Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Powerlines: Week 8 NFL Power Rankings

Nice Hat!

The plot thickens in the NFL. The teams in the middle aren't too tough to sort out, it's the very top, and the huge glut of crap at the bottom that are hard to rank. Here is this week's very best efforts to assign meaningless rankings to teams in my favorite sport...

1. Saints – The first half of the game versus the Falcons was about as fun and flashy as football gets. This Saints team is not afraid if it falls behind early, they have the firepower to catch up, and the defense tends to get better as the game moves along. They have a few tough games left in their schedule including the rematch with the Falcons in Atlanta, a home date with the Patriots, and a tough game with the resurgent Cowboys; however it is not inconceivable that they could run the table, as they are a scary team right now.

2. Colts – Even when the Colts have a down game, they still manage to win. Although I have a feeling that Indianapolis doesn’t want to see many more games where Joseph Addai throws more touchdown passes than Peyton Manning. They drop to number two just because they didn’t look as awesome as the Saints this week, but they are still a team to be reckoned with. Their next six games are not easy as they have a home and home with the Texans, they go to Baltimore, the Patriots and Broncos pay Lucas Oil Stadium a visit, well…they do get one easier one in this stretch with a home game against the Titans.

3. Patriots – Tom Brady and company haven’t had a competitive game since their overtime tussle with the Broncos back on October 11th. Since then, they have toyed with the Titans and Buccaneers…winning by a combined score of 94-7…and then enjoyed a peaceful bye week. It may be jarring to them to return to Gillette Stadium against the Dolphins on Sunday, where they will face a team that is playing very well, having only lost once in their past four, and that was a crazy shootout to the Saints whom I have rated as the best in the league.

4. Vikings – Perfect time for a bye for the 7-1 Vikings, after the epic emotional win for Favre and associates against his old team in Green Bay, they get to take an break from the storm. This break may help them emotionally as much as physically. Then they get to ease back into action with a home game against the mighty Detroit Lions. Brett Favre did get the win at Lambeau on Sunday, but the first time he took the field there was a look on his face that he couldn’t hide about how disappointed he was to be booed by the Green and Gold faithful. He can talk all he wants about how he enjoys being a part of this Vikings team, but his face at that moment made it obvious that for at least that moment he wasn’t enjoying it much at all.

5. Ravens – After losing three tough game in a row, the Ravens were due to get it turned around. Unfortunately, the Broncos were the sacrificial lamb. The Ravens played the perfect game to take down the efficient Broncos, and they made Denver look every bit as bad as national pundits expected them to be when the season began. Next up for Baltimore is a gigantic rematch with division leader Cincinnati, if the Ravens can take down the Bengals, they will be right back into this season. The NFC North is weird, because the Ravens right now are in third place, but I think they are the best team in the whole division.

6. Steelers – Pittsburgh is riding a four game winning streak, and will be looking for more as they head into Invesco Field for a humungous game within the AFC against the Broncos. Ben Roethlisberger is having a crazy good year, which is impressive since his offensive line is not great. Their defensive line has also been weakened with the loss of Aaron Smith. Injuries have been a problem for the Steelers this season, but they keep fighting through them, the Champs are acting like they want to defend their crown.

7. Broncos – Denver was overdue for a loss, the Ravens were overdue for a win, and the game was in Baltimore which has hardly been a hospitable host to the Broncos in the past. The result was a predictable L, the first for Denver this year. Already, the Broncos bandwagon is emptying out the national media who had been riding it, but remember it’s only one game! Yes, they looked like a warmed over cow pie on Sunday, but it’s not unheard of for a good team to have a crappy game. The fact remains that the Broncos are 6-1, and still have games left against the Raiders, Redskins, and two against Kansas City. They have an excellent chance of finishing around 11-5 or 10-6, even WITH a lot of difficult games still on tap. They might not snap off another six game win streak, but the playoffs are still possible, I might even go as far to say likely. Of course, if they come out and bomb like they did against the Ravens over the next few weeks, we will have to reevaluate our position, but for now, I still have the Broncos riding high.

8. Eagles – If you take October 18th out of the picture, the Eagles look awesome. Without October 18th being factored in, the Eagles seem like they should run away with the division. The smack down they put on the Giants on Sunday was epic. The reason I’m so hesitant to give them the nod in the East just yet is because on October 18th, this team laid one of the biggest eggs of any team all season. Losing to the Raiders? I just don’t know if I can hand this division to them with that on their resume. For now, though, they do appear to be the best in the east, with that one MAJOR Raider-inspired asterisk.

9. Cowboys – A month ago, people were saying the Cowboys were done. Now, many are saying they are the class of the NFC East. For all the preseason talk of Roy Williams being their best receiver, a guy named Miles sure seems to have taken over that mantle. The Boys have looked good the past two weeks, and it appears the NFC East is going to be a three team dogfight.

10. Bengals – If you just look at the standings, this team should be higher than the Steelers and Ravens…teams that Cincy has already beaten once this season. However, I just can’t shake the idea that this team is the Cincinnati Bengals. It feels like their collapse should be imminent, even as they keep winning. I hope they rested up during their bye, as they play Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the next two weeks. I believe they are good, but not great. Let’s reevaluate in two weeks, if they can sweep both of these games, I’ll nudge them up to great.

11. Texans – Don’t look now, but the team that everyone jumped on during the preseason, and then jumped off after a 2-3 start is starting to make their move. Now would be a good time to be at their hottest, as two of their next three games are against Peyton Manning and the undefeated Indianapolis Colts.

12. Giants – The wheels are flying off of this thing at an unprecedented pace, or at least unprecedented since last season in the same town. We fall apart this quickly since last season when the other team in New York jumped out to an 8-3 start only to lose four of their last five and finish out of the playoffs. The Giants need to right their ship pronto, which will be difficult as their upcoming schedule is not easy…Here is their next five: Chargers, Falcons, at Broncos, Cowboys, and Eagles. Not exactly a recipe to get healthy, although it helps that the only time they have to leave New York from now until December 13th is a Thanksgiving date with the Broncos in the Mile High City.

13. Chargers – From the “No one remembers how pretty or ugly a win is at the end of the season” department: Chargers 24 Raiders 16. The Chargers are in position to climb back into the division race at only two games back, but they have a lot of tough games remaining which will make it difficult. Getting revenge on the Broncos when they return to Denver is a must, plus they still have the Giants, Eagles, Cowboys and Bengals on the docket. Not impossible, as no one can accurately predict just how good or bad the Broncos actually are, but the Chargers need to get a lot of big wins.

14. Packers – If the Pack wanted to be a player in this year’s postseason, I feel like they really let the one they needed slip away against their old quarterback on Sunday. Bouncing back from getting swept by Minnesota is going to be a difficult task, and I won’t be surprised if the Packers are unable to do it. It would help if Aaron Rodgers would learn how to throw away the ball, and the offensive line for Green Bay would actually provide a tiny bit of protection for him. I think Green Bay is poised to collapse.

15. Cardinals – Continuing their tradition of being impossible to predict, the Cards come home off of a huge win against the Giants on the road with an absolute stinker at home against the Panthers. This team refuses to let itself be defined. Just when you think they’re good, they aren’t; and just when you think they stink, they don’t. My best advice is never, under any circumstances, wager on games in which Arizona is involved.

16. Bears – The Bears need to get a winning streak going if they expect to qualify for the playoffs. Taking down the Browns is a good start, but the tougher test will be when the Cardinals come to town. That is, unless the Cardinals decide they are taking that day off, which is altogether possible. Sunday was a big day for the color orange in Chicago.

Banner day for the color orange in Chicago last Sunday.

17. Dolphins – It’s actually possible that the Dolphins are good. They are trying to dig their way out of the 0-3 hole they dug for themselves in September, and that may be too deep a hole to climb out of, but they are giving it a very game effort. Ted Ginn, Jr. found some serious redemption from a horrible game against the Saints without catching a single pass all day. Two long kickoff returns for scores showcased his talent without requiring him to do the one thing that appears to be his Achilles heel…which is catching passes from a quarterback.

18. 49ers – The Niners are the Maxwell Smart of the NFL…they keep “Missing it by that much.” The Close but not quite 49ers ALMOST beat the Colts on Sunday, and after almost coming back on the Texans, and almost closing the deal in Minnesota versus the Vikings, the 49ers lead the league in almost victories. However scintillating they may be, almost wins are called losses in the NFL. There have been way too many marks in the loss column over the past month for a team that opened the season strong and looked to be a potential playoff contender.

19. Falcons – Two straight losses have the Falcons scrambling, but to me, this team looks too good to miss the playoffs. I think they start pulling themselves together and getting the needed wins to qualify.

20. Jets – Matt Sanchez has shown at times that he will be a great NFL quarterback, at other times, he has proven that he is just a rookie. Personally, I enjoyed the Hot Dog eating episode in Oakland…his team won 38-0 that day, so I think he should probably eat more of them on the sidelines. Losing to the Dolphins for the second time is probably the death knell to the Jets playoff hopes, as there are a lot of difficult games remaining on the schedule, and with a rookie quarterback it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to get enough wins to make it. The future does look bright for New York, though.

21. Panthers – See Carolina, when you do as I say and run the ball, things work out just fine! Per my recommendation, the Panthers allowed Jake Delhomme to throw the ball only 14 times against the Cardinals and relied heavily on their running game, and as a result they took down Arizona 34-21. Of course, Kurt Warner turning over the ball six times helped as well. It had to feel pretty good for Carolina to get a modicum of revenge on the team that surprisingly booted them from the playoffs last year. The Panthers are probably too far out to make a playoff run, but they’re a frisky team that might be able to play the role of spoiler very nicely.

22. Bills – The Bills are clearly not a good team, but they are a good bad team. The difference between the Bills and the teams below them on this list is that although you’re probably going to beat the Bills, they do have the ability to jump up and bite you. That’s what you get with a quarterback who graduates from Harvard and a coach who graduates from Yale…sometimes the smart guys stumble into wins just because they can out think you.

23. Seahawks – Welcome to the point in our proceedings where the really crappy teams start showing up in the rankings. From here on out, these ten teams are all very bad, be careful to not let your skin come into direct contact with any of these ten teams, so as to avoid catching the suck. It appears that the suck is very contagious, as so many NFL teams have contracted it this year. Seattle is the best of the crap, as they do have two very impressive showings this season. Granted, both of those positives games were against bottom ten members, but still. At times the Seahawks have looked competent this year.

24. Titans – The Titans are looking for a pair of ruby red slippers that they can put on, click together, and say, “There’s no place like last year, there’s no place like last year!” Vince Young was efficient in his return to the starting lineup, and Tennessee mercifully got off the winless wagon. However, this season is lost, and they know it. Now would be a good time to treat the rest of this season like a warm up for next year and get going on getting back to their winning ways of a season ago. If any team in the abysmal 10 can rise from the ashes, this one holds the most promise.

25. Jaguars – Just in case you think the Jags might actually be okay…lets review their last three outings. They lost 41-0 to the iffy Seahawks, followed that up by being taken to overtime by the hapless Rams before pulling it out, and then got pounded 30-13 by a previously winless Titans team.

26. Redskins – The Skins have given Jim Zorn a guarantee that he will be coach for the remainder of the season. I’ll give you one more guarantee…He will not be the coach at the end of the season. This team has completely fallen apart, and is showing no signs that it’s going to get better…which is perfect to me since they play the Broncos in two weeks! Sherm Lewis does not appear to have made any difference in calling plays, but the problem is probably that no matter which plays are being called…they are being run by Redskins. Does Sherm regret leaving the Bingo Hall yet?

27. Raiders – It’s so absurd that it’s funny. The most ineptly run organization has as its head coach a guy who had to be investigated for the battery a man on his own coaching staff and now he has rumors floating regarding his habitual abuse of women. Does Al Davis have such a hard time finding someone to work with him that he needs to get someone in a work release program?

28. Chiefs – I lived in Kansas for several years, and I almost feel sorry for Chiefs fans. They are very devout fans, but even they have to be waving the white flag at this point. Suspending Larry Johnson and his horrible attitude has to be a step in the right direction, but they should just go ahead and release him altogether. The Chiefs are struggling with a lack of talent and a lack of leadership which manifests itself on the football field with a lack of wins.

29. Browns – If you keep shuffling Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson around, perhaps one day one of them will actually turn into a good quarterback. That has to be Eric Mangini’s thought process at this point, I guess. The Browns offense is inept, what do you do if you’re Browns ownership at this point? A full decade of crappy football since you’ve returned to the league, and there are few signs to show that things are going to get better. Browns fans may start cheering for the Ravens at this point.

30. Rams – Congratulations, St. Louis. Although you are a completely horrible team, you will not tie the Lions record for futility by virtue of taking them down on Sunday.

31. Lions – It was nice, I’m sure, for the Lions to have beaten the Redskins this year, but one win since December 2007 is probably not making Lions fans feel good about the team.

32. Buccaneers – Poor Raheem Morris, I’m sure he was expecting better in his first season as an NFL head coach. When you look at the Bucs remaining games, a repeat of the 0-16 2007 Lions is not out of the question. Here is what they have left: Packers, at Dolphins, Saints, at Falcons, at Panthers, Jets, at Seahawks, at Saints, Falcons. Perhaps they can get one off of either the Jets, Seahawks or Panthers, but they’re not going to be favored in another game all year. The cupboard is pretty bare down in Central Florida.

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