By Don Banks
October 21, 2009

All right, it's getting to be late October, which means we can start talking potential Super Bowl matchups. (I looked it up. It's in the NFL rules). Who do you like?

New Orleans and Denver would be fun. A showdown of former Purdue quarterbacks in Drew Brees and Kyle Orton, with fresh-faced head coaches Sean Payton and Josh McDaniels vying to see who looks more like a 16-year-old kid.

Then there's Indianapolis versus Minnesota. Would anyone read or watch a story all week in Miami that didn't revolve around quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Brett Favre? If I recall, I think they both have a bit of a consecutive game streak going.

How about the N.Y. Giants and New England, in the rematch that Tom Brady and all of Patriots Nation have been fantasizing about for 20 months, 17 days, and 13 hours? Give or take a minute. David Tyree could do the pre-game mid-field coin flip, trapping it on his helmet, while Rodney Harrison furiously tries to swat the half-dollar away.

Ah, we can dream. But now, as Casey Kasem used to say, back to the countdown... (Send comments to

NFL Power Rankings
1 New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 1
It's downright gratifying to know I've had the correct team at No. 1 these past few weeks, because once the Saints humiliated the Giants on Sunday in the Superdome, the conventional wisdom that New Orleans is the best team in all the land quickly took hold. That's an easy deduction to make about a team that didn't trail in any of its first 20 quarters of the season. Got a feeling this week's trip to Miami won't feature another 45-point outburst from the Saints, but any old kind of W will do for Sean Payton's club.
2 Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 3
What was I thinking forecasting a non-playoff season for the Colts in 2009? With the Titans self-implosion continuing unabated, there's absolutely no scenario -- baring a Peyton Manning injury -- in which Indy won't be playoff-bound for the eighth year in a row, and 10th time in the past 11 seasons. That's a remarkable run of excellence in the regular season, but you have to admit, with just one Super Bowl win in that span, the Colts have essentially become the NFL's version of the Atlanta Braves during their glory years.
3 Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 4
Here's the thing that astounds me the most about Brett Favre's first six games in purple: He's completing 69.7 of his passes, which ranks third in the NFL and is almost eight percentage points higher than his career completion rate (61.8). That's an astounding jump for a guy who has been known to chuck it where he shouldn't from time to time. He has just two interceptions, after throwing 22 for the Jets last season. We've seen the Good Brett, but when might the Bad Brett first appear in Minnesota?
4 Denver Broncos
Last Week: 5
I suppose we can all stop speculating on the cause of Eddie Royal's sophomore slump now. After a very quiet first four games, the Broncos receiver/return man has re-emerged as an impact performer in Denver. As if the 6-0, first-place Broncos needed any more reason to climb further into their Rocky Mountain high as their Week 7 bye arrives.
5 New York Giants
Last Week: 2
This much we know: The Giants injury-plagued secondary, at least as it is currently constituted, cannot hold up against a quality passing team if New York's pass rush goes into the witness protection program like it did last Sunday in New Orleans. I would imagine Arizona's Kurt Warner, who returns to the Meadowlands to face his old team this Sunday night, noticed what carnage Drew Brees wrought against the humbled but still top-ranked Giants defense.
6 New England Patriots
Last Week: 10
The NFL won't like me saying this, but I think we know right now three of the four division winners in the AFC this season: The Patriots in the East, the Colts in the South, and the Broncos in the West. Sorry to ruin anyone's suspense, but it's pretty obvious the three-team race in the North is the only real open question in the AFC. The Patriots will be 6-2 when they roll into their three-week stretch of showdowns to close out November: at Indy in Week 10, Jets at home in Week 11, and at New Orleans in Week 12.
7 Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 6
Mike Smith and Matt Ryan are 15-6 together in their first 21 regular-season games in Atlanta, and that's what you call the beginning of a beautiful friendship. After 43 mind-boggling years, the Falcons will finally post consecutive winning seasons, and there are no two bigger reasons than having made the crucial correct decisions at head coach and quarterback.
8 Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 13
I'd say we're just one more Jeff Reed off-field incident from inducting him into the "idiot kicker, liquored-up'' club that Mike Vanderjagt inspired in Indianapolis a few years back. Still my favorite Peyton Manning quote of all time. Bar none.
9 Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 7
How many tens of thousands of words and pictures have been spent chronicling Michael Vick's two-month tenure in Philadelphia? And how much actual on-field impact has all that breathless coverage translated into for the Eagles? I believe the appropriate term would be much ado about nothing.
10 Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 8
The Bengals are the only winning team in the NFL that hasn't out-scored its opponents this season. It's 118 points for, and 118 points allowed. I'm pretty sure first place in the AFC North won't be in the equation for long if that trend continues.
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