2011 NFL Power Rankings: Divisional Round

Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, 09 January 2011. The Packers won, 21-16. EPA/JUSTIN LANE fotoglif882812

My biggest blunder from last week’s power rankings was that I had the Seahawks at No. 12 and the Saints at No. 5. And for obvious reasons, I don’t feel too badly about that misstep.

Let’s get nasty for the Divisional Round…

1. New England Patriots
Wildcard Ranking: 1
Rex Ryan is making this weekend’s game about him and Bill Belichick, which is understandable given that they’re the two head coaches. But while Ryan stands at the podium every day telling the media that the game will come down to which head coach gets the upper hand, Brian Schottenheimer is in the corner sweating bullets. That’s because this game won’t come down to Ryan v. Belichick. It’ll come down to Schottenheimer v. Belichick and you couldn’t dream up a bigger mismatch.

2. Atlanta Falcons
Wildcard Ranking: 2
While doing my daily web suffering this week, I get the sense that the Falcons are the true underdogs this Saturday against the Packers. Even though Atlanta is a 2-point favorite, the majority of fans believe that if the Packers play their game, they won’t be beaten. But everyone needs to keep in mind how difficult it is to play on the road – especially in consecutive weeks. The Falcons are also well rested and they don’t make many mistakes to cost themselves opportunities. Thus, regardless of if the Packers have the better overall stats or people believe that they’re the better team, they still have to play a near-perfect game this weekend in order to leave Atlanta with a victory.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Wildcard Ranking: 3
The Steelers better hope that Troy Polamalu is healthy enough to make it through the entire game this Saturday because that’s a completely different defense with him standing on the sidelines. It’ll also be interesting to see if Baltimore’s defense can shut down Mike Wallace like it did Dwayne Bowe last Sunday in Kansas City. Because you get the feeling that Wallace is rising to that elite receiver status.

4. Baltimore Ravens
Wildcard Ranking: 4
Pass protection is the key for the Ravens this weekend. If they can keep Joe Flacco upright, the Steelers can be had through the air. Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks don’t match up real well with the Ravens’ receivers, but Baltimore’s O-line must hold up under the pressure that they’ll face from the Steelers’ front seven. The Chiefs were able to get to Flacco a couple of times last week and they managed to strip him once. The Ravens won’t make it out of Pittsburgh this weekend if Flacco is constantly under pressure again.

5. Green Bay Packers
Wildcard Ranking: 6
Thanks to James Starks, the Packers have finally found a running game, which isn’t good news for the Falcons. When these two teams met earlier this season, Green Bay predominately threw the ball because it didn’t have much of a choice. But if they can stay balanced like they did last week in Philadelphia, then Atlanta won’t be able to sit back in coverage like it did last time and force Aaron Rodgers to throw underneath. Starks has added another dimension to this already potent offense.

6. Chicago Bears
Wildcard Ranking: 7
Boy did the Bears luck out or what? At the start of last weekend, it looked like they would either face the Eagles or Saints in the Divisional Round and then – surprise! – Seattle knocks off New Orleans and Green Bay knocks off Philadelphia. Now the Bears will host the Seahawks while the Falcons have to deal with the Packers. Of course, Seattle has already beaten the Bears in Chicago this year, so nothing is guaranteed. And if Seattle plays as hard as it did last weekend, then anything can happen. That said, unless the Seahawks can move Qwest Field to Solider Field this Sunday, I doubt they have two upsets in them this postseason.

7. New York Jets
Wildcard Ranking: 9
The Jets may be winning the war of words but it’s not like the Patriots are interested in that game. The one they’re focusing on is this Sunday in Foxboro and the last time the Jets paid a visit, things went very well for the home team. The Jets must run the football like they did in the second half against the Colts last Saturday. Without that type of running game, they stand no chance this weekend because Mark Sanchez isn’t going to get the best of Bill Belichick.

8. Seattle Seahawks
Wildcard Ranking: 12
The Seahawks proved last week what they could do when nobody believes in them and they seemingly have no shot at winning. But now they have to go on the road and face a Bears team that is well rested after taking last week off. Six times this year, the Hawks played at home and then had to travel the next week. And in those six road games, they lost by an average margin of 23.3 points. Inconsistency is the one thing this team must overcome if it wants to advance to the NFC title game.

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2011 NFL Playoffs Power Rankings: Wildcard Round

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady lines up in the inflatable tunnel with teammates before the start of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on November 21, 2010. The Patriots defeated the Colts 31-28. UPI/Matthew Healey

Here’s how I would rank the 12 playoff teams heading into the Wildcard Round. If you disagree, then f*#k you.

No wait, that wasn’t very nice. I’m sorry. Merry NFL Postseason to all of you. It’s the best time of year…

1. New England Patriots
Thanks to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the Pats look indestructible and bound for Dallas. But the one concern I have is whether or not this team will start reading its own press clippings again. It happened earlier in the year when they lost to the Browns and then again late in the season when they took on the Matt Flynn-led Packers and were almost beaten at home. It’s the playoffs, so I don’t think Belichick has to worry about his team getting a big head but you never know. Other than that, yeah…Patriots for world domination.

2. Atlanta Falcons
I don’t fault anyone who thinks the Falcons will go down in flames over the next two weeks. Their defense is still a question mark, their offense looked putrid against the Saints last Monday night and they rarely blow anybody out. But one thing this team has going for itself is that it’s been in a ton of close games this year and is battle tested. They also have home field advantage (Matt Ryan is 20-2 as a starter in the Georgia Dome) and will be well rested. They also kept things vanilla offensively last week against the Saints, which I think was smart given how New Orleans may very well wind up being their first postseason opponent.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers
With Troy Polamalu in the lineup, the Steelers own the best defense in the playoffs (with Green Bay and Chicago being right behind them). The offensive line is still a concern, but this team scored 68 points the past two weeks (albeit against Carolina and Cleveland) so things can’t be that bad. The Steelers aren’t flawless by any means, but teams shouldn’t fall asleep on them either.

4. Baltimore Ravens
There are some pretty damn good wildcard teams in this year’s playoffs, headlined by the Ravens. They’re currently on a four-game winning streak and thanks to the outcomes last week, they’ll be making a trip to Kansas City this weekend instead of Indianapolis (where they’ve struggled mightily). Baltimore proved last year in Foxboro that it doesn’t mind playing on the road and as long as their secondary holds up, don’t count the Ravens out for making a Super Bowl run.

5. New Orleans Saints
Even with their Week 17 loss to the Bucs at home, this is still a dangerous team. They know what it takes to win a Super Bowl and they employ one of the best offensive minds in football in head coach Sean Payton. Injuries and Drew Brees’ interceptions are two major concerns, but playing on the road throughout the postseason should keep the Saints sharp and focused.

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2010 NFL Week 16 Power Rankings

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles rushes against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 19, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

I don’t know if these are easier to do at this time of year or harder. Or both! Ha! You silly Adrian Peterson…

1. New England Patriots
Previous Week: 1
Bill Belichick has to be concerned with how his young team has a tendency to play down to its competition. It did it against the Browns earlier in the year and then on Sunday night when it thought it had an easy win against the Matt Flynn-led Packers. Get caught playing down to your competition in the playoffs and you’ll find yourself home the following week.

2. Atlanta Falcons
Previous Week: 2
What the Falcons have done over the past two months has been nothing short of impressive. They’ve won eight in a row, including their last three on the road. Now all they have to do is win one of their last two games to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That should happen, as one of their final opponents is the lowly Panthers. But you know the Falcons would love to make a statement against the Saints next Monday night that yes, they are legit Super Bowl contenders.

3. Baltimore Ravens
Previous Week: 5
The Ravens’ defense appears to be regressing down the stretch but their offense is now firing on all cylinders. What a game by Ray Rice. If they can get him going in the postseason – look out.

4. Philadelphia Eagles
Previous Week: 6
The Eagles should have lost last week but that doesn’t matter because they didn’t. In fact, they pulled off the comeback of the year and made it look easy, too. There has to be some concern for the Eagles that the Giants’ defense completely shut down Michael Vick for three and a half quarters, but that’s the type of win that can carry a team into the Super Bowl because they won’t fret when they get behind.

5. New Orleans Saints
Previous Week: 4
Gregg Williams has a problem on his hands. His run defense is leaking oil and teams are attacking the Saints over-the-top when they try to bring their safeties down to help. Sean Payton’s offense can rack up 30 points a game but what’s the difference if Williams’ defense gives up 33?

6. Pittsburgh Steelers
Previous Week: 3
It may be unjust to rank the Steelers ahead of the Jets after New York just beat them on their home turf, but I’m of the mindset that Troy Polamalu means everything to Pittsburgh. With him, they’re at their absolute best and he can affect all facets of the game. Without him, their defense is simply above average because of the secondary and all of the glaring issues on offense (i.e. no running game, inconsistent offensive line play, etc.) are somehow exposed. It’s hard to explain, although the bottom line is this: If the Steelers don’t have a healthy Polamalu for the postseason they won’t make it out of the first two rounds.

7. San Diego Chargers
Previous Week: 8
Do I think the Chargers are better than the Chiefs despite what the records indicate? Yes, I do. Do I think the Chargers will catch the Chiefs by the end of the year and win the AFC West? Ehh…

8. Chicago Bears
Previous Week: 9
I love how everyone made a huge deal about the conditions in Minnesota on Monday night and then the Bears go out there and hang 40 points on the board. The weather didn’t seem to affect Jay Cutler and Devin Hester.

9. Indianapolis Colts
Previous Week: 13
Come on, you didn’t really think the Colts would lose to the Jaguars at home last Sunday did you? Peyton’s not done, which has to be terrifying for other AFC playoff contenders.

10. New York Jets
Previous Week: 11
There’s an argument to be made that they should be higher but this is a team that lost to the crap Dolphins two weeks ago at home. I think they’re fine where they’re at.

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NFL Week 14 MVP power rankings

Now, I feel like I knew what I was talking about by moving Tom Brady up to #1. The man is simply a man possessed this year to win a title. I mean, it’s been, what? Five years since his Pats did win. Yep. Those guys are in a zone. Here are the weekly power rankings…..

1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots—In a blizzard, Brady completed 27 of 40 passes (67.5%) for 369 yards, 2 TDs and zero picks. Against the Bears’ defense. Someone needs to check to see if Brady actually IS human.

2. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles—He’s only played 10 full games, but his overall numbers are sick—averaging 251 yards per game passing, and another 48 yards per game rushing, with 17 passing TDs and 7 more rushing, with only 4 interceptions.

3. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs—The fact that the Chiefs didn’t have Cassel available last Sunday and got blown out in San Diego is the pure definition of MVP.

4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints—At what point do we start paying attention to Brees and his Saints?

5. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers—Here come the Chargers. Sorry, Todd Haley, they are gonna find a way to spoil your postseason aspirations.

6. Matt Ryan/Roddy White/Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons—Sure, they have the best record in the NFC, but Ryan’s numbers aren’t quite backing up MVP vote consideration, so I thought it made sense to group these three together for now.

7. Arian Foster, Houston Texans—Leads in rushing yards (1330), rushing scores (13), and is right behind LeSean McCoy in receiving yards for running backs (504) with 2 more TDs. Just sick, and it’s only too bad the Texans can’t play defense.

8. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers—He leaves the game, the Packers lose to the Lions. See # 3—Cassel, Matt. Same situation.

9. Trent Cole, Philadelphia Eagles—Leads all DE’s in solo tackles (46) and has 9 sacks, but for some reason he doesn’t get much love.

10. Justin Tuck/Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants—Tuck leads all DE’s with 46 total tackles and has 9 sacks; Osi has 40 tackles and 10 sacks. No wonder these guys have been knocking quarterbacks silly.

2010 NFL Week 15 Power Rankings

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 12: Mark Sanchez  of the New York Jets picks himself up after an incomplete pass against the Miami Dolphins at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 12, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Finally, a team is offering stability at the top of the rankings.

Check out Week 14’s Power Rankings

1. New England Patriots
Previous Week: 1
This is the fourth week in a row I’ve had the Patriots in the top spot. I only mention that little factoid because before the Pats made their home atop Mount Power Rankings, the No. 1 spot acted as a revolving door for teams. New England is peaking at the right time, which has to be a scary thought for AFC playoff contenders. Tom Brady is unbeatable in blizzard-like conditions.

2. Atlanta Falcons
Previous Week: 2
Never before have I seen a team fly under the radar as well as the Falcons have this season (not that they have any control of that). Even when they’re supposed to blow out a team and do just that, people aren’t impressed. Everyone is waiting for this team to fall and in the meantime, the Falcons keep winning. Here’s the real interesting part: this team hasn’t even played a complete game yet.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Previous Week: 3
The Steelers’ defense is getting warmed up at just the right time, which is interesting because the Patriots’ offense is peaking now, too. We may be headed for a Pittsburgh-New England rematch soon enough.

4. New Orleans Saints
Previous Week: 4
The Saints’ defense is starting to have that opportunistic feel about them again. They picked off Sam Bradford twice inside the red zone last week and returned one of the gifts for a touchdown right before half. I’m sure Gregg Williams wishes his unit wouldn’t give up so much yardage with the playoffs fast approaching, but he has to be pleased with the amount of turnovers its now producing.

5. Baltimore Ravens
Previous Week: 6
The Ravens were lucky to escape Houston with a win on Monday night. Yes, they were up 28-7 early in the third quarter but they got too complacent and allowed the Texans to tie the game after 99 and 95-yard drives late in the fourth quarter. Houston had also stolen all the momentum heading into overtime so again, the Ravens were fortunate to make it out of Texas with a W. They have some issues to iron out before the playoffs.

6. Philadelphia Eagles
Previous Week: 8
Nice win for the Birds last Sunday night in Dallas. Andy Reid’s squad fell behind in the second half but never panicked and got a couple of monster plays out of Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson. That said, Vick is still taking too many hits, which has to be a concern for Reid with the Giants’ ferocious front seven on deck.

7. New York Giants
Previous Week: 10
The Giants’ performance Monday night in Minnesota wasn’t awe-inspiring from an Eli Manning standpoint, but Tom Coughlin had to love the way his running game destroyed a usually stout Minnesota front seven. The defense played incredibly well too, although most defenses will look good when the other team don’t use a quarterback. Either way, it was a huge win after a couple of days of chaos and with the Eagles game coming up. Now it’s gut-check time.

8. San Diego Chargers
Previous Week: 12
The Chargers caught the Matt Cassel-less Chiefs at the right time but they’re not out of the woods yet. Any Oakland-type meltdowns the rest of the way and San Diego will be home for the playoffs. Both KC and San Diego have cakewalk schedules the rest of the year, so the Bolts will just have to pray that their division rivals collapse in the final weeks.

9. Chicago Bears
Previous Week: 7
I’m not surprised the Bears lost to the Patriots last weekend. I’m surprised that they got the beating of a lifetime in what I consider “Chicago Bear conditions.” And I’m not referring to the weather, because Brady and the Pats obviously can play in the snow. I’m referring to the fact that the Bears and their fans absolutely love the underdog, we’re-better-than-everyone-says-we-are, nobody-gives-us-any-respect role. And then they go out their and they get destroyed on their home turf. Granted, if you’re going to get destroyed you might as well get destroyed by the best team in the league. I just expected more out of the eventual NFC North champs.

10. Green Bay Packers
Previous Week: 9
I hate when people say that a team is better than their record because hey, their record is their record. But in the case of the Packers, I happen to think it’s true. They’ve been decimated by injuries and yet, the numbers still suggest they’re better than their record would indicate. But no matter how you slice it, the Pack are in deep trouble. They travel to New England this Sunday night and if Aaron Rodgers (concussion) can’t go, Matt Flynn isn’t going to beat the Pats on their home turf. That means Green Bay must hope the Bears lose to the Vikings on Monday night. And with how poorly Minnesota played against the Giants, that’s a long shot. It appears as though all hopes have been dashed for this once promising team.

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