Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Powerlines: Week 12 NFL Power Rankings

In the spirit of taking pictures of total strangers, my buddy Face Ventura from the Dameshek.com message boards took this photo of this retro Broncos fan. Face even tells me he plugged my blog to this guy, so bonus points to our friend down in New Mexico for not only plugging VerticallyStripedSocks.com, but also taking pictures of a stranger on a bus. Well done, sir. These rankings are dedicated to you, Face!

We are entering the time of the year where the talking heads begin to proclaim, “If the season ended today…” I am going to do my best to avoid that expression, because I don’t think the NFL has any plans to end the season any earlier than it’s scheduled finish, however it is exciting that the playoffs are drawing near. That also means that the end of the fantasy season is near as well. The playoffs are bittersweet, as on the good side it means that the best and most important football of the year is drawing near, but it also means that the offseason is getting close. Football offseason is the longest and hardest part of the year, so I guess what I mean to say is…Relish this December football, it will soon be over and we’ll have nothing but hockey and basketball to sustain us. Sigh. Anyway, Here is how I see the power distribution of the league this week…

1. Saints – What an impressive win on Monday Night! It’s a good win to beat the Patriots, but to obliterate them is something that is very rarely accomplished. The Saints have all the right ingredients to achieve the second ever 16-0 season. Their remaining schedule is decent, but not overly difficult (at Redskins, at Falcons, Cowboys, Buccaneers, and at Panthers) and they need to keep winning to guarantee the top seed as the Vikings also appeared poised to win out, and their loss is to an AFC team, so if the Vikes win out and the Saints drop 1 contest, the Vikings would get the top seed based on better conference record. So they have both the schedule and the motivation to keep winning. Odds of an undefeated regular season for New Orleans – 3 to 2

2. Colts – If the Colts can get through their next two games…moderately difficult home games with the surging Titans and the at times tough Broncos, they should also be able to wrap up an undefeated season. (After those two home games, their season ends gently with the trio of Jets, Jaguars, and Bills) The Colts are slightly less likely to run the table than the Saints, as they lack the proper motivation to give their all to keep on winning. They currently have a three game lead over the Bengals and at least a four game lead over the rest of the AFC. They could have the #1 overall seed in the AFC clinched in a week or two at which point Jim Caldwell will need to decide how hard he wants to press his team over the final month leading up to the playoffs. Although their path isn’t overly difficult, the likelihood of the Colts letting up a bit to rest means that their odds to go undefeated are not QUITE as good as the Saints odds. (By the way, if both the Saints and the Colts go to the Super Bowl at 18-0 then I might start believing that the world is going to end in 2012. I mean, how could the NFL possibly top that?) We’ll put the odds for the Colts to end the regular season undefeated at 4-1.

3. Vikings – The Vikes are easily playing in the same stratosphere as the Colts and Saints right now. Their defense is stifling, their running back is a specimen (although he needs to stop fumbling so much), their offensive line gives Favre all the time he needs, their Receiver corps is top notch right now with Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian, and Visanthe Shiancoe all on fire, and of course Brett Favre is playing at a higher level than any 40 year old has ever played in the history of the game. I have the Vikings at three in the power rankings right now due to their loss to the Steelers, but if I had to wager my life on a team I think will win it all…I’d be wagering on the Vikings. Now that I’ve said all this gushingly nice things about the Vikes…would it be alright if Brett Favre turned into an old broken down man again? I’m not sure that I want to live in a world where Brett Favre the Viking is the Super Bowl Champ.

4. Chargers – San Diego is quietly tearing through the league. The fact that the man in charge of this whole show is Norv Turner is legitimate reason to give pause, but there is no denying the way they are ripping through the league with six straight wins is impressive. The second seed in the playoffs and the very important bye week that comes with it may well be determined by the Bengals-Chargers game in San Diego in a few weeks. (Which is more likely, by the way? That Brett Favre does his late season collapse as has become his late fall custom, or that Norv Turner starts being Norv Turner again and starts coaching his team to it’s doom? I keep hoping for both, but it’s looking like neither will happen.)

5. Bengals – The AFC West appears to be kryptonite to Cincinnati, as apart from being swept thus far by that division, they have only lost one other game. The bad news for the Who Deys is that they have two more games against the AFC West. I think the Bengals nail down the AFC North division, but their path to a bye is much tougher than the Chargers, and I don’t think they’ll be able to get it done. I see a 4 seed in their future, as the Patriots have a baby soft schedule down the stretch, and the Bengals still have to go on the road to Minnesota and San Diego. Doesn’t the NFL have to secretly be hoping that the Bengals fall apart? I mean, could there be a worse scenario for the NFL than the Bengals making the Super Bowl? Well, I guess they could go up against the Cardinals. With the prospect dangling of a Colts-Saints Super Bowl, the NFL offices would probably contemplate mass ritual suicide if XLIV turned into Bengals-Cardinals

6. Cowboys – Am I comfortable putting Dallas this high in the rankings? No, not even a little bit. Their offense has struggled against mediocre competition, and at times they look remarkably beatable. However, they are tied with the Bengals and Chargers for the fourth best record in the league and at some point you have to rely on the Parcells axiom, “You are what your record says you are.” The Cowboys record says that they are in the top six of the league. I’m not betting on them in the playoffs as they appear to be a bit of a paper tiger, but they are certainly winning games and that is what it’s all about. By the way, Tony Romo haters, the calendar just turned to December so you can begin using your Voodoo dolls.

7. Patriots – If you just look at the final five games for New England, it seems pretty likely that they will be able to win out and grab at least the 3 seed in the AFC. Their remaining schedule breaks down like so…at Dolphins, Panthers, at Bills, Jaguars, at Texans. On paper, that looks like five wins, until you remember that three of those games are road games, where the Pats have looked very human this season. They are 1-4 on the road thus far with their only road win against the hapless Buccaneers. Granted, none of their remaining road games are in places as difficult as Denver, New Orleans or Indianapolis, but still…it’s reason to worry if you’re a Pats fan. I think they still find a way to run the table. However, they’re going to need to win on the road in the postseason if they want to meet their preseason expectations of a championship, and they haven’t been very good at doing that.

8. Eagles – Philly has a tough stretch run which will make it hard for them to catch Dallas. They have to go to Atlanta, to the Giants, then the 49ers and Broncos will come calling, and they finish at Jerry Jones’ luxury palace in Dallas. The Eagles struggle to put away mediocre teams like the Bears and Redskins, and have been failing lately against the good teams. They may still make the playoffs, but only because apart from the two super deluxe monkey teams in the conference (Minnesota and New Orleans), the rest of the NFC is somewhat weak. I guess that news is somewhat exciting, as it means we’ll be able to watch Andy Reid bumble a clock management situation in the postseason!

9. Ravens – The Ravens are only one game over .500, but I think they have a team that can hang with just about anyone in the league. The defense is not what it once was, but when they are playing at their best they are dangerous. They keep hanging around, no one blows them out, and but for two bad plays (a bad Flacco interception late against the Colts, and a missed Figgie by the now banished Steve Hauschka in Minnesota) they would be 8-3. They didn’t make those plays, however, and they are dangling on the verge of the playoffs, but this to me is easily the best 6-5 team in the league. I’m not sure what the Ravens have to do for me to stop believing in them…at this point they could probably lose by thirty to the Browns, and I’d be making excuses for them.

10. Cardinals – The playoffs are all but assured for Arizona as they play in the very weak NFC West, but to earn a return trip to the Super Bowl, they cannot allow 99 yard drives in the final three minutes when they are leading. Granted, the Titans have Brett Kern mojo powering their resurgence along with a rejuvenated Vince Young who now looks to be not a bust but an up and coming confident quarterback, but still. That loss to Tennessee hurt the Cards chances to be taken seriously as a true NFL power broker team this year.

11. Steelers – Without their two best players, the men of Steel are a shadow of their former selves. Dennis Dixon did an admirable job filling in for a concussed Roethlisberger against the Ravens, but the Steelers offense needs Big Ben almost as much as the Steelers defense needs Troy Polamalu. Without those two in the lineup, the champs are in real danger of dropping out of the playoffs altogether. In fact, as it stands right now they would be out of the playoffs in favor of the squishy soft Jacksonville Jaguars team. If they get healthy, they will definitely put in a solid challenge to make a playoff run, but that is a big “If” at the moment.

12. Broncos – Will the real Denver Broncos please stand up? There are clearly two versions of this team, the one that opened up the season like an unstoppable force and reappeared on Thanksgiving to trounce the Giants, and the version that played like they were unfamiliar with the basic tenets of football for the majority of the month of November. For the record, I like the unstoppable force team much better than the pile of dough team; I have zero idea which one we’re going to see for the remainder of the NFL season, but the trip this weekend to the Broncos house of horrors also known as Arrowhead frightens me despite the pathetic level of the modern day Chiefs.

13. Packers – After the embarrassing loss to the Creamcicle Buccaneers in Tampa, I had written this team off. However, they have strung together an impressive three game streak to climb back into contention. They can make the playoffs, but if they do so, they’ll have earned it, as they have games remaining with the Ravens, Steelers, and Cardinals. I’m guessing they finish at 9-7, which may or may not be enough to get them into the dance. Either way, they have rebounded nicely from where they were at three weeks ago.

14. Titans – The house of fire that is the Tennessee Titans won the most exciting contest of the year. If Matthew Stafford had his moment of emergence a week ago in leading the Lions to an improbable win over the Browns, then Vince Young had his re-emergence moment against the Cardinals this past Sunday. Winning a game on the final play of the game with an amazing 99 yard drive is the kind of things that legends are built upon. This team, once 0-6 and coming off of a 59 point beat down has now strung together five straight victories, and is improbably on the outskirts of playoff positioning. In order to make it all the way back, they’ll probably need to run the table, which will be tough with both the Colts and Chargers remaining, but they’ve already redeemed a season which looked lost six games in.

15. Falcons – They almost lost to the Buccaneers in their own building. I refuse to take seriously as a contender a team that almost loses a home game to the Bucs this year. Technically, this team is still in the hunt; but with their next couple games being against the Eagles and Saints, I expect that balloon will be popped in short order.
16. Giants – I know that the Giants were none to pleased to leave New York after three days rest to play a game at Mile High, but seeing as how they need every win they can get to make the postseason, you’d think they’d have at least showed up for the game. It was good to get the Broncos off of their losing skid, but Lady Gaga puts up more resistance to a weird outfit than the Giants put up against Denver on Thanksgiving. To the people advertising for the Citizen Echo-Drive watch…if you want to associate your product with a quarterback who is unstoppable…perhaps Eli Manning is not the best choice. The Broncos proved that he is very stoppable.

17. Texans – Since reaching the dizzying height of being a franchise record two games over .500 at 5-3, the Texans have dropped three straight games. Yet another season of promise appears to be circling the bowl and about to be flushed by Gary Kubiak and company. I like Gary, but I’m beginning to wonder how many more chances he’s going to get. This is a team with a decent amount of talent that needs to start winning.

18. Dolphins – The loss at Buffalo is spirit crushing for this team. This plucky group of overachievers won’t be able to scheme their way into the playoffs at this point, but a word of warning to the contenders remaining on their schedule. They are perfectly capable of playing the spoiler role and taking you down with them. If you’re the Jaguars, Patriots, or Steelers…all teams remaining on Miami’s schedule…Beware of the swimming mammals.

19. Jaguars – With current playoff positioning, the Jags are in right now. This is insane to me, as the Jags barely beat the Jets, Chiefs, Bills, and Rams this season. Plus, have been pounded into submission by the Titans, 49ers and Seahawks this season. They have not beaten a single team that currently has a winning record this season. I cannot allow this team to make the playoffs. I am making it my personal mission to keep them out. I don’t know how I can stop them, but hopefully their remaining schedule will do the job for me. This team is a fraud with a capital David Garrard. Fortunately for my sanity they have games remaining with the Texans, Dolphins, Colts, and Patriots. Heed my words: The Jaguars will NOT make the playoffs. Guaranteed.

20. 49ers – Although they are in a tenuous position right now at 5-6, I’m not ready to count out the Niners just yet. Not when they have been kissed by the Easy-Schedule Fairy for the final two weeks of the season with games against the Lions and Rams. If San Francisco can get hot over the next three weeks, they’ll be in the hunt.

21. Jets – Rookie years have a way of humbling quarterbacks. Mark Sanchez has gone from cocksure young gun with a 3-0 record, to a guy with faltering confidence and a color coded wrist band to help him remember how aggressively to handle each play. I still think he has a good chance to become a solid quarterback, but clearly he isn’t one yet, and he has a LOT to learn. How confident can you feel about anyone doing any job where a color-coded wristband is deemed to be necessary for them to do the job correctly?

22. Panthers – Ouch, Carolina will not be able to play out the string easily. After a breather with the Bucs this weekend, they finish out the schedule with the Patriots, Vikings, Giants, and Saints. It appears that a 6-10 finish would be an accomplishment at this point for the team that was the number 2 seed in the NFC last year. Especially that Jake Delhomme has now been diagnosed with a broker finger, although actually sending Jake to the bench might not hurt the Cats THAT much as he’s been atrocious this year. Priority number 1 for the offseason for this team needs to be obtaining a capable quarterback; Jake Delhomme cannot enter the season next year as your number one guy behind center. That would be the worst decision since Hollywood green-lit a sequel to the live-action Chipmunks movie and called it a “Squeakquel.”

23. Bears – This season couldn’t be going any worse for Jay Cutler and his Bears. After a 3-1 start, they have now dropped six of their last seven games and Cutler is on pace for 247 interceptions on the season. Okay, that is slight hyperbole, but the truth isn’t much better…if he keeps tossing picks at his current pace he will finish the season with 29. Yes, 29 Interceptions in one season!! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little bit happy about how things are playing out for Jay.

24. Seahawks – The people of Seattle feel like the Seahawks don’t get the national attention they deserve since they are isolated all the way up there in the Pacific Northwest. I hope they aren’t chirping too much this season, as apart from wearing the worst uniforms of the season, they haven’t done a noteworthy or interesting thing all year. How is this for a solid boring team statistic, they have played exactly ONE game this year that was decided by less than ten points. ONE! If you’re going to be bad, the least you can do for your fans is make your games exciting.

25. Bills – If your team is regularly playing home games in a different country because they can’t afford to play all of their games in your town…that’s a bad sign, right? This is the football franchise equivalent of renting not buying. The Bills play their second ever home game in Toronto on Sunday against the Jets, and I have a feeling that there will be many more to come in the future.

26. Redskins – The Skins are a very bad team, but if you’re not careful as the favored team, they can bite you. Am I right, fellow Bronco fans? They were almost able to pull another upset against the Eagles on Sunday. If I’m a fan of a no hope team, this is the kind of no hope team I want…one that will at least make it interesting for me every now and then.

27. Chiefs – I’m not going to say ANYTHING mean about the Chiefs right now, because I’m terrified of the Broncos going in to Arrowhead this Sunday. TERRIFIED, I say. Just contemplating this game gives me the shakes. Clearly, I need help.

28. Raiders – I think I’d be more thankful if the NFL hadn’t decided to put Oakland in a Thanksgiving game this year. Look, NFL, the Lions are a perennially dreadful team. If you want to put a crap team like the Raiders on Thanksgiving, put them up against the Lions who are also a crap team. How much better would Thanksgiving football have been if we just swapped the Raiders and Packers in the games? Raiders-Lions would have possibly been a competitive game, as both teams stink on ice and Packers-Cowboys is a matchup of traditional powers who are both battling for a playoff spot. BAM! Instantly both games are better. Someone should pay me to help make these decisions; the sports world would be a better place.

29. Lions – If you’re the NFL, do you want to keep up the Detroit tradition on Thanksgiving, or would you rotate in more competitive clubs and make the games better at the expense of tradition? I think, personally, that they should leave the games with Dallas and Detroit, but I would also understand if they decided to shake it up a bit since the Lions tend to underperform as they did this Thanksgiving when they basically laid down and died against the Packers.

30. Buccaneers – This team has only won once in eleven tries, but at least they occasionally make it sorta kinda interesting, so they get the nod over the two other one-win teams.

31. Rams – There isn’t much interesting to say about this dreadful team, so let’s go with this: Open letter to the people in charge of the Saint Louis franchise: Dear Sirs, Will you PLEASE go back to the royal blue and yellow uniforms that you wore when you won the Super Bowl with the horns on the shoulder? This dark blue and gold stuff looks dreadful. If you’re not going to come close to winning games, at least you could look good losing. Thanks!

32. Browns – How desperate was I as a fantasy football owner when I learned on Friday that Ben Roethlisberger would be sitting out with a concussion and my backup quarterback had already played on Thursday? I was so desperate that I picked up and started Brady Quinn. Do I even need to tell you that I lost?

No comments: