I’ll be filling in for Vinny this week so get ready for a drastically different style of Power Rankings. Okay, you got me. I just listed the teams in order like always. Let’s get to it.
1. Houston Texans (4-0) – The Texans have become the best friend of gamblers everywhere, covering the spread every single week. It’s almost shocking how easily all their games have gone and they don’t have much of a test this Monday night playing a decimated Jets roster.
2. Atlanta Falcons (4-0) – It’s no surprise that the Falcons are having a good regular season. They always seem to and then lose the second they smell the playoffs. The division already seems like a lock but Matty Ice appears to be developing nicely and the Roddy White/Julio Jones combo is the deadliest in the league. Maybe this is the year they break through.
3. San Francisco 49ers (3-1) – You don’t get bonus points for beating the Jets but the beat down did remind everyone that the Niners are a very good team capable of knocking just about anyone around.
4. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – The Ravens had some trouble with the Browns on Thursday night but they were playing their 3rd game in 18 days, more proof the league doesn’t care about safety, and they still have a lot of weapons. Their defense may be old and overrated but it’s good enough to support their new look offense and make the Ravens a serious contender.
5. New England Patriots (2-2) – For a while there I was getting ready to celebrate the end of the Tom Brady era. It looked like the Bills might finally slay the Ugg wearing demon of New England but with his back against the wall he reminded us why he’s got so many Super Bowl rings. (Illegal tapes and a horrible call against Oakland notwithstanding) The Patriots have improved their D and have plenty of offense even without Hernandez.
6. Arizona Cardinals (4-0) – Kevin Kolb is 4-0. Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are a combined 2-6. I’m not even going to make a joke. Just let that set in.
At this point the Cardinals “sneaky good D” isn’t sneaky good. It’s flat out great. I don’t know how long this can last but I’m loving the ride.
7. Minnesota Vikings (3-1)– These next three picks might make me crazy but since the NFC North is clearly stacked, and there’s no way to make heads or tails of who’s the best team I’m going to defer to the upstart Vikes. Christian Ponder is looking like the QB of the future, Adrian Peterson’s knees are from another planet and Percy Harvin has evolved into one of the league’s premier weapons. And don’t forget the sneaky good defense which rank 8th overall in total D.
Editor Kaplan’s note: It’s a great thing that Cresci stuck with his beloved Vikings instead of jumping ship to the Jets in college!
8. Green Bay Packers (2-2) – Despite a relatively high ranking, I don’t feel good about the Packers. Their defense is much improved but the offense, the team’s trademark, has looked pedestrian at best. Zebragate wouldn’t have happened in Week 3 if the reigning MVP generated any offense and if his line provided any protection. Rodgers can turn the team around but something seems off.
9. Chicago Bears (3-1) – The ugly Monday night Packers game pushed the hate too far. Cutler meltdowns will happen but this is a team with a strong defense, stronger running game, great coaching and a high upside combo in Cutler/Marshall.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) – Is there a more confusing team in professional sports? The Eagles have played tough opponents and ended up with a 3-1 record, not to mention first place in their division. Yet they barely beat the Browns, have a -17 point differential, a QB who seems to be pursuing some sort of turnover record and a coach who refuses to hand the ball to their best player, LeSean McCoy. In the absence of an explanation I’m just going to have to let the record speak for itself and stick the Eagles in the top 10.
11. New York Giants (2-2) – This is what the Giants do. They play mediocre football all year and squeak out a few Eli miracles (in which everyone forgets all the bad plays he makes), take advantage of some incompetent team like the Cowboys and end up scratching their way to a wild card sport. Then they go on a deep playoff run winning road game after road game for seemingly no reason and all the talking heads rewrite history and forget how pedestrian they were all year. Sigh, here we go again.
12. Denver Broncos (2-2) – After reports of Peyton Manning’s dead arm reached a fever pitch, the best QB of the last 15 years showed us that he still knows how to run an offense even if some of the juice is gone. This is a team with a decent, but overrated defense and the potential to figure things out enough to play solid football.
13. San Diego Chargers (3-1) – A Norv Turner team starting hot? This can only end badly for the lovely people of San Diego. The Chargers are a good team but there’s nothing overwhelmingly special about them.
14. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – Same old Cowboys. Win a few tough ones; blow a few easy ones and about a quarter of the way through start blaming Tony Romo. Once again Dallas has a talented team that seems destined to fail.
15. Seattle Seahawks (2-2) – Another hard team to get a feel for. Great defense and a huge home field advantage but Russell Wilson is looking like he was the wrong choice for starting QB
16. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) – The Bengals have an exciting offense that’s gained a nice boost from the emergence of BenJarvus Green-Ellis as a legitimate back. Their defense isn’t as exciting and their division seems all locked up. The future seems bright for this young team but the present is somewhere in the middle of the pack.
17. Detroit Lions (1-3) – The Lions lead the league in passing offense and are tenth in total defense. So why isn’t their record better? For one, they are in a preposterously difficult division, they’ve struggled to establish a running game (22nd in the league) to complement their passing attack and they’ve had a few bad breaks. They’re in the wrong division to have fallen into a hole.
18. Washington Redskins (2-2) – RGIII! Man, this guy is fun to watch. The emergence of Alfred Morris has also been a nice boost but defensive injuries have hindered Washington’s pass rush and put a limit on their ceiling in the short term.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) – There’s a lot of hoopla about the return of Polamalu and Harrison but the Steelers look to be old and deeply flawed. Big Ben will win them some games but this looks like the end of an era in Pittsburgh.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) – A few weeks removed the biggest story surrounding the Bucks is still Greg Schiano’s feud with Tom Coughlin (Shciano is 100% right) because the team hasn’t turned that hard-nosed “play until the last whistle” attitude into victories. On the bright side they have an elite run defense and a pretty good offensive core that’s dependent on the continued improvement of Josh Freeman.
21. St. Louis Rams (2-2) – One of the best “bad” teams in the league with Stephen Jackson and Danny Amendola positioned to continue Sam Bradford’s development. They’re also top 15 in total defense and Jeff Fischer has done an excellent job building a program.
22. Carolina Panthers (1-3) – Sunday’s mind boggling loss to the Falcons seems to indicate that Carolina just can’t finish games. Cam rebounded nicely from his early season struggles, though, so they might be ready to start moving in the right direction.
23. Oakland Raiders (1-3) – The Raiders are a tough team to read. On the surface they have a decent offense with some weapons but they are ranked 22nd in total offense and Darren McFadden has been struggling to get going. Their 28th ranked D isn’t helping.
24. Buffalo Bills (2-2) – Poor Buffalo. They spent all that money on a shiny new defense and have let up an average of 50 points in divisional games this year.
25. New Orleans Saints (0-4) – You know that NFL Mobile commercial where the nerdy guy learns all about football and impresses his Saints fan coworkers? Then he starts hitting the gym, studying football and dressing nice? In it he says of the Saints, “Best defense in the league.” Guess the app isn’t very good.
26. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – Poor Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe. The Chiefs are in trouble unless Matt Cassel figures it out and the way things are going, that doesn’t seem likely.
27. New York Jets (2-2) – I’m a Jets fan so I’m probably ranking this team too high despite how sickened I am with them. Ground and pound is a myth as long as Shonn “2nd&8” Greene is the starting running back and Mark Sanchez, a man I defend endlessly, is really struggling and is surrounded by a stark dearth of a talent.
28. Miami Dolphins (1-3) – Insert joke about Tannehill’s wife here. Another bad team that isn’t quite as bad as expected. A strong pass rush combined with Reggie Bush’s (semi) emergence has the Dolphins poised to be a difficult out who don’t end up with many wins. Sort of like last year.
29. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) – After the sad news about Chuck Pagano the team may rally but it’s hard to predict where the squad is. Luck’s development is the key to this season, not wins.
30. Tennessee Titans (1-3) – While it seems like reports of Chris Johnson’s death may have been exaggerated, this is still a team with an injured QB and a dismal O-line.
31. Cleveland Browns (0-4) – Call me crazy but the Browns looked surprisingly good against the Ravens in Baltimore. Trent Richardson seems to be the real deal, Brandon Weeden has avoided giant American flag traps and they will be getting star CB Joe Haden back soon. Still they’re the youngest team in the league, they have 4 rookies starting on offense and they are forced to play in the cursed city of Cleveland.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – In their two home games the Jags have compiled 329 yards of offense…combined. Total. Between both games. That’s it. My Jets will surely be here soon though, so don’t fret Jacksonville.