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: September 20, 2011 8:10 pm

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 2

After two weeks, there are seven undefeated teams in the NFL.  Surprised?  I am, a little.  I expected bounceback from certain teams (i.e. Pittsburgh), but I figured there would be eight or nine undefeated teams at this point.  It'd make it easier to do this, that's for sure.  Anyway, onto the picks for this week.

Here are the standings for Week 2:

Prisco: 12-4
Red: 11-5
King: 14-2 

No, that's not a typo.  King has started out amazingly well, to the point where he's calling out to himself how great he's been.  Probably not a good idea, but we'll see how it goes through the rest of the season.

So where did I screw up?  Well, I gambled on a few teams, namely Indy, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.  Baltimore failed all three of us (and anyone who picked them in a survivor pool).

I saw Cleveland as a beatable team, especially in Indy.  Once again, Kerry Collins and company failed to deliver until late in the game, and by then it was too late.

Had I known Cincinnati can't win in Denver (they haven't won there since 1975, thanks Judge), I wouldn't have picked them.  And I don't trust Denver, even with a new coach.

I thought Philly had a decided advantage over an Atlanta team that couldn't score on the Bears.  We saw New Orleans carve up the Bears, and people have been trying to put Matt Ryan up in that rare air that Brees et al inhabit.  Apparently, Philly's defense isn't good enough just yet.  Michael Vick getting hurt didn't help, but Mike Kafka came in and played pretty well.  One dropped pass from Maclin sealed it for Atlanta, which is rather hard to believe.

And finally, the Rams.  Their offense was inconsistent at best, but considering all the injuries on the Giants' D, I thought it could be a walkover for Sam Bradford.

OK, so with that done with, here are the Rankings for Week 2.  As usual, these are not meant to be predictive and only reflect the results of the games.

1.) Green Bay (2-0) [no change]
  I'm not sure if I was wrong about the defense or what.  Charles Woodson stepped up with two INT's and a fumble recovered, but Cam Newton still threw for over 400 yards.  I guess as long as they keep winning, the defense will get a pass.  Although I'm sure Dom Capers can't be pleased about his unit's progress thus far.  After two weeks, they're undefeated, and still the defending champs.  So let's not make too much of their "problems".

2.) New England (2-0) [+1]
  If anybody is questioning who the best QB in the league is, I have a response: Tom Brady.  With Peyton Manning on the shelf, there are no if's, and's, or but's about this.  Tom Brady is the best QB in the NFL, period.  The defense, on the other hand, is a lot like the Packers'.  Not good so far.  Next week, they get the Bills, which could be interesting.  The stats say otherwise, obviously.

3.) NY Jets (2-0) [+1]
  Beatdown!  There's not much to say other than that.  Well, Mark Sanchez is still throwing bad picks...but until they affect the result, does anyone really care?  It's a question of aesthetics at this point.

4.) Detroit (2-0) [+2]
 One of the surprising 2-0 teams, to be sure.  It seems that anyone who has Kansas City on their schedule can lick their chops, as it were, because an easy win is in the offing.  Matthew Stafford has been nothing short of spectacular thus far.  Any team that gets as many takeaways as Detroit does will be in the game, no matter the opponent.

5.) Buffalo (2-0) [+4]
  Another surprising 2-0 team.  It could all go to hell next week, though, and I expect it to.  I mean, it would be a really big surprise if they were to beat New England, especially given how well (i.e. poorly!) they've played the Pats since 2003 or so.  But for these first two weeks, Buffalo has been quite good.  Maybe not great, considering the competition (KC and Oakland, yeesh), but quite good.

6.) Houston (2-0) [+4]
 Who needs Arian Foster when you have Ben Tate?  I kid, of course.  Once Foster is healthy, Ben Tate is going back to the bench.  But until then, Tate has a great chance to impress a lot of people.  Prisco and King both picked Miami this week, and the Texans did an admirable job in closing out the game.  They didn't play their best for 60 minutes, again, but they played well enough.  That's really all that matters, and like everyone else, as long as they keep winning, they're in here.

7.) Washington (2-0) [-]
 I wasn't taking the Redskins seriously last week.  After narrowly beating Arizona, I have them as the least of the undefeated teams, which seems to be a good move right now.  I still don't trust Rex Grossman.  But my own stuff aside, Washington has played pretty well in the first two weeks, though it seems like they made it harder on themselves than it needed to be against Arizona.  If they're serious about winning the NFC East, beating Dallas in Week 3 would be a good start.

8.)  New Orleans (1-1) [-]
  Who's the best outside of the undefeated teams?  My vote goes to New Orleans.  They took a tough loss in Week 1, in a game they could have easily won.  It wasn't a bad loss, in my mind.  Then they came out in Week 2 and put a beatdown on the Bears, a team that people were changing their minds about.  I didn't make too much of the Bears beating Atlanta; they weren't playing in the Georgia Dome, they were playing in Chicago.  And Jay Cutler is still a whining pouter.  Joe Buck attempted to trumpet Cutler for his toughness; by the end of the game, when the Saints' D had smacked him around and the Saints' offense had put up 30, there were no plaudits for Cutler or his teammates.  Brees had an absolutely scintillating pass to Devery Henderson which went for a TD.  I loved it, for sure.

9.) Pittsburgh (1-1) [-]
  It's hard to know what to make of the Steelers thus far.  On the one hand, you have that utter demolition against Baltimore.  And then you have the beatdown they just laid on Seattle.  My inclination is to say that because Baltimore lost to Tennessee, and Pittsburgh bounced back (albeit against a terrible opponent, which cannot be emphasized enough), that the Steelers are still an elite team.  But because they beat Seattle, I'm not entirely sure.  I guess that's not a bad thing; they just squashed grapes in Week 1 and drank wine in Week 2, to paraphrase Mike Tomlin.

10.) Atlanta (1-1) [-]
 As it turns out, beating Philadelphia at home is good enough to get the Falcons into the Rankings.  I was impressed, and Matt Ryan is money at home still.  We'll see how they go from here; bouncing back from that loss at Chicago was good, though.

Finally, a quick note on the four teams that exited the Rankings.  They were Baltimore (2), Philadelphia (5), San Diego (7), and San Francisco (8).  Obviously, all four lost in Week 2.  Still, I think that three of those four will be back in the Rankings at some point this season.  All it takes is a win, or in some cases two or three of them.  I'm still pretty high on Baltimore, but losing to Tennessee (especially after their Week 1 performance) is utterly inexcusable.  I probably could have ceded them the tenth spot, but I like using this space to celebrate the winners.  And, obviously, teams that remain undefeated.  The other three losses were a bit more "expected", I would say.  So I don't think there should be much controversy, and besides, this is just one guy's opinion on something that really doesn't matter all that much.  I do this for fun.

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