It was a week where the strong took big strides toward solidifying themselves in division races. Eleven of last week's top 12 teams notched wins this week, with only Baltimore suffering a loss. New England, Indianapolis and Chicago gained significant footholds in their divisions, now all 3-0 in their respective races. Meanwhile, two preseason playoff favorites – Pittsburgh and Miami – slipped further into the abyss with yet another loss.
Here's a look at the overall league picture heading into Week 6.
THE TOP 12
1.Chicago Bears (5-0) – Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is going to be at the top of lists for head coaching vacancies this offseason. And offensive coordinator Ron Turner could get another shot in the college ranks, too.
2.Indianapolis Colts (5-0) – Wide receiver Brandon Stokley's injury issues have played a huge part in the struggles of the passing game. And five games into the season, the defense has been an absolute disappointment.
3.Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) – Even after the loss of end Jevon Kearse, the defensive line rotation has been arguably the best in the NFL. Cornerback Lito Sheppard, despite missing time with an ankle injury, is playing like a Pro Bowler again.
4.Seattle Seahawks (3-1) – How long are the Seahawks going to flirt with tragedy with defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes? Three instances of stroke-like symptoms since the beginning of the 2005 season should be a clear message that he needs to take some significant time off.
5.New England Patriots (4-1) – After an inconsistent start this season, cornerback Asante Samuel has been one of the Patriots' best defensive players. However, the team's record is a little hollow, with three of New England's wins coming against divisional teams that are a combined 5-10.
7.Denver Broncos (3-1) – The defense looks fantastic, and Tatum Bell is an adequate No. 1 running back. But as long as Jake Plummer is the starting quarterback, the offense will be significantly flawed.
8.Baltimore Ravens (4-1) – Running back Jamal Lewis still looks like a faint shadow of the player who once rushed for 2,000 yards. With Mike Anderson looking like a quicker option, how long before a change is made?
9.Atlanta Falcons (3-1) – Their next three games (home against the Giants and Steelers; at Bengals) should determine whether Atlanta is a Super Bowl contender or just another pretender.
11.New Orleans Saints (4-1) – A win this week against Philadelphia would cement the Saints as a season-long playoff contender. It was good to see running back/returner Reggie Bush finally get into the end zone, but his 3.1 yards per carry average has been disappointing.
THE MUDDLED MIDDLE (in alphabetical order)
Buffalo Bills (2-3) – It will be surprising if defensive tackle John McCargo's broken foot doesn't sideline him for the rest of the season. His loss is going to thin out the rotation, which means more long-term problems against the run.
Carolina Panthers (3-2) – Finally, DeShaun Foster flashed some of the skills that made him look like a feature back in the past. The injury to DeAngelo Williams is a bit worrisome, though. The last thing the Panthers need is to see the depth behind Foster begin to thin.
Cleveland Browns (1-4) – For all the things he picked up under Bill Belichick, coach Romeo Crennel has not mastered the art of getting his players to shut up during game week. Even more, guard Joe Andruzzi has been remarkably mediocre this season.
Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – Quarterback Drew Bledsoe won't have the starting job for much longer if he continues to make 1-2 big mistakes each game. And all of the talent at wideout is great, but Dallas needs to make running back Julius Jones a larger factor in the offense.
Houston Texans (1-3) – With a rough five weeks ahead, it's going to get worse for the Texans before it gets better. But there are plenty of positive signs. Particularly on offense, where wide receivers Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds should be a viable 1-2 punch beyond this season.
Miami Dolphins (1-4) – Coach Nick Saban's little feud with quarterback Daunte Culpepper doesn't bode well. Historically, Culpepper has not responded well to adversity. That said, Joey Harrington isn't going to solve any of the offensive problems, either.
Minnesota Vikings (3-2) – Finally, the Vikings break 20 points. And it only took two defensive touchdowns. That offensive line should be getting better push in the run game.
New York Giants (2-2) – Producing only five sacks in four games is troubling, particularly when only three of them have come from Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan. On the bright side, quarterback Eli Manning is looking far more accurate than last season.
New York Jets (2-3) – You can understand wide receiver Laveranues Coles being upset about his limited playing time in the second half of Sunday's loss. But it was the right call. There is no reason to endanger arguably your best offensive player, particularly when he went into the game banged up.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3) – It's not time to panic just yet, but clearly something is wrong with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. With the way the football has been floating on him, it might be an issue of mechanics as much as it is the mediocre receivers.
San Francisco 49ers (2-3) – Surrendering 370 yards to Oakland's offense is almost unfathomable. But the 49ers win with a defense that's predicated on forcing turnovers, so it's forgivable. This offense looks like it has the potential to be very good with some seasoning and fine tuning in the offseason.
Washington Redskins (2-3) – Running back T.J. Duckett and wide receiver David Patten aren't playing; wide receiver Brandon Lloyd doesn't seem to fit the scheme; and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El is looking like one of the most ridiculously overpaid moves of the offseason. If this continues, the Redskins are going to be strapped with a lot of dead roster weight.
Green Bay Packers (1-4) – Wide receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver should be a quality tandem for a long time going forward for the Packers. And running back Noah Herron's size makes him an intriguing player to watch over the next few weeks.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
28.Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4) – Coach Jon Gruden said in the preseason that quarterback Bruce Gradkowski had that “something” that starting quarterbacks require. He certainly seemed to have it against the Saints, looking as polished as Chris Simms ever has.
29.Arizona Cardinals (1-4) – The Larry Fitzgerald injury opens the door for fellow wide receiver Bryant Johnson to finally step up. And based on what he's shown dating back to the preseason, Johnson looks like he's ready to make an impact.
30.Detroit Lions (0-5) – Anyone else wondering if the William Clay Ford family is looking at the Detroit Tigers right now and feeling embarrassed? Every other major sports franchise in the city (including the WNBA team) has won either a playoff series or a championship over the last five years. Meanwhile, the lowly Lions have one playoff win since 1957 and a general manager who now has a combined record of 21-64 since taking over in 2001.
31.Tennessee Titans (0-5) – One thing quarterback Vince Young has going for him early in the season: His mobility inside and outside of the pocket is already giving defenses fits. Once he starts making better decisions throwing the ball, Tennessee's offense will get exponentially better.
32.Oakland Raiders (0-4) – With Justin Fargas eating into his carries, running back LaMont Jordan is looking like a monumental bust. And Andrew Walter looks like he's a long, long way from being a viable starting quarterback.