December 18, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

A lot changed in the NFL in Week 15. Fans in Washington, Minnesota and Dallas saw their playoff hopes improve dramatically. And if you are rooting for Baltimore, Tampa Bay, New York Giants, St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh or the New York Jets…your hopes either took a major hit and/or are gone all together. Here’s how I have them ranked with two games to go.

1 San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) — As the Nature Boy Ric Flair always said, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” The Patriots were at the top last week and the 49ers went into New England and won. San Fransisco is now “The Man.”

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers haven't given up on this season.

2 Atlanta Falcons (12-2) — Talk about making a statement. If anybody wants to get to New Orleans, they are going to have to go through Atlanta.

3 New England Patriots (10-4)Tom Brady was on the verge of one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. But the Patriots couldn’t finish it off and likely cost themselves a playoff bye.

4 Houston Texans (12-2)
— One more win ought to be enough to lock up home-field advantage in the AFC. It won’t be easy with the Vikings and Colts both fighting for wild card spots.

5 Denver Broncos (11-3)
– The Broncos may be the biggest winner of week 15. Home wins over the Browns and Chiefs will clinch the No. 2 seed and a first round bye.

6 Green Bay Packers (10-4) – The NFC North champs have won eight of nine and have their sights set on the NFC’s No. 2 seed and a first round bye.

7 Seattle Seahawks (9-5) – After putting up 108 points in the last two weeks the Seahawks are one win away from getting into the playoffs (probably) and have an outside shot of stealing the NFC West from San Fransisco.

8 Dallas Cowboys (8-6) – Somehow the Cowboys got off the mat and won five of six. If they can make it seven of eight they should be NFC East champs.

9 Baltimore Ravens (9-5) — Remember when the Ravens were on the verge of earning a bye in the first round of the playoffs? A desperate New York Giant team could give them a fourth straight loss and make the Ravens at Bengals in week 17 for the division title.

10 Washington Redskins (8-6) – Five straight wins have the Redkins at the top of the NFC East. A win at Philly this week will set up a huge week 17 showdown with the Cowboys.

11 Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) – The Bengals can make the playoffs with a win in Pittsburgh. A loss makes things very interesting.

12 New York Giants (8-6) – Did the Giants just sneak in an extra bye week? Sunday’s game in Baltimore is a must win.

13 Indianapolis Colts (9-5) – The Colts should have no trouble with the Chiefs this week. A win should keep them from having to go to New England in the first round.

14 Minnesota Vikings (8-6) – If the playoffs started today….with Houston and Green Bay left on the schedule, they have started for the Vikings.

15 Chicago Bears (8-6) — Wins in Arizona and Detroit won’t be enough to get the Bears in the playoffs. They need help.

16 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7) – Despite losing four of five, the Steelers can make the playoffs by winning the last two games. Their reward for doing so? Probably the Patriots.

17 New Orleans Saints (6-8) – This season cannot end fast enough for the Saints now that they are out of playoff contention.

18 Carolina Panthers (5-9) –  Don’t be surprised if the Panthers finish 7-9. This is one team that hasn’t quit.

19 St. Louis Rams (6-7-1) – If everyone in front of them loses, a win would give the Rams something to play for in week 17.

20 Miami Dolphins (6-8) – Surprisingly, the Dolphins still have hope. They must beat Buffalo and hope the Steelers beat the Bengals to go into week 17 with a chance.

21 Tennessee Titans (5-9) – Is Jake Locker the future for the Titans? I’m not sure they know the answer.

22 New York Jets (6-8) – The Jets looked more like a team playing for the top pick in the draft than a playoff spot on Monday night.

23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)
– That 41-0 beat down ensured the Bucs won’t have to worry about making a trip to the frozen tundra in January.

24 Arizona Cardinals (5-9) – Nice win for the Cards. With the Bears and 49ers coming up, they were looking at a 12-game losing streak to finish the season.

25 Detroit Lions (4-10) – The Lions are a candidate for most disappointing team of 2012. They could lose their last eight games.

26 Cleveland Browns (5-9) – You heard it here first. Cleveland makes the playoffs in 2013.

27 Buffalo Bills (5-9) – Maybe the Bills are the new Redskins? Let’s see if they try to win the off-season for the second year in a row.

28 San Diego Chargers (5-9)
– The window in San Diego is officially closed. Time to rebuild.

29 Oakland Raiders (4-10) – The Raiders haven’t allowed a point in five quarters.

30 Philadelphia Eagles (4-10) – Eagles are headed for 4-12 with two playoff hungry opponents remaining but they would love to knock the Redskins and Giants out of the race.

31 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) – GM, Head Coach, quarterback and even franchise location are question marks? That’s not good.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (2-12) – The Chiefs appear to be a lock for 2-14 and the first pick in the draft.

December 11, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

There are three weeks left in the NFL regular season and we know who four of the 12 playoff teams will be.

15 teams are still in the hunt for the other eight spots, leaving 13 teams that should already be looking to 2013. Where does your team sit?

Tom Brady and New England are the new #1 in the NFL Power Rankings.

1 New England Patriots (10-3)Brady and Belichick are at it again. New England is going to be scary in January and probably February.

2 Atlanta Falcons (11-2) — Oops. The Falcons put it on cruise control a bit early. They still need at least one more win to lock down the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

3 San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) — You’ve got to feel for Alex Smith. Especially with a potential Super Bowl preview coming up Sunday night in New England.

4 Houston Texans (11-2) — Sunday’s game against the Colts just got a whole lot bigger. One more loss and Houston could have a big problem.

5 Denver Broncos (10-3) Manning is making a strong case for MVP. A win in Baltimore could get the Broncos a first round bye.

6 Baltimore Ravens (9-4) — Their last four games have been decided by three points. This week is a must-win if the Ravens are going to have a first-round playoff bye.

7 Green Bay Packers (9-4) – The Packers are now alone in first place in the NFC North and winning in Chicago on Sunday would give them another division title.

8 Seattle Seahawks (8-5) – Did Pete Carroll have a flashback to his USC days and think he needed to run up the score to gain style points?

9 New York Giants (8-5) – There is no margin for error in the NFC East and the Giants must go to Atlanta and Baltimore in the next two weeks. The defending champs could miss the post season.

10 Chicago Bears (8-5)Jay Cutler needs to get healthy quick and have a big game on Sunday or the Bears will be watching the playoffs on TV.

11 Dallas Cowboys (7-6)Pittsburgh comes to town this week in a meeting of two teams desperately needing a win. Dez Bryant could be out with a broken finger.

12 Indianapolis Colts (9-4) – Is this all Andrew Luck? This team was horrendous last season.

13 Washington Redskins (7-6) – The Skins are 4-0 since their bye week and have stormed back into the NFC East race. The question is whether RGIII can be RGIII with an injured knee.

14 Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) – Beat the Eagles, Steelers and Ravens and you’re in the playoffs. That’s a tall order.

15 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) – Do they want to make the playoffs? Didn’t look like it when they were down 27-3 to a bad San Diego team.

16 Minnesota Vikings (7-6) – That was a big win over the Bears. The Vikings need another win this week at St. Louis because they finish with Houston and Green Bay.

17 St. Louis Rams (6-6-1) – A three-game winning streak for the first time since 2006 has the Rams in playoff contention. Three more wins may not be enough though.

18 New York Jets (6-7) – The Jets were left for dead on Thanksgiving, but two straight wins has them in the hunt with three winnable games remaining.

19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) – Allowing two touchdowns in the last four minutes to lose against the Eagles is going to haunt the Bucs while they are watching the playoffs at home.

20 New Orleans Saints (5-8) – It was really just a matter of time in New Orleans. Not even Drew Brees can overcome the issues they have had.

21 Detroit Lions (4-9) – There is too much talent on this team to be 4-9. The Lions just can’t find a way to win. Something’s missing.

22 Carolina Panthers (4-9) – Where has that Panther team been all season? It’s a little late to be showing up for the party.

23 Tennessee Titans (4-9) – The Titans are just the latest fourth quarter victim of Andrew Luck. I’m sure they are looking forward to another decade of that.

24 Miami Dolphins (5-8) – The Dolphins competed against the Patriots and 49ers in the last two weeks, but it is clear they are not on that level.

25 Buffalo Bills (5-8) – The defense has improved but it has been a disappointing season in Buffalo.

26 Cleveland Browns (5-8) – The Browns are 5-3 in their last eight and still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt? Who knew?

27 Arizona Cardinals (4-9) – U.G.L.Y. Cardinals got no alibi. From 4-0 to 4-12? Yikes.

28 San Diego Chargers (5-8) – Big changes coming in San Diego for 2013. Nobody is safe.

29 Philadelphia Eagles (4-9) – Nick Foles could be the starter in 2013 after that come-from-behind win against the Bucs, but Philly fans are probably complaining that he cost them a higher draft pick.

30 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) – Not much to be positive about in Jacksonville right now. At least the weather is nice.

31 Oakland Raiders (3-10) – There was hope when Oakland landed Carson Palmer, but some things never change. The Raiders losing seems to be one of them.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (2-11) – The Chiefs lead the race for the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft…in large part because they are -22 in the turnover battle.

November 29, 2012

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Why the Cincinnati Bengals are Legitimate Super Bowl Sleepers

By: Matt Bowen

The NFL playoffs are quickly approaching and the postseason picture couldn’t be cloudier at the moment. As a die-hard NFL fan, that’s what is great about the game. With so many games coming down to the wire on a weekly basis, the human imagination runs a marathon every Sunday with all the possibilities for the “second season.” Fans want nail-biting, bone-crunching action and the NFL delivers with regularity. Something fans love is debating the true sleeper teams and the Cincinnati Bengals should be feared this season.

Can the Bengals replicate the run the Giants made to the Super Bowl last season?

Now in the final quarter of the year, every team around the league is either gearing up for the final push toward the postseason or looking to spoil the party for their opponents.

So, who will win the Super Bowl? Well, only time will tell as the games have yet to be played, but there’s plenty of room for speculation.

Everybody knows that the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons are sitting pretty at 10-1 and will be favorites in the postseason, but having one of the best regular season records does not guarantee the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Often it’s not the team that is tops throughout the season, but the team that gets hot at the right time.

Super Bowl sleepers are always dangerous this time of year as out of nowhere everything things seems to come together and these teams begin to fire on all cylinders.

In the recent past the Green Bay Packers of 2010 and New York Giants of 2011 fumbled through much the regular season only to catch fire late and carry that momentum all the way to a championship. This year, that team is the Bengals.

Yes, the Bengals are the most dangerous sleeper to make a serious push for the Super Bowl this season. Gone are the days of being the doormat of the NFL and a real laughing stock; the Bengals are for real.

Led by quarterback Andy Dalton, the Bengals are currently 6-5, riding a three-game winning streak and are within reach of the playoffs. The best thing that happened to this young, revamped team this year may have been a four-game losing streak.

Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth commented that the team “relaxed” after a 3-1 start and thought that winning in the NFL would come easy to them. After a month of losing the Bengals did something that hasn’t been seen in Cincinnati since the late 1980’s—they collected themselves and never quit.

After a surprise trip to the playoffs in 2011, the Bengals were written off as a one-year wonder. Behind Dalton and a tough dose of NFL reality in 2012, the team is headed in the right direction.

The Bengals offense is growing on a weekly basis.  Having a top-five NFL receiver in A.J. Green, an up-and-coming touchdown target in rookie Mohamed Sanu and a dependable running back in BenJarvus Green-Ellis doesn’t hurt. What Green accomplishes on Sunday afternoons is special; he makes the game look simple. His 10 receiving touchdown are currently tied with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski for tops in the league.

The defense plays with a serious chip on their shoulder and most importantly, the team is having fun. The team that plays together stays together and for a second straight season the playoffs are on the horizon for the Bengals. The fact that they are on the outside of the playoffs looking in right now gives them even more fuel.

A win over their divisional foe Baltimore Ravens in Week 17 to clinch a spot in the postseason will give them all the confidence they need. The Bengals are the team of the future.

Who Dey!

November 13, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

A couple NFL teams are close to clinching a playoff spot. A couple are close to locking up a top five pick in the draft. A lot are somewhere in the middle. Where does your team stand?

Two upcoming games between the Steelers and Ravens could determine the AFC North.

1 Houston Texans (8-1) — One more win may be enough to get the Texans into the playoffs. They have the inside track to the AFC’s top seed.

2 Atlanta Falcons (8-1) — The last unbeaten has fallen. Atlanta is still on top in the NFC race for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens (7-2) — Two games against arch-rival Pittsburgh in the next three weeks could make or break the AFC North race.

4 San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) — With games against Chicago and New Orleans coming up the Niners could go a whole month without a win.

5 Chicago Bears (7-2) — With the Packers and Vikings breathing down their neck, the Bears can’t afford to be without Cutler for long.

6 New England Patriots (6-3) – The Pats survived a scare against Buffalo Sunday and have opened up a two-game lead in the AFC East. They have scored a league-high 299 points.

7 Denver Broncos (6-3) – Manning has this team back in the Super Bowl hunt. A win on Sunday virtually locks up the AFC West crown for the Broncos.

8 Green Bay Packers (6-3) – The Packers had a week off to get healthy and pulled within a game of Chicago. They can deliver a knock-out blow to the Lions in Detroit Sunday.

9 Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) – Roethlisberger’s injury could cost the Steelers the division title with two games against the Ravens in the next three weeks.

10 New York Giants (6-4) – Two straight losses is not the way you want to head into the bye. Especially with a brutal schedule to finish the season.

11 Seattle Seahawks (6-4) – Great win over the Jets but the Seahawks are going to have to find a way to win a couple road games if they want to make the playoffs.

12 Dallas Cowboys (4-5) – Dallas kept its hopes alive with a win in Philly. With three straight winnable games at home coming up, can they climb back into the race?

13 New Orleans Saints (4-5) – Despite a historically bad defense, the Saints are marching back into the wild card race. They must win in Oakland Sunday because the 49ers, Falcons and Giants follow.

14 Minnesota Vikings (6-4) – It will take at least nine wins for a wild card spot. With Bears, Packers, Bears, Rams, Texans and Packers left its not likely.

15 Detroit Lions (4-5) – Is the Madden curse to blame for the Lions’ disappointing season? Playing the Packers and Texans in the next two weeks could make it worse.

16 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4) – Josh Freeman and Doug Martin have the Bucs on a three-game winning streak and they’ve scored at least 28 points in the last five games. They are in the hunt.

17 Arizona Cardinals (4-5) – With a trip to Atlanta coming this week, the Cards are looking at going a full two months without a win after starting 4-0.

18 Indianapolis Colts (6-3) – Seems like they should be higher in my rankings. Another win next week and they will be.

19 Cincinnati Bengals (4-5) – Beating the champs was a great way to end their losing streak. With the three struggling AFC West teams coming up, maybe the Bengals can make a run.

20 San Diego Chargers (4-4) – It has been two months since the Chargers beat anybody besides the Chiefs. Jobs are on the line when they play the Broncos on Sunday.

21 Tennessee Titans (4-6) – They’ve got momentum heading into a bye week and a pretty nice schedule to finish the season. Don’t count Tennessee out yet.

22 New York Jets (3-6) – A very good team has become a bad team in a hurry. It’s going to be a long winter in New York.

23 Washington Redskins (3-6) – A 6-1 finish is what it will take to get a wild card spot. It’s unlikely, but the Skins will cause trouble in the NFC East next year.

24 Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) – Goodbye playoffs. Goodbye Andy Reid. Goodbye Michael Vick.

25 St. Louis Rams (3-5-1) – A tie instead of a win was a huge blow to the Rams wild card hopes. The finishing schedule isn’t tough though.

26 Miami Dolphins (4-5) – That performance against the Titans was not something a playoff team would do. Still a long way to go for the Dolphins.

27 Oakland Raiders (3-6) – They have allowed 42 points to the Bucs and 55 to the Ravens. How many will Brees and the Saints get?

28 Buffalo Bills (3-6) – This popular preseason sleeper pick has been asleep for most of the season. They have a pretty easy schedule coming up but it’s too late.

29 Carolina Panthers (2-7) – The Panthers are getting beat in all areas right not. Special teams coach Brian Murphy paid the price after the loss to Denver. Who’s next?

30 Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) – The Jags have been outscored by 119 so far, the worst in the NFL. On the bright side, they have a shot at the first pick in the draft.

31 Cleveland Browns (2-7) – The Browns haven’t been winning, but at least they have been competitive. There is hope.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (1-8) – Speaking of hope…the Chiefs took the lead for the first time all season in Pittsburgh.

October 17, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

The NFL season is really beginning to take shape now and parity is running rampant. Everyone has at least one win. Only Atlanta has yet to suffer defeat. Half the teams are at or within one game of .500. Here’s how I have them stacked up:

1 Atlanta Falcons (6-0) — Matty Ice does it again. Ryan led the Falcons on another game-winning drive to remain perfect. Nobody else in the NFC has more than 4 wins.

2 Baltimore Ravens (5-1) — The Ravens survived a late surge from the Cowboys but could be in trouble after injuries to Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb.

The Kansas City Chiefs haven't started the season the way their fans had hoped.

3 Houston Texans (5-1) — It was the wrong time to face an angry team from Green Bay but next week may be the best time to take the Ravens.

4 New York Giants (4-2) – The Giants showed why they are the reigning NFC champs in San Francisco. They can create some separation in the NFC East with wins over Washington and Dallas in the next two weeks.

5 San Francisco 49ers (4-2) – The NFC West won’t be as easy as we thought. Next three games all within the division.

6 Chicago Bears (4-1) – Nobody talks about this team but with the Lions, Panthers and Titans coming up, the Bears could easily get to 7-1.

7 New England Patriots (3-3) – Brady has got to be fuming after the Pats blew a 13-point fourth quarter lead in Seattle.

8 Denver Broncos (3-3) – The miracle in San Diego could propel this team to division champs come December. Nice way for Denver to enter the bye.

9 Seattle Seahawks (4-2) – One of the biggest surprises so far this year. Big test next week in S.F. with division lead on the line.

10 Green Bay Packers (3-3) – That was the Green Bay team we expected to see all season Sunday in Houston. Have they righted the ship?

11 Arizona Cardinals (4-2) – Interesting matchup of surprise teams coming up with the Cardinals visiting Minnesota.

12 New York Jets (3-3) – The Jets are this years Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde team. Which one shows to to face the Patriots?

13 Dallas Cowboys (2-3) – Cowboys should be desperate for a win against Carolina with Giants, Falcons and Eagles coming up next.

14 Minnesota Vikings (4-2) – Huge game for the Vikings this week. They need to get their wins now with four games against Bears and Packers to come.

15 Washington Redskins (3-3) – The Redskins should be pleased if they can get to 4-4 with trips to the Giants and Steelers up next.

16 Detroit Lions (2-3) – The offense showed up just in the nick of time. Dropping to 1-4 would have severely hampered any remaining playoff hopes.

17 Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) – Changing defensive coordinators may help but it won’t matter if Michael Vick keeps giving the ball away.

18 San Diego Chargers (3-3) – That second half meltdown against the Broncos could be the difference in the AFC West at the end of the season.

19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) – A 38-10 win is a nice way to come off your bye week. Let’s see how Tampa Bay does against an opponent coming off its bye this week.

20 Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3) – The Steelers have a few extra days of rest heading into a big divisional game in Cincinnati. A loss puts Pittsburgh in a big hole.

21 New Orleans Saints (1-4) – The upcoming trip to Tampa is a must win for Brees and company with Broncos, Eagles and Falcons after that.

22 St. Louis Rams (3-3) – St. Louis will have a hard time getting out of the NFC West cellar. Packers, Patriots and 49ers are the next three. Can you say 3-6?

23 Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) – Blowing that fourth quarter lead against Cleveland could be very costly for the young Bengals.

24 Buffalo Bills (3-3) – The Bills need a win against Tennessee with road games in Houston and New England coming after the bye.

25 Miami Dolphins (3-3) – The Dolphins play very tough on defense. That will keep the rookie quarterback in a lot of games.

26 Oakland Raiders (1-4) – The Raiders looked pretty good but couldn’t close the deal in Atlanta. Schedule gets easier now.

27 Tennessee Titans (2-4) – Nobody gave them a shot to beat Pittsburgh. A loss in Buffalo on Sunday will make the playoffs a longshot.

28 Indianapolis Colts (2-3) – Terrible showing against the Jets. Luckily, Browns are up next.

29 Cleveland Browns (1-5) – Played the Ravens and Giants tough and then beat the Bengals. Browns making progress.

30 Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) – The Jags have had a long time to dwell on the beat down from Chicago. How will they respond coming out of the bye?

31 Carolina Panthers (1-4) – The Panthers haven’t won in a month. That’s an eternity in NFL time.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) – The Chiefs have to be the most disappointing team of the season. The schedule doesn’t get any easier either. Long season ahead.