We have another week in the books, and at this point in the season, we are kind of figuring out what to expect from teams on a week to week basis. Of course, they will not always do it, but we sort of have an idea of the team’s identity, what types of team they can beat, and what kind of team they will struggle with. We looked at teams by division last week, so we are going to go back to the Power Ranking system just to make sure we keep it fresh.Last time, we (questionably) went with a bathroom analogy, so just so you can get your weekly dose of clown, we are going with rappers/hip-hop artists. And remember, this is an NFL Column, not a hip-hop column, so we are ranking the teams here, not the artists. The artists are just to give some entertainment and put an image in your head when thinking of the teams.
The T-Baby Division
Warning: Explicit Content. And by explicit, I mean incredibly low quality and the use of a little profanity.
32. Buffalo Bills (0-5)
31. Carolina Panthers (0-5)
Yup, these are the worst. The Panthers, however, showed us a completely different brand of suck. They picked off Todd Collins 4 times and only allowed 32 passing yards. However, they still only managed 3 points against the Bears. They should really be better than this, but the reality is that they aren’t. Hey, at least Jimmy Clausen is used to losing, right? That was sort of a self-burn since I am a Notre Dame fan, but it is pretty undeniable.
The Bills actually jumped out to a lead this weekend before letting Twizzler Garrard (as named by Matt Kroeger in our Ferrells and Fallons column) shred them. The fake punt was ugly too, though at least Brian Moorman was a college track guy so he had some speed. However, it was certainly better for Mr. Moorman than the last fake punt most people remember out of him. There is definitely hope in Buffalo as they have stepped it up the last two weeks, but the fact that their “step up” couldn’t beat the Jags is a definite red flag.
The “Black Diamond” Division
30. Cleveland Browns (1-4)
29. San Francisco 49ers (0-5)
Yup, these teams are pretty bad, though not on the level of “So Cold in the D”. The Browns have actually looked pretty respectable the last few weeks against Cincinnati and Atlanta, but they are about to throw Colt McCoy to the dogs against the Steelers. How do I think that will go? Think Clubber Lang. “Your forecast for the fight? PAIN.” They have shown some improvement, it is just sort of stunted by the fact that they still are awful. Can someone, anyone, explain to me how the Browns went 10-6 with Braylon Edwards and Derek Anderson? Has to be up there with some of the great anomaly seasons of the last 20 years.
The 49ers are a different kind of bad. They clearly have the talent. They even seem to have the scheme down. But they also have Alex Smith, worst starting QB in the NFL. They just never deserve to win. When the expectations go up (like they did against the Eagles when they were favored, they fall flat. When the expectations go down, like they did against Atlanta, they play well, but still lose. That is the epitome of being a bad team really. I am honestly picking 49ers games based on their expectation level from now on, as it works pretty well.
The Daddy Yankee Division
28. St. Louis Rams (2-3)
27. Seattle Seahawks (2-2)
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)
Why are these teams Daddy Yankee? Because you look at them and just have to wonder what stars had to align for these teams to compile these records. You want to label them bad, which Daddy Yankee is, but they have shown you something along the way that makes them hard to write off completely. Now, at this point, we are comfortable enough to just write off Daddy Yankee, but its just week 5 so they are not dead yet.
The Rams are still in contention for the NFC West, but that really just means that they play in the NFL as anyone would be. I still like Sam Bradford as being the QB of the future, and I still think they are a decent team, but after that 44-6 drubbing, they are clearly not good. They did sneak up on the Redskins and beat them, but their other games were the Cardinals, Raiders, Seahawks and Lions. which has got to be the softest schedule of anyone in the league. They are still improved by leaps and bounds over last year, but they are by no means “good”.
The Seahawks probably got dropped a few spots because I just did not get to see them this week, but they will get a chance to prove themselves in a big way this week when they play the Bears, who may or may not get Cutler back. However, I think they are a team that will live and die on special teams all year, and nothing screams “losing team” quite like that. Marshawn Lynch definitely fits Pete Carroll’s run-first mentality, but he really was not that great over the past few years so it is not such a big deal. It may be a bit rough to put them this low, but look ahead a few teams and tell me if you would put them any higher. I think you will find this is about right.
I was going to call this ranking some “tough love” for the Buccaneers, but I think “veiled hate” is closer. We looked at the Rams schedule, so let’s look at the Bucs’: vs Cle (W), @Car (W), vs Pit (L by 25), @Cin (W). That is just extremely unimpressive, and until they actually show me something, I am just going to remember Charlie Batch obliterating them. I like what Josh Freeman is doing, and I think the defense is pretty respectable, but their wins are against teams with 3 combined wins and they only beat the Bengals because Carson Palmer is trash. They aren’t good, but they might keep winning, so I am not going to get too out of control with the insults.
The OJ da Juiceman Division
Again, warning, there is explicit content in this video. Though you may not be able to understand what is being said.
25. Oakland Raiders (2-3)
24. Arizona Cardinals (3-2)
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2)
The direct relation to the rappers is starting to break down, but this one still makes sense. All these teams can do something well, but that skill is just not important/relevant to winning games. For OJ, that skill is saying “AYE!”.
Tue Raiders have actually shown some signs of life this year, but until they get rid of Al Davis (their one “skill”, they will not have success. It is almost like he is a curse at this point and he somehow had a part in making Sebastian Janikowski miss that chippy. If he hits it, the Raiders are 3-2, and that is pretty impressive, but you just get a sense this team is not going anywhere. I’m not sure if it is Tom Cable, the QB situation, or Al Davis, but they just are not a good team right now. Plenty of potential, but not happening this year.
The Arizona Cardinals could easily be higher up on this list except for one little thing. They have serious consistency issues and Max Hall, who is somehow the team’s great hope, was nearly knocked out of the game against the Saints. The win was no doubt impressive, but until I see some consistency, I cannot bump this team any higher. The defense has GOT to step up and be the best unit on this team or they will continue to be inconsistent. I guess you could say their one talent was “thinking Derek Anderson was really a starting QB”.
The Jaguars’ one talent is beating the Colts but, they to suffer from consistency issues. The just gave up 26 points to Buffalo and only through the providence of the Bills being horrible did they get to 3-2. They are certainly capable of putting good games together, but their consistency really holds them back. Again, as with the Seahawks, I feel like this team could be ranked much higher, but the league is so close together right now that it is hard to really say they are better than any of the teams ahead of them.
The Rick Ross Division
22. Detroit Lions
This is not so much an appraisal of Rick Ross as much as an appraisal of how the Lions have sucked me in. I know they aren’t a good team really, but I see so much talent there, and so much ability that I can’t help myself. They have played a brutal schedule so far, but chances are that they will just not have the chops to rack up many wins. Of all my NFC North projections, the one I am most sure of because I had them as a 4-12 team that will be pretty good but it will not show in their record. Looks spot on so far. As long as the Lions “Push it to the Limit” with Stafford gone, I will stay on this bandwagon, though I know its limitations. One of the few bandwagons that is not limited here is the Jahvid Best for ROY bandwagon. He will be dueling with Sam Bradford all year.
The Vanilla Ice Division
21. Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)
20. San Diego Chargers (2-3)
19. Denver Broncos (2-3)
You know you shouldn’t listen to it, but we both know that when “Ice, Ice, Baby” comes on, you look around to make sure no one is watching, and turn it up. Same with these teams, because you know you shouldn’t trust them, but you pick them and find yourself wondering why. However, two of these teams are here for a very different reason than the third.
The Bengals are here because they are not good. That is pretty simple right? I have not been able to watch any Bengals games this year, so I am not sure if they are just not making the effort to run or if the line is just awful, but it is clearly a problem either way. They had a commanding lead over the Buccaneers and found a way to lose because they could not pick up first downs, especially on the ground. They got their new receiving corps. and forgot what won them games last year, and for that I have no sympathy for the Bengals. They are just not very good.
The Chargers do this every year, though “this” usually does not entail losing to the Raiders. They did get Marcus McNeill in this week after realizing how important he was, but they are still a team that has regressed significantly from last year. They would be wise to pay Vincent Jackson as well, but who knows if that will happen. Every year the Chargers such for the first 5 games or so and end up fine, but thsi year could be different, so we are sticking them here. Of course, they could be just fine and go on a tear. Who knows. All I know is that right now they are not very good. Losing to the Chiefs, Seahawks, and Raiders didn’t help.
The Broncos are a different flavor of Vanilla Ice. They do not have the disappointment factor that the others do, but they have some personnel issues they have to deal with. Kyle Orton has been transcendent at QB, but their running game has disappeared, and they do not have a go-to-guy. They have a few guys like Demaryius Thomas, Jabar Gaffney, and Eddie Royal capable of becoming a long-term 3rd down guy, but their issues in the red zone and on key 3rd downs will hold them back all year. They have the tools to make a run at the AFC West, but I doubt they can put it together this year.
The Soulja Boy Division
To be diplomatic, I am not taking dance-making ability into account here. Frankly, I don’t know why you would, but I sense enough people like Soulja Boy that I have to say that.
18. Minnesota Vikings (1-3)
17. Dallas Cowboys (1-3)
16. Washington Redskins (3-2)
You know what to expect, but you keep expecting something to change for no real reason. You know every Soulja Boy song sounds the same, but every time he has a new song, people convince themselves this one will be different. Every week these teams take the field, you know what they should do, but they don’t do it and they don’t change. Hell, they are so similar, that I will just lump two of the teams together and it will match up well enough you would barely notice.
The Cowkings (awesome name, I know) are so, so talented, but just never figure it out. They have chokers for QBs, inconsistent offensive lines, and higher stakes than either team would like to admit. Their defenses seem to underperform on a weekly basis, and while both teams could easily be 3-1, they are 1-3. Somehow, they keep roping us into picking them and believing in them. No more. I will not be duped by the Soulja Boys of football. They play each other this week, and I vow to not care (though I reserve the right to pick it).
The Redskins are sort of getting stuffed in here because I have absolutely no idea what to make of them. Their wins have been fairly unimpressive (no offensive score vs Dallas, Philly without Vick, Green Bay with all its injuries and penalties), and yet those are pretty good teams they beat. On that alone, they seem pretty good. However, they also lost to the Rams, and blew a big lead against the Texans, so they are chokers in that sense. That makes them…….. chokers that do well? I have no idea what to do with them, so I am just putting them at the halfway point and waiting to see more out of them.
The Waka Flacka Flame/Nicki Minaj Division
Ok, I grouped these 2 together for exactly one reason. This video. Frankly, I like the video for the OJ part because you can’t understand half what he says, but I just have an irrational love of the video. I think part of it is the guy having to act like they did a good job, how Waka looks like he is both high and excited, and the “situation” going on with Minaj’s pants, but there is just so much to love. Here it is.
15. Miami Dolphins (2-2)
14. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
13. Kansas City Chiefs (3-1)
12. Tennessee Titans (3-2)
11. Houston Texans (3-2)
10. Chicago Bears (4-1)
The point of this group is that they are actually somewhat respected within circles, but they present serious barriers to anyone trying to actually tag them for success. They all could be good, but they also have issues that are not easily solved. Naturally, there are a lot of teams that fit into this category as all do several things well, but for some reason or another, do not inspire confidence.
The Dolphins are just teases, and that has not changed. They still have a QB capable of winning a game or losing a game on his own. They still have a great running game and an underrated defense. They still are just an above average team. They are still the 3rd best team in their division and will still be on the outside looking in at the playoffs.
You can adopt a similar structure with the Eagles. They are still potent through the air with Kolb or Vick. They are still mediocre defensively and almost incapable of running the ball (without Vick). They will still be on the outside looking in at the playoffs.
See, I had a method to the madness. These teams are all similar.
The Chiefs have certainly been the surprise of the NFL, but they are far from a really solid team. Matt Cassel is truly awful, and Dwayne Bowe has hands of stone as evidenced by his TD drop against the Colts. However, they have an exceptional running game and Romeo Crennel has that defense looking truly miserly. Their special teams also have the potential to win them a couple games, and their added home field advantage gives me the confidence to say that they are clearly the best team in that division right now. In a few weeks, the Chargers may figure it out and prove otherwise, but for now, the Chiefs are the best team out west (AFC or NFC).
See, still flawed but good, though in a less predictable way.
It is getting redundant to say this, but the Titans fit too. They have the running game, toughness, and clutchness to win games, but I am not sure if Vince Young can lead a team deep into the playoffs, and I am not sure if that defense can help him enough to get an assist for it. They are capable of beating most teams in the league, but are also capable of losing to a lot of them, so while they are good, they are nothing more.
One of my favorite pastimes used to be listening to Texans fans talking about how talented their team was, and telling them that they would not win because they were mentally weak as a team. As I would go on to point out, good teams find ways to win games, and your team finds ways to lose them. That has changed. Now, the Texans’ Achilles heel is their pass defense. Think of it as being sort of like Nicki Minaj’s “pants situation” in the video; she actually might be kinda talented, but because of that huge issue, you can’t really take her seriously. Until the Texans fix this gaping hole in their team, they will not have sustained success.
The Bears are close enough to this division to be in it, but their issues are a little different. Their wins include a Calvin Johnson end-zone controversy, a win over the overhyped Cowboys, a gift from the Penalty Packers, and a win in which their QB went 6-16 with 4 INT and 32 yards passing. That is pretty soft for the team tied for the best record in the NFC, and their only loss got their QB concussed. We all knew about the offensive line issues coming into the season, but the Bears overcame it temporarily. Do not be surprised if they succumb to the law of averages and start to lose close games. You shouldn’t be surprised if Mike Martz and Lovie Smith start to clash either as that tends to happen with Martz. The Bears are clearly much better than I thought they would be, but they may have some issues sustaining this success.
The Auto-tune Division
9. New York Giants (3-2)
8. New Orleans Saints (3-2)
7. Atlanta Falcons (4-1)
Sometimes Auto-tune is used for the effect. Sometimes it is used because the “singer” is not much of a singer. These teams have some issues to address but are looking good in spite of it all.
I am jumping back on the Giants bandwagon. I got on after week 1, and jumped off after week 2, but I’m back for more. Tom Coughlin seems to have straightened things out, and the G-men showed it by truck sticking the Texans in Houston. Eli showed why he is still an underrated QB, and the defense showed that Big Blue is back. I would not even be surprised if they concuss someone else before the year is through. A consistent running game has been somewhat hard to come by, and the defense still has some question marks in the secondary, but they look good enough right now to consider them division-winner material.
Coming off that loss in Arizona, a one thing is clear. That horseshoe that was stuck up their…. nose (sorry, it is a family friendly blog) is not working like it used to. The offense has struggled to find its rhythm all year and the defense is not coming up with the timely turnovers it thrived on last year. Even with all that to deal with, the Saints could be 4-1 if not for a missed shorty against Atlanta, which would give them the division lead. I still think the Saints are a Super Bowl contender, they just have a lot more work to get there than I would have guessed. All is good in the French Quarter as long as the Saints keep making progress toward hitting their stride.
The Falcons, meanwhile, are the benefactors of the Saints’ struggles and sit atop the division. They have found a way to turn their bad performances into wins (vs SF, @Cle) and while it may be more comforting to fans if they had never had those bad performances, that would be somewhat unrealistic. Every team plays bad games sometimes. The good teams find a way to get by even on their worst days and the bad teams fold. That is the difference between 9-7 and 11-5 more often than not. The Falcons are set up well as long as they do not start putting too much pressure on Matt Ryan and making him throw too much. As long as they stick to a fairly conservative offense and use Roddy White to pepper teams with explosive threat, they should be fine. The defense has been about what we thought too. Not good, but good enough.
The This Guy Division
6. Green Bay Packers (3-2)
Frankly, I just wanted to include that video, but I have something to say about the Packers regardless of the video. With all their talent and consistently bad penalties, they are starting to remind me of the Cowboys, except without the dysfunction or a choker at QB. They shoot themselves in the foot quite a bit for an “elite” team and it has me rescinding my Super Bowl pick about them. I don’t trust Mike McCarthy, and I don’t trust this team to keep its pistol pointed away from itself. They are still really, really good despite all that, which is a testament to just how good they could be, but there is just something about them that does not give you confidence in clutch time. Add to all this the injuries piling up with Rodgers, Finley, Grant, and Al Harris possibly missing extended time, and the Packers have a real problem on their hands. I still think they are a really good team, but there are some very shaky things about this team that someone just looking at the box scores may not notice.
Again, even with all those problems, the Packers are one Mason Crosby field goal against the Redskins from 4-1 and a couple moments of clarity against the Bears from 5-0. They are still really good, but with more issues than you really want to admit.
The Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye, and Lil’ Wayne Division
Apologies to T.I., but there are only 4 teams in this division and adding a 5th would not really serve any purpose.
5. Indianapolis Colts (3-2)
4. New England Patriots (3-1)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)
2. Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
Clearly, the Colts are Jay-Z here. You know what to expect, and you know it will be successful. Even with its problems (mediocre defense, tons of injuries), they are still married to Beyonce/Peyton Manning, and are still going to put up the wins and numbers you expect. However, for every Empire State of Mind the Colts crank out, like their demolition of the Giants, they also have their occasional “Venus vs. Mars” that does not go as well as expected but still turns out a win. There is no reason for any deep-seeded concern in the Colts camp as the Chiefs are a pretty solid team, but if these injuries persist, and these defensive errors continue, the Colts could see the end to some “History” by not winning 12 games, and see that a “Star is Born” with the Titans or Texans taking the division.
The Pats are also obviously Eminem, and not just because they seem to have a lot of white players. They have been around and successful forever, but they are not quite what they used to be. Randy Moss is gone, and with him, so are Tom Brady’s deep balls to a guy people assume will come down with it. The Patriots no longer have the defense they had in their glory days either, but they are still 3-1 after playing a fairly difficult schedule. They will also be fine, but things are a little less certain without Randy Moss around. Lucky for them, they had the bye to work things out before having Baltimore next week in a grudge match from last year’s playoffs.
The Steelers are Kanye. They clearly have the tools to succeed and push for the Super Bowl, but they have a quarterback whom you could say fit the description of the people Kanye toasted on SNL (video below if you didn’t get the reference). I do not think he will be a distraction for his team so much, but the Steelers have other worries. I still think they are one Troy Polamalu injury from dropping to our Waka Flacka/Nicki Minaj level. They are a cut above the Patriots (as most would say Kanye is over Eminem) and their future certainly looks brighter now than it did this time last year. Consider last year the Steelers’ 808s and Heartbreak. They got too pop and went to the spread offense, but it looks like they can get back to running the ball now, which is really what they need for sustained success.
The Ravens are Lil’ Wayne. They are probably a little too popular for their own good at this point, but they are clearly extremely talented. As long as Joe Flacco can avoid playing being a boatload of drugs (to continue the Wayne analogy) and landing the Ravens in NFL prison, the Ravens should be fine. They do face a tough game in Foxborough next week, but after a very impressive win over the underappreciated Broncos, they definitely have a shot. I am sure they are also thrilled to not have to deal with Randy Moss, though Wes Welker is a pain on his own. They will be going in looking to prove their last performance in Foxborough was no fluke, and if they can do it, they might be able to reclaim the top spot.
The Biggie Smalls Division
Normally, Tupac would go right next to Biggie here, but I somehow felt he would not like representing the team listed below as it is all about New York.
1. New York Jets (4-1)
I do not think there is a great deal of disagreement about this right now. Ladanian Tomlinson has been everything the Jets dreamed he would be, Mark Sanchez has grown by leaps and bounds (or so it would appear), and the defense, second half magic from Favre aside) is looking extremely impressive again even with Darrelle Revis not at 100%. They just got Santonio Holmes back too, so their reliance on the very mediocre Braylon Edwards is not even an issue any more. They have to go to Denver next week, which will not be a walk in the park, but with the way they are playing right now, they can beat anyone. Rex Ryan’s team is looking pretty “Juicy” right now.