Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tripodi's Top Teams: Week 11

1(5). Atlanta Falcons (7-2) - If football was played in 59-minute games instead of 60, the Ravens would be this week's top team. In the end, that shows how little these rankings actually mean. But the Falcons get the nod this week over the other 7-2 teams and represent the NFC at the top for the first time this season.

2(4). New York Jets (7-2) - ESPN has the Pats above the Jets but last I checked, the Jets beat New England head-to-head and beat Cleveland last week, the same Browns team that steamrolled the Pats just one week before. The Jets have been fortunate but they've also taken advantage of the opportunities teams have given them. And Mark Sanchez has been great over the last two weeks.

3(6). New England Patriots (7-2) - This team is inconsistent, particularly on defense, and it may be because they started four rookies on that side of the ball this week. Peyton Manning usually has field days with young defenses so this week's matchup with the Colts should be a good test. Put together two solid wins against top-10 teams and you will see the Pats higher on next week's list.

4(2). Baltimore Ravens (6-3) - Can't drop a team too far for losing a nail-biter against this week's top squad. Losing to Carolina, on the other hand, would definitely mean a drastic fall. Don't expect it.

5(1). Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) - Pittsburgh struggled on offense until they were down big and Ben Roethlisberger tried to bring them back. They struggled on defense too, especially against the pass, and they will have to get things together for Oakland this week. If they sleep on the Raiders they might regret it come next week.

6(3). New York Giants (6-3) - They still get the nod as the NFC East's top team, but losing like that to a Dallas team that was asking to be buried is not the way to prove you're "the best team in the NFL," which is what I heard Giants fans claiming all last week. Good luck stopping Michael Vick this week; the Giants could very easily go from NFC's top team to Wild Card hopeful in just two weeks.

7(7). New Orleans Saints (6-3) - The Saints should get Reggie Bush back this week from a broken leg and with upcoming games against Seattle, Dallas, Cincinnati and St. Louis, we could soon be talking about them as the NFC's best. Especially the way their defense was playing before the bye.

8(11). Philadelphia Eagles (6-3) - Michael Vick is an absolute monster. Fifteen touchdowns this season without an interception is just unreal, especially considering the degree of difficulty on some of these plays. He's extending plays with his mobility rather than relying on it to escape and if he keeps this up, there's no doubt in my mind he's the NFL MVP. How's that for a reclamation project?

9(9). Green Bay Packers (6-3) - What happened to AFC dominance? Maybe in the top five but the fifth NFC team hits the rankings before the fifth AFC team and Green Bay has a shutout victory to their name over the AFC's top-ranked team this week. No Ryan Grant, no Jermichael Finley, no problem apparently. With a mean defense and a great QB, this team isn't going away.

10(8). Indianapolis Colts (6-3) - From one MVP to another, Peyton Manning struggled to find his receivers last week against the Bengals and no matter how well Jacob Tamme plays, he will continue to miss Dallas Clark. But he won't face corners like Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph every week; let's see how he bounces back against an inexperienced Pats secondary before pressing the panic button.

11(12). Miami Dolphins (5-4) - Tyler Thigpen will start tonight at quarterback with both Chads likely done for the season. Thigpen was serviceable at the end of the 2008 season with Kansas City but even with a repeat, this looks like a team destined to miss the playoffs unless the Jets, Pats, Ravens or Steelers slip up.

12(10). Tennessee Titans (5-4) - Randy Moss didn't do much in his debut against Miami, explaining why Tennessee drops below the Dolphins this week. Tennessee is a solid team but they sit in the same boat as Miami; hoping one of the AFC East or North contenders slips up is their only chance at the playoffs unless they catch the Colts, a definite possibility.

13(13). Oakland Raiders (5-4) - Unlike the Dolphins and Titans above them, the Raiders can win their division with 9-10 wins. But with a tough upcoming schedule including Pittsburgh, Miami, San Diego and Jacksonville, Oakland will have to do it against real football teams. Let's just say I'm still on the San Diego bandwagon.

14(16). Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) - The Bucs disposed of Carolina like they should have and now hit the road for games at San Francisco and Baltimore before heading back home to host Atlanta. Is this the stretch of games that sends Tampa's record back around .500?

15(15). San Diego Chargers (4-5) - The Chargers do this every year don't they? They make us think we overrated them at the start of the season, some people write them off, and then they come storming back halfway through the season. It only works when your division is terrible, which the AFC West has been over the past few years. By season's end I think it will be Philip Rivers and Michael Vick fighting over the MVP award.

16(18). Chicago Bears (6-3) - They lead their division on the strength of their Week 3 win against what looked like a fading Packers team, but things have changed. The Bears are just 3-3 since that win while Green Bay is in the top 10? It's just hard to get behind a team that struggles to protect its turnover-prone quarterback. With Miami and Philadelphia on tap, we'll see what the second-half Bears are made of.

17(14). Kansas City Chiefs (5-4) - I said Denver didn't qualify as decent and if they don't, what do the Chiefs qualify as? This game was over early; when a running football team falls behind like that, it's a wrap. A bounceback should be in store against the Cardinals, but a 1-2 division record will make it tough for this team to take the West.

18(NR). Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4) - The Jags got lucky to win in regulation but are trending upwards while the Texans (and the Chiefs above) are trending downwards. But the 42-20 drubbing in Kansas City three weeks ago keeps Jacksonville below the Chiefs for now. That and a remaining schedule that includes just three teams under .500 doesn't bode well for the Jags moving any higher up these rankings.

19(NR). Seattle Seahawks (5-4) - This team is really only competitive because of Matt Hasselbeck. That and the putrid mess that is the NFC West, where no team has a positive point differential. A trip to New Orleans should knock Seattle right back outside the top 20, where everybody in the division belongs anyway.

20(17). Houston Texans (4-5) - This team is lucky to hang on to a spot in the rankings and now they face the Jets, Eagles, Ravens and Titans (twice) in their next five weeks. That makes it hard to envision a move up anytime soon and might result in a team that once hovered around the top 10 dropping out of the ranks completely.

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