Thursday, October 7, 2010

Powerlines: Week 5 NFL Power Rankings

Behold, the magnificent Walrrot, nature's greatest wonder!

The NFL is facing it's first season since 2005 where there doesn't appear to be the juggernaut team that is clear and away the best team. Everyone has their weaknesses, and there is a group of 8 to 10 teams that legitimately might win the Super Bowl right now. Some might prefer that one team claim clear and present domination over all others, but I like the NFL better when there is uncertainty. (The exception to this rule is when the Broncos are the clear and present juggernaut, which hasn't happened for awhile.) So, here is my lastest attempt to make sense of the land of the senseless, the NFL landscape as we approach Week 5.

1. Steelers - Yeah, they lost to the number 2 team at home, but it was with a fourth string quarterback, and it was ridiculously close. They're getting their lecherous quarterback back, they have a feisty defense and I don't think anyone else deserves the top spot right now more than them. That said, it's clear that the NFL this year is jumbled, and although they are number one right now, they are not a juggernaut with no problems.

2. Ravens - They have been pretty solid this season apart from one inexplicable loss to the Bengals. However, I wonder how far they can go when their quarterback has basically just been an average Joe. Flacco is the 25th rated passer in the league right now, and at some point, you need to score points to win. You can't just shut down every team every Sunday, sometime you need to outscore them, and the Ravens are only averaging 16.5 points per game.

3. Packers - Green Bay is a good team, but the Packers feel like they are in a funk. Losing to the Bears in a game they really should have won, and then almost letting the Lions come back against them; the Pack was expected to excel, and while they are doing well, it doesn't seem like they are firing on all cylinders right now. It'll be interesting to see if Aaron Rodgers can get it going in the way so many expected from him this season.

4. Saints - Talk about another team in a funk. A home game against Carolina starting a rookie quarterback should never be this close. Although the Saints are not off to the same type of fast start they had last season, they do lead the league in kickers on the active roster, so that's something.

5. Jets - Since losing their opener in a dreadful Monday Night opener to the Ravens, it turns out the Jets have been pretty good. They have sliced their way through every team in their division, and it now appears that they are the team to beat in the AFC East.

6. Texans - Houston seems to be performing almost exactly to expectations. I expected them to be good, but not elite. After a quarter of the season has been played, I would classify them as good, but not elite. Well played, Mr. Kubiak.

7. Colts - We're used to seeing this team be elite, so to see them have to struggle is weird. Imagine if Peyton Manning were to get hurt, how far would this team fall? Could they win 5 games this year without number 18? Although they are clearly not the team they have been in past seasons, I think this may actually play to their advantage. It's not about getting out to a hot start, it's about finishing strong. Despite being just 2-2, I kind of like where the Colts are at right now. That said, they need to stop losing games to the likes of the Jaguars.

8. Patriots - Adios, Mr. Moss. I am exceptionally curious to see how the Patriots handle being without their mercurial wide receiver. It's not like he's been on fire, 9 catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns thus far this year, but it did feel like he was the catalyst for a lot of the other players to get less attention and thrive. Now we'll need to see if the Pats can continue to plug in unknowns and keep producing at high levels, they've done it for most of the past decade, but that can't continue forever, can it? Also, their defense is dreadful.

9. Falcons - Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than to be good. The Falcons are a little of both, but they had no business winning that game against the 49ers. Who would have guessed that Roddy White's biggest contribution on the day would be defensively?

10. Bears - It's nice to know that if Jay Cutler's football career doesn't pan out, he has a future renting himself out as a piƱata. He was getting murdered by the Giants defense Sunday night. His concussion may have been a blessing, as I'm not sure he could have survived another half of football if it were again that brutal.

11. Redskins - Donovan McNabb went into Philadelphia and proved why it was such a mistake for the Eagles to jettison him this past offseason...Oh wait, no he didn't. Despite winning the game, the Redskins new quarterback was not exactly playing like he had vengeance on his mind. Unless completing only eight passes for 125 yards is being a cold-blooded killer, in which case, Donovan McNabb was a bad man!

12. Chiefs - Yes, they are undefeated; the only undefeated team in the league, actually. No, they are not even close to the best team in the league. In fact, I think even having them at number twelve is a bit high, but if I am wrong, they get their chance to prove it during the next two weeks. They will be travelling to play the Colts and the Texans, and I am predicting that at that point they will be 3-2, and this talk of them being a good team will have quieted down significantly.

13. Vikings - Randy Moss comes home, and I wonder if you're a Viking fan how do you feel about that? On one hand, if properly motivated, he can be a force of nature. On the other hand, in a bad situation, he can destroy a team. I guess Vikings fans are taking their purple 84 jerseys out of mothballs and trying to figure out if this acquisition will give Brett Favre renewed life and vigor, or just make things spiral even more out of control. The Vikings have a lot of potential to rise, but it's an interestingly fragile concoction they are bubbling in their chemistry set right now. It could explode in their face at any moment.

14. Cowboys - Rested and relaxed after a bye week, the Boys need to string together some more wins and prove that their slow start doesn't mean that they can't finish strong. Next on tap: A Titans team that probably can't believe they let one get away from them at home against the Broncos.

15. Chargers - We've seen it a lot, and I think we're seeing it again. Chargers stumble out of the blocks, then go on a run. I have a feeling that the blowout against the Cardinals was the start of the run for this year, and what better way to jump start a run than have consecutive games against the likes of Arizona, Oakland, and Saint Louis?

16. Giants - Will the real New York Giants please stand up? I can't figure out this team, and neither can you. One week, they get slaughtered, the next week they are doing the slaughtering. We'll put them right here in the middle of the rankings, and they could slide significantly in either direction over the next month. I have no idea what to expect from Eli and the G Men.

17. Eagles - Just as the Mike Vick express starts gaining steam, he goes and hurts his ribs. I hope he gets healthy soon, because I've been enjoying his return to being the freaky good athlete playing quarterback and because something about Kevin Kolb just seems boring and bad in comparison. What is that thing? It's hard to put a finger on, but I think it's that Kevin Kolb appears to be a boring and bad football player. Yes, I think that's it.

18. Dolphins - Yikes, could a unit look worse than the Miami special teams did on Monday night? A blocked field goal, blocked punt, and a kickoff return for a touchdown. Not to mention an interception returned for a touchdown by the Pats as well...I've seen football teams self-destruct many times before, but few with the variety and flourish that the Dolphins displayed against the Patriots. It would have been neat to see Doug Flutie come out of retirement to do a drop kick to complete the bizarre scoring fest against Miami. I'm going to chalk that game up as an aberration, but that was a hard game for anyone associated with South Florida. The Dolphins have a well timed bye week to try and iron out the problems, but Miami might need a month to recover from that debacle.

19. Titans - If you're a contending team, you need to beat the Broncos in your own stadium.

20. Bengals - Terrell Owens and the artist formerly known as Chad Johnson now have a reality show? What could possibly go wrong? At least it will help distract from the mediocre football team they both play for at the moment.

21. Jaguars - Huge exciting win for the Jags over the Colts. They needed something like that after getting pasted the previous two weeks by the Eagles and Chargers. Team Teal appears to be pretty inconsistent. I don't think they are much good, but more showings like the win over the Colts could change my mind. I'll keep them down low for now, as I am not expecting great things from them, but they can be frisky on the occasional Sunday.

22. Broncos - This is a young likable team. Not a highly talented team, but I've enjoyed following them, and it's been nice cheering for them thus far this year. They may lose more than they win this year, but at least it does feel like they are making good progress right now. Also, Kyle Orton is showing no signs that he wants to give up the quarterback position to Tim Tebow anytime soon, or have you not noticed that he leads the entire NFL in passing yards right now? Now if they could just run the ball a little bit...Laurence Maroney was on pace to rush for 100 yards against the Titans...providing the Broncos could have found a way to get him 200 carries on Sunday.

23. Buccaneers - Starting with two wins this year is more a product of the scheduled than it is a sign of them turning the corner. The Bucs still aren't very good.

24. Browns - The Browns are legitimately frisky. They have only won once, but they are hanging around every opponent they play. It's not easy being a Cleveland fan, but there is legitimate reason to at least be excited for the future of the Browns right now. I'm going to go ahead and say that they won the Peyton Hillis for Brady Quinn trade...although Brady has looked nice holding a clipboard as the third string quarterback for the Broncos, Hillis has gone over 100 yards each of his past two games.

25. Rams - Two consecutive legit wins by the Rams. I'm speechless. Another run like this, and the four wins might be enough to win the NFC West.

26. Seahawks - Thus far the Seahawks win the games they are expected to lose and lose the games they should win. If this trend holds true, look for a big victory in Chicago by the Seabirds. (I expect they lose to the Bears, though.)

27. Raiders - The dysfunctional wind is an Oakland Raider. This streak of incompetence is nearing the decade mark, and I'm beginning if the East Bay is ever going to have a Silver and Black Moses lead them to the promised land of more than six wins ever again. Right now definitely feels like their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

28. 49ers - It's not like the West part of the Bay area is any better though. Mike Singletary's squad looks lost which can't be good, as I want things like mooning your team during halftime to continue to be considered valid motivational coaching ploys and not just the manic ravings of a lunatic. "Sane people, Can't play with em, Can't win with em, Can't do it!"

29. Cardinals - Positives for Arizona: Somehow they have managed to win two games thus far this year. Negatives for Arizona: Something called "Max Hall" will be their starting quarterback this Sunday. That can't be good, can it? Also, they have already been outscored by 60 points in 4 games, despite the fact that the won HALF of those games. Yikes!

30. Lions - The Hard Luck express rolls on in Detroit. The good news is that they have the Rams coming into Ford Field this week, which should mean that they have an excellent chance to win, right? Only problem, the Rams have won their past two games by an average of fifteen and a half points. If it weren't for bad luck, the Lions would have no luck at all.

31. Panthers - You're 0-4, you are being quarterbacked by a rookie out of Notre Dame, your offense is atrocious, your defense isn't much better, and your hopes for improvement aren't much better. On the plus side, you have a coach that is widely regarded as being very good for some reason, although judging by this year, you'd be hard pressed as to know what that reason is. You are the Carolina Panthers, and you have my pity. There is a very real chance that we could have two 0-16 teams this season, and this is one of the possibilities.

32. Bills - The Bills couldn't sell enough tickets this weekend to get the blackout restrictions lifted locally. The blackout restriction rule in Buffalo may also alternatively be referred to as "The Angel of Mercy" Law. Watching the Buffalo game with a rooting interest in the Bills is what's known as cruel and unusual punishment.

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