Friday, December 11, 2009

Tripodi's Top Teams: Week 13

1(1). New Orleans Saints (12-0): Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. But you still need both, and the Saints took advantage of the Redskins' miscues to stay undefeated. Robert Meachem continues to impress, with 21 receptions and 6 touchdowns in his last five games. For a team with so many offensive weapons, Drew Brees sure likes to look Meachem's way down the field and in the red zone.

2(2). Indianapolis Colts (12-0): The Colts are two wins away (and possibly even one) from wrapping up home-field in the AFC. Peyton Manning continues his MVP-type season, but this week's matchup with Denver's second-ranked pass defense could be a challenge for the Colts. That game should be one of the finest this weekend.

3(3). Minnesota Vikings (10-2): Brett Favre was bound to make some mistakes sooner or later, but give the Cardinals defense some credit. They shut down the running game, pressured Favre and allowed the ballhawks in their secondary to make plays. Minnesota will need to get back on track quickly for their date with the Bengals.

4(4). Cincinnati Bengals (9-3): The Bengals haven't exactly impressed in their last four games, despite going 3-1 in that stretch. They beat a fading Steelers team by six, lost to the Raiders and beat the Browns and Lions by a combined 19 points. Cedric Benson has run well against strong defenses all season, and they will need him to continue that against the Vikings.

5(6). San Diego Chargers (9-3): The Chargers barely snuck by Cleveland as well, as the Browns seem to actually be putting things together. San Diego will look to stay undefeated in recent Decembers (15-0) against the team that has been bashed for their late-season struggles this decade. Hard to go against Philip Rivers in this one.

6(5). Dallas Cowboys (8-4): Sorry 'Boys, but it's that time of year again. Tony Romo played well last week, but for some reason Dallas feels like throwing the football 70 percent of the time. They can't ignore Marion Barber and Felix Jones this week as the Chargers have the league's eighth-ranked pass defense, but are just 21st against the run.

7(8). Arizona Cardinals (8-4): Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals defense steamrolled the Vikings in primetime, proving that they will not be the team to continue the trend that both Super Bowl teams don't make the playoffs the next season. With another prime-time win against the 49ers on Monday night, Arizona will essentially clinch the division with nine wins, just as many as it took to win last year's NFC West.

8(9). Denver Broncos (8-4): The Broncos dismantled the Chiefs and recent history last week, but going from playing the Chiefs to the Colts is like going from Khloe Kardashian to Kim. If Denver can run the ball against Indianapolis' 18th-ranked rushing defense and control the clock, they have a shot.

9(10). Green Bay Packers (8-4): The Pack won an ugly Monday nighter with the Ravens, but wins are wins and that defense had Joe Flacco confused all night. I'd like to see them run the ball better, but Aaron Rodgers more than makes up for an ineffective running game most weeks.

10(11). Philadelphia Eagles (8-4): The Eagles beat up on a gimpy Falcons squad and the second half became the Michael Vick homecoming show. Thanks Andy Reid and for that, here's a three-year extension. Just don't lose to the Giants this week and make a division title an uphill climb.

11(7). New England Patriots (7-5): Tom Brady may be almost all the way back, but this team is not. Richard Seymour's departure has left a void in that young defense, and they run the ball simply because they can't throw on every play. With the Dolphins and Jets hot on their heels, New England needs to wake up fast.

12(15). New York Giants (7-5): It's put up or shut up time in New York. They took care of Dallas last week and if they can beat the Eagles this weekend (and Dallas loses to San Diego, which I expect), there will be a three-way tie atop the NFC East. With a 4-1 division record, the Giants would control their own destiny thanks to tiebreakers.

13(17). Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5): No one comes to watch them, but they just go out every week and win. I'm still struggling with the notion they're a playoff squad, but they NEED to beat Miami this weekend. If they don't, they're staring at 7-7 after a date with the Colts.

14(13). Baltimore Ravens (6-6): They may be 3-6 in their last nine games, but this team still tantalizes you with their potential. But as the season wears on, it becomes apparent that they are still a year away. Thanks for showing up lately, Joe Flacco!

15(14). Tennessee Titans (5-7): The Titans severely dampened any hope they had at the playoffs with their loss to Indianapolis on Sunday, but they are still playing better football than the teams underneath them on this list. It's not a requirement that I rank teams based on their record, is it?

16(19). Miami Dolphins (6-6): People forget this team won the AFC East last season. They are a physical, well-coached football team that will shove the run down your throat, but they will need to throw to beat the Jaguars and their 23rd-ranked pass defense. Chad Henne and Davone Bess need to have another big day, as Henne really has nobody else reliable to throw to.

17(21). New York Jets (6-6): No Sanchez, no problem? The Bucs are slightly dangerous with Josh Freeman at quarterback, but the Jets defense will pressure him into mistakes all day. Since an impressive debut against Green Bay, Freeman has just 4 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in his last four games. If Kellen Clemens takes care of the football, the Jets should win easily.

18(16). Atlanta Falcons (6-6): Matt Ryan and Michael Turner look like they will miss yet another week, and without them Atlanta has no shot to knock the Saints from the ranks of the unbeaten. Sorry, Chris Redman and Jerious Norwood.

19(12). Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7): This is the Pittsburgh team I saw early in the season, when I claimed the Steelers were overrated. They made me look bad by running off four straight wins, but after losing to Cleveland for their fifth consecutive defeat, this team has proven me right once again. Say goodbye to a chance at a repeat and hello to offensive line improvements? Allowing 8 sacks to the Browns is just sad.

20(18). Houston Texans (5-7): The Texans continue to be the biggest tease in the NFL. Their offense has the potential to be unstoppable, but is still plagued by inconsistency. Houston needs to start building inside-out if they want to compete with the big boys.

21(20). San Francisco 49ers (5-7): A win against the Cardinals could temporarily save their season, but I don't see the spread offense working particularly well against an aggressive Arizona defense. If Alex Smith doesn't get the ball out quickly and accurately, this game could look a lot like last week's Arizona victory.

22(22). Carolina Panthers (5-7): Matt Moore was efficient (14-20, 161 yards) and Jonathan Stewart ran wild on the Bucs. Just don't expect a similar effort from either against a Pats team that has to be angry after losing two straight.

23(23). Chicago Bears (5-7): The Bears ran twice as much as they threw against St. Louis, and Jay Cutler was just 8-17 on the day. Like Houston, the Bears should look to bolster their talent in the trenches this offseason.

24(24). Seattle Seahawks (5-7): The Seahawks snuck by San Francisco and basically guaranteed a divisional title for the Cardinals in the process. I wouldn't be surprised if they came out and buried the Texans for good this week.

25(26). Washington Redskins (3-9): They jump the Bills based on a stellar performance against the Saints, a game they would have won if the now-released Shaun Suisham could make a 23-yard field goal. The Redskins have looked good recently (without Clinton Portis) and will get a crack to hurt the playoff chances of the Giants and Cowboys after a matchup with Oakland this week.

26(28). Oakland Raiders (4-8): In his last three games, Bruce Gradkowski has thrown 6 touchdowns and just 1 interception. And he's thrown two game-winning touchdowns late, both to Louis Murphy. I'm not saying he's the answer, but he's showing everybody just how bad JaMarcus Russell is right now.

27(25). Buffalo Bills (4-8): Terrell Owens said he would consider re-signing with the Bills next season. Why, T.O., whyyyyyy?

28(27). Kansas City Chiefs (3-9): Chiefs or Bills? Bills or Chiefs? Tie?

29(32). Cleveland Browns (2-11): Josh Cribbs is just great with the ball in his hands. And Evan Moore looks like a promising pass-catcher. Too bad Brady Quinn managed just 6-19 passing, but at least he didn't turn it over to the Steelers, who needed something of the sorts to liven them up last night.

30(30). Detroit Lions (2-10)

31(29). Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-11)

32(31). St. Louis Rams (1-11)

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