Friday, October 12, 2012

1st Quarter NFL Power Rankings

Now that every team has played at least four games, it feels like a good time for some Power Rankings a quarter into the season.

1. Falcons 5-0: The defense looks sharp, and Matt Ryan is running the no huddle offense beautifully. If "The Mattural," as Rich Eisen coined him on his podcast, can keep up the heroics in close games, this team will be a tough out in the playoffs.
Ryan's connection to Roddy White on their GW drive was one of the best big time throws I've ever seen.
2. Texans 5-0: Losing Brian Cushing to a turn ACL on a dirty play costs them the top spot, but second year stud J.J. Watt should keep this defense dominant as he looks like the front runner for DPOY. Matt Schaub looks as efficient as ever with play action off of this monster rushing attack.

3. 49ers 4-1: The free agent additions of Mario Manningham and Randy Moss are doing their part by clearing out the box for this dominant offensive line to control the running game. The special team coverage units have taken a step back, but this defense is the main reason they have outscored their past two opponents 79-3.
I believe in Alex Smith...especially when he has all day to throw.
4. Patriots 3-2: The high powered offense leads the league in total offensive yards, points scored, first downs, and offensive snaps from scrimmage (h/t Evan Silva). As long as Stevan Ridley can hold onto the ball, this balanced offense should continue to set up this rejuvenated defense.

5. Ravens 4-1: The offense has looked a bit sluggish after a hot start to the season with Joe Flacco running the no-huddle and his new favorite target Dennis Pitta dominating at tight end. Ray Rice running the ball along with this strong defense is still a great recipe for winning games, although the lack of a consistent pass rush is disturbing.

6. Bears 4-1: The defense is strong and opportunistic, but their record is more of a result of their schedule than anything else. Getting Matt Forte back healthy is a big boost though.

7. Packers 2-3: They could be 4-1 if not for the worst call of all time and some of the worst clock management after the Luck-Wayne heroics last week, but they're not. I'm interested to see if Alex Green or James Starks can step up in the absence of Cedric Benson, but I'd also expect the dynamic role of Randall Cobb to increase in order to give Aaron Rodgers some balance on offense.

8. Vikings 4-1: The defense has looked better than I expected, and having weapons like Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and Kyle Rudolph has really helped Christian Ponder look good. Controlling the line of scrimmage is always a good foundation for winning teams.

9. Steelers 2-2: Rashard Mendenhall had a surprising burst in his return from a torn ACL, and that should really help take the load off of Big Ben's shoulders. Now if the defense could ever get fully healthy...

10. Eagles 3-2: If Michael Vick would ever stop turning the ball over, this defense has the team in position to win each week. Or maybe if their best player, LeSean McCoy, would get the damn ball more...

11. Giants 3-2: They finally get a real test going across country to San Francisco this week after feasting on a weak schedule. Hakeem Nicks' injury woes are troubling, but the running game suddenly looks strong. The defense has its issues in coverage, but a good pass rush can cover for a lot of weaknesses.

Patrick Peterson is one hell of a playmaker.
12. Cardinals 4-1: With Ryan Williams joining Beanie Wells on the IR, this running game is now even shakier  behind this porous offensive line, but Kevin Kolb has looked surprisingly adequate. It helps when you're feeding targets to Larry Fitzgerald and the emerging Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd and the defense is constantly putting you in position to win. This defensive front is ferocious.

13. Cowboys 2-2: The schedule doesn't get any easier with Baltimore next on the slate, but coming off of a bye week should help. Getting healthy on defense is crucial while this slumbering offense waits for an explosion.

14. Chargers 3-2: I'm not a believer in the hot start, but the defense has looked surprisingly dominant at times. The offensive line is still limiting the offense, but Ryan Mathews is so explosive that it shouldn't take long for him to carry this unit.

15. Seahawks 3-2: The defense is as stout as expected while Russel Wilson and the offense is about as lackluster as expected. Marshawn Lynch is certainly capable of carrying the team on his back, but the Patriots will certainly bring a huge obstacle to Seattle.

16. Broncos 2-3: There's been a struggle to get the whole team clicking on the same page, but Peyton Manning has looked great outside of the opening quarter in Atlanta. If the untimely fumbles disappear and the defense can play with some consistency, then the division crown could still be there for the taking.

19. Colts 2-2: They're competing every week under the rookie leadership of Andrew Luck, and now they're fighting for their rookie coach Chuck Pagano as he deals with Leukemia. Reggie Wayne is playing some of the best ball of his career with Luck targeting him early and often, and rookie Vick Ballard now gets the nod at runningback with Donald Brown having knee surgery that will sideline him a few weeks.

18. Bengals 3-2: The classic "good bad team" that beats up on the weak part of its schedule, with last week's loss to the 'Phins as the exception. They need to get BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the running game going, but the Andy Dalton to A.J. Green connection continues to look deadly.

19. Rams 3-2: The defense gets the job done, but the offense is pretty hit or miss. Injuries haven't helped, but they could really struggle against a strong front seven like Miami's this week.

20. Dolphins 2-3: Reggie Bush and the running game is making life easier for rookie Ryan Tannehill to put this team in position to win. What also helps? The defensive front hardly allowing anything to get by them.

Go out of bounds!
21. Redskins 2-3: The mix of emotions whenever RGIII runs with the ball is ridiculous as I'm enthralled by his speed but constantly worried that he will get hurt since he's not exactly built like Luck or Cam Newton. He appears to be okay after a scary concussion, but the defense is till lacking due to injury woes.

22. Jets 2-3: They competed better than I expected on Monday night against Houston, but the offense is still a nightmare. The defense needs to shore up against the run so that the secondary isn't as vulnerable to play action because they are playing admirably besides that despite the absence of Darrelle Revis.

23. Buccaneers 1-3: They are coming off a bye and look to be on the verge of turning things around if Josh Freeman can play with some consistency. I'm a bit surprised by the lack of an effective rushing attack, but the defense is still about as good as I had hoped with Gerald McCoy playing like a former #3 pick..

24. Chiefs 1-4: Brady Quinn! I feel bad for Matt Cassel' with his injury, but he's been a turnover machine costing his team any chance to win in most games. Now, Quinn finally has a chance to win under Romeo Crennel in their second stint together. Of course, breakout star Justin Houston and the defense will likely have a huge role in a potential victory against Tampa.

25. Saints 1-4: They're finally on the board with a tight win against Drew Brees' former team after he broke Johnny U's record, but this team still has glaring weaknesses. The bye week could help them come together after a big win, however.

26. Lions 1-3: Possibly the league's most disappointing team, things might not get better after the bye week with the Eagles hosting them this week. If the defense and special teams could ever cover somebody, then maybe Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and this runningback committee would have an opportunity to win some games.

27. Panthers 1-4: The bye week is much needed after back to back tough losses to the Falcons and Seahawks. If the defense can play with some consistency, Cam Newton is certainly capable of winning games when he is focused. The problem is that neither is happening right now.

Kind of sums up their season to this point, sadly.
28. Bills 2-3: The schedule doesn't get any easier with a trip to Arizona on the horizon, but their defense won't give up 600 yards again. Hopefully.

29. Titans 1-4: The defense and running game have looked atrocious  and Jake Locker is hurt again. They have shown flashes of their talent at times, but as the struggling Chris Johnson has said, they need a spark to bring things together.

30. Raiders 1-3: A blowout against the Broncos, a bye week, and a potential blowout in Atlanta is not fun for fans. However, Darren McFadden has shown flashes of getting on track, which can really transform this team by keeping this banged up defense off the field.

31. Jaguars 1-4: Blaine Gabbert has caught lightning in a bottle a couple of times with some big time throws to Cecil Shorts with the game on the line against the Vikings and Colts, but this offense is just not a threat to put points on the board. That can really wear on a defense that lacks star power.

32. Browns 0-5: I'll give Brandon Weeden some credit for improving each game after his embarrassingly bad debut, and Trent Richardson is still running over defenders like he's in college. The problem is that the overall talent is just not good enough to get W's.

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