Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Powerlines: Week 15 NFL Power Rankings

I like her glasses.

The Chargers are rising, the Cowboys saved their season, the Broncos are choking, the Redskins gave up, and the Colts just keep chugging along. Oh, and the Rams are just all kinds of terrible. These things we know, although with eight teams vying for 2 spots in the AFC, what we don't know is who will make the playoffs. It's literally ANYONE'S game. I can never remember a scenario in which only four teams in a conference are eliminated with only two games to play. To contrast, in the NFC nine teams are already done. Weird finish to a weird year, here is how the power currently lies in my warped mind. Adjust accordingly.

1. Colts – The only question that remains for the Colts is how hard will they go in their final two games? Jim Caldwell hasn’t announced his exit strategy for the season, but I’m hoping he keeps the pedal to the metal and tries to run the table. Someone wins the Super Bowl every year, but to go undefeated makes you immortal. They should strive for immortality instead of resting people and acting like the final games are meaningless. That said, I just have a feeling that the Colts are not going to win it all this year.

2. Chargers – The Chargers are hot, the Chargers are good, and San Diego is the team I am anticipating will be holding the Lombardi Trophy once this whole thing is over with. Of course, at this time last year I was saying the Panthers would win it all, so take my prophecy with a significant grain of salt.

3. Saints – No shame in losing to the Cowboys, they're a solid squad. Going 13-1 is a mighty impressive accomplishment, and now they no longer have the undefeated thing hanging over them. New Orleans is an impressive team, and it’s going to be difficult for an NFC opponent to go into the Superdome and take them out of the playoffs. Losing at home to the Cowboys probably got that home loss out of their system, it may be the best thing that could have happened to them.

4. Eagles – Much like the Chargers in the AFC, the Eagles have righted the ship and are playing some inspired football right now. They are one of only two NFC teams that I can envision walking into New Orleans and emerging with a victory.

5. Vikings – This is the other team that MIGHT be able to bring down the Saints. Although, it may officially be time for Vikings fans to be worrying about how well the 40 year old body of Brett Favre is holding up. When your coach is having stream of consciousness thoughts about pulling you when you’re winning 7-6, that can not be a good sign. Of course, my guess is that when Brad Childress has stream of consciousness thoughts the main things that run through his brain are things like Spongebob Squarepants, internal debates with himself about whether or not he turned off the stove, and questions as to whether or not he has soup stains in his beard. I doubt football gets in there TOO often.

6. Cowboys – Just when you think they’re collapsing, they put together their best win of the season against the Saints. If you don’t think there is pressure in being the Cowboys coach, think about this…How many NFL coaches that have their teams at 9-5 are widely considered to be on their last legs with the organization? Despite the fact that Wade Phillips is doing a pretty decent job this year, people are speculating that he probably won’t be back next year. Man, tough room.

7. Patriots – The Patriots will most assuredly make the playoffs, however I don’t think they last too long. Perhaps they win in the wild card round, but I have a hard time believing this team will go into San Diego or Indy and win in the postseason. (Yes, I am aware that they were very close to beating the Colts in Indianapolis last month.)

8. Ravens – If you’re looking for a dark horse to go on a ridiculous run and come out of nowhere ala the 2008 Arizona Cardinals, you’d be hard pressed to find a better candidate than the Baltimore Ravens.

9. Packers – The Packers are playing very solid football right now despite the fact that they failed to beat a team that had lost to Cleveland, Kansas City and Oakland in the last month and a half. The NFL is a weird league, man.

10. Bengals – Valiant effort against the Chargers, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we see that matchup again in a month. I don’t know if the Bengals can go on much of a postseason run, but this season is already a success in Cincinnati.

11. Giants – After scoring only six against the Broncos on Thanksgiving, the Giants have apparently figured out their offensive woes, they’ve averaged 38 points per game since in three games against their division foes. They looked amazing against Washington on Monday Night, but it’s important to remember that the Redskins are terrible.

12. Cardinals – Arizona is once again quietly lurking below the radar. It seems impossible that they could make another improbable run, but then it seemed impossible last year too and now they have experience to draw upon. Still, I don’t think the Cards are an NFC power broker but rather a team that is fortunate to play in the worst division in football.

13. Broncos – I was at Invesco on Sunday when the Broncos took on Oakland, and I am still at a loss to describe what happened. Somehow the Broncos run defense collapsed, and despite allowing only 102 yards passing, the Broncos lost at home to the hapless Raiders. It feels inevitable that the Broncos will finish 9-7 now, I don’t know if that’s going to be good enough to get into the postseason, but it definitely seems like destiny at this point. Unless they can somehow find a way to win in Philadelphia, which I don’t see happening.

14. Titans – If Jeff Fisher pulls the plug on Kerry Collins a week or two earlier, would the Titans rally have started earlier and would they now be a playoff lock? Of course, that’s impossible to know, but it sure feels like that would be the case. Tennessee has been a different team with Vince Young who’s career is following the path of the yo-yo right now. He started his playing days on a big up swing, dramatically dropped to tremendous lows, and now is on the way up again.

15. Steelers – For those who like the world to make sense, it would probably be best to avert your eyes from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Champs were as low as low could be after dropping five straight against the likes of Cleveland, Kansas City and Oakland, but now are in the middle of the AFC muddle after taking down a hot Green Bay team. I officially give up trying to figure out Pittsburgh. They could miss the playoffs or repeat as champs and either way I not going to understand it.

16. Dolphins – The overtime loss to Tennessee hurts, as if they had been able to pull that one out, they’d be sitting pretty for the playoffs. As it now stands, they’re going to need to win out and get some help.

17. Jets – Another team that missed out on a big chance at home on Sunday by falling to the Falcons. Gang Green (and many other AFC hopefuls) had to be whooping and hollering for the Raiders on Sunday, as Oakland’s win kept alive the chances for a whole host of teams.

18. Texans – A two game win streak is reason for hope in Houston after they had dropped four straight, but then you have to remember that the two wins were against the Rams and Seahawks, which takes away a little of the luster of being lumped in with all the other 7-7 teams fighting for their playoff lives. Add in that their remaining games are against the Patriots and Dolphins, and I think we can pronounce last rites on the Texans.

19. Falcons – Winning in the Meadowlands on Sunday kept hope alive in Atlanta for the first ever back to back winning seasons for the Falcons. It feels rather likely that they’ll get there with their final two games being against Buffalo and Tampa Bay, but even if they do, they’ve been eliminated from postseason contention, so it’ll be a hollow accomplishment.

20. Panthers – Julius Peppers looked like a man possessed against the Vikings on Sunday Night. Brett Favre is fortunate to still be in working order after that beating. The Panthers provided the definitive blueprint for the rest of the NFC playoff hopefuls on how to take down the Vikes.

21. Jaguars – Yes, this is probably too low for a team that is still in the playoff hunt and who just played the Colts extremely tough. I don’t care. The Jags are not good, they just aren’t.

22. 49ers – I have nothing interesting to say about the 49erzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

23. Bears – George Blanda’s record of 42 interceptions thrown in one season (back in 1962) is probably safe, but Jay Cutler can’t be happy at the rate at which he is tossing the ball to guys in different uniforms. 25 picks through 14 games is unheard of in 2009, Bears fans are horribly depressed right now.

24. Raiders – In a season that can’t feel good for JaMarcus Russell, Sunday was a rare bright spot, leading the Raiders to a last minute win in Denver. The Raiders might not be a great team, but they are certainly capable of taking down good teams. They’ve hung L’s on the records of the Broncos, Eagles, Steelers and Bengals this season.

25. Seahawks – So I hear that the Hawks are retiring the Green uniforms. I can’t imagine why, they looked so professional on the field in uniforms that resembled radioactive snot.

26. Bills – We are about to close out a decade in which the Bills never sniffed the playoffs. Poor Buffalo, that town really could use a turnaround of their fortune, it’s got to be getting tough to remain a Bills fan when your team is continually pummeled and beaten down. Somehow I feel like they aren’t going to make the playoffs until they come to their senses and return to the royal blue jerseys and white helmets which are massively superior to the dreadful uniforms they currently sport.

27. Redskins – Washington put on one of the worst efforts on Monday Night Football against the Giants that I have ever seen in the NFL. They just looked like they didn’t care at all as they were buried 45-12 by New York. Not that I blame the players, how hard are you going to play for a coach who has had his play calling duties stripped from him and it is public knowledge his replacement is being currently interviewed. The Redskins organization is a mess right now. I really hope Mike Shanahan settles on a different organization to take his football legacy; the Redskins seem like a hopeless case.

28. Browns – This is not a misprint, the Cleveland Browns are on a two game win streak right now with potential to stretch it to three games as they have a matchup on Sunday with the Oakland Raiders. A three game win streak by the Browns this season may be reason to run to the hills as the fire and brimstone that will accompany the end of the world may start falling immediately after the game ends. You may just want to prep the bomb shelter, you know, just in case.

29. Chiefs – The Chiefs are not very good, but it’s pretty cool to note that they have on their defense a guy named Andy Studebaker from Wheaton College. My brother-in-law played football for Wheaton, so the fact that someone from his football program is now in the NFL is pretty darn cool. I’m not a big Chiefs fan, but I wish Andy all the luck in the world!

30. Buccaneers – Hey, congrats to the Buccaneers, who finally won a game in 2009 in which they weren’t wearing Creamsicle uniforms. It only took 13 chances to get it, well done!

31. Lions – Do the Lions fans consider this season a success? They have improved by 2 games over their previous season’s record already. That’s progress, right?

32. Rams – Peter King ripped on the old royal blue and yellow Rams uniforms this week. Peter King is wrong, horribly horribly wrong. The new Rams uniforms are almost as ugly as the product on the field in Saint Louis.

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