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Tag:Patriots
Posted on: January 4, 2013 8:57 pm
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 17

Here are the Rankings for Week 17:

1.) Denver (13-3) [no change]
 I can't say I expected the Broncos to finish at the top of the Rankings in Peyton Manning's first season with the team.  But I figured they'd be a decent team.  So much for that, as they finished on an 11-game winning streak.  It helped that their division was moribund; the other three teams had 13 wins between them.  They have a first-round bye and home-field through the Championship game.  So I would expect their prospects of making the Super Bowl to be pretty good.

2.) New England (12-4) [+2]
 On the other hand, I'm sure most people expected the Patriots to be at or near the top.  Much like their seeding, they're 2nd here as well.  With a first-round bye in hand, I think they'll get healthy (or healthier) and make a run at another Super Bowl appearance.  The AFC in general seems to be underrated, which can only be a good thing.  I expect another Championship game for the Pats, if not another Super Bowl.

3.) Seattle (11-5) [+2]
 A surprising finish for a team I thought wouldn't make the playoffs.  Especially a team out of the NFC West, a division that looked like San Francisco and a bunch of slop.  Luckily for Seattle, Russell Wilson has proven to be the real deal, especially at home.  But therein lies a minor problem; Seattle won't be hosting a playoff game unless they're playing Minnesota in the NFC Championship.  Ouch.  If they make it out of Washington alive, I'd say they have a good chance of making it to the Super Bowl.  I'm not entirely sold on Atlanta, and the Seahawks have already embarrassed San Francisco.

4.) Indianapolis (11-5) [+2]
 Speaking of surprises...Andrew Luck was the difference between 2 wins and 11 wins.  Of course, he had help from guys like Vick Ballard, T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery, and Reggie Wayne.  But it's a QB league and Luck rightly gets most of the credit for turning the Colts back into a winner after a lost season.  They're one of the few teams I have actual confidence in.  Can they beat Denver and New England to get to the Super Bowl, though?  Probably not.  But it's been a heck of a season for the Colts nonetheless.

5.) Green Bay (11-5) [-3]
 I'm not sure what to think about the Packers.  Obviously, they weren't the powerhouse that they were in 2011, and they're going into the playoffs on a downturn after losing to the Vikings.  Luckily, they have a chance to right the ship against the team that just beat them.  With something slightly more important on the line, I think Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the team will pull through.  Most likely.  As to their Super Bowl chances...well, just about any of the six could make it to the Super Bowl, really.  As much as people have talked about NFC supremacy, the top two teams are vulnerable, and none of the six are a lock.

6.) Atlanta (13-3) [-3]
 Sure, they had nothing to play for, but they could have had the best record in the NFL had they won.  But even if they had beaten Tampa Bay as badly as they spanked the Giants, well, I doubt anyone would put much into it.  The Falcons have to prove it on the field in the next couple weeks.  They get a first-round bye and have home-field throughout, which puts them in excellent position.  Matt Ryan is nearly unbeatable in the Georgia Dome during the regular season; at some point that has to translate into playoff success.  Of course, thanks to leading the league for most of the season, expectations are probably higher than one win.  I wouldn't say Super Bowl or bust; they should at least make the Championship game, though.

7.) San Francisco (11-4-1) [+1]
 It seemed that making the switch from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick was motivated by a need for more downfield passing.  Yet in the games I saw with Kaepernick at QB, I didn't see an increase in downfield passing.  If there was, I guess it was in the 5-10% range.  It wasn't like the 49ers suddenly became Air Coryell, or anything.  They were mostly the same plodding, uninspired, run-oriented offense that they had been with Alex Smith at QB.  Boring.  Hopefully they loosen up and throw the ball down the field more.  Otherwise, their opposition might just do what Seattle did and put the handcuffs on.  Assuming Kaepernick is allowed to throw the ball, they've got a good chance of making the Super Bowl.  That, and if they can avoid playing Seattle again.

8.) Minnesota (10-6) [+1]
 Not sold on the Vikings, because they refuse to acknowledge the reality of the situation.  Of course, the playoffs are a different animal, and maybe that will benefit them.  But they're not built to take advantage of the rules.  The rules state that downfield passing will be rewarded far more than running the ball.  Christian Ponder isn't quite ready to do that.  Even the great Adrian Peterson can't carry a team to a win if the opposition is bombing away, which one would expect Rodgers to do.  I can't say "no chance", but it's close.

9.) Washington (10-6) [+1]
 RGIII's first playoff run will most likely get derailed by Washington's suspect secondary.  Other than that, the sky's the limit.  It probably won't be the case for much longer after this season, as teams will have a year's worth of tape to dissect.  Once that happens, Griffin and the Shanahans will have to adjust the offense to present a different look besides the pistol.  I think if they get out of the first round, a long run could happen.  But they could just as easily get shut down by any of the strong defenses they'll face.

10.) Houston (12-4) [-3]
 The Texans had the top seed wrapped up; all they had to do was beat Minnesota and Indianapolis (again).  They could do neither and end up third in the AFC.  Thus, they are at the bottom, thanks to a crippling combination of bias and suck.  I'll be eternally biased against the Texans, and they sucked in three of the last four weeks of this season.  Hence they end up third in the AFC, a likely target for New England, where they will surely get destroyed (again), though they should have no problem with Cincinnati.  Of course, me saying they'll have no problem with Cincy almost guarantees that the Bengals' D-line will crush Matt Schaub, doesn't it?  For his sake, I hope he doesn't get crushed.  But the Texans aren't getting past the divisional round.

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

The playoffs start this weekend, so you should watch all the games.

Also, congratuations to the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals for making the playoffs.  12 teams make it and I only highlight the top 10 teams here, so there you go.
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 26, 2012 8:47 pm
 

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 11, 2012 11:34 pm
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 14

Greetings, readers.  Week 14 was an interesting one; a number of teams that looked to be locked in place or still on the upswing managed to fail miserably.  Those results changed the landscape somewhat, even though the playoff seeding wasn't drastically affected.  So let's get to the stories and see how everything shakes out.

As usual, we start out with last Thursday's game.  Denver went into Oakland and had a relatively easy time of it, though some players (notably CB Champ Bailey) thought that it should have gone better.  When a team has multiple red zone opportunities and comes away with field goals more than once (which isn't too bad, really, if you have more than four chances in the red zone), it's easy to understand some discontent.  In fact, I'm sure the fans weren't too happy about a offensive team like Denver not coming away with TD's on every chance.  Currently, the Broncos are 10-3 and have already clinched the AFC West.  They're the 3-seed for now due to tiebreakers and Baltimore's inexplicable failure.

Sunday's most exciting game (and biggest blowout) was Seattle vs. Arizona.  They capitalized on Arizona's mistakes and had a strong rushing attack headed up by Marshawn Lynch.  While San Francisco appears to have a hold on the NFC West (for the moment, at least), it's not hard to see Seattle getting a Wild Card, especially since they hold head-to-head wins against a number of other NFC teams, including Chicago and Dallas.

Monday night's game was an interesting one coming in.  Houston went up to New England and there was a lot of hubbub in the big city as the Texans continue their dream regular season.  Unfortunately for them, both of their primetime games against good teams (Green Bay and New England) turned out quite nightmarish.  New England put up 14 in the 1st quarter and went into halftime up 21-0.  The beatdown was on, and it only got worse for the Texans in the second half, despite putting up two TD's.  They were never in the game and even though New England wasn't at their best for a long stretch, it never seemed like there was a chance the Pats would give it up.  Honestly, the result surprised me given that other teams in great positions gave it up.  New England is the 2-seed at this point thanks to a head-to-head win over Denver.  Now, it'd take some interesting (read: crazy) circumstances for them to move up, but if they keep winning, a first-round bye is quite likely.  It would be beneficial for that to happen, of course.  They're the kind of team that can handle the week off and then come off it ready to smack their opponent in the mouth.

Here are the Rankings for Week 14:

1.) New England (10-3) [+2]
 A new team at the top, and one that won their way there.  I probably would have elevated the Pats earlier in the season, but the Texans and Falcons just kept winning.  It's not that the Pats are so much better than those two, but there's no debate necessary when it comes to their QB's...and the NFL is a QB-driven league.

2.) Denver (10-3) [+2]
 While it wasn't their best game of the season, the Broncos had a solid win in Oakland.  They're heading to Baltimore next.  Given the makeup of the teams, it should be a defensive battle.  Usually, that would be the case.  But I wouldn't be surprised if things turned the other way and it was 38-31 or something like that.

3.) Indianapolis (9-4) [+2]
 Another close one for the Colts with head coach Chuck Pagano in attendance.  Andrew Luck just gets better and better; apparently he's learned something from the beatdown at New England a few weeks ago.  Either that, or he just has a knack for winning the close ones in 2012.  Still, given his pedigree and the Colts' record, it's awfully hard to dismiss this as a fluke.  Also, they have their destiny in their hands, as they get two meetings with the Texans in the next three weeks.

4.) Green Bay (9-4) [+2]
 It started ugly and got uglier in Jersey, but aside from that the Packers have looked about as good as one could hope for.  The running game is not up to where the coaches would like, of course, but I'm not too bothered about that.  It's a QB-driven league, after all, and that means that throwing the ball downfield is what ought to be happening.  Aaron Rodgers is more than capable of that.  Of course, on Sunday against Detroit they also needed some luck, and when Matthew Stafford inexplicably fumbled the ball in the snow, the Packers were ready and took advantage.

5.) Houston (11-2) [-4]
 Sometimes I wrestle with where to put teams that just lost.  Is it really "fair" or "objective" to drop the Texans four spots where they're now behind Indianapolis (who they haven't yet played) or the Packers (who they lost to)?  Well, at least they didn't lose to Jacksonville or Detroit, in which case they would have dropped to the bottom.  So in this case, I guess it is somewhat fair, or at least not completely unfair.

6.) Atlanta (11-2) [-4]
 On the other hand, you have the Falcons, who lost to Carolina.  Really, Atlanta?  Really?

7.) San Francisco (9-3-1) [+1]
 It's interesting that while Michael Crabtree is finally starting to flourish, Vernon Davis has virtually disappeared.  They should really be 11-2, and only have themselves (and, really, Jeff Fisher) to blame.

8.) Seattle (8-5) [-]
 After that decimation, there's no way that the Seahawks wouldn't be in the Rankings this week.  And it's not like we lost out on anybody worthwhile.

9.) NY Giants (8-5) [-]
 This marks the fourth time (!!!!) the Giants have come back into the Rankings.  Can they last one more week?  Or will Eli Manning do something ridiculous and stupid that gets them bounced again?

10.) Baltimore (9-4) [-3]
 Speaking of getting bounced...yeesh.  Now, don't get me wrong, 9-4 is a good record.  Especially for this season, when mediocrity and parity have really taken hold.  Can we put to rest this talk about Joe Flacco being "elite" or worth "top-5" money?  Because until he actually proves that he's either one of those things, he looks extremely ridiculous.  Add to that the fact that they lost to Pittsburgh (without Roethlisberger) and Washington (seriously?), and Flacco just looks worse.  I hope the Ravens don't cave to Flacco's demands just because he's supposedly their guy; they could do better and probably cheaper too.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 15):
Green Bay @ Chicago (Sunday, FOX)
Denver @ Baltimore (Sunday, CBS)
San Francisco @ New England (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: September 11, 2012 6:26 pm
 

2012 NFL Power Rankings, Week 1

Hello and welcome to the 2012 version of the Rankings!  Week 1 has come and gone, so it's time for me to put down on "paper" the top ten teams.  As usual, this first week of the Rankings is more or less a total crapshoot.  There isn't much to go on, and I expect that there will be a lot of shakeups in the next couple of weeks.

I also took a look at the last entry I posted in 2011.  I had a couple of statements in there that are now completely ridiculous.  For the entertainment of the readers who might not remember, here they are:

As usual, there were a few surprise teams going into the playoffs.  This year it's the Broncos49ersBengalsLions, and Texans.  So we know who not to like next season already.

Whoops!  I messed that up, didn't I?  These teams started 4-1.

After all, it doesn't appear that they'll be around after this week.

This comment referred to the Giants and Broncos, who both made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.  As we know, the Broncos beat the Steelers in OT and the Giants won the Super Bowl.  Whoops!

Hopefully this time around I'll keep my mouth shut and not get too big for my britches.  But then again, statements like these are always good for a laugh, even if its at my expense.

Here are the Rankings for Week 1:

1.) New England (1-0)
 Hey, look, my bias is already showing.  Honestly, after one week the first spot is almost (?) entirely meaningless.  Brady &co. went on the road to Tennessee and beat a team that could be pretty good, if Jake Locker shows well.  As for the Pats, Gronkowski and Hernandez did what they usually do, and despite O-line issues (so I've heard, I didn't really see them besides one sack), Brady played well too.

2.) Denver (1-0)
 I think just about every football fan tuned in Sunday night to see what would happen with Peyton Manning.  I admit, my bias is showing again, because Peyton is one of my favorite QB's to watch.  This was not always the case...back around 2002 or 2003 I found his line of scrimmage schtick annoying.  But I flip-flopped on it and on him as a player.  I'm glad to see that he's back in the league, even though its with a team that I've historically not liked much.  I also picked the Steelers in that game.  Whoops!  Don't trust Pittsburgh at altitude, dear readers.

3.) San Francisco (1-0)
 The 49ers went into Lambeau and beat the Packers.  Wow.  I don't know whether to be surprised or impressed.  I suppose the correct reaction is a little of both.  I certainly didn't expect Rodgers to play as poorly as he did.  He was just missing ...something.  Anyway, Alex Smith played well and Randy Moss showed that he's got something left.  I admit, though, that it helps when nobody covers the guy and he gets a free run into the end zone.  How about Vernon Davis dunking on the crossbar?  I won't be too hard on the guy; it was a funny moment though.

4.) Baltimore (1-0)
 Coming out on Monday night facing a division rival, I expected Baltimore to play well.  Did I expect 44 points out of them?  No way.  Joe Flacco played quite well, throwing a few passes that made my jaw hit the floor.  And let's not forget Ray Rice, the guy who makes that offense run, literally and figuratively.  Both of them played lights out.  Ed Reed also took an INT to the house, which impressed me as well.  A lot has been written about Reed's ability to sniff out those INT's.  It is an ability that hasn't lost any of the excitement or impressiveness that comes with that play.

5.) Atlanta (1-0)
 Funnily enough, the Falcons got some press about their "new" no-huddle offense, much like the Ravens.  Is it any surprise that both of them played well?  I'm not sure.  We'll see how it goes through the season.  But as far as Sunday went, Matt Ryan showed quite well, throwing TD's to Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.  They made KC look pretty bad.

6.) Dallas (1-0)
 Here comes my bias again, with the Cowboys breaking into the Rankings.  It seems like it's been quite a while since they've been in here; I think I usually kept them out because they just weren't that impressive compared to the top third of the league.  Also, they had bad losses against teams they should have beaten.  This time, however, they went out on Wednesday and took out the defending champions.  So that means they're in for this week.  I like it.  Of course, as a "writer", I have to at least attempt to maintain objectivity (and believe me, it can be difficult), so I haven't put them too high for the moment.  But if they go on a run, do not be surprised if you see them moving up.

7.) Chicago (1-0)
 To be honest, I think the Bears have been heavily overrated going into the season.  Whoa, shots fired!  Maybe so, but let's really think about it for a second.  Are the Bears really as good as people have said?  They added Brandon Marshall, but they still have Jay Cutler at QB, who hasn't won a thing.  He's also coming off an injury, again.  He did play well against the Colts and none of the other teams in the division looked great.  So maybe there's a bit of an opening early in the season.  I will continue to maintain, until proven otherwise, that the Bears won't make the playoffs.  We'll see, I guess.

8.) Houston (1-0)
 As usual, the Texans played well in the first half before underwhelming in the second half.  At some point, this trend will be their undoing.  But apparently, they haven't yet played a team that understands how they operate.  They're not likely to face one in their division either, since they're all 0-1.

9.) Washington (1-0)
 Welcome to the big time, RGIII.  What do you have in store for round 2?  I hope it's something good, because people can get real ornery when they're disappointed.  I was surprised to see the Redskins throw 40 points on the board and beat the Saints.  I guess I was wrong about New Orleans' ability to keep on keepin' on.  Not only that, Griffin III put up one of the most impressive QB performances of the week, with a 138 QB rating and no INT's.  Considering how Stafford and Vick threw INT's practically all day, it was nice to see Griffin III take care of the ball and look like a professional QB.

10.) NY Jets (1-0)
 The biggest surprise of Week 1, the Jets put aside preseason nonsense and put up 48 on Buffalo.  I have to admit, Mark Sanchez played great.  So what does he have in store for Week 2?  I have no earthly idea.  That's the trouble with this team, they're hard to predict.  They could put up another 40 point game, or they could be held to 10 and lose by 21.

Well, that's it for this week's Rankings.  One last note I wanted to pass on was the awesomeness of NFL Red Zone.  For those who haven't heard, the NFL Red Zone is a channel on cable (130 on Comcast/XFinity/whatever they call themselves) that shows every TD from every game on Sunday.  The only games excepted from this coverage are the Sunday night game on NBC and the Monday night game on ESPN.  The Red Zone is an amazing channel and it has changed the way I watch football.  It's that great, literally.  I'm sure Sunday Ticket is nice; being able to watch every game is mandatory for fans, I would imagine.  But having the Red Zone is not only better, but easier, because they do all the work.  I also have to give credit to Scott Hanson, the guy who anchors the coverage from the studio.  He sits there for 7 hours in a row with no commercial breaks and gives out pertinent information between the mass of TD's and highlights.  I was very impressed with his work, despite a hilarious error that I unfortunately don't remember.

So, readers, if you have Comcast/XFinity or another cable provider that has the NFL Network and NFL Red Zone, I heartily recommend that you watch NFL Red Zone.

I also would like to point out that I'm not being paid to plug that channel, nor am I a representative of the NFL.  I am merely a fan of the Red Zone channel and thought that I would share that with all the readers.

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

Three Games to Watch (Week 2):
Chicago @ Green Bay (Thursday, NFL Network)
Baltimore @ Philadelphia (Sunday, CBS)
Denver @ Atlanta (Monday, ESPN)
Category: NFL
Posted on: January 15, 2012 10:33 pm
 

2012 Divisional Round - Agony & Ecstasy

It may be a bit too highbrow to call this entry "Agony & Ecstasy", but I'll be damned if I can't try to justify it.

Through the last two days, there were four NFL Divisional games.  Two went the way I hoped they would.  Two went badly.  Now there are four teams left in the playoffs: Baltimore, New England, the NY Giants, and San Francisco.  The NFC is the disappointment, as far as I'm concerned.  I love offensive football with downfield passing galore.  We'll probably see some of that in the NFC Championship game, but not as much as we would have had it been Green Bay vs. New Orleans.

Saturday's games were New Orleans @ San Francisco & Denver @ New England.

The Saints had trouble with turnovers and their offense didn't click like it did in the Superdome.  Apparently, the 49ers deserve some credit for stopping what looked like an unstoppable machine, because the weather sure didn't do it.  Alex Smith looked off for most of the game, but hit the throws he needed to late.  Considering how badly he was missing receivers in the first three quarters, it surprised the hell out of me to see him hitting Vernon Davis through tight windows in coverage.  It was a well-deserved win, though I can't help but think that seeing the Saints move on would have been better.  That said, I think the 49ers have a solid chance of moving on to the Super Bowl.

Tom Brady.  Wow.  After an impressive first half, Brady and the Pats offense took their collective foot off the gas and had a little bit of mercy on the Broncos.  To say he outperformed his opposition is an understatement.  Not only that, he got a win when the more-heralded duo of Brees and Rodgers didn't.  I suppose a lot of that has to do with the competition...but can you really say that SF or NYG would have stopped Brady the way he was going?  Or kept Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez from busting their way through the secondary to get open catches all night?  I'm not sure.  That's the good thing about the playoffs, I guess.  We'll see how he does against Baltimore next week, and maybe, just maybe, against the NFC Champion in the Super Bowl.

Sunday's games were Houston @ Baltimore & NY Giants @ Green Bay.

After one home game and one home win, the Texans went on the road to Baltimore and the result was the same as the last time they were there.  The way it got there was a bit different, though.  Joe Flacco and Ray Rice weren't at their best, but the Ravens defense was suitably opportunistic, getting three INT's off of T.J. Yates.  The special teams forced a turnover too, when Jacoby Jones had an inexplicably bad attempt to field a punt.  One thing to look out for: Baltimore's defense was allowing the Texans to move on them somewhat late in the game.  If that happens next week and Flacco is inconsistent and off-target, it could be trouble.

Today's late game was the most disappointing of the entire weekend.  The defending Super Bowl champions are done, despite their gaudy 15-1 record and bevy of offensive weapons.  As it turned out, the defense was what let them down.  I had focused on the Packers defense while writing my weekly NFL Power Rankings through most of the season, openly wondering when and if the lack of defensive presence that they had had last season would eventually affect them.  As it turns out, it didn't really mean much until their first playoff game.  Aaron Rodgers played fairly well given the circumstances, but was far more effective running than passing, mostly due to his receivers dropping balls left and right.  There were a couple of passes that sailed on him, as well as a couple plays where the Giants defense got to him before he could make something happen.  All in all, it has to be considered a disappointing performance as most expected the Packers to make the NFC Championship game with some ease.

That brings me to the point that I've been considering for the last couple hours.  After last year's Super Bowl win, most observers elevated Aaron Rodgers to the rank of elite QB.  I was a bit reticent then, as I wanted to see more.  He came out in 2011 and was absolutely smoking hot throughout.  I think he justified his status as elite QB, but there were people who thought he was better than merely elite.  They thought he was on the level of the best in the NFL, Tom Brady & Peyton Manning.  You could also include Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees there, considering they also have rings and a history of playing at a consistently high level.

My point I wanted to broach is this: I think people were a bit too quick to anoint Rodgers as "the next big thing" among QB's, and far too quick to elevate him over P. Manning and Brady.  Now, I understand the difference in competition that Rodgers was facing compared to Brady.  The Broncos looked ill-equipped to handle what the Pats were throwing at them from the get-go.  The Giants, on the other hand, looked like they could handle the Packers offense as long as a couple things went their way.  In this case, dropped balls and turnovers did the Packers in and allowed the Giants enough time to get their offense going.

Now, if Rodgers was really better than Brady and Peyton Manning, he would have performed better today, right?  Somehow, he would have willed those receivers to catch the damn ball, or whatever, right?

But perhaps I'm the one overreacting.

I guess where I stand on it is this: Rodgers is clearly an elite QB.  He had a fantastic season.  He didn't play his best today; not only did his receivers let him down, but so did his defense.  Looking at it objectively, you can explain away the fact that Rodgers could have been slightly overrated.  But I can't help but think that perhaps some observers were just a little too quick to jump on his bandwagon.

Whatever the case may be, I'm interested to see how Rodgers performs in next year's playoffs, assuming they get there.

Next week's games should be interesting as well.  Baltimore goes to New England, while the Giants head west to take on San Francisco.  My heart's telling me that New England and San Francisco will meet up in the Super Bowl.  My mind really doesn't want to take sides at the moment. 
Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
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