"They are the best team in the league right now. I have to knit-pick to find something wrong with them." - Marshall Faulk on the Falcons.
The Atlanta Falcons were the hot team, the team to beat in the NFL, the sure-thing lock for the Super Bowl, until they lost to the New Orleans Saints. Then they weren't.
"The Falcons need to be able to run the ball when everyone in the stadium knows you are going to run the ball." - Steve Mariucci on the Atlanta Falcons' potential fatal flaw.
The Houston Texans were the hot team, the team to beat in the NFL, then they lost to the New England Patriots. Then they weren't.
"The Houston Texans were exposed vs. New England and no one is scared of them anymore. Matt Schaub has no mobility. That is a problem." - Deion Sanders.
"Tom Brady is going to carve up the San Francisco 49ers defense." - Deion Sanders
The New England Patriots were the hot team, the team to beat in the NFL, then they lost to the San Francisco 49ers. Then they weren't.
As usual, with the Patriots, it's Tom Brady, and his tight ends and a bunch of ghosts on defense. Their window has already slammed shut. They just don't know it - pretender. - Jim Rome.
The San Francisco 49ers were the hot team, the team to beat in the NFL, then they lost to the Seattle Seahawks. Then they weren't.
The Seattle Seahawks are currently the hot team in the NFL. The team to beat. Everyone is talking about them.
"Seattle is good enough to get the Super Bowl." - Deion Sanders
This week-to-week "hot team" stuff gets weary after awhile. In the midst of all of this, the Denver Broncos have reeled off 10 wins in a row, and while they have gotten some discussion (mostly from New England fans and media who are scared to death of Peyton Manning) their accomplishment doesn't rate the "hot team" status given on a week-to-week basis by the national media. Consistent doesn't equal "hot" I guess.
Some try to downplay the Broncos streak by claiming that they have played a very weak schedule. That was the same ammunition aimed at the Patriots this year and last. Dan Shaughnessy repeatedly used the term "tomato cans" to describe the Patriots schedule. It's hard to win in the NFL. Fans resented when the Patriots allegedly soft scheduled was used against them in the past, I don't put stock in it when it comes to Denver.
There are some proclamations out there about the Broncos being the team "no one wants to face" but when you think about it, does any team want to face the Patriots? You can see what a meaningless statement that really is.
Why can't we look at an entire season of work, or look at how things are trending on more than a week-to-week basis? Once again it is the "instant reaction" age in which we live.
If one looks objectively at the entire league, all of those teams above are pretty good, including the Broncos. In the AFC, you would say the Patriots, Broncos and Texans all have a chance to represent the conference in the Super Bowl. In the NFC, the Falcons, 49ers and Seahawks, along with probably the Packers are the top teams in the conference.
It might be the most competitive NFL season in years. This weekend's playoff seedings and the upcoming playoffs promise us some terrific weekends of football. Lets enjoy them, and then in February, we can anoint a team as the "hot" team and the one to beat in the NFL.
Bruce Allen is a Media Columnist for SB Nation Boston. Twitter: @BruceAllen.