Tag:49ers
Posted on: December 20, 2012 2:36 am
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 15

Greetings, readers.  There were some interesting results that changed how the playoffs will shake out in Week 15.  Let's get to the stories and then check out the latest Rankings.

We start with last Thursday's game.  Cincinnati started out fairly unimpressively, but did manage to pull it out in the end, thanks to some timely turnovers and a couple decent passes from Andy Dalton.  That might be a bit reductive.  But it really hinged on the turnovers and the fact that the Eagles are just terrible after starting out well.  Dalton is one of the rising stars among the QB's in the league, yet he's becoming underrated due to the advancement of guys like Luck, Griffin, and Wilson.  Of course, the team's performance has something to do with it, too, as the Bengals are 8-6 and have lost a couple games they probably shouldn't have.  That applies to just about every team in the league, though.  It's that "any given Sunday" mentality.

The top teams in each conference played well and won.  Of the two, Atlanta looked stronger and more consistent; they put up 34 on the Giants and didn't allow a single point.  The Texans looked vulnerable for about a minute-and-a-half, but then forced Andrew Luck into some bad plays.  So apparently, there is a ceiling for Luck and the Colts.  It appears that they'll be a Wild Card team.  For a rookie QB, that's pretty good.  I was hoping they'd beat the Texans in Week 15 & 17 and take the division.  Oh well.  Since Atlanta and Houston are both 12-2, the top seeds are probably locked up now.

I don't think many people are surprised by Denver's recent performances.  They've been on such a long winning streak that I don't expect them to lose or even play badly in the next two weeks.  They'll be going into the playoffs hot, if they can keep this pace up.  The good thing that helps them in this case is that their last two games look pitifully easy.  So it should be a breeze, but we've seen how teams can screw that up.

Green Bay is another team that benefitted from a bad performance of the team they were facing.  They played the fraudulent Bears and took the division with the win.  I've been seeing some stuff about Aaron Rodgers being an MVP candidate.  Not sure about all that, especially given that crapfest against the Giants a few weeks ago.  But the team is looking strong.

New England almost had a great comeback and then got derailed by two plays.  The first was a kickoff return; the second was the TD that won the game for San Francisco.  The game was ugly for most of the first half and then devolved into a waste of time late in the second half, as the Patriots had clearly run out of gas or mojo or whatever fueled the comeback.  How the special teams and defense allowed those two plays after Brady played his heart out is beyond me.  But this is what happens.  And the Pats are still better off than Baltimore.

Here are the Rankings for Week 15:

1.) Denver (11-3) [+1]
 Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.  Sort of, but not really.  The interesting thing to see is if they can keep up the winning streak or if they give up in Week 17 to get ready for the playoffs.

2.) Green Bay (10-4) [+2]
 They're getting over some injuries and Aaron Rodgers is back to playing well.  Or better than at the start of the season when he didn't look great.  Now that they've clinched the NFC North, they're in the running for the 2-seed.  But they have to stay ahead of Seattle as well.

3.) Houston (12-2) [+2]
 After a disappointing loss to New England (I wasn't disappointed, but their fans must have been), the Texans rebounded and took out the Colts.  We'll see what happens in the rematch in two weeks; I don't expect a similar performance the next time around, as they'll probably be resting players in a foolish attempt to elongate their playoff lives.  Despite having the top seed locked up, I don't have a lot of confidence in this team; Matt Schaub is a decent QB, of course, but compared to the others that look to be in the playoffs, including Luck, RGIII, and Wilson, he doesn't look that great.

4.) Atlanta (12-2) [+2]
 While it's great to have a commanding win in the regular season, especially in December, the Falcons have a lot to prove in the playoffs.  With a week off to start, the pressure will just be that much greater.  Now, unlike the Texans, I think the Falcons have a damn good chance of doing something.  Matt Ryan looks solid, though he too has had his problems.  But it's really that defense which is stepping up at the right time.  And those weapons on offense, wow.

5.) San Francisco (10-3-1) [+2]
 A good win against one of the better teams in the league.  Now they head up to Seattle in what is probably the deciding game in the NFC West.  Colin Kaepernick hasn't been throwing it down the field as much, which will have to change in the playoffs for them to reach the Super Bowl.  After all, that's why he's the starting QB and Alex Smith isn't.

6.) New England (10-4) [-5]
 I'm not sure that loss really means anything.  San Francisco is a good team, certainly better than much of the Pats' other comptetion.  No shame in losing to a team like that, especially given the state of the Pats' secondary.  But with Brady & Belichick on-board still, the expectation is Super Bowl or bust.  I'm not sure if they can go through Denver to reach the Super Bowl yet.

7.) Seattle (9-5) [+1]
 Consecutive weeks brought consecutive beatdowns.  In both games, the Seahawks put up over 50 points.  Unbelievable.

8.) Indianapolis (9-5) [-5]
 So as I've alluded to previously, I'm a little disappointed by what happened on Sunday with the Colts loss.  But it's ok, because they'll get a Wild Card.  I think.  It's looking good.

9.) Minnesota (8-6) [-]
 Adrian Peterson has single-handedly brought the Vikings back into contention for a Wild Card.  Unbelievable.

10.) Washington (8-6) [-]
 Despite not having RGIII, Washington won a game against a team they should have beaten easily.  It wasn't really that difficult, but it probably should have been a little easier.  Here's hoping that RGIII comes back so we can see him screw with defenses again.

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

Three Games to Watch (Week 16):
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (Sunday, CBS)
NY Giants @ Baltimore (Sunday, FOX)
San Francisco @ Seattle (Sunday, NBC) 
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 28, 2012 12:21 am
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 12

Greetings, readers!  We're back after the Thanksgiving holiday with more nonsense about the NFL.  The country's most popular sport had one heck of a day on Thursday, with two solid games followed by an absolute beatdown.  More on that in just a second.  I hope that everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving and that they enjoyed the games this week.

Of course, we have to start with the first game and the absolutely abhorrent rule that basically allowed the Texans to win.  As I understand it, the rule goes something like this: if a coach challenges a play that was going to be reviewed, his team is penalized 15 yards and no review takes place.  In this case, the TD that should not have been was not reviewed because Lions coach Jim Schwartz challenged the play, even though all TD's are reviewed automatically.  Because Schwartz threw the flag, the play was not reviewed and the TD stood, even though it was never a TD in the first place!  What a bunch of...gizzards.  Much as I'd love to think otherwise, the Texans are 10-1 and have a stranglehold on the division and the AFC as a whole.

The Cowboys took on Washington as well, and while there wasn't much in the way of controversy, my favorite team still managed to end up on the losing side.  There wasn't a lot of excitement either until the second half.  RGIII and the one or two decent receivers he has managed to put up 28 before the first half was over, and despite the Cowboys' comeback attempt, it was indeed over by halftime.

Lastly, the New England Patriots put up another spectacular beatdown.  This time, the Jets were the victim.  I think there was probably a little bit of concern when Gronk went out, but Tom Brady and the rest of his cadre decided to put that to rest quickly.  The effort was assisted by the defense and special teams, which put up a couple of TD's by themselves, taking the onus off of Brady just a bit.  All in all, a fun game to watch, unless you're Fireman Ed.  Or a less notable Jets fan.

Let's move on to Sunday's games.  First up is the 10-1 Falcons.  They had a little trouble with the Bucs, but this is no surprise.  The Bucs have been playing well recently and Atlanta has had problems putting teams away.  It looks like they'll be the top seed in the NFC as the only team that's close is San Francisco, and they're burdened with a tie.  I guess Chicago could be considered close as well, but I don't trust them to finish the deal.

Speaking of the Bears, they're 8-3, as is Denver.  Chicago didn't have much trouble with Minnesota.  Jay Cutler came back after missing the 49ers game; obviously, given the score and the win, he played well enough.  Denver wasn't quite as fortunate, as they had problems playing in Kansas City all day.  Peyton Manning did just enough to win and keep his Comeback Player and MVP candidacy alive.  But it was far too close for comfort.

Indianapolis won against Buffalo and is now 7-4.  Currently, they're the fifth seed in the AFC, which means they'd be heading out to Denver if things hold up.  That would just be serendipitous, wouldn't it?  People are calling the Colts a surprise team, but I don't see anything really "surprising" about them.  Reggie Wayne was one of the only holdovers from the 2011 squad and has played like an elite WR.  Andrew Luck, obviously, is the rookie of the year.  The other receivers are serviceable, and RB Vick Ballard has won a game by himself and played well generally.

4th & 29.  That play was many things, depending on the observer.  But the result was that Baltimore won and San Diego didn't.  If the fate of coach Norv Turner wasn't already decided, I think that play is the one that ensures that he gets fired.  Of course, since they're so far out of the division race, they're likely not making the playoffs.  Even the Wild Card looks out of reach; they'll likely end up under .500, and though the sixth seed is up for grabs, I don't think San Diego has a chance for it unless they win out.  How likely is that?  Not very.  Baltimore is 9-2 despite some shaky play of late.  Joe Flacco has regressed from supposedly "elite" back to bottom-third in QB play.  How that works out in the playoffs, I'm not sure; Flacco could conceivably raise his level of play when the games mean more.

Colin Kaepernick started another game for the 49ers and not surprisingly, it was a win.  Some were thinking that the Superdome crowd (and decibel level) would derail the rookie.  And for most of the first half, they were right!  Then the defense showed up and made some big plays, and the rookie's confidence grew as he played better in the second half.  I'm not too big on the whole QB controversy nonsense; as long as Kaepernick is playing well, there's really no reason to sit him, especially for a guy that isn't better.  People can make arguments about completion % and the other things Alex Smith brings to the table (notably, wins), but really, the guy just throws screen passes and other short balls and doesn't really look to throw it down the field.  Kaepernick, on the other hand, can get the ball down the field.  The offense isn't handcuffed when he's in there.

The last game on Sunday was between the Giants and Packers.  Funnily enough, after delivering a beatdown a few Sundays ago in front of the entire country, they succumbed to a Giants team that had previously been moribund.  Aaron Rodgers has grown out the 70's mustache again and this time it didn't do anything to help.  In fact, not many guys on the team really showed up.  Thus, they fell in the Rankings while the Giants got back in again.

Here are the Rankings for Week 12:

1.) Houston (10-1) [no change]
 An easy game, albeit a divisional opponent, after a lucky break.

2.) Atlanta (10-1) [no change]
 Another divisional game on a short week.  Hard to see how the Falcons don't get upset.

3.) Baltimore (9-2) [no change]
 Flying back from San Diego and getting the Steelers again has to be tough.  But if Roethlisberger is still out, it's gotta be another win for the Ravens.

4.) San Francisco (8-2-1) [no change]
 Another meeting with the team they tied with.  I really hope another tie isn't in the offing.

5.) New England (8-3) [+1]
 After beating down one division rival, the Pats get a chance to beat down another one.

6.) Denver (8-3) [+1]
 Manning &co. get a chance to play the Bucs.  Hope Von Miller and the rest of the defense are up to taking on Doug Martin.

7.) Chicago (8-3) [+1]
 Playing a team without their starting corners (pending appeal, of course) has to get Cutler and Marshall salivating.

8.) Indianapolis (7-4) [+2]
 The "most surprising" team in the NFL heads to Detroit with a chance to go 8-4.

9.) NY Giants (7-4) [-]
 Back in the Rankings after a few weeks, they head to Washington in a battle of overrateds.

10.) Green Bay (7-4) [-5]
 One bad game, or a sign of decline?  I'm leaning toward the former...for the moment.

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

Three Games to Watch (Week 13):
New Orleans @ Atlanta (Thursday, NFL Network)
Tampa Bay @ Denver (Sunday, FOX)
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (Sunday, CBS*)

*edit: I had mistakenly attributed this game to NBC in the previous version; also, we can't edit blogs any more?  Ridiculous.
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 27, 2012 10:58 pm
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Posted on: November 21, 2012 12:20 am
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 11

Greetings, readers.  After some turmoil earlier in the season, it looks like things are finally settling down and becoming a bit more predictable.  Well, mostly...there are still some teams who defy prediction and lose when they ought to win.  At any rate, let's get to the stories from this week.

Speaking of losers, we start with the Thursday night game, if anybody still remembers it.  I'm sure Bills fans do, and they should be happy that their team pulled off a win against Miami.  It has to be disappointing for the Dolphins, though, because they went up against a team with a terrible defense and couldn't score enough to win.  I guess the Bills are starting to turn it around defensively.  But since both teams are 4-6, I think we can say definitively that both should be excluded from the playoff discussion.

The top two teams won this week: Houston & Atlanta both pulled off some rather lucky and stunning wins.  It's funny, since neither one of those games should have been as tough as it looked.  Yet the Texans and Falcons have made their bones winning close (and in Atlanta's case, close and late), so it's not necessarily a surprise that both teams won, just that they had to go so far to win.  They're both 9-1 and firmly in control of their divisions and perhaps even conferences.  While the AFC is supposedly the "weaker" conference this season, Houston cannot rest on its laurels just yet.  Baltimore, New England, and Denver are all looking formidable; despite the Texans holding the tiebreaker on two of those three, I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see one of them pass up the Texans for the 1-seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  As for the Falcons, I don't really see anyone catching them in the regular season.  But in the playoffs, neither team is proven.

There were two other overtime games besides Houston/Jacksonville.  Tampa Bay and Dallas also won in OT on Sunday.  I don't usually like to bring up the Cowboys; normally they're doing something stupid like losing or playing particularly poorly.  I also don't want this blog to have the stench of homerism hovering over it.  I would like to think I'm objective, despite not being a "professional" journalist (or really, an amateur journalist; I'm just a guy)!  However, I think this one merited a few words.  While the Cowboys didn't play well (going to OT against Cleveland is proof of that), they did get the win and can now make some noise in the division.  In fact, with a win this Thursday, they'll be 6-5 and just a half-game behind the Giants for the division lead.  Let's not count our chickens, or anything, though.  Tampa Bay's win was arguably more impressive, though it came against a similarly bad opponent.  Of course, Carolina is in their division, so maybe they should get some points for that.  Josh Freeman made the throws when he needed to; he secured the game-tying TD + 2 pt. conversion and then threw a TD pass in OT to Dallas Clark that won the game.  An impressive showing, to be sure.

Not to be outdone by the early action, a couple of teams playing late broke out the hammer.  In this case it was New England and New Orleans.  Denver also won late Sunday, but their game ended up being a little too close to be a real beatdown, even if the game wasn't as close as the score would indicate.  New England took on the Colts and handed them a 59-24 loss.  New Orleans won 38-17 against Oakland, and that score doesn't tell the whole story either.  While some might consider the Saints a playoff contender, I do not.  Let's not forget, they started 0-4, and only one team in the HISTORY of the NFL has ever made the playoffs after starting 0-4.  Drew Brees may be a god among QB's, but this mountain is too large to climb.  Tom Brady &co. now sit at 7-3 and even without super TE Rob Gronkowski for the next 4-6 weeks, should have enough to maintain and perhaps finish out the season with 12 wins.

The last game on Sunday provided the least drama, considering that everyone expected it to be great (myself included).  Baltimore went up to Pittsburgh and with a number of stars missing on both sides, an ugly game ensued.  Byron Leftwich started out nicely, but apparently sustained multiple injuries through the course of the game and the finish was nothing to write home about.  Joe Flacco (who anointed himself "elite" mistakenly) was his usual inconsistent self; after posting 55 against Oakland the previous week he reverted back to his usual do-nothing ways.  Baltimore's offense was particularly moribund on third down, converting a pathetic 3-for-14.  It's one thing to say that it's the Pittsburgh D, and another to say that Flacco is not an elite QB, should keep his mouth shut, and should freakin' play better.  Personally, I don't think it was the Steelers D that kept the Ravens offense in neutral for the entire night.  I think Flacco is a mediocre QB.  His play against the Steelers was just the latest example of that.  Unless he becomes more consistent, it is difficult to see the Ravens as a Super Bowl contender this season.  That said, I do think of them as one of the few teams that is set up to be a contender every season.  So, really, all they have to do is get more consistent QB play and manage the injuries so that they have their guys back come playoff time.

Monday's game was probably one of the more surprising results of the season.  With Alex Smith sidelined due to a concussion (and his counterpart Jay Cutler the same), Colin Kaepernick started for the 49ers and led a beatdown to remember.  The Bears defense and offensive line were both destroyed by San Francisco.  To call this game lopsided is being kind, practically.  What's funny is that Kaepernick was making his first start and now sportswriters all over are calling for the kid to start in New Orleans in Week 12.  I wouldn't go quite that far, unless Alex Smith continues to have post-concussion symptoms.  I think it's better to avoid controversy whenever possible when it comes to QB's.  Since Kaepernick has been acknowledged as the backup, he should have no problem sitting if Smith is healthy.  If Smith isn't healthy just yet, Kaepernick showed himself to be capable, at least.  Whether or not he can reproduce that effort is still under question, especially in New Orleans.  But let's not forget that the Saints defense is one of the worst in the history of the NFL.

Here are the Rankings for Week 11:

1.) Houston (9-1) [no change]
 Going to OT was bad, but at least they won and saved themselves a lot of questions.

2.) Atlanta (9-1) [no change]
 Five INT's from Matt Ryan.  Yeesh.  There are certainly issues to be corrected here.

3.) Baltimore (8-2) [no change]
 Joe Flacco needs to find that "elite" play again.  If he ever had it to begin with.

4.) San Francisco (7-2-1) [no change]
 Kaepernick subbed well at home; let's see if that changes on the road.

5.) Green Bay (7-3) [+1]
 It wasn't pretty against Detroit and now they get a Giants team coming off the bye.

6.) New England (7-3) [+1]
 The only question is can they continue to whip up on teams without Gronk?

7.) Denver (7-3) [+1]
 Peyton Manning continues his quest toward Comeback Player of the Year as well as MVP.

8.) Chicago (7-3) [-3]
 I don't know if Jay Cutler can help them get back up if the O-line is that bad.

9.) Tampa Bay (6-4) [-]
 The Bucs are back in after an impressive win that probably should have been better.

10.) Indianapolis (6-4) [-1]
 Down, but not quite out.  RGIII outplayed Luck this week too.

That's all for this week, see you next week.

Three Games to Watch (Week 12):
Minnesota @ Chicago (Sunday, FOX)
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay (Sunday, FOX)
Green Bay @ NY Giants (Sunday, NBC)
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 15, 2012 1:47 am
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 10

Here are the Rankings for Week 10:

1.) Houston (8-1) [+1]
 The Texans claim the first spot in the Rankings for the first time ever.  It's a year of firsts for the team and only took the last unbeaten finally losing to move up.  Their effort against the Bears wasn't what I would call praiseworthy; however, they survived and got the W, so that's all that really matters.  They have yet another cupcake team on the schedule as 1-8 Jacksonville comes in to hopefully challenge for a few minutes.  I foresee Matt Schaub rollouts turning into long TD's.

2.) Atlanta (8-1) [-1]
 Now that the Falcons are undefeated no more, they can really get to work.  First up, salt away the NFC South (as if they hadn't already).  Then get the top seed in the conference and the bye that comes with it.  Then show up at home instead of putting up 2 points.  Ideally, the Falcons will continue to play well while making the necessary changes to get better as the season progresses.  For now, that would appear to include getting Michael Turner more involved in the offense (according to various pundits).  Losing to this New Orleans team (esp. their worst in NFL History defense) is really inexcusable, but there is a silver lining.  Mike Smith can point to that loss for the rest of this season and use it as a "teaching point" (a popular phrase in Fall 2012) to guide his men to the Lombardi Trophy.

3.) Baltimore (7-2) [+2]
 55 points and one awesome beatdown mean little if Joe Flacco lays an egg this weekend against the Steelers.  Of course, without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers are hardly even the same team.  What's important here is that Flacco &co. take their Week 10 success and somehow make it happen again this week.  It's a tough task, to be sure, especially given Flacco's immense inconsistency.  If he's really serious about being considered an "elite" QB, he absolutely must perform well on Sunday night.

4.) San Francisco (6-2-1) [no change]
 First tie since 2008 coming on the heels of the QB getting knocked out.  Are we still jive turkeys?

5.) Chicago (7-2) [-2]
 A humbling loss in addition to having the QB knocked out.  Now the Bears have to go to San Francisco and maybe face another backup QB.  They'll be relying on their defense even more if Jason Campbell can't get the job done.

6.) Green Bay (6-3) [no change]
 Coming off a late bye, the Packers get Detroit.  Not a bad way to get back to action, really.  It looks like the Packers are back on their way up.  As long as Rodgers is ambulatory, he should be able to guide this team to the playoffs, despite their injuries.

7.) New England (6-3) [+1]
 It looks like the defense just might keep Tom Brady from getting his fourth ring.  Playing a Buffalo team with defensive issues of their own, the Patriots just couldn't close the deal last Sunday.  Luckily, Ryan Fitzpatrick was in a giving mood.  I'm still high on this team, mostly because of Brady + Belichick.  I've been high on the team for the last few years as well.  So my confidence isn't shaken, but I do know that when you play a team like Buffalo, who they've traditionally knocked the crap out of, you want to win handily, not at the last second.

8.) Denver (6-3) [+1]
 Peyton Manning is most likely the Comeback Player of the Year.  But will he win MVP as well?  I don't know yet...but it looks like Denver has a strong hold on a very weak division.  I don't think anybody expects San Diego to come from behind to catch them, except maybe Philip Rivers and Norv Turner.

9.) Indianapolis (6-3) [+1]
 It wasn't spotless against Jacksonville, but Andrew Luck and his teammates got it done.  They have the benefit of an extra couple days off as they prepare to play New England.  Tough sledding, but that's how it goes in the NFL: out of the frying pan, into the fire.

10.) Pittsburgh (6-3) [-]
 Obviously, this is temporary; without Roethslisberger, few expect the Steelers to take out Baltimore (me included).  Someone had to come into the Rankings to cover an empty spot, though, and Pittsburgh was the team to do so.  It's too bad they can't stay a while longer, but hey, that's how these things go sometimes.  Of course, if they DO pull off the upset, it just makes me look all the worse.  So really, everyone wins.

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

Three Games to Watch (Week 11):
Indianapolis @ New England (Sunday, CBS)
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (Sunday, NBC)
Chicago @ San Francisco (Monday, ESPN)
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 6, 2012 5:07 pm
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 9

Greetings, readers.  It looks like a few teams are beginning to separate themselves from the pack.  That said, the records still indicate that parity is the name of the game in 2012, despite a few that are well above .500.  No team is without flaws, either.  Let's get to the stories from Week 9.

We start out with the Thursday night game.  As usual, it was lopsided.  The Chargers played ...well, if not quite up to their capability, then closer to what fans, media, and other outside observers expect from them on a weekly basis.  Philip Rivers looked a little shaky in the first half, especially on the end-zone INT.  But the second half was all San Diego.  I think we can stick a fork in Kansas City; they might not be mathematically eliminated just yet, but they're most definitely done.

A more inspiring story comes from Indianapolis.  Head Coach Chuck Pagano met with his team before and after the Colts' hard-fought win against the Dolphins.  Andrew Luck played about as well as could be expected, if not better, leading his team to the win while staring long third downs in the face and pulling through just about all day.  Not only that, he was under pressure fairly consistently and not only escaped it, but made great plays at the same time.  The Colts are now 5-3 and play in a fairly weak division; beside the Texans, the Colts are the only good team in the AFC South.  If they can continue this pace, they should secure one of the Wild Card spots.  My hope is that they end up playing Denver in the Wild Card Round, as that would make for some fabulous TV.  Plus, think of the serendipitous nature of that match-up: Peyton Manning playing the man that replaced him in Indianapolis?  Fantastic.  Unbelievable.  Perhaps even a little insane.  But definitely worth watching, no matter what.

Some have said that teams in the NFL can no longer play defense.  Obviously, the Chicago Bears are scoffing at this notion, while they forced turnovers at a rate no one else can match.  Not only are they turning other teams over frequently, they're also turning those TO's into TD's.  The defense is playing so well that Jay Cutler and his maligned offensive line are getting less attention than they were earlier in the season.  This can only be a good thing for that unit.  Cutler did make some good plays, but they'll probably be forgotten since the defense was so dominant.  Honestly, anything that keeps the attention off of Cutler is probably a good thing.  Even if it's the image of Brian Urlacher rumbling into the end-zone after an INT.

Robert Griffin III's rookie season has been synonymous with two things: excitement and failure.  Excitement because anyone can tell that he's going to be something special for a long time to come.  Failure because he hasn't won much and the rest of the team has let him down on numerous occasions.  There is really no way that Washington should have lost to a bad Carolina team at home.  Even with a TD that the NFL later said should not have counted.  By the way, if that TD was disallowed, Carolina still would have won by a point.  For RGIII and company to only put up 13 points against a bad Carolina defense is unacceptable.  The man clearly needs more playmakers around him.  Hopefully this is something that gets rectified in the future, or else Mike Shanahan (and his son the offensive coordinator) might find himself without a job.  He might not be in any danger this year. but if RGIII plays anything like Cam Newton has next year, trouble will be at Shanahan's doorstep.

It's always a little unusual when a running back storms onto the scene as a rookie with consecutive great games.  Yet that's just what Doug Martin has done.  In consecutive games against the Vikings and Raiders, Martin has rushed for a bunch of yards (including the 251 he put up on Sunday) and scored a number of TD's.  Sunday's performance in particular was one of the more impressive I've seen lately, especially from a rookie.  Before the Vikings game, it looked like the Bucs might be dead in the water; now they're looking like they've got a pulse, if nothing else.  And with the Chargers coming to Tampa in Week 10, I think a third straight win is in order.  But coach Schiano has to commit to running Martin.  No more running Blount in the 4th quarter when it looks like the game is wrapped up.  Stick with the hot hand, coach.

Pittsburgh had some unusual circumstances to deal with in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  With no power in the team hotel in New Jersey, they flew from Pittsburgh to East Rutherford before the game and left shortly after the game.  In the midst of that, they somehow managed to pull out a win despite some bad calls and an up-and-down performance from Ben Roethlisberger.  None of the elite QB's have been all that great in 2012 so far, and Roethlisberger is no exception.  But on Sunday he made the throws he needed to and committed fewer dumb mistakes than he has in other games this season.  The result is still a surprise, though, as I'm sure most expected the Giants to win and it certainly looked like they would.  Then Roethlisberger tossed a short pass to Mike Wallace...and the rest, as they say, is history.  Wallace outran the secondary to the pylon and the game-winning TD was secured.

Lastly, the final undefeated team in the NFL.  While not looking their best (as usual), Atlanta somehow figured out a way to win, even though Dallas didn't turn the ball over as is their wont.  All of the Atlanta receivers came to play and Matt Ryan was up to the challenge.  Through the halfway point, Atlanta is now 8-0 and in firm control of their division.  Chicago and San Francisco are the only teams that look like they can challenge for the #1 seed in the NFC.  The Falcons' schedule is not particularly tough, either; currently, the only winning team that they'll face is the Giants.  I don't think they'll finish 16-0, necessarily.  But these Falcons are clearly the class of the conference at this point.

Here are the Rankings for Week 9:

1.) Atlanta (8-0) [no change]
 Matt Ryan is playing like an MVP and the defense is solid.  Should stay undefeated in Week 10.

2.) Houston (7-1) [no change]
 Probably the toughest matchup for the Texans in Week 10.  Ballhawks all over Soldier Field.

3.) Chicago (7-1) [no change]
 Whereas for Chicago, it shouldn't be too difficult, as long as they can keep Arian Foster in check and force Schaub into mistakes.

4.) San Francisco (6-2) [+1]
 I too am a turkey.  And people call Philip Rivers "captain checkdown"?  Still, they moved up on a bye.  Not bad.

5.) Baltimore (6-2) [+1]
 Joe Flacco continues to underwhelm, but since the "elite" QB's are doing the same as he is, I guess his view is justified.

6.) Green Bay (6-3) [+1]
 Tempted to say Rodgers &co. are rounding into form.  But without Jennings and maybe Nelson, how far can they go?

7.) NY Giants (6-3) [-3]
 That loss has to rankle.  Eli Manning didn't look anything like how the media continually portrays him.

8.) New England (5-3) [no change]
 Brady &co. got the bye after London and now get Buffalo at home.  Wow.

9.) Denver (5-3) [+1]
 Is Peyton Manning rounding into form?  That'll be the weekly question.  Two INT's to Terrence Newman doesn't help.

10.) Indianapolis (5-3) [-]
 I think it's safe to say Andrew Luck has rounded into form.

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

Three Games to Watch (Week 10):
San Diego @ Tampa Bay (Sunday, CBS)
Atlanta @ New Orleans (Sunday, FOX)
Houston @ Chicago (Sunday, NBC)
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 30, 2012 9:52 pm
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 8

Greetings, readers!  Well, that was a little more exciting, wasn't it?  If you like your Sunday (and Monday) with a few beatdowns, you were probably pleased with Week 8.  Not every game was great, but there was enough excitement to go around to wash the bad taste of a couple of the bad games out of our mouths (or eyes, I suppose).  Let's get to the stories from this past week.

We start in Minnesota, where the Vikings just failed to show up.  I think this is the point where analysts start to question whether or not the Vikings have been "exposed".  And maybe the word "fradulent" gets thrown out there.  I'm not sayin', just sayin'.  Anyway, the Vikings didn't show up and they got beat by the Buccaneers.  Doug Martin held a party and made the Vikings look like chumps on defense.  A solid effort, but Tampa Bay still has work to do before they can be considered a threat for the NFC Wild Card.

Chicago took on Carolina in Soldier Field and Tim Jennings made what is arguably the play of the game, if you discount the game-winning field goal.  Jennings took advantage of a receiver falling down on the route and took the ball to the house.  Jay Cutler played alright, but he's being held hostage by his mostly terrible offensive line.  If he gets time to throw, he looks like less of a whining malcontent and more like a winning QB.  Maybe that's the secret?  I think he'd still look like a whining malcontent after every loss, but whatever.  I'm obviously biased, since I've never liked Cutler, even when he was in Denver.

The Atlanta Falcons remain the league's only undefeated team at 7-0.  Funnily enough, they looked better coming off the bye than they had in the last three or four weeks.  It helped that they were playing a weak Philly defense and that they were able to get out to an early lead.  In fact, Atlanta didn't really do much after halftime, but since they were up 24-7, they didn't exactly need to.

New England headed to London and it was business as usual.  Even without Aaron Hernandez, they had no problems on offense, putting up 45 on the Rams with impunity.  There isn't much else to say about the game besides, "beatdown"!  Oh, and Rob Gronkowski played huge with 2 TD's.

Not to be outdone, Denver went out on Sunday night and delivered a multi-faceted beatdown on the Saints.  Not only did Peyton Manning put up a bunch of points, again, but the defense stepped up and held the Saints down until the very end, when they gave up a garbage time TD.  It looks like Manning is rounding into form.  I'm not going to commit to anything further than that, because I've been burned before.  And despite an easy schedule, Denver has been prone to inconsistent play in the last few years.

San Francisco does things a bit differently.  I'm fond of saying that they run a 1960 offense, because they only seem to care about running the ball and don't particularly care for throwing it down the field.  Again I was proven right.  However, a lot of people appear to be getting on the Alex Smith bandwagon because he went 18/19 with 3 TD's.  Let's just slow down on him, alright?  Most of those completions were short passes.  Not all of them were for positive yardage, either.  Until he proves that he can throw it down the field, he can't be considered anything more than a slightly advanced game manager.

Here are the Rankings for Week 8:

1.) Atlanta (7-0) [no change]
 They just keep rolling.  Actually looked better than they have, and now get the hapless Cowboys at home.

2.) Houston (6-1) [no change]
 The bye helped them stay near the top; now they get the defensively offensive Bills at home.

3.) Chicago (6-1) [no change]
 Heading to Tennessee after a tough win; will Jay Cutler stay upright and get another win?

4.) NY Giants (6-2) [no change]
 After a bit of a lucky break against the Cowboys, the Steelers come to town.  Could be a good one.

5.) San Francisco (6-2) [no change]
 One of two teams in the Rankings on a bye.  Not sold on Alex Smith, no matter what his coach says.

6.) Baltimore (5-2) [+1]
 Did the bye help them regain some mojo?  They have a potentially easy win on the slate.

7.) Green Bay (5-3) [+1]
 Funny that Arizona now stinks without Kevin Kolb.  Green Bay can take advantage, if Rodgers plays well.

8.) New England (5-3) [-]
 The second team in the Rankings on a bye, New England gets to rest on their laurels after a nice beatdown.

9.) Minnesota (5-3) [-3]
 I'm not sure what to make of the Vikings now.  And they're heading to Seattle, which can't help.

10.) Denver (4-3) [-]
 Manning might not be all the way back, but it's gotta be close.  It sure looks that way when they win.

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

Three Games to Watch (Week 9):
Arizona @ Green Bay (Sunday, FOX)
Pittsburgh @ NY Giants (Sunday, CBS)
Dallas @ Atlanta (Sunday, NBC)
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 23, 2012 6:05 pm
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 7

Greetings, readers.  Week 7 has come and gone and it feels like not much of interest happened.  Sure, there was a bit of controversy in Tampa (due to an odd rule about going out-of-bounds and coming back in) and some OT drama, but the matchups really were not prime time stuff.  Let's get to the stories, though.

As usual, we're starting with the Thursday night game.  As usual, it wasn't terribly memorable.  This week, it was more due to the playing style of the two teams involved.  It angers me to watch a game where running the ball and defense is prioritized over throwing the ball.  The NFL is a passing league.  Take advantage of the rules that Goodell has put in!  The commissioner and the rules committee has made it so that throwing the ball is very easy.  And yet you have teams like Seattle and San Francisco either running the ball all day or dinking-and-dunking; either way, it translates to boring football.  And the game on Thursday was a defensive struggle where the offenses looked mostly inept.  That is boring to me.  Oh, and by the way, the 49ers won.

Most disappointing game of the week?  Baltimore at Houston, no contest.  The Ravens didn't show up until the second half, and even then they weren't all that impressive.  When the safety happened in the 1st quarter, I had a bad feeling, but I thought Flacco could maybe get a breather at halftime and come out ready for a comeback.  Oops!  So, once again, we have a guy who thinks he's elite and isn't.  I remain unconvinced about the Texans, though, because they didn't show up the week before against Green Bay (also at home, it should be noted).  But it is Baltimore that has really slipped in my estimation.

Minnesota and the NY Giants both won their games and now they're 5-2.  Given Christian Ponder's recent play, it's hard to say that the Vikings are for real; they're another team that relies on the run for the most part.  However, where they get an exemption from most people (and I suppose I'm included in that group) is that they have an All-World guy at RB.  Adrian Peterson is a beast.  The Giants pulled out a close one against Washington.  I was impressed by the play that won the game for the Giants; Eli Manning lofted one to Victor Cruz and the salsa dancer did the rest, running it in for a TD.  Much as I dislike the Giants (especially Eli), they played well and beat a pretty good Washington team.  Well, Washington's offense is pretty good.  Their defense is pretty stinky.

There were a couple OT games this week as well.  New England went to OT against the Jets (at home, no less) while Oakland beat the Jaguars in OT.  The Patriots blew a lead and looked bad down the stretch, but were able to rally in OT.  Oakland turned a recovered fumble into the game-winning FG.  Good to have a win, but neither game should have needed OT, really.

Finally we have the Chicago Bears.  Despite getting knocked out for a play and then leaving the field before halftime, Jay Cutler seemingly willed the Bears to victory even while struggling offensively.  He also looked pretty tough.  That's not something I normally say about a guy I consider to be one of the biggest whiners in the NFL, but I try to be fair.  Chicago is now 5-1 and look like the team to beat in the NFC North.  I'm not entirely sold on them, though; while their defense is solid, I've never been a fan of Cutler and think that he's just a few INT's away from letting this season fall into the toilet.  But right now, they're looking good.

Here are the Rankings for Week 7:

1.) Atlanta (6-0) [no change]
 Well-rested and heading to Philly.  7-0.

2.) Houston (6-1) [+1]
 They've been on both sides of a beatdown and now get a bye.

3.) Chicago (5-1) [+1]
 Woeful Carolina comes to town.  Bears shall feast.

4.) NY Giants (5-2) [+1]
 Giants head to Dallas to attempt to beat the team that got them in Week 1.

5.) San Francisco (5-2) [+1]
 A big Monday night game against Arizona could help determine the division winner.

6.) Minnesota (5-2) [+2]
 The Vikings get their crack at a Thursday night game.  Let's hope they fare better than Seattle.

7.) Baltimore (5-2) [-5]
 A bye after a stunning beatdown.  I guess that's a good thing, but too much stewing may hurt more than help.

8.) Green Bay (4-3) [+2]
 An easy game with Jacksonville coming in.  Three in a row for Rodgers &co.

9.) Arizona (4-3) [-2]
 Falling off the pace dramatically, Arizona needs a win to "right the ship".

10.) Seattle (4-3) [-2]
 Falling off the pace dramatically, but has a better chance of getting a win.

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

Three Games to Watch (Week 8):
Washington @ Pittsburgh (Sunday, FOX)
NY Giants @ Dallas (Sunday, FOX)
San Francisco @ Arizona (Monday, ESPN)
Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com