May 122012
 

 

32. St. Louis Rams

 

31. Cleveland Browns

 

30. Kansas City Chiefs

 

29. Buffalo Bills

 

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

27. Denver Broncos

 

26. Oakland Raiders

 

25. Detroit Lions

 

24. Seattle Seahawks

 

23. Jacksonville Jaguars

 

22. Cincinnati Bengals

 

21. Philadelphia Eagles

 

20. Arizona Cardinals

 

19. Washington Redskins

 

18. Miami Dolphins

 

17. Atlanta Falcons

 

16. Tennessee Titans

 

15. Chicago Bears

 

14. Carolina Panthers

 

13. San Francisco 49ers

 

12. Houston Texans

 

11. New York Giants

 

10. Pittsburgh Steelers

 

9. Minnesota Vikings

 

8. Baltimore Ravens

 

7. New York Jets

 

6. San Diego Chargers

 

5. Dallas Cowboys

 

4. New England Patriots

 

3. Green Bay Packers

 

2. Indianapolis Colts

 

1. New Orleans Saints 

 

 

 

Due to a New Year’s vacation, I am not able to do a full analysis for each team. However, each team will have its own season ending/offseason beginning segment about them in the coming weeks.

 

Awful

32. St. Louis Rams 1-14

 

31. Detroit Lions 2-13

 

30. Kansas City Chiefs 3-12

 

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-12

 

Better luck next year

28. Washington Redskins 4-11

 

27. Cleveland Browns 4-11

 

26. Seattle Seahawks 5-10

 

25. Oakland Raiders 5-10

 

Looking forward to a top ten draft pick

24. Buffalo Bills 5-10

 

23. Chicago Bears 6-9

 

Probably not a playoff team

22. Miami Dolphins 7-8

 

21. Carolina Panthers 7-8

 

20. Jacksonville Jaguars 7-8

 

Making some noise

19. San Franciscio 49ers 7-8

 

18. Tennessee Titans 7-8

 

Close, but no cigar

17. New York Giants 8-7

 

16. Houston Texans 8-7

 

15. New York Jets 8-7

 

On the playoff bubble

14. Atlanta Falcons 8-7

 

13. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-7

 

12. Denver Broncos 8-7

 

11. Dallas Cowboys 10-5

 

Playoffs and maybe more

10. Baltimore Ravens 8-7

 

9. Arizona Cardinals 10-5

 

8. Cincinnati Bengals 10-5

 

Dark horses

7. Green Bay Packers 10-5

 

6. New England Patriots 10-5

 

5. Minnesota Vikings 11-4

 

Elite runner ups

4. Philadelphia Eagles 11-4

 

3. San Diego Chargers 12-3

 

2. New Orleans Saints 13-2

 

The favorite

1. Indianapolis Colts 14-1

 

 

 

 

Awful

32. St. Louis Rams 1-13

Keith Null didn’t suck against the Texans. He almost won the game. What is he doing? Doesn’t he know his job? Doesn’t he know that the Rams are relying on him to lead their tanking attack and get the top pick and top quarterback in the first round of the 2010 Draft? Doesn’t he know that he was drafted for no other purpose except that? I mean, what other possible need could you have to draft a quarterback coached by Ryan Leaf in college? Tanking doesn’t explain why the Rams are playing Steven Jackson through back spasms and the swine flu. Maybe they know that Jackson isn’t going to be anything good by the time this team is and thus are trying to end his career now to have some more top picks in the future and recreate the greatest show on turf. Future tanking? Genius. Sad for Jackson though who is obviously in pain both from injuries and from spending another season, at 26 (the prime of his career), with an awful team and may only have 4 or 5 seasons to play any role on a good team and win a ring. Maybe less if he keeps getting hurt.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-12

Yes, going on the longest possible road trip in the NFL, Tampa to Seattle, and beating the Seahawks team, albeit one with one of the worst secondaries in the league, is a decent accomplishment. However, so was beating Green Bay. Josh Freeman is having far too few flashes of being a first round pick quarterback this year as a rookie and he can’t blame it on the players around him. At least offensively, they have some weapons. Hopefully another year to sort everything out after being thrown into the middle of a 0-7 Buccaneers team will get this talented athletic quarterback back on the right track in his football career.

30. Detroit Lions 2-12

Matt Stafford’s rookie season is over after knee surgery put him on IR this past week. He’s also been battling a left shoulder injury as well. I still say his season as a starter should have been over much sooner. He shouldn’t have even been starting this year. He took a lot of sacks this season, which could make him shell shocked like David Carr. He took two major injuries as well which is never good and he missed valuable learning time on the bench, which could hurt him in the future as well. Jeff Backus is one of the worst starting left tackles in the league protecting him, hence all of the sacks, and the coaching staff recently praised Backus’ pass blocking abilities, which means he could be out there next year and Matt Stafford would be taking more sacks after returning from his injury, hopefully sooner rather than later.

29. Kansas City Chiefs 3-11

The Chiefs have given up 40 or more points in 3 of the last 4 weeks. It’s amazing that this team is not dead last in every defense category possible, but since they aren’t, I guess that just shows you how bad some of the defenses we’ve seen this season have been. Jamaal Charles is a sick runner on the ground, running behind absolutely no blocking up front, but he’s a running back and he can’t keep up with the defense giving up major amounts of points by himself. In order for this team to win, they need a run heavy offense around Charles and one other complimentary back, and a good defense, or the need a franchise quarterback and a pass heavy attack. Those are the only ways they can win. Since they have already spent 63 million on Matt Cassel, their best option is the former, two running backs and a good defense. Good luck with that good defense part. Plus, they would need to switch to a run heavy offense, which they currently don’t run. Possibly due in part to the defense giving up so many points, even though Charles is being compared to a poor man’s Chris Johnson, and rightfully so, Charles’ carry totals from the last few weeks since he’s been a starter are these, 6, 18, 17, 14, 18, 20, and 25. That’s not enough running and too much Matt Cassel.

Better luck next year

28. Cleveland Browns 3-11

Cleveland starting quarterbacks in their three wins this season are 18 for 53 (32%) for 179 yards 0 touchdowns and 4 picks. That’s pathetic. If it wasn’t for Josh Cribbs returning two kickoffs for touchdowns last week and Jerome Harrison going for 286 yards and 3 touchdowns last week, they would have lost to the Chiefs. Brady Quinn threw for 66 yards last week for a team that had 417 yards of total offense, which I’m pretty sure is a record, as well as 735 total yards including kick and punt returns and 41 total points. That’s ridiculous. And to make things funnier, Jake Locker returning to school coupled with the Browns winning two games in a row means that the Browns have to choose between Brady Quinn/Derek Anderson next year and Sam Bradford. New president Mike Holmgren might take a chance on Bradford and his bum shoulder, though. And just for more laughs, Brady Quinn is out for the season and Derek Anderson now comes in to throw the ball with his eyes closed again, against, and this is hilarious, the Raiders, whose quarterback might as well close his eyes when he throws because all he does is throw straight down field. Comedy gold right there.

27. Washington Redskins 4-10

That had to be one of the worst coached games of the decade last week by Redskins coach Jim Zorn, and had did it with the new GM watching. He might as well file for unemployment right now. I think the Redskins had something like -3 yards of total offense in the first half and how about that play at the end of the first half. The Redskins have a chance for 3 points with a field goal. They come out in field goal formation, audible and then one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen happens. The entire offensive line plus the kicker lines up as a wide receiver to the left side of the field, leaving the placeholder, the Redskins punter, to take a snap from the long snapper, who has to block three Giants defenders before the punter can throw a ball about 30 or so yards downfield for a touchdown. What happened was this, the ball was snapped and the punter nearly got drilled in like half of a second and had to lob a ball straight up into a cloud of like 6 Giants, who were able to pick off the ball and nearly return it for a touchdown. Some people were interested as to why that one was in the playbook, but what I find more interesting is what would you even call that? What is that one named in the playbook? I’d like to call it insane, but Zorn probably called it something like “secret weapon.” Well, it definitely caught everyone off guard, so I guess that’s good. The Giants were probably confused for the entire second half after that and that’s why the Redskins were actually able to get 12 points on the board, though they would miss an extra point to put the cherry on top of an awful game.

26. Seattle Seahawks 5-9

The Seahawks have one of the worst secondaries in the league. They were supposed to be good after signing Ken Lucas in the offseason and then getting Marcus Trufant back from injury, but they rank 23rd in the league in YPA through the air, and new coach Jim Mora’s solution is to play Lawyer Milloy even more. Yeah, because everything can be fixed with a 36-year-old free safety with no speed. And their pass defense has actually been worse than 23rd in the league since Trufant returned week 6. He was supposed to come in and be their big shutdown corner, as he was a few years ago, but all he has does is still among the “tops” in the league in pass interference penalties, despite missing 6 weeks with injury. They couldn’t even stop Josh Freeman last week. Yeah, but don’t worry, everything will be okay, we have Lawyer Milloy. I like Jim Mora’s other solution, bring back Mike Holmgren to take away some of his power, but even Holmgren didn’t want to fix this mess, instead he went to the Browns. It’s a sad situation for a team that won the division two years ago, to be in 2nd to last place for the 2nd straight year, 2nd to last to only the Rams, and not even be able to attract their old head coach to fix things, instead he’d rather go to the lowly Browns.

Looking forward to a top ten draft pick

25. Buffalo Bills 5-9

Congratulations to the Bills for 6 straight years of losing to the Patriots. That is really remarkable. You’d think once that by chance they would win, but no. Even that one that the Bills looked like a lock to win late in the 4th quarter they lost. They made an interesting move picking up Brian Brohm though. He might not have a great week this week in his first NFL start, after just being brought in about a month ago, because there’s no way he knows the whole offense. However, even though he was cut by the Packers last season after being picked in the 2nd round in 2008, I think he’s a good quarterback, at least from what I saw of him in college. We’ll see though.

24. Chicago Bears 5-9

This team is a mess. They traded two first round picks plus a competent quarterback for Jay Cutler last season, but he’s been more of the problem than the solution, throwing a league leading 25 interceptions and counting, and again this year they no draft pick, which likely would have been a top ten pick, so they can’t fix their suddenly floundering defense, which is giving up the 21st most points per game in the league, although some of that has to do with the fact that Jay Cutler’s picks won’t let them off of the field. The Broncos haven’t done much of use with the picks the Bears have given them yet (Robert Ayers, Richard Quinn), but this is still looking like a lob sided trade in favor of the Broncos, who are 8-6 led by Bears reject quarterback Kyle Orton. That is quite a surprise for all of those people, including me to an extent, who saw this as a lopsided trade for the Bears, or at least something that would hurt the Broncos long term.

23. Oakland Raiders 5-9

The epic showdown between JaMarcus Russell and Derek Anderson this week has been canceled because the Raiders will start Charlie Frye instead. That just shows how bad that JaMarcus Russell is. The Raiders are rushing back Charlie Frye from a concussion into a meaningless game in Cleveland rather than start Russell for another game. And its not like Frye has been that good this season; his QB rating is lower that the QB rating for a quarterback that just drops back and throws the ball straight to the ground every time.

Probably not a playoff team

22. Carolina Panthers 6-8

Matt Moore is doing a decent job of taking over for an injured Jake Delhomme, who is now on IR. Moore has a decent 88.1 QB rating, and good deep accurate arm to get the ball to Steve Smith, and is doing exactly what Jake Delhomme was supposed to do this season, manage the game and let his running game do the work. He’s doing a very good job considering that he has no other options really other than Steve Smith and in the time he’s been quarterback, his top running back, DeAngelo Williams, has even been hurt and Moore is still 2-1 in 3 starts. He’s making a good push to be the Panthers week 1 starter next season, which is good considering the Panthers don’t have a first round pick this year to draft a quarterback. One has to wonder why John Fox didn’t start Matt Moore earlier, when Delhomme was throwing 18 picks in 11 games.

21. New York Jets 7-7

Of all the stupid coaches saying funny things this season, I think Rex Ryan, not normally known for saying or doing stupid things, now has the funniest, even funnier than Todd Haley who was confused by the Jaguars 4-3 defense. After a loss to the Falcons last week, Rex Ryan said that his team was eliminated to the press, and I would not be surprised if after the game he said to his players that they had a great run, but they couldn’t pull it out, and all that stuff. The kicker, they aren’t eliminated, at least not yet. I’m not sure how hard a team plays after their coach mistakenly says they are eliminated, so they could be eliminated much sooner rather than later, especially with two upcoming games against two playoff teams, the Colts and the Bengals.

20. Houston Texans 7-7

Matt Schaub and the Texans are the classic better on paper than on turf team. Matt Schaub is 2nd in the league in passing yards and completion percentage and 7th in QB rating, in a year in which we’ve seen amazing quarterback play, yet his Texans are 7-7. Why? Well, 5 losses by a touchdown or less plus a blown lead of 17 points against the Colts will do that to you.  He threw for 367 yards last week, yet his Texans only beat the Rams by 3, the lowly Rams. This is why the Texans, once 5-3, are highly unlikely to win more than 8 games for the first time in their franchise’s history. Gary Kubiak has done a decent job of drafting and getting this franchise to this point but they need a tougher coach to whip this team into game shape, like Mike Shanahan or Bill Cowher, both of whom have expressed interest in the past.

19. San Francisco 49ers 6-8

Alex Smith needs a good finish to his season to secure a starting job for next season after arguably his worst game of the season last week with 3 picks in a loss to the Eagles. However, with the Lions and Rams on the schedule, he has a very good shot to do so, in the way the Mike Singletary closed out last season strong to secure his job for this season. Alex Smith is like the interim starting quarterback for Shaun Hill, who is likely to be gone as a free agent this offseason. Hill will catch on somewhere as a backup.

Making some noise

18. Tennessee Titans 7-7

This week game between the Titans and Chargers features two teams that have lost a combined 1 game, the Titans against the Colts, since week 6. They are 16-1 in that stretch. Vince Young has emerged from the bench like a butterfly from a cocoon, far better than before. His rookie season he was a game manager relying on his good defense, his 2nd and 3rd season he was a train wreck who was nullifying the amazing play of his defense, and this season, his 4th, and first after over a year on the bench, he has become a franchise quarterback leading his team to victory at times in spite of his defense, which has grown slightly weaker with the loss of Albert Haynesworth to the Redskins.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars 7-7

I’m really interested to see how this team bounced back from last week’s loss, a loss in which they played their best football of the season, even the coaches were calling good plays, it was amazing, but a late David Garrard brain fart interception cost them the game. Any team, especially a poorly coached one like the Jaguars, would come out not playing 100%, but this team has fed off of other people’s belief that they would play poorly all season and won the majority of their games that way as that “no one believed in us team” and they aren’t eliminated from the playoffs yet thanks to a strong conference record. However, a loss to the Pats in Foxboro this week would do them in for good and possibly end David Garrard’s career as a starter, as owner Wayne Weaver has been staring lovingly at Tim Tebow down in Gainesville all season.

 

Close, but no cigar

16. Miami Dolphins 7-7

This is a classic Bill Parcells team. They don’t have a ton of talent, even less than last year especially with injuries, but they have more heart than maybe any other team in the league and that’s why this team, with all of the injuries they’ve had, Chad Pennington, Ronnie Brown, Jason Ferguson, Will Allen, all of these guys who were key parts of their playoff appearance last season, could still make the playoff this year with two tough but winnable games to end the season, Houston and Pittsburgh.

15. Atlanta Falcons 7-7

They are technically eliminated but have an easy schedule to end the season, Buffalo and Tampa Bay, so back-to-back winning seasons for this team is likely, in which case Mike Smith, who took over a last place team in 2008, will likely get a lot of credit, but its not where credit is due. He did a good job last year, but got lucky in a way, and this season, he’s frequently rushed back guys from injuries, even after being eliminated. Michael Turner has had not one, not two, but three in game setbacks to his injured ankle and has been knocked out of those games, and he’s still listed as possible for this week’s game. Maybe he just hates Fantasy Football like Eric Mangini, Bill Belicheck, and Gary Kubiak, making sure that Michael Turner owners never know if their star will be knocked out of the game after 1 carry again, but still, that’s not good for your star. He rushed Matt Ryan back last week with his turf toe, after Chris Redman had done a decent job of holding down the fort in Ryan’s place and actually almost beat the Saints, and Ryan, not surprisingly, had a worse game than Redman had been regularly having in relief of Ryan. All this after being eliminated from the playoffs, in an attempt to do what, somewhat meaninglessly finishing above .500?

On the playoff bubble

14. Pittsburgh Steelers 7-7

Its painfully obvious that Mike Tomlin doesn’t trust his defense. Mike Tomlin tried an onside kick with a 2 point lead in last week’s game against the Packers because he didn’t trust his defense to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The Packers would recover and score and if it weren’t for late game heroics from Big Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin would have been the laughing stock of the NFL. That is how far this defense has fallen since being one of the best in the league last year. The biggest reason for their defensive struggles has been Troy Polamalu’s injuries. In the 5 games in which he has played, the Steelers are 4-1 and are allowed 13.8 points per game. In the games he has missed, they give up 23.4 and are consequently 3-6. As bad as his defense was, and as bad as his offensive line has been protecting him after his concussion, Big Ben Roethlisberger is doing everything it takes to win, even throwing for 503 yards last week against a good Green Bay secondary. This is the first time we’ve actually seen Ben Roethlisberger become a big gunslinging pass heavy quarterback, but he can be that if he needs to, which I admire in him and adds another dimension to his amazing game as a playmaker.

13. Dallas Cowboys 9-5

The Cowboys beat the Saints and now everyone is saying that Tony Romo has thrown the December monkey off of his back and people are even saying that he’s having a great December and are making him an MVP candidate. Remember last year when the Cowboys beat the Giants week 15 to improve to 9-5 and then blew the last two games of the season and missed the playoffs. That could still happen here. They still aren’t well coached and they still have Tony Romo and his history of December brain farts. They actually almost lost that game to the Saints last week after Nick Folk missed a field goal that essentially wasn’t much more than an extra point. If the Cowboys had lost that game, I literally would have burst out laughing. The Cowboys have cut Nick Folk and replaced him with Shaun Suisham, who infamously missed something that wasn’t much more than an extra point as the Redskins lost to the Saints earlier this season, after which Suisham was cut. How is that better? They still actually have two tough games, a possibly motivated Redskins team that almost beat the Cowboys in Texas earlier this season, and a red hot Eagles team that did them in good last season on week 17 to eliminate them and would love to do the same this season. Both on are on the road and both will be tough and they will need to win one, maybe both, to fight off the Giants and the Packers for a wild card berth.

12. Denver Broncos 8-6

The Broncos lost last week to the Raiders which has to be embarrassing, but they shouldn’t be that embarrassed, it seems that anyone on any given day can random lose to the Raiders late in the game, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and now the Broncos, are you sensing a trend? However, that loss does hurt the Broncos playoff aspirations as this team tries to capitalize on a 6-0 and actually make the playoffs this season. Now they have to go to Philadelphia, before they finish the season at home against the Chiefs.

11. New York Giants 8-6

This team is all of a sudden scary. All of a sudden they can run and stop the run again and Eli Manning and doing exactly what he needs to win once again. They are still behind the Cowboys for the last playoff spot, but they have an easy schedule with the Panthers, who they match up well against, and a sudden dysfunctional Vikings team week 17 when they could be resting starters (though not Brett Favre). If the Cowboys turn into a Tony Romo brainfarting mess, as they could, the Giants would be the one to benefit. If the Giants win out, the Cowboys would have to as well, because the Giants have the tiebreaker, so the Cowboys would have to beat the Eagles, a tough task at this point in the year.

Playoffs and maybe more

10. Baltimore Ravens 8-6

Even if the Ravens lose the Steelers, they can still control their own destiny with a win in Oakland week 17 thanks to a good conference record. Speaking of control your own destiny, I hate using that phrase, I hate when others uses that phrase. Destiny isn’t destiny if you can control it. It should be control your own ending. I am coining that somewhat less catchy phrase and using it from now on. The Ravens can still control their own ending even if the lose to the Steelers this week, which they could very well do, because Joe Flacco has never beaten Big Ben, and barely beat Dennis Dixon and the Steelers earlier this season when Big Ben was hurt.

9. Arizona Cardinals 9-5

The Cardinals clinched a playoff berth last week, but it wasn’t easy. They laid a stink bomb against the Niners on Monday Night Football week 14 and almost lost to the Lions in Detroit last week. However, they looked pretty bad late last season, remember when they gave up 4 touchdowns to Tarvaris Jackson and then went to Foxboro and lost to Matt Cassel 47-7, but they still got hot at the right time and made the Super Bowl. They could do that this year as well with all of the offensive firepower they have. Their defense is improved from last season, as is their ground game.

Dark horses

8. New England Patriots 9-5

Tom Brady isn’t right, because of some injuries, which is scary for Patriots fans. They can beat the Bills and the Panthers with him not playing well, but I don’t think they can beat a playoff caliber team with their passing game not working well. I mean, seriously, its not like their running game of defense is going to carry them. I still believe they can beat any team in the AFC playoffs if Tom Brady is healthy, but the possibility of that happening is getting dimmer and dimmer everyday. He needs two major bounce back games against Jacksonville and Houston to end the season to give them some hope. And no, I don’t blame Randy Moss. He’s still among one of the best wide receivers in the league statistically. He had one bad game and bounced back nicely last week even with his quarterback hurt and playing badly.

7. Cincinnati Bengals 9-5

Carson Palmer finally broke out with a big game through the air, but so many of those completions were to his over the middle tight end. They still lack that big deep play threat and that limits their ability to beat pass heavy teams, like the Chargers who they recently lost to. They still have yet to beat a team other than a team from the NFC North or AFC North, which predominately features conservative teams like themselves. They are good at beating those type of teams, but they aren’t going to be able to just play those type of teams in the playoffs. They are likely going to be one of the more motivated teams in the NFL, dedicating the rest of their season to their fallen teammate Chris Henry and the late wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who died earlier this season. However, their inability to stretch the defense could hurt them.

6. Green Bay Packers 9-5

The Packers lost a tough one to a motivated Steelers team, but its hard to hold that against them when they have been playing so well lately, and they didn’t really need that win anyway. This team is one of the more underrated and complete teams in the NFL, ever since they added Chad Clifton, back from injury, and Mark Tauscher, back from free agency/retirement, to their offensive line, and their young front 7, with rookies like BJ Raji, Clay Matthews, and Brad Jones creating more pressure on the opposing quarterback. They have an excellent quarterback, and an excellent defense, so they can go pretty far if they get the right matchups and get hot at the right time.

Elite runner ups

5. Philadelphia Eagles 10-4

Another good win for an Eagles team that is quietly riding a 5 game winning streak and always gets hot that this time. With two home games against the Broncos and Cowboys left on the schedule, they can finish the season 12-4 on a 7 game winning streak and go into the playoffs as one of the hottest and most loaded teams in the NFC. They just need to avoid running out of gas like they always do late in January.

4. Minnesota Vikings 11-3

Brad Childress tried to bench Brett Favre this week with his team winning 7-6 in the 3rd quarterback. Brett Favre said no, and he stayed in the game. First of all, why would Brad Childress go in to bench him for Tarvaris Jackson? Favre wasn’t playing well, but he was winning in a game they needed to win to beat out the Eagles for a first round bye. Is Tarvaris Jackson actually going to be any better? Favre must have just laughed when he first heard the “order,” like “really, that guy over me, really?” Second of all, how can Favre just say no and that is that? As wrong as Childress was, he needed to stand up for himself as coach and stick to his believe and establish himself as the leader of the team, no player is higher than him. I mean this sounds like a Chuck Norris coach. Brett Favre’s coach benched him, he said no, he stayed in the game. What happens if the Vikings win this week and lock up the #2 seed and Childress decides to give Favre a two week rest for the playoffs and sit him week 17? Or what if he even starts him week 17 and tries to take him out after one or two drives to preserve both him and his consecutive starts streak. Favre’s not going to let him to do. Establish some dominance and grow a pair. You’re the coach, this is your team. No matter how wrong you are, stand up for you belief. This team is becoming the discombobulated mess that they could have been as soon as Childress brought in Favre 2 weeks before the season started and gave up the starting job, after everyone else had battled it out for the job all offseason.

3. San Diego Chargers 11-3

There is no question that this team is hot and if they play the Colts in the postseason, they could very well beat them because they have their number, especially in the postseason. The Chargers defense under Ron Rivera has been the one defense that Peyton Manning has never quite been able to figure out. They might be the only ones that are able to beat the Colts this season unless they rest their starters the rest of the ways and the Jets surprise the Curtis Painter led Colts. However, can they go all the way with this running game. Their running game is dead last in the league in YPC and is only used in short situations set up by their passing game. Take out the passing game, take out the team. That could be a dangerous setup, especially if they have to play in cold weather, which they have yet to do, and will not do, all regular season. The good news for them, they might not need to do it in the postseason either as they have locked up the #2 seed in the AFC. They are scary except for their one flaw on the ground, which might not actually hurt them.

2. New Orleans Saints 13-1

Oh, so close. The Saints were close to tying the 2009 Colts and 1972 Dolphins for most consecutive wins to start a regular season with 14, but they couldn’t mound a late drive against the Cowboys after Nick Folk choked on the extra point for the ‘Boys and set them up with a chance to tie the game and come up clutch once again. They should be fine going forward, the one thing I would worry about, NFL teams are smart and copycats. They should be able to watch what Dallas did to somehow stop this passing attack and mimic it against the Saints in the playoffs. They need to make the adjustments now.

The favorite

1. Indianapolis Colts 14-0

I think the only team that can beat this team, aside from the Jets if the Colts stupidly decide to rest starters and piss away what is likely the only chance they will ever get at 19-0, is the Chargers and possibly the Patriots if Tom Brady and company get things right, which, again, is looking less and less likely everyday as Brady battles injuries. That’s it. They don’t have a ton to worry about and certainly a lot less than every other team in the NFL right now.

12/25/09

 

 

 

Awful

 

32. St. Louis Rams 1-12

 

I’m convinced the Rams are tanking. They said last week that they were starting 6th round rookie Keith Null to get a feel for the kid’s potential, a valid excuse, but after his performance its obvious that he was just out there to lose the game, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were drafted just to help this team tank and get the #1 pick and get a franchise quarterback. Null, whose quarterback coach at West Texas A&M was Ryan Leaf, looked Leaf esque out there, throwing 5 picks, and could have easily thrown 6 or 7. He averaged 3.7 YPA and 5.6 yards per completion so even when he did complete a pass it wasn’t going very far. All of this, plus a fumble, led to a 47-7 loss to the Titans. Mission Accomplished. Keith Null is expected to once again this week. I might actually call Steve Spagnuolo smart for the move, but for some reason he’s starting franchise running back Steven Jackson through a back injury even when he has no intention of winning another game. Putting Jackson out there over tanking specialists like Samkon Gado and Kenneth Darby, is both hurting their ability to tank, and possibly hurting their franchise back for the future.

 

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Josh Freeman has 8 picks and no touchdowns in the last two weeks against the Panthers and the Jets, who, if you take away those 8 picks, have a combined 25 picks on the season. If he can’t have a good game against Seattle’s secondary, which is led by Marcus Trufant, who, despite missing the first 6 games of the season, leads the league in pass interference, we can likely call Freeman another one of those quarterback who started too early. It will be interesting to see in a few years, how the 50 combined picks that Josh Freeman, Matt Stafford, and Mark Sanchez have thrown in 25 career starts this year, will effect the development of these three first round picks. We’ve seen the effect of too many sacks on a quarterbacks development, but have yet to see, at least in this great magnitude, the effect of too many sacks on a quarterbacks development.

 

30. Detroit Lions 2-11

 

What do you say to your team after a 48-3 loss? “Good effort out there?” Of all the first year coaches in the bottom ten of my power rankings, Jim Schwartz has the most respect from me. I think he’s an excellent defensive coordinator who the Titans are definitely missing this year and has a chance to be a good coach in this league, but he’s in an awful situation this year. Luckily for him, he realized it’s probably a good idea to sit Matt Stafford before his left shoulder got ripped off and he has still a promising rookie quarterback for the future.

 

29. Cleveland Browns 2-11

 

The Browns need to take a page out of the Rams book of tanking. They won a meaningless game this week and cursed themselves to be stuck with another year of Brady Quinn. Jake Locker returned to school which means, unless they want to take a chance on Sam Bradford, or unless Keith Null and the Rams win another game by accident, they aren’t going to be able to get a franchise quarterback this year. Or maybe the Browns were trying to tank and failed. It’s not like their win was very impressive, in fact, Brady Quinn only completed 6 passes, giving Cleveland starting quarterbacks 8 total completions on the year in losses.

 

Better luck next year

 

28. Kansas City Chiefs 3-10

 

Jamaal Charles had 181 yards and a touchdown on 27 touches against the Bills last week, making me once again wonder why it took homophobic slurs and a 2.7 YPC ratio by Larry Johnson for Charles to get the starting job for the Chiefs. Charles is averaging 5.2 YPC for the Chiefs despite running behind an awful offensive line. And then of course I have to wonder how the Chiefs still lost to the Bills despite those huge numbers by Charles to fall to 3-10.

 

27. Oakland Raiders 4-9

 

Last week I was bracing for the impending end of the world with the Raiders having a decent quarterback and a chance to win more than 5 games for the first time since 2002. However, last week they lost a winnable game to the Redskins and lost starting quarterback Bruce Gradkowski for the season. Now the Raiders have to choose between Charlie Frye, who will start this week, JaMarcus Skittles, and recently signed JP Losman at quarterback for the rest of the season, meaning there’s a very good chance, that they don’t win another game this season, even with Cleveland still on the schedule. And all is right with the world.

 

26. Buffalo Bills 5-8

 

After beating the Chiefs, I don’t think the Bills have another game on their schedule which they can win which means the last 3 weeks of the season will be them trying to beat New England for the first time in forever and Terrell Owens trying to hike up his stats to get paid and on a good team for next season.

 

Looking forward to a top ten pick

 

25. Carolina Panthers 5-8

 

Matt Moore is better than Jake Delhomme. He doesn’t have the best arm, but he actually is able to get the ball to his only good receiver Steve Smith and he has only thrown one pick in his two starts. If Jake Delhomme had played those two games he likely would have had 6 or 7 picks. Delhomme is likely going to be done for the season, as he reportedly cannot even grip a football with his broken finger (though its not like he was great at holding onto the ball earlier this season), but the Panthers have a brutal schedule to finish the season so unfortunately Matt Moore is not likely going to get another win.

 

24. Washington Redskins 4-9

 

I have a good feeling that the Redskins hire Jon Gruden to be their coach next season. If that happens, I predict that he will draft Tim Tebow and build a new offensive system around him that will revolutionize the game. It will be a mix of the west coast offense, the shotgun spread, and the wildcat and Tim Tebow will be the perfect fit for it. Jon Gruden has done crazy things before, like calling 62 passing plays in one game for Brian Griese, and is a good quarterbacks coach, turning around the careers of Rich Gannon, Brad Johnson, and Jeff Garcia. He also has a huge man crush on Tim Tebow as anyone who watches MNF with Gruden would know. It just makes too much sense for this not to happen.

 

23. Seattle Seahawks 5-8

 

Marcus Trufant leads the league in pass interference. This sounds bad, but its actually worse when you consider he didn’t get into his first game until week 6. I remember when he used to be a good shutdown corner, actually I remember when the Seahawks defense could actually stop people. Now it’s just pathetic. Andre Johnson is good, but anytime you allow 193 yards to a guy, there’s something wrong with your coverage skills.

 

Probably not a playoff team

 

22. Chicago Bears 5-8

 

The Bears finally showed some hustle against a division opponent last week and almost won the game except Jay Cutler failed in the clutch again. This has been a bad year for them, but if they go back to the drawing board, go back to a conservative offense, and teach Jay Cutler exactly what his role is as part of this offense, and also upgrade their offensive line and get a running back to both compliment and push Matt Forte, then when Brian Urlacher comes back from injury next year, they will have a shot at the playoffs. This team is closer than most teams ranked this low at making the playoffs because they do have a guy who I believe, in the right system, with the right coaching, can be a franchise quarterback. Cutler will also have to examine his own mental shortcomings on the field in the offseason as well because a good portion of his struggles right now are between the ears.

 

21. Miami Dolphins 7-6

 

The Dolphins schedule over the rest of the season is such that they could just as easily go 7-9 as they could go 10-6. I am picking 7-9 for them because I think they start to fall apart here with all of their injuries and I don’t think this injury depleted version of the 2009 Dolphins matches up well with the three teams remaining on their schedule.

 

20. New York Jets 7-6

 

Last week I said the Jets would lose to the Buccaneers and that would be the game that would kill their playoff chances and their fans hopes once again. However, I underestimated two chances, how far the Jets were into the playoff race, and how much the Bucs suck. However, they have a very tough schedule over the next 3 weeks, including a game against Peyton Manning and the Colts, and starting with a bit of a trap game against an underrated Chris Redman led Falcons team this week.

 

Making some noise

 

19. Tennessee Titans 6-7

 

Their Kerry Collins led offense had a huge game last week against the Rams because the defense picked off 5 picks and kept giving them the ball in favorable positions against a tired and not very talented Rams’ defense. However, Vince Young has to play the rest of the way for this team to make the playoffs. Vince Young had this team on such a roll before he got hurt and was doing whatever was necessary for this team to win.

 

18. San Francisco 49ers 6-7

 

Too much of this team’s offense is based off of Frank Gore and whether or not he has a good game because Gore is the definition of a boom or bust back. His rushing totals this year, 30, 207, 4, 32, 91, 83, 104, 59, 33, 25, 167. That’s 5 games with 33 or fewer rushing yards and 5 games with 83 or more rushing yards. However, with two easy games against the Lions and the Rams, they have a very good chance of going 8-8 after going 7-9 last year and that’s a very good place to be at for a young maturing team with a young and still inexperienced head coach. They are setting up a nice future for themselves, especially with two picks that could be in the top 15 this year.

 

17. Houston Texans 6-7

 

This team finally figured out that if they want to avoid blowing leads, they should just run the score up early. However, that’s easier said than done against most teams and that’s why this team is 6-7 and likely going to have another season with no playoffs and no more than 8 wins. If Bill Cowher or Mike Shanahan are as interested in coaching this young bunch as rumored, they should take one of them. They need someone to build some confidence in Matt Schaub and someone who has a more efficient way of picking running backs. Drawing names out of a hat before every play might seem like a good idea, but it takes a while plus its borderline idiotic.

 

Close, but no cigar

 

16. Jacksonville Jaguars 7-6

 

When I was going through and predicting games for the rest of the season, I had the Jags beat the Colts and lose to the Browns. That has a very good shot of happening because of how random this team is. They do their best in games after losses (5-1), games in which they are underdogs, and games at home (5-2). The Colts game is in Jacksonville, will be after a loss, and the Jags will be underdogs. The Browns game will be the complete opposite and it will knock the Jaguars out of the playoff race and devastate their fans…er I mean…fan.

 

15. Dallas Cowboys 8-5

 

The Cowboys organization gave all of their fans 3D glasses to watch the big jumbo tron at the game. You know something wrong if people would rather pay big money to watch a 3D jumbo tron than pay big money to actually watch a real life game. Regardless, the 3D goggles didn’t make the Cowboys look any better against the Chargers last week. Tony Romo had decent stats especially for December, but he simply showed no urgency on that last drive and that’s why Romo scored the touchdown to cut the lead to 3, with only 2 seconds left on the clock. This is the 2nd time he’s made a mental mistake on the final drive, the last coming against the Broncos when he forgot what down it was. Jerry Jones got so mad when the Cowboys lost last week that he almost showed emotion. They have three tough games left and I don’t think they will win any of them.

 

On the playoff bubble

 

14. Atlanta Falcons 6-7

 

If the Falcons can surprise and upset the Jets this week with Chris Redman at quarterback, they have a good shot to make the playoff as a 9-7 team because their last two games are relatively easy and they should have Matt Ryan back by then. This is one of the underrated teams in the league after being grossly overrated to start the season. They’ve almost beaten the Saints twice losing by a combined 11 points and playing the closest game that has been played in the Superdome this season, losing by only 8 and having a good shot late to tie it up.

 

13. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-7

 

The Steelers really need to start playing with urgency now. They have lost three games to the Chiefs, Browns, and Raiders, that’s the trifecta of shame for those keeping score at home, but they aren’t out of it and if they can get it together and start playing like they can, they might sneak into the playoffs as a 6 seed and this is one team I would not want to face in the 1st round if they are hot, so I would not really want to be the 3 seed if they make it in. Of course the 4 seed would likely have to play the Patriots which isn’t much easier. This should be a hell of a January this year.

 

12. Baltimore Ravens 7-6

 

I was waiting for this team to start playing like they were when they started 3-0 and they appeared to have exceeded that by beating the Lions 48-3 last week, they exceeded might not be the right word because of how bad the Lions really are. However, they have two relatively easy games against the Bears and Raiders and they currently have the tiebreaker over both Denver and Pittsburgh, though their week 16 matchup against the Steelers is going to be huge. This team only beat the Dennis Dixon led Steelers by 3 in over time after Dixon handed them the win. Ben Roethlisberger is healthy now and he’s just a little bit better than Dennis Dixon. You know, if you call the difference between a 6th round pick making his first start and a 2 time Super Bowl winner little.

 

11. New York Giants 7-6

 

Their red zone offense was the big worry for this team before the season because of the loss of Plaxico Burress, but their red zone defense is actually what has been the problem. They give up the 9th fewest yards, but the 5th most points to opposing offenses. However, they have a manageable schedule upcoming, much more manageable than the Cowboys’ and they have the tiebreaker over the Cowboys and the Falcons for the playoffs in the NFC. They do play the Vikings but that will be week 17 which Minnesota will likely be resting.

 

Playoffs and maybe more

 

10. Arizona Cardinals 8-5

 

The Cardinals didn’t look great last week against the Niners, and neither did Kurt Warner, but Warner has historically played his best football after bad games and the Cardinals now get the Rams and Lions before a tough game against the Packers to close out the season, so they have all but clinched a playoff spot, which will give them plenty of time to rest Kurt Warner and his 38 year old body, as well as their wide receiver corps which has been banged up at times this season.

 

9. Denver Broncos 8-5

 

How does Brandon Marshall not have a contract yet for next season? He just set an NFL record for catches in a game. What more does he have to do? They only explanation is that he won’t resign with the Broncos and the Broncos are keeping that fact on the down low. If they don’t reach an agreement with him, I hope he comes to the Patriots, as a Pats fan of course. That would be an amazing receiving corps with him, Moss, and Wes Welker, plus Tom Brady throwing to them.

 

Dark horses

 

8. New England Patriots 8-5

 

I actually think the Panthers calling out Randy Moss will motivate him for the rest of the season to prove everyone wrong, so, as a Pats fan, I would like to thank the Panthers organization for both allow us to beat them despite playing like shit, and also for motivating our best receiver. And for the record, I don’t think he ever “quit” on this playoff bound team. He’s still ranked 6th in the league in receiving yards, and is only 7 yards back of being in 3rd place, even after that lemon of a game last week. He just had a bad week against an underrated Panthers secondary. Moss might quit on the awful Raiders, but the Pats are still right in the playoff race and have Super Bowl potential if they get it right.

 

7. Cincinnati Bengals 9-4

 

The loss of Chris Henry is tragic, but we’ve seen in the past in sports, especially in football, teams rally around a death and do some amazing things in their memories. The Bengals already play with a chip on their shoulders feeling like they have something to prove because they have so many redemption stories on their roster and the franchise itself has needed some redemption, but now to go with that chip they have something else to play for, the memory of a fallen teammate and there might not be a lot that can stop that emotional force. I am also appalled that the NFL won’t let Chad Ochocinco wear Chris Henry’s #15 for one game. Why do they care? If its money, you know Chad would pay whatever it took to get to wear that number in his friend’s honor. This is the same guy who paid 20k to wear a sombrero on the sidelines. I hope Ochocinco comes out there in unocinco this week, despite what the NFL says, and willfully excepts the financial penalty. That just seems like something he would do and if Roger Goddell fines him for that, he won’t hear the end of it. Ochocinco is one of my favorite players because of his toughness and his cavalier attitude.

 

6. Green Bay Packers 9-4

 

Teams can go from overrated to underrated so quickly because when the public senses a team is overrated they start to lower their expectations a bit and if the team keeps winning they then become underrated. They haven’t lost a game since a fluke loss against the Bucs week 8 and since then they have brought their two starting tackles from last season back and have fixed their one hole, pass protection. He’s been sacked 11 times in 5 games since and was sacked 37 times in the 8 games prior. If he gets solid protection all the way through the playoffs, this is a huge sleeper team.

 

5. Philadelphia Eagles 8-4

 

Their December dominance continues as this team looks to be a lock for the playoffs and once they are there they have the experience to be deadly. One of the funniest moments from last week was when Andy Reid and a player bodyslammed each other after a touchdown. I can still confused on how the player didn’t get sucked into Andy Reid’s large stomach.

 

Elite runner ups

 

4. Minnesota Vikings 11-2

 

They got a great win against the Bengals last week, but one thing that worries me is Brett Favre. Favre had only thrown 3 interceptions before Thanksgiving, but since Thanksgiving, two games, he has thrown that many. Last year he killed the Jets playoff hopes after Thanksgiving with his interceptions, so they have to be a little bit worried. However, they have all but clinched a first round bye and they can rest Favre some to take the pressure off of his progressingly tired arm. Plus, if everything works out “normal” in the NFC, meaning Saints and Vikings meet in the NFC Championship game, the Vikings won’t have to play in a cold weather game all the way through the playoffs and through the Super Bowl in Miami.

 

3. San Diego Chargers 10-3

 

This team has not lost a regular season game since October or a December game since 2006 so its safe to say this team is on a huge roll right now and would be very scary to opposing teams, even though they actually rank dead last in YPC with a Larry Johnson esque 3.2.

 

2. Indianapolis Colts 13-0

 

I see the Jaguars as their last real last before 16-0, as they play the Jets and Bills after that, but as I said previously, the Jags are not going to be an easy matchup.

 

The favorite

 

1. New Orleans Saints 13-0

 

Not much to say here, this team is bending, but not breaking on the road and destroying at home. Even as a Pats fan and a fan of playoff upsets, I want to see the Colts and Saints play a Super Bowl when both are 18-0. They could even cut to a clip of the 1972 Dolphins looking sadly at a case of champagne they will never get to crack again.

 

12/17/09

 

 

 

 

Awful

32. St. Louis Rams 1-11

Remaining games: @ Tennessee, vs. Houston, @ Arizona, vs. San Francisco

Projected record: 1-15

Steven Jackson is really showing his toughness and his worth in the NFL this season by going out and playing every week through back spasms despite the fact that his team is 1-11 and going nowhere very fast. I hope he gets on a winning team someday either in St. Louis, or more plausibly, somewhere else. This team just doesn’t have the talent to be anything other than awful this season and they really don’t have any more games I can see them winning.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-11

Remaining games: vs. NY Jets, @ Seattle, @ New Orleans, vs. Atlanta

Projected record: 2-14

Not a very good team at all, mostly because Raheem Morris got rid of everyone from last year and replaced them with no one. Josh Freeman threw 5 picks last week which, I can imagine, must have felt like being kicked in the balls to the win deprived Bucs fans as they lost a very winnable game against Matt Moore and the Panthers. Dating back to when they were 9-3 last season, this team has lost 15 of their last 16 games, which is the equivalent of going 1-15 over the course of a season. In that stretch, they have had 5 different quarterback start games for them, Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Byron Leftwich, Josh Johnson, and Josh Freeman. Freeman is the only one with a win. They do, however, have a good shot to beat the Jets this week though as they face a team missing their starting quarterback for the 2nd straight week as Mark Sanchez for the Jets won’t play with a knee sprain.

30. Cleveland Browns 2-11

Remaining games: @ Kansas City, vs. Oakland, vs. Jacksonville

Projected record: 2-14

The Browns have completed a total of 8 passes in their 2 wins this season. I would say that that means they aren’t good enough to win another game, but it likely means they may be lucky enough to do so. They have two winning games against bad Kansas City and Oakland teams and then a game against the unpredictable Jaguars at home. Plus, Brady Quinn is playing better, not throwing a pick in 4 weeks, though if that’s how you determine a good quarterback, you have a sad organization, which they do.

29. Detroit Lions 2-10

Remaining games: @ Baltimore, vs. Arizona, @ San Francisco, vs. Chicago

Projected record: 2-14

They don’t look to be able to win any of their remaining games, but don’t sleep on them beating Chicago week 17. Matt Stafford might be able to out gun sling Jay Cutler and if that game is in the cold weather, the Lions could also outrun the Bears as they run and stop the run just a little bit better than the Bears, if you can believe that. They are also making a smart move by sitting Matt Stafford this week against the Ravens. They are going nowhere this year and Stafford, as tough as he is, and he is tough which is a very good thing, there is really no huge reason for him to be out there and further risk injury to his non-throwing shoulder.

Better luck next year

28. Kansas City Chiefs 3-9

Remaining games: vs. Buffalo, vs. Cleveland, @ Cincinnati, @ Denver

Projected record: 4-12

That was an ugly loss to the Broncos last week, losing by 5 scores at home where they had won 19 of their last 20 against the Broncos. They do have a home game left against the Browns that I think they can win, but the rest of the schedule is tough, especially a game in which they have to go into Denver and play the same Broncos team that just destroyed them.

27. Washington Redskins 3-9

Remaining games: @ Oakland, vs. NY Giants, vs. Dallas, @ San Diego

Projected record: 5-11

This team is more talented than their record shows, but they are just really bad at winning games. They have only lost one game by more than 10 points, but they are 3-9 because they just seem to find ways to lose, like missing easy field goals, as they did last week in a very winnable loss against the still undefeated Saints. However, I think they have a good shot to beat one or both of the Giants and Cowboys in Washington. They barely lost to both of those teams on the road and they match up with them well. This team always plays better late in the season, especially once they’ve already been eliminated and beating two teams in the chase for the playoffs and killing their playoff aspirations just seems like something they’d do.

26. Buffalo Bills 4-8

Remaining games: @ Kansas City, vs. Patriots, @ Atlanta, vs. Indianapolis

Projected record: 5-11

They have two very tough games left against the Patriots, who they never seem to beat, as well as the undefeated Colts. The Falcons game will be tough as well so this week’s game against the Chiefs made be their last win this season. This is a pretty disappointing season for the Bills, who expected to improve after back to back 7-9 seasons and back to back 11th overall picks. They brought in Terrell Owens in the offseason to try to get to the playoffs and to help Trent Edwards development, but after blowing a 2 score lead against the Patriots week 1, they haven’t been right. They have fired their coach and Trent Edwards has been relived of his duties as starting quarterback, with Ryan Fitzpatrick now at quarterback and doing a better job of getting his playmakers the ball. This season hasn’t gone the way they wanted it to.

Looking forward to a top ten pick

25. Carolina Panthers 5-7

Remaining games: @ New England, vs. Minnesota, @ NY Giants, vs. New Orleans

Projected record: 5-11

They might be done winning games this season, even with Jake Delhomme on the bench with a finger injury (they say he can’t even grip the football, but that has been the case all season, so I don’t see what the problem is). They have a hell of schedule for the rest of the season starting with a game in Foxboro where the Pats haven’t lost this season. They also have to play the two best teams in the NFC and the Giants in the meadowlands.

24. Chicago Bears 5-7

Remaining games: @ Green Bay, vs. Baltimore, vs. Minnesota, @ Detroit

Projected record: 6-10

This team struggled to beat the awful St. Louis Rams and has a tough schedule remaining which means they are a lock for a top ten pick, or at least they would have been but they traded their first round pick away for Jay Cutler, who happens to be one of the reasons they are in a poor position this season. Their game against the Lions seems to be the only one that is winnable for them, but the Lions are a tough team so I wouldn’t even count that as a win yet.

23. Seattle Seahawks 5-7

Remaining games: @ Houston, vs. Tampa Bay, @ Green Bay, vs. Tennessee

Projected record: 6-10

The Seahawks won a nice divisional game against the 49ers last week to give them 5 wins on the season and surpass their 2008 wins total. However, with their tough remaining schedule, they might not get many more wins, 6, maybe 7, which is very disappointing for a team that was supposed to bounce back from last season to regain their division crown from the Cardinals, but they might not even get 2nd in the division this season because the 49ers have any easier schedule.

Probably not a playoff team

22. Oakland Raiders 4-8

Remaining games: vs. Washington, @ Denver, @ Cleveland, vs. Baltimore

Projected record: 6-10

The Raiders have a good shot to win more than 5 games for the first time since their Super Bowl season as 2002 and then of course the world will collapse in on itself. The biggest reasons for this potential 6+ win season and end of the world are an easy schedule and an actual quarterback for the first time in a long time. Bruce Gradkowski is playing great and threw more touchdowns, 3, in the 4thquarter in a win over the Steelers, than JaMarcus Russell had thrown all year, 2. They have two easy games, home against the Redskins and then versus the Browns in Cleveland. They also play Baltimore in Oakland which could be a win as well because the Ravens aren’t playing with a lot of urgency right now and because the Raiders win the majority of their games at home against teams from the east.

21. New York Jets 6-6

Remaining games: @ Buccaneers, vs. Atlanta, @ Indianapolis, vs. Cincinnati

Projected record: 6-10

They are now 1 game back of the division and in perfect position to blow it and make their fans once again wonder why they believe in them. They always collapse late season and the injury to Mark Sanchez is just the beginning. Losing to the motivated Bucs this week without Sanchez would be a great way to demotivate their fans. The rest of there games aren’t much easier even if Sanchez returns.

20. San Francisco 49ers 5-7

Remaining games: vs. Arizona, @ Philadelphia, vs. Detroit, @ St. Louis

Projected record: 7-9

They have two extremely easy wins against the Rams and Lions, both of whom are in the bottom 4, the awful section, of my power rankings. All they would need to do is win one other game and despite collapsing against the Seahawks, they could still go 8-8. This week’s game against the Cardinals is a decent, but not good chance to win.

Making some noise

19. Miami Dolphins 6-6

Remaining games: @ Jacksonville, @ Tennessee, Houston, Pittsburgh

Projected record: 7-9

This team has been destroyed by injuries, losing their top cornerback, their top running back, their starting quarterback, and now their nose tackle Jason Ferguson, all for the season and for that reason, I don’t think this team has enough firepower to make the playoffs, despite making only 1 game back of the division at this point. They have 4 games, all of which are against decent teams and they could all 4. I think they win at least 1, but not many more.

18. Houston Texans 5-7

Remaining games: vs. Seattle, @ St. Louis, @ Miami, vs. New England

Projected record: 7-9

I have been talking about them blowing leads for the past two weeks, but somehow failed to mention last year when they blew a 3 score lead late against the Colts. They didn’t blow a lead last week, but they lost by less than a touchdown again, which is just showing their inability to finish and win games and for that Gary Kubiak could be fired. Matt Schaub isn’t doing much better either. Statistically, he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but every time he gets a lead late, he just gets this look on his face like “Oh shit, we’re going to blow it again.” Part of that comes from the fact that its happened so much in the past, but with things like that, when you think you are going to happen, for some reason they seem to always happen. That needs to change and bringing in a confident coach like Bill Cowher, who has interest in the job, could be enough to straighten him out.

17. Tennessee Titans 5-7

Remaining games: vs. St. Louis, vs. Miami, vs. San Diego, @ Seattle

Projected record: 8-8

The Titans lost last week to the Colts (welcome to the club) and killed their dreams of going from 0-6 to 10-6, but they have a relatively easy schedule upcoming so 8-8 is not out of the question which would be a remarkable feat for a team once 0-6. If that happens, not only does Vince Young deserve to keep his job next season, Chris Johnson deserves to be in the MVP conversation. He already has 1831 all purpose yards, more than 150 per game, and is averaging 6.2 YPC. More importantly, he was the one that said this team could go 10-6. He believed in them when members of the team obviously didn’t and he has been willing them to victory ever since across a tough schedule.

 

Close, but no cigar

16. Baltimore Ravens 6-6

Remaining games: vs. Detroit, vs. Chicago, @ Pittsburgh, @ Oakland

Projected record: 9-7

They have issues getting started right in games and that was evident last week against the Packers. They also lead the league in pass interference, which was very, very evident last week against the Packers, when almost every other play was a pass interference call on the Ravens. However, they have three relatively easy games remaining and with the Steelers now at 6-7, they don’t have to worry as much about Pittsburgh ruining their playoff aspirations.

15. Atlanta Falcons 6-6

Remaining games: vs. New Orleans, @ NY Jets, vs. Buffalo, @ Tampa Bay

Projected record: 9-7

They have been ravaged by injuries as well this season, losing their quarterback, their top running back, and their top cornerback. However, after a tough game against the Saints this week, they have a relatively easy schedule and should get Matt Ryan and Michael Turner after that to cruise through those last 3 games.

On the playoff bubble

14. Dallas Cowboys 8-4

Remaining games: vs. San Diego, @ New Orleans, @ Washington, vs. Philadelphia

Projected record: 8-8

I am going to make a gutsy call here and say that the Cowboys have won their last game this season. The Chargers are red hot and on a 6 game winning streak, the Saints haven’t lost all weak, and the Eagles are always tough in December and late January. The Redskins could surprise them and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did surprise them because that game is in Washington and the Redskins always surprise people late in the season. The Redskins have almost already beaten the Cowboys. Add in the fact that Tony Romo always chokes in December and you’ve got a team that could go 0-5 for the month.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-7

Remaining games: vs. Green Bay, vs. Pittsburgh, @ Miami

Projected record: 9-7

I have missed 4 lock picks this season, 2 of them were the Steelers. This just shows the Steelers problem. They aren’t beating the teams they are supposed to. They have lost 5 straight and three of them were against the Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns. They lack that sense of urgency and ability to step up in the clutch that they had last year and for that reason, like the year after the last time they won the Super Bowl, they will likely miss the playoffs. Unlike last year, when they were 6-0 in the division, they are 1-4 this year and that one win was against the Browns, who they later lost to. Even if they win their last three games, which I believe they can because they are talented, that likely won’t be enough to make the playoffs. If the Jaguars keep it up and force themselves into a three way tie with the Steelers and Broncos, the Steelers tie breaker with the Broncos would be nullified, and then they would miss the playoffs because they would lose the tiebreaker, conference record, against the Broncos and Jaguars who have great conference records and the Steelers do not and would not, even if they win their three remaining games.

12. New York Giants 7-5

Remaining games: vs. Philadelphia, vs. Carolina, @ Washington, @ Minnesota

Projected record: 9-7

Beating the Cowboys was a huge first step for the Giants to turn what became a pathetic season into a playoff appearance and possibly, as they did in 2007, a playoff run. Philadelphia will be tough this week, but Carolina should be easy and Minnesota will be resting their starters week 17.

11. Jacksonville Jaguars 7-5

Remaining games: vs. Miami, vs. Indianapolis, @ New England, @ Cleveland

Projected record: 10-6

This team could make the playoffs and they would be the worst playoff team ever, or maybe they would be good. That’s the thing with them, they are good one week and awful the next, seemingly randomly, like flipping a coin. I think they win 10 games. I think they beat the Colts. They almost beat the Colts earlier this season in Indy and by week 15, Indy will be resting their starters for good portions of the game. Jacksonville can win that game. Miami and Cleveland should be easy wins as well, the only loss over the rest of the season should be the Patriots.

Playoffs and maybe more

10. Denver Broncos 8-4

Remaining games: @ Indianapolis, vs. Oakland, @ Philadelphia, vs. Kansas City

Projected record: 10-6

The Raiders and the Chiefs in Denver should be really easy wins for them, but I can’t see them going into either Indy or Philly and winning there. However, 10 wins will be enough for them to make the playoffs as a 5 or 6 seed which is good for a team that a few weeks ago was on a bad 4 game losing streak.

9. Green Bay Packers 8-4

Remaining games: @ Chicago, @ Pittsburgh, vs. Seattle, @ Arizona

Projected record: 11-5

The Packers have matured up and are really playing good football since their wakeup call loss against the Bucs four weeks ago. They will need to continue playing that way against a tough remaining schedule, but if they do that, they can go into the playoffs feeling really good about themselves and ready to do some damage.

Dark horses

8. New England Patriots 7-5

Remaining games: vs. Carolina, @ Buffalo, vs. Jacksonville, @ Houston

Projected record: 11-5

This team has problems, they haven’t gone to a team’s home stadium and beaten them, but look at who they could face in the playoffs. Which team in the AFC can they not beat? The Broncos, the Colts, they barely lost to them. Jacksonville isn’t very good. The Chargers have always had trouble beating the Pats and the Bengals can’t seem to beat anyone not from the AFC or NFC North. I’m not saying they will go to the Super Bowl, but I’m just saying that you shouldn’t sleep on them, especially if they build up momentum in these last 4 easy games to go into the playoffs hot.

7. Arizona Cardinals 8-4

Remaining games: @ San Francisco, @ Detroit, vs. St. Louis, vs. Green Bay

Projected record: 11-5

After beating the Vikings, this is a scary team. They will be able to rest Kurt Warner late in the season because they can clinch the division this week and because they have a weak schedule, which will make the veteran fresh and ready for the playoffs. This team is more complete than the one that made the Super Bowl last year and don’t be surprised if they get hot at the right time like last year and possibly make the Super Bowl again.

6. Cincinnati Bengals 9-3

Remaining games: @ Minnesota, @ San Diego, vs. Kansas City, @ NY Jets

Projected record: 12-4

This team is not a legit Super Bowl contender in my mind. They are 9-0 against the AFC and NFC north and 0-3 against everyone else. The NFC and AFC North are both known for being very grind it out, conservative teams. Those are the only types of teams that the Bengals can beat. They lack big play players and thus cannot contend with high octane offensive team and for that reason they will need to be very lucky in who they draw for the playoffs if they want to win the Super Bowl and I don’t think they are that lucky. Cedric Benson is a nice grind it out back, but he rarely breaks off big gains. Chad Ochocinco is a nice possession receiver, but not a deep threat. Carson Palmer has a gunslinger’s arm, but no big deep threats to catch his gunslings, likely part of the reason why he is actually struggling this year. They have 3 games against non-North teams to finish the season, but beating the Jets and Chiefs will hardly prove them to be a versatile team. They need to beat the high octane Chargers in the warm climate in San Diego to be respected as a true contender in my mind and I don’t think they can do that. They could prove me wrong though.

5. Philadelphia Eagles 8-4

Remaining games: @ NY Giants, vs. San Francisco, vs. Denver, @ Dallas

Projected record: 12-4

The Eagles historically become a good team right about now and they can certainly win out the rest of their games to finish the season on a big 7 game winning streak. They have two games against teams from the West Coast coming to town and two road games against good division rivals which they matchup well with.

Elite runner ups

4. Minnesota Vikings 10-2

Remaining games: vs. Cincinnati, @ Carolina, @ Chicago, vs. NY Giants

Projected record: 12-4

I think they start to slip late in the season because they will be trying to rest Favre with a first round bye, which will be very important to them, all but locked up. They can easily lose to the Bengals and the Giants, but I think they get a first round bye and homefield in the 2nd round. That is important because it will get Brett Favre some rest in his first week of the playoffs, and, assuming the Saints make it through as well, the Vikings won’t have to play a game out in the cold throughout the entire postseason all the way to the Super Bowl in Miami, which will help Brett Favre’s arm not fresh up like it did last season.

3. San Diego Chargers 9-3

Remaining games: @ Dallas, vs. Cincinnati, @ Tennessee, vs. Washington

Projected record: 13-3

The Chargers have great momentum and even though they all but have the division locked up, I don’t think they will rest their starters because they know how important momentum is. I think this team can complete their amazing 11 game winning streak. The Cowboys suck in December, as I’ve already said, the Bengals don’t matchup well against the Chargers and teams like them, the Titans are good, but not that good, and the Redskins aren’t going to be able to beat the Chargers in San Diego.

2. Indianapolis Colts 12-0

Remaining games: vs. Denver, @ Jacksonville, vs. NY Jets, @ Buffalo

Projected record: 15-1

I think they will lose once this season because they are likely going to rest their starters late, both Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning are nursing minor nagging injuries, and because they can’t possibly keep barely winning all season. They will lose once, likely to either the Broncos, or more likely the Jaguars.

The favorite

1. New Orleans Saints 12-0

Remaining games: @ Atlanta, vs. Dallas, vs. Tampa Bay, @ Carolina

Projected record: 16-0

I think they will not lose once this season because they are dominating teams and show no signs of wanting to rest players rather than go all the way, which might be the way to go to maintain momentum. This team is good enough to beat anyone in the league, especially this weak schedule, if they try.

12/12/09

 

 

 

Awful

32. Cleveland Browns 1-10

Jamal Lewis has been placed on IR due to post concussion symptoms. If he keeps his word, that means that it’s the end of his career. I wonder how he’ll celebrate. Lewis announced that he would be retiring after the season during week 8 and complained about practicing and said that he didn’t want to put the effort for a losing cause. Now he has his wish. He doesn’t have to play anymore. The only problem, he’s seeing stars after a nasty concussion.

31. Detroit Lions 2-9

The Lions defense is awful. Oh wait…I said that last week. Well, the Lions haven’t played since my last power rankings so there isn’t much I can say about them accept that their defense is awful. They haven’t stopped an offense at all this season. They’ve held two teams under 25 points this season. Those were the Redskins and Rams.

30. St. Louis Rams 1-10

Marc Bulger is likely done as a Ram after yet another injury. Since 2006, his last good season, Bulger and the injury report have become quite close and that really just ended his career in St. Louis and maybe in the NFL in general. Kyle Boller will take over at quarterback under further notice, but the former 1st round pick turned major bust is likely not the longterm answer. This team will look at quarterbacks this offseason with Bulger’s contract coming to a point where they can easily cut him.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-10

This team tries so hard and has great hope for the future with Josh Freeman, who has surprisingly been the best rookie quarterback in the league this season. And by future, I don’t mean next season. There’s a good chance that they beat a few mediocre teams this season, starting possibly with Carolina this week, because of their quarterback play and hustle. Imagine how good this team could be if they didn’t have a madman whose only solution to any problem is to get rid of people, players and coordinators alike, coaching the team. Raheem Morris does not deserve this job.

Better luck next year

28. Oakland Raiders 3-8

JaMarcus Russell was recently seen on the sideline looking guilty with what appeared to be a bag of Skittles in his waistband. This is what the Raiders’ 60 million investment and first overall pick got them, a man who doesn’t start and just sits on the sideline eating, that and a ton of overthrows of open guys. There was a big deal made about Mark Sanchez eating a hot dog on the sideline, but that was when his team was winning. The only reason there hasn’t been a big deal made about this is because it’s not surprising.

27. Washington Redskins 3-8

This team just finds ways to lose. They have only played one game this season decided by 10 points or less, which means they are keeping it close, yet they are still 3-8 and in dead last in the NFC East. Normally when that happens, the coach blamed, so Jim Zorn is likely not going to be back next season. Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan will be interesting candidates for the job but whoever comes in will want to bring in their own guy at quarterback because that’s a trend, so Jason Campbell won’t be back. In fact, that might have been one of Zorn’s biggest mistakes. He didn’t get his own quarterback. Jason Campbell didn’t fit his system at all yet he stuck with it and look what has happened. What makes it more pathetic is that there was the perfect guy for his system sitting on his bench the whole time, Todd Collins. Campbell may have been athletic skills, but Collins probably would have led them to more wins this season and maybe even more last too.

26. Kansas City Chiefs 3-8

The Chiefs traded a 2nd round pick for Matt Cassel then paid him 63 million dollars. Cassel only has a 77.6 QB rating this season and the Chiefs only have 3 wins. This proves two things, the importance of systems for quarterback and the importance of providing a quarterback with a good supporting cast before you trade for/sign/draft him. Cassel is clearly a system quarterback. His numbers are way down out of New England’s system this season, because he doesn’t fit it as well. Most quarterbacks are actually this way, see Jay Cutler in Chicago vs. Denver. If I were building a team, the last thing I do would be to get a quarterback because, unless that quarterback were an elite quarterback, he isn’t going to play well if he doesn’t have the supporting cast. Why waste all that money on him if you haven’t made the atmosphere around him the best possible and most suitable for winning.

Looking forward to a top ten draft pick

25. Seattle Seahawks 4-7

This team is really, really good…at beating the Rams. This team is 4-0 against the Rams have the last two years and 4-19 against all other opponents. This team was supposed to bounce back from a bad year last year, but injuries and bad coaching have hurt them. And now coach Jim Mora is going to put Julius Jones back into the starting lineup over Justin Forsett who ran amazingly last week in his absence. Their 4 wins are misleading, they’ve been worse than that. Three of those four wins came against the Rams and Lions.

24. Buffalo Bills 4-8

The Bills played down the road, in another country, this week against the Jets in Toronto. They lost and had only 51 thousand fans in the process, way down from how many they normally have even in the relatively small city of Buffalo. I don’t know why they chose to away essentially a 9th road game by going all the way to Toronto, roughly 100 miles. It couldn’t have been for the money because you don’t make a ton of money if you don’t sell tickets.

23. Carolina Panthers 4-7

When I was coming up for the categories for my power rankings years ago, I came up with the category for teams that were looking forward to a top ten draft pick. These teams would not be awful, but would be bad enough to be in the top ten in the draft and bad enough that that would be the only thing they would have to look forward to really. Unfortunately, the Panthers fit that description, except for the fact that they have no pick to look forward to. The traded it to the Niners for Everette Brown who has 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks this season as a rookie. That’s a shame because they need a quarterback badly despite the fact that they just have Jake Delhomme a new contract. Delhomme has sucked this season with 18 interceptions to 8 touchdowns. He has killed drives, momentum, and this whole team with his interceptions and has even gotten creative with his picks, throwing them off of his players feet and bouncing them into the hands of the defenders. Delhomme is now hurt and Panthers fans are cheering saying that this injury, and the forced switch to Matt Moore that comes with it, is a good move. However, I believe that coach John Fox is a smart guy. He wouldn’t have kept Delhomme out there playing as bad as he was, and signed AJ Feeley as insurance, if he had any confidence in Matt Moore’s abilities to throw to football. Moore completed 57% of his passes, threw 3 touchdowns, to 5 picks, and averaging 6.6 yards per attempt while compiling a 67 QB rating in 9 starts for an injured Delhomme in 2007. Maybe that’s why he was on the bench.

Probably not a playoff team

22. Chicago Bears 4-7

Their 3-1 start is long gone now. They have gone 1-6 since and if they keep playing this way, with Jay Cutler constantly under pressure and throwing picks, and Matt Forte not trying and barely getting any blocking, they could end up going 5-11. If that happens, Jay Cutler will get a lot of shit in the offseason. He was supposed to be their first good quarterback in decades, so a failed season would be awful for him. Luckily he has two games against the Rams and the Lions, but the rest of the schedule is tough and even those two “easy” games against the Rams and Lions might not be so easy for this team the way they have been playing.

21. New York Jets 6-6

I could talk about how tough it will be for the Jets to make the playoffs, even if Mark Sanchez doesn’t miss any games, even though the Jets are in 2nd place in the division and at .500 because of their tough schedule. However I will instead talk about the singular greatest that is Darrelle Revis. There are plenty of wide receivers in the NFL, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Wayne, and Randy Moss, that can change the game by themselves, but very few cornerbacks who can do the same. Darrelle Revis can. He can take any wide receiver out of the game by himself, including those five elite wide receivers I listed previously and he’s only 24. Imagine if the Jets actually had a good corner next to him, making it so the quarterback couldn’t just pick on the other side of the field. They would be amazing against the pass.

20. Miami Dolphins 5-6

This team can’t make the playoffs without Ronnie Brown. The defense isn’t good enough for Chad Henne to be able to lead this offense to enough points to win without both of his big time running backs, Brown and former pothead Ricky Williams. Unfortunately, Ronnie Brown is physical incapable of lasting an entire season. It’s like clockwork that he will break something or tear something at some point during a season.

Making some noise

19. Houston Texans 5-6

Last week I talked about how this team can’t finish anything because they had lost 4 games by 7 or fewer points. Last week they lost by more than that, but, it still fits into the category of a blown loss because they actually led by 17 in the 2ndhalf. A lot of that can be blamed on lack of maturity and composure, which a lot of times is the coaches fault. Add that in with the fact that he pretty much draws his starting running back out of a hat, not just game by game but play by play, and coach Gary Kubiak might not be back next season. There were some rumors that Coach Bill Cowher would be interested in coaching the Texans and if those are true and Kubiak doesn’t turn it around, they could fire him and bring in Cowher.

18. San Francisco 49ers 5-6

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who is a Niners fan that was saying the Niners could win the division. I initially laughed a little. The Niners suck. The NFC West is bad, but not that bad. Then I looked at the schedule. The Cards have a tough game with the Vikings this week and the Niners have a game against the reeling Seahawks. Then the Niners and Cardinals play each other on Monday Night Football week 14 and if the Niners win that one, they would be tied for the division at 7-6 and have the tiebreaker and they would be in good position to win the division and make the playoffs. It’s a bit of a long shot, but it’s certainly possible.

Close, but no cigar

17. Atlanta Falcons 6-5

Injuries are piling up at the worst time for the Falcons. Top running back Michael Turner might miss a few more weeks, Matt Ryan could be done for the season with turf toe, and Brian Williams is hurt exposing their lack of depth at the cornerback position and allowing Josh Freeman to post a big game on their secondary. This team was close to a playoff berth before injuries struck, but now they are on the outside looking in and unless Ryan comes back soon, they may be further out. Chris Redman is a good game manager, but with no running game or defense to support him, he won’t do much.

16. Tennessee Titans 5-6

This has been quite a miraculous turnaround for this team and for Vince Young by himself. They were 0-6 and coming off a 59 point loss to the Patriots and a bye week, and they knew they were better than they were playing because this team is an Albert Haynesworth removed from going 13-3 last season, and then they inserted Vince Young, once viewed as mentally fragile into the starting lineup, and he has perform big time for them, knowing his role, doing what’s necessary to win, and performing in the clutch en route to a 5-0 record as starter.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars 6-5

This team is very talented, but poorly coached and occasionally takes entire weeks off. There will be weeks where they team is just not on the field pretty much. They have been killed in 3 of their 4 matchups against the NFC West, got destroyed in both games on the West Coast, and barely beat St. Louis and Kansas City in Jacksonville. If it weren’t for those games they’d be playing fine, but for whatever reason, they don’t show up against the West.

 

On the playoff bubble

14. New York Giants 6-5

They haven’t played since my last power rankings so I will comment more on how ugly they looked against the Broncos again. Let’s see, they couldn’t run at all. Derrick Ward is gone, Ahmad Bradshaw is hurt, and Brandon Jacobs, for whatever reason sucks, so earth, wind, and fire has pretty much been destroyed putting more pressure on Eli Manning and his injured foot and inexperienced wide receivers. The defense has so many pass rushers that they can’t actually stop the run, especially near the goal line. They have given up 15 touchdowns on the ground this season, 4th most in the NFL behind Buffalo, St. Louis, and Oakland. Their inability to stop the run, makes the unable to blitz as much, rending their pass rushers slightly useless and putting more pressure on an inexperienced and injured secondary. If it weren’t for luck in overtime, this team would be on a 6 game losing streak, but still, if they beat the Cowboys this week, which since it’s December won’t be that hard, they will only be one game back of the Cowboys for the division and they would own the tiebreaker.

13. Denver Broncos 7-4

I have been underrating them this entire season and by underrating them I mean rating them lower than their record because I don’t think this is a very dangerous team. They’ve won two games by luck this season, one on a fluke pass and one in overtime, and they had a 4 game stretch where they looked downright awful. Their secondary is talented but old and their front 7, with the exception of 2 guys is made out of cast offs from bad teams and rookies playing out of position. Their starting quarterback isn’t much better than Matt Cassel and their star wideout Brandon Marshall, who their rookie coach thought he had under control, shoved their star running back for fumbling on the goal line. I don’t think they win more than 9 games this season, even though they play the Raiders once more and the Chiefs twice more. That would put them in a tie with the Ravens, I think, with nine wins for that final playoff spot and Baltimore destroyed them this season to hold the tie breaker.

12. Green Bay Packers 7-4

Another team that hasn’t played since my last Power Rankings. The health of their offensive line and their ability to protect a beaten up Aaron Rodgers will determine whether this team wins enough of their last games, over a tough schedule, to make the playoffs. This team has had an extremely easy schedule to this point, but that’s not the case from this point on.

11. Baltimore Ravens 6-5

Only winning by 3 in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were quarterbacked by Dennis Dixon, a 2008 5th round pick, that a few weeks ago had only thrown one career pass and was a 3rd string quarterback, is a little troubling, but a win is a win, especially at this point in the season and especially against a division opponent like the Steelers. With the win they tied the Steelers in the standings and took a 1-0 lead, over a team that swept the division last year, in the tiebreaker between the two division foes. The also own the tiebreaker with Denver. Cincinnati has pretty much locked up the division with a 2 game lead over both the Steelers and the Ravens and the tiebreaker over both, but the Ravens and Steelers will be fighting with the Broncos for those last two playoff spots and right now the Ravens own the tiebreaker over both. However, when the Steelers and Ravens meet again week 16, assuming Ben Roethlisberger plays, the Ravens might not be so lucky.

Playoffs and maybe more

10. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-5

I put them above the Ravens on the basis that they could have won with Dennis Dixon last week easily and should win with Big Ben week 16. However, for a team that swept the division last season, a 1-3 record in division play is not good, especially when that one win was over the Browns.

9. Dallas Cowboys 8-3

I put them below the Eagles on the basis that the Eagles and Donovan McNabb historically have a much better December than the Cowboys and Tony Romo and the Cowboys still have 3 divisional games remaining, 2 of which are with teams within 2 games of them in the standings. They also have to play a red hot San Diego team and an undefeated New Orleans team. Their only relatively easy game is a divisional game at Washington against a reeling Redskins team that the Cowboys almost lost to last time the two met back in week 11.

8. Arizona Cardinals 7-4

Matt Leinart just can’t beat Vince Young can he. Vince Young and the Texan Longhorns surprised Leinart and his USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl National Championship game back in 2006 when the two were in colleges. The Young got drafted higher than the former consensus #1 overall pick Leinart. Then both struggle in the pros, Leinart gets benched and watches starter Kurt Warner led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl (I’m still shocked by that one). Leinart gets to start for Warner because Warner is seeing stars thanks to a concussion and lose on a clutch last second drive to who of all people, a revitalized Vince Young, who throws the winning touchdown in the last seconds in a way reminiscent of the way he ran for the winning touchdown late in the Rose Bowl.

Dark horses

7. Philadelphia Eagles 7-4

They get this spot based on their past history of being dominant in December. In fact, they have a better record at the end of November this season than they have in a lot of seasons over the past decade and this is a team that’s made 5 NFC Championship games this decade (they’re what we call: 4th place royalty). They didn’t look great against the Redskins last week, but they put together a late run and won it in clutch fashion and this week they get a reeling Falcons team with a secondary thinner than toilet paper. Even with DeSean Jackson suffering side effects from a blow to the head, the Eagles should be able to throw their way to a victory in that game.

6. Cincinnati Bengals 8-3

The Bengals have swept their division. Logic says that’s a bad thing, especially when you consider how monoculturistic (I made up that word) the AFC North is. The AFC North, with the exception of the awful Browns, all play smash mouth football. They have had no problem beating those teams, but they are 2-3 outside of the division, losing to the Raiders, Texans, and Broncos, and beating the Bears and Packers, and they will have to play non-divisional foes in the playoffs. However, history says it’s a good thing. 5 out of the last 6 teams to sweep their division made the Super Bowl.

5. New England Patriots 7-4

People are saying this is not the same Tom Brady this season. It is. He is 2006 esque. Not 2007 esque because when you look at his stats, regular season at least, 2007 is the anomaly. From 2002-2006, Brady threw for anywhere from 3529 yards to 4110 yards, completed anywhere from 60.2 percent to 63.0 percent of his passes, averaged anywhere from 6.3 to 7.8 YPA,  threw for anywhere from 23 to 28 touchdowns, threw for anywhere from 12 to 14 picks. and had a QB rating of anywhere from 85.7 to 92.6. This season, his stats threw 11 games, if you project them out to 16 games, in that previous order, read 4780, 65.7, 7.7, 29, 12, and 96.5. If you take 2007 out of the equation, 5 of those are or tie career highs. He is doing what he always does. It’s the defense that’s letting the Patriots down and even if Brady makes his traditional statistical step up in the postseason, it might not be enough to win the Super Bowl because of that defense. You can’t count them out though.

Elite runner ups

4. San Diego Chargers 8-3

Can you imagine how good this team could be if they actually showed up to play before week 6. That early loss to the Broncos was the wakeup call they needed. If history plays out as normal, this team can beat the Colts, but not the Patriots. Pats fans better hope that the Chargers get to the Colts before they do and Chargers fans better hope that the Colts get to the Patriots before they do and Colts fans better hope that the Patriots get to the Chargers before they do. Or completely random stuff could happen as it always does.

3. Minnesota Vikings 10-1

Brett Favre and the Vikings have to be kicking themselves a little. Any other year, this team is Super Bowl favorites and Brett Favre is MVP favorite, but because of the play of Peyton Manning and the Colts and Drew Brees and the Saints, that’s not happening this year. However, assuming Brett Favre’s arm doesn’t hit the wall like it did last year, this team is a well rounded team that can beat the Colts or the Saints and they’ll play with more of a chip on their shoulder in the playoffs, especially against either of those two teams. They haven’t lost to the Colts or Saints this year. The only thing that makes them “worse” than those two is a 10 point loss to a good Steelers team. I would be more afraid of this team if I were the Colts or Saints than any other team.

2. Indianapolis Colts 11-0

It’s tough to put an 11-0 team in 2nd, but when there are two 11-0 teams, you have to. The Colts beat the Patriots by 1 and the Saints beat them by 21 so that’s why the Colts are 2nd and the Saints are in first here. I am a Patriots fan, but I actually want to see a Colts/Saints Super Bowl. It would be exciting and great for the league. The Colts are an interesting team. They look like they can lose, they just don’t. They have won their last 5 games despite trailing in the 4thin each. That has never happened before.

The favorite

1. New Orleans Saints 11-0

The Colts look like they can lose, but don’t, the Saints don’t look like they can lose and don’t. I’m not actually sure which one is scarier to the rest of the league. They face Washington, a beat up Atlanta squad, Tony Romo in December, the Bucs, and the Panthers to finish their regular season. They will all be gunning for them, but there’s a good chance the Saints go undefeated. I think the Colts will lose once before the end of the season just because I don’t believe that a team can win that many close games, but both are scary, scary teams for their respective conferences.

-12/5/09

 

 

Awful

32. Cleveland Browns 1-9

Brady Quinn had one fewer touchdown last week against the Lions than the entire offense had the previous 9 games. However, they still lost thanks to stupid calls by Eric Mangini plus the awful play of their defense. They still have Kansas City and Oakland on the schedule this season, but I don’t think they’ll win another game. This team is as bad as the winless Lions were last year. The only difference is that they someone managed to win a game.

31. Detroit Lions 2-9

How do you give up 4 touchdowns to Brady Quinn and the Browns “offense?” I know they won the game and it actually was an interesting showdown between two awful teams, not like anyone was watching, but they move down this weak for an awful defensive showing in a game that they could have, maybe should have lost. This team does not look like a team that can win another game this season. That awful loss to the Packers on Thanksgiving didn’t help their case either. I would, however, like to commend Matt Stafford for his leadership, throwing the winning touchdown despite grimacing in pain due to a separated non throwing shoulder and then coming out on Thanksgiving and paying through the pain again. That leadership could be what separates him from every other young quarterback with a good arm that busted.

30. St. Louis Rams 1-9

They could probably easily beat either of the two teams below them on this list, and they actually already did beat the Lions, but this team has won 3 times in their last 30 games. That’s the definition of awful. If Stephen Jackson misses their game this week against Seattle, it will destroy one of their biggest chances to win another game this season.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-9

Which rookie quarterback drafted in the first round has the highest quarterback rating. Mark Sanchez? Nope. Matt Stafford? Nope, not even after that 5 touchdown game against the Lions. It’s Josh Freeman. Freeman was my least favorite of the three coming out of college and the last picked. So, why is he playing better? It’s certainly not that he has more talent around him because Sanchez actually does have a good supporting cast. Freeman sat the longest before starting his first game. Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan were huge exceptions last year leading their teams to the playoffs as rookie quarterbacks starting all 16 games. It’s still best, if you can, to sit your quarterback for a few games, let him learn the offense, before throwing him out into action.

Better luck next year

28. Kansas City Chiefs 3-7

Jamaal Charles had 17 of the Chiefs 20 rushes last week against the Steelers and the Chiefs won. Did Todd Haley finally realize that Charles is the only good running back on the roster? Nope, everyone else was just hurt. Kolby Smith and his 2.3 YPC comes back this week against the Chargers which means that he should steal 8-10 of Charles’ carries. That is a recipe for success…NOT!!!

27. Oakland Raiders 3-8

Bruce Gradkowski led the Raiders to victory over a division leading opponent in his first start. Does that mean Gradkowski is the next Rich Gannon? Well, since he only completed 50% of his passes and the Raiders won on a field goal after the other team fumbled on a kick off, I doubt it. Especially since he and his team got destroyed by the Cowboys on Thanksgiving their next time out. Well, at least Darrius Heyward Bey finally caught a touchdown. Granted he was completely wide open in the end zone, but JaMarcus Russell would have overthrown him by about 10 yards. Don’t you just love progress…

26. Washington Redskins 3-7

The Redskins defense played a game great last week against the Cowboys and didn’t give up a touchdown until the 4th quarter. However, because Jason Campbell and this offense only scored 6 points, they still lost. Their inability to get the ball into the endzone this season is killing them and possibly losing Clinton Portis for the season, as well as Ladell Betts, doesn’t help at all.

Looking forward to a top ten draft pick

25. Buffalo Bills 3-7

Terrell Owens finally broke out under new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and new coach Perry Fewell. Both of those guys seem to want to get their best player the ball, hey what a concept, but I think TO’s 197 yard game had more to do with the fact that the Jags can’t cover and less to do with the fact that the Bills’ offense is playing well. The Bills also did lose the game, which doesn’t help.

24. Seattle Seahawks 3-7

The Seahawks averaged 11 inches a carry on the ground last week. Granted, Julius Jones was out and it was against the Vikings, but that’s still pathetic. Their inability to pass block and their inability to run on the ground, plus injuries and inconsistencies on defense, have made this team a huge disappointment this year.

23. San Francisco 49ers 4-6

The Niners started out the season 3-1 and then signed Michael Crabtree. Crabtree has played great, but the team is 1-5 since signing him. That is too much of a coincidence to not mean anything. Mike Singletary came in preaching team and not the individual, but yet the front office caved into the demands of Crabtree who the entire offseason was pretty much just screaming “ME!” ME!” “ME!” Some might say that they gave Crabtree exactly the contract that he originally rejected, but they still caved into him by letting him sit out the preseason and the first month of the season and still get paid and play the same amount.

Probably not a playoff team

22. New York Jets 4-6

The Jets lost two important players to injuries this season. Their defense, especially their run defense, has not been the same since Kris Jenkins went out for the season and their offense, especially their run offense, has not been the same since Leon Washington went out for the season. Also, their trade for Braylon Edwards actually may have hurt this team. He’s playing awful right now, not hustling, dropping passes, and running poor routes. He also had 1 catch last week against the Patriots. Oh yeah, and someone should tell Mark Sanchez which color jerseys his receivers wear. He has thrown 6 picks in the last 2 weeks.

21. Carolina Panthers 4-6

After a few weeks of pretending to be a good quarterback, Delhomme regressed against the Dolphins’ rookie cornerbacks last week, going 19 for 42 with a touchdown and an interception. He just kept throwing incompletions and that was completely throwing off their offensive rhythm. I guess he just decided if he couldn’t complete passes to his receivers, he would just throw it away every time and not let anyone have the ball.

20. Chicago Bears 4-6

The Bears need another running back to push for Matt Forte’s job. The only reason that he is averaging 3.3 YPC and still getting every single carry is because he doesn’t need to try as hard because he doesn’t fear for his job. He doesn’t think the Bears have anyone to cut into his carries and he’s right.

Making some noise

19. Tennessee Titans 4-6

The Titans have won their last 4 games after starting 0-6, but I’m not sold on this team making the playoffs. However, they have showed a lot of resilience in proving that they were in fact better than their 0-6 record said that were. If Vince Young is not back as quarterback next year, and I can’t believe I am saying this, they are making a mistake. He’s a proven winner who has posted a 22-11 record in his career. He might not up the prettiest numbers, but he gets the job done thanks to some nice support around him and the fact that he knows what his role is and what he needs to do to win.

18. Miami Dolphins 5-5

As well as Ricky Williams has been playing, I don’t think this team can make the playoffs with Ronnie Brown out. Williams can’t shoulder the load by himself and Chad Henne has not proven that he is the type of quarterback that can lead a team with his arm. Plus, this defense has major holes in it.

Close, but no cigar

17. Houston Texans 5-5

I would not be surprised to see a bunch of uneaten food sitting around the Texans clubhouse. They have lost 4 of their 5 games by one score and in each of those games they had a chance to tie it late and came up just short. They would be 9-1 if they could finish anything. I’m surprised their players and coaches even are able to finish their sentences in interviews and press conferences and

16. Atlanta Falcons 5-5

Another example of the NFL’s stupid overtime rule. The Falcons might be eliminated from the playoffs after losing to the Giants in an overtime in which they did not get the ball. The overtime solution is simple. Play at least 7 minutes and who ever is winning after 7 minutes wins the game. If there is another tie, play another one, until someone wins. This would make the game so much more exciting. The players would be more tired, but I think a good majority of the players in the NFL would rather have games decided fair in square than get some extra rest.

15. Baltimore Ravens 5-5

The Ravens have played a tough season and have a lot of good things for the future, but, even if they beat a Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers team this week, they are a long shot to make the playoffs. They just take way to long to get into a rhythm in a single game and that has cost a talented team a few games this season.

On the playoff bubble

14. Jacksonville Jaguars 6-4

The Jaguars are poorly coached and have an awful secondary, but they are a win over the Niners away from being 7-4 and in good position to possibly make the playoffs. However, they still have two games remaining against the Patriots and the Colts so they’ll have to win out the rest of their games or at least one of those games, which will be tough, in order to make the playoffs.

13. New York Giants 6-5

After starting 5-0, the Giants are now 6-5 and two games back of the Cowboys for the division. They are a fluke win in overtime, an overtime in which the other team never got the ball, from being 5-6. This team is obviously not living up to their preseason hype and their 5-0 start. Injuries on defense and immaturities on offense have been the biggest issue. Plus, their running game has simply not been playing well since week 5. Ahmad Bradshaw has been hurt, so the loss of Derrick Ward was exposed and too much pressure was put on Brandon Jacobs who has been plagued by injuries and really not playing well. Jacobs is only averaging 3.9 YPC and has only 3 touchdowns.

12. Green Bay Packers 7-4

They have bounced back nicely after losing to the Bucs by beating the Cowboys, the 49ers, and the Lions. However, it will be no more Mr. nice schedule for the Packers who have played 5 games against the 4 worst teams on this list. During their last 5 games, they have to play the Ravens, the Bears, the Steelers, the Seahawks, and the Cardinals. They have done a bit of a better job protecting Aaron Rodgers over the past 3 weeks since they have switched to more 3 step drops. He’s only been sacked 9 times in the last three weeks. That trend will need to continue if they are going to make the playoffs because their only weakness as a team this season, other than the occasional bouts of immaturity, has been their offensive line.

11. Denver Broncos 7-4

Their win over the Giants doesn’t exactly make up for their 4 game slide prior to that game, especially with how bad the Giants have been playing lately, but a win is a win and it definitely helps. With the way the AFC is shaping up right now, every win definitely matters.

Playoffs and maybe more

10. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-4

The loss of Ben Roethlisberger for the Ravens game hurt them because of how competitive the AFC is right now. If I had made my mock draft order and my power rankings order after Big Ben got hurt, I might have lowered them some on this list. Their luck this year hasn’t been as bad as it was the last time they tried to defend their Super Bowl trophy, but injuries to Troy Polamalu, Aaron Smith, and Ben Roethlisberger haven’t helped and neither have 4 losses by one touchdown or less. Like the last time they tried to defend their Super Bowl title, they may miss the playoffs this year as well.

9. Philadelphia Eagles 6-4

I’m counting on another late season run by this team into the postseason, but if they don’t do so, they could miss the playoffs as well, as talented as they are. That’s how tight the NFC is right now. In fact, the entire “middle class” of the NFL, seems to be that way. There are a ton of 5-5, 6-5, 6-4, 7-4 teams and any of them could miss the playoffs with a few bad games.

8. Dallas Cowboys 8-3

I wasn’t counting on this team for much this season with all they got rid of and didn’t replace in the offseason, but now they are at 8-3 and in perfect position to blew another big division lead and maybe even make the playoffs and lose in the first round because of some stupid decision late.

Dark horses

7. Cincinnati Bengals 7-3

Call it bungling, call it the Larry Johnson curse, but whatever happened, the Bengals choked last week. They really only have one win of more than ten points, which either means they aren’t as good as their record, or they’re clutch. Luckily for them, because they essentially have a 2 game lead over the Steelers and a 3 game lead over the Ravens, thanks to the tiebreaker, they are going to make the playoffs and prove that they are one way or another.

6. Arizona Cardinals 7-3

Of all the good teams that make the Super Bowl, lost, and missed the playoffs the next year this decade, it looks like the Cardinals are going to make the playoffs this year after making the Super Bowl this year. This offense went to a new level after Ken Whisenhunt figured out that running the football had been invented. This has quietly become an elite team in the NFL again this year and they have the experience at almost every position to make another run, especially experience at the quarterback position led by Kurt Warner.

5. San Diego Chargers 7-3

This is quite a run. It seems that the worse they are in the beginning of the season, the earlier the wake up call, and the better the team is. All of a sudden, LaDainian Tomlinson is playing well, Shawne Merriman has regained form, and both the offense and the defense are playing excellent with chemistry as whole units.

Elite runner ups

4. New England Patriots 7-3

A huge game for the Patriots this week against the Saints as they try to prove that they actually deserved to beat Denver and Indy and thus are deserving of being ranked among the elite in the NFL. If they lose convincingly this week, they will just fall back into the pack of 7-4 teams.

3. Minnesota Vikings 9-1

The words Brett and Favre and MVP have come up in the same sentence this week and deservingly so after his career high 22 of 25 game last week in a win over the Seahawks. All of those people, including me to an extent, who thought bringing in Favre would destroy chemistry, are eating their words.

2. Indianapolis Colts 10-0

Peyton Manning and company have won their last 4 games, but by a total of ten points. They can’t keep this up forever. Their next four games are against Houston, Tennessee, Denver, and Jacksonville. They will lose at least once in the next four.

The favorite

1. New Orleans Saints 10-0

They have a huge game this week against the Patriots. I can’t really think of much else to say for them so I’ll just pull a Texan and not finish these Power Rankings.

-11/28/09

 

 

 

Awful

32. Cleveland Browns 1-8

 

Jamal Lewis has quit on the team announcing his retirement after the season and citing his team’s lack of success as the reason. He is also complaining about practicing so much and not getting results which at his age I can kind of understand. He’s frustrated, but that’s not good. Still, the Browns, who have 1 win, refuse to give carries to anyone other than him even though they though he’s not coming back. Running backs other than Lewis had only 7 carries last week against the Browns. They managed 185 yards last week as a team which is pathetic and Brady Quinn does not appear to be much better than Derek Anderson going 13 of 31 for 99 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions last week against a weak Baltimore secondary. They have 5 offensive touchdowns this season in 36 quarters of play, the equivalent of one per every 7.2 quarters. The Saints have 7 defensive touchdowns by themselves. How did this team win a game? Oh, yeah, that’s right, in a 6-3 win over Buffalo in which their starting quarterback completed two passes. If they don’t beat Detroit this week, we need to line this team up against a wall and point and laugh at them. They are an awful mess. I think this team is worse than the Lions were last year. At least they were trying.

 

31. St. Louis Rams 1-8

 

Another loss last week for the league’s least talented team, but unlike the Rams they are at least trying and unlike a bunch of other first year coaches, Steve Spagnuolo has done nothing to make a fool out of himself. Still, when you look at the rest of their schedule, it’s hard to see them winning another game, which means their only win this season is against the Lions.

 

30. Detroit Lions 1-8

 

1 win this season is not a ton to be excited about, but at least they won one this year and they have a quarterback with a decent shot of working out longterm, even though he hasn’t shown much this year. However, they are 29th in the league in scoring differential and you can go through and count the number of players that give you hope for this team’s future on two hands. They play the Browns this week, which could mean they win their second game, but if they lose, yep, you guessed, we are going to have to line them up against a wall and point and laugh at them.

 

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-8

 

The Bucs offense is moving right now over the past two weeks under rookie Josh Freeman who is 1-1 in his career now. He has some weapons around him and he’s using them. The defense still sucks because Raheem Morris’ idea of rebuilding is getting rid of everyone on the defense, but the offense has a lot of hope. I wouldn’t be that surprised if this team beat New Orleans this week.

 

Better luck next year

28. Oakland Raiders 2-7

 

The Raiders lost to the Chiefs who lost to the Raiders, ergo the Raiders lost to themselves who suck. I’m only partial kidding with that logic. JaMarcus Russell who they drafted #1 overall in 2007 and paid 60 million dollars after he held out and cried like a baby has led this team to a 2-7 record this year and after every loss has said, grammatically incorrectly I might add, that the loss was not his fault. Thus, Tom Cable, trusting his octagon punching skills which he uses to beat up his lovers to defend himself, is benching Al Davis’ pride and joy Russell, despite the likely threat that Al Davis will enact his zombie revenge, and replacing him with Bruce Gradkowski who in his career has a 58.7 QB rating and was last seen last season posting a 2.8 QB rating in 2 starts with the Browns. I didn’t even know QB rating went down to 2.8. I realize I’m rambling, but despite their 2 wins, this team is a mess.

 

27 Kansas City Chiefs 2-7

 

It took Todd Haley 10 weeks to realize Jamaal Charles was his best player and it led to a win. Granted it was a 3 point win over the Raiders, but it’s still as many wins as they had over the last 9 weeks of the season. Of course that means that Haley will throw 35 times with Matt Cassel this week against the Steelers (cuz you know Cassel has shown in the past that he’s great against the Steelers). Not sure who he’ll be throwing to with Dwayne Bowe suspended for 4 weeks (Lance Long? Chris Chambers? Mark Bradley? Yikes!), but I’m sure Haley will find someone random to catch his passes. He’s good at getting random people involved in his offense.

 

Looking forward to a top ten draft pick

26. Washington Redskins 3-6

 

The Redskins finally beat someone good. All this season I have been saying that because they did this a lot last year, that maybe when they played all of those bad teams in the beginning of the season, they were playing down to their level and that was why they were losing so much. Then they got killed by the Eagles so I assumed they were just a bad team, but they did play well last week without their best player so maybe this is a talented team after all. Either way, it’s too late. This team is 3-6 and way out of the playoff race, a disappointment for a team I expected would contend.

 

25. Buffalo Bills 3-6

 

Dick Jauron was fired as head coach this week. He earned himself a 3 year extension last year after starting 5-1, but he has gone 5-14 since. This news has to be the worst for Trent Edwards. When new coaches come in, they usually like to bring in their own guy at quarterback and since Edwards is far from entrenched at quarterback, if they get a new coach, especially Jon Gruden or Mike Shanahan, who are rumored to be their targets, that coach could want his own quarterback. Edwards has already been benched this week against the Jags following Jauron’s firing.

 

24. Seattle Seahawks 3-6

 

After losing to the Cardinals last week, Jim Mora sent a list of 17 grievances about the loss to the league office about officiating. And I thought coaches were done embarrassing themselves. I watched that game and I can’t imagine what 17 things he could possibly find that angered him that much.

 

23. Tennessee Titans 3-6

 

If it wasn’t for Titans owner Bud Adams going insane and flipping off all of the Bills fans at last week’s game, I’d say he’s a pretty sane guy. He pushed for Vince Young to be in the lineup, despite long time head coach Jeff Fisher saying that he wanted to stick with Kerry Collins. Collins was 0-6 this year and so far Vince Young is 3-0. It’s not often someone outsmarts Jeff Fisher when it comes to football, unless you count every other Titans employee who didn’t think it would be a good idea to wear a Peyton Manning jersey to a public event. Speaking of 86-year-old Bud Adams flipping off the fans, I think it was bad, but a 250K fine? That’s half of what Bill Belicheck got and he videotaped another team practicing. I may not be the greatest at math, but I don’t think flipping the fans off on two separate occasions is as bad as videotaping another team’s practice. Correct me if I’m wrong. Actually, on this tangent, Chad Ochocinco has probably paid, willingly, over 500k dollars in fines in his career. The sum off of all his end zone celebrations is not as bad as what BB did, and this is coming from a Patriots fan. Maybe Roger Goddell should go back to school and take math.

 

Probably not a playoff team

22. Carolina Panthers 4-6

 

Ah! Here’s the Jake Delhomme we all know and love. After 3 weeks of no interceptions, Delhomme went 19 for 42 against Miami’s rookie cornerbacks on Thursday. He only threw 1 pick, but he couldn’t get anything going offensively, threw way too many times for someone who has as good run support as he does, but basically cost his team the game. Maybe I shouldn’t blame it all on Delhomme. He doesn’t really have anyone else to throw to other than Steve Smith, who is nothing but a deep threat. When your best option is a deep threat and he can easily be double covered because there is no one else to throw to, you’re going to struggle. Of course, you could blame Delhomme for not throwing to anyone but Delhomme and not trusting his other options (I mean, someone has to be able catch on this team), but overall, this is a pretty bad passing game.

 

21. New York Jets 4-5

 

This is more like the Jets team I thought we would see before the season. The defense was amazing over the first three weeks of the season, but other teams have figured them out and since then, they haven’t been as good and Mark Sanchez has to do more as a rookie, which is not good, and as a result, he’s looked more like a rookie and less like Joe Flacco or Matt Ryan. They are 1-5 in their last 6 games and that one win was against the Raiders and now they have to play the Patriots who are coming off of a crushing defeat which is not good news for the Jets.

 

20. Chicago Bears 4-5

 

I wonder how many interceptions Jay Cutler will throw this week against the opportunistic Eagles defense. 4? 5? 6?!?

 

19. San Francisco 49ers 4-5

 

There’s not a lot to say here because the Niners haven’t played since my power rankings last Saturday, but it’ll be interesting to see how they play in a must win game against a Jekyll and Hyde Packers team that they don’t match up well with.

 

Making some noise

18. Jacksonville Jaguars 5-4

 

The Jaguars went into New York and beat the Jets to put themselves above .500 and despite their inept coaching, this team is 5-4. Too bad no one is watching. After Maurice Jones Drew kneeled down on the 1 yard line to run out the clock and win, pissing off fantasy owners everywhere, he apologized and said that if 10,000 people came out to see the Jags play next week, he would score a touchdown for everyone. So basically they’re begging people to come out to see their games.

 

17. Miami Dolphins 5-5

 

After starting 0-3, the Dolphins are now 5-5 and though they are a long shot to make the playoffs due their top running back, their top quarterback, and their top cornerback all going on IR, this team has once again defied the odds to be a tough matchup and a legitimate NFL team. For any of the awful teams in the league, the Dolphins are hope that any of those teams could turn it around in one season, any given season, with the right, not necessarily the best, group of guys.

 

 

Close, but no cigar

16. Green Bay Packers 5-4

 

They go from losing to the Bucs to beating the Cowboys in one week. This is the most unpredictable team in the NFL this year. The one thing you can predict about them always is that they will allow a ton of sacks to Aaron Rodgers until he is on the verge of death. He’s already playing, and playing well, on two bad feet. Way to protect your investment!

 

15. Baltimore Ravens 5-4

 

It’s troubling when your team doesn’t score in the first half against the Browns. They did win, but they showed to everyone, on national TV, that they cannot score consistently and that they are extremely slow starters. It’s a tough road to the playoffs in the AFC and they might not make it. Their defense is clearly not what it used to be and that might have something to do with all of the losses they had in the offseason, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, Rex Ryan, etc.

 

On the playoff bubble 

 

14. Atlanta Falcons 5-4

 

This is a must win game for the Falcons this week after losing 3 of their last 4. The NFC is too tough for them to have a good shot to make to the playoffs from 5-5. Matt Ryan is looking overrated and he’s lost his best running back, Michael Turner to injury, and the defense is has problems too. I think they miss the playoffs because too much will now fall on Matt Ryan’s young shoulders.

 

13. Houston Texans 5-4

 

The Texans are more rested than any team in the AFC now thanks to their recent bye week last week. They have an easy schedule too and they have a very good shot at making the playoffs for that reason. It’s still going to be all about execution.

 

12. Denver Broncos 6-3

 

The wheels are falling off the car here, or should I say the legs are falling off the horse. Orton is hurt and not just hurt, but he has an ankle injury which is critical to him. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, so good footwork is key for him and good footwork is hard with an injured ankle. Their old defensive backfield is getting weaker by the week and their front 7 is playing finally like the no ones they are. If the defense struggles and their quarterback struggles, then a lot of the pressure to win will be placed on Knowshon Moreno and even Adrian Peterson, who is a lot better than Moreno, can carry a team by himself.

 

11. Philadelphia Eagles 5-4

 

This ranking is based on the fact that I think they can make another late season run, but there’s no guarantee there. Beating the Bears this week would be a good and not that difficult way to start, but they still have to play the Falcons, the Giants, the Cowboys, and the Broncos this season, so their road to the playoffs is not going to be that easy.

 

Playoffs and maybe more 

 

10. Arizona Cardinals 6-3

 

The Cardinals are the kings of the NFC West, which is kind of like being the tallest person in a group of midgets. However, they’ll get themselves a playoff spot and as they showed last year, once they do that, anything can happen. This is a much more complete team than they were last year, assuming they actually continue to run with Chris Wells on the ground, but Kurt Warner is a year older and their wide receivers have had problems with injuries so I don’t know that they’ll be quite as good at moving the ball through the air and getting the big plays through the air as they were last year.

 

9. Dallas Cowboys 6-3

 

So much for dominant. A week after beating Philly narrowly, they nearly got shut out by Green Bay. This team has a good record, but they have a lot of problems. I think Philly and the Giants are both better than them and they play each of those teams again this season. They could lose both of those games and fall back to 3rd in the NFC East, which is like being one of the shortest people in a group of giants, but still.

 

8. New York Giants 5-4

 

They’re rested and this spot here is based on the fact that I think they’ll bounce back out of the break in a huge way. They were good last year and they have more offensive firepower this year and they were amazing over the first five weeks of the season, but since they have lost 4 straight and are consistently underachieving and choking.

 

Dark horses 

 

7. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-3

 

Wow, when was the last time the Steelers lost both games in the season series to the Bengals. This team is good, but they have clearly been dropped to 2nd best in their own division. The Bengals could be a tough team for the defending champs to beat come playoff time, as weird as that sounds to say.

 

6. San Diego Chargers 6-3

 

They still will need to beat the Broncos this week to reestablish their dominance, but where they were 4 weeks ago compared to where they are now is amazing. This team has a ton of talent and is really going on a huge run right now.

 

Elite runner ups

5. New England Patriots 6-3

 

The favorite

 

Awful

32. Cleveland Browns 1-7

Last week’s last place team, the Bucs, won to ensure that no team went winless this season. When it came to choosing my new last place team, I went with last week’s 30th ranked team, the Browns, over the 31st ranked team, the Rams, even though both had bye weeks, because I just feel the Browns, on the whole, are the worst team in the NFL. Eric Mangini isn’t getting anything out of his two quarterbacks who both have had success in the past and no being secretive about which one you’re going to start on a weekly basis isn’t helping. Jamal Lewis complained about how hard Mangini is making his playing work in practice and doesn’t like working so hard for no result on the field. Lewis also essentially retired midseason so he’s obviously not on board. Even if they had a good quarterback, their receivers are still a pretty pathetic group and their defense ranks 28th versus the pass (YPA),  31st against the run (YPC), and dead last overall (total yards).

31. St. Louis Rams 1-7

Just because I didn’t drop this team to last, because mean they don’t have major problems. Any team with Marc Bulger as their quarterback is not going to do much offensively and their best defensive prospect, 2008 2nd overall pick Chris Long, only has 1 sack in his 2nd year and is still on 2nd string. The one thing I will say is that, unlike most coaches of really bad teams, Steve Spagnuolo isn’t doing a bad job. He hasn’t done anything ridiculous this year and really doesn’t have the talent to do much with. He should be a fine coach going forward.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-7

They did win last week, but in terms of total yards, the lost by 150, which means that this was a fluke win. I doubt they get too many more of them this season so I can’t get too exciting about their victory over the Packers, a quality opponent unlike the teams that the other one win teams have beaten like Cleveland (Buffalo), St. Louis (Detroit), Kansas City (Washington), and Detroit (Washington, again).

29. Detroit Lions 1-7

The Lions are the kings of blowing 17 point leads, as they’ve done it several times in the past few years. They did it again last week. It looked like they were set to two up their 2008 win total with a win over the Seahawks when they held a 17-0 lead, but Seahawks to win came back on a strength of 5 interceptions by Matt Stafford. I hate to make a decision on this this early, but I think Stafford, unless he gets some better protection, will bust. He was compared to Jay Cutler coming out and, as we’ve realized this year, Cutler is not very good. It appears that those comparisons were fairly close. More on Cutler sucking later.

28. Kansas City Chiefs 1-7

I normally only have 4 teams in my awful category, but there have been a ton of bad teams this year so it only seems fitting to include a 5th team in my awful category and boy did the Chiefs earn it this week. It appears Coach Todd Haley doesn’t want to run the ball with anyone but Larry Johnson. Over the first 7 games of the season, Johnson ran the ball 132 times to Jamaal Charles’ 23, despite the fact that Charles has a career YPC of 5.3 and Johnson was averaging a mere 2.7 this season. When the front office suspended and subsequently cut Johnson, Haley’s brain hatched a brilliant idea. Don’t run. The Chiefs ran 14 (two by QB) times last week against the Jaguars, to 39 passing plays. I know the Jags are bad against the pass, but if you make it that obvious what you’re going to do, you’re going to lose, as they did. Charles got a season high 6 carries and looked very good. And to make Todd Haley look even stupid, he said, about the Chiefs’ loss after the game, that he was surprised by the Jaguars 4-3 defense, “It wasn’t what we practiced against.” Facepalm, facepalm again for effect. The Jaguars have been using a mix of 3-4 and 4-3 this season and used solely 4-3 last season. Either Todd Haley didn’t watch any tape of the Jaguars before the game or he can’t count “one lineman, two linemen, four lineman.” Maybe that was why he called 39 passes to 14 (two by QB) runs, he was so confused by the opposing team’s 4-3 defense (you know this complex system that has been around for 40 years, there’s no way he could have adapted maybe to make up for it). This earns this team a spot in the awful category.

Better luck next year

27. Oakland Raiders 2-6

The Raiders only avoid the awful category because there are 5 teams that are just that bad. They didn’t play this week, so I can’t really make fun of them too much unless I point out that their former top overall pick quarterback weighs 300 pounds and has a quarterback rating of 48.3. I could also point that their coach is facing assault accusations and their owner is still a senile half dead guy and that 2009 7th overall pick has 5 catches all year, or as many as Michael Crabtree, who they passed up on for Heyward Bey, had in his first game as a pro. Oh, I guess I just made fun of them a lot.

26. Washington Redskins 2-6

Clinton Portis is out this week which is a major blow to a Redskins team that is having as many problems as it is. On another note, it’s sad to see another player go down with a concussion, especially when you remember the long term effects of concussions down the road, in terms of number of former NFL players with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s along with countless other brain problems. I am not a huge fan of Roger Goddell, but the thing I hate about him most is how little he seems to care about former NFL players. The NFL should give all the money they collect from fines to help cover their former players’ medical bills. I’m sure every player in the NFL would be fine with that.

Looking forward to a top ten draft pick

25. Tennessee Titans 2-6

Vince Young is 2-0 since taking over for Kerry Collins at quarterback. A lot of that has to do with the improved play of their defense since the bye, but Young has proven, this year and in past years, that he can win games with a good defense supporting him. He needs to continue to win this season to ensure that the Titans won’t at least explore other options at the quarterback position, but he’s making a very good case for himself for 2010.

24. Buffalo Bills 3-5

Tony Dungy has said that the Bills have shown interest in Michael Vick. I trust Dungy’s statement because he’s served as an advisor to Vick this season, but I have to be feeling the lack of confidence if I’m Trent Edwards, the current quarterback of the Bills. Actually, on second thought, I  might not even remember that happening if I’m Edwards based on the blows he’s taken to the head this season because of how bad their offensive line is. He can’t be too thrilled about his return from his concussion this week. Getting  a 1st round pick for Jason Peters is great, if you replace him. At this rate, Trent Edwards, a Stanford grad, might not be able to remember small facts after he’s retired. Yet another reason why Roger Goddell has to do something about all the retired NFL players who have suffered bad side effects from too many concussions.

23. Seattle Seahawks 3-5

I moved them down despite their win because they almost lot to the Lions. This team is not the team we thought they were before the season, the bounce back Seahawks that would regain their glory of years past. They can’t run, they can’t protect the quarterback long enough for him to do anything major, they can’t stop the pass, they can’t stop the run.

Probably not a playoff team

22. Carolina Panthers 3-5

John Fox has figured out that when Delhomme doesn’t throw that much, it’s a lot harder from the other team to catch the ball and a lot easier for them to win. They almost beat New Orleans last week. Unfortunately, that’s not an effective strategy for winning in the playoffs and this team will likely have to go at least 6-2 to make the playoffs. I don’t care how good their running game is, they need a good quarterback. Good thing they have a first round pick this year to draft one…oh wait…Well at least they didn’t give Delhomme a ton of money over an extended period of time…oh wait…

21. Jacksonville Jaguars 4-4

They won last week, but that doesn’t mean I can’t insult their defense. They allowed Matt Cassel to go 23 for 39 for 262 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions last week. That’s bad enough, but when you consider that the Chiefs only ran 14 (two by QB) times, that’s pathetic. They couldn’t even stop the girly armed Matt Cassel when they pretty much knew he was going to throw. The only reason the Jags only gave up 60 yards rushing is because, well, the Chiefs didn’t run. Almost losing to a team that doesn’t run and didn’t know what kind of defense you were running is almost as bad as doing the afore mentioned things. The Jags are 30th in the league in QB rating against with a QB rating against of 100.2, only behind Tennessee and Detroit.

20. Chicago Bears 4-5

Dear Jay Cutler,

You Suck

Sincerely,

The Football Fan Spot

Cutler now leads the league in interceptions with 17. He’s on pace for 30 and has more than Jake Delhomme. He single handedly lost the game against San Francisco by throwing 5 interceptions. He makes awful decisions and doesn’t trust his teammates. His 26 picks last year were understandable because he didn’t have a good running game or a good defense to support him. He has both of those things this year, but he’s so untrusting that he still just chucks it repeatedly. His body language is also awful. Look at this picture from the San Francisco game, and this one, and this one. Does that look like a leader to you? Pictures are worth a thousand words. The Broncos by far won the Jay Cutler trade. Orton is better than him and they also got 2 first round picks and a 3rd round pick. The Bears need that first round pick this year, to fix their secondary and to get another receiver maybe, or some offensive line help, but they don’t have it.

Making some noise

19. New York Jets 4-4

We’ll have to see how the bye affects Mark Sanchez, who, as is understandable of a rookie, is the streakiest quarterback in the league. He was hot before the bye week, but then had 2 weeks off. Luckily, he gets the Jaguars in his first week back as the Jets try to recapture some of their early glory and make the playoffs.

18. Miami Dolphins 3-5

I’d like to credit the Dolphins rookie cornerbacks for keeping the Pats in check last week and only losing by 10, but their secondary is far too inexperienced for this to be a legitimate team. Chad Henneis also not a legitimate quarterback that can take over and win games. The only reason he’s looked already is because of the help he’s gotten from the running game.

17. San Francisco 49ers 4-5

Almost as pathetic as Jay Cutler throwing 5 picks was the Niners only winning by 4 when he did so. They really struggled to move the ball on Thursday. They only had 228 yards of offense and 10 points despite being handed the ball repeatedly by Cutler. They have a fairly easy schedule down the stretch and I love the intensity that Singletary has brought out of their defense, but they don’t have the talent or the quarterback play to make the playoffs.

Close, but no cigar

16. Green Bay Packers 4-4

They really showed a lack of maturity last week by losing to the previously winless Bucs, despite having 150 more total yards. However, what is more pathetic is that the Green Bay offensive line gave up 6 sacks to the Bucs, as well as 12 quarterback hits.  The Bucs had 11 sacks in their previous 7 games. Aaron Rodgers has two sprained feet and might be dead by the end of the season if they keep this up. Despite facing 4 teams in the bottom 10 in terms of total sacks, Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 37 times this season and is on pace for 74 sacks, which is close to the record, which is held by David Carr. We all know how that turned out.

15. Houston Texans 5-4

A lot can be said about the Texans almost beating the Colts. It showed that this team is a legitimate playoff contender that, with an easier post-bye week schedule, can win 10 games and make the playoffs. It also showed that they aren’t an elite team yet. However, when you consider their 5-4 record over a tough first 9 games, with no breaks, and the fact that Mario Williams has not gotten it going yet, they have a bright future ahead of themselves both down the stretch this season and in feature seasons.

On the playoff bubble

14. Baltimore Ravens 4-4

The Ravens fell back to .500 after a tough loss to Cincinnati, but I think this team is more like the team that started 3-0 and less like the one that’s been 1-4 over the past 6 weeks. They have a really uphill battle to the playoffs, but they can do it. They start with an easy game against the Browns this week.

13. New York Giants 5-4

After starting the season 5-0, the Giants have lost 4 straight. They have gone from possible NFC favorites to 3rd place in the NFC East and 1.5 games back of first. They are banking on a bye week rest to get things right, but that might be their last shot. They have major issues in the secondary thanks to injuries and they still have to face their NFC East foes again this season.

12. Denver Broncos 6-2

This looks like the beginning of the end for the Broncos (right after I apologized for knocking on them this preseason and last offseason). Kyle Orton is the type of quarterback who won’t lose you the game, but also won’t win you the game. He’s perfect for their system, but he can’t play out the short throw system and make things happen in a hurry. Their run defense has fallen back to earth and their secondary, with its age, could do so too in the upcoming weeks (no Ty Law does not help). If their defense struggles, then Orton will be counted on to make things happen for them to win and, just like Kerry Collins when he lost his defense this season, he will struggle. It doesn’t help that they have a tough upcoming schedule. At least they can take solace in the fact that they don’t have Jay Cutler.

11. Atlanta Falcons 5-3

A weak defense has made it difficult for this team to beat teams with strong offenses. They fall down early and they have to abandon their game plan and throw more than Matt Ryan would like. Ryan doesn’t have the strongest arm and hasn’t really been tested against the best quarterbacks, with the exception of Tony Romo, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees, all of whom he lost to. I hate to say it, but that makes him and this entire team overrated. I don’t think they are for real and they are by no means a playoff lock. The only favor the schedule does them is 2 games against Tampa Bay left, which helps.

Playoff and maybe more

10. Arizona Cardinals 5-3

Kurt Warner bounced back from a 5 interception night with a 5 touchdown night, as I expected. He is prone to some bad nights, but always bounces back. It definitely helps this team that they are in the easiest division in football. They really only need to win 4 more games to secure a playoff spot with a 1.5 game lead over San Francisco. This is a more complete team than they were last year, but Kurt Warner is showing more signs of age and their wide receivers have been hurt more, so it balances out. I don’t think it will be easy for them to go on a run to the Super Bowl like last year, but it could happen. You never know.

9. San Diego Chargers 5-3

With a last second win over the Giants, the Chargers proved they are for real and put themselves in very good position to win the division. They’ll have to beat the Broncos when the two meet again, but the way the two teams have been playing of late, that might not be that hard. On another note, Vincent Jackson has quietly become one of the best receivers in the league, maybe so quietly that the Chargers haven’t even noticed as he’s still a free agent this offseason. They need to bring him back.

Dark Horses

8. Philadelphia Eagles 5-3

Can we really say that this is any less of a contender because of a slim loss to the Cowboys, when you consider all their other accomplishments this season? Yes, but only to an extent. Still, a loss is a loss and the Cowboys are now in first place in the division and appear to be the better team. Donovan McNabb didn’t look good down the stretch in that game, but I suppose that’s because it’s not December yet. I still like their chances to go on a late season run and take a shot at the division.

7. Dallas Cowboys 6-2

They are exceeding my expectations, but Tony Romo has won in October before, he’s won in November. He’ll have to prove to me that he can win when it counts, December and January as he attempts to close out the division. However, the fact that this team is actually likely getting a chance to play in January is amazing. Their season turned around when they beat Atlanta and when Miles Austin had that second straight huge game.

6. Cincinnati Bengals 6-2

Sweeping the season series with the Ravens is huge for the Bengals, who have not lost in the division. However, the real test that could determine the division is whether or not they can beat the Steelers this week. These aren’t the same Steelers that the Bengals barely beat week 3. Troy Polamalu is back. Rashard Mendenhall has emerged as a threat on the ground and they team, as a whole, is on a 5 game winning streak.

Elite runner ups

5. New England Patriots 6-2

They did not dominate like I expected them to against the Dolphins rookie corners last week, but that might not matter if they can hand the Colts their first loss this week and I think they have a very good shot to do that.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-2

They’ll play, likely for the division, this week against the Bengals. I like them to have the upper hand because of momentum, but if the Bengals surprise them, I’ll have to call them the best team in the NFC North, which has proved to be the most difficult division in football. The Steelers are here at #4 though because of their momentum and their history as defending champs.

3. Minnesota Vikings 7-1

They had a great first half of the season, but the trick will be to continue that in the 2nd half. That will require Brett Favre’s arm not getting tired like it did last year (remember, the Jets were good at this point last year too). Luckily, the Vikings have more weapons around Favre, like Adrian Peterson and an amazing defense.

2. Indianapolis Colts 8-0

This team could easily be 6-2. They have not looked good the past two weeks and need to get things right with the Patriots coming to town. They’ll need Peyton Manning to figure out the Patriots 3-4 defense and continue their recent hot streak against the Pats.

The favorite

1. New Orleans Saints 8-0

How they did not destroy the Panthers last week, I’m not sure. My best guess is that Drew Brees had trouble with the Panthers defense that most did not foresee, but it’s a mystery how this Saints team, which is perfectly designed to destroy Carolina, was down by two scores early. This team has looked human at times this season, but they’ve always rebounded to win. That can be risky going forward, but I think it’s just a sign that they have so much offensive firepower that no lead is too big to overcome.

 

 

Awful

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-7

Someone needs to be fired in Tampa Bay. They got rid of a bunch of older players last offseason, but forgot the biggest and most important part of rebuilding, replacing them with good young players. Instead, they have an extremely talentless defense that will remain that way for a while unless they have a bunch of good drafts or good free agency periods.

31. St. Louis Rams 1-7

Well, they got their first win so there’s no chance this team goes 0 for the season, but an ugly victory over the Lions, who have 1 win in the last 2 seasons, is not much to brag about. Their near future is as bleak as it was before last week and unless they can turn Chris Long around, which I am really surprised they haven’t because of how Coach Steve Spagnuolo worked with defensive ends in New York as a defensive coordinator, their future isn’t too bright either.

30. Cleveland Browns 1-7

I will use this section to laugh at the statistical hilarity that is Derek Anderson. His QB rating on the season is 36.2. If you drop back 1000 times and throw 1000 incompletions, your QB rating is 39.6. Anderson’s rating would be better if he threw nothing but incompletions. He has a 43% completion percentage and 9 interceptions to 2 touchdowns. In his 6 starts, he has thrown over 100 yards twice. Brady Quinn relieved him in the 4th quarter last week. Browns fans (do those exist?) can only hope that Eric Mangini is making that move permanent.

29. Detroit Lions 1-6

They just lost to the Rams. That’s about as low as you can get as a team. Well, at least they won a game this season as opposed to last year. Matt Stafford has been sacked 12 times in 5 games, the equivalent of 38 across a 16 game season. He has already suffered a leg injury. Their offensive line is clearly not equipped to protect their 73 million dollar (43 guaranteed) investment so, in a lost cause season, they should not be throwing him out there.

Better luck next year

28. Kansas City Chiefs 1-7

The Chiefs might actually be a better team thanks to the suspension of Larry Johnson. Johnson was averaging 2.7 yards per carry, the equivalent of getting the ball and falling over. I don’t care who your backup is. If you do that bad for 8 games, you don’t deserve a 9th start, especially if you insult the entire coaching staff, brag to some dude on Twitter about your salary, insult gays and punch women in bars.

27. Oakland Raiders 2-6

Al Davis says that he’ll do a thorough investigation of the Tom Cable situation. I find it hard to believe that Al Davis will ever thoroughly investigate anything. What is he going to do? Run the victims in the 40 yard dash and if they can outrun JaMarcus Russell (not unlikely at this point) and if they can, he’ll accept their story. Let’s just assume that Davis “investigates” and fired Cable, who will replace him? Well, I have a few possibilities.

Art Shell

3rd time’s the charm right?

Someone who looks like Jon Gruden

Why not just hire the Chucky Doll?

John Madden

If this team can win 5 games in a season with 1 senile guy running the show, why can’t they win 10 with 2 senile guys? It’s only simple math.

Al Davis

Why do you even need a middle man?  We know who the man making all the decisions here is. I’d actually pay to see this. Al Davis slumped over in a chair with a clipboard, every eye movement is a different play.

26. Tennessee Titans 1-6

Explain this to me. Vince Young has thrown 23 touchdowns to 33 interceptions in his career but has a record of 20-11. If it works, stick with it, though I’m not sure he can keep this up without Tennessee’s once strong defense supporting him, unless of course he plays Jacksonville’s miserable secondary every week.

Looking forward to a top ten draft pick

25. Washington Redskins 2-5

Jim Zorn survived the bye week, but I doubt he lasts the season. They might as well put Jon Gruden’s name on his office and see if he notices. I’d guess no since he’s been there a year and a half and hasn’t noticed that he’s starting a quarterback that is an awful fit for his system instead of a guy, Todd Collins, who fits it perfectly.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-4

Last week I said that if the Jaguars secondary gave up a big game to Vince Young, they might as well shut themselves in their room and cry. It’s not all the secondary’s fault. Despite using their first 2 picks in 2008 on defensive ends, they only have 5 sacks in 7 games. They might as well send 11 guys back and use no pass rush. Also, if the Redskins are going to put Jon Gruden’s name on Zorn’s office, the Jaguars might as well hand David Garrard a Tim Tebow jersey. Seriously, has there ever been a worse idea than telling the whole world midseason that, despite the fact that your quarterback is a good quarterback, you would take Tim Tebow if you had the chance in 2010 to sell more tickets? You might as well say, “David, we don’t believe in you at all and we’re going to tell the whole world.” Why does Jack del Rio still have a job? Oh yeah, they don’t have enough money to buy him out. This is pathetic.

23. Buffalo Bills 3-5

The first time I can’t really insult that much this week. Unless you count the fact that despite being a stupid decision by Leodis McKelvin away from beating the Patriots week 1, this team is at a position where if it weren’t for the opposing quarterbacks thinking that the Bills cornerbacks are actually wide receivers for two weeks, they would be 1-7.

Probably not a playoff team

22. Carolina Panthers 3-4

I think John Fox finally figured out what everyone figured out 8 weeks ago. The less Jake Delhomme throws, the more they win.  In wins, Delhomme throws an average of 18.7 times. In losses, 33.8. The only problem is that they are playing the Saints this week and they can’t play conservatively or Drew Brees will destroy them. There’s a reason the Saints have the most passes per game attempted against them with 38.1. The Saints also have the most interceptions this year. 40 Delhomme throws plus the Saints secondary, he could have another 5 INT night. In fact, and I would put money on this, I bet Darren Sharper, 7 picks on the season, catches more of Delhomme’s throws than Steve Smith, his #1 option, does.

21. Seattle Seahawks 2-5

This has been a disappointing season for team that was supposed to bounce back from a 4 win season last year. They are currently on pace for 5 wins. Luckily for them, they have the Lions this week. Matt Hasselbeck needs some luck. Due to a poor and injured offensive line, he’s been sacked 10 times in 5 starts despite having a broken rib. That hurts but you have to admire the perseverance of the veteran despite a pretty lost season.

Making some noise

20. New York Jets 4-4

Speaking of bad luck, this team would be 6-2 if they could just beat Miami. In their two losses to the Dolphins, they have lost because they couldn’t stop the wildcat and last week because they gave up three defensive/special teams touchdowns. The good news is Mark Sanchez, who has proved to be one of the streakiest quarterbacks in the league, as you would expect of a NYC rookie, had a good week last week making it two in a row, which would be a good sign heading forward except for some bad news. The bad news, now he has to sit a week on bye.

19. Miami Dolphins 3-4

Chad Henne has the easiest starting quarterback job in the NFL. The Dolphins rank 4th in yards on the ground and 2nd on yards on kick returns. In 4 starts he has only 679 yards, but is 3-1.

18. San Francisco 49ers 3-4

The lost last week, but only by 4 to the Colts so I’d like to compliment this team. The spread offense is awesome, they need more of it. Alex Smith looks like it’s 2003 and he’s wearing a Utah jersey again when in the spread offense and it’s the perfect way to maximize the abilities of Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. Plus, the defense actually was able to sack Peyton Manning and prevent him from throwing a touchdown, though they did give up a winning score on a throw by Joseph Addai, but there was no way they could have really seen that coming. That was the first time he ever threw in his career.

Close, but no cigar

17. Chicago Bears 4-3

Jay Cutler looked good this week, but it was against the Browns and Derek Anderson. He won’t play them every week. He’ll play good quarterbacks against whom he may have to play from behind some and not implode. He always seems to implode when playing behind.

16. Green Bay Packers 4-3

They looked very good coming back from a large deficit to almost beat Brett Favre and Minnesota. I admire the resilience of not giving up when down 3 scores, but the fact is they don’t have a lot of good wins. Their 4 wins have come against Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, and Cleveland and they’ve still given up 31 sacks in 7 games despite a weak schedule. They need more quality wins against quality opponents and unfortunately they play Tampa Bay this week so no quality wins available this week.

15. Houston Texans 5-3

A 5-3 start is a good way to win 9 games for the first time in franchise history. They do play Indy this week which will be tough, but they then have a bye and the schedule gets easier after the bye. They benefit by having the rest later in the season because they’ll be more rested during the stretch run than most teams. In terms of lack of rest, the tougher part of the season is over leaving a 9 win season in reach as well as a playoff berth.

On the playoff bubble

14. Dallas Cowboys 5-2

Better than I thought they would at this point thanks to the awakening of Miles Austin as a reliable option for Tony Romo, but they still haven’t proven to me that getting rid of Terrell Owens and his drama will help them not choke late in the season. Plus, there has been some drama out in Dallas this week about a possible divide between Romo and Roy Williams, his former top receiver. And there’s the fact that Miles Austin has yet to really face double coverage, for some reason the Seahawks didn’t do that last week, so I’m not sure how this passing attack will react to that. They have a good surprising record, but still plenty of questions.

13. San Diego Chargers 4-3

The Chargers better hope that two recent easy wins over division trash Kansas City and Oakland haven’t made them complacent again. As of all sudden, the Broncos have questions surrounding them and a tough game against Pittsburgh. If the Chargers can beat a reeling Giants team in the Meadowlands and the Broncos lose, the Chargers could be only 1 game back of the division with another game against the Broncos in the near future.

12. Baltimore Ravens 4-3

I’m so glad the Ravens beat the Broncos with their physicality. I’ve quickly grown to hate the Broncos for three reasons. One, they completely made me look like an idiot for picking them to win 4 games. Two, they have had amazing luck this season which bugs me. Three, they beat the Patriots, my team, because of bullshit overtime rules. Enough about the Broncos. The Ravens aren’t the 3-0 Super Bowl contender they were until week 4 and they aren’t the 3 losses in a row team they were from weeks 4-6. They’re somewhere in between and have a very good chance of knocking off the Colts in the playoffs because they run a 3-4 defense, which is Peyton Manning’s least favorite thing in the whole world. More on that later.

11. Atlanta Falcons 4-3

A tough loss for this team, but they fought back which I like to see. The only thing keeping this team from elite status is their defense.

Playoffs and maybe more

10. Arizona Cardinals 4-3

Kurt Warner had a bad game last week with 5 interceptions, but at least he got all of his bad throws out in one game. He normally bounces back very well from games like that and he still has an amazing wide receiver corps. This is a more complete team than the one who made, and almost won, the Super Bowl last season.

9. New York Giants 5-3

From 5-0 to 3rd in the NFC East in 3 weeks.  So it goes in the NFL. They’ll be fine going forward though I believe. They have a good team, but they completeness of recent years seems to be missing thanks to major holes in their defense.

8. Denver Broncos 6-1

This may and hopefully will be the beginning of the end for the Broncos. They are a pass heavy conservative team, a lot of short throws, which, with the exception of the Patriots, does not win a lot of playoff games. They have an old secondary that appears to be starting to break down. They have trouble beating tough, physical teams like the Steelers who they play this week and like most of the teams who make the playoffs in the AFC. They also had an amazing amount of luck to make it to 6-0 and that tends to even out. They still have a very good shot at winning double digit games and winning the division thanks to a 6-0 start and they completely destroyed my 4 win prediction from the preseason, but the magic appears to be gone and the Chargers could be as close a 1 game back after this week.

Dark horses

7. Cincinnati Bengals 5-2

Will they continue the magic of their 45-10 win before their bye week this week against the Ravens? If they do, they could cement themselves as a Super Bowl contender. Did I really say Super Bowl contender under the Bengals’ blurb and not burst out laughing. Yes, yes I did. These aren’t your Father’s Bengals or even your older brother’s Bengals. This is a new team built on defense. They are a freak play week 1 away from being 6-1. I’d like to applaud their perseverance after that crushing week 1 loss. A lot of teams would have given up, but they rally to be one of the best clutch teams and one of the most surprising teams.

6. Philadelphia Eagles 5-2

This is the best I’ve ever seen the Eagles look in early November in the Donovan McNabb era. If they continue improving as a unit and go on a late December run like they normally do, they could challenge for a first round bye in the playoffs. 12-4 or even 13-3 is not out of reach for this amazingly talented squad.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers 5-2

Ben Roethlisberger, fully healthy for the first time in his career, looks like an MVP candidate. I don’t think they are as complete of a team as they were last year due to injuries, but one could argue that they are a better offensive squad this year than last thanks to a fully healthy Big Ben, the emergence of Rashard Mendenhall in the backfield, and what could be a career year at 33 by Hines Ward at wide receiver.

Elite runner ups

4. New England Patriots 5-2

Let’s see if they continue their 94-7 scoring run from before the bye or if the bye cooled them down. I’m guessing it’s the former. Tom Brady, a smart quarterback who loves the extra time to prepare, has never lost after a bye and has a weak matchup against the Dolphins rookie cornerbacks this week. The big tests for this team will be Indy and New Orleans, both on the road.

3. Minnesota Vikings 7-1

Though they aren’t as good as the Saints, you have to give them a lot of record for a 7-1 record across a tough schedule. They are on pace for 14 wins, something Brett Favre has never done and while I don’t think they’ll win that many, because they’ll rest Brett Favre some late in the season to avoid injury with a playoff spot already locked up, this is a great squad.

2. Indianapolis Colts 7-0

I hate to move them down following a win, but I have to. Peyton Manning showed once again that he struggles against 3-4 defense by almost losing to the Niners and their 3-4. He almost lost to the Dolphins and their 3-4 earlier this season. Unfortunately, any team that’s any good in the AFC, New England, Pittsburgh, Denver, Baltimore, San Diego use the 3-4. Only Cincinnati doesn’t. The Colts schedule has been extremely easy thus far with only one game against a team that currently has a .500 record or better, the Cardinals. Next 9 weeks, they face Houston, New England, Baltimore, Houston, Tennessee, Denver, Jacksonville, the Jets, and the Bills. That’s 6 teams with records .500 or better and 4 3-4 defenses.

The favorite

1.  New Orleans Saints 7-0

They need to limit mistakes, but this appears to be the best team in the country at the moment because they built a winning style team. They have an amazing pass offense and an amazing pass defense so teams will have to pass a lot to keep up with Drew Brees and the passing game, as shown by the 38.1 attempts per game against, a league high. Then, their amazing pass defense stops the pass. They rank 1st in completion percentage against, 51.3, 6th in yards per attempt against, 6.2, 4th in touchdowns against despite all those throws against, with 6 touchdowns allowed through the air in 7 games, and 1st in QB rating against with 53.3. And, they also often take the ball away from you, setting up their passing game to do more damage and forcing you throw more and lose the ball more. They have a league leading 16 interceptions, Darren Sharper has 7 interceptions, 2 shy of a career high at 34 years old, and 2 more than Darrius Heyward Bey, a 2009 1st round pick of the Raiders, has catches this season.

 

 

 

Awful

32. St. Louis Rams 0-7

Another blowout loss for this bunch. They didn’t stand a chance against the Colts. I’m having a tough time deciding who is worse, them or the Bucs, but I’ll stay consistent and go with the Rams again.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-7

As I just said, this team is almost as bad, if not as bad, as the Rams. They lack any firepower anywhere and now are throwing rookie quarterback Josh Freeman out into the mess, which could be dangerous for his future development.

30. Kansas City Chiefs 1-6

Larry Johnson’s suspension may actually help this team. Johnson was averaging 2.7 yards per carry and his former backup and now current starter Jamaal Charles is averaging 5. I mean, the running back switch can’t really hurt.

29. Cleveland Browns 1-6

The title of most statistically hilarious quarterback has been passed from JaMarcus Russell to Derek Anderson who is completing 41% of all his passes and won a game completing 2 passes. Eric Mangini must think it’s funny too because he’s just sitting on the sideline watching instead of finding capable quarterbacks. He brought Brett Ratliff over from New York but hasn’t played him. Why not see if he has anything?

Better luck next year

28. Detroit Lions 1-6

Their bright spots are some rookies who are having good statistical seasons, DeAndre Levy, Sammie Lee Hill, and Louis Delmas. The bad though is that they’re starting 3 rookies on defense. They have a future, it’s just not now.

27. Oakland Raiders 2-5

Another week in Raider land. Worst home loss in franchise history, if you can believe it, former #1 pick JaMarcus Russell gets benched and the crowd erupts in cheers, rookie Mark Sanchez destroys their defense despite not having his #2 running back and despite his top wide receiver catching only one ball, and then to top it off, Mark Sanchez is so relaxed in the 4th quarterback that he’s seen sitting on the sideline eating a hot dog. Raider fans should be happy this team randomly wins games some of the time, otherwise they might never win. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be turning around.

26. Tennessee Titans 0-6

I don’t like Vince Young as a quarterback, but I like that they are trying him out after starting 0-6. I mean what’s the worst he can do, lose?

Looking forward to a top ten pick

25. Washington Redskins 2-5

Apparently this team wasn’t just playing down to the level of the competition all season. They were actually just really bad. Chris Cooley is out for the season and Jason Campbell wishes he were out for the season. Campbell’s not a bad quarterback, but he’s playing in the completely wrong system for his arm.

24. Carolina Panthers 2-4

119 of Jake Delhomme’s passes have been caught this season. That’s not bad, unless you consider that 13 of those catches were by people wearing different colored jerseys. It’s like he forgets what team he’s on. He cost them what should have been an easy win this week against the Bills and I don’t think he’s done yet. The only reason John Fox is sticking by “The Sabotager” is because of all the money the front office gave him this offseason.

23. Buffalo Bills 3-4

8 interceptions in the last 2 weeks by this defense has more to do with the ineptness of the quarterbacks they have been playing than their defense being great. I want to see Ryan Fitzpatrick do something offensively when not set up with great field position. It probably won’t be pretty.

Probably not a playoff team

22. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-3

The Jags’ secondary has been embarrassed many times this season, due in large part to the lack of pressure their defensive line creates, despite the fact that they used their first two picks on defensive ends last season. What will be extremely embarrassing is if Vince Young has a good game on them this week. I might just shut myself in my room and cry if I were the Jags’ defense in that situation.

21. Miami Dolphins 2-4

The wildcat is masking their relative lack of talent on offense very well, but nothing is going to mask their lack of talent in the secondary after the loss of #1 cornerback Will Allen for the season. They are going to get destroyed week after week by opposing quarterbacks.

20. Seattle Seahawks 2-4

Before this season, I saw this offense reaching a new high with a healthy Matt Hasslebeck throwing to new #1 wide receiver TJ Houshmanzadeh. Unfortunately, what has happened is that Matt Hasselbeck has gotten no time in the pocket due to an injury prone offensive line and he has not been able to get the ball to TJ, who is complaining about not getting the ball. Meanwhile, this same injured offensive line is blocking for mediocre runners who are getting nothing done on the ground.

Making some noise

19. San Francisco 49ers 3-3

The Niners did not come out of the bye week with the fire I expected from this Mike Singletary coached bunch and have lost 3 straight, showing their lack of talent, since starting 3-0. Their last hope at the playoffs rests on the shoulders of Alex Smith, which is never a good thing.

18. Chicago Bears 3-3

I take back everything I said about the Jay Cutler trade. Yes, statistically Cutler is the better quarterback, but Cutler’s style of play is a losing style and Kyle Orton is a winner. Cutler wants too much of the spotlight on him and is constantly forcing throws that don’t need to be forced. He doesn’t know how to trust his teammates at all. Kyle Orton feeds off of his teammates and gets the most out of them. This is why Cutler and the Bears are 3-3 and Orton and the Broncos are 6-0.

Close, but no cigar

17. New York Jets 4-3

The Jets better hope that Mark Sanchez can carry the positive momentum from the Raiders game into their next game the way he carried the negative momentum through the three straight losses prior.

16. Houston Texans 4-2

Everyone favorite sleeper pick is quietly 4-2 after a slow start, with a good chance to go 5-2 with a game against the Bills this week. The trick is, keeping it up. However, there is no denying that this team has a good shot to make the playoffs for the first time in team history and a very good shot at winning more than 8 games for the first time in team history.

15. Dallas Cowboys 4-2

The Cowboys offense is finally clicking without Terrell Owens thanks to the big time play of Miles Austin. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to double teams, but that may finally get things going to Roy Williams. I think the trick for them is going to be not blowing it down the stretch again.

On the playoff bubble

14. San Diego Chargers 3-3

The Broncos game seemed to be the wake up call this team needed as they followed that loss with a 30 point victory over the Chiefs. If they play like that all year, they are going to be able to compete for a playoff spot. If they don’t, they won’t. It’s as simple as that.

13. Green Bay Packers 4-2

As hard as it may be, this team needs to treat this game against Brett Favre like any other game. Brett Favre is the one who thrives in the spotlight, not Aaron Rodgers, at least not yet. Favre also has the better supporting cast, though I think Rodgers may have the better arm.

12. Baltimore Ravens 3-3

Just what this team did not want to see following a 3 game losing streak and a bye week, the rested 6-0 Broncos. They’ll have to force their power style of play on the finesse Broncos, but it will be a tough game. This team is talented, but the schedulers may have screwed them over some.

11. Atlanta Falcons 4-2

Matt Ryan is a good quarterback with a lot of offensive weapons around him, but the defense is really showing a lot of holes. I can’t call this a legit team until they stop teams regularly.

Playoffs and maybe more

10. Philadelphia Eagles 4-2

If this team is going to have another late season December run like they notoriously do, they are in good position right now. If not, they aren’t in great position and need to make a statement with a win over the suddenly reeling Giants.

9. Arizona Cardinals 4-2

Kurt Warner and the passing game aren’t as good as they were last year, when they made the Super Bowl, but an improved running game, assuming they actually start utilizing Chris Wells, along with a run defense that is top 5 in the league in all major categories and an opportunistic secondary led by Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie, make this an intriguing and dangerous potential playoff foe after they cruise through the NFC West to make the playoffs.

8. Cincinnati Bengals 5-2

Hey, Carson Palmer woke up. If Palmer and the passing game, Cedric Benson and the running game, as well as the defense all have good games in unison like they did last week, rather than being inconsistent, this is a scary team in the playoffs.

7. Denver Broncos 6-0

Not much to say about this team after their bye week. Let’s see if they can continue to make my preseason prediction look silly after the break. I’m still not completely sold on this team as a Super Bowl contender, but Kyle Orton is a smart quarterback who knows how to win.

Dark horses

6. New York Giants 5-2

This team can make a statement with a win over division rival Philadelphia and establish themselves as the dominant team in the division despite losing 2 straight. That will be very important because, if they lose, they could be as low as 3rd in the division at the end of the week, depending on how Dallas plays at home against Seattle.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers 5-2

Despite going 1-2 to start the season, this team, thanks to 4 straight wins, is exactly where they want to be at their bye week, despite Willie Parker, Troy Polamalu, and Aaron Smith all missing significant time with injuries. Ben Roethlisberger is quietly having his best statistical season as a pro now that he is fully healthy for the first time in his career.

Elite runner ups

4. Minnesota Vikings 6-1

Despite a close loss to the Steelers, this is still an elite team in the NFC, but they did look bad late last week. Hopefully for them it was a fluke.

3. New England Patriots 5-2

This is everyone’s worst nightmare, Tom Brady is back. He’ll have to do it against a good team, but he has looked really, really good over the past 2 weeks and the defense is coming together as one despite having some new names.

2. New Orleans Saints 6-0

They had a bit of a scare against the Dolphins, but they survived and were able to come away with a big time win.

The Favorite

1. Indianapolis Colts 6-0

Another week another win for the Colts, though it was hard to expect them to lose to the Rams.

 

 

Awful

32. St. Louis Rams 0-6

The Rams almost won this week, but that doesn’t mean this team is no longer the worst team in the league. They have very little talent at almost every position and simply don’t have the talent or the leadership to win very many games. I think they will be the last team to get a win.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-6

One of three winless teams, the Bucs have very little going for them. They have unproven players that have not played well this year or in any year. This is the definition of a rebuilding project and a prime example of why, if you’re going to cut or trade a bunch of players, its best to actually replace them in some form. This is a team with many, many holes.

30. Detroit Lions 1-5

The Lions have won a game this season, but that was against a Washington team that was grossly overestimated before the season by many, including me. However, in a lot of their games, they have looked overmatched and unmotivated and thus are 1-5. They do have some bright spots, but I think they should write this season off as a lost cause and bench Matt Stafford. No need to throw him out there in this mess, especially when he’s hurt and behind that awful offensive line.

29. Kansas City Chiefs 1-5

The Chiefs finally won a close game late. They have had some good games in the past couple of years, especially last year when I actually think they had a better team, but they just couldn’t get the job done late, with the exception of this “upset” against Washington. However, it’s too late for them to make anything of this season.  As a said earlier, this was a better team last year with Tony Gonzalez and Tyler Thigpen over Matt Cassel. For all they paid Cassel, he’s not playing much better than Thigpen was last year and he’s certainly not winning more games.

Better luck next year

28. Cleveland Browns 1-5

You know you’re having a bad season when the only one position that was projected to be strength is a weakness and all of the positions that were projected to be weaknesses are not only weaknesses, but super weaknesses. The Browns were supposed to be able to win some games with either Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson leading the way with their great arms. However, both have been incredibly awful. Anderson is not living up to his 2007 Pro-Bowl appearance and big contract and Quinn is not living up to the hype he had as a first round pick out of Notre Dame.

27. Tennessee Titans 0-6

I almost hate to say I told you so about this team. Key word there is almost. Many experts were saying that this team could make the playoffs. I said that with the loss of Albert Haynesworth, this aging secondary would struggle, and thus their whole defense and thus their entire offense, which is based upon their defense, would struggle as well. That has happened and then some. They have been plagued with injuries and are getting destroyed. I projected 6 wins for this team, but, even though they are more talented than 0-6 would indicate, they are 0-6 and they aren’t playing well. I can’t imagine them winning more than 4 games this season.

26. Buffalo Bills 2-4

I have to hand it to Terrell Owens. He’s having an awful season, but the Bills are 2-4 and Owens is barely getting any targets and he’s kept his cool all season, granted its week 7. And he can’t just be doing it for the money. He has to realize that he’s not, after this statistical season, and at his age, he’s not going to get the big payday. He seems to be keeping his cool just to show good, Super Bowl caliber teams that he can be a help to a team and not a cancer. He’s shown it so far and he’s doing it for the chance at the ring and not the money.

25. Oakland Raiders 2-4

They won? I’m not sure how, but they did. That’s one of the things about the Raiders. They suck, but they’re always good for one improbable, seemingly random victory every few weeks. They should be able to do that a few more times this season, but I can’t see them winning more than 5 games for the first time since 2002.

Looking forward to a top ten draft pick

24. Washington Redskins 2-4

The only reason I have this team higher up than most sites, is because of their easy schedule. That may seem counterintuitive, but this team is rather counterintuitive. They seem to always play to the level of their opponent. Once they get killed by a good team or lose a bunch of games to better teams, I’ll be convinced that the Redskins aren’t just bad because their opponents are bad. They are actually really, really bad. This team could easily be 0-6. Their two wins were close and unconvincing.

23. Carolina Panthers 2-3

The Panthers finally got both heads of their two headed ground attack going at the same time, but it was against a really bad Tampa Bay team who Jake Delhomme almost ended up losing against. Only time will tell whether or not they can run well and not commit turnovers in the same game, but I don’t think it looks promising.

Probably not a playoff team

22. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-3

This team almost lost to the Rams. It’s obvious that this team just can’t stop anyone. Their offense has promise, but their defense is awful, especially against the pass. They’ll have a lot of ugly games in the future because of that.

21. Miami Dolphins 2-3

The Dolphins get the red hot and talented Saints this week after their bye last week. Welcome back.

20. Seattle Seahawks 2-4

One week after destroying Jacksonville, they got destroyed by division rival Arizona. Matt Hasslebeck is 2-1 in games he’s played completely, but the two wins were against the miserable defenses of the Jaguars and the Rams. Arizona’s passing defense isn’t much better, but he still couldn’t do much. His schedule is going to get a lot harder in terms of the quality of secondaries he will face and that’s not a good thing for this Seahawks team that relies a lot on the passing game because their running game is not great.

Making some noise

19. New York Jets 3-3

Now Sanchez looks more like a rookie. After that amazing 3-0 start in which “Dirty Sanchez” drew comparisons to Joe Namath, he has 10 interceptions in 3 games, including 5 last week against Buffalo, in a game in which, the running game played so well, all Sanchez had to do to win was not throw 5 picks. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds mentally to his poor play of late. He plays the Raiders next in what all of a sudden doesn’t seem like such an easy win.

18. Dallas Cowboys 3-2

It was a relatively calm bye week for this team, with the exception of Patrick Crayton questioning the Cowboys coaching staff after he was benched. The drama is gone and the one thing that remains is Tony Romo and his inability to win close games and his lack of composure in tough situations.

Close, but no cigar

17. Houston Texans 3-3

The Texans finally flashed their brilliance last week against the Bengals, beating a good team by eleven. They’ll need to keep that up in the future, but if they do, they still have a shot at a playoff spot.

16. Chicago Bears 3-2

This is Jay Cutler’s team now. However, Jay Cutler is the type of quarterback who gets easily flustered and doesn’t like to give the ball to his running back. They need to get into a more conservative style offense and allow their good backs to get the job done like they did last year. Jay Cutler should take a page out of Brett Favre’s book and know what he needs to do to win and do that and only that. Don’t try to do too much because he’s throwing picks and messing up his team’s rhythm.

15. San Francisco 49ers 3-2

The rest of their season depends on how fired up Mike Singletary has his team comes up of the bye and coming off a horrible loss. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

On the playoff bubble

14. San Diego Chargers 2-3

The Chargers always seem to get out to slow starts under Norv Turner and then turn it around late in the season. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt after this 2-3 start. However, since they are 3.5 games back of the division already, if they get hot late in the season, which they have the talent to do, they’ll likely be battling for a wild card spot not the division, unless the Broncos melt down majorly which I doubt they will.

13. Green Bay Packers 3-2

The Packers looked very dominant last week, granted it was against the Lions. I’ll have to see if their one flaw, stopping the pass rush, is any better as soon as the play a more formidable opponent. They also have trouble getting to the opposing quarterback.

12. Baltimore Ravens 3-3

They’ve lost 3 in a row after a great start, but unlike the Jets who have also lost 3 straight, they haven’t looked bad doing it. They’ve just been playing good competition and are still a very well-rounded playoff contender, albeit not Super Bowl contender as many saw them after their 3-0 start because they proved they can’t beat other Super Bowl contenders like the Patriots, the Vikings, and to some extent the Bengals.

11. Philadelphia Eagles 3-2

I’m actually not going to knock the Eagles that much for losing to the Raiders. The Raiders are awful, but they’re also random, possibly more random than awful. They randomly beat much better teams. There was nothing the Eagles could have done to stop that completely random event. However, a loss is a loss and in the competitive NFC, I have to knock them some.

Playoffs and maybe more

10. Arizona Cardinals 3-2

Kurt Warner is playing alright, but he’s definitely showing his age and side effects from his hip surgery. He’s not as good as last year, but the defense is better, which kind of evens things out. They are lucky to be in such an easy division where they are the favorites.

9. Cincinnati Bengals 4-2

The Bengals got outplayed last week but it was to a Houston team that finally found their playoff caliber rhythm. They have enough quality wins to keep them in the top ten of my Power Rankings and in the top of their tough division.

8. Denver Broncos 6-0

I owe Josh McDaniels a public apology. I have been saying this team is awful all season and all preseason. They proved this week that that is not the case. They did draft awfully, drafting Robert Ayers who doesn’t fit the system, Richard Quinn who is just a blocking tight end, and trading a future 1st rounder for a nickel cornerback. However, trading Jay Cutler was absolutely the right move. Kyle Orton fits their system perfectly and Jay Cutler would not fit this system as well and with Cutler at the helm, this team would not be 6-0. They took a bunch of scrubs who fit their defensive system well and got Mike Nolan, surprisingly enough, to bring the best out of them. McDaniels has really brought the Patriot way to Denver. However, I’m not sold on Kyle Orton and this offense as a legit Super Bowl contender in the playoffs. They also don’t deserve to be 6-0, and should be 4-2 or something like that, but that’s still a major accomplishment.

Dark horses

7. Pittsburgh Steelers 4-2

The Steelers have Troy Polamalu back and are on a three game winning streak. They have momentum and playoff experience so you can’t count this team out as a Super Bowl contender, though they have had a lot of bad luck this season with injuries, first Polamalu and now Aaron Smith, their defensive end who is out for the season. They aren’t quite as strong as they were last year and the Patriots and Colts are stronger than they were last year, but you can’t count this team out.

6. Atlanta Falcons 4-1

As good as Matt Ryan was last year in his much hyped Rookie of the Year award winning rookie season, he’s been even better, especially in the clutch, this season, and he and the Falcons are actually flying under the radar. That’s a mistake. This team looks legit.

5. New England Patriots 4-2

Well, Tom Brady appears back. Yes, the Titans were missing their two starting cornerback, but he still had an amazing game, no matter who he was playing, and he did in it the snow. He gets another cakewalk game to get in a groove this week against the Bucs before the schedule gets tougher after their week 8 bye. I need to see this team beat a good opponent, like the Colts or the Saints who they are going to play soon, but this team has Tom Brady. Brady is getting better by the week and, as I’ve said in the past many times, if Brady is right at the right time, this team is as good as any team in the league.

Elite runner ups

4. New York Giants 5-1

Despite losing to the Saints, this is still a legitimate NFC contender. They are no longer the NFC favorite, but I can’t knock them much for losing to a team as good as the Saints; that’s how good the Saints are. The Giants had a lot of good wins before the Saints game.

3. Minnesota Vikings 6-0

Brett Favre has this team playing well in the clutch and, out of all the teams in the league that are playing well, this is the only one with 6 wins, more than any team in the league. They can really prove themselves this week against the Steelers, but the Saints are coming off a game in which they destroyed the Giants. For me to move this team above the Saints, either the Saints have to lose or the Vikings have to beat the Giants by more than the Saints did.

2. New Orleans Saints 5-0

I almost put this team at #1, but I didn’t feel it fair to bump the Colts from the top spot when they are playing as tough, or close to as tough of a schedule as the Saints are and are winning just as convincingly. However, that’s the only reason New Orleans is not in first.

The favorite

1. Indianapolis Colts 5-0

Basically see above, Peyton Manning, statistically is having one of his best career seasons and the Colts are 5-0. I’m not saying that the Colts are Super Bowl locks, in fact, all teams are far from Super Bowl locks at this point, but they are the best regular season team thus far and have a quarterback who has playoff experience and who has won a Super Bowl in his career.

 

 

Awful

32. St. Louis Rams 0-5

The Rams were blown out again last week, not scoring a touchdown until garbage time. Only one of their 5 losses this season has been close and that was against Washington who was their own set of problems right now. Their other 4 losses have been pathetic.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-5

Like the Rams, they were blown out again last week. They still aren’t doing much right. Josh Johnson has been a decent quarterback for them and certainly better than Byron Leftwich, but they still aren’t winning and they aren’t going to be doing a lot of winning this season because Johnson doesn’t have the talent around him. The defense is awful as well.

30. Kansas City Chiefs 0-5

I know they almost won last week, but it was against Dallas and they actually managed to lose to Dallas in the clutch, something that’s never a good sign. Plus they gave up 250 yards to Miles Austin something that’s definitely never a good sign.

29. Oakland Raiders 1-4

The Raiders haven’t won more than 5 games since 2002, but this is their worst squad ever, in my opinion, worse than the 2006 Aaron Brooks led version that went 2-14. They only reason they aren’t in last is because they somehow have a win, in a game they allowed 250 more yards of offense than they put up. The other teams below them have no wins and are equally pathetic this year.

Better luck next year

28. Detroit Lions 1-4

This team has some fight in them, certainly more than last year. They were going to beat Pittsburgh, but they gave it a great shot and kept it close. They already have a win this season and they could get a few more against a couple of easier opponents.

27. Cleveland Browns 1-4

Well, they have a win. I don’t know how, but they do. They won a game despite the fact that Derek Anderson completed 2 of his 17 passes. It certainly was not pretty and this team is not, by any stretch of the imagination pretty, but they won and that’s more than you can say for a lot of teams in the league.

26. Buffalo Bills 1-4

This team had so much promise to begin the season with the addition of Terrell Owens. Then they were about to beat the Patriots and blew it. Then they got their fist win. Then it was all downhill from their and losing to Cleveland, who completed 2 passes last week, is rock bottom for this team. They might want to trade TO before that ticking time bomb says something about not getting the ball. Its not Owens fault he’s not getting the ball. Edwards simply has a weak arm and awful protection in the pocket.

Looking forward to a top ten draft pick

25. Tennessee Titans 0-5

The Titans have had a brutal schedule to start the season and are actually a little bit better than their record shows. With the schedule getting a little easier after their week 6 game against New England, they could go .500 in their last 10 games. They do have talent. Just not enough of it defensively for their offense to operate the way it needs to operate in order to beat some of their tougher foes.

24. Washington Redskins 2-3

Add no left tackle to their growing list of concerns. If you thought Jason Campbell was struggling in the west coast offense before, wait until he gets no time in the pocket. Luckily for them they play the Chiefs this week who couldn’t get a sack if they played a team with no offensive line. After the Chiefs game, their schedule gets much harder than the cakewalk schedule they have had thus far.

23. Carolina Panthers 1-3

The Panthers pulled out the win against a Washington team that has lost to Detroit and easily could be 0-5, but it wasn’t pretty. They had to come from behind to do it. They still have their share of problems, but luckily they have the Buccaneers on the schedule this week. If they can get things sorted out in that game and start playing like they did last year, they could turn it around. However, with a tougher schedule coming up, I don’t think they will.

Probably not a playoff team

22. Miami Dolphins 2-3

The Dolphins have been running their way to victories and have a good young game manager in Chad Henne at quarterback. Henne and the running game have really impressed me, but they still have a tough schedule this season, much tougher than last year’s by a lot, and their secondary still has a lot of holes.

21. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-3

I’m going to go ahead and call their secondary the worst in the league. Every single quarterback they have played, even to some extent Kerry Collins, has torched them. Matt Hasselbeck is good, but not that good, especially coming off of a broken rib injury. They have talent in other areas, but if they can’t stop the pass, they won’t go far this year.

Making some noise

20. Dallas Cowboys 3-2

The Cowboys sort of made up for blowing it late against Denver by beating Kansas City in overtime last week, though one has to wonder why you would need an overtime to beat the Chiefs. Miles Austin is not going to do that every week. He probably won’t even come close most week. Their passing game is still an issue because of mediocre receivers and Tony Romo’s poor decision making. And its not even December yet.

19. Houston Texans 2-3

They could have easily won last week, but they didn’t. However, they still have a lot of talent, more offensive, then defensive and have a shot, if some things go right, to set a franchise high in wins. They have never finished above .500 before.

18. Chicago Bears 3-1

They had a bye week last week so not much else to say. I’m not going to repeat what I said last week word for word, but the basic point was that I think Green Bay is a better team than them. Green Bay didn’t play last week either.

Close, but no cigar

17. Green Bay Packers 2-2

Bad luck drops the Packers a bad this week. I still think this is a better team than the Bears and that their only flaw is their cheese-like offensive line.

16. San Francisco 49ers 3-2

After such a great start to the season, they suffered their worst home loss since the invention of the Super Bowl last week losing 45-10 to the Falcons. Granted, the Raiders still lost by more, but that’s another story. Their season, in my opinion, could depend on how their play coming off of their bye week. Part of me really feels that Mike Singletary will have this team fired up more than they’ve even more before coming off of a 35 points loss and a bye week, but if that isn’t the case, they could be in big trouble.

15. Denver Broncos 5-0

2 weeks ago I called them the worst 3-0 team in NFL history. Last week I called them the worst 4-0 team in NFL history. Last week, I will call them the worst 5-0 team in NFL history. Let’s look at their wins, 2 against awful opponents, Cleveland and Oakland, one on a fluke play late in the game, one when the opposing quarterback, Tony Romo, choked and forgot what down it was, and one in overtime when they other team didn’t get the ball because they lost the coin flip. They haven’t played bad. They’ve by far exceeded by expectations. However, I think with average luck and an average strength of schedule, they would be a 2 or 3 win team. Their schedule gets tougher in these next few weeks and their luck should run out eventually. I can’t see them winning more than 8 or 9 games. Or maybe I’m wrong and they’ll have some sort of weird win every week and go 19-0.

On the playoff bubble

14. Seattle Seahawks 2-3

I think their great game passing the ball last week was as a result of facing the Jaguars secondary, but it would be hard not to move them back into NFC West contention after a 41 point win against a playoff contending team, especially when their own division is so weak and when the division leader lost by 35 at home.

13. New York Jets 3-2

It actually looks like the addition of Braylon Edwards was a good move, for the time being. He had a good game, granted it was against a weak Miami secondary and the Jets still lost. If he plays up to his 2007 potential this season, motivating by finally being out of Cleveland and playing for a playoff team in his contract year, he could be the deep threat that Mark Sanchez needs desperately.

12. Arizona Cardinals 2-2

The NFC West is confusing. You have the division leading 49ers at who just got blown out at home by 35 and may or may not come out of their bye week fired up. You have the Seahawks who won by 41, but possibly as a result of awful defense by the Jaguars. And you have the Cardinals, who are the defending NFC West champs and sit at 2-2, a half game back of the lead. I like the Cardinals, by a little bit right now because they’ve done it before with a similar squad.

11. Baltimore Ravens 3-2

They Ravens have suffered two close losses to good opponents, and good suffer a third one with Minnesota on the schedule for week 6, but they still are a very complete football team. They shouldn’t have to worry about anything, but they play in a division with both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, so they have a lot of competition for a playoff spot. Right now, I like all 3 to make the playoffs, but that might not be the case.

Playoffs and maybe more

10. San Diego Chargers 2-2

Because of what I said about the Broncos in their write up, I still like the Chargers to win the division, but they have to be very scared sitting 2.5 games back of the division lead with a huge Monday Night Game against Denver this week.

9. Atlanta Falcons 4-1

Beating the Niners by 35 at home is no minor accomplishment, but I still like the Saints in the division a little bit more. I’m not sold on this defense, especially their run defense, even though they did a very good job of containing the Niners and their strong running game.

Dark horses

8. Pittsburgh Steelers 3-2

Almost losing to the Lions isn’t good, but they are back over .500 and get Troy Polamalu back soon. However, this might be the most competitive division in all of football so they aren’t guarantees for the playoffs yet. Still, they’ve been there before and are almost the same squad that won the Super Bowl last year so you can’t count them out come December and January.

7. Cincinnati Bengals 4-1

Its October 14th and the Bengals are in first place in what I believe to be the most talented and competitive division in football, with the exception of the Browns. If it wasn’t for a fluke play late against the Broncos, they would be 5-0. They haven’t won any games convincingly, but they have had a pretty tough schedule and have shown poise late in games consistently which is huge. This is a really complete football team.

6. Philadelphia Eagles 3-1

Donovan McNabb is back and the offense looks as explosive as ever. Granted, they did play the Bucs, but they look really good. They don’t normally look this good this early in the season, but this is one of their most talented squads of the decade and that makes them very, very dangerous in the NFC.

5. New England Patriots 3-2

Its hard to knock them much when the biggest reason they lost was the luck of the coin flip, especially when their closest in division competition also lost. Tom Brady is running out of time to become his old self again though. He’s still not quite right and its mid October.

Elite runner ups

4. New Orleans Saints 4-0

Nothing new to report for this team as they were on bye last week. They are still awesome offensively and surprisingly good defensively. They have a huge game against the Giants this week and in which they show themselves as the best team in the NFC.

3. Minnesota Vikings 5-0

The played the Rams last week and beat them easily, so I didn’t learn much about them last week, but I’ll say this. They have a huge game this week against the Ravens and an even bigger one, for more reasons than one, against Green Bay week 8.

2. New York Giants 5-0

Eli Manning didn’t even have to play a whole half for the Giants to destroy the Raiders last week. David Carr stepped in nicely and continued the demolition. Eli seems to be fully healthy going until the New Orleans which is very good for them because this is their biggest game of the season so far.

The favorite

1. Indianapolis Colts 5-0

Another week another team falls victim to Peyton Manning’s best 5 game start in his career. 40 touchdowns and 14 wins are not out of the question for Manning. His receivers have not missed a beat without Marvin Harrison and with Anthony Gonzalez injured. Gonzalez will be back in a few weeks reportedly making the Colts 4 strong at wide receiver and 1 very, very strong at quarterback.

 

Awful

32. St. Louis Rams 0-4

The Rams continued their awful season with an embarrassing 35-0 loss to division “rival” San Francisco. They simply did nothing right last week, including running the football, despite the fact that Steven Jackson hasn’t gotten hurt yet.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-4

The Bucs almost won last week, but that was against a Washington team that’s playing awful right now. The Bucs don’t do much well and don’t have a lot of hope for the rest of the season.

30. Detroit Lions 1-3

The Lions have a win this year, but with the exception of that win, they haven’t proved they are much better than they were last year, especially defensively. The Bears, the Chicago Bears, scored 48 points on this defense last week. That’s not good.

29. Cleveland Browns 0-4

The Browns are obviously focusing on the future with the trade of Braylon Edwards and it was a good move, but they better hope that one of their quarterbacks is actually a good one, otherwise they don’t have anything going for them.

Better luck next year

28. Kansas City Chiefs 0-4

Not much different to say about this team this week, as is the case for a lot of the really bad teams. They better hope that Matt Cassel’s struggles this season are as a result of the poor talent around him and not that his success last season was only a result of the good talent around him.

27. Oakland Raiders 1-3

Their former #1 pick quarterback has a QB rating of 42.4 (for measure, a quarterback that completes no passes has a quarterback rating of 39.6), their top running back is out for at least 2 weeks and possibly for the season for the 2nd straight season, and their 2009 1st round draft pick has 2 catches, that’s only 2 more than Michael Crabtree who just signed this week. Oh, and their coach could be going to jail. The only reason I’m not ranking this team last is because they already have 1 win and they have a fairly easy schedule with a few winnable games for the rest of the season.

26. Buffalo Bills 1-3

This team was supposed to be better with Terrell Owens this season, but so far they only have 1 win, which came against the awful Buccaneers, and their defense has been miserable. Oh, and Owens only has 8 catches in 4 games and is not getting targeted all that much so there’s a chance he explodes in frustration at some point this season.

Looking forward to a top 10 pick

25. Tennessee Titans 0-4

I predicted this of the Titans. I said that with the loss of Albert Haynesworth, combined with an aging secondary, this defense would not be as good as they normal were, and the conservative run heavy offense would no longer be able to function because the defense would dig themselves into holes. That is exactly what has happened.

24. Carolina Panthers 0-3

The Panthers need to get it together after the bye week because they were awful before the bye week. They were finding ways to lose. Whether it was Jake Delhomme sabotaging the team, or blowing leads, or not being able to run, or not being able to defend the run, they were doing everything wrong, unlike last year when they were doing everything right.

23. Miami Dolphins 1-3

The Dolphins are 1-3 on the season, but 1-0 with Chad Henne at the helm. However, I don’t expect Henne to keep that up. Last week, as good as they looked, they played a poor Buffalo defense that grossly underestimated Chad Henne. This week, and for the rest of the season, teams will be more prepared.

Probably not a playoff team

22. Washington Redskins 2-2

The Redskins have had an incredibly easy schedule over the past 3 weeks, playing St. Louis, Detroit, and Tampa Bay. There next 2 weeks aren’t any harder as they will play Carolina and Kansas City who have a combined 0-7 record so we won’t know a lot about this team for a few weeks, at least not a lot of good things that we can know for sure. In fact, this team has been playing pretty badly and could be easily 0-3 over that 3 game stretch of easy games. They have a lot more to lose than win over the next 2 weeks.

21. Seattle Seahawks 1-3

Matt Hasselbeck is coming back at the perfect time for them. Including the San Francisco game in which he didn’t last through the 2nd quarter, they are 0-3 without him. The only question left is how effective will he be and is it too late. San Francisco leads the division by 2 and is playing very well right now.

Making some noise

20. Dallas Cowboys 2-2

Tony Romo thought it was 3rd down on 4th down at the end of the game last week. He thought he had another shot to win the game, when he didn’t. That isn’t good. This team is 2-2, but they’re a mess.

19. Denver Broncos 4-0

Last week I called the Broncos the worst 3-0 team in the history of the league. This week, I’ll call them the worst 4-0 team in the history of the league. They have wins against Oakland and Cleveland, who both suck. They beat the Bengals on a fluke play late and they beat the Cowboys who completely joked when Tony Romo forgot what down it was. This week they’ll play the Patriots who will finally show this team that they aren’t as good as their record. The Broncos have an extremely tough schedule over the next few weeks and I can’t see them winning any more than 8 games this season, though that’s twice my preseason prediction.

18. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-2

Their offense looked really good last week and they finally have a true #1 option, but their pass defense is horrible and they aren’t getting any pressure on the quarterback. Unless they suddenly get better defensively, this is not going to be a playoff team.

Close, but no cigar

17. Chicago Bears 3-1

The Bears finally proved they can score points for like the first time in 10 years, granted it was against the Lions. They still scored 48 points which was amazing and is 3-0 since losing to the Packers week 1. I still like the Packers’ offense more and have some concerns about the Bears’ defense without Brian Urlacher.

16. Houston Texans 2-2

The Texans looked very good last week, but it was against the Raiders. The obviously have a good offense and can score points in bunches in a variety of different ways. However, they have trouble stopping any quarterback not named JaMarcus Russell. They face an old but talented and more importantly rested Kurt Warner this week.

15. Green Bay Packers 2-2

I’m pretty this offensive line is made out of cheese. The Packers have given up 5 sacks per game this season and 4 more sacks than any team in the league. That’s their one achilles heel, but it’s a big one. Aaron Rodgers can’t be nearly as effective with all that pressure as he could be without the pressure. They aren’t going far in the playoffs or even making the playoffs at all if Aaron Rodgers can’t get enough time in the pressure. At this rate, he’ll be sacked 80 times this season. He might die.

On the playoff bubble

14. Arizona Cardinals 1-2

We’ll see how the week off will effect Kurt Warner, but I expect it will effect him positively. If this team can score points like they did last year again, they could be very good. Their run defense ranks among the league’s best.

13. Cincinnati Bengals 3-1

If it wasn’t for a freak loss against the Broncos, the Bengals would be 4-0. The Bengals, the Cincinnati Bengals would be 4-0. Unfortunately, they are 3-1 and have a tough schedule upcoming and a lot of competition in the AFC. Plus, they haven’t won any games convincingly.

12. San Francisco 49ers 3-1

The Niners had the single most impressive performance last week of any team in the league. Granted, they were playing the Rams who will make you look good no matter who you are, but this team is very disciplined and has a 1.5 game lead in the division. That may not sound like much, but there are only 12 games left for them and their schedule isn’t all that tough.

11. New York Jets 3-1

The Jets finally looked really bad last week, not just offensively, where Mark Sanchez threw 3 picks and no touchdowns, but also defensively. They are going to have games like that. They have a rookie quarterback at the helm and their secondary was banged up and playing Drew Brees who no one has been able to stop this season, or at least for that matter.

Playoffs and maybe more

10. Atlanta Falcons 2-1

The Falcons had their bye last week, so there’s not a lot to say about them except that they are going to have a hard time winning the division with New Orleans playing like this.

9. San Diego Chargers 2-2

The Chargers looked awful last week against the Steelers. It wasn’t there offense that couldn’t get started, but they couldn’t stop anyone. They have holes on defense that they needed to fix in the offseason and didn’t. They better hope I’m right about the Broncos actually being bad. The only reason I have them ranked so high is because I don’t see a lot of competition in the division and because I think they have an easy schedule in the next 13 weeks.

Dark horses

8. Philadelphia Eagles 2-1

The Eagles get Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook back off of their bye week with a 2-1 record and are in very good position, showing their depth in the absence in their two stars, to make the playoffs. This team has had a lot of playoff success in the past.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers 2-2

The Steelers are back at .500 and 1 game back of the division lead after their domination of a good Chargers’ team. Troy Polamalu should be back soon and this team has the talent, depth, and experience to do a lot of good teams this season.

6. New Orleans Saints 4-0

We know about the Saints offense, but their defense has been very surprising as well. There are a few flaws with this team, namely their running game, though Pierre Thomas has shown flashes of brilliance, and their run defense, but they quietly have one of the best secondaries in the league and they can put points on the board in a hurry.

5. Baltimore Ravens 3-1

I’m not going to knock the Ravens a lot for losing a game to a good team they could have easily beaten with some luck. I still think they have the potential to hold off the Steelers and challenge them in the playoffs. They have a huge game this week against the Bengals.

Elite runner ups

4. Minnesota Vikings 4-0

They had a very good win over their division rival Packers last week and showed off, for the 4th week in a row, their completeness and lack of flaws. That is going to allow them to do a lot of good things this season.

3. New England Patriots 3-1

Tom Brady had his best game in my mind last week against the Ravens, even though they could have easily lost that game. The defense concerns me though. They have lost Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, Asante Samuel, Tedy Bruschi are all gone from their 2007 team and there is still no timetable on Jerod Mayo’s return. They are so desperate that they might bring back Junior Seau for like the 5th time. However, if this offense is right at the right time this season, it might not matter.

2. New York Giants 4-0

The Giants are looking very solid this season once again. This is another one of those teams that will beat you with their completeness and history shows that those types of teams do well in the playoffs.

The Favorite

1. Indianapolis Colts 4-0

Peyton Manning is having the best 4 game start to his career ever. That is scary. If he keeps it up, I don’t see how anyone can stop this team from winning 13 or 14 games and doing major damage in the playoffs.

 

 

Awful

32. St. Louis Rams 0-3

Though their performance this week wasn’t nearly as bad as that of the Bucs and the Browns, their defense still got lit up once again. Marc Bulger is hurt again, not like that matters anymore. I just don’t see how this team is going to win a lot of games this season with no quarterback and no defense.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-3

The Bucs had 86 yards of total offense last week against the Giants. Either the Giants are the best defensive team ever, or the Bucs just suck. Their performances in their first 2 games suggest that its just that the Bucs suck. Byron Leftwich was benched after his awful showing, 22 passing yards on 16 attempts and a 1 pick, and replaced with 2008 5th round pick Josh Johnson. Johnson has never started on NFL game and was almost as bad as Leftwich was against the Giants with 36 passing yards on 10 attempts. The defense can’t stop anyone either. The Bucs should just write this off as a lost season. The last thing they should do is throw rookie Josh Freeman, who is reportedly nowhere near ready to start, out into the mess.

30. Cleveland Browns 0-3

They can’t stop the run. They can’t stop the pass. They can’t run. The quarterback position, supposedly the strength of the team coming into the season with both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, has turned into a two headed joke. Quinn and Anderson combined to go 17-27 for 115 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 4 picks against the Ravens last week. Ladies and gentleman, this team sucks.

29. Detroit Lions 1-2

The 2007 Dolphins went 1-15. The next season they lost their first 2, but won week 3 and ended up making the playoffs at 11-5. The 2008 Lions went 0-16. The next season they lost their first 2, but won week 3. Is there a trend? Well, unless the Lions pull some sort of wildcat out of their sleeves in the next few days, I don’t think so. But congrats on the win.

Better luck next year

28. Kansas City Chiefs 0-3

Oh, I know what’ll turn the franchise around. Giving up a 2nd round pick and 66 million dollars to get Matt Cassel. Cassel has a modest 84.8 QB rating, but the team isn’t winning games. They aren’t even really coming close because of their struggles on the defensive end. They managed 10 sacks all of last season and didn’t really fix that. In fact, they might have made it worse by switching to a system their players didn’t fit into. They have only 1 sack all season. Little pressure isn’t doing their awful secondary any favors.

27. Oakland Raiders 1-2

There is always something about the Raiders box score that makes me laugh. Its name is JaMarcus Russell. The former #1 overall pick has a 39.8 QB rating this season. Somehow he won a game, which might be the funniest thing of all, but if he can’t figure out how to do something other than overthrow his receivers by 5 yards, its going to be another long season for the Raiders.

Looking forward to a top ten pick

26. Denver Broncos 3-0

The Broncos are 3-0, but I’ll say it again. They’ve beaten the Raiders, #27, and the Browns, #30, and the Bengals on a freak play. They still have not proven to me that they can beat a good team and that they are a good team. I can’t see them winning more than 6 games at this point. If they beat Dallas this week, I might have no choice but to move them up.

25. Miami Dolphins 0-3

I guess we’ll find out what kind of quarterback Chad Henne is and fast. Chad Pennington is out for the season with a shoulder injury and there is no denying how much he means to this offense. Unless Henne can replace both his production and his leadership, this team is going to have to pull out some sort of crazy wildcat to make the playoffs again this year, especially after starting 0-3.

24. Buffalo Bills 1-2

They haven’t played well since midway through the 4th quarter of the Pats game week one. Marshawn Lynch is coming back this week so we’ll so how that helps, but it hasn’t really been the running game that’s troubling them. Fred Jackson has been amazing. However, Chad Pennington’s injury might help them stay out of the cellar.

23. Tennessee Titans 0-3

People laughed when I predicted 6 wins for the Titans earlier this season, but after their 0-3 start, that looks possible. Without Albert Haynesworth and with their tougher schedule, this defense will struggle and since their offensive “strength” is based on good field position, which is based on defensive strength, the whole team has started to fall apart.

Probably not a playoff team

22. Washington Redskins 1-2

The Redskins have been winning close games against lesser opponents for about a year now, but their habit of playing down to the level of their opponent finally backfired this week as the Lions brought everything that had at the ‘Skins and beat them. The defensive is strong, but the offense is a mess and everything starts with the lack of leadership by Jason Campbell at quarterback.

21. Carolina Panthers 0-3

What happened to their running game? They couldn’t even run on the Cowboys! This is bad because they really aren’t good at much else but running. The defensive is playing worse than I thought as well. They need a win this week.

Making some noise

20. San Francisco 49ers 2-1

The Niners both lost the game and lost their best player this week. I’m not counting them out of the NFC West race because everyone in the division lost this week, I’m merely placing them where I placed them last week and saying what I said about them last week. I don’t see how this team will win enough games to make the playoffs, but if they do, Mike Singletary should win coach of the year because this is one of the least talented groups of players in the NFL.

19. Dallas Cowboys 2-1

This team is going to a conservative style of offense, a lot of running, a lot of short passes, a lot of passing to the tight ends. Not only does this completely not suit Tony Romo’s arm, but its bad when you’re going conservative because you have to, not because it’s the best way to win. Their perimeter receivers are doing nothing.

18. Seattle Seahawks 1-2

Their potential this year depends on when Matt Hasselbeck comes back and how healthy he is when he returns. Seneca Wallace cannot lead this team to a playoff spot. Matt Hasselbeck could, even with this 1-2 start. The faster they get him back the better though.

Close, but no cigar

17. Jacksonville Jaguars 1-2

This team should be renamed the Jacksonville Jekyll and Hydes. Week one they hold the Colts to 14 points and lose by only 2. Week two Kurt Warner has a record setting game against them and they lose. Week 3 they beat a good division foe. Unfortunately, the one thing that has stayed constant for them is their inability to defend the pass.

16. Houston Texans 1-2

If the Jags are the Jekyll and Hydes, then the Texans are the Jekyll and Hyde IIs. They looked lost against the Jets week 1, brilliant against the Titans, and lost again against the Jags. They haven’t played good defense all year, again, because of their holes in the secondary and on the defensive line, but I think they have enough talent to make the playoffs if they get it together.

15. Chicago Bears 2-1

Their wins have been ugly, but this is football and they are still wins. However, I don’t think they’ve quite found their identity yet as a football team and I don’t think they are as good as division rivals Green Bay and Minnesota.

On the playoff bubble

14. Cincinnati Bengals 2-1

The Bengals finally beat Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, a huge monkey off of their back. They have looked good on both sides of the ball, this season, with the exception of their offense against Denver, but that was Carson Palmer’s first game back from injury and a game they could have easily won. Still, I’m not sure this is a playoff team yet. Their still in the same division as a very good Ravens team and you can’t forget about the Steelers even though they are 1-2.

13. Green Bay Packers 2-1

Its hard to learn much about this team after their blowout of St. Louis because, well, everyone blows out St. Louis, except Washington who has a whole different set of problems. It’ll be interesting to see how their offensive line blocks the Minnesota defensive line this week. The offensive line is the achilles heel of the team.

12. Atlanta Falcons 2-1

Their run defense continues to struggle some, but they have an established quarterback and are a solid all around team. This team is going to be in the playoff race for a long time this season and probably will claim a playoff spot when its all said and done.

11. New York Jets 3-0

The Jets are here simply because, with all of the good AFC teams, this team is not guaranteed a playoff spot yet since they have a rookie quarterback. This defense is amazing and will get their toughest test of the season this week against Drew Brees and the Saints.

Playoffs and maybe more

10. Arizona Cardinals 1-2

Because everyone lost in the NFC West, I’m not changing much in terms of their rankings, but the Cardinals looked bad last week. Kurt Warner need to be more consistent, but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt to win this division for now.

9. San Diego Chargers 2-1

If this team can’t figure out a way to move the ball on the ground, they will go nowhere late in the season. Phillip Rivers can’t do everything.

8. New Orleans Saints 3-0

The Saints are 3-0, but I still have concerns about the defense. If they can prove themselves on that side of the ball continually, they will move up this list.

Dark Horses

7. Philadelphia Eagles 2-1

Assuming Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook don’t miss extended time, they will be better as a result of their injuries. Kevin Kolb and more importantly LeSean McCoy proved that this team is extremely deep at all offensive positions. That’s scary, especially when you consider their depth at running back.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers 1-2

They’ve lost two games that they could have won and they’ve lost them without arguably their best defensive player, so I’m not going to knock them down two much. However, two losses is two losses and they play in a division with a good Baltimore team so that’s something to worry about. Also, the last time the Steelers won a Super Bowl, they had awful luck the next season and missed the playoffs. That might be happening this season. For now, I’ll leave them as an elite team that can win the Super Bowl.

5. Baltimore Ravens 3-0

The Ravens offense continued to produce last week, but their defense was finally Raven esque with 4 interceptions. Of course, that could just be because the Browns stink.

Elite runner ups

4. Minnesota Vikings 3-0

I still have yet to find a negative with this team at the moment, but I found another positive. They’re clutch. They only reason why this team might not contend for a title is Brett Favre and how he will hold up down the stretch at 40 years old. But, he’s played more consecutive games than anyone ever so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

3. New England Patriots 2-1

I might as well copy what I said about this team last week. They are going to make the playoffs and if Tom Brady is vintage Brady by that point. Look out. They will continue to be listed high on my list until, A, they appear to be headed towards missing the playoffs, B, Tom Brady continues to look uncomfortable late in the season.

2. New York Giants 3-0

Plaxico who? Eli and the passing game and been at a new level this season without Plaxico Burress and that makes them a complete team with a very good chance at their 2nd title in 3 years.

The favorite

1. Indianapolis Colts 3-0

Its hard to argue with the results Peyton Manning is getting this season and the result he’s gotten throughout his career. They may not win the Super Bowl, but they’re probably going to win the most games of any team this season and its not like they’re strangers to going deep in the playoffs.

 

 

Awful

32. St. Louis Rams 0-2

Don’t be fooled by their near victory over the Redskins, this team is a mess. Its hard to see them winning more than 3 games even in a weaker division.

31. Detroit Lions 0-2

Matt Ryan, led his team to the playoffs. Joe Flacco, led his team to the playoffs, Mark Sanchez, 2-0. Matt Stafford, 40.5 QB rating in his first 2 games. That’s more of what we’re used to from rookie quarterbacks. Starting Stafford was a mistake with that little of talent around him. Watch out for Daunte Culpepper sightings in the next few weeks.

30. Cleveland Browns 0-2

Getting blown out by the Broncos, who are, despite their 2-0 record, a mess of a team, that hurts. This team didn’t focus at all on their defense in the offseason and as a result, they are getting destroyed on that end of the ball. Offensively, things aren’t much better. They aren’t getting things going on the ground and even with Brady Quinn at quarterback, they are struggling to score points.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-2

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Bucs have a bad defense. They cut way too many players in the offseason, losing talent and getting nothing in return. Its going to be a long rebuilding process for them. Let’s just hope they don’t do something stupid like throw Josh Freeman into the middle of it.

Better luck next year

28. Denver Broncos 2-0

Don’t be fooled by their 2-0 record, this is not a good team. They have a fluke win against the Bengals and a win over an awful Cleveland squad. They might even be able to go to 3-0 this week with a win over the Raiders and I still wouldn’t believe in this team. They need to beat a good team before I can project more than 6 or so wins for them. Right now, 4-5 wins is my projection.

27. Kansas City Chiefs 0-2

They deserved to beat the Raiders, but the reality is they didn’t. For a team that is going to have a hard time winning games, losing that one to the Raiders is going to hurt them.

26. Oakland Raiders 1-1

A win is a win right? Well, they had 250 less offensive yards than the Chiefs in their win so all that win did was get them a win. I don’t believe anymore in this team after that game.

Looking forward to a top ten pick

25. Buffalo Bills 1-1

Trent Edwards looks comfortable in the no huddle offense, but this team also has a lot of flaws, none more prominent than the one at left tackle. I don’t see this team going far over the course of the season.

24. Miami Dolphins 0-2

They have one of the worst secondaries in the league, but the wildcat is working for them offensively and that is going to win them some games. I don’t see a repeat playoff appearance for them though after this 0-2 start and a tough schedule upcoming.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars 0-2

The Jags were the single worst defensive team in the league last year. The offense isn’t going to be good enough to carry them to enough wins unless the secondary improves.

Probably not a playoff team

22. Tennessee Titans 0-2

With no Albert Haynesworth, the defense is going to see more and more games like they had last week and less and less like they had against the Steelers. Unless Chris Johnson explodes like that every week, they’re going to have a hard time scoring enough points to win.

21. Carolina Panthers 0-2

Jake Delhomme sabotaged the running game with 5 turnovers week 1 and week 2 the running game sabotaged itself by not being able to score enough points. Last year, they were finding ways to win. This year they are finding ways to lose. That’s not a good thing.

Making some noise

20. Dallas Cowboys 1-1

So much for this offense being more Romo friendly. Romo sucked last week throwing 3 picks and posting a YPA of about 4. He’s making bad decision and wide receivers certainly aren’t helping him out.

19. San Francisco 49ers 2-0

This team looked like one of the 5 least talented teams coming into the season so forgive me if I don’t believe in them to win the division and make the playoffs just get. However, if they keep it up, I’ll have no choice but to move them up and if that happens, I’m fully endorsing Mike Singletary for coach of the year.

Close, but no cigar

18. Chicago Bears 1-1

The Bears followed their week 1 stinker up with a close victory over the Steelers. They are still struggling to find their identity, both defensively, where they lost Brian Urlacher, and offensively, where they have added Jay Cutler. These next few weeks will tell me a lot about this team.

17. Washington Redskins 1-1

The more I see of this team, the more I think Jason Campbell is playing in the wrong system. His strong arm is not being maximized in the west coast offense. The team needs to play better offensively to contend in the division, but the defense looks sharp.

16. Seattle Seahawks 1-1

This team has zero chance of making the playoffs if Hasselbeck is out for an extended period. This team last year without him ended up going 4-12.

15. Cincinnati Bengals 1-1

This team should be 2-0, but I’m still not seeing what I expected out of this defense. The offense needs to get more in sync because the defense is doing a great job.

On the playoff bubble

14. Green Bay Packers 1-1

Aaron Rodgers is simply getting destroyed behind this line. This is a Super Bowl contending team if he can get some more time, but he’s being destroyed at this point.

13. Houston Texans 1-1

The Texans looked very good last week, but need to show more consistency. They have all the tools to make the playoffs for the first time in the team’s history.

12. Philadelphia Eagles 1-1

Good news for the Eagles, they play the Chiefs this week and have a bye next. If McNabb can be back by week 5, this team is still in a good very position to make the playoffs.

11. New York Jets 2-0

Mark Sanchez is proving, as Joe Flacco did last year, that smart quarterbacks surrounded by a good supporting cast can win ballgames. This team has ’08 Ravens upside which means 11 or so wins.

Playoffs and maybe more

10. Arizona Cardinals 1-1

One week after looking like an old man, Kurt Warner and his bad hip set a record for highest completion percentage in a single game. We’ll have to see which Warner shows up the rest of the season, but if Warner is anywhere near as good as he was last week, this is the division favorite, not Seattle, not San Francisco.

9. New Orleans Saints 2-0

Drew Brees can win games with his arm. We already knew that. Can this defense stop a good quarterback. So far they’ve seen Matt Stafford and Kevin Kolb. Trent Edwards is their next matchup.

8. San Diego Chargers 1-1

If LT misses extended time or is truly washed up, this team is going to have a hard time getting consistent production on the ground, weakening their passing game in the process and bringing the team down in the process. Luckily for them their division is a joke.

Dark Horses

7. Atlanta Falcons 2-0

This patchwork defense stepped up big time against Carolina last week, especially stopping the run. Matt Ryan has to like his team’s chances if they keep playing like that.

6. Baltimore Ravens 2-0

The defense hasn’t looked like vintage Ravens defense, but you have to give them the benefit of the doubt on that side of the ball. Offensively, they’ve been on another level this season, which is truly amazing.

5. Minnesota Vikings 2-0

I know they haven’t played anyone good, but name me one thing this team does badly. As long as Brett Favre doesn’t get in Adrian Peterson’s way, he should free things up for Peterson to rush for 2000 yards.

Elite runner ups

4. New England Patriots 1-1

As long as Tom Brady is his vintage self by the end of the season, this team doesn’t have to worry. ’07 esque Brady + all the weapons this team has on offense = good things. However, he has to get to that point first. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

3. New York Giants 2-0

This is the most complete team in the NFC. As long as Eli and his wide receivers continue to mesh and do good things offensively, they’ll be hard to beat.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers 1-1

I’m not going to down this team down much just because they lost a close game they easily could have won against a tough foe. This is still an elite team.

The favorite

1. Indianapolis Colts 2-0

I had to knock the Pats and Steelers down a little because both teams lost this week. The Colts, by default, move up to the top. And I mean by default in the most respectful way. This team is good.

 

 

Awful

32(30). St. Louis Rams 0-1

The Rams are probably the worst team in the league this year, with a weak defense and one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL who is surrounded by very few playmakers. Steven Jackson, even if healthy, can’t carry the team by himself. However, they have their franchise left tackle and their franchise defensive end so they are doing something right for the future. However, expect another pathetic showing this year.

31(32). Detroit Lions 0-1

Matt Stafford was better than his stats showed. He did have 3 picks to no touchdowns, but he was pretty much in a shootout with Drew Brees so obviously he was going to have to force things and in your first NFL game, that is going to lead to picks. The defense isn’t going to ever give him a lot of support, but the running game should be better than it was against the Saints, which will allow Matt Stafford to lead his team to a few wins this season, just not that many.

30(29). Cleveland Browns 0-1

If the defense plays the way it did against the Vikings week 1, and since they have been playing that poorly for over a year I expect them to, Brady Quinn is going to have to win a lot of shoot outs. Its going to be hard for him to do that with the supporting cast he has on offensive now.

29(31). Denver Broncos 1-0

The Broncos got a fluke win on a crazy pass against Cincinnati and they probably are going to win this week against the Browns to start 2-0, but they need to beat a good team in a real way before I can say this team will win anymore than 4 or so games. There wasn’t a whole lot to like about the way this team played week 1, except for the way that they escaped with a W.

Better luck next year

28(28). Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-1

Its going to be a long season for this defense this year, which is weird to say about a Tampa Bay team, but it is true. Offensively, a lot of the burden will fall on journeyman Byron Leftwich’s shoulders, who, even though he looked decent in a loss to Dallas, is going to have a hard time winning games for this team against their tough schedule.

27(26). Oakland Raiders 0-1

Their near victory against the Chargers had more to do with the Chargers playing down to their opponents level, as well as the Chargers always starting slowly, than the Raiders turning things around. JaMarcus Russell didn’t look any better this year than last year and rookie Darrius Heyward Bey didn’t have a catch. There wasn’t a whole lot to like on this team outside of Richard Seymour and Darren McFadden.

26(24). Kansas City Chiefs 0-1

How the Chiefs looked that good offensively using their backup quarterback against the Ravens, I don’t know. However, this defense looked awful. They struggled in the new scheme that they really don’t fit into and they are going to lose a lot of games this season because of that.

Looking forward to a top ten draft pick

25(25). Buffalo Bills 0-1

The Bills did a lot of good things against the Patriots and Trent Edwards should be proud of himself, but Edwards still has a history of inconsistency, this offensive line is still inexperienced, and this defense is still injury prone. Plus, its never encouraging when you blow a lead like that.

24(20). Miami Dolphins 0-1

I thought the Dolphins would struggle this season, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad. They couldn’t get things going, especially on the ground, against a Falcons defense that isn’t very good. They have a really tough schedule this season and face a lot of good quarterbacks, putting a ton of pressure on their aging pass rush and their inexperienced cornerbacks.

23(15). Arizona Cardinals 0-1

Apparently Kurt Warner is hurt worse than we thought. Warner looked awful against a Niners defense that is average at best, even with all those options around him. Said Warner on the injury “it only hurts when I move.” That’s encouraging. This team is going to follow the long line of Super Bowl losers who miss the playoffs the next season. I would not be surprised if we see a Matt Leinart sighting (I mean other than in a tabloid) in the coming weeks.

Probably not a playoff team

22(23). San Francisco 49ers 1-0

The Niners’ strong defensive showing last week was more about Kurt Warner struggling than the Niners playing well, so my preseason stance on this team is the same, they don’t have the offensive firepower to win the division and make the playoffs.

21(27). New York Jets 1-0

Mark Sanchez had a lot of poise in his win over the Texans, but he is still a rookie so he’ll take his lumps this season. Unlike Joe Flacco last season, Sanchez does not have a strong supporting cast to mask his struggles when he has them and I don’t think he has the talent of Matt Ryan so its unlike that the Jets will win more than 7 or so games.

20(22). Dallas Cowboys 1-0

Dallas’ offense looked good against Tampa Bay. The thing is though, the Bucs’ defense is awful. The Bucs’ offense is also awful but they looked like a more than passable offense against the Cowboys last week. Dallas had too much subtraction and not enough addition this offseason and the defense will keep them from competing in their tough division. The need to prove this defense is better than they looked last week by keeping the Giants in check this weekend.

Making some noise

19(12). Cincinnati Bengals 0-1

The Bengals are a lot more talented than they looked last week and lot of that blame should be placed on Marvin Lewis, the coach who has been in Cincinnati for their last few years of misery. I’m not calling my preseason sleeper dead, but they aren’t giving me a ton of promise after that game against Denver, regardless of whether or not they should have won. The Bengals can only hope that Carson Palmer does not continue to stink it up every week.

18(10). Houston Texans 0-1

One week does not make a season and I do think the Texans are a talented well rounded team that can make the playoffs, but there is no denying how bad the Texans looked last week. Texans fans better hope that their loss can be blamed on Matt Schaub’s injured ankle and that his ankle is good to go for the rest of the season.

17(6). Chicago Bears 0-1 Fall of the week

Jay Cutler looked completely unpoised as leader of the Bears and made bad decision after bad decision when faced with pressure. What hurts more is the loss of their middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Their defense won’t be the same without him. You can’t write them off, simply because Jay Cutler led the Broncos to 8 wins last season with one of the worst defenses in NFL history supporting him, but their first week couldn’t have gone much worse.

Close, but no cigar

16(9). Carolina Panthers 0-1

With the Panthers’ strong running game, all Jake Delhomme has to do is not sabotage the team. However, sabotage is all he has done over the past 2 games, with 11 turnovers. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, as coach John Fox is doing, but one more bad week and it will be time for Fox to give up on him and replace him with a quarterback who can actually manage a game.

15(16). New Orleans Saints 1-0

Drew Brees can lead this team to victory by himself, but their defense and running game will have to step up against a team other than the Lions for me to put them in the playoffs. They’ll have plenty of chances to do so this year with a tough schedule upcoming.

On the playoff bubble

14(21). Tennessee Titans 0-1

They may have lost against the defending Super Bowl champs, but they did prove they can still play their signature grind it out defense and apply pressure on the opposing quarterback. They still have to prove to me that their offense can win games when they have to and that their defensive line can create pressure against good offensive lines, but a very productive week 1 for them in my eyes.

13(7). Washington Redskins 0-1

The Skins’ defense kept it close with the Giants, but their offense did not look in sync week 1. Whether that is going to be a trend or whether it was merely a result of the Giants’ amazing pass rush, we will not know until later in the season, but one thing is for sure, this team could find itself on the bottom of this strong division if their offense can’t improve, however strong their defense may be.

12(19). Baltimore Ravens 1-0

Their offense looked amazing with Joe Flacco at the helm, granted it was against the Chiefs. However, how this defense gave up 24 points to the Chiefs’ backup quarterback, I do not understand. They’ll get a chance to show this defense is till as good as it ever was this week against the Chargers.

11(11). Philadelphia Eagles 1-0

Unfortunately for me, I do not know a lot about the Eagles 2009 offense after their first game because, well the defense got them so great field position over and over that the offense didn’t have to do much. Unfortunately for the Eagles, when the offense was on the field, Donovan McNabb got hurt and whether he plays this week is unknown at the moment. He’s the most important part of their offense and they need him to get right soon.

Playoffs and maybe more

10(13). Jacksonville Jaguars 0-1

The Jags did exactly what I expected they would this week. They hung with, but did not beat the Indianapolis Colts. This team is much improved from last year on both sides of the ball and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle opponents other than the Colts because they have a chance to be good again this year.

9(17). Atlanta Falcons 1-0

The defense looked better than I thought it would against the Dolphins, but I need to see more from the stop unit for me to be convinced that it is capable of supporting this offense deep into the playoffs. Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez looked completely in sync on offense though.

8(18). Green Bay Packers 1-0 Rise of the Week

The Packers added two rookies to a healthier defense that changed systems and coordinators this offseason and it seems that all the change and good health has paid off. They completely destroyed the Bears up front and were opportunistic in the secondary. This offense is amazing, with the exception of the offensive line, so if the defense can play more like they did against Chicago all year, look out.

Dark Horses

7(5). San Diego Chargers 1-0

I learned nothing about the Chargers this week. The struggle early in the season and always play down to the level of their opponent. That practice, especially the latter, needs to change this season, but, for now, they are shoo ins to win the division again and their offensive firepower makes them a threat in the playoffs if they can get it together.

6(8). Seattle Seahawks 1-0

I know it was against the Rams, but the Seahawks looked the best of any team this week. Hasselbeck may have his most talented supporting cast yet and the defense is very strong. They don’t have much competition from within the division so they could ride that to a strong season. This team is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs if they stay healthy.

5(14). Minnesota Vikings 1-0

If Brett Favre can continue to stay out of Adrian Peterson’s way, Peterson can run the Vikings to the division title. My biggest issue with Favre was that he could try to take over games, but after week 1, it appears that he will let Peterson do his thing and contribute in the passing game in certain situations. It appears that Favre knows who’s team this is.

Elite runner ups

4(4). New York Giants 1-0

Barely squeaking out a win against a shaky Redskins squad is nothing to get excited about. The return of Osi Umenyiora to seemingly full strength, to make this the best pass rush in the NFL, is. I’d like to see Eli build more chemistry with his receivers, but this is definitely one of the elite teams in the NFL.

3(3). Indianapolis Colts 1-0

Only beating the Jags by 2 is nothing to panic about. Peyton Manning will still be Peyton Manning this season which means another 12 wins for this perennially solid squad.

2(2). Pittsburgh Steelers 1-0

The loss of Polamalu hurts. However, they still have Ben Roethlisberger making plays on offense and they still have an amazing 3-4 pass rush. They need Polamalu back for the playoffs, but they’ll be fine for a few weeks in the regular season without him.

The favorite

1(1). New England Patriots 1-0

Brady got stronger by the play against the Bills. If he’s vintage Brady by late season, teams are going to have a hard time stopping the Pats’ offense with all the weapons he has around him to choose from.

 

 

Based on my NFL Season Previews

Why any changes from my June 30th Power Rankings? Team transactions in the month of July, a closer look at schedules, overall change in opinions of teams, things like that. Teams’ June 30th ranking is in parenthesis.

Awful

32 (32). Detroit Lions

The good news, they can’t be any worse this season. That’s about where the good news ends. Their defense was horrific last season. They brought in a lot of players to help them out, the only problem, most of them are old veterans who are average at best. They didn’t upgrade the defensive line at all, which was their biggest weakness last season. In fact, one can argue their defensive line is weaker with the losses of Shaun Cody and Cory Redding. Matt Stafford was a good pick, but they didn’t get him any protection, with the exception of career backup Daniel Loper and the ancient Jon Jansen. I have no reason to believe this league worst offensive line will be any better this season, which means that Stafford either won’t play or will get pummeled. The only way this offense gets much better is if the Daunte Culpepper of old comes back and, behind this offense line, that’s not likely. He has a decent group of receivers led by Calvin “the Freak” Johnson, but he won’t have a lot of time to find his downfield targets.

31 (29). Denver Broncos

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Broncos may have had one of the worst offseasons in NFL history last offseason. It all started when they hired Josh McDaniels to replace Mike Shanahan, who was fired even though he was a good coach who had been with the team for a long time. McDaniels tried to trade franchise quarterback Jay Cutler for his own guy, Matt Cassel, but failed. This pissed off Cutler to the point where Cutler demanded a trade. Cutler got his wish and was sent to the Chicago Bears for 2 first rounders, a 3rd rounder, and Kyle Orton. Its never good to have to get rid of your star quarterback, but it looked as if McDaniels had got fair value in return for Cutler, assuming he didn’t epically fail on draft.

Unfortunately, epic fail would be an understatement of what would happen on draft day. First Josh McDaniels took Knowshon Moreno with the 12th pick, over Brian Orakpo. A questionable decision for a team that needed defense, but not a bad decision. Then at 18, which he got from Chicago, he took defense. Too bad this player was Robert Ayers, who is strictly a 4-3 end and has no place in the 3-4 defense that McDaniels insisted on using bringing in the king of fail, Mike Nolan, to help him do so. Then in the 2nd round, McDaniels traded a 2010 first round pick for Alphonso Smith, who will play nickel corner for the Broncos this year. That future 1st round pick, on the other hand, should be a top 5 pick after McDaniels blew up the offense and didn’t fix the defense. Later in the 2nd round, he took Darcel McBath, a 4th round prospect, who doesn’t play a front 7 position, but rather plays free safety, a position that McDaniels had already solidified with Brian Dawkins. Then, he traded back up into the 2nd round, giving up both of his 3rdrounders to do so, and took Richard Quinn. Not only would Quinn have been available in the 3rd round, he would have been available in the 6th or 7th round. He had 12 receptions in 44 career college games. Apparently that merits a first day pick.

McDaniels is looking to go game manager conservative offense with Kyle Orton’s weak, but accurate arm, and Knowshon Moreno running behind this great offensive line. However, that only works if your defense can stop anyone. This was one of the worst defenses in the league last year and should be one of the worst this year. With the exception of Robert Ayers, who does not fit into the system at all, DJ Williams is the only above average player in their front 7, and even he will struggle a bit, transitioning from 4-3 outside linebacker to 3-4 middle linebacker. They won’t stop the run and they won’t create pressure, allowing their actually good secondary to be beat a lot more than they should be. The bad defense will cause them to be behind a lot next season, forcing the ball out of Knowshon Moreno’s hands and into the hands of Kyle Orton and his weak arm, who will be counted on to make the big plays to get the team back in the game. This team might be the biggest mess in the NFL and Josh McDaniels hasn’t even started calling plays yet. If it wasn’t for the fact that they get 4 games against the Chiefs and Raiders, they would probably finish next season with the worst record in the NFL.

30 (30). St. Louis Rams

I love what the Rams did in the 2009 draft. They address a lot of their needs and with the selection of Jason Smith they are now prepared to bring in a franchise quarterback. However, they aren’t going to get a lot of production from the quarterback position this year. Marc “concussion” Bulger is still the quarterback and he doesn’t have a lot at wide receiver. They have nice potential on defense for the future, but it should be a rough year once again for them on that side of the ball. Steven Jackson is a talented player, but he’s not a quarterback so he won’t be able to carry this team that far by himself.

29 (28). Cleveland Browns

They have two potentially good quarterbacks, but you only need one and almost no potentially good quarterback fulfills that potential with a bad supporting cast. They had a bad supporting cast last season, but now Jamal Lewis is a year older, which is very bad, Donte Stallworth is legal trouble and replaced with rookies, Kellen Winslow is gone, they used what was once the #5 pick on a center, they downgraded the right tackle position, and they filled their defensive holes with castaways from the Jets. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. Well, then if you’re getting worse then you’re definitely getting worse. I don’t know if even a healthy Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson could lead this team to a successful season. Add in the fact that when you have two quarterbacks, you really have no quarterback, because the rest of the offense doesn’t know who is going to be behind center and can’t develop chemistry with that quarterback, and this is one sorry team.

Better luck in 2010

28 (26). Tampa Bay Buccaneers

32 year old head coach Raheem Morris was hired this offseason and he pretty much got rid of everyone on the roster older than him, with the exception of Ronde Barber. The problem was, even with a lot of cap room, he did a poor job of replacing them, especially on defense. Now, instead of having an old defense, they have a bunch of backups learning a new system. Cato June was replaced by the often injured Angelo Crowell. Derrick Brooks was replaced by Jermaine Phillips. Phillips played strong safety last season and not only is he completely out of position and way too small at linebacker, they’ve lost their best safety. They have some decent talent on the defense, Gaines Adams and Barrett Ruud, but overall, this defense is going to have major growing pains this season. The offense meanwhile, looks decent. They have 2 above average running backs, a great offensive line, and 3 above average pass catchers. It will be up to whoever plays quarterback to make the most out of it. The problem I see is that, they won’t have a lot of leadership from the quarterback position because whoever wins the job will probably win it in the middle of training camp and the starter at the position could be changed midseason. They need strong play and leadership from the quarterback position, because they will be playing from behind so much due to a bad defense, and I don’t think they’ll get it.

27 (22). New York Jets

The defense looks really good after they took everyone, with the exception of Ray Lewis, that the Ravens didn’t resign on the defensive side of the ball, including former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who is now the Jets’ head coach. This team is very similar to the 2008 Baltimore team. 3 solid running backs, mediocre receivers, solid offensive line, fundamentally sound rookie quarterback, good defense. However, because of the tough schedule they will play this year, along with the fact that, unlike Baltimore, that don’t have Ray Lewis, and the unlikelihood that Sanchez can be as good out of the gate as a rookie as Joe Flacco was, this team will not make the playoffs like Baltimore did. Sanchez could struggle mightily out of the gate if they choose to start him right away because of the fact that he only made 16 starts in college. If they chose to start Kellen Clemens, then they simply aren’t using a good quarterback and that will hurt too. They don’t have any good receivers either.

26 (31). Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are bad, but I think they might actually be better this season, especially offensively, for a few reasons. One, quarterback JaMarcus Russell (probably) can’t be any worse this season than last season. Two, running back Darren McFadden can’t possibly be hurt as much as he was last year. Three, while Darrius Heyward Bey was an awful selection at #7 in the NFL draft, he does have limbs (we think) which makes him better than the nothing they had at receiver last year. Four, they actually have a good left tackle. After using Kwame Harris, who, in my opinion, was the worst starting left tackle in the NFL last season, they finally signed a left tackle in Khalif Barnes. I don’t know if that signing was made while Al Davis was on the crapper or what, but, barring a repeat performance of Barnes’ awful 2008 season, he is a major upgrade for the team at that position. Barnes was just 2 years ago one of the most promising young left tackles in the NFL. The defense, on the other hand, should be a little worse with the loss of Gibril Wilson. I can’t see this team being worse than they were last season, but I don’t think they’ll be too much better either which means another double digit loss season, even with their pancake schedule.

Looking forward to a top ten pick 

25 (25). Buffalo Bills

They’re going to have to rely a lot on their passing game this season, especially early in the season with Marshawn Lynch’s suspension. Trent Edwards is a decent quarterback, but not a franchise quarterback capable of carrying a team, especially when he’s working behind an offensive line that was blown up in the offseason, especially on Edwards’ blindside, the most important side for a young quarterback. He has good receivers, but one of them, Terrell Owens, is known for throwing his quarterback under the bus, which would be very bad for Trent Edwards and his fragile confidence as a young quarterback. Owens could also get into some trouble with Lee Evans, who is arguably the best receiver Owens has played alongside since Jerry Rice, so we’ll have to see how that plays out. The defense is going to have to step up big for this team to be in playoff considerations, especially in their tough division, and since they aren’t a lot better than their defense last season, especially in the pass rush as first round pick Aaron Maybin is not a guy who can contribute all that much right away, that’s not going to happen, and neither will a successful season.

24 (27). Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have a good quarterback, which puts them ahead of the Raiders and Broncos, but for those who think that Cassel will be the star the Chiefs are paying him so much to be, they are wrong. He has a few decent receivers, but Dwyane Bowe and Bobby Engram aren’t Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Kansas City’s offensive line is also a lot worse than New England’s and Cassel took a lot of sacks last season even behind that line. Expect him to get pummeled this season and for him to have simply an average season leading this offense. He’s better than JaMarcus Russell and Kyle Orton, who the Raiders and Broncos have respectively, and he’s better than Tyler Thigpen, who the Chiefs had last year, but he’s not a Pro Bowler. The defense is going to be awful again. New GM Scott Pioli took a different, non traditional route to fixing the pass rush that got 10 sacks all last season. Rather than bringing in pass rushers, he switched the system up to a more complicated 3-4 that he does not have the personnel for. Mike Vrabel is a good 3-4 rush linebacker and that should help them at least be a little better in terms of pass rush, but not much. Tyson Jackson stabilizes their run defense, but putting Glenn Dorsey at nose tackle is going to cancel that out. They are better than the Raiders and Broncos overall, but not by a whole lot and should still be in for a rough season.

23 (21). San Francisco 49ers 

Shaun Hill and this Niners offense should run a very conservative offense, but I don’t think they have the defense to support it. Their pass rush was one of the worst in the NFL last year and they didn’t upgrade it. Their front 3 is average at best and lacks a true nose tackle. Their secondary has holes at cornerback and at safety. Patrick Willis is amazing, but he’s only one player. There will be a lot of pressure on quarterback Shaun Hill and their running backs. Frank Gore and Glenn Coffee make a nice running back combo, but Shaun Hill doesn’t have a lot to work with in terms of receivers, even with the selection of Michael Crabtree in the NFL Draft. Crabtree is threatening to holdout so he’ll miss valuable time in training camp, which will hurt him. Crabtree has never played in a pro style offense so he’ll need more time to get adjusted in the NFL. If his holdout is extended, he might not get adjusted until next season. Hill is also playing behind a poor offensive line so I don’t think he can lead this team unless he gets a ton of help, which I doubt he will. They have a nice future with Crabtree and 2 picks in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, but they aren’t good enough at any one thing this year to win more than  or so games.

Probably not a playoff team

22 (15). Dallas Cowboys

This team is a mess. They tried addition by subtraction this offseason, getting rid of Terrell Owens, Greg Ellis, Pacman Jones, Roy Williams, and not resigning Tank Johnson, but they forgot to try addition by addition. Their only big additions were a few rookies, a borderline starter strong safety, a backup quarterback which they had to trade a starting cornerback to get, and two guys in Igor Olshansky and Keith Brooking who aren’t a whole lot better than the guys they replaced, in fact, in Olshansky’s case, based off his production last year, you could argue that’s he’s a major downgrade on the defense line from Chris Canty. Tank Johnson is gone, but they did not bring in a true nose tackle. Jay Ratliff will play there full time, at 298 pounds, and get run over on the three man line. Their pass rush was phenomenal last season, but they won’t be as good this season, simply because Greg Ellis is gone and expecting 20 sacks again out of DeMarcus Ware, however good of a player he is, is ridiculously. Their secondaries weaknesses, and there are many, will be brought into the forefront this season with the weakened pass rush. On offense, Tony Romo is still here and you can decide for yourself whether or not this is a good thing. However, that means they’ll probably have a bad December again. Their running game should be strong, but the passing game will be weaker with Owens gone. And of course, this whole mess is still being coached by Wade Phillips, whose players hide from him when they want to give someone else playing time. He’s seems like he has his player’s respect (that was sarcasm by the way).

21 (19). Tennessee Titans

This team is about to realize how valuable Albert Haynesworth was to them. All of sudden, their defensive ends are going to stop getting one-on-one matchups. When you look at the difference between the numbers that defensive ends have had with the Titans when playing with Haynesworth and the numbers that those same defensive ends have had after leaving the Titans for other teams, you see how important Haynesworth is to a pass rush. With the defensive ends not getting one-on-one matchups, and also without Haynesworth there to pressure quarterbacks from the middle, quarterbacks will have more time to throw and their aging secondary’s weaknesses will be exposed. Obviously their run defense won’t be as good with Jovan Haye at defensive tackle, rather than Haynesworth, a 315 monster who eats running backs who breakfast, so losing Haynesworth is going to hurt this defense big time. The offense, on the other hand, should be better than what you expect from the Titans. Kerry Collins, even if he is ancient, has 3 decent receivers to work with, Justin Gage, his leading receiver from last year, along with free agent signing Nate Washington and rookie Kenny Britt. Still, he doesn’t have a true #1 and Britt is a 21 year old rookie, so you don’t know what you’re going to get from him. Kerry Collins is also injury prone so that’s something to worry about. Their running game, with Lendale White and Chris Johnson, was the staple of their offense last season, grinding the team to victory. However, grinding it out is only a good way to win games when you have a good defense supporting you, which they do not. Add in a tough schedule and this is a team that is due for a down year.

20 (23). Miami Dolphins

I’m projecting a drop off for this team this year. There is no way Chad Pennington could repeat last season even if we were playing the same competition he had last year. The Dolphins are going from one of the easiest schedules in the NFL last year to one of the hardest. Joey Porter slowed down towards the end of last year and because of his age, that could be concerning heading into next season. Their secondary is still a mess, actually it may be worse after losing starting cornerback Andre Goodman. This team will face Peyton Manning once, Tom Brady twice, Phillip Rivers once, Matt Ryan once, Drew Brees once. Those guys should have field days on this defense, especially if the Dolphins can’t create any pressure. Those are 6 games right there and I would be surprised if they won more than 2. Ronnie Brown will be counted on to carry the offensive load, something he has never done in his career anywhere, including college, without getting hurt midway.

They’ll make some noise

19 (18). Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco had an amazing season for a rookie, not statistically, but in terms of where he was able to lead this team. However, this season, he does not have as good of a receiving corps, and a weaker defense behind him with the losses of Jim Leonhard and Bart Scott. The offensive line is also weaker with the downgrade from Jason Brown to Matt Birk at center. The Ravens also have a tougher schedule this season, so I’m predicting a sophomore slump by Flacco and the Ravens.

18 (20). Green Bay Packers

The Packers were 0-7 last season in games decided by 4 points or less. Unless they spent the entire offseason breaking mirrors and running under ladders, they won’t have that bad of luck again. Aaron Rodgers and his young receivers should continue to grow this season and make this passing attack even more dangerous. However, they didn’t really make any upgrades to this bad defense, with the exception of 2 rookies, and they’re also running a new defensive system this year, switching to the 3-4. Their running game is a question as well. I have no reason to believe that Ryan Grant will improve off of his awful 2008 showing as he’s only really been good for about a half season in his career. They’ll score a lot of points and be a pass heavy team, but they aren’t a playoff team in my mind.

17 (14). Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons’ passing game gets a lot better with the maturation of Matt Ryan and the addition of Tony Gonzalez, but the running game simply can’t be as good as they were last year with Michael Turner coming off of a huge workload. The defense, which was in the bottom 3rd of the league last year, lost 5 starters. Some of them were only starters in name, but there’s no denying that having to start 5 new guys on defense will hurt this team. The only way their pass rush isn’t worse this season is if John Abraham, at 31,  does as well this year as he did last season, or if Jamaal Anderson finally sheds his bust label. While one of those two things happening is not impossible, I wouldn’t bet on it. Add in a much tougher schedule and, even with the improvements to the passing game, this is not a playoff team for this year. They have an extremely bright future though.

Close, but no cigar

16 (7). New Orleans Saints

I’m not ready to call them a playoff team yet. Their offense is good, but the defense is still not great. Jabari Greer has been brought in, but I don’t think he fits the system. Malcolm Jenkins will be an upgrade over whatever they had last year at safety, but he’s still just a rookie. Darren Sharper has had a great career, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and losing his speed as a ball hawker. They didn’t fix the front 7 up very much and while I think this team will be better than they were last year, lack of defense and a tough schedule will keep them out of the playoffs.

15 (10). Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals, simply because of the Seahawks being healthy again, should miss the playoffs. I’m expecting this team to go 9-7 again, despite how good they were in the playoffs last year. I expect this team to fall back to where they were last year in the regular season. Kurt Warner is 38 and always an injury risk. Their defense will feel the loss of Antonio Smith more than they think. He’s one of my favorite NFL players and one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league, but overall, this team is similar to the one they had last year so I’m not expecting more than 9 wins out of them, which won’t cut it with the Seahawks back to full strength.

On the playoff bubble 

14 (9). Minnesota Vikings

Even with Brett Favre in town, the passing game won’t be a strength of this team. The running game, however, will, led by Adrian Peterson. Percy Harvin will help this team in the backfield, as will as in the slot as a receiver. They are also experimenting with Harvin as a wildcat type quarterback. Their defense is very good again, but could take a huge hit as their strength, the running game, could be weakened by the possible suspensions of Kevin and Pat Williams. That will hurt this defense big time for the first 4 weeks of the season.

13 (13). Cincinnati Bengals 

The Bengals are getting Carson Palmer back, and, even though Houshmanzadeh, is gone this offense should still be as deadly as it was a few years ago when it single handedly made this team a playoff contender, despite no support from the defense. The defense was actually very good last season and should be better this year thanks to some smart drafting. They are an interesting sleeper team this year if they stay healthy and out of legal trouble.

12 (24). Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags are my sleeper team. David Garrard had a bad season last year because of the injuries and inconsistencies of the offensive line, but the Jags spent a ton of money and their first 2 drafts picks upgrading the offensive line. Garrard also has a good #1 wide receiver for the first time in his short career in Torry Holt. The position of #2 receiver is up for grabs now, with the trade of Dennis Northcutt to the Lions, but rookie Jarrett Dillard is a very good receiver for a rookie and I believe that he will win and keep the job. Garrard should be able to lead this team again the way he had in 2007. The running game is still strong, even with the loss of Fred Taylor, because of the strong offensive line and the running back combination of Maurice Jones Drew and rookie Rashad Jennings. The defense should be better this season because they’ll actually create pressure on the quarterback. They drafted both Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves in 2008, but neither did much as rookies last year because they were rookies. This year they have a year of experience, which has proven to make a world of difference to young defensive ends in the past. Harvey also isn’t coming off of a training camp holdout this season which is good. The improved pass rush should make this defense better overall.

11 (4). Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles may have their most talented team since they made the Super Bowl. But they will struggle, or at least be average for the first couple months of the season again, before turning it on at the right time, especially since Brian Westbrook may not be ready for week 1. However, this is a team with no holes. Donovan McNabb can no longer complain about having no good receivers. DeSean Jackson surprisingly emerged as a #1 last season as a rookie and should only continue to get better. McNabb also should have a solid #2 this year. It may be rookie Jeremy Maclin, but he did not play in a pro style offense in college, so more likely it’ll be Kevin Curtis, who was excellent in 2007, before getting hurt in 2008. He’s 100% now. He also has Reggie Brown and Hank “how are you married to Kendra Wilkinson” Baskett to throw to so he should be set in that department. When Westbrook is healthy, he’s also a great pass catcher. If Westbrook is not healthy and the injuries linger, it will hurt, but they brought in rookie LeSean McCoy for this reason. Their offensive line is also as good as it’s been in years and the defense is solid overall so once this team gets their act together, they Should be an NFC contender capable of going on a nice playoff run.

Playoffs and maybe more

10 (11). Houston Texans

The Texans are big sleepers this year because I think they have improved on both ends of the field. This offense took off last season when Steve Slaton was made the every down back. He will continue to play in that role this season and has a stronger offensive line to run behind. Of course, a lot of the offense’s success will depend on Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson’s health, along with of course Steve Slaton avoiding injury, but Schaub missed 4 games last season and they still finished at 8-8 and while a Johnson injury would be bad, they have a good defense finally to help them win games when the offensive is struggling. They added 2 new starting linebackers in the off season and a new starting left end in Antonio Smith, who I think is one of the most underrated defensive players in the league. He will be infinitely better than Anthony Weaver, who I thought was the worst starting defensive end in the NFL last season. Rookie Connor Barwin will add to a pass rush that is already made strong by Mario Williams and the secondary is healthy going into the season. A lot will ride on whether or not this team can stay healthy, but I think they are finally good enough all-around to still be a good team and win games if injuries do strike.

9 (16). Carolina Panthers

Everything went right for the Panthers last year, at least in the regular season. They didn’t have injury problems, in fact this was one of the healthiest teams in the league. They may not be so lucky this year. They also play a tougher schedule and are looking very thin in the secondary. Their running back combination of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams will still lead the way for a very good offense, but the tougher schedule, weakened secondary, and possible injuries could make this a rougher season for the Panthers. I still like them as a playoff team, but they won’t be as good as last year.

8 (12). Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks can’t be any worse this season. Last year, they were hit with so many injuries, Matt Hasselbeck missed more than half the season and when he played, he might as well have not played. He played awful because pretty much every receiver who caught a ball last season got hurt. This year, Hasselbeck is 100% and thanks to a free agent signing, he now has the best receiver he’s ever played with in TJ Houshmanzadeh. Unless he gets hurt again, he should have one of the best seasons of his career and thus the whole offense will be very strong. Defensively, they may be one of the most improved teams. On the defensive line, Lawrence Jackson, a former 1st round pick, should be much improved. He struggled a bit as a rookie last year, but should be a lot better in his 2nd year. Historically, defensive ends do much better in their 2nd year. The middle of the defensive line is stronger as much with the additions of Colin Cole and Cory Redding. They may have the best linebacking corps in the NFL with Leroy Hill, Lofa Tatupu, and Aaron Curry. Curry, though he is a rookie, shouldn’t struggle. He was the 4th overall pick and rookie linebackers have not had a lot of trouble transitioning to the NFL. He should have a rookie year similar to linebacker Jerod Mayo, who was the defensive rookie of the year last year. Their secondary should also be better with the addition of Ken Lucas. With one of the easiest schedules in the NFL and a weak division, they should reclaim their NFC West title and make the playoffs once again.

7 (17). Washington Redskins

The Redskins are my NFC sleeper. Let’s start with the defense, where they have added Albert Haynesworth. In my AFC South preview, I talked about the importance of Haynesworth to the Titans and how their defense would struggle without him. He should have the reverse effect on the Redskins’ stop unit. First, he’s a great pass rusher for a defensive tackle and an outstanding run stopper so that definitely helps. But, he’s also such a dominating force that defenses will have to put 2 guys on him, opening up one-on-one matchups for defensive ends such as Andre Carter, who had 10.5 sacks in 2007. He could have double digits this season. It’s unclear who will play opposite Carter, but it looks like it will be veteran Phillip Daniels on running downs and rookie Brian Orakpo on passing downs. Whoever is there, should have a one-on-one matchup in pass rush thanks to Haynesworth. As for Orakpo, I actually love what they are doing with him. They are using him as a defensive end on passing downs and an outside linebacker on running downs. He’s an above average run stopper for an outside linebacker, but a below average run stopper for a defensive end. He’s an above average pass rusher for a defensive end, but would struggle in pass coverage as an outside linebacker. He’s likely their defensive end of the future, despite the fact that they just drafted Jeremy Jarmon, but he won’t play on the line full time until he’s an all-around good defensive end.  He’ll contribute to their pass rush this season, which, thanks to Haynesworth, will be very dangerous. Their secondary is excellent and will get a bunch of picks thanks to this pass rush. I like the Redskins defense as a fantasy sleeper. This offense, figures to be better as well. Jason Campbell is finally spending a 2nd straight season in the same offensive system, plus he’s a free agent in 2010 with no extension so he’ll be motivated. Both of those are great for the offense as a whole. The running game again should be strong with Clinton Portis. The only thing that you have to worry about with the team is Portis’ health. He has been healthy for the majority of his career, which, sadly, for a 28 year old running back, does not mean you’re healthy, it means you’re due. Still, I like this team’s chances.

Dark Horses

6 (5). Chicago Bears

The Bears finally have a franchise quarterback. However, he isn’t going to get a lot of help. He has some receivers, running back Matt Forte, tight end Greg Olsen, former kick returner Devin Hester, and Earl Bennett, who Cutler played with at Vanderbilt. However, he has nothing near what he had in Denver, he’ll play a tougher schedule in a windy stadium the gets snow in the late months where quarterbacks just have not succeeded in the past so I wouldn’t call Cutler the Super Bowl winning savior of the Bears. He will be supported by a good running back, Matt Forte, but if Forte gets hurt, always a possibility with running backs, they don’t have a great back to come in and play. The defense is good and certainly better than what Cutler had in Denver, but they aren’t on the Super Bowl level they were in 2006. This will be a good team and getting Cutler, who is still very young, is a great move for the future of this offense and this team, but I’m not loving their Super Bowl chances this year.

5 (8). San Diego Chargers

The Chargers should regain their place among the AFC elite now that they are fully healthy. Antonio Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson, Phillip Rivers, and Shawn Merriman all were coming off of major injuries last season, but now, with the exception of possibly Merriman, all are healthy, and if Merriman isn’t, they drafted Larry English to replace him. They might start out slow again, but this team is going to find their groove as an AFC contender at the right time.

Elite runner ups

4 (6). New York Giants

Don’t pencil the Giants in the Super Bowl yet. Eli Manning has struggled in the past without Plaxico Burress, as he did for the last 4 games of last season, as well as in the Giants’ playoff loss to the Eagles. The Giants tried the best they could to replace Burress, drafting Hakeem Nicks, a 6-1 possession receiver who projects as a #1 target, as well as Ramses Barden, 6-6 end zone threat. His most reliable option is veteran Dominik Hixon, a career journeyman. His #1 option is Nicks, who, although he played in a pro offense in college, is still just a rookie. Barden, also a rookie, figures to be his best end zone threat. Mario Manningham and Steve Smith will also be in the mix, but they are in their 2nd and 3rd years respectively and have never shown much in the pros. Kevin Boss is the 6-6 tight end, but aside from being tall, he doesn’t offer much on the football field. He may lose his job to, yet another rookie. Travis Beckum, by midseason. Eli’s receiving corps have good potential, but are average at best for this season so we’ll have to see what kind of quarterback that makes him. Luckily, everything around him will be going good. They have a great running back, despite losing Derrick Ward to free agency. Brandon Jacobs is still the bruising #1 back behind this great offensive line and Ahmad Bradshaw and rookie Andre Brown should be able to pick up Ward’s carries from last season. The defense is going to be better than ever this season, probably even better than the defense which won them the 2008 Super Bowl. They had an elite pass rush last season, even with Osi Umenyiora hurt. Umenyiora is now 100% and they have a great 3 man defensive end rotation with Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Justin Tuck. They should get 50 sacks this season as a team with ease, with the additions of pass rushers such as Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard to the inside of their defensive line. Their linebacking corps are better with the additions of Michael Boley and Clint Sintim to play opposite Danny Clark and the secondary is solid and will get a lot of picks because the defensive line is creating so much pressure. This is still one of the NFC’s elite team, but whether or not Eli Manning can succeed with this current group of receivers will make or break this team this season.

3 (3). Indianapolis Colts

There is a lot of talk about the Colts possibly struggling this season for the first time in about a decade. Coach Tony Dungy is gone, as is Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator and the team’s offensive line coach. The man who has caught more of Peyton Manning’s throws than any one to ever play the game, Marvin Harrison, is gone as well, a free agent after refusing to take a pay cut to stay with the team. I don’t think they’ll struggle. First of all, Marvin Harrison only played in 5 games 2 seasons ago and the Colts didn’t miss a beat. He played in 15 games last year, but this was not future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, this was 35 year-old Marvin Harrison, who was battling leg injuries. Manning and the Colts should be fine without him. Reggie Wayne is a very good #1 receiver, Anthony Gonzalez is nice #2 in his 3rd year, and rookie Austin Collie has looked very good in camp as a slot receiver. As for the coaches leaving, Dungy’s replacement was picked by Dungy, so he isn’t going to change things up too much. Manning has essentially been his own offensive coordinator over the past few years so as long as the new guy doesn’t get in his way, that won’t be a problem. The offensive line coach’s departure could hurt, but the offensive line, which Peyton has great chemistry with, is still headed by center Jeff Saturday. The Colts are still Super Bowl contenders, though I rank them behind Pittsburgh and a healthy New England in the AFC simply because I think the defense still has big holes in it, even if Bob Sanders stays healthy.

2 (2). Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are still a very good team. They did lose some key players in the offseason, most notably starting corner Bryant McFadden and slot receiver Nate Washington, but they still have Ben Roethlisberger, now fully healthy, leading their offense, and a great defense supporting him. However, I think they fall out of the top spot in the NFL just because the Patriots are fully healthy again. This is still a damn good team that should contend for its 3rd title in 6 years, but I think they come up short.

The favorite 

1 (1). New England Patriots

Tom Brady didn’t hurt his arm and he wasn’t very mobile before the knee injury, so as long as he doesn’t get hurt again, we should see the Brady of old. This offense actually has more weapons than they did in 2007. Joey Galloway and Fred Taylor are both old, but the Pats have had luck with vets like them before. The offensive line is getting older, which, coupled with Brady’s injury, will make that Brady will take more sacks than he has before, but he still has his arm and he still has Welker and Moss and that’s enough offensively. Defensively, they’ll struggle to get to the quarterback, with Mike Vrabel gone, especially if Adailus Thomas gets hurt again. However, their defensive line is very strong, both against the run as well as in pass rush, and their secondary is a lot better this season than last with the additions of Shawn Springs, Darius Butler, and Leigh Bodden, the man who Chad Johnson once called the past one-on-one cornerback in the NFL. 

 

 

The order is almost the reverse of my NFL mock draft. However, my draft order is in order of how many wins I think a team will get and my power rankings are in order of how far I think a team will go. Also, my draft order puts Philadelphia at 31st (2nd last), while they are 4th in my power rankings, because I have the Eagles winning the NFC and getting 31st pick.

Awful:

#32 Detroit Lions

#31 Oakland Raiders

#30 St. Louis Rams

#29 Denver Broncos

Better luck in 2010:

#28 Cleveland Browns

#27 Kansas City Chiefs

Looking forward to a top ten pick:

#26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

#25 Buffalo Bills

#24 Jacksonville Jaguars

#23 Miami Dolphins

Probably not a playoff team:

#22 New York Jets

#21 San Francisco Giants

They’ll make some noise:

#20 Green Bay Packers

#19 Tennessee Titans

#18 Baltimore Ravens

Close, but no cigar:

#17 Washington Redskins

#16 Carolina Panthers

#15 Dallas Cowboys

On the playoff bubble:

#14 Atlanta Falcons

#13 Cincinnati Bengals

#12 Seattle Seahawks

#11 Houston Texans

Playoffs and maybe more:

#10 Arizona Cardinals

#9 Minnesota Vikings

#8 San Diego Chargers

Dark horses:

#7 New Orleans Saints

#6 New York Giants

#5 Chicago Bears

Elite runner ups:

#4 Philadelphia Eagles

#3 Indianapolis Colts

#2 Pittsburgh Steelers

Favorite:

#1 New England Patriots

 

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