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 (8-0) - How good is Aaron Rodgers? The Packers defense is a 100 times worse than last year but no one is talking about it because it hasn’t mattered. If an opponent punts one time, the game is basically over. Green Bay is basically riding Aaron Rodgers all the way to another championship. Seriously, they don’t stop opposing quarterbacks and they hardly run the ball, yet they are undefeated half way through the season.
2. San Francisco 49ers (7-1) - It’s hard for me to list the 49ers as the #2 seed with Alex Smith as a starting quarterback, but he’s doing exactly what Jim Harbaugh wants of him and that’s not costing the 49ers any games. Owning the ground when running the ball and having a dominant defense still works in the NFL. Who knew?
3. New Orleans Saints (6-3) – 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.
4. Detroit Lions (6-2) – Matt Stafford could be up for MVP if he didn’t play in the same division as a guy named Aaron Rodgers. He has the Lions with a 6-2 record and has put up monstrous stats even with the lack of a rushing attack. Everyone knows that Calvin Johnson is the go-to receiver and that they can double him and play back without fear of getting beat by the running back. Stafford has still put up numbers like, 61.2 % completion 2,179 yards 19 TDs and 4 Interceptions. That’s at the half way point and with all of the restrictions of the offense.
5. New York Giants (6-2) – I’ve been late to this party. I keep doubting this team and I’m still skeptical. I expected them to go into New England and come out with a victory. I felt that Dallas and Philly would both make strong 2nd half pushes. Philly still looks loss and the Cowboys are still shooting themselves in the foot. Even with the tough schedule that the Giants are in the middle of, I believe they are more consistent than Dallas or Philly…which isn’t saying much.
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-3) – The Falcons can move up this list and pass the Saints. They’ll get their chance this week but they still aren’t playing to their max potential. Drew Brees is capable of making a long day for the Falcons defense. We all loved the two big catches from Julio Jones but if he doesn’t make those plays, Matt Ryan has a horrible day against a poorish Colts defense. To be exact, Ryan would have been 12 for 22 for 145 yards. It’s not the dominance that I expected. Against the Saints Ryan will have to be more consistent to duel with Brees.
Outside Looking In
7. Dallas Cowboys (4-4) – They have all of the talent that you could hope for. They moved the ball with ease against Seattle but like I mentioned under the Giants, they keep making costly errors. I have them outside of the playoffs but if they can start reducing the errors then this will be a team that no one will want to face.
8. Chicago Bears (4-3) – I loved the way Jay Cutler has looked recently. Chicago is finally playing to his strength. They allowed him to get on the move against the Eagles and it cause problems for Philly. That was a statement win for Chicago and I for one was caught off guard. Earl Bennett is clearly Cutler’s favorite target and he does everything well. Hopefully for Chicago the two Matt Forte fumbles don’t become habit.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) – I felt that the Eagles would get the win on Monday night no matter what. I kept waiting for them to put the game away. Who knows, if the punter actually completed the throw that my 4 year old could make, then maybe would would be talking about Philly in a different light. But he didn’t and we are not. They can get back in this race and if any team was going to pick up the remaining $700,000 owed to Albert Haynesworth, the Eagles would make sense.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) - What do they do great? Every aspect of this team has regressed. Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, LeGarrette Blount, the defense, you name it and it’s being played worse in 2011 then in 2010. They’ll stay competitive in most games but come up with close losses in at least half of those instances.
11. Minnesota Vikings (2-6) -They get the label of best of the worst in the NFC. These final six teams, Adrian Peterson pushes Minnesota to the top of. Jared Allen isn’t getting the press he deserves for this season because the team is so bad. Fact is that Allen can keep this team close in games and allow Christian Ponder to continue to develop by being able to rely heavily on Peterson.
12. Carolina Panthers (2-6) – Cam Newton is doing more than any of us could have ever asked. He plays for a bad team but he’s always got them in the game. His talent and the way the team plays with his skill set will allow the Panthers to upset a team like the Lions but also lose to a team like Arizona.
13. Washington Redskins (3-5) – I’ve begged for over a month that Mike Shanahan quit being a grumpy old man and make the change to the youth movement. Shanny finally did by playing the two guys that I felt were really special in this offense, Roy Helu and Leonard Hankerson. Helu and Hankerson will continue to grow in this offense but at the end of the day John Beck still holds this team back. What the second half run by Helu and Hanky though.
14. Seattle Seahawks (2-6) – They are painful to watch. I admit the defense has made a ton of play. Take the Cowboys game for instance, they kept stopping Dallas and forcing turnover but the offense is so boring and predictable. I’m sorry Seahawks’ fans, but start looking at prospects in the draft and hope you get one of the premier quarterbacks.
15. Arizona Cardinals (2-6) – If your team is ranked below Seattle all I can do is hope that you’re a bigger college basketball fan. This is clearly the worst division in football. Seattle, Arizona, and St Louis are the worst NFC teams. This past Sunday should have been illegal. Who wants to watch the 1-6 Cardinals play the 1-6 Rams outside of Arizona and Missouri? John Skelton made some throws…Larry Fitzgerald…blah blah blah zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
16. St Louis Rams (1-7) – I should get paid extra for writing three straight paragraphs on these last three teams. Seriously though, the Rams are so disappointing to me. I thought I saw something there with this team. I liked the match up of Josh McDaniels with Sam Bradford. I thought they had some good pieces on defense and that Stephen Jackson wouldn’t be relied on to carry all of the work with the new offense. WRONG!! They are the worst team in the NFC and it’s not made for TV. Bright spot? Robert Quinn looks as good as I thought he would