Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tripodi's Top Teams: Week 12

1(1). New Orleans Saints (11-0): Games at Atlanta and home against Dallas look to be this team's only potential roadblocks to an undefeated regular season, barring a letdown against the likes of Washington, Tampa Bay and Carolina. Since they need to keep winning to keep one-loss Minnesota at bay, this team has a legitimate chance at 16-0.

2(2). Indianapolis Colts (11-0): The Colts are less likely to run the table than the Saints, as they will clinch home-field advantage with 14 wins and may sit Peyton Manning and other key regulars in the final week or two. And they could even lose this week against the white-hot Titans.

3(3). Minnesota Vikings (10-1): Brett Favre has 24 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. No, I still can't get over his unbelievable efficiency this season. This should mark the first time ever where he throws less than 13 interceptions in a full season. His best statistical season to date has surely been aided by weapons like Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and of course, Adrian Peterson.

4(4). Cincinnati Bengals (8-3): Outside of a fluky loss in the opener to Denver and an unlucky fumble that cost them against Oakland two weeks ago, the Bengals could actually be 10-1. Obviously they're not, but that tells you how good this team is. They have three good running backs, a leader at the quarterback position and a good defense. Watch out, Peyton Manning!

5(7). Dallas Cowboys (8-3): Their offense disappeared for two games until resurfacing against the Redskins. Miles Austin had just 5 catches for 67 yards in those two games. Shut him down, and Tony Romo and the Dallas offense will struggle.

6(10). San Diego Chargers (8-3): Since I scolded San Diego for being average and only beating bad teams, all they've done is win four in a row, three against the Giants, Eagles and Broncos. I'm really excited for Week 15: Bengals-Chargers.

7(6). New England Patriots (7-4): They got blasted by the Saints on Monday Night Football; that game was over in the second quarter. Good thing they get Miami, Carolina, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Houston in their last five games. 11-5 is guaranteed and 12-4 is within reach.

8(11). Arizona Cardinals (7-4): The Cards almost beat the resurgent Titans without the services of the ageless Kurt Warner. If this team could solidify their issues in the secondary, they could push for a top-five ranking.

9(9). Denver Broncos (7-4): They're not the 6-0 bunch for sure, but they're also not as bad as their last five games (1-4). They still get to play the Chiefs twice and the Raiders, but a Week 14 game with the Colts should really put this team to the test.

10(16). Green Bay Packers (7-4): With Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Arizona still left to play, I'm not sold on the Packers' playoff hopes just yet. But with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, it's hard to say too many bad things about this team's chances.

11(13). Philadelphia Eagles (7-4): Donovan McNabb should be able to find Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant against Atlanta's shaky secondary, even without the explosive DeSean Jackson. The Giants, 49ers, Broncos and Cowboys follow, and I'm still not sure the inconsistent Eagles are a playoff team after squeaking by Chicago and Washington.

12(5). Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5): Pittsburgh stays in front of Baltimore, considering they took the Ravens to overtime with third-stringer Dennis Dixon at the helm. If Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu are healthy come playoff time, this team is dangerous.

13(8). Baltimore Ravens (6-5): Another team I'm stuck on. I had them #1 at one point, so you know I like them. If they beat Detroit, Chicago and Oakland (which they should), they need to beat either Green Bay or Pittsburgh again to reach 10 wins. That should be good enough to make the playoffs in the AFC, unless another 6-5 teams runs the table. This is why I love the NFL.

14(23). Tennessee Titans (5-6): I said I was tempted to move them higher two weeks ago, and now I am. Even at 5-6, they probably have a better chance at the playoffs than any of the teams ranked below them.

15(14). New York Giants (6-5): So many enigmas in the 10-15 range, including the Giants. They host Dallas and Philadelphia and travel to Washington in a tough division stretch, not to mention a visit to the Vikings in Week 17, which may be a must-win. I think the Giants end up on the outside looking in.

16(12). Atlanta Falcons (6-5): Another team I had at the top, but this one I have less confidence in now. They're beat up at the skill positions, and their defense is nothing to write home about. 9-7 seems to be their peak, especially considering they won't beat the Saints in two weeks. This team has to be one of the season's biggest disappointments.

17(19). Jacksonville Jaguars (6-5): Outside of games with the Colts and Pats, the Jaguars have winnable games with the Texans, Dolphins and Browns. If the playoffs started today they'd be in but I'm still not a believer. I predict a slip-up against Houston or Miami, leaving this team around 8-8.

18(15). Houston Texans (5-6): The Texans proved why they aren't a legitimate contender with their collapse against the Colts, as a playoff-caliber team would've held on to that 17-0 lead (or at least not fallen behind by 15 afterwards). My bet is that no team outside the top 17 in these rankings will even sniff the playoffs.

19(18). Miami Dolphins (5-6): It's tough for any team to continue to play well after losing their best player. But without Ronnie Brown running the Wildcat, the Dolphins lose that extra weapon they had on offense. And outside of him and Ricky Williams, this team is completely devoid of weapons on that side of the football.

20(20). San Francisco 49ers (5-6): Next year looks promising, with another year under the belts of Alex Smith, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. This year...not so much.

21(21). New York Jets (5-6): If the Jets beat the Bills tonight (which they should), they have an outside chance at the playoffs. No, I'm not getting my hopes up.

22(17). Carolina Panthers (4-7): Paging Matt Moore, paging Matt Moore. Last time he started a game I bet on Dallas -14 and would've won if Terrell Owens didn't get hurt. Let's just say Carolina needs to draft a quarterback next April.

23(22). Chicago Bears (4-7): The Bears need help on defense. It's been a while since anybody could say that. And Jay Cutler needs to cut the turnovers and learn to throw under pressure, something he didn't see much of in Denver.

24(25). Seattle Seahawks (4-7): Justin Forsett struggled against Minnesota (who doesn't), but tore apart the Cardinals and Rams. And his great hands out of the backfield give Matt Hasselbeck another weapon through the air. I like the kid, and I hope that Julius Jones rides pine upon his return.

25(26). Buffalo Bills (4-7): Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson have been a spark for the Bills the last few weeks, but who knows what their future holds with the uncertain nature of Perry Fewell's job. But Buffalo may not attract a big-name coach, leaving the job in Fewell's hands?

And the rest, who don't deserve any words...

26(24). Washington Redskins (3-8)

27(27). Kansas City Chiefs (3-8)

28(28). Oakland Raiders (3-8)

29(30). Detroit Lions (2-9)

30(29). Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-10)

31(31). St. Louis Rams (1-10)

32(32). Cleveland Browns (1-10)

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