Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Powerlines: Week 7 NFL Power Rankings

Will I ever get tired of taking pictures of people when they least expect it? Probably, but it hasn't happened yet.

The NFL is kind of like a woman, even though we'll never fully understand it, we are fascinated and keep trying to come up with a stable set of rules. Then, as soon as we think we have it down, she up and does forty-seven things that confuse you and make your rules meaningless, but here are this week's attempts to make sense of the senseless.

1. Colts – The Colts against the Rams is patently unfair. The Rams looked like a high school team trying to compete against Indianapolis. I almost feel like Peyton Manning should have played the first half with his left hand, Inigo Montoya style, because with his right hand it was over too quickly. The Colts are clearly an elite team in the NFL, and with games upcoming with the likes of the 49ers, Texans, Ravens, Patriots, and Broncos, they will get a chance to legitimize their greatness, as their six wins are not over the best teams in the NFL. Other than victories over two decent teams in the Cardinals and Dolphins, there is not much to get excited about with taking down the Jags, Seahawks, Titans and Rams.

2. Saints – Until Sunday’s game versus the Dolphins the Saints had never trailed in a game, so being down by 21 points on the road was a sizable challenge. They proved that their potent offense can work from behind as well as from ahead, and their defense allowed only 10 second half points, as the Saints prove that they have some heart in remaining undefeated with a huge statement win in Miami.

3. Patriots – I don’t think the Patriots liked being beaten in Denver. Since that day when the Broncos took them down in overtime, they have outscored their opponents 94-7, which is a pretty good output over a two week span…In fact, over the past two weeks, the Patriots have exceeded the entire season of point scoring for the Redskins, Rams, Browns, Titans, and Raiders and it equals the scoring for the Panthers. And why not, when they have such a dapperly dressed quarterback? This photo reminds me of that old segment on Sesame Street where they sang the song, “One of these things is not like the other, One of these things just doesn’t belong” Yup, I could guess before your song was done.

4. Vikings – Although I’d love to rip on Brett Favre for the Vikings loss, it’s not his fault. His interception was a fluke which bounced off of Chester Taylor’s hands and should have been caught, and his fumble which was taken back to the house should never have happened, as the Vikings should have had a lead towards the end of the game as the refs should never have called the Vikes for a tripping call, as no tripping ever actually happened. The Vikings have been living on luck, and on Sunday lady luck kissed the Steelers instead, but they are still playing some good football, and have to be considered the favorite in the NFC North.

5. Broncos – After a well deserved week off, the Broncos jump right back into the fire with a tough game at Baltimore. Will the magic carpet ride continue for Broncos fans? I sure hope so.

6. Steelers – Their win over Minnesota on Sunday was entertaining, but I’m not sure that the Pittsburgh faithful should find a ton of reasons to feel confident in it. Without a phantom tripping call on a Minnesota touchdown which was followed on the very next play by a huge momentum shifting 77 yard fumble return for a touchdown. The momentum shifted back to the Vikes as Percy Harvin took back the kickoff for a score and then held the Steelers to a punt. The game was sealed for the Steelers right as the Vikings moved into the red zone as a Brett Favre screen pass was inadvertently tipped up in the air by Chester Taylor and returned 82 yards for a touchdown by Keyaron Fox. When you’re winning games due to fluke interceptions and fumble returns, you’re lucky, but I’m not sure how good you are. The Super Bowl champs are clearly a good team, but I’m not sure they’re a great team.

7. Bengals – Okay, I’m in on the Bengals. They are an actual good team. They are capable of dropping a game at home that they should win. (See Texans, Houston) However, they are also capable of dropping a bomb on a decent team like the Bears. Their defense harassed Jay Cutler into multiple mistakes, and Carson Palmer was on fire, as was the charismatic but stupidly self-renamed Chad Ochocinco. (Seriously, can we please go back to calling him Chad Johnson? I like the guy, but this is a bad joke that is second year of being told.) When the Bengals are on their game, they are capable of giving anybody a game. They may even be able to win the AFC North. This game was the surprise of the weekend to me. I wasn’t surprised that they won so much as surprised they won by 35 points.

8. Ravens – Sunday’s game with the Broncos is huge for Baltimore. They are coming off of a bye, they are a good team that is unfortunately on a three game slide, and this game is way more important to them than it is to Denver. All of these signs point to a Raven victory, but all of those signs were present the last time the Broncos took the field, and yet they were able to take down the Chargers despite all of them. The Ravens really need this one a ton more than Denver does, as they cannot afford to fall much further behind the Steelers and Bengals, but if the Broncos have taught us anything thus far it’s that they should not be underestimated.

9. Cardinals – Suddenly Arizona looks like the class of the NFC West. Winning at Giants Stadium on Sunday night was big. They look to have recaptured the spark that they rode to the Super Bowl last year, and suddenly they may once again be a player in the NFC.

10. Giants - Dropping two in a row is worrisome for a team that half a month ago many were crowning as the best in all of football. Sunday night's game seemed like a given that the Giants would win, and yet the Cardinals outplayed them. Eli looked shaky, and the pass defense is suddenly very suspect.

11. Chargers – Dissecting the Chiefs puts the Bolts back at .500. At three games back of Denver, they are either finished or in perfect position to make their traditional second half run. Time will tell which option they take.

12. Cowboys – Breathe easier Cowboy fans, your team showed that it can play big against a legit team by taking down the Falcons in convincing fashion on Sunday. Despite looking very mediocre to begin this season, they find themselves with a respectable record of 4-2 and right in the middle of the NFC playoff hunt. The possibility even remains that the enormous testament to Jerry Jones’ ego in Irving known as the new Texas Stadium could host a playoff game in its rookie year.

13. Packers – Since losing to Brett Favre in Minnesota, the Packers have regrouped with a bye week and two victories over the twin titans of Detroit and Cleveland. They should be emotionally healed for this Sunday’s game in Green Bay against Favre and the Vikings which may be the toughest ticket of the NFL season. If they hope to compete with Minnesota this year for the division, they really need to take down Favre on his first visit to Lambeau as the opposing starting QB.

14. Falcons – After the opening drive in Dallas in which Atlanta marched right down the field for a score, it appeared this game might not be close. It wasn’t, but it was the Falcons on the losing end. The Cowboys shut down the Falcons who looked rather weak after looking like world beaters in the previous two games. The Falcons are turning into one of those teams that can look amazing or pathetic, and there is no rhyme or reason as to whether the good team or the bad team will take the field. I think they are better than the team that lost to the Cowboys on Sunday, but worse than the team that went into San Francisco a few weeks back and won 45-10, I’m sure the true Falcons lie somewhere in between.

15. Texans – Matt Schaub and company are sporting their first winning record of the season. The past two weeks they have looked somewhat impressive in taking care of a very solid Bengals team in Cincinnati and in holding off a late run by the Niners. Apart from two games against the Colts and one with the Patriots, the rest of their schedule isn’t overly imposing, and it’s not impossible to imagine that they make it to 9-7 which might put them on the outskirts of a playoff berth.

16. Eagles – Philly showed that they are capable of thumping a bad team. Donovan McNabb rebounded to have a decent game against the Redskins, but their defense had such gaping holes in the secondary that it would be difficult for a quarterback to not hit for a few touchdowns. I found myself wondering last night, “What is the point of having Michael Vick on this team?” He doesn’t seem to have the burst he had before doing time, and judging by the little bit I have seen him on the field; I don’t think he is making many defensive coordinators nervous.

17. Jets – The Jets were blessed by the NFL schedule gods with the one thing which is almost certain to cure a three game losing skid, a date with the Oakland Raiders. Pummeling Oakland 38-3 is a great way to get healthy, and the Jets need to get fat on this relatively easy upcoming portion of their schedule, as their final three games are pretty tough. New York ends with the Falcons, Colts and Bengals.

18. 49ers – The Niners were looking smooth right up until the week before their bye when they were pounded by Atlanta and then yesterday they were down 21-0 at half. What has happened to San Francisco? They were almost saved with a brilliant second half surge as Alex Smith was put in for Shaun Hill and he tossed three touchdowns to Vernon Davis, but it wasn’t enough, and they lost their second straight game. Now, it appears that Smith will pull starting signal-caller duties, as Mike Singletary’s club tries to recapture the magic from their opening month. I’m very interested to see how Smith does when it appeared as recently as three weeks ago that his last chance with the 49ers had passed.

19. Bears – Chicago is reeling. The Jay Cutler trade which was heralded as a huge coup for the Bears has not looked very good over the past month. His penchant for tossing careless interceptions is rearing its ugly head, he doesn’t have time behind the awful offensive line, and the defense is not stopping teams when they need to stop them. Losing to the Bengals is nothing to be ashamed of, but getting obliterated by them is not something that should happen if you consider yourself a contender. Not sure how much I believe in the Bears, the playoffs seem very unlikely.

20. Dolphins – Despite the fact that Miami is only 2-4, they have looked pretty solid this season so far. Sunday’s game may be the one that killed their postseason chances, though. When you have a team on the ropes at 24-3, you have to finish them off. Granted, that team was Drew Brees and his Saints, so it’s a tough task, but Tony Sparano usually finds a way to win that type of game. However, on Sunday, the Saints were too much and they kept getting stronger as the game progressed. Still, that was a huge opportunity lost for a team in Miami that really needed it.

21. Seahawks – Their schedule isn’t overly difficult, so if they are able to put together a good run, they could get themselves back into contention in mediocre NFC West, but that seems unlikely, as they have a tendency to get pounded by mediocre teams. Despite a lot of sleeper talk over the offseason, it appears that Seattle is still just not very good.

22. Bills – Buffalo has managed to cobble together two straight wins, although they are hardly setting the world on fire, they have managed to get some victories. In each of their past two wins, I hope Bills head coach Dick Jauron sent the opposing quarterbacks a game ball. Last week it was Matt Sanchez with five picks, and this week the immortal Jake Delhomme tossed three footballs to Bills defenders. It’s pretty nice to pick up wins when you are getting outplayed. The Bills offense is so bad that they have handed the reigns to a guy who played his college football at Harvard. The Ivy League is a wonderful place to find guys to lead your business, but there has been less success going there to find guys to lead your offense.

23. Panthers – Jake Delhomme is playing with zero confidence, and his results on the field suggest that he should not have any. Thus far this season through six games he has 4 touchdowns 13 interceptions and a dreadful 56.5 QB rating. John Fox can no longer hang his hopes on the possibility that perhaps Jake plays his way out of it. Carolina cannot win with what they are getting from the most important position on the field.

24. Jaguars – What is the significance of the following numbers: 46,520, 49,014, and 42,088? They are the attendance figures for the first three Jacksonville Jaguars home games this season. The stadium’s capacity is 76,877, so I think it’s safe to say that plenty of good seats are still available for Jaguars games. It’s hard to create much of a menacing home field advantage when half the seats are empty. Not that I blame the good people of Jacksonville, the Jags have hardly given them much to be excited about this year. This is one of the least exciting teams in the league; they can’t get anything good going on the field or in the ticket sales office. They can’t even get someone to sponsor the stadium. It used to be known as Alltel Stadium, but Alltel didn’t renew their contract after it expired, and the place is now known simply as Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. If the Jags can’t generate a little local enthusiasm, one wonders how much longer there will be a team in Northeast Florida.

25. Redskins – Look, I understand that your team is 77 years old, and that you have had the same team name the entire time you have been in existence. This does not change the fact that your name is racist, stupid, and in desperate need of a change. I used to be in the camp that hoped it would never get changed, but I changed my mind a few years ago, as it’s impossible to dispute that “Redskin” was a slur. It may mean something noble to Washington fans today, but you can’t change what it was. I fully support a change, besides, it’s not like the name is all that attractive anyway. Mr. Snyder, Start something new, and remove your football program from the ugly past. Plus, think of all the money you’d make with new merchandise! Changing the franchise name would be the only positive move that could come from Washington football this year, as the Redskins as currently construed on the field are an unmitigated disaster. Now the internet is buzzing about how Dan Snyder is acting like a petulant child and kicking out fans who have anti-Snyder signs or chant anti-Snyder slogans. He really needs a taste of the Han Solo edition blaster.

This Redskins logo has been seen all over the internets by now, but I find it the perfect accompaniment to the general mood of Redskin nation at the moment. Washington fans, you have my pity.

26. Lions – What a battle of behemoths we have in store on Sunday at Ford Field. Rams versus Lions! I guess I’d favor Detroit since they are at home, but if St. Louis wants to win a game this season; this may be their best chance. You have got to admire how the Lions are trying, but they are not talented enough yet to compete.

27. Titans – Congratulations to the Titans are in order for managing to not lose this past Sunday. True, they didn’t play a game, but with the way this season has started for Tennessee, we’re starting with baby steps. Oh, and a message to Jeff Fisher…When you’re 0-6 with a team that had the best record in the AFC a year ago, perhaps the best way to curry favor with your fans would be to NOT wear the jersey of an opposing quarterback from your own division and say that you just want to feel like a winner. Yes, we fans may be childish in not liking that sort of thing, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor, my man.

28. Browns – The fact that there are several teams that are worse than the Browns in the NFL speaks to the high volume of putrid teams in the league. There is zero reason for hope if you’re a Browns fan. Ever since this team came back into the league ten years ago, they have been mostly a laughing stock. It’s got to be discouraging to be a Browns fan. You see your team that has never even played in a Super Bowl and who’s only glory years come from the prehistoric time before the Super Bowl era leave town and quickly become a perennial powerhouse, even winning a Super Bowl. Four years after your team is ripped from your loving clutches, you get them back in expansion form, and that franchise bumbles and stumbles with only one playoff game for the entire first decade of its existence with little to no reason to believe that it will emerge from the mediocrity. If you live in Cleveland, you have my pity. I hope that LeBron doesn’t leave Ohio, just because if he does there may be mass suicides amongst the sports fans of Cleveland.

29. Raiders – After a bizarre week in which Oakland took down a decent Eagles team, order was restored to the universe as the Raiders returned to their Commitment to Exceptionally Bad Football. The Raiders were lambasted in front of a disgruntled Black Hole yesterday. The crowd, which dresses for Halloween year round, lustily booed Jamarcus Russell who was a pathetic 6-11 with two interceptions in the short time that Tom Cable allowed him to stay behind center. Russell took his last snap from center with eleven and a half minutes remaining in the second quarter. Bruce Gradkowski was brought into a game that was 21-0, and the Raiders didn’t exactly rally behind him as they ended up getting blown out 38-0 to the Jets in front of their home fans. All good mojo that they earned from beating the Eagles is officially gone, and Richard Seymour’s guarantee of a playoff berth seems slightly more ridiculous than it did last week.

30. Chiefs – I don’t think it’s too soon to say that Matt Cassel’s season with the Patriots may have been an anomaly. In his game against the Chargers on Sunday he completed only 40% of his passes, threw 3 interceptions, and had an embarrassing 25.3 quarterback rating. I think Kansas City may be regretting throwing a six year, 63 million dollar contract with 28 million in guarantees to a quarterback with exactly one good season since High School.

31. Buccaneers – You can take the team out of Tampa, but even a cross Atlantic flight can’t take the stink off of the Buccaneers. If the NFL really wants to grow the sport overseas, it should probably start sending better games over to London. It reminds me of when I ask my four year old daughter to share her toys with her two year old brother, she sort of does it, but he usually doesn’t get the good ones. Sorry, England, there are better games over here in the states, but apparently we don’t feel like sharing our good toys with you. This one was never close as the suddenly juggernaut Patriots ran roughshod over a weak Bucs squad in a 35-7 romp. The Bucs are a bad, bad football team.

32. Rams – The bloom is off the rose with Steve Spagnolo. The rookie head coach is flailing, and this Rams team is abysmal. It is not inconceivable that the Rams could follow in footsteps of Detroit and we could have a second consecutive year with a winless team. They have a few potentially winnable games with the Lions and Titans remaining on their schedule, but they have shown little that would give me confidence that they can even get one of those games.

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