Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Powerlines: Week 11 NFL Power Rankings

I don't know why, but when I look at this guy, I feel like he's wistfully looking for a rainbow.

Just when you think you understand the NFL, the Raiders beat the Bengals, the Chiefs beat the Steelers, and the Browns and Lions play one of the most exciting games of the NFL season. The NFL: Expect the unexpected. Here is this weeks' list 1 through 32...

1. Saints – The Saints finally blew out a team that they were supposed to blow out. After a month of playing clearly inferior teams close, they were due to lay the wood to someone.

2. Colts – The Colts are barely winning games, but they are winning. This past weekend they took advantage of a Joe Flacco interception late in the game to ice away a game they easily could have lost. This a week after miraculously coming back from 17 back in the 4th quarter against the Patriots. Great teams find ways to get the win, even when they probably don’t deserve it. The Colts maintain their perch with the Saints as the best in the league. Their biggest upcoming concern will be trying to stay interested in games that don’t mean anything. Which is always a nice problem to have.

3. Patriots – The Patriots had no trouble shooting down the Jets to get a little revenge for their week 2 loss. Despite a heartbreaking loss in Indianapolis, the Patriots look poised to make a Super Bowl run right now. Is this Sunday’s game against New Orleans a Super preview? Probably not, because the games that are hyped as Super Bowl previews rarely ever turn out to actually be the championship matchup, but this should be a terrific game in the Superdome on Sunday night. .

4. Vikings – The top four teams in the NFL appear to be leaps and bounds better than everyone else right now. It will be disappointing from a great game standpoint if come Championship Sunday we aren’t watching Saints-Vikings and Colts-Patriots. Despite the fact that the world is waiting with baited breath for the Brett Favre collapse, he has not shown signs that he is anywhere near falling apart. He has actually been a model quarterback and leader in Minnesota to this point, and with all the weapons they have up there, I won’t be shocked if Brett leads them to the Lombardi Trophy come February. I won’t be happy about it, but I won’t be surprised.

5. Chargers – Hey, look who’s good again! The Chargers are once more the overwhelming favorite to win the AFC West. The first month and a half of the season was clearly a mirage in both Denver and San Diego. Sunday’s game in Denver looked like the varsity versus the JV. VerticallyStripedSocks.com was also able to get a bit of clarification on a strange item. Josh McDaniels is reported to have yelled, “We own you” to some of the Charger players during pregame warm-ups, but it was discovered that Josh thought he was saying, “Please be gentle.” Josh regrets any confusion that may have arisen over this unfortunate verbal faux pas.

6. Cardinals – Arizona continues to play amazingly away from home. The Cardinal Road Warriors are now up to 5-0 away from the rolling sod in Glendale, and very quietly are putting together a dynamite season. No one is paying much attention, because Americans are trained to ignore the NFC West, but the NFC Champs title defense is going swimmingly despite being criminally underreported.

7. Bengals – Following in the footsteps of the Eagles before them, the Bengals emerge from Oakland with a stupefying loss on their record. That this is still a very solid team cannot be doubted, but all of the momentum they received from sweeping through the Ravens and Steelers has been lost faster than Andre Caldwell fumbling away a kickoff. Just when you think they aren’t the same old Bengals, they pull a move that reminds you very much of the same old Bengals. Fortunately for them, their entire division lost too, so they didn’t lose anything off of their lead, but losing a chance to put an extra between them and the Steelers has to hurt.

8. Steelers – Pittsburgh must be wondering what happened to the team that flattened the Broncos. Since that Monday night, they have looked flat on offense, soft of defense, and atrocious on special teams in losing to the Bengals and Chiefs. The Chiefs loss simply cannot happen if the team wants to get back to defend their title. A prospect that looks much less likely for the Steelers than it did two weeks ago.

9. Cowboys – This team needs to be renamed to be called the Cwbys, because there is no “O” in Dallas right now. After getting shut down until the waning moments of the game for a meaningless touchdown in Green Bay, the Dallas offense once again waited ‘til the 4th quarter to get their one and only touchdown this week. Fortunately for the Boys, their defense did a bang up job in holding a mediocre Redskins team to only six points, and the extra point provided the winning margin, but Dallas is not going to win many more games scoring only seven points. The Cowboys need to figure out what they are doing on the offensive side of the ball, and quickly. They only get a couple of days to fiddle in the lab, as they get another game on Thanksgiving…fortunately for Dallas, it’ll be against a Raiders team that is unlikely to surprise two weeks in a row.

10. Eagles – Philly got a win they desperately needed against the Bears on Sunday. The Cowboys are in first, but they look far from invincible, and the Eagles can definitely contend for the division with a solid finish to the season.

11. Ravens – I will not be dissuaded that this is a good team. They don’t have a bad loss, having fallen to the Bengals twice, the Vikings, the Patriots, and the Colts. Apart from two games against the Steelers, the rest of their schedule is not overly difficult. Their ability to make the playoffs probably hinges completely on how they do against Pittsburgh. I’m going to guess that at worst, they get a split, and I’m actually somewhat expecting that they sweep the Steelers. Don’t sleep on the Ravens, even if they’re only .500, I KNOW they’re good.

12. Giants – After a month long slump, the G-men got back on track with a hugely important win against the Falcons. They appear poised to gain on their momentum as they head to Denver on Thanksgiving night to battle the imploding Broncos. Much like the Eagles, at only a game back of Dallas they have an excellent chance to win this division. Lost in the national hollering over Eli collapsing as a quarterback is the likely reason that he isn’t playing all that well lately. Sure, the plantar fasciitis probably has a little to do with it, but also the Giants running game has completely disappeared. The most amazing thing about the overtime game against Atlanta wasn’t that the fact that New York won, but rather that they won despite their leading rusher for the game (Brandon Jacobs) only had 39 yards on the ground. It’s tough to play quarterback in the NFL when the defense doesn’t respect your running game.

13. Packers – There is a massive pack of teams in the NFC that are either at .500 or are within a game of it. If the Packers are going to emerge from this pack, they’ll need to do it from the road. Green Bay only has two home games remaining this season. They have looked very shaky at times, and the Vikings have clearly put the division out of range; but a decent finish is within their grasp as is potentially a wild-card berth if they can finish strong. The Pack were my preseason pick to win it all, so with that type of a curse upon them it’s a wonder they are even in contention at this point.

14. Dolphins – Losing Ronnie Brown for the season is a huge blow for this Miami team, but despite that they still are a very plucky team. A rejuvenated Ricky Williams seems capable of leading the charge, the defense has been solid, and Chad Henne is doing just enough to lead his team to victory. The Dolphins have gone 5-2 over the past seven weeks, and they have put themselves in the conversation which seemed unlikely when they were 0-3. Not sure if they can win enough to make the postseason, but it’s not inconceivable.

15. Titans – Vince Young should have been thrown into action two weeks earlier than he was. Who knows if this turnaround gets started a couple of weeks earlier if he does, but with the confidence and drive that he has shown after finally getting to start are nothing short of shocking. The Titans have no room for error, but they also have the biggest good luck charm in the NFL. Punter Brett Kern, who as loyal readers of VerticallyStripedSocks.com know is 10-0 this season and the teams he has played on this year are winless without him.

16. Texans – Kicker Kris Brown has played in every game in Texans history. If he keeps honking field goals at the end of regulation which the Texans need to force overtime, that streak may be in jeopardy. For the second straight game Brown missed a long field goal attempt as the game ended, and for the second straight game, the Texans lost an important division game that they really needed to get by a score of 20-17. The kicks were far from gimmies…he missed from 42 and 49 yards out respectively, but if you’re an NFL kicker, you’ve got to make those kicks. Rumors that he beat up Rihanna after the game are unsubstantiated at this time. (Sorry, dumb joke.)

17. Jaguars – The Jags came from behind against Buffalo on Sunday to notch their third straight win, but I continue to have a hard time taking this team seriously. Despite their 6-4 record, I refuse to buy into any team that lost 41-0 to the Seahawks. This team is not good, it just isn’t.

18. Falcons – A once promising season is now in danger of falling apart as Atlanta has lost four of five games since starting 4-1. Apart from back to back games with the Saints and Eagles, Their remaining schedule isn’t overly difficult, but even with only two road games left and two games remaining against the Buccaneers, it still feels unlikely that they can win enough to qualify for the postseason.

19. Panthers – At 4-5 and facing a fellow 4-5 team in the Dolphins at home in North Carolina, they absolutely had to win last Thursday night; but they didn’t. Now the rest of the season feels like nothing more than playing out the string.

20. Broncos – Carnac: “Pumped up hollering Buccaneers fans, Gary Glitter performing at the Super Bowl halftime-show, and the Denver Broncos.” Question pulled from Carnac’s envelope: “Name three things that you will not see in the NFL postseason this year.” The Broncos have fallen apart faster than any team I can remember in NFL history. A month ago they were involved in poll questions asking, “Which will be the last team to lose a game?” Now, they appear to be a bigger flash in the pan than the rap group Tag Team. “Whoomp! There it is.” The Broncos are quickly becoming, “Whoomp, there it goes.”

21. Bears – Jay Cutler and his Chi-town mates have lost five of six, soon to be six of seven unless by some miraculous chance the Bears can beat the Vikings. Yeah, I don’t think that’ll happen, either. So, I’m declaring that the Bears will inevitably finish with a losing record, and that Jay Cutler will remain a talented guy who is unable to lead a team to a winning record. He hasn’t led a team to a winning record since going 15-0 in his Senior year at Heritage Hills High School. I’m curious, Bears fans, are you still fawning over that trade with the Broncos? By the way, not sure that NBC needed to show us THAT much of Devin Hester, if you know what I mean. (If you don't know what I mean and want to find out, Google: "Devin Hester Gets Pantsed" Although, I'd recommend NOT doing that.)

22. Jets – When I looked at the New York roster before the season started, I thought to myself that they really didn’t have a whole lot of talent. Then Mark Sanchez jumped out to a 3-0 start and had the football world abuzz with chatter about the Jets. That chatter has died down with the Jets playing more like the Biplanes. They’ve lost six of seven games, have slid to irrelevance, and my preseason assessment doesn’t feel off anymore. This team just isn’t that good.

23. 49ers – Losing five of six? Mike Singletary is overdue to either moon somebody or go off on a “Can’t play with em, can’t win with em, Can’t do it!” rant. Come on Coach Crazy, if you’re not going to win, at least you can be entertaining…

24. Bills – Will the Bills be favored again this season? Maybe in Kansas City, but it won’t be by much. One of the best things about this Bills season is that I have not read a single story, heard one news item, or seen any television coverage about T.O. and his relative happiness/unhappiness. It restores a little faith in humanity that we are not spell bound over his every move. Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that he’s playing on a 3-7 Bills team, but another part of it is that he just isn’t great anymore. He’s still good, but that’s not enough to keep him in the limelight, and I’m very thankful!

25. Seahawks – I was expecting better from Seattle this season, but not much of note has happened other than a lot of crippling losses. 3-7 teams don’t get much attention, especially if they’re tucked away in the Pacific Northwest. I feel sad for the people of Seattle who couldn’t have been friendlier when I spent a week there this September. I find myself rooting for the Hawks and all Seattle teams because after the pain that city has suffered in sports over the past few years, they’re due for some happiness. They’ll have to look elsewhere this year, as the Seahawks just aren’t very good for the second straight year.

26. Redskins – Their owner has been ripped by team legend John Riggins for being a bad guy with a dark heart, their fans have made some noise saying they feel like they are being censored by having signs and messages critical of ownership confiscated, they are being led by a lame duck head coach who had play calling responsibilities yanked from him in what many believe was a move to get him to resign, they’re suffering through a 3-7 season to this point with little signs that things are going to get better. Safe to say that 2009 isn’t going as well as folks in Washington were hoping for the Redskins. Their biggest victory came in a Supreme Court decision in which they refused to take a case of people protesting saying their name is racist. If the case had gone to the high court, the Redskins could have lost their trademark protection, which would likely have forced them to change their name. I say that changing the name of the Redskins might be a great way to change their mojo, so even in winning, they lose.

27. Raiders – The Raiders are blind squirrels, and for the second time this season they have found a nut. The first nut came on October 18th with an improbable 13-9 victory over the Eagles, and this past Sunday they got another nut as they were able race from behind and take down a Bengals team that had just won back to back games against the Steelers and Ravens. This doesn’t mean that the Raiders are good, it just means that they have the ability to get lucky from time to time. Plus, they still have the reeling Broncos on the schedule, so they might even get another nut! (Beating the Chiefs doesn’t count as we all know that Kansas City is mostly nutless)

28. Chiefs – I just called them nutless, but to be fair, they took down the Steelers on Sunday which is clearly a feather in their cap. At 3-7, the Chiefs clearly are out of contention, but perhaps Head Coach Todd Haley can use the final six games to build for next year.

29. Lions – Matt Stafford may or may not grow into a franchise quarterback, but no matter what happens, he’ll always have at least one legendary moment in his career. The excitement should be tempered a little, as he had his career day against a woeful Browns team, but the excitement of his final two plays on Sunday is undeniable.

The Lions were trailing 37-31 and the clock was running out. Detroit had the ball at the Cleveland 32, and Stafford threw up a Hail Mary prayer. As the ball floated through the air, Hank Poteat tackled a Lion reciever in the end zone. Poteat’s action was so egregious that a pass interference flag was thrown. That is the first time in my extensive history as a football fan that I have ever seen a pass interference flag tossed on a Hail Mary.

The penalty occurred with no time remaining on the clock, so the Lions received one untimed play at the 1 yard line. On the Hail Mary, Stafford got ground into the turf and hurt his shoulder to the point where they had to take him off of the field. Daunte Culpepper took the field, as NFL rules require that any player who is injured to the point that the clock has to be stopped to assist him must sit out at least one play unless a timeout is called. For some reason, the Browns decided that it would be a good idea to call a timeout right then to regroup. This made it legal for Stafford to check back in, and despite the fact that the trainers had not cleared him to re-enter the game, he snuck his way back on the field and with the adrenaline pumping and his non-throwing shoulder possibly separated. Of course on the 1 untimed play he found Brandon Pettigrew in the end zone for a touchdown, and with the extra point, the Lions went on to win.

It was a very exciting game for two franchises that are not known for playing exciting football this season. Ironic that two of the least interesting teams in football played one of the most interesting games of the year. Positive for me: I correctly predicted the Lions would win by one point. Negative for me: My exact prediction was 7-6, which was a little off the 38-37 barnburner that ended up happening.

If you haven't seen the crazy highlights...here are the important plays in this unexpectedly crazy-good game...

30. Buccaneers – Josh Freeman looked pretty solid in compiling a 86.1 passer rating against the Packers in his first start, his trend is not heading in the right direction. Since that first game his quarterback rating against Miami was 75.9, and last Sunday against New Orleans it was 33.1. It’s much too early in his career to say he is not going to cut it, but Freeman needs to do better than that if the putrid Bucs are to have any chance to win.

31. Rams – The Rams are so bad than only losing by 5 to the Saints and then only losing by 8 to the Cardinals probably makes them feel like they are on a winning streak.

32. Browns – Cleveland is finding new and interesting ways to lost. Getting called for pass interference on a Hail Mary attempt, then calling timeout allowing the opponents starting quarterback to come back in to throw the winning score is an amazingly inept way to get an L. The Browns are very resourceful in their suckiness.

No comments: