After that, most polls have in some order: the Saints, Steelers, Patriots, Ravens, Texans, Bears, Giants, and Lions/Cowboys/Bengals rounding out the top ten.
The Saints generally appear anywhere from third (ESPN.com, Don Banks) to sixth (NFL.com, Brian Billick), with the Ravens, Steelers and Patriots in the same vicinity.
The Saints have already beaten the Bears and Texans at home and lost to the Packers on the road. But how to they compare head-to-head to other top teams? Let’s start with the AFC.
The Ravens have been about as inconsistent as the Saints this year. They’ve had some good wins, but they’ve also lost to Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Seattle.
The Saints have three solid wins (Chicago, Houston, at Atlanta) and the best showing of any team so far against the mighty Packers. But they lost to the Rams, who are every bit as bad as the Seahawks, and at Tampa Bay, which is comparable to the Raven’s loss at Tennessee.
The Ravens have what many consider to be the best defense in the league. Their offense can be great, but can also be pretty awful, and generally is just okay-to-good. Joe Flacco can be impressive, but he’s inconsistent, and he’s not on Brees’ level.
The Saints have one of the best offenses in the league. Drew Brees is not only a top-3 quarterback, but has played well in the playoffs in recent years. New Orleans’ defense will have a handful of good games, a handful of terrible games, and mostly slightly-below-average games this season.
These teams would appear to be pretty even on a neutral field. Give the advantage to the team with the better quarterback and coach.