No Sleep Till Football

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NFL Power 15 – Week 17

The final regular season power rankings! I’ll keep adjusting the power rankings after each week of the playoffs, but for the most part these will probably stay fairly static. It’s been a great NFL season, but I think the only storyline in the big picture for this year’s playoffs is the New England Patriots. I think the Packers might be the only team in the AFC that could knock them off, but the story will be if the Patriots don’t make it to the Super Bowl rather than them getting there. I also think the power rankings reflect that as well. There is New England and then everyone else.

#1 In the first 8 games of the season, New England gave up 23.5ppg which was good enough for 23rd in the league. In the last 8 games of the season, the Patriots gave up 15.6ppg which was 3rd in the NFL behind the Steelers & Packers. When you combine the best offense in the NFL with the 3rd best defense & throw in the best TO margin team in the league & you have a recipe that should result in a 4th Super Bowl ring for the Belichickians. Right now there are the Patriots & the rest of the NFL. Anything less than a Super Bowl win will be a huge let down. They have won 8 straight & 13 of their last 14! Wow!
#2 We actually got Steelers/Browns in Indy & I was surprised they showed us the entire game. Pittsburgh hammered the Browns 41-9, but of course the story was Troy Polamalu who looked like Superman for most of the day despite not being exactly 100%. With a healthy Polamalu on defense this is easily the 2nd best team in the AFC behind New England although the Steelers did get beat by 13 to New England in Heinz Field. To a degree, the Steelers seem under the radar, but Big Ben has 2 rings. He’s been there before. Combined with Polamalu this is an incredible team to be honest.
#3 I was hoping for more than a 10-3 win over Chicago at home after the Packers murdered the Giants and scored 27 points on the Patriots. I’ve said this all season long, but maybe it’s that the Bears are just a lot better than I think they are. Definitely defensively they are. The Packers did what they typically do. The defense is downright FILTHY, but the one problem with Green Bay is that they don’t have a credible running game. Aaron Rodgers led the team in rush yards for the game, but he didn’t really win it. No team in the NFC wanted GB to get in. They’ll travel to Philly where they’ll win.
#4 The Falcons have to be the quietest 13-3 team I’ve seen in recent years. They bombed Carolina 31-10 to secure home field advantage in the NFC, but the big story seemed to be the Packers getting in. The defense is what’s somewhat interesting. Advanced metrics say this is the 12th best defensive team in the NFL, but over their last 9 games, Atlanta ranked 4th in the NFL in points allowed. We know Ryan & Turner & White & Gonzalez, but I’m not sure Atlanta is geared towards high scoring affairs. They’ll need come to play defensively if they want to advance b/c GB or NO will play them.
#5 I was hoping for quite a bit more from the Ravens in their final game against the Bengals. With all the rumors surrounding Cincinnati with Marvin Lewis & Carson Palmer, I thought possibly that the Chargers game was long gone & Baltimore would lay some wood. It didn’t happen. Statistically, the Bengals should have beaten Baltimore by 2TD! Cincy had 2x as many 1st downs. They had 196 more total yards. Joe Flacco was off. Ray Rice wasn’t particularly dominant & Cincy dominated time of possession. Twelve of Baltimore’s 16 games have been within 7 points. That’s not dominant at all.
#6 The Colts beat the Titans 23-20 to earn the #3 seed. Keep in mind that Indianapolis was the #3 seed in 2006 when they won the Super Bowl & had to keep playing down the stretch. With as much has gone wrong in Indy this season, if you take a step back taking the whole season into view, they make me a very nervous football team if I’m the rest of the AFC. Indy ranked 11th in rushing offense & 2nd in rushing defense over the past 4 games. Now note that these last 4 games have come against Chris Johnson (twice), Maurice Jones-Drew & Darren McFadden. Winning there last 4 might have been the most impressive accomplishment of any team heading into the playoffs. Their “best case” record is 15-1 & they are getting healthy. You don’t want to see them.
#7 The Bears fell more because the teams above them played extremely well. I can’t hammer Chicago too badly for going up to Green Bay & only losing 10-3. I think the Packers are the best team in the NFC. Losing to them in Lambeau isn’t a huge knock. Chicago played well defensively, but the offense wasn’t there. Matt Forte was pretty effective running the football, but Jay Cutler threw a couple of picks & never really got going. I actually like the Martz/Cutler combination more & more as the season progresses. The Bears are the #2 seed in the NFC which nobody thought was going to happen.
#8 For whatever reason, the Saints just haven’t had it going well in 2011. It’s a fairly difficult team to gauge as well. They started the year 4-3 before beating the Steelers 20-10 at home on a Sunday night game. That was pretty fortuitous because NO didn’t play anyone in their next 5 games getting them to 10-3. They went 1-2 in their last 3 to finish 11-5. The Saints are 3-3 against playoff teams this season. Maybe it’s been the massive injuries to their runners? Maybe it’s Brees & his 22 picks? The Saints should beat Seattle, but it’s cloudy after that.
#9 Lose to the Cowboys? At home? Really? The Eagles needed the miracle against the Giants to win & follow that up by losing to the Vikings with Joe Webb & the Cowboys with Stephen McGee. Just nuts. Granted, Vick didn’t play against Dallas, but it goes to show you just how important it is for Philadelphia to have #7 in the game. Philly really needed to win those last 2 games because now they get Green Bay in the 1st round which was the worst possible draw. A player like Vick is always going to be dicey because of the beating his body takes. I don’t think he’ll be great against Green Bay.
#10 Given what Peyton Manning has done to Rex Ryan in his career, despite what Ryan says, the Jets were rooting hard for the Chiefs to beat Oakland. It didn’t happen, but New York ended the season with a solid beating of the Bills. The Jets are a good football team, but if Indy keeps playing rush defense like they have, Mark Sanchez will be called to beat Indy & it’s not happening. The Jets are 2-3 in their last 5 & at some point distractions are going to take over. It’s almost like he can’t help it. When learning they were playing the Colts, Ryan started running his mouth. Another distraction added!
#11 I’m glad Tom Coughlin is coming back. He deserves it. The Giants did what they could in Week 17 by beating the Skins, but Green Bay won so it doesn’t matter. Everyone is going to point to the Giants loss to Philly in Week 15 as the season killer, but don’t forget that the Giants had home losses to the Cowboys & Titans this season. It’s a Giants team that should have been 13-3 & challenging for the #1 seed, but for those games. Eli Manning led the NFL this season with 25 picks. That’s pretty amazing really. Drew Brees was #2 with 22. I wouldn’t have put them 1-2 at season’s beginning.
#12 An incredible way to end the season for a very young Tampa Bay team that was still looking for its first signature win of the 2010 season. They finally got it in a road win over the Saints 23-13. How good was Josh Freeman over the last 8 games of the season? Freeman completed 63.6% of his passes for 1,729 yards including 15TD to 1INT! His 106.8 passer rating over the last 8 games of the season ranked 3rd behind Aaron Rodgers & Tom Brady. That’s elite company! If the Saints win can give TB some momentum into 2011, this could be an 11-12 win team next year. That’s playoff worthy.
#13 How odd was Oakland’s season? The team finished 8-8, but was a perfect 6-0 in the AFC West. The Chiefs won the division at 10-6, but was 2-4 in the division. Good enough for the 3rd place record behind Oakland & San Diego’s 3-3. The Raiders had 3 losses against Arizona, Houston & San Francisco which should have been wins, pushing them to 11-5 & the #3 seed. It’ll be really interesting to see what Oakland does with their coaching search. This is a solid young football team that is probably a QB away from being REALLY good. They are already the best team in the West.
#14 The loss to Cincinnati was killer in retrospect because KC lost to Oakland. If the Chargers win that game, they finish the year 10-6, but win the West because they’d have a better divisional record than the Chiefs. San Diego’s defense was still more than solid. The problem was probably offensively. Ryan Matthews wasn’t the stud RB they thought they were getting when they drafted him. Losing Vincent Jackson without Malcolm Floyd stepping up and being a dominant #1 receiver probably hurt a bit. Note that the Chargers went 9-7 with losses to the Rams, Seahawks & Bengals! Sheesh!
#15 Getting murdered by Oakland isn’t the best way to end the season. Now the Chiefs will have to welcome the Ravens into town which means life gets even tougher! My cousin & I were talking about the Chiefs and given what they’ll face next season, they should probably try and make the most of their playoff run this season. Drawing Baltimore instead of New York is a tough one, but they have a shot at beating the Ravens at home. KC is a dangerous out in my opinion. The defense can get after the ball & the offense has some weapons in Charles & Bowe. They need everything to go right.


January 5, 2011 - Posted by | Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFL Power 15, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers

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