At the top of everyone's power ranking are the Atlanta Falcons. I am not as impressed with them as everyone else seems to be. Let me explain. Their 6-0 record is gaudy but not as powerful as it seems. It's not only that they barely squeezed by in a few games to mediocre opponents with unlikely late game-saving scores; it's also the quality of their opponents. It sure seems like the NFC is the much stronger conference than the AFC this year. Texans and the Ravens were the toast of the conference in the early going, but the Ravens got pasted by the Texans yesterday, who in turn got absolutely torched by the Packers the week before. While that may be an indicator of relative conference strength, you certainly can't lay everything on one game; after all the Packers lost to the lowly Colts 3 weeks ago. But here's the real measure - what is the interconference record? The NFC record against the AFC is 20-8, and this is not because of one particular division dominating while the others are even. Every single NFC division has a winning record against the AFC: NFC East is 4-2, NFC North is 5-3, NFC South is 6-1 and NFC West is 5-2. With that preamble, proving NFC dominance, we can take a peak at the Falcons schedule and notice that they have already played all 4 of their AFC games. The fact that 4 of their 6 wins have come against the weaker conference may take some of the bloom off the rose of their perfect record.
Other general NFL thoughts: Patriots look like they are no better than a mediocre team right now. The Jets have been beaten up by the upper echelon teams of the NFL and have their 3 wins against the lower class. Patriots wee also 3-3 but you could make the argument that they were a little better than they showed because they lost 3 very close games that could have gone either way. But here they were: at home, with first place in the division on the line, playing a hated divisional rival, who themselves have fairly pedestrian talent and they barely squeak out an overtime win. Their pass defense looks awful, giving up big yardage and high completion percentage to a QB and receiver group that was playing poorly. They continued the practice of giving away a big 4th quarter lead and just don't look dominant. One preseason forecast actually had the Patriots going undefeated this year. Not.
Everyone talks about the QB - coach combination being the heart of the franchise. If you have a good pair, you're going to be a great team. I wonder if this means that Brady and Bellichick are starting to decline. Brady's accuracy on deep balls is slipping. He still puts up pretty good numbers because of the spread offense, and because Welker and his two TEs are always open, but he is missing throws that you expect him to make. As for the coach, Bellichick has made some very slick trades over the last few years amassing tons of draft choices, but it seems like he's not finding any stars among all those draft choices. His DB-field is awful and that is his upbringing - he started as DB coach on Giants under Parcells before he was promoted to DC there. Why is his defense so poor - can't blame injuries. He has drafted poorly and he has not coached them well. There's still plenty of time for Patriots to right the ship and make some noise in the playoffs - especially in the weak AFC. But the window of excellence may be starting to close for this group.