Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Powerlines: Week 19 NFL Power Rankings (Heading into Conference Championship Weekend)

As the season nears it's end, this means this is our penultimate stranger on the train, plus she's wearing purple.

We're down to the Final 4, and somehow the Jets are still playing. There are only 3 real games left until the offseason, which is a depressing thought. Still...the season is reaching it's exciting climax, let's hang on and hope that the final three games are better than the postseason has been to this point. Here is where the power lies among the few that remain eligible for a championship.

1. Colts – This team is winning it all. Granted, the last team I said that about just lost to the Jets, so it’s not like I’m rock solid on these things, but the Colts are going to hoist their second Lombardi trophy in a few weeks. They just beat a better version of the Jets called, “The Ravens.” Do I think the Jets will be able to take them? Nevermore. Indy’s defense is stout, their offensive weapons are insane, and did I mention a guy who wears number eighteen? The Saints or Vikings might be able to give them a game, but you have to believe that it’s the year of the horseshoe.

2. Saints – New Orleans certainly proved that just because you end a regular season on a slump doesn’t mean that you are not still capable of laying wood to somebody. The Saints obliterated an Arizona team that apparently had decided during this playoff run that playing defense was beneath them. The Saints offense appears to be instantly back on to it’s crazy pace, and there is a legit chance that the Saints could participate in their first Super Bowl.

3. Vikings – The NFC Championship game is a legit tossup. Brett Favre appears healthy and ready to roll, and the Vikings defense absolutely steamrolled the Cowboys offense on Sunday. Their game against the Saints on Sunday is far from easy to call, and I will not be surprised if they are able to go into the Superdome and crush the hearts of Cajuns everywhere. Adrian Peterson has not looked up to his superhuman standards of late, but he’s still a spectacular talent, and as much as it pains me to admit it, Number 4 has totally raised that Vikings team to another level. I’ll be cheering against them because of Favre on Sunday, but I like the rest of this team, and certainly Minnesota deserves a chance at glory.

4. Jets – My mind has had several days to wrap itself around the concept that the Jets are one of the four best teams in the NFL, but I can’t do it. This team is not that good, they just got hot at the perfect time. This is a team that lost to the Jaguars got swept by the Dolphins and even fell to the Bills for crying out loud. If they hadn’t been kissed by the NFL scheduling fairy, they might not even have made the playoffs, a month ago they could only muster seven points against a very suspect Falcons team, and yet, here they are in the AFC Championship.

I may doubt their pedigree, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not cheering for the Jets to win. Rex Ryan is everything that I could wish for in an NFL coach. First of all, he’s ridiculously fat, which is always a plus. Second, he is prone to let his emotions lead him to making bold if not completely ridiculous statements, such as saying that the Jets were obviously out of the playoffs two weeks before they went ahead and clinched or declaring that the Jets should be favored against anyone they play. Third, there is just something fun about a braggadocios underdog going farther than he should. The fact that New York is in the playoffs is ridiculous, the fact that they have won two postseason games and are now in the AFC Championship is insane, and should they somehow win one more and unleash a hoard of unwashed Jets fans upon South Florida? Well, that would be sublime. So yes, Virginia, I’m rooting for the Jets. The fact that I think they stand about a snowball’s chance in Delhi doesn’t mean that I won’t be cheering on Gang Green.

Here are some lovely parting gifts for our losers:

-Chargers: Nate Kaeding sure picked a terrible time to have the worst game of his career. The Chargers dominated the entire first half and they should have been up by twenty at the break, but a combination of bad breaks, bad luck and bad kicking had them only up by seven. The Jets just kept hanging around until suddenly they were ahead, and then suddenly they were up by ten. They held on at the end, and suddenly and improbably, the Chargers season and their eleven game win streak thudded to a halt simultaneously. The craziest thing about this is that San Diego then immediately extended Norv Turner’s contract through 2013…because when you have a coach with a history of sucking and collapsing in the playoffs with a team that has superior talent, you need to make sure you lock that guy up long term!

-Cowboys: All those nice things I said about the Cowboys after they took care of Philly in back to back weeks were noticeably absent from that abortion of an effort which they put forth in Minnesota. Tony Romo looked horrible, but it’s hard to look good as a quarterback when you’re constantly running for your life. The Minnesota defense made the Cowboys offense non-existent, and the Cowboys defense couldn’t return the favor to Brett Favre. Now, even as Wade Phillips has been brought back for another year, one has to wonder if the Cowboys actually turned the table on their late season failures or if they just matchup really well against the Eagles. Either way, Dallas is the NFC mirror image of San Diego, right down to the retread overmatched Head Coach.

-Cardinals: If you’re going to win in the playoffs, averaging giving up exactly 45 points per game is probably not going to carry you long term. Now the Cardinals must face the looming prospect of trying to get back to this point again possibly without Kurt Warner who sounds like he may be leaning towards heading out to pasture. With that (lack of) defense, and suddenly Matt Leinart being under center, the short-lived window for the Cards may have just been slammed shut in the Superdome on Saturday.

-Ravens: The Ravens are getting older on defense, Joe Flacco’s glorious rookie year ran into somewhat of a sophomore slump, and while this team is still good, they were obviously too limited to be able to take down the Peyton Manning express. There is still hope in Baltimore for the immediate future, but Ray Lewis’ crew may be getting too long in the tooth to continue to remain among the AFC elite. Plus, this team is just too dumb as currently construed to win it all. Cutting down on stupid mistakes will be a key thing to work on during their offseason.

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