Commentary

Which team is NFL's best, Giants, Steelers or Titans?

The Giants can play any style, and the Steelers are competitive every week. But for now, the Titans have the only unblemished record.

Originally Published: October 16, 2008
By | ESPN.com

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Eli Albert and BenUS PresswireThe Giants' Eli Manning, left, and the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, right, keep their teams' offenses in high gear, while the Titans depend on their defense, led by Albert Haynesworth, center.
Once upon a time this season, there seemed to be little debate as to where the class of the NFL resided. Last season, the NFC East boasted three playoff teams, including the eventual Super Bowl champion. All four division teams have been impressive for stretches so far. But recent upsets have spurred more questions about which teams really reign supreme this season. Our experts have their own ideas as to which team is the NFL's best.

Giants: No other team is as balanced

Forget the loss to Cleveland; the New York Giants are still the best team in the league. They are extremely balanced, and there's not a team in the league that can win in so many different fashions. Smashmouth? No problem. Air it out and have a shootout? OK. Defensive struggle? Bring it on. The Giants are equipped to play any way.

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New York has one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Eli Manning. Others might have better stats, but because of their offensive balance, the Giants don't need their quarterback to be great every week. Manning can still be turnover-prone on occasion (see Monday night), but he keeps improving and his best football is still ahead of him.

The Giants also have the best running game in the NFL with Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. The offensive line is big (average size is 6-foot-3, 317 pounds) and athletic, and it can open holes in the running game and pass-protect equally well (only six sacks allowed). The Giants also offer plenty of weapons in the passing game, with both possession and quick-strike ability receivers.

The defense might not be as overpowering as last year's, but it is extremely well-coached and the secondary is improved from a year ago. The defensive line is still excellent, and although there are not as many toys for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to play with up front, it is hard to argue with the starters.

A few other teams could make a case for being the best, but they all have flaws. No team is as balanced on both sides of the ball as the Giants. That's why the reigning champs are the only choice right now when you ask which team is the NFL's best.

-- Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc.

Steelers: Consistency makes the difference

Just because the Pittsburgh Steelers consistently fly under the radar doesn't mean they don't deserve mention as an elite NFL team.

In fact, based on the inconsistency and upsets in Week 6, Pittsburgh (4-1) should be considered the league's best team at this very moment.

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All the pieces are in place. Pittsburgh's defense is ranked No. 2 in the NFL. Its offense has a legitimate superstar quarterback and a wealth of skill players. The Steelers are close to full strength coming off the bye and have played at a highly competitive level every week.

No other team in the NFL -- including the New York Giants (4-1) and Tennessee Titans (5-0) -- can claim all of these accolades.

The Giants lost by three touchdowns to the below-average Cleveland Browns (2-3) on Monday night. That level of irregularity should drop New York a couple of notches for now, especially if the old Eli Manning (three interceptions) shows up more often.

Tennessee hasn't been tested. Kerry Collins remains suspect at quarterback, and the team lacks game-breaking receivers. These are holes other elite teams eventually will expose later in the year.

The X factor in this debate rests with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

In a one-game scenario, which quarterback would you rather have under center: Roethlisberger, Collins or Manning? That is what it will come down to as all three teams probably will qualify for the postseason.

For now, the Steelers are not the trendy pick as the NFL's best team. But with their defense and quarterback, they are the safest.

-- James Walker, AFC North blogger

Titans: Winning without stars

The Tennessee Titans don't have the most talented roster in the league. They don't have a quarterback who is going to post a big passer rating. They don't have receivers who get anyone on the outside excited.

A team that builds on the draft is without the sixth pick in the 2005 draft (Pacman Jones) and isn't playing the third pick from 2006 (Vince Young).

But the Titans have a roster and a staff that know their capabilities and understand that if they follow their plan and shape a game the way they can, wins will follow.

As the league's only undefeated team, the Titans (5-0) might not have faced the stiffest tests and might not have pieced together the prettiest wins.

They have the formula that teams such as last year's New York Giants, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers rode to Super Bowl titles: a defense that can dominate, a running game that can eat up clock and help grind out drives, and a quarterback capable of avoiding killer mistakes.

The Titans have a defensive line that puts constant pressure on the quarterback and an offensive line that keeps people off Kerry Collins and creates creases for Chris Johnson and LenDale White to run through. At plus-6, they have the best turnover ratio in the league.

Tennessee doesn't have the pedigree of the Giants or the tradition of the Steelers. What the Titans do have right now, however, is a better team -- the league's best.

-- Paul Kuharsky, AFC South blogger