Archive for September 2009

Mike Blewitt’s NFL Power Rankings – Week 4

September 29, 2009

Finally, Brett Favre makes some big news ON the field as the Vikes snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The defending champ Steelers stumble again versus their hated rival Bengals, the Broncos raise some eyebrows as they remain undefeated and last, but certainly not least, the lovable Lions exit the basement for the first time in a long time as we run down the list No. 1 to No. 32…

favre_vikings

1.   New York Giants (3-0)–The Giants have a depleted roster due to various injuries (Kenny Phillips, Justin Tuck) and promptly went down to Tampa to shut out the Bucs with a 28-to-5 first down advantage. Eli Manning took a breather at the end of this game sending fantasy football nerds (just like me) into a tizzy across the nation.

2.   New Orleans Saints (3-0)–The Bills held Drew Brees to only 172 yards passing…but forgot about RBs Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush & Co. who combined for 222 yards on the ground. This is a scary offense and the only TD they allowed was on a fake punt; perhaps the defense is ready to match its offensive peers.

3.   Baltimore Ravens (3-0)–The only criticism one could make of the Ravens thus far is the weakness of their schedule, since they drew the Chiefs and Browns early. Aside from that, they are clicking on both sides of the ball, with Joe Flacco proving last year was not beginner’s luck.

4.   Minnesota Vikings (3-0)–The soft schedule ended abruptly with a tough test against the Niners and Favre decides to wait until the last two seconds to lock down the Vikings third win to start the season. We knew he liked the drama but this is getting ridiculous. Note: Nearly 400 yards of offense against the Niners is a very good sign for the Vikes.

5.   New York Jets (3-0)–The Jets continue to show moxie as they were forced to come from behind this week to beat the Tennessee Titans. Mark Sanchez became the first QB since the NFL-AFL merger to start his career at 3-0 but has yet to convince the higher-ups to scrap the ugly, old-school New York Titan uniforms.

6.   Indianapolis Colts (3-0) – Indy completely dominated the defending NFC champ Cardinals in every facet of the contest. The offense (over 500 yards total) appears to be in midseason form and the defense hopes that Dwight Freeney’s injury is minor; he appeared to be on a mission this week.

7.   San Diego Chargers (2-1) — Only a last-minute loss to the Ravens has kept them from being one of the cool kids who hang in the undefeated crowd. This week’s test at Pittsburgh should reveal a few more secrets about both teams.

8.   Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)—Who are the geniuses that said Kevin Kolb wasn’t capable? He just lit up the Chiefs so that the Iggles can rest easy headed into their bye week and we’ll probably see McNabb and Westbrook back in the lineup in Week 5.

9.   New England Patriots (2-1)—They are back on track after a nice win at home over the Falcons, but it was fun to watch Pats’ fans panic for a week, wasn’t it? Injuries continue to mount yet QB Tom Brady has them pointed in the right direction (including Fred Taylor) – this week’s matchup against Baltimore will be a good old-fashioned throwdown.

10. San Francisco 49ers (2-1)—That rustling you hear in the distance is the sound of 53 San Francisco football players shaking their heads at the same time. Very tough loss for the Niners but head coach Mike Singletary will have them focused for this week’s home tilt versus the struggling Rams.

11. Denver Broncos (3-0)—I feel like I am the target of a used-car salesman right now and his name is Josh McDaniels. Not ready to buy just yet…Josh, could you throw in some floor mats?

12. Atlanta Falcons (2-1)—Those wins against Miami and Carolina have lost any luster that they once had as the Pats manhandled them in Gillette Stadium. They have the bye week to rest up for a big NFC matchup in San Francisco and will try to get Michael Turner back on track.

13. Green Bay Packers (2-1)—The Pack is flying a little bit under the radar after the loss to Cincy last week. But, that will change when the internet nearly explodes this week as they go to Minnesota to face franchise legend and former Packer Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offense appear to be in sync just in time.

14. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)—The Bengals broke an eight-game home losing streak against the Steelers and are only one freaky, last-minute tipped pass for TD away from being undefeated. Head coach Marvin Lewis has them focusing on the positive as they head to Cleveland to take on the woeful Browns.

15. Chicago Bears (2-1)—Consecutive wins over the Steelers and Seahawks have the Bears feeling good and Jay Cutler appears to be gaining comfort with his new team. They host the Lions this week but the burning question is whether or not they can get Matt Forte’s ground game going.

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-1) – Handing four turnovers to the Giants can essentially guarantee you a loss, and there are no moral victories for keeping it close despite said errors. The ‘Boys will need to play a lot better to sniff anywhere near the playoffs.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2)—Shockingly, the defending champs find themselves out of playoff range in this week’s rankings. Shoddy field-goal kicking and fourth quarter defensive breakdowns have them wondering how soon they can have havoc-wreaking safety Troy Polamalu back in the mix to stem the tide.

18. Seattle Seahawks (1-2)—If this were a power rankings based on Week 3 uniforms, they might be dead last. They missed Matt Hasselbeck as well as two field goals in a tough loss to the Bears; Hass’ return will mean a lot.

19. Arizona Cardinals (1-2)—Kurt Warner was on the run all night against Indy, not exactly the strongest part of his skill set. Peyton Manning brutally sliced up the Cards’ defense that need to find a way to stop someone quick or that run to the Super Bowl last year will seem a figment of their imagination.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)—Jack Del Rio’s message to his team last week appeared to have worked. The Jags pounded out 184 rushing yards in a gritty win in Houston.

21. Tennessee Titans (0-3)—This is probably the best winless team we have seen in the NFL in quite some time but they will have some work to do to pull them out of a very serious hole. Since 1990 when the 12-team playoff format started, only three teams have made the playoffs after going 0-3.

22. Houston Texans (1-2)—Unless head coach Gary Kubiak can figure out a way for his team to get stops defensively, then the only reason to watch Houston is to watch some of their offensive players rack up fantasy points.

23. Miami Dolphins (0-3)—The Atlanta-Indy-San Diego trifecta to start the year was a tough obstacle course…but they failed at every hazard. Now, a new Chad (Henne) steps in to take over for the previous Chad (Pennington) who is out for the year with a shoulder injury and everyone in Miami is left hanging (bad pun alert!).

24. Buffalo Bills (1-2)—The Bills sold out to stop Drew Brees and promptly let up 222 rushing yards. They coupled that with less than 250 total yards and failed to get Terrell Owens a reception for the first time in 185 games. We can officially call that a plan that backfired.

25. Detroit Lions (1-2)—At long last, the Lions have vacated the final spot. Their ability to control the clock for more than 36 minutes against Washington and not turn the ball over were key factors in a win that should be a nice building block for the young core of this team.

26. Washington Redskins (1-2)—The ‘Skins allowed Detroit to dominate the clock but the real story is the inexcusable inability for this team to find the end zone over the last two seasons. Jim Zorn’s seat is officially hot.

27. Oakland Raiders (1-2)—JaMarcus Russell’s has a 41.3 completion percentage through three weeks. Darren McFadden had three fumbles bringing his total to seven in 16 career games. Now there’s an offense they can build around!

28. Carolina Panthers (0-3)—Starting against Philly, Atlanta, and Dallas is tough but this team was 12-4 last year, they need to right the ship in a hurry. Maybe the bye week will allow them to tighten up whatever it was that allowed three turnovers and 449 yards in Dallas.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (0-3)—The Chiefs were 0-for-11 on third-down conversions and gained less than two hundred yards of offense against the Eagles.  Next up is the New York Giants…bad times.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3)—Does it matter that Byron Leftwich has been benched in favor of Josh Johnson? That is, unless your name is Byron Leftwich. They can’t do any worse than the zero points they put up in Week 3.

31. Cleveland Browns (0-3)—Four turnovers, a QB controversy, and a third blowout loss only mean the Browns don’t have too far to fall. Head coach Eric Mangini shouldn’t expect to hear the “Mangenius” moniker anytime soon even if all of their opponents have been undefeated teams.

32. St. Louis Rams (0-3)—If this were a fantasy football list, then we could lead by saying Steven Jackson has been very effective. Unfortunately for Rams fans, it is not and Kyle Boller will be leading the team as Marc Bulger heals from a shoulder injury.

Mike Blewitt’s NFL Power Rankings: Week 3

September 22, 2009

The champs suffer their first setback in 2009, the Jets back up the trash talk, and the bottom of our power rankings sadly stay very much the same. The Giants and Cowboys matched up for an epic battle to open up the new palace in Dallas and the much-hyped Eagles-Saints matchup was a dud as we run down the list from No. 1 to No. 32…

Talk is cheap so the Jets made it count against the Pats

Talk is cheap so the Jets made it count against the Pats

1. New York Giants (2-0) – With a banged-up roster, opening up the new state-of-the-art stadium in Dallas was a formidable task. Considering they were playing their second straight divisional opponent, the last-second win and harassment on Tony Romo is that much more impressive.

2. New Orleans Saints (2-0) – The Saints opened the season with more points (93 in two weeks) than any team since the 1968 Oakland Raiders. For them to drop 48 of those on Philadelphia’s defense was flat-out shocking. Even if the bubble bursts and their defense doesn’t hold up for the whole year, we have to give the Saints a ton of credit for this start.

3. New York Jets (2-0) – The Jets pulled off the signature win of 2009 so far but will it mean as much in the long run if the Pats continue to scuffle along? They are a re-energized organization with a talented rookie QB (Mark Sanchez), a confident rookie head coach (Rex Ryan) and a stifling defense that has yet to allow this season.

4. Baltimore Ravens (2-0) –None of us expected to see the Ravens get burned for over 400 yards passing in San Diego but it’s still a big win. Their defense is likely to tighten up and their balanced offense is really playing well to start the year.

5. Indianapolis Colts (2-0) – Another week, another win for the ho-hum Colts who just never seem to lose their stride. Noteworthy stat: Peyton Manning did all of his damage in less than 15 minutes of offensive possession.

6. Atlanta Falcons (2-0) – Beware NFC, The Matt Ryan-Tony Gonzalez combo already appears to be lethal. They have beaten two of last year’s playoff teams to start the season, the only team in the NFL to do so.

7. San Francisco 49ers (2-0) – I will keep mentioning that they were my dark horse pick in the NFC until they start to lose games and that possibility vanishes.  That’s fair, right?  Frank Gore…wow…

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) – If kicker Jeff Reed hits just ONE of the two shanks they at least have a shot in OT; instead Cutler drives the Bears to victory in Chicago. The Steelers probably don’t deserve much of a downgrade for that loss but the fact is they are just not as powerful with Polamalu on the sidelines.

9. Minnesota Vikings (2-0) – Minnesota is just plugging along…and thanking the NFL for the Browns-Lions combo to open the season. They will have to start proving themselves next week against the Niners.

10. San Diego Chargers (1-1) – The Ravens dared Philip Rivers to beat them and he nearly did. It was a tight battle with the Ravens that came down to the last few seconds so expect the Chargers to remain in the Top 10 for most of the year.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) – Things may very well change for the better in the weeks to come as McNabb heals and Vick is creatively worked into the offense.  But, the defense got annihilated by the Saints who capitalized on four Philly turnovers.

12. New England Patriots (1-1) – The Pats are really one boneheaded fumble in Week 1 away from being 0-2. They always seem to manage a rally but the Jets exploited a not-yet 100% Tom Brady and an offensive line that looked shaky under the onslaught of blitzes.

13. Seattle Seahawks (1-1) – Matt Hasselbeck is injured again and the run defense in Seattle was apparently not on the plane to San Francisco as they let up 256 yards on the ground. They host the Bears next week in a battle for two teams looking to gain back some lost respect from their recent past.

14. Houston Texans (1-1) – Do I think the Texans are this good? Not at all but it was impressive to go down to Tennessee and slice up that defense for over 400 yards of offense. Based on the quality of that win, they have seen a huge bump in their ranking this week.

15. Arizona Cardinals (1-1) – Kurt Warner set an NFL single-game record for completion percentage, at 92.3 percent (24-26 passes completed) as the Cardinals cruised past the listless Jaguars. He was even pulled to avoid injury as they had built up a 31-3 lead in Jacksonville.

16. Green Bay Packers (1-1) – Eleven penalties and six sacks allowed is not going to win you many football games so it’s back to basics for the Packers. Protecting Aaron Rodgers needs to be a bigger priority as they have a ton of potential with him under center.

17. Denver Broncos (2-0) – Another team that is thanking the scheduling gods for the Cincinnati/Cleveland combo to start the year. Oakland this week could have them looking at 3-0 and in control of the division. It’s shocking just to write that.

18. Tennessee Titans (0-2) – I just can’t see knocking last year’s 13-win team all the way down the ladder. They need to play better, they will play better but two three-point losses do not signify that all is lost.

19. Chicago Bears (1-1) – A big win for the Bears as Jay Cutler rallied them to victory after some key mistakes (namely missed field goals) by Pittsburgh. I will hold off a week from completely jumping on the bandwagon and see how they fare in Seattle.

20. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) – Handing four turnovers to the Giants can essentially guarantee you a loss, and there are no moral victories for keeping it close despite said errors. The ‘Boys will need to play a lot better to sniff anywhere near the playoffs.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) — The NFL is great because of the parity in this league and the relative unpredictability of its games. No one outside of the Bengals themselves saw an upset coming in Lambeau, yet here they are at 1-1 with a new outlook on the season.

22. Miami Dolphins (0-2) – The Fish went to Atlanta and dropped one at home to Indy which are both respectable losses. Unfortunately, you don’t want to rack those up right out of the gate. Next stop: San Diego.

23. Washington Redskins (1-1) – I’m pretty sure the six-point loss to the Giants was considerably more impressive than the two-point win over the Rams. It seems as if the Redskins’ collective allergy to the end zone is thriving just like all of last season.

24. Oakland Raiders (1-1) – By all accounts, it was a miracle that the Raiders were able to pull off a win after being outgained by nearly 250 yards (Commitment to Excellence!!!). JaMarcus Russell looked abysmal until the final drive, which brought them to victory.

25. Buffalo Bills (1-1) – Something tells me even the Bills are thinking they should be 2-0 but they managed to shake off last week’s last minute debacle and took care of business versus Tampa, despite another dropped pass/potential TD by T.O.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) – Which is a more pertinent question: A. Are the Jaguars fans actually happy that the games are going to be blacked out? B. How many press conference meltdowns will we see out of Jack Del Rio this season?

27. Carolina Panthers (0-2) – Philly and Atlanta were not an easy way to get the season going but until they win a game or two, they will be flirting with the cellar dwellers. Going to Dallas next week will be a difficult way to end the skid.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) – Dallas and Buffalo don’t appear to be lighting the football world on fire yet the Bucs have yielded 67 points so far in two games. Playing the top team (New York Giants) in the rankings next week is probably not what the doctor ordered for rookie head coach Raheem Morris.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) – The offense started to click for the Chiefs but it did not result in many points against Oakland. Now, they travel to Philly to see if they can sustain any offensive momentum.

30. Cleveland Browns (0-2) – The Browns were outgained 449-200 by the Broncos and lost the turnover battle 3 to 1. That reads like a perfect recipe to losing football games.

31. St. Louis Rams (0-2) – The Rams’ are finally on the board for the season. Seven points in two games…even their statistician is bored to tears watching them play, there’s nothing to track.

32. Detroit Lions (0-2) – The Lions led 10-7 at the half, but the second half resulted in some terribly familiar results. Before Jason Hanson’s field goal with 2:35 left, the Lions’ previous drives ended with three punts, a fumble and an interception.

Blewitt’s NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

September 15, 2009

The NFL is back and did not disappoint in Week 1 as we saw some crazy endings (Brandon Stokely thanks the lovely people of Cincinnati) and some impressive performances (Drew Brees apologizes to the lovely people of Detroit). Since, this is our first legitimate look at the 2009 versions of every team in the league, we won’t consider any of them to be on the rise or fall just yet. We start with the champs and make our way all the way down the ladder to a team that will surprise no one, even if you are starting to develop a soft spot for them (I know I am).

Brandon Stokley should be apologizing instead of dancing

Brandon Stokley should be apologizing instead of dancing

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) – When a team wins the Super Bowl and follows it up by beating the team with the best record last season in Week 1, they deserve to stay on top. Regardless of what you think of the long term prospects for the ‘Burgh this season, they have earned the top spot until they show real signs of weakness.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) – The Eagles went to Carolina and beat up on a team that was 12-4 last season. The loss of McNabb could have a huge impact in the weeks to come but as a whole they looked great on Sunday in a dominating 38-10 victory.

3. New York Giants (1-0) – Playing a divisional opponent to open up the season, the Giants defense proved to be back to their old tricks by terrorizing quarterback Jason Campbell on Sunday. They have to work out a few kinks in the passing game but a good performance overall as they start a season-long battle with the Eagles atop the NFC East.

4. New England Patriots (1-0) – The Pats definitely got off to a bumpy start but Brady managed to pull off the comeback thanks to a gift from the Bills with two minutes to go. There are some issues on defense and Brady will be pressured all season long but their offense is a juggernaut that will take them very far in 2009.

5. New Orleans Saints (1-0) – Frankly, they could be higher based on that explosive 45-point performance but it was against the Lions and they did surrender 27 points on defense. The Saints are my pick to win the NFC South so they are up here until someone stops that offense.

6. Tennessee Titans (0-1) – The smash-mouth Titans got the toughest assignment of any team in the league, kicking it off on the road against the defending champion Steelers. They pushed it to overtime and if not for a couple of botched field goals, they probably find themselves at the top of this list.

7. Minnesota Vikings (1-0) – Brett Favre on his new favorite running back: “I haven’t played with a running back like that. The guy is pretty awesome. Everyone in the stadium knows Adrian Peterson is going to get it and he still gets 180 yards. That is remarkable.” Well said, Brett.

8. San Diego Chargers (1-0) – I think there may be a level of disappointment with the Chargers performance last night since they were not as dominant as some might have hoped. But, going on the road and beating one of your biggest rivals for the twelfth time in a row is a solid manner in which to open the season.

9. Green Bay Packers (1-0) – Almost all of Green Bay’s issues in their 10-loss 2008 campaign were on the defensive side of the ball and they opened this season by picking off Jay Cutler four times. Aaron Rodgers & Co. will have easier, more fruitful days on offense but it was enough to get the win in Lambeau.

10. Baltimore Ravens (1-0) – The Ravens will be a serious contender again in 2009 and if Flacco continues to play like he did on Sunday, consider the rest of the league to be on notice. Unfortunately, I doubt the Chiefs are a good team against which to measure your performance. We’ll see in New England in two weeks…

11. Indianapolis Colts (1-0) – After a very lackluster performance against the Jags at home and the loss of Anthony Gonzalez for possibly six weeks, the Colts still end up in playoff range. I expect them to play better but in the weeks to come, the schedule looks tough: at Arizona, Seattle, at Tennessee.

12. Atlanta Falcons (1-0) – Matt Ryan picked up where he left off and threw for 229 yards and two TDs. If their defense continues to stifle opponents like they did Miami this past Sunday, they will be quick risers in the near future on their way to another playoff berth.

13. Seattle Seahawks (1-0) – In my estimation, this is the team that will have the biggest bounce-back year thanks to the return of former Pro Bowl QB Matt Hasselbeck. Along with the powerful running of Julius Jones and some young defensive talent, they are my favorite to win the NFC West.

14. San Francisco 49ers (1-0) – As my dark horse pick in the NFC, the Niners got off to a great start pulling off the upset in Arizona against the defending conference champs. Shaun Hill is the sleeper quarterback that may pull his team to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

15. New York Jets (1-0) – I can actually feel the booing at my laptop as I write this. Great way for the Jets to start the season but, then again, this writer didn’t drink one ounce of the Texans’ Kool-Aid.

16. Dallas Cowboys (1-0) – Tony Romo is trying to prove all of his detractors wrong and built a solid foundation with a 353-yard outing. Let’s see them do it against an opponent that is not near the basement before we celebrate anything just yet. (And, Tony, you don’t mind if I give Jessica a call, do you?)

17. Arizona Cardinals (0-1) – The Cardinals are certainly not off to a great defense of their NFC crown showing no ability to run the ball yet again (17 carries, 40 yards). With Indy coming up next week, they need to right the ship quickly or they will find themselves in a 0-2 hole.

18. Miami Dolphins (0-1) – The Dolphins had a tough assignment in Atlanta but one garbage time touchdown is an essential no-show on offense. This team is well-coached but expecting them to duplicate the 11-5 record from 2008 will be a stretch.

19. Oakland Raiders (0-1) – The Raiders actually impressed last night. No one is putting them into the playoffs based on the close loss to the Chargers but they looked far sounder than they did throughout much of last season. Good start but they need to take care of the rock to win more games.

20. Washington Redskins (0-1) – The ‘Skins also were dealt a tough game in New York but this ranking is more a function of them being headed for last place in a very tough division. We’ll see how they fare outside of the division but this looks like another uphill battle in Washington.

21. Chicago Bears (0-1) – Four interceptions by the new QB and their defensive leader out for the year. Bad times. Everyone will be on the hot seat in Chicago if things go south.

22. Buffalo Bills (0-1) – There are no moral victories in the NFL. They played well enough to win in New England for about 57 minutes which is far from good enough. I think T.O. is already angry.

23. Denver Broncos (1-0) – As the old adage goes, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Terrible game, unbelievably fortuitous bounce, and one win for the Broncos. Don’t expect many more.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) – On the upside, Maurice Jones-Drew may break a record for number of touches in a season. On the downside, I have a bad feeling about this team getting it done in 2009.

25. Carolina Panthers (0-1) – Raise your hand if you thought Jake Delhomme needed a contract extension with $25.5 million guaranteed. Just you, Panthers’ front office? Nice call…

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) – The days of the stout Bucs’ defense are long gone and this season may feel quite a bit longer. At least they can bounce back against the Giants…or not.

27. Houston Texans (0-1) – It feels like I was being sold the Schaub-Kubiak package as Brady-Belichick.  Good thing I didn’t buy.  Truly awful against the Jets.

28. Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) – They were without their starting QB Matt Cassel and hung in there against the Ravens but there are still plenty of holes on this roster. This will be a work in progress and we could see some significant strides, but not until the back half of the season.

29. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) – Well, the Broncos aren’t very good and it took the Bengals 59 minutes to score. Then, less than a minute to blow the lead and lose the game. Bungles 2009!

30. Cleveland Browns (0-1) – Going into this season, I thought they would end up as the worst team and headed for the No.-1 overall pick. So, this is an upgrade. Yikes.

31. St. Louis Rams (0-1) – Zero points against a fired-up Seahawks team. Barely out of the cellar.

32. Detroit Lions (0-1) – There are 33 new players on the Lions’ 2009 roster that were not on the 2008 team. So, there’s that. Unfortunately, they can probably get comfortable in the cellar for a while – they play the Rams November 1st.