Play Taps. Get their affairs in order. Say goodbye to the departed. We have our first casualties of the NFL season. I mean we already knew some teams did not have a shot at doing anything (looking at you Buffalo), and we knew that a few teams could make strides but had zero chance of being relevant (Cleveland). But we now have teams we can pronounce dead in the playoff picture. We are 40% of the way through the season believe it or not, and a few teams have really just separated them. In the worst of ways. Let’s get to your power rankings. No funny theme this week, just straight to business.
32. Carolina Panthers (0-5)
31. Buffalo Bills (0-5)
30. Oakland Raiders (2-4)
29. Cleveland Browns (1-5)
Time to dig a plot for each of these teams. Not only as far as their seasons are concerned, but also because I am going to stop writing about them unless I absolutely have to. I mean Matt Moore, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Boller, and Colt McCoy are going to start for these teams next week. I guess it could be worse, but not by much. I feel I am even doing the fans of these teams a favor by not going into much detail here. You are welcome. Maybe they will get a blurb in later weeks.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2)
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3)
Think of these teams as Flava Flav throwing up and you holding the bucket as he excommunicates that sushi. Disgusting, I know. BUT, if you pay attention, you might get a gold tooth out of it so you can make some money off it all. The Buccaneers and Jaguars are clearly not good teams, but they play well from time to time and can hurt someone on the top (like the Colts because the Jaguars put all their effort into that game and haven’t given any effort since). David Garrard is concussed, though maybe he has been for a while with how badly he has been playing, and until he gets better, the Jaguars will not beat a half-decent team. Trent Edwards ain’t cutting it.
Josh Freeman has actually been pretty good so far, but the defense is still a bit young, and it is really hard to have confidence in a team where the running back is averaging 2.5 yards a carry, and the leading receiver is Mike Williams (not the one on Seattle, either). You just kind of wonder where the points are going to come from long term. The weak schedule is not helping either.
26. San Diego Chargers (2-4)
25. San Francisco 49ers (1-5)
24. St. Louis Rams (3-3)
23. Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)
Sadly, the 49ers are not actually dead yet despite a 1-5 record. They will probably win again this week vs Carolina and the division leader will be 4-2 and pretty mediocre. Who knows, with a few nice breaks, they can get back into it. I seriously, seriously doubt it, but it’s possible. However, the other teams in this section are at least twice as interesting. The Chargers are really missing Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates is a little dinged up, and it seems like there is just a general malaise around this team. They also have incredibly bad special teams AND have a hurt kicker. They are not good, and while they may bounce back, they also might just crumble. Philip Rivers is the only reason this team is not 1-5 and the only reason they are in half their games. A testament to him, and an insult to Norv Turner.
The Rams are clearly above expectations this year, and have a really easy schedule coming up. So why so low? Because they have not played anyone yet. They look pretty good on the field because they have not shared the field with a good team yet. Why did people think Ben Affleck was a good actor for a while? Because he was in Good Will Hunting with Matt Damon and Robin Williams, and it was a good movie. Then we saw Gigli, Daredevil, and such and wondered where the hell we got that idea. However, the Rams’ version of Gigli might not come out for a while, so while the Rams still look good, and are still probably good enough to win the laughable NFC West, but they are by no means a “good” team.
Important Side Note: I have not seen The Town, but I am assuming he did not do a good job personally in it. If I am wrong, disregard my analogy.
The Bengals are just the circus. I mean that in terms of the media attention involved, but also in terms of how their team looks on paper. It is a collection of specimens that were once football players (T.O. Tank Williams, Pacman, Andre Smith), and their bigger problems come in the forms of their offensive line and QB, both of which have just completely underwhelmed at every level this season. The Bengals are not good. Lesson #1 in football is that an impressive roster (as supposed to a good one) amounts to nothing without chemistry and consistency.
22. Detroit Lions (1-5)
21. Arizona Cardinals (3-2)
20. Seattle Seahawks (3-2)
19. Denver Broncos (2-4)
All mediocre, but all capable of winning games without needing a miracle. I cannot wait to see what the Lions look like with Matthew Stafford instead of Shaun Hill. They have a bye this week, so we will have to wait, but this team is actually pretty entertaining and pretty good at times and have been so without their franchise quarterback. Obvious issues (thus the 1-5 record), but when their schedule lightens up, which will be a relative term since they have a tough one, they should be fine. Lions and fine in the same sentence. Never thought it would happen.
The Cardinals and Seahawks seem like the same team to me. Not awful, not good, not a team you would trust, capable of beating good teams, in NFL purgatory (not good enough to make a run, not bad enough to get a really high pick). If Max Hall ends up being Kurt Warner 2.0, then the Cards could be set, but forgive my skepticism there. The defense is ok, the running game is decent, and the defense is on-and-off good. The Seahawks are still rockin’ the college coach with an aged QB and no real go-to-guy. Just looking at each of those descriptions, it seems that each team is exactly what it should be. Mediocrity embodied.
The Broncos got lumped in here, but they have loads of upward mobility. Their opening schedule has been brutal (losses to IND, BAL, NYJ and the Jags in a good week 1 effort from them) but it gets easier with vs OAK, @ SF, bye, vs KC and @ SD. Those are huge divisional games and they get the pleasure of getting most of them at Mile High where they are very good. I would not be at all surprised if we look up in week 11 and see the Broncos 6-4. Perhaps 5-5 is more reasonable, but they clearly have the team to win 4 in a row. I like this team, but for now they have to go here.
18. Dallas Cowboys (1-5)
Could I have put them below the Broncos? Yes. Should I have put them below the Broncos? Maybe. However, if not for some really dumb penalties, the Cowboys could have pulled a couple of those out and would still have life in the NFC East. On the down side, the Eagles and Giants have been outstanding so far and they are 3 games back already. They have a pivotal game against the Giants this Monday that will either keep them alive or really bury them. I do not buy the whole “Cowboys are dead” thing, but they are not far off and need help as it is. Let’s call it life support. A loss to the Giants and you can call it a vegetative state. However, a convincing win means a rejuvenated team that could rally around their rare current underdog status. That is only if they win, and for the record, I have them losing that game. Adios, Caballeros.
17. Chicago Bears (4-2)
How great is it that this clip was originally about the Bears and it still works? THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!!! We thought they had a crappy offensive line that would completely hamstring the team and that the defense would rack up some injuries and return to mediocrity without some key members (like Lance Briggs). That’s why the Seahawks took the damn field and beat the worst 4-1 team I can remember (admittedly not THAT far back). All Jay Cutler’s talent can’t fix the fact that he is taking 7 step drops and is only making it 6 steps before having to dodge a defender. I would like to regurgitate a little of my humble pie since I ate a lot at the beginning of the year. I had them at 4 wins with the qualifier “much better than their record”. I think they could finish 6-10 and be about where I thought they would be as a team, right?
Sorry, I am not Flava Flav either so you can’t have my gold teeth for eBay when i throw up that humble pie.
16. Miami Dolphins (3-2)
15. Minnesota Vikings (2-3)
These teams just seem like logical mates. The Dolphins beat a weakened Packers team and we learned literally nothing about them. Great. It feels like they almost had a bye week we learned so little about them. Their schedule does get easier so they might be climbing, but they are a B team (grade wise, not like A team vs B team) if I have ever seen one.
The Vikings, on the other hand, overflowed with information against the Cowboys. They didn’t move the ball particularly well, and feasted on Dallas’ mistakes (big surprise there), but were still probably the better team. They are getting Sidney Rice back soon, which has some explosive potential, but until Brad Childress grows a spine/balls and gains the respect of his players, the Vikings will not really be contenders. Last year they made it through because they thought the capitulation for Favre was a one-year thing, but now it seems like he is just a pushover by nature rather than in a situation. I could be way off on that, but I do not think I am. They are good, but they are just missing that leadership and stability knowing that one of their key guys will be around next year.
14. Washington Redskins (3-3)
13. Kansas City Chiefs (3-2)
12. Houston Texans (4-2)
Good but not great would be the label here. The Redskins seem to be a receiver or 5 away from being dangerous through the air, and their corners have hands of stone. I am sure Skins faithful have known this for a while, but after watching it in person on Sunday night, it is just really clear. They are generally going to struggle to create turnovers, though they had no problems forcing fumbles against the Colts. I like the team more than I thought I would, but I am not sold on them as anything more than just an above average team with all the faults you would expect from a team of their caliber.
The Chiefs are making me look smart, but are out doing even my expectations for them. I had them at a lofty (for them) 7-9, but I think 9 wins is not out of the question here. They certainly lack a QB (Matt Cassel is terrible and I don’t care what his stat line against the Texans says to the contrary), but they seem to work around that pretty well. When you have a defense, that is really all you need and if you don’t believe me, look at the Jets from the end of last year. They are not a really good team, or they would have gotten a first down when it mattered against the Texans, but they are pretty decent at the least.
Speak of the Texans, here they are. Their pass defense might be historically bad for a decent team. I mean they gave up 4 TDs to MATT CASSEL! Do you know how hard that is to do? First off, that means they were so bad that they encouraged a run-first team to throw it near the endzone 4 times. Second, you have to let Matt Cassel make throws, which is a Herculean feat in itself. Third, you have to let Dwayne Bowe rip you apart when there is almost no one else to actually defend out wide. The most impressive part about this team is that they are still winning. They could easily be 1-5 if Austin Collie doesn’t fumble, and the Redskins and Chiefs close them out, but they are sitting at 4-2 and have a shot at the wild card or division.
11. Green Bay Packers (3-3)
The drop continues for the Pack. They commit dumb penalties, have too many injuries to do what they want, and are just not dealing with the hype the way they should. They will continue to drop until they figure out how to play smart instead of just expecting to bowl people over with their talent. Learn from the Cowboys and Vikings. The Vikings game will be a big one too because a loss there and this division is completely up for grabs. Even worse for them, I am not sure if they are done falling yet and that could mean some pain in Titletown. I am not sure who I am picking yet, but this could be a big issue moving forward as Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant are not coming back. They are a bad loss away from temporary freefall.
10. Atlanta Falcons (4-2)
9. Tennessee Titans (4-2)
There are two teams here that look really good, but I just get a bad feeling about them long term. The Falcons have a pretty weak defense but enough offense to make up for it most of the time. We already knew that, so what has changed to move them down 3 spots? The easy answer is the loss, but the more accurate answer is just how that loss showed the gap between them and what a good team can look like. I know it was on the road, and I know the Eagles are no good (I mean they haven’t been discussed yet so they have to be pretty good, right?) and I know the Falcons are entitled to an off-week, but I just do not get a good feeling about this team long term. Just not fully there yet and I am skeptical they get there this season. Blame the defense first, but the offense seems to stall a bit too often.
The Titans are sort of what they always are. Always tough, can always run the ball, can always play enough defense to win, and always seem to get just enough QB play to win. However, I just can’t see this team really being good enough to do anything in the playoffs. The win over the Jaguars proved little to nothing, and they really just don’t have anything on their resume to make me think they are anything more than just a solid team. Sorry, Titans fans, you have to have your team prove it to me before I can buy in.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (4-2)
7. New York Giants (4-2)
6. New Orleans Saints (4-2)
The NFC’s finest… are still the 6th, 7th, and 8th best teams in football. Honestly, very little separates these teams right now and if they were to play a round robin tournament, I think 1-1 for all would be very possible. The tricky thing about these 3 is that all have shown their good and bad already and it is hard to tell which will come out in the long term. Is it Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick for the rest of the year? Is the Giants defense actually as good as it has looked, or just waiting to get picked apart like the Colts game? Are the Saints closer to the Bucs game or the Cards game? I don’t know the real answers there, but I know these are the best teams in the NFC and have been proving it so far this season.
5. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)
4. Baltimore Ravens (4-2)
3. New England Patriots (4-1)
2. New York Jets (5-1)
The Colts have so many issues. Weakness at the point of attack, bad tackling in open spaces, tons of injuries, not much of a running game, and apparently fumbles though the Colts seem to be some of the best at not fumbling (until this year). But they have Peyton Manning. That is all there is to say. I’m not kidding, that is all I am going to say.
I lied, sorry. The only thing I have to add is that id Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, and Joseph Addai miss a lot of time, and Austin Collie does not fully recover from his nagging injury, there could be trouble, even for Peyton Manning. Blair White and Brody Eldridge can only get you so far. Now, I’m done (Brady Quinn shout out!).
The Ravens did pretty much exactly what we thought and confirmed their place as being really good and not elite. The Ravens could easily be #3 too, but I found it hard to justify putting them above a team that just beat them. They have the running game, passing game, and defense, but they are just not at the level they should be. Ed Reed’s return could help, but not all problems are fixable with the guys currently on the roster. They have what it takes, but they cannot put it together it seems. If they do, watch out.
The Patriots are still the Patriots and they do not need the deep threat to win. I think they could have handled the Ravens in regulation with Moss, but the key is that they still beat a really good team without an elite receiver, and that means a lot. The defense is still soft as Joe Flacco ripped it up, but they are not paying for it against good teams, and that is all that matters. As long as no one makes it matter, it does not matter. Of course, someone could come along and do that, but it has not really happened since….
The Jets. An unlikely candidate I am sure to hurt the Pats through the air, but they are just really good right now (how much more obvious could I get). They can throw it much more effectively than I thought they would, and the running game and defense are still there. What are they missing? Can someone find something? Pre-season, I would have said QB, but he has proved me wrong so far so while I do maintain my claim that Mark Sanchez is not that good, he is becoming more and more respectable by the week. As long as the Jets avoid Tony Romo Syndrome (falling in love with the pass and ruining a team for the glory of an individual), they will be fighting with the Patriots for the AFC East.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1)
There are not many things wrong with the Steelers right now. That Big Ben absence was an absolute blessing in disguise. All year last year all they did was throw. The Steelers got soft and turned into a spread offense. Without Big Ben, they had to run the ball, and because of that they are a balanced offensive team to go with their top notch defense. Cannot wait until they get a Sunday night game so I can actually see them in action, because right now, they are the best.
CLOWN OF THE WEEK
Just read it, I cannot do it justice.