Tuesday, October 23, 2012
NFL Week 7 Power Rankings
Five Quick Hits
* The NFL needs to change the rule that negated Mike Williams' game-tying touchdown in Tampa. If a receiver goes out of bounds but re-establishes himself in the field of play, he should remain eligible.
* When I wrote last week that "officials are calling too many pass interference penalties ... I'd also like to see defensive PI capped at 15 yards," I didn't know that FOX's Mike Pereira had already written the same thing. It's nice to be on the same side with someone as authoritative as Pereira.
* During a 0:30 span in the first quarter, the Bills and Titans combined for three touchdowns, including an 83-yard rush and a kickoff return for a TD.
* Robert Griffin III has rushed for 468 yards and 6 TDs, putting him on pace for 1,070 yards and 14 TDs. That would break Michael Vick's QB rushing record and tie Cam Newton's TD record. On Sunday, Troy Aikman compared Griffin not to Vick or Newton or Randall Cunningham, but to Barry Sanders.
* Brian Orakpo's injury replacement, Rob Jackson, has more interceptions in the last five weeks (2) than Orakpo does in his three-year career (0), including one returned for a touchdown.
If I were an NFL head coach, I would not give my quarterback the authority to call timeout on the field. A 5-yard delay of game penalty is nothing; a timeout is valuable. With 2:23 left in the Thursday night game, and Seattle trailing 13-6, the Seahawks had 3rd-and-12 at their own 29, and the game clock was already stopped. But with the play clock about to expire, Russell Wilson called timeout.
Seattle is 1/18 on 3rd-and-long (10+) this season. You're not going to convert this against one of the NFL's best defenses, with or without the 5 yards. But you have all three timeouts; you can punt and get the ball back. Sure enough, the 3rd-and-12 pass was incomplete — 1/19 now — and Seattle punted anyway, but minus a critical timeout. Foolish and unacceptable.
As we proceed to the power rankings, brackets show Week 6 rank.
1. Houston Texans  — Week 7 showcased the best two records in the AFC, with the 5-1 Texans hosting the 5-1 Ravens. Houston scored a franchise-record 43 points, outgaining the Ravens 420-176 and winning by 30. Houston averages 35:23 time of possession, an advantage of nearly 11 minutes.
2. Chicago Bears  — The defense is great, but the offense strikes me as more '06 than '85. Chicago is a league-best +13 in turnovers, but just 22nd in offensive yards per game, while Jay Cutler ranks 25th in passer rating (78.3). A great team forces turnovers, but it has to be able to win without them, too. I'm not sure the Bears can win when they don't get takeaways.
3. Atlanta Falcons  — The Falcons are 6-0, but they haven't played anyone with a winning record. I don't make a lot of predictions, because I'm bad at them, but in Week 3, I noted the Falcons' easy schedule and called 6-0. Here's another prediction: they'll lose their next game, at Philadelphia in Week 8.
4. San Francisco 49ers  — Remember how the replacement officials took way too long to make rulings and couldn't seem to figure out whether penalties were being accepted or declined? If you missed the replacement crews, you loved the job Walt Anderson did on Thursday. Alex Smith has posted his lowest passer ratings of the season in consecutive weeks (43.1 vs. NYG, 74.5 vs. SEA).
5. New York Giants  — Third straight win after a disappointing 2-2 start. The Giants couldn't stop Alfred Morris, and they couldn't stop RG3, but they went 8/12 on third downs and generated 4 turnovers. In the second half, New York and Washington combined for three straight drives, and five out of six, ending in turnovers.
6. Green Bay Packers  — Aaron Rodgers finally looks like Aaron Rodgers again. He now leads the NFL in touchdown passes (19) and passer rating (109.6), and I think we can stop worrying about Green Bay's offense.
First 3 games: 248 yds/gm, 3 TD, 2 INT, 87.0 rating, 5.3 sacks/gm
Last 4 games: 309 yds/gm, 16 TD, 2 INT, 127.2 rating, 2.5 sacks/gm
In the next three weeks, the Packers have two home games against opponents with losing records, and a bye.
7. New England Patriots  — Only team in the NFL with three players over 150 rushing yards. Stevan Ridley (589), Brandon Bolden (234), and Danny Woodhead (161) all rate among the top 50 rushers in the NFL. Punter Zoltan Mesko had a nice game, averaging 41.2 net yards, with four of six punts down inside the 20, and no touchbacks. For the season, Mesko has more fair catches (11) than returns and touchbacks combined (10).
8. Denver Broncos  — Last season, the Broncos ranked 23rd in yards per game, 25th in scoring, and 31st in third down percentage. So far this year, they're 6th in yardage, 8th in scoring, and tied for 4th in third down percentage. I realize Peyton Manning is no Tim Tebow, but at least the offense hasn't fallen too far in Tebow's absence.
9. Seattle Seahawks  — Marshawn Lynch (101 yds, 5.4 avg) is Niner-proof, but he's the only weapon on offense. The Seahawks rank 31st in scoring, ahead of only the Jaguars, and they're now 0-3 in the NFC West.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers  — Inactives included all-pro Troy Polamalu, Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey, starting tackle Marcus Gilbert, and the top two running backs. Naturally, the Steeler receivers chose this game to drop catchable passes, including three or four just by Mike Wallace. As if that weren't enough, the officials accidentally denied Pittsburgh a timeout the team was entitled to, and special teams penalties cost the team 111 yards of field position. Pittsburgh overcame the injuries, drops, penalties, and officiating error with a 24-17 road win over a division opponent. From a certain point of view, it's the best win of the year for a team that's had trouble overcoming adversity.
11. Baltimore Ravens  — My TV keeps telling me how great Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense are. Flacco ranks 20th in passer rating, and only 31.7% of his passes result in first downs, 29th in the league, behind superstars like Mark Sanchez and Brandon Weeden. Rodney Harrison put it simply on Sunday: "Ray Rice is your best player, not Joe Flacco." The Ravens are last in the NFL in time of possession (26:06).
12. Minnesota Vikings  — We hear all the time now that the NFL is a passing league, and I think that's broadly true, but consider Minnesota's win in Week 7. Christian Ponder dropped back 21 times. Here's how they broke down:
* 8 completions, 58 yards, 3-yard TD
* 7 incompletions
* 3 sacks, -15 yards
* 2 interceptions
* scramble for 2 yards
That's 21 plays, 45 yards, and 2 turnovers. Their quarterback accounted for 45 yards! In the whole game! And they won! Adrian Peterson (153 yds) was in prime form, and the defense held up its end of things (two 4th-down stops, three takeaways). The Vikings were out-gained by 147 yards, lost time of possession by 10:10, and punted on every possession of the second half. And they won!
13. Philadelphia Eagles  — This team has too much talent to miss the playoffs twice in a row. At 3-3, they're still very much in the running, but Andy Reid's firing of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was a signal that Reid recognizes his own job could be in jeopardy if the Eagles continue to underachieve.
14. Washington Redskins  — Leading receiver Fred Davis left the game with a season-ending Achilles injury. Santana Moss scored a potential game-winning TD, but he also lost the game-clinching fumble. It was Moss' 22nd career fumble, his 16th on offense (the other 6 were on punt returns). Those 16 fumbles tie Anquan Boldin for the most of any active wide receiver in the league. Active WR/TEs with 10 or more non-special teams fumbles:
t1. Anquan Boldin, 16
t1. Santana Moss, 16
3. Steve Smith, 14
4. Randy Moss, 12
5. Brandon Marshall, 11
Assuming the team re-signs Chris Cooley to replace Davis, he'll also be on the list (11 fumbles).
15. Dallas Cowboys  — Beat Carolina despite settling for field goals every time they reached the red zone. Eric Frampton had a big game on special teams, with three solo tackles, stopping three punt returns after a combined 7 yards.
16. San Diego Chargers  — Lost 27-3 in their only game against a team with a winning record. Denver will probably go over .500 this week, but they beat the Chargers, too, coming back from a 24-0 halftime deficit to win by double-digits. The good news for San Diego is that the schedule stays manageable, with upcoming games against the Browns, Chiefs, and Buccaneers.
17. New Orleans Saints  — Defense yields 465.5 yards per game. That's the worst in the NFL by over 40 yards (Bills, 424.1). More than that, it's the worst in NFL history by over 40 yards (1981 Baltimore Colts, 424.6).
Additionally, the Saints have already allowed 155 first downs, putting them on pace for 413. That would break the record, set more than 30 years ago by the same Colts team, which was probably the worst defense in modern history, holding dubious records for most yards allowed (6,793), most first downs allowed (406), most touchdowns allowed (68), and most points allowed (533). The New Orleans defense is not as bad as the '81 Colts, but it's really, really bad. Fantasy football owners with Broncos on your rosters, rejoice.
18. New York Jets  — On a short pass in the fourth quarter, Shonn Greene got knocked out. Like, out cold. He later returned to the game. I don't know how the NFL can pretend it's taking CTE seriously.
19. Miami Dolphins  — Did you have their Week 8 matchup at the Jets circled on your calendar? It's become a critical matchup in the AFC playoff picture. I'm confident New England will win the AFC East, but both wild cards appear pretty open right now, and the winner of the Dolphins/Jets game will probably become an early favorite to qualify.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  — Blew five opportunities for a touchdown in three minutes. Vincent Jackson went 95 yards but got tackled at the 1-yard line. Okay, 1st-and-goal at the 1, no problem. But LeGarrette Blount — a 1,000-yard, 5.0-average runner in 2010 — carried three times without scoring, then Josh Freeman got tackled at the 5 and New Orleans took over on downs. This whole thing with giving the most important carries — those around the goal line — to your 2nd-best RB has got to end. Being fat does not make you an effective short-distance runner.
21. Arizona Cardinals  — Three straight losses following their 4-0 start. That could soon become six straight losses; the next three games are against the 49ers, Packers, and Falcons. LaRod Stephens-Howling, a 4th-year RB usually limited to special teams, carried 20 times for 104 yards (5.2 avg) and a touchdown, with 4 receptions for 45 yards. Stephens-Howling is a Darren Sproles-type player; I hope the Cardinals will keep him involved going forward.
22. St. Louis Rams  — Lost at home for the first time this season, but they can redeem themselves in Week 8, with another home game ... at Wembley Stadium. Against the Patriots.
23. Cincinnati Bengals  — Wasted two timeouts on unlikely challenges, but lost mostly because they didn't know what to do when an opponent shut down A.J. Green. I realize going all Revis Island on a star receiver is easier said than done, but I don't understand why more defenses don't devote extra resources to players like Green and Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. Their offenses are lost without those guys.
24. Detroit Lions  — Garbage-time offense with a garbage-time quarterback. It's not apparent to me that Matthew Stafford can read defenses or coordinate an offense at the pro level. The Lions have some stats, but they're all from late in the game. About two-thirds of their production comes in the second half or overtime.
Here's Stafford, fourth quarter vs. first three quarters:
I don't believe I've ever seen a split like that before.
25. Tennessee Titans  — They have three wins, by a combined 7 points, and four losses, by a combined 96 points. Statistically, Matt Hasselbeck (78.2 rating) has not played as well as Jake Locker (90.2), but the rest of the team seems better with Hasselbeck out there. This team can't go 13-3, but I wonder if Hasselbeck isn't having the same steadying effect Kerry Collins did in 2008.
26. Carolina Panthers  — I thought Cam Newton would take a hint after his first mopey post-game press conference attracted so much negative attention. But there he was on Sunday, looking at the ground, eyes mostly shut, doing a passable imitation of Eeyore. And that was before he knew the GM who drafted him had been fired.
27. Oakland Raiders  — They won this week, but only because they played against an FCS team. Let's check in on Shane Lechler. He's one of three players to allow over 200 yards on punt returns, and the only one of the three who's already had a bye. He's also tied for the league lead in touchbacks (5), and is the only player in the NFL with as many TBs as punts down inside the 20. I know people love his big leg, but this guy is the worst short-field punter and directional kicker in the league.
28. Indianapolis Colts  — Andrew Luck rushed for 2 TDs on Sunday. Active QBs who have rushed for multiple TDs more than once: Michael Vick, 5; Cam Newton, 3; Tom Brady, Jay Cutler, and Robert Griffin III, 2 each.
29. Buffalo Bills  — Ryan Fitzpatrick won the QB job after former starter Trent Edwards was nicknamed "Captain Checkdown" for his refusal to throw downfield. This weekend, Buffalo's leading receiver was running back Fred Jackson (8 receptions). The second-leading receiver was running back C.J. Spiller (6). Fitzpatrick ranks 27th in both yards per attempt (6.6) and yards per completion (10.8).
That said, it probably is not Fitzpatrick's responsibility to tackle Chris Johnson. Buffalo's defense is horrid. The Bills allow 177 rushing yards per game, worst in the league.
30. Cleveland Browns  — Muffed the extra-point snap on their first touchdown. If they'd kicked the PAT, they could have tried a 57-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. That's not an easy kick, but it's makeable in a dome. Down four, they had to go for it, and Brandon Weeden's fourth down pass was incomplete.
31. Kansas City Chiefs  — At the end of the 2008 season, it would have seemed great to choose between Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn as your starting QB. Right now, it seems like you should ask Trent Green if he's sure he wants to stay retired.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars  — The worst offense in the league just lost its only good player. As of this writing, it's not clear how severe Maurice Jones-Drew's foot injury is, but he got carted off the field and re-appeared on crutches. It looks pretty bad.
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