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
Posted on: October 16, 2012 8:49 pm
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 6

Greetings, readers.  Week 6 was another tough one for me personally; my picks stunk!  I guess that's becoming the usual refrain around here with two bad weeks in the first six.  So let's get to the stories and ignore the rest of the mess.

First up is the Thursday night game.  I don't know about you, but I barely remember what happened.  What I do remember is that the Titans won; Rob Bironas hit his FG after Shawn Suisham missed his.  Whoops!  I hate to get on my high horse and be all judgmental about what is usually a very good team...but let's be serious here: the Steelers got issues.  Not only are they weak on the O-line again (how does this happen three years in a row?) they're losing RB's and Roethlisberger doesn't seem to have the usual magic.  They're a disappointing 2-3 so far.  As for the Titans, I don't know how they pulled that out after being smoked by the Vikings.  I guess Matt Hasselbeck really does have something left in the tank.  I should really listen to Mayock on these things...the guy knows his stuff and is an excellent analyst.

We're down to one undefeated team in the NFL.  It's the Atlanta Falcons.  Hurrah!  Better them than the Texans.  Bias aside, Atlanta has had a couple tough games that probably should have been easier.  So I'm not sure they've really rounded into form yet.  It looks like they could play better, but as always, I've got to see it first.  Being undefeated after the squeakers they've had is pretty impressive, though.  Mike Smith is a heck of a coach and thanks to new OC Dirk Koetter, Matt Ryan is probably playing the best football of his career thus far.

Thankfully, there are no more winless teams in the NFL.  Cleveland got "off the schneid", as they say, by beating AFC North rival Cincinnati.  I really just have one thing to say to this: WTF, Cincy?  That encompasses my feelings quite well.

Philly and Arizona both went to OT in their games; surprise, surprise, they both lost.  And I look like a moron for picking them.  Arizona is still 4-2, so they have the appearance of "goodness", whereas Philly is mediocre and has the record to prove it.  The Eagles fired Juan Castillo, their embattled DC, today.  Surely, there is no way to interpret that other than scapegoating.  When the offense (read: Michael Vick) has as many turnovers as it does, firing anyone not coaching the offense will obviously fix nothing.  The move is completely reactionary; a change made simply for the sake of it.

New England and San Francisco had big games on the left coast.  The Pats went into Seattle, while the 49ers had the Giants at home.  Not surprisingly, both lost.  At least New England showed up, though.  San Francisco didn't bother playing any offense and was even worse on the defensive side of the ball.  They still look decent at 4-2, while the Pats are 3-3.  It's a little funny, and a little weird, to see Tom Brady slumming like this.

Also, thanks to Denver's win, there are 11 3-3 teams.  Let us never forget that parity rules this league.  That also means there are only nine "good" teams.  Although, to be honest, it's hard to say that anybody is worth a darn after six weeks.  That includes Atlanta.

Here are the Rankings for Week 6:
1.) Atlanta (6-0) [no change]
 Rolling into the bye week 6-0.  Doesn't get much better than that.

2.) Baltimore (5-1) [+1]
 Another squeaker, but injuries are mounting.

3.) Houston (5-1) [-1]
 Beat 'em down!  The first loss for the Texans was a bad one.

4.) Chicago (4-1) [+1]
 They moved up on a bye.  That says a lot about the rest of the league.

5.) NY Giants (4-2) [-]
 An impressive win.  Can they keep it going?  Or will "bad" Eli show up again?

6.) San Francisco (4-2) [-2]
 A slight move downward after a home loss where they didn't show up.

7.) Arizona (4-2) [-1]
 With Kevin Kolb out, is it Skelton's team again?

8.) Minnesota (4-2) [-1]
 Two steps forward, one step back.  Allowing RGIII to carve them up like that is inexcusable.

9.) Seattle (4-2) [-]
 A solid win propels Seattle into the Rankings.  Much like the Giants, I doubt them very much.

10.) Green Bay (3-3) [-]
 Beating a previously undefeated team is worth entry, for this week at least.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 7):
Seattle @ San Francisco (Thursday, NFL Network)
Baltimore @ Houston (Sunday, CBS)
Arizona @ Minnesota (Sunday, FOX)
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 9, 2012 10:35 pm
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 5

Greetings, readers.  Week 5 went much as I expected it would.  Not a lot of surprises, though we're now down to two undefeated teams.  Also, there are no longer ten good teams; there are a couple 3-2 teams included this week.  It's not something I like to do, but it's what has to be done for this week unless I want to cut it to a top 5.  A top 5 would probably be pointless.

Anyway, on to the stories from this week.

First off, Arizona fell to 4-1.  They went to St. Louis on Thursday and didn't play very well, only managing three points.  Part of that has to do with the Rams' defense, which played quite well.  But for Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals offense, there's really not much of an excuse; they knew before the season that they'd have to handle this hurdle and they didn't look prepared to do so.  A disappointing loss for the Cardinals, but they have plenty of opportunities to bounce back.

I think the most memorable win has to belong to the Indianapolis Colts.  I'm sure everyone knows the story by now; their head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia, so the Colts really wanted to win this one.  I'm glad they got the win, yet there's something I feel most people ignored that I feel obligated to point out: Aaron Rodgers did not play well down the stretch.  Actually, he looked jumpy even when the pressure wasn't getting into his face.  I guess he got unsettled early in the game and that carried over to the last couple drives.  Rodgers is far from the only "elite" QB to struggle in the first five weeks of the season, but his struggles have to be seen as the most surprising.  Congratulations to the Colts for taking advantage, and get well soon, Coach Pagano!

As mentioned above, there are only two undefeated teams left after five weeks.  They are Atlanta and Houston.  Of the two, I would guess that Atlanta is the more surprising one.  Houston, for all the plaudits they receive from the national media, has beaten no one of note.  Outside of the AFC West, the AFC South has to be the weakest of the eight divisions.  Both teams look mostly convincing on offense, but defense really looks to be their calling card.

The NFC North, on the other hand, looks like one of the stronger divisions.  Now, don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean I'm entirely sold on Chicago.  But they're 4-1 and so are the Vikings, which puts the NFC North ahead of the pack, alongside the surprising NFC West.  The Bears have a bye in Week 6, while the Vikings head to Washington.  Detroit comes off the bye to face Philadelphia while the Packers head down to Houston in what has to be the first Sunday night game for the Texans since NBC took over that time slot.  So while the division is looking fairly strong this week, it could turn by 11PM CDT on Sunday.

Another week, another win for New England.  It got close enough to not be considered a beatdown in garbage time, but for the majority of the game, Denver wasn't in sight.  I'm sure people were worried after they lost to Arizona and Baltimore, but at 3-2 they look to be rising.  Still, it's not what most of us would expect after five weeks.

The most impressive win goes to San Francisco for the second week in a row.  I guess if they're playing an AFC East team other than New England, the forecast is straight up beatdown.  Putting 34 on the Jets wasn't enough for Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith, so they put 45 on Buffalo and made them look pitiful.  Speaking of which, how bad is Buffalo's defense?  They've let up 48 to the Jets, 52 to the Pats, and 45 to the 49ers.  Has to be the worst scoring defense, at least.

A weird ending to the San Diego/New Orleans game.  There were consecutive penalties against the Chargers and then a freak injury to the left tackle that ended the game with Rivers getting taken down on a sack/fumble.  The penalties took the Chargers out of range for a TD that would have tied the game up.  And for the coaching staff to fail to notice that the left tackle was injured...well, that's on them.  But the penalties made it look a little fishy.  And let's not go crazy about the Saints; when they started 0-4, they essentially ended the season after Week 4.

Here are the Rankings for Week 5:
1.) Atlanta (5-0) [no change]
 Another close game, but still undefeated, thus still the best.

2.) Houston (5-0) [no change]
 Taking advantage of a weak early season schedule.  Will Cushing injury derail them?

3.) Baltimore (4-1) [+1]
 A field goal festival leads the Ravens to the top of the AFC North.  Back home for the Cowboys this week.

4.) San Francisco (4-1) [+1]
 Two beatdowns in a row and now the Giants come in.  Can they make it three in a row?

5.) Chicago (4-1) [+2]
 Bye week coming up; not sure if it's a good time since they've won three in a row.

6.) Arizona (4-1) [-3]
 While losing in that fashion might cast doubt on the Cards' legitimacy, let's remember it was a short week.

7.) Minnesota (4-1) [+3]
 A pretty spectacular beatdown by the Vikings.  Now they head to Washington, who might be without RGIII.

8.) New England (3-2) [-]
 It's a long trip to Seattle, but it helps to have a couple wins under the belt.

9.) St. Louis (3-2) [-]
 Over .500 for the first time in 5+ years?  It's a good time to be the Rams.  They head to Miami next.

10.) Cincinnati (3-2) [-4]
 A bad loss for the Bengals, but they head to Cleveland for what should be an easy win.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 6):
New England @ Seattle (Sunday, CBS)
NY Giants @ San Francisco (Sunday, FOX)
Denver @ San Diego (Monday, ESPN)
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 2, 2012 9:48 am
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 4

Greetings, readers!  Week 4 is over so it's time for another edition of the Rankings.  I have to say that this week went a lot better for me; I try to pick the winners of every game every week and was immensely disappointed to only get four right last week.  This week I got 11-of-15 right and feel a lot better about how I did.  Of course, I got thrown by a couple of the late results; that's to be expected, really.

Still, what I said last week remains mostly in effect.  It won't be quite as serious here as it was in previous weeks or previous seasons.  That's probably for the better anyway.

Not quite as many stories to get to, but I think there were some important developments, just as in every week of the NFL season.  That's one good thing about football: with only 16 games in a season, every week has something important happening.  Often, there are multiple something's and this week was no exception.

Let's start with last Thursday's game, Browns @ Ravens.  It went down to the wire with a surprising finish.  I guess the Browns being close was a surprise to people other than me?  I remember seeing Ron Jaworski on Pardon the Interruption that afternoon and he said the Browns had a chance to keep it close.  Obviously, their offense played better than expected, especially on the last drive.  Their defense wasn't too bad either; while Baltimore had 23 points, their offense didn't look as crisp as it has at times this season.  Of course Brandon Weeden ended up showing his true colors at the end.  He's a rookie, after all.  Despite that close scrape, the Ravens are 3-1 and appear to be in control of the division.  They hold the tiebreaker on Cincinnati.  That's probably a good thing, because the Bengals continue to round into form by the week.  We'll see how Baltimore plays when they head to Cincy later this season.

Most surprising 3-1 team?  My vote goes to the Minnesota Vikings.  I'm not sure I could name more than 10-12 players on the team, yet they've taken out the 49ers and won a division game this week against the Lions.  Apparently Christian Ponder is the last QB to have not thrown an INT this season.  Quite impressive, considering how turnover-happy some QB's have been already.  Adrian Peterson appears to have recovered from his knee injury quite well.  Likely better than expected.  It's hard to predict where this team can end up.  Obviously, if their effort remains close to where it was against the 49ers, they have a legitimate shot just like the other teams in their division.  Some teams start out hot and then fade down the stretch.  We'll see what happens.

I think I heard Tom Brady make a comment about getting back on track, or something to that effect against Buffalo.  Next time I'll make sure to pay better attention, since they just hung 52 up on the Bills.  This performance raises two quite obvious points.  First, the Bills absolutely stink on defense; they've given up 48 and 52, to division opponents no less.  Second, Tom Brady's still got it.  I didn't think losing Aaron Hernandez would have such an effect, but then Brady got Welker and Branch back into the game plan and the TD's started pouring in once more.  I doubt anyone was really selling on the Pats so early, especially with that division, but it was a little troublesome to see them lose to Arizona and Baltimore.  Both games were close, though, something that you can't say about Sunday's game.

Surprisingly, there are still three undefeated teams after four weeks.  Atlanta and Arizona had hard-fought wins while the Texans coasted for most of the day.  Atlanta's defense nearly failed them, but held up enough to get Matt Ryan in position to win it.  And how!  He threw a bomb to Roddy White which traveled at least 60 yards in mid-air and then proceeded to get surgical, taking short chunks of yardage in order to set up his kicker.  Probably one of the better drives I've seen this season.  And yet, I can't shake the feeling that if they had played better earlier in the game, they wouldn't have been in that situation to begin with.  Similarly, the Cardinals took awhile to really wake up.  Once they did, though, they ended up scoring late in the 4th and then won the game in OT.  A bit troubling that it took so much effort against Miami, of all teams.  Houston not only won, they knocked out Jake Locker too.  Unlike the majority of the national media, I'm not quite convinced that the Texans really are the best team in the league.  For now it's Atlanta, until they get beat.  And it just might happen that the Texans lose before Atlanta does.  I don't think it'll be in Week 5, though.

Finally, we get to the Giants.  This one is kind of a referendum on the entire NFC East, since the entire division insists on being unpredictable in a rather stupid way.  Washington went down to Tampa and pulled a win out of the hat despite their kicker's "difficulties" throughout the day.  The Giants lost while having two cracks at a game-winning FG.  And we all saw what Dallas did (and didn't) do last night.  I found the Giants result particularly maddening because the statistics say that Eli Manning is great in the 4th quarter as well as in comeback victories.  He had neither of those things going for him Sunday night and didn't really look like he was in the game for the entirety of it.  Now, even when he's really playing well, he doesn't look all that impressive.  At least, I've never seen a game where his play has really impressed me.  But he looked particularly bad in the 4th quarter Sunday night and failed to make even basic throws.  He wasn't helped by his bonehead receivers who committed ridiculous offensive PI penalties either.  So they're a disappointing 2-2 while the Eagles are somehow 3-1 when they should be 0-4.  I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see Michael Vick get benched at some point this season.  If it happened to McNabb, it can happen to Vick.

Here are the Rankings for Week 4:
1.) Atlanta (4-0) [no change]
 An impressive end to last week's game.  Now they head to Washington to face RGIII.

2.) Houston (4-0) [no change]
 The defense looks for real.  TJ Yates has more playoff wins than Matt Schaub, though.

3.) Arizona (4-0) [no change]
 Kevin Kolb showed why he got beat out by Skelton.  Short week + division rival = Trouble?

4.) Baltimore (3-1) [no change]
 Better to be lucky than good.  Heading out to KC for what should be an easy win.

5.) San Francisco (3-1) [+1]
 No losing streaks allowed, apparently.  That beatdown was probably the most impressive win of the weekend.

6.) Cincinnati (3-1) [+1]
 Can anyone stop A.J. Green?  I'm going to take a wild guess and say not Miami.

7.) Chicago (3-1) [+1]
 They'll feast on another bad QB in Jacksonville.  Now if they could keep Cutler from being Cutler....

8.) San Diego (3-1) [+1]
 Philip Rivers rebounded nicely from that debacle against Atlanta.  Going on the road to New Orleans is tougher, but winnable.

9.) Philadelphia (3-1) [+1]
 Turning the NFC East on its head while trying not to turn the ball over on every possession.  Ugly, but effective.

10.) Minnesota (3-1) [-]
 The most surprising 3-1 team gets a Titans team starting their #2 guy.  4-1 is looking likely.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 5):
Arizona @ St. Louis (Thursday, NFL Network)
Atlanta @ Washington (Sunday, FOX)
Denver @ New England (Sunday, CBS)
Category: NFL
Posted on: September 25, 2012 7:10 pm
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 3

Greetings, readers!  Week 3 was a doozy, wasn't it?  I literally cannot remember a week in the NFL that has more severely tested my fandom.  Even the playoffs aren't as rough as this.  So many games went opposite to what I was expecting.  Now that it's Tuesday, I can't say I'm really angry about what happened.  The funny thing about this week is that my team actually won!  Yet the other results were so damaging to my ego and pretension that I know something about this game that I was nearly despondent by the time Baltimore's game-winning field goal went ...above?  the uprights.

So with that said, I'd like to make an "official" statement: Given what happened in Week 3, I obviously know very little (if anything) about professional football.  I'd like all the readers to keep that in mind from here on out.  I've tried to keep these Rankings objective and to impart some knowledge for the last couple years that I've done it here.  After this week, I'm no longer certain that I should be doing this, since I'm just a fan, and not a particularly knowledgable one.  But I'm not a quitter, so I will at least finish out this season.

I guess the takeaway from all this is that none of us are experts, especially me.  So this column will be less serious from now on, I think.  They're just one guy's view of the NFL and not meant to be taken too seriously.

OK, now that that's done with, there are a TON of stories to cover.  I'm going to try to keep these short so this entry doesn't look too inflated, but with everything that happened, I'm not sure how it'll go.  Bear with me, readers!

First off, there was a game last Thursday.  I remember most of it, I think, but I have to admit it got overshadowed by some of the crazy stuff that went on Sunday and last night.  The Giants went into Carolina minus four starters (including Bradshaw and Nicks) and absolutely beat down the Panthers.  Now, this might seem obvious, but I sure as hell didn't see that happening.  I have to give some credit (oh, how reluctantly!) to Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin.  They were ready to play and they took out some frustration on the Panthers.  Cam Newton played pretty terribly as well.  I have a feeling some of that was forced.  Perhaps even most of it.

To Sunday, and the first stunning result: San Francisco headed to Minnesota and got trapped.  I usually have trouble buying into the notion of the "trap game"; if a team is really as good as they and everyone else say they are, then the "trap game" is an illusion created by outside influences.  What actually happened, of course, is that the 49ers played poorly and the Vikings capitalized on that.  Watching Christian Ponder run through the middle of the 49ers' defense was pretty stunning.  So for everyone who jumped on the 49ers' bandwagon and calling them the best team in the league, I think we should probably back off.  In case anyone is wondering, I asked last week how far this run would go.  As it turns out, it went two weeks, and that's that.  Now, they could start another run...but they have to play better first.

There were three overtime games early on Sunday.  Based on the commentary at the top, I don't think anyone would be surprised that all three of them went contrary to how I picked them.  The Jets, Chiefs, and Titans won, spoiling the early part of my Sunday.  These results dovetail into another topic I wanted to mention, which is the Saints going 0-3 to start.  According to a stat I heard on TV (I forget the exact source, my bad), the Saints' chances of making the playoffs are ~3% now.  Teams that start 0-2 have it bad enough, but 0-3?  Forget it.  As far as the Jets go, they're 2-1 but are now missing Revis for the rest of the season.  Their division is kind of a mess at the moment.  The Titans and Chiefs are still at the bottom, but at least they've got some confidence and a win under their belts.

One nice surprise was that I picked Arizona to beat Philly.  I got that one right, at least.  It's one of the few feathers in my cap after a disatrous week.  Arizona's defense was fairly unstoppable, knocking Michael Vick around all day and forcing a fumble that turned into a TD after a couple solid blocks.  Another surprise was that Kevin Kolb was up to the challenge again and didn't wilt under the pressure.  I'm not completely sold on the Cardinals yet, though.  Their win against the Patriots was a little fluky and I don't see Kolb as being even a "good" QB.  I realize that most QB's have been quite inconsistent and that even the "elite" ones have had games where they looked as bad or worse than the bottom-third at their position.  Still, Kolb wasn't considered a great QB before the season and the results haven't done much to change that perception.  As usual, it comes down to solid playoff performance.  The Cardinals are in the driver's seat at the moment thanks to San Francisco slipping, but they still have a long way to go.

Finally, the last two games of Week 3, and the two worst endings.  Baltimore won late on what appeared to be a missed field goal.  It went above the upright, which by rule results in a made field goal.  But looking at it from the views that were on NBC, I'm not sure it actually went ABOVE the upright and not just to the side of the top.  With the win, Baltimore is now 2-1 and leading the AFC North.  Last night, Seattle won on what has to be the most controversial call of the last 3-5 years.  Russell Wilson threw a pass to the end zone with no time remaining and appeared to be intercepted.  Somehow, Seattle receiver Golden Tate got a hand on the ball, which led one of the officials on the field to call simultaneous possesssion and a Seahawks victory.  The rule for simultaneous possession states that the offensive player gets credit for the catch.  So in this case, Tate got one hand on the ball and apparently caught it.  This ignores the fact that he pushed off quite visibly before the "catch" was made, and the appearance that the Packers DB in the area actually brought the ball in with both hands to his chest.  I think that while there was no indisputable visual evidence that the Packers DB had the ball secured, to give the TD to Seattle reeks.

Now, I can only assume and speculate at this point because I don't really know the mindset of the officials on the field.  But, seeing as the game was played in Seattle and the crowd was going crazy at the time...well, you can draw your own conclusions, readers.  In case it wasn't clear from the previous sentence, I do think that the Seattle crowd had at least some bearing on the call.  And I think the Packers were clearly jobbed, even though the outcome of the play was unclear.

I think that's everything from Week 3 that I wanted to mention.  Readers, I want to know what you thought of these stories, so please share your opinion in the comments!

Here are the Rankings for Week 3:
1.) Atlanta (3-0) [+1]
 Matt Ryan + one of the league's best defenses = 3-0.  If I wasn't already painfully aware of how little I know, I'd be surprised.

2.) Houston (3-0) [+1]
 Matt Schaub + one of the league's best defenses = 3-0.  But not quite good enough to top the Rankings yet.

3.) Arizona (3-0) [+2]
 Not quite sold on the QB situation.  That said, Darnell Dockett and that defense are making plays.

4.) Baltimore (2-1) [+4]
 Better to be lucky than good, huh?  Joe Flacco may not be elite yet, but he's 2-1 so far.

5.) NY Giants (2-1) [-]
 Here come the Giants roaring back into the Rankings.  Let's see how it carries over in Philly on Sunday night.

6.) San Francisco (2-1) [-5]
 Minor slip or something more?  We'll see, but no definitive conclusions.  They head east to take on the Jets in Week 4.

7.) Cincinnati (2-1) [-]
 The Bengals are down a tiebreaker but are looking sharp with consecutive wins.  A.J. Green has to be one of the best WR out there.

8.) Chicago (2-1) [-]
 A statement win, perhaps?  Tied with Minnesota at the top, the Bears head to Dallas with an overrated offense vs. an overrated team.  You can guess which is which.

9.) San Diego (2-1) [-5]
 Like Denver, the Chargers flopped hard against Atlanta.  Is it the start of their usual swoon in KC?

10.) Philadelphia (2-1) [-4]
 Is Vick's play a concern yet?  After next Sunday night, it just might be.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 4):
Cleveland @ Baltimore (Thursday, NFL Network)
San Francisco @ NY Jets (Sunday, FOX)
Carolina @ Atlanta (Sunday, FOX)
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