This was the week in which some of the cream began to rose to the top of the crop. Does that metaphor make sense? Who cares. The point is that the six teams that lead our rankings either won again in solid fashion or were on a bye. That half dozen appears to be in a separate category from everyone else right now.
1. Atlanta Falcons (6-0, 1st last week): Might the bye have fixed what was wrong with a Falcons team that had been cutting it close for three straight weeks?
2. New York Giants (5-2, 2nd last week): Again, finding a way to win. But something was wrong with Eli Manning for much of that game.
3. Green Bay Packers (4-3, 3rd last week): Aaron Rodgers is just getting better and better. Guy's got a 16-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio the last four games.
4. Houston Texans (6-1, 4th last week): They proved that they have the character to battle back after tough losses. This'll be a sweet bye week with the Bills on deck.
5. San Francisco 49ers (5-2, 6th last week): Ugly win, but still a nice rebound on short rest against a feisty Seattle team.
6. Chicago Bears (5-1, 8th last week): Kind of a weird win against Detroit, but the defense is killing it right now.
7. Baltimore Ravens (5-2, 5th last week): On the fringe of that cream of the crop. Too many injuries and I'm not sure they can recover. That said, they might still win the AFC North by default.
8. Seattle Seahawks (4-3, 7th last week): I get the feeling their Week 16 home matchup with San Francisco will matter greatly.
9. New England Patriots (4-3, 9th last week): Not exactly a convincing win over the Jets. Is New England merely a slightly-above-average team nowadays?
10. Washington Redskins (3-4, 11th last week): Seven weeks into his career, is there a man or woman in the world who still believes the Redskins made a bad move in trading away three first-round picks for Robert Griffin III?
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3, 13th last week): Just look to what I said about the Patriots, and substitute the Bengals for the Jets.
12. Denver Broncos (3-3, 12th last week): I really don't know what to expect from the inconsistent Broncos coming out of the bye week.
13. New York Jets (3-4, 14th last week): That would've been a big win against New England with Miami and the bye on deck. They can still recover, but I don't believe they will.
14. Minnesota Vikings (5-2, 17th last week): I don't know what a victory over Arizona means at this point, but I'm still blown away that the Vikings are a home win over Tampa Bay short of starting 6-2.
15. Miami Dolphins (3-3, 15th last week): If they can beat the Jets coming out of the bye, they could be sailing with three sub-.500 teams on deck.
16. Arizona Cardinals (4-3, 10th last week): Trying to save their season now on Monday Night Football against the Niners. Four straight losses would kill.
17. St. Louis Rams (3-4, 16th last week): Ran into Green Bay at a bad time, but New England could now be running into them at a bad time overseas.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3, 18th last week): Hope you enjoyed the bye. Now it's the unbeaten Eagles, and they're rested as well.
19. Dallas Cowboys (3-3, 20th last week): They survived against the lowly Panthers, who fired their general manager on Monday. Hooray?
20. Detroit Lions (2-4, 19th last week): You lose the turnover battle 4-0 and still only lose by six points to a one-loss team on the road, you don't drop too far.
21. San Diego Chargers (3-3, 21st last week): How much worse would they be if they didn't use stickum (reportedly)?
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4, 23rd last week): I'm still closing my eyes and being taunted by those damn uniforms.
23. Tennessee Titans (3-4, 27th last week): Two straight thriller victories and they're very much alive in the AFC wild-card race. The division's a different story.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4, 24th last week): What the hell was that, Andy Dalton?
25. New Orleans Saints (2-4, 26th last week): Pretty solid victory in Tampa but the schedule's still a bitch going forward.
26. Oakland Raiders (2-4, 28th last week): Season-saving victory with the Chiefs and Buccaneers on deck and the rest of the division resting.
27. Carolina Panthers (1-5, 22nd last week): You'd have to believe, now, that Jerry Richardson is looking closely at his coaching staff. Remarkably disappointing year in Charlotte.
28. Buffalo Bills (3-4, 25th last week): Well, bring on the next defensive coordinator? The Dave Wannstedt era could coming to an end soon.
29. Indianapolis Colts (3-3, 29th last week): Yes, 3-3 is nice. But beating Cleveland isn't going to move the meter much.
30. Cleveland Browns (1-6, 30th last week): So the visit from Paul Ryan didn't help….
31. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5, 31st last week): Not out of it in that division, and they have the talent to charge back.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5, 32nd last week): Battled, but now with these injuries they'll be hard-pressed to win more than three games in 2012.