Monthly Archives: September 2014
LOS ANGELES — Last week in the NFL was one everyone would like to forget. Unless, of course, you’re one of the handful of teams who improved to 2-0 and thus greatly increased your chance of eventually advancing to the playoffs. If you’re winless as we enter Week 3, then what a pity because in the last five seasons just one team – the 2013 Panthers – has advanced to the tournament after beginning the year as such (you’ll probably read that again soon). If the season ended today, who would be your MVP? Good question, glad I asked it. Peyton Manning? C.J. Spiller? Andy Dalton? J.J. Watt? What about Coach of the Year? Bill O’Brien? Bruce Arians? Ah yes, that’s why they play a full 16 games in the National. Football. League.
Let’s find out who’s the man, shall we?
32.) New York Giants (2014 record: 0-2; last week: 31) — It’s a little too early to determine the top college prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft, but I hope he’ll enjoy living in Manhattan because it’s going to be that kinda year for the G-Men.
31.) Oakland Raiders (0-2; 29) — I’ll let future hall of famer Charles Woodson handle this one: “We’re not very good … We suck. I am embarrassed.” OK, then.
30.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2; 30) — According to ESPN’s made up QBR that puts a quantitive score on how well an NFL quarterback performs, Chad Henne got a 4.1 this week. Four-point-one. If you’re scoring at home. We are officially on Blake Bortles watch.
29.) St. Louis Rams (1-1; 32) — Get blasted at home to the Vikings and win on the road against the Bucs; I’m certainly not going to try and figure out this team just two weeks in, but anything’s possible at this point. I’m ready for anything.
28.) Washington Redskins (1-1; 26) — Look, I love Robert as much as anyone. We are forever linked in basic cable television lore but his time as the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins is over. This is Kirk Cousins’ team.
27.) Dallas Cowboys (1-1; 27) — It’s amazing what happens when the Cowboys stick to running the football and don’t let Tony Romo freelance behind the line of scrimmage to basically get himself beat to a pulp. What team shows up this week, however, is up in the air.
26.) Kansas City Chiefs (0-2; 24) — If Jamaal Charles is out for a considerable amount of time this team is in trouble, especially after its best defensive player tore his achilles.
25.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2; 23) — First you lose to Derek Anderson, then you lose to Austin Davis. Oh, and both games were at home. And you’re supposed to be a playoff team. Something ain’t right down in Tampa Bay.
24.) Cleveland Browns (1-1; 28) — Did anyone give the Browns any kind of chance to beat the Saints last weekend? Nope. Turns out these aren’t your brother’s Browns. Tough. Hard-nosed. Brian Hoyer has moxie. Johnny sure looked good those two snaps, right?
23.) Tennessee Titans (1-1; 16) — How do you go from lambasting a playoff team on the road to getting thrashed at home by an inept pretender? Jake Locker looked great and then horrid. Can’t figure out this Titans squad so far.
22.) Minnesota Vikings (1-1; 14) — Umm, yeah, I don’t know what’s going on there as much as you do but one thing is for certain after the Vikings drubbing at the hand of New England last week: Teddy Bridgewater’s time is coming. Soon.
21.) New York Jets (1-1; 19) — Only the Jets could lose because their offensive coordinator called a time out just a split second before their second-year quarterback who may or may not be any good throws the greatest pass of his short NFL career to a young receiver who makes a leaping grab in the end zone to tie the game but it didn’t count and they go on to lose because of it.
20.) Houston Texans (2-0; 20) — Houston has beat the Redskins and Raiders, so not exactly world beaters, but starting the year 2-0 is impressive and J.J. Watt is on a mission to take over the world. I’m afraid just typing his name.
19.) Baltimore Ravens (1-1; 22) — Disaster week in Baltimore last week and considering what was swirling around that football team, what they were able to do on a short week against a good Steelers team; impressive to say the least.
18.) Atlanta Falcons (1-1; 13) — So the Falcons, after showing us their 2012 selves in Week 1, went and showed us their 2013 edition in Week 2. I’m not riding this roller coaster this season. Pick one and be done with it!
17.) Miami Dolphins (1-1; 9) — I was ready to be a believer in the Dolphins, I really was. But they got dominated by the Bills, even more so after Knowshon Moreno went out with an elbow injury.
16.) Detroit Lions (1-1; 12) — Everyone was saying, myself included, that the Lions needed to show us they could beat a tough team on the road before we would start taking them seriously; and we wait another week.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1; 4) — It was pretty shocking this team let Cleveland get back in the game in Week 1 and then got completely outclassed last Thursday night against a Ravens team fighting controversy.
14.) Buffalo Bills (2-0; 25) — Buffalo has been the most surprisingly impressive team this far, defeating good teams on the road and at home, showing a knack for the big play and coming up with the defense when needed. Gotta see it consistently before I believe though.
13.) Chicago Bears (1-1; 21) — So the Bears, in eight quarters of football this season, have laid an absolute egg in six of them, and absolutely dominant in two. Lucky for them it’s the last two that’s been the most dominant.
12.) Arizona Cardinals (2-0; 18) — Narrowly edging the Chargers at home is sort of impressive, escaping against the Giants is not whatsoever. Not sure what to make of this team so far, but it’s nice that Larry Fitzgerald was targeted 500 times. Quiet his dad for a week.
11.) Indianapolis Colts (0-2; 6) — Why Chuck Pagano doesn’t just turn Andrew Luck loose is beyond me and probably most every Colts fan. But hey, at least Trent Richardson looked like a real life human functioning running back this week, right?
10.) New Orleans Saints (0-2; 7) — The Saints are a team with Super Bowl aspirations, and I know many out there picked them to be as such, but this stat is a very real one: only one team in the last 5 seasons has started the year 0-2 and made the playoffs.
9.) Philadelphia Eagles (2-0; 11) — The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to be trailing by 14-or-more points in their first two games and come back to win them both. Soooo maybe they should work on their starts, ya think?
8.) Green Bay Packers (1-1; 8) — How is it possible that Jordy Nelson doesn’t have the respect of defensive coordinators across the league just yet? All he goes out and does is dominate week-in and week-out. Great fortitude to bounce back after looking like a mess in falling behind 18 against the Jets.
7.) New England Patriots (1-1; 10) — Tom Brady is still pissed the offense isn’t clicking like it should but be honest, I wasn’t the only one panicking after the Vikings went up 7-0 Sunday very easily. What followed was the defensive performance we were all expecting from the Patriots.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (1-1; 3) — Talk about a tale of two halves in the opening game at Levi’s Stadium. Colin Kaepernick shows flashes of being one of the best players in the league, then he slips back down to looking like someone still struggling to pick it all up.
5.) San Diego Chargers (1-1; 15) — Boy, the Super Chargers sure showed the rest of the league something last Sunday, huh? Did they expose the Seahawks? I won’t go that far, but San Diego will be there come season’s end.
4.) Carolina Panthers (2-0; 17) — The Panthers win on the road in Week 1 without their starting quarterback and then do it again in Week 2 against one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL without their best defensive player.
3.) Seattle Seahawks (1-1; 1) — Seattle isn’t going undefeated and the big story is how all-world mouth team defensive back Richard Sherman got “exposed.” Well, he’s still wearing the ring so let’s all just calm down about that for a week or two.
2.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-0; 5) — The Bengals have been the most consistently balanced and impressive team in the league through the first two weeks. Let’s see it continue or maybe even in January.
1.) Denver Broncos (2-0; 2) — Peyton Manning threw three more TD passes, blah, blah, blah. Wake me when something legitimate happens in Denver.
LOS ANGELES — An exciting and thrilling Week 1 in the National Football league with lots of expectedly surprising results has been overshadowed this week by the Ray Rice domestic violence situation, including Monday’s video release by TMZ, Rice’s termination from the Ravens and suspension from the league, and multiple reports that the league office had seen the video months ago before levying a verdict on Rice’s playing future. None of that has anything to do with the first installment of my season-long You’re The Man Power Rankings, except the football part. I don’t know what’s going to come of this independent investigation either, but one thing I do know, is that Week 2 begins tonight. And we need to find out who’s the man. Let’s get to it.
32.) St. Louis Rams (2014 record: 0-1; last week ranking: 26) — It wasn’t bad enough that Sam Bradford was lost for the year with a preseason injury, but Shaun Hill goes down in Week 1 and his status is up in the air for this Sunday.
31.) New York Giants (0-1; 30) — Eli Manning lead the league in interceptions in 2013 and after one week he’s tied for the lead this season. I’m guessing he’ll finish in the top 3 in picks again when it’s all said and done in 2014; should be a long year in the Meadowlands.
30.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1; 32) — The Jaguars have proven after one week that they’re good enough to build a 17-point lead against a tough opponent on the road, and just Jacksonville enough to blow said lead and lose by double digits.
29.) Oakland Raiders (0-1; 29) — Derek Carr proved that he has the goods to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, it’s just too bad he plays for the Raiders and has to endure what should be a long season.
28.) Cleveland Browns (0-1; 28) — Only the Browns could fall behind by 24 points, climb back into the game and make you think they’d pull off the win only to lose in the most Cleveland way; but hey, at least Brian Hoyer finished the game in one piece.
27.) Dallas Cowboys (0-1; 21) — Wait, yeah, Tony Romo just threw another interception. Awesome. It’s bad in Dallas right now but at least Jerry Jones didn’t get slapped with a sexual assault lawsuit this week … oh. You can’t spell disaster without a Big D.
26.) Washington Redskins (0-1; 20) — Robert Griffin III could be amazing in Jay Gruden’s offense, except it’s probably maybe not really a good quarterback, most likely potentially.
25.) Buffalo Bills (1-0; 31) — I don’t know if Buffalo’s win last week says more about them or their opponent’s lackluster home performance, but E.J. Manuel and others looked completely opposite than they showed in the preseason and that’s a good thing.
24.) Kansas City Chiefs (0-1; 7) — Of all the Week 1 teams that laid an egg, none bigger was the one laid in Kansas City and by their newly minted quarterback Alex Smith making most question whether 2013 was a fluke.
23.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1; 14) — The Bucs bandwagon is a little less crowded as we head into Week 2 than it was a few days ago and Josh McCown looked every bit his age and showed why he’s been a career backup.
22.) Baltimore Ravens (0-1; 17) — It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better for the Ravens. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
21.) Chicago Bears (0-1; 12) — There were reports that earlier this summer in Las Vegas the Bears were 6:1 to win the Super Bowl; guessing that is climbing by the minute after an embarrassing showing in the opener against Buffalo.
20.) Houston Texans (1-0; 25) — Top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney is lost for upward to 6 weeks with a knee injury but J.J. Watt more than made up for his absence and Ryan Fitzpatrick was competent in a season-opening win.
19.) New York Jets (1-0; 23) — Expectations are low with the Jets and it doesn’t help that they struggled to beat the Raiders at home, but at least Geno Smith looked like an actual starting quarterback.
18.) Arizona Cardinals (1-0; 19) — If someone can explain to me why Larry Fitzgerald wasn’t targeted by Carson Palmer until the fourth quarter then I’ll put the Cards higher up on this list.
17.) Carolina Panthers (1-0; 15) — Derek Anderson hadn’t started a game in the NFL since 2010 and went out and posted a 108.7 passer rating and led the Panthers to victory; no one thought that was happening Week 1.
16.) Tennessee Titans (1-0; 27) — A strong season’s start by the Titans, who went on the road and dominated the Chiefs in all facets of the game, giving credo to those pundits who said Tennessee could be a surprise playoff team.
15.) San Diego Chargers (0-1; 11) — It was nice of the Chargers to go all Chargers on Monday night and play great for three quarters and then remember they were on national television and disappear in the fourth.
14.) Minnesota Vikings (1-0; 24) — Probably the surprise team of Week 1, the Vikings showed a renewed sense of competitiveness in a loaded NFC North; new head coach Mike Zimmer has the defense opportunistic and flying around.
13.) Atlanta Falcons (1-0; 22) — Atlanta is looking to buck the Hard Knocks jinx and showed a glimpse of its 2012 self with a strong division win to start the year; Matty Ice set a career high in passing yards and his dynamic receiving duo backed up that claim.
12.) Detroit Lions (1-0; 18) — Calvin Johnson is good. Like really good. Like good enough to render Matthew Stafford’s terrible mechanics and backwards hat wearing moot.
11.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-0; 10) — Nick Foles Philadelphia honeymoon is officially over after his three-turnover performance in the first half Sunday, but thankfully for him, he got it together and pulled out the victory or it would’ve been a rough week on the Philly sports talk show circuit.
10.) New England Patriots (0-1; 3) — Great for one half, absolute dung storm for the second is no way to begin the season, so much so that Tom F’n Brady shaved his beard immediately after the game. He means business.
9.) Miami Dolphins (1-0; 16) — Look out, your first place Miami Dolphins! Great fortitude in the second half, the defense looked strong, offensive line was solid and Ryan Tannehill made enough plays to get it done. Strong run game also helped.
8.) Green Bay Packers (0-1; 5) — Look, the ’85 Bears could’ve played the Seahawks on Thursday night and gotten boatraced, so I’m not judging Aaron Rodgers and the Packers too harshly.
7.) New Orleans Saints (0-1; 4) — Drew Brees led the Saints offense to a floatload of points but the defense couldn’t stop the Falcons and looked like the Saints D of old.
6.) Indianapolis Colts (0-1; 6) — Andrew Luck needed to wait until his team was down a couple of scores before he started playing, that’s just what he does, and he nearly pulled the Sunday night upset.
5.) Cincinnati Bengals (1-0; 9) — Bengals fans were calling for Andy Dalton’s job over the summer and then he goes out on the road and beats a division rival while throwing for 300 yards; good start.
4.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0; 8) — Everyone was waiting to see how this new up-tempo offense was going to work for Ben Roethlisberger & Co. and boy did it work, to the tune of 365 passing yards and a TD; there’s more to come here.
3.) San Francisco 49ers (1-0; 13) — Dallas is a wreck, so I won’t give the 49ers too much credit, but Colin Kaepernick looked good throwing the ball and operating the offense, which was a concern after a shaky preseason.
2.) Denver Broncos (1-0; 2) — Peyton Manning was on his game. Julius Thomas caught a bunch of touchdowns. The Broncos defense looked formidable in the face of another Andrew Luck comeback. Par for the course.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (1-0; 1) — The Champs looked like The Champs in the opener and forced a lot of people to change their Super Bowl pick. I still have them going. They’re that good.
LOS ANGELES — It’s hard to believe seven months have passed since confetti fell on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks after their resounding Super Bowl XLVIII victory over Peyton Manning and the Broncos but it’s gone quickly. A brief rundown of what’s transpired since: Michael Sam had a press conference, Johnny Manziel wore pads for his pro day, Jadeveon Clowney was the top pick, Manziel partied… a lot, so did Jim Irsay, some 49ers got in trouble, Ray Rice and Josh Gordon were suspended, some guys got a whole lotta money, others got hurt and Hard Knocks disapppointed. Of course, other football things happened in between but those were the stories dominating the NFL offseason, which has become appropriately titled the Non-Playing Season because it seems not a day goes by without some kind of important pigskin news. But now all the mumbo jumbo is behind us and it’s time to put foot to ball, shoulders to pads and end zone to dances. Football is back and it’s not going anywhere for the next five months, so strap in, stay hydrated and make sure your fantasy roster is set. Most of all, enjoy.
As I’ve done the last couple years, here are the pre-Week 1 You’re The Man Power Rankings in the form of Burning Questions for each team, based on nothing except what I want to know about each franchise as we begin another glorious season. My playoff predictions and Super Bowl pick are also at column’s end.
Let’s do this.
32.) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-12, missed playoffs) — The only question I have about this team is why isn’t Blake Bortles starting from the get-go?
31.) BUFFALO BILLS (6-10, missed playoffs) — Based on the preseason it appears the Bills are in trouble this year, but will Doug Marone be around come Week 17?
30.) NEW YORK GIANTS (7-9, missed playoffs) — Tom Coughlin has already fined me for finishing this so late, but if Eli Manning struggles mightily again will the 2-time Super Bowl winning coach have his QB on a short leash?
29.) OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-12, missed playoffs) — Oakland signed several veterans this offseason but it’s going to be rookie quarterback Derek Carr who determines how far this team goes this season, but who’ll be catching the ball from his talented right arm?
28.) CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-12, missed playoffs) — We all know what’s coming with the Browns this season, the questions is how long will the revolution take to be televised?
27.) TENNESSEE TITANS (7-9, missed playoffs) — Ken Whisenhunt will coach ’em up, there’s no doubt about that, and with some picking the Titans as a potential sleeper, can Jake Locker make it happen in a make-or-break year?
26.) ST. LOUIS RAMS (7-9, missed playoffs) — This season was already going to be the biggest of Sam Bradford’s career before he was lost with an ACL tear, now that Shuan Hill is leading the charge can he pull a Kurt Warner and take the Rams back to the playoffs?
25.) HOUSTON TEXANS (2-14, missed playoffs) — The Brinks truck was backed up for J.J. Watt, and while he deserves it, all the questions marks surrounding this team are on the offensive side of the ball, such as who is throwing the ball and will Arian Foster stay healthy for an entire season?
24.) MINNESOTA VIKINGS (5-10-1, missed playoffs) — Any team with Adrian Peterson and one of the best young tight ends in the game will have the offense to compete, but will the secondary toughen up to defend the aerial assault it’ll see on a weekly basis in division play?
23.) NEW YORK JETS (8-8, missed playoffs) — Everyone wants to make the Jets 2014 success about Geno Smith and his improvements between last year and this, but I’m more curious if the defense, specifically the secondary can match the artillery of its opponents?
22.) ATLANTA FALCONS (4-12, missed playoffs) — One play from the Super Bowl in 2012 to four wins a year later, Atlanta is a curious crew but the question is who are the real Falcons: the team that frightened opponents or the division doormat?
21.) DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8, missed playoffs) — Yes, Tony Romo is still recovering from offseason back surgery and the offense is poised to put up crazy fantasy numbers but just how bad is the Cowboys defense going to be?
20.) WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-13, missed playoffs) — With a new head coach in Jay Gruden, the Redskins are going to live and die with the right arm and two feet of Robert Griffin III and if he chooses to play smart and remain the reckless headache who can’t stay healthy?
19.) ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-6, missed playoffs) — Patrick Peterson is finally paid but Darnell Dockett is out for the season for a Cardinals team on the verge of returning to the playoffs; can they really contend in the best division in football?
18.) DETROIT LIONS (7-9, missed playoffs) — The defense is always a curious case up in the D but I wanna know if new head coach Jim Caldwell can take all that talent Matthew Stafford has and mold him into one of the game’s best QBs?
17.) BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-8, missed playoffs) — These aren’t your daddy’s Ravens, which means there’s a lot of new faces and the defense isn’t as good as year’s past; can it do enough to make up for what was lost following their improbabe Super Bowl win?
16.) MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-8, missed playoffs) — A sneaky 2014 playoff contender, will Miami play spoiler in a division owned by the Patriots for the last dozen years?
15.) CAROLINA PANTHERS (12-4, lost in NFC Divisional Round) — It’s possible I’ll be getting a few snaps at wide receiver this season in Carolina, but with the corps already thin can Kelvin Benjamin put it all together and be the monster he showed this preseason?
14.) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-12, missed playoffs) — We know Lovie Smith is going to have the Bucs flying around the ball on defense, but one stat I enjoyed was Josh McCown is one of four QBs 35+ starting the season across the league; will he make it through his first season as The Man?
13.) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (12-4, lost in NFC Championship) — It was not the best offseason in the Bay Area to say the least, the events played out like a soap opera, so the only question is are the 49ers set up for a monumental 2014 fall?
12.) CHICAGO BEARS (8-8, missed playoffs) — Defense is not the name of the game in Chicago anymore, and we saw how good the Bears offense could be WITHOUT Jay Cutler last year, but is No. 6 the man still or does the offense begin and end with Matt Forte?
11.) SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (9-7, lost in AFC Divisional Round) — Philip Rivers basically willed his team to a playoff win a year ago, but does the Chargers defense have anything in its tank to back him up?
10.) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-6, lost in NFC Wild Card) — It was a wild 2013 in Philadelphia, between Nick Foles 27-and-2 run and LeSean McCoy running wild, what does Chip Kelly have tucked deep in the playbill for an encore?
9.) CINCINNATI BENGALS (11-5, lost in AFC Wild Card) — For this team it’s seemed to come down to Andy Dalton, so now that he’s paid like an elite NFL quarterback, will he start playing like one when it matters most?
8.) PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-8, missed playoffs) — You know Dick LeBeau is going to coach up the defense, what I’m curious about is how this new high-tempo Steelers offense is going to look and how Ben Roethlisberger is going to perform in it?
7.) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5, lost in AFC Wild Card) — I know the Chiefs just extended Alex Smith for 4 years and $45M but how far can he really take them with his game managing style of play?
6.) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-5, lost in AFC Divisional Round) — I’ve seen some NFL experts picking the Colts to win the whole thing and while that’s bold, is anyone going to step up and win a game so Andrew Luck doesn’t have to do everything himself?
5.) GREEN BAY PACKERS (8-7-1, lost in NFC Wild Card) — When you have Aaron Rodgers I know it’s tempting to throw the ball like it’s backyard football, but will Mike McCarthy use Eddie Lacy like he’s one of the best backs in the NFL (which he is)?
4.) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-5, lost in NFC Divisional Round) — Drew Brees isn’t getting any younger but all of his offensive weapons return and they look poised for another huge season, but is Rob Ryan’s defense ready to prove last year’s vast improvements weren’t a fluke?
3.) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4, lost in AFC Championship game) — It’s always Super Bowl or bust in New England, but is age finally catching up with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick?
2.) DENVER BRONCOS (13-3, lost in Super Bowl) — Once again, for me, it’s all about Peyton Manning’s health; if #18 is on his 2013 game then there’s no stopping Denver, but if he takes a few big hits, will the 5-time MVP get up?
1.) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (13-3, Super Bowl Champions) — More than any defending champions in recent years, the Seahawks are set up for a repeat run, will they stay hungry enough for 17 weeks to keep that dream alive?
NFC Playoff Predictions:
Division winners: Packers, Seahawks, Redskins & Saints
Wild Cards: Bears & Eagles
NFC Title Game: Seahawks over Saints
AFC Playoff Predictions:
Division winners: Patriots, Colts, Broncos & Steelers
Wild Cards: Chiefs & Bengals
AFC Title Game: Patriots over Broncos
Super Bowl Prediction:
PATRIOTS over Seahawks