Tuesday, September 20, 2011

4 comments J.S.' NFL Power Rankings: Week Two

Look, I know the focus has all been on the first game as a starter against his old team, but there were a number of other football games on this weekend. So if I can please just drag you away from the south east for a second we can have a talk about them. I mean, I know Tim Hightower had a big game, but still.

1 - GREEN BAY (-)
2-0, T-1st NFC NORTH
W 30-23 @CAR, next @CHI

Got quite a scare! Not only in the first half, but Carolina had an opportunity to tie it up from the four with 3 minutes to play. I won't go quite as far as saying you always felt Green Bay were in control as such, but just as you don't make friends with salad, you don't beat the Packers with field goals when you are on top, as Carolina tried to in the first half. TD passes of 84 and 49 yards show they are still the best quick strike offense in the NFL - sorry Philly. On the subject of passes, eleven of their first thirteen plays were passes. Eventually someone is going to make them pay for their reliance on the pass...right? New England played better than Green Bay this week, and if the Packers struggle with Chicago and New England handle Buffalo as expected, they will swap spots.

2-0, T-1st AFC EAST
W 35-21 vSD, next @BUF

New England have a distinctive style of playing football, making the game into a series of epic, narrative, highly consequential drives that opponents feel pressured to convert, every time. They are very good at it. Went back to the run more this week and while the numbers were close, New England had more big runs at more important times than the Chargers. Brady was moving the ball at will, especially in the first half. He has had back to back transcendent games now (went 31/40 for 423 yards and three TDs in this one). I will say this; I'm not sure the Pats are even an average defensive team to be honest. Certainly the Chargers are a decent offense, but the defense wasn't good. To beat the Patriots though, you need to be able to slow them down on offense, at no point this week did San Diego really appear capable of doing that whatsoever. Of note was a 9 second drive (literally, nine seconds) at the end of the half where they did not protect the sidelines (New England were out of timeouts) and allowed the Patriots to run three plays in that time for sixteen yards including a valuable field goal. I suppose when it's Norv Turner vs Bill Belichick, these things happen.

3 - JETS (+3)
2-0, T-1st AFC EAST
W 32-3 vJAX, next @OAK

Put Luke McCown in a mental asylum, as they forced not only four interceptions, but a 6/19 day for 59 yards. Didn't get badly burned by Jones-Drew either, who's longest carry on the day was 16 yards. The Jets have not been getting the yards on the ground they are used to so far (Greene has been their high rusher in both games with 26 and 49 yards) but their defense, especially in the last five quarters, has been easily the best in the league. That's how they like to win.

1-1, T-1st AFC NORTH
W 24-0 vSEA, next @IND

Yawn. How predictable.

1-1, T-2nd NFC EAST
L 31-35 @ATL, next vNYG

The lazy explanation is that losing Vick also meant losing the game. But even with the incompletion on fourth down, it's basically impossible to fault Mike Kafka's 7/9 for 100 yard performance. I was very surprised the Eagles lost this game, when they put together three touchdowns in ten minutes, taking a 31-21 point lead, I had this one as done. They are like Green Bay's offense if it was made into a cartoon, and it's usually breathtaking to watch. However, maybe the naysayers have a point regarding the linebackers. Tony Gonzalez went berserk in this one, with seven catches, two for scores and even Michael Turner (Michael Turner!) got a catch - at 32 yards the longest of his career. Rushing problems again raised their head, particulary in the fateful final quarter (allowing rushes of 61 and 10 yards, along with a rushing TD from 3 yards out), Turner and the hilariously named Jaquizz Rodgers rushed for 131 yards on just 24 carries on the night. As enchanting as they are to watch, it's impossible not to leave with the impression that despite the big names, they are the worst of the top tier contenders defensively. Plus, their kicker looks like an eleven year old, which worries me in a close game...I'm sort of kidding.

6 - NEW ORLEANS (+1)
1-1, T-1st NFC SOUTH
W 30-13 @CHI, next vHOU

While it might have been unfair to judge the Saints defense after the Green Bay loss, it may be equally impossible to do, for the opposite reason, after taking on that offensive line. I do think it's a solid group, however. Drew Brees makes every throw in the book, which is news to exactly no one. After picking up just one TD in the red zone from five attempts last week, New Orleans were poor again inside 20, settling for three first half field goals (their early touchdown came from a 79 yard completion to Henderson). It seemed, especially in that first half, every run is a kind of draw play. Still a long way to go for them.

7 - BALTIMORE (-2)
1-1, T-1st AFC NORTH
L 13-26 @TEN, next @STL

Believe it or not, it could have been worse. They gave up 432 yards vs 229 yards of offense, lost the turnover battle 3-1 and Joe Flacco had a 51.2 QB rating. This wasn't one of Ed Reed's best games, Baltimore were beaten deep consistently. When Chris Johnson rushes for 2.2 ypc and you lose by two scores against fucking Matt Hasselbeck, you've played a terrible game of football.

8 - ATLANTA (+1)
1-1, T-1st NFC SOUTH
W 35-31 vATL, next @TB

They are the one team in the top ten or so, that I could see really improving over the course of the year. First of all, let's not mince words, their defense is not good; they didn't pick up a sack against a supposedly poor Eagles offensive line. But despite giving up 61 points the last two weeks, some of that is due to coughing up five turnovers in those games, and playing Philadelphia, who everyone is going to struggle to keep below 30. But it's their offense I find more interesting, they seem to really want to be a team like the Eagles, and there seems to be an inner war going on to define who they are. I was pleased to see them get the ball to Turner more often this week (and successfully) and think, as much as they seem frustrated with last year, (both the outcome and the general perception of them as sort of vanilla) I think they are at their best being a run first team. Their defense will be better if they can consistently win the time of possession and turnover battles, something they have been spotty on so far. Run the football. As they feel more comfortable and secure with their identity, they could still become a Superbowl threat. In the meantime, a very helpful win in the competitive NFC South to keep pace.

9 - DETROIT (+2)
2-0, T-1st NFC NORTH
W 48-3 vKC, next @MIN

Couldn't have asked anything more of them the first two weeks to prove they are for real; Calvin Johnson touchdown watch - he's on four after two weeks. The rushing game still just isn't there (not even close actually). The Lions have held their opponents to just thirteen points in their last seven quarters of football. Stafford has yet to be sacked all year. I remember four or five years ago, Detroit were perenial sack kings (and not in the good way). Should continue to march next week against Minnesota.

10 - HOUSTON (+2)
2-0, 1st AFC SOUTH
W 23-13 @MIA, next @NO

Matt Schaub was reassuringly back to his best, spreading the ball around to a number of targets effectively and efficiently. Arian Foster's hammy is still not quite right, and although Ben Tate did manfully (103 yards on 23 carries), Houston relies heavily on it's multi-faceted offense to win games, especially as the degree of difficulty ramps up (starting next week at New Orleans). Pass defense showed improvement (star offseason recruit Joseph claimed a pick), but Chad Henne and Drew Brees are very different animals. Far from a must win game, but will give us an idea of whether Houston are legitimately good, or merely AFC South good.

11 - SAN DIEGO (-3)
1-1, T-1st AFC WEST
L 21-35 @NE, next vKC

Gotta get the run game going. Against New England it often becomes a battle of red zone offense/defense, and when the Chargers failed to convert a 4th and goal in the second quarter, it always looked over. The offensive line is great in pass protection, but just can't seem to provide holes for tailbacks. Avoided special team disasters, which was a pleasant change of pace, but San Diego really never looked too threatening in this one. They were playing New England mind you, there are worse crimes. Seem like a perfectly fine, slightly above average team after two games. Should win 11 games playing in the AFC West.

12 - WASHINGTON (+3)
2-0, 1st NFC EAST
W 22-21 vARI, next @DAL

I was all set to write "Rex Grossman football player is Rex Grossman" after he threw picks to end the Redskins' first two drives. Could it be that he really has gotten better in his five years or so in the wilderness? After those drives, his QB rating was 99.3, including the decisive final two drives in the fourth for the lead (9/13 for 87 yards and a TD - a 4th and 3 conversion to Santana Moss). I believe this could be a top ten defense and as mentioned in the intro, the running game got it's groove on (albeit against a questionable quality 3-4 defense) allowing Mike Shanihan to run his little heart out - the Redskins had the ball for 38 and a half minutes in this game. Win at Dallas (these first two have both been at home) and you might have to take them seriously for a wildcard spot.

13 - CHICAGO (-3)
1-1, 3rd NFC NORTH
L 13-30 @NO, next vGB

After starting OK, that terrible offensive line completely imploded in the second half, the pass protection was eroding by the play. It became farcical for the Bears to even try running an offense. New Orleans got to Cutler sixteen times in this one, and had another seven tackles for loss on runs. Cutler is a douchebag, and some of it was actually his fault, but you have to kind of feel for him insomuch as he's being put in a positon where it's impossible for him to do his job (and it showed on his scowling, three year old tantrum face). Matt Forte is one of the best three running backs in the NFL (he had 166 yards from scrimmage, over two thirds of Chicago's total), without him, Chicago might be a two win team. He is their offense. Blitz, with a man on the screen, and you beat Chicago right now. Also, can a fucking receiver make a play please? With all that said...how meaningful was their win against Atlanta? Next week it's the Packers at home, which has disaster written all over it, but played them reasonably close in the NFC title game. A repeat of this week there will have them somewhere in the mid to high twenties in next week's rankings I think.

14 - TAMPA BAY (+4)
1-1, T-1st NFC SOUTH
W 24-20 @MIN, next vATL

I'm not sure if it's bullshit luck, or moxie, or something in between, but Josh Freeman does seem to have a flair for this fourth quarter stuff (that was his 8th such comeback in 27 starts). He went 8/10 in the fourth for 80 yards and a TD (the connection to Benn was truly a beautiful throw). He scrambled to convert two third downs and threw for another. Falcons in Florida next week should tell us a lot about both teams.

15 - TENNESSEE (+7)
1-1, T-2nd AFC SOUTH
W 26-13 vBAL, next vDEN

Yeah, sure, Hasselbeck was great (30/42 for an incredible 358 yards) but what the hell is wrong with Chris Johnson? He's averaging 2.3 ypc on 33 attempts this year. Holdout hangover? Tennessee needs to turn that around quickly for any kind of sustained success. Still, an impressive win.

16 - ARIZONA (-2)
1-1, T-1st NFC WEST
L 21-22 @WAS, next @SEA

Broadly speaking, both Kolb and Wells have been good in their new roles and again, it's the NFC West, so mostly positive for Arizona. Still, the defense is the problem, it's whack-a-mole at the moment, as it's leaking on both fronts. In Dockett, Rhodes, Wilson and Peterson, the personell is there. This was a litmus test kind of game for Arizona, and considering it was a one point loss, hard to be too tough on them. Fascinating (in a way) game in Seattle next week, such a difficult place to play, regardless of the quality of the Seahawks. It's their home opener. A chance to put a stamp on the Cardinals relative authority in the division.

17 - DALLAS (-4)
1-1, T-2nd NFC EAST
W 27-24 (OT) @SF, next vWAS

Can you imagine if they lost to the Forty fucking Niners? How do you put a positive spin on this? I suppose dominating an excellent team for three quarters and choking away is worse than playing like shit for three and half quarters against an awful team and pulling one out of your ass? I guess? Same problem though for Dallas, just cannot get the run going. This all smells a lot like last year to be honest. Spare a thought for human punching bag Tony Romo, who won this game with a broken rib, seems like a pleasant enough guy, and has posted two back to back 100+ QB ratings only to get hated on by...well, everyone. The secondary isn't great when fully healthy, and with essentially every corner battling injury, things like Alex Smith passing for a 99.1 rating happen. Would be underdogs to Washington if they weren't in Cowboys Stadium next week.

18 - GIANTS (+2)
1-1, T-2nd NFC EAST
W 28-16 vSTL, next @PHI

It's better to be lucky than good, if you ask Eli Manning. As the two minute warning in the first half sounded, he had gone 3/12 with 27 yards and a pick (admittedly a touchdown as well, a mighty three yard pass). Bradford had thrown for nearly 200 yards at that point. Yet somehow (again, turnovers are good), the Giants were up 14-6. Their opening touchdown "drive" consisted of a muffed punt, a 23 yard pass interference penalty, and the aforementioned 3 yard pass. Scoreline flattered them immensely. The injury list grew with Manningham and Hixon and I am so far away from convinced it's not funny. Would be amazed if they even gave Philly a game next week.

19 - BUFFALO (+8)
2-0, T-1st AFC EAST
W 38-35 vOAK, next vNE

A fucking wild game out East, ending on a 4th and 1 completion from Fitzpatrick (who converted a 4th and 3 on the drive also). There was 911 yards of offense in this one, which would have blown my mind if you told me that on Saturday night. Ryan Fitzpatrick started 3/8 for 14 yards and an INT. Went 25/38 from that point on for 264 yards and three touchdowns. He has seven (!) in the first two weeks. Shit is about to get real with New England next week, which is quite a step up from Oakland and Kansas City, but the Bills are flirting with relevance.

20 - ST. LOUIS (-3)
0-2, T-3rd NFC WEST
L 16-28 @NYG, next vBAL

Continued this week's cautionary tale about not converting red zone opportunities (Carolina, San Diego, Indianapolis, although to be fair, the Saints did ok kicking field goals). I also didn't understand not going for two late in the third when they did score a TD to bring them within a FG+2pt TD combo. Anyway, you have to feel for Sam Bradford. It was difficult not to be impressed by him in this game, but without Jackson, there just isn't enough help for him. Cadillac is done, and after Mike Sims-Walker (jury remains largely out on him) I've never heard of anyone else in the receiving corps. Michael Hoomanawanui? Is that a real name? The Rams are the closest thing the NFC West has to a media darling, on account of Bradford, but the injury situation (Stephen Jackson isn't a spring chicken anymore) is worrying, they have no defensive playmakers (remember they lost Otagwe in the offseason) and it doesn't get any easier next week (hosting the Ravens). The schedule will come around, and it's hard to knock yourself out of the NFC West, and they aren't close to that yet, but it's even harder to see them knocking off the Cardinals. At least right now.

21 - CAROLINA (+2)
0-2, 4th NFC SOUTH
L 23-30 vGB, next vJAX

I mean this with absolutely no sarcasm - it's hard to have a better 0-2 start than the Panthers have had. Newton started 10/12 for 151 yards and a score before the Green Bay defense caught up with him and forced three interceptions. Just like last week, Newton showed he could scramble effectively in the NFL and get something positive from broken plays. After last year, the offense is a long way towards fixed, and they even showed some resolve, bouncing back after the Pack put 20 unanswered points on them in as many minutes. The defense, which is going to be living on prayers and duct tape all season without Beason, at least put together a strong first half against one of the best offenses in football. Jacksonville at home next week is their best chance to pick up their first win.

22 - CLEVELAND (+6)
1-1, T-1st AFC NORTH
W 27-19 @IND, next vMIA

Josh Cribbs was essentially the difference in this one, as he so often is when the Browns win, with a 52 yard kickoff return and a 40 yard punt return. Both led to touchdown drives, the latter to the icing TD of the game. Indy's abysmal coverage team strike again! Hillis is still a concern, he got better throughout the game, but he's still averaging just 3.4ypc in 44 carries so far this year. Colt McCoy isn't ready (nor does he have the necessary weapons) to be the first option for the Browns.

23 - MIAMI (-7)
0-2, 4th AFC EAST
L 13-23 vHOU, next @CLE

Well, worst case scenario for Tony Sparano. This was a game they had to have, at home, and didn't get particulary close. Houston kept them safely at arms distance all game. Anyone (including me, to some degree) who took solace in Henne's strong performance last week had a 56.2 rating day to look at, against what is, at best, a mediocre pass defense. Daniel Thomas had a nice game (107 yards on 18 carries) and Marshall did the best he could getting 79 yards and the Dolphins only score. With all other teams in the division two games up (including the second and third best teams in the league at the moment, according to me), Miami's 0-2 to start at home and games at Jets and Chargers upcoming, it's probably not much of an exaggeration to say Miami's playoff hopes are realistically over. The worst they could afford to go is probably 5-3 on the road, and that's being perfect for the rest of their home sked, where they were 1-7 last year.

24 - OAKLAND (+2)
1-1, T-1st AFC WEST
L 35-38 @BUF, next vNYJ

Oakland is a really good offensive team in the red zone. They went 4-4 there this week and have six TD's in eight visits in all this season. They also, surprisingly, got plenty of offense through the air, Campbell threw for 323 yards, including a couple of TD passes on key fourth quarter drives. Of course they also gave up five touchdowns in a half of football to fucking Buffalo, so...swings and roundabouts, yeah? Giving up 217 yards rushing, on 25 carries, is also not ok. Particulary when you have a 21-3 lead at halftime. The failures on defense are more worring than the victories on offense are consoling coming out of this one.

1-1, T-2nd AFC SOUTH
L 3-32 @NYJ, next @CAR

Jason Hill opened hostilities during the week calling the Jets secondary "overrated". That sentiment may not have been appreciated by Luke McCown who was out with a "being mentally raped" by that same secondary. Not only did he lose his hard earned "Game Manager" badge after last week, but he may also have lost his starting job to Blaine Gabbert. The Jets were basically poor on offense (Sanchez 182 yards, 2 TDs and 2 picks, Green/McKnight/Tomlinson rushed for 71 yards on 25 carries) but the defensive performance was so extraordinary they still beat the Jags into a bloody pulp (and by 29 points). Hill, sadly, did not play, clearly in protest, disgusted at the ineptiude of the coverage he would be facing.

26 - DENVER (+3)
1-1, T-1st AFC WEST
W 24-22 vCIN, next @TEN

Tim Tebow started!...at wide receiver. Essentially half of their name players were out. Anyone you know who isn't Clady, Von Miller, Dawkins, McGahee, Goodman, Bunkley or Orton sat this week. Royal, Dumervil, Bailey, Moreno and Lloyd all were out.

27 - MINNESOTA (-2)
0-2, 4th NFC NORTH
L 20-24 vTB, next vDET

Looked like they had the game under control all day before a Josh Freeman special stole it away in the final minute. Minnesota has been outscored 41-3 in the second half this season. That should not happen to a team with Adrian Peterson. McNabb looked competant (no more than that) which should elicit a sigh of relief from Vikings fans but still, this was a bad home loss.

0-2, 4th AFC SOUTH
L 19-27 vCLE, next vPIT

Just couldn't finish drives with touchdowns. It's incredible to see Indy go until the 2:35 mark of the fourth without a TD. They haven't scored a meaningful touchdown in either game this season. The pass defense was weak, and seemed to regress from the Houston game. I know Cleveland's offensive line is solid, but one sack and four hurries isn't going to cut it from a defense predicated on getting pressure with the front four. They need more from Mathis and Freeney (who, to his credit, did have a sack in this one). On the positive side, got a reasonably and uncharacteristically productive day from their backs who picked up 110 yards on 25 carries. I still think this season is salvagable (by which I mean 8-8 respectability).

1-1, T-1st NFC WEST
L 24-27 (OT) vDAL, next @CIN

Still think they are rubbish. Their game next week in Cincinnati might be the least watchable of the season.

30 - CINCINNATI (+1)
1-1, T-1st AFC NORTH
L 22-24 @DEN, next vSF

Read the Denver blurb and just add "and Cincinnati still lost".

31 - KANSAS CITY (-12)
0-2, 4th AFC WEST
L 3-48 @DET, next @SD

From what I saw, Jamaal Charles won't be playing any time soon. This removes the one functional part of the team. Kansas City's 2011 season lasted not quite three halves of football. Without Moeaki, Charles and Berry, they are DOA. The last two weeks they have been outscored 89-10 and they haven't even really played anyone yet. Worst two game start from a playoff team ever? In reality, Seattle are breathing down their neck. In a sea of mind numbingly disgusting performances, Cassel has been especially poor. In these two games, he has gone 37/58 for 252 yards, a touchdown with 4 interceptions and a lost fumble. He has a 50.4 QB rating. Good luck at San Diego next week!

32 - SEATTLE (-)
0-2, 4th NFC WEST
L 0-24 @PIT, next vARI

Their defense isn't as bad as it looked in this one. The problem is they have to be on the field for so many plays because their offense is just allergic to first downs. Pittsburgh ran 68 of them and had the ball for nearly 39 minutes, which is clearly unacceptable. Jackson is completing passes, it's just that so many are of the 2-3 yard variety. He has the arm strength to throw down the field, and relative to his other skills, he does it well. Carroll needs to at least try if he wants Tavaris to be his starter at QB. Marshawyn Lynch seems to be getting worse, averaging 2.5 yards a carry against Pittsburgh.


rich said...

It became farcical for the Bears to even try running an offense. New Orleans got to Cutler sixteen times in this one

Terrifying to think what the Lions and Packers are going to do to Cutler. It was amazing how little time Cutler had. Even more so, was the pressure was from each side. If you drop back to pass and in 10 tenths of a second, you have pressure on three sides of you, it's going to be a long day.

Good news for Forte owners in fantasy I guess as they'll eventually have to just run checkdowns 2/3rds of the time.

The injury list grew with Manningham and Hixon and I am so far away from convinced it's not funny. Would be amazed if they even gave Philly a game next week.

While I'm terrified with how the team has been playing, I can't say I'm surprised by it.

Two new starters to the O-Line and another making a switch from tackle to guard. Losing your number 2, 3, 5 and 6 corners; your starting MLB, your backup OLB, your two starting DE, a backup DT along with having your first string TE leave in FA, your second string TE decide to up and retire and now you've lost the number 2 and 3 WRs?

I mean holy shit, that's worse than what even GB went through last year.

This year the Giants are toast. There's no way they can survive that many injuries. Not just in terms of now having to rely on guys who should be on the practice squad, but also in having to use a short bench. They're going to be gassed by week 9.

If Vick doesn't play though, I think the Giants had a shot at competing... until Victor Conte became the number 2 WR on the depth chart. Then again, the Eagles can't stop the run worth shit, so maybe the Giants can squeak something out.

Colt McCoy isn't ready (nor does he have the necessary weapons) to be the first option for the Browns.

And this is why pre-season stats mean absolutely nothing.

Bills are flirting with relevance.

As Boomer might say (God I hope not): it's all because of Fred "My name ain't Reggie" Jackson. I hope Buffalo wins the division and NE/NYJ fans have to fight it out as how winning the WC is really much better anyway.

rich said...

And by Victor Conte I mean Victor Cruz. No idea what I was thinking there.

J.S. said...

I don't think even BALCO could solve the physical issues of the Giants right now Rich

Bengoodfella said...

Alex Henery may look like an 11 year old, but he is awesome. He's a great kicker...but you are right, he looks young.

It really concerns me how Baltimore went "down" after being so "up" the week before. That's the kind of thing that makes me think Pitt still takes the division.

I still see Atlanta improving over the season and being the Packers of the 2011 playoffs. That defense will get better, I know it.

I have nothing against Colt McCoy, but he hasn't shown me anything this year that leads me to believe he isn't one of those QB's that will be just good enough to start, but not good enough to not get replaced at some point. Basically like Kyle Orton.

"Hill, sadly, did not play, clearly in protest, disgusted at the ineptiude of the coverage he would be facing."

---Loved that comment.

I knew the second I complimented Matt Cassel in any way he would start stinking. Also, I am finding out very quickly that maybe I was wrong and Tarvaris Jackson didn't deserve a shot to start in Minnesota.