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2011 Week 4 – NFL Power 15

The more things change the more they stay the same! The Packers, Saints & Patriots are back atop the Power 15 and not looking to go anywhere anytime soon! It’s very cool to see the transition in the NFL go back to the NFC being the dominant conference. When Young, Favre & Aikman in the league, it seemed the NFC was absolutely the best conference of the two. When those guys left and QBs like Manning, Brady, Rivers, & Roethlisberger came into the league, the power shifted to the AFC. Now it’s slowly shifting back to the NFC as QBs like Rodgers, Vick, Stafford, & Brees have come to the forefront. Let’s get to the Power 15 & see the breakdown of AFC to NFC squads!

#1 Hammering Denver 49-23 at Lambeau isn’t all that surprising to be honest. What else was Green Bay supposed to do in that game? Aaron Rodgers had an incredible game throwing for over 400 yards with 4TD while rushing for another 2! He’s on pace to throw for 5,300 yards, complete 73% of his passes, connect for 48TD while tossing just 8 picks. Rodgers has never been a 1st Team All-Pro nor has he won an MVP award just yet. The Packers are sitting at 4-0 & I’m not sure there is a loss on the schedule unless Green Bay completely melts down and beats themselves. If you are nitpicking, the defense isn’t incredible, but the offense leads the NFL in points per game at an even 37. The Chiefs have the worst defense in the league at 31.5ppg allowed. You could argue that GB would be 4-0 with the Chiefs defense!
#2 A win is a win, but the Saints went into Jacksonville to play rookie QB Blaine Gabbert and came away with only a 23-10 victory. That could be a bit misleading. According to Football Outsiders, the Jags have the 11th best defense in the league. Maybe the Saints going on the road & still scoring 23 points is an impressive feat? The Saints are in pretty much the same boat as Green Bay is in. Their schedule sets up for them to have a dominating season, although unless they have an outright better record than the Packers, they’ll have to travel to Lambeau to get to the Super Bowl. The Saints have a top-10 rush offense which is scary when you think about who’s under center. The Saints become the 2009 Saints with a good rushing attack.
#3 In case you were wondering, WR Wes Welker is on pace to catch 160 passes for 2,464 yards & 20TD. The receptions & yards would set new NFL records by considerable margins, but remember that both Randy Moss & Jerry Rice have season with 20+TDs so Welker is actually behind the pace there. I thought it was instructive that the Patriots went into Oakland & beat the Raiders 31-19 while the Jets couldn’t beat Oakland on the road the week before. The Patriots showed a much more balanced attack against the Raiders & I wonder if that’s indicative of what’s to come? New England averages 4.8ypc which is top-5 in the NFL. Running the ball more probably benefits the Pats. Remember the loss to Buffalo included 4 Tom Brady interceptions.
#4 Wow. Last week the Lions were down 20-0 at halftime to the Vikings & came back to win 26-23 in OT. This past week the Lions were down 27-3 early in the 3rd quarter against Dallas & came back to win 34-30! Keep in mind that both of these games were ON THE ROAD! I don’t know what kind of confidence that gives an NFL team, but at this point do the Lions EVER PANIC? It’s almost as if they simply spot team 20+ points and then make it a game. What’s somewhat interesting about this 2-game stretch is that Detroit has basically faced Donovan McNabb & Tony Romo. McNabb is terrible at this point in his career while Romo has never seen a big game he can’t choke away. The Lions can’t let GB or NO get up 27-3 and expect to win. I’m on the bandwagon. Now let’s see Detroit put up some dominating performances.
#5 The humiliating loss to the Titans seemed to be an abberation of the worst kind of the Ravens. They absolutely hammered Pittsburgh & St. Louis. Now they can add the Jets to the vanquished. Beating the Jets is one thing. Beating them 31-17 is an entirely different story. The Ravens brutalized Mark Sanchez en route to a 27-7 advantage. Torrey Smith wasn’t as big of a producer against NY, but he didn’t have to be either with the way Baltimore was creating turnovers. If you discount the Tennessee game, Baltimore has outscored their opponents 116-31! As usual, the Ravens defense is comic book nasty & I feel as if the offense is finding its way toward being more consistent. I still wish the Ravens had a reliable option to stretch the field vertically, but even if that portion of their offense is hit-or-miss, the defense is so good it might not matter. I think this is the best team in the AFC at the moment.
#6 I’m moving Houston up to #6. Losing on the road to the Saints by 7 points isn’t something I’m going to clobber them with. They made a statement by beating the Steelers 17-10 & roughing up Ben Roethlisberger, but it’ll be tell exactly what the statement is. Is Houston really that good or is Pittsburgh showing signs of aging rapidly? The Texans are 3-1, but remember that the Steelers are only 2-2 and the Dolphins & Colts are a combined 0-8! Houston’s strength of victory could only be worse if they combined the Colts & Dolphins with some hapless NFC West team not named the 49ers. Losing Andre Johnson doesn’t help either. Houston’s passing game really hadn’t got on track this season & losing potentially the best WR in the NFL doesn’t help matters. Here is something interesting for you. If you take away their longest run, Ben Tate is averaging 4.5ypc while Arian Foster is averaging 3.7ypc. Is Houston better off right now with Ben Tate as the tailback?
#7 I have San Diego sitting in 7th, but it’s an uneasy feeling. I’m not exactly sure what else to do with them. Yes they are 3-1 & leading the AFC West, but their 3 wins have come against Kansas City, Miami & Indianapolis. That trio combines for a 1-11 record! You can’t have an easier schedule than what San Diego has at the moment! Oddly enough this is sort of a polar opposite of what the Chargers did last season. San Diego was fantastic last year but kept losing games. San Diego’s 2-5 start pretty much sealed their fate. They haven’t played nearly as well this season, but have won games, meaning that when the team does come together, they won’t be overcoming a deficit. Antonio Gates is SORELY missed in this offense. Rivers has pretty much sucked so far with Vincent Jackson has been the primary target. Gates brings some balance to the table & the Chargers need him to get healthy & stay on the field.
#8 The loss to Cincinnati is absolutely beyond the realm of comprehension. Buffalo got out to a 17-3 lead at halftime and simply gave the game away. The Bills gave up a few big plays in the 3Q which allowed Cincy to score a TD & FG but it was still Buffalo up 17-13 going into the 4th quarter. More big plays in the 4Q allowed Cincinnati to kick a last second FG to win the game 23-20. For whatever reason, the offense simply couldn’t get going & the defense struggled against the pitiful Bengals. Remember that the Bills are a young team & they just came off a season changing win over New England the week before. Should have lost to Cincinnati? Absolutely not, but this goes to show you that the NFL essentially has no talent gap. Buffalo simply didn’t come ready to play and the Bengals made them pay for it. You can’t show up in the NFL kids and expect to win games.
#9 The Bears have lost to the Saints & Packers. They can’t be that bad! I’m also not going to knock them for beating Carolina by just a 34-29 margin. The Bears got back to old school football behind RB Matt Forte who pounded the rock for 205 yards and a TD & also caught 4 passes for 23 yards. The Bears were much more run heavy, rushing 31 times to only 17 pass attempts which was a significant departure from how Chicago had played offensively the last couple of weeks. You could get nitpicky & say the Bears defense has been a sieve this season. In their last 3 games they’ve given up 88 points, but the Saints, Packers & Panthers are responsible. Obviously NOS & GBP have prolific offenses, and while the Panthers do have a rookie QB, Cam Newton is enough of a playmaker to be able to score points. Still, we are talking about a 1-3 Carolina team. Let’s see how Chicago fares in Detroit this upcoming week.
#10 So they’ve lost to Baltimore & Houston? Most teams in the NFL would! Rumblings are suggesting that the Steelers might finally be aging although I’m not entirely sure I’m buying this. The big problem with Pittsburgh is their rush defense which is absolutely horrible. The Texans ran the ball for almost 200 yards which is unheard of for a Steelers defense. The other problem for Pittsburgh is that they don’t really have a #2 or slot receiver to go along with Mike Wallace, and Ben Roethlisberger is proving to be a bit fragile. He got banged up in Houston although he’ll play this upcoming week against Tennessee. Don’t for a minute think Big Ben is going to sit out because the game is extremely important from a playoff standpoint. Pittsburgh simply can’t afford to go 2-3 this season if the Bills, Titans, Jets & Raiders all hang around.
#11 From being depressed after losing their opener, the G-Men have rallied to win 3 straight and climb to the pinnacle of the NFC East. With Washington opening 3-1, the question that losing to Washington was OK I think has been answered. Sure the Giants maybe shouldn’t have beaten the Redskins, but the Giants will be interesting to watch going down the stretch. Take a look at the schedule. They are 3-1 with games against Seattle, Buffalo & Miami. That could make them 6-1, but after their first 7 games they play: @NE, @SF, PHI, @NO, GB, @DAL, WAS, @NYJ & DAL. Talk about a MURDERER’S ROW!? The Giants have the most offense/defense balanced team in the NFC so you’d think they’d be well suited to making a run. The more entrenched Tom Coughlin is the more I like him as a HC. He always seems to be on the hot seat, but he finds ways to win. With their pass rush getting back to normal, the Giants now might be the odds on favorite to win the NFC East.
#12 At a certain point you have to wonder about the QBs ability to win big games. Tony Romo has been labeled the “Best Worst Player” anyone has ever seen & it’s a sobriquet that no football player would receive well. While their schedule isn’t quite as bad as New York’s, the Cowboys don’t have it easy either. In a bigger sense, I think it’s worth mentioning again the idea that Romo might never be a Super Bowl winning QB. Romo is 31 this season & Dallas isn’t winning any Super Bowls. Next year he’ll be 32 which is sort of advanced although not necessarily for a QB. Is Romo ever going to make it happen? At this point it seems very unlikely. Then it becomes a matter of what Dallas does if they believe this. After Troy Aikman retired, the Cowboys were in the wilderness for a QB until Romo emerged. Even if Romo can never win a Super Bowl, it’s still better than the Quincy Carter/Chad Hutchinson days in the Big D!
#13 The Titans have now jumped ahead of the Giants in being the most complete team in the NFL according to the Football Outsiders. According to FO, the Titans have the 6th best offense & the 4th best defense. The loss to Jacksonville now seems very distant as the Titans have rolled to 3 straight wins. You really can’t talk a lot about Tennessee without talking about Matt Hasselbeck. I’m not sure what the 36-year old is doing, but Hasselbeck is on pace to throw for over 4,600 yards with 32TD! It would be by far the best season of his career, but obviously it all depends on him being able to stay healthy. Getting Chris Johnson back on track will do a lot to help take the pressure off of Hasselbeck. Last week, Johnson had his first 100-yards rushing day against Cleveland so I’d expect more. The Titans travel to Pittsburgh this weekend where we should probably learn quite a bit. Win or lose I think the defense is for real.
#14 You have to hand it to Jim Harbaugh. QB Alex Smith simply isn’t going to be a QB the 49ers can rally around expecting him to make a huge play. Harbaugh knows this so he allows Smith to run a West Coast type of offense with a lot of short passes that allows the 49ers’s skill players to make plays. Frank Gore isn’t tearing it up, but he keeps the chains moving. The win over Philly by the score of 24-23 was surprising because Philly had such a big lead, but really SF did a solid job of running on Philly and doing enough of the little things right so that Philly would implode and the 49ers would steal a victory. The defense is very stout & I don’t see that changing. We’ll never know how truly great SF is because the West is terrible. Maybe that close loss to Dallas indicates something, but an upcoming road game to Detroit is going to be awesome football. Please DO NOT sleep on Jim Harbaugh. He couldn’t be in a better spot as the 49ers are historically one of the most storied programs in NFL history. He’ll get them back to glory.
#15 A win is a win right? Beating the Rams 17-10 doesn’t seem so impressive, but it was in St. Louis & don’t forget that Washington essentially plays without a QB. The Redskins also might have found their true #1 RB in that win in Ryan Torain. When you take away their biggest run, Torain is averaging 5.3ypc while Roy Helu stands at 4.7ypc & Tim Hightower brings up the rear at 3.2ypc. Maybe it’s sample size, but clearly Tim Hightower is not the answer in the backfield for the Washington Redskins. You really can’t rave enough about the defense which as become something special under Jim Haslett. Ryan Kerrigan as literally become a monster at the 4-3 OLB spot, being involved in practically every play the way he was when he was suiting up for Purdue. The Redskins clearly are hurting with Grossman under center. If Washington could get a QB in who could actually play, they’d be a gigantic force to be reckoned with. The season is shaping up well for Washington, but it’s hard to win without the guy under center performing like a Pro Bowler.

Dropping Out

#12 New York Jets: WOW! Dare I say the Jets suck? The Jets & Cowboys are in simliar situations. I really believe Rex Ryan is a Super Bowl winning coach and I’m beginning to think Jason Garrett is one too. The problem is that neither Tony Romo nor Mark Sanchez look like Super Bowl winning QBs. Maybe in Sanchez’s case it’s inexperience, but the Jets have to come up with something. Their schedule is a lesson on how to take humiliating defeats, so it’s not like they can gear up for an easy stretch. Sanchez at least plays well in the playoffs, but if the Jets don’t make it to the playoffs then Sanchez can surprise people.

#15 Oakland Raiders: You kind of figured Oakland would lose to New England a week after beating the Jets, but the problem with keeping the Raiders in the Power 15 was leaving out some teams that I thought were a little more deserving. This is no knock on Oakland. They beat Houston this upcoming week & they’ll be right back in the hunt of things.


October 9, 2011 - Posted by | Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFL Power 15, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers

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