NFL Week 14 Power Poll: BCS Style

Alan Zlotorzynski@@zlotsportsCorrespondent IIIDecember 8, 2010

NFL Week 14 Power Poll: BCS Style

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    Matt Ryan leads the Falcons from behind in December ,on the road against a divisional foe

    The Men are starting to separate themselves from the boys after week 13.

    I have waited all season long to see the Chargers debut in this BCS style poll. Any team considered for ranking must be above .500.

    Last week the Chargers finally climbed above .500 and made this poll. Thanks to the Oakland Raiders season sweep of them, they are gone again.

    The Chargers loss to Oakland at home was their most disappointing since losing as favorites a few years ago in the AFC Championship game to the Patriots.

    While Tom Brady is firmly entrenched at the head of the list for the MVP award, Peyton Manning has to be wondering what went wrong.

    The Colts all time leading passer threw four more interceptions on Sunday as Dallas stunned Indy at home, winning 38-35 in overtime.

    This was Manning's 11th pick in three games and making matters worse, four of his interceptions in the last two weeks have been returned for touchdowns.

    I must add that anyone counting the Colts out of the playoff picture is making a huge mistake.

    The best rivalry game of the weekend didn't take place in Baltimore Sunday Night.

    The Falcons and Buccaneers played a back and forth, hard hitting,  playoff like game. The Falcons would prove they belong in the elite talk by coming from behind and winning 28-24.

    Atlanta is the best team in the NFC.

    Many point to Matt Ryan leading his team on an 80 yard 40 second game winning drive against Baltimore a few weeks ago as his true coming out party,

    After watching Ryan lead the Falcons down the field on the game winning drive against a divisional rival on the road in December, I’m convinced of Mattie Ice and his abilities to take the Falcons to the Super Bowl.

    As a Raven fan I can tell you there is no more debating Matt Ryan verses Joe Flacco, it’s Matt Ryan, end of story.

    Speaking of my boy Flacco, not completing that fourth and two play on Sunday night to a wide open receiver is not good for a third year quarterbacks confidence, especially headed into the stretch drive.

    Was the miss of the wide open receiver bad mechanics, as Flacco described it, or was Flacco still thinking about Polamalu’s strip-sack fumble?

    Many former great quarterbacks will tell you that your memory must be short to be successful in this league.

    Ryan’s memory was able to shake off an interception that led to a Buccaneers touchdown, putting Tampa up by ten with just over ten minutes remaining.

    Ryan composed himself after throwing that interception to lead the Falcons on the game winning drive in comparison, Flacco's fourth and two debacle was the worst missed play in his brief three year career.

    This is a BCS style point’s poll. Net point difference, offensive and defensive rankings, opponent’s strength of schedule are three of the six categories considered.

    Wins and losses at home and on the road are also factored into the equation, wins and losses at home and on the road against your division factors a little more into the equation.

    It’s also important to note that it will be interesting to see if a team like the Patriots with such a horribly ranked defense can win a championship..

    There are only 13 teams in the poll this week, a season low. An entire division is absent from the rankings. For the third straight week, the PAC 10 minus six or the NFC West is not represented.

    While both Seattle and St. Louis are 6-6, that’s not over .500 and subsequently they don't qualify. It is important to mention that the Rams, in reaching six wins, have reached their win total from the last three seasons combined.

    The Steelers, Patriots and Falcons are locked in to this poll, all three well over the .500 mark. Click on the slide show above to see how they stack up against each other with all of these statistics considered.

# 13 The Tampa Bay Buccaneers:80 Points

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    Josh Freeman once again came close but fell short against AtlantaJ. Meric/Getty Images

    Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman made one mistake on Sunday and it killed the drive that would have possibly given the young Bucs their first win against a team with a winning record.

    Freeman threw an interception immediately following the two minute warning and the Buccaneers lost to their division rivals and the division leading Atlanta Falcons.

    Tampa blew a ten point fourth quarter lead allowing the Falcons to escape with a 28-24 win.

    The Bucs now have a difficult road to travel in order to make the playoffs.

    They still have two games left with the one win Carolina Panthers. They aren't officially eliminated but with three losses in the division, they must beat Carolina twice and the Saints in New Orleans to have any shot at the Wild Card.

    New Orleans easily beat Tampa earlier this season 31-6 at Raymond James Stadium.  

    It's likely that the two Wild Cards will be the second place finishers from either the NFC’s South, North or Eastern divisions.The January second showdown in the Big Easy could be for a shot to get into the playoffs.

    The Buccaneers have no margin for error between now and then.That's a tall order for such a young team with a young coach.

#12 The Jacksonville Jaguars: 90 Points

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Having won four of their last five, the Jaguars are in control of their own destiny. The December 19th showdown is the game all eyes are pointed to. If they win in Indianapolis on the 19th, the division should be theirs.

    There is a lot of good news in Jaguars country theses days, Maurice Jones Drew has rushed for 100 or more yards in five consecutive games.

    Left on the Jags schedule are the 22nd, 29th, 28th and 10th ranked run defenses. Jones-Drew has a good shot of literally putting the Jags on his back and running them to a division title.

# 11 The Kansas City Chiefs: 130 Points

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    Todd Haley pats the now ex-Denver coach Josh McDaniels on the head after beating the Broncos on SundayJamie Squire/Getty Images

    I wrote last week that it was a matter of time before the Chiefs would be over taken by the Chargers for the division lead. I compared them to the kid on the raft in Jaws, watching the shark circle, just knowing you’re eventually going to be eaten alive.

    Well I guess as they say, sometimes the rabbit has the gun.

    The chiefs beat the Broncos earlier in the day and sat back and watched things fall nicely into place for them. By the time the day ended the Raiders had swept the Chargers and the Chiefs found themselves with a two game lead with only four games remaining.

    Evaluating the Chargers and Chiefs schedule, a slight edge has to go to San Diego, but it's only slight. The Chiefs can erase the Chargers all together by just beating them this Sunday in San Diego, doing that would give the Chiefs the season sweep and severely damage any chances the Chargers will have at making the post season.

    If the Chargers win, get back on the lifeguard stand, you may have to once again watch out for the kid on the raft.



# 10 The Chicago Bears: 160 Points

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    The Giants smothering defense forced six Redskin turnoversLeon Halip/Getty Images

    Although not as controversial the, Chicago Bears won their second game this season against the Detroit Lions with the help of the men in the stripes.

    Ed Hochuli flagged rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for a very questionable roughing the passer call.

    This wasn't like the first game of the season where the call cost the Lions the game.

    The Bears were driving on the play when Hochuli threw the flag. The situation was first and ten at the Detroit 22 yard line when Suh was penalized.

    The call moved the ball to the seven and on the next play Jay Cutler threw the touchdown pass that put the Bears up for good 24-20.

    The Bears have very quietly stayed atop the NFC north with a 9-3 record, one game ahead of their division rivals, the Green Bay Packers.

    Having beaten the Pack once already this year, Chicago must not get caught looking ahead to the final week showdown in Green Bay.

    My biggest concern is the record of the Bears opponents played this year. Chicago’s opponents are a paltry 56-88. That ties the bears with the Chiefs in this poll for the worst strength of schedule record.

    Besides beating Green Bay the Bears have two other quality wins, Philadelphia at home and a shutout win in Miami.

    Being battled tested against good teams can pay dividends this time of year.

    Their schedule is about to get a lot tougher and make no mistake if the Bears hold on they will have earned the right to play in the post season.

    The 10-2 Patriots come to Soldier field this Sunday and two weeks after that the New York Jets visit the windy city.

    With three big games looming very large, Lovie Smith must keep Jay Cutler focused and Matt Forte in the game plan. Mike Martz tends to abandon the running game at strangest times.


# 9 The New York Giants: 185 Points

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    The Giants #2 ranked defense forced six turnovers on Sunday

    The Giants are doing something they normally don't do this time of year under head coach Tom Coughlin, winning football games.

    The G-Men have found their power game on offense and defense.

    Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined to carry the ball 33 times for 200 yards on Sunday as each scored two rushing touchdowns apiece.

    Eli was pedestrian but effective in managing the game throwing just one interception. He completed 15 passes for 161 yards in the 31-7 thrashing of the Redskins.

    The Giants defense, ranked second in the NFL showed why on Sunday. They sacked Donovan McNabb four times and forced six Redskin turnovers.

    This is Giants football and the good news is that Tom Coughlin has them playing it in December. 

    They have a chance to right the ship and regain the lead in the division when they host the Eagles in a rematch of a game  they lost two weeks ago. The Eagles beat the Giants back in Philadelphia in mid November.

    Good defense plus a power running game is a formula for success in December in the NFL. If the Giants continue to play this way they will have a shot at playing at home in January.

# 8 The New York Jets: 205 Points

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    Mark Sanchez and the Jets took the worst "butt whipping" of Rex Ryans short head coaching careerElsa/Getty Images

    The New York Jets took the biggest drop of any team in this poll all season long. They were ranked number one last week and fell seven spots. Of course no other team ranked ahead of them has suffered a 42 point beat down like the Jets did on Monday night.

    Many people said that good teams find ways to win and that’s what the Jets were doing in those close games against the Browns, Lions and Texans.

    Sports talk show experts began to throw Mark Sanchez's name into the MVP race, saying that Sanchez was willing his team to victory. Sanchez led the Jets to three straight wins on their last offensive possession.

    While Sanchez was good, Tom Brady showed the young sophomore from USC what a real MVP candidate looks like in the 45-3 loss on Monday.

    This is a good poll because while it allowed the Jets to remain number one through those so called fortunate wins, once they were exposed last night a lot of their numbers and stat categories were too.

    The Jets will make the playoffs but it's important to tell you that verses current playoff teams the Jets are just 1-3 averaging only ten points per game, their turnover margin is minus one against these teams.

    In those games Mark Sanchez has just three touchdowns to five interceptions.

    Verses current non playoff teams the Jets are 8-0 averaging 28 PPG, plus five in the turnover margin and Sanchez has 13 TD's to just 6 INT'S.

    Like I said the Jets will make the playoffs but they won't be playing the Browns, Lions or Texans when they get there.


# 7 The Baltimore Ravens: 210 Points

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    The Ravens must get back to power football in DecemberGeoff Burke/Getty Images

    The Baltimore Ravens blew a golden opportunity on Sunday night and they know it. Head Coach John Harbaugh called Sunday's loss the most difficult of his young head coaching career.

    Head coaches don't make comments like that if they don’t' feel responsible for the loss and the Ravens coaching staff should feel plenty responsible, Cam Cameron in particular.

    ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer called the decision by Cam Cameron to throw the ball on second and five with the lead at home late in the game  "an egregious mistake by the Ravens coaching staff".

    The problem is this is not the first time something like this has happened. The Ravens have blown six fourth quarter leads this season and luckily for them only lost three of those games.

    The Ravens had the Patriots on the ropes at Gillette Stadium earlier this year before allowing the Patriots to win in overtime.

    The Ravens may be a victim of their own self arrogance as the coaching staff refuses to change its approach. If they aren’t careful they could be the team that goes into a free fall, losing a veteran locker room in the process.

    The Ravens have four tough December games that will determine their immediate future.

    The Texans play tough at home, throwing the ball all over Reliant Stadium. Drew Brees will throw all over Greg Mattison's secondary.

    The Browns also figure to be tough at home, Peyton Hillis ran for 140 yards on the Ravens in Baltimore back in September and lastly the Bengals even at 2-10 can beat Baltimore. They have done it three straight times.

    These next four games could go either way. The Ravens could be 0-4 or 4-0, this will be an all or nothing team in the next month.

    Don’t be surprised to see them in Dallas and don’t be surprised to see them at home watching the second weekend in January.

# 6 The Philadelphia Eagles 225 Points

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    Vick must do more of this to stay healthy for the playoff runAl Bello/Getty Images

    Michael Vick is healthy and the Eagles win again. The Eagles are now the number one ranked offense in football behind Vick's arm and legs.

    The Schedule for the Eagles looks very manageable, if they can beat the Giants in New York than they may have a clear shot at a first round bye.

    If Andy Reid isn't the coach of the year in the NFC then I have no idea who could be. No disrespect Raheem Morris but you have to beat that team with a winning record first. Baby steps my man, Baby steps.

    I have contended that if Vick stays healthy and keeps playing like the Vick from the Madden 2006 video game, the Eagles and Falcons will play for the NFC Championship.

    Wow is that coming full circle or what. I wonder if Arthur Blank will be looking for Vick before that game.

# 5 The Green Bay Packers: 230 Points

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    Rodgers had enough time Sunday to pose for picturesJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Packers tore apart the 49ers as they should have on Sunday. Playing in throwbacks from way back, the Packers got back on track following their loss in Atlanta the week before.

    The real test for the Pack is coming up in the next few weeks. Although there are no guarantees in this league the Packers should beat the Lions on Sunday. It's from that point it gets interesting in Green Bay.

    Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Pack play three tough games to finish the season and if they are not careful and don't win these games they could find themselves on the outside looking in.

    After Travelling to New England in a match-up of two of the premiere quarterbacks in the league they close out the season with two games at home. Hosting the Giants and the Bears.

    In all likelihood the final home game against Chicago will be for the NFC North, which I believe the Packers will win.


# 4 The New Orleans Saints:245 Points

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    Chris Ivory ran for 117 yards including this 55 yard scoreAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    The offense is back and the Saints are no longer, if a Super Bowl Champ could have been, under the radar. 

    Scoring 30 points in each of the last four games New Orleans is doing it with a balanced attack and not just relying on Drew Brees arm.

    Brees still threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns but running back Chris Ivory chipped in with 117 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns himself. One of those touchdowns from a 55 yard sprint.

    The Saints have won six out of seven and seem to be hitting their stride at the right time. They will still be tested in the coming weeks.

    They make trips to Baltimore and Atlanta and the game in the Georgia Dome may be a shot to overtake the Falcons if the Saints don't lose again.

    If the Saints continue to peak its safe to say they have a shot to defend their Super Bowl Championship


# 3 The New England Patriots: 265 Points

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    MVP front runner Tom BradyJim Rogash/Getty Images

    Yes it's true, they are number three. The TCU of this poll. The fact that they are ranked 31st on defense is what kills them here. 

    It took a divisional rival and a long time coach from his staff to beat the Pats.

    Although the two teams that beat New England did it in similar ways. The Jets in week two and his former pupil Eric Mangini did it decisively in week nine. They controlled the game in the second half keeping Tom Brady off of the field.

    While you hear that strategy a lot with Peyton Manning it's rare you will hear that about Brady because he doesn't seem as if he's picking you apart. In fact that’s exactly what he’s doing, he's just doing it underneath while Manning does it over the top.

    Brady is keeping your teams quarterback off of the field allowing that young 31st ranked defense to rest and play four quarters. In essence they are being hidden.

    Tom Brady is not exactly dinking and dunking but 10-15 yards a clip is how he beats your defense. That’s why trading Randy Moss simply wasn’t that big of a deal. The Patriots no longer wanted to go down the field with consistency.

    That’s not to say Brady won’t do it, ask the Detroit Lions if Tom Brady can still get the ball 50 yards down field on a fly pattern.

    Throw in whatever running back Belichick has around, this year BenJarvus Green-Ellis and presto before you know it Belichick, Brady and the Patriots are up by ten at the end of the first quarter.

    The next two weeks will be interesting, Chicago has a balanced attack these days with Matt Forte and Jay Cutler. The Packers play similarly on offense to the Patriots and have a real shot of embarrassing the young secondary. The Pack still like throwing the deep ball.

    I wouldn't fret over this ranking right now but I would worry about the defense being ranked 31st come playoff time. They are going to have to cut back on the amount of yards they are giving up per game.

    One of the teams in this hunt, the Ravens showed last year in the playoffs, the Patriots can be beaten at home. Baltimore thumped New England in the Wild Card Round.

    The beauty of this team right now is they you have no idea how they are going to come at you, on offense or defense. They don’t have the big time superstar athletes, just football players. Players that love to play the game, smart guys, guys like Belichick.

    I wonder if Darrelle Revis enjoyed having the cruise ship King Belichick docked on Revis Island last night. Tom Brady made sure his receivers were treated to an all inclusive vacation.

    If anyone can figure out to win a Super Bowl with a young defense that gives up a ton of yards Bill Belichick can.


# 2 The Pittsburgh Steelers: 290 Points

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    Big Ben loading up to win his sixth straightGeoff Burke/Getty Images

    No arguing with me over the Steelers being ranked second. I'm a Raven fan, you think I wanted them here. The fact is the Steelers deserve to be ranked number two.

    I know, the Patriots blew them out in Pittsburgh. A throw away game, we all have them, remember yours Pats fans back in week nine?

    Their opponent’s strength of schedule record is the toughest in this poll. At 78-66, the Steelers have once again played one of the league’s toughest schedules. The Patriots opponents are 69-75, hence the difference in their positions.

    The Steelers win on Sunday is the type of win that can catapult a team to the Super Bowl. If history tells us anything it already has.

    Back in 2008 the Steelers came to Baltimore in December with a one game lead in the division. With first place on the line they beat the Ravens in Baltimore to win the division.

    Sound familiar, just wait it gets a little better.

    The Ravens led that game 9-6 and with just a few minutes remaining. Big Ben with a bad back drove the Steelers almost 90 yards and found Santonio Holmes in front of the goal line with 43 seconds remaining to make the score, are you ready for this 13-9.

    The TD catch was controversial, many thought Holmes crossed the plain but the ball didn't. After what seemed like hours of re-plays, it was determined the ball did. The Steelers won the game and closed out the Ravens and the division.

    All they did following that victory was beat the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl a few weeks later, of course after beating the Ravens in the AFC Championship game.

    Well Sunday night's win seemed a bit more improbable in the way it happened. Troy Polamalu with his hair and Big Ben with his broken nose and foot, worked their sick magic again.

    The Steelers may be to beat up to duplicate that feat of winning the Super Bowl this year but if they do it will be this past Sunday's game that sent them on their way.


# 1 The Atlanta Falcons: 305 Points

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    Michael Turner bursts ahead in the Falcons come from behind victoryJ. Meric/Getty Images

    No argument here, they just win games and if they get home "track" advantage in the playoffs they will be hard to beat in the Georgia Dome, Oh wait that’s right, you can't beat them there.

    The Falcons passed a big test in my mind on Sunday.

    The Buccaneers were playing a big game at home on a throwback day and after falling behind by ten points late in the game, Matt Ryan proved his nickname, Mattie Ice to be true.

    Ryan wasn't having a great day, having already thrown two costly interceptions. One led to a Buccaneers touchdown. Ryan rebounded and led the Falcons to the go ahead score late in the fourth quarter.

    Winning a divisional game on the road in December is one of the toughest things to do in the NFL and the Falcons did it coming from behind.  

    No more buts’ when it comes to Atlanta. The only thing that may stand in their way is their former quarterback if he can stay healthy.

    If Vick can get back to the Georgia Dome, the karma, history and fast track may be too much for the Falcons to overcome.

    The Falcons are the best team in the NFC and according to this BCS style power poll, in the NFL.