A Tale of Two Linebackers

KickCanEarlier today, Ray Lewis announced that this postseason will be his “last ride” and regardless of the result of his push for a second ring, this postseason will be the last time that we see one of the most electric players in NFL history take the field.  Ray Lewis is an all-time great and five years from now will likely be enshrined in Canton.  More than that, he is the identity of the Baltimore Ravens and his #52 will likely be the first number the Baltimore Ravens retire.  You can debate the all-time greatest 49er or greatest Packer or Cowboy but when it comes to the Baltimore Ravens there is no debate, Ray Lewis is the greatest Raven to ever play the game.

As with any great player who retires, the media feels the need to reflect on that player’s career and more than anything, the recency-bias of the sports media comes out because we have a media that tends to forget there were sports prior to the existence of ESPN.  So of course today the debate was not whether or not Ray Lewis was a Hall of Famer (because that’s a given) but whether or not he is the greatest middle linebacker of all time.  ESPN writer Jamison Hensley took it a step further and called Ray Lewis, the “greatest defensive player in NFL history”.

With all due respect Mr. Hensley, how can you call a player the best defensive player ever when it’s arguable whether they weren’t the best at their position when they played? (You can read his asinine article here) For more than a decade all eyes have been on Baltimore but only 32 miles away there’s a linebacker with similar stats who has been just as good, if not better.

ESPN's Jamison Hensley had the audacity to call Ray Lewis the greatest defensive player ever when another player on the beltway could very well challenge him for the title of greatest middle linebacker of his era.

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley had the audacity to call Ray Lewis the greatest defensive player ever when another player on the beltway could very well challenge him for the title of greatest middle linebacker of his era.

Just two years after Ray Lewis was drafted, London Fletcher signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent where he was named the Rams Rookie of the Year in 1998.  In his second year (and first year as a starter), Fletcher anchored the Rams defense that went on to win the Super Bowl and was a key piece in the Rams returning to the Super Bowl after the 2001 season.   While Ray Lewis will always be “Mr. Raven” so to speak, Fletcher left the Rams after the 2001 season to join the Buffalo Bills and in his first year, set the Bills franchise record for tackles with 209.   He led the Bills in tackles every year that he was with the team and continued that tradition when he joined the Redskins in 2007.

Not only has Fletcher led his respective teams in tackles year in and year out, he has led the NFL.  Nobody has more tackles this millennium than London Fletcher.

But the fact is that when London Fletcher does retire he will probably go quietly into the night.  While five years from now Ray Lewis will bring his evangelical stylings to the podium at Canton, London Fletcher will likely have to fight for years and years to get in the Hall if he ever does get in and my question is why?

I have compiled the following to show the similarity in the careers of London Fletcher & Ray Lewis:

LondonRayAs you can see in two fewer seasons, Fletcher has posted similar numbers to those of Hensley’s “greatest defensive player ever” and he has done so in a number of different schemes for different teams that did not have nearly the defensive personnel that Ray Lewis has surrounding him.   These are both great sets of numbers but forget arguing for the best defensive player ever the question really is – who is the best middle linebacker on the Beltway?

While the stats will be cited (and it is impressive to note that Ray Lewis is the founding and lone member of the 40 sack/30 interception club) the big thing people keep talking about is the leadership and longevity of Ray Lewis.

But if we’re going to talk about leadership then we have to talk about the quiet, reserved leadership of a man who has won the Bart Starr Award and never had issues with the law.  A man who seems ageless and has set the single season tackles record for 2 different franchises; a man who has led his respective team in tackles for nine straight seasons;  and a man whose leadership propelled an ailing Redskins defense into the playoffs this season; and that man is London Fletcher.

If we’re going to praise the longevity of Ray Lewis at a physical position, then we should be reminded that London Fletcher has never missed a game playing in 240 games over 15 seasons.  His 195 consecutive starts are second most among active players behind Ronde Barber.

If we’re going to praise Ray Lewis for his longevity then maybe we should take the time to ask ourselves whether longevity should be judged by playing for a long time or the level you play at over that time?  The fact is that Ray Lewis’s legendary career peaked  in the middle of last decade while London Fletcher continues to play at a high level having led the league in tackles in 2011.  While Ray Lewis has 9 more Pro Bowl appearances than Fletcher, it is due to the folly of the voters; not to the fact that Ray Lewis was better than Fletcher for more seasons.

If we want to talk about true longevity then we need to remember that Ray Lewis has not topped 139 tackles in a season since 2004.   In that same span, Fletcher equaled or topped that mark 5 times.   Fletcher had more sacks in the month of December than Ray Lewis had all season.   London Fletcher’s interceptions (5) in 2012 were more than Ray Lewis has had in the last 4 years combined (3).   London Fletcher has 1 more forced fumble over the past four seasons (with 8) than Ray Lewis.  This is not to discount the career of Ray Lewis but in what is supposed to be the twilight of his career, London Fletcher is still playing at an incredibly high level and shouldn’t that be a true measure of a player’s longevity.

Today many are asking if Ray Lewis is the greatest middle linebacker of all time and those clouded with Baltimore or recency bias (or maybe a shred of both) are asking if Ray Lewis is the greatest defensive player of all time.    There’s no doubt he’s had a Hall of Fame career and while this is an acceptable conversation to have the better question is:

Was Ray Lewis the best linebacker/defensive player of his era?

Because while Lewis was dancing in front of the cameras in Baltimore, Fletcher was grinding away in St. Louis, Buffalo, and D.C. getting the same results.  While Ray Lewis was not much more than an emotional cheerleader the last two seasons, Fletcher was busy leading his team and the league in tackles.   While Ray Lewis dazzled the sports media and was voted into Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl, Fletcher put up the same (and better) seasons as Lewis and was ignored.

And while Ray Lewis will get a call from Canton within the first two years of eligibility; Fletcher will likely wait and wait on a call that may never come.   And it’s not because Ray Lewis was that much better but it’s because the story the sports media told us was a lie.

The media would’ve told us that Ray Lewis was the greatest defensive player ever when he wasn’t even the best active player at his position.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!
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2012 NFL Power Rankings: WEEK 7

We’re at a point in the season where we’re not going to see as large as fluctuations as we’ve seen in the past.  The Falcons remain the last undefeated team and while the Texans were embarassed by Green Bay, I still believe they are the 2nd best team in the NFL.  There’s some slight fluctuation this week with the top 10 remaining largely unchanged.  For the second time this year the Seahawks have skyrocketed up the rankings, I have yet to figure out this team.

1. Atlanta Falcons (6-0)
Last Week: 1 (-)

At the end of the day they win games.  Blowing out good ones, winning close ones over bad ones – it doesn’t matter.  In the NFL, 6-0 is 6-0.

2. Houston Texans (5-1)
Last Week: 2 (-)

This team was absolutely crushed by a struggling Packers team but all that means is they might have to wait until Thanksgiving to clinch the AFC South instead of the week before.

3. Baltimore Ravens (5-1)
Last Week: 4 (+1)

Lately the Ravens have been just squeaking by lesser opponents but they are still winning.  Has Ray Lewis played his last game?

4. New York Giants (4-2)
Last Week: 9 (+5)

For the second time this year, excellent quarterback play made the 49ers defense look subpar.

5. Chicago Bears (4-1)
Last Week: 6 (+1)

Devin Hester gets to go against an anemic Lions special teams after the bye.  5-1 should be here soon enough for the 1st place Bears.

6. San Francisco 49ers (4-2)
Last Week: 3 (-3)

The defense has shown themselves prone to the big play at times.  Alex Smith has not shown an ability to get his offense back in games.  This team looks elite at times and at other like the 49ers of a few years ago.

7. Seattle Seahawks (4-2)
Last Week: 16 (+9)

This defense continues to hold some of the most prolific offenses in the NFL in check.  Last week they looked like a playoff team – what will they look like next week?

8. New England Patriots (3-3)
Last Week: 6 (-2)

Like the Seahawks, this team is hard to figure out.  One week they look like Super Bowl Champs, the next week they look like a 5 or 6 win team.

9. Minnesota Vikings (4-2)
Last Week: 7 (-2)

The defense that got this team off to a 4-1 start was nowhere to be seen in Washington.  One thing is for sure though, Christian Ponder is the future of this franchise.

10. Green Bay Packers (3-3)
Last Week: 13 (+3)

Now these are the Green Bay Packers everyone was expecting.

11. Arizona Cardinals (4-2)
Last Week: 8 (-3)

The Cardinals have lost two straight since starting off 4-0.   This offensive line needs to improve if they hope to win games again.

12. Denver Broncos (3-3)
Last Week: 18 (+6)

Are we finally allowed to say that Peyton is back?  That might’ve been the greatest Monday Night Football game I’ve ever seen.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3)
Last Week: 11 (-2)

This team has yet to play a complete game on the road.  Will Ben Roethlisberger be able to rediscover his 4th quarter heroics?

14. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
Last Week: 12 (-2)

When will the turnovers end?

15. San Diego Chargers (3-3)
Last Week: 10 (-5)

Remember how I said the Packers vs. Colts was the worst meltdown I’ve ever seen?  Scratch that.

16. Washington Redskins (3-3)
Last Week: 19 (+3)

R.G.Must See

17. Miami Dolphins (3-3)
Last Week: 20 (+3)

We’re all talking about Luck and RG3 but what Ryan Tannehill has done the last two weeks is nothing short of impressive.

18. St. Louis Rams (3-3)
Last Week: 14 (-4)

Greg the Leg failed 3 more times than I expected him to this season.  Gotta love a coach that has faith in his kicker to go for the 66 yarder though.

19. Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
Last Week: 15 (-4)

They looked great on Sunday but they just didn’t come away with the win.

20. Cincinnati Bengals (3-3)
Last Week: 17 (-3)

Andy Dalton has got to take better care of the ball if he hopes to compete in the always-tough AFC North.

21. Detroit Lions (2-4)
Last Week: 22 (+1)

It’s amazing that this team has won 2 games, they spend the 3 quarters doing everything they can to lose.

22. New York Jets (3-3)
Last Week: 23 (+1)

When the Jets run the ball well they win, it’s that simple.

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)
Last Week: 24 (+1)

The Buccaneers offense finally came alive last week.  Can Freeman perform against better defenses?

24. Buffalo Bills (3-3)
Last Week: 27 (+3)

There’s the defense we’ve been expecting to see all year.  I had almost forgotten the Bills signed Mario Williams.

25. Indianapolis Colts (2-3)
Last Week: 21 (-4)

This team has struggled on the road but Luck continues to impress.

26. New Orleans (1-4)
Last Week: 24 (-)

Good news Saints fans, your team hasn’t lost since Week 4.

27. Tennessee Titans (2-3)
Last Week: 29 (+2)

If Chris Johnson can run the ball this team can win games.

28. Carolina Panthers (1-4)
Last Week: 25 (-3)

Was Cam Newton just a one year wonder?

29. Oakland Raiders (1-4)
Last Week: 28 (-1)

The Raiders were impressive against the Falcons last week and will hope to build off a tough loss.

30. Cleveland Browns (1-5)
Last Week: 32 (+2)

The Browns got a big win on the road in the division.  This is huge for a young rebuilding team.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
Last Week: 31

Hopefully the receiving corps got better over the bye week.

32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)
Last Week: 30 (-2)

There was once such high hopes for this team but right now I don’t know how they win another game.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!
Where does your favorite team belong?

2012 NFL Power Rankings: WEEK 6

Another week is in the books and we’re starting to get a better idea of this crazy NFL season.  The Falcons and Texans stayed undefeated and proved worthy of our top two spots.  We’ve learned that the Chicago Bears defense is back and that New England is capable of having a balanced offense.   The NFC West is better than many thought and the NFC North is almost the exact opposite of where it was at this time last year.   Both the western divisions are wide open and both of the southern ones are a closed case.   This is the time of year when we actually begin to have an idea of where teams stand.

1. Atlanta Falcons (5-0)
Last Week: 1 (-)

The Falcons have proven capable of blowing teams out but more importantly, capable of winning the close games.  Matt Ryan is playing better than any QB in the league.

2. Houston Texans (5-0)
Last Week: 2 (-)

If the Texans make it through the next two weeks with an unblemished record, that 2-0 streak would be more impressive than their current 5-0.

3. San Francisco 49ers (4-1)
Last Week: 4 (+1)

The Ravens continue to win but the 49ers moving up is a testament to how well they’ve played.  This team has absolutely dominated their last two games – putting up over 600 yards of offense against a Bills defense that was supposed to be “one of the league’s best”.

4. Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
Last Week: 3 (-1)

I hate to drop a team that is coming off a road win but the Ravens have struggled against subpar teams while the 49ers’ loss to Minnesota seems long forgotten.

5. Chicago Bears (4-1)
Last Week: 6 (+1)

In the past two weeks the Bears defense has scored 4 touchdowns.  Imagine if Cutler and Marshall find that old Mile High magic

6. New England Patriots (3-2)
Last Week: 9 (+3)

The Patriots offense is explosive and dynamic.  More than that, it’s balanced.  New England has a ground game for once which should have their opponents scared.

7. Minnesota Vikings (4-1)
Last Week: 14 (+7)

Christian Ponder finally threw his 1st (and 2nd) interception of the year but rebounded nicely to lead the Vikings to a shocking 4-1 start.  Percy Harvin has my vote for NFL MVP at this point in the season.  Is anybody playing better football than Harvin?

8. Arizona Cardinals (4-1)
Last Week: 5 (-3)

Everyone is talking about the injury to Ryan Williams but this teams success or failure has always been on the shoulders of their quarterback.

9. New York Giants (3-2)
Last Week: 11 (+2)

This offense is still struggling to find an identity but we are all aware that if the champs can stay in the thick of things, we’ll see them come January.

10. San Diego Chargers (3-2)
Last Week: 10 (-)

The Chargers are 2-0 in their division but that’s not nearly as impressive considering those wins are over the Raiders and Chiefs.  This weekend’s game against the Broncos will tell us a lot about the AFC West race.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
Last Week: 18 (+7)

Big Ben continues to show his ability to rally his team late in games and win the close ones.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
Last Week: 7 (-5)

If the Eagles don’t make the playoffs it will only be because of turnover differential.

13. Green Bay Packers (2-3)
Last Week: 8 (-5)

This was the biggest second half collapse I have seen in recent memory.

14. St. Louis Rams (3-2)
Last Week: 19 (+5)

The Rams have their first winning record since 2006.  More impressive is that they are off to a 2-0 start in the NFC West.

15. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Last Week: 15 (-)

Talk about consistently inconsistent.  Tony Romo is getting a lot of the blame but his wide receivers and offensive line must step up.

16. Seattle Seahawks (3-2)
Last Week: 16 (-)

The vaunted Seahawks’ D has a big test this weekend as they face the NFL’s most prolific offense.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)
Last Week: 12 (-5)

The game against the Dolphins is one this team should’ve never lost.

18. Denver Broncos (2-3)
Last Week: 13 (-5)

The Broncos’ offense is much improved over the 2011 playoff version but the defense is nowhere near their old form.  They must step up if they hope to stop Phillip Rivers this weekend.

19. Washington Redskins (2-3)
Last Week: 17 (-2)

Without RGIII in the game this team fell apart.  This struggling defense gets a huge test when they face Percy Harvin this weekend.

20. Miami Dolphins (2-3)
Last Week: 25 (+5)

It becomes much easier for a young QB to develop when he has an offensive line as good as the one that Ryan Tannehill has protecting him.

21. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)
Last Week: 31 (+10)

Andrew Luck put together an impressive second half for his absent coach Chuck Pagano as the Colts are now 2-0 against NFC North teams.

22. Detroit Lions (1-3)
Last Week: 22 (-)

If the Lions can take advantage of turnovers and limit special teams scoring by the Eagles, perhaps Detroit can get back to their winning ways.

23. New York Jets (2-3)
Last Week: 21 (-2)

The chants for Tebow are growing louder in East Rutherford…

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
Last Week: 24 (-)

If Josh Freeman can’t throw touchdown passes against Kansas City this week – who can he throw them against?

25. Carolina Panthers (1-3)
Last Week: 23 (-3)

Auburn & Blinn College fans know that Cam Newton can be unstoppable for one season.  Panthers fans are asking if he can do it for two?

26. New Orleans Saints (1-4)
Last Week: 29 (+3)

Drew Brees breaking Johnny Unitas’ record in a win against his former team was a special moment but it doesn’t change the fact that the Ain’ts are at least 3 weeks from .500.

27. Buffalo Bills (2-3)
Last Week: 20 (-7)

It’s not just that this team already has three losses – it’s the number of points they have given up in these losses.

28. Oakland Raiders (1-3)
Last Week: 26 (-2)

This team needs to win games now but it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll get the W against Matt Ryan & Co. in Atlanta

29. Tennessee Titans (1-4)
Last Week: 28 (-1)

This team’s fortunes are directly tied to those of Chris Johnson.  As he’s gone downhill, so has this team.

30. Kansas City Chiefs (1-4)
Last Week: 27 (-3)

This fan base is excited that Brady Quinn will start this week.  How far has KC fallen?

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
Last Week: 30 (-1)

For three quarters this team stood toe to toe with the Chicago Bears. Shame a game doesn’t end after three quarters.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-5)
Last Week: 32 (-)

Two weeks in a row this team has gotten off to a quick start against top tier teams – now they just have to learn how to finish.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!
Where should your favorite team be ranked?

2012 NFL Power Rankings: WEEK 5

We’re at the quarter pole of the NFL Season and we don’t know a whole lot.  Here’s what we do know – the AFC South and NFC South are both incredibly weak.  Though each division’s best team are the top two teams in the league, the next highest ranked team in the “South” falls at 23 meaning the 6 remaining AFC/NFC South teams fall within the last 10 spots.   We know that the Arizona Cardinals defense is undeniable, the Texans, Falcons, and Ravens hardly have a weakness on their roster, the NFC West is not as weak as we all thought, and that the AFC West is going to be a fight to the finish.   What we don’t know is whether or not the Saints can finish a game, which New England team we’re going to get from one quarter to the next, where the Detroit offense has gone, and which Tony Romo will show up this week.  Without further ado, the Week 5 NFL Power Rankings:

1. Atlanta Falcons (4-0)
Last Week: 1 (-)

There are a lot of people who will argue that the Texans absolute domination of teams deserves my top spot.  While Houston has been impressive, the Falcons have gone 4-0 with a much tougher schedule.  Matt Ryan’s clutch throw out of his own endzone to Roddy White to come back against the Panthers showed the kind of poise he’ll need to win his first career playoff game.

2. Houston Texans (4-0)
Last Week: 2 (-)

What can be said about this team?  They have one of the best running backs in the league, one of its best receivers, and its most underrated quarterback.  The defense is intense and both lines are very strong. This team has been absolutely dominant this season and with such a weak schedule, there’s no reason to think it won’t continue.

3. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
Last Week: 3 (-)

It wasn’t pretty but Joe Flacco & Company got the win to extend the longest active home win streak in the NFL.

4. San Francisco 49ers (3-1)
Last Week: 4 (-)

A week after getting dominated by the Vikings, the team rebounded in a big way.  Anybody start Colin Kaepernick on their fantasy team?

5. Arizona Cardinals (4-0)
Last Week: 6 (+1)

You know the old saying, “Any given Sunday…”  Good teams find ways to win games and that’s exactly what the Cardinals did on Sunday.

6. Chicago Bears (3-1)
Last Week: 10 (+4)

Defense wins championships and this team is in a tie for 1st in their division on the strength of their D.  As the offense continues to improve this could be a very scary team.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)
Last Week: 13 (+6)

The Eagles protected the ball for once and got a big win against the defending Super Bowl Champs to take sole possession of 1st in the NFC East.

8. Green Bay Packers (2-2)
Last Week: 8 (-)

What we do know about the Packers right now is that it doesn’t matter whether the officials are replacements or not – Green Bay cannot get a call in their favor.

9. New England Patriots (2-2)
Last Week: 11 (+2)

The team that came out of the locker room for the 2nd half looks like a Super Bowl contender.

10. San Diego Chargers (3-1)
Last Week: 14 (+4)

The Chargers got a much-needed win against the division rival Chiefs to firm up their AFC West lead.  Don’t get too excited yet though San Diego, the Chargers were 3-1 at this point last year too.

11. New York Giants (2-2)
Last Week: 5 (-6)

An 0-2 start in the NFC East is not what the Champs had in mind.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)
Last Week: 16 (+4)

This young team has won three straight since an opening week loss and this young offense is clicking.

13. Denver Broncos (2-2)
Last Week: 15 (+2)

Peyton Manning is getting better every week.  Brady vs. Manning Part LXVII is this weekend which will give Denver a chance to prove they’re for real.

14. Minnesota Vikings (3-1)
Last Week: 20 (+6)

The NFL has a utility player and his name is Percy Harvin.  Harvin has the surprising Vikings off to a 3-1 start and you could make an argument that he’s the MVP of this young NFL season.

15. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Last Week: 9 (-6)

Monday night’s loss was nothing short of embarrassing for Dallas.  Jerry Jones can already feel that window starting to close.

16. Seattle Seahawks (2-2)
Last Week: 7 (-9)

In Sunday’s game Russell Wilson looked like a rookie quarterback.  The defense is solid but the offense has to find consistent production.

17. Washington Redskins (2-2)
Last Week: 21 (+4)

RG3 showed poise in bringing his team back on the road last week.  He has to be the frontrunner for rookie of the year at this point.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2)
Last Week: 18 (-)

Coming off the bye, the battle for Pennsylvania is a must-win game for the Steelers.

19. St. Louis Rams (2-2)
Last Week: 26 (+7)

The Rams have already matched their win total from 2011 thanks to the leg of rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein.  Mark my words, he will break the NFL record for longest field goal.

20. Buffalo Bills (2-2)
Last Week: 17 (-3)

This team looked like a playoff team for the first half.  The talent is here but the Bills have to find away to stop divisional rivals from finding the endzone.

21. New York Jets (2-2)
Last Week: 12 (-9)

Darelle Revis is done for the year and now Santonio Holmes might be too.  Doesn’t seem like things can get much worse for the ailing Jets.

22. Detroit Lions (1-3)
Last Week: 19 (-3)

The difference between 3-1 and 1-3 is subpar special teams play.

23. Carolina Panthers (1-3)
Last Week: 23 (-)

The Panthers looked like the team many thought they could be against the Falcons but they failed to get the job done.

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
Last Week: 22 (-2)

Many considered the Buccaneers the winners of the offseason.  Now they must find a way to win in-season.

25. Miami Dolphins (1-3)
Last Week: 28 (+3)

Ryan Tannehill looked impressive as he broke Dan Marino’s rookie single game passing record against one of the league’s top defenses.

26. Oakland Raiders (1-3)
Last Week: 24 (-2)

Carson Palmer wants to win his first playoff game this year.  In order to do that he must find a way to win his first AFC West matchup this year.

27. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3)
Last Week: 25 (-2)

How bad is Matt Cassel?  The fans are asking for Brady Quinn.

28. Tennessee Titans (1-3)
Last Week: 25 (-1)

We’re 4 weeks into the season and the Titans are in second place and out of the running for the AFC South crown.

29. New Orleans Saints (0-4)
Last Week: 27 (-2)

The Saints looked like, well, the Saints last week but even with favorable calls could not win a game they had every chance to win.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I present the New Orleans Ain’ts…

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)
Last Week: 30 (-)

If Blaine Gabbert is going to be an NFL starting QB, he needs receivers that can get separation and catch the ball.

31. Indianapolis Colts (1-2)
Last Week: 31 (-)

Rebuilding is a long, painful process.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-4)
Last Week: 32 (-)

They almost pulled off the biggest upset of the young season.  Brandon Weeden is getting better but on a Hail Mary, he’s got to put the ball in a place where his receivers have a chance.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!
Where should your favorite team be ranked?

2012 NFL Power Rankings: WEEK 4

And as we approach Week 4, we know even less than we did last week.  We have only two teams that have yet to win and three that have yet to lose.  Many would’ve guessed the Falcons and Texans would be in this position but the Cardinals?  As you may recall, I picked this Arizona team to have the 2nd overall pick in the 2013 draft and that seems rather unlikely.  Many would’ve picked the Browns to start 0-3 but with the Saints playing Washington, St. Louis, and Kansas City many thought they would be 3-0.  By the way the only wins these three teams have is against New Orleans.  And to talk about craziness what do the Patriots, Packers, Steelers, Broncos, Lions, and Saints all have in common?  They all have a worse record than the Minnesota Vikings.  Can that be right?  Oh well, our power rankings have been jumbled again as we have a new top team.

1. Atlanta Falcons (3-0)
Last Week: 2 (+1)

Prior to the Matt Ryan era this team never had back to back winning seasons.  Now the Falcons look like a team that can do something that Matt Ryan has never done – win a playoff game.

2. Houston Texans (3-0)
Last Week: 3 (+1)

Without a doubt the AFC’s best team plays in the NFL’s worst division.  With their schedule Houston could have a playoff seed locked up before the NBA season tips off.

3. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 5 (+2)

The AFC is extremely weak this year but the two teams at the top are perhaps the two most complete teams in the NFL.  There is not a weakness on this Raven’s roster.

4. San Francisco 49ers (2-1)
Last Week: 1 (-3)

To say that the 49ers were upset on the road last week is an understatement.  The 49ers handled the two best teams from the NFC North a year ago with ease and then they go up against its worst team and are absolutely embarassed.  The 49ers should return to form this week.

5. New York Giants (2-1)
Last Week: 6 (+1)

The Super Bowl champs have found their rhythm again and should continue their winning ways against an Eagles team that does not protect the ball.

6. Arizona Cardinals (3-0)
Last Week: 14 (+8)

The Cardinals have made it clear they will not be ignored.  Their week 1 defeat was not a sign that the Seahawks were worse than we thought, it was simply a sign of how good this team was.  Big wins over the Patriots on the road and the Eagles shows that as long as there is steady QB play this is a team to be reckoned with.

7. Seattle Seahawks (2-1)
Last Week: 18 (+11)

Everyone is going to talk about the gaffe at the end of Monday’s game but let’s talk about the fact that at the end of 4 quarters Seattle was in a position to win.  This defense held the Packers to only 12 points and made Aaron Rodgers look like Mark Sanchez.  Russell Wilson is playing beyond his years right now and like the rest of the NFC West right now, this defense is performing at an elite level.

8. Green Bay Packers (1-2)
Last Week: 4 (-4)

Just three weeks in and the Packers have matched their loss total from a year ago.  Regardless of what you say about Monday’s game, this offense should never have been in a position to lose that game.

9. Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
Last Week: 12 (+3)

The biggest question I have about this team is the offensive line.  Everything else is there for this team to finally turn the corner.

10. Chicago Bears (2-1)
Last Week: 13 (+3)

I expected big things from Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall this season and so far I’ve been severely disappointed.  It is still hard to say how good this team is but they are 2-1 with a subpar offense.  If Jay Cutler shows up, watch out!

11. New England Patriots (1-2)
Last Week: 8 (-3)

I honestly cannot remember the last time the Patriots had a losing record.  The talent is here on this reloaded roster but this team is still trying to find an identity.

12. New York Jets (2-1)
Last Week: 16 (+4)

I want to give this team some credit before they freefall due to the loss of their best player for the season.

13. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)
Last Week: 7 (-6)

I knew turnovers would eventually catch up to this team once they met a top tier defense.  How long before the Philadelphia fans start chanting for Foles?

14. San Diego Chargers (2-1)
Last Week: 10 (-4)

The San Diego Chargers are trying to get back to the playoffs.  This weekend’s game against Kansas City decides who takes the lead in the AFC West.

15. Denver Broncos (1-2)
Last Week: 11 (-4)

The Broncos have had one of the toughest early schedules in the NFL, there is no doubting that.  Peyton has shown he still has it but it’s unfair for Denver to expect him to lead 3+ touchdown drives in the 4th quarter of every game.

16. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)
Last Week: 17 (+1)

The Bengals young offense continues to impress but this defense that was so great a year ago still has not shown up.

17. Buffalo Bills (2-1)
Last Week: 20 (+3)

When the Bills face the Patriots this weekend we’re going to get our first real idea of how good this Buffalo team really is.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2)
Last Week: 9 (-9)

Ben Roethlisberger is moving the ball on offense, the problem is that during the 4th quarter of games, the opposing QB is moving the ball a little better.  This defense needs to keep playing after the 45th minute.

19. Detroit Lions (1-2)
Last Week: 15 (-4)

The most “Penal-ized” team in the league is also among the most penalized.  This team’s success is going to be based on how healthy Matthew Stafford really is.

20. Minnesota Vikings (2-1)
Last Week: 27 (+7)

Christian Ponder put together his best game as a pro and Kyle Rudolph showed why he was the top tight end taken in the draft a year ago.  This surprising Minnesota team plays Detroit with the chance to take control of the NFC North.

21. Washington Redskins (1-2)
Last Week: 19 (-2)

You might have noticed that the Redskins have the best scoring offense in the league right now.  They also boast the league’s worst defense.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)
Last Week: 22 (-)

This team is loaded with talent but the offense lacks any ability to move the chains.

23. Carolina Panthers (1-2)
Last Week: 21 (-2)

This team still lacks a rushing attack and a year after he took the league by storm, defenses are starting to figure out Cam Newton.

24. Oakland Raiders (1-2)
Last Week: 28 (+4)

The Raiders got a big win at home last week against the Steelers.  Now the Raiders have to travel to Denver in the hope of getting themselves back in the AFC West race.

25. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2)
Last Week: 29 (-4)

The Chiefs needed a win badly on Sunday and they got it.  This game was more of a statement for Jamaal Charles who proved that he still has the burst to be an elite NFL running back.

26. St. Louis Rams (1-2)
Last Week: 23 (-3)

In their first big loss of the season the Rams showed they still have a long way to go.  But they have to be excited about the leg on rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein.

27. Tennessee Titans (1-2)
Last Week: 27 (-)

The win against Detroit was a big one but I feel that after a loss to the Texans this week, Tennessee’s season will be officially over.

28. Miami Dolphins (1-2)
Last Week: 25 (-3)

Outside of Reggie Bush, who has blossomed in Miami, I cannot for the life of me figure this team out.

29. New Orleans Saints (0-4)
Last Week: 24 (-5)

Oh how the mighty have fallen.  A game against the Packers won’t help too much either.  Is this the return of the Aint’s?

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)
Last Week: 32 (+2)

Blaine Gabbert continues to impress, especially in the 4th quarter where him and Cecil Shorts have quite the chemistry.

31. Indianapolis Colts (1-2)
Last Week: 26 (-5)

There is a lot of young talent on this roster and they will get there but for now there must be growing pains – even for a highly touted prospect like Andrew Luck.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-3)
Last Week: 31 (-1)

There are some good pieces here but I do not see how this team wins a game in the always difficult AFC North.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks?
Let me hear ’em!

Where should your favorite team be ranked?

2012 NFL Power Rankings: WEEK 3

As we go into Week 3 there are an unbelievable number of 1-1 teams which means there are only a few 2-0 and a few 0-2 teams.  Who would’ve thought that with 9 turnovers the Eagles would’ve gotten 2 wins, including one over the Ravens?  Who would’ve thought that Arizona would be among the 2-0 teams and not the 0-2s?  And did anyone believe that New Orleans would be 0-2 at this point?  There’s been a lot of upheaval but the good news is that NFL.com and ESPN.com have finally recognized what we tried to tell them last week – the San Francisco 49ers are the best team in the NFL.

1. San Francisco 49ers (2-0)
Last Week: 1 (NA)

The 49ers have beat the top 2 teams in the NFC North from a year ago to kick off the season and as they head into their 3rd straight NFC North game, the Niners should have no problem advancing to 3-0 against the Vikings.  Randy Moss’s first regular season game as an opponent in the Metrodome will make things interesting.

2. Atlanta Falcons (2-0)
Last Week: 2 (NA)

Tony Gonzalez continues to be reliable for Atlanta and the Matt Ryan-Roddy White connection is as prolific as ever.  This Falcons defense looks impressive and the offense is balanced.  This is a very scary team.

3. Houston Texans (2-0)
Last Week: 3 (+1)

The Texans are in a weak division and the question isn’t if they’ll win the division but how early will they rap it up.   This week Denver brings their first test of the season.

4. Green Bay (1-1)
Last Week: 6 (+2)

Green Bay silenced the critics with a crushing defeat of Chicago.  Questions of whether or not the Packers have a defense have been quieted… for now.

5. Baltimore Ravens (1-1)
Last Week: 3 (-2)

Baltimore had a crushing loss against Philadelphia this weekend.  The explosiveness this offense had against Cincinnati just was not present for all 4 quarters on Sunday.  This is a team that will win a lot of ballgames though.

6. New York Giants (1-1)
Last Week: 9 (+3)

The loss against Dallas had many worried.  Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks exploded as Manning threw for over 500 yards against the Buccaneers.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0)
Last Week: 17 (+10)

Philadelphia has turned over the ball 9 times in their first two games and somehow find themselves alone atop the NFC East.  This team has gotten lucky and will need to find ways to protect the ball if they hope to stay there.

8. New England Patriots (1-1)
Last Week: 5 (-3)

New England dropped their first home opener at Gillette Stadium well.. ever.  They were not prepared to go up against this dynamic Arizona defense.  The chance was there to win it for the Pats and they blew it.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)
Last Week: 11 (+2)

It’s hard to believe the Pittsburgh Steelers lack a running game but so far the passing game has been getting it done for the Steelers.

10. San Diego Chargers (2-0)
Last Week: 14 (+4)

The Chargers were without their best two offensive weapons in Gates and Mathews last week and they still were able to put on a clinic against Tennessee.

11. Denver Broncos (1-1)
Last Week: 10 (-1)

The Broncos turned over the ball 4 times in the first quarter in a hostile Georgia Dome.  However, Peyton showed that he still has the command as he nearly brought his team back from a 13 point deficit.

12. Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
Last Week: 8 (-4)

The Cowboys were embarrassed against Seattle.  The stout Dallas D we saw in New York was nowhere to be found as Russell Wilson scored at will.

13. Chicago Bears (1-1)
Last Week: 7 (-6)

The Bears offense looked nonexistent against what was supposed to be a horrible Packers’ defense.  Jay Cutler had one of the worst single game performances for a QB in recent memory.

14. Arizona Cardinals (2-0)
Last Week: 22 (+8)

Nobody thought the Cardinals could go into Gillette and win.  If Kevin Kolb can get the win over his former team this week the Cardinals will find themselves with as many wins as most thought they’d have all season.

15. Detroit Lions (1-1)
Last Week: 12 (-3)

Tough loss against the 49ers last week.  This once prolific offense is still struggling to find a rhythm.

16. New York Jets (1-1)
Last Week: 13 (-3)

As good as Mark Sanchez was against Buffalo, he was that bad in Week 2.  It’s hard to figure these Jets out this early in the year.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
Last Week: 21 (+4)

The Bengals’ offense has shown they can score, but the question is can this defense stop the other team from scoring?

18. Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
Last Week: 24 (+6)

Russell Wilson continued to look impressive as the Seahawks got a huge win over Dallas.

19. Washington Redskins (1-1)
Last Week: 15 (-4)

RG3 continues to look better than advertised and the weapons are there on offense to score.  However 2 huge injuries on defense could be the difference this year.

20. Buffalo Bills (1-1)
Last Week: 23 (+3)

C.J. Spiller averaged 10 yards per carry for a second straight week as he made Bills fans forget about Fred Jackson.

21. Carolina Panthers (1-1)
Last Week: 25 (+4)

The Panthers got a big win at home against New Orleans but are still struggling to find a rushing attack.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
Last Week: 19 (-3)

The Buccaneers had a great opportunity to go 2-0 until the defense laid down and allowed Hakeem Nicks to explode for nearly 200 yards through the air.

23. St. Louis Rams (1-1)
Last Week: 28 (+5)

The Rams were impressive in their win over the Redskins.  Sam Bradford looked great and the offense was steady but it was Jeff Fisher’s defense that continues to turn some heads.

24. New Orleans Saints (0-2)
Last Week: 16 (-8)

The Saints expected to be 2-0 with their early schedule.  As everyone has pointed out already, it is incredibly rare for an 0-2 team to make the playoffs.

25. Miami Dolphins (1-1)
Last Week: 32 (+7)

Who knew that Miami could have this kind of scoring explosion? Reggie Bush is clearly the heart of this offense.  What’s more impressive though is this Miami defense.

26. Indianapolis Colts (1-1)
Last Week: 31 (+5)

Andrew Luck got off to a fast start against the Vikings and when it was necessary he hit his receivers to put his team in a position to win.  The future is bright for Andrew Luck and the Colts.

27. Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
Last Week: 26 (-1)

Kyle Rudolph has the tools to be an elite tight end and Christian Ponder has shown poise in the 4th quarter.  Unfortunately for Minnesota, it was them who came back just a little too early this week.

28. Oakland Raiders (0-2)
Last Week: 20 (-8)

This is a rough start for what many thought would be a good Raiders team.  Looking down the road to the Steelers, Falcons, & Broncos and 0-5 start is not out of the question for Oakland.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2)
Last Week: 18 (-11)

This was supposed to be a big year for Kansas City – this team looks like the only thing its going to win is the Matt Barkley sweepstakes.

30. Tennessee Titans (0-2)
Last Week: 27 (-3)

When is Chris Johnson going to show up in Tennessee???

31. Cleveland Browns (0-2)
Last Week: 32 (+1)

I’ll give this to the Browns – they are competitive.  Weeden looked like a completely different QB than the one we saw against Philadelphia.  Trent Richardson will soon be a top tier running back in this league.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
Last Week: 29 (-3)

Jacksonville didn’t have a prayer against Houston.   This Sunday’s game against Indy will be Jacksonville’s last chance to get a W for awhile.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!
Where should your favorite team be ranked?

2012 NFL Power Rankings: WEEK 2

Now before you go looking back for Week 1 NFL Power Rankings, there aren’t any.  Truth be told I wanted to start doing NFL Power Rankings this season but my pre-season projections give a good enough idea of where I believe teams will end up that I did not see a need to give pre-season power rankings – I thought it would be awfully redundant.  A week ago I would’ve never imagined some teams as high or low as I have them and of course being early in the season we’re going to see a lot of fluctuation the first 3-4 weeks.  Without further ado, my week 2 power rankings:

1. San Francisco 49ers (1-0)

Is it fair to say that Jim Harbaugh has turned Alex Smith into a QB?  The glaring position of weakness from last year’s NFC Championship, wide receiver, has been overhauled.  The ferocious defense is still in place.  San Francisco is the team to beat in the NFL right now.

2. Atlanta Falcons (1-0)

Tony Gonzalez had the kind of homecoming in Kansas City that most only dream of – what a way to kick of his final NFL Season.  The days of ground and pound are in the rearview for A-Town as this has become Matt Ryan’s team.  With so many weapons on offense, it was easy to forget at times that Roddy White is still on this roster.

3. Baltimore Ravens (1-0)

We all know about what Ray Rice can do in the rushing game.  We’re more than aware of Ray Lewis & Company on the other side of the ball.  But now, Joe Flacco has arrived on the scene in style and has caused a Dennis Pitta waiver wire frenzy among fantasy owners.  The Ravens scored at will against one of the league’s top defenses from a year ago.  This is a very dangerous team.

4. Houston Texans (1-0)

The question is no longer whether or not the Texans can make the playoffs but how far they can go.  As long as Matt Schaub is under center I believe this is the most complete team in the NFL and everything I saw on Sunday confirmed that.

5. New England Patriots (1-0)

This team is fresh off it’s 5th Super Bowl appearance this century so we know that the offense was already great.  They focused on defense in the draft this year and their early picks are already paying dividends.  If this team can continue to perform this well on both sides of the ball – watch out.

6. Green Bay Packers (0-1)

I don’t believe this is a 15-1 team anymore but I still believe the talent is there for them to win 12-13 games.  The biggest question is, can this offense perform at a high enough level again to make up for the flaws of an anemic defense?  We’ll get our first answer to this question against Chicago.

7. Chicago Bears (1-0)

Many are quick to forget that had Jay Cutler stayed healthy last year, this would’ve probably been a playoff team.  This team is strong on defense as always and has added Michael Bush, Alshon Jeffrey, and Cutler’s all-time favorite target, Brandon Marshall on offense.  The game against the Packers will give us a better idea of just how good the Bears really are.

8. Dallas Cowboys (1-0)

How ’bout dem Cowboys?  It’s one game but what a huge win for Tony Romo and the boys. The offense can be explosive and the young cornerback additions of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr may be one of the best duos in the league.  DeMarco Murray picked up right where he left off and Tony Romo looked like a franchise quarterback.

9. New York Giants (0-1)

Yes the Giants dropped the ball and became the first Super Bowl Champion to drop the home opener under the present format but it’s just one game.  If the Giants have not taught us anything else in the last four years they’ve at least taught us this – it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.  The Giants just better hope Victor Cruz finds his hands again and quickly.

10. Denver Broncos (1-0)

Out of what promises to be a down-to-the-wire AFC West race, Denver was clearly the cream of the crop this past weekend.  Peyton Manning looked at home wearing orange for the first time in 15 years.  He’s about to make Demaryius Thomas & Eric Decker household names.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)

Big Ben lost his second straight game in Denver but this is still a very talented roster and a team to be reckoned with in the AFC.

12. Detroit Lions (1-0)

It wasn’t the prettiest thing, but the Lions got the W and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.  Against a much improved Rams defense, Stafford once again led his team to a comeback victory in dramatic fashion.  He has this team ready to make another playoff push.

13. New York Jets (1-0)

Not only did the “nonexistent offense” score more points than any team in the NFL, they did it against a defense that many (myself included) projected to be among the top 5 defenses in the league this season.  Sanchez didn’t just manage the game, he won it.  And Stephen Hill was explosive in the tradition of Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas.  Who says the Georgia Tech triple option doesn’t prepare players for the NFL?

14. San Diego Chargers (1-0)

It was rough and it was ugly but the Chargers got themselves a key division win and found ways to move the ball against a tough Oakland defense.  The Chargers are looking for answers in the backfield while Ryan Mathews recovers from injury.  There are still plenty of other weapons on this offense to allow San Diego to contend for a playoff spot this year.

15. Washington Redskins (1-0)

I never expected to rank the Washington Redskins this high after week 1 but Robert Griffin III turned in the most impressive debut for a rookie quarterback that I can remember.  This roster has gotten better and like always, Mike Shanahan took a no-name running back and has made him work in that system.  The biggest question is – can this be sustained?

16. New Orleans Saints (0-1)

I do believe that New Orleans will find their rhythm and likely finish with a better record than the Redskins but after that shellacking there is no way I could rank them higher.  After that performance, there have to be some major questions about that defense.

17. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)

Prior to the season, all of the questions were about Michael Vick being able to stay healthy prior to the season.  Now all of the questions are going to be about whether he can go a series without turning the ball over.

18. Kansas City Chiefs (0-1)

For the first half on Sunday, Kansas City looked like the team I expected them to be this season.  Cassel was playing smart football and Charles was moving the chains.  The second half was another story.  This team can be competitive as long as they put together 4 quarters of football.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)

Tampa Bay spent a lot of money this offseason to improve their offense.  In turn, the Bucs did not get much production.  It was enough to beat the Panthers but this offense has got to find a rhythm.

20. Oakland Raiders (0-1)

For this team, it’s all about staying healthy.  If McFadden and Palmer can finish out this season, this team will be fighting for a playoff spot.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)

If an entire roster were ever to have a sophomore slump, it would be this team.  The Bengals did much to improve this offseason but were pretty terrible on both sides of the ball on Monday.  I will say the ability to convert on 4th down twice in the same drive was impressive.

22. Arizona Cardinals (1-0)

The defense picked up right where they left off at the end of last season and the offensive weapons are there.  With a quarterback this could be a very good team.

23. Buffalo Bills (0-1)

I am shocked to find the Bills this low to start the season but their highly touted defense was helpless against the Jets on Sunday.  And many of the teams high hopes have been dashed with the loss of Fred Jackson for the first quarter of the year.  C.J. Spiller has shown he can pick up his share of the load but this team needs to get back on track fast.

24. Seattle Seahawks (0-1)

I thought Russell Wilson had the 2nd best debut of any rookie quarterback.  He almost got his team a win on the road against a very tough Cardinals defense.   His height is an issue though as he had trouble seeing the field.  The bigger issue though is the apparent lack of an offensive line.

25. Carolina Panthers (0-1)

Ryan Kalil promised fans a Super Bowl title this offseason.  In order for that to happen this team must rediscover their ground game.

26. Minnesota Vikings (1-0)

It was the strength of rookie Blair Walsh’s leg that delivered the Vikes a much-needed win at home but its Adrian Peterson’s seemingly healthy leg that has got everyone talking.

27. Tennessee Titans (0-1)

Jake Locker is tough and his shoulder injury shouldn’t sideline him for too long.  This team’s fortunes though are directly tied to which version of Chris Johnson decides to show up this season.

28. St. Louis Rams (0-1)

While they have a long ways to go, Jeff Fisher has already transformed the defense of this young team.  The biggest concern for this team is offensive line depth followed by finding someone for Sam Bradford to throw the ball to.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)

The Jaguars are not going to win many games this year but Blaine Gabbert showed vast improvement from a year ago.  That 4th quarter go-ahead drive took poise  and that was impressive.  The improvements at the wideout position may have something to do with it.

30. Cleveland Browns (0-1)

When you have a rookie quarterback in his late twenties, the plan is not to develop him – it’s to start him.  Weeden posted a 5.1 passer rating which has to make Jamarcus Russell feel good about himself.  He stared down receivers and showed an inability to read defenses.  There is plenty of young talent on this roster but they are not going to contend in the always-difficult AFC North anytime soon.

31. Indianapolis Colts (0-1)

There remains a lot of work to be done in Indy but Pagano has the right pieces in place.  Luck and Fleener are going to be the cornerstones of this offense for years to come and Reggie Wayne is the veteran presence this young team needs.  The offensive line and rushing attack have to find a way to take some pressure off Luck.  They face a tough test this week against Jared Allen and Chad Greenway.

32. Miami Dolphins (0-1)

Is anyone surprised that the Dolphins have once again started the year 0-1?  Of all 5 rookie quarterbacks that started this weekend, there is no doubt that Ryan Tannehill has the least amount of talent surrounding him.  Miami is a long ways from being significant.

 

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let Me Hear ‘Em!
Where should your favorite team be ranked?