1. San Francisco (2-0, 1 last week). I had some concerns that the Niners might regress a bit this year. Instead, they went into Lambeau and kicked the shit out of a very good Packers team. They forced an explosive Lions team into errors. And even though the defense is allowing over 20 points a game to those high-powered offenses, the Niners have also been able to put up nearly 30 a game. 2011 they won low-scoring slobberknockers, but this year they can hang with any passing team. They look like the scariest team to me, complete in every phase.
2. Houston (2-0, 3). The Texans have allowed 17 points total in two games. Granted, that comes against the Dolphins and Jaguars, but like San Francisco, they appear to have great balance. Broncos in Denver will be a better test, but this Texans squad looks ready to take the next step.
3. Atlanta (2-0, 6). The Falcons are a regular season 43-21 in the Mike Smith-Matt Ryan era, but are 0-3 in the postseason. They’re that perfectly competent team that no one thinks has the juice to win it all. They’ve got playmakers on offense, but for me the problem has always been that they are a middle-of-the-road defensive team. Amidst the mess of the MNF game against the Broncos (93 red? Really?), I saw a Falcons D that looked mean and relentless.
4. Green Bay (1-1, 11). The Pack was thoroughly outplayed on their home turf by the Niners, but made amends by dismantling the Bears. They’ll be better when Jennings is healthy and productive, and some excitement over making Cutler look silly has to be tempered by the Bears’ poor OL play, but the Pack are (again) a team that’s built for the playoffs and possibly a deep run.
5. Baltimore (1-1, 4). Ravens have possibly the most balanced attack of any AFC team outside of the Texans, but ran into a bad spot in Philly. Eagles are like moldy fireworks: sometimes they go off brilliantly, sometimes they’re gonna go into the crowd and become a hush-tone story on CNN. Fewer questions surround the Ravens than the Steelers, making them the early AFCN fave and one of very few elite AFC teams. Much as I’d love to write them off, I can’t.
6. Pittsburgh (1-1, 12). Steelers have questions to answer, in their secondary, at LB, at RB – but after a close shave in Denver and a solid rebound against the Jets and ghost PI calls, Steelers should be able to work over a dismal Raiders team and get some guys back healthy. Meanwhile, the Haley offense continues to come together, and once everyone is on the same page and the defense starts turning it up a notch, Steelers will do their Steeler thing. Again.
7. New England (1-1, 6). Patriots will rebound from jaw-dropping loss to the Cardinals and run their weak schedule, but questions persist over defense, why Welker isn’t more involved, whether the OL is up to par, and whether they will continue to choke like midget hookers once they get to the post-season. Something seems off with this team, beyond the tells DC Ray Horton was purportedly spotting in their offensive formations. When that manifests is the question.
8. Denver (1-1, 9). Manning had a horrendous start in Atlanta, but the Broncos have some nice weapons on both sides of the ball, and came within 7 for all the turnovers early. Steelers couldn’t get on track in Denver, and the Broncos look to have more staying power IMO than the 2-0 Chargers, who are smoke in a bottle.
9. Chicago (1-1, 5). I’m feeling sick about dropping AP and retaining Forte… who got 2 TDs vampired by Michael Bush. FFS. AP looks healthy as ever and Forte’s on the bench for a few weeks. Oh, and I could have also kept Marshawn Lynch. Good call, asshat. Anyway, same old Bears. They’ll smack a bitch down one week, the next week Jay Cutler will be doing his whole whiny douchnozzle routine. Wouldn’t you just love to run up to the guy and deliver and open-handed slap to his face? A good windup and WHAAAAPPPPP!
Fact is, his teammates would hold him back and beg you to do it again. Bears have a solid D and Cutler-Marshall will dredge up bad Peaches & Herb references more often than we cue the douchnozzle stuff, but Bears have some question marks for sure.
10. New York Giants (1-1, 14). I’m not buying the Eagles, think the Redskins are a year or two off, and the Giants have all the tools to make it back to the Super Bowl. Kind of sleepwalked through the early games until Manning went befonkingzerk. Big Blue has to tighten the pass D though.
11. Philadelphia (1-1, 30). This team is guaranteed to drive everyone crazy this year. Eagles fans, fans of teams that play them, bettors, analysts. They can turn the ball over a bazillion times and eke out a one-point win over a crappy Browns team, or turn the ball over a bazillion times and come back against what I consider a superior Ravens team to eke out a 1-point win. They’re moldy fireworks. They’re the brilliant mathematics professor who can’t stop giggling as he burns the bagel in his toaster. They’re the roller coaster car with the wheels shedding bolts. There’s plenty of talent here, but where’s it all going? Mike Vick won’t last the season intact, that’s for sure.
12. Arizona (2-0, 19). I wasn’t necessarily impressed after the week 1 win against a Seahawks team featuring a rookie QB and some bad officiating, but that same team turned around and woodshedded the Cowboys. And then the Cardinals pull an unimaginable upset against the Patriots, making me wonder How real is this team?
Their defense appears to be for real, and credit Whiz with getting the most out of an atrocious pair of QBs. Can they motor on relying on defense and a running game? Will the QB situation ultimately blow up? Or are the Cards bouncing back to be a playoff contender? Hard team to read. Kudos so far.
13. Detroit (1-1, 16). Jeff Fisher and the Rams came close to upsetting the Lions week 1, and the Lions were easily in over their head against the Niners. Matt Stafford has looked inconsistent, with 4 picks to 2 INTs so far on the season. But the Lions may start to come back as they get Mikel Leshoure back, and starters CB Chris Houston and S Louis Delmas come back from injury. A lot of teams are dealing with depleted secondaries (Raiders, Giants), and the Lions’ secondary hasn’t been good enough to rely on depth. It will be difficult for the Lions to recapture their 2011 magic, especially in a division with the Packers and Bears.
14. Seattle (1-1, 26). Three NFCW teams in the upper half of the rankings? Inconceivable! But Seattle is an intriguing team, and after seeing what the Cardinals were able to do to the Patriots, I’ll cut Seattle some slack for their week 1 loss. They jumped on the Cowboys and beat the snot out of them. They have a hungry defense, a beast RB, a rookie QB who is only going to get better, and WR Golden Tate looked like Hines Ward laying out LB Sean Lee. I mean, I’d fucking move the team up a notch just for that block. Seahawks will spring some nasty surprises this year.
15. Dallas (1-1, 10). Cowboys have the talent to be a playoff team. They’re also amazing consistent in their inconsistency. For them to beat the Super Bowl champion Giants in NY and then lose to the Seahawks in Seattle in consecutive weeks? Par for the course.
16. Washington (1-1, 7). I don’t want to go overboard on the RG3 mania, but he has played a couple error-free games, made a nice read on the 88 to 88 in the opener, and did rack up the second most passing yards in a rookie start since some cat named Cam Newton. Got a nice surge on the ground from Alfred Morris, who may not allow Shanahan to roll out his usual RB-by-committee. Probably should be 2-0 right now, but Josh Morgan hasn’t learned the cardinal rule of going up against Cortland Finnegan. He’ll likely lose his starter job for that. Worse, the D suffered season-ending injuries to DE Adam Carriker and LB Brian Orakpo, which means a Redskins team that’s definitely back in the NFCE mix will have a tough road ahead.
17. San Diego (2-0, 15). They’re 2-0, they’ve only allowed 12 PPG, and I dropped them two spots this week. What gives? The Chargers are back, baby, right? Well, they edged a pretty dreadful Raiders team on the road and beat a foundering Titans team at home, and frankly I’m unimfuckingpressed. Rivers can have his 110 passer rating, but I’m not real impressed with his receivers – Malcolm Floyd is the go-to guy, FWIW. Jackie Battle is your leading rusher. Get back to me after this team plays the Falcons.
18. NYJ (1-1,
. I think we can throw out week 1 as an anomaly. The Jets took advantage of the Bills ineptitude in week 1 but the Steelers exposed their lack of offense the very next week. I’m not impressed with the running game or passing game. Defense is still solid, but I can see the Jets missing the playoffs. This team is all yap and no substance, living on the fumes of a couple of AFCC appearances. Sanchez is not all that good, and don’t even get me started on Choirboy. Can easily see the Bills leapfrogging the Jets as the season grinds on.
19. Tampa Bay (1-1, 18). Greg Schiano is bringing some drill sergeant discipline to the Bucs, which is apparently what they needed. Well, that, and getting DT Gerald McCoy back healthy. Josh Freeman has some targets – Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams bouncing back from a bad year, Dallas Clark – and rookie RB Doug “Muscle Hamster” Martin looks as solid as advertised. Good enough to make LeGarrette Blount’s lazy ass an afterthought. There’s some talent in the secondary, but its young (S Barron) and not always smart (CBs Talib, Wright). These guys are going to play to the whistle and, like Seattle, they’ll spring some nasty surprises. Could be moving up, but will face two more NFCE foes in Dallas and Washington.
20. St. Louis (1-1, 20). Rams were close to upsetting the Lions, and close to losing to the Redskins. Close games could be a season-long trend for Fisher’s team, who will right the ship in St. Louis. Sam Bradford appears to have his confidence back, and Danny Amendola is becoming a pleasant surprise in the Wes Welker mold. RB Daryl Richardson (who?) is doing a competent job spelling Steven Jackson, and the fact that Fisher has this defense playing credibly is testament to the power of good coaching. Rams won’t contend this year, but they’ll be a solid team soon.
21. New Orleans (0-2, 13). Shit is falling apart for the Saints, vividly illustrating how important having a good head coach actually is. With Sean Peyton at the helm, this team is 2-0. All the talent is there, even if it’s mostly O-heavy, but they’re making too many correctable errors, and it looks to be a long season. Falcons are primed to win the division, the young teams (Bucs and Panthers) are making strides, and the Saints will miss the playoffs this year.
22. Buffalo (1-1, 32). I had Buffalo ranked DFL after that horrendous week 1 loss to the Jets, but bounce them up after they looked competent winning over the Chiefs. I expected and still expect a lot more from a defense with Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, and Marcel Dareus up front, with Dave Wannstadt as DC, and an infusion of young talent in the secondary. Bills seem to sputter when RB Fred Jackson is hurt, which he was against the Jets, but CJ Spiller is taking advantage to shoe he’s not just a COP back. Buffalo has the talent to take advantage of a division where nothing is as simple as it may seem: Patriots suddenly have issues, the Jets have no offense, and Miami isn’t going to contend. Can the Bills put it together? Finally?
23. Cincinnati (1-1, 24). Crushed by the Ravens and won a duel with the Browns. Something’s not clicking. The D doesn’t look as tough as it has been the last couple of years under Zimmer, Dalton’s competent but not “wow,” RB Green-Ellis is getting yards but not really dominating, and AJ Green isn’t even the leading receiver (Andrew Hawkins… really). For a team that was hungry for a playoff appearance last year, something seems off, a timing misfire, dirty plugs, air in the fuel line. I’m very interested to see how the Bengals fare in Washington this week, but it seems that every time this team has any whiff of success they come back slack the following season.
24. Carolina (1-1, 27). After a close loss to a tough-nosed Bucs team, the Panthers bounce back with a big win over the suddenly rudderless Saints. Newton’s got the passing game going to Smith and Brandon LaFell, the two-pronged ground game of Stewart and Williams is back, and the Panthers are headed in the right direction. They could certainly move up in the rankings and some would argue they should be higher. I’m not sold on the defense being much improved over the sad mess it’s been the past few years, though, and let’s face it, as fun as it is to watch Cam Newton, he’s going to have a difficult time winning games if the D can’t hold up its end of things. Next two games: the Giants, and a trip to Atlanta. I’m going to predict the Panthers are 1-3 soon.
25. Indianapolis (1-1, 29). The Colts look very average, which is an amazing improvement over last year. Andrew Luck may not be able to walk on water, but he was much improved after having his cage rattled by the Bears. As he gets in synch with Reggie Wayne and his other receivers, I can see the Colts returning to competence, but The Glistening Gnome Bruce Arians can’t get a running game established (cue audible gasp) and the Colts are a few years from any kind of meaningful run. Andrew Luck may be the best thing since chocolate covered bacon, but some photos of him, he kind of has this half-baked look like the quiet guy who never talks to anyone, who smells like he forgot to bathe, probably runs a birther website, and eats nothing but frozen burritos.
26. Minnesota (1-1, 17). So… they beat Jacksonville in OT by 3, lose to the Colts by 3. The Vikings look very average, which is a v—I’m just going to start recycling reviews if no one minds. The good news is that Adrian Peterson is the bionic man, Christian Ponder has a 110 passer rating (over 75% completion), and he’s hitting WR Harvin and TE Rudolph consistently. There’s something to build on, but until the defense gets back to what it was five years ago, there’s an obvious ceiling. Vikings host the Niners, then travel to Detroit, so I’m going to predict the
Vikings are 1-3 soon.
27. Miami (1-1, 25). Dolphins were trounced by the Texans and in turn trounced the Raiders, which tells me… nothing. The Dolphins have one of those solid but not spectacular defenses, but without help on the S-side they’re mired in the bottom of the rankings. Ryan Tannehill has a 62 passer rating, which isn’t surprising since the FO traded away his best WR, Brandon Marshall, for three fucking magic beans. Reggie Bush has been running well, but when Brian Hartline is clearly your best receiver, Jack, you’d better hope the beans lead to some fucking gold.
28. Cleveland (0-2, 31). Browns have played hard-nosed, scrappy ball with plenty of gumption and want-to. Which is all well and good, they have some guys on defense (although CB Haden is out 4 weeks on the Adderall ding), and rookie RB Trent Richardson looks like a potential beast, but like the Dolphins, they have a rookie QB with a shit passer rating (57), and shit for receiving talent. When
Mohamed Massaquoi is clearly your best receiver, Jack, you’d better hope the beans lead to some fucking gold.
29. Kansas City (0-2, 21). Chiefs hung with the Falcons for a bit week 1 but were in over their heads, and getting thrashed by the Bills in a bounce-back week for Buffalo was no fun. The Glistening Gnome
Romeo Crennel can’t get a
running game established
defense together, but there is some talent there on both sides of the ball and I can see the Chiefs improving. They travel to New Orleans and then host the Chargers. They desperately need a win to stay relevant, even as bad as the AFCW is outside of Denver. I’m going to predict the
Chiefs are 1-3 soon. Speaking of weird looking QBs, why is it that Matt Cassell looks like some guy who does puppet shows in the park and spends a lot of time making weird moaning noises while his hands are conveniently out of sight.
30. Tennessee (0-2, 22). Chris Johnson is on pace to shatter 160 yards rushing. On the season. “We didn’t look like an NFL team,” said Johnson, after the Titans lost to the Chargers. I agree.
31. Jacksonville (0-2, 23). Blaine fucking Gabbert has’s got MJD and some decent receivers. Against the Texans, the total offense just cleared 100 yards. Blaine fucking Gabbert, 53 yards passing. Next 2 games are at Indy and hosting the Bengals. 0-4 is a distinct possibility.
32. Oakland (0-2, 28.) The Dolphins suck, yet they outrushed Oakland 263-23. The secondary is so bad they’re thinking of calling DeWayne Washington out of retirement. I have no idea why the Vegas line is Oakland (+4), unless that’s a typo and was supposed to be (+40). The leading receiver is Brandon Myers. Darren McFadden has 54 yards rushing on the year. Carson Palmer is their quarterback. I am reciting facts without inflection. Here are some more facts. Dennis Allen is their coach. He was born when I was 8 years old. Dennis and his wife, Alisson, have a son, Garrison and a daughter, Layla. Last year Dennis was Denver’s DC. The Raiders has no selections in the first two rounds of the 2012 NFL draft due to last year’s trade for Carson Palmer. Carson Palmer is their quarterback. I may occasionally repeat facts, or begin to become confused. Carson Palmer was born when I was 15 years old. Carson and his wife, Alisson, have a son, Garrison and a daughter, Layla. Carson Palmer is 11th on the active passing yardage leader (26,117) behind Ben Roethlisberger (27,099). Carson Palmer is Brandon Myers. Darren McFadden has no reflection. I have no idea why DeWayne Washington is in Vegas. If the Steelers do no win this game 63-0, Carson Palmer is their quarterback.