Monday, January 4, 2010
Powerlines: Week 17 NFL Power Rankings (Heading into Wild Card Weekend)
Alright! The preliminaries are complete, and it's time to get down to the serious business of crowning a champ. Here is how I see the power lying amongst the teams that have qualified for the postseason: (I just lumped all the eliminated teams into groups, no point in ranking them now.)
1. Chargers – I am becoming more and more convinced that the Bolts are going to win the whole shebang. This is an abundantly talented team that has rolled off 11 straight wins, and has no fear of going in to Indianapolis. I don’t see anyone in the playoffs that I envision beating them with the possible exception of the Patriots...who may just be their first playoff opponent. Man, I love the playoffs.
2. Colts – Despite being the best team for the majority of the year, there is something karmically wrong with the way they ended the season just not caring at all about dropping their final two games. Perhaps they bounce back, but perhaps they don’t. The fact is that in less than two weeks either the Bengals, Jets or Ravens are coming to town, and the Colts had better be ready to roll.
3. Cowboys – To completely lift the moniker of “team that folds”, they probably need to beat the Eagles in the playoffs. They soundly thumped Philly in the season finale which was significant for both teams, and I feel like they win the sequel as well. They have already beaten the Eagles twice, and I don’t think winning the third is far fetched at all. If they can get past the Eagles, I very much like the Cowboys odds of taking out the Vikings.
4. Saints – Such a strange dynamic going in to the playoffs in that the NFC top seed has lost three straight and the AFC top seed has lost two straight. The Saints appear to have peaked too early, as they haven’t looked the same since they railroaded the Patriots. Can they get their groove back in time for the playoffs? One thing is certain, this team is the one that most of America wants to win it all.
5. Packers – The Pack is white hot, and they get to go run with the Cardinals in the desert for the second straight week. If the Eagles find some way to beat the Cowboys, and the Pack can once again shuffle the Cards… do you realize what that would mean? Yup, the NFC divisional round would be Saints-Eagles in the bayou AND Favre-Packers III. What a wonderful playoff weekend that would be, and we haven’t even mentioned the possibility of Bengals-Colts and Patriots-Chargers. I’m giddy with the possibilities!
6. Vikings – That’s right, I’ve put the Packers above the Vikings and the 40 year old quarterback. Sure, the Vikes swept Green Bay which is why they are enjoying a bye this upcoming weekend, but Minnesota has slumped to the finish, and the Pack have surged. I’m just praying we get to see this match up one more time, and that the Pack can finally take down Brett when it matters most.
7. Patriots – Yes, the talk a few weeks ago when Belichick went for it on 4th down, and the Pats fell in Indy was all about how New England was finished. However, I would not want to face this team right now. You may not like Belichick, but he is the best coach in the playoffs by a ridiculous margin. Seriously, look who is coaching the rest of these teams…Norv Turner, Jim Caldwell, Wade Phillips, Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy, Brad Childress, Andy Reid, Ken Whisenhunt, John Harbaugh, Marv Lewis and Rex Ryan. Anyone on that list give you any sort of confidence that they can trade x’s and o’s with Bill? Yeah, me neither. The Patriots are lying in the weeds. They aren’t the favorites, nor should they be, but they are scary.
8. Ravens – Baltimore may have been one of the last teams in, but they definitely belong in the postseason. Their game against the Patriots next week should be excellent, and I have them as an underdog to be sure, but an underdog with bite. I will not be shocked in the least if they emerge from Foxborough victorious.
9. Cardinals – They can’t do it two years in a row, can they? They played a game against the Packers on Sunday where they had something to play for and they were bombed by a 33-7 score. I won’t say it’s impossible that the Cardinals come from nowhere as we saw them do it last year, but I think the Packers are a terrible matchup for the Cards.
10. Eagles – For all the talk about how hot the Eagles were down the stretch…if you look at their schedule, you’ll quickly see that it was Downy soft, and not only that, but they didn’t win a single game that they shouldn’t have. Seriously, their most impressive wins are against the Broncos, Falcons, and Giants. They only played four games against playoff teams, and they lost all four. I don’t feel like Philly will be in the postseason for very long at all.
11. Bengals – This may be another team that peaked too early. They could have improved their playoff position with a win last week, but if they had won they would have had the Texans instead of the Jets…and getting the Jets is probably better for them, so I don’t feel like their no show last night against New York was a horrible thing for them. The thing I would worry about is that they are now facing a Jets team that is all kinds of confident that they can beat them, and they haven’t beaten anyone stronger than the Chiefs or Browns since the middle of November. The Bengals-Jets game is clearly the worst game of the Wild-Card weekend to me.
12. Jets – Is this a solid team that is peaking, or a mediocre team that benefitted from playing two good teams late that had nothing to play for. The Jets have to be kissing the scheduling gods in that they got to play the disinterested Colts and Bengals teams, but now lets see how they do on the road against teams that care. I can see New York moving on from the first round, but only because they get to face a limited Bengals team that looks somewhat declawed. They will not advance any further than the divisional round, if they can even get there.
Good, but not quite good enough:
Texans – Best season in franchise history still has them looking in from the outside of the playoffs. They haven’t been around enough long enough to develop a rival, but they can’t be too happy with the lack of effort the Bengals showed last night in a game that would have put Houston in the playoffs.
Steelers – A great team most of the year, done in by a five game skid against many crappy teams. Not much of a title defense from Pittsburgh this year.
Dolphins – Decimated by injury, they still hung in there. Against the Steelers on Sunday, they were down to essentially their fourth string quarterback, and STILL had a shot at the end. (By the way, did you see the hit that Pat White took? OUCH!)
Falcons – A very quiet 9-7 season in Atlanta.
Good start and then fell apart:
Broncos – A great 6-0 start foiled by an absolute embarrassment of a 2-8 finish. At the end, this team just really proved that they didn’t belong at the big boy table.
Giants – They looked great, and then they looked mediocre, and then they looked miserable. The G-men played like they were Cinderella and midnight was week 11. From that point on, they pretty much played like pumpkins.
Jaguars – I didn’t really want to put the Jags in this category, as in my opinion, they were always fairly subpar, but the fact is that they were 7-5 at one point, and in an excellent position to make the playoffs. Their four game losing streak collapse to end the season showed that the football gods can be just. This team finished exactly where they should…at 7-9, just slightly below average.
Surging at the end, but from too deep a hole to matter:
Titans – The anti-Broncos: They looked hopeless at 0-6, losing the final game of that skid by an embarrassing 59-0 score, but they then went on an 8-2 run to pull even as an 8-8 team that would have possibly made the playoffs if the season were just a week or two longer.
Panthers – The Panthers surge to 8-8 coincided with Jake Delhomme sitting due to injury. That is not a fluke. Jake had an abysmal season, and Matt Moore should open 2010 as the Panthers starter if they don’t bring in someone else.
Browns – After looking like one of the worst teams ever through twelve games, something clicked in Cleveland. The Browns finished the season on a bit of a roll…amazingly going out on a four game win streak and salvaging a modicum of respect for Cleveland football with the final four games.
Bad, but occasionally frisky:
Raiders – Yes, the Raiders only won five games. The real story of this season for Oakland is the level of the teams that they beat: barely beating Kansas City is no great accomplishment, but taking down Denver, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Philly isn’t too shabby.
Bears – The Bears finish 7-9, but apart from being the Vikings and Steelers, the rest of their wins were against mostly crap teams such as the Browns, the Lions (twice), the Rams, and the Seahawks. Hardly a murderer’s row. If the Bears want to be good in the immediate future, Jay Cutler will need to play a LOT better.
49ers – The Niners had some good wins, including thumping the Jaguars, sweeping the Cardinals, and outlasting the Bears. However, they finished at 8-8 since they let far too many games slip. They weren’t really bad, but they weren’t really good either. They were mediocre, which is evidenced by their ho-hum 8-8 finish. Their most interesting game of the year came early in a September game where they were very close to beating Favre and the Vikings, but were victimized by a tremendous throw by Favre and an even better catch by Greg Lewis in the final seconds.
Seahawks – The Hawks were a trendy pick to rebound from a poor season in 2008, and while they did improve, I think the pundits were looking for more than a one game improvement. They also get the award for most boring team to watch, as only three of their games were determined by less than double figures all season. The only thing interesting that Seattle pulled all season was breaking out the infamous snot green jerseys for a game against the Bears in September. Wow, were those ugly.
Bills – Another ho hum season in Buffalo (and Toronto), the Bills finished out of the playoffs yet again, and completed the entire decade without so much as sniffing a postseason berth. It’s not easy being a Buffalo fan, and they have my pity.
Redskins – Apart from beating the Broncos, and playing a game where they SHOULD have beat the Saints…the Redskins were atrocious this year. Washington was totally justified in firing head coach Jim Zorn, which they did less than 24 hours after the season ended in a move that surprised NOBODY!
Chiefs – A very bad team, but if there is anything good to take from this season for Kansas City, it looks like they have found a legit superstar at running back in Jamaal Charles. That man is impressive. I still can’t believe this ragtag group came into Invesco Field and thumped the Broncos in the season Finale, but they sure did.
Buccaneers – The Bucs managed three wins from a roster that is exceptionally light on talent. That can almost be considered overachieving, but I don’t think they feel that way in Tampa right now.
Lions – Can a team have massive improvement, and still only win two games all year? I don’t know if it’s possible, but this year’s Lions are as close as that will ever come to happening. I don’t think a 2-14 team can ever feel good about itself, though.
Rams – The Rams were just a dreadful excuse for a football team, and it’s appropriate that they finished the season being quarterbacked by a guy named Null.