Tag:Steelers
Posted on: December 15, 2011 10:45 pm
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2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 14

Another really quick turnaround as the Thursday night game is just about to start.  My bad!  All in all, a pretty nondescript week as the only unexpected results occurred in Cincy and Dallas.

Here are the standings for Week 14:

Prisco: 12-4
Red: 11-5
King: 11-5

I missed out on Tampa, Miami, and San Francisco, in addition to the aforementioned Cincy and Dallas.  The NFC East is really annoying; had the Cowboys won, they would control their own destiny.  Now they probably have to win out to get the division title, since it's looking unlikely a Wild Card will come from the East.

Here are the Rankings for Week 14:

1.) Green Bay (14-0) [no change]
 This train keeps rolling, even with the (temporary?) loss of Greg Jennings.  With as many receivers as they have, it shouldn't adversely affect the Packers, but stranger things have happened.  The schedule is quite favorable too.

2.) New Orleans (10-3) [+1]
 It's looking more and more like that Week 1 matchup highlighted the two best teams in the NFC.  I thought it was San Francisco, but losses to Baltimore and Arizona (seriously?) seem to have exposed them.  The Saints, for their part, had a bit of trouble with Tennessee, but finally pulled away late.

3.) Houston (10-3) [+1]
 Thanks to Tennessee losing, the Texans are AFC South champs for the first time ever.  That means they'll get a playoff berth for the first time ever as well.  I didn't see that coming.  Nor did I think T.J. Yates would be as successful as he has.  Other teams have replaced their starter for various reasons, and none of them have performed like Yates.

4.) Pittsburgh (10-3) [+1]
 Ben Roethlisberger looked good after what seemed to be a really ugly injury.  I'm not sure they'll catch and pass Baltimore to win the AFC North, but a Wild Card seems to be sewn up.

5.) New England (10-3) [+1]
 As expected, the cupcake schedule is benefitting the Pats, though their defense isn't making it any easier.  They get the feisty Broncos this week, and I'm expecting good things all around when Brady shuts everyone up.

6.) Baltimore (10-3) [+1]
 After a cupcake game against the winless Colts, the Ravens take on San Diego in Week 15.  Funny how much winning games has covered up Joe Flacco's previously inconsistent play.

7.) San Francisco (10-3) [-5]
 I certainly didn't expect the 49ers to drop one to a not particularly good Arizona team.  And now that they have, I have to wonder whether or not they should still be considered an elite team.  I'm leaning toward no right now.  They've come back to the pack with the rest of the good teams, but they're no longer separate from them like Green Bay is.

8.) NY Jets (8-5) [+1]
 The last three teams in this week are part of the amorphous group just behind the good teams.  All three look a bit more questionable to some degree.  The Jets get Philadelphia this week, and I'm not sure I like that matchup.

9.) Atlanta (8-5) [-]
 It's looking good for the Falcons in the NFC.  Hard to see any of the teams behind them catching up for a Wild Card.

10.) Detroit (8-5) [-]
 Similarly, the Lions seem to be just good enough to gain a Wild Card while other teams are dropping off.

Tennessee and Oakland dropped out this week, but I have a feeling that one or both of them might come back shortly.  You never know with how some of these teams in the bottom part of the Rankings play.  Not a whole lot of consistency to be found outside of the top 5-7.

Thanks for reading.  See you next week! 
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 8, 2011 1:05 pm
 

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 13

Really quick turnaround this week since it's Thursday as I write this.  The Steelers take on the Browns tonight in Pittsburgh; it should be a good game if Roethlisberger &co. show up like they're supposed to.  I remember a Thursday game a couple of years ago where that didn't happen, and they got beat.

Finally, we've got some separation.  Of course, the top two (GB & SF) have been where they are for the last few weeks, but now we're seeing other teams beginning their ascension.  It'll definitely be an interesting stretch run as we watch teams jockeying for playoff position.  Some of them have a distinct advantage; that's what winning consistently does.

Here are the standings for Week 13:

Prisco: 8-8
Red: 12-4
King: 11-5

Kind of a weird week with the picks; I did well overall, but I could have done better had Atlanta and Dallas not choked.  Unlike my professional opponents, I didn't see Oakland losing in such a way to Miami.  I also missed out on Chicago; I didn't think Tyler Palko was that much better than Caleb Hanie.  Oh well, now I know.  For whatever good that'll do me.

Here are the Rankings for Week 13:

1.) Green Bay (12-0) [no change]
 I don't know about anyone else, but I'm scratching my head wondering where the 1st loss is going to be for this team.  Now, even if we assume that Weeks 16 & 17 are used mainly for recuperation, it's hard to say with certainty that they couldn't win.  Matt Flynn appears to be a capable backup.  Also, the Packers have so many weapons on offense that they could rest a couple guys and still put a top-flight unit out there.  I'll be surprised if they don't end up undefeated, at this point.  Some thought that the Giants had a chance; I scoffed at that and didn't believe it for a second.  Even when they tied the game up, I figured Rodgers would have something to say about it, and surprise, surprise, he did.  Credit Mason Crosby for making the kick, too.

2.)  San Francisco (10-2) [no change]
 Not much drama left for the 49ers besides playoff positioning.  They're a game ahead of the Saints and it's not looking like they're gonna get beat.  Since Patrick Willis strained his hamstring, it might be prudent to rest him until the playoffs start, just to avoid complications like Miles Austin and Andre Johnson have faced.  I'm not a doctor, so I don't know the reasoning behind it, but those hamstring injuries sure do seem tough to get over.  On the other hand, I have a feeling Jim Harbaugh will just plug the next guy in and have the defense running the same.  I know it's difficult to replace a guy of Willis' caliber, but at the same time, it doesn't seem like they're built around one guy on either side of the ball.  That ought to serve them well going forward.

3.) New Orleans (9-3) [no change]
 Thanks to some questionable judgment on the opposing team and Drew Brees playing like he usually does, the Saints are looking like one of the top teams.  We know they fared well against Green Bay (losing at the very end), but how would they do against the 49ers?  That question may determine how successful the Saints are in 2011.  With Atlanta slipping back to the pack in surprising fashion, New Orleans has a firm grip on the division lead, but it seems unlikely that they'll get a first-round bye, unless San Francisco falls off a bit.

4.) Houston (9-3) [no change]
 I'm probably not the only person surprised by T.J. Yates' performance on Sunday.  Still, the difference was one dropped pass by Julio Jones.  And maybe a couple of questionable penalties called against Atlanta.  The Texans are having the best season in franchise history, already tying their best record with four games to go.  And what do you know, besides Week 14's game against Cincinnati, it actually looks pretty favorable for them.

5.) Pittsburgh (9-3) [no change]
 I have yet to decide whether or not playing on Thursday is a boon.  I guess we'll see how this one goes.  All I know is that the "good" team in this one (Pittsburgh, natch) is at home.  They were at home in Week 13 as well, so no weird traveling nonsense to deal with.  After dropping 35 on the Bengals, they should be able to drop at least that much on Cleveland, but we know how this team can be.  I wouldn't be surprised to see them lose, and even less surprised if they won a squeaker.

6.) New England (9-3) [no change]
 If not for 12-0 (and counting), Tom Brady might be looking at consecutive MVP's.  The way the schedule finishes for the Pats, it's looking like a first-round bye is all but guaranteed.  I don't know if that's the preference, but whatever.

7.) Baltimore (9-3) [no change]
 Though I have them as the last of the good teams this week, the Ravens are actually in a favorable position.  Now all they have to do is avoid the embarrassing losses that plagued them earlier in the season.  If they can do that, they might actually get a home playoff game.

8.) Tennessee (7-5) [-]
 After the good teams, it was hard to figure who else to put in.  Tennessee makes it in by virtue of winning in Week 13 and the renaissance of RB Chris Johnson, who finally figured out that 2011 started.  I'm not sure what he was waiting for, exactly.  Maybe he was counting his money this whole time?  I kid, I kid.

9.) NY Jets (7-5) [-]
 Yup, they're back.  To be honest, it's hard to see a team this talented not doing something this season, considering how the AFC is looking.  As usual, their success will rest on the arm of Mark Sanchez.  Not exactly the basket I'd stash my eggs in, but at least they have a solid defense and a wily coach.

10.) Oakland (7-5) [-2]
 Just barely avoiding the chopping block, the Raiders were embarrassed by Miami and are now tied with Denver for the lead in the AFC West.  The only problem is that Denver holds the tiebreaker, which means that the Raiders are out in the cold at the moment.  My guess is that they'll finish ahead of Denver, but it's hard to keep the faith after seeing a loss like the one they just suffered.  Plus, they get the 12-0 Packers this week.  In Green Bay.  Ouch.

The two choke artists of Week 13, Dallas & Atlanta, dropped out of the Rankings.  No surprise there.

I think I've got the Steelers tonight.  I actually feel confident...but then again, some weird stuff has happened in these Thursday night games.

That's all for this week.  See you next week! 
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 29, 2011 8:38 pm
 

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 12

Thanksgiving was more interesting for the food than for the games, it would seem.  Green Bay toyed with the Lions for a half, before Detroit had an inevitable collapse.  Dallas pulled one out in the final seconds that really wasn't as dramatic as it seemed.  And the night game was fairly disappointing for the most part, as the defenses dominated and Alex Smith was sacked nine times, rendering him unable to lead any kind of scoring drive in the 4th quarter.  The rest of Week 12 wasn't much better.

Here are the standings for Week 12:

Prisco: 12-4
Red: 12-4
King: 11-5

I gambled on St. Louis and Tampa Bay; both failed me.  But I did get Denver right.  I also missed on Seattle and San Francisco.

Here are the Rankings for Week 12:

1.) Green Bay (11-0) [no change]
 For weeks now, many observers had pointed to the Thanksgiving day game against Detroit as one of the season-defining games that the Packers would play.  As far as I'm concerned, we missed on that one.  It didn't "define" anything.  It did show that the Packers have no discernible competition after 12 weeks, which is no different than what the previous 11 showed.  San Francisco's loss to Baltimore, especially the way it occurred, doesn't bode well for anybody's chances of beating the Packers either.  At this point, any loss the Packers sustain will look like a tremendous upset by a team that stood no chance of winning.  And whiny James Jones contributed nicely.  More of that and less whining, please and thank you.

2.) San Francisco (9-2) [no change]
 To be honest, I'm not sure how to justify leaving the Niners where they are, despite the beatdown that Baltimore put on them.  I guess what I'm going with is that they're still better than the other teams below them.  Well, Baltimore is decidedly better, but like hell am I vaulting them over the other teams that won when they can't beat Seattle or Jacksonville.

3.) New Orleans (8-3) [no change]
 As expected, the Saints went out and scored a bunch of TD's on the Giants.  It's looking like they're a solid choice to win the NFC South and host a Wild Card game.  I'm not sure they can beat out SF for a first-round bye, and we all know the Packers are going to be the #1 seed, barring some really stupid crap.  Drew Brees played well, as did Darren Sproles.  It might even be said that the addition of Sproles has made Brees better.  Hard to believe, but possible!

4.) Houston (8-3) [no change]
 I'm not sure how much longer this lasts, since they're on their 3rd string QB and have brought in Kellen Clemens and Jake Delhomme in recent days.  The consensus appears to be that the Texans are a mortal lock to make the playoffs, but once they get there, they're going out like New Orleans did last season.  I don't think that changes unless Matt Schaub comes back.  And since the likelihood of that is either small or non-existent....

5.) Pittsburgh (8-3) [no change]
 An extremely disappointing win for the Steelers on Sunday against KC.  Aside from a TD throw by Ben Roethlisberger, the offense looked anemic all night and couldn't get much accomplished.  The defense saved the day with a late INT, but this win should be viewed as more of an escape than anything else.  It's hard to see how Pittsburgh comes off a bye and performs like that.  It makes no sense, honestly.  I guess they're looking forward to...the Bengals, who they already beat in Cincinnati?  *facepalm*

6.) New England (8-3) [no change]
 Thankfully, Tom Brady played like everyone knows he can, and the defense did enough to not screw up a win.  If Philly had won that game, I would still be screaming profanity at them.  The Patriots should easily run the table and sew up the #1 seed in the AFC.  I don't see how any other team can outrun them at this point, as the schedule and their own internal consistency lead me to believe that the Pats are best-suited to win out.

7.) Baltimore (8-3) [+2]
 I guess I'm not surprised, necessarily.  Baltimore gets up for good teams (e.g. Pittsburgh, SF, Houston) and lays down against crappy teams (Seattle, Jacksonville, Tennessee).  I'm not sure how this works out for them down the stretch.  We'll see.

8.) Oakland (7-4) [+2]
 Barring some incredibly stupid play down the stretch, Oakland should win the AFC West.  Other people might be buying into ...that other guy in Denver, but I'm not.  Carson Palmer is a prototypical QB and has played like one in recent weeks.  Once he got into a groove, which took a couple weeks, he's been quite good.  And when Darren McFadden returns, this team only gets better.  They have a strong QB and (eventually) a two-pronged rushing attack that combines elusiveness (McFadden) with bruising between-the-tackles smashing (Michael Bush).  Sounds like a surefire combination for winning in the playoffs.  Now, will their defense hold up?

9.) Dallas (7-4) [-]
 Sometimes I'm a homer.  But this time, I've got a good reason: the Cowboys are leading the NFC East, and both the Giants and Eagles lost in Week 12.  Sure, the Redskins won, but does anybody expect that ragtag group to do anything else besides spoil down the stretch?  The addition of DeMarco Murray has been a godsend for the Cowboys, along with Tony Romo's increased aplomb for avoiding the big mistake.  He seemed to forget that somewhat on Thanksgiving, as he threw two bad INT's, but given the result, I'm fine with them.

10.) Atlanta (7-4) [-]
 I didn't think Atlanta was done; they just needed to win the games they should and be more competitive in general.  So far, they've done that, and now they're back in the playoff race.  It looks like they're going to get a Wild Card, as they still have a healthy QB, unlike Detroit and Chicago.  Can they challenge for the division?  I'm not sure, as they're down one game and already lost to New Orleans.  Then again, stranger things have happened.

Speaking of Detroit and Chicago, they're the teams that fell out of the Rankings this week.  It should come as no surprise, as Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler are both injured (Cutler to a greater degree, obviously, since he's out) and both teams lost in Week 12.  I think Detroit can still win a Wild Card, but Chicago's chances are significantly more grim.  One break in their favor is the schedule; assuming they can finish ahead of Atlanta, we could see three teams from the NFC North in the playoffs.  Also, we could see three teams from the AFC North in the playoffs.  How nutty would that be?

That's all for this week.  See you next week! 
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 22, 2011 8:40 pm
 

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 11

Somehow, there was less totally improbable crap that happened in Week 11.  Either that, or I'm getting better prognosticating.

Since the latter seems unlikely, I guess the matchups were more favorable toward the good teams.  It's hard to tell who's good still.  Despite Green Bay and San Francisco looking strong, the rest of the NFC and the entire AFC look like they can get beat by anybody on any day.  In particular, New Orleans and Baltimore have some baffling losses.  As the playoff push begins in earnest, there are a bunch of 7-3 teams standing between mediocrity and the top two.  Obviously, how these teams play will determine how the playoffs look.

Here are the standings for Week 11:

Prisco: 9-5
Red: 9-5
King: 11-3

Well, there goes King, right back to the top.

This week, it was the entire NY/NJ area that disappointed me, as both the Jets and Giants lost.  Funnily enough, they both lost to inferior competition.  Denver doesn't have a QB and Philadelphia was also starting a backup.  I don't get it, but the good thing is, neither does anyone else.  For some reason I picked St. Louis, Jacksonville, and Buffalo.  Predictably (except by me, obviously) they lost.

I guess it could have been worse.

Here are the Rankings for Week 11:

1.) Green Bay (10-0) [no change]
 Where does this train stop?  They play on Thanksgiving at Detroit in the early game.  It seems like Detroit has some momentum behind them, but I don't think the Packers are going down like that.  Of course, if they win at Detroit, it's hard to see anyone else beating them.  But at the same time, it's hard to see anybody beating them before the playoffs start.  So where does that leave us?  The same place we were before: either San Francisco or an AFC team will be the ones to take them out.  Otherwise, it's two in a row.

2.) San Francisco (9-1) [no change]
 After taking out Arizona, the 49ers head back to the East coast to play Baltimore Thanksgiving night.  Sounds like fun.  I think the schedule just shakes out like that sometimes; some teams get screwed like the 49ers, while others like New England get cupcakes mostly in their time zone.  I'm sure that whoever goes into Candlestick in January will be at a disadvantage.  Because it's all but sealed up that San Francisco is going to host a playoff game.

3.) New Orleans (7-3) [no change]
 The Saints had a late bye.  We'll see how that affects them.

4.) Houston (7-3) [no change]
 Now starting at QB for the Texans: Matt Leinart.  That's a heck of a change, even after a bye.

5.) Pittsburgh (7-3) [no change]
 How is it that Ben Roethlisberger can play with a "fractured" thumb, but Jay Cutler can't?  I'm not sure it's a good idea either way.

6.) New England (7-3) [no change]
 It turns out that starting slowly isn't always an accurate indicator.  It's troubling that it occurred against Kansas City, but once the O-line solidified and Green-Eliis started running like he usually does, the Pats found more success.  Rob Gronkowski has two TD's, both of which were quite impressive.  They have an easy schedule down the stretch, so a long win streak ought to be in the offing.  I'm thinking that maybe a first-round bye could be coming as well.  Nobody is running away with the AFC, so maybe the Pats can pull together and be that team.

7.) Chicago (7-3) [no change]
 Without Jay Cutler, it's hard for me to see how these guys stay in it.  Then again, this situation might just be the Bears' wheelhouse.  How many years did they go without solid QB play?  Quite a few, as I remember.  I don't think they make the playoffs, though.  Detroit should be one of the Wild Card teams, with the other "to be determined" as of this moment.

8.) Detroit (7-3) [+1]
 Tough to tell if a comeback win against Carolina means anything.  The Panthers are obviously not a good team.  And the Lions have shown a penchant for the comeback.  But now they get the league's best team and this garbage can't continue if they want to pick up the win on Thanksgiving.  The Lions should be one of the NFC Wild Cards.  But if they lose on Thanksgiving and don't pick it up afterward, it's possible that Atlanta and/or the NY Giants could sneak in.  It sounds ridiculous at this point, when Detroit has looked like a playoff team for this long...but anything could happen.

9.) Baltimore (7-3) [-]
 Here we are again.  I know I should probably have the Ravens above Pittsburgh, but I couldn't stomach moving all those teams down to put Baltimore above them, since we all know the Ravens have the propensity to disappoint in a big way.  I'm not saying outright that they're going to lose to SF on Thanksgiving...but would I be surprised?  Not at all.  Thus, any stay for the Ravens in these Rankings can only be seen as temporary until proven otherwise.

10.) Oakland (6-4) [-]
 The Raiders make it back into the Rankings on the basis of leading their no-account division and because of other teams being terrible.  They're playing pretty impressively without Darren McFadden, I admit.  And Carson Palmer is rounding into form nicely.  At this point, it's hard to know what to make of the Raiders; they have to get healthy first before we go claiming they can go forward.  Although, even if they're healthy, are they better than New England, Pittsburgh, or Baltimore?

While there wasn't much change this week, there were two teams that dropped out, Cincinnati and the NY Giants.  Boo to the Giants for losing to Philadelphia.  That was ridiculous.  Cincinnati's loss was somewhat acceptable, since they played well and only lost due to referee BS and the surpassing effort of a good opponent.  Baltimore may not be a great team, but they were better than Cincinnati on Sunday.

As far as Thanksgiving goes, I'll take the Packers, Cowboys, and 49ers.  Here's to them not letting me down.

That's all for this week.  See you next week! 
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 16, 2011 4:53 am
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Posted on: November 16, 2011 4:49 am
 

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 10

Some of the "bad" teams rose up in Week 10 and made it a little weird.  Of course, I've been saying this for the last weeks as teams that ought to win go down, so maybe I should be learning from my mistakes.  At any rate, it's difficult to predict some of the stuff we've seen.  I know I've had trouble with it, as my weekly records have shown.  Finally, though, it looks like we have a clearly defined top five and bottom five.  I'll get to the top five in a minute, but let's look at the bottom five.  Indianapolis is obviously the worst; they're 0-10 and look moribund at best.  There are four teams at 2-7 currently: Carolina, Minnesota, Miami, and St. Louis.  Of these, I think we know that St. Louis has disappointed and taken a huge step back.  Given the offense that Steve Spagnuolo runs (and I say that mostly tongue-in-cheek), it's not a total surprise.  But at the same time, given all the love for Sam Bradford, one would have expected them to keep moving forward.  Other than the Rams, Carolina seems to be the best equipped, despite suffering through many injuries.  Cam Newton looks like the real deal; now all Marty Hurney &co. need to do is re-stock the cupboard around him, plus add some depth on defense.  Sounds simple, but I'm sure it won't be, somehow.  Minnesota and Miami look like they'll be in the "doormat" department for a little while, though it appears that Miami is slightly better at this point.

That just leaves Indianapolis.  Who knew that without Peyton Manning that they would slip to this depth?  Not me, that's for sure.  It's likely that they'll get the first overall pick in the draft and take Andrew Luck, setting themselves up like Ted Thompson did in Green Bay.  We'll see.  I'm not sure Luck is "the guy", if only because there have been so many who were set up to be "the guy" (including Bradford, actually) only to go down in flames.  As we've seen in recent years, the draft is mostly a crapshoot, and it's not something that I care to get involved with.  I like to look at the games, personally, and don't really give a crap about all this ancillary nonsense.  I understand its importance, obviously; every team has to rebuild and reload and the draft is the best place to do that.  But for me to cover and/or analyze such a thing is beyond my ken.

Here are the standings for Week 10:

Prisco: 8-8
Red: 9-7
King: 8-8

Finally, I beat them straight up!  It only took me ten weeks and many, many drubbings from King.  Even still, he's ahead by four.

Normally it's hard to know where to start when listing my disappointments.  This week, it's pretty easy.  Hello, San Diego!

OK, perhaps I shouldn't be too hard on them, given their offensive line crumbling.  Everyone and their mother was on their bandwagon, though, and they went out and pulled a stinkbomb.  Once again, Philip Rivers is not an elite QB.  Yeah, I know, protection issues.  That plays a part, for sure.  But again, he wasn't great in the first half.  And then once the O-line dissolved into murk, he couldn't do enough to ensure a win.  Typical.

The other disappointments include Baltimore, Detroit, and of course, Philadelphia.  I can kind of understand Detroit losing to Chicago (but getting blown out eludes me).  Baltimore going to Seattle and losing?  Inexcusably bad.  Philadelphia losing to Arizona, who were starting John Skelton at QB?  I guess I need to consult a thesaurus to come up with a word stronger than inexcusable.  I don't know...I'm sure a curse would be involved.

So last Thursday I went with San Diego and got burned.  This week, I'm going to go with Rex Ryan and the Jets, because I believe they can stop the monstrosity known as Denver's offense.  I don't know how, I don't know why.  In fact, I don't want to know; I just want to see it happen.  Make it happen!  Please and thank you.

Here are the Rankings for Week 10:

1.) Green Bay (9-0) [no change]
 So now that the Packers are 9-0, the question has become "Who's going to stop them"?  To be honest, I don't know.  It's hard for me to see that happening, given my particular set of biases.  I thought New England would take it in 2007 when they went 16-0 (and later 18-0), but wouldn't you know it, something stupid had to happen. So I guess the takeaway is that if the Packers get derailed, it'll be by somethng stupid.  I doubt it'll be an injury (unless it's Rodgers going down), so you can write that off.  The only weakness this team has is pass defense, it seems.  Their run defense might not be that great either, but how can you tell when opposing QB's are throwing bombs down the field all the time?  Like I've been saying the whole time I've had the Packers at #1, the defense will likely work itself out.  If it doesn't, they may only reach the NFC Championship Game.  I know, what a disappointment.

2.) San Francisco (8-1) [no change]
 Apparently, this guy Justin Smith is really good.  That's what I keep hearing, anyway.  Alex Smith isn't too bad, either, given his TD pass to Vernon Davis and his generally mistake-free football.  That INT was on Ted Ginn's hands.  They could probably use a bit more fire in the offense, but when you're winning, most people ignore that.  Even with Frank Gore ineffective and then gimpy, the 49ers had a pretty solid day overall.  The defense bent but didn't break at the end and they're still the strongest team outside of Wisconsin.  I think a first-round bye is all but assured at this point; who's going to catch them?

3.) New Orleans (7-3) [+4]
 Look who's bubbling back up again.  OK, I admit that I have a bit of a soft spot for Drew Brees.  Because of that, I move the Saints up whenever possible.  They hung around with Green Bay on opening night and have played fairly well since.  There have been a couple of hiccups along the way.  Apparently, some teams do have to go through those things.  That said, I'm not sure about their playoff chances.  The defense has taken a step back since the ball-hawking Super Bowl winning team.  And this mess with Atlanta...well, I know division games are supposed to be close and hard-fought, but with Atlanta not playing up to par for most of the season, the Saints shouldn't have had that much trouble.  At any rate, they're moving up and things look good.

4.) Houston (7-3) [+4]
 I feel certain this is the highest the Texans have ever been in my Rankings.  They're not what one would call a "traditional" power, nor are they really an "up-and-comer".  They've been expected to do things for a couple years now; why, I don't know, but somehow they never fail to disappoint.  This year was looking different, but now they have to deal with a potentially season-ending injury to Matt Schaub.  That means Matt Leinart, master of failure and getting caught with pants (metaphorically) down gets to be the savior.  Now, I'm not sure there's much to be saved, necessarily.  The way this team is playing, they could get to the playoffs with John Beck at QB (ok, maybe not him, but you see where I'm headed with this).  It's not really about the QB at this point, with Arian Foster and Ben Tate running the way they are.  Plus, the Texans have one thing they've never had before (besides a running game and a solid QB, which also eluded them at various times in the last ten years): defense.  I don't think they'll lose their grip on an easily winnable division, but a first-round bye might be out of reach.

5.) Pittsburgh (7-3) [+4]
 It surprises me that Pittsburgh can't beat Baltimore, but they can beat Cincinnati.  Baltimore can't lose to Pittsburgh, but they get beat by awful teams like Jacksonville and Seattle (jury's out on Tennessee, I don't know where they stand).  It's a weird thing.  Right now, at least, the Steelers are atop the AFC North and have a chance to gain some ground.  It's hard to say where this will end up.  Even though the Steelers now look like their early season struggles are behind them, it's wouldn't surprise me if they slipped up once or twice down the stretch.

6.) New England (6-3) [+4]
 By the skin of their teeth, really.  Somehow, the Pats ended up putting 37 on the Jets' supposedly good defense.  And while their own defense would never be confused with anything remotely good, they held the Jets to 16, so something went right on that side of the ball for once.  I'm a believer in the Pats' potential as a continued threat to win Super Bowls, but if something doesn't happen soon, I might have to jump off the wagon.  Prior to this win, they were looking mighty vulnerable.  Now they look good again.  Let's see how long this lasts, though.  If they've really started to hit their stride again, we should see immediate results.  At least, if this year's team is anywhere near as good as last year's.  The division is theirs for the taking now.

7.) Chicago (6-3) [-]
 Obviously, blowing out a division rival is a good thing.  Especially when that rival is the Lions, a team that could be getting a bit uppity.  Chicago's fortunes are looking considerably better than they did a couple weeks ago.  Still, I can't help but disbelieve at this point.  It might be because of all the players on that team that I dislike, the fact that I've never really liked the Bears, or that I think a number of teams are just better than they are.  Still, a win is a win, and it got them back here, so I guess things are going great.  They're on a winning streak and look like a solid Wild Card contender; it'd be pretty nuts if both Wild Cards came out of the North, a division that hasn't really been a powerhouse lately.  Now it has two fairly strong teams and the consensus best team in the league.  Not bad.

8.) Cincinnati (6-3) [-5]
 I figured this would happen sooner or later.  Turned out it was sooner.  After feasting on opponents with bad records, Cincy got a shot at Pittsburgh and played well despite losing.  Now they get Baltimore and anything could happen considering the Ravens' startling inconsistency.

9.) Detroit (6-3) [-4]
 Not a good week for the Lions or Matthew Stafford.  Had I known he had a broken finger last Thursday, I would have taken the Bears straight up.  Whoops.  With no running game and a hobbled QB, this is ostensibly the time and place Detroit shows what it's made of.  Right?

10.) NY Giants (6-3) [-4]
 I hesitate to say they're "better" than Baltimore.  But they lost to San Francisco instead of Seattle this week.  And that's really the difference.

I could write a note on the team that left the Rankings this week (Baltimore), but what's the point?  If they beat Cincinnati, they'll be back in.  And if not, I won't care much.

Well, I'll be annoyed with them for not beating Cincy, since I will still likely go with the Ravens in Week 11.

It's true, I never learn.

That's all for this week.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 1, 2011 9:42 pm
 

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 8

While I understand that parity and the "Any Given Sunday" mantra rule in "today's NFL", I think that a particular week is better with fewer upsets and out-and-out weird crap going on.  This week was one of those good weeks, with a couple of exceptions.  New Orleans went to St. Louis and should have had another easy win.  Instead, they get punched in the mouth, as it were.  I'm still not sure what the impetus was; did New Orleans really play bad, or were the Rams struck by inspiration, as the reports seem to indicate?  I guess in the end it doesn't matter; teams like New Orleans have roadbumps every season.  Last year, they lost to Cleveland and looked terrible doing it.  So it's not exactly unprecedented.  I'm sure no one has forgotten their disastrous road trip to Seattle in last year's playoffs either.  We're still in the middle of things in the 2011 NFL season, and it's not certain what we can take away from it all, or what we'll remember once the season ends.

Here are the standings for Week 8:

Prisco: 9-4
Red: 9-4
King: 10-3

Everyone did better this week after a fairly pedestrian Week 7.  I missed out with Carolina, New Orleans, New England, and Dallas.  Carolina probably should have won their game with Minnesota.  A missed Olindo Mare field goal (a chippy, it seemed) was the difference between a Minnesota win and OT, where anything can happen.  New England had issues on defense again and suffered for it as Pittsburgh went up and down the field all day.  Dallas just got demolished.  I could say more, but I wasn't watching the game all that closely once I realized that they had no chance of winning.

That was in the first quarter, truth be told.

After watching New England yak it up against Pittsburgh, I was in no mood to see Dallas play like anything but world beaters.

What happened to Philadelphia, anyway?  They stunk up the joint for weeks, and now they're good?  Where has this been?  Why couldn't they have been trustworthy before?

This stuff pisses me off.

Here are the Rankings for Week 8:

1.) Green Bay (7-0) [no change]
 The bye week came at a good time for the defending champs, who had a chance to get focused.  There's no one better, to be sure, but is anyone else even close?  I doubt it, at this point.  But as I said above, we're only at the midpoint of the season, and things sure do change quickly.

2.) San Francisco (6-1) [+1]
 I admit, it's a bit odd to see the 49ers this high up in the Rankings, and looking this good.  They just hired a new coach in the offseason, and they look miles ahead of every other team besides Green Bay.  Their one loss was in OT against the Cowboys, which seems somewhat acceptable given how they've run roughshod through the rest of the schedule thus far.  It gets a little more stiff since they have a Thanksgiving game coming up at the end of the month and a couple more trips to the east coast.  Still, it's looking like SF is the second-best team in the league.  At least, for this week.

3.) Pittsburgh (6-2) [+2]
 It's interesting to see how far the Steelers have come since the beginning of the season.  All of a sudden, they look like world-beaters again.  Those losses to Baltimore and Houston are still disturbing to an extent that leads me to distrust them more than I probably should.  Honestly, they should have won against the Texans, and they should have come out better against Baltimore.  They have a rematch with the Ravens in Week 9, and this time it's in Pittsburgh.  So we'll see just how "real" each team is.  If one of them decides to do a swan dive into the toilet via painful and inexplicable disemboweling...well, it'll just be another weird occurrence in a season full of them.

4.) Cincinnati (5-2) [+2]
 Is Andy Dalton for real?  Apparently so.  I didn't see any of the game against Seattle, but I'm assuming that if a team goes on the road and wins by two TD's, they're doing something right.  So far, Cincinnati has done quite a bit right.

5.) Detroit (6-2) [+2]
 And just like that, the Lions are on their way back up.  I don't get it either.  But, I'll be honest, I'm glad that they put such a beatdown on Denver; I've gotten far beyond tired of Denver and that QB that the media keeps talking about.  I was never a fan of his and thought that being picked in the first round was one of the dumbest decisions I'd seen in a long time.  Anyway, any time a team puts up 45, they deserve to move up, and this week was Detroit's to shine, and to gesticulate in the face of every other team.

6.) Baltimore (5-2) [+2]
 It got a little dicey for the Ravens; not only had they lost last week, they were down 3 TD's to Arizona (Arizona?  Seriously!?) at halftime.  Then the comeback happened, and the Ravens head to Pittsburgh with ...something approaching confidence, I suppose.  I'm sure there's a sense of relief as well.  If they had lost two in a row before heading to Pittsburgh, things could have come crashing down right on top of them.  But now, if they can stun the Steelers and win the season series, they could find themselves in the driver's seat in the AFC.  That sounds weird, actually.  I mean, I'm used to Baltimore being good, and being a perennial Super Bowl contender...but it's one thing to be a contender and quite another to be the "best" team in the conference and clearly leading the pack while the rest try to follow.  To be honest, I'm not sure if Baltimore is cut out for that, or if that's the position that's the best for them.

7.) Buffalo (5-2) [+2]
 Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, or even bandwagon to say that the Bills should be better off than they are.  But really, they should be undefeated.  Given the schedule they've had, and the few actual challenges that remain, it's not hard to believe that they're a contender, or that they could possibly be undefeated.  As it turns out, they're not as good as they looked in the first few weeks of the season, but despite that, they could still win the AFC East.  Of course, they have to tidy up their resume by beating New England and the Jets.  Neither of those appears to be an impossibility at this point.

8.) New England (5-2) [-6]
 It seems rather inexplicable that New England could lose to Pittsburgh after winning four in a row against them.  And yet, here we are.  The defense has to be a concern, especially for people like me who are trying to analyze this team and try to figure out where they're going.  At the moment, it looks like New England could be a playoff team, but it's by no means set in stone.  Then again, who's going to step up to beat them out?

9.) NY Giants (5-2) [-]
 I guess it had to happen at some point.  I have no confidence in this team, either in their ability to remain atop the NFC East, or to remain in the Rankings for longer than five minutes.

10.) New Orleans (5-3) [-6]
 Apparently, we should have expected something like this at some point.  It's just that nobody expects a good team to go on the road to face a terrible, winless team and lose.  It's something I can't shake, no matter how much football I watch.

Finally, a note on the team that exited the Rankings.  It was San Diego (10).  As expected, they went into Kansas City and played a generally good game before completely giving it up at the end, sending it to OT where they crumbled.  I guess I could say that I'm surprised that I saw this coming and completely missed on Dallas, New England, and New Orleans, but I also have more confidence in those three than in San Diego.

Let's also put to rest this notion that Philip Rivers is an "elite" QB.  Now, I understand that Drew Brees didn't do himself any favors this week, but he's still got a ring.  And despite being replaced, in essence, he's proven to be the better player so far.  But the question here is, would any of the "elite" QB's have committed so offensive and inexplicable a mistake as Rivers did last night?  I feel fairly certain that the answer is no.  My list would include Brady, Peyton Manning, Brees, Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers.  I'm hard-pressed to see how any of those would do something that bad in a late-game situation.  In fact, the only one I might even question slightly is Roethlisberger.  The others are unquestionably better than that kind of mistake.

Rivers turned a surefire win into a loss.  It's not just this week that marks him as not elite, though, in the same company as Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez.  It's a body of work that shows that he is not worth the accolades that he often receives.  I feel that Rodgers in particular was lumped into "elite" status far too quickly, before he had a chance to prove that he was worth it.  Winning a Super Bowl and coming out the first 7 games of this season and just mowing down the competition has proved to me that he is "elite".  Is he the best QB in the league?  No.  But then again, Peyton Manning hasn't played a single game this season.

So San Diego is out for now.  Their schedule is not among the easier ones (I'm looking at you, Buffalo), so I'm not sure of their future returns.

That's all for this week.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 27, 2011 10:37 pm
 

2011 NFL Power Rankings, Week 7

An odd week in the NFL, to be sure, punctuated by Baltimore's stunning loss Monday.  That was one of the worst games I've seen recently; the one good thing Baltimore can take from that is that it wasn't a playoff game, or else they'd have to live with it for months.  Thankfully, they have another should-be gimme on their hands.

Here are the standings for Week 7:

Prisco: 7-6
Red: 7-6
King: 6-7

Obviously, a number of teams let us down this week, notably Baltimore, but also Tennessee, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and San Diego.  I know this stuff happens at least once a season, it's still somewhat surprising to me when it happens.

Here are the Rankings for Week 7:

1.) Green Bay (7-0) [no change]
 Despite Christian Ponder's best effort, the defending champs continued their march.  Where are they headed?  Not sure yet, but they're looking quite good.  They have a bye in Week 8, so that's another week at the top.

2.) New England (5-1) [no change]
 Coming off a bye, the Patriots travel to Pittsburgh for what should be one of the better games of Week 8.  I sense that the media will be more into Tom Brady this week, what with Aaron Rodgers being on a bye.  We'll see what happens.

3.) San Francisco (5-1) [+1]
 It's always a little odd to have to move a team on a bye up.  But when you see a week of football like the one we just saw, there aren't as many good teams afterward as there were before.  The 49ers get a home game against Cleveland in Week 8, and I feel pretty confident in Jim Harbaugh, something I can't really say about his brother at this point.

4.) New Orleans (5-2) [+4]
 I know, they were playing a bad Colts team that's been reeling the entire season, but that victory (and that score!) was very, very impressive.  As a result, the Saints jump back up into the upper half and look like a team to beat in the NFC again.  Drew Brees and co. go to St. Louis this Sunday, which should be another easy win.  At least, if Brees doesn't turn into Joe Flacco.

5.) Pittsburgh (5-2) [-]
 The Steelers come roaring back into the Rankings after taking out Arizona.  They have a tough matchup coming up against the Patriots, which could knock them right back out for a week or two, but it's looking like they're for real again.  It's hard to imagine after Week 1's demolition by Baltimore (who look significantly less "real" than they did back then), but the Steelers have just about rebounded.

6.) Cincinnati (4-2) [+1]
 Another team on a bye that moved up because of poor performance by other teams, Cincinnati goes into Seattle in Week 8 and could begin to solidify their hold on a Wild Card spot.  Of course, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have to keep up their fantastic performance level that they've had thus far.  With a couple of rookies at such important positions, it's hard to project where Cincinnati will end up.  The early results have been good, obviously.

7.) Detroit (5-2) [-2]
 Two straight losses for the Lions, and they're on a precipitous slide.  They also look less "real" than they did after Week 5.  I think they can get back into the groove they were in when they won 5 in a row, but it's going to take some work.

8.) Baltimore (4-2) [-5]
 It's hard to know just what to say about the Ravens following one of the worst losses I've seen from them in a while.  Joe Flacco was abysmal.  Whatever adjective to indicate terrible performance you can think of, Flacco embodied it.  Ray Rice had a badly-timed fumble, and the offense was awful throughout most of the game.  The one thing they can take comfort in is that their defense is still top-flight.  But if they can't score more than 12 points against a terrible team like Jacksonville, they can't go far in 2011.

9.) Buffalo (4-2) [no change]
 The Bills remain where they are just because.  I guess I really could have moved them up ahead of Baltimore, but I don't have the confidence in them that I did before.  With such an easy schedule as Buffalo has had, they really ought to be undefeated still.  Alas, they're not the kind of team that Green Bay is.

10.) San Diego (4-2) [-4]
 Another very disappointing loss by the Chargers leaves them at the bottom of the Rankings this week.  Philip Rivers (and by extension the Chargers' offense) hasn't looked good all season and threw a couple of inexcusably bad INT's against the Jets.  If there's a question as to whether he's an elite QB (and there may not be, as people seem to automatically give him a pass to "elite" stature), I'll gladly cast a nay vote.  I've never really been convinced of Rivers' supposed greatness; with Drew Brees moving on to New Orleans and winning a Super Bowl, it certainly makes Chargers GM A.J. Smith look bad.  There are many other factors, obviously, and I don't want to oversimplify it any more than that.  But suffice it to say that I don't think of Rivers as an elite QB, whereas Drew Brees most definitely is.

That's all for this week.  Sorry that it was a bit more abbreviated and scattershot than usual.  See you next week!
Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
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