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Posted on: November 10, 2011 5:00 am

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 9

Quick turnaround this week, what with lateness on my part and the first Thursday night game of the season.  It's hard to know what to make of Week 9, to be honest, as it was another one where weird stuff happened and teams that we thought were golden looked less like gold and more like urine.

Here are the standings for Week 9:

Prisco: 7-7
Red: 7-7
King: 5-9

As you can see, it was a rough week for everyone, but King was the worst off.  In spite of that performance, Prisco and I are still a couple wins behind him, a testament to how solid he's been all season.  I missed out on a bunch of teams I thought would win, but somehow lost despite looking better coming in and/or being the better team outright.

What really disappointed me were the Pennsylvania teams and New England.  I think Philadelphia is done, finally, barring an incredible set of miracles.  It also appears that the NY Giants are for real, at least this week.  We all know that they tend to fall off in the second half.

Here are the Rankings for Week 9:

1.) Green Bay (8-0) [no change]
 Even when facing the supposedly elite Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and co. don't blink.  What do they do?  Allow a ton of points while intercepting Rivers three times (TWO were pick-six's), including two by Charlie Peprah that broke the game open and won it, respectively.  If they can get their points allowed down, great things could be in the offing.  Even still, with the defense they've had all season (i.e. not much) they've remained undefeated.  My respect for Rodgers has grown tremendously over the last 8 games, I must say.  While I derided him as not elite and such, he's won a Super Bowl and come out in 2011 looking unbeatable.

2.) San Francisco (7-1) [no change]
 I think we can safely say that the 49ers are not only the biggest surprise, but also the second-best team in the league.  They're virutally guaranteed a playoff spot at this point, with a first-round bye easily within reach.  Some may be concerned about the remaining East Coast trips they have on their schedule; I look at what they've done so far while in the Eastern time zone and just marvel at it.  It's hard to believe how good this team has been in the Eastern time zone.  Jim Harbaugh would be a cinch for Coach of the Year if not for Mike McCarthy and his boys going undefeated.

3.) Cincinnati (6-2) [+1]
 Earlier in the season, people wondered about Detroit and Buffalo.  While Detroit seems to have overcome their hiccup, Buffalo has fallen off the wagon somewhat.  Cincinnati has to be viewed the same way; while they've done an admirable job thus far, their schedule tightens up considerably down the stretch, and I think we're all justified in wondering how this team will respond.  I don't think they're too high at the moment, these Rankings being what they are.  But I would not be surprised to see them fall back slightly.

4.) Baltimore (6-2) [+2]
 Were it not for the Patriots crashing and burning, Baltimore's unlikely win over the Steelers would have been my biggest surprise from Week 9.  As it is, Joe Flacco and co. did a hell of a job surprising not only the critics, but their opponents in the black & gold.  The season series (two games makes a series?) is in Baltimore's favor, but I'm not certain they'll finish with a better record than Pittsburgh.  Let's not forget that Cincinnati is in the AFC North as well, and even if they haven't played the difficult part of their schedule yet, a couple unexpected wins could turn the tide for them.  That said, Baltimore appears to be one of the better teams in the AFC.  If Flacco can keep giving consistent effort, this is probably the best team in the AFC, given the Patriots' lack of defense.

5.) Detroit (6-2) [no change]
 Coming off the bye, the Lions get a rematch with Chicago.  I fail to see why anything would be different from the last time they played.

6.) NY Giants (6-2) [+3]
 I certainly didn't expect a restatement of the surprise win that the Giants pulled on New England in the Super Bowl a couple years ago.  If anything, I expected the Pats to run wild and put up 40.  Alas, the Giants won and now I have to take them seriously again, even though it remains solid fact that every time I take them seriously, they have an inexcusably bad loss that defines the term "bad loss" (i.e. that honker Eli Manning threw against Seattle).  While I don't think the Giants are good, much less the best at anything, they appear to have figured some things out.  So let's see where they go from here, shall we?

7.) New Orleans (6-3) [+3]
 And just like that, the Saints are back in my good graces.  Beating a division rival will do that.  On a day when Aaron Rodgers stated his case as elite (and Philip Rivers boldly stated that he isn't), Drew Brees went out and won against the Bucs, a team that had beaten them surprisingly earlier in the season.  It appears that New Orleans will eventually claim the NFC South and host a playoff game, I'm not sure about their chances for playoff success.  Green Bay looks like such an unbeatable monster, yet the Saints played them tit-for-tat on opening night.  Though it seems hard to remember now, that game was one of the best of the season, as I saw it.

8.) Houston (6-3) [-]
 Another team that I have little respect and less love for has re-entered the Rankings.  Much like the Giants, it would appear that the Texans have figured some things out, even without Mario Williams (an overrated player, at best) and Andre Johnson (a top 5 WR at worst).  I'm definitely in favor of the "wait and see" approach with this team; you literally never know what will happen next, even when they look like they're pulling it together.

9.) Pittsburgh (6-3) [-6]
 If it turns out that one play defines the Steelers' 2011 season, it may well be the catch Torrey Smith made to win the game on Sunday night.  I don't really have any complaints about how the Steelers played; they were pretty awesome, and so was Baltimore.  I have some faith that Roethlisberger and the rest will end up with a better record than Baltimore, thus rendering those games moot, but one never knows.  This team is also a bit difficult to figure out.  Some of their losses this season really defy description.

10.) New England (5-3) [-2]
 Hanging on by a thread, seriously.

Finally, a note on the team that exited the Rankings.  It was Buffalo (7).  They're now 5-3 and looking like they're on a downslope after losing to the Jets in a baffling way.  I still feel this team should be undefeated given their cake schedule.  We'll see what happens, but I'm not exactly bullish on their chances against Dallas in Week 10.  The three-way tie in the AFC East doesn't bode well for anybody either, as all three teams have vast shortcomings that they'll struggle to remedy if they make the playoffs.  Honestly, I don't think any of them will do much in the playoffs.  One of them will have to host a game, with a Wild Card opponent that likely brings the pain and an upset.

Also, I'm taking the Chargers in the first Thursday night game of the season, for whatever that's worth.

That's all for this week.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 1, 2011 9:42 pm

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 8

While I understand that parity and the "Any Given Sunday" mantra rule in "today's NFL", I think that a particular week is better with fewer upsets and out-and-out weird crap going on.  This week was one of those good weeks, with a couple of exceptions.  New Orleans went to St. Louis and should have had another easy win.  Instead, they get punched in the mouth, as it were.  I'm still not sure what the impetus was; did New Orleans really play bad, or were the Rams struck by inspiration, as the reports seem to indicate?  I guess in the end it doesn't matter; teams like New Orleans have roadbumps every season.  Last year, they lost to Cleveland and looked terrible doing it.  So it's not exactly unprecedented.  I'm sure no one has forgotten their disastrous road trip to Seattle in last year's playoffs either.  We're still in the middle of things in the 2011 NFL season, and it's not certain what we can take away from it all, or what we'll remember once the season ends.

Here are the standings for Week 8:

Prisco: 9-4
Red: 9-4
King: 10-3

Everyone did better this week after a fairly pedestrian Week 7.  I missed out with Carolina, New Orleans, New England, and Dallas.  Carolina probably should have won their game with Minnesota.  A missed Olindo Mare field goal (a chippy, it seemed) was the difference between a Minnesota win and OT, where anything can happen.  New England had issues on defense again and suffered for it as Pittsburgh went up and down the field all day.  Dallas just got demolished.  I could say more, but I wasn't watching the game all that closely once I realized that they had no chance of winning.

That was in the first quarter, truth be told.

After watching New England yak it up against Pittsburgh, I was in no mood to see Dallas play like anything but world beaters.

What happened to Philadelphia, anyway?  They stunk up the joint for weeks, and now they're good?  Where has this been?  Why couldn't they have been trustworthy before?

This stuff pisses me off.

Here are the Rankings for Week 8:

1.) Green Bay (7-0) [no change]
 The bye week came at a good time for the defending champs, who had a chance to get focused.  There's no one better, to be sure, but is anyone else even close?  I doubt it, at this point.  But as I said above, we're only at the midpoint of the season, and things sure do change quickly.

2.) San Francisco (6-1) [+1]
 I admit, it's a bit odd to see the 49ers this high up in the Rankings, and looking this good.  They just hired a new coach in the offseason, and they look miles ahead of every other team besides Green Bay.  Their one loss was in OT against the Cowboys, which seems somewhat acceptable given how they've run roughshod through the rest of the schedule thus far.  It gets a little more stiff since they have a Thanksgiving game coming up at the end of the month and a couple more trips to the east coast.  Still, it's looking like SF is the second-best team in the league.  At least, for this week.

3.) Pittsburgh (6-2) [+2]
 It's interesting to see how far the Steelers have come since the beginning of the season.  All of a sudden, they look like world-beaters again.  Those losses to Baltimore and Houston are still disturbing to an extent that leads me to distrust them more than I probably should.  Honestly, they should have won against the Texans, and they should have come out better against Baltimore.  They have a rematch with the Ravens in Week 9, and this time it's in Pittsburgh.  So we'll see just how "real" each team is.  If one of them decides to do a swan dive into the toilet via painful and inexplicable disemboweling...well, it'll just be another weird occurrence in a season full of them.

4.) Cincinnati (5-2) [+2]
 Is Andy Dalton for real?  Apparently so.  I didn't see any of the game against Seattle, but I'm assuming that if a team goes on the road and wins by two TD's, they're doing something right.  So far, Cincinnati has done quite a bit right.

5.) Detroit (6-2) [+2]
 And just like that, the Lions are on their way back up.  I don't get it either.  But, I'll be honest, I'm glad that they put such a beatdown on Denver; I've gotten far beyond tired of Denver and that QB that the media keeps talking about.  I was never a fan of his and thought that being picked in the first round was one of the dumbest decisions I'd seen in a long time.  Anyway, any time a team puts up 45, they deserve to move up, and this week was Detroit's to shine, and to gesticulate in the face of every other team.

6.) Baltimore (5-2) [+2]
 It got a little dicey for the Ravens; not only had they lost last week, they were down 3 TD's to Arizona (Arizona?  Seriously!?) at halftime.  Then the comeback happened, and the Ravens head to Pittsburgh with ...something approaching confidence, I suppose.  I'm sure there's a sense of relief as well.  If they had lost two in a row before heading to Pittsburgh, things could have come crashing down right on top of them.  But now, if they can stun the Steelers and win the season series, they could find themselves in the driver's seat in the AFC.  That sounds weird, actually.  I mean, I'm used to Baltimore being good, and being a perennial Super Bowl contender...but it's one thing to be a contender and quite another to be the "best" team in the conference and clearly leading the pack while the rest try to follow.  To be honest, I'm not sure if Baltimore is cut out for that, or if that's the position that's the best for them.

7.) Buffalo (5-2) [+2]
 Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, or even bandwagon to say that the Bills should be better off than they are.  But really, they should be undefeated.  Given the schedule they've had, and the few actual challenges that remain, it's not hard to believe that they're a contender, or that they could possibly be undefeated.  As it turns out, they're not as good as they looked in the first few weeks of the season, but despite that, they could still win the AFC East.  Of course, they have to tidy up their resume by beating New England and the Jets.  Neither of those appears to be an impossibility at this point.

8.) New England (5-2) [-6]
 It seems rather inexplicable that New England could lose to Pittsburgh after winning four in a row against them.  And yet, here we are.  The defense has to be a concern, especially for people like me who are trying to analyze this team and try to figure out where they're going.  At the moment, it looks like New England could be a playoff team, but it's by no means set in stone.  Then again, who's going to step up to beat them out?

9.) NY Giants (5-2) [-]
 I guess it had to happen at some point.  I have no confidence in this team, either in their ability to remain atop the NFC East, or to remain in the Rankings for longer than five minutes.

10.) New Orleans (5-3) [-6]
 Apparently, we should have expected something like this at some point.  It's just that nobody expects a good team to go on the road to face a terrible, winless team and lose.  It's something I can't shake, no matter how much football I watch.

Finally, a note on the team that exited the Rankings.  It was San Diego (10).  As expected, they went into Kansas City and played a generally good game before completely giving it up at the end, sending it to OT where they crumbled.  I guess I could say that I'm surprised that I saw this coming and completely missed on Dallas, New England, and New Orleans, but I also have more confidence in those three than in San Diego.

Let's also put to rest this notion that Philip Rivers is an "elite" QB.  Now, I understand that Drew Brees didn't do himself any favors this week, but he's still got a ring.  And despite being replaced, in essence, he's proven to be the better player so far.  But the question here is, would any of the "elite" QB's have committed so offensive and inexplicable a mistake as Rivers did last night?  I feel fairly certain that the answer is no.  My list would include Brady, Peyton Manning, Brees, Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers.  I'm hard-pressed to see how any of those would do something that bad in a late-game situation.  In fact, the only one I might even question slightly is Roethlisberger.  The others are unquestionably better than that kind of mistake.

Rivers turned a surefire win into a loss.  It's not just this week that marks him as not elite, though, in the same company as Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez.  It's a body of work that shows that he is not worth the accolades that he often receives.  I feel that Rodgers in particular was lumped into "elite" status far too quickly, before he had a chance to prove that he was worth it.  Winning a Super Bowl and coming out the first 7 games of this season and just mowing down the competition has proved to me that he is "elite".  Is he the best QB in the league?  No.  But then again, Peyton Manning hasn't played a single game this season.

So San Diego is out for now.  Their schedule is not among the easier ones (I'm looking at you, Buffalo), so I'm not sure of their future returns.

That's all for this week.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 18, 2011 5:08 pm

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 6

Another solid week of NFL action down, and now there's only one undefeated team left.  I'm sure that the longer this goes on, the more that the team and it's QB will get fellated.  I guess in a way I'm fine with that, though it does get to be a little too much.  Anyway, the Green Bay Packers are 6-0, they're in the top spot in the Rankings again, and they look really good.  People around the team are saying that they haven't played their best yet; if that's true, it's pretty scary for the rest of the NFL.

Here are the standings for Week 6:

Prisco: 11-2
Red: 8-5
King: 7-6

I think it's safe to say that a few teams really bug me today.  Notably, the Falcons, Giants, Redskins, Eagles, Buccaneers, Saints, Bills, and Panthers.  Yeesh.

I also have to give a shout-out to Tom Brady; what a great drive that was to end the game.  OK, he's probably done better in his career.  But still, he's going up against a defense that actually made him look less than perfect for more than a quarter, and he shreds it en route to the game-winning TD.  Great stuff.  The Cowboys didn't earn my ire this week because I thought the Pats would pull it out no matter what, however, I wasn't too upset with the play calling like some people were.  When the other team has timeouts and you've got the ball late, you run the damn ball or else you're a moron.  Did the penalties hurt?  Sure they did.  That 3rd down should have been more manageable, and perhaps they should have thrown it on either 2nd or 3rd.  I'm not upset at the strategy, though, because that's what smart teams do.  Now, if the Cowboys were really worth their salt in 2011, they would have run that strategy successfully and kept Brady off the field (or better yet, stopped him on the last drive).  But hey, sometimes stuff doesn't go your way.

Here are the Rankings for Week 6:

1.) Green Bay (6-0) [no change]
 Was there any doubt that the Packers would take out the Rams?  I figured they would cover, but I thought the margin would be wider than 24-3.  Can Aaron Rodgers be stopped?  I guess the team that does it will have a better secondary than the Rams.

2.) New England (5-1) [+2]
 Was there any doubt Tom Brady would win that game at the end?  Haha.  Not from this small corner of CBS Sports/the internet in general.  Much like in Cleveland last year, Brady wasn't at his best for most of the game.  But when it counted, he made the plays.  I think the Pats are a lock to win the AFC East at this point.  The Jets aren't as good as they thought they were and the Bills aren't ready for prime time.

3.) Baltimore (4-1) [+2]
 I have a little more faith in the Ravens than the 49ers.  That said, it wouldn't hurt if Joe Flacco was a bit more consistent, and/or better.  That's not to say that he's a bad QB, because he isn't.  He's actually quite good, but his inconsistency is beginning to bother me.  Despite that, they're in the driver's seat to win the AFC North, unless they fall back a bit and the Steelers get hot.  One thing to remember though, is that the Ravens have long been a team known for their defense.  Most of their "stars" (hell, everyone besides Ray Rice) are on that side of the ball.  So perhaps I'm making too much of Flacco's play when they have a defense that can win games with impunity.

4.) San Francisco (5-1) [+4]
 It seems like the 49ers are a lock to win the NFC West.  Have I uttered a more obvious statement?  I could look, but I'm not that interested.  At any rate, they're clearly the best team in that pile of nonsense.  Alex Smith is playing well, and so is the defense.  They went into Detroit and won, which is pretty damn impressive.  I guess we'll have to take them seriously now.  Hopefully, they don't go out next week and look like a pile of crap.

5.) Detroit (5-1) [-3]
 The Lions drop a little this week thanks to that loss.  Their offense didn't hum as well as it had in the past couple weeks (or the second halves of those past couple weeks).  I think they're a Wild Card team, because let's be honest, they're not unseating the Packers in the division.

6.) San Diego (4-1) [no change]
 With the bye, the Chargers stay where they are.  They head into Jersey next week to face the Jets, and I'm not all that worried about their chances.  Even with Philip Rivers playing like he doesn't want to complete passes to his own guys more often than not.

7.) Cincinnati (4-2) [+3]
 Is it possible the Bengals are for real?  Andy Dalton looks good, as does A.J. Green.  Their defense is pretty good as well.  They've now won three in a row and are looking like a Wild Card contender.  It'll be tough to keep up this pace throughout the rest of the season, but I think they've got a shot.  At this point, at least.

8.) New Orleans (4-2) [-5]
 A disappointing loss for the Saints.  Drew Brees was uncharacteristically mistake-prone with three INT's, and the defense wasn't good.  So they fall for now, but I think they're going to win the division still.  Obviously, they have to play better than they did this week, and they have to win their division games.

9.) Buffalo (4-2) [-2]
 A bad loss against the Giants makes the Bills fall again.  After thinking that they had a cake schedule that should lead to 12-14 wins, I'm having to reorient myself on them.  I thought they were for real, but losses to the Bengals and Giants kinda prove that they're not ready for prime time.  That said, I think they could pull out a Wild Card, if things fall their way.  They absolutely must stop losing these cakewalk games on their schedule, though.

10.) Tampa Bay (4-2) [-]
 Finally, the Bucs get into the Rankings.  They had been playing pretty well before last week's demolition against the 49ers.  But what a comeback to get a win against the Saints.  It's mostly because of that that they got in when a couple other teams had a right.  I think the Bucs could get a Wild Card.  I have more faith in them than any team out of the East or West.

Finally, a note on the team that exited the Rankings.  It was Washington (9).  For once, only one team left the Rankings, because 9 out of 10 won.  Amazing!

There are also three other 4-2 teams that aren't in the Rankings this week.  They are Oakland, NY Giants, and Pittsburgh.  At this point, Oakland seems to be the most likely to do something.  The other two are too up-and-down to be trusted, at least at this point.

That's all for this week.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 12, 2011 9:52 pm

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 5

After five weeks in the NFL, there are only two undefeated teams.  That usually makes it harder to do these, since it's harder to figure out who's good.  Luckily for me, most of the teams I had in last week won.  Always a nice thing.  There's a bit of an oddity in the bottom this week as one of the teams on a bye entered in.  I try not to do stuff like that, because it isn't really fair to the teams that won.  But this week there were not 10 teams worth highlighting.  It's a little odd, since last week there were 12 or 13 teams that were solid.  Naturally, I blame this on parity.  I'm not totally against parity, but during the season it can create some rather unnecessary turmoil.

Here are the standings for Week 5:

Prisco: 10-3
Red: 10-3
King: 8-5

No, I don't get it either.

I gambled on Indy and Tennessee, because I had no confidence in their opponents.  And then there are the Giants.  I think it's fair to say that the Giants disappointed a whole bunch of people around the country with their sorry, no account performance.  To allow Seattle (one of the bottom 10 teams in the league by national consensus) to come into the New Meadowlands and win is more than inexcusable.

Not much else to say other than that.  Although I could toot my own horn about a couple picks, it's probably best not to, as I could go 6-7 next week and look like a complete moron.

Here are the Rankings for Week 5:

1.) Green Bay (5-0) [no change]
 The defending champs just keep rolling.  Normally, teams that go into Atlanta aren't that successful.  But with two victories in a playoff game and a pretty meaningful regular season game in their last couple tries, it looks like Aaron Rodgers and company have beaten whatever demons that are usually in the Georgia Dome preventing the road team from winning.  Naturally, the aftereffect of such a victory is to pronounce the Packers as the best team and Rodgers as the best QB in the league.  I agree with the former, but not the latter.  Not yet, at least.  But give me some time (a repeat would help as well) and perhaps I'll come around.

2.) Detroit (5-0) [no change]
 Some may question the legitimacy of the Lions as second-place after five weeks.  My answer is that they're still undefeated.  They have a tough matchup next week with the 49ers coming in, but another victory would obviously cement peoples' minds, I believe.  Detroit's running game is a bit unimpressive, despite Jahvid Best's effort to run through the entire Bears defense.  Once they're of a piece with Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and the rest, the Lions will be unstoppable.  Let's not forget, now that Nick Fairley is healthy (or at least healthier), that defense is even tougher.  I think the D-line is the key to their entire operation.  As they go, so the Lions go.

3.) New Orleans (4-1) [no change]
 Winning close and late appears to be something the Saints do well (besides Week 1, but that's understandable).  They produce in the red zone and especially in the 4th quarter when it's "winning time".  Drew Brees is certainly one of the best QB's in the league (though I would not call him "the" best).  They're already in good position in the division, and it shouldn't take much (besides continuing on their present winning path) to secure it.

4.) New England (4-1) [no change]
 As expected, the Pats pulled one out at home against the Jets.  Just like that, they've won two in a row and look like a solid favorite in Week 6 against the Cowboys.  Tom Brady played well again, despite having a ball tipped for his first red zone interception at home.  For my money, he remains the best QB in the league.

5.) Baltimore (3-1) [no change]
 When a team goes on a bye, they neither move up nor down.  Although sometimes they move in.  Baltimore gets the Texans at home in Week 6; assuming better play from Joe Flacco, their odds of winning that game seem pretty good.

6.) San Diego (4-1) [no change]
 People all over are saying that the Chargers don't look good.  They're 4-1, having started strong and continuing strong.  We'll see how this turns out.  Assuming Philip Rivers gets back to playing at his usual level, it's hard to see how they don't win the AFC West.  They do have a couple tough games at home (which are considerably tougher for the road teams, despite their evident goodness, or maybe greatness) coming up.

7.) Buffalo (4-1) [no change]
 After a baffling loss at Cincinnati, Buffalo recovered quite nicely by defeating the Eagles at home.  I don't really feel reticent to call the Bills playoff contenders; after all, who else is going to take the wild card?  Oakland?  Tennessee?  I doubt it.  Getting in the playoffs is one thing; winning in the playoffs is something else.  I'm not quite sure the Bills are going to advance in the playoffs, but then again, neither is anyone else.

8.) San Francisco (4-1) [+2]
 As Buffalo has dropped back just a little, San Francisco has become one of the more surprising teams in the NFL after five weeks.  People want to call it a "Bay Area Renaissance", or whatever.  I'm not convinced that's the case just yet; both SF and Oakland have to make the playoffs before a "Renaissance" can be fully declared.  So far, it's a good start for that part of Cali.  With the 49ers headed to Detroit, they have a heck of an opportunity to make a statement of purpose.  With a win, they totally demolish expectations.  But even if they fail, they won't be totally diminished.  After all, I'm sure most people expect Detroit to win.

9.) Washington (3-1) [-]
 It's a little odd to have a team on a bye enter the Rankings, but that's what happens when teams expected to win don't.  Of course, as long as Rex Grossman continues to play ...least worst in the NFC East, we might be seeing Washington in these Rankings for a few more weeks.

10.) Cincinnati (3-2) [-]
 The Bengals get a chance at being the last team in the Rankings this week.  I could have gone with Pittsburgh, but I don't trust them at the moment.  This Cincinnati team can win on the road (just not in Denver).  And they have a prolific pair of rookies at key positions.  So maybe they can stick around for more than a week.

Finally, a note on the teams that exited the Rankings.  They are Tennessee (8) and Houston (9).  Both teams lost, but I expected Tennessee to win.  I don't think either team has seriously damaged their playoff chances; they play in the same mostly weak division.

That's all for this week.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 4, 2011 7:07 pm

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 4

Is the quarter-pole really meaningful in the NFL?  I wonder.  It's such a small sample compared to the other major sports.  Even still, we've seen some trends that could hold up through the season.  For the most part, though, we've seen that quite a few teams can be great one week and vulnerable (if not outright bad) the next.  People love to trumpet parity and how it's made the league better; I'm all for fair competition and not letting things turn into the NBA where only a few "glamour" teams have a chance to win the championship.  But would it hurt to have more consistency outside of the NFC North?

It was another great week for King in the picks.  Me?  Not so much.  Here are the standings for Week 4:

Prisco: 11-5
Red: 10-6
King: 13-3 

Not a lot of "gambles" this week, either.  I missed on Buffalo, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Arizona.

It seems like Buffalo is not exactly who we thought they were.  Not yet, at least.  A real contender goes into Cincinnati and wins; Buffalo didn't, and now I have to question their legitimacy just a bit.  Not enough to kick them out of the Rankings, but the question is there now.

Dallas had an "unfortunate" collapse, due to the bad play of Tony Romo.  No surprise there.

Pittsburgh and Minnesota, in all honesty, should have won.  Despite having no O-line, Pittsburgh is clearly a better team than the Texans, and they're more used to winning.  I still refuse to take the Texans seriously; the Steelers just didn't play as they were capable.  Minnesota is obviously one of those in the tank teams that'll maybe win 2-3 games all season.  It might take a QB change to do it, though.

Philadelphia is another team that had a disappointing collapse.  However, San Francisco might bear watching over the next three to four weeks.  I'm in no rush to anoint them, as much like the Texans, their recent history is stinky.  If there's one difference, the 49ers franchise has at least enjoyed multiple championships, while the Texans are a poorly operated joke.

Finally, we have the Arizona Cardinals.  In my (not very humble) opinion, the Cards were screwed out of a sure win.  Victor Cruz of the Giants stumbled and let go of the ball inexplicably.  Arizona picked it up, and the game was essentially over as the Giants had no timeouts.  But wait!  Referee Jerome Boger interjects that Cruz had "given himself up" and by rule it was a dead ball, with the Giants retaining possession.  Now, unlike Peter King, who thinks this was the correct call, I think this is a crock.  Cruz clearly did not "give himself up"; he fumbled the ball.  Because of Boger's too strict adherence to a rule that doesn't quite make sense, Arizona lost a win.  People will say, "well, they could have stopped Manning after that".  No, they couldn't.  Why?  They're not good enough.  How many teams could come back from a call like that and still win the game?  Maybe the Packers.  And maybe the Patriots.  That's about it.

Here are the Rankings for Week 4:

1.) Green Bay (4-0) [no change]
 To be honest, I was a little surprised the Packers covered.  Other teams had huge spreads and failed miserably, but the Packers sacked up and put 49 on Denver like everyone knew they should.  I think the Packers are the best team in the league without question and the closest to a sure thing every Sunday.  Losing Ryan Grant didn't seem to bother them very much; Aaron Rodgers just ran for two TD's and threw for 408 yards.  Oh, and a couple more TD's through the air.  Being the stubborn jerk that I am, I'm still going to say that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are better QB's.  But Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees better look out, or they're gonna get lapped.  In fact, considering the results of this season so far, I think the lapping is underway already.

2.) Detroit (4-0) [no change]
 I find it a little funny that some people aren't giving the Lions much respect.  That said, I understand how easy it is to look at this team as something of a fluke, since they haven't been this good in 30 years.  Still, with Stafford and Calvin Johnson leading a very potent offense, and a defense that gets pick-sixes with impunity (just ask Tony Romo, ugh), this Lions team is for real.  Besides the Packers, they appear to be the only other sure thing in the NFL.  Since they're still undefeated, that would appear to be obvious.  But others have missed it.

3.) New Orleans (3-1) [+1]
 Somehow, I'm not surprised that the Saints are the next best team after Green Bay and Detroit.  Change that close loss in the first week to a win, and the Saints are 4-0 and looking like the most sure thing in the NFL.  Still, even with that loss, New Orleans has looked good in every game they've played, which isn't something every team can say.

4.) New England (3-1) [+1]
 Surprise, surprise, the Patriots are rising again.  I had a good feeling about them going to Oakland and winning, something the Jets couldn't do the previous week.  Not only did the Pats win, they did so pretty convincingly.  Tom Brady excised the screw-ups and got Wes Welker another nine catches to raise his total to 40 on the season.  Amazing stuff.  I feel pretty confident that this team won't be out of the Rankings again for the rest of the season, even if they only end up with 10-12 wins.

5.) Baltimore (3-1) [+2]
 While maybe the most unimpressive performance offensively, it was the Ravens' game to lose Sunday night after Ed Reed got the strip-sack on Mark Sanchez.  The Jets didn't really have a chance after that, despite some incredible defensive and special teams play.  The Ravens are a bit maddening, actually.  They looked pathetic against Tennessee, while putting a couple of beatdowns on Pittsburgh and St. Louis.  I'm wary of calling this last game a beatdown, as there was no offense involved.  But the defense was more than manly.  Supermanly?  Whatever you want to call it, they didn't play like a bunch of cream puffs.

6.) San Diego (3-1) [+3]
 The Chargers are an interesting team so far.  I don't think they've played to their capability in any game this season, despite being 3-1.  They've really survived in every win, and made too many mistakes against New England to squeak out.  It's hard to say taking 6th shows confidence, and I would never say that I'm that confident in this particular Chargers team.  They keep finding a way, though, so they keep moving up.

7.) Buffalo (3-1) [-4]
 Perhaps a loss was inevitable.  But to do so in the fashion they did it was pretty disappointing.  I was also hoping that they would make it to 4-0 and make the doubters (including myself) squirm a little.  Alas, it wasn't to be.  I guess I was a little too fired up about them going 12-0 before heading to San Diego in Week 14.  Still, their schedule is not terribly difficult, and if they get back on the wagon, a long win streak ought to be in the offing.  We shall see, though.  They only opened themselves up to being questioned.

8.) Tennessee (3-1) [-]
 It may just be time to take the Titans seriously.  After losing against Jacksonville in Week 1 (which surprised me, I'll admit), the Titans have won three in a row, taking out Baltimore, Denver, and Cleveland.  Not exactly murderers' row there, but hey, how many of us expected them to be 3-1 at the quarter pole?  If they can keep it up, maybe the AFC South isn't already locked up for the Texans as so many wanted it to be.

9.) Houston (3-1) [-]
 Despite Pittsburgh not playing up to their capability, the Texans beat them and earned a spot here this week.  With this team, though, one can never be certain that they'll be along for the ride for more than a week at a time.  I still have very little respect for this team.  I'm not jumping to conclusions like some people, or ceding the AFC South to them.  In fact, I had a hunch that someone else would step up and challenge them.  I didn't know it'd be Tennessee, but I guess in hindsight that appears to be the obvious choice.  I have to give credit to Arian Foster, though.  He came back from his hamstring injury and put up man-sized numbers on the Steelers vaunted run defense, including an excellent TD run.

10.) San Francisco (3-1) [-]
 I'm as surprised as anybody else.  That OT loss to Dallas sure doesn't look like a harbinger of collapse now.  And it certainly hasn't helped the Cowboys very much.  At any rate, the 49ers are a surprising team, and if they can keep it up, a division title is certainly a lock.  It's hard to say that a winning record wouldn't get things done, considering how abysmal the other three teams are.

Finally, a note on the teams that exited the Rankings.  They are the NY Jets (6), Pittsburgh (8), and Dallas (10).  Obviously, all three lost, and none of them looked that great.  So there should be no controversy there.  One might ask, though, what about Tampa Bay?  Or the NY Giants?  Or Washington?  All three teams are 3-1, but as you can see, there are only so many spots.  I don't like to do more than 10, because it would usually mean spotlighting losing teams, or teams that didn't play as well as the ones that are in the top ten.  At any rate, Tampa Bay would appear to be the most "real" of these three that just barely missed the cut.  I'm a little concerned that a would-be rout at home against an 0-3 team turned into a nailbiter.  But considering the situations in NY and Washington (defense/QB and QB, respectively), Tampa Bay is clearly the next in line should one of these 10 falter in Week 5.

That's all for this week.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
Posted on: September 27, 2011 10:47 pm

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 3

Three weeks down, three undefeated teams left.  I know that I expressed surprise after seeing more than a few of them drop off, but this week was even more surprising, actually.  Two AFC East "powerhouses" (do we really know yet?  Not quite) went on the road and lost.  Two surprise teams sacked up and took victory into their hands.  And the defending champs played well again.

The picks this week went better than I expected.  Even with the surprise victories/losses, I had a good week, despite not gambling too much.  Here are the standings for Week 3:

Prisco: 8-8
Red: 11-5
King: 11-5 

Finally, Peter King came back to the pack after two incredible weeks.

We all went wrong with Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Arizona.  Oh, and let's not forget the Patriots (and honestly, how could we).  I gambled on the Jets to go out to Oakland and win.  That was ill-conceived.  I also "gambled" on the Packers in Chicago.  Not much of a gamble, really, and it turned out well.

Here are the Rankings for Week 3:

1.) Green Bay (3-0) [no change]
 Jermichael Finley stepped up.  The defense seemed a bit stiffer, as well.  One may wonder if a new vulnerability in the special teams has been unearthed; I look at it as an aberration until proven otherwise.  Let's not forget that few teams have a dynamic return man like Devin Hester.  Aaron Rodgers played well enough to win, but there were a number of ugly drives.  Also, clock management appeared to be an issue.  All small stuff, it seems, but as the old expression goes, the devil is in the details.

2.) Detroit (3-0) [+2]
 Are the Lions really this good, or did they take advantage of a Minnesota team that just can't close the deal?  I'll take a little bit of both.  They definitely took advantage of Vikings miscues.  But let's be honest here: Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are pretty good.  Johnson is probably a top 3 receiver (just after Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson).  Stafford is proving that when he's healthy, he's a top 10 QB.

3.) Buffalo (3-0) [+2]
 At some point, I have to stop being surprised about this team winning and come to expect it.  One thing that helps their chances is a favorable schedule.  Before their Week 7 bye, they get the Bengals, Eagles, and Giants.  Those are three winnable games.  And looking further, they don't have what looks like a tough game until they have to go to San Diego in Week 14.  I'm guessing the Jets will play them tough, but if Fred Jackson can run anything like Darren McFadden did this week...yeah, not so tough.

4.) New Orleans (2-1) [+4]
 With the rules being what they are and the prevalence of passing, red zone defense has become a premium.  New Orleans had it in Week 3.  It helped that the Texans struggled, as usual, and had no idea what they were doing in the red zone (Washington had the same problem, and is there any surprise there?  Nope).  One other obvious point: the Saints are money in the 4th quarter.  When they absolutely had to score, Drew Brees led them down the field and got TD's.

5.) New England (2-1) [-3]
 If I have long-time readers, they might be asking me "Why keep the Pats in the Rankings after a bad loss"?  Well...there are a number of teams that appear to be deserving of a spot.  It's one of those weird weeks where more than 10 teams deserve to be in.  But I've been an admirer of the Pats since 2007 or so, and because of that, I can never truly count them out.  Plus, does anyone really think that Oakland, San Francisco, or Cleveland have staying power?  Or more staying power than the Pats?  In both cases, I'd vote no, and so the Pats stay in, though they had to drop.

6.) NY Jets (2-1) [-3]
  Much like their division rivals in New England, the Jets appear to have more staying power than other 2-1 teams that don't have a recent history of winning.  I fully expected the Jets to pull out a win in Oakland, but since they didn't, they had to drop a little.  And despite getting run over by Darren McFadden, I think they have a solid chance to be a playoff team.

7.) Baltimore (2-1) [-]
 An impressive first quarter led to a rout in St. Louis for the on-again, off-again Ravens.  Inconsistency may well be their calling card this season, but when they're on, they are ON.  As such, they move into 7th this week over the Steelers, who they already beat head-to-head.  And, as usual, more impressive victories tend to lead to moving up higher than those who are not so impressive.

8.) Pittsburgh (2-1) [+1]
 Speaking of unimpressive wins...the Steelers' Sunday Night win over Indy has to rank as one of the least impressive wins this season, considering how bad Pittsburgh looked throughout.  That's why Baltimore, the Jets, and the Patriots are still above them.  If it had been closer to the spread, I would have kicked the losers down a couple more spots.

9.) San Diego (2-1) [-]
 Another unimpressive win leads to a good team being in the lower part of the top ten.  I think the spread for this game was among the largest I've heard of recently.  It'll probably be one of the largest of the season, too.  At any rate, the Chargers are tied for the division lead, and while they haven't looked their best, I'd be willing to bet on them winning the AFC West over Oakland.

10.) Dallas (2-1) [-]
 I wrestled with this one a little bit.  The last thing I want to do is exhibit blatant favoritism, especially toward a team that has one awful loss and two borderline wins.  Yes, they won against SF and Washington, but both of them were not what I would call "strong" wins.  Although, that play Anthony Spencer made last night was pretty strong in my book.  So look at it this way: every team Dallas has played so far is 2-1.  If that counts for anything, then there's a reason Dallas is in the top ten aside from being my favorite team.  And if not, then I'm a bloody homer.  No excuses here.

Finally, a note on the teams that exited the Rankings.  They were Houston (6), Washington (7), and Atlanta (10).  Two undefeated teams that went down, plus another road loss for the Falcons.  I don't think there's a lot of surprise in any of these results, nor the fact that all three dropped because of them.  I never had a lot of faith in the Texans or Redskins; let's face it, the Texans have no history of success whatsoever, and the Redskins are still starting Rex Grossman, which bit them in the rear last night.  The Falcons are now 1-2, which is not good enough at this point to be in the top ten.  That's not to say that they won't make it back in, of course.

That's all for this week.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
Posted on: September 20, 2011 8:10 pm

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 2

After two weeks, there are seven undefeated teams in the NFL.  Surprised?  I am, a little.  I expected bounceback from certain teams (i.e. Pittsburgh), but I figured there would be eight or nine undefeated teams at this point.  It'd make it easier to do this, that's for sure.  Anyway, onto the picks for this week.

Here are the standings for Week 2:

Prisco: 12-4
Red: 11-5
King: 14-2 

No, that's not a typo.  King has started out amazingly well, to the point where he's calling out to himself how great he's been.  Probably not a good idea, but we'll see how it goes through the rest of the season.

So where did I screw up?  Well, I gambled on a few teams, namely Indy, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.  Baltimore failed all three of us (and anyone who picked them in a survivor pool).

I saw Cleveland as a beatable team, especially in Indy.  Once again, Kerry Collins and company failed to deliver until late in the game, and by then it was too late.

Had I known Cincinnati can't win in Denver (they haven't won there since 1975, thanks Judge), I wouldn't have picked them.  And I don't trust Denver, even with a new coach.

I thought Philly had a decided advantage over an Atlanta team that couldn't score on the Bears.  We saw New Orleans carve up the Bears, and people have been trying to put Matt Ryan up in that rare air that Brees et al inhabit.  Apparently, Philly's defense isn't good enough just yet.  Michael Vick getting hurt didn't help, but Mike Kafka came in and played pretty well.  One dropped pass from Maclin sealed it for Atlanta, which is rather hard to believe.

And finally, the Rams.  Their offense was inconsistent at best, but considering all the injuries on the Giants' D, I thought it could be a walkover for Sam Bradford.

OK, so with that done with, here are the Rankings for Week 2.  As usual, these are not meant to be predictive and only reflect the results of the games.

1.) Green Bay (2-0) [no change]
  I'm not sure if I was wrong about the defense or what.  Charles Woodson stepped up with two INT's and a fumble recovered, but Cam Newton still threw for over 400 yards.  I guess as long as they keep winning, the defense will get a pass.  Although I'm sure Dom Capers can't be pleased about his unit's progress thus far.  After two weeks, they're undefeated, and still the defending champs.  So let's not make too much of their "problems".

2.) New England (2-0) [+1]
  If anybody is questioning who the best QB in the league is, I have a response: Tom Brady.  With Peyton Manning on the shelf, there are no if's, and's, or but's about this.  Tom Brady is the best QB in the NFL, period.  The defense, on the other hand, is a lot like the Packers'.  Not good so far.  Next week, they get the Bills, which could be interesting.  The stats say otherwise, obviously.

3.) NY Jets (2-0) [+1]
  Beatdown!  There's not much to say other than that.  Well, Mark Sanchez is still throwing bad picks...but until they affect the result, does anyone really care?  It's a question of aesthetics at this point.

4.) Detroit (2-0) [+2]
 One of the surprising 2-0 teams, to be sure.  It seems that anyone who has Kansas City on their schedule can lick their chops, as it were, because an easy win is in the offing.  Matthew Stafford has been nothing short of spectacular thus far.  Any team that gets as many takeaways as Detroit does will be in the game, no matter the opponent.

5.) Buffalo (2-0) [+4]
  Another surprising 2-0 team.  It could all go to hell next week, though, and I expect it to.  I mean, it would be a really big surprise if they were to beat New England, especially given how well (i.e. poorly!) they've played the Pats since 2003 or so.  But for these first two weeks, Buffalo has been quite good.  Maybe not great, considering the competition (KC and Oakland, yeesh), but quite good.

6.) Houston (2-0) [+4]
 Who needs Arian Foster when you have Ben Tate?  I kid, of course.  Once Foster is healthy, Ben Tate is going back to the bench.  But until then, Tate has a great chance to impress a lot of people.  Prisco and King both picked Miami this week, and the Texans did an admirable job in closing out the game.  They didn't play their best for 60 minutes, again, but they played well enough.  That's really all that matters, and like everyone else, as long as they keep winning, they're in here.

7.) Washington (2-0) [-]
 I wasn't taking the Redskins seriously last week.  After narrowly beating Arizona, I have them as the least of the undefeated teams, which seems to be a good move right now.  I still don't trust Rex Grossman.  But my own stuff aside, Washington has played pretty well in the first two weeks, though it seems like they made it harder on themselves than it needed to be against Arizona.  If they're serious about winning the NFC East, beating Dallas in Week 3 would be a good start.

8.)  New Orleans (1-1) [-]
  Who's the best outside of the undefeated teams?  My vote goes to New Orleans.  They took a tough loss in Week 1, in a game they could have easily won.  It wasn't a bad loss, in my mind.  Then they came out in Week 2 and put a beatdown on the Bears, a team that people were changing their minds about.  I didn't make too much of the Bears beating Atlanta; they weren't playing in the Georgia Dome, they were playing in Chicago.  And Jay Cutler is still a whining pouter.  Joe Buck attempted to trumpet Cutler for his toughness; by the end of the game, when the Saints' D had smacked him around and the Saints' offense had put up 30, there were no plaudits for Cutler or his teammates.  Brees had an absolutely scintillating pass to Devery Henderson which went for a TD.  I loved it, for sure.

9.) Pittsburgh (1-1) [-]
  It's hard to know what to make of the Steelers thus far.  On the one hand, you have that utter demolition against Baltimore.  And then you have the beatdown they just laid on Seattle.  My inclination is to say that because Baltimore lost to Tennessee, and Pittsburgh bounced back (albeit against a terrible opponent, which cannot be emphasized enough), that the Steelers are still an elite team.  But because they beat Seattle, I'm not entirely sure.  I guess that's not a bad thing; they just squashed grapes in Week 1 and drank wine in Week 2, to paraphrase Mike Tomlin.

10.) Atlanta (1-1) [-]
 As it turns out, beating Philadelphia at home is good enough to get the Falcons into the Rankings.  I was impressed, and Matt Ryan is money at home still.  We'll see how they go from here; bouncing back from that loss at Chicago was good, though.

Finally, a quick note on the four teams that exited the Rankings.  They were Baltimore (2), Philadelphia (5), San Diego (7), and San Francisco (8).  Obviously, all four lost in Week 2.  Still, I think that three of those four will be back in the Rankings at some point this season.  All it takes is a win, or in some cases two or three of them.  I'm still pretty high on Baltimore, but losing to Tennessee (especially after their Week 1 performance) is utterly inexcusable.  I probably could have ceded them the tenth spot, but I like using this space to celebrate the winners.  And, obviously, teams that remain undefeated.  The other three losses were a bit more "expected", I would say.  So I don't think there should be much controversy, and besides, this is just one guy's opinion on something that really doesn't matter all that much.  I do this for fun.

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