Wednesday, September 25, 2013

NFL Power Poll, Week 3

Rank (Last)
1 (1)
We know Seattle is near unstoppable at home. They haven’t had an above-.500 record on the road since their Super Bowl season in 2005. This week's game in Houston will be a great test of just how fearsome this defense, and team, is.
2 (2)
The two questions that need answering: 1. Is there a team out there that can contain this offense? 2.  Can this offense continue working its magic in 30 degree weather in January?
3 (4)
Drew Brees and Sean Payton are making their usual sweet music together, but defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is actually backing up his talk with results this year. Considering how terrible this defense was last year, he's doing a heck of a job in his first season in New Orleans.
4 (12)
We knew the defense would be good, but Ryan Tannehill is the reason this team is 3-0, instead of a scary 1-2 team no one wants to play. Tannehill wasn't making enough plays last year, and this year he is, despite not much support from the running game.
5 (10)
Kansas City's defense is very good. Scary good, even. But the number one takeaway I had from last Thursday's game? Alex Smith is scared to throw downfield. Granted, the Eagles defense was so bad he didn't have to for the Chiefs to win comfortably. But his red zone performance was atrocious because he refuses to take any chances with the ball, and when the field gets shorter, you have to in order to get 7 points instead of 3. At some point Smith and the Chiefs offense will have to make plays, and I'm not confident they will.
6 (7)
If New England can get Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski on the field together, they are a top-5 team and perhaps the biggest challenger to Denver in the AFC. But with the history those two have, it's a pretty sizeable "if". Without them the upside is much more limited.
7 (8)
So far whatever voodoo trick Marc Trestman performed to make Jay Cutler forget who he is and instead play solid football is working. But Cutler has never been able to repress his usual turnovery tendencies for a whole season.
8 (11)
Not many teams can hold down Aaron Rodgers for 4 quarters. I'd have them higher if I didn't think Andy Dalton's effort said more about the Packers defense than it did about Andy Dalton.
9 (14)
Going into San Francisco and not just beating the 49ers but holding them to 7 points was a feat worthy of celebration. If the defense can even approach that level over the rest of the season, Indy could actually be an AFC contender.
10 (13)
The defense, depsite losing all those starters from the Super Bowl-winning unit, is covering up for the offense's San Andreas sized faults
11 (6)
You're willing to overlook problems when they're covered up by wins. Houston never should have been in position to lose to either San Diego or Tennessee (even with those two teams being better than anticipated), but they pulled those games out. But getting clobbered by Baltimore despite the Ravens' poor offense right now? That's a very bad sign. Some of this is bad luck (the defense only forcing 1 turnover through 3 games), but some is cracks appearing in the offensive foundation as their running game has gone from legendary to just good.
12 (3)
The lack of receivers, compounded by injuries has the San Francisco offense as a shell of its former self. And the defense, while still good, is no longer dominant enough to win games with the offense struggling to this degree. With the receiving corps in such shambles, the 49ers need to return to pounding the other team with the ground game like they did with Alex Smith under center.
13 (9)
The Roddy White injury is killing this team, and the Stephen Jackson injury is making it even harder for them to overcome it. We knew Atlanta's defense was pourous coming into the season, but believed the dynamic offense could (once again) overcome those shortcomings. But while the offense is dynamic, it is not deep. If White and Jackson don't get healthy soon, they will lose their shot at the division.
14 (5)
The Packers defense has given up 34 points to the 49ers (who have scored 10 points in their other 2 games), 20 points to the gimpy Redskins, and 27 points to the Andy Dalton-led Bengals. If we're not at the point where we declare the defense to be in a crisis, when does that point come?
15 (15)
Even in a world where every other contender for the NFC East title has basically thrown up the white flag, are we ready to trust that Tony Romo could lead Dallas into the playoffs? Could this be another Seattle in 2010 deal (read: a below-.500 team makes the playoffs)?
16 (18)
It's hard to determine what beating up on the Giants means for the Panthers, as the Giants didn't put up much resistance at all. Still, this team has a very solid front 7, and Cam Newton remains dangerous with the ball in his hands.
17 (16)
A break or two from being 3-0 right now, though it feels like the other shoe is going to drop soon. That's another way of saying that I haven't seen enough from jake Locker to make me forget his collegiate ~50% completion percentage.
18 (24)
Another 2-1 record that's a bit inflated due to who they've played. But their offense gives them a chance in most games, even if their secondary gives their opponents a chance in most games.
19 (17)
The regression of their defense is very concerning. They have a young core that should only be getting better from last year. Having Dallas run through them on their way to 31 points short circuited much of the optimism buidling up in St. Louis.
20 (25)
On the plus side, Philip Rivers isn't throwing interceptions at a rate that makes Vinny Testaverde jealous anymore. On the minus side, he's also not holding many 4th quarter leads.
21 (27)
Good for Cleveland, and good for Brian Hoyer. I could point out that they beat a terrible Minnesota team, so this doesn't mean they're ready to contend, but why stomp on Cleveland fans anymore. They do have a good chance to finish above Pittsburgh in the standings.
22 (20)
We knew the defense would be bad, but last Thursday night was a shameful display of defending. I'm even willing to forgive Michael Vick his turnover-laden night, as it was clear early on that Philly's defense couldn't stop anybody. When the opposing quarterback can dump off 5-yard passes on 3rd and 15+ and still convert the first down multiple times, you know your defense is a joke.
23 (22)
It's possible I spoke too soon about a real quarterback making them competitive. It doesn't help that their entire linebacking corps is essentially injured or suspended.
24 (29)
I don't want to be negative here, as the Jets have wildly exceeded my expectations. But 2-1 looks a little different when you look at who they've beaten.
25 (26)
The Steelers and Giants are almost mirror images of each other. The supporting cast isn't performing as well as they have in the past, leading to the quarterback feeling pressured to do too much. This leads to turnovers, which digs an even deeper hole, and again, the supporting cast isn't good enough for the quarterback to lead them back into the game. Once they get down, they stay down. So why is Pittsburgh here and the Giants further down? The Steelers don't have anything as embarassing as a 38-0 shellacking on their 2013 resume.
26 (23)
On the plus side, they are significantly more competitve than expected. On the minus side, the only time they executed down the stretch to secure the win was when Carolina completely blew a coverage for a wide open EJ Manuel touchdown pass. I guess that's a long-winded way of saying, expect plenty of entertaining games where Buffalo comes out on the short end.
27 (19)
At some point they have to snap out of it, right? Right??? If they do, they belong much higher on this list. But the team that got humiliated by Carolina last weekend, that team isn't going to do much damage at all, except to Eli Manning.
28 (21)
As long as RG3 continues to look tentative and rusty, Washington is a bottom-5 level team. The defense is that bad.
29 (28)
Pryor's concussion from Monday night is a concern, as they need his athletic ability if they're going to make plays on offense. Matt Flynn can't make chicken salad out of chicken poop, which is why Oakland gave Pryor the job.
30 (30)
Josh Freeman is out, and 3rd round draft pick Miek Glennon is in. Freeman is an interesting case. He had a great 2010, then a poor 2011 as the team quit on their coach. He had a pretty good 1st 12 or so games of 2012, then he completely tanked. While Freeman probably isn;t the guy, jumping to the rookie will not make the on-field product better in the short term.
31 (31)
The most frightening part of this 0-3 start? Adrian Peterson looks human. So much of Minnesota's playoff run last year was based on Adrian Peterson being super-human. An extra year removed from his knee injury should have him feeling physically better than last year. If Peterson can't at least approach last year's output, this team simply has no chance to contend.
32 (32)
They're going back to Blaine Gabbert now that he's over his injury. While this may make the current product worse, it's absolutely the right call. Chad Henne is what he is at this point. He's been in the league long enough that he's not going to substntially improve. The Jaguars need to determine if Gabbert can be part of the solution going forward. He doesn't necessarily have to be the franchise quarterback of the future (that ship has sailed), but if he can be good enough for the team to make strides then maybe they don't have to sell out for a QB in 2014. They can take the best player and continue to build their entire team around the eventual quarterback.

Biggest Risers: 
Miami (8 spots)
Detroit, Cleveland (6 spots)

Biggest Fallers:
San Francisco  (9 spots)
New York Giants (8 spots)

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