Wednesday, December 14, 2011

7 comments J.S.' NFL Power Rankings: Week Fourteen

Hey, have you guys heard of this dude?

1 - GREEN BAY (-)
13-0, 1st NFC NORTH
W 46-16 vOAK, next @KC

Wow. Just wow. If I could put them higher than 1, I would.

10-3, 1st NFC SOUTH
W 22-17 @TEN, next @MIN

Two teams who are not particulary known for their ill discipline, gave up 15 penalties combined in the first half of this game. Easy to criticise when it doesn't work, but I felt New Orleans fell into a trap they do occasionally, which is overpassing. I know, I know, they have Drew Brees back there, but I like to see their parade of backs take advantage of Nicks and Evans' dominance in the middle. Brees threw twenty seven times in the first half (rushed just eleven), and even for him, that's just far, far too many (New Orleans called pass 50 times to 25 rushes). Especially against a bad run defense. It may have contributed to some frustration in the red zone in this game, New Orleans were 0-3 in the red zone and didn't score a TD until the final quarter. They threw eight out of nine plays in the red zone for four completions, seven yards and a sack. Sean Payton isn't bad, but stuff like this makes you wonder about the whole "master playcaller" schtick.

3 - BALTIMORE (+1)
10-3, T-1st AFC NORTH
W 24-10 vIND, next @SD

Can't put up with that New England defense anymore, and Baltimore seem to have put their "losing to mediocre teams" problem behind them, recording solid, if unspectacular 24-10 wins in their last two games against the Browns and the Colts.

4 - NEW ENGLAND (-1)
10-3, 1st AFC EAST
W 34-27 @WAS, next @DEN

I watched only the last six minutes of this game, and there was a priceless shot of Tom Brady. As Washington was gleefully killing more and more clock and handing it off to Evan Royster and Roy Helu, anticipating another easy touchdown and tie game (at 34, a score Washington hasn't reached all year, they hadn't even reached 27 since Week One), Brady was throwing on the sideline. There he was, preparing for a game winning drive that should not be necessary, and his eyes were absolutely filled with hate and disgust. This New England "defense" is getting to him. Still - 10 and 3 and you never doubted that even if Washington tied it up, Brady would indeed get the necessary field goal. Ron Gronkowski set a record for a tight end (in only 13 games!) with his 15th TD.

5 - HOUSTON (+1)
10-3, 1st AFC SOUTH
W 20-19 @CIN, next vCAR

Yates threw an awful pick, but really has not been a trainwreck over his two games and even led two game winning drives, and this one was really special. Houston put together back to back 83 and 80 yard drives in the fourth quarter, running a ridiculous 26 plays. He's not going to be Schaub, but he's proven he won't destroy Houston's season, and they are so good at so many other things, I'm back driving the empty bandwagon on their Superbowl chances. Their linebackers were tremendous again here, especially Barwin and Reed (who had a sack fumble). I lost count of how many tackles for loss they had (7, if you want to be a dick about it). Owen Daniels also did a great job (countless first down catches, and 7 in total for 100 yards) with Johnson absent.

10-3, T-1st AFC NORTH
W 14-3 vCLE, next @SF

Antonio Brown, man. Antionio Brown. Also, is Isaac Redman a better running back than Rashard Mendenhall? I always seem to see Redman doing a better job. Mendenhall has rushed for 3.9 YPC last year, and 3.8 this year. Redman has 4.8 and 4.2 respectively. I know it's easier being a change of pace guy, but in the last four games, here are Mendenhall's YPCs - 2.8, 3.4, 3.8, 4.2. Here are Redman's - 3.6, 7.3, 6.4, 5.8. Still, with Roethlisberger's injury, Pittsburgh's season, once again, is on wobbly ground.

7 - JETS (+2)
8-5, 2nd AFC EAST
W 37-10 vKC, next @PHI

Killed the Chiefs and really needed to. Even against Kansas City this was a welcome performance, the likes of which they had not put together since Week Two against the Jaguars. Still don't think they bring enough to the table offensively, though Sanchez, with seven TDs and just one pick in his last three games, at least makes me pay attention. With Cincinnati still having a game against Baltimore, a win against the Eagles would go a long way to practically clinching a playoff spot.

10-3, 1st NFC WEST
L 19-21 @ARI, next vPIT

This is not the momentum you want to generate going into a game against the Steelers. I've made no secret of my contempt for the Niners record and an Alex Smith (who had 4.7 YPA here by the way) led playoff push. But this is a team that apparently should be indestructable with a twelve point second half lead, especially against John fucking Skelton (282 yards on 28 throws). As much as everyone is excited by NaVarro Bowman, Justin and Aldon Smith, this is further proof (as though any was required) that Patrick Willis makes this team go.

9 - ATLANTA (-1)
8-5, 2nd NFC SOUTH
W 31-23 @CAR, next vJAX

Constantly pushing their luck this year. Had 97 yards in the first half with four three and outs. Atlanta only ever seem to show up for a half of football. They haven't won consecutive halves in their last five games. Don't look true contenders anymore to be honest, considering they have dealt with a reasonably soft schedule lately.

10 - GIANTS (-)
7-6, T-1st NFC EAST
W 37-34 @DAL, next vWAS

Manning has been great deep this year (as Al Michaels helpfully mentioned, he has 33 completions of over 20 yards, the most in the NFL). My concern with the Giants is that no team is more reliant on the passing game - both in offense and defense (where they concede 4.7YPC, good for 27th in the NFL), than the Giants. It was yet another game getting ripped apart on the ground, even with Murray being injured (Felix Jones had 106 yards on just 16 carries) and although Jacobs was shockingly good here (101 on 19 with 2 scores), it's still a problem more generally (3.3YPC, only Cleveland with 3.5YPC are even close to as bad). Big win, obviously, but the red zone ineffectiveness (and conversely, the ease their opponents have scoring there) and the rushing problems all are a cause for concern. And to be honest, the Jets, who are on their remaining schedule, are a terrible matchup for them with thier excellent pass defense and insistence (if nothing else) on running the ball.

11 - DALLAS (-)
7-6, T-1st NFC EAST
L 34-37 vNYG, next @TB

Got carried away with the blitz as the game wore on, which led, for instance to a 20 and then 47 yard TD completion, back to back. And again haunted them on the first play of the Giants game winning drive. This was an entertaining game, with eight lead changes, but very costly for the Cowboys, who failed to hold serve against the Giants in Dallas. Both of these teams are heavily flawed, Dallas in terms of depth and in pass protection (8 sacks the last two weeks, Romo was under constant pressure in this game, including a safety) and the Giants with their rushing problems. But much like this game, it should be an entertaining dogfight for the division these last three weeks, culminating in a likely winner takes all contest in Week Seventeen (which should prove that week's best).

12 - DETROIT (-)
8-5, 2nd NFC NORTH
w 34-28 vMIN, next @OAK

Meet the NFL's most manic team. Detroit scored 21 straight points here before surrendered 28 of the next 34. Put this with the Carolina game where the Panthers scored 24 of the first 31 before the Lions thundered back, the Dallas contest where they came back to win after being down 27 by scoring the last 31 points and their last tussle with the Vikings where they scored 26 of the final 23 points to win by three. They were walloped by 24 against the Bears as well. It's just another testament to their youth and ill discipline (particulary considering the controversial non-facemask call), but with Chicago's crushing defeat and Suh's return next week, the Lions should be ok from here, particular if the Pack rest their starters in Week 17.

13 - TENNESSEE (-)
7-6, 2nd AFC SOUTH
L 17-22 vNO, next @IND

So, for all the "Chris Johnson is back!" talk, the Titans had four yards rushing in the first half - four. And that was against possibly the worst run defense in the NFL, with a rookie QB back there. In fact, quality QB play has been what has saved Tennessee's season (12th in the league with an 84.5 rating). Hasselbeck (82.9) has been between slightly below average to outstanding in various games all year, and when you compare him to say, McNabb, his peer, he has been an unreserved success. The transfer to Locker (96.6) has also gone well, as the rookie has had some very impressive moments (including a ludicrously athletic rushing TD in this game) in his sparodic chances. This has all happened without any real receiving threat for the majority of the season since Kenny Britt was injured. I hate to agree with Aikman and especially Buck, but third and one, 3 minutes left in the game, all your timeouts against the Saints, on their 20, run the football. If anything you want to burn time off the clock so Brees has no chance to steal the game, and if you run twice on 3rd and one, you'll get the first down. Instead they threw (and threw deep too), failed on 4th and 1, and (despite an equally retarded third down throw by the Saints on the subsequent drive) that was that in the AFC South.

14 - DENVER (-)
8-5, 1st AFC WEST
W 13-10 (OT) vCHI

A contest I was very intrigued by, as Chicago are both one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, with a tremendously athletic defensive line (Henry Melton is fucking great, the Bears had five sacks, nine hits) and a team that forces turnovers. They are also arguably the smartest defensive team in the NFL, who will stick to their assignments. Chicago did get him once (and a sack fumble later on when he held it for way too long behind a lionhearted offensive line), but it was after 103 straight throws by Tebow without a pick over the last six weeks, and whatever else, you have to say - he hasn't been turning the ball over, and that does have genuine value. Still, this is what happens to football when you don't have NFL quality quarterbacks, it becomes an unrecognisable game. But I just cannot keep fighting against the tidal wave of everyone saying how great Tebow is - he's not, but I am just too tired to keep saying it. If Denver beats New England, I think I might just kill myself as opposed to addressing the matter in these rankings.

15 - SEATTLE (+4)
6-7, T-2nd NFC WEST
W 30-13 vSTL, next @CHI

Been a good year for the 'Hawks. Beat Baltimore, the Giants, resurrected Marshawn Lynch (115 yards on 23 carries and more than 100 yards rushing in five of Seattle's last six), and scored more than 20 points on their last five consecutive games. Good job Pete Carroll.

16 - SAN DIEGO (+4)
6-7, 3rd AFC WEST
W 37-10 vBUF, next vBAL

While they are not the same unit without Marcus McNeill (neck injury will keep him out for the season), this offensive line is coming together as a pass blocking unit. The Chargers are definitely a team at their best throwing the ball regulary, and Rivers (46/61 for 534 yards, six TDs and no picks against the Bills and Jags) may finally be looking like himself the last two games. It's all almost certainly too late, but for what it's worth, and even with all the dissapointment, they have looked like the best team in the AFC West this year, McNeill, one of the very best left tackles in the league, might have made a very real difference.

17 - CINCINNATI (-1)
7-6, 3rd AFC NORTH
L 19-20 vHOU, next @STL

A.J. Green (5 catches for 59 yards) is really good, and should be scary in a couple of years - he's making Dalton look much better than he is. He conclusively won the battle against Jonathan Joseph (drawing a thirty odd yard pass interference call and another 36 yard grab) - one of the best defensive players in the league this year, and may be the second best corner in football. This, however, was likely a crushing end of the line for the Bengals (who still have Baltimore to play) with the Jets comprehensive victory over the Chiefs.

18 - ARIZONA (+5)
6-7, T-2nd NFC WEST
W 21-19 vSF, next vCLE

Have put the NFC Wild Card contenders to shame over the past six games. Arizona is 5-1. Detroit is 3-3, Chicago is 3-3 and even the Falcons are 4-2. This was the most extraordinary win of all, down 12 in the second half to a 10-2 team, getting very little from Peterson's punt returns (though he had a sack and five tackles), their best form of offense, with Kolb injured, being -3 in turnovers and Beanie Wells rushing for 1.8YPC. That John Skelton, he may talk about God a lot and not have great numbers, but he just wins - right media? Seriously, he's 4-1, two overtime victories, with three fourth quarter comebacks - IT'S THE SAME EXACT STORY!

19 - CHICAGO (-2)
7-6, 3rd NFC NORTH
L 10-13 (OT) @DEN, next vSEA

With Lovie Smith without the services of both Cutler and Forte, and John Fox being John Fox, neither team seemed remotely interested in scoring points for vast swathes of this contest (through three quarters there were 70 yards of passing combined). The Bears could start a blocked field goal clinic, and they may in January (they put that with a punt return from Hester and a 57 yard field goal). They certainly won't be playing football; thanks, Marion Barber, who blew a certain win not once, but twice.

20 - WASHINGTON (+5)
4-9, 4th NFC EAST
L 27-34 vNE, next @NYG

Have improved, giving the Jets, Cowboys and New England very real games - they led in all three of those games and beat Seattle in the northwest along the way. Before that, gave the Dolphins (in Miami) and San Fran some frights. Not the punching bag they were in October and the Giants should be concerned going into Maryland next week.

21 - CAROLINA (-)
4-9, T-2nd NFC SOUTH
L 23-31 vATL, next @HOU

While a first glance might suggest Williams reasserted his authority over the running back situation (87 yards on 7 carries), without the 74 yarder, he was once again below Stewart (29 on 8 carries). Stewart is now definitely splitting the carries and Rivera is going to have an interesting decision next offseason. Newton is either being encouraged to scramble more, or having more runs designed for him. He has had 30 of his 107 runs in the last three games.

22 - OAKLAND (-4)
7-6, 2nd AFC WEST
L 16-46 @GB, next vDET

Green Bay had 17 first downs...with five minutes left in the first half. At that point, Green Bay had 323 yards on 34 plays!!! It's amazing to say a score of 16-46 flatters a team, but it flatters Oakland. They were 400 points behind Green Bay here, they were playing a different sport.

5-8, 3rd NFC EAST
W 26-10 @MIA, next vNYJ

Did you know that if the New York Giants are killed off by an invading race of super intelligent beings, and the Falcons lose seven of their next three games and the Lions are forced to play with a brick instead of a football on their offensive series, the Eagles can still make the playoffs in a hyperspace dimension where the speed of light is twelve miles an hour?

24 - MIAMI (-9)
4-9, 4th AFC EAST
L 10-26 vPHI, next @BUF

Genuinely shocked the Dolphins lost this game. It was like they had the invincibility star on Mario Brothers and it ran out after five weeks. It's hard to fathom how an offensive line featuring Jake Long, and which appeared so dominant just last week, could surrender an incredible nine sacks and 18 total hits. That kind of performance means it doesn't matter that you hold the best rushing team in football to just 1.6 yards a carry on 32 attempts.

4-9, 3rd AFC SOUTH
W 41-14 vTB, next @ATL

Years from now, Blaine Gabbert will gather the grandkids around and tell them of the magical day he threw 19/33 for 217 yards with two picks and two touchdowns.

26 - BUFFALO (-2)
5-8, 3rd AFC EAST
L 10-37 @SD, next vMIA

While I am no fan of Fred Jackson, and don't think they would have made the playoffs even if he remained healthy, it's no doubt true that his absence disrupts Buffalo like removing the foundation Jenga piece. Spiller (46 yards on 12 carries) is the prototypical "good outside the tackles" back and usless between them. Fitzpatrick (just 13 of 34 in this game) is not suited to throw the ball forty or more times. The offensive line is much better up the middle than at tackle and pass protecting. And their defense needs to be on the field the absolute minimum amount of time, and preferably against an offense calling pass without Kyle Williams - they were ravaged by Ryan Matthews (114 yards on 20 carries) in this game.

27 - MINNESOTA (+1)
2-11, 4th NFC NORTH
L 28-34 @DET, next vNO

Despite the turnovers (3 picks and a sack fumble), and Joe Webb's apparent heroics (109 yards rushing on seven carries), benching Ponder was a horrible mistake. The future of the Vikings is not with Webb and Ponder has had a solid season.

28 - TAMPA BAY (-6)
4-9, T-4th NFC SOUTH
L 14-41 @JAX, next vDAL

Jesus fucking Christ Tampa, seriously? Jacksonville hadn't put 41 points on in their last four games combined. They had reached 20 points just once all year. They hadn't even really got close. They scored 14 points or less in ten of their other eleven games. This was second only to the Colts against the Saints as the worst performance all season, and might even eclipse that considering...Jacksonville, are you for real? Oh, and seven goddamn turnovers, matching the number of games they have lost in a row.

29 - KANSAS CITY (-3)
4-9, 4th AFC WEST
L 10-37 @NYJ, next vGB

Can anyone give me any comprehensible reason why Kyle Orton did not start this game? There was nothing I heard about him being injured. It's been two and a half weeks now. Why did they bother signing him if they didn't want to play him? Weird.

30 - CLEVELAND (-1)
4-9, 4th AFC NORTH
L 3-14 @PIT, next @ARI

The only thing worse than Colt McCoy (74.6 QB rating, 27th in the league) is Peyton Hillis (346 yards on the year). Or their receiving corps maybe, Cleveland doesn't have a player in the top 50 in receiving yards, and only one of the top eighty two.

31 - ST. LOUIS (-)
2-11, 4th NFC WEST
L 13-30 @SEA, next vCIN

Ah, Clark Judge, my old nemesis. We meet again.

0-13, 4th AFC SOUTH
L 10-24 @BAL, next vTEN

I had a writeup for the Colts, but David Stern overturned it.


Anonymous said...

I can not take your rankings serious. You clearly despise NE. The glee with which you posted that scenerio speaks volumes

Anonymous said...

And it's ROB ROB Gronkowskie not Ron!

rich said...

Anon, he has the Patriots ranked fourth after two closer than they should have games.

There was a defense of NE last week because of an experimentation with defensive schemes, but to allow 27 points to a terrible Washington team... well.. that's bad.

In fact, it's so bad, that 27 points is the second highest point total for Washington all year. The highest? Week 1 against a shitty Giants' defense.

The Patriots are one dimensional (passing game) like two of the teams ahead of them, but NO and GB are both better than the Patriots at that dimension.

So um... where would you have put the Patriots?

As for the Giants, it's clearly coaching. The defensive personnel isn't bad enough to struggle this much and Gilbride seems incapable of changing schemes unless it's half time.

When you have Jacobs absolutely running people over and he only gets 19 carries, there's a problem. Especially since most of those carries came in the first half as Bradshaw was benched.

You'd think that if your bruising running back is playing that well, you have to change your game plan to give it to him more often, not less.

Basically Fewell and Gilbride suck at their job.

J.S. said...

Anonymous - it was a typo. And I'm fucking AMAZED you think I despise New the point I think you are actually being sarcastic - are you?

I have received plenty of criticism for being OVERLY kind to the Pats, who have spent most of the season at #2 and only one week out of the top four. So, what are you talking about?

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I think what J.S. was trying to show is how Brady may not feel like he can make even the smallest of mistakes due to the defense not playing at a high level right now.

If I were being an ass, I would point out you misspelled Gronkowski's last name. It doesn't have an "e" at the end. We all make mistakes...

Rich, not a fan of the Giants coaches I see. It has to be somewhat the coaches fault, because as I said the other day, I feel like there is talent on the defensive roster. Not sure when it will show up.

J.S., great point about Skelton. Great. It's like Tebow is the only QB ever to have led a comeback.

I still have Atlanta in the Super Bowl, but I expected the defense to come around and it hasn't. If Carolina had not done their usual choke job, the game would not have been even close. Their offense stepped up when they need to though. I'll give them that.

Martin F. said...

On a side note, Rick Rielly wrote another lousy piece on differences between Brady and Tebow. As usual Rick got a basic fact wrong, stating that Brady had both his children out of wedlock, when in reality his 2nd child was born 10 months after the wedding. This is simple shit to look up, which I did in 30 seconds. ESPN has now printed a retraction at the bottom of the column, and Rick has reworded the sentence to be accurate. I feel proud to think that my email to Rick/ESPN and the tweet I sent him had a bit to do with this thumb in the eye of this pompous a-hole. Yea me!

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