Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tripodi's Top Teams: Week 11

1(1). New Orleans Saints (9-0): The Rams gave the Saints a run for their money, but New Orleans clamped down when they had to. A game with the improving Bucs this week should serve as a warmup for a Patriots team that came within 13 seconds of beating the only other remaining undefeated team.

2(2). Indianapolis Colts (9-0): Peyton Manning should thank Bill Belicheat for giving him less than 30 yards to the game-winning score and two full minutes. Not that Manning doesn't march 70 yards down the field and win it anyway, but he must have been licking his chops when he saw Kevin Faulk bobble that ball.

3(3). Minnesota Vikings (8-1): The Vikings took care of Detroit behind almost 500 yards of total offense, but it was actually a one-possession game at the half. Minnesota put it away in the second half though, and anytime Matthew Stafford throws 51 times it's probably a bad sign.

4(6). Cincinnati Bengals (7-2): The Bengals used the game's only touchdown (a Bernard Scott kickoff return) to move to 5-0 in the AFC North and take the season series with Pittsburgh. Now Larry Johnson comes on board as insurance for Cedric Benson, and he should be able to run better behind an excellent Cincinnati line than he did behind a lackluster Kansas City group.

5(4). Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3): Pittsburgh couldn't manage a touchdown against the Bengals, but both games were close and the Steelers may be happy to get another crack at Cincy in the playoffs. It's always a difficult proposition to beat the same team three times in one season.

6(5). New England Patriots (6-3): The Pats were one questionable Belicheat call away from knocking the Colts from the undefeated ranks. But the momentum shift that was a fourth-and-2 failure from their own 28 pretty much guaranteed a Manning touchdown.

7(7). Dallas Cowboys (6-3): Dallas couldn't put a point on the board until the final minute against Green Bay as Miles Austin was held without a touchdown for the first time since Week 4. This team should get back on track at home this week against the Redskins.

8(10). Baltimore Ravens (5-4): The Ravens didn't look great against Cleveland and in three games since their bye week, Joe Flacco has thrown for just 525 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. That doesn't bode well for this week's game with the Colts.

9(8). Denver Broncos (6-3): It's very hard to convince me you're an elite team when you lose to Washington, who had beaten just one-win St. Louis and one-win Tampa Bay this season. And if Kyle Orton misses any time, I don't think this team can win with Chris Simms. Especially not with the Chargers coming to town riding a four-game winning streak.

10(12). San Diego Chargers (6-3): I think Philip Rivers and the Chargers are better than the Broncos. But Denver's win earlier in the season keeps them on top of San Diego in the rankings...until next week. Both teams are much different than they were back in Week 6.

11(13). Arizona Cardinals (6-3): The Cards will be looking for their sixth win in seven games against the Rams this week. Does anybody think they won't get it?

12(9). Atlanta Falcons (5-4): Like Flacco, Matt Ryan seems to be regressing. After 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in Atlanta's first four games (3-1 record), he has 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in their last five (2-3 record). And if Michael Turner's high ankle sprain keeps him out of action for any extended period of time, these birds are cooked.

13(11). Philadelphia Eagles (5-4): The enigmatic Eagles have now lost two straight since dismantling the Giants, and Brian Westbrook's second concussion in four weeks may end his season. I love LeSean McCoy, but he's no Westbrook just yet. Philly might fade, but not against Chicago and Washington the next two weeks.

14(14). New York Giants (5-4): A great week for the Giants. Dallas lost, Philadelphia lost, Atlanta lost, and they didn't lose. If Michael Turner doesn't play for Atlanta this week, look for New York to get back on track at the Meadowlands.

15(15). Houston Texans (5-4): Three weeks ago, Tennessee-Houston looked like an awful Monday Night Football matchup. With the Titans sudden resurgence, now I'm intrigued. Tennessee has allowed just 570 yards through the air in their last three games, but Matt Schaub poses more of a threat than either David Garrard, Alex Smith or Trent Edwards ever will.

16(18). Green Bay Packers (5-4): How do you allow 38 points to the Bucs one week and seven to the Cowboys the next? If the Packer defense can build on this performance, they can beat the offensively-challenged 49ers and Lions and stick around in the NFC playoff hunt. Then again, they have been nothing but inconsistent all season.

17(20). Carolina Panthers (4-5): Don't look now, but the Panthers have beaten the Cardinals and Falcons and played the Saints close in their past three games. And with Ronnie Brown likely out for Thursday's game with Miami, they could get back to .500 after starting 0-3. That should tell you how important the season's first three games are (I'm looking at you, 49ers and Jets fans).

18(19). Miami Dolphins (4-5): Miami was really close to being Josh Freeman's second victim in as many weeks, but put together a late drive to set up a game-winning field goal. This team is well-coached and seems to get the most out of what they have. One of the best offensive lines in football will need to open up holes for Ricky Williams this week, assuming Ronnie Brown doesn't play.

19(22). Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4): They're not as good as their record states, as beating the Jets in their current state is not particularly impressive. But 5-4 is 5-4, and Maurice Jones-Drew continues to handle the full load well.

20(21). San Francisco 49ers (4-5): Beating the Bears 10-6 really is no accomplishment. Neither is picking off Jay Cutler five times. So much for the early-season hype machine.

21(16). New York Jets (4-5): Speaking of the early-season hype machine...this week's loss sapped any confidence I had left in this team and their playoff hopes. Tied for 27th in the league with 16 sacks and 22nd with 7 interceptions, this defense has failed to live up to their own lofty expectations. Maybe next year?

22(17). Chicago Bears (4-5): It's hard to tell whether Cutler makes more big plays or more mistakes. I'm sure he misses that Denver offensive line, as well as Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. I wonder if he wishes he was still with the 6-3 Broncos right now. That new contract extension may ease his pain, though.

23(24). Tennessee Titans (3-6): I'm tempted to jump them even further, but let's see how Vince Young plays in the Monday Night spotlight. His passing yards have risen from 125 to 172 to 210 in his three starts, and it helps having the league's only 1,000-yard back in Chris Johnson in your backfield. This game should be good.

24(29). Washington Redskins (3-6): I'm shocked they beat Denver. Shocked. Ladell Betts ran for a team season-high 114 yards, as Clinton Portis had topped that mark just once all year. Is it blasphemous to say this team might be better with Betts in the backfield?

25(23). Seattle Seahawks (3-6): Matt Hasselbeck might be the only thing I like about this team, and he's a sitting duck in the pocket in most games. If this team could protect him, they'd have a chance in most game.

26(25). Buffalo Bills (3-6): Trent Edwards returned this week, not that it mattered. He was pulled after throwing a pick-six in the fourth quarter for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw a pick-six of his own. And if you chose Week 11 in your "when will Dick Jauron be fired?" survivor pool, you win!

27(28). Kansas City Chiefs (2-7): Jamaal Charles gave K.C. their first 100-yard rusher of the season and the Chiefs rolled the Raiders. I asked if anybody cared last week and the 16-10 score confirms that, in fact, nobody did.

28(26). Oakland Raiders (2-7): JaMarcus Russell may finally be benched in favor of Bruce Gradkowski. It's about time, since he has completed less than half of his passes in four of his nine games this season. But Gradkowski is far from the answer.

29(30). Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8): Josh Freeman had Tampa on the verge of their second straight win before a late Miami drive led to a game-winning field goal. This offense has shown life with Freeman at the helm, scoring 61 points in their last two games.

30(27). Detroit Lions (1-8): The Lions were slowly dominated this week by the Vikings and they have found many different ways to lose this season. Another high pick and a successful draft will go a long way to helping them compete sooner rather than later.

31(31). St. Louis Rams (1-8): The Rams lost to the Saints by just five. And since I'm keeping things positive, that's all I'll say.

32(32). Cleveland Browns (1-8): There's nothing positive to say here. If you saw where Brady Quinn's deep balls landed towards the end of the game, you know why.

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