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 13, 2011 8:06 pm

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 1

And...we're back!  It's been a long offseason, what with the lockout and such, but there were no games missed (except the first preseason game, but who cares about that), so all seems to be well.  It was a confusing week for me, and a bit of a disappointing one as my team (Cowboys) gave one away late and a lot of the results just seemed wrong.  A lot of bad performances around the league in Week 1, with a couple that were praiseworthy in defeat.  The winners for the most part looked pretty spectacular.  That said, it's one game, and I'm not officially counting anyone out just yet.

Introducing a new feature for 2011, a look at the picks I made for this week's games.  As you may know, Pete Prisco here at CBS and Peter King of Sports Illustrated & NBC's pregame show make their picks and predict the score too.  I've been doing this since 2007 or so, but now I'm going to keep track of my picks here in the Rankings and note where I screwed up.  Here are the Week 1 standings:

Prisco: 8-8
Red: 8-8
King: 12-4

Obviously, King has a decided advantage after the first week.  All three of us had in common Atlanta, Cleveland, and Kansas City.  I also messed up on Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, NY Giants, and Dallas.  The explanation for this is not terribly involved, but I'll go through them anyway.

Atlanta, Cleveland, and Kansas City all had winnable games, despite Atlanta being on the road.  I'm not a believer in the Bears (is anybody outside of Chicago?) so it's no surprise I didn't pick them.  I don't trust them, honestly.  And I dislike Jay Cutler.  Speaking of Cutler, in spite of what Bob Costas claims, any criticism that he took from players and the media over that injury flap last season seemed entirely justified to me.  Fans tend to blow up about stuff like that and lose objectivity, but the players who are out there every week and can spot a guy who's not putting in the effort to get back out there are qualified to make their opinion known.  I for one applaud them for calling out Cutler for being what he is/was.

I sure as hell didn't expect Buffalo to be any good, either.

As for the rest, I took a chance on Tennessee and Indy.  Tennessee was essentially a toss-up, or so it seemed.  Indianapolis has a great history against the Texans, and Houston has a tendency to yack in the big games.  They didn't this week, so I took one on the chin.  And who could have foreseen what happened to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers?  They're usually ready to play, last I checked.  Not this time.

The Giants had injuries on defense, but with Rex Grossman the opposing QB...well, do I need to say more?

And the Cowboys.  Yeesh.  I could probably write an entire post on that game, but I'll just say that while I didn't expect that result, I wasn't necessarily surprised either.

OK, with all that said, here are my Rankings for Week 1.  Remember, these reflect the results of the games, and are not meant to be predictive in any form or fashion.  Generally, since each winning team is 1-0, I tried to take into account the impressiveness of their victory.  I then add that into a pot with my own gut feeling and my particular bias.  Hey, at least I admit I'm biased, right?

1.) Green Bay (1-0)
  Give the champs credit; they came out swinging and discovered another weapon in Randall Cobb.  Some may call the defense a concern, I say that they'll round into form in due time.  Nothing to see there.

2.) Baltimore (1-0)
   Well, that was a demolition.  It's hard to tell what to make of that game, to be honest, because I can't even remember the last time the Steelers played that badly.  I'm guessing Neil O'Donnell or Kordell Stewart was starting at QB.  But hey, I've been wrong before.  I figured the Ravens would be a strong team, not to mention a Super Bowl contender.  But to have this kind of result after the first game?  Wow.

3.) New England (1-0)
  I was impressed.  But I kind of expected something like this, and when Prisco picked the Dolphins, I just chuckled.  Tom Brady comes out and throws for over 500 yards, just to remind everyone who thinks that other QB's are better than he is that he's still the best.  And without Peyton Manning to contend with, another MVP season for Brady could be in the cards.  Is it likely?  I'd say so, but I'm doing my best to not overreact here.

4.) NY Jets (1-0)
  It's always nice to be a beneficiary of someone else's stupidity.  In this case, the Jets took advantage of stupid plays by Tony Romo, not to mention that huge punt block.  Mark Sanchez wasn't exactly at his best (whatever that is), but he played well enough and didn't make a soul-crushing mistake like Romo did.  The defense might be a concern as well, but as long as the opponent's receivers can't stop cramping, I'm not sure it's a big deal, just like in Green Bay.

5.) Philadelphia (1-0)
   Oh, snap, the Dream Team won!  Yeah, I'm not buying that garbage about Philly being the "Dream Team".  They won and looked pretty good, so whatever.  Supposedly the stats were not good for Vick; let's be honest, though, stats don't mean everything.

6.) Detroit (1-0)
  Matt Stafford goes down to Tampa and cramps up, but still gets the win.  I gotta admit, seeing him limp around late in the game made me cringe a little.  The guy is always (almost always?) injured, and seeing something like that doesn't really inspire confidence.  But the temperature was over 100 and it was Week 1...and they play their home games in a dome.  So it's probably not a concern.  Like most things that went on in Week 1, really.  Solid win, and a good start to a season where people expect things to happen.

7.) San Diego (1-0)
   It got ugly, especially on special teams, but they ended up winning.  Of course, any team should win big when holding the opposing QB to 39 yards.  That's really bad, and one has to wonder how many of those McNabb can have before getting replaced.  With Denver and KC going down, the Chargers have a chance to get out to an early lead, depending on how Oakland plays moving forward.  But they do have to beat Oakland at some point.

8.) San Francisco (1-0)
  If Ted Ginn, Jr. had a better day as a pro before Sunday, I obviously missed it.  He was the difference against Seattle.  Supposedly, Seattle is a contender for the worst team in the league (and good on Carroll for being at the helm for it, he deserves it).  So maybe there's a concern that the 49ers should have had more of a beatdown going on before Ginn went off.

9.) Buffalo (1-0)
  Biggest surprise of the week?  I'll cast my vote.  I thought Kansas City would show up at some point.  Obviously, I was wrong.  And I didn't see Buffalo coming out and putting 41 on ANYBODY.

10.) Houston (1-0)
   A solid win for the Texans over a division rival.  I'll just pass on this one caveat: they didn't score a single point in the second half.  That fact has been glossed over by just about everyone of note, but I saw it.  I'm not saying that means anything, but if they're playing better teams (let's face it, Indy without Peyton was just awful), they need to keep their foot on the gas pedal for 60 minutes, not 30.

That's all for this week.  See you next week!
Posted on: January 5, 2011 12:51 am

2010 NFL Power Rankings, Week 17

All of a sudden, the regular season is over.  So as I end this season's version of the Rankings, I have most of the playoff teams in.  The only ones not in are Green Bay and (of course) Seattle.  Let's go!

1.) New England (14-2) [no change]
 After trading away Randy Moss, losing to the Jets and Cleveland, and remolding their offense around a couple rookie TE's, an undrafted RB, and another RB they picked up off the street, I could hardly imagine the Patriots would be the best team in the NFL.  That said, they still have one of the top two QB's in the league in Tom Brady, and the defense, while not as great as it was when they were winning Super Bowls, is steadily improving.  With homefield throughout the playoffs, the Patriots are the favorites to win the Super Bowl.  Having been unbeaten over the last couple months and taking out a bunch of playoff teams helps.

2.) Atlanta (13-3) [no change]
 Despite falling on their faces against New Orleans last week, the Falcons recovered by taking out a patsy.  Now they have the top seed in the NFC and homefield throughout.  I find it hard to believe that they could get beat again, but I don't have quite as much faith as I do in the Patriots.  Mostly because nobody has beaten the Patriots in awhile (though Green Bay with Matt Flynn gave it a good run).  The Falcons have a solid defense and a bruising running game, plus they're nearly unbeatable at home.  All in all, it looks good for the Falcons to advance.

3.) Pittsburgh (12-4) [+1]
 Since the Steelers won the AFC North, I moved them up above Baltimore.  They look pretty solid as well, especially since Troy Polamalu came back after sitting out a couple games.  Like the two teams above them, they have a week off just to make sure everyone is rested and healthy.  I like their chances to advance, because their defense is fierce and Rashard Mendenhall is a tough runner.  Also, they've been there, done that; Ben Roethlisberger has a couple rings and coach Mike Tomlin has a ring too.

4.) Baltimore (12-4) [-1]
 While they're going in as a Wild Card, I can't deny that the Ravens are a dangerous team.  Even with some of their defensive lapses (especially against the Texans, ouch), they're still a strong team.  Billy Cundiff had 40 touchbacks; any kickoff is virtually guaranteed to have no return.  Ray Rice is ready to go, and Joe Flacco seems ready to have more of the offense go through him.  With that receiving corps, Flacco should be able to have success.

5.) NY Jets (11-5) [+3]
 I guess sitting Mark Sanchez worked out.  Hopefully he's healthy for this week's Wild Card game...I wouldn't want any of them making excuses about not being able to take out Indy because their QB wasn't up to snuff.  Let's face it, though, Rex and co.'s struggles with the Colts have little to do with their offense.  Peyton Manning has their defense figured out, if the record is any indication.  I think the Jets are one-and-done as a result.

6.) Indianapolis (10-6) [+4]
 After starting the season in surprisingly un-Colts-like fashion, and suffering a barrel full of injuries, a four game winning streak has propelled elder Manning and the rest of his backups masquerading as starters into the playoffs.  Now they host the Jets, and I like their chances.  Peyton Manning has owned Rex Ryan's defenses, both in NYC and Baltimore, and even though he doesn't have Austin Collie or Dallas Clark, Blair White and Jacob Tamme have been performing admirably as their replacements.  Plus, he still has Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon.  Not to mention an RB tandem of Joseph Addai and recently returned Dominic Rhodes.  The occasionally suspect defense has stiffened up in recent games as well; they've stopped the rushing attacks of Oakland, Jacksonville, and Tennessee, all of whom have top-flight RB's.  Does all this mean they'll beat Pittsburgh or New England?  Maybe not, but I'm betting they could put a scare into them.

7.) New Orleans (11-5) [-2]
 If you believe in momentum, then the Saints are not at their best right now.  They weren't at their best ending last season either, and look how that turned out.  So I guess momentum isn't particularly important.  While they might not have momentum, they do have Drew Brees and three healthy RB's.  Their defense is solid too.  Despite having to go into Seattle for their first playoff game, I like their chances.  They already beat Seattle this season.

8.) Chicago (11-5) [-2]
 Despite having nothing to play for, the Bears played a hard-fought game and lost to the Packers.  They were locked into the second seed anyway, guaranteeing them a bye and a home game next weekend.  I'm not quite sold on them moving on.  We'll see what happens, though.

9.) Kansas City (10-6) [-2]
 One of the most disappointing performances this week.  The Chiefs played poorly in a loss to Oakland, and they have Baltimore coming into KC this week.  Anything can happen, of course, but I don't like the odds of the Chiefs moving on.

10.) Philadelphia (10-6) [-1]
 Another season, another loss to Dallas.  Of course, that's what happens when you rest Vick in favor of Kevin Kolb.  Suddenly, though, the Eagles are looking a little vulnerable.  They didn't manage much with Kolb, and the game before exposed a weakness to corner/safety blitzes.  Green Bay will come with pressure from all over, including LB Clay Matthews.  How Michael Vick responds to that pressure could determine if the Eagles move on.  I like their chances.

Thanks for reading.  See you next season.
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 21, 2010 9:31 pm

2010 NFL Power Rankings, Week 15

The first division title has been clinched, with seven more remaining.  Races are on in the NFC West (gag), AFC West, AFC North, and AFC South.  Chicago clinched the NFC North; Atlanta is in firm control of the NFC South; Philadelphia looks to have the NFC East.  Of course, besides division titles, there are two Wild Cards in each conference.  Those seem to be solidified as well; North and East in the AFC; South and East in the NFC.  But there are still head-to-head matchups that will determine things clearly.  Let's go!

1.) Atlanta (12-2) [no change]
 Three weeks on the road, three wins for the Falcons.  The NFC is theirs for the taking, with the last big game of the season coming this Monday against New Orleans.  It's at home, which means Atlanta has a huge advantage.  New Orleans will be coming off a loss, though, and this game is clearly one of the biggest of the season.  After this, the Falcons get Carolina.

2.) New England (12-2) [no change]
 It was a bit unlike the Patriots we've seen recently on Sunday Night.  They let Green Bay hang around for pretty much the whole game, and really only won based on three plays: Kyle Arrington's INT, Dan Connolly's kickoff return, and Green Bay's inability to get a play off at the end.  Still, they have a couple gimmes at Buffalo and home for Miami.  Could be an 8-game winning streak for the hottest team in the AFC.

3.) Philadelphia (10-4) [+2]
 What a finish.  28 points in 7:28, and the Giants looked utterly terrible as a result.  DeSean Jackson may be one of the biggest arrogant showboating jerks in the entire league, but the guy can play, and he sure is effective when it counts most.  Michael Vick is having a heck of a season too.  If it wasn't for Tom Brady, Vick would be the runaway MVP.  And Offensive Player of the Year in the NFC.  And Comeback Player of the Year in the NFC.

4.) Baltimore (10-4) [+2]
 Another close shave, but this time the Ravens put the screws on when it mattered most.  Even Drew Brees was rendered helpless.  And thanks to the Steelers yakking one up at home, Baltimore is still very much alive for a division title.  Surprisingly, Cleveland is the team that could determine this race; they play Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the last two weeks, and if they pull an upset, it could well determine the division winner.

5.) NY Jets (10-4) [+3]
 Mark Sanchez got back into a groove, and ran in a TD that essentially sealed the game for the Jets.  A heck of an upset, until one considers that Troy Polamalu wasn't playing.  Still, the Jets needed a win badly, and they got it.  They're in the running for a Wild Card, and since they're a couple wins ahead of the Chargers, it's likely they can hold down that spot and keep the AFC West to one representative in the playoffs.

6.) Chicago (10-4) [+3]
 The first team to clinch a division was the Bears.  I could have sworn they would fall off...but they haven't.  More power to 'em.  They're set to win a playoff game at home now, provided Jay Cutler plays well and the o-line can keep up from getting crushed.  It's chic to continue to question them, it seems, but now that they're in the playoffs and are going to host a game...it's hard to say that they can't win.

7.) Pittsburgh (10-4) [-4]
 A thoroughly disappointing game for the Steelers.  Without Troy Polamalu, they apparently didn't have quite enough defense.  Ben Roethlisberger is not blameless, either; he handed the ball off to Mewelde Moore and got a safety out of it, and failed on two opportunities to score the game-winning TD.  Ben is beat up, to be sure.  But that was a game the Steelers should have won, and didn't.  Now they have a race on their hands with the Ravens.

8.) New Orleans (10-4) [-4]
 Unfortunately, when two teams in the Rankings play each other, the loser has to move down.  So this is not an indictment of the Saints.  They played well; they just didn't win.  Given Atlanta's hold on the NFC South, New Orleans is likely headed on the road in the first round of the playoffs.  It sucks, but unless they have to go to Chicago, it shouldn't be extraordinarily difficult.

9.) Kansas City (9-5) [-]
 Matt Cassel returned from an appendectomy and the Chiefs pulled out a convincing win in St. Louis.  They now have two winnable home games while the rival Chargers have two road games.  It's looking like the Chiefs will win the AFC West and the Chargers will be left behind.  To that I can only say: Good.

10.) NY Giants (9-5) [-3]
 One would think being up 31-10 with that defense would be a gimme.  And yet, what did the Giants do?  They gave it up.  Now they have to win two games to secure a Wild Card, with this week's matchup against the Packers critical.  Green Bay has the advantage with Aaron Rodgers coming back and playing both games at home.  The Giants' problems with their defense and their special teams (and on occasion some offensive bumbling as well) could keep them out of the playoffs, which looked so obviously in reach just a couple weeks ago.  I can't say I'm displeased.

Thanks for reading.  See you next week.
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 1, 2010 12:31 am

2010 NFL Power Rankings, Week 12

Heading into December, I'm still not sure we know anything more than we did a few weeks ago.  It would appear that Atlanta has separated itself from the pack in the NFC, but their home-field advantage negates any certainty in analyzing them.  The AFC still has a bunch of good teams at the top, but with the falling off of the entire South division, I'm not sure that it's the stronger conference.  The West division in both conferences is abhorrent, though.  Let's go!

1.) Atlanta (9-2) [no change]
 19-1 at home with Matt Ryan starting at QB.  Can they beat a legitimate team on the road?  I think so, but that doesn't mean anything until they actually do it.  In any case, home-field in the NFC is exactly what Atlanta needs, and with some luck they'll get it.

2.) NY Jets (9-2) [no change]
 A solid home win for the Jets over Cincinnati.  It probably should have come easier.  But hey, they're 9-2 and have a huge game this coming Monday against the Pats.  Control of the AFC East and home-field advantage is at stake.  It isn't likely that the winner of that game gets caught.

3.) New England (9-2) [no change]
 First half, not so good.  Second half, freakin' spectacular.  I guess that's how the Patriots roll against a bad team.  Now they get the Jets on Monday Night, and they can ill afford to play as they did in the first half on Thanksgiving.

4.) Pittsburgh (8-3) [+1]
 Going into OT at Buffalo, I was concerned about the Steelers.  Especially since "broadcast regulations" prevented me from actually watching the OT period.  Stupid "broadcast regulations".  Anyway, they were saved by a well-timed drop and Rashard Mendenhall having the game of his life.  Or at least a very good game.

5.) Baltimore (8-3) [+2]
 Probably not the most impressive win of their season, since they were playing Tampa Bay.  The Bucs can't beat teams with winning records.  That aside, the Ravens are challenging in the AFC North and have a chance to lock it up this coming week.  Or at least get closer to locking it up.

6.) New Orleans (8-3) [+2]
 Luckily for Drew Brees and the Saints, Roy Williams (Cowboys WR, natch) sucks.  It doesn't hurt that Brees is a heck of a QB, either.  And that giving him any time to operate inevitably results in a TD for the Saints.

7.) Chicago (8-3) [-]
 Somehow, the Bears made it back into the Rankings.  I guess it has something to do with them being 8-3 and not enough good teams above them.  As soon as they lose again, they're out, because they've really rubbed me the wrong way this season.

8.) Kansas City (7-4) [-]
 Going to Seattle last week, I heard that the "12th Man" would make a difference in Qwest Field.  Well, I guess the Chiefs imported their own 12th man, because they whipped the Seahawks.  I don't think it was close at any point in the game.  I think this means we have to take Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe seriously; at least, as long as they're playing this well.

9.) Philadelphia (7-4) [-5]
 Disappointing game all around for the Eagles, despite getting close near the end.  The offense was bland, the defense stunk, and the special teams couldn't keep Chicago out of good field position.  Ugly.

10.) Green Bay (7-4) [-4]
 I'm pleased that the Packers didn't beat Atlanta, because I wouldn't have been able to stand all the sucking up Aaron Rodgers would have received.  Of course, since the Packers played well, lots of people sucked up to Rodgers anyway.  It looks like they have a dogfight with the Bears coming up.  Of course, I still think the Bears are going to crash and burn, which would leave the NFC North to the Packers by default.

Thanks for reading.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 9, 2010 3:47 pm

2010 NFL Power Rankings, Week 9

We've now hit the halfway mark of the 2010-11 NFL season, and every team has played at least 8 games.  There are a couple that have played nine, but for all intents and purposes, we're halfway to the playoffs.  I figured that by now, the good teams would be firmly separated from the not-so-good (and the downright putrid), but wouldn't you know it?  I'm just not that lucky.  What we have is a glut of 6-2 teams, with some 5-win teams thrown in for good measure.  Parity/mediocrity reigning supreme?  Or is everyone vulnerable at a certain point in time?  Honestly, I think it's a little of both; everyone is capable (almost) and everyone is vulnerable to at least one bad loss.  Let's go!

1.) Pittsburgh (6-2) [+2]
 After nearly hurtling their way out of the Rankings (but being very lucky by retaining a 5-2 record and thus not moving at all), the Steelers took on a game Cincinnati team and got pushed fairly hard.  They went up 27-7 on the Bengals and then mysteriously let up two TD's to get to the final margin of 27-21.  Of course, the Steelers' defense stepped up when absolutely necessary, preventing the game-tying TD (whose extra point would have made it 28-27, actually).  A solid effort, but the defense giving up scores late has to be too reminiscent of last season's rather epic collapses for Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau to tolerate.  Their two losses were to Baltimore and New Orleans (home and road, respectively).

2.) Baltimore (6-2) [+3]
 An impressive effort against the "road warrior" Dolphins vaults the Ravens to the 2-spot this week.  They pretty much dominated that game, even if they had more FG's than TD's.  I moved them ahead of the Jets based on that performance, as well as the Jets going into OT against the Lions, of all teams.  Their two losses were to Cincinnati and New England (both road games; NE in OT).  After seeing Cincinnati play the last few weeks, that loss must sting somewhat.

3.) NY Jets (6-2) [+1]
 A slight upswing for the Jets with the win.  But seriously, going to OT against the Lions?  No, really, seriously?  That's ridiculous.  So the Jets are no longer the best team in the NFL, but they are definitely in the mix.  Right now, today, the two teams above them look better.  All three teams should be tough outs in the playoffs, of course.  The Jets' two losses were to Baltimore and Green Bay (both at home).  However, they've won all three division games they've played.

4.) Atlanta (6-2) [+2]
 It looked like a good game against Tampa Bay, and the result seems to show that.  But the Falcons proved they are the better team, and in my mind the best team in the NFC.  I have the Falcons above the Giants because they play in a better division, and they have a better record against the AFC than the Giants.  Of course, they also have a better QB/RB tandem.  And better receivers.  The Falcons' two losses were at Pittsburgh and at Philadelphia.  So if they can stay out of the state of Pennsylvania for the rest of the season, there should be no problem, right?  Tough matchup against Baltimore this Thursday, even if it's at home.  It should be quite telling.  Coming out of that game 7-2 (and 3-1 against the AFC) should cement them as the best team in the NFC unanimously.

5.) NY Giants (6-2) [+2]
 What else can I say but "beatdown"?  There are no words for that demolition that the Giants put on Seattle.  With their fifth win in a row, they are looking pretty solid in the NFC.  Are they the best?  Not yet.  There is very little margin of error, though.  So this time next week, the Giants could find themselves moving up.  Their record against the AFC is still terrible, and I'll be wondering how they can compete with the better conference up until the Super Bowl (assuming they get there).  Their two losses were at Indianapolis and against Tennessee.  Both were bad losses, too.  But right now, the Giants are on the up-and-up, with only Philadelphia as a legitimate threat in the division.

6.) New England (6-2) [-5]
 What happens when a great team loses?  They take a tumble, just like anybody else.  The Patriots looked terrible against Cleveland, and I wonder if it was as close as the score indicated.  Maybe not.  Still, the Patriots have been one of the better teams in the league this season, and if they had pulled that one out, they would have been the unanimous best team in the league for a second week.  So what did they do?  They went out and lost a trap game.  I'm not sure it was a "trap" in the usual sense.  Cleveland has a heck of a QB/RB tandem and their defense is for real.  Just ask New Orleans.  The Patriots two losses were at the NY Jets and the other day at Cleveland.  Also not a good indicator of future performance.  Their schedule tightens up considerably now; they go to Pittsburgh next Sunday Night before taking on Indianapolis and then at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.  Tough sledding.

7.) Green Bay (6-3) [+3]
 Speaking of beatdowns, the Packers absolutely stunned the Cowboys on Sunday Night.  Well, stunned, then KO'd, then flatlined.  It was ugly.  Luckily, they get a reward by having their bye in Week 10.  Finally.  The two weeks after the bye are at Minnesota and at Atlanta, so the schedule doesn't really get easier.  It would say a lot if the Packers won both of those games.

8.) Indianapolis (5-3) [-6]
 The biggest fall of the week goes to the Colts, who lost on the road to Philadelphia.  Not a terrible loss, by any means, but they certainly could have won.  And now that they're 5-3, they've got issues.  Now the AFC South is looking like a dogfight again, with all four teams separated by a game.  Luckily, three of their last four are against division rivals.  I guess that means no coasting at the end of the season, unlike last year.

9.) New Orleans (6-3) [-]
 Finally, the defending champs showed like they should have been all season.  It was a resounding beatdown of Carolina.  Their schedule is getting somewhat easier, with the only true challenges being at Baltimore and at Atlanta in December.  11-5 is not out of the question, and with a win at either of those they could be 12-4 and poised for another playoff run.  Hard to believe, in a way.

10.) Philadelphia (5-3)
 Michael Vick returned to the lineup, and the Eagles responded by beating the Colts narrowly.  It really was a great game on both sides, and Vick showed why he was considered an MVP candidate before he went down with the rib injury against the Redskins.  With Vick back in the fold now, the Eagles have to be considered contenders in the NFC.  Especially if the Giants or Falcons show any sign of slippage in the next couple of weeks.  They still have to play the Giants and Cowboys twice, as well.  So it's safe to say that we will find out just how good this Eagles team is.

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