SPORTS

  /  

October 9, 2001

NFL's list of bests includes surprises, old standbys

Now that the season has warmed up, it's time to start sizing up the National Football League. And like many pundits, I've taken this opportunity to rank and rate the league as I see it.

The Ten Best Teams in the NFL

1. Rams (4-0)

Most solid looking team of 2001. Defense is overachieving as it did in 1999 and appears to be benefiting from new faces.

2. Ravens (3-1)

They look like the Ravens of late 2000. Must prove they won't slip up against a team like the Bengals again.

3. Broncos (3-1)

Their defense is now under Ray Rhodes' spell. Anderson, Smith, Griese, and the O-line can pulverize most NFL defenses.

4. Raiders (3-1)

Only loss came to quality opponent Miami. Gannon is still in the midst of a late-career surge.

5a. Dolphins (3-1)

Lamar Smith is the type of back that wins championships for defensively oriented teams.

5b. Packers (3-1)

Lost their first test against a strong opponent, but should remain a major force in what used to be the NFL's strongest division.

7. Giants (3-1)

Still not an elite team, but they will probably repeat in the NFC east. They win games without flash.

8. Chargers (3-1)

Tomlinson has a knack for the spectacular. Flutie is the perfect man to inspire a team that always worked hard but lacked will to win.

9. Colts (2-1)

Most unbalanced team to make the top ten. The offense is the first and last line of defense against losing like they did vs. the Patriots.

10. Browns (3-1)

Pete's thugs appear to have changed their entire attitude. Years of high-round talent will win games when they believe they can.

The Five Worst Teams in the NFL

31. Redskins (0-4)

Could a complete melt-down happen to a more annoying organization? Well, since the Ravens look good this year, no.

30. Lions (0-3)

Matt Millen doesn't have the personnel yet to turn this team around. I hope that upper management doesn't nervously remove him.

29. Cowboys (0-4)

Courageous effort against the Raiders doesn't erase nightmares of the once-proud, always gaudy America's team.

28. Bills (0-4)

Without talent or a coherent plan for recovery, the Bill are in trouble. There's no way around it: Rob Johnson isn't a good quarterback.

27. Titans (0-3)

The defense is playing worse than predicted, and even more shocking, worse than most other NFL teams. But, they will improve.

NFL Offensive MVP

1.Kurt Warner, QB Rams

The lynch-pin of the scarriest offense in the NFL. He throws the ball quickly, to places where most can't, setting up huge gains.

2. Rod Smith, WR Broncos

Former practice-squad player is delivering in ways the more talented Randy Moss can't. He is filling in for McCaffery and Kennison.

3. Ahman Green, RB Packers

The burst that he shows between the tackles sure is pretty.

4. Donovan McNabb, QB Eagles

His touchdown to interception ratio is the best in the NFL (nine TDs, two ints). McNabb once again must step up with Staley out.

5. LaDanian Tomlinson, RB Chargers His cut-back ability fulfills his NFL combine promise. San Diego has a legitimate offensive star on its hands for the first time in years.

NFL Defensive MVP

1. Peter Boulware, OLB Ravens

With four sacks, two forced fumbles, and three passes defended, this guy has exemplified the Ravens' defensive dominance.

2. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, DE Packers

On a pace for 36 sacks this year. Combine that with two forced fumbles and you have MVP material. But will it last?

3. Michael Strahan, DE Giants

Three sacks and two forced fumbles against the Saints were key to close win. The Giants need his strength on the D-Line.

4. Kevin Hardy, LB Jaguars

Leads the league in solo-tackles (31). He has racked up three sacks and has been a force against opposing passing games.

5. Deltha O'Neal, CB Broncos

Take away the record-tying four interceptions on Sunday, and he's still got an impressive nine passes defended. The Broncos have a gem.