Thursday, October 7, 2010

NFL Four Square: Part I

We're a quarter of the way through what has been an interesting NFL season thus far. Interesting the the sense that there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason this year, in comparison to previous years. We've have a multitude of unbeaten teams to this point in the past, but this year - one. That one is not the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, or Denver Broncos, all who were undefeated going into week 5. Just one team. Kansas City Chiefs. Although their bye was week 4, their 3-0 record is still the top of the league, but what about the team behind the record? They had a great outing on the opening Monday Night Football, physically man-handling a so far inconsistent San Diego Chargers team. They had a close win against the Browns, and a near perfect game against the 49ers, but these teams have a combined 3-9 record. The rest of the AFC East hasn't made too much noise, although Kyle Orton is leading the Broncos to an NFL best 339.5 passing yards per game, yet they have split their first two games, including an opening day loss to the Jaguars. Orton is on pace to be Denver's best quarterback in their history, statistically that is, not to mention a candidate for MVP, but there just isn't enough on either side of the ball to tip their scales when in a close game, although Denver managed a great win against Tennessee. Denver's complete lack of a rushing attack, aided by Knowshon Moreno's absence due to injury, has been an aid for the passing attack, but Kyle Orton cannot throw the ball 50 times every game and his team win. Peyton Manning proved he could last year with the league's worst rushing offense, but that was Peyton Manning - this is Kyle Orton. With the whirlwind of trades just going down this past week, we can safely assume that the new looks of the Seahawks with Marshawn Lynch and a familiar look with the Vikings with Randy Moss spells for potential disaster. Lest we forget, Lynch has had a few run-ins with the law, one of which resulted in a suspension last year. Add that to his lingering injuries, Seattle may or may not find a great rushing attack duo with Lynch and Justin Forsett - but only time can tell. Moss, on the other hand, may be a total disaster in Minnesota. Sure the Vikings are 100% behind the trade, but how much value will he add if Brett Favre can barely get the ball down field? Favre's main target this year has been tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, mainly because of the injury sustained to Sidney Rice, but he hasn't been able to get a vertical game going for his team, and although Randy Moss is a great talent, the ball still has to be thrown to him for him to be effective. He will more than likely be hit or miss, and you know that he will get the attention from defensive backs, leaving Shiancoe and whoever else dresses up as Viking wide outs to catch the bulk of the passes. At least Favre has some guy by the name of Adrian Peterson.

All ranting aside, let's run through the entire league, from top to bottom, as I see it:

1) Pittsburgh Steelers - I cannot deny the Steelers are back. Back to Super Bowl form. And that included the first four games without their Super Bowl quarterback. The defense has done quite well, and the offense has showed signs of life when needed. The Baltimore game aside, this team is near perfect on defense.

2) Baltimore Ravens - Had they not played so badly against Cincinatti, or if the referees not have officiated so badly, the Ravens would be 4-0. They, like the Steelers, are dominating on defense. The difference is, they have their quarterback, and a new wide receiver in Anquan Boldin, yet their offense has yet to take off, aside from the Pittsburgh game, where the offense drove down the field for the win. Pittsburg is still one up now with Big Ben coming back for their next game in Week 6.

3) Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons lost to the Steelers in overtime on an amazing scamper by Rashad Mendenhall. They have since dominated the Cardinals (not a hard task), squeezed by the 49ers, and edged out the Super Bowl Champs Saints. Not bad for a team in the shadow of the aforementioned New Orleans championship team.

4) New York Jets - Despite a lack-luster offensive showing in week 1, Rex Ryan has ignited the same fire he usually tends to in the defense straight into the spine of Mark Sanchez, Dustin Keller, and Ladanian Tomlinson, because, together, they have won 3 straight, all of which were division games, including a Sunday Night showdown in Miami, and a very respectable defeating of the Patriots. If they continue this pace all year, they will be very tough to beat, even out of the division.

5) New Orleans Saints - You can't deny the Saints are still a great team, although their offense hasn't put up the points and Drew Brees isn't tossing the ball over the heads of defenders as much. Their defense still shows some stiffness, but they have been involved in close games all year, including a last-second field goal to win against the lowly 49ers. They could very well break out and score 40+ for a few games in a row, so this team is dangerous still.

6) Indianapolis Colts - their defense is in shambles, good thing Manning is shooting for a fifth MVP award.
7) New England Patriots - looking good now, but the youth might take its toll.
T8) Houston Texans - their offense has been very productive, save for the Dallas game. With a consistent rushing attack, they're on the move up.
T8) Kansas City Chiefs - The impressive San Diego win coupled with a close win against the improving Cleveland and blowout of declining San Francisco, and we're 3-0 in KC.

10) Green Bay Packers - They gave up too much against Detroit, imploded against Chicago, and let up too early on the Eagles and Vick, but they have Aaron Rodgers.
11) Chicago Bears - they are going down fast, simply because we are not sure about their quarterback situation, even with Cutler playing.
12) Tampa Bay - Although they took a thumping against Charlie Batch and the Steelers, Josh Freeman is showing signs of life and they are off to a good start.
13) San Diego Chargers - Too up and down on both sides of the ball. The Kansas City loss on the opening MNF was the litmus test for this team thus far.
14) Denver Broncos - The leagues top passing team also gives up too much passing on the other side of the ball. Great win against the Titans however.
15) New York Giants - Despite a lackluster performance on offense against the Bears, their defensive domination was a turning point - they hope.
16) Miami Dolphins - Two straight divisional losses in prime time sends the Dolphins spiraling, but they still have the players to make a playoff push.
17) Washington Redskins - Great defense, yet no offensive tempo to be truly dangerous yet.
18) Philadelphia Eagles - With Vick and McCoy out, Kolb will have to make this offense run with the talent of wide receivers to make up for the lackluster defense.
19) Tennessee Titans - Still a tough defense to play against, but Kyle Orton picked them apart just enough for a win. Offense needs more Chris Johnson production.
20) Jacksonville Jaguars - Two blowout losses and two close wins, we can't really get a good feel of what this Jaguars team has to offer.
21) St. Louis Rams - I can't put them too much higher than this, simply because I am skeptical of the defense. Sure they did a number on Washington and Seattle, but both those teams have also been up and down ...
22) Seattle Seahawks - Speaking of up and down, opening with a division blowout against the 49ers and a great win against San Diego, the eggs they laid on offense against Denver and St. Louis can't go unnoticed.
23) Cincinnati Bengals - I completely forgot about the Bengals already. Sure, they beat the Ravens, but when you lose to the Browns, you become an afterthought, even with TO showing up.
24) Dallas Cowboys - Sure, you can say they are better than the Kansas City Chiefs, who are 3-0, but eventually you have to show up on Sunday's to get to the Super Bowl - the week off might hurt their rhythm.
25) Arizona Cardinals - A disaster waiting to happen on every level with this team
26) Minnesota Vikings - Peterson is all they have working for them at the .... wait a minute, is that Randy Moss in Minnesota? We'll see how this fares.
27) Cleveland Browns - The emergence of a rushing attack with Peyton Hillis is the only bright side on offense, although Seneca Wallace isn't losing games for them.
28) Oakland Raiders - A great showing for the Raiders against the Texans, although for some reason, Arian Foster had his way with their defense.
29) Detroit Lions - A would-have-been win against the Bears, an offensive explosion against the Eagles and Packers sandwiched by a typical game against the Vikes = 0-4.
30) San Francisco - They are so close, but so far. 0-4 is not the record of a division champ.
31) Carolina Panthers - Even with Clausen starting, the offense doesn't have anything to scare even East Carolina University.

... and then we have Buffalo.

Until next time!

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