Tag:Ravens
Posted on: September 25, 2012 7:10 pm
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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
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: November 10, 2011 5:08 am
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Posted on: November 10, 2011 5:00 am
 

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 9

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

Here are the standings for Week 9:

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

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

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

Here are the Rankings for Week 9:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 6

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

Here are the standings for Week 6:

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

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

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

Here are the Rankings for Week 6:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's all for this week.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com