Tag:Falcons
Posted on: December 26, 2012 8:47 pm
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2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 16

Here are the Rankings for Week 16:

1.) Denver (12-3) [no change]
 Ten in a row; that's one spicy meatball.  Obviously, it's the longest current winning streak in the league, with only Washington (six) in shouting distance.  With one more win, Peyton Manning will have completed his comeback and had what must be one of his better seasons.  Now to cap it off, he needs some playoff success.  AFC Championship, at least.  The other teams in the AFC look vulnerable, which is good.

2.) Green Bay (11-4) [no change]
 A sterling beatdown to add to Aaron Rodgers' career highlight reel.  I won't disparage it, but I'm still not sold on Rodgers as an MVP candidate.  The Packers have already clinched their division and head to Minnesota in Week 17.  I guess they need to win, but at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if they gave a B effort rather than A+.

3.) Atlanta (13-2) [+1]
 Since the Falcons already have home-field advantage, what more do they want?  Besides playoff wins, of course.

4.) New England (11-4) [+2]
 It's possible for the Patriots to sneak into having home-field advantage.  Pretty incredible, since they essentially gave it away with that loss to San Francisco a couple weeks ago.  They've been shaky recently, so a strong win against the Dolphins would be nice.

5.) Seattle (10-5) [+2]
 Speaking of sneaky, the Seahawks have a chance to get a first-round bye, which would be quite incredible.  They might not have put up 50 on San Francisco, but the win was impressive.  Hard to watch, though.

6.) Indianapolis (10-5) [+2]
 With Coach Pagano coming back and the regular season finale at home against a team that's never beaten them there, it's looking good for the Colts.  They might not be able to move up in the seeding, but they can sure help a couple other teams out by defeating the Texans.

7.) Houston (12-3) [-4]
 I dropped the Texans four spots, specifically below Seattle and Indianapolis, because it felt like Houston quit on that game late.  I never condone losing, but if a team puts in their best effort and just get beat, that's fine.  To do what the Texans did, pulling Schaub when they still had a chance to win (no matter how small!) reeks.  I can't say I'm surprised.  I'm sure that most sources are either ignoring this or just missed it.  In fact, some might even excuse it because the Texans are the 1-seed and control their own destiny.  All that said, they're still better than the Steelers.

8.) San Francisco (10-4-1) [-3]
 They didn't show up.  Now people are questioning whether the Kaepernick move was worthwhile and/or necessary.  Not me.  Alex Smith hasn't changed; he's still a guy that throws screens and other short passes between 1 and 3 yards past the line of scrimmage.  He's not a QB that will take the 49ers to a championship.  Kaepernick might not be, either, but at least there's still a question as to whether or not he can do it.  With Alex Smith, there's no question; he can't do it.

9.) Minnesota (9-6) [no change]
 I really wanted to move the Vikings up, but they're only 9-6.

10.) Washington (9-6) [no change]
 Similarly, I wanted to move Washington up, but they're only 9-6 and need some help if they somehow lose in Week 17.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 17):
Baltimore @ Cincinnati (Sunday, CBS)
Houston @ Indianapolis (Sunday, CBS)
Green Bay @ Minnesota (Sunday, FOX) 
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 20, 2012 2:36 am
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 15

Greetings, readers.  There were some interesting results that changed how the playoffs will shake out in Week 15.  Let's get to the stories and then check out the latest Rankings.

We start with last Thursday's game.  Cincinnati started out fairly unimpressively, but did manage to pull it out in the end, thanks to some timely turnovers and a couple decent passes from Andy Dalton.  That might be a bit reductive.  But it really hinged on the turnovers and the fact that the Eagles are just terrible after starting out well.  Dalton is one of the rising stars among the QB's in the league, yet he's becoming underrated due to the advancement of guys like Luck, Griffin, and Wilson.  Of course, the team's performance has something to do with it, too, as the Bengals are 8-6 and have lost a couple games they probably shouldn't have.  That applies to just about every team in the league, though.  It's that "any given Sunday" mentality.

The top teams in each conference played well and won.  Of the two, Atlanta looked stronger and more consistent; they put up 34 on the Giants and didn't allow a single point.  The Texans looked vulnerable for about a minute-and-a-half, but then forced Andrew Luck into some bad plays.  So apparently, there is a ceiling for Luck and the Colts.  It appears that they'll be a Wild Card team.  For a rookie QB, that's pretty good.  I was hoping they'd beat the Texans in Week 15 & 17 and take the division.  Oh well.  Since Atlanta and Houston are both 12-2, the top seeds are probably locked up now.

I don't think many people are surprised by Denver's recent performances.  They've been on such a long winning streak that I don't expect them to lose or even play badly in the next two weeks.  They'll be going into the playoffs hot, if they can keep this pace up.  The good thing that helps them in this case is that their last two games look pitifully easy.  So it should be a breeze, but we've seen how teams can screw that up.

Green Bay is another team that benefitted from a bad performance of the team they were facing.  They played the fraudulent Bears and took the division with the win.  I've been seeing some stuff about Aaron Rodgers being an MVP candidate.  Not sure about all that, especially given that crapfest against the Giants a few weeks ago.  But the team is looking strong.

New England almost had a great comeback and then got derailed by two plays.  The first was a kickoff return; the second was the TD that won the game for San Francisco.  The game was ugly for most of the first half and then devolved into a waste of time late in the second half, as the Patriots had clearly run out of gas or mojo or whatever fueled the comeback.  How the special teams and defense allowed those two plays after Brady played his heart out is beyond me.  But this is what happens.  And the Pats are still better off than Baltimore.

Here are the Rankings for Week 15:

1.) Denver (11-3) [+1]
 Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.  Sort of, but not really.  The interesting thing to see is if they can keep up the winning streak or if they give up in Week 17 to get ready for the playoffs.

2.) Green Bay (10-4) [+2]
 They're getting over some injuries and Aaron Rodgers is back to playing well.  Or better than at the start of the season when he didn't look great.  Now that they've clinched the NFC North, they're in the running for the 2-seed.  But they have to stay ahead of Seattle as well.

3.) Houston (12-2) [+2]
 After a disappointing loss to New England (I wasn't disappointed, but their fans must have been), the Texans rebounded and took out the Colts.  We'll see what happens in the rematch in two weeks; I don't expect a similar performance the next time around, as they'll probably be resting players in a foolish attempt to elongate their playoff lives.  Despite having the top seed locked up, I don't have a lot of confidence in this team; Matt Schaub is a decent QB, of course, but compared to the others that look to be in the playoffs, including Luck, RGIII, and Wilson, he doesn't look that great.

4.) Atlanta (12-2) [+2]
 While it's great to have a commanding win in the regular season, especially in December, the Falcons have a lot to prove in the playoffs.  With a week off to start, the pressure will just be that much greater.  Now, unlike the Texans, I think the Falcons have a damn good chance of doing something.  Matt Ryan looks solid, though he too has had his problems.  But it's really that defense which is stepping up at the right time.  And those weapons on offense, wow.

5.) San Francisco (10-3-1) [+2]
 A good win against one of the better teams in the league.  Now they head up to Seattle in what is probably the deciding game in the NFC West.  Colin Kaepernick hasn't been throwing it down the field as much, which will have to change in the playoffs for them to reach the Super Bowl.  After all, that's why he's the starting QB and Alex Smith isn't.

6.) New England (10-4) [-5]
 I'm not sure that loss really means anything.  San Francisco is a good team, certainly better than much of the Pats' other comptetion.  No shame in losing to a team like that, especially given the state of the Pats' secondary.  But with Brady & Belichick on-board still, the expectation is Super Bowl or bust.  I'm not sure if they can go through Denver to reach the Super Bowl yet.

7.) Seattle (9-5) [+1]
 Consecutive weeks brought consecutive beatdowns.  In both games, the Seahawks put up over 50 points.  Unbelievable.

8.) Indianapolis (9-5) [-5]
 So as I've alluded to previously, I'm a little disappointed by what happened on Sunday with the Colts loss.  But it's ok, because they'll get a Wild Card.  I think.  It's looking good.

9.) Minnesota (8-6) [-]
 Adrian Peterson has single-handedly brought the Vikings back into contention for a Wild Card.  Unbelievable.

10.) Washington (8-6) [-]
 Despite not having RGIII, Washington won a game against a team they should have beaten easily.  It wasn't really that difficult, but it probably should have been a little easier.  Here's hoping that RGIII comes back so we can see him screw with defenses again.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 16):
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (Sunday, CBS)
NY Giants @ Baltimore (Sunday, FOX)
San Francisco @ Seattle (Sunday, NBC) 
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 5, 2012 8:50 pm
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 13

Greetings, readers!  Week 13 gives me a bit of a quandary as there are only nine good teams in the NFL at this point.  There would be ten, but the Giants lost to Washington on Monday night.  It's not a huge deal, but it could mean something for the playoff race.  Not everything, just something.

Let's start with last Thursday's game.  New Orleans went into Atlanta with eyes on their non-existent playoff hopes.  I say non-existent rather than another word like "waning" because they really had no chance of making the playoffs after starting 0-4.  Somehow I was one of the only people to realize this fact before last Thursday.  I think just about everyone (except the most ardent Saints fans, most likely) will now concede that the Saints are done in 2012.  It was a nice run to get back into what seemed like contention to a lot of people, but it had to end at some point.  They were done in by the bugaboo that got them off to a 0-4 start, namely Drew Brees' interception problem.  Per Peter King's last MMQB column, Brees has thrown as many INT's as Blaine Gabbert & Mark Sanchez, COMBINED.  In fewer attempts, no less!  It's an amazing stat (and one that actually means something).  Now, Atlanta didn't exactly look like world-beaters, especially since Brees gave them five drives by himself.  The Falcons won by 10 when they really should have won by 30 or more.  Every team in the NFL is flawed, though, even the ones up at the top.

The most exciting ending of the week came in Detroit.  Indianapolis looked as though they were going to get stuffed at the end.  Then on fourth down, Andrew Luck got outside the pocket and tossed the ball to Donnie Avery, who then proceeded to run it in for the game-winning TD.  It was pretty amazing.  At the same time, though, it was extraordinarily simple.  Luck and Avery took advantage of the fact that all of the Detroit defenders were covering guys in the end zone.  The D-line couldn't get enough pressure on Luck to rattle him or force a bad pick, so he went around the right side and did a typical dink-and-dunk that worked.  He also ran out to block somebody, but he didn't get a chance since all his guys were covered deep and Avery was too fast to get touched, even.  The Colts are now 8-4, and while they're not really in contention for the division title (unless a miracle happens), they should easily get a Wild Card.

Green Bay's win over Minnesota has the Packers at 8-4.  They're in good position now, as the Bears lost in Week 13.  It wasn't the greatest game; Adrian Peterson ran over the Packers all day and ended up with 210 yards.  The second half belonged to Green Bay, though, as they outscored Minnesota 13-0.  Aaron Rodgers may not be performing as he did last season, but he's done enough to win games recently (that pukefest against the Giants excepted, obviously).  It'll be a lot better for the Packers if they get the 3-seed instead of going on the road.  Now that we know that the Bears are overrated and fradulent (like we didn't know this already), the Packers have a definite chance of going far in the playoffs, assuming they get their own flaws taken care of.

New England keeps trucking along, winning division titles with relative ease.  They had a bit of a tough time in Miami, meaning they didn't blow out the Dolphins with their usual glee.  In fact, they only won by a touchdown.  However, Tom Brady still looks like an MVP candidate and the Patriots are a possible 2-seed.  This is where it gets a little complicated, as they're tied with Baltimore and Denver, and the tiebreakers can be hard to understand.  Assuming the Pats end up with the second seed, they've got a good chance to go far.

Speaking of Baltimore...wow.  Ever since putting 55 on Oakland, they've played like garbage.  They needed 4th & 29 plus OT to beat San Diego, barely beat the Steelers without Roethlisberger, and then lost to Charlie Batch in the rematch.  If that doesn't spell pathetic, I'm not sure what does.  Their offense has been moribund since that Oakland game and Joe Flacco in particular has looked poor.  He claimed that he was an "elite" QB before the season...I'm still waiting for him to prove that on the field.  When they play bad teams at home, they're great, sure.  But at all other times, they look pathetically bad.  And it all starts with Flacco.

Finally, on Monday night, as mentioned above, Washington took out the Giants.  Despite all the sucking-up from the announcers in the booth, Eli Manning didn't play well.  Or maybe just not well enough.  Either way, RGIII made the plays when needed and got some measure of revenge for losing to the Giants earlier in the season.  They're now 6-6, just a game behind the Giants.  They probably need some help, but considering the games remaining on the Giants' schedule, they just might have a chance to get the division.

Here are the Rankings for Week 13:

1.) Houston (11-1) [no change]
 Huge game with the Pats on Monday at Gillette.  Nothing more need be said.

2.) Atlanta (11-1) [no change]
 Heading to Carolina...what should be a beatdown will probably be close.

3.) New England (9-3) [+2]
 I wonder what the Pats feel about this week's game?  I don't think it's huge for them.  Not nearly as huge as it is for the Texans.

4.) Denver (9-3) [+2]
 They get the Thursday night game this week, with Oakland the opponent.  10-3 sounds good.

5.) Indianapolis (8-4) [+3]
 Getting an opponent fresh off a loss at home is pretty good.  Let's just hope they don't blow it.

6.) Green Bay (8-4) [+4]
 A pretty big game for the Packers, especially if they can keep winning.

7.) Baltimore (9-3) [-4]
 A pretty big game for the Ravens, heading down to Washington to take on the Griffins.  Will RGIII outplay Flacco?

8.) San Francisco (8-3-1) [-4]
 Maybe I should have dropped them out entirely for losing to St. Louis.  Maybe.

9.) Chicago (8-4) [-2]
 Maybe I should have dropped them out entirely for losing to Seattle.  Frauds.

10.) Pittsburgh (7-5) [-]
 Here I thought the Steelers were done.  Now Roethlisberger just might be coming back.  What's going on, exactly?

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 14):
Baltimore @ Washington (Sunday, CBS)
Detroit @ Green Bay (Sunday, NBC)
Houston @ New England (Monday, ESPN)
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 28, 2012 12:21 am
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 12

Greetings, readers!  We're back after the Thanksgiving holiday with more nonsense about the NFL.  The country's most popular sport had one heck of a day on Thursday, with two solid games followed by an absolute beatdown.  More on that in just a second.  I hope that everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving and that they enjoyed the games this week.

Of course, we have to start with the first game and the absolutely abhorrent rule that basically allowed the Texans to win.  As I understand it, the rule goes something like this: if a coach challenges a play that was going to be reviewed, his team is penalized 15 yards and no review takes place.  In this case, the TD that should not have been was not reviewed because Lions coach Jim Schwartz challenged the play, even though all TD's are reviewed automatically.  Because Schwartz threw the flag, the play was not reviewed and the TD stood, even though it was never a TD in the first place!  What a bunch of...gizzards.  Much as I'd love to think otherwise, the Texans are 10-1 and have a stranglehold on the division and the AFC as a whole.

The Cowboys took on Washington as well, and while there wasn't much in the way of controversy, my favorite team still managed to end up on the losing side.  There wasn't a lot of excitement either until the second half.  RGIII and the one or two decent receivers he has managed to put up 28 before the first half was over, and despite the Cowboys' comeback attempt, it was indeed over by halftime.

Lastly, the New England Patriots put up another spectacular beatdown.  This time, the Jets were the victim.  I think there was probably a little bit of concern when Gronk went out, but Tom Brady and the rest of his cadre decided to put that to rest quickly.  The effort was assisted by the defense and special teams, which put up a couple of TD's by themselves, taking the onus off of Brady just a bit.  All in all, a fun game to watch, unless you're Fireman Ed.  Or a less notable Jets fan.

Let's move on to Sunday's games.  First up is the 10-1 Falcons.  They had a little trouble with the Bucs, but this is no surprise.  The Bucs have been playing well recently and Atlanta has had problems putting teams away.  It looks like they'll be the top seed in the NFC as the only team that's close is San Francisco, and they're burdened with a tie.  I guess Chicago could be considered close as well, but I don't trust them to finish the deal.

Speaking of the Bears, they're 8-3, as is Denver.  Chicago didn't have much trouble with Minnesota.  Jay Cutler came back after missing the 49ers game; obviously, given the score and the win, he played well enough.  Denver wasn't quite as fortunate, as they had problems playing in Kansas City all day.  Peyton Manning did just enough to win and keep his Comeback Player and MVP candidacy alive.  But it was far too close for comfort.

Indianapolis won against Buffalo and is now 7-4.  Currently, they're the fifth seed in the AFC, which means they'd be heading out to Denver if things hold up.  That would just be serendipitous, wouldn't it?  People are calling the Colts a surprise team, but I don't see anything really "surprising" about them.  Reggie Wayne was one of the only holdovers from the 2011 squad and has played like an elite WR.  Andrew Luck, obviously, is the rookie of the year.  The other receivers are serviceable, and RB Vick Ballard has won a game by himself and played well generally.

4th & 29.  That play was many things, depending on the observer.  But the result was that Baltimore won and San Diego didn't.  If the fate of coach Norv Turner wasn't already decided, I think that play is the one that ensures that he gets fired.  Of course, since they're so far out of the division race, they're likely not making the playoffs.  Even the Wild Card looks out of reach; they'll likely end up under .500, and though the sixth seed is up for grabs, I don't think San Diego has a chance for it unless they win out.  How likely is that?  Not very.  Baltimore is 9-2 despite some shaky play of late.  Joe Flacco has regressed from supposedly "elite" back to bottom-third in QB play.  How that works out in the playoffs, I'm not sure; Flacco could conceivably raise his level of play when the games mean more.

Colin Kaepernick started another game for the 49ers and not surprisingly, it was a win.  Some were thinking that the Superdome crowd (and decibel level) would derail the rookie.  And for most of the first half, they were right!  Then the defense showed up and made some big plays, and the rookie's confidence grew as he played better in the second half.  I'm not too big on the whole QB controversy nonsense; as long as Kaepernick is playing well, there's really no reason to sit him, especially for a guy that isn't better.  People can make arguments about completion % and the other things Alex Smith brings to the table (notably, wins), but really, the guy just throws screen passes and other short balls and doesn't really look to throw it down the field.  Kaepernick, on the other hand, can get the ball down the field.  The offense isn't handcuffed when he's in there.

The last game on Sunday was between the Giants and Packers.  Funnily enough, after delivering a beatdown a few Sundays ago in front of the entire country, they succumbed to a Giants team that had previously been moribund.  Aaron Rodgers has grown out the 70's mustache again and this time it didn't do anything to help.  In fact, not many guys on the team really showed up.  Thus, they fell in the Rankings while the Giants got back in again.

Here are the Rankings for Week 12:

1.) Houston (10-1) [no change]
 An easy game, albeit a divisional opponent, after a lucky break.

2.) Atlanta (10-1) [no change]
 Another divisional game on a short week.  Hard to see how the Falcons don't get upset.

3.) Baltimore (9-2) [no change]
 Flying back from San Diego and getting the Steelers again has to be tough.  But if Roethlisberger is still out, it's gotta be another win for the Ravens.

4.) San Francisco (8-2-1) [no change]
 Another meeting with the team they tied with.  I really hope another tie isn't in the offing.

5.) New England (8-3) [+1]
 After beating down one division rival, the Pats get a chance to beat down another one.

6.) Denver (8-3) [+1]
 Manning &co. get a chance to play the Bucs.  Hope Von Miller and the rest of the defense are up to taking on Doug Martin.

7.) Chicago (8-3) [+1]
 Playing a team without their starting corners (pending appeal, of course) has to get Cutler and Marshall salivating.

8.) Indianapolis (7-4) [+2]
 The "most surprising" team in the NFL heads to Detroit with a chance to go 8-4.

9.) NY Giants (7-4) [-]
 Back in the Rankings after a few weeks, they head to Washington in a battle of overrateds.

10.) Green Bay (7-4) [-5]
 One bad game, or a sign of decline?  I'm leaning toward the former...for the moment.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 13):
New Orleans @ Atlanta (Thursday, NFL Network)
Tampa Bay @ Denver (Sunday, FOX)
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (Sunday, CBS*)

*edit: I had mistakenly attributed this game to NBC in the previous version; also, we can't edit blogs any more?  Ridiculous.
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 27, 2012 10:58 pm
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Posted on: November 21, 2012 12:20 am
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 11

Greetings, readers.  After some turmoil earlier in the season, it looks like things are finally settling down and becoming a bit more predictable.  Well, mostly...there are still some teams who defy prediction and lose when they ought to win.  At any rate, let's get to the stories from this week.

Speaking of losers, we start with the Thursday night game, if anybody still remembers it.  I'm sure Bills fans do, and they should be happy that their team pulled off a win against Miami.  It has to be disappointing for the Dolphins, though, because they went up against a team with a terrible defense and couldn't score enough to win.  I guess the Bills are starting to turn it around defensively.  But since both teams are 4-6, I think we can say definitively that both should be excluded from the playoff discussion.

The top two teams won this week: Houston & Atlanta both pulled off some rather lucky and stunning wins.  It's funny, since neither one of those games should have been as tough as it looked.  Yet the Texans and Falcons have made their bones winning close (and in Atlanta's case, close and late), so it's not necessarily a surprise that both teams won, just that they had to go so far to win.  They're both 9-1 and firmly in control of their divisions and perhaps even conferences.  While the AFC is supposedly the "weaker" conference this season, Houston cannot rest on its laurels just yet.  Baltimore, New England, and Denver are all looking formidable; despite the Texans holding the tiebreaker on two of those three, I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see one of them pass up the Texans for the 1-seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  As for the Falcons, I don't really see anyone catching them in the regular season.  But in the playoffs, neither team is proven.

There were two other overtime games besides Houston/Jacksonville.  Tampa Bay and Dallas also won in OT on Sunday.  I don't usually like to bring up the Cowboys; normally they're doing something stupid like losing or playing particularly poorly.  I also don't want this blog to have the stench of homerism hovering over it.  I would like to think I'm objective, despite not being a "professional" journalist (or really, an amateur journalist; I'm just a guy)!  However, I think this one merited a few words.  While the Cowboys didn't play well (going to OT against Cleveland is proof of that), they did get the win and can now make some noise in the division.  In fact, with a win this Thursday, they'll be 6-5 and just a half-game behind the Giants for the division lead.  Let's not count our chickens, or anything, though.  Tampa Bay's win was arguably more impressive, though it came against a similarly bad opponent.  Of course, Carolina is in their division, so maybe they should get some points for that.  Josh Freeman made the throws when he needed to; he secured the game-tying TD + 2 pt. conversion and then threw a TD pass in OT to Dallas Clark that won the game.  An impressive showing, to be sure.

Not to be outdone by the early action, a couple of teams playing late broke out the hammer.  In this case it was New England and New Orleans.  Denver also won late Sunday, but their game ended up being a little too close to be a real beatdown, even if the game wasn't as close as the score would indicate.  New England took on the Colts and handed them a 59-24 loss.  New Orleans won 38-17 against Oakland, and that score doesn't tell the whole story either.  While some might consider the Saints a playoff contender, I do not.  Let's not forget, they started 0-4, and only one team in the HISTORY of the NFL has ever made the playoffs after starting 0-4.  Drew Brees may be a god among QB's, but this mountain is too large to climb.  Tom Brady &co. now sit at 7-3 and even without super TE Rob Gronkowski for the next 4-6 weeks, should have enough to maintain and perhaps finish out the season with 12 wins.

The last game on Sunday provided the least drama, considering that everyone expected it to be great (myself included).  Baltimore went up to Pittsburgh and with a number of stars missing on both sides, an ugly game ensued.  Byron Leftwich started out nicely, but apparently sustained multiple injuries through the course of the game and the finish was nothing to write home about.  Joe Flacco (who anointed himself "elite" mistakenly) was his usual inconsistent self; after posting 55 against Oakland the previous week he reverted back to his usual do-nothing ways.  Baltimore's offense was particularly moribund on third down, converting a pathetic 3-for-14.  It's one thing to say that it's the Pittsburgh D, and another to say that Flacco is not an elite QB, should keep his mouth shut, and should freakin' play better.  Personally, I don't think it was the Steelers D that kept the Ravens offense in neutral for the entire night.  I think Flacco is a mediocre QB.  His play against the Steelers was just the latest example of that.  Unless he becomes more consistent, it is difficult to see the Ravens as a Super Bowl contender this season.  That said, I do think of them as one of the few teams that is set up to be a contender every season.  So, really, all they have to do is get more consistent QB play and manage the injuries so that they have their guys back come playoff time.

Monday's game was probably one of the more surprising results of the season.  With Alex Smith sidelined due to a concussion (and his counterpart Jay Cutler the same), Colin Kaepernick started for the 49ers and led a beatdown to remember.  The Bears defense and offensive line were both destroyed by San Francisco.  To call this game lopsided is being kind, practically.  What's funny is that Kaepernick was making his first start and now sportswriters all over are calling for the kid to start in New Orleans in Week 12.  I wouldn't go quite that far, unless Alex Smith continues to have post-concussion symptoms.  I think it's better to avoid controversy whenever possible when it comes to QB's.  Since Kaepernick has been acknowledged as the backup, he should have no problem sitting if Smith is healthy.  If Smith isn't healthy just yet, Kaepernick showed himself to be capable, at least.  Whether or not he can reproduce that effort is still under question, especially in New Orleans.  But let's not forget that the Saints defense is one of the worst in the history of the NFL.

Here are the Rankings for Week 11:

1.) Houston (9-1) [no change]
 Going to OT was bad, but at least they won and saved themselves a lot of questions.

2.) Atlanta (9-1) [no change]
 Five INT's from Matt Ryan.  Yeesh.  There are certainly issues to be corrected here.

3.) Baltimore (8-2) [no change]
 Joe Flacco needs to find that "elite" play again.  If he ever had it to begin with.

4.) San Francisco (7-2-1) [no change]
 Kaepernick subbed well at home; let's see if that changes on the road.

5.) Green Bay (7-3) [+1]
 It wasn't pretty against Detroit and now they get a Giants team coming off the bye.

6.) New England (7-3) [+1]
 The only question is can they continue to whip up on teams without Gronk?

7.) Denver (7-3) [+1]
 Peyton Manning continues his quest toward Comeback Player of the Year as well as MVP.

8.) Chicago (7-3) [-3]
 I don't know if Jay Cutler can help them get back up if the O-line is that bad.

9.) Tampa Bay (6-4) [-]
 The Bucs are back in after an impressive win that probably should have been better.

10.) Indianapolis (6-4) [-1]
 Down, but not quite out.  RGIII outplayed Luck this week too.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 12):
Minnesota @ Chicago (Sunday, FOX)
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay (Sunday, FOX)
Green Bay @ NY Giants (Sunday, NBC)
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 15, 2012 1:47 am
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 10

Here are the Rankings for Week 10:

1.) Houston (8-1) [+1]
 The Texans claim the first spot in the Rankings for the first time ever.  It's a year of firsts for the team and only took the last unbeaten finally losing to move up.  Their effort against the Bears wasn't what I would call praiseworthy; however, they survived and got the W, so that's all that really matters.  They have yet another cupcake team on the schedule as 1-8 Jacksonville comes in to hopefully challenge for a few minutes.  I foresee Matt Schaub rollouts turning into long TD's.

2.) Atlanta (8-1) [-1]
 Now that the Falcons are undefeated no more, they can really get to work.  First up, salt away the NFC South (as if they hadn't already).  Then get the top seed in the conference and the bye that comes with it.  Then show up at home instead of putting up 2 points.  Ideally, the Falcons will continue to play well while making the necessary changes to get better as the season progresses.  For now, that would appear to include getting Michael Turner more involved in the offense (according to various pundits).  Losing to this New Orleans team (esp. their worst in NFL History defense) is really inexcusable, but there is a silver lining.  Mike Smith can point to that loss for the rest of this season and use it as a "teaching point" (a popular phrase in Fall 2012) to guide his men to the Lombardi Trophy.

3.) Baltimore (7-2) [+2]
 55 points and one awesome beatdown mean little if Joe Flacco lays an egg this weekend against the Steelers.  Of course, without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers are hardly even the same team.  What's important here is that Flacco &co. take their Week 10 success and somehow make it happen again this week.  It's a tough task, to be sure, especially given Flacco's immense inconsistency.  If he's really serious about being considered an "elite" QB, he absolutely must perform well on Sunday night.

4.) San Francisco (6-2-1) [no change]
 First tie since 2008 coming on the heels of the QB getting knocked out.  Are we still jive turkeys?

5.) Chicago (7-2) [-2]
 A humbling loss in addition to having the QB knocked out.  Now the Bears have to go to San Francisco and maybe face another backup QB.  They'll be relying on their defense even more if Jason Campbell can't get the job done.

6.) Green Bay (6-3) [no change]
 Coming off a late bye, the Packers get Detroit.  Not a bad way to get back to action, really.  It looks like the Packers are back on their way up.  As long as Rodgers is ambulatory, he should be able to guide this team to the playoffs, despite their injuries.

7.) New England (6-3) [+1]
 It looks like the defense just might keep Tom Brady from getting his fourth ring.  Playing a Buffalo team with defensive issues of their own, the Patriots just couldn't close the deal last Sunday.  Luckily, Ryan Fitzpatrick was in a giving mood.  I'm still high on this team, mostly because of Brady + Belichick.  I've been high on the team for the last few years as well.  So my confidence isn't shaken, but I do know that when you play a team like Buffalo, who they've traditionally knocked the crap out of, you want to win handily, not at the last second.

8.) Denver (6-3) [+1]
 Peyton Manning is most likely the Comeback Player of the Year.  But will he win MVP as well?  I don't know yet...but it looks like Denver has a strong hold on a very weak division.  I don't think anybody expects San Diego to come from behind to catch them, except maybe Philip Rivers and Norv Turner.

9.) Indianapolis (6-3) [+1]
 It wasn't spotless against Jacksonville, but Andrew Luck and his teammates got it done.  They have the benefit of an extra couple days off as they prepare to play New England.  Tough sledding, but that's how it goes in the NFL: out of the frying pan, into the fire.

10.) Pittsburgh (6-3) [-]
 Obviously, this is temporary; without Roethslisberger, few expect the Steelers to take out Baltimore (me included).  Someone had to come into the Rankings to cover an empty spot, though, and Pittsburgh was the team to do so.  It's too bad they can't stay a while longer, but hey, that's how these things go sometimes.  Of course, if they DO pull off the upset, it just makes me look all the worse.  So really, everyone wins.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 11):
Indianapolis @ New England (Sunday, CBS)
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (Sunday, NBC)
Chicago @ San Francisco (Monday, ESPN)
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 6, 2012 5:07 pm
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 9

Greetings, readers.  It looks like a few teams are beginning to separate themselves from the pack.  That said, the records still indicate that parity is the name of the game in 2012, despite a few that are well above .500.  No team is without flaws, either.  Let's get to the stories from Week 9.

We start out with the Thursday night game.  As usual, it was lopsided.  The Chargers played ...well, if not quite up to their capability, then closer to what fans, media, and other outside observers expect from them on a weekly basis.  Philip Rivers looked a little shaky in the first half, especially on the end-zone INT.  But the second half was all San Diego.  I think we can stick a fork in Kansas City; they might not be mathematically eliminated just yet, but they're most definitely done.

A more inspiring story comes from Indianapolis.  Head Coach Chuck Pagano met with his team before and after the Colts' hard-fought win against the Dolphins.  Andrew Luck played about as well as could be expected, if not better, leading his team to the win while staring long third downs in the face and pulling through just about all day.  Not only that, he was under pressure fairly consistently and not only escaped it, but made great plays at the same time.  The Colts are now 5-3 and play in a fairly weak division; beside the Texans, the Colts are the only good team in the AFC South.  If they can continue this pace, they should secure one of the Wild Card spots.  My hope is that they end up playing Denver in the Wild Card Round, as that would make for some fabulous TV.  Plus, think of the serendipitous nature of that match-up: Peyton Manning playing the man that replaced him in Indianapolis?  Fantastic.  Unbelievable.  Perhaps even a little insane.  But definitely worth watching, no matter what.

Some have said that teams in the NFL can no longer play defense.  Obviously, the Chicago Bears are scoffing at this notion, while they forced turnovers at a rate no one else can match.  Not only are they turning other teams over frequently, they're also turning those TO's into TD's.  The defense is playing so well that Jay Cutler and his maligned offensive line are getting less attention than they were earlier in the season.  This can only be a good thing for that unit.  Cutler did make some good plays, but they'll probably be forgotten since the defense was so dominant.  Honestly, anything that keeps the attention off of Cutler is probably a good thing.  Even if it's the image of Brian Urlacher rumbling into the end-zone after an INT.

Robert Griffin III's rookie season has been synonymous with two things: excitement and failure.  Excitement because anyone can tell that he's going to be something special for a long time to come.  Failure because he hasn't won much and the rest of the team has let him down on numerous occasions.  There is really no way that Washington should have lost to a bad Carolina team at home.  Even with a TD that the NFL later said should not have counted.  By the way, if that TD was disallowed, Carolina still would have won by a point.  For RGIII and company to only put up 13 points against a bad Carolina defense is unacceptable.  The man clearly needs more playmakers around him.  Hopefully this is something that gets rectified in the future, or else Mike Shanahan (and his son the offensive coordinator) might find himself without a job.  He might not be in any danger this year. but if RGIII plays anything like Cam Newton has next year, trouble will be at Shanahan's doorstep.

It's always a little unusual when a running back storms onto the scene as a rookie with consecutive great games.  Yet that's just what Doug Martin has done.  In consecutive games against the Vikings and Raiders, Martin has rushed for a bunch of yards (including the 251 he put up on Sunday) and scored a number of TD's.  Sunday's performance in particular was one of the more impressive I've seen lately, especially from a rookie.  Before the Vikings game, it looked like the Bucs might be dead in the water; now they're looking like they've got a pulse, if nothing else.  And with the Chargers coming to Tampa in Week 10, I think a third straight win is in order.  But coach Schiano has to commit to running Martin.  No more running Blount in the 4th quarter when it looks like the game is wrapped up.  Stick with the hot hand, coach.

Pittsburgh had some unusual circumstances to deal with in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  With no power in the team hotel in New Jersey, they flew from Pittsburgh to East Rutherford before the game and left shortly after the game.  In the midst of that, they somehow managed to pull out a win despite some bad calls and an up-and-down performance from Ben Roethlisberger.  None of the elite QB's have been all that great in 2012 so far, and Roethlisberger is no exception.  But on Sunday he made the throws he needed to and committed fewer dumb mistakes than he has in other games this season.  The result is still a surprise, though, as I'm sure most expected the Giants to win and it certainly looked like they would.  Then Roethlisberger tossed a short pass to Mike Wallace...and the rest, as they say, is history.  Wallace outran the secondary to the pylon and the game-winning TD was secured.

Lastly, the final undefeated team in the NFL.  While not looking their best (as usual), Atlanta somehow figured out a way to win, even though Dallas didn't turn the ball over as is their wont.  All of the Atlanta receivers came to play and Matt Ryan was up to the challenge.  Through the halfway point, Atlanta is now 8-0 and in firm control of their division.  Chicago and San Francisco are the only teams that look like they can challenge for the #1 seed in the NFC.  The Falcons' schedule is not particularly tough, either; currently, the only winning team that they'll face is the Giants.  I don't think they'll finish 16-0, necessarily.  But these Falcons are clearly the class of the conference at this point.

Here are the Rankings for Week 9:

1.) Atlanta (8-0) [no change]
 Matt Ryan is playing like an MVP and the defense is solid.  Should stay undefeated in Week 10.

2.) Houston (7-1) [no change]
 Probably the toughest matchup for the Texans in Week 10.  Ballhawks all over Soldier Field.

3.) Chicago (7-1) [no change]
 Whereas for Chicago, it shouldn't be too difficult, as long as they can keep Arian Foster in check and force Schaub into mistakes.

4.) San Francisco (6-2) [+1]
 I too am a turkey.  And people call Philip Rivers "captain checkdown"?  Still, they moved up on a bye.  Not bad.

5.) Baltimore (6-2) [+1]
 Joe Flacco continues to underwhelm, but since the "elite" QB's are doing the same as he is, I guess his view is justified.

6.) Green Bay (6-3) [+1]
 Tempted to say Rodgers &co. are rounding into form.  But without Jennings and maybe Nelson, how far can they go?

7.) NY Giants (6-3) [-3]
 That loss has to rankle.  Eli Manning didn't look anything like how the media continually portrays him.

8.) New England (5-3) [no change]
 Brady &co. got the bye after London and now get Buffalo at home.  Wow.

9.) Denver (5-3) [+1]
 Is Peyton Manning rounding into form?  That'll be the weekly question.  Two INT's to Terrence Newman doesn't help.

10.) Indianapolis (5-3) [-]
 I think it's safe to say Andrew Luck has rounded into form.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 10):
San Diego @ Tampa Bay (Sunday, CBS)
Atlanta @ New Orleans (Sunday, FOX)
Houston @ Chicago (Sunday, NBC)
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