravens defense ranks 15th in pass yards and 12th in rush yards...come on Ray!!! The Ravens host Miami this week.
2) NEW ENGLAND---The New England Patriots could be the best team in football right now. And why is that? Easy, Tom Brady. Yes, Tom Brady is back to his best. The wide receiver core has also helped Bill Belichick maintain a nearly perfect record. Deion Branch is still re-learning the system, but Wes Welker continues to be reliable, along with Aaron Hernandez, who has appeared out of thin air. A favorable second-half schedule could set up the Patriots for a 12- or 13-win season. The Patriots were once known for their defense, but those days are long gone. The Patriots now rank 14th in defensive rush yards and 16th in pass yards. New England travels to Cleveland...isn't that the team that took down the Saints (by mistake- with defensive touchdowns)?
3) INDIANAPOLIS---Remarkably, the injury-depleted Colts are back atop the AFC South. Peyton Manning has been short a few bodies in the past few weeks, losing Dallas Clarke, Austin Collie and Joseph Addai to injury. The biggest name to unfold from Monday Night, was unnoticed running back Mike Hart. On more than one occasion, Hart pulled off a big play and seemingly left Colt fans forgetting about Joseph Addai's injury, due to Hart's quick draw speed. The Colts now sit atop the AFC South and are looking to shift into cruise control shortly and ride the wave into the playoffs. Big games still await Peyton Manning, but it appears the Colts offense has found that typical winning gene. The Colts take their triage unit to "the City of No-Brotherly Love" this Sunday.
4) NEW YORK GIANTS--- The Giants and Eli Manning turned their misfortune around and now sit at 5-2 on the year, following a big-time defensive stand and an offense that has managed to use it's youth and explosiveness as an advantage. The Giants are no flashy team on paper and probably never will be. That obviously hasn't affected their attitude midway through the year. It's hard not to give the Giants an A+ on defense, because their hard hitting ways have won football games in the easiest way possible. They face the Seahawks 3000 miles away from home.
5) PITTSBURGH---As if the picture doesn't say enough, the hard hitting Steeler defense is back to full strength this year- all because the Steelers welcomed back a 100 percent Troy Polamalu from an injury last season. Against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the Steelers kept their mentality high. But it now appears no amount of intensity can stop Roger Goodell from limiting hard hits in the league, something that linebacker James Harrison isn't too happy with. The Steelers loss in New Orleans on Sunday Night Football won't derail their postseason destined season. But Pittsburgh showed they have several things to improve on, in a loss to the Saints. "Ben's boys" go to Cincy for a Monday Night Showdown.
6) NY J-E-T-S---Last week may have been the first time a team had a bye week to prepare for their own shutout. What has let New York down though is quarterback play. Mark Sanchez and his inaccuracy has cost the Jets two crucial wins over big time opponents so far this year. On offense for Rex Ryan, the usual standouts emerge. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson has been fantastic in his first year in New York, and wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Dustin Kellar have also seen much success. New York have tremendous talent on offense and it would be a shame to waste. Let's hope Sanchez tightens up his arm, and focuses a little more, before turning the ball over so frequently. The Jets defense has held up nicely throughout the Darrelle Revis injury patch and has squeaked by with wins over New England, Miami and Minnesota. The Jets better learn how to score at Detroit this week.
7) NEW ORLEANS---Sean Payton's team hasn't been their usual selves this season. But that isn't to say that the Saints still can't make the playoffs with ease this year. The Saints needed a statement victory and they got one by shutting down the Steelers in a 20-10 triumph. So how can they lose to Cleveland one week and look like champions the next? Much of it is due to the absence of Reggie Bush. The Saints are now short of a player that could play decoy and force teams to play the run...or act as a receiver, if the run game was a no go. Quarterback Drew Brees continues to impress and so do the Saints receivers. Things are on the right path, but many people are skeptical whether or not the Saints can overcome the Atlanta Falcons down south. The Saints go marching into Carolina this week.
8) ATLANTA---Atlanta's fire power has really begun to show its class lately. Quarterback Matt Ryan has stepped out of his dismal 2009 status, and has slowly but surely drawn back to his impressive 2008 ways that saw everybody stand up and notice him. Midway into the year, Matt Ryan has thrown for 1714 yards and 12 touchdowns, much of which is a compliment of Roddy White's brilliance. Michael Turner has really placed the final puzzle piece into place in Atlanta. Although Turner has only rushed for 587 yards and three touchdowns, his blocking presence and surefire hands make him a target for Matt Ryan on any occasion. If you thought Atlanta's offense has been good, Mike Smith's defensive structure has been just as impressive. We'll learn a lot about this division as Tampa Bay plays the Falcons.
9) TENNESSEE---Their third-down defense was a disaster in San Diego and needs to be fixed during the bye week. On the weekend against San Diego Chargers, Tennessee lost in unconvincing fashion, when Chris Johnson ran for only 59 yards and one touchdown. Now they have a bye week to see if Randy Moss likes the caterers. And Vince Young is one of the few quarterbacks yet to break the 1000 yard mark. Tennessee's defense has been good lately, however not great. Stopping the run game has been no problem for Jeff Fisher's team, but instead, the aerial attack has offered the Titans a number of problems.
10) GREEN BAY--- No. 12 hasn't been the standout that he was in 2009, even though Aaron Rodgers has managed to lead the Packers to five total victories this year. Gone are the days of five-sack games for Rodgers, and now, we see Green Bay withholding the likes of Jared Allen on Sunday Night Football. It may have been tough to give the Packers an A grade on defense three weeks ago, but following an absolute stellar stand against the Jets on the weekend, the Packers defense is in need of some serious credit. To be quite frank, the Packers should be this good. Charles Woodson is an elite cornerback in the league, and Clay Matthews' 9.5 sacks on the year detail how unstoppable he has been. One of these days the Packers will regain Al Harris and Atari Bigby, and when that happens, look out NFC North. The Packers haven't played defense like that since...2009. The Packers host the Cowgirls this Sunday Night on NBC TV.
10a) KANSAS CITY ---Finally, Matt Cassel has returned to his 2008 New England Patriot form. Yes, it took a while, but now No. 7 looks to be one of the more elite passers in the NFL, as the Chiefs have skyrocketed to a 5-2 record this season. The Chiefs biggest issue though has been stopping the run. This may be due to facing tough AFC teams, however, the Chiefs linebacker corp needs to step up if they are to keep their playoff dream alive. Remember the last time Chiefs-Raiders meant something big? Me neither. A winning football team. At times it hasn't been pretty, but hey, wins are the only thing that matters. Let's see how this week pans out in Oakland this Sunday. Heck, I'll even watch this game!!
TEAMS THAT BETTER START PLAYING BETTER---OR AT LEAST WINNING!!
1) PHILADELPHIA---Michael Vick takes over as the starter and now we'll see if he can make a playoff run.
2) HOUSTON ---That's not a playoff-caliber defense on the field for the Texans right now. Better choose one...more points or find some "D"
3) TAMPA BAY---Hey, give Raheem Morris some credit for believing in his team. Josh Freeman can make a coach look smart.....MID TERM TEST THIS WEEK AT ATLANTA
4) MIAMI---In the game-winning drive against the Bengals, QB Chad Henne had four long-overdue big plays. BUT...0-3 at home and 4-0 on the road...Good news- Fish are at Baltimore this week!!!
5) CHICAGO---For a team with a winning record, Chicago had plenty of issues to address at the bye. Start with "headcase Cutler" at QB.
6) SAN DIEGO-- Great team, bad coach. Norv Turner is not the solution.