Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tripodi's Top Teams: Week 6

Now that the final undefeated team has dropped, it's team to unveil some power rankings. Let's just say the top is very AFC-heavy.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) - One of eight one-loss teams remaining and they have been scraping by at quarterback without Ben Roethlisberger. With one of the league's best running games and defenses, the Steelers are looking like an early favorite to make the Super Bowl after starting the season over 20:1 against in Vegas.

2. Baltimore Ravens (4-1) - Baltimore beat Pittsburgh in Week 4, but with Big Ben that game likely turns out differently. The Ravens follow a similar blueprint to the Steelers, but Roethlisberger makes the difference over Joe Flacco here.

3. New York Jets (4-1) - Another situation of "I think the game turns out differently if played today." If the Jets hadn't been so scared to unleash Mark Sanchez in Week 1, they probably beat the Ravens and sit as the NFL's lone undefeated team. That didn't happen, but this team also plays great defense and pounds the run and with the multitude of weapons now at Sanchez's disposal, they're not going away anytime soon.

4. Atlanta Falcons (4-1) - This team was at the top of my first rankings of last season, so you know I like them. Matt Ryan is taking the step forward many expected last season and Atlanta looks like the early favorite in the NFC South.

5. New England Patriots (3-1) - I thought the Dolphins would be better than the Pats this season, but if Patrick Chung and the other young players on this defense continue to make big plays, New England will have enough on that side of the ball to support Tom Brady and the offense even without Randy Moss.

6. Indianapolis Colts (3-2) - Is the Colts defense good or is the Chiefs passing game that bad? If this team starts winning with defense watch out, but I don't see them facing a quarterback as inept as Matt Cassel seems to be every week.

7. New Orleans Saints (3-2) - Yes, the Saints three wins have come against teams with just one win combined. But this team has been hurt by injuries and bad luck, not surprising considering their magical run last season. Once Pierre Thomas and eventually Reggie Bush return from injury, this offense should start to move like it used to once again but until then, they may struggle.

8. Chicago Bears (4-1) - They are only ahead of Green Bay because the Packers now have two stars out for the season and a banged-up quarterback. But they do have a good defense and if Jay Cutler continues to protect the football, you're looking at the NFC North champion by season's end.

9. Green Bay Packers (3-2) - It's hard to leave them too far behind the Bears but without Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley for the remainder of the season, it's going to be real difficult for the Pack to overtake Chicago. They're still a playoff team but with no running game and their best receiver gone, those Super Bowl hopes seem unattainable.

10. New York Giants (3-2) - This team has looked awesome in their past two games against contending teams. The Giants knocked Jay Cutler out with a vicious pass rush and shut down the league's top rusher in Arian Foster on Sunday, as well as bottling up the Texans passing game. With playmakers on offensive like Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants can go a long way if that defense stays hot.

11. Washington Redskins (3-2) - Clinton Portis' ineffectiveness and injuries hurt this team, because Ryan Torain just isn't on the same level as a healthy Portis (which it seems like we haven't seen in ages). But Donovan McNabb is simply a winner and he will continue to do so with a good defense behind him. This team lacks the offensive weapons I see in New York.

12. Kansas City Chiefs (3-1) - I was high on the Chiefs heading into this season as a sleeper to win the AFC West and nothing has changed my opinion on that. The Chargers are poorly coached (just look at their special teams) and the Broncos and Raiders just aren't good. The Chiefs can play defense and have two good running backs, but unless Matt Cassel steps up and Dwayne Bowe finds some stick-um this team will suffer an early playoff exit.

13. Miami Dolphins (2-2) - I still think this is a good football team but they aren't on the level of the Jets or Patriots yet, which is obvious when you lose to both at home. It will be tough for this team to snag a Wild Card in the AFC with two teams likely to make it from both the East and the North, so unless they can overtake the Jets or the Pats this team will probably end up on the outside looking in.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) - This team has two good quarterbacks (well, one REALLY good one) and one of the league's best young running backs. But their holes on defense will catch up to them and keep them behind the Giants and Redskins for now. But when Michael Vick gets back behind center, anything is possible. As the Colts have shown, a great quarterback can cover up an overall below-average team.

15. Tennessee Titans (3-2) - As Chris Johnson goes, so do the Titans. But it doesn't have to stay that way if Vince Young can continue to take steps forward in his development. Kenny Britt is talented enough to give him a great number-one option and while the defense is questionable at times, they put loads of pressure on opposing quarterbacks and will take advantage of the league's less-experienced quarterbacks.

16. Houston Texans (3-2) - I debated which AFC South team to put higher and while I think Houston's offense is significantly better, Tennessee can hang their defensive hat on a great pass rush. What do the Texans have to brag about defensively? Maybe Brian Cushing's return will help, but I also question whether Matt Schaub can take the next step from fantasy stardom to real-life stardom this season.

Bottom feeders to come soon...maybe.

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