At this point in the NFL season we have seen enough on teams to actually begin to gather firm opinions on each one. Fans, the media, and even front offices have started to realize what teams actually have a realistic shot at the playoffs and who’ll be playing for Andrew Luck.
Being the best team in the NFL doesn’t matter until you’re at least the best team in your conference, so I’ve split the NFL Power Rankings into the AFC and the NFC. The records are what they are, but I’ve become more comfortable with the teams as a whole instead of a particular teams most recent win or loss and that factors heavily into where they are ranked. Hopefully your team makes the cut and is one of the six listed above the fold.
Projected Playoff Teams
1. Green Bay Packers (7-0) - Even though the pass defense is so bad, the way Aaron Rodgers runs the offense seems capable of overcoming most obstacles. I don’t see the Packers going undefeated but they are one of the most dominant teams in years.
2. San Francisco 49ers (6-1) - This is old school football. They remind me of the Jets from the last two years. But like those Jets’ team they are built to score in a hurry. When they face a team that can stuff the run and score on offense, they won’t be able to compete.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) – Most reactions to this is that I have them too high but honestly I struggled with not placing them second. The talents been there, they just needed time to gel and a bye week to tweak the system. This team could beat Green Bay. Going a step further, they were built to beat the Packers.
4. New Orleans Saints (5-3) – Yes, New Orleans looked horrible against the Rams of all people. They know how to win and they have the talent to do so. Question is, will they get it fixed before the Falcons or Bucs pass them up. I say the better team prevails.
5. Detroit Lions (6-2) – I bet on the curse and Detroit proved me wrong. It was a bad Denver team they dominated. The way they played though seemed as if they were going to prove that this is a new team, a new era in Lions football. This team knows how to score and the defense keeps opponents out of the endzone, despite the yardage.
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-3) – This team hasn’t played up to their talent or expectations. The bye week should have given them time to find out what’s missing. I still feel that Jacquizz Rodgers isn’t being fully utilized. Matt Ryan needs to quick locking in on Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, or Julio Jones from game to game. He has to spread it around and keep the D guessing.
Outside Looking In
7. Dallas Cowboys (3-4) – The Cowboys ran into the Eagles at the wrong time. Philly is playing at the level expected two months ago. It’s easy to overreact at how bad Philly made Dallas look or the Giants winning bad games but standing in first place at 5-2. Over the next 9 weeks Dallas will enter the playoff hunt.
8. New York Giants (5-2) – This team could actually beat the New England Patriots this week because they match up well against them. Eli Manning has been playing great and there’s no reason to think that New England has anyway of stopping him. Over the next two months though their inconsistency will catch up with them.
9. Chicago Bears (4-3) – This is an 8-8 team. Matt Forte is carrying the weight of the team on his back and Jay Cutler is doing a lot with the little around him. This doesn’t look like a Bears’ defense and it’s odd because they have so many of those big name / big play makers.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3) - The Bucs are a bad team that just finds ways to beat divisional foes at home. The second half of the season they have to travel to Atlanta and New Orleans. Including this week’s game in the Big Easy. The Saints are in disarray after the Rams game but I believe they gather themselves to create separation.
11. Minnesota Vikings (2-6) - This is where the NFC teams fall off. The Vikings are the best of the bad in the NFC with Christian Ponder. He knows how to take what’s given to him and not let Adrian Peterson’s efforts go wasted.
12. Carolina Panthers (2-6) – This Panthers team can play with any opponent. It’s not a big deal this season but Cam Newton will have to find out why he isn’t winning more of these close games by next year. Nothing to panic about in Carolina as he’s just entering the halfway point of his rookie season but something to watch for.
13. Washington Redskins (3-4) – Mike Shanahan insisted on sticking with John Beck and Rex Grossman when everyone told him to go out and get a true starting quarterback. He has a defense but they are even struggling of late. The running game looked unstoppable early but the move to John Beck has brought that to a halt.
14. Seattle Seahawks (2-5) – Pete Carroll is trying different gimmicks to make Tarvaris Jackson effective. Running the hurry up offense has helped keep games closer but it’s still hard to watch this team for 60 minutes.
15. Arizona Cardinals (1-6) – Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse their quarterback, Kevin Kolb gets turf toe. How bad have the Cardinals been playing? Half of the fan base isn’t even upset with Kolb’s injury. Instead some seem excited to see what John Skelton can do.
16. St Louis Rams (1-6) – The Rams used all of this season’s great play in one game. It’s like playing Madden, you don’t use up all of the speed burst at the beginning. It’ll leave you without any juice to beat your opponents. The Rams still have a chance to get out of the NFC basement. All they have to do is win the game of the week featuring a possible match up of AJ Feeley vs John Skelton. Get your popcorn ready!