Wednesday, November 2, 2011

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

-So Bill, I guess we need to hire a coach now Tony has left huh?
-Well, I mean I think there's a rule or something...certainly it is conventional to have a coach of an NFL team.
-But I've spent all this money on Manning, I'll be damned if I'm going to pay him two salaries now.
-Generally a player wouldn't also be a coach.
-Oh, right, right of course *touching his nose*. Anyway, where does one find these "coaches"?
-We've actually got some interviews for you to conduct today. A Mr Bill Cowher and a Mr Jon Gruden.
-How much?
-Reportedly, Cowher, for example, is looking for about 3.1 milli-
-Are you fucking kidding me? What is he going to do all day? We have Peyton Manning for fuck's sake! He has played eleventy billion games in a row! He decides everything on this team. *pointing out the door* You! Yeah, you! Come in here. What's your name?
-Bill, he's the janitor, he can't speak, he's a mute.
-What do they call him?
-Alright Jim, how would you like to "coach" an NFL team?
-I told you, he can't speak.
-But do you think he'd be willing?
-I'll pay you one burrito to be coach of our football team. I was going to offer two but your inability to speak, or, indeed, convey any facial expression, may be a hinderance in your ability to perform the functions of your job, so just one burrito. Deal?
-I think he's fine with that...but to be honest, I'm not sure he knows where he is.
-Whatever, great. A perfect stooge, with Peyton Manning on the field for us, nothing about this hire can possibly go wrong.

1 - GREEN BAY (-)
7-0, 1st NFC NORTH
BYE, next @SD

Considering how Baltimore, New England and New Orleans played, maybe this was a good week for a top five team to sit out.

5-2, T-1st AFC EAST
L 17-25 @PIT, next vNYG

My God this defense is bad. When the Steelers went up 20-10 with 5 left in the third I thought that the Patriots needed TD's on every drive to have any chance. Just because it seemed no chance that New England could stop Pittsburgh from scoring at all, at least field goals. You put so much pressure on your offense when your defense is this bad, and it is atrocious. To be fair, this is not qualitatively anything we didn't know before, and Pittsburgh might be quite good after all, so the Pats hold their position (thanks also to the Saints), but only barely. It's amazing when the announcers are compelled to say "Ochocinco is on the field". First, amazing that he's not nearly always on the field, and secondly, that you wouldn't realise he was unless you were explicitly told.

3 - HOUSTON (+1)
5-3, 1st AFC SOUTH
W 24-14 vJAX, next vCLE

Beating Jacksonville starts with keeping Jones-Drew tied up. Houston accomplished this, holding him to 63 yards on 18 carries, and considering run defense is the biggest concern for the Texans, this was no small feat. They outgained the Jaguars by two to one and after having to deal with Baltimore, the Saints and Steelers in their first five games, the Texans are basically home free the rest of the way. After knocking over Tennessee and Jacksonville comfortably, they get that pair again, Cleveland, Cincinatti and Carolina, travel to Tampa for a medium level test before taking on the non-Georgia version of the Falcons, who are about a .500 team.

6-2, 1st AFC NORTH
W 25-17 vNE, next vBAL

Something you didn't expect in this game; the pass rush for both teams (for different reasons, Pitt's poor offensive line and their general defensive dominance) was non existent. This was the first time all season the offensive line was unchanged in back to back weeks and Pittsburgh decided to take advantage. They called 21 passing plays in the first quarter alone, in their five wide and inside screen heaven. Despite the lack of pass rush (they miss Harrison quite badly, and being without Farrior further weakens their traditional strength), the Pittsburgh secondary was brilliant here in coverage, something you don't always expect. Most of Pittsburgh's pressure was generated via coverage sacks. Pittsburgh have scored TD's on four straight opening possessions now, they ran seventy three plays in total. Perhaps they will make a mockery of my claim that they are no better than an average team, though this performance is in stark contrast to their season so far. Heath Miller, freed of his onerous blocking assignments, has 144 yards on 11 catches in his last two games. Next week is the game I predicted as being a sure Pittsburgh revenge win back in Week One. Three weeks ago that looked ridiculous; now, with the two teams going in opposite directions, it once again seems more likely than not.

5 - NEW ORLEANS (-2)
5-3, 1st NFC SOUTH
L 21-31 @STL, next vTB

Are 1-2 in their last three games, which is bad. But the win was was by an NFL record 55 points, which is good. But it was against the worst team in the league. And the last loss was to an 0-6 team, which is bad. Are they in a slump? Is this just a bad little period? I do know I don't trust them as much as I did a month ago, and I am dissapointed at how little impact Franklin seems to have had on their run D (last in YPC against with a ridiculous 5.5YPC).

6 - DETROIT (-)
6-2, 2nd NFC NORTH
W 45-10 @DEN, next BYE

They only beat Denver so whatever, although it's quite something when you can say Matt Stafford doesn't look quite right (despite going 21/30, 237 yards with 3TDs) and you still win by 35 points. They also definitely needed a win to avoid going on a three game losing streak coming into the bye. A chance to shout out Jason Hanson, who has five field goals of 40+ yards this year and has nailed 16/17 this year. If he keeps this up, he'll be a genuine asset in the postseason. Calvin Johnson TD watch - 11.

7 - BALTIMORE (-2)
5-2, 2nd AFC NORTH
W 30-27 vARI, next @PIT

There is no excuse for 13 points in three halves of football against Jacksonville and Arizona - none. In a world of trouble heading to a genuinely excellent defensive team (who have solved their run problem it would seem) in Pittsburgh.

6-1, 1st NFC WEST
W 20-10 vCLE, next @WAS

Ugh, warming to them. I guess. Sort of. Just don't sit there and try and tell me Alex Smith is any good with a straight face. I have been a vocal critic of Frank Gore on this blog but he is having a brilliant year (675 yards at 4.8 a carry with four straight 100+ yard games). He had 134 yards on 31 carries here, with most of the damage in the first half when the game was essentially put away at 17-3. They are Pittsburgh lite, with five linebackers who are basically all great (led, of course by the superlative Patrick Willis). But at the end of the day, they beat Cleveland, and that's the problem, the schedule tells us very little. And it will be that way until they go to the playoffs. Only @BAL and vPIT will tell us anything about this team.

9 - JETS (-)
4-3, 3rd AFC EAST
BYE, next @BUF

This could end up being a very interesting race in the AFC out East, although the runner up (and maybe even both runners up, the way the Ravens are playing) should still get a Wild Card prize. The Jets go to Buffalo and host New England and Buffalo over the next four weeks. That should clarify the picture enormously.

10 - ATLANTA (-)
4-3, T-2nd NFC SOUTH
BYE, next @IND

I think the Falcons enjoyed that win even more than the Rams. They also get to play the Colts while Tampa and the Saints beat each other up before three straight home games, where they are nearly unbeatable. Things are falling very kindly for the Falcons, who have flashed their best form recently. A dangerous team?

3-4, T-2nd NFC EAST
W 34-7 vDAL, next vCHI

That was the Philadelphia we were promised. Vick crushing defensive hopes making broken plays into huge gains, McCoy gashing up the middle, the only team where running the ball does not mean controlling the clock because they make such amazing gains on the ground. Vick was fantastic dealing with pressure all night, usually providing big gains on quick throws. Philadelphia had 325 yards and 20 first downs in the first half alone. The defense was tremendous too, with new additions Babin (4 hits including 2 sacks, he has 9 on the year) and Asomugha (2 passes defensed and an INT) coming up big. It is incredibly tempting to put them immediately in the top five (particulary with how that group played) and I've been looking desperately for a reason all season to push the Eagles; but remember how close this team came to destroying their season and that they remain under .500 and I'll give it another week or so. Nevertheless, this looks very, very, very ominous for the NFL.

12 - BUFFALO (+3)
5-2, T-1st AFC EAST
W 23-0 vWAS, next vNYJ

In all honesty, even their offense seemed lost in large chunks of this one. Fitzpatrick in particular made a disturbing amount of bad throws although his numbers looked, once again, excellent (21/27 for 262 yards, 2TDs and an INT). But give credit to their defense; Washington is a bad, very bad, offensive team, missing their best offensive lineman and best receiver, but still, shutting a team out in the NFL is difficult to do, and they didn't rely on turnovers (for once) to do so. Their pass rush was dominating, getting to Beck an insane twenty three times in this game with nine sacks. That's a number that would make the Bears blush, and no matter how bad Washington may be, you have to give Buffalo some credit. Maybe they are bad on defense, but they can no longer be a contender for the worst in the league after that. Maybe that's enough, maybe that's not. A three game road trip after next week, to a team that has not been good on the road, should be telling.

13 - GIANTS (-)
5-2, 1st NFC EAST
W 20-17 vMIA, next @NE

Do you know who's been great this year? Eli Manning. He has a QB rating of 102.7 this year with probably his worst receiving core and offensive line in years, if not ever. He has no games below 91.8 QB rating the past five games. Eli has had a rating above 86.4 just once in his career. Combined with administering 12 hits (5 sacks) they were far too much for the Dolphins. If you are convinced after Sunday night they are the best team in the division, more power to you - I don't.

14 - TAMPA BAY (-)
4-3, T-2nd NFC SOUTH
BYE, next @NO

The running back issue (they are down to their third and fourth options) worries me a tremendous amount, but there is no way not to see a shiny opportunity against a team next week they have already knocked over, and defensively have surrendered an amazing 455 rushing yards at 5.8 a carry in their last three games. That includes a team they beat by 55 points! Anyway, bad running backs against a worse rushing defense, Tampa Bay has a chance, which they never really did against the stout rush D of the Bears.

15 - CHICAGO (-3)
4-3, 3rd NFC NORTH
BYE, next @PHI

I feel vaguely ridiculous for putting the Bears below Tampa, a week after watching them bludgeon the same in a fairly comprehensive fashion. But New Orleans shock loss really has opened the NFC South to all comers now, and Chicago fell to 1.5 games behind following Detroit's decisive victory in Colorado. Playoff liklihood is part of these rankings too, and with Green Bay three games ahead with eight to play (and both teams with H2H wins over the Bears), it's wildcard or bust for Chicago. You could also fairly accuse me of bracing for impact, as the Bears play Philly, the Lions and the Chargers in consecutive weeks. Presumably there are some sacks to be taken by Cutler.

5-2, T-2nd AFC NORTH
W 34-12 @SEA, next @TEN

Was very surprised how determined they seemed to be to run, which I think says a lot about how much they actually trust the over heralded Andy Dalton (168 yards with 2TDs and 2INTs). No league loves it's new toys like the NFL, and we hear about all of them far, far, far too much, but one genuinely superb offensive rookie lost in the glow of Newton is AJ Green. That guy can play. He reminds me of a faster Chris Henry, that the Bengals used in the endzone so extensively once upon a time. He has at least four catches in every game so far this season and 516 yards in total. Like him a lot.

17 - SAN DIEGO (-6)
4-3, T-1st AFC WEST
L 20-23 (OT) @KC, next vGB

I really hate San Diego's team, they are always overrated and this year it seems everyone has finally caught on. What happened to this pass rush (13 sacks, 25th in the league)? What happened to any semblance of run defense (4.4YPC against, 26th in the league)? What happened to the deep balls that everyone would never shut up about, for that matter (9th in YPA, down from 1st in each of the last three seasons)? Several (I counted six) hit the turf and none to hand in this game. They can't tackle, Matt Cassel of all fucking people, scurried away for an eight yard run, when six Chargers whiffed on him in the first quarter. Rivers has been awful this year (7TDs and 11INTs), and in any other division, the Chargers would have been punished by now. It's plausible the offense improves, I do not think the defense is even average and the special teams is an implosion waiting to happen. Sure, this time it was a blown snap, but it's always something with this team.

18 - TENNESSEE (+1)
4-3, 2nd AFC SOUTH
W 27-10 vIND, next vCIN

Javon Ringer might be the Tennessee #1 back by season's end. That's how bad Johnson is playing. The two both had 14 carries in this game, Ringer nearly doubled Johnson's yardage 60/34.

19 - KANSAS CITY (+3)
4-3, T-1st AFC WEST
W 23-20 (OT) vSD, next vMIA

Were the victims of two very questionable and very consequential challenge decisions on turnovers. Although really, we were all victims of some questionable refereeing all night as yet another Monday Night Football game was ruined by penalties (21 this time). Neither of the teams that took the field on Monday look very good to be honest, Kansas City might even top Cincy and San Fran in the "winning ugly" stakes. Brandon Flowers is making a name for himself (an amazing 4 passes defensed), but Haley is not - a blitz on 3rd and 18 out of field goal range on San Diego's last regulation drive (I hate to sound Easterbrook-y, but just play zone, don't overthink it) and bad clock management with his timeouts wasting valuable seconds.

20 - DALLAS (-3)
3-4, T-2nd NFC EAST
L 7-34 @PHI, next vSEA

One of the more amazing stats you'll hear this season is that the Dallas Cowboys played a half of football without even throwing to Miles Austin or Dez Bryant, which went as well as it sounds. Dallas came into their meeting with the Eagles as the #1 rushing defense. They dropped to ninth after a dose of McCoy (185 yards on 30 carries) and Vick (50 yards on 7 carries). Seattle in Texas is just about the perfect tonic to recover, but it's hard to imagine that team being better than Philadelphia for the rest of the year, and making the playoffs.

21 - OAKLAND (+3)
4-3, T-1st AFC WEST
BYE, next vDEN

Moved into a tie for the AFC West lead without playing! Good job! I may have been a little harsh last week dropping them 13 places (though it really was a disgusting performance) as Palmer at least brings some hope to the team after a bye. A lot of people will be watching to see if they can bounce back in a seeming cupcake at home to the Broncos. This is a must win, considering the standard of opposition and the fact that they need some momentum, even in a bad AFC West.

22 - CAROLINA (-2)
2-6, 4th NFC SOUTH
L 21-24 vMIN, next BYE

Their first really dissapointing performance this year, and it came on the back of that rushing attack I have been demanding they go to more. Williams and Stewart rushed for an uninspiring 75 yards on 20 carries. Newton, on the other hand, was back to his electrifying best. Minnesota just had no answer as he threw for 290 yards (8.3YPA) and rushed for another 53. Smith too, continued his golden run with 100 yards even receiving. Carolina's tug of war for offensive identity is likely back on. It is hard to believe this team is 2-6, and the schedule doesn't necessarily become more forgiving either (this team has played Green Bay and New Orleans already, and the Bears and the Falcons, both on the road) as Carolina are about to head to the road for three straight games.

2-6, 4th AFC SOUTH
L 14-24 @HOU, next BYE

This Blaine Gabbert thing just isn't working out. He's completed less than 42.5% of his passes in his last five games. He's thrown for less than 300 yards in his last three combined. In this game he was a nearly unfathomable 10/30 for 97 yards, a TD and two picks. The pass rush also went back in its box, with just six hits on Schaub, protected behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.

24 - MINNESOTA (+3)
2-6, 4th NFC NORTH
W 24-21 @CAR, next BYE

Unlike last week, when Ponder completed just 12/32 passes and people were in their usual overpraise of a mediocre performance by a new player, Ponder was positively good this week. He threw for 234 yards with a TD and 8.4YPA. Sure it was the Carolina secondary, but I'm not sure Blaine Gabbert could start an NFL game without accidentally breaking his nose with his elbow at this point. The team too, is improving, following a six point loss to Green Bay with a poised, come from behind victory on the road against arguably the most promising team in the league. The secondary is as bad as ever however. Newton threw for three TDs pushing the number thrown against the Vikings to 14 - second last to only the dreadful Colts.

25 - SEATTLE (-)
2-6, 2nd NFC WEST
L 12-34 vCIN, next @DAL

So after singing the praises of their special teams last week, Seattle conceded a huge punt return by Pacman Jones that led directly to a TD, a TD punt return from Brandon Tate, a 40 yard kickoff return that sparked a huge 4th quarter Cincy FG drive and blew a potential 1 yard start for the Bengals by letting a punt bounce into the end zone. I am genuinely excited about their defense (24 of the Bengals 34 points can be basically directly assigned to turnovers and special teams), I can't wait to see them play a genuinely good offense instead of Cincy and Cleveland. Look much better with Tavaris (who was better than 323 yards on 40 throws with an INT looked, his receivers can't catch and Lynch is the worst running back in the NFL) back there instead of Whitehurst. Look, it's a rebuilding year, and it's coming along I think. I think in 2-3 years, you're looking at a top three defense. Have a soft spot for them.

26 - CLEVELAND (-)
3-4, 4th AFC NORTH
L 10-20 @SF, next @HOU

Just boringly bad. After trying to be a pass first team, Cleveland have been determined to run the last two weeks, only to find they are equally terrible at that. They can't catch, throw or run, the only thing they do well on offense is block (led by Thomas, they have conceded 17 sacks in 7 games). They have three first quarter points all year...three. Even Josh Cribbs doesn't look the same guy returning kicks - he hasn't had a return TD all year (nor, for that matter, did he last year despite six in his previous three seasons). In fact his longest return is 52 yards, pedestrian for him.

27 - ST. LOUIS (+4)
1-6, T-3rd NFC WEST
W 31-21 vNO, next @ARI

In all honesty, despite the talk of how they shut the Saints out in the first half, until the two minute warning, at no point did New Orleans look like they lost control of the game. In fact, I'm still not sure exactly how this happened. The Rams generated a strong pass rush (6 sacks and got to Brees 15 times) against a strong offensive line, and yes, Jackson was very good (191 yards from scrimmage, but remember he hasn't been allowed to rush much because of how terrible St. Louis have been), but between the blocked punt and the mindfuck that Jay Feely just beat Drew Brees, this had "fluke" written all over it. The non San Francisco NFC West "improved" to 4-17 (and one of those wins was Seattle beating the Cardinals).

28 - ARIZONA (-)
1-6, T-3rd NFC WEST
L 27-30 @BAL, next vSTL

One decent half of pass defense against a retarded Baltimore offense can't make up for the fact that they can't stop the run (107 yards rushing conceded here with three TDs, even having a three touchdown lead late in the first half), pass protect (six sacks and 14 pressures on Kolb) and that Beanie Wells has not been the same guy since his injury. He has 3.4YPC in his last three games compared to 5.4YPC in his first three. Kolb (7.3YPA despite the pressure), if he gets time, has his moments, and Fitzgerald (98 yards) is as good as ever, but just trying to plug too many holes at the moment.

29 - WASHINGTON (-6)
3-4, T-2nd NFC EAST
L 0-23 @BUF, next vSF

Grossman started the derailment, but injuries may be finishing it. Washington were without DeAngelo Hall (has his uses despite justified criticisms), Moss, Trent Williams, Hightower and Cooley. Fletcher, Wilson, Stallworth and Otagwe also had game threatening injuries. Tough to win under those circumstances. Oh, and just to remind you, John fucking Beck is their quarterback now.

30 - MIAMI (-)
0-7, 4th AFC EAST
L 17-20 @NYG, next @KC

I am well aware Denver has two wins, including a game on the road in Miami, and the Dolphins have none, but I defy anyone to tell me Denver does anything better than Miami, especially now without Lloyd and dumping a competant NFL quarterback in Orton.

31 - DENVER (-2)
2-5, 4th AFC WEST
L 10-45 vDET, next @OAK

The most hilarious part of this for me, is that Tebow was great (relatively) in the first three minutes this time, and terrible for the rest of the game (at least while it was a meaningful contest until it was 38-3). This is also pretty hilarious, as obvious as it is. Do Denver get to pick the 5% of the game he is servicable? He finished with just 172 yards despite throwing 39 times, completing just 18. After a field goal on their opening drive, Denver's next nine yielded 37 yards and one first down on 28 plays. It also conceded a defensive touchdown, and at the end of this sequence came another defensive touchdown. Not only was he an abomination, but he was in exactly the way all the talking heads seem to think he isn't. I'm honestly not sure anyone was within thirty yards of Titus Young on the Lions first TD. It takes a special kind of bad defense to allow that level of incompetence.

0-8, 4th AFC SOUTH
L 10-27 @TEN, next vATL



HH said...

But the win was was by an NFL record 55 points This is not the NFL record for margin of victory. Pats beat the Titans 59-0 like two years ago, so there's at least one higher-scoring game.

J.S. said...

You're quite right HH, I remember reading the record thing on an infobox on ESPN but I must have misread - cheers!

Imojust said...

Doesn't the 1940 NFL Championship game count? Bears over Redskins 73-0

J.S. said...

Yeah maybe, apologies for the error but the point is, a fuckload of points, a claim that remains intact