Wednesday October 7th, 2009

Between covering the Jets-Saints on Sunday and Packers-Vikings on Monday night, I just saw three of the NFL's last seven teams that were undefeated heading into Week 4. Of that group, the 4-0 Saints struck me as the team with the most pieces put together so far on both sides of the ball. They can both throw and run the ball to win on offense, and they're a vastly improved and turnover-happy defensive team that has quickly started to reflect coordinator Gregg Williams' aggressive tendencies.

So it's the Saints at No. 1 in our SI.com NFL Power Rankings this week, with a caveat: Don't get comfortable, New Orleans. There have already been three teams topping our Power Rankings in the young season (New England and Baltimore were the others), and the Saints are on a collision course with the No. 2 Giants in Week 6 at the Superdome.

As always, your results may vary... (Send comments to siwriters@simail.com)

NFL Power Rankings
1New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 2
The Saints haven't trailed once this season, and that's the kind of magic carpet ride-in-the-making that a coaching staff could get used to. It's also the only team so far that has faced both Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez, the league's two rookie quarterbacks. New Orleans picked off Stafford three times and beat his Lions at the Superdome by 18 points. The Saints also picked off Sanchez three times and beat his Jets at the Superdome by 14 points. I think it's fair to say they're probably not as impressed with the new guys as others might be.
 
2New York Giants
Last Week: 3
The video of Eli Manning's foot injury at Kansas City looked so strange, didn't it? Like he stepped on a tack in his bare feet or something. I'd be plenty nervous about Manning if I were a Giants fan, and not just because David Carr is the team's backup. Plantar fasciitis is almost never a quick healer. Manning may be day-to-day on the New York injury list, but that's a malady that usually becomes a week-to-week issue.
 
3Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 4
Peyton Manning hasn't lost in his past 13 regular-season games. His little brother, Eli, is 4-0 this season with the Giants. And two of Archie Manning's three old teams, the Saints and Vikings, are also 4-0 and sit atop the NFC South and NFC North, respectively. It must be good to be a Manning about now.
 
4Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 6
I'm not feeling all that great about picking the Packers to finish first ahead of both the Vikings and the Bears in the NFC North this season. But I will say my projection of Jared Allen as this year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year is looking better in the wake of his virtuoso performance against Green Bay's overwhelmed offensive line Monday night in the Metrodome. Allen did his little calf-roping sack celebration so often he should have been wearing a Stetson rather than a helmet.
 
5Denver Broncos
Last Week: 11
I voiced my lack of faith in the 3-0 Broncos last week and told them we'd talk if they beat Dallas. And they beat Dallas. So I'm talking. Sorry. There. I said it. And I mean it. That Denver defense deserves no disrespect. And was that Brandon Marshall I saw getting hugged by Josh McDaniels in the middle of the coach's postgame news conference? My, oh, my, can everything change in a month in the NFL or what?
 
6New York Jets
Last Week: 5
The Saints defense stole the show on Sunday in New Orleans, but don't overlook the job New York's defense did against Drew Brees & Co. Holding the Saints offense to 10 points, 190 yards passing and a 4-of-15 showing on third and fourth downs is going to get you a victory most times. Between now and their Week 9 bye, the Jets should roll to 7-1 with games at Miami, Buffalo, at Oakland and Miami again on tap.
 
7New England Patriots
Last Week: 7
The Patriots are at least surviving their four-week run of games against some of the best defenses in the league: Jets, Falcons, Ravens and Broncos. This week's trip to Denver has the added spice of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady matching wits against New England's former offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels. Both sides are going to have to do some disguising in this one, but Belichick in recent years has gotten lots of practice coaching against his former protégés.
 
8Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 1
I'll grant you that knocking the Ravens all the way down from the top spot to No. 8 seems a bit harsh in light of Baltimore's narrow loss at New England. But let me explain: You can't have the Ravens ranked above one of the league's five unbeatens, and they also have to trail the Patriots, who just knocked them off. And the Jets have to be higher than New England, because they beat the Pats in Week 2. So that's how you go from No. 1 to No. 8 on nothing more than a six-point road loss. See?
 
9Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 8
We should know in the next four weeks whether or not the Falcons can hang with the high-flying Saints in the NFC South. I don't like their chances, but then I've picked Atlanta as this year's best team that won't make the playoffs. It's at San Francisco on Sunday, then home against Chicago, at Dallas, at New Orleans. To survive, Atlanta needs to run the ball to shorten games like it did last season, and play better run defense than it has so far.
 
10San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 12
So Michael Crabtree is going to be a 49er after all, and realistically San Francisco might not be able to expect anything out of him until after its Week 6 bye. If then, given the history of limited impact by first-round rookie receivers. And if you don't trust us, M.C., just ask Oakland's No. 7 pick, Darrius Heyward-Bey. (On a related note: Is there any chance the 49ers could possibly issue Crabtree No. 10 for a jersey number?)
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