Here are my Power Rankings at the midpoint of the 2012 season.
- New York Giants (6-2). They lost the first game of the season by 7 points, and they lost to the Eagles by 2 points. They dominated the toughest game on their schedule, beating the 49ers 26-3. The Giants have everything a team needs to win a Super Bowl: An elite coach (Tom Coughlin), an elite quarterback (Eli Manning), two elite wide receivers (Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks), elite pass protection, elite pass rush and a very good running back (Ahmad Bradshaw).
- New England Patriots (5-3). They lost two games by one point and one game by two points. They have the most balanced offense in football, ranking fifth in both passing and rushing yards. Their defense allows only 88 rushing yards per game – 8th best in the NFL. And their rookie defensive end, Chandler Jones, already is one of the best DEs in the NFL.
- Houston Texans (6-1). They score 30.9 points per game and allow just 18.3. Matt Schaub has only been sacked 8 times. Arian Foster is one of the most talented runners in football and Andre Johnson is one of the best wide receivers.
- San Francisco 49ers (6-2). They’re clearly the class of their division. They have the best running offense in the NFL. The defense is still elite, but it’s not getting as much pressure as it did last season. The 49ers sack differential is -9 (the offense has taken 9 more sacks than the defense has garnered). Every other team in the top 5 has a positive sack differential. In fact, over the past 10 seasons, every Super Bowl winner has had a positive sack differential. The Niners have struggled this season when they’ve fallen behind early and been forced to pass and pass and pass. Still, the Niners are a Super Bowl contender.
- Denver Broncos (4-3). A balanced team that’s quickly improving. The offense can pass and run. The defense can rush the quarterback and stop the run. Von Miller is one of the best players in the NFL. Peyton Manning has lost zip on his throws, but he’s still one of the best quarterbacks.
The undefeated Atlanta Falcons do not crack my top 5. They’re one-dimensional. They can’t run or stop the run. They’re not a serious Super Bowl contender, like top 5 teams are.