Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tripodi's Top Teams: Week 7

(Last week's ranking in parentheses)

1(3). New Orleans Saints (5-0): Drew Brees ripped up the Giants for 369 yards and four touchdowns, exposing a secondary which hadn't faced a good passing offense all season. This was also their third game scoring more than 45 points, not to mention they haven't won by less than 14 points. It will be tough to score like that on the road as the season wears on, but home-field advantage in the playoffs could get this dome team to Miami.

2(2). Minnesota Vikings (6-0): My top team loses again, and the second-ranked team stays there? The Vikings got lucky to escape the Ravens this week, much like they were lucky to beat the 49ers a few weeks ago. They could very easily be 4-2 and the Saints have dominated every opponent, including the Jets and Giants.

3(4). Indianapolis Colts (5-0): The Vikings beat a good football team and go nowhere, while the Colts are idle and move up a spot. Go figure, right?

4(5). Denver Broncos (6-0): The Broncos stay undefeated thanks a big day on special teams for Eddie Royal, who didn't catch a pass but returned a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown. Kyle Orton continues to look great with the help of the Denver offensive line and athletes like Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler, while the defense sacked Philip Rivers five times, including a forced fumble.

5(1). New York Giants (5-1): The Giants are still a very good football team, but their patsy schedule looks to be the major reason for their undefeated start. It's hard to go from playing the likes of the Bucs and the Raiders to facing Drew Brees and the Saints. They'll have to fix their secondary issues with Arizona coming to the Meadowlands next week.

6(6). Atlanta Falcons (4-1): Matt Ryan got the best of his battle with Jay Cutler, as neither team's star running back played particularly well (Matt Forte: 23 yards, Michael Turner: 30 yards). Ryan just had too many weapons, and he will look to find them all again against the struggling Cowboys next week, who own the 26th-ranked pass defense in the NFL.

7(10). New England Patriots (4-2): The Patriots keep bouncing up and down in these rankings, and a 59-0 dismantling of the hopeless Titans bounces them back up this week. Tom Brady looked like, well, Tom Brady, and it has been his inconsistency at times this season that has cost the Pats. They rely so heavily on him, but if Laurence Maroney can give New England a running game with Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris hurt, this team will still be very dangerous.

8(7). Cincinnati Bengals (4-2): Andre Johnson caught more passes than the previous five top receivers who faced the Bengals and Matt Schaub threw for almost 400 yards. The Bengals and their 28th-ranked pass defense get Jay Cutler and the Bears next week, and both teams will be looking to rebound from losses this week.

9(14). Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2): Two straight wins against Cleveland and Detroit vault the Steelers back into the top 10, as much as they didn't win either game convincingly. I think we have learned that there are a handful of very good teams in the NFL and about twice as many awful ones. Everybody else is just stuck in the middle, starting with the Bengals above and bleeding down to the Chargers at 19.

10(11). Baltimore Ravens (3-3): The Ravens jump ahead of the Eagles and Jets despite a loss to undefeated Minnesota. They should have won the game if not for Steven Hauschka's last-second missed field goal, and they were much more impressive than either Philadelphia or the Jets, who looked pathetic losing to teams in the bottom third of these rankings. Ray Rice is an absolute animal and is quickly becoming one of my favorite backs to watch.

11(8). Philadelphia Eagles (3-2): Philadelphia may still be the second-best team in the NFC East, but that division took a huge hit this week. You can't lose to the Raiders and stay in the top 10. This could be the same up-and-down Eagles squad that we've seen over the past few seasons after all.

12(12). Chicago Bears (3-2): Cutler and the Bears may have lost to Atlanta, but they were close all game and proved they can play with upper-echelon teams in the league. If they can ever get Matt Forte going, they could sneak into the playoffs as a Wild Card.

13(9). New York Jets (3-3): If you thought the Miami loss was bad, just look at last week's debacle against Buffalo. Rex Ryan said he considered benching Mark Sanchez, who threw five interceptions, and I was calling for backup Kellen Clemens early in the fourth quarter. Sanchez is still the future (and the present), but he did not deserve to finish that game the way he was playing. And the Jets didn't deserve to win.

14(13). San Francisco 49ers (3-2): The 49ers will try to bounce back after getting ripped apart through the air before their bye week. Too bad Matt Schaub and the high-powered Texans offense awaits this week. Let's see how good of a coach Mike Singletary really is.

15(15). Dallas Cowboys (3-2): No game, no movement. Pretty simple. The Falcons will be a tough matchup at home this week, and it will be interesting to see how Miles Austin follows up his other-worldly performance against the Chiefs.

16(17). Arizona Cardinals (3-2): The Cardinals were able to shut down a Seattle passing offense that accounted for four touchdowns a week earlier, a performance that surprised many (myself included). They put constant pressure on Matt Hasselbeck, recording five sacks and Hasselbeck completed just 10 of 29 passes. It won't be that easy against the Giants next week.

17(18). Green Bay Packers (3-2): The Packers disposed of the injury-plagued Lions as they should have and this week, they get to warm up for a rematch with the Vikings against Cleveland, who is just as bad as Detroit in the secondary.

18(23). Houston Texans (3-3): Did I say bad matchup for Houston? Well I was very wrong, as somehow the Texans held Cedric Benson to 44 yards on 16 carries. The Texans were able to open up a double-digit lead before the fourth quarter to make Cincinnati one-dimensional, and two late fumbles cost the Bengals. Let's see if the Texans can explode once again against a solid San Francisco defense.

19(16). San Diego Chargers (2-3): In the special teams game of the week, the offenses struggled more than the 34-23 score would indicate. Rivers struggled to get going, as I predicted, and proved once again that the Broncos are for real defensively. The Chargers defense is average at best without Jamaal Williams and with an underperforming Shawne Merriman. This team is way too reliant on Rivers.

20(20). Miami Dolphins (2-3): The Dolphins get to host the Saints this week, and even the extra preparation from a bye week probably can't help them against Brees and company.

21(21). Carolina Panthers (2-3): They beat the Redskins and the Bucs, great job Carolina! And they get the Bills this week, who allowed over 300 rushing yards to the Jets. The Panthers ran for 267 yards this week and should be able to beat the Bills on the ground. Now if they could only figure out what's wrong with their passing game...Jake Delhomme, cough.

22(19). Seattle Seahawks (2-4): After a 41-0 win, the Seahawks follow with a 27-3 loss. Their offensive line and running game are too inconsistent for this team to contend, even with the explosive playmakers they have in the passing game. The NFC West may be have a nine-win champion again this season, but it won't be Seattle.

23(22). Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3): Two of the Jaguars' three wins are against the winless Rams and Titans. After their Week 7 bye, they get the Titans again and the Chiefs. After Week 9, they could be the most fraudulent 5-3 team in league history.

24(26). Buffalo Bills (2-4): Did the Bills really win this week, or did the Jets lose? Buffalo did everything they could to let the Jets escape unscathed, but New York refused to take what the Bills were handing them. This team still have serious issues and Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the answer. Bills fan who were calling for him after last week's game will soon realize this. He is something awful.

25(29). Oakland Raiders (2-4): No hope in sight? After beating the Eagles the Raiders actually look like they can challenge the Jets, who may again be facing multiple injuries to their receivers. With Nnamdi Asomugha likely locking down Braylon Edwards, Sanchez may not have anybody to throw to. We saw what happened last time he had no options...

26(25). Detroit Lions (1-5): No one expected the Lions to play Green Bay close without Matthew Stafford or Calvin Johnson. They can use the bye week to get healthy and prepare for the Rams, who should help Stafford and Johnson get re-acclimated pretty quickly.

27(30). Kansas City Chiefs (1-5): The Chiefs have looked much better the past two weeks, which isn't saying much. They kept it close with an average Dallas team and won a field-goal battle with a pitiful Washington squad. I'm curious to see if they can stay in the game with the Chargers, who are nothing special themselves.

28(27). Washington Redskins (2-4): This team would be below Tennessee if it weren't for their two terrible wins. Jason Campbell got benched (finally!) last week and Todd Collins might even be worse. I think that's the only reason Jim Zorn would stick with Campbell. After all, he really has no better options

29(24). Tennessee Titans (0-6): Calling Vince Young, calling Vince Young. If Young isn't off galavanting without his cell phone, we should see him as the starter this week. He's due a roster bonus in March, so it's time for Tennessee to see what they have (or don't have) in the former first-round pick. With average receivers, no defense and an overall hopeless situation, I don't know how much success anyone can really predict for Young.

30(28). Cleveland Browns (1-5): Derek Anderson completed less than half of his passes for the second straight week, and he is 11-41 in his past two games. Brady Quinn may have been throwing five-yard passes, but at least he could complete them.

31(31). Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6): The Bucs are surely looking forward to their Week 8 bye, considering they have no chance this week against the Patriots. I wonder if Josh Freeman is going to be ready to play by Week 9, because Josh Johnson is not the answer. He just may have to be for the time being.

32(32). St. Louis (0-6): The Rams get Peyton Manning and the Colts this week, who could put up enough first-half points to watch the second half from the sideline. A Week 8 matchup with Detroit gives this team some hope that they can win a game in the first half. It's a true shame that Steven Jackson's prime years are going to waste with this team.

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