1. Denver (5-0). Exhilaratingly exasperating on defense. But the offense looks unstoppable.
2. New Orleans (5-0). Building a 23-7 lead and coasting is great for the confidence of a team that might have to play outdoors in January.
3. Indianapolis (4-1). Andrew Luck owns the fourth quarter. What a fabulous career he’s going to have.
4. Seattle (4-1). Why Seattle Must Play At Home in January Dept.: Seattle in Seattle this year—‘Hawks 74, Foes 20 in two games. Seattle on the road this year—‘Hawks 63, Foes 61 in three.
5. Kansas City (5-0). Allowing 11.6 points per game gets you in my top five.
6. San Francisco (3-2). The meltdowns to Seattle and Indianapolis are in the rearview mirror. Scoring 69 points against the Rams and Texans helps. And their next five weeks are pretty tolerable: Arizona, at Tennessee, Jacksonville in London, bye, Carolina.
7. Cincinnati (3-2). Beat Aaron Rodgers. Lost to Brian Hoyer. Beat Tom Brady. All in 15 days.
8. New England (4-1). Hard to say what that loss in the rain meant, but the protection of Tom Brady simply must get better—and Rob Gronkowski might want to play one of these weeks.
9. Green Bay (2-2). They’ll petition the league for eight home games against Detroit every year. I think they’d rather play the Lions at home than the Jags.
10. Baltimore (3-2). Good win to pull it out in Miami, but this is something John Harbaugh frets about: Last year, Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce averaged 4.6 yards per carry. This year: 2.9.
11. Dallas (2-3). One of the craziest games in Cowboys history. In NFL history. Showed how great, and how maddening, Tony Romo can be in one game.
12. Detroit (3-2). Calvin Johnson missed the game, out of nowhere, and it showed. The Lions played like they had a thorn in their collective paw.
13. Tennessee (3-2). Ryan Fitzpatrick has to be better than 24 of 49 through five quarters to salvage the Titans’ playoff hopes while Jake Locker mends.
14. Chicago (3-2). Outscored by 16 the last two weeks, but an elixir’s on the way: the Giants, at home, Thursday night.
15. Atlanta (1-3). Speaking of New Jersey teams you like to see coming to your place … Jets at Falcons tonight.
The Award Section
Offensive Players of the Week
Julius Thomas, TE, Denver. His nine catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns came in many different forms, but the most unusual was a shovel pass you could barely see, Peyton Manning opening the Denver scoring with a four-yard sideways toss to the first-year starter.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis. So hard not to fall in love with this guy, watching him consistently. His five-catch, 140-yard performance in the win over Seattle was the latest in a string of games that shows Indianapolis has drafted well to supplement Andrew Luck in this new era. Hilton’s 73-yard touchdown catch and run up the right sideline was a perfect example of speed, agility and tightrope-walking.
Defensive Players of the Week
Charles Woodson, FS, Oakland. A historic night for the great Woodson, who turns 37 today. His third-quarter 25-yard fumble return against San Diego was the 13th touchdown of his career, tying an NFL record for defensive players. And his game-sealing interception of Philip Rivers in the final minute was the 56th pick of his career, tying him with Lem Barney and Pat Fischer for 17th on the NFL’s all-time list. Woodson looks good in silver and black.
Tramaine Brock, CB, San Francisco. Call him Wally Pipp—you’ll have to Google (or Bing) that if you need to know what it means. Suffice it to say Brock subbed for the injured Nnamdi Asomugha at nickel cornerback Sunday night, and it’s going to be tough for Asomugha to get his job back after the 34-3 beatdown of the Texans Sunday night. Brock pick-6’ed Matt Schaub on the opening drive of the game, then intercepted Schaub again in the second quarter. The two picks led to 14 Niners points.
Robert Mathis, OLB, Indianapolis. With his 100th and 101st career sacks in the 34-28 win over previously unbeaten Seattle, Mathis, a ‘tweener of a fifth-round pick 10 years ago, became the 30th player in NFL history to record 100 sacks. “He’s the benchmark for any young player coming in here,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said.
Terrell Suggs, OLB, Baltimore. Suggs had three sacks in a seven-minute span of the fourth quarter, and his final two came within a minute of each other on the Dolphins drive that stalled and handed the Ravens the ball for the game-winning field goal. Impressive that Suggs had that much left in the tank on an 87-degree afternoon in Miami during a 26-23 Baltimore win.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Kevin Huber, P, Cincinnati. See above.
Jermaine Kearse, WR/punt rush, Seattle. This guy has turned into an important and versatile weapon for the Seahawks. In the first half at Indianapolis, he blocked a Pat McAfee punt, and it bounced into the end zone and out of it for a safety. That made it 12-0 Seattle. After two quick Indy touchdowns, Kearse, an undrafted second-year wideout from Washington, caught a touchdown pass from Russell Wilson, making it 19-14.
Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore. Can’t get much better than this guy. Tucker kicked field goals of 42, 50, 25 and 44 Sunday in Miami, and the last one won the game with 1:42 to play. In his 13-month career with Baltimore, Tucker is 45 of 50 on field goals, making all 22 attempts from inside 40.
Coach of the Week
Adam Gase, offensive coordinator, Denver. For the smooth transition from Mike McCoy at offensive coordinator and offensive play-caller, for being able to bond quickly with a quarterback who clearly respects him (Peyton Manning), and for piloting an offense that’s putting up 46 points a game through five weeks.
Goat of the Week
Matt Schaub, QB, Houston. It’s sad to watch the implosion of this productive player. And make no mistake—he’s imploding before our eyes. For the fourth straight game, an NFL record, he had an interception returned for touchdown, this one 90 seconds into the first quarter. It was one of three picks in all for Schaub. Though coach Gary Kubiak said Schaub remains the starter, it’d be a shock if Schaub can hang onto the job with one more poor performance Sunday at home against the Rams. Who, by the way, have a risk-taking secondary.