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 starting this week I’ll begin to split the NFL Power Rankings into the AFC and the NFC from here on out.
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. New England Patriots (5-1) - They’re nowhere close to a complete team but Tom Brady has been able to outscore most teams and make up for the worst pass defense in the NFL. The Pats defense is giving up 424 yards a game, that’ll will cost them some games but in the playoffs I believe Brady will overcome it and any AFC team.
2. Houston Texans (4-3) – The most complete team on both sides of the ball in the AFC. They can hold offenses in check and they can score on anyone. This past Sunday was a statement game and quite a surprise with one of their top weapons out. When Andre Johnson comes back they’ll be able to run the complete offense again.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) – Pittsburgh knows how to win the games that matter. Even though they were man handled by the Ravens early on, I believe the Steelers are the better team. Joe Flacco isn’t capable of winning games when Ray Rice is shut down but Ben Roethlisberger can take games into his hands and has done so on the biggest stage.
4. San Diego Chargers (4-2) - The Chargers have the players on both sides of the ball but only need to make some tweaks for the second half of the season. The offense is 8th in total yards but only 15th in points. The defense is 5th in yards given up but only 18th in points given up. The play is there, have to fix the mistakes.
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5. Baltimore Ravens (4-2) – This defense can keep their team in the hunt but as we saw on Monday and versus the Titans, if Ray Rice is slowed then the Ravens will fold. Playing in a division with the top 4 total defenses in the NFL, they’ll receive several losses by getting beat at their own game.
6. Buffalo Bills (4-2) – Similar to the Patriots minus Tom Brady and plus an equally bad rush defense to go with their awful pass defense. It’ll be a race to score the most in each game but they should make the playoffs because Fred Jackson can control time of possession and their offense will win them enough games.
Outside Looking In
7. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) – This team could pass up Pittsburgh or Baltimore as Andy Dalton and AJ Green continue to develop. But it’s a tough competitive division to take your lumps in. I don’t believe a rookie quarterback will get the edge and make the difference in competition this tight.
8. New York Jets (4-3) – They’ve looked better in recent weeks but this isn’t the same Rex Ryan led defense. Teams can run on them and they aren’t built to score at will or win shootout type games. That’s not a good recipe in matchups vs New England, Houston, Buffalo, etc.
9. Oakland Raiders (4-3) – I respect Michael Bush and love the explosiveness of Taiwan Jones but neither can carry this offense like Darren McFadden. He needs to be 100% to compete for the AFC West. Carson Palmer is a name. He’ll make some throws but miss more opportunities.
10. Tennessee Titans (3-3) – While no team has set themselves apart in the AFC, they can’t show this weakness on tape. The Titans are being figured out in the last few games. They are one-dimensional and that will get Matt Hasselbeck injured. Everyone knows that CJ.5k should be benched for Javon Ringer but it won’t happen for $30 million reasons
11. Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) – The Chiefs get on these little hot streaks but it isn’t real. I’m not buying the stock. In games where Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe are in sync with one another the offense runs fluid. But nothing is guaranteed with Cassel or this team. They’ll finish .500.
12. Denver Broncos (2-4) – Hate him or love him, Tim Tebow will make the games interesting. He missed some easy throws in Sunday’s game but so did Christian Ponder. We have to remember that this is his 4th start and his first this year. He’ll improve and they’ll win several games.
13. Cleveland Browns (3-3) – Colt McCoy has always finished right behind Tim Tebow in college. Whether it was the Heisman or falling short of a National Title. Why should the pros be any different. Seriously, he’s just in too tough of a division to make this team a contender in 2011.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) – Great defensive performance versus the Ravens…horrific offensive performance versus the Ravens. Let’s not act like teams can’t move the ball against the Jags. However, Jacksonville will struggle to move the ball against opponents. First to 13 wins!
15. Miami Dolphins (0-6) – It’s a tough decision between who’s worse. Miami needs to win and the coach will give every effort (poor man thinks he has a chance to save his job). Unfortunately they won’t win many but they’ll finish better than the Colts.
16. Indianapolis Colts (0-7) - When you’re this bad and then you give up 62 the morale just plummets. Actions speak louder than words. With that in mind, Jeff Saturday and Robert Mathis need to quit worrying about being accused of sucking for Luck and prove they’re playing by actually making games suitable for fans to watch.