Most everyone, including oddsmakers, anointed three teams as real Super Bowl contenders. The Pats were Vegas' preseason favorite, followed by the Colts and Chargers. After this week, it's going to look like Indianapolis is the real No. 1 team.
The Pats and Chargers may win on Sunday, but neither is going to come out looking good. Here's why:
The Patriots are 6 ½-point favorites over the Jets, a number that seems big for this kind of rivalry. The final score of New England's 37-16 win over New York in last year's playoffs might have folks overestimating the Pats' edge. The Jets were in the game until late and the final score was skewed by two big New England defensive plays near the end.
Jets coach Eric Mangini obviously knows the Patriots' system well. New York won in Foxboro and almost upset New England in the Meadowlands during the regular season. Mangini should have answers to whatever the Pats try on offense. And the Pats' D will be without DE Richard Seymour and S Rodney Harrison, and CB Asante Samuel hasn't played all preseason.
The Jets will find a way to make this game very ugly. I think the Patriots win 19-17, and next week's headlines question whether all their offseason moves were worth it.
Refresh my memory, how many good teams did the Chargers beat last year? One? Two? Did they beat a team with a defense like Chicago's? Did they prove anything in big national spotlight game?
Most people seem to focus more on the Bears' flaws instead of what they did right last year. When Tommie Harris was in the lineup, their defense won games on its own with ease. If Harris can return to form, Chicago could have surprising success bottling up LaDainian Tomlinson. And that would mean all Bears QB Rex Grossman would have to do is avoid big mistakes for the Bears to stay in the game.
I still think the Chargers find a way to win at home. But I don't think it will be the kind of dominant performance we saw from the Colts on Thursday.
So get ready for all the power rankings to have Indy as a strong No. 1 next week.