1. Denver (4-0). Four games, 179 points. Everything is working. Everything.
2. Seattle (4-0). As Richard Sherman says (above), great teams win games against good teams on the road with significant obstacles. The Seahawks, down 20-3 at the half, had no business winning in Houston Sunday, and found a way to do so.
3. New Orleans (3-0). I bet Drew Brees loves waking up on game day knowing he doesn’t have to put up 35 for his team to have a chance to win.
4. Kansas City (4-0). It is Sept. 30. Kansas City has doubled its 2012 win total.
5. Indianapolis (3-1). Going West Coast/East Coast (Niners/Jags) was supposed to be harder than this: Colts 64, Foes 10.
6. New England (4-0). Tell me who could have forecast the Pats starting 4-0, including a win over a desperate Falcons team on the road, without their four biggest pass catchers from last year. Incredible accomplishment. By the way: The two teams I picked to make the Super Bowl—Pats, ‘Hawks—are 8-0. Not that I’m bragging or anything.
7. San Francisco (2-2). So … the nosetackle (Ian Williams) is lost in Week 2 with a broken ankle, and the best pass rusher (Aldon Smith) and multi-Pro Bowl inside linebacker (Patrick Willis) miss a road game on a short week against a Rams team with a fortified offense, and the Niners hold St. Louis to 188 yards and 11 points in a 35-11 rout. That’s some good depth right there, and some realization of the urgency of the day.
8. Detroit (3-1). Sunday’s 40-32 win over the Bears was the first time I’ve watched the Lions in a long time and thought, “That’s a complete team.” Detroit’s still leaky on defense, but the pressure packages used by defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham really affected Jay Cutler Sunday.
9. Miami (3-0). Sorry, Dolfans, for pushing Miami down a few slots. Just thought a few teams leapfrogged you this week, but credit Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman for not allowing the injury to Dustin Keller to derail their plans to field a competent offensive tight end in 2013. Through three games, Charles Clay has 14 catches for 203 yards.
10. Chicago (3-1). Not the end of the world, losing at amped Detroit. But Sloppy Jay Cutler’s not going to win championships.
11. Tennessee (3-1). Catholics all over central Tennessee light candles for the health of Jake Locker’s hip. Pretty amazing that through four games, he hasn’t turned the ball over.
12. San Diego (2-2). Antonio Gates is ageless, and still really good.
13. Dallas (2-2). Eighteen tackles for Sean Lee, on the road. Not bad.
14. Atlanta (1-3). Matt Ryan needed to be better on that last drive against New England.
15. Houston (2-2). Texans-Niners at Candlestick Sunday night. Combined record: 4-4.
The Award Section
Offensive Players of the Week
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego. Maybe its Rivers’ turn. Maybe in his 10th year he’s seen his fellow 2004 draftees, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning, with their shiny Super Bowl rings, and now he’s saying enough. The Chargers beat NFC East frontrunner Dallas to go 2-2 Sunday (and they’re still two games behind two teams in the AFC West), and Rivers completed 35 of 42 passes for 401 yards and three touchdowns.
Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit. There is no doubt about it: The difference between this year’s Lions and every other year of the Stafford Era is Reggie Bush. In the first 28 minutes of Sunday’s division match against Chicago, the Lions roared to a 30-13 lead—and Bush jetted around the field for 136 yards on 14 touches. Great signing by GM Martin Mayhew.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco. After slumping through the season’s first three games, Gore, 30, played like Gore, 23. “A-plus-plus,’’ is how coach Jim Harbaugh graded Gore’s 20-carry, 153-yard performance in the surprising rout of the Rams Thursday night. “Very Frank Gore-like. Pure attitude.”
Defensive Players of the Week
Kiko Alonso, MLB, Buffalo. The second-round rookie is proving his worth as a rangy sideline-to-sideline playmaker in his first month on the job. He picked off two Joe Flacco passes and knocked two more away from their targets Sunday as the Bills stunned Baltimore.
Aqib Talib, CB, New England. He didn’t win every battle with Falcons wideouts Sunday night. He actually lost one. He gave up one completion, for one yard, and was huge in the Patriots’ fourth win of the young season. Talib, invaluable, is tied for the league lead with four interceptions.
Alterraun Verner, CB, Tennessee. Co-leads the league with four picks (with Talib and Alonso), and he had two of them against Geno Smith of the Jets on Sunday, along with recovering a fumble. Verner has become one of the most instinctive corners in football, and no player has accounted for as many takeaways this early in the season as Verner’s six (four picks, two fumble recoveries).
NaVorro Bowman, ILB, San Francisco. Memo to Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio: Blitz Bowman more. Bowman had two sacks, two quarterback hits and three quarterback pressures in the 35-11 rout of the Rams. He deflected a pass and forced a fumble too, and had six tackles. I’ve always thought Bowman to be the equal of Patrick Willis, which is not an insult to either man if you’ve watched the 49ers much. Two great, great players.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Dexter McCluster, KR/RB, Kansas City. The Giants trailed 10-7 late in the third quarter and were making a great game of it until punter Steve Weatherford booted it to McCluster, standing at his 11-yard line. McCluster never was touched, and he juked two Giants so badly that they fell to the turf at Arrowhead. McCluster’s return was the vital play of the game.
Steven Hauschka, K, Seattle. His 48- and 39-yard field goals in regulation helped push the game to overtime on a day Seattle’s offense moved in fits and starts. And with 3:19 left in overtime, he nailed a 45-yard game-winner that would have been good from 65 to win it, 23-20.
Coach of the Week
Rob Chudzinski, head coach, Cleveland. “You’re 2-0 since you gave up on the season,’’ I told Chudzinski Sunday night. He said: “Good thing nobody told that to our players.” Chudzinski may have some guys on his team looking at the brass cross-eyed for trading Trent Richardson after two weeks, but it’s a tribute to Chudzinski that the players are playing as hard as any group in the league. The defense held Cincinnati to 266 yards Sunday in a 17-6 win. “Winning reinforces the good things,’’ he said, “and these guys have worked hard. They don’t care about what the perception is on the outside.’’ Speaking of hard work, the Browns have the Thursday night game this weekend, and Chudzinski was in tape-studying mode by 6:45 Sunday night.
Goat of the Week
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore. He threw five interceptions at Buffalo, leading to 13 Buffalo points, and the Ravens lost by three. Not good.