NFL season breakdown

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After several weeks of play, the 2009 NFL season is starting to take shape with a few surprise teams at the top—and at the bottom—of the standings.

Without further ado, here’s a look at each of the divisions through Week 4:

NFC North

The addition of Brett Favre to the Minnesota Vikings was arguably the biggest news heading into the season. Playing alongside standout running back Adrian Peterson, Favre has not only produced headlines, but also wins an epic Monday night performance against his former team—and division foe—the Green Bay Packers.

The Chicago Bears also acquired a big-time quarterback in Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos. After struggling mightily in the first game of the season, Cutler has the Bears firing on all cylinders and looking to challenge the Vikings for the NFC North title. And after a 19-game skid, the Detroit Lions finally recorded a victory when they beat Washington in Week three.

NFC East

Aided by a consistent offense and a solid defense, the New York Giants (4-0) lead the pack in this perennial powerhouse division and are regarded by many as the best team in the league. In second place, the Philadelphia Eagles—despite losing starting quarterback Donovan McNabb in the first game of the season—are 2-1, while Dallas (2-2) and Washington (2-2) round out the division.

NFC South

One of the biggest surprises of the year is the New Orleans Saints. An offensive juggernaut heading into the season, the Saints beefed up their defense with additions like veteran safety Darren Sharper and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. With second-year signal caller Matt Ryan at the helm, the Atlanta Falcons are perched at 2-1. The two bottom feeders in the division are Carolina and hapless Tampa Bay.

NFC West

Barring an unbelievable, last-second play by Favre, the San Francisco 49ers would be listed among the unbeatens. If running back Frank Gore can remain healthy, the Niners will be the favorites to win this cream puff division that includes Arizona, Seattle, and St. Louis.

AFC North

The Baltimore Ravens and the surprising Cincinnati Bengals sit on top of this division. The Pittsburgh Steelers—last year’s Super Bowl winners—have struggled out of the gate at 2-2. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns are—well, the Cleveland Browns are 0-4.

AFC East

Tom Brady is back from injury to lead the New England Patriots while rookie Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets has been turning heads. Miami and Buffalo sit at the bottom.

AFC South

Peyton Manning has the Indianapolis Colts sitting pretty at 4-0 while Jacksonville and Houston each hover at 2-2. Last year’s division winners—the Tennessee Titans—have inexplicably fallen to the bottom at 0-4.

AFC West

Despite all the offseason drama that swirled around them, the Denver Broncos are undefeated and have silenced the critics of first-year head coach Josh McDaniels. The San Diego Chargers—division winners for the past three years—are 2-2, while Oakland and Kansas City take their usual spots near the bottom.