(Trust me, you'll thank us once it hits December and the media outlets that cover the NFL saturate you with all Patriots, all the time in a painfully slow countdown that will allow for hours and hours of breathless analysis amidst the one-game-a-week pace).
That disclaimer out of the way, how about a little love for the three Thanksgiving Day winners in the NFL, all of whom served up a little holiday domination for our viewing pleasure? Here's what became apparent after watching Thursday's blowout action in Detroit, Dallas and Atlanta:
• In some order, the Cowboys, Packers and Colts showed that they are definitively the second-, third- and fourth-best teams in the NFL this season, after you know who. They have a combined record of 29-4 -- the Cowboys and Packers are 10-1, the Colts 9-2 -- and that mark improves to an even gaudier 29-2 against everybody else accept, yep, you guessed it, that team that shall remain nameless. Winning 29 of 33 games produces an .879 winning percentage, and that's dominant in anyone's league. Come late January, I think we're watching all three of them play in their respective conference title games.
• There's only one NFL quarterback performing better than the threesome of
• Even better news for fans of Dallas, Indy, and Green Bay, all three winners flashed some offensive balance, too, proving they'll be able to run the ball down the stretch and into the playoffs. The Cowboys, with their two-headed backfield of
And even the Packers are starting to be multi-dimensional, with emerging first-year running back
• One more reason to like Dallas, Green Bay and Indy's chances? Their kickers are top notch. The Cowboys'
The Cowboys and Packers will of course be right back on stage next Thursday night, when they meet in Dallas in the NFC's game of the year. Homefield advantage throughout the playoffs will be at stake -- no one else in the NFC is remotely in position to challenge for it -- and while both teams could win on the other one's turf in January, the difference between playing at Texas Stadium or Lambeau Field figures to be pivotal.
As for the injury-plagued Colts, despite their recent troubles they remain in line for the AFC's No. 2 seed and a much-needed first-round bye. That should keep them on a collision course for Foxboro and the AFC title game, where they'd get a second shot at The Team That Can Not Lose.
For now, Patriots overkill is on the way. You know it, and I know it. But let's not look past what the Cowboys, Packers and Colts accomplished this weekend. None of them can rightfully claim to be No. 1. But as far as Nos. 2, 3 and 4 go, they've made a convincing case.
• After Thursday's showing, I'm even more convinced that the Lions are frauds and will ultimately find a way to waste their 6-2 start and lose out on the NFC's second wild-card berth. Detroit hasn't just dropped three in a row to fall to 6-5, it has also managed to lose head-to-head to four other NFC wild-card contenders: the Giants, Washington, Philadelphia and Arizona. Suffice to say the tiebreakers don't look good for the Lions.
• Watching the Jets run up the white flag in that 34-3 loss at Dallas only made me more dubious about the Steelers. How is it that Pittsburgh can look so good some weeks, and then lose to a New York team that's capable of putting up such little fight against the Cowboys?
I still like the Steelers to beat out Cleveland and claim the AFC North title, and that's a great first season for
• Very quietly, and just in the nick of time, Atlanta's
No other Falcons pass-catcher has even 40 receptions, or 400 yards. White's emergence, even amidst more Falcons quarterback trouble, takes a little of the spotlight off Atlanta general manager
• Games haven't been the only thing lost by Jets coach
• Am I the only one who can't hear the last name of Colts tight end