An interesting week in the NFL cleared up a lot about the contenders and the pretenders. The Patriots destroyed the Jets, and Big Ben once again took down Joe Flacco. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan continued their brilliant play in the NFC. The 2010 postseason could be one to remember.
1. New England Patriots (10-2)—The Patriots took it to the Jets tonight, earning the top spot in the power rankings. Tom Brady is on his game right now, and the defense is starting to step it up. The win over the Jets all but ensures that New England will get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. I am not sold on them as a Super Bowl favorite just yet, but they are playing better than any team in the league right now.
2. Atlanta Falcons (10-2)—Matt Ryan has emerged as one of the best clutch quarterbacks in the NFL. In successive weeks he has led game winning drives against the Packers and Buccaneers, two playoff contenders. Despite their dominance, the Falcons could see the division race go down to the wire. The Saints are starting to regain form.
3.Green Bay Packers (8-4)—The Green Bay Packers are hitting stride at the right time. They found a running game, as they got James Starks back from injury. The rookie, a sixth round draft pick out of Buffalo, gave the Packers a much needed spark from their running game as he collected 73 yards on 16 carries against the 49er’s third ranked run defense.
A formidable running game would take this offense to another level. I picked the Packers to win the Super Bowl, and despite the injuries they have had, I still like them to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Keep in mind that they have lost four games, all by three points.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3)—Big Ben and the Steelers continue to get it done despite being a bit banged up. Their victory over the Ravens says it all, so I will take this time to throw my two cents in about James Harrison. The league should be ashamed of what they are doing to this guy. He plays the game it was meant to be played. The last time I checked, football is a tough game for tough guys.
While the officials blatantly ignored a helmet to helmet hit on Heath Miller, everyone of Harrison’s hits is worthy of a fine. It’s embarrassing.
5. New Orleans Saints (9-3)—The Saints pulled off a close victory against the Bengals, but as I mentioned, that was a trap game for them. They close out the season against four playoff contenders, and Drew Brees is playing his best football when it matters.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (8-4)—The Eagles got back on track against the Texans. Michael Vick had a heroic effort, and continues to look unstoppable. The Eagles need to fix the issues with their offensive line, as Vick was under a ton of heat against Houston on Thursday.
7.New York Jets (9-3)—The Jets were not in a good spot to win this game. After beating Bill Belichick earlier this season, they had their work cut out for them winning at New England in a divisional rematch game. The Jets are still contenders in the AFC. Rex Ryan will get this team playing their best football when it matters most.
8.Baltimore Ravens (8-4)—The Baltimore Ravens had a disappointing effort against the Steelers on Sunday Night. Big Ben was hobbled and still managed 253 passing yards against the Ravens. Flacco was solid, but Ray Rice continues to not be a big part of the Baltimore Ravens’ offense. We’ll see if they can right the ship before the playoffs.
9. New York Giants (8-4)—The Giants are playing the kind of football that won them a Super Bowl. New York is running the ball dominantly, and rushing the passer as well as anyone in the league. Jason Pierre Paul has collected four sacks in the past two games, while Bradon Jacobs seems to have reemerged as a dominant inside runner.
10. Chicago Bears (9-3)—After an impressive win over the Eagles, the Bears got incredibly lucky against the Lions. Ndamukong Suh was whistled for a ridiculous unnecessary roughness penalty that allowed Jay Cutler and company to score the winning touchdown. Chicago won’t get lucky against the Patriots.
11. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5)—The Jaguars are playing their best football at the right time. As Jaguars senior editor Vic Ketchman mentioned, it’s beginning to look a lot like ‘07 down in Jacksonville.
12. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)—I am reluctantly placing the Chiefs above the Chargers, because San Diego made too many mistakes against the Raiders for me to warrant putting them above the division leading Chiefs. Chiefs’ fans will point to the head to head game against Jacksonville as reason for why they are better, but since that game the Jaguars have been on fire.
Not to mention, Todd Bouman started under center for Jacksonville in that contest. The Chiefs stumbled to a 10-6 victory against the putrid Denver Broncos, and are not looking like a playoff team. They may get in on the weakness of their schedule and division, but they will be a one and done team at best.
13. San Diego Chargers (6-6)—The Chargers really shot themselves in the foot this time. But just when everyone counts San Diego out, they seem to pull off the improbable. I still get the feeling that they will storm back to win the division. Phillip Rivers will have to carry this team if they want to have a shot.
14. St. Louis Rams (6-6)—All aboard the Rams bandwagon! St. Louis is playing great football on both sides. Sam Bradford has turned this Rams franchise around quicker than even the most optimistic St. Louis fan could have thought.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)—The Buccaneers development is well ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, they have two Super Bowl contenders in their division, meaning unlike the Chiefs and Rams, they cannot sneak into the playoffs based on a weak division.
16. Indianapolis Colts (6-6)—Peyton Manning has not looked like the same quarterback in 2010. His supporters will blame the offensive line, an injury, his receivers or the Bush Administration. But the bottom line is he has been throwing the ball to the other team all too often.
17. Houston Texans (5-7)—Another disappointing season in Houston. Just when you think they’ve turned the corner…
18. Oakland Raiders (6-6)—The Raiders spanked the Chargers. The two pronged attack of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush was phenomenal, and when the Raiders play like they did on Sunday, they will be tough to beat. They are improving, but still a year or two away from being a playoff contender.
19. Cleveland Browns (5-7)—This team is significantly worse with Jake Delhomme under center. I am not a Colt McCoy fan either, but anyone is better than Delhomme.
20. Minnesota Vikings (5-7)—Brett Favre’s career could be over. The Vikings have recently looked like the team that was a preseason Super Bowl contender.
21. Dallas Cowboys (4-8)—How ‘bout them Cowboys?! Like the Vikings, the Boys have new life after the firing of their head coach.
22. Miami Dolphins (6-6)—The Dolphins officially have a quarterback problem.
23. Seattle Seahawks (6-6)—The Seahawks keep plugging along, but are not very impressive.
24. San Francisco 49ers (4-8)—The 49ers should not be this bad.
25. Washington Redskins (5-7)—Much like ‘09, the Redskins are stumbling to the finish.
26. Detroit Lions (3-9)—The Lions are the best 3-9 team I have seen in some time.
27. Buffalo Bills (2-10)—The Bills return to form by getting blown out by the Vikings.
28. Tennessee Titans (5-7)—The Titans got manhandled on Sunday. If Jeff Fischer gets the boot, the Titans have made a grave mistake.
29. Cincinnati Bengals (2-10)—Close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.
30. Denver Broncos (3-9)—Josh McDaniels has been fired! So much for his genius plan behind ridding the Broncos of all of their offensive talent.
31. Arizona Cardinals (3-9)—The Cardinals will finally get a look at John Skelton.
32. Carolina Panthers (1-11)—Jimmy Clausen is fighting for his job already.