Are you as sick of reading Power Rankings as I am of writing them? Since we used the division brakdown last week, we are going to go freelance. Not every team will be discussed in any kind of real depth, but I think there is at least a little bit of categorization that can be done. The teams are not in any order within their groupings, but I think Carolina fans can guess where they go.
DEAD (For whatever reason)
Carolina- The worst team in the NFL.
Arizona- I know they are technically in the playoff race, but why does that mean they are not dead? Derek Anderson is awful. Beanie Wells is made of paper mache. Maybe the worst news is that Larry Fitzgerald keeps having the same bad dream that Kurt Warner is on Dancing with the Stars and no matter how open he is, the ball is 5 feet over his head. The Cardinals should still be glad they did not sign Donovan McNabb, but this is bad. I hope every loyal Cards fan (very few of those) enjoys watching the Bears vs Dolphins game, where Miami’s 3rd strigner, Tyler Thigpen, would be the clear starter in Zona.
Denver- Same thing goes here as for Arizona. Not mathetmatically done, but you can stick a fork in them. I have emerged from this season a big Kyle Orton fan in the right system, but they just do not have all the pieces yet. Anyone has a shot out West, but Denver would appear dead to me.
Cincinnati- Dead. I know they played alright against the Colts, but they are just done. You cannot pick them with any real confidence, and there is nothing wrong with that because they are done.
Dallas- I have absolutely no idea what to think about Sunday except that they came out motivated for once. Will they now come out week after week and lay beatdowns on good teams or will they revert back to bad play-calling and lackluster effort? I don’t know, but to severely over-quote the Wizard of Oz, “As Coroner, I thoroughly examined her, and she is just not merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead”. Bye, Cowboys. Get out of my column.
Buffalo- THEY GOT A WIN! Well deserved, Bills! Now go handle the Bengals. Or don’t and make a run for the #1 pick.
Detroit- They are not dead so much on the field as they are in the standings. I will not back off about them being better than the Bears when healthy, but they are likely headed for last palce at this point. It is ok, though, because one more top 10 pick on thsi team and people will be saying “Lions and Lions and Lions, OH MY!” I promise I haven’t seen the Wizard of Oz recently.
Minnesota- Yup, they are joining the ranks of the dead. They cannot win on the road, and Childress’ parachute formed by winning keeps getting holes shot in it. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised given the players literally hate him. However, one big revelation out of this team (other than Childress is the worst, and Favre is 41) is that Percy Harvin is for real. He plays hurt all the time, never takes a play off, and is one of the most frightening slot receivers in the league. Give me another really solid year and I will move him to #1 on that list.
Washington- I think that Monday Night Football showing says it better than anything I could say. I do not care how well the other team is clicking, you CANNOT go down 35-0 to a division rival at home. It can’t happen. They are done.
Ok, so maybe the video doesn’t exactly match the next group. You are welcome anyway.
Houston- The Hail Mary was a tragedy for Texans fans, but it gives me a chance to utter/shout/scream at the top of my lungs one of my favorite sayings: THE TEXANS JUST FIND WAYS TO LOSE GAMES!!! I promise I do not hate you as much as it seems, Texans fans. They are really not in dire straights or anything, but that loss was big. You just get the feeling that this is a team losing momentum fast, and how better to rebound than playing the Jets. Yikes.
Jacksonville- Is it fair to put a team that is 5-4 on life support? Probably not. I just feel like they are clearly the 3rd best team in the South, and do not have the chops to make a sustained run down the stretch. They have been surprisingly consistent since their early season stumbles and they are healthy, jut not at the level of some of the teams above them.
Miami- Tyler Thigpen is decent and I do not care what anyone else says about it. This Chicago game is HUGE for them, but it will not be easy. With how the Jets and Patriots are running away with this division, the Dolphins find themselves increasingly beached (ok, those are whales, you get the point). The wild card spots seem to be clearly down to the Ravens/Steelers and Patriots/Jets losers. They are not that far out numerically, but they cannot afford a loss at this point.
Cleveland- Ok, before you scoff, the Browns are dead. I just could not bring myself to put them in that group with how well they have played this year. Their schedule has been brutal and yet they have been in every game with the some of the NFL’s best. They are dead for the playoffs, but this team is very much alive. Eric Mangini for Coach of the Year?
San Francisco/Seattle/St. Louis- Consider me a conscientious objector here. None of these teams are good enough or consistent enough to really deserve a spot in the “Alive” section, yet they are clearly very alive for the playoffs. So technically they are all alive, but none is actually good. They melt down at horrible times, pick the weirdest times to show up, and just do not come off as good football teams. That is not to say teams like St. Louis have not made significant and important progress,but none of these teams should be mentioned in the same sentnece as other NFC division leaders. I am growing more and more convinced that it is Seattle or San Francisco as the favorites (is that even a justified word?) in the division, if only because someone has to win. It is not in their best interest (think draft pick) to make the playoffs, but someone technically has to do it.
Kansas City- That Denver game concerned me more that it really should. Deep down I know that it was a road game in the division, but Todd Haley’s behavior made it seem like it was something much worse. Just hope his actions are not a symptom of something bigger we did not know about, because I am sooo ready for a new champion in the AFC West. I need to see them come out and thrash the Cards next week to not just give the Chargers the division.
Oakland- I am very tempted to put the Raiders in the playoffs, but I cannot do it. Their remaining schedule is tough and a lot of it comes on the road. Not a good combination for a team trying to put things together. Still, great strides this year. Al Davis has got to be dead.
Chicago- I am going to stick to my guns here and say that they suck, but at some point I may have to flip-flop. Where that point is I do not know, but this is not a good team, and I do not care what anyone says. One injury on defense and they are screwed, and they might have the offensive line least equipped to handle its job in the top half of the league. I cannot pick the Bears with confidence against almost anyone. All that being said, they are still alive, so take it for what it is worth, Bears fans.
Tampa Bay- I still cannot REALLY tell if they are good or not, but I am leaning more and more that way as the season goes on. They are in a pretty tough position with the Saints and Falcons playing well, but they can still snatch that wild card spot. If they get into the playoffs, they could be that team no one fears, but puts a few wins together and finds itself in the NFC Championship game. That being said, I don’t think that will happen and I just hope they do not boot a more deserving team due to its easy schedule.
Tennessee- Too early to call the Moss move a bad move? Maybe, but not by too much. That being said, I fear them more with him than without him, but I am not sure if they are actually better with him. How don’t you beat the Dolphins when they are down to their final QB and you are supposed to be a playoff team? How? If not for my AFC South respect for them, I might drop them lower.
San Diego- Realistically, they deserve their own demarcation. The Chargers are like zombies. They seem dead for the longest time, but you look up and they are grabbing a handful of brains and getting their groove on like Thriller. Their schedule sets up very nicely for the second half, and even though their special teams are unbelievably bad, they could make a deep playoff run because everyone has a shot this year. I realistically should put them in the Good teams, but they are really not that good, they just have a great QB and a second half mentality.
New York Giants- If you would have guaranteed me that the Cowboys would respond to Garrett, I would have picked them, but nothing is less sure than the Cowboys being motivated. The Giants are a team that just seems very prone to lapses like that. This week’s game against the Eagles just got really interesting, too. Easily the 2nd most interesting game of the week.
Pittsburgh- Again, one game is not a big deal, but wow did that offensive line look bad. I expect a bounce back, but pass protection was a big concern going in, so it should certainly be a concern moving forward.
Green Bay- Coming off the bye week, Aaron Rodgers gets a chance to lay down the law (and potentially seal the 2011-12 fate of Brett Favre) with a resounding win. They jump to #1 or #2 in my mind if they go to Minnesota nad handle their business by beating a good home team in their building and beating them twice in the year.
New York Jets- I am not sure what to say about them. They seem destined to play every game close, but there is something to be said for winning all these games instead of dropping one. Definitely in contention for the top spot in my mind.
Atlanta- I would pick them over anyone at home. We will get to see that tested when New Orleans rolls into Atlanta, but this team is dangerous if they get home field in the playoffs.
Philadelphia- They are absolutely frightening. If Michael Vick stays healthy and Andy Reid can figure out clock management (not likely), this team could very easily be Super Bowl bound. No one is playing better right now, and again, they have a huge game against the Giants this week.
Indianapolis- J am biased, but I think most people would agree. The Colts-Patriots game is the best thing in regular season football. Hands down. The teams know each other way too well, the fans hate each other, the cities and atmospheres are very different, and it lets us talk Brady vs Manning. That last one is a topic I will save for the Picks column as it is a personal favorite topic of mine, but everything is up for grabs in this game. The Colts are unbelievably banged up and have been all season, yet they sit one Austin Collie fumble vs the Texans and one 59 yard field goal from being 8-1. Hell, Peyton Manning is turning Jacob Freaking Tamme into a player other teams worry about. As a Colts fan with a healthy dose of pessimism in me, I have a bad feeling that the injuries are not healed in time for the trip, but they could well end up getting Addai/Hart back, and adding Collie back into the mix. The offensive line is not good this year, and they have not been their usual dominant selves, and yet they are right there. This is definitely a team to be feared down the stretch if they gt healthy.
Oh, and for those of you who laugh about Addai and Hart coming back when the Colts are not a good running team, allow me to explain. The pass blocking and tough yardage they crank out is unbelievably important to the Colts. 3rd and 1 is our worst nightmare without those guys. They are just far more important to the team than you would ever think.
New England- Obviously the matchup is great, as I just said, but Patriots fans have got to like their chances in this game. The offensive line is playing out of its mind, they just hung 40 on the Steelers, and Brady had his first good game in a while. Add on top of that the home winning streak they have going (excluding when they got smashed by Baltimore in the postseason), and all signs point in the direction of a New England win. Their defense is not good, but it is extremely opportunistic and steps up when it is needed, much like the Saints from last year. The difference is that God wanted the Saints to win last year, and God rightfully hates the Patriots, Belichick and Tom Brady’s hair. So there.
I will be picking the Patriots this weekend, I think, and that is not a reverse jinx. As far as you know.
And no, you don’t get a video, Pats fans. Take it personally.
New Orleans-Yes, every team with “New” in it is in this group. I am very interested in watching what happens when Reggie Bush comes back this week, because he and Pierre Thomas have been the big difference between New Orleans last year and most years. Remember how big a deal it was the New Orleans was finally running the ball last year and how big a part of their offense it was? Well they have been pretty much without it for the first 9 weeks of the season and they finally get it back. The defense is playing lights out too, and the Saints would be my sneaky pick to make a big jump up most people’s Power Rankings although they are only playing Seattle. I don’t pick repeat winners, but this team could get scary soon.
There are no elite teams. Plain and simple. I am not the guy that will come around telling you how different this season is because it is too hard to compare teams like that, but I do not have a single team I will pick unequivocally this year. The playoffs are going to be a tough pick this year without a doubt. If the Falcons get the #1 seed, I could see them rolling to the Super Bowl at home, but any other scenario and I am lost. Good thing I have another 7 weeks before the playoffs.
This is purely conjecture, but let’s say the Falcons, Saints, Eagles, Giants, Packers, and the Buccaneers play a round robin tournament with a home and home format (so each team plays the others twice). You can substitute the Bucs with Bears if you like. Or if you are insane. What are the records in those games? I really do not even know. Just too tough to prognosticate. I will say watch out for the Saints when they get their running backs back, but even then I am not sure they are elite.
And for the record, it is no easier in the AFC, where you have the Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Jets, Ravens, and probably Chargers. Good luck with picking that. I will wait a few weeks before making outlandish predictions.
Regardless, things are getting tight in the National Football League (don’t you love when announcers refuse to abbreviate it?), and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Enjoy week 11, especially Tyler Thigpen vs Jay Cutler. Look for Cameron Wake to have a field day, and for the game to be close late in teh 4th quarter.