You have to love the way this league is shaping up this season. Week after week trying to predict what is going to happen, and what “good” team is going to come out and lay an egg is almost impossible. It’s becoming tougher and tougher to figure out the bad teams in the NFL, mostly because just when you think a team is bad, they come out and beat a good team. With that, I’ll try and shed some light on the top and bottom of the league as once again here are the Power Rankings for already week 11.
NFC Top 5
1. Chicago (1) – The Bears put up 38 points a week ago at the Meadowlands vs the Giants, but this week were only able to manage 10 at the same site vs the Jets, but hey, they still got the win. Now at 9-1, the team is just about ready to not only pop open the bubbly on the division title, but now with some other NFC teams losing this week, they have a three-game lead for home field in the conference. This team will be hard to bet against at home in January.
2. Dallas (5) – The Cowboys were the first team to finally close out a win against the Colts, and with Tony Romo and co. playing at a high level, they firmly deserve the number two spot. Romo is 3-1, as a starter, and no one questions now that decision by Bill Parcells. With four of their last six games at home, including Thanksgiving Day vs Tampa Bay, the Cowboys look in prime position to win the NFC East and give the Bears a run for their money.
3. Carolina (-) – The Panthers, winners of two straight, jump into the rankings now tied with the Saints for the NFC South division lead. Carolina is starting to show signs again of the type of run they had a year ago where they made it to the NFC title game, and if they can continue to play at a high level, they could make it back there again. Health, as well as being consistent are this teams two major concerns. They close the season at Atlanta and at the Saints, two games that likely will decide the division title.
4. New Orleans (4) – The Saints take a step back with their second home loss to an AFC North team this season in Cincinnati. Drew Brees is going to be in the top three for the MVP, but despite the 500 yards this week and close to 400 last week, the Saints lost both games. Turnovers have hurt this team as of late, and now with the Panthers breathing down their necks, the pressure may be starting to get to this young team a bit.
5. Seattle (3) – I still think that despite this teams recent setbacks, they are the darkhorse to come out of the NFC. It’s already been declared that Matt Hassleback will start this week under center, and with Shaun Alexander getting his legs back, the Hawks are going to be tough to beat down the stretch. They have the benefit of a somewhat soft division, and they also play two of their last three at home, then close out in Tampa vs a team that will be ready to pack it in. Beware of the Hawks come January.
NFC Bottom 3
1. Detroit (2) – Sorry Lions, I’ve stuck up for you all season long, saying how I thought this team was not as bad as they have shown, and what do they do – lose to the Cardinals. That’s it, I’m done trying to be nice to this team. They stink – the players stink, the coaches stink, and the front office stinks. Now I feel better. I think four wins as a total for this season would be a stretch considering the way they’ve played recently.
2. Arizona (1) – Congrats to the Cards for finally getting out of the top spot in the rankings! Matt Leinart and the Cardinals finally got their first win since opening day with a 17-10 win over Detroit Sunday. Can they make it two in a row with a game Sunday at the Vikings? Probably not. Another team that is going to be lucky to make it to four wins.
3. Washington (-) – From the second round of the playoffs last season to shambles this year, the Redskins are a mess. Jason Campbell made his first start at QB Sunday, but without Clinton Portis and Santana Moss, there wasn’t much to work with. At 3-7, it looks as if we may be seeing the last month and two weeks of Joe Gibbs’ coaching career.
AFC Top 5
1. Indianapolis (1) – Despite the 7-point loss at Dallas Sunday, the Colts still are class of the conference and now have to refocus and make sure they don’t lay any more eggs and risk losing home field advantage. They catch a break this week with the Eagles – minus Donovan McNabb coming to town. Then they play two tough road games at Tennessee and at Jacksonville. The stretch run should be enough to show us what these guys will have come January.
2. San Diego (2) – The Chargers have the type of offense that can for sure give the Colts a run for their money no matter where they play, but one has to worry about how the defense has played the last two weeks. The other concern has to be if Phillip Rivers is going to able to get it done come playoff time as a first-year quarterback. Of course with LT, the Chargers have as good a shot as anyone to be in Miami in February.
3. Baltimore (4) – The Ravens are playing as good as anyone in the AFC, and the decision to fire Jim Fassel and run the offense himself has saved Brian Billick his job. Steve McNair’s numbers are not going to break any records, but he is doing enough to support a solid defense and running game to get wins. A win over the Steelers this week at home will all but clinch the division. It will be interesting to see how this team gets set for playoff football.
4. New England (5) – Tom Brady was back in form on Sunday in Green Bay as the Pats got back on track vs the Packers 35-0. Maybe the most encouraging number is the four TD’s and no interceptions that Brady threw. Before that game, he had thrown five TD’s and six INT’s in his last three games. This weeks showdown with the Bears should be very interesting. A new turf has finally been put down at Foxboro, so at least the field can’t be blamed.
5. Denver (3) – Some questionable play calling and poor execution in the second half cost the Broncos the AFC West lead in their showdown with San Diego Sunday night. The defense, has been a shadow of what it was earlier in the year, and Sunday night couldn’t hold a 24-7 second half lead. More questions now about Jake Plummer and if we are going to see Jay Cutler this season at some point cannot help matters. This team simply has to get back to track to avoid being knocked out of the playoff race all together.
AFC Bottom 3
1. Oakland (1) – Glad to see that Aaron Books made a difference at QB for the Raiders. Not. Brooks was 13-for-22 for 179 yards, but threw an awful interception in triple coverage with the game on the line in Sunday’s 17-13 loss to the Chiefs. Give the defense credit, they find a way most of the time to keep the team in games, but the offense just can’t give them any support. Losing RB LaMont Jordan for the rest of the year will not help either.
2. Cleveland (-) – The Browns played inspired football for about 3 and 1/2 quarters against their rivals the Steelers on Sunday, but then folded, allowing 21 points in 9+ minutes as the Steelers rallied for a 24-20 win. It seems obvious that a change to Jeff Davidson to the role of offensive coordinator has done little, as the Browns again failed to score a touchdown Sunday. I still think there also has to be concern about quarterback Charlie Frye, who just does not make enough quality throws in a game to be successful.
3. Houston (-) – A home loss to the Bills has earned the Texans a return trip to the bottom three this week. Houston’s defense folded late and allowed a last minute drive that resulted in the game-winning score for the Bills with just nine seconds left. The offense was okay Sunday, but they had Buffalo on the ropes and couldn’t put them away. A sign of a young team still looking to mature.