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Tom Jones' look at the best and worst of the NFL

The best team

F ive teams remain undefeated: the Colts, Broncos, Saints, Giants and Vikings. But we're not sure which ones are as good as their record.

The Colts have been as impressive as any team, but they haven't played a team that has a winning record now.

The combined record of the teams the Vikings have played is 7-17.

The Saints beat the Eagles but have faced two rookie quarterbacks (the Lions' Matthew Stafford and Jets' Mark Sanchez) and a team that really doesn't have a quarterback (sorry, fans of the Bills' Trent Edwards, but it's true).

Four of the five Giants victories have come against the Redskins, Raiders and two teams that haven't won, the Bucs and Chiefs.

The Broncos' schedule, at least, has included two good teams: the Bengals and Patriots.

So which team is the best? Honestly, right now, we might vote for the Bengals, even though they lost to the Broncos. Cincinnati (4-1) won at Green Bay and Baltimore, never easy trips, and beat rival Pittsburgh. If it wasn't for a fluky, you've-got-to-be-kidding deflection, the Bengals would've beaten the Broncos, too, and be 5-0.

The worst team

Four teams remain winless: the Bucs, Titans, Chiefs and Rams.

The head-scratcher is the Titans, who have lost more games this season (five) than all of last season (three). You have to think it's a perfect storm of things going wrong for a team to go from being that good to being this bad that fast. But the other three teams? They're all so bad that it's hard to figure out which one is the worst.

In these parts, we've seen up close how horrible the Bucs have been. The average margin of loss is 14 points, which in the NFL is awful. But you can look at it this way: The Bucs have played some decent teams — the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles. The Chiefs have played those same three teams and the Ravens, too.

The Rams, however, make a strong case for worst team in the NFL. They've scored 34 points in five games. No team has scored fewer. They've allowed 146. Only Detroit has given up more. They've been shut out twice and have allowed 35 points or more three times.

Meanwhile, there are several one-win teams in the discussion, too. Buffalo has one victory, and it came against Tampa Bay. Oakland, with an organization in shambles, has one victory, and it came against Kansas City. Cleveland has one victory, and it was an embarrassing 6-3 win against Buffalo.

It's hard to remember the last time there were this many bad teams in the league.

Team with best chance to go undefeated

This isn't like two seasons ago when the Patriots were blowing through everyone and you had the feeling they had a shot at going undefeated. No team seems so good that the 1972 Dolphins are starting to get nervous.

The Vikings play in too good of a division with road games at Green Bay and Chicago left, as well as a home date with Chicago. Plus, they still have the Giants, Steelers and Ravens to play. The Giants and Saints play this weekend, and the Giants' schedule is loaded. They have only two games left with teams that are now below .500. The Broncos and Saints have plenty of games against good teams.

But the Colts are intriguing because of how weak their division is. The Titans and Jaguars have suddenly turned bad, and the Texans are .500 at best. And the schedule looks manageable. The toughest tests left are the Ravens, Patriots, Broncos and Jets, but only the Baltimore game is on the road. Still, it would be surprising if the Colts go undefeated.

Team with best chance to go winless

Hate to say it, folks, but the Bucs appear to have the most difficult schedule of the winless teams. The Rams play in a weak division, so it's possible a victory could come there. Kansas City has another shot at Oakland, plus games at Jacksonville and at home against Buffalo. But the Bucs? They have two cracks at Carolina, which appears to be an ordinary team, but other than that the games that stand out are Miami on Nov. 15 and Seattle on Dec. 20. Problem is, both are on the road.

Most disappointing team

The defending champion Steelers and Cowboys look like something is missing, but both are still 3-2. The Chargers, Cardinals and Packers are 2-2, but better things were expected than .500. But the obvious answer is the 0-5 Titans, who went 13-3 last year. You have to think Vince Young is getting close to playing quarterback, though Kerry Collins isn't the only one to blame in Tennessee.

Most surprising team

We weren't sold on the Broncos … until Sunday. Remember that last year the Broncos started 3-0 and 4-1. Then they lost three in a row and closed the season with another three-game losing streak to finish 8-8. So when they started this season 4-0, we weren't looking for a seat on the bandwagon because they had beaten two dogs (the Browns and Raiders), needed a wacky deflection to beat the Bengals and beat a Cowboys team that is consistently inconsistent. Good victories, not great ones. But then Sunday, they had a great win. They beat an elite opponent, the Patriots.

And regardless of the competition, to give up 43 points in five games is amazing.

Now comes gut-check time for the Broncos. In the next six games, opponents include the Ravens, Steelers, Giants and Chargers twice. Trips to Indianapolis and Philadelphia also remain. But seeing as how the Broncos also have two games left against the Chiefs, as well as a meeting with the Redskins, they should improve on last season's .500 record.

Most inspirational team

There was no more touching scene in the NFL than the Bengals awarding the game ball to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, whose wife, Vikki, died Thursday at 50 of unknown causes. Vikki used to bake treats for the players on days after Bengal wins. With his father, son and one of his daughters with him, Zimmer coached Sunday in Baltimore because he said that's what Vikki would have wanted. The Bengals won. "Obviously it's a big win on the road in the division, but that was second to the Zimmer family," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "We know what Mike had to be going through … prior to the game and I'm sure right afterward, and maybe at times within."

Tom Jones' look at the best and worst of the NFL 10/12/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 12, 2009 10:12pm]
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