Thursday, September 22, 2016

NFL 2016: Week 3 Power Rankings & The Rest

The days after Week 1 is National Overreaction Week. The days after Week 2 is National "The Transitive Property is a Thing" Week, where we stupidly theorize that if Team A lost a close game to Team B in Week 1, and then won big against Team C in Week 2, that Team B must be really great. Anyway, let's go to the rankings.

Ranking the 0-2 Teams

8.) Cleveland Browns  =  0-2  (30-54)

Well, at the very least they are making their tanking really exciting. No team could get a three TD lead, immediately give up a 2-point conversion against them, and then get shutout the rest of the way. And that it happened to the old Browns makes it so much worse. Now we may get to see Cody Kessler. This is just pure hilarity at this point.

7.) Chicago Bears  =  0-2  (28-52)

This ranking is obviously effected by the mass injuries sustained by the Bears in their MNF loss. I didn't like this team much anyway, especially with the weird mix of both rebuilding but still employing Jay Cutler - but either way, the Bears are screwed now. They may as well go full tank and look to rebuild around a new QB in 2017.

6.) Jacksonville Jaguars  =  0-2  (37-65)

Looks like the Jags breakout isn't happening. In an effort to immediately steer into the ditch I outlined, by the transitive property, them hanging with Green Bay doesn't look nearly as good now as it did after Week 1. Their defense is still dreadful, and I have to think Gus Bradley is not long for that job. Blake Bortles was also so outclassed at QB by Rivers - hopefully he took notes.

5.) Miami Dolphins  =  0-2  (34-43)

In a way, because they came within a 30-yard strike of tying that game, maybe you can retrospectively say that the stat compiling didn't occur during garbage time. But actually, that is exactly what you can say. I figured that would happen, given the Dolphins Week 17 win last year was what cost the Patriots the #1 seed (and likely the Super Bowl), but the Dolphins came to that game so entirely unprepared - wich is not something I expected from the Adam Gase era.

4.) Washington Redskins  =  0-2  (39-65)

Every game they play, every missed throw by Kirk Cousins, every missed read, we understand more and more why smart football people (including Redskins GM Scott McLoughlan) were so against giving Kirk Cousins a large contract due to 8 good games. Cousins is holding an otherwise talented team back. If they had a Top-10 QB, the Redskins would easily be a Top-10 level team.

3.) New Orleans Saints  =  0-2  (47-51)

Two more games, two more tough losses, and the Saints are proving many things at once. First, their offense is not necessarily good enough to win games - even when their defense plays well. All the issues of the Saints offense outdoors cropped up again. Short throws with little YAC, inability to consistently protect Brees, or get separation. There are more high profile issues going on in Green Bay, but the later years of the Brees-era are a real sad show.

2.) Buffalo Bills  =  0-2  (38-50)

Obviously, it makes no sense that they fired Greg Roman. The Bills offense was the far better part of the team in the Rex Ryan era. The Bills are not bad, yet, but there are obvious issues with that team that firing the guy that made them a passable offense will not fix. It starts and ends with Rex Ryan. I thought pairing his great defensive history with the Bills own great defensive history would be a match made in heaven. Instead, it is becoming a continuation of his 2011-2014 career with the Jets.

1.) Indianapolis Colts  =  0-2  (55-73)

To give them some credit, many QBs have looked equally helpless against the Broncos defense these past year and two games. Andrew Luck wasn't markedly worse than Cam Newton in the Super Bowl, or Tom Brady in the AFC Championship, or Aaron Rodgers last year. That all said, I have lost complete faith in that coaching staff to ever put together a decent defense, or have any clue on how to win games in the NFL of 2016. I like Chuck Pagano as a person, I am very happy he conquered his bout with Cancer. I still think it is time for change.

Ranking the 1-1 Teams

16.) Tennessee Titans  =  1-1  (32-40)

I am still not sure how the Titans won that game. I have no idea if Marcus Mariota is any good, given that weird offense and the situations and play calls that he is put in by Mike Mularkey. The defense is good, I guess, but they got bailed out by penalty after penalty by the Lions. The Titans may end up better than I think, but right now, I am not a believer in their offensive philosopy, and I am just overly bitter that the Lions couldn't cover that game.

15.) Los Angeles Rams  =  1-1  (9-31)

The Rams are just a joke now, and somehow even more so after beating the Seahawks again. The offense is still a disaster, but it should be said the Seahawks are a great defense and they at least moved the ball. I really do hope that at some point this year Jared Goff gets a chance soon. Todd Gurley also needs to show something. I realize teams are stacking the box, and there is no other weapon to really take the pressure away, but he should be playing better than he has.

14.) San Francisco 49ers  =  1-1  (55-46)

The 49ers got a nice dose of reality in that game, getting pounded by the Panthers offense and having their own offense get mauled apart from some strange mistakes by the Panthers, including a blown coverage on Vance McDonald's TD, and back-to-back fumbles setting the 49ers up in great field position. For the second straight year, the 49ers took advantage of that weird MNF Late Week 1 game, then took their show on the road to a real team and got blasted.

13.) Dallas Cowboys  =  1-1  (46-43)

I still am not a believer in Dak, who has not played a good pass rush yet. It was nice to see Ezekiel Elliott for at least one game live up to the hype, as did that offensive line. The defense still is missing any ability to rush the passer, and is trying to scheme their way into some red zone stops or turnovers. It worked in 2014, but this offense is nowhere near as good now as it was then.

12.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  =  1-1  (38-64)

Well, that was a nice dose of reality. In the end, that game was either gonna be really close, or a complete blowout. The Buccaneers had to face the latter in the Arizona Cardinals buzzsaw smiting after their loss to the Patriots backup QB. Winston has to improve his accuracy, or his peak will be Eli Manning.

11.) Kansas City Chiefs  =  1-1  (45-46)

The Chiefs defense is really missing Justin Houston. There is more talent on that defense, but most of it is older and may be near the end of their peak or starting their decline. The offensive line has been a disaster through two games, and if not for a great comeback in Week 1 they are 0-2. In the end, when Houston returns the Chiefs defense should improve - but they may be too far off by that time.

10.) Atlanta Falcons  =  1-1  (59-59)

I was not expecting that performance. The best result for the Falcons through two games has to be their OL, which has given Matt Ryan plenty of time, enough so to go deep, a lot, to Julio and others. The defense has not been nearly as good, and that may be a lasting problem, but through two games Matt Ryan has been more like the guy he was from 2010-2014 than the seemingly declining player he was last year.

9.) Detroit Lions  =  1-1  (54-51)

Um, what was that? Did they just go to sleep after going up 15-3? What happened to that offense? The defense was decent enough to win, but where was that offense. There is no way that Theo Riddick means that much to that offense that the second he got hurt the offense went to hell. Anyway, the Lions are still to me good enough to make a wild card run, but they have to cut down on the penalties, have to play sixty minutes, have to just grow up.

8.) San Diego Chargers  =  1-1  (65-47)

Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates is still working in Year #11. Philip Rivers himself is still going strong in Year 11. You can take away Keenan Allen, take away Danny Woodhead, but that man can still pull his magic every now and then. That is all I have to say. Treasure this man.

7.) Oakland Raiders  =  1-1  (63-69)

That defense has to be fixed. Opponent Adjustments are not yet in Football Outsider's DVOA rankings this year, but the Raiders are #32 in defense, and probably would be even if opponent adjustments are considered. It has been terrible at every level. Of course, they are also #1 by offense in DVOA. That offense is good enough to win 11 games. They just have to hope when they couple that with the defense, they can win 9.

6.) Seattle Seahawks  =  1-1  (15-19)

Basically, just reverse everything I wrote about Oakland, and you get Seattle. They have been so pathetic on offense, with an OL that is finally so bad even Russell Wilson can't get them to move the ball. Wilson's injury isn't helping, but that is a direct result of the bad OL. The defense is its normal absolutely fantastic self, but with that offense, they are not winning the division, and likely not getting out of the NFC.

5.) Green Bay Packers  =  1-1  (41-40)

Aaron Rodgers sudden devolution is so familiar to this old Manning fan. Rodgers play these last 14 games, where his numbers dropped off a cliff, not reaching 100 passer rating in any single game, is very reminiscent of Manning in 2010, when his brilliance could not any longer compensate for the lack of support, be it the OL, or the receivers. Rodgers is pressing. Hopefully for them, if Nelson can get his groove back, maybe Rodgers finally can as well.

4.) New York Jets  =  1-1  (59-54)

It was surprising they could get no real pass rush against Buffalo, but sometimes games take on styles that are so hard to envision. Both sides would rather have played a 16-13 game instead of a 37-31 game. It is good, however, to see the offense play like that. There is obvious fear that Ryan Fitzpatrick could not be better than he was in 2015, but for one night he was and that offense was. They are one point away from 2-0 right now.

3.) Cincinnati Bengals  =  1-1  (39-46)

Can't criticize the Bengals too much. They've had two road games, both against teams I consider to be very good. They first beat the Jets, and then played the Steelers probably closer than the score indicated, including doing a great job, again, against Antonio Brown, holding him to maybe his worst game in a few years. The offense is still learning to adapt without Sanu and Jones, but the soon-to-be returned Tyler Eifert should help. They have a direct task now, which is to do something they historically have been awful at: beat the Steelers in Cincinnati, as they've oddly had way more success against them in Pittsburgh.

2.) Arizona Cardinals  =  1-1  (61-30)

Spoiler, my #1 1-1 team is the Panthers, but I could have been swayed either way in this one. What this means is really, after a week 1 where both of our reigning NFC Finalists lost their openers due to missed field goals at the gun that would have won them the game, they've returned to being the best, scariest teams in the NFL. The Cardinals probably at this point regret straying away from their blitz and man heavy defense in Week 1. It returned with a vengeance in Week 2, and while Palmer needs to be more accurate, the downfield game worked well also. The Cardinals remain an incredibly balanced team.

1.) Carolina Panthers  =  1-1  (66-48)

As do the Panthers, who are close to being clearly better on offense than defense at this point, which is a credit to their offense. Kelvin Benjamin has returned in truly awesome form, and Cam Newton is hitting incredibly tight windows. May be hard to keep up, but I expect the defense, especially the secondary play, to improve over the course of the year - much like it did in 2014 when they were bringing in new starters. The difference between 2016 and 2014 is this year the offense is so good (and I think their Week 1 performance looks a lot better now) they won't start 3-8-1 when dealing with defensive issues.

Ranking to 2-0 Teams

8.) Philadelphia Eagles  =  2-0  (58-24)

By point differential, the Eagles are the best team in the league through two weeks. Of course, they've played the two teams that I consider to be the worst two in the league, and they didn't pull away from the Bears until the Bears started losing mass amounts of players. In the end, while I like Wentz, he is still somewhat limited, and against better offense, their secondary issues will be more pronounced. 

7.) Houston Texans  =  2-0  (42-26)

The Texans have won their first two games in a way that should seem very familiar to Brock Osweiler. Get average at best play from your QB, who has the ability to hit a few deep shots to his talented WRs, and let your amazing defense take it home. Thing is, the Texans defense isn't as good as Denver's was last year (or at least they haven't shown that against a top team), and Osweiler is really showing some of his limitations and erratic play.

6.) New York Giants  =  2-0  (36-32)

The Giants are due to win some close games, but the real worrying point I have is their offenses inability to translate great talent - and great stats to the most part - into a lot of points. Their resume isn't that impressive at this point. It may have been had they held onto the ball against the Saints and won 31-13 (which was the real way the game should have played out), but they should not need late game heroics to win games against bad teams.

5.) Baltimore Ravens  =  2-0  (38-27)

A lot of people are giving the Ravens flak for playing a close game with the Browns. I, instead, will give them credit for spotting a team 20 points on the road and winning. I get that the Browns are truly, and very much intentionally, dreadful, but for any team to fall behind on the road like that and come back without giving up another point. Flacco looks good. Mike Wallace looks reborn. And when they aren't giving up freak long plays to Corey Coleman and random Browns Running Back, their defense is still rather good.

4.) Minnesota Vikings  =  2-0  (42-30)

My word was that a great defensive performance. I realize the Packers entire offense has a group case of the yips right now, but their coverage was great, their d-line was great, and this was all missing Xavier Rhodes and Shariff Floyd. Sam Bradford even looked good. I feel good for him. He's been duly compensated for having to play on some bad teams and be average at best, but he can succeed with that defense. 

3.) Pittsburgh Steelers  =  2-0  (62-32)

The Steelers offense can score 24 points and it big plays when they're sloppy and Ben is off his game. To beat what I still consider a good team in Cincinnati with Antonio Brown having a notably off game, and Roethlisberger himself throwing two picks. The defense has taken a step up, and while I do worry that their pass rush has been really silent in the first two games, their defense is playing really well by adapting to some of Tomlin's old zone concepts. It is a good, smart defense to pair with that offense.

2.) New England Patriots  =  2-0  (54-45)

In a converse way to what I said about Miami, should we be a little more concerned with the defense after they came somewhat close to actually giving up that 31-3 lead? Probably not, but while they were a good team with Garropolo, there has to be concern with turning to Jacoby Brissett. Of course, this ranking still reflects that the calvary, both in Brady and Gronk, are coming back soon and then, for Pats fans, the real fun begins. For me, the nightmares will as well.

1.) Denver Broncos  =  2-0  (55-40)

There is a non-zero chance their defense is actually better this year than it was last. Well, at the very most Von Miller looks like he is. They are better set to handle the loss of Ware for a bit. But for all of that, the Broncos offense is why they might deserve this #1 ranking outside of the fact I give that to the defending champs until they lose. In running Kubiak's offense, they have been able to rejuvenate their run game, and Siemien seems so well suited to that style. This is a dangerous, dangerous team.

Playoff Projections

1.) New England Patriots  =  14-2
2.) Pittsburgh Steelers  =  12-4
3.) Denver Broncos  =  11-5

4.) Houston Texans  =  10-6
5.) Cincinnati Bengals  =  11-5
6.) New York Jets  =  10-6


1.) Carolina Panthers  =  12-4
2.) Arizona Cardinals  =  12-4

3.) New York Giants  =  11-5
4.) Green Bay Packers  =  10-6
5.) Seattle Seahawks  =  10-6
6.) Minnesota Vikings  =  9-7

Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games

16.) Cleveland Browns (0-2)  @  Miami Dolphins (0-2)  (1:00 - CBS)
15.) Baltimore Ravens (2-0)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)  (1:00 - CBS)
14.) Los Angeles Rams (1-1)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)  (4:05 - FOX)
13.) San Francisco 49ers (1-1)  @  Seattle Seahawks (1-1)  (4:05 - FOX)

I call it "Cover Your Eyes" Sunday, as in Week 3 we get our first look at some truly dreadful matchups. Only pieces of interest here to me is the opportunity to check out if the Dolphins can win a game, if the Ravens can become the most uninteresting and nationally irrelevant 3-0 team in the NFL, and if the 49ers can score a point - and if Seattle can continue their 2002 Buccaneers-like pace in terms of points allowed. Still, none of these areas really escite me, and we are better off just moving on.

12.) Chicago Bears (0-2)  @  Dallas Cowboys (1-1)  (SNF - NBC)
11.) Oakland Raiders (1-1)  @  Tennessee Titans (1-1)  (1:00 - CBS)
10.) San Diego Chargers (1-1)  @  Indianapolis Colts (0-2)  (4:25 - CBS)

I call it "Intra-Conference Average-ish" Sunday, as we get three games with six teams that are at this point fighting to stay relevant, and these being intra-conference games, the loser gets a conference loss that is the toughest to overcome. The Bears and Cowboys get a SNF game that I'm sure NBC would like to have back. The Raiders get a chance to show that their defense isn't historically bad, and that they can grow up and get past bad defeats. The Colts will give Andrew Luck the chance to show off his 2014 form that he found in Week 1, and prove that the bigger issue in last week's game was the team and defense he was facing rather than himself.

9.) Detroit Lions (1-1)  @  Green Bay Packers (1-1)  (1:00 - FOX)
8.) Washington Redskins (0-2)  @  New York Giants (2-0)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "The Best Way to Prove Yourself is in the Division" Sunday, as these two divisional games feature teams with a lot to prove, but whether the games are interesting is something else to be seen. The Lions and Packers played two great, dramatic games last year, but historically their games in the Rodgers era have been boring - even the one's the Lions have won. The Lions and Packers both get a chance to say outright they are the early challenger to Minnesota - especially Detroit as if they can limit the Packers offense again, serious questions and heat will be raised in Wisconsin. For the Giants, what better way to stake a claim to the division than go three up on the defending Division champs. They'll have to deal with Philadelphia sooner or later, but for now they can get a real good start on their first division title in five years.

7.) Arizona Cardinals (1-1)  @  Buffalo Bills (0-2)  (1:00 - FOX)
6.) Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (2-0)  (4:25 - CBS)

I call it "Inter-Conference Above Average-ish" Sunday, as we get two games between AFC and NFC teams that have also a lot of storylines, if not great play coming. The Cardinals take their high-flying show to a place where another blowout win for them may spell the end for Rex Ryan - or at the very least the beginning of the end, given how poorly teams that start 0-3 usually end up being. While the Battle of Philadelphia looks a lot better right now than it did before the season, I am still skeptical of the Eagles given who they've played, and expect them to receive a dose of reality from having to play a competent team for the firs ttme.

5.) Atlanta Falcons (1-1)  @  New Orleans Saints (0-2)  (MNF - ESPN)

I call it "The Nostalgia Bowl" Monday, as the Falcons and Saints play in the Superdome, nearly 10 years to the day (and in NFL terms, exactly 10 years from Week 3, 2006) from when the Saints re-opened the Superdome after Katrina and beat the Falcons 26-3 in an emotionally charged festival. That highlight will be played a lot. And while that is a great memory of a truly inspirational moment, the game itself is a sad reminder of a period from 2010-2013 or so when this used to be one of the best rivalries in the NFL. Since then, both franchises have fallen off, and while the Falcons showed some signs of life, this matchup will probably be meainingless long term, which is sad considering how good these teams used to be.

4.) New York Jets (1-1)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)  (4:25 - CBS)
3.) Houston Texans (2-0)  @  New England Patriots (2-0)  (TNF - CBS)

I call it "The Less Fun of the two Inter-Conference High-Profile Matchup Duos" Thursday and Sunday, as these four AFC contenders square off. The Chiefs are lucky to be 1-1, but if they can beat a good Jets team that is unlucky to be only 1-1, it may help them write the ship after a tough two weeks. For the Texans, if you want to be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender, you go to New England and beat a team led by Jacoby Brissett. For the Pats, this is a chance for Bill Belichick immortality, and for us Pats haters, also a nice little piece of ammunition to make the case for Manning against Brady. To be honest, if the specter of Tom Brady's return didn't appear on the horizon, I might want a Garropolo/Brissett led Patriots to go 19-0.

2.) Minnesota Vikings (2-0)  @  Carolina Panthers (1-1)  (1:00 - FOX)
1.) Denver Broncos (2-0)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it "Let's Just Hope the Best Games are the Best Games" Sunday, as these are the clear best two games on paper. The Vikings defense and the wonderful (so far) Sam Bradford renaissance had added some juice into this game - and while the Panthers are seemingly a better version of the Vikings across the board, there is a real opportunity for Minnesota here. In Cincinnati,the Bengals get a chance to play at home and assert some dominance and beat the defending Champs. With the way Denver's defense is playing, and the way Siemien is not screwing up, this game looks a whole lot better than I thought it would heading into the season. We are going to get some heavyweight inter-division AFC fights this year, and this is the first one.

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.