December 22, 2011

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Looking Toward the NFL Playoffs

By: Rick Jarrell

With the large majority of fantasy football over, with only a lucky, select few still worrying about their lineups this weekend, I’ll divert my attention. Just make a note to set your lineups before Thursday night, and especially before Saturday, when the majority of games will be played.
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Only two weeks left means the playoff picture is becoming clearer. The fringe teams like the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs appear on their way out, although not mathematically eliminated. Meanwhile, perennial studs like New England and Pittsburgh have nearly solidified top seeds. But there’s still spots up for grabs and a few areas to be sorted out. I’ll point out the most interesting stories.

Tebow Brings the Broncos Back to the Playoffs

Despite that predictable hiccup against the Patriots Sunday – where Tom Brady put a muzzle on the Tebow fan club for a few days – the Broncos appear poised to take the division. Their final games are at a struggling Buffalo Bills team, who could not keep early momentum and have fallen to last place in their division, and the Kansas City Chiefs, who again are not technically out, but have a steep hill to climb. The biggest threat here is the Oakland Raiders – but Carson Palmer has played terribly for them, and unless Darren McFadden comes back strong, they’re likely to split their last two games.

San Diego is also looming. The team that tends to have a strong December may be too late, though, as the usually weak division has made forward strides this season.

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Tim Tebow and the Broncos are on the brink of the playoffs. Can they finish the job?

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NFC East Battle

At times considered one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, it appears, at least for this season, to be because no team can rise up and take control. The Cowboys had a string of strong wins and were seemingly ready to take the reigns as a solid playoff possibility. Yet, after a heart-breaking loss against the Giants in Week 14, Eli Manning and his squad kept them in the hunt. The Giants had a seemingly easy game against the Redskins in Week 15, but that proved not the case, and knocked them back down a peg.

Now the Giants face their city rivals this week, followed by a potentially division-deciding match up against the ‘Boys. The insanity doesn’t stop there, though. If events happen right (or wrong depending on some viewpoints), the Eagles could sneak into the playoffs.

Will Three AFC North Teams Make the Playoffs?

The division is dominated by the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers year in and year out, with this year being no different. Despite the lackluster performances this weekend, they’re both tied for the division lead at 10-4. But the new horse in the race is the Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have gone from bottom dweller – widely perceived as one of the worst teams going into the season – to a team that has found a spark behind a strong defense, easy schedule, and rookies AJ Green and Andy Dalton. They don’t face weak teams by any means – the Ravens and the Cardinals, who have showed flashes as of late – but have a strong opportunity to overtake the Jets as the sixth seed. As a Browns fan, if all three make it, I’ll have an excuse to think they were better than they performed this year. It’s the little things.

November 1, 2011

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

1. Green Bay Packers (7-0) — The Pack has not lost a meaningful game in a long time, but it is a little premature for the 16-0 talk to begin.

2. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) — Impressive comeback against the Cardinals but they shouldn’t have been down that much to begin with. Their game in Pittsburgh on Sunday will be huge.

3. New England Patriots (5-2) – The loss to the Steelers could prove costly in the playoff seeding tiebreakers.

4. Buffalo Bills (5-2) – A win over the Jets Sunday would go a long way towards getting Buffalo back to the playoffs.

5. Detroit Lions (6-2) – They will have an extra week to enjoy that beating they gave Tebow and the Broncos.

6. Atlanta Falcons (4-3) – They got some help Sunday when the Rams knocked off the Saints. NFC South race is wide open.

7. New Orleans Saints (5-3) — I have a feeling that loss to the Rams is going to hurt when we get to January.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) – They beat the Patriots on Sunday, and they will have a huge edge in the AFC.

9. San Francisco 49ers (6-1) – They just keep winning and could be on their way to a first round bye.

10. Houston Texans (5-3) — Andre Johnson should be back this week and the Texans should handle the Browns.

11. New York Jets (4-3) — The next two weeks against the Bills and Patriots are critical for the Jets to climb back in the race. They must win at least one of those games.

12. New York Giants (5-2) — The schedule is really tough the rest of the way. Will a two game lead be enough to hold on in the NFC East?

13. Chicago Bears (4-3) – Can the defense slow down the Philadelphia offense? We will find out on Monday Night Football.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3) — Anyone else think the Saints will be ready to go when the Bucs travel to New Orleans on Sunday? Tampa cannot afford to fall two games back with a loss.

15. San Diego Chargers (4-3) — Rivers will be kicking himself all week for the fumbled snap against the Chiefs. Once again the Chargers find a strange way to lose a game.

16. Tennessee Titans (4-3) – Chris Johnson has to get going if the Titans are going to stay in the race much longer.

17. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) – Philly finally looked like the team everyone thought they would be in their win against the Cowboys.

18. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) – We will find out how good the Bengals are in the next three weeks against Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

19. Oakland Raiders (4-3) – Moved into a first place tie without even playing and Denver is coming to town. Things are looking up.

20. Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) – Miami and Denver could have the Chiefs at 6-3 before the schedule gets really hard.

21. Dallas Cowboys (3-4) – America’s Team has the easiest schedule of the NFC East teams but it won’t matter if they play like they did Sunday night.

22. Washington Redskins (3-4) – With three straight losses, Washington has gone from the top of the NFC East standings to the bottom in a hurry.

23. Minnesota Vikings (2-6) – Christian Ponder looks like he could be the starter for a while in Minnesota.

24. Carolina Panthers (2-6) – Cam Newton will be the starter for a long time in Carolina.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) – 12.25 points per game doesn’t win many games in this league.

26. Cleveland Browns (3-4) – Colt McCoy needs more weapons.

27. Arizona Cardinals (1-6) – Blowing that lead against the Ravens hurts. Suddenly, Sunday’s game against the Rams doesn’t look so easy.

28. St. Louis Rams (1-6) – Looking to make it two wins in a row against the Cardinals.

29. Seattle Seahawks (2-5) – The loss to Cincinnati was much closer than the score would suggest.

30. Denver Broncos (2-5) – Bronco fans got what they wanted with Tebow taking over for Orton. Unfortunately, it looks like Denver’s opponents also got what they wanted.

31. Miami Dolphins (0-7) – Should have beaten the Broncos and almost beat the Giants. They will win soon.

32. Indianapolis Colts (0-8) – They have a one loss lead in the Andrew Luck standings. This team has more problems than no Peyton Manning.

October 6, 2011

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Fathead’s NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

NFL Rankings:  As we approach Week 5 of the NFL season, here is how each of the NFL teams stacks up.

1.Green Bay Packers (4-0) — As the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair would say, “To be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man.” Until someone beats the Pack, they will be at the top of the rankings.

2. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) — After opening the season by dominating the defending AFC champion Steelers and blowing out the AFC runner-up Jets on Sunday, the Ravens are the class of the AFC.

3. New Orleans Saints (3-1) — Drew Brees and company gave the Packers all they wanted and followed that with three solid wins.

4. Buffalo Bills (3-1) — After pulling off the shocker of the year and beating New England, the Bills get beat by the Bengals.

5. New England Patriots (3-1) — Tom Brady’s offense hasn’t been held under 30 points yet.

6. Detroit Lions (4-0) — They won’t be undefeated much longer if they keep falling behind by 20 points.

7. Houston Texans (3-1) — Wade Phillips has got the defense playing much better.

8. New York Jets (2-2) — A two game losing streak makes this trip to New England huge for the Jets.

9. Atlanta Falcons (2-2) — Important stretch coming up for the Falcons with Green Bay and Detroit coming up in the next couple weeks.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) — The Bucs need a win at San Francisco to carry momentum into tough stretch with Saints, Bears, Saints, Texans and Packers coming up.

11. San Diego Chargers (3-1) — Chargers should get healthy with the Broncos on Sunday and their bye week.

12. New York Giants (3-1) — G-men getting it done despite injuries. They may have gotten a break with the controversial play against the Cardinals.

13. Tennessee Titans (3-1) – Huge test for surprising Titans this week at Pittsburgh.

14. Washington Redskins (3-1) – The defense is giving up an NFC best 15.8 points per game. They have two weeks to get ready for a divisional showdown with the Eagles.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) – Are the defending AFC champs suffering from a post-Super Bowl loss hangover? Or is it just that they cannot protect the quarterback?

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – No team is more entertaining than “America’s Team”. Do the Cowboys ever play a game decided by more than one score?

17. Chicago Bears (2-2) – The Bears have a good chance to build a lead Sunday in Detroit. The question is will they be able to hold it?

18. San Francisco 49ers (3-1) – Their three wins is one more than the rest of the NFC West combined. The division is theirs to lose.

19. Oakland Raiders (2-2) – It looks like the Raiders are the team that will push San Diego in the AFC West.

20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) – It’s been a nightmare start for the “Dream Team”. They are probably glad to be hitting the road after the last two performances at home.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) – Got a shot to be 4-2 at the bye with two winnable games coming up. Not bad for a team who’s quarterback retired rather than play for them.

22. Cleveland Browns (2-2) – They have an extra week to recover from getting pounded by the Titans.

23. Carolina Panthers (1-3) – The good news is Cam Newton looks like he is their quarterback of the future. The bad news is New Orleans, Atlanta and Washington coming up.

24. Arizona Cardinals (1-3) – They should have beaten the Giants on Sunday. They head to Minnesota to face an angry Vikings team.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – The offense is experiencing some major growing pains with rookie Blaine Gabbert now playing quarterback. They average less than 10 points per game.

26. Denver Broncos (1-3) – It’s not Kyle Orton’s fault the Packers put 49 points on the board Sunday. Try telling that to the fans in Denver though.

27. Indianapolis Colts (0-4) – It’s going to be a long season without Peyton Manning. This team won’t quit though.

28. St. Louis Rams (0-4) – Injuries and the schedule have made them look worse than they really are. Unfortunately, they have Green Bay, Dallas and New Orleans for their next three.

29. Seattle Seahawks (1-3) – Put up 21 points in the second half Sunday. Only score 37 in their other 3.5 games.

30. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – They have played much better in the last two weeks.

31. Minnesota Vikings (0-4) – They would be ranked much higher if the NFL cut games to 30 minutes.

32. Miami Dolphins (0-4) – With a bye and the Jets coming up they could be winless when the Broncos come to town.