Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Powerlines: Week 10 NFL Power Rankings

My buddy is borrowing my computer, so all my photos of strangers on the train are with him, so this week enjoy pictures someone else took of strangers sleeping on busses. Ain't public transportation great?

The Broncos and Giants are crashing to earth, the Bengals and Panthers are rising, and teams like the Bills, Browns and many many others are setting new records for ineptitude. From top to bottom, here is this weeks attempt to make sense of it all.

1. Saints – Having the Rams take you to the final play is no way to stay on top of the football world. The Saints stay at number 1 because, let’s face it, you’re not going to blow everyone out every week. However, their hold on the top stop is tenuous at best right now. They’re still very good, but their lead on the field has narrowed considerably. They are ripe for a loss, and really, that might not be a terrible thing for them to experience at this point.

2. Colts – Yes, technically, the Colts won the game over the Patriots. They are also still undefeated, however, with the way they have struggled in the past three games, barely defeating the 49ers and Texans, and winning a game against the Patriots that they really had no business getting, the Colts are also hanging on to the top of the rankings by a thread. There is no such thing as a moral victory in the NFL, but the Patriots will not be short of confidence going into Indy for the playoffs should that situation arise. The Colts got the breaks against the Patriots this time, but they were outplayed in the game. Period.

3. Patriots – Bill Belichick has been getting skewered in the media for his decision to go for a 4th and 2 with a six point lead and 2:08 to play in the game. The more I think about it, though, the more I think he made the right call. In a results oriented world, people will rip him saying it was a terrible gamble, but really…giving Peyton Manning the ball with two minutes left isn’t a recipe for victory. If that play gets called correctly by the refs (I hate the Pats, but the Colts were very lucky that wasn’t called a first down, it should have been), the Pats win. If they get that first down, the game is over. The odds that you pick up two yards with your world class offense are higher than the idea that your middling defense will be able to stop Peyton Manning and his two minute offense. It wasn’t a horrendous gamble, it was the right move. I will now stop defending and saying nice things about the hoodie, as this pro-Belichick paragraph has given me a rash.

4. Vikings – Beating down the Lions was a foregone conclusion. Thankfully it was done in non-dramatic style so that we didn’t have to hear everyone go on and on about how amazing Brett Favre is. The Vikings remain a good team who should contend for the trophy this year.

5. Bengals – Your team is riding high after just sweeping both of your biggest division rivals, the chemistry is the best it's been in years if not decades, and everything seems to be running smoothly. Any time you have this scenario in place, you absolutely HAVE to bring in an over the hill malcontent running back with a history of griping and alienating fans, coaches and teammates, not to mention a criminal history of battering women. You HAVE to make that move. What in God's name are the Bengals doing to themselves? Common sense to Marv Lewis: ABORT MISSION LARRY JOHNSON. ABORT. ABORT! I want to praise Cincinnati for their amazing run and improbable position atop the AFC North, and yet all I can think of is how they are potentially poisoning the well bringing in this joker from KC who everyone who has worked with in the past has nothing but bad things to say about. I guess there has been a dearth of arrests in Cincinnati of late, so they needed to bring in a designated malcontent? This makes absolutely no sense to me.

6. Steelers – The loss to the Bengals hurts their chances tremendously to win the division, as they are now essentially two games back of Cincy. However, I think that in the end it may actually serve them okay, as the Steelers tend to do their best work when they are lying in the weeds as a forgotten afterthought. If you look back to earlier this decade, they won their 2005 Super Bowl as a 6 seed whom no one was taking seriously, and they lost in the playoffs when they were 15-1. It almost feels like the defending champs have things right where they want them. Don’t sleep on the Steelers.

7. Chargers - The Chargers have looked as impressive over the past month as the Broncos have looked pathetic. The past two weeks they have completely run over some good teams in Philly and the Giants, and they have their confidence back. When the Chargers play with swagger, they’re tough to beat. I keep waiting for the Norv effect to kick in and for them to start playing down to the level of their coaching, but thus far, they once again look like the overwhelming favorite to win the AFC West.

8. Cardinals – Don’t look now, but the defending NFC Champions are looking pretty solid right now. Apart from getting bombed by the Colts this year and the inexplicable home loss to the Panthers, the Cards have had a pretty impressive season even if it has been mostly under the radar. They pretty much already have the NFC West wrapped up, plus they have a pretty simple schedule remaining with two games against the Rams, a game with the 49ers, a game with the Lions, and one with the Titans. They seem like they are already locked in to the 3 seed in the NFC, they aren’t going to get a bye unless either the Vikings or Saints fall apart, but I think that they are better than people realize.

9. Ravens – This is a solid team with a very tough road to hoe if they want to make the postseason. Their remaining schedule includes two dates with Pittsburgh, the Bears, the Packers, and the Colts. They do have a few breathers with games against the Raiders and Lions, but for the most part, they are going to have to really overachieve in the second half to make the tournament.

10. Cowboys – Was the beat down at the hands of the Packers in Lambeau on Sunday and aberration or are the Boys about to begin their annual late season collapse? Tony Romo needs a good December to prove to the critics that he is not fated to always fall apart down the stretch.

11. Eagles – Does Andy Reid not understand how football scoring works? Just over five minutes to go in the third quarter, his team is trailing 21-6 and he faces 4th and 1 on the Chargers 7 yard line. Rather that trying to go for it to bring his team within one score. He sends on the kicking team for a field goal which reduces his deficit from 15 points to 12 points. So now he still needs two touchdowns to win…Huh? Then, they finally score their first touchdown in the fourth quarter to make the score 28-15 pending the point after. Rather than going for two which would put them within a Field Goal plus a Touchdown with a 2 point conversion away from tying it, he kicks a PAT so the lead is 12 again. The difference between trailing by 12 and trailing by 13 is meaningless. GO FOR TWO, ANDY!!! Andy Reid is just a big dumb animal, I guess.

12. Texans – Not sure if they’ll be able to make the playoffs, but the Texans have an excellent shot at their first ever winning season. If they’re special, they could even snag a wild card berth.

13. Giants – Two desperate teams face off trying to right their respective ships this Sunday. The Giants have honked away four straight, and are trying to avoid having their postseason dreams drift away against the Falcons.

14. Falcons – The Falcons enter the Meadowlands on a skid which has seen them lose three of four themselves, a win over the Giants and they are back on track, and loss, and they fall back to good sized pack of teams hovering around .500.

15. Dolphins – Miami saved their season on Sunday. This is a very good team with a losing record, yet had they not gotten their act together to get a last second field goal against a dreadful Buccaneers team, they would be hopeless. Their chances are not great as it is with a 4-5 record, but at 3-6 they would have been done.

16. Packers – I wrote the Pack off as hopeless and helpless a week ago, so what do they do? Dominate a Cowboys team that had been surging up until Sunday and almost shut them out. I still don’t think Green Bay is very good, but they at least have a pulse again after winning the Ice Bowl rematch.

17. Broncos - Sound the alert, the Broncos are at red alert. The season is on the brink of falling apart. Losing to the Redskins was embarrassing and disheartening; I thought the Broncos were much better than they apparently are. At 6-3 all is definitely not lost, but if they are to pull the season out of this tailspin they absolutely must win this Sunday when the Chargers come to town. The Broncos haven’t looked good since the last time they faced San Diego back on the evening of October 19th. Right now taking down the Bolts looks unlikely at best, the Broncos are looking square in the face of flushing away a three game lead over the Chargers and losing what looked like a sure division title for the second straight season. I’m skeptical of the Broncos, but I feel they have hope if Kyle Orton can give it a go. If it’s Chris Simms, forget about it. He played at a JaMarcus Russell caliber level…and that’s definitely not a compliment.

18. Panthers – I spoke with Trace Smith on Vertically Striped Radio last week about Carolina, and he felt like the playoffs were a pipe dream for the Panthers. I don’t share his doubt, I think that the Cats are pretty good. Winning on Thursday night against an equally desperate Dolphins team will be tough, but if they can get that one, they’re at the very least back in the hunt.

19. Bears – Chi town can’t possibly still be feeling good about the Jay Cutler era, as the Bears are in the midst of a five game stretch where the only game they have won was against the sisters of the poor of Cleveland. After giving up five interceptions and leading his team to only six points against the Niners, I think the Bears are as over as the Macarena. At 4-5 right now with two games against the Vikes, one against the Packers, a matchup with the Ravens, and one with the Eagles, I think that the Bears finish well on the south side of .500 on the year. This Broncos fan is not shedding any tears for Jay.

20. Titans – The Titans continue to ride their Brett Kern fueled surge! They aren’t making the playoffs, because teams that lose their first six games don’t make the playoffs, but they have returned to the ranks of the frisky with their third straight win. If the Broncos were smart, they’d be working out a trade to get back their undefeated punter. God, I miss Brett Kern. Speaking of the Titans, how goofy is it for an 86 year old man to start tossing out middle fingers to the crowd? Bud Adams lost his mind and decided to flip the whole city of Buffalo the bird. I really want to hear what was done to provoke this old man to go crazy like that. I don’t condone it, but it’s so odd that I kind of respect it. Hopefully he got his money’s worth, as the little show cost Bud 250 thousand dollars, which is a pretty expensive price tag for a little bit of catharsis.

21. Jaguars – You are what your record says you are…so the Jags are a winning team. However, I’m still not buying it. Just as Carolina and Miami are probably better than their records indicate, I refuse to believe that this is a good team, even if technically they are 5-4. They’ve won against the Titans, Rams, Jets, Texans, and Chiefs. That’s hardly a super impressive resume...plus they were SHUTOUT by the Seahawks. This is not a good team, they just aren’t.

22. Jets – Done. The Jets are done. A rookie QB with a 4-5 record and a final two games against Indianapolis and the Bengals, add all of those things together, and the undeniable conclusion is that under no circumstances are the Jets making the postseason.

23. 49ers – Winning against the Bears was surely fun for Mike Singletary, plus getting off a four game losing streak had to be refreshing, but the Niners are too far back of the Cardinals, and they simply aren’t going to get a wildcard berth. This is a fun and competitive team, but they are at least a year away still. Maybe more, as their starting quarterback remains Alex Smith.

24. Redskins – The most depressing thing for this Broncos fan about losing to the Redskins is that Washington didn’t even look good in their win. Jason Campbell looks like a quarterback with some talent who has been jerked around and had his football mind turned to mush by too many mediocre coaches instructing him so that he doesn’t know what is expected of him on the field now. He threw for exactly as many yards in the full game as Kyle Orton did in the first half. All the Redskins drives were powered by a running game that the Broncos were powerless to stop which was led up by career backup Ladell Betts. It’s not that the Skins looked good, it’s just the Broncos looked atrocious.

25. Seahawks – The Hawks have somewhere between two and four wins remaining on their schedule, so if everything breaks perfectly for them and they play great, they can finish with a 7-9 record. Keep in mind, that is only if everything goes perfectly.

26. Bills – Apparently getting flipped off by Bud Adams was the last straw for Bills owner Ralph Wilson. Head Coach Dick Jauron was shown the door Tuesday, and when you look at the disaster that is the Bills season to this point, it is understandable. Since week 3 of the NFL season, here are the week by week score totals for the Bills: 7, 10, 3, 16, 20, and 10. I don’t know much, but I do know that if you average only 11 points a game, you won’t win many football games, and you know what? They haven’t. The Bills are lucky to be 3-6 right now, and Dick Jauron is lucky that he lasted as long as he did. Not sure putting Vince Lombardi in as an interim coach would make a difference for this group, but Jauron is gone and the rebuilding continues in Buffalo.

27. Buccaneers – Josh Freeman is showing some remarkable glimpses along with some absolutely horrendous mistakes…in short, exactly what you’d expect from a rook making his first few starts. However, he has brought a little bit of excitement to Buccaneer football, which is more than can be said for anyone else down in central Florida.

28. Chiefs – This Broncos fan just got a little bit more depressed, as I looked at their schedule and remembered that even the Chiefs were able to go in to Washington and win. THE CHIEFS! This team is so horrible that last week they were underdogs to Oakland!

29. Raiders – This is why the Raiders are the Raiders: They used the seventh overall draft pick this year to select Darrius Heyward-Bey, a wide receiver who to this point has six catches for 96 yards and no touchdowns. Although Darrius Heyward-Bey did manage to drop two passes this weekend against the Chiefs, the second drop which was more of a bobble then a tip up into the air which resulted in a game ending interception. If anyone in the NFL needs a hug right now, it’s Darrius. Never forget, when it comes to scouting, Al Davis knows “things” that no one else in football knows. And apparently what those “things” are include items such as how to completely waste draft picks on non-talented guys with high draft picks.

30. Rams – Progress is measured in St. Louis by the fact that the Rams are losing games by less these days! They only lost by 5 this week! Way to go, Rammies!

31. Lions – Despite the fact that they are only moderately better than last years version of the Lions which lost every game they played, this Sunday against the Browns will mark the second game in November in which Detroit will have been favored. No, seriously! That fact speaks to how many completely crap teams there are in the NFL right now.

32. Browns I was watching the Monday Night Football game this week in Cleveland and feeling very sorry for the folks at the game. They are unfortunate enough to have endured the first decade of the “new” Browns. Their winning percentage since coming back is lower than one win for every three games. These fans are beaten down, they were almost happy to have the game scoreless at halftime, because it meant they weren’t losing yet. The Ravens scored sixteen points in the blink of an eye during the third, and they knew it was over as the Browns have only scored more than 16 points twice all season.

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