The six NFL teams with perfect records heading into Week 6 fall into two distinct categories.
"You have the Big Two and the Little Four," a veteran NFL coach said Sunday night.
The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots are the Big Two. They are the only unbeaten teams with future Hall of Fame quarterbacks playing at Canton-worthy levels right now. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook listed both among the top three Super Bowl favorites entering the season. They're supposed to be setting the pace.
The other four unbeaten NFL teams aren't bad, but how good are they? Is it time to buy the Andy Dalton-as-alpha-dog transformation in Cincinnati? Can the Denver Broncos win in spite of Peyton Manning (more interestingly, how long before they consider the unthinkable)? Where do the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers fit into this mix of teams with a combined 28-0 record?
Let's rank 'em.
1. Green Bay Packers
A coach who charted several of the top pass-rushing teams in recent weeks said Denver was the only team winning its one-on-one matchups more frequently than the Packers. That is hugely important and could prove pivotal if Green Bay faces New England in the Super Bowl. It's also an area where the Packers have the potential to improve if Clay Matthews rushes on early downs more frequently.
The Packers have done just about everything right organizationally in the past five-plus years, but lapses on defense and special teams have limited their championship prospects -- to the point that coach Mike McCarthy was willing to give up play-calling duties so he could focus on the bigger picture.
"They are only getting stronger," an evaluator from an NFC North rival said. "They pick up James Jones off the scrap heap and he looks great. They're using him on conversions, he's tight-roping along the sidelines. And then [general manager] Ted Thompson does almost nothing in free agency, but there is their second-round pick [Quinten Rollins] with a pick-six against St. Louis. It's just impressive. I think they are the best, but they are neck-and-neck with New England."