Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Powerlines - Week 15

Craig and Skeemo in their natural environment on Thanksgiving.

Thought I'd post a few pictures to reward the non-sports fan for surfing on over before I get into the heavy-duty, skin-deep analysis of the NFL. But I saved the best photo for last...the future quarterback of the Denver Broncos...Luke "Cuteler" Dodge.

Now on to the Week 15 Powerlines...

1. Titans – Back in the saddle at number one for the time being, but I feel about as good with them at number one as I did with Alabama at number one in the polls before last weekend…I can’t really put anyone else at number one, but I’m not convinced they are staying there. Kerry Collins is still Kerry Collins, and I keep waiting for him to remember that.

2. Giants – Was that a hiccup, or do they miss the ability to stretch the field with Harris Smith? I’d still feel good if I were a Giants fan, but I’d no longer feel invincible.

3. Steelers – That defense is awesome, but Tony Romo deserves a playoff share for his role in their win against the Cowboys on Sunday. Thanks to NFL regional exclusivity lockouts, I was not able to watch the Cowboys fall apart in the final eight minutes, but I know a choke job when I follow along with one on CBS Sportsline Game Tracker.

4. Panthers – Welcome to the list of contenders, Carolina. That game Monday night felt like a Nuke Laloosh first pitch fastball…They announced their presence with authority. Steve Smith and the two headed running back and a strong defense are enough for me to believe in the Panthers as on the short list for teams that could go all the way.

5. Colts – After barely doing enough to beat the Browns last week, the Colts completed the second half of the Ohio two-step in much more convincing fashion. The Bengals were in the game right up until the national anthem.

6. Ravens – Stomping the Redskins on national TV and making it look easy. Flacco and company are not who you want to draw in the AFC playoffs.

7. Buccaneers – Falling apart against the Panthers does not invalidate a very strong season being put together in Tampa. I don’t think they have enough offense to be a serious contender once January rolls around, but with their defense playing great (at least until they gave up 300 rushing yards on Monday Night) they can put a scare into anybody. By the way, did you see that ridiculous catch Antonio Bryant made on Monday night? If not, find a highlight somewhere…that was a thing of beauty.

8. Cowboys – This team has a ton of potential and gobs of talent, but they have a knack for choking. If they can’t finish very strong, Dallas may look back at the second half of the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh as the moment that they missed the playoffs.

9. Eagles – The rest of the league is thanking Philadelphia for bringing the Giants back to earth. The talking heads are now talking about how the Eagles might be able to win the Super Bowl, if they are somehow able to make the playoffs first. This team is the perfect bizarro team for a bizarro season, two weeks ago they were left for dead after playing to a tie against the horrible Bengals and getting obliterated by the Ravens, now people are mentioning them in the same breath as the Super Bowl. No wonder my weekly rankings make zero sense from week to week, because the NFL doesn’t make sense from week to week.

10. Falcons – With only three week left to play, the playoffs are not out of the question for Atlanta. That fact alone makes the 2008 season a roaring success for the Falcons, regardless of how they finish the season. The renaissance of the Falcons so soon after the scorched earth situation of the Michael Vick dog fighting conviction and Bobby Petrino’s ignominious exit mid season last year is one of the best NFL stories of the year. This team was lifeless and soulless a year ago, and now you need to bring your “A” game if you want to beat them. My guess is they fall just shy of the postseason, but they should have a winning season this year, which is more than anyone expected from them.

11. Cardinals – These guys have already wrapped up a division championship and a home playoff game. Not that it’s been a long time for the Cards between home playoff games, but the last time that they played a home postseason game Harry Truman was president. That’s not a joke or a misprint, the last time the Cardinals played a postseason game at home was 1947 when they were the Chicago Cardinals. In the intervening sixty-one years since they have moved from Chicago to Saint Louis, and then again from Saint Louis to Arizona. So if you remember their last home playoff game, and you were twenty at the time it occurred, you are now eighty one years old. No matter how you slice it, that is a Loooooong gap between having home cooking for the playoffs. Hope Cardinals fans enjoy this game coming up in January, because at this rate it will be 2069 before they get another one.

12. Vikings – I still don’t believe that this is the best team in the NFC North, and yet, there they are at the top of the standings. I am finally showing them some respect, because they are likely going to win this division and because they are also probably better than I thought, but I can’t see their stay in the playoffs lasting too long once they are there. This team, much like my beloved Broncos, seems like a team that is benefiting from a weaker division, and will likely lose in the first round.

13. Patriots – There are no style points in NFL records, and an ugly win counts just the same as a pretty one. That said, I hope the New England faithful aren’t too proud of barely beating the Seahawks after trailing for the majority of the game. But a win is a win, and of the three teams tied at the top of the AFC East, I think they have the easiest road to winning the division.

14. Dolphins – Quite a turnaround in Miami this season, last year at this time they were 0-13 and hoping to pull out one game to avoid going winless. They did manage one win against the Ravens, and parlayed that into a team that is tied for first in their division this year. They finish with games against the 49ers, Chiefs, and Jets, which is manageable enough that they should not be counted out of the playoffs. They would be the first team to ever make the playoffs the season after winning only one game, which would be impressive. I think it would be awesome if Chad Pennington beat out the Jets for the division title for the rival Dolphins in the same season that he was cast out of New York for Brett Favre. That is definitely how I am rooting for it to end.

15. Broncos – As long as the Broncos are able to beat any of their final three games against the Panthers, Bills or Chargers, or the Chargers manage to lose just won more game against the likes of the Chiefs, Buccaneers or Broncos, then the Broncos will be in the playoffs and host a playoff game at Invesco Field. If you had offered that scenario to me at the beginning of the season, I would have taken it in a heartbeat. I don’t think that they will be able to clinch this weekend, because I think the Panthers are too good at home for the Broncos, and I can’t see the Chiefs beating the Chargers either, but I do think it will happen the following week with either San Diego losing to the Bucs or the Broncos beating the Bills. I sincerely hope that it doesn’t come down to the season finale in San Diego, because I don’t think the Broncos will win that one, and I would hate to have them fall apart like that to miss the playoffs when they appear as close as they are today.

16. Jets – Don’t you just hope that Brett Favre can make it to the playoffs so that he can do what he does best? Throw season crippling interceptions at crucial times in playoff games. I would hate to see a postseason in which he doesn’t get an opportunity to kill his team’s chances, you want a gunslinger like Favre to go out doing what he does best.

17. Saints – Pierre Thomas looks poised to fill the Deuce McAllister role of stud running back for the Saints that isn’t named Reggie Bush. Do you think that the Saints regret using such a high pick on Reggie Bush for him to essentially be a high paid third down back?

18. Bears – They will need to win out and get some help if they want to make the playoffs, and I don’t think that they are consistent enough to do it. They need to draft a good quarterback if they want to move back into the elite in the league. The Kyle Ortons and Rex Grossmans of the world aren’t going to get it done.

19. Packers – This is the best 5-8 team in the league, talk about a team that is snake bit. They should be contending, but they can’t get their defense off the field when it matters most and that has cost them any chance at a special season. Their last best chance was at home against Houston last weekend, and in typical Packer fashion, losing on the last play of the game in a game they should have won. You can talk all you want about the pressure that Aaron Rodgers is under, but if your defense can’t keep teams from rallying in the last minute, it’s hard to blame the quarterback for that. They should be better, but the fact remains they have lost five of their last six ballgames.

20. Redskins – Despite having a stretch when they won six of seven games, the Redskins are crumbling under the weight of a rough schedule. They have lost four of their past five, which is understandable when those losses have come to powerhouses like the Cowboys, Ravens, Steelers, and Giants. The season ends more gently than it has been lately with games against the Bengals, Eagles and 49ers, but with a 7-6 record in the NFC East, the die is pretty much cast against the Redskins playoff chances. Plus they haven’t exactly been looking very strong lately anyway, and with Clinton Portis ripping his head coach Jim Zorn, Skins fans shouldn’t hold much hope for the final three games.

21. Texans – Too little, too late. After stumbling out of the starting blocks, Houston is finally starting to look like the team that many expected to have a breakout season, but the best they can finish is 9-7, which while it would qualify as the Texan’s finest season to date, 9-7 probably
won’t earn any playoff spots for Houston.

22. Chargers – Their playoff hopes are on life support, but they have clinched the title of “2008’s most disappointing team.” I don’t want to count the Bronco division titles before they are hatched (especially with as shaky as the Broncos can be at times), but it would appear that the leading preseason pick for the Super Bowl is going to finish with a losing record. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t watched it unfold all year. I’d like to send out a special note to Antonio Gates. You, Sir, are on notice! Scoring zero fantasy points for me during the fantasy playoffs is a surefire way to get your butt benched for the remainder of the fantasy playoffs. My Floppy Llamas deserve better than that from the tight end position, and I expect better from you, Mr. “Unanimous Best Tight End pick in the draft.” Lucky for you, the Llamas were able to come together as a team despite your poor performance to make it to the second round, but I am going to need some production this week. We are one win away from the fantasy Super Bowl, and every man needs to pull his weight so at the end of the season you can be called, “Champion.”

23. Bills – This team seems to be following the path of last years Lions team. Start out the season really strong in first place in your division, get your fans excited, then fall apart in the second half. It’s hard to remember now, but the Lions actually started out 6-2 and were in first place last year before winning just one more game and finishing 7-9. The Bills are doing the same thing this season, having started out at 5-1, and they are now 6-7, with three tough games to finish out the season at the Jets and at the Broncos before the season finale at home versus the Patriots. Between this second half collapse and seeing your team play a “home” game in Toronto this past Sunday, it’s gotta be hard to be keeping the faith in Bills country. Interesting note pointed out this week in Gregg Easterbrook’s excellent “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” column on The Bills offensive output in their last three games: 54 points, 3 points, 3 points.

24. 49ers – Beating the Jets on Sunday was an impressive win for the 49ers, Coach Crazy is motivating his team well enough, that now I will be surprised if he doesn’t get to keep the job in San Francisco, which is good, because the more Mike Singletary antics we have in our lives, the better.

25. Jaguars – Call this team Rover, because they are rolling over and playing dead. Actually, to say they are playing like dogs is an insult to dogs. Effort is required to win NFL games, and Jack Del Rio’s bunch is not giving any, which is why they are losing.

26. Browns – The Browns are trying to compete with Ken Dorsey and his 37.4 QB rating. Since I do not have an advanced degree in mathematics, I don’t understand the complicated formula used to determine quarterback rankings. Plus, any system where the highest possible score is 158.3 seems weird to me, but I do know that a 37.4 is not going to win many games.

27. Chiefs – Herm Edwards doesn’t have too much talent, and he hasn’t won many games, but to his credit, his team plays hard every week and is showing definite signs of improvement. Now if Herm understood how to manage a game, the clock, and his timeouts, he might be on to something with this NFL coaching thing.

28. Seahawks – There are no such things as moral victories in the NFL, but I have to imagine that in a lost season in Seattle that the Seahawks were more proud of their close but not quite effort against the Patriots than they were of most of their losses this season.

29. Raiders – After a brief blip of competency, Oakland is back to being the train wreck by the Bay, getting buried and held to zero offensive touchdowns by the mediocre Chargers last Thursday night.

30. Bengals – Stick a stamp on the Bengals, because they are mailing it in.

31. Rams – The Rams are lucky that the Lions exist this year, in a normal season without an all time historically bad team like Detroit, this team would be a cinch for worst in the league.

32. Lions – Three losses away from the glory of a winless year. Don’t go and make a mistake like putting it together for a game and accidently winning one, you have a chance for history and each and every one of you have to not want it bad enough to make sure you go out there and continue to stink and chase history! One loss at a time, Detroit, one loss at a time.

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