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2011 Week 3 – NFL Power 15

Let’s get after it. All I want to say by way if introduction is that before the season, would you have ever thought of saying, I can’t wait for the Super Bowl matchup between the Lions & Bills!? Well, it doesn’t seem so far fetched now does it. Let’s rock this power-15!

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 The 27-17 win over Chicago last week was very impressive especially the way Green Bay completely shut down Chicago’s run game to the point where Mike Martz & Co. pretty much abandoned the run game all together. Remember that last season Green Bay lost to Chicago 20-17 in the Windy City. This year it was a 10-point game that was never really in question. It’s also bad news that Jermichael Finley went off. That’s all opposing defenses need to worry about. More offensive guys!
#2 The Saints only loss is to Green Bay in Lambeau. You simply can’t penalize them for that given how they’ve played since then. You have to be impressed with the win over Houston. The Saints were down 19-17 after 3Q, but then exploded for 23 points to eventually win 40-33. Offensively New Orleans is playing well with Drew Brees dominating, but that pass defense is brutal. The Saints & Patriots are very similar thus far. Amazingly enough, the Saints don’t play any really tough teams the rest of the way. They could easily wind up 15-1.
#3 What else can you do with the Bills!? Oakland just beat the Jets & Buffalo beat them the week before. The Patriots got out to a 21-0 lead mid-way through the 2Q, but the Bills didn’t fold, coming back to win 34-31! I’m not willing to put them ahead fo Green Bay or New Orleans, but how can they not be 3rd? The Bills actually have a rough schedule, so now they need to concentrate on winning their home games. They do that & an 11-5 record is easily attainable.
#4 The loss to Buffalo isn’t horrible if you truly believe the Bills are a playoff team, but what it basically showed us is that New England is far away from being championship caliber. The defense is absolutely awful. The Patriots rank dead last in the NFL in total defense which is almost insane when you think about the fact Bill Belichick is the head coach. The rushing game isn’t there so it’s basically hoping Tom Brady throws for 500 yards every game & the other team scores 30 for a 40-30 win. That will happen more often than not, but Super Bowl? Doesn’t seem likely.
#5 Maybe I’m the only one ranking Dallas this high, but I think the last two weeks have been indicative of the overall change in Dallas’s ability to win close games. The season opening loss to the Jets was your typical Tony Romo melt down, but the last two weeks against the 49ers & Redskins have presented opportunities for Romo to completely gag, yet the Cowboys have won both games. Playing devil’s advocate you could argue that Washington & San Francisco aren’t really playoff teams. I wouldn’t argue, but it’s a wait & see approach. I love Jason Garrett & Rob Ryan. Playing the Lions will be instructive.
#6 The Lions are really interesting to think about. They are getting mad credit so far this season for being a team that could be serious contenders. Matthew Stafford is playing exceptionally well. That defense is incredible. Calvin Johnson is basically unstoppable. The Lions are 3-0. It all seems good. But then you realize that two of the wins have come against KC & Minnesota, who have a combined record of 0-6. The come from behind win over the Vikings is big I think for team psyche, but getting Dallas this week in the Big D will be really fun to watch.
#7 You can’t necessarily bang on Houston for losing in New Orleans 40-33. It’s a little disappointing with the defense & Wade Phillips, but the Saints are going to score points. To a certain degree the Texans run into the same problems as Detroit & Dallas. They have wins over the Colts & Dolphins, two teams combined for an 0-6 record. How good is Houston? Who knows, but here is something to think about. Both the Texans & Titans are 2-1, yet Houston is considered the obvious playoff team, except Tennessee has a win over the Ravens. You do the math.
#8 This is going to sound crazy because I’m typically a Bears hater, but I actually like Chicago this season. The defense is really fun to watch while I really like how Mike Martz is using the offense especially with Matt Forte. The weird thing is that I’m not sure what they are doing with that offense. Against Green Bay Chicago threw 37 passes to 12 runs. The week before against New Orleans they threw 45 passes to 12 runs. That seems a little too predictable to me for an NFL offense. Forte can run. Martz should really try to let him if only to open up the passing game.
#9 Talk about your Jekyll & Hyde? The Ravens put the hammer down on Pittsburgh 35-7, but followed that up with a 26-13 loss to Tennessee. The they smacked St. Louis 37-7 this past week! You can’t help but notice that Torry Smith went off for 5 catches for 172 yards & 3TD. Smith is a gigantic big play threat in the vertical game. A weapon the Ravens & Joe Flacco haven’t had since Flacco became a Raven. The defense is allowing less than 10ppg. If Smith opens up the passing attack, Baltimore is likely the best team in the AFC. Note too that Ray Rice averaged 9.0ypc in the win over the Rams. That’s balance.
#10 I’m sort of loathe to put Pittsburgh in the top-10 because they struggled so hard with the 0-3 Colts this past weekend, but Indianapolis gave everything they had defensively against Pittsburgh & the Steelers still came out with a win on the road. Pittsburgh’s defense is playing well, but in some ways they are almost looking old while the offense has been fairly stagnant. Roethlisberger & Mendenhall haven’t been particularly good so far this season & I also think either Emmanuel Sanders or Antonio Brown is going to emerge. Like New Orleans, Pittsburgh doesn’t really have a game on the schedule that they can easily mark down as a loss.
#11 How do you play arguable the worst team in the NFL at home & come out with a 20-17 win? Imagine if Kansas City could have gotten San Diego off the field on 3rd down? It’s interesting to note that the Chargers two wins have come against Minnesota & Kansas City, a couple of teams who a combined 0-6. It’s weird how many teams with 2 wins have actually played 2 teams with 0-3 marks. The Chargers actually get another 0-3 team this week in Miami. If the Dolphins, Vikings & Chiefs all lose this week, SD’s Strength of Victory record could be 0-12! Luckily, the Vikings & Chiefs play each other so the strength of victory at worst will be 1-11.
#12 What happened? The Jets were leading Oakland 17-7 late in the 2nd quarter and wound up losing 34-24!? How do the Jets give up 34 points to the Raiders!? The Jets had a horrific time stopping the Oakland running game. Darren McFadden rushed for 171 yards & the Raiders averaged 7.3ypc for the game! I hate knocking the Jets down this low from their lofty perch the first couple of weeks, but this was a real eye-opener. I think the Jets have to be in worry mode. Their upcoming schedule is: @Ravens, @Patriots, Dolphins, Chargers, BYE, @Bills, Patriots! At 2-1, could the Jets be 3-6 after 9 games?!
#13 You could argue the Redskins gave one away this past Monday in the 18-16 loss to Dallas, but the Redskins won a close one last week and they are at a net ZERO when it comes to TO margin. What does that say? It says the 2-1 Redskins are legitimately 2-1 with a solid win over the Giants & an almost win over the Cowboys. Washington is somewhat in the same situation the Bills are in. They might be a pretty good football team, but their division is brutal & they must take care of business at home with 1-3 road wins.
#14 The Giants are an intriguing bunch because of their balance. They rank 11th in scoring offense & 9th in scoring defense. Using advanced metrics, the Giants are even better than those rankings! I also think you have to be pretty impressed with the 29-16 beating they gave Philadelphia in Philly. The Giants knocked Michael Vick out of the game & damaged his right hand. It’s a small feat, but one that shows the grit of the Giants. After that opening week loss to the Redskins, things looked fairly bleak, but now of potential playoff teams, NYG is the most balanced between offense & defense. Very nice.
#15 How did we get to this!? The Raiders breaking through to the top-15 while teams like the Eagles, Falcons & Bucs are outside? Look no further than Darren McFadden. He absolutely shredded a supposed dominant defense in the Jets his past Sunday & the Raiders aren’t beating themselves. The defense isn’t horrible so playing clock control football will work for most football teams. Remember last season the Raiders went 6-0 against AFC West opponents so it’s crazy to count them out. The Chargers can’t be happy wit Oakland emerging early.


Dropping Out

#9 Philadelphia Eagles: The really odd thing about Philadelphia is the myopic view they were seduced into with Michael Vick. I get that Vick is pretty electric when he has the football, but you also have know that Vick has never won a Super Bowl. He’s never been to a Super Bowl & he has never played a full season. Maybe on any given Sunday he gives you a better chance of winning than does Kevin Kolb, but maybe that’s even debatable. However, there is the problem. If the Eagles need Vick to win and Vick can’t play then obviously Philly can’t win. Starting off 1-2 isn’t awful. The Eagles 2 losses have come against the Giants & Falcons, but right now this team seems on the ropes. They play San Francisco this weekend that could spell disaster. If Philly loses to SF (which could easily happen if Vick is banged up) then they’ll start 1-3 in a brutal NFC East. The playoffs might actually be in jeopardy.

#13 Atlanta Falcons: I really don’t know what to make of Atlanta. Losing to the Bucs & Bears doesn’t seem to be awful, but you have to start wondering how good they are. The Saints are better & they just lost to the Bucs. Being 3rd place in the NFC South isn’t going to equal a playoff berth. I said this last year quite a few times, but after going 13-3, what exactly can Atlanta do to become a better team? I don’t necessarily think Julio Jones was THE missing piece that was going to equal a Super Bowl title. It has to be more of a collective effort of course, but it also brings up the idea that the Falcons might have been playing over their heads in 2010. Regression to the mean isn’t always a nice concept.

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October 1, 2011 - Posted by | Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFL Power 15, Pittsburgh Steelers

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