NFL Power Rankings for Week 17 (Dec. 25, 2013)

peyton-manning-broncosThe 2013 NFL regular season is rolling to a close, but much of the playoff picture is still unclear heading into the final week. Not one NFC division title has been sewn up, while there are still four teams alive for the last AFC Wild Card spot. Fortunately, the jumbled playoff mess will be sorted out this weekend through wins, losses, and a series of tiebreakers that only a computer can keep track of.

1. Denver Broncos (12-3); beat Houston 37-13, moves up one spot – No surprise here as Denver sent Houston spiraling towards their 13th straight loss. The most meaningful news to come out of this game involved Peyton Manning breaking Tom Brady’s all-time record for touchdown passes in a season (50). Manning threw for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, the last of which was the record-breaking number 51.

2. Seattle Seahawks (12-3); lost to Arizona 17-10, drops one spot – It’s been a while, but Seattle finally lost at home. And it was an ugly loss marked by several turnovers. If Seattle is truly to compete for a Super Bowl title this year, Russell Wilson needs to step his game up. He has three TD’s, three INT’s, and has been sacked 10 times in the last three games.

3. San Francisco 49ers (11-4); beat Atlanta 34-24, retains same ranking – The last ever game at Candlestick Park was a good one! With Atlanta driving for a potential game-winning score, NaVorro Bowman intercepted a Matt Ryan pass and took it back 89 yards for a touchdown. With Michael Crabtree now back and playing well (5REC, 102YDS), the Niners are going to be a dangerous playoff team.

4. New England Patriots (11-4); beat Baltimore 41-7, moves up one spot – Wow! New England walks into a playoff-hungry team’s den, then spanks them by 34 points! The Pats have looked inconsistent at times, but everything was working last Sunday – from the defense to the running game (34 carries for 142 yards).

cam-newton5. Carolina Panthers (11-4); beat New Orleans 17-13, moves up two spots – Cam Newton’s maturity level has greatly improved this year, and it really showed on the game-winning. With just 23 seconds left, Newton had the poise to find Domenik Hixon in the end zone from 14 yards out. Aside from Newton’s late-game heroics, the defense should be commended since they intercepted Drew Brees twice and sacked him six times.

6. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4); lost to Indianapolis 23-7, drops two spots – We’d been commending Kansas City’s offense, up until now. They looked completely terrible at home against a mediocre Colts defense. Much of the problem can be attributed to the normally steady Alex Smith. He fumbled once and was picked off twice in this rough loss.

7. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5); beat Minnesota 42-14, moves up one spot – Cincinnati remains perfect at home, thanks to 366 passing yards and 4 touchdowns from Andy Dalton. Oh, and Vincent Rey returning an interception 25 yards for a TD didn’t hurt either. The Bengals are now headed for their third straight playoff appearance.

8. Arizona Cardinals (10-5); beat Seattle 17-10, moves up one spot – You’ve got to hand it to Arizona, walking into Seattle’s home territory and actually coming out with a win. Of course, this weekend won’t be much easier because they have to beat San Francisco to keep their playoff hopes alive. We can only imagine the disappointment if the Cardinals win 11 games, yet fail to make the postseason.

9. Indianapolis Colts (10-5); beat Kansas City 23-7, moves up one spot – After a mid-season slump, the Colts are back to playing some good football. They’ve won three straight games and have held opponents to 10 points over the past two weeks. Granted, one of those opponents was Houston, but still…

10. New Orleans (10-5); lost to Carolina 17-13, drops four spots – It’s highly likely that the Saints will beat Tampa Bay at home and grab the final playoff NFC spot over Arizona. Even still, there are some pressing questions here – namely how New Orleans plays on the road. Their record away from the Superdome is only 3-5, and if Carolina wins, every postseason game the Saints play will be on the road.

lesean-mccoy11. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6); beat Chicago 54-11, retains same ranking – The Eagles deserve to move up after demolishing the Bears. But there’s not much room in the top 10 right now. Regardless, their running game was a thing of beauty as they racked up 289 rushing yards and 3 TD’s. LeSean McCoy led the way with 133 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, while Bryce Brown added 118 yards and a TD on just nine carries.

12. Dallas Cowboys (8-7); beat Washington 24-23, moves up three spots – Tony Romo led a dramatic, comeback victory against the Redskins. Unfortunately, his status for this week’s game against Philadelphia is up in the air because of a back injury. This is very bad news too because, for the second year in a row, Dallas is playing for the NFC East title in the last week of the regular season.

13. San Diego Chargers (8-7); beat Oakland 26-13, moves up three spots – The Chargers keep winning and staying in the playoff race. This time, it was Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead leading the way after combining for 151 rushing yards. Now they have to beat Kansas City again, and hope that the Ravens and Dolphins lose this weekend to reach the playoffs.

14. Baltimore Ravens (8-7); lost to New England 41-7, drops two spots – With a chance to further cement their chances of grabbing the last AFC Wild Card spot, Baltimore got embarrassed at home. Not only was their offense completely ineffective, but they also let New England run wild on them. Now they must win in Cincinnati, where the Bengals haven’t lost yet.

15. Miami Dolphins (8-7); lost to Buffalo 19-0, drops two spots – This game all came down to the rushing attacks, with Buffalo obliterating Miami. The Bills gained 203 rushing yards on 51 carries while the Dolphins tallied just 14 yards on 12 carries. Now in a tie with Baltimore for the final playoff spot, Miami is going to need some help to reach the postseason.

jay-cutler-injury16. Chicago Bears (8-7); lost to Philadelphia 54-11, drops two spots – This is the third team in a row on this list that blew a golden opportunity last weekend. Chicago could have wrapped up the NFC North division with a victory over Philly. While this was no easy task, they not only lost, but got completely embarrassed. It looks like Jay Cutler will be back in the saddle in the Bears’ all-important game against Green Bay.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8); beat Green Bay 38-31, moves up two spots – It’s amazing that Pittsburgh is even in the playoff picture this week, given that they started out 0-4. It’s interesting to think about what may have been if rookie RB Le’Veon Bell hadn’t missed several games to start the year.

18. Green Bay Packers (7-7-1); lost to Pittsburgh 38-31, drops one spot – There’s talk that Aaron Rodgers might return for the final regular season game. And this would be a huge lift since Green Bay can still win the NFC North by beating Chicago. But on a down note, they’ll probably be without Clay Matthews and Eddie Lacy.

19. St. Louis Rams (7-8); beat Tampa Bay 23-13, moves up one spot – St. Louis continues to improve and offer hope for next year. It looks like they’ve definitely found a star running back in Zac Stacy, who again had a big day with 104 rushing yards and a touchdown.

20. New York Jets (7-8); beat Cleveland 24-13, moves up one spot – Geno Smith had his first game with two touchdown passes since October. The embattled rookie also iced the game with a touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately this win won’t save Rex Ryan’s job, who already informed his team that he’s gone after this year.

21. New York Giants (6-9); beat Detroit 23-20 (OT), moves up one spot – The Giants tried to give this game away, with Eli Manning throwing an interception towards the end of regulation, and Andre Brown fumbling on the opening possession of overtime. But they were able to hold the Lions and allow Josh Brown to kick a game-winning 45-yard field goal.

22. Detroit Lions (7-8); lost to New York Giants 23-20 (OT), drops two spots – The Lions’ miserable slide continues and they’re now officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Detroit fans grew angry when coach Jim Schwartz elected to run out the clock in regulation, despite having two timeouts left and 23 seconds. With the Lions on their own 25, it’s not entirely ridiculous that Schwartz decided to play conservatively. However, he made things worse by yelling something back at the crowd when they were booing.

23. Tennessee Titans (6-9); beat Jacksonville 20-16, retains same ranking – Tennessee finally stopped a three-game slide. Nate Washington had a huge game as he caught 6 passes for 117 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown from 30 yards out.

cj-spiller24. Buffalo Bills (6-9); beat Miami 19-0, moves up two spots – As a team with nothing really left to play for, Buffalo definitely gave a nice effort in this contest. Their run game was especially killer to the Dolphins, with Fred Jackson racking up 111 yards and CJ Spiller adding 77 yards.

25. Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1); lost to Cincinnati 42-14, drops one spot – Adrian Peterson returned from a foot injury suffered last week, but it really didn’t matter. Matt Cassel suddenly remembered that he’s Matt Cassel, completing 13-of-27 passes for 114 yards, 1 TD, and 3 interceptions.

26. Atlanta Falcons (4-11); lost to San Francisco 34-24, drops one spot – Overall, this is definitely a year to forget for Roddy White and the Falcons. But he at least finished the season strong, catching 35 passes for 411 yards over the past four games.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11); lost to Tennessee 20-16, retains same ranking – Jacksonville was actually in a position to take the lead late in this game, but Maurice Jones-Drew got stuffed on a fourth-and-1 run with 5:21 left.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11); lost to St. Louis 23-13, retains same ranking – The Buccaneers pass protection was bad, as they gave up seven sacks to the Rams. This fact alone made it very difficult for QB Mike Glennon to move the Bucs downfield.

29. Cleveland Browns (4-11); lost to New York Jets 24-13, retains same ranking – Cleveland has now lost six straight games, and they also lost star tight end Jordan Cameron to a concussion in this game.

30. Oakland Raiders (4-11); lost to Kansas City 56-31, retains same ranking – The latest controversy to emerge from Oakland involves Terrelle Pryor’s agent saying that the decision to start him in the finale is a conspiracy. The logic is that Allen wants Pryor to fail against Denver, thus making it look like starting Matt McGloin for the past six games was a good decision. Maybe this isn’t quite so far-fetched, but the fact that Pryor’s agent aired it publicly is baffling.

31. Washington Redskins (3-12); lost to Dallas 24-23, retains same ranking – Pierre Garcon continues to have a monster season, catching 11 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown in this game. For the season, he has 107 catches for 1,290 yards and five touchdowns.

32. Houston Texans (2-13); lost to Denver 37-13, retains same ranking – The depleted Texans dropped their 13th game in a row, and they’ll try for a win one last time at Tennessee.

Eddie Lacy well on his way to 2013 NFL Rookie of the Year

eddie-lacy-rookie-of-the-yearWhen the 2013 NFL season began, Montee Ball and Tavon Austin were the favorites in terms of betting odds for the Rookie of the Year award. We at GTBets.eu had both players at 9/2 odds of winning the award. Eddie Lacy, on the other hand, was only in the middle range as far as odds went.

Nevertheless, the bruising running back from the Green Bay Packers is well on his way towards the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year. With two games remaining in the season, Lacy has 1,048 rushing yards on 248 carries (4.1 YPC). He’s also reached the end zone 8 times and has added 31 catches for 236 yards. But while Lacy’s stats may be impressive, what really sets him apart from other candidates is his performances in big games.

Last Sunday’s contest against the Dallas Cowboys was a perfect example of this. With the Packers needing a win to stay in the NFC North title race, they got a giant boost from their rookie ball carrier. Lacy racked up 141 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 21 carries. What’s especially noteworthy about this game is that the 230-pounder was playing on a tender ankle.

eddie-lacy-rookie-of-the-year-1Thanks in large part to Lacy’s gritty performance, the Packers are now just a half game behind Chicago for the NFC North title. Seeing as how they get a crack at Chicago on the final week of the season, it’s entirely possible that Green Bay could win the division and go to the playoffs. But even if they don’t, Eddie Lacy is still looking like the favorite to win the 2013 Rookie of the Year.

So who’s his main competition at this point? Well, it appears that San Diego wide receiver Keenan Allen is the only player who can capture the award. Allen has hauled in 63 passes for 923 yards and 7 TD’s, which is no doubt an impressive campaign. Plus his team still has a shot at the postseason since San Diego is sitting at 7-7.

With both players fairly similar in terms of offensive production, what may ultimately set these two apart is how they rank relative to their positions. Lacy easily wins the battle here because he’s ranked 7th among running backs in rushing yards. Meanwhile, Allen’s 923 receiving yards only place him 21st among the league’s wideouts.

It’s also worth mentioning that Lacy has had to shoulder his team’s offensive load in the absence of Aaron Rodgers. Sure Matt Flynn has had his moments, but it’s Lacy creating for his fill-in quarterback, not the other way around. Contrast this to Allen, who’s often overshadowed by the guy throwing him the ball, Philip Rivers.

Of course, the ROY race could easily be determined by which one of these teams makes the playoffs too. But for the moment, it looks like Lacy has the inside track towards being the league’s best offensive rookie.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 14 (Dec. 5th, 2013)

peyton-manning-chiefsLast week was characterized by a couple of very high-profile matchups between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, as well as the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints. The Broncos proved their dominance of the AFC West by beating their division rivals on the road by a score of 35-28. Kansas City is still a lock for the playoffs, but the illusion of their defensive dominance is now gone.

As for the Saints and Seahawks, this one wasn’t even close as Seattle throttled the visiting team. Most believe that the Saints are nearly invincible inside of the Superdome. But they appeared very mortal while playing at CenturyLink Field. Here’s a look at how last week’s featured games will shake up the Week 14 NFL power rankings.

1. Denver Broncos (10-2); beat Kansas City 35-28, retains same ranking – The margin between Seattle and Denver is slim. But it’s hard to bump Peyton and company out of the top spot when they just beat a playoff-bound Chiefs for the second time this season. Eric Decker had the game of his life after reeling in four of Manning’s five touchdown passes.

2. Seattle Seahawks (11-1); beat New Orleans 34-7, retains same ranking – So much for that bolstered New Orleans defense… Russell Wilson looked like a 10-year veteran the way he picked apart the Saints defense to the tune of 310 passing yards and three touchdowns. Oh yea, and Seattle’s defense was pretty good too as they shut down one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

3. New England Patriots (9-3); beat Houston 34-31, moves up two spots – The Pats got off to a slow start against Houston. But they once again staged a big comeback on the strength of Tom Brady’s 371 yards and two touchdowns. On a side note, Stevan Ridley’s days as New England’s starting running back appear over.

colin-kaepernick4. San Francisco 49ers (8-4); beat St. Louis 23-13, moves up two spots – San Francisco ended St. Louis’ hot streak and took a big step forward in the race for NFC playoff positioning. The Niners, who began the year trying to feature Colin Kaepernick’s talents more, seem to be getting back to this approach now that they’ve got some wins under their belt.

5. New Orleans Saints (9-3); lost to Seattle 34-7, drops two spots – The Saints didn’t suddenly become a bad team just because they got blown out by a fellow NFC powerhouse. However, this loss does raise some questions about New Orleans’ ability to win big games away from home.

6. Carolina Panthers (9-3); beat Tampa Bay 27-6, moves up one spot – Nobody predicted this week’s game against New Orleans to be a battle for first place in the NFC South. But that’s exactly where we’re at after Carolina won a franchise-record eighth straight game. Cam Newton is playing the best football of his three-year career, and just threw for 263 yards, ran for 68 yards, and accounted for three TD’s against the Buccaneers.

7. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3); lost to Denver 35-28, drops three spots – Alex Smith is really looking solid at QB after piling up 293 passing yards, 46 rushing yards, and three total TD’s. But what happened to that vaunted KC pass rush from earlier this year? Manning went virtually untouched for the second time these two teams faced.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4); beat San Diego 17-10, moves up one spot – Holding the Chargers to 10 points at home is no small feat. The Bengals supplemented their great defensive effort with a strong running game (164 yards on 38 carries).

9. Indianapolis Colts (8-4); beat Tennessee Titans 22-14, moves up one spot – The Colts put a halt to their massive struggles with a hard-fought victory over Tennessee. Their lack of a running game is disturbing and the Trent Richardson deal is officially a dud. But they still have a little bit of time to fix these issues before the postseason.

demarco-murray10. Dallas Cowboys (7-5); beat Oakland 31-24, moves up one spot – Dallas used a surprisingly effective two-back approach, with Lance Dunbar rushing for 82 yards on 12 carries and DeMarco Murray gaining 63 yards on 19 carries. Murray also got into the end zone three times against the soft Oakland D.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (7-5); beat Arizona 24-21, moves up one spot – Philadelphia keeps pace with Dallas in the NFC West with a huge victory over Arizona. Is it time to anoint Nick Foles (237PYDS, 3TD) as one of the league’s top QB’s?

12. Detroit Lions (7-5); beat Green Bay 40-10, moves up one spot – The Lions absolutely terrorized Matt Flynn in the pocket and racked up seven sacks and a safety. Now, the challenge will be repeating this dominant performance against teams without Flynn under center.

13. Arizona Cardinals (7-5); lost to Philadelphia 24-21, drops five spots – The Cardinals don’t really deserve this free-fall after losing by three points on the road. But with everybody behind them winning and boasting a similar record, the margin for error is slim in this range.

14. Baltimore Ravens (6-6); beat Pittsburgh 22-20, moves up three spots – Like any true champion, the Ravens aren’t going down without a fight. They scraped by with five field goals, and dug in to stop a two-point conversion with 1:03 left.

15. Miami Dolphins (6-6); beat New York Jets 23-3, moves up three spots – You have to give Miami some credit for battling back to .500 with all of the controversy surrounding them. It now appears that they’re in a two-team race with Baltimore for the last AFC Wild Card spot.

adrian-peterson-rushing-record16. Chicago Bears (6-6); lost to Minnesota 23-20 (OT), drops two spots – Chicago blew a golden opportunity to keep pace with the Lions in the NFC North. Their defense once again got gashed by a running back, with Adrian Peterson rushing for 211 yards on 35 carries.

17. San Diego Chargers (5-7); lost to Cincinnati 17-10, drops two spots – After a dramatic 3-point victory at Kansas City last week, San Diego couldn’t keep the magic going at home against the Bengals. The offense was surprisingly ineffective, especially when they crossed the 50-yard-line, and failed to complete drive after drive.

18. Green Bay Packers (5-6-1); lost to Detroit 40-10, drops two spots – Aaron Rodgers may be back this week. But the Pack is also down one and a half games in the NFC North, which is probably too wide of a margin to make up.

19. New York Giants (5-7); beat Washington 24-17, moves up four spots – New York kept their slim postseason hopes alive thanks to four sacks from Justin Tucker. Andre Brown also added two touchdown runs, though he only gained 35 yards on 14 carries.

20. Tennessee Titans (5-7); lost to Indianapolis 22-14, retains same ranking – Although they lost, Tennessee is still just a game out of the AFC Wild Card race, and they hold all of the tiebreakers.

21. New York Jets (5-7); lost to Miami 23-3, drops two spots – New York is just playing terribly on offense right now. At least Rex Ryan finally had the nerve to bench Geno Smith after another awful outing (29PYDS, 1INT). Unfortunately, Matt Simms isn’t much better…

22. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7); lost to Baltimore 22-20, drops one spot – Not only did Mike Tomlin earn himself a big fine for stepping in the way of a Jacoby Jones’ 73-yard kickoff return, but he also may have costed Pittsburgh a draft pick. Not exactly the best way to build for the future.

zac-stacy23. St. Louis Rams (5-7); lost to San Francisco 23-13, drops one spot – St. Louis fought hard on the road against a superior team. Zac Stacy turned in a tough game against this loaded defense as he rushed for 78 yards on 19 carries. He’s definitely a good building block for the future.

24. Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1); beat Chicago 23-20 (OT), moves up five spots – The teams from here on out are so bad that Minnesota leaps up five spots for grabbing a win against the Bears. Adrian Peterson finally looked like he did in the second half of last season, showing he has more than enough left in the tank.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9); beat Cleveland 32-28, moves up five spots – It’s finally time to consider the Jaguars a legitimate NFL team again. Chad Henne led a late comeback after finding Cecil Shorts in the end zone with 40 seconds remaining.

26. Cleveland Browns (4-8); lost to Jacksonville 32-28, drops two spots – As if it were possible, Cleveland is about to get a lot worse! Now both Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden are hurt, leaving the Browns picking at the bottom of the barrel for a healthy QB.

27. Oakland Raiders (4-8); lost to Dallas 31-24, drops two spots – After some ups and downs this season, Oakland is having yet another bad season. Perhaps they’ve found a quarterback for next year in Matt McGloin, though.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9); lost to Carolina 27-6, drops two spots – At this point, it’s very difficult to see Greg Schaino keeping his job. So Tampa Bay will essentially go back to the drawing board this offseason.

29. Atlanta Falcons (3-9); beat Buffalo 34-31 (OT), moves up two spots – Atlanta finally got the type of all-around offensive production they’ve been looking for, with Matt Ryan throwing for 311 yards and 1 TD, and Steven Jackson rushing for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

30. Buffalo Bills (4-8); lost to Atlanta 34-31 (OT), drops three spots – The good news is that CJ Spiller (149RYDS, 1TD) finally looked like the back that Buffalo was expecting this year. The bad news is that it comes when this team’s season has already gone down the drain.

31. Washington Redskins (3-9); lost to New York Giants 24-17, drops three spots – Washington has now been eliminated from the postseason in 17 of the last 21 years. After this season’s disappointment, some wonder if Mike Shanahan will be around in 2014.

32. Houston Texans (2-10); lost to New England 34-31, retains same ranking – Another close call for Houston, another loss. The Texans haven’t won since September 15th and it’s questionable if that will change before 2013 ends.

 

NFL Power Rankings for September 17th, 2013 (Week 3)

russell-wilsonIt’s always hard gauging how good certain teams are following the first week of the NFL regular season. And while two games aren’t a perfect barometer either, this at least provides a little more information on who some potential playoff teams are. This being said, you can expect to see two woeful teams from last year, in the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs, make big jumps in our Week 3 NFL power rankings.

1. Denver Broncos (2-0); beat New York Giants 41-23, retains same ranking – It’s much harder picking a number one this week than last, due to Seattle’s stellar play. But for our money, Denver is still top dog after another dominating victory. And what’s amazing is that this defense doesn’t even have Champ Bailey or Von Miller yet.

2. Seattle Seahawks (2-0); beat San Francisco 29-3, moves up 2 spots – After a narrow win over Carolina, Seattle came out and destroyed their NFC rivals. Marshawn Lynch powered the offense with 98 rushing yards, 37 receiving yards and three total touchdowns. And the defense stifled Colin Kaepernick despite not having CB Brandon Browner, DE Bruce Irvin or SS Chris Clemons.

3. New Orleans Saints (2-0); beat Tampa Bay 16-14, retains same ranking – It took a late Garrett Hartley field goal, but the Saints were able to pull off this tough road win. Jimmy Graham continues to impress after piling up 179 yards on 10 catches. The defense is also playing well after allowing just 31 points in the first two weeks.

4. Houston Texans (2-0); beat Tennessee 30-24 (OT), moves up 3 spots – Houston finally seems to have found a solid receiver to play deandre-hopkins-texansopposite Andre Johnson. DeAndre Hopkins grabbed eight balls for 117 yards and a touchdown in just his second career game. As usual, the run game was strong with Ben Tate and Arian Foster combining for 182 yards on just 28 carries.

5. San Francisco 49ers (1-1); lost to Seattle 29-3, drops 3 spots – You could make a case for San Francisco falling even further. However, Seattle is a tough place to play, and the Niners did just beat Green Bay last week. You can bet that this early season blowout loss will fire them up over the next few games.

6. New England Patriots (2-0); beat New York Jets 13-10, drops 1 spot – It’s hard to move this team down because A) they’re the Patriots, and B) they’re undefeated. However, the offense is going through some obvious growing pains with a completely new lineup of receivers.

7. Green Bay Packers (1-1); beat Washington 38-20, retains same ranking – This was even more of a blowout than it looked on paper thanks to Aaron Rodgers’ 480 passing yards and 4 TD tosses. But the pass protection wasn’t ideal as Rodgers was sacked four times. We’re still waiting to see what Eddie Lacy can do too since he had a subpar first game and was knocked out on his first carry against the Skins.

8. Atlanta Falcons (1-1); beat St. Louis 31-24, retains same ranking – Atlanta got pretty banged up in this one after seeing several players, including Stephen Jackson, head for the locker room early. But Matt Ryan (374YDS, 2TD) and Julio Jones (182RYDS, 1TD) were able to do enough to hold off a scrappy Rams team.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1); beat Pittsburgh 20-10, retains same ranking – The Cincinnati defense is as good as it was advertised this past aj-green-footballoffseason. And the Bengals offense is filled with weapons, including AJ Green, Tyler Eifert and Giovanni Bernard.

10. Chicago Bears (2-0); beat Minnesota 31-30, retains same ranking – The Vikings kept it close with a kickoff return score and a returned-fumble TD. But once again, Chicago got some late-game heroics from Jay Cutler after he found Martellus Bennett for a TD with 10 seconds left. We still need a few weeks though to see if the Bears pass protection keeps holding up like this (just 1 sack allowed).

11. Miami Dolphins (2-0); beat Indianapolis 24-20, moves up 5 spots – The Dolphins leap up our rankings thanks to a win over a playoff team. Ryan Tannehill is definitely showing why the Dolphins drafted him in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft while WR Mike Wallace and TE Charles Clay look like potent receiving threats.

12. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0); beat Dallas 17-16, moves up 7 spots – It’s still early to tell, but Kansas City looks like a team capable of grabbing a Wild Card spot in the AFC. Alex Smith has provided steady quarterback play while Jamal Charles and Dwayne Bowe are explosive weapons who could turn any play into a touchdown.

13. Baltimore Ravens (1-1); beat Cleveland 14-6, moves up 2 spots – In a week where a lot of mid-range teams lost, Baltimore won and moves up…simple as that. The offense wasn’t anything to brag about, but the defense did sack Brandon Weeden five times, eventually sending him to the locker room in the fourth quarter.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1); lost to San Diego 33-30, drops 3 spotsmichael-vick-1There’s no denying that Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense is putting points on the board. And it seems to have rejuvenated the careers of Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson. Vick threw for a career-high 428 yards, while Jackson hauled in 10 catches for 193 yards last game. But the question is, what’s this fast-paced offense doing to the defense?

15. Detroit Lions (1-1); lost to Arizona 25-21, drops 4 spots – After a ton of hype surrounding Reggie Bush and the Lions, the buzz was deflated as they lost to Arizona. When Bush went down with a left knee injury, this turned into the same Detroit team from last year. The Lions’ fortunes may totally hinge on how healthy their star running back can stay.

16. Dallas Cowboys (1-1); lost to Kansas City 17-16, drops 3 spots – Dallas really failed to take control of the NFC East after losing this close one. When looking at the passing stats, it’s almost hard to figure out how the Cowboys scored just 16 points. Tony Romo threw for 298 yards, 1 TD and no interceptions while Dez Bryant burned KC for 141 receiving yards and a TD.

17. Indianapolis Colts (1-1); lost to Miami 24-20, drops 3 spots – With everybody losing around them, Indianapolis avoids a freefall. The Colts did sack Tannehill five times, which is a definite positive. Also, Andrew Luck piled up 321 yards and a TD through the air. But it’s tough to see this team making the playoffs again with the improvements made by Wild Card candidates like Miami and Kansas City.

18. St. Louis (1-1); lost to Atlanta 31-24, retains same ranking – Last week’s game looked like it was going to get out of hand when Atlanta went up 24-3 early. But St. Louis stormed back thanks to Sam Bradford finding some of his young receivers for scores. Tavon Austin, Chris Givens and Austin Pettis are going to be one formidable receiving trio to deal with.

19. Arizona Cardinals (1-1); beat Detroit 25-21, moves up 6 spotscarson-palmer-arizonaCarson Palmer is the QB solution that Arizona was searching for all of last season, while Rashard Mendenhall is providing something of a running game. If this team stays healthy, it could finish over .500 for the first time in years.

20. San Diego Chargers (1-1); beat Philadelphia 33-30, moves up 8 spots – Did Phillip Rivers just decide to take a couple years off, then come back strong in ’13? He’s thrown for 714 yards, 7 TD’s and just 1 INT through two games. The latter stat is a huge turnaround from last year.

21. Tennessee Titans (1-1); lost to Houston 30-24 (OT), drops 3 spots – There’s no shame in losing to the Texans in overtime. But it’s still a loss nonetheless and so the Titans drop in our rankings. There’s reason for optimism since Jake Locker showed some surprisingly good accuracy late in the game as he threw for a pair of touchdowns.

22. New York Giants (0-2); lost to Denver 41-23, drops 5 spots – As a team that usually comes in with Super Bowl aspirations, this is a tough position to be in. Eli Manning has thrown an alarming seven interceptions already. David Wilson has failed to solve the running game, while veteran Brandon Jacobs doesn’t appear to be anything more than TD vulture.

23. Buffalo Bills (1-1); beat Carolina 24-23, moves up 2 spots – Rookie ej-manuelQB EJ Manuel played like a 10-year veteran as he engineered a game-winning drive – capped off by a 2-yard TD throw to Stevie Johnson. If he keeps playing like this, Buffalo will have a complete offense.

24. Washington Redskins (0-2); lost to Green Bay 38-20, drop 2 spots – The Skins have been largely non-competitive in their first two games. Robert Griffin III has only managed to play well when the dogs have already been called off.

25. Minnesota Vikings (0-2); lost to Chicago 31-30, drops 2 spots – Had the defense held Chicago on the game-winning drive, we might be talking about Minnesota being a team in the 14-18 range. But as it is, they’re 0-2 with a below-average quarterback.

26. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2); lost to Cincinnati 20-10, drops 2 spots – This is a shame since the defense is so good. Pittsburgh might want to abandon the running game altogether.

27. New York Jets (1-1); lost to New England 13-10, moves up 2 spots – The Jets have been very competitive on the road, with both games being decided by a combined 4 points. When New York returns home, they could be somewhat surprising.

28. Oakland Raiders (1-1); beat Jacksonville 19-9, moves up 3 spots – Oakland’s 6-point loss on the road to Indy last week says more than their win over the Jaguars. Still, head coach Dennis Allen has brought some respect to this organization.

29. Carolina Panthers (0-2); lost to Buffalo 24-23, drops 8 spots – The pass protection has looked pretty bad for Cam, and he’s been sacked seven times already. If it wasn’t for his elusiveness, this figure would be in the double digits.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2); lost to New Orleans 16-14, drop 3 spots – The Bucs have their running back of the future in Doug Martin. If things keep up like this, they could turn to their quarterback of the future, Mike Glennon, earlier than expected.

31. Cleveland Browns (0-2); lost to Baltimore 14-6, drops 1 spot – Time to start worrying about Brandon Weeden at quarterback? Trent Richardson has really been bottled up (31CAR, 105YDS) due to a serious threat from the passing ame.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2); lost to Oakland 19-9, retains same ranking – This is shaping up to be one of the worst offensive teams in NFL history. At least backup QB Chad Henne can advance the ball past the 50-yard line though.

Did the Oakland Raiders make another Terrible Mistake with Matt Flynn?

matt-flynn-oaklandThe Oakland Raiders’ recent history is littered with failed draft picks and overpriced free agent signings. From draft busts like JaMarcus Russell and Robert Gallery to disappointing pickups like Javon Walker and Kevin Boss, it’s easy to see why the Raiders haven’t had a winning season since 2002.

This offseason, Oakland hoped to put one of the cornerstones in place for a franchise turnaround by signing Matt Flynn. The sixth-year man out of LSU has been highly touted ever since he torched the Detroit Lions for 480 passing yards and six touchdowns back in 2011.

So this offseason, the Raiders inked a two-year, $11.5 million contract with Flynn – $6.5 million of which is guaranteed along with a $3.25 million signing bonus. Now Raider Nation is already beginning to question the deal after Flynn’s atrocious play last Friday.

matt-flynn-oakland-1The former backup to Aaron Rodgers completed 3-of-6 passes for 19 yards and two interceptions. The performance was so bad that the O.co Coliseum faithful booed their star free agent signing off the field. It didn’t help matters that the Chicago Bears were winning 27-0 at this point. But the reality is that, after just three preseason games, fans are already calling for backup Terrelle Pryor to take the starting role.

Of course all of the blame can’t be put squarely on Flynn’s shoulders. After all, Oakland’s line is once again terrible and few pocket passers could put up solid numbers with this unit blocking for them. But the unfortunate truth is that the once-promising Flynn might find himself in a losing situation for the second year in a row.

Last season he signed a three-year, $19.5 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks, and everybody fully expected him to start. His competition was the mediocre Tavaris Jackson and third round pick Russell Wilson – both players who weren’t considered serious threats. However, Wilson would outplay Flynn in the preseason, take over the starting role, and emerge as the Rookie of the Year.

terrelle-pryor-raidersThis essentially meant that Seattle paid $10 million in guaranteed money to a backup, so they traded Flynn away before having to honor the entire $19.5 million deal. Considering what Seattle paid, the Raiders didn’t give a ton for the backup. But Oakland did make a significant enough of an investment that they were expecting him to start.

Interestingly enough, it’s beginning to look like Seattle all over again for Flynn. The ultra-athletic Pryor has been announced as the starter for the final preseason game, with Flynn sitting out due to “arm soreness.” The Ohio State product played very well last Friday after completing 7-of-9 passes for 93 yards, adding 37 yards on the ground, and combining for two total TD’s.

If Pryor seizes the opportunity this coming weekend, it’s likely that Flynn will spend his sixth year in a row holding the clipboard. What’s more is that he’ll be pigeonholed as a career backup after blowing yet another opportunity to start.

Green Bay Packers: Once Again Loaded with Offensive Talent

aaron-rodgers-bet-3In recent years, the Green Bay Packers have easily been one of the NFL’s most talented offensive teams. They’ve boasted a number of offensive stars, including Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley, Ryan Grant, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb.

These players have helped boost the Packers to a 47-17 mark and a Super Bowl trophy over the past four seasons. But as great as Green Bay has been in the past, they might feature far more offensive talent going into the 2013-14 season.

This is especially the case at the running back position, where they now have a rookie duo that can carry the workload. Alabama product Eddie Lacy looks to be the starter and primary ball-carrier for Green Bay. He’s already shown NFL-caliber speed and physicality after rushing for 40 yards on eight carries in his preseason debut. In the best case scenario, he could return the Packers’ backfield to the prominence it saw in 2009, when Grant carried the ball. At worst, he’ll do far better than last year’s leading ballcarrier, Alex Green (464 yards).

eddie-lacyFourth-rounder Jonathan Franklin is the other rookie who should be seeing plenty of snaps. The UCLA product wasn’t drafted as somebody to compete with Lacy, but rather compliment him. Franklin is a proven talent, having run for 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior. Other players who’ll be fighting for time include veterans James Starks, DuJuan Harris and Green.

Of course the quarterback position will be Green Bay’s strength this season. Aaron Rodgers’ receiving corp may have changed with the departures of Jennings and Driver, but it never seems to matter who he’s throwing the ball to. Last season he put up 4,295 passing yards, 39 touchdowns, 8 interceptions and a 67.2% completion rate. Fans should expect similar numbers from him this year, despite the new faces that he’ll be targeting.

Randal Cobb seems destined to star this year after catching 80 passes for 954 yards. One stat that doesn’t show up is the fact that Cobb caught 77% of the balls that were thrown to him. Don’t be surprised if the former Kentucky star records at least 1,200 receiving yards in the 2013-14 season.

jordy-nelsonJordy Nelson will be looking to return to his 2011 form, when he grabbed 15 touchdowns. Last year wasn’t quite as good since he pulled in just 47 catches for 745 yards and 7 touchdowns. But he also missed four games, and should put up big numbers if he can stay healthy.

While Nelson’s TD’s were down last season, James Jones picked up the slack by tallying 784 yards and 14 touchdowns. He should once again play a very big role in the offense.

As for the rest of wideouts, there’s be a lot of young talent fighting for the remaining three spots. Jeremy Ross, Kevin Dorsey, Jarrett Boykin, Myles White, Tyrone Walker and Charles Johnson will all be hoping to make the team. Johnson is noteworthy here because he runs a 4.35 forty-yard dash.

One guy who won’t be fighting for a roster spot is Jermichael Finley. The 26-year-old will again start at tight end for Green Bay and is hoping for more targets from Rodgers. He put up numbers of 61 catches, 667 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2012.

As you can see, the Green Bay Packers have strong players at every offensive position. The key will be how well the veterans with the newcomers. Assuming the chemistry is good, there’s no reason to think that the Packers’ offense can’t carry them to the Super Bowl.