Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Powerlines: Week 18 NFL Power Rankings (Heading into Divisional Weekend)

For some reason, I love this guy's face and round owl glasses. I'm going to miss the strangers on the bus pictures when the NFL season finally ends!

We enter the divisional round with the actual possibility (however unlikely it may be) that the New York Jets could host the AFC Championship game. While that is unlikely, here is how the NFL power is divvied up in my humble opinion amongst the 8 teams who are alive and remain.

1. Chargers – San Diego has rolled off 11 straight wins, and they have looked pretty unbeatable in doing so. The NFL is completely a toss-up this postseason, but if I had to put my money on one team to win it all, I would cast my lot with the Chargers.

2. Colts – After opening the season with fourteen straight wins, it has to be a little disheartening to lose the last two…even if you were playing scrubs. It’s nice to be hot entering the playoffs, and the Colts are more likely to be rusty than hot, as by the time they kickoff on Saturday night they won’t have faced any real action in about a month. If those two final meaningless games taught us anything about Indianapolis, it’s that without Peyton Manning…this is not a good team. There is no injury that could happen in the entire NFL postseason that would as devastating as Peyton going down would be for the Colts. Perhaps that is why he is the MVP?

3. Cowboys – The Cowboys defense is swarming and the offense is also looking very solid. Tony Romo and Wade Phillips have finally gotten the no-playoff-win monkey off of their backs, and I would say that Dallas has an excellent chance at advancing to the game that uses Roman numerals. The quick strike Dallas defense has to be ecstatic to be heading to the fast track of the Metrodome for Round 2.

4. Saints – New Orleans slumped to the finish, but with the playoffs upon us, I think that they get their offense rolling again rather quickly. I hope they do find their grove, because there are few teams in the NFL that are more fun to watch than the Saints when they’re rolling. The Superdome is going to be rocking on Saturday afternoon.

5. Cardinals – How ironic that the deciding play of their overtime game with the Packers came on defense, when it appeared that the whole concept of playing defense seemed to be out of style in the desert on Sunday. Seriously, there were 96 points scored in that game! I was certain that whoever won the coin flip was going to win the game, and yet somehow the Cardinals defense finally made a play in the 5th quarter to keep the Cardinals alive in the postseason. The NFC Champions are still kicking, but if they’re going to keep rolling in the playoffs, they are going to need to get the defensive side of the ball figured out pronto. They are not going to win very many more playoff games in which they give up 45 points. Oh, and Neil Rackers…you might want to get some practice kicks in this week. Rackers dodged a major bullet on Sunday. If the Packers had gone on to win, Neil would be a massive playoff goat for honking a 34 yard field goal at the end of the 4th quarter that would have won the game in regulation. 2009-10 has had more than it’s fair share of missed kicks in clutch situations. Seems like in the past 10 years, that kickers were practically perfect in big situations…up until this year when it seems like they’re more likely to miss than to make. Not sure what’s going on there, but it’s interesting.

6. Vikings – Minnesota is 2-3 in their past five games, Brett Favre has looked less like the franchise savior of the early season, and more like a 40 year old man trying to play quarterback in the NFL. Perhaps he regains his early season glory and leads Minnesota to previously unseen glory, but I’m hoping that this downward trend continues, and the Vikings whimper out of the playoffs on Sunday against a Dallas Cowboy team that has been very good lately. Super Bowl hype is annoying enough already without having Brett Favre thrown into the mix to make it even more unbearable. Hopefully “America’s Team” does America a solid and puts the Vikings down quietly this weekend.

7. Ravens – The Ravens defense was hyper-aggressive against Tom Brady on Sunday and took down the Patriots with relative ease. The defense and the running game floored New England and kind of masked the fact that the Ravens can’t throw the ball at all. Sunday was the ultimate throwback game on offense for Baltimore. They ran the ball 52 times and only threw 10 passes. It was like watching Oklahoma in the 1970’s. Joe Flacco quarterbacked the Ravens to a massive 34 passing yards while completing only 4 passes the whole game. Somehow it worked, but I have a feeling that the Flacco is going to need more than 4 completions to beat the Colts. Flacco is reported to have hip and quadriceps injuries, so the passing game may really struggle against Indy. The defense looked insanely good against the Patriots, and will have to have an encore performance in Indy if Baltimore is going to have any chance at all.

8. Jets – Rex Ryan feels like his team should be favored the rest of the way through the playoffs until their inevitable Super Bowl win. I enjoy Rex’s candor and bravado, however, I doubt his convictions prove true. The Jets, much like the Ravens, won their game through a solid rushing effort and stout defense. Sanchez did much more than Flacco this weekend, but he still only completed 12 passes, and the Jets also went heavy on the run, having 41 rushing attempts against only 15 pass plays. They’ll have a chance in San Diego, as they matchup decently against the Chargers, but they’ll need to do more than they did against Cincinnati’s rather poor offense if they want a chance at advancing to the AFC Championship game.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good-bye!

Packers – When they won the coin-toss, I felt like they had won the game as well with the NFL’s way of doing overtime. Green Bay can hold it’s head up high knowing they have a great offense to build upon with an outstanding quarterback that has proven it was a good idea to force out Favre, some dynamite wideouts, Ryan Grant carrying the ball solidly, and Jermichael Finley playing tight end exceptionally well. The defense and offensive line need a little work, but overall the future look bright in Wisconsin.

Patriots – Tom Brady looked really hesitant on Sunday, his throws were off with alarming regularity, and he proved that he just will not run anymore no matter how much open field he has in front of him. Add to that a defense that looked old and unable to stop anything, and a team that was not able to stop the force of momentum once the Ravens got rolling, and you have a Patriots team that looked really vulnerable and weak on Sunday. I’m trying not to smile too widely as I type this. I don’t know that the Patriots dynasty is over, but I’m hoping that it’s trending that way.

Eagles – Man, these guys have to hate the Cowboys. That game was briefly close, including a brief shining moment by Michael Vick, but by the time halftime rolled around. The Eagles were as good as done. The running game isn’t as important as it used to be in the NFL, but it seems like it would behoove the Eagles to at least TRY to develop a tiny bit of a ground game. McNabb looked dreadful on Saturday night, and the Eagles had nothing to fall back on, and just like that, the McNabb-Reid duo falls short of their goal yet again.

Bengals – The Bengals had shown signs of weakening for almost two months now. There was nothing surprising about the fact that they lost, and despite having a very solid season, Cincinnati’s season still ends with a bit of bitterness. I would really hope that someday the Bengals actually can go on a postseason run, just for novelty’s sake. Still, this result isn’t completely unexpected. They are, after all, still the Bengals.

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