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
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 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 7, 2010 10:50 pm

2010 NFL Power Rankings, Week 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
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 23, 2010 5:33 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2010 6:40 pm

2010 NFL Power Rankings, Week 11

I guess it was something of an underwhelming week in the NFL.  There were some great games, to be sure, and I'm certain I saw most of them.  There were also quite a few games that were not praiseworthy, I take it, because of the results.  In any case, the bunching at the top and middle hasn't wholly ceased.  If this season has taught us anything, it's that parity rules.  Let's go!

1.) Atlanta (8-2) [no change]
 The Falcons went out on the road and won a game.  That can only bode well, even if their opponent was the seemingly lowly St. Louis Rams.  Good enough to keep their spot at the top.

2.) NY Jets (8-2) [no change]
 It looked like trouble for the Jets, down 27-23 with under a minute left in the game.  But then Mark Sanchez went out, manned up (again), and saved the day.  One long bomb and one flare (to Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, respectively), and the Jets were up 30-27.  Does that make Sanchez an MVP candidate?  No, not quite.  But he's a very solid QB who makes big plays when it counts most.  Game-winning plays.  Not everyone can say that.

3.) New England (8-2) [no change]
 It can be amazing what separates two great teams.  Or in this case, one great team and one other team that could be great, maybe, but aren't great right now.  Something like that.  Anyway, Tom Brady played just as expected.  Peyton Manning, not so much.  What might be more surprising is that New England's defense bailed them out.  But the Pats' offense is practically unstoppable; either that, or they exposed the Colts' defense.

4.) Philadelphia (7-3) [no change]
 Surprisingly, Michael Vick didn't play like Michael Vick.  Yet he outplayed Eli Manning, who couldn't figure out how to slide.  So now the Eagles are 7-3, hold the tiebreaker, and look like the favorites in the NFC, because NOBODY, not even the Giants vaunted "defense", can stop Michael Vick.  Oh, to be sure, he didn't play like he did last Monday against Washington, but nobody could have done that two weeks in a row.  With continued success, the Eagles could easily have 12 wins.

5.) Pittsburgh (7-3) [+1]
 Ben Roethlisberger took a shot to the mouth, but his team knocked out the Raiders.  Amazing how a team like the Steelers can come back from a loss and just pound the next team they face.  There should be no doubt that the Steelers are very good.  Are they Super Bowl-worthy?  I'm not sure, but after that beatdown, I have to lean toward "yes".  Wouldn't anybody?

6.) Green Bay (7-3) [+1]
 Once again, Aaron Rodgers came out on top over Brett Favre.  Oh, wait, that was only the second time that happened?  Well, whatever.  The Vikings are done, and the Packers are one step closer to winning the NFC North.  At the moment they're in 2nd due to that abhorrent loss to the Bears (and Chicago's unexplainable and improbable success to this point), but I've got a strong belief that the Packers will eventually win their division.  Even if it takes until the last day.

7.) Baltimore (7-3) [+1]
 Closer than it should have been, but Baltimore pulled it out against Carolina.  Most of that goes to Ed Reed, who is still an incredible safety, especially when it comes to picking off opposing QB's.  I'm not sure who wins the AFC North.  Baltimore has a great chance, though I'm sure they'll have to beat the Steelers again.

8.) New Orleans (7-3) [+1]
 What do you know, the Saints might actually be a good team.  OK, first off, this has nothing to do with Reggie Bush.  Obviously, since he hasn't played since Week 2.  It's all about Drew Brees, and he's getting it done despite throwing a boatload of INT's throughout.  The defense has stepped up against tomato cans and non-tomato cans alike.  Are they going to win the NFC South?  Probably not, but a wild card is certainly within reach.  Heck, the South might get three teams in, if everything rolls right.

9.) Tampa Bay (7-3) [-]
 Two teams go on the road and shut out their opponents.  One goes west, the other east.  I picked the one that went west, because the other team is the Chicago Bears, and they've angered me so much through the season that I'm not letting them in again.  Tampa Bay put up three TD's on the 49ers, and while they might not have been dominant...they went out west and got a shutout win.  Well, maybe they were dominant.  In any case, the Bucs are back in, and the Bears are still on the sidelines.

10.) Indianapolis (6-4) [-5]
 Funnily enough, Peyton Manning looked a bit like Brett Favre on that last play.  Throwing a pick is unusual for Manning, but throwing three has to be damn near unheard of (besides that disaster in San Diego a few years ago).  Then again, since they were playing New England, maybe I shouldn't be TOO surprised.  At any rate, the Colts are now 6-4 and on the short end of the tiebreaker (due to that terrible, awful, no good very bad loss to Jacksonville), and have a few division games coming up after they play the Chargers this weekend.  I still believe in the Colts...but I'm starting to wonder if perhaps this isn't their year.

Thanks for reading.  See you next week.
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 16, 2010 4:52 pm

2010 NFL Power Rankings, Week 10

Another tough week in the Rankings as some of the top teams lost.  Of course, others move up to take their place, but not much has changed, really.  It's certainly a fluid situation with everyone having nine games under their belt now.  I don't think my Rankings have any predictive value; note that last week's first-place team is now in sixth, for example.  So this is really a picture of what has gone on, rather than an attempt to determine what will occur in the future.  Let's go!

1.) Atlanta (7-2) [+3]
 Playing last Thursday, the Falcons earned the biggest win of Week 10.  Of course, there are arguments for other teams, and I won't ignore them.  However, I think Atlanta's win was most impressive, and they move up to the first spot thanks to that.  It's about time an NFC team had a turn, I think.  I still believe the best teams all reside in the AFC; Atlanta is now 3-1 against the other conference, and that too is being rewarded.  Is there any doubt now that they're the best team in the NFC?  At least, for this week?

2.) NY Jets (7-2) [+1]
 A modest jump for the Jets after a second OT win on the road.  Originally, I planned to put them at first, but late last night I had a feeling that putting Atlanta first would be the better idea.  The Jets played well, especially their QB Mark Sanchez and two of his receivers, Jerricho Cotchery (who manned up huge) and Santonio Holmes.  Holmes caught the TD pass that won the game in OT.  As long as Sanchez continues to improve, 12-14 wins are not out of the question.  They currently hold the tiebreaker in the AFC East.

3.) New England (7-2) [+3]
 Sunday Night was a good stage for New England, and going to Pittsburgh somehow proved to be the tonic that healed them.  It sounds all kinds of wrong, but the Patriots came out like gangbusters and blew up the Steelers.  It was impressive all the way around.  Tom Brady was masterful again, throwing three TD's to a rookie tight end and running for another one.  Here's hoping they can sustain that kind of play.

4.) Philadelphia (6-3) [+6]
 The biggest jump of the week belongs to the Eagles, who vaulted from 10th to 4th after a total beatdown of Washington last night.  It was simultaneously great and ugly.  Michael Vick was responsible for six TD's and generally looked like an elite QB all night.  The Eagles also had three RB's making contributions as well.  They look tough to stop, and they face what many consider a great defense next week as they play the Giants.

5.) Indianapolis (6-3) [+3]
 Another win, another jump for the Colts.  Playing the Bengals, it was no surprise they won.  Next week they get a much tougher opponent as they play the Patriots.  That should be a good one, but tough to pick.

6.) Pittsburgh (6-3) [-5]
 A disappointing performance from the Steelers, who couldn't seem to get anything going until late in the game, and then even that went awry when Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception that was run back for a touchdown.  Oops!  The Steelers aren't out of it by any means, but that elite sheen they had been developing is all but gone now.  Time for a bounce back.

7.) Green Bay (6-3) [-]
 The Packers were on a bye, which bodes well for their injury situation.  It was also nice to not have to hear about how Aaron Rodgers is an elite QB.  He isn't.  Of course, that doesn't mean GB won't win the NFC North.

8.) Baltimore (6-3) [-6]
 I can't say I was disappointed in how the Ravens played.  They just got beat at a critical juncture.  Some may say that their defense was exposed on the last drive, or something like that.  I disagree.  They got beat by a team that played better.  No more, no less.

9.) New Orleans (6-3) [-]
 Another team that was on a bye.  The Saints had their week off to get ready for the final push to win the NFC South.  They're still looking up at Atlanta.

10.) NY Giants (6-3) [-5]
 The Giants were probably the most disappointing team in Week 10.  That doesn't bother me much, since I hate them.  I wasn't as high on them as other people were; I noted that Atlanta looked like the better team, and was proven right as Atlanta defeated a really good team and the Giants lost to a really bad team.  Them's the breaks.

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