Saturday, October 31, 2009

Week Eight Power Poll

NFL Power Poll

The Favorite

1. Indianapolis Colts
Manning is playing his best season ever, and you can tell he will be satisfied with nothing short of a Super Bowl title. It doesn’t look like anyone is going to stop him. The defense doesn’t give up big plays, and Bob Sanders is slowly but surely returning to full health.

The Contenders

2. New Orleans Saints
The clear-cut favorite in the NFC, New Orleans has won both close games and blowouts, they’ve won with both passing and running, and the defense has played very well - for the most part. They have top candidates for both offensive and defensive MVP. Drew Brees can dissect any defense and tear it to shreds; if you blitz him, he’ll burn you. If you don’t, he’ll destroy you. If you drop six into coverage, they run it down your throat. (Surprising fact: The Saints run the ball an average of 61% percent of the time in the second half - most in the NFL)

3. New England Patriots
The Pats are just 5-2, but with the self-destructing Jets behind them the division is all but theirs. They have a tough game coming up against the Colts but should still cruise effortlessly into the playoffs. Their challenge is to attain a first round bye and/or home-field advantage in the playoffs. As long as Brady is upright, they’re a contender.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Winning the AFC North has proven to be more difficult than Pittsburgh may have anticipated, but ultimately the Bengals are going to taper off and leave them Stellers in control. They never get blown out because the defense keeps the game close, and Roethlisberger knows how to score TDs in the two-minute drill. It’s a lethal combination, especially with Polamalu healthy.

The Powerhouses with Faulty QBs

5. Minnesota Vikings
On paper, Minnesota may have the best all-around roster in the NFL. They have Jared Allen. And Steve Hutchinson. And freaking Adrian Peterson. They have great linebackers. A good secondary. A solid receiving crew. And then … they have a 40 year old QB with gray hair, who has sustained dozens of injuries and played 275 consecutive games and is recovering from a torn bicep, not to mention his entire career has been plagued by mental lapses and unnecessary turnovers and he completely fell apart last season because of his old age. Favre is their downfall. How beautifully ironic.

6. New York Giants
If the Vikings aren’t the best team in the NFL on paper, it’s the Giants. Led by Chris Snee, Justin Tuck, Osi Uminyora, and an insanely good running game, the Giants have all the tools to power their way to a 12 win season and a first-round bye. But, aside from some potentially hampering injuries on defense, the Giants also have … Eli Manning. The dopiest looking guy in the NFL. The worst on-the-field leader I’ve ever seen. The luckiest Super Bowl winning quarterback of my lifetime. The inconsistent crybaby who is only popular because of his older brother. Eli Manning is the Giants downfall.

The Menace

7. Denver Broncos
The freaking Broncos and their freaking 16 year old coach have yet to lose a game, and thanks to San Diego’s impotency they have locked up a playoff spot by week 8. They win with luck, and by taking advantage of other team’s miscues. Their quarterback can only throw the ball about 25 yards. They bug me to no end. Yet, they are 6-0. But not for long!

The Dark Horses

8. Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan is probably a year or two away from being a serious threat in the playoffs, but maybe not. He has as many weapons to throw to as anybody and Michael Turner is getting back on track after a slow start to the season. But after getting waxed by Dallas last week, I don’t think this defense is playoff savvy.

9. Cincinnati Bengals
As much as I dislike Chad Johnson, you can’t deny the Bengals their place in the top ten this season. Palmer and Benson are both having a renaissance season; and the defense has experienced a remarkable improvement. It’s going to be very tough for them to keep up with the Steelers down the stretch, but they have all the confidence in the world right now. After the bye they play Baltimore and then Pittsburgh; we’ll know where they stand after that.

10. Green Bay Packers
After a sluggish start, the Pack’s new 3-4 defense is starting to smooth out and wreak havoc for quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers is playing well enough to make the Lambeau faithful forget about old #4. Green Bay is a team, like Minny and NYG, that is extremely well-balanced on both sides of the ball and has a lot of playmakers. And they don’t have a fatefully flawed quarterback.

Too Much Hype, Not Enough Results

11. Baltimore Ravens
Ultimately, Baltimore will probably be the best team to miss the playoffs, unless Cincinnati slips up late in the season. Flacco is just a bit too young to be trusted just yet.

12. Philadelphia Eagles
Injuries, old age and a tough division might keep Philly out of the playoffs. If they squeak in, they are a dark horse team, but I don’t see them squeaking in ahead of Green Bay and Atlanta. You can’t lose to the Raiders and still have my respect.

13. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals continue to suffer from Hype Disease, while achieving mediocre results. They won’t be back in the Super Bowl for a looooooong time.

Frisky, but Non-Threatening

14. Houston Texans
Crazy Keith thinks they’ll wind up in the playoffs. I disagree. Either way, they just aren’t that good.

15. San Francisco 49ers
Switching to Alex Smith at QB is one of the biggest surprises to me so far this season; Shaun Hill didn’t even play that poorly. Singletary has proven to be a great coach for them, and the overall weakness of the NFC West gives them hope to be a playoff team.

How the Mighty Have Fallen

16. San Diego Chargers
At least they get to beat up Oakland this week as a sort of confidence booster.

17. Dallas Cowboys
Remember when the Cowboys were everyone’s pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl? Yeah, that was only two years ago. The sudden emergence of Miles Austin is a bright spot for them, but they are only the third best team in their division and not bound for the postseason.

Flash in the Pan

18. New York Jets
After three weeks of football, they cracked the top five in everyone’s power rankings. Then they lost three straight and Mark Sanchez looked extremely rookie-like. Then they lost Kris Jenkins, the centerpiece of their 3-4 defense, to a season-ending injury. Then they beat the Raiders 38-0 and Sanchez got criticized for eating a hot dog during the game. What a wacky season.

The Playoff Longshot

19. Seattle Seahawks
With a healthy Hasslebeck and a crummy division, Seattle could limp into the playoffs with a 9-7 or even 8-8 record. They have some easy games left on the schedule, including the Lions, Rams, Bucs and Titans. All they need is a little help from the Cards and Niners, which could easily happen.

The Villain

20. Chicago Bears
I’ve never met anyone who likes Jay Cutler. I spent a weekend in Chicago a couple months ago with a bunch of Bears fans, and even they don’t like him.

The Not Awful But Definitely Not Good Teams

21. Miami Dolphins
They’re a pain in the ass to play against because of all the Wildcrap, but as New Orleans proved last week, all it takes is some good old-fashion fundamentals and you can easily outmatch them.

22. Jacksonville Jaguars
Their defense is still recovering from the major facelift of two summers ago, but they are improved from last season; the offense has some unsung solid players and finally has an offensive line patched together. Jacksonville’s a lot better team than they were in 08… but they’re still not very good.

The Teams Who Won 12 or 13 Games Last Year But Now Are Projected To Win About Four of Five

25. Carolina Panthers
It’s a strange combination when you have one of the league’s best rushing attacks alongside one of the league’s most god-awful quarterbacks. Last year Jake got bad stats but managed to win; this year he gets even worse stats and loses. We’re going to be seeing Matt Moore soon.

26. Tennessee Titans
From 13-3 to 0-7 … Tennessee has had an unbelievably bad turn of events, culminating in a 59-0 loss to the Run-Up-The-Scores. Now Vince Young is starting, per demands of the owner. Never a good thing when the owner gets involved with the decision making. Nor is it ever a good thing when VY is your starting quarterback. Tennessee has a real chance of going 0-16, and not for lack of talent. But for a team that has so recently been to the postseason and now realizes they have nothing to play for, not even pride, they are going to be half-assing the rest of the season. Fake injuries will abound, and just a general lack of effort. It’s sad.

Very, Very Bad Teams

24. Kansas City Chiefs
There are an abundance of horrible teams this season – in fact its one of the main talking points early in the season. We’ve never had a season where so many teams – at least eight – are just flat-out not competitive. Kansas City is one of the frontrunners, and considering all the high draft picks they’ve had recently they have no one to blame but themselves. Poor scouting and poor evaluation of talent can murder a franchise in the NFL because of the salary cap restrictions. Handing the team over to Matt Cassel for $60 million and 6 years obviously hasn’t worked out. Top draft picks Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Albert and Tyson Jackson have all been duds. New coach Todd Haley has been awful. Larry Johnson was suspended for twittering “gay slurs.” What else can go wrong?

25. Detroit Lions
Before the Stafford/Calvin injuries, Detroit was a team on the upswing. Other than the week one blowout the Lions had been competitive against Minnesota and Chicago and beat Washington pretty resoundingly. They made enough plays against Pittsburgh to be in the game at the end. Then Culpepper got hurt and the Lions were mercilessly slaughtered at Lambeau week 6. Now they’ve had a week to heal, a week to regroup, and a matchup against the Rams at a perfect time. The standings say Detroit is 1-5, but they’ve played well in stretches. They really have. The defense has shown improvements – Foote and Jackson have made the biggest impacts and random players in the secondary have contributed. It wasn’t the guys we thought it would be, but afterthoughts like William James and Marquand Manuel who have made the big plays. Buchannan and Henry haven’t panned out, and really, neither has Julian Peterson. Sims has missed a few games and that’s hurt us. The pass rush is too flaky and relies too much on the blitz. The offense is okay, for a while. But they just can’t finish games. Stafford is yet to play a quality fourth quarter, even in the game Detroit won. The play-calling has been brutal. The running plays on 2nd and long are just atrocious. Kevin Smith looks like he’s aged about 15 years in his first two seasons – he runs with the speed of a Bettis and the power of a Warrick Dunn. It’s not pretty. Other acqusitions, such as Northcutt, Morris and Pettigrew, have been underwhelming to say the least. Just like last season, Detroit ranks near the bottom of virtually every team statistic, both offensively and defensively, and especially on special teams. Can you believe that Detroit averages the worst field position when receiving kickoffs, AND allows the best average field position when defending kickoffs? It’s unthinkable that a team can be so consistently bad on kick coverage. To make things worse, Jason Hanson has lost a lot of power in his leg, and the kick return game, which started out promising, now fumbles more kicks than it takes past the 20. It’s been a rough 1-5, but there have been glimmers of hope. I can’t wait to play the Rams and be 2-5.

26. Buffalo Bills
The Bills aren’t good, but they’re not as bad as the next five teams. Which just goes to show that there are some baaaad teams this year.

Teams the Lions Could Beat

27. Cleveland Browns
Derek Anderson is AWFUL. And last season he was a consensus top ten fantasy QB. Weird huh?

28. Washington Redskins
Detroit beat them four weeks ago and they’ve progressively gotten worse each week since. They are a team steeped in drama and controversy, but not in talent, and now Chris Cooley is lost for the year. I blame their entire season on Albert Haynesworth, who took the $100 million dollar check and suddenly forgot how to exert any effort on the field, and nurses all these little injuries and misses random chunks of playing time whenever he feels like it, and hasn’t even been an effective run-stopper, which is the whole reason Washington gave him such a preposterous paycheck in the first place.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
From Byron Leftwich to Josh Johnson to Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay cycles through D-minus quarterbacks and no one even pays attention. The running game is bad, the passing game is worse, and the defense is atrocious. Um, WHY DID THEY FIRE JON GRUDEN AGAIN??

The Worst of the Worst of the Worst

31. St. Louis Rams
It’s just an overall complete lack of talent, similar to what Detroit experienced last year. They just can’t compete. They simply don’t have the personnel to play in the NFL.

32. Oakland Raiders
Unlike St. Louis, Oakland does have some talent. They’ve got Asomugha, Seymour, McFadden, Zach Miller, and some decent linebacker who I can’t think of the name of. But they just don’t care. They don’t even try. You hear a lot about “the culture of losing” in the NFL, especially when you’re a Lions fan. For the most part, I think it’s an overused cliché. But in Oakland, it’s exactly fitting. They expect to lose. They don’t even consider winning. They are the NFL’s punching bag and they don’t even care. JaMarcus Russell doesn’t even care. Their owner is a crazy old man. Their coach punched their assistant coach and is on trial for assault. They’re a joke, an absolute mess, and I want to thank them for making everyone forget about the 2008 Detroit Lions.

Enjoy week eight everyone! Go Lions!
Happy Halloween!

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