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Tag:49ers
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 19, 2012 12:25 am
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 2

Greetings, readers!  Week 2 is over, so it's time for another edition of the Rankings.  I know it's a little late compared to last week; I'll try my best to get them out earlier in the afternoon next time.  Still, there's a lot to look at, so let's get to it.

Before I get to the Rankings themselves, there are a number of stories that I thought I would highlight.  I'm sure lots of other outlets have covered them, because they were big, but I wanted to impart my own point-of-view on them.

I think the first story to look at has to be the end of the Redskins @ Rams game.  I'm sure you saw the replays; Josh Morgan made one of the dumber mistakes I've ever seen.  He threw the ball at Rams DB Cortland Finnegan after a contentious play.  He was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, a penalty that essentially sealed the win for the Rams.  One could also look at the defense the Redskins played for most of the game; they made Sam Bradford look like an elite QB for the first time...maybe ever.  The Rams played well, but without Morgan's mistake they probably have another tough loss on the heels of the Week 1 loss at Detroit.

Secondly, the Saints are 0-2.  They're also the only team in the NFC to not have a win.  It's hard to say that this isn't a referendum on the importance of the head coach, but it's not like the Saints have played sterling defense either.  Also, Drew Brees hasn't played at an elite level yet.  He's thrown INT's at inopportune times that have turned the tide against his team.  That said, while their playoff chances have diminished, they have an opportunity to get back on track this week against Kansas City.

The Patriots were driving late in the game against Arizona when they got cute with the clock and decided to kick a game-winning FG instead of taking an easy touchdown and letting Arizona have the ball back.  Now, we know that New England's defense has not been among the best in the league in the last couple years.  In fact, they've kinda stunk out the joint, to be kind about it.  So far in 2012, though, they look to have improved.  Also, despite a generally poor effort throughout, Brady and co. were driving late.  They did have a questionable holding call on Gronkowski that took away a touchdown, but it seemed that momentum was on their side.  It seemed inevitable that a touchdown would happen.  Instead, they ran out the clock and tried a game-winning FG that Gostkowski missed so incredibly that people are creating new words to describe how much it stunk.  That decision is literally the difference between the Patriots being 2-0 and 1-1.

Speaking of 2-0 teams, it should be noted that there are only 6 unbeaten teams after two weeks.  That number has been steadily decreasing since 2009, as well.  The league has embraced parity.  That said, there'll always be a couple bad teams that start off in the dumpster and don't rise above it.  At least, I think there will be...it's difficult for me to predict what will happen in the NFL successfully.  I already feel a little lost thanks to some of the things that have happened already.

Here are the Rankings for Week 2:

1.) San Francisco (2-0) [+2]
 Aside from a garbage time touchdown, the 49ers defense looked nearly unbeatable Sunday night.  Alex Smith had a couple drives at the end of the game that not only killed the clock but put points on the board when they needed them.  Included in that was a nice TD pass to Vernon Davis.  So after two games they've taken out two playoff teams and looked good doing it.  I know it's too early to come to definitive conclusions, but one has to wonder...how far does this go?  The 49ers were in the NFC championship game back in January, so another run like that doesn't seem far-fetched.  But again, it's early.  All I know is that I'd rather start off like this than not.

2.) Atlanta (2-0) [+3]
 Home teams did unusually well this week.  Atlanta has played exceptionally well in the Georgia Dome since Matt Ryan and head coach Mike Smith came aboard.  So I guess it's not a huge surprise that the Falcons played well last night in taking out Denver.  Of course, it helps that Peyton Manning threw three picks in the first quarter...but yeah.  Atlanta's offense ran smoothly for most of the night, and their defense came up huge on the second-to-last Denver drive when Manning got sacked on 3rd down.  That play won the game, I think.  Atlanta now has a slight edge in the division; what I would look at in the next couple weeks is how they build off of this win, especially if they go on the road.

3.) Houston (2-0) [+5]
 It's hard to say that I'm surprised by the Texans feasting on what looks like weaker competition at this point.  Usually, they would have thrown a monkey wrench into their own machine and screwed up one of those games.  Let's be honest, though, that division is theirs for the taking, and I'd be surprised if they even needed 10 wins to get it done.  They head up to Denver in Week 3 and that should be a better test of their defense's abilities.  So far, they're aces.

4.) San Diego (2-0) [-]
 I guess I should have had the Chargers in last week.  But I didn't, and they gave me a pleasant surprise.  That's always nice.  They're 2-0 based off of beating weaker competition; Philip Rivers has played quite well, though.  He has to continue like this, keeping the mistakes to a minimum and tossing TD's to whoever's healthy enough to catch 'em.

5.) Arizona (2-0) [-]
 Apparently, that victory against Seattle last week was worth more than I figured.  And despite the boneheaded fumble against the Pats, things worked out and now the Cardinals are 2-0.  If it sounds like I'm doubtful of Arizona...well, I am.  I don't think they're playoff-bound, whatever the odds might say about 2-0 teams.  I know, they have a good shot, especially given how some of the supposed "power" teams in the conference have performed thus far.  But they still have to contend with the 49ers.  Let's see how those games turn out before we "crown" Arizona prematurely.

6.) Philadelphia (2-0) [-]
 The Eagles are literally getting just enough defense so far.  Their margin of victory?  Two points.  I don't think Michael Vick can continue playing as wildly as he has and keep winning.  It also seems unlikely that he'll play all 16 games at this rate, either.  In any case, Philly's the ugliest 2-0 team out there.  That sentiment may annoy their fans, but an objective viewer can hardly conclude otherwise.

7.) Pittsburgh (1-1) [-]
 A defensive unit minus Polamalu and Harrison held the Jets to 10 points.  After that 48 point explosion in Week 1, the Jets looked downright ordinary, and I would say that most of that has to do with the Steelers.  It's become popular to say that defense has been legislated out of the league (and I'm assuming that because Michael Wilbon thinks it that other people agree), but the Steelers are one of the few teams that came to play on that side of the field.  Yes, they got burned in Denver, but then they rediscovered their motivation at home against what looked like a heavily overrated team.

8.) Baltimore (1-1) [-4]
 Another year, another Week 2 hiccup for Joe Flacco and the Ravens.  Much like last year, when they had an utterly disappointing loss to Tennessee, Baltimore went into Week 2 high off a complete decimation and basically stunk up the joint.  Now, I'll be a bit more kind and say that this loss was nowhere near as bad as the one last year against Tennessee.  But the result is the same, isn't it?  Joe Flacco once again proved that he's neither an elite QB nor a reliable one; he couldn't make the plays when it mattered.  But the more surprising thing is the final Eagles drive that sealed the game: Michael Vick ran a QB draw and the Ravens were powerless to stop him.  Really?  That seems unexpected.

9.) New England (1-1) [-8]
 I already took a look at the play that decided their game against Arizona.  So there's really not much else to say.  I guess the couple roster moves they made in the last day or two could have an impact.  Or it could just be window dressing.  All I know is that Brandon Lloyd looked more like another guy who wore 85 than the guy he was while playing in Denver and St. Louis last season.  Also, the Pats offensive line isn't protecting like it usually does.

10.) Denver (1-1) [-8]
 Three INT's in the first quarter.  Yeah, that pretty much sealed it, even with a savant like Peyton Manning playing QB.  They had a chance late, but a crucial drive-ending sack on 3rd down killed it.  The Broncos made it close, but they continue to be a frustrating bunch, winning when they have no business doing so and losing games they ought to win.  Even with the change at QB from a guy who couldn't throw to a guy that throws it as well as anyone in the last 15 years, Denver continues to be inconsistent.  So now they host the Texans at home in Week 3, and your guess is as good as mine as to what happens.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 3):
Atlanta @ San Diego (FOX)
Philadelphia @ Arizona (FOX)
New England @ Baltimore (NBC)
Category: NFL
Posted on: September 11, 2012 6:26 pm
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 1

Hello and welcome to the 2012 version of the Rankings!  Week 1 has come and gone, so it's time for me to put down on "paper" the top ten teams.  As usual, this first week of the Rankings is more or less a total crapshoot.  There isn't much to go on, and I expect that there will be a lot of shakeups in the next couple of weeks.

I also took a look at the last entry I posted in 2011.  I had a couple of statements in there that are now completely ridiculous.  For the entertainment of the readers who might not remember, here they are:

As usual, there were a few surprise teams going into the playoffs.  This year it's the Broncos49ersBengalsLions, and Texans.  So we know who not to like next season already.

Whoops!  I messed that up, didn't I?  These teams started 4-1.

After all, it doesn't appear that they'll be around after this week.

This comment referred to the Giants and Broncos, who both made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.  As we know, the Broncos beat the Steelers in OT and the Giants won the Super Bowl.  Whoops!

Hopefully this time around I'll keep my mouth shut and not get too big for my britches.  But then again, statements like these are always good for a laugh, even if its at my expense.

Here are the Rankings for Week 1:

1.) New England (1-0)
 Hey, look, my bias is already showing.  Honestly, after one week the first spot is almost (?) entirely meaningless.  Brady &co. went on the road to Tennessee and beat a team that could be pretty good, if Jake Locker shows well.  As for the Pats, Gronkowski and Hernandez did what they usually do, and despite O-line issues (so I've heard, I didn't really see them besides one sack), Brady played well too.

2.) Denver (1-0)
 I think just about every football fan tuned in Sunday night to see what would happen with Peyton Manning.  I admit, my bias is showing again, because Peyton is one of my favorite QB's to watch.  This was not always the case...back around 2002 or 2003 I found his line of scrimmage schtick annoying.  But I flip-flopped on it and on him as a player.  I'm glad to see that he's back in the league, even though its with a team that I've historically not liked much.  I also picked the Steelers in that game.  Whoops!  Don't trust Pittsburgh at altitude, dear readers.

3.) San Francisco (1-0)
 The 49ers went into Lambeau and beat the Packers.  Wow.  I don't know whether to be surprised or impressed.  I suppose the correct reaction is a little of both.  I certainly didn't expect Rodgers to play as poorly as he did.  He was just missing ...something.  Anyway, Alex Smith played well and Randy Moss showed that he's got something left.  I admit, though, that it helps when nobody covers the guy and he gets a free run into the end zone.  How about Vernon Davis dunking on the crossbar?  I won't be too hard on the guy; it was a funny moment though.

4.) Baltimore (1-0)
 Coming out on Monday night facing a division rival, I expected Baltimore to play well.  Did I expect 44 points out of them?  No way.  Joe Flacco played quite well, throwing a few passes that made my jaw hit the floor.  And let's not forget Ray Rice, the guy who makes that offense run, literally and figuratively.  Both of them played lights out.  Ed Reed also took an INT to the house, which impressed me as well.  A lot has been written about Reed's ability to sniff out those INT's.  It is an ability that hasn't lost any of the excitement or impressiveness that comes with that play.

5.) Atlanta (1-0)
 Funnily enough, the Falcons got some press about their "new" no-huddle offense, much like the Ravens.  Is it any surprise that both of them played well?  I'm not sure.  We'll see how it goes through the season.  But as far as Sunday went, Matt Ryan showed quite well, throwing TD's to Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.  They made KC look pretty bad.

6.) Dallas (1-0)
 Here comes my bias again, with the Cowboys breaking into the Rankings.  It seems like it's been quite a while since they've been in here; I think I usually kept them out because they just weren't that impressive compared to the top third of the league.  Also, they had bad losses against teams they should have beaten.  This time, however, they went out on Wednesday and took out the defending champions.  So that means they're in for this week.  I like it.  Of course, as a "writer", I have to at least attempt to maintain objectivity (and believe me, it can be difficult), so I haven't put them too high for the moment.  But if they go on a run, do not be surprised if you see them moving up.

7.) Chicago (1-0)
 To be honest, I think the Bears have been heavily overrated going into the season.  Whoa, shots fired!  Maybe so, but let's really think about it for a second.  Are the Bears really as good as people have said?  They added Brandon Marshall, but they still have Jay Cutler at QB, who hasn't won a thing.  He's also coming off an injury, again.  He did play well against the Colts and none of the other teams in the division looked great.  So maybe there's a bit of an opening early in the season.  I will continue to maintain, until proven otherwise, that the Bears won't make the playoffs.  We'll see, I guess.

8.) Houston (1-0)
 As usual, the Texans played well in the first half before underwhelming in the second half.  At some point, this trend will be their undoing.  But apparently, they haven't yet played a team that understands how they operate.  They're not likely to face one in their division either, since they're all 0-1.

9.) Washington (1-0)
 Welcome to the big time, RGIII.  What do you have in store for round 2?  I hope it's something good, because people can get real ornery when they're disappointed.  I was surprised to see the Redskins throw 40 points on the board and beat the Saints.  I guess I was wrong about New Orleans' ability to keep on keepin' on.  Not only that, Griffin III put up one of the most impressive QB performances of the week, with a 138 QB rating and no INT's.  Considering how Stafford and Vick threw INT's practically all day, it was nice to see Griffin III take care of the ball and look like a professional QB.

10.) NY Jets (1-0)
 The biggest surprise of Week 1, the Jets put aside preseason nonsense and put up 48 on Buffalo.  I have to admit, Mark Sanchez played great.  So what does he have in store for Week 2?  I have no earthly idea.  That's the trouble with this team, they're hard to predict.  They could put up another 40 point game, or they could be held to 10 and lose by 21.

Well, that's it for this week's Rankings.  One last note I wanted to pass on was the awesomeness of NFL Red Zone.  For those who haven't heard, the NFL Red Zone is a channel on cable (130 on Comcast/XFinity/whatever they call themselves) that shows every TD from every game on Sunday.  The only games excepted from this coverage are the Sunday night game on NBC and the Monday night game on ESPN.  The Red Zone is an amazing channel and it has changed the way I watch football.  It's that great, literally.  I'm sure Sunday Ticket is nice; being able to watch every game is mandatory for fans, I would imagine.  But having the Red Zone is not only better, but easier, because they do all the work.  I also have to give credit to Scott Hanson, the guy who anchors the coverage from the studio.  He sits there for 7 hours in a row with no commercial breaks and gives out pertinent information between the mass of TD's and highlights.  I was very impressed with his work, despite a hilarious error that I unfortunately don't remember.

So, readers, if you have Comcast/XFinity or another cable provider that has the NFL Network and NFL Red Zone, I heartily recommend that you watch NFL Red Zone.

I also would like to point out that I'm not being paid to plug that channel, nor am I a representative of the NFL.  I am merely a fan of the Red Zone channel and thought that I would share that with all the readers.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 2):
Chicago @ Green Bay (Thursday, NFL Network)
Baltimore @ Philadelphia (Sunday, CBS)
Denver @ Atlanta (Monday, ESPN)
Category: NFL
Posted on: January 15, 2012 10:33 pm
 

2012 Divisional Round - Agony & Ecstasy

It may be a bit too highbrow to call this entry "Agony & Ecstasy", but I'll be damned if I can't try to justify it.

Through the last two days, there were four NFL Divisional games.  Two went the way I hoped they would.  Two went badly.  Now there are four teams left in the playoffs: Baltimore, New England, the NY Giants, and San Francisco.  The NFC is the disappointment, as far as I'm concerned.  I love offensive football with downfield passing galore.  We'll probably see some of that in the NFC Championship game, but not as much as we would have had it been Green Bay vs. New Orleans.

Saturday's games were New Orleans @ San Francisco & Denver @ New England.

The Saints had trouble with turnovers and their offense didn't click like it did in the Superdome.  Apparently, the 49ers deserve some credit for stopping what looked like an unstoppable machine, because the weather sure didn't do it.  Alex Smith looked off for most of the game, but hit the throws he needed to late.  Considering how badly he was missing receivers in the first three quarters, it surprised the hell out of me to see him hitting Vernon Davis through tight windows in coverage.  It was a well-deserved win, though I can't help but think that seeing the Saints move on would have been better.  That said, I think the 49ers have a solid chance of moving on to the Super Bowl.

Tom Brady.  Wow.  After an impressive first half, Brady and the Pats offense took their collective foot off the gas and had a little bit of mercy on the Broncos.  To say he outperformed his opposition is an understatement.  Not only that, he got a win when the more-heralded duo of Brees and Rodgers didn't.  I suppose a lot of that has to do with the competition...but can you really say that SF or NYG would have stopped Brady the way he was going?  Or kept Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez from busting their way through the secondary to get open catches all night?  I'm not sure.  That's the good thing about the playoffs, I guess.  We'll see how he does against Baltimore next week, and maybe, just maybe, against the NFC Champion in the Super Bowl.

Sunday's games were Houston @ Baltimore & NY Giants @ Green Bay.

After one home game and one home win, the Texans went on the road to Baltimore and the result was the same as the last time they were there.  The way it got there was a bit different, though.  Joe Flacco and Ray Rice weren't at their best, but the Ravens defense was suitably opportunistic, getting three INT's off of T.J. Yates.  The special teams forced a turnover too, when Jacoby Jones had an inexplicably bad attempt to field a punt.  One thing to look out for: Baltimore's defense was allowing the Texans to move on them somewhat late in the game.  If that happens next week and Flacco is inconsistent and off-target, it could be trouble.

Today's late game was the most disappointing of the entire weekend.  The defending Super Bowl champions are done, despite their gaudy 15-1 record and bevy of offensive weapons.  As it turned out, the defense was what let them down.  I had focused on the Packers defense while writing my weekly NFL Power Rankings through most of the season, openly wondering when and if the lack of defensive presence that they had had last season would eventually affect them.  As it turns out, it didn't really mean much until their first playoff game.  Aaron Rodgers played fairly well given the circumstances, but was far more effective running than passing, mostly due to his receivers dropping balls left and right.  There were a couple of passes that sailed on him, as well as a couple plays where the Giants defense got to him before he could make something happen.  All in all, it has to be considered a disappointing performance as most expected the Packers to make the NFC Championship game with some ease.

That brings me to the point that I've been considering for the last couple hours.  After last year's Super Bowl win, most observers elevated Aaron Rodgers to the rank of elite QB.  I was a bit reticent then, as I wanted to see more.  He came out in 2011 and was absolutely smoking hot throughout.  I think he justified his status as elite QB, but there were people who thought he was better than merely elite.  They thought he was on the level of the best in the NFL, Tom Brady & Peyton Manning.  You could also include Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees there, considering they also have rings and a history of playing at a consistently high level.

My point I wanted to broach is this: I think people were a bit too quick to anoint Rodgers as "the next big thing" among QB's, and far too quick to elevate him over P. Manning and Brady.  Now, I understand the difference in competition that Rodgers was facing compared to Brady.  The Broncos looked ill-equipped to handle what the Pats were throwing at them from the get-go.  The Giants, on the other hand, looked like they could handle the Packers offense as long as a couple things went their way.  In this case, dropped balls and turnovers did the Packers in and allowed the Giants enough time to get their offense going.

Now, if Rodgers was really better than Brady and Peyton Manning, he would have performed better today, right?  Somehow, he would have willed those receivers to catch the damn ball, or whatever, right?

But perhaps I'm the one overreacting.

I guess where I stand on it is this: Rodgers is clearly an elite QB.  He had a fantastic season.  He didn't play his best today; not only did his receivers let him down, but so did his defense.  Looking at it objectively, you can explain away the fact that Rodgers could have been slightly overrated.  But I can't help but think that perhaps some observers were just a little too quick to jump on his bandwagon.

Whatever the case may be, I'm interested to see how Rodgers performs in next year's playoffs, assuming they get there.

Next week's games should be interesting as well.  Baltimore goes to New England, while the Giants head west to take on San Francisco.  My heart's telling me that New England and San Francisco will meet up in the Super Bowl.  My mind really doesn't want to take sides at the moment. 
Category: NFL
Posted on: January 4, 2012 9:07 pm
 

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 17

Last week of the 2011 NFL season and the playoffs start this Saturday.  Huzzah!

As usual, there were a few surprise teams going into the playoffs.  This year it's the Broncos, 49ers, Bengals, Lions, and Texans.  So we know who not to like next season already.

Here are the standings for Week 17:

Prisco: 10-6
Red: 8-8
King: 9-7

So overall, Peter King did the best.  He was 165-91.  For the record, I came in third, with a record of 158-98.  The last three weeks really killed me.

Here are the Rankings for Week 17:

1.) New Orleans (13-3) [no change]
 Much like last week, I probably should have moved the Packers into the top spot.  But I'm rolling with the Saints since they won their last seven and looked ridiculously good doing it.  So both are great teams.  Of course, we'll see what happens if they both reach the NFC Championship Game, but these are regular season Rankings and have nothing to do with the playoffs.

2.) Green Bay (15-1) [no change]
 Even when Aaron Rodgers takes a day off, the Packers' offense just keeps producing.  It's hard to believe Matt Flynn can reproduce those numbers with another team, assuming Green Bay lets him go after the season.  I think the Packers have the best chance to get back to the Super Bowl.  They've got home-field throughout and have the strongest QB and offense.  I can't imagine anyone beating them, before the Super Bowl, so it should be a fairly substantial upset.  If it happens.

3.) New England (13-3) [no change]
 Speaking of things that are hard to believe, the Patriots didn't beat a single team with a winning record.  How do things like that happen?  Well, they lost to Pittsburgh and the NY Giants.  And the rest of their division was pretty crappy.  That said, if not for their utterly terrible defense, I think the Pats have a decent shot of doing "something" in the playoffs.  That assumes that they avoid the mishaps that got them beat by Baltimore and the Jets in the last couple seasons.

4.) San Francisco (13-3) [no change]
 Despite having a first-round bye and a home game in the Divisional Round, I'm not too high on the 49ers' chances in the playoffs.  They'll likely have to play the Saints, and I don't see them stopping Drew Brees.

5.) Baltimore (12-4) [no change]
 Assuming Joe Flacco finds some consistency (and leans on Ray Rice heavily), the Ravens could do something in the playoffs.  Then again, they'll probably have to beat the Steelers again, and I find it hard to believe they could do that three times in a season.  But if Cam Cameron goes back to his old tricks (i.e. having Flacco throw it up to 50 times), the Ravens aren't getting past their first game.

6.) Pittsburgh (12-4) [no change]
 It's not out of the realm of possibility that the Steelers have the best chance of making it out of the AFC.  They have a favorable matchup in Denver this week.  Assuming a Cincinnati win, they head to Baltimore to face the Ravens for a third time.  Even if Cincinnati doesn't win, the Steelers get the Pats again, whom they already beat.  Now if only Ben Roethlisberger's ankle hadn't "regressed".  That injury could potentially derail my prediction for them.

7.) Atlanta (10-6) [+3]
 As expected, the Falcons pulled it together and made the playoffs again.  It looked dicey when they were getting beat by Chicago and the like, but Matt Ryan and company rounded into form at the right time and are the 5th seed in the NFC.  They get the "good" matchup, going into Jersey to play the Giants.  It's a lot better than having to play the Saints again.

8.) Houston (10-6) [-1]
 I'm not really surprised that the Texans went on a swoon to end the season.  Luckily for them, they had already clinched the AFC South and will host Cincinnati this weekend.  I don't like their chances.

9.) Detroit (10-6) [-1]
 Despite the awesomeness of Matt Stafford, it looks like Detroit is going to be one-and-done in the playoffs.  Unless the defense somehow figures out how to stop Drew Brees in the next couple days, they're going into a shootout just a few bullets shy of being able to win.  The one factor to look out for is how Ndamukong Suh plays; he wasn't in the lineup for the Lions the last time they played the Saints.  We know Stafford and Brees will throw bombs all day.

10.) Cincinnati (9-7) [-1]
 Andy Dalton and A.J. Green took the Bengals to the playoffs.  Not only that, but they have a good chance of advancing to the Divisional Round.  Who'd a-thunk it?  I was hedging for most of the season, because I just wasn't sure what would happen.  And as it turned out, the Bengals backed in.  But hey, they're in and Dallas isn't, so there's that.

Surprisingly, none of the teams in the Rankings last week dropped out.  But let's not forget the other two teams that made it into the playoffs, the NY Giants and the Denver Broncos.

Well, I guess we don't necessarily have to remember them.  After all, it doesn't appear that they'll be around after this week.

I hope I didn't just jinx it.

That's all for this week and this year.  Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next season. 
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 31, 2011 3:44 pm
 

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 16

As far as the regular season goes, it would appear the Packers aren't "in trouble" after all.  No surprise there, though since New Orleans won (and Drew Brees broke Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record), there isn't any movement at the top.

Here are the standings for Week 16:

Prisco: 12-4
Red: 9-7
King: 9-7

I'm not sure why I picked Arizona over Cincinnati, but I did.  That wasn't the only dumb move, obviously.

Here are the Rankings for Week 16:

1.) New Orleans (12-3) [no change]
 I'm sure most people concentrated on Drew Brees' record-breaking performance on Monday; I noticed it as well and am pleased with his success.  Let's not forget that the Saints are a really good team, even with some deficiencies on defense.  It starts with Brees and his gaggle of receivers, of course, but there are a couple solid RB's in the mix too.  Now we have to see how their success translates outdoors in the elements.

2.) Green Bay (14-1) [no change]
 I should probably have the Packers back at #1, but I can't move the Saints down unless they lose in Week 17.  That said, there's no guarantee the Packers take out Detroit.  With "nothing to play for", they'll likely sit Aaron Rodgers for most or all of the game.

3.) New England (12-3) [no change]
 As expected, the Patriots have rolled through the cake portion of their schedule with only a couple minor slip-ups.  They can earn the #1 seed in the AFC with a win against Buffalo, and the likelihood of that happening is about as close to 100% as it gets.

4.) San Francisco (12-3) [no change]
 Though it looked like the 49ers would get a bit complacent in the last couple weeks of the regular season, it appears that Jim Harbaugh and his staff limited the damage to one loss.  It's likely that they'll end up #2 in the NFC, with a first-round bye and a playoff game in Candlestick as a reward for their great season.

5.) Baltimore (11-4) [+2]
 Much as I admire the bluster of Terrell Suggs &co., I'm hard-pressed to see the Ravens in the Super Bowl this year.  It's funny, since before the season I had them tabbed as one of a select few that could win multiple titles in the next 10 years.  They have an excellent defense, running back, special teams, and coaching staff.  But their QB has proven to be hit-or-miss, and that's a weakness the Ravens haven't been able to overcome since their breakthrough Super Bowl win 10 years ago.

6.) Pittsburgh (11-4) [no change]
 With a win and a Baltimore loss, the Steelers take the AFC North.  It's still conceivable for them to get the #1 seed in the AFC, though New England would have to lose to Buffalo for that to occur.  Hard to see how/why Ben Roethlisberger plays in Week 17; the opponent is Cleveland and it looked like the Steelers could take them with a hand tied behind their back.

7.) Houston (10-5) [-2]
 Two bad losses in a row for the Texans, who close out against the Titans.  It may look like they have nothing to play for, but knocking the Titans out of the playoff race (presumably) should be enough of a stimulant.

8.) Detroit (10-5) [+1]
 I was surprised that the Lions took out San Diego the way they did.  After starting out 5-0, the Lions have looked more or less mediocre ever since, despite delivering a beatdown to the Broncos.  They're locked into a Wild Card berth now and will go to the playoffs for the first time in many years.

9.) Cincinnati (9-6) [-]
 It's possible the Bengals are here to stay.  Who can tell, though?  They could just as easily lose to Baltimore again and drop out.

10.) Atlanta (9-6) [-2]
 The Falcons keep a spot here by the skin of their teeth.  Losing to New Orleans isn't the worst thing in the world, obviously, and they're still a Wild Card team.  So it appears that I was right about the Falcons; though they looked pretty bad earlier in the season, they rounded into form at the right time and will likely take on the Saints again in the playoffs.

The only team to exit the Rankings is the no-account Cowboys.  Even though I'm a fan of the team, I do my best to remain objective about them in this space.  That said, I don't like their chances in the (new) Meadowlands this week.  It's a must-win situation; that only makes it seem more likely that they'll do something stupid to choke away a surefire chance at a playoff berth.

Then again, most of the pundits are jumping back on the Giants' bandwagon (after a few false starts).

I'm currently debating what I'll do during the playoffs.  I might do a couple blogs for picks and such.  We'll see.

That's all for this week.  See you next week! 
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 21, 2011 9:07 pm
 

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 15

There are times when parity in the NFL just gets annoying.  This week was one of them.

Finally, there are no more undefeated teams.  The Packers lost to Kansas City in one of the more improbable results of 2011 and some believe that they're "in trouble" thanks to injuries on the offensive line and to star WR Greg Jennings.  I think that's ridiculous; they didn't fluke their way to 13-0, even with a leaky sieve of a defense.  Injuries on the O-line are troublesome, there's no doubt about that.  But I don't think it's to such a degree that the Packers go from the best team in the league to a team that's "in trouble".

Then again, if the Packers don't repeat, so much the better.

Here are the standings for Week 15:

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

None of us did that great, but I really took it on the chin.  I could go through all the mistakes, but we saw how teams played.  We know what happened.

Here are the Rankings for Week 15:

1.) New Orleans (11-3) [+1]
 This is not to say that the Saints are better; in fact, the Packers already beat New Orleans in Week 1.  Does anyone still remember that game?  I admit, it's becoming more and more obscure with distance.  Anyway, the Packers lost this week while the Saints put up a ton of points on the hapless Vikings, so the Saints are moving up this week while the Packers drop a spot.  That's just how these things go.

2.) Green Bay (13-1) [-1]
  Like I said above, I don't think this team is in trouble.  There are still two weeks left in the season, plus a bye and home-field advantage throughout (let's face it, they're not losing out), so there is time to get things straightened out.  Plus, without the whole undefeated bugaboo holding them down and/or back, they should be feeling free.  Aaron Rodgers isn't injured, so they've got a chance to win.

3.) New England (11-3) [+2]
 Apparently, this Denver team doesn't bother Tom Brady.  Even the defense stiffened.  Losing Andre Carter will probably hurt them in the playoffs, but it's hard not to see the Pats winning out and getting a first-round bye.

4.) San Francisco (11-3) [+3]
 Despite the power outages, the 49ers persevered and got a tough win at home.  I guess it would have been better had the Steelers shown up, but whatever.  A win is a win, right?  Just when it looked like San Francisco was getting a little too pleased with itself, they go out and beat one of the better teams in the league.  I'm not sure if they can hold off New Orleans for the #2 seed, but if they keep playing like they did on Monday, it'll be a heck of a race.

5.) Houston (10-4) [-2]
 It's funny how the Texans can beat good teams and then lose to Carolina.  I hesitate to say that T.J. Yates was "exposed" or what have you.  He's not a good QB to begin with.

6.) Pittsburgh (10-4) [-2]
 I don't think it was expected that the Steelers would lose in SF, nor should it have been.  But with Roethlisberger's injury, plus his rash of turnovers, they apparently didn't have much of a chance.  I wish I had known that beforehand.

7.) Baltimore (10-4) [-1]
 I know that Baltimore should technically be in front of Pittsburgh, but can you really blame me for moving them down after that pathetic non-effort they put in on Sunday night?  Well, whatever, it doesn't matter.  Losing to the Chargers, even when they're no longer slumbering, is pretty embarrassing given that Rivers was throwing games away with regularity just a couple weeks ago.  We all expect Baltimore's defense to do more than it did, as well.  They looked absolutely pathetic, unable to cover anybody or hit Rivers in the mouth.  Once again, another disappointing and inexplicable loss.

8.) Atlanta (9-5) [+1]
 It seems funny to say it now, but I had a hunch that Atlanta would do something like this late in the season.  There's just too much talent there for them to flounder around.  Hard to see them catching New Orleans for the division, but the Wild Card is theirs to lose.  Given how home-field worked for them last season, maybe a road playoff game or two would be better to build some character.  Or display some character, who knows.  There are no guarantees, but with Matt Ryan and those receivers, I imagine Atlanta is a tough out if they're playing like they're capable of.

9.) Detroit (9-5) [+1]
 Why is it that nobody can figure out that covering Calvin Johnson is a good idea?  And that leaving him open for even a second will lead to very bad things.  We know the Lions started out great and then got sidetracked in the wilderness there for a bit.  Where do they go from here?  Well, they have San Diego in Week 16, and that seems troublesome.  But this Lions team specializes in comebacks and we've seen San Diego's vulnerability arise in that specific area.  So at this point I'd call it a wash.

10.) Dallas (8-6) [-]
 Nothing better for the Cowboys than to go out on Saturday, beat Tampa Bay, and then watch Sunday as the Giants somehow find a way to fall flat on their goddamn faces to Washington.  I imagine any number of Cowboys players (and coaches, and maybe even Jerry himself) saying a prayer of thanks for that one.  Still, they play Philadelphia and the Giants to close out, and as a Cowboys fan, I've gotta say I have a bad feeling.  It's not like they can't win both of these remaining games...it's just not bloody likely.

Just one team dropped out of the Rankings this week. It was the Jets.  Good riddance, I say; that's what you get for losing to Philadelphia and giving them false hope about making the playoffs.  Yeesh.

I'll take the Texans tomorrow night; the Colts might be a little frisky thanks to finally winning a game, but they can't afford to keep winning, blah, blah, blah.

Thanks for reading.  See you next week! 
Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
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