NFL

NFL Playoff Picture Coming Into Focus

Week 10 has passed.  Every team has now played more games than games left.  It’s at this point that the playoff picture takes form.  Were starting to see the true contenders, and we’re also able to cross a lot of teams off.

If the season were to end today this is what the playoffs would look like in the AFC:

1. Pittsburgh

2. New England

3. Kansas City

4. Tennessee

5. Jacksonville

6. Buffalo

Pittsburgh & New England would get the first round bye.  Not a big surprise.  Kansas City would play host to Buffalo.  Tennessee would host Jacksonville in an AFC South showdown.  Something no one could envision at the start of the season.  With four wins a piece, Baltimore, Oakland, Miami, and the N.Y. Jets would all be on the outside looking in.

The NFC playoff picture would look like this:

1. Philadelphia

2. Minnesota

3. New Orleans

4. L.A. Rams

5. Carolina

6. Seattle

No one could have predicted that halfway through the season the top four playoff teams in the NFC would be Philly, Minnesota, New Orleans, and the L.A. Rams.  Philly & Minnesota would have the first round bye.  New Orleans would host the NFC playoff stalwart Seattle.  The top rated offense of the L.A. Rams would host the top rated defense of Carolina.

After looking at the schedules and other factors (experience, playing style etc.), I have made some predictions what the final playoff picture will look like.  Here it is:

1. New England Patriots: After a shaky start, the Patriots seem to be rounding into form. Don’t get me wrong their a flawed team defensively, but are you really going to bet against them?  It’s not hard to imagine that they will win out and once again have home field throughout the playoffs.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers:  The Steelers have a cupcake schedule the rest of the way minus their match up with the Patriots mid December.  That’s the only thing that keeps them from the number 1 seed.  Once against the Patriots remain the Steelers kryptonite.

3. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs remaining schedule isn’t exactly a murderers row.  I could see them going on a nice winning streak to end the season.  The game they dropped to the Steelers in Arrowhead will prove costly, and keep them from getting a first round bye.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Yes, Im picking the Jaguars to take the AFC South.  I’m reluctant to make this prediction because of their major glaring weakness, Blake Bortles.  On the hand, they have one of the easiest schedules remaining, which includes games against the Browns, Cards, Colts, Texans, and Niners.  They also have one the best defenses in the league and a solid running game, something that’s important come December.

5. Tennessee Titans: I feel their is not much difference between the Jags and Titans.  The only reason I’m choosing the Jaguars to win the AFC South over the Titans has to do with the remaining schedule.  If these two teams meet in the playoffs it’s anyone’s guess who will advance.

6.  Baltimore Ravens:  I don’t think the Ravens are a good team by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see them squeaking into the final playoff spot.  Their remaining schedule is much easier than the other teams in the hunt for the final playoff spot.  If they do grab the final wild card spot they will be the team that everyone else will secretly fear.

On The Outside Looking In:  The Bills currently hold the final wild card spot, but I can’t see that sticking.  Their remaining the schedule is tough.  They have two face the Patriots twice and travel to Arrowhead.  The Raiders are another team that will make a run at the final spot, but ultimately end up short.

The NFC is a little more interesting.  The NFC North is still up for grabs. Ditto NFC South.  Can the Eagles handle the pressure down the stretch?  Will the upstart Rams be able to hold off Seattle for the NFC West?  Here how I think it plays out:

1. Philadelphia Eagles:  The Eagles tough remaining schedule will trip them up a little, but not enough to lose the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.   

2. New Orleans Saints:  The Saints have been one of the biggest surprises all season.  After losing their first two games they have ripped off seven straight wins.  The most surprising thing about the those wins is how much of it was a result of their running game and defense.  I think the Saints are just able to win a competitive NFC south and grab a first round bye.

3. Los Angeles Rams:  The Rams remaining schedule is brutal, five out of their last seven games will be against teams that are currently in the playoff picture.  With that said, I still believe this team is good enough to win the AFC West and possibly make a deep run in the playoffs.

4. Minnesota Vikings:  I don’t like that their is a quarterback controversy.  I don’t like that controversy is over two quarterbacks that are mediocre.  I do, however, like the Vikings defense.  Their schedule down the stretch will be tough, but I still like them to take a wide open NFC North.

5. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers will ride the league’s #1 defense and a cupcake schedule to a wildcard spot.

6. Seattle Seahawks: Once again the Seahawks will make the playoffs, and once again they will be the wildcard team that no one wants to face.

On The Outside Looking In:  Atlanta has been up and down all season.  I think they make a push towards the playoffs, but ultimately end up short because of tough NFC South.  The loss of Zeke will hurt the Cowboys going forward and end up costing them a playoff spot.  The Lions have an easy remaining schedule, but I don’t trust them for a second.

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NFL Power Rankings (Quarter Poll)

It’s a quarter way through the NFL season.  Too early to jump to conclusions, but enough games to get a sense of whose going to be good and who isn’t.

Throughout the year I will release my power rankings  after every four games.  Here are my rankings  after a quarter way through the 2017-2018 NFL season.

Put A Fork In Them

32. Cleveland Browns (0-4):  What is there to say?  It’s the same old Browns.

31. Indianapolis Colts (1-3):  There only win has come against the aforementioned Cleveland Browns.  Jacoby Brissett has done a nice job for filling in for Andrew Luck, but he can only do so much.  The Colts just aren’t that good.  They rank near the bottom of the league in both total offense and defense.

30.  Los Angeles Chargers (0-4):  New city, same old Chargers.  This team just keeps finding ways to lose games.

29. Miami Dolphins (1-2):  The Dolphins have been a mess since their win against the aforementioned L.A. Chargers.  In a week three loss to the N.Y. Jets they managed only one garbage time touchdown.  In week four they were shutout by one the worse defensive teams the last couple of years the New Orleans Saints.

28. San Francisco 49ers (0-4):  The 49ers have at least been a competitive 0-4.

27. N.Y. Giants (0-4):  Only one team has made the playoffs since starting 0-4 (1992 San Diego Chargers). If any of the currently 0-4 teams were to bounce back to make the playoffs this season I would pick the Giants.  With that said, I think the Giants have already dug themselves to deep a whole, especially in a competitive NFC East.

Meh

26. Chicago Bears (1-3): The Bears have been competitive at home, beating the Steelers and nearly beating the defending NFC Champion Falcons.  It’s a different story on the road.  Overall, the Bears are who we thought they were.  Mike Glennon is who we thought he was.  Why fuck around anymore John Fox?  Time to start Mitchell Trubisky.

25. Cincinnati Bengals (1-3):  The Bengals offense has looked better since hiring Bill Lazor.  Their defense ranks among the league’s best.  They’re the best 1-3 team out there, if that means anything.

24. Arizona Cardinals (2-2):  The Cardinals are lucky to have two wins.  They barely escaped games against two of the  worse teams in football(Colts, 49ers).  The loss of David Johnson is evident.  Sure, they could still win a shaky NFC West, but it seems more likely they will end up hover around .500 or worse.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2): I can’t get a read on this team.  They look like World beaters one week.  The next week they look like the same old Jags

22. N.Y. Jets (2-2): .  At the quarter mark they’re 2-2 tied with New England Patriots in the AFC East.  Up next a very winnable game against the 0-4 Cleveland Browns.  So much for tanking this season.  It’s so typical of the Jets.  Not only are they bad at being good, they’re bad at being bad.     

21. New Orleans Saints (2-2): After starting off the season 0-2 the Saints have won the last two games in dominant fashion.  The most encouraging sign is how well their defense has played.

Flawed But Don’t Count Them Out

20. Minnesota Vikings (2-2):  If they’re going to have any chance of making the playoffs they need Sam Bradford back (I never thought I would type that sentence).  The injury to Dalvin Cook doesn’t help their chances either.    

19. Baltimore Ravens (2-2):  They started off the season 2-0, and everyone began praising them like it was back to the Ray Lewis days.  Then the Ravens traveled to London to face the Jaguars and got absolutely annihilated.  In week four they were dominated by their division rivals, the Steelers.  Their defense is good, but until they fix their offense it will be another mediocre year.

18. Tennessee Titans (2-2):  I picked them to win the AFC South this year.  I still think they can.  Of course, Mariota will have to stay healthy.  The combination of Matt Cassel & Brandon Weeden won’t keep them competitive.

17. Oakland Raiders (2-2):  I predicted the Raiders would drop off this year.  So far my prediction looks like it’s coming true.  The Raiders just don’t look like the juggernaut they were last season.  Losing Derek Carr to a back injury for 2-6 weeks doesn’t help, especially in a uber competitive AFC West. 

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2):  The Cowboys have came back down to earth after an incredible run last year.  Their most dominant weapon last year, the offensive line, has regressed.  The defense, other than DeMarcus Lawrence, has looked average.  It’s going to be a lot tougher road this year if the Cowboys want to make it back to the playoffs.

15. Seattle Seahawks (2-2):  I predicted the Seahawks would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  So far this looks like an awful prediction.  The two games they have won this season were against two of worst teams in the league (Colts, 49ers).  I still think they will win the NFC West, but they won’t get far until they fix this offensive line.  It’s been their achilles heel for the last couple of season, and this year it looks worse than ever.

Better Than Their Record

14. Washington Redskins (2-2):  I’ve been impressed by the Redskins so far this season even though they’ve only won two games.  Their schedule has been tough so far.  Their opponents record is a combined (12-4).  Nothing about the Redskins jumps out at you, but there solid in all areas.  Their defense is better than expected.  They have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and Kirk Cousins is a top 10 QB.

13.  Houston Texans (2-2):  The only reason I didn’t pick the Texans to win the AFC South this year was because of the QB situation.  Well, it looks like the Texans have finally found their answer at QB.  It’s only been three games but DeShaun Watson looks like an absolute stud.  If the Texans defense can get to where they were last season, and Watson keeps playing like he has than this team will be tough to be beat.

Not Ready To Crown Them Quite Yet

12. L.A. Rams (3-1):  The Rams have been one of the most fun teams to watch this season.  Jared Goff has totally turned it around after looking like he was destined to become the next Ryan Leaf last year.  Todd Gurley is once again a superstar.  If the defense can live up to it’s potential than this team may have a shot at winning the NFC West.  With that said, I’m still a little hesitant to jump on the Rams band wagon.

11.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1):  Its seems like the Bucs have been everyone sexy pick for the last two years.  Their young and talented on both sides of the ball.  Jameis Winston looks like he will one day be an elite QB in the NFL, but I still can’t get behind them until I see how he performs when it matters most.  If they can win against the Patriots this Thursday night than maybe it’s time to start taking the Bucs a little more seriously.

10. Carolina Panthers (3-1):  Even after a win in Foxboro last week I still don’t think the Panthers are an elite team.  Cam Newton hasn’t looked right until he got to play New England’s horrid 32nd ranked defense.  His other performances this year were subpar at best.  The Panthers defense is one of the best in the league, but until the offense shows some consistency I’m not going to put too much stock into this team.

9. Buffalo Bills (3-1): Who would have thought the Buffalo Bills would be atop the AFC East a quarter way into the season?  Not me.  The underrated Tyrod Taylor has been making plays, and the defense looks revived under Sean McDermott.  Could the Bills finally end their playoff drought?

8. Detroit Lions (3-1):  I have a different feeling about the Lions this year.  I think they may actually be good.  I still need to see a few more games before I jump on the bandwagon though.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1):  Out of all the teams in the “Not Ready To Crown Them Quite Yet” category I believe the Eagles are most likely to make the playoffs.  The regression of Cowboys and Giants will help their chances of winning the NFC East.  The only thing that makes me hesitant to call the Eagles a playoff team is Doug Pedersen and Carson Wentz knack for throwing costly interceptions.

Wake Me Up In December

6. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1): For all the talk this off season about the Steelers offense it’s been the defense that is quietly winning games.  Antonio Brown looks like Antonio Brown, but Big Ben and Le’Veon Bell have yet to hit their stride.  When they finally do, this team has as good a shot as anyone to win the Super Bowl, but then again, we say this every year.  This seems to be the Steelers calling card.  For all the talent they have, they can never seem to put it all together and they regularly play down to their competition.  Will this year be any different?

5. Green Bay Packers (3-1): The Packers are 3-1 somehow even after all the injuries.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Packers struggle in the ensuing weeks, the Green Bay fans panic, and then Rodgers turns it on down the stretch to help the them narrowly win the NFC North.  This seems to Packers calling card.

The Contenders   

4.  New England Patriots (2-2):  I know the Patriots are 2-2 and probably should be 1-3 if not for a superhuman performance by Brady.  I know their tied with N.Y. Jets in the AFC East, and I know that their defense ranks dead last.  But it’s still the Patriots.  Do you really think they won’t be in the mix come December?  As long as Brady & Belicheck are there this team will always be contending for a Super Bowl.

3. Atlanta Falcons (3-1):  The Falcons are 3-1, but it’s not a very impressive 3-1.  They could easily be 1-3 right now if I wasn’t for two drop passes in the end zone and a reversed touchdown call, but then again football is a game of inches, and good teams make their own luck.  I don’t believe the Falcons have come anywhere close to playing their best football yet.  When they do, watch out.

2. Denver Broncos (3-1):  Denver has the best home field advantage in the entire NFL.  They also have the best defense in the entire NFL.  Trevor Siemian isn’t spectacular, but he doesn’t have to be.  Brock Osweiler and Peyton Manning weren’t anywhere close to spectacular in 2015 when they won the Super Bowl.  As long as Siemian remains a good game manager it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Broncos back in the Super Bowl this year.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0):  The only undefeated team left at 4-0, and it’s a legit 4-0 too.  The Chiefs have beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots in Foxboro, and beat two very good NFC teams (Eagles, Redskins) in Arrowhead.  Alex Smith is playing his best football after a lot of talk in the offseason about him being benched for rookie Patrick Mahomes? Kareem Hunt has came out of nowhere to take the league by storm.  Still, no one will take the Chiefs seriously until they win a playoff game.

26 Thoughts On Week One In The NFL

One week down. There’s been a few surprises and already a handful of injuries.

It’s hard to get a real feel for any team after only one week.  It usually isn’t until a quarter way through the season that we can get a feel for the contenders and pretenders.  However, this won’t stop me or any other armchair quarterbacks from jumping to conclusions.

Here are a few of my thoughts from week one in the NFL:

1.  So much for the 16-0 talk.  The Patriots got absolutely dominated by the Chiefs.  The loss of Edelman is obvious.  The lack of pass rush is going to hurt them all season.  Belichick will figure it out, but I don’t think the Patriots are the overwhelming favorite to win the Super Bowl anymore.

2.  Since I’ve been watching the NFL the Chiefs seem to be the same team.  They play good defense, run the ball well, and have a game manager at quarterback.  Every couple of years they will get a first round bye and then lose a low scoring game in Arrowhead.  Will it change this year?  Their week one win over the Patriots suggest that this year’s Chiefs may be different.  But I doubt anyone takes them seriously until they win against a legit team in the playoffs.

3.  Carson Palmer looked terrible on the road.  David Johnson is out for 2-3 months.  It’s only week one, but things are already looking dire for the Cards.

4.  I thought the Lions would regress this year because they wouldn’t have the same luck as last season in close games (8 of their 9 wins were comebacks). Then the Lions go out week one and win another game in which they trailed entering the 4th quarter.  Maybe it’s not luck.

5.  Minus the terrible interception to Kerrigan, Wentz looked really good on Sunday.  With addition of Jeffery and the improvement of Agholor,  Wentz finally has some offensive weapons.

6.  The loss of Jackson and Garcon is going hurt to the Redskins this season.  Cousins looked mediocre most of Sunday’s game.  The offseason addition of Pryor is seeming to help him out.

7.  I expected the Falcons to thrash the Bears, but they barely got out of Solider Field with a win.  Then again, a win is a win.

8.  The Bears played better than I expected.  Glennon played better than I expected.  He would have got his first win as a Bear if his receivers could catch the ball.  Maybe Trubisky won’t be starting by week 5.

9.  I knew Savage would lose his starting job, but I didn’t think it would happen after only one half of football.  Different season, but still the same old problem for O’Brien.  The lack of quality quarterback is killing this team.

10.  The Jaguars had one of the most surprising wins of week one.  My OROY pick, Fournette is already looking good.

11.  The Jets are who we thought they were.

12.  Yes, the Bills won on Sunday, but it was against the Jets.  There’s still no way to tell if this team is mediocre or just bad.

13.  The Titans (this year’s sexy pick) played the Raiders tough, but ultimately the Raiders were too much for them.  They did what legit playoffs team do, win tough games on the road.  I should have never doubted the black & silver.

14.  Everyone seemed to be writing this Bengals off this season, which I didn’t agree with until I saw highlights from Sunday’s game against the Ravens.  The defense didn’t look good, the offense got blanked, and Dalton threw 4 interceptions with a passer rating of .6!

15.  I thought the Ravens would have one of the top defenses in the league this year.  They sure looked good on Sunday shutting out the Bengals on the road.

16.  Yes, the Steelers won, but it feels like they should have won by more.  They let the Browns hang around and barely escaped with a victory.  This seems to be the Steelers MO.  They play down to their competition.

17.  Kizer wasn’t spectacular, but he looked better than any of the other quarterbacks the Browns have trotted out opening day in the past decade.  There is reason to be optimistic in Cleveland.  These don’t seem like the same old Browns.

18.  A Luck-less Colts may be the worst team in the NFL.

19.  The Rams beat a Luck-less Colts team, but still it was an impressive win.  Who saw h Goff putting up better numbers than Brady in week one?

20.  I didn’t see any highlights of the Panthers vs. Niners game.  Judging by the stats the Panthers did exactly what I thought they would do – handle a bad team on the road.

21.  I had both the Seahawks and the Giants going deep into the playoffs.  Both teams seem to be in similar positions.  They both have top 5 defenses, but lousy offenses, especially when it comes to offensive line play.  I think both teams can still make the playoffs, but they’ll be a quick out if they can’t fix their problems up front.

22.  I know it’s early, but I’m already declaring the Green Bay Packers the best team in the NFC.

23.  Maybe it helped that OBJ was out.  Maybe it was the poor offensive line play by the Giants, but the Cowboys defense looked good.  Prescott seems to be picking up from where he left off last season.  He’s legit which means the Cowboys are a legit Super Bowl team.  I should have never doubted them.

24.  Poor Brees.  If only he had a defense.  It’s only one game, but the Saints defense seems to once again be abysmal.

25.  Maybe it had to do with playing the Saints defense at home, but the Vikings looked good offensively.  We knew there defense was good, but the biggest question mark was their offensive line.  They showed up Monday.  So did Bradford.  Ditto rooked running back Cook.

26.  The Broncos narrowly escaped with a victory over the Chargers.  The AFC West is going to be an extremely tough division this year.