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.
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Projected Playoff Teams
1. Green Bay Packers (9-0) - When the biggest question surrounding your team is whether they’ll go 16-0 or not, there is no reason to explain the #1 seed. The scary thought is that Dom Capers may start to fix his passing defense in time for the playoffs. It would be like Superman find a shot that makes him immune to kryptonite.
2. San Francisco 49ers (8-1) - The 49ers hope the Packers do slip up because they are very capable of running the table with this defense and rushing attack. They to have a weakness to the pass. They’ll need a healthy rushing attack to stay on this win streak. Alex Smith does look improved this season. I saw some spectacular throws this past Sunday but if they ask him to continually make those throws, this whole thing could collapse.
3. New Orleans Saints (7-3) – The Saints were given a gift this past weekend. The Falcons beat themselves after New Orleans basically gave them the key to the endzone. Regardless, they sit atop the division heading into the bye week after consecutive victories over divisional foes. They have some challenging games coming up but they should manage through them on the way to winning the division. The defense is still a major concern.
4. Chicago Bears (6-3) – They have a great running back, the defense has fixed a lot of early season woes, and Jay Cutler has reduced the errors and avoided the sacks. The most promising part of the offense is how Jay Cutler just seems to be playing a game of catch with his old college teammate Earl Bennett. Teams have to fear the Bears on offense, defense, and special teams. Chicago is more complete than most of the teams in the NFL but due to playing in the same division as Green Bay, they won’t see a home playoff game. That could prove costly in January.
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5. Dallas Cowboys (5-4) – It’s a two horse race and I don’t believe we’ve seen the best out of the Cowboys. The division will come down to the last four weeks of the season when the Cowboys and Giants face off twice. Dallas can be the better team if they start to play a complete game week in and week out.
6. New York Giants (6-3) – I don’t want to take away from the way Eli Manning has been playing but I don’t know how long he can sustain winning without a rushing attack. He’s played great football this season and has taken his team to the Super Bowl and won. That could play a factor into who wins the division this year. I just don’t like them to beat out Dallas after facing the Eagles, Saints, and Packers leading up to those final four games, where they meet Dallas twice.
Outside Looking In
7. Detroit Lions (6-3) – I think that two teams will miss the playoffs in the NFC after winning 10 games this season. The Lions fall under that line. They don’t have a complete offense. We’ve seen how Matt Stafford can be forced to press if he doesn’t have Calvin Johnson to get the ball to. The Lions have over achieved so far this season and they’ll continue to win but they’ll fall just short of the playoffs.
8. Atlanta Falcons (5-4) – It’s puzzling to me but this team should be better. lame it on coaching, Matt Ryan, defense, or whatever, it really doesn’t matter.What matters is that all of these little mishaps will cost this team the division and a wild card spot.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) – A team that started off with so much promise and expectations has now just become a weekly gossip source. The only importance that the Eagles provide now, is the weekly story line. Last week was DeSean Jackson’s missed meeting and suspension. This week is Mike Vick’s broken ribs and if Vince Young will be starting on Sunday Night Football.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) - This team has fallen apart. Nothing is going right for them and I don’t see it turning around any time soon. While it was heavily criticized last week, the pick up of Albert Haynesworth looks like a good one. He’s back in his natural role and was already making an impact in the same week he joined the team. He’s the one who ended Matt Schaub’s season.
11. Minnesota Vikings (2-7) -This team is better than their 2-7 record indicates. Christian Ponder has made some good throws and has even shown poise in the pocket in his limited time. They’re playing for the future now and I wouldn’t be surprised it they win at least 3 more games. At least they have something to build on going forward.
12. Carolina Panthers (2-7) – I’ve mentioned over the last few months that Cam Newton has been given the best opportunity for success from his offensive line. I felt that he would struggle if the pressure started getting to him more consistently. Against the Titans we got the answer to that question. The more he got hit or pressured on Sunday, the more he regressed in his throws. It’s a concern going forward when teams are getting to Cam.
13. Arizona Cardinals (3-6) – Three of the bottom four teams are from the NFC West. I give the Cardinals the benefit of the doubt over the Redskins thanks to two straight wins for Arizona and Washington looking clueless. It’s going to be interesting to see what Arizona does when Kevin Kolb comes back healthy. Regardless of anything else, John Skelton is getting wins. The same can’t be said for Kolb so far this year.
14. Washington Redskins (3-6) – The only reason to watch Washington the last several weeks for me was Leonard Hankerson and Roy Helu. Mike Shanahan keeps benching the more talented rookie, Helu for Ryan Torain and now you have to expect that Tashard Choice will get some reps as well. As soon as Hankerson was given an opportunity he thrived but unfortuantely, after having his first 100 yard receiving day, he got injured and went on injured reserve. Why even watch now?
15. Seattle Seahawks (3-6) – They beat the Ravens at home. This speaks more to how poorly the Ravens play on the road than increased play from Seattle. Pete Carroll will get to watch former USC quarterbacks, Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez, and Matt Leinart start over the next few weekends. After watching Leinart’s start in 2 weeks against the Jaguars, you have to wonder if he’ll regret signing Tarvaris Jackson instead of Leinart. e’s out of the race for “Suck for Luck”, he could possibly want to be reunited with Matt Barkley. Let’s hear the chants from Charlie Whitehurst as he supports a suck for a better quarterback campaign, “Start Me to get Barkley”.
16. St Louis Rams (2-7) – What’s the chances? They happen to win and so does every other team in the NFC West. Crazy to think that after they started 0-6, they were just one overtime game away from being on a three game winning streak right now. They’ll face Seattle twice and Arizona once over the next four games. If they keep playing well they can salvage a respectable season or they can tank it and draft the best offensive tackle in the draft.