By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s NFL Power Rankings: Week #11
PHILADELPHIA — As we head to toward the third quarter pole of the 2008 NFL season everyone better buckle-up for a fast and furious finish.
The NFL is filled with parity causing league officials, teams, media, and fans to not have any idea who is going to represent the AFC and NFC in the Super Bowl… could it be the Titans vs. Giants, Titans vs. Redskins, Steelers vs. Panthers, Broncos vs. Cardinals or any of a number of combinations.
Even with the Titans (9-0) and Giants (8-1) looking like the cream of the NFL’s crop, no one knows if these teams have what it takes to go all the way – remember the 2007′s 16-0 Patriots (lost in the Super Bowl) and 2006′s 14-2 San Diego Chargers (upset in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who returns from a pinkie injury this week, had a great quote from back in week four regarding the marathon nature of an NFL season, “It doesn’t matter whether you’re the favorite now or the least favorite, the reality of it is you’ve got to keep playing games. You’re not trying to be the favorite now, you’re trying to be the favorite at the end of the year.”
I have been waiting for separation to start spreading between NFL teams, but parity reigns as almost every team is in the mix with 23 teams that are 4-5 or better at this point in the season. Teams are jockeying weekly for position with the only thing that matters is getting one of the 12 coveted playoff spots. I even think a (9-7) team may make it into the playoffs just like last years’ 9-7 Redskins and Buccaneers squads.
But remember the last couple of years have shown us that once a “hot” team makes it into the playoffs, anything can happen — 2005 Steelers went from 10-6 wild card to Super Bowl XL Champs and in 2007 the New York Giants went from 10-6 wild card team to Super Bowl XLII Champs with all road victories.
Now is a great time to look at the current standings, because every team has now had their bye week and everyone has now played nine games. The parity-laden standings show the undefeated Titans (9-0), who I am still not convinced that they have the passing game to win it all; (8-1) New York Giants – I believe they are the most complete team in the NFL (Great running game, efficient passing, attacking defense, and upper echelon special teams); the (7-2) Panthers – really not sure about this team after their squeak-out win over the Raiders, “Are they really legit??” ; a jumble of eight (6-3) teams Buccaneers, Cardinals, Patriots, Falcons, Ravens, Jets, Steelers, and Redskins.
A massive group of eight (5-4) teams that are right in the middle of the playoff hunt — Eagles, Bills, Vikings, Cowboys, Colts, Broncos, Dolphins and Bears; two (5-4) teams in the Cowboys and Broncos; a set of four (4-5) teams, who better decide real fast if they are joining the race or putting off their playoff aspirations until next year — Packers, Saints, Jaguars, and Chargers; the (3-6) Browns and Texans who are both looking like rebuilding projects this off-season; four (2-7) teams that all seem to be headed for fresh starts in ’09 which may include new head coaches – Raiders, Seahawks, Niners, and Rams; the (1-8) Chiefs and Bengals, who both probably will be looking for new coaches soon and the hapless (0-9) Lions, who look every bit as bad as the (0-14) 1976 Buccaneers team that hold the record for not winning a game in during the regular season.
The division standings also show a trend, where everything may have to wait until week 17. Here is the AFC picture: AFC South (Titans lead Colts by 4 games), AFC North (Steelers lead the Ravens by 1 game), AFC East (Patriots and Jets tied for lead with the Bills and Dolphins 1 game back – all the teams have winning records), and in the AFC West (Broncos lead the Chargers by 1 game).
In the NFC the races are just as tight: NFC East (Giants lead the Redskins by 2 games – all teams have winning records), NFC North (Vikings and Bears lead the Packers by 1 game), NFC South (Panthers lead the Bucs and Falcons by 1 game), and in the NFC West (Cardinals lead the Seahawks, Niners, and Rams by 4 games).
Now on to the rankings for this week (Prior to Thursday’s game)
1. Giants (8-1) – The G-Men are back on top of my rankings, because they are the NFL’s most complete team (running the ball downhill, winning time of possesion, effiicient passing by Eli, and an attacking defense – lead the NFL with 30 sacks). The 2007 Super Bowl champs powered their way past the Eagles. Another week another big “statement” game as the Giants host the surging Ravens.
2. Titans (9-0)- The NFL’s last undefeated team (team record for most wins to start season) struggled for a bit, but in the end it was their passing game that led them over the host Bears. Former AFC South early season divisional champ pick, the hosting Jacksonville Jaguars will try to halt the Titans miraculous run.
3. Redskins (6-3) – The ‘Skins were one of the last teams in the NFL to have a bye week and I am sure they used it wisely to get players like RB Clinton Portis healthy for their playoff run. One of the NFL’s biggest rivalries returns to FedEx Field as the equally rested Cowboys come to town with a bad disposition.
4. Steelers (6-3) – The tough Steelers didn’t look like their punishing selves as the Colts survived in P-Burgh. The loss had to make you say, “If Big Ben is not fully healthy then it time for 2nd year head coach Mike Tomlin to do the right thing and put the ailing quarterback on the bench for a week or two”. In a game that will have a playoff feel, the Steelers host the desperate San Diego Chargers.
5. Panthers (7-2) – John Fox’s team played some outstanding defense in a win over the hapless Raiders, but can this team continue to have poor passing outings from QB Jake Delhomme. I am sure Delhomme’s passing numbers will get real healthy as the abysmal winless Detroit Lions come to Carolina.
6. Patriots (6-3) – The demise of Bill Belichick’s team was greatly exaggerated as the Pats are now back at the top of the AFC East after a dominating win over the Bills. There is no time for the former Champs to rest on their laurels as they host Brett Favre and the Jets on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football in another key AFC East match-up.
7. Cardinals (6-3) – I might have to finally punch my Cardinals believer membership card as Ken Whisenhunt’s team pulled out a victory over the upset hungry Niners on Monday Night Football. Next up the Cardinals continue their “Respect” Tour by trying to avoid a letdown against the Seahawks in Seattle.
8. Falcons (6-3) – In a statement game, the Falcons proved that they are contenders for the NFC South title as they drilled the Saints. In a crucial game that could go a long way in silencing their critics, the Falcons will try to remain unbeaten at home as they face the Broncos.
9. Buccaneers (6-3) – After a needed bye, this veteran team should be ready to chase the Panthers and Falcons in the NFC South. The Bucs will look to slow down all-world running back Adrian Peterson as the Vikings come South.
10. Colts (5-4) - Every time you want bury the Colts, Peyton Manning and his boys make a statement. This past week it was the Steelers turn to remember the team that won all those games over the years. Tony Dungy will need to preach to his team to avoid a letdown as they host a dangerous Texans team.
11. Jets (6-3) – Brett Favre and the Jets never took their foot off the accelerator as they thumped the Rams. A big NFL Network Thursday Night Football battle against the hated Patriots in Foxborough is next up for the J-E-T-S, who are looking to show that they are for real.
12. Ravens (6-3) – With their thumping of the Texans, the Ravens have now won four straight games and everyone has taken notice of the depth of Ray Lewis’ crew. The Ravens will step up in class this week as they travel to the Meadowlands to face the Super Bowl Champion G-Men.
13. Dolphins (5-4) – Bill Parcels team has the attitude “Why wait tll next year” as they continued to surprise the NFL this time beating the Seahawks. In another game where a win is expected, the Phins will try to avoid a letdown against a struggling Raiders team.
14. Bills (5-4) – Maybe the Dick Jauron’s team is not ready to runaway with the AFC East divison title after all as the Patriots took back the top spot in the competitive division. In a crucial Monday Night Football battle, the Bills will look to get back on track as they host a tougher than their record Browns team.
15. Cowboys (5-4) – It was a bye week of second-guessing and healing for the former early season darling of the NFL. With 40-year old quartetrback Brad Johnson back on the bench, Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo returns against the Reskins with the Cowboys in an almost must-win situation.
16. Eagles (5-4) - The Birds again showed their inability to produce first downs on 3rd and 4th short plays as the G-Men pounded their way to a big NFC East win. The Eagles should be wary of an “upset” special they travel to Cincy to face a better than their record Bengals team.
17. Bears (5-4) – Lovie Smith’s team had their chance against the Titans, but they had little chance to win with fickle quarterback Rex Grossman under center. Look for quarterback Kyle Orton back under center as the Bears travel to Green Bay for a huge old-time NFC Central battle with the Packers.
18. Chargers (4-5) – The Bolts gave the weak Chiefs every chance to pull the upset, but in the end Norv Turner’s team got the “W”. In a huge game that will have future AFC playoff implications, the Chargers travel to chilly Pittsburgh to face an angry Steelers team.
19. Broncos (5-4) -It wasn’t pretty, but the Broncos got over .500 after a huge offensive performance win over the Browns on Thursday Night Football. In a former Super Bowl match-up, the Broncos travel to Atlanta to face the upstart Falcons and their cool leader Matty “Ice” Ryan.
20. Jaguars (4-5) – the best way to get healthy is to face the Lions and that is exactly what the Jags did as they pounded the NFL’s biggest loser. In their personal “Mini-Super Bowl”, the Jags host the undefeated Titans in a huge AFC South battle.
21. Vikings (5-4) – Running back Adrian Peterson delivered on the turf of the Metro Dome as the Vikes out-muscled the Packers for a key NFC North win. In a playoff type game, the Vikings will need to bring their “A” game to Tampa as they face a nasty Bucs squad.
22. Packers (4-5) – In a statement game, the Vikings behind power back Adrian Peterson ran all over the Packers on their way to the top of the NFC North. In traditional black-an-blue rivalry game that goes back to the early years of the NFL, the Packers will host the hungry Bears.
23. Saints (4-5) – Quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints looked like they were still in the fog of London as they sleepwalked their have to a bad loss to the rising Falcons. Look for an upswing by the see-saw Saints as they travel to KC to face the Chiefs.
24. Texans (3-6) – The Ravens physically demolished the reeling Texans on their home field as a revjuvenated Ray Lewis and a physical running game led the way. Looking from some AFC South respect, the Texans will travel to Lucas Oli Stadium in Indy to face a hardcharging Colts team.
25. Browns (3-6) – In Brady Quinn’s debut game, it was the same old story as the Dawgs came up short at home against the Broncos. If the Browns want to help their season, which is on life-support they will need to win in Buffalo against the Bills on ESPN Monday Night Football.
26. Seahawks (2-7) – Seneca Wallace and the Hawks tried their hardest, but they had no answer for the Wildcat formation or the Dolphins attacking defense. In an upside-down game the Seahawks host new NFC West bully the Cardinals.
27. 49ers (2-7) – Maybe Mike “underpants” Singletary’s reteric is finally getting through to his team as the Niners fought to the end against the Cardinals on Monday Night Football. In a ” Loser Leaves Town” match, the Niner host the equally pitiful Rams.
28. Rams (2-7)- The lambs sank to a new all-time low as the Jets pounded them to the tune of a 44-point win. In an NFL “Toilet Bowl” special, the Niners host the Rams in a basement dweller battle of two interrim head coaches.
29. Raiders (2-7) - Another week, another horrible loss for a former proud franchise stuck in the abyss. This time the Panthers overcame their woes to post an easy victory. This week the Raiders will look to stop the Wildccat formation as they travel to Miami to face an improving Dolphins team.
30. Chiefs (1-8) – You have to hand it to head coach Herman Edwards as he tried to lift the beleaguered Chiefs by going for the win with a two-point conversion against the Chargers….Of course like everything else this year the two-pointer failed. With big running back Larry Johnson back from being suspended/inactivated, the Chiefs will look to play spoiler as they host the fickle Sants.
31. Bengals (1-8) - Well the Bungles didn’t lose last week, because they were on a bye. In a potentional “trap” game, the Bengals host an embarrassed Eagles team.
32. Lions (0-9) – The Jaguars running game got real healthy quick as they pounded the putrid Lions at Ford Field. Maybe with another week in the Lions offense under his belt, maybe QB Daunte Culpepper can lead his team over the host Panthers……Not !!!