Posted on: November 16, 2011 4:49 am

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 10

Some of the "bad" teams rose up in Week 10 and made it a little weird.  Of course, I've been saying this for the last weeks as teams that ought to win go down, so maybe I should be learning from my mistakes.  At any rate, it's difficult to predict some of the stuff we've seen.  I know I've had trouble with it, as my weekly records have shown.  Finally, though, it looks like we have a clearly defined top five and bottom five.  I'll get to the top five in a minute, but let's look at the bottom five.  Indianapolis is obviously the worst; they're 0-10 and look moribund at best.  There are four teams at 2-7 currently: Carolina, Minnesota, Miami, and St. Louis.  Of these, I think we know that St. Louis has disappointed and taken a huge step back.  Given the offense that Steve Spagnuolo runs (and I say that mostly tongue-in-cheek), it's not a total surprise.  But at the same time, given all the love for Sam Bradford, one would have expected them to keep moving forward.  Other than the Rams, Carolina seems to be the best equipped, despite suffering through many injuries.  Cam Newton looks like the real deal; now all Marty Hurney &co. need to do is re-stock the cupboard around him, plus add some depth on defense.  Sounds simple, but I'm sure it won't be, somehow.  Minnesota and Miami look like they'll be in the "doormat" department for a little while, though it appears that Miami is slightly better at this point.

That just leaves Indianapolis.  Who knew that without Peyton Manning that they would slip to this depth?  Not me, that's for sure.  It's likely that they'll get the first overall pick in the draft and take Andrew Luck, setting themselves up like Ted Thompson did in Green Bay.  We'll see.  I'm not sure Luck is "the guy", if only because there have been so many who were set up to be "the guy" (including Bradford, actually) only to go down in flames.  As we've seen in recent years, the draft is mostly a crapshoot, and it's not something that I care to get involved with.  I like to look at the games, personally, and don't really give a crap about all this ancillary nonsense.  I understand its importance, obviously; every team has to rebuild and reload and the draft is the best place to do that.  But for me to cover and/or analyze such a thing is beyond my ken.

Here are the standings for Week 10:

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

Finally, I beat them straight up!  It only took me ten weeks and many, many drubbings from King.  Even still, he's ahead by four.

Normally it's hard to know where to start when listing my disappointments.  This week, it's pretty easy.  Hello, San Diego!

OK, perhaps I shouldn't be too hard on them, given their offensive line crumbling.  Everyone and their mother was on their bandwagon, though, and they went out and pulled a stinkbomb.  Once again, Philip Rivers is not an elite QB.  Yeah, I know, protection issues.  That plays a part, for sure.  But again, he wasn't great in the first half.  And then once the O-line dissolved into murk, he couldn't do enough to ensure a win.  Typical.

The other disappointments include Baltimore, Detroit, and of course, Philadelphia.  I can kind of understand Detroit losing to Chicago (but getting blown out eludes me).  Baltimore going to Seattle and losing?  Inexcusably bad.  Philadelphia losing to Arizona, who were starting John Skelton at QB?  I guess I need to consult a thesaurus to come up with a word stronger than inexcusable.  I don't know...I'm sure a curse would be involved.

So last Thursday I went with San Diego and got burned.  This week, I'm going to go with Rex Ryan and the Jets, because I believe they can stop the monstrosity known as Denver's offense.  I don't know how, I don't know why.  In fact, I don't want to know; I just want to see it happen.  Make it happen!  Please and thank you.

Here are the Rankings for Week 10:

1.) Green Bay (9-0) [no change]
 So now that the Packers are 9-0, the question has become "Who's going to stop them"?  To be honest, I don't know.  It's hard for me to see that happening, given my particular set of biases.  I thought New England would take it in 2007 when they went 16-0 (and later 18-0), but wouldn't you know it, something stupid had to happen. So I guess the takeaway is that if the Packers get derailed, it'll be by somethng stupid.  I doubt it'll be an injury (unless it's Rodgers going down), so you can write that off.  The only weakness this team has is pass defense, it seems.  Their run defense might not be that great either, but how can you tell when opposing QB's are throwing bombs down the field all the time?  Like I've been saying the whole time I've had the Packers at #1, the defense will likely work itself out.  If it doesn't, they may only reach the NFC Championship Game.  I know, what a disappointment.

2.) San Francisco (8-1) [no change]
 Apparently, this guy Justin Smith is really good.  That's what I keep hearing, anyway.  Alex Smith isn't too bad, either, given his TD pass to Vernon Davis and his generally mistake-free football.  That INT was on Ted Ginn's hands.  They could probably use a bit more fire in the offense, but when you're winning, most people ignore that.  Even with Frank Gore ineffective and then gimpy, the 49ers had a pretty solid day overall.  The defense bent but didn't break at the end and they're still the strongest team outside of Wisconsin.  I think a first-round bye is all but assured at this point; who's going to catch them?

3.) New Orleans (7-3) [+4]
 Look who's bubbling back up again.  OK, I admit that I have a bit of a soft spot for Drew Brees.  Because of that, I move the Saints up whenever possible.  They hung around with Green Bay on opening night and have played fairly well since.  There have been a couple of hiccups along the way.  Apparently, some teams do have to go through those things.  That said, I'm not sure about their playoff chances.  The defense has taken a step back since the ball-hawking Super Bowl winning team.  And this mess with Atlanta...well, I know division games are supposed to be close and hard-fought, but with Atlanta not playing up to par for most of the season, the Saints shouldn't have had that much trouble.  At any rate, they're moving up and things look good.

4.) Houston (7-3) [+4]
 I feel certain this is the highest the Texans have ever been in my Rankings.  They're not what one would call a "traditional" power, nor are they really an "up-and-comer".  They've been expected to do things for a couple years now; why, I don't know, but somehow they never fail to disappoint.  This year was looking different, but now they have to deal with a potentially season-ending injury to Matt Schaub.  That means Matt Leinart, master of failure and getting caught with pants (metaphorically) down gets to be the savior.  Now, I'm not sure there's much to be saved, necessarily.  The way this team is playing, they could get to the playoffs with John Beck at QB (ok, maybe not him, but you see where I'm headed with this).  It's not really about the QB at this point, with Arian Foster and Ben Tate running the way they are.  Plus, the Texans have one thing they've never had before (besides a running game and a solid QB, which also eluded them at various times in the last ten years): defense.  I don't think they'll lose their grip on an easily winnable division, but a first-round bye might be out of reach.

5.) Pittsburgh (7-3) [+4]
 It surprises me that Pittsburgh can't beat Baltimore, but they can beat Cincinnati.  Baltimore can't lose to Pittsburgh, but they get beat by awful teams like Jacksonville and Seattle (jury's out on Tennessee, I don't know where they stand).  It's a weird thing.  Right now, at least, the Steelers are atop the AFC North and have a chance to gain some ground.  It's hard to say where this will end up.  Even though the Steelers now look like their early season struggles are behind them, it's wouldn't surprise me if they slipped up once or twice down the stretch.

6.) New England (6-3) [+4]
 By the skin of their teeth, really.  Somehow, the Pats ended up putting 37 on the Jets' supposedly good defense.  And while their own defense would never be confused with anything remotely good, they held the Jets to 16, so something went right on that side of the ball for once.  I'm a believer in the Pats' potential as a continued threat to win Super Bowls, but if something doesn't happen soon, I might have to jump off the wagon.  Prior to this win, they were looking mighty vulnerable.  Now they look good again.  Let's see how long this lasts, though.  If they've really started to hit their stride again, we should see immediate results.  At least, if this year's team is anywhere near as good as last year's.  The division is theirs for the taking now.

7.) Chicago (6-3) [-]
 Obviously, blowing out a division rival is a good thing.  Especially when that rival is the Lions, a team that could be getting a bit uppity.  Chicago's fortunes are looking considerably better than they did a couple weeks ago.  Still, I can't help but disbelieve at this point.  It might be because of all the players on that team that I dislike, the fact that I've never really liked the Bears, or that I think a number of teams are just better than they are.  Still, a win is a win, and it got them back here, so I guess things are going great.  They're on a winning streak and look like a solid Wild Card contender; it'd be pretty nuts if both Wild Cards came out of the North, a division that hasn't really been a powerhouse lately.  Now it has two fairly strong teams and the consensus best team in the league.  Not bad.

8.) Cincinnati (6-3) [-5]
 I figured this would happen sooner or later.  Turned out it was sooner.  After feasting on opponents with bad records, Cincy got a shot at Pittsburgh and played well despite losing.  Now they get Baltimore and anything could happen considering the Ravens' startling inconsistency.

9.) Detroit (6-3) [-4]
 Not a good week for the Lions or Matthew Stafford.  Had I known he had a broken finger last Thursday, I would have taken the Bears straight up.  Whoops.  With no running game and a hobbled QB, this is ostensibly the time and place Detroit shows what it's made of.  Right?

10.) NY Giants (6-3) [-4]
 I hesitate to say they're "better" than Baltimore.  But they lost to San Francisco instead of Seattle this week.  And that's really the difference.

I could write a note on the team that left the Rankings this week (Baltimore), but what's the point?  If they beat Cincinnati, they'll be back in.  And if not, I won't care much.

Well, I'll be annoyed with them for not beating Cincy, since I will still likely go with the Ravens in Week 11.

It's true, I never learn.

That's all for this week.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 27, 2011 10:37 pm

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 7

An odd week in the NFL, to be sure, punctuated by Baltimore's stunning loss Monday.  That was one of the worst games I've seen recently; the one good thing Baltimore can take from that is that it wasn't a playoff game, or else they'd have to live with it for months.  Thankfully, they have another should-be gimme on their hands.

Here are the standings for Week 7:

Prisco: 7-6
Red: 7-6
King: 6-7

Obviously, a number of teams let us down this week, notably Baltimore, but also Tennessee, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and San Diego.  I know this stuff happens at least once a season, it's still somewhat surprising to me when it happens.

Here are the Rankings for Week 7:

1.) Green Bay (7-0) [no change]
 Despite Christian Ponder's best effort, the defending champs continued their march.  Where are they headed?  Not sure yet, but they're looking quite good.  They have a bye in Week 8, so that's another week at the top.

2.) New England (5-1) [no change]
 Coming off a bye, the Patriots travel to Pittsburgh for what should be one of the better games of Week 8.  I sense that the media will be more into Tom Brady this week, what with Aaron Rodgers being on a bye.  We'll see what happens.

3.) San Francisco (5-1) [+1]
 It's always a little odd to have to move a team on a bye up.  But when you see a week of football like the one we just saw, there aren't as many good teams afterward as there were before.  The 49ers get a home game against Cleveland in Week 8, and I feel pretty confident in Jim Harbaugh, something I can't really say about his brother at this point.

4.) New Orleans (5-2) [+4]
 I know, they were playing a bad Colts team that's been reeling the entire season, but that victory (and that score!) was very, very impressive.  As a result, the Saints jump back up into the upper half and look like a team to beat in the NFC again.  Drew Brees and co. go to St. Louis this Sunday, which should be another easy win.  At least, if Brees doesn't turn into Joe Flacco.

5.) Pittsburgh (5-2) [-]
 The Steelers come roaring back into the Rankings after taking out Arizona.  They have a tough matchup coming up against the Patriots, which could knock them right back out for a week or two, but it's looking like they're for real again.  It's hard to imagine after Week 1's demolition by Baltimore (who look significantly less "real" than they did back then), but the Steelers have just about rebounded.

6.) Cincinnati (4-2) [+1]
 Another team on a bye that moved up because of poor performance by other teams, Cincinnati goes into Seattle in Week 8 and could begin to solidify their hold on a Wild Card spot.  Of course, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have to keep up their fantastic performance level that they've had thus far.  With a couple of rookies at such important positions, it's hard to project where Cincinnati will end up.  The early results have been good, obviously.

7.) Detroit (5-2) [-2]
 Two straight losses for the Lions, and they're on a precipitous slide.  They also look less "real" than they did after Week 5.  I think they can get back into the groove they were in when they won 5 in a row, but it's going to take some work.

8.) Baltimore (4-2) [-5]
 It's hard to know just what to say about the Ravens following one of the worst losses I've seen from them in a while.  Joe Flacco was abysmal.  Whatever adjective to indicate terrible performance you can think of, Flacco embodied it.  Ray Rice had a badly-timed fumble, and the offense was awful throughout most of the game.  The one thing they can take comfort in is that their defense is still top-flight.  But if they can't score more than 12 points against a terrible team like Jacksonville, they can't go far in 2011.

9.) Buffalo (4-2) [no change]
 The Bills remain where they are just because.  I guess I really could have moved them up ahead of Baltimore, but I don't have the confidence in them that I did before.  With such an easy schedule as Buffalo has had, they really ought to be undefeated still.  Alas, they're not the kind of team that Green Bay is.

10.) San Diego (4-2) [-4]
 Another very disappointing loss by the Chargers leaves them at the bottom of the Rankings this week.  Philip Rivers (and by extension the Chargers' offense) hasn't looked good all season and threw a couple of inexcusably bad INT's against the Jets.  If there's a question as to whether he's an elite QB (and there may not be, as people seem to automatically give him a pass to "elite" stature), I'll gladly cast a nay vote.  I've never really been convinced of Rivers' supposed greatness; with Drew Brees moving on to New Orleans and winning a Super Bowl, it certainly makes Chargers GM A.J. Smith look bad.  There are many other factors, obviously, and I don't want to oversimplify it any more than that.  But suffice it to say that I don't think of Rivers as an elite QB, whereas Drew Brees most definitely is.

That's all for this week.  Sorry that it was a bit more abbreviated and scattershot than usual.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 12, 2011 9:52 pm

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 5

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

Here are the standings for Week 5:

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

No, I don't get it either.

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

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

Here are the Rankings for Week 5:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 4

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

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

Prisco: 11-5
Red: 10-6
King: 13-3 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the Rankings for Week 4:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 3

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

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

Prisco: 8-8
Red: 11-5
King: 11-5 

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

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

Here are the Rankings for Week 3:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's all for this week.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 29, 2010 1:44 am

2010 NFL Power Rankings, Week 16

Kind of an odd week, what with football being played on Tuesday night for the first time in 60 years.  So my Rankings are a little bit late as a result.  Also, there were a couple upsets that I really didn't see coming.  I don't care for upsets, most of the time.  They tend to ruin what I plan to put out here in the ol' blog.  Let's go!

1.) New England (13-2) [+1]
 After another resounding win, the Patriots move up.  Of course, it helps that Atlanta fell on their faces; I was reticent to move the Patriots up, unless something happened to the Falcons.  Both teams just kept winning, so they stayed where they were.  Well, finally, Atlanta got beat, so now the Patriots are first.  They've been the best team in the NFL for the past few weeks, and now there are no roadblocks.

2.) Atlanta (12-3) [-1]
 Luckily for the Falcons, there are no other 12 or 13-win teams.  They could have taken quite a tumble, and they probably deserve it.  They were at home and should have won, no matter who the opponent was.  The Saints played well, though.  Atlanta gets another reward with Carolina coming into the Georgia Dome...sounds like an easy win, but then again....

3.) Baltimore (11-4) [+1]
 Another win for the Ravens.  They could win the AFC North if Pittsburgh slips up next week.  I think they'll go in as a Wild Card, but it doesn't make much difference.  It's not likely that anyone will be spoiling to face the Ravens, after all.

4.) Pittsburgh (11-4) [+3]
 Having a patsy come in on Thursday proved to be excellent tonic for the Polamalu-less Steelers.  Even with the division game remaining, it doesn't look like there's much to play for, beside securing the 2-seed.

5.) New Orleans (11-4) [+3]
 Going into Atlanta and winning proved something to me.  And it looks like New Orleans is peaking at the right time.  This despite last week's loss to Baltimore.  Then again, Baltimore plays tougher defense.  Atlanta's defense was strong, but Drew Brees was able to puncture it at the right time.  I think they exposed Atlanta, and now have the best chance to win the Super Bowl among NFC teams.

6.) Chicago (11-4) [no change]
 Rarely do the Bears play a shootout with anybody, much less another defense-oriented team like the Jets.  I'm not quite sold on Chicago, even with them clinching their division and beating a team that just took out Pittsburgh.  I don't think they'll advance far in the playoffs.  Maybe they'll prove me wrong.

7.) Kansas City (10-5) [+2]
 With the stunning loss by the Chargers, the Chiefs took advantage and won the AFC West.  I'm not sure how they'll fare in the playoffs, but with that running attack, it's hard to believe they'd be one-and-done.

8.) NY Jets (10-5) [-3]
 Going into Chicago and putting up 34 points isn't terrible.  But losing means moving down.  I think the Jets could have won the game, and thereby made it a little easier on themselves in the playoffs.  Either way, it's gonna be hard, with three road games separating them from the Super Bowl.

9.) Philadelphia (10-5) [-6]
 Disappointing play by the Eagles, who looked nothing like their normal selves.  I guess it's understandable on an intellectual level...but I still don't get it.

10.) Indianapolis (9-6) [-]
 Colts are back in the Rankings after defeating Oakland.  They're also the presumptive AFC South winner.  That means more Peyton Manning in the playoffs for at least one game.  Hard to say they have a good chance of advancing far, but with the game at home, anything could happen.

Thanks for reading.  See you next week.
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 14, 2010 10:30 pm

2010 NFL Power Rankings, Week 14

In what seems like a sudden development, things are becoming clearer in the playoff picture in the NFL.  There are now two great teams in each conference, with two really good teams nipping at their heels.  The 9-4 teams are looking good as well for a bye in the first round.  Still, anything could happen in the last three games.  With division games still being played, each game means more than it did last season.  Let's go!

1.) Atlanta (11-2) [no change]
 Given that the AFC is the better conference, it might seem odd that New England isn't the first team here.  I can't move Atlanta down in good conscience as long as they keep winning.  Atlanta goes on the road in Week 15 to Seattle.  Tough sledding, to be sure.  In Week 16 they play New Orleans at home on MNF.  So this week could be a "trap game".  Either that, or the Falcons are going to pull out one of their better performances of the season.  Third game in a row on the road, and an important one to stay in front of everyone else in the NFC.

2.) New England (11-2) [no change]
 Two weeks in a row, the Patriots have utterly dismantled a division leader.  Last week it was the Jets at home, this week the Bears in Chicago, in the snow, no less.  One would think the Pats would play well in the snow, but not THAT well.  They have what could be a tough game this week if Aaron Rodgers plays for the Packers.  If not, it'll be a runaway.  After that, two division games, @Buffalo and home for Miami.  I'm not sure how New England loses the first seed and home-field advantage for the playoffs.

3.) Pittsburgh (10-3) [no change]
 Making Carson Palmer look ridiculously bad wasn't too difficult for the Steelers.  Troy Polamalu had a couple INT's, including a pick-six.  How anybody could throw a pick to Polamalu, easily the most recognizable player on the field, no matter who the Steelers are playing, is indicative of just how terrible Carson Palmer is.  And to think some people were proclaiming him an elite QB not too long ago.  The Steelers have a surprisingly tough end-of-season schedule, with the Jets at home this week, a Thursday night game against Carolina, and then on the road in Cleveland, which is no gimme.  I wouldn't be surprised to see a 13-3 Pittsburgh team with the 2-seed.  Then again....

4.) New Orleans (10-3) [no change]
 Much like New England, New Orleans lost to the Cleveland Browns.  Much like New England, New Orleans hasn't lost since.  It's a weird quirk of this season, and perhaps they're the two teams we'll see in the Super Bowl this coming February.  The Saints travel to Baltimore and Atlanta before finishing up at home against Tampa Bay.  Tough sledding.  Baltimore is looking vulnerable after last night's OT debacle, while the Falcons are unbeatable at home, and poor Tampa can't beat a winning team.  So maybe it's not that tough.

5.) Philadelphia (9-4) [+3]
 One more road game remains for the Eagles, who travel to the "new" Meadowlands this week to face the Giants.  They outplayed the Cowboys in the second half, especially LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson (say that three times fast, huh).  Now that they're tied with the Giants, this week's game proves quite important for determining the division winner.  Philadelphia gets Minnesota and Dallas at home after this week, which is a slight advantage compared to the Giants somewhat tougher schedule.

6.) Baltimore (9-4) [+4]
 As I said above, last night was a debacle for Baltimore.  The offense looked good in the first half before looking utterly pathetic in the second.  Similarly, the defense ran out of gas in the second half, allowing two colossal drives and looking completely impotent in the process.  When the game went to overtime, I had a bad feeling the Texans were going to win one they shouldn't, but then I was saved by Matt Schaub's tragic decision-making.  He threw a pick-six to Baltimore CB Josh Wilson, and that was that.  Baltimore has New Orleans at home next week, so maybe that was part of this ridiculous mess of a Monday Night game.  All I know is, if the defense plays like that against Drew Breeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees! and the Saints, the Ravens are going to find themselves cursing at the end of the game.

7.) NY Giants (9-4) [-]
 Having the game moved to Monday (and Detroit) had no effect on the Giants, who romped over the Vikings.  Now they face the Eagles in a potential revenge game that will also decide the division, in all likelihood.  The Giants end up at Green Bay and at Washington; if Rodgers is back for that game, the Giants could have some trouble.  Then again, they might concuss the poor SOB for a third time.

8.) NY Jets (9-4) [-3]
 If there was any team that really annoyed me in Week 14, it was the Jets.  They looked utterly pathetic against a hapless Dolphins team that could barely move the ball up the field.  Mark Sanchez was terrible, though his receivers were just as blameworthy; the defense was fine, for the most part.  Let's face it, the Dolphins are no offensive juggernaut, especially with Chad Henne throwing for a pittance (55 yards passing!  55!).  Coming off the heels of that terrible loss at New England, the Jets now look pitiful and vulnerable.

9.) Chicago (9-4) [-3]
 No matter how much I wanted to kick the Bears out of the Rankings, again, I just couldn't because there aren't enough good teams beside them.  I couldn't very well leave Kansas City or Green Bay in at 8-5 when the Bears are 9-4.  That said, I loathe the Bears.  They too have a tough schedule to end the season, going to Minnesota and Green Bay with a game against the Jets in between.  I still don't see how they win the division, even with Green Bay losing a very winnable game at Detroit.

10.) Jacksonville (8-5) [-]
 Playing a tough game against Oakland, the Jags pulled it out when Pocket Hercules (Maurice Jones-Drew, natch) ran it in quite easily.  They play at Indianapolis this weekend; with a win, it's likely that the Jags take the AFC South.  If they lose, it definitely opens the door to the Colts, who have a slightly easier schedule to finish.

Thanks for reading.  See you next week.
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 7, 2010 10:50 pm

2010 NFL Power Rankings, Week 13

Three-fourths of the season down for everyone, and a bunch of division matchups coming up.  Sunday and Monday night's games were just the beginning of the mayhem, so to speak.  That said, we finally have a pair of front-runners, after 13 long weeks.  But by no means are any of the division races "over".  We might actually have some clarity in a couple of them, though.  It should be a fun final four weeks of the season.  Let's go!

1.) Atlanta (10-2) [no change]
 Going on the road for three in a row starting this past Sunday, the Falcons came out and fought hard before getting the winning INT.  Given Tampa Bay's struggles against good teams, it probably shouldn't have been that close.  But the Falcons are missing something on the road.  That may not be a problem in the playoffs if the Falcons get home-field advantage.  At this point, there's no problem.  If Atlanta slips up once or twice...well, then it's something else entirely.

2.) New England (10-2) [+1]
 Last night's game was one of the bigger beatdowns of the season.  The Jets weren't in it at any point.  It had to feel good to Bill Belichick, since he no longer has to listen to Rex Ryan's empty proclamations, at least for this season.  If the playoffs come around and they play each other again, it's hard to imagine the Jets winning.  Heck, it's hard to imagine them competing, much less putting it all together.  New England has to be the consensus best team in the AFC.  They've got the inside track on the East, the #1 seed, and home-field advantage through the playoffs.  They looked unbeatable last night.

3.) Pittsburgh (9-3) [+1]
 The AFC North picture looks a little clearer.  Of course, now that the Steelers and Ravens have split the season series, I'm sure all kinds of complications would result if they both ended up, say, 12-4.  At any rate, Troy Polamalu had the play of the game in a tough matchup Sunday night.  Both teams played about as well as could be expected, given the robustness of their defenses.  The Steelers are in line for the 2-seed in the AFC.

4.) New Orleans (9-3) [+2]
 Let it never be said that the Saints fail to outsmart their opponents.  They did just that on Sunday and got a win against the Bengals.  Not quite the margin of victory that the inimitable Peter King predicted, but a win is a win.  They've got some ground to make up on Atlanta in the next four weeks if they want to win the NFC South again.  They've come around and are in good shape for the playoff run, being completely healthy finally.

5.) NY Jets (9-3) [-3]
 A lackluster effort on all sides last night moves the Jets down three spots.  Why ahead of the Bears?  Well, if you've read this blog any time this season, you know the answer.  The Jets have to regroup now, and have three tough games in a row, including road trips to Pittsburgh and Chicago.  So while it might look bleak at the moment, the Jets' future is entirely in their own hands.

6.) Chicago (9-3) [+1]
 Speaking of tough schedules, the Bears have a most difficult one on their hands, which pleases me to no end.  They still have trips to Minnesota (who'll surely want to play spoiler) and Green Bay (ditto), while also having the Patriots and Jets coming into Soldier Field.  They may be 9-3 now, but there's nothing saying they won't end up 9-7.  Currently, they lead the NFC North, and hold the tiebreaker against the Packers.  But this one's going down to the final week, I can smell it.

7.) Kansas City (8-4) [+1]
 Lucky breaks abound in the AFC West, where KC gets a slim victory and watches as the Chargers deep six themselves.  They now have a two-game lead on the Chargers, and the tiebreaker.  We'll see how they match up this week; if KC wins, the division is all but theirs.  With their schedule, 12-4 is very likely.

8.) Philadelphia (8-4) [+1]
 It helps to play a team with a bad defense after getting beat.  Philadelphia had the fraudulent Texans on tap last Thursday and despite a mini-comeback, prevailed in the 4th.  Michael Vick looked good again, but his MVP run has been slowed while others are running ahead.  The schedule stiffens up considerably as they get Dallas twice and the Giants once (in Jersey, no less).  The Eagles have to be presumptive favorites in the NFC East...but with the schedule they have, it wouldn't be surprising if they take a Wild Card.

9.) Green Bay (8-4) [+1]
 The Packers took out the 49ers and have won five of six.  They may not be leading their division, but it's hard not to consider them the favorite, even with the Bears ahead of them.  Their schedule is nothing to sneeze at, including a trip to New England, but given how tough the Bears have it as well...I like the Packers to take the NFC North.

10.) Baltimore (8-4) [-5]
 Losing to the Steelers was tough, to be sure, but I'm not counting the Ravens out.  After seeing their next four games, with the only tough one being New Orleans (at home, no less), it's easy to see that Baltimore can end up 12-4 or 11-5.  With Pittsburgh's schedule being of similar "difficulty", the Ravens need to get all the wins they can to try and get the AFC North outright.

Thanks for reading.  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