Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tripodi's Top Teams: Week 9

1(1). New Orleans Saints (7-0): The Saints got by the Falcons despite a late rally and now they get Carolina, St. Louis and Tampa Bay, three teams with a combined four wins this season. They are playing way too well right now to lose focus enough to drop any of those three games, but New England on Monday night in Week 12 should be an epic showdown.

2(2). Indianapolis Colts (7-0): The Colts struggled to cover an inflated spread against a good 49ers team, but they pulled out a win nonetheless. Reggie Wayne had 12 catches and was targeted on 20 out of Peyton Manning's 48 throws. Manning-to-Wayne is the most impressive connection in football right now.

3(4). Minnesota Vikings (7-1): Brett Favre has shown no signs of slowing down halfway through this season, and there are plenty of quarterbacks who could work well with the weapons he has at his disposal. And anytime you give that man extra motivation like he had in his first visit to Green Bay as an opponent on Sunday, it's lights out.

4(3). Denver Broncos (6-1): They had to lose eventually, and Baltimore is a good team who needed a win to resurrect their season. Denver is not a come-from-behind team with Kyle Orton at the helm, so falling as far behind as they did spelled doom for their unblemished record.

5(5). New England Patriots (5-2): Tom Brady and company come off a bye to play the Dolphins, who needed to score on two kickoff returns and a fumble recovery to beat the Jets. I don't see this one being very close.

6(6). Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2): The Steelers travel to Denver for a Monday night matchup with the Broncos. If they can jump out to an early lead and force Orton to beat them, Troy Polamalu and that defense might leave Denver after handing the Broncos their second straight loss.

7(7). Cincinnati Bengals (5-2): This week's game against Baltimore is a big one in the AFC North race. The strongest division in football thus far has three teams in my top 10 and the way things are looking, could send all three to the playoffs. But if Cincinnati knocks the Ravens down to 4-4, that scenario looks a little less likely.

8(9). Dallas Cowboys (5-2): The Dallas passing game looks great with Miles Austin at the top of the depth chart and they have a stable of running backs to stay balanced. Throw in a defense that has seven sacks and five takeaways in two games since their bye, and they are looking stronger than both Philly and the Giants.

9(11). Baltimore Ravens (4-3): The Ravens might have saved their season with a big win against Denver on Sunday. They need to build on that momentum to beat the Bengals this week and split the season series.

10(12). Philadelphia Eagles (5-2): Philly made the Giants look silly. The Eagles jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. It seems like DeSean Jackson makes a huge play every week, doesn't it? He's unstoppable right now.

11(10). Atlanta Falcons (4-3): Atlanta stayed with the Saints nicely, but in the end New Orleans was just too much. Games against Washington and Carolina should help the Falcons rebound.

12(8). New York Giants (5-3): That loss to Arizona looks even worse after this weekend, and the Eagles are not one of the league's top teams either. This team has holes and Steve Smith has just 19 catches for 251 yards and no scores in his last four games, a far cry from the 34 catches, 411 yards and four touchdowns he had in the season's first four games. Maybe they do miss Plaxico Burress after all?

13(16). Houston Texans (5-3): Ryan Moats had a fourth quarter to remember with three touchdowns to help the Texans run away from the Bills, who show absolutely no life on offense. But this team needs Steve Slaton at his best to reach their full potential, and it looks like his off-season weight gain has done more harm than help.

14(13). New York Jets (4-4): Same old Jets. They dominant on defense, move the ball on offense and still find a way to lose. Their normally-reliable special teams let them down big time, but with four of their next five coming against the NFL's worst, this team can still make some noise if Mark Sanchez continues to improve.

15(18). Chicago Bears (4-3): Don't let the 30-6 score fool you, Chicago struggled to punch it in the endzone early against the Browns, who might be worse on defense than they are on offense. That's saying something but this is what it tells me about the Bears: They're not serious contenders.

16(19). San Diego Chargers (4-3): The Chargers wins have come against teams that are a combined 6-16. Their losses against teams a combined 15-6. Beating bad teams and losing to good teams is the definition of average.

17(15). Green Bay Packers (4-3): Aaron Rodgers continues to show that it wasn't the wrong move to give him the starting job when Brett Favre retired for the first time. The Vikings are just a better all-around football team. Once Green Bay can surround Rodgers with an offensive line and a defense, they can compete. Until then, they're just another average football team.

18(14). Arizona Cardinals (4-3): Wow. After a five-interception day, Kurt Warner now has 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions so far this season. That loss proved what I thought about the Cardinals before they beat the overrated Giants. They are more the 9-7 team we saw in the 2008 season than the NFC championship team we saw in the playoffs. I still think the 49ers win the NFC West.

19(17). San Francisco 49ers (3-4): San Francisco played with the Colts from start to finish and Alex Smith took care of the football and showed why Mike Singletary made him the long-term starter. This team's ceiling is much higher with him at the helm and with just a one-game deficit in the league's worst division, they still have a very realistic shot at the playoffs.

20(20). Miami Dolphins (3-4): Miami barely had 100 total yards of offense and allowed the Jets to march down the field with ease on Sunday, but Ted Ginn's record-setting return day and a Shonn Greene fumble gave the Dolphins an undeserved victory. But in this league, you take what you can get.

21(24). Carolina Panthers (3-4): Jake Delhomme attempted just 14 passes on Sunday as the Panthers raced to a 21-point lead midway through the second quarter. That is their blueprint for success, as DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 40 carries for 245 yards and the secondary picked off Kurt Warner a whopping five times.

22(21). Seattle Seahawks (2-5): This is where these rankings start to bore me. That's all I can say about the Seahawks.

23(22). Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4): I was wrong to say the Jags would beat the Titans. Vince Young had just three incompletions all game and Chris Johnson had his second ridiculous game of the season. Maurice Jones-Drew's eight-carry, 177-yard performance was wasted, as Jacksonville was playing from behind all day.

24(23). Buffalo Bills (3-5): The Bills stayed in the game as long as they could, but this is not a 60-minute outfit. Terrell Owens had his best game of the season with just five catches for 39 yards and a 29-yard touchdown run. Sad.

25(25). Oakland Raiders (2-6): The Raiders need to give up on JaMarcus Russell because this offense just can't move the football. Too bad they have nobody else (maybe they shouldn't have cut Jeff Garcia).

26(29). Tennessee Titans (1-6): The gameplan was conservative, but Vince Young looked alright in his first start since last season's opener. He will have to make plays down the field eventually, but getting a win under his belt is a good sign.

27(26). Detroit Lions (1-6): Without Calvin Johnson, the Lions let the best player on the field beat them. Steven Jackson had 149 yards and a touchdown and a second-quarter fake field goal was the Rams' only other score. Matthew Stafford was just 14-33 without his top target.

28(27). Kansas City Chiefs (1-6): Their next two are winnable against Jacksonville and Oakland. Needless to say, nobody should be watching either game.

29(28). Washington Redskins (2-5): Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia, New Orleans. Those are the Redskins next five games. Good luck winning even one.

30(32). St. Louis Rams (1-7): The Rams beat the team whose losing streak they were chasing down oh-so-desperately. Steven Jackson looked great, but that's about the only positive thing I have to say. If you can't say something nice...

31(30). Cleveland Browns (1-7): George Kokinis is out as general manager after another pathetic showing. Is Eric Mangini next? He has regressed as a coach ever since his first season with the Jets.

32(31). Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7): With one of the league's worst quarterback situations, the Bucs turn to Josh Freeman against the Packers, who have the league's highest-rated signal caller. The battle of the Bays probably won't be very competitive.

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