Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tripodi's Top Teams: Week 9

1(3). New England Patriots (6-1) - They haven't beaten great teams in the past 2 weeks (San Diego and Minnesota don't even crack my top 20) but they sit as the lone one-loss team in the NFL, which gets them a week atop the rankings. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady won't let this team overlook Cleveland before a Week 10 date with the Steelers.

2(1). Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) - It's hard to drop the Steelers too far after losing to the reigning Super Bowl champs in their home stadium. I have less confidence in them not to overlook the Bengals with the top-ranked Pats coming into town in Week 10 than I do in the Pats doing the same with the Browns. If all goes right this weekend, that epic matchup will determine Week 11's top team.

3(5). Indianapolis Colts (5-2) - You know the expression "we don't rebuild, we reload?" Well the Colts could lose every offensive player not named Manning, throw somebody else in and have success. No Dallas Clark, no Austin Collie, no problem. Manning makes those guys what they are anyway, so he just makes their replacements useful as well. Right, Jacob Tamme?

4(4). Baltimore Ravens (5-2) - The Bills took the Ravens to OT two weeks ago and while Baltimore still got the W, allowing 34 points against Buffalo raises some questions. This team is good offensively, but they aren't good enough to push for a Super Bowl if their defense is shaky.

5(2). New York Jets (5-2) - Green Bay isn't a bad team, especially defensively, but getting shutout at home is just embarrassing. The Jets have now thrown up two stinkers on offense, both coming when they had more than a week to prepare. It's a good thing this team looks like a longshot for a first-round bye; they may have to worry about just making the playoffs in a very competitive AFC.

6(8). New York Giants (5-2) - The Giants and Falcons were both 1-0 in the past 2 weeks, but New York jumps Atlanta in the rankings? Both teams have good quarterbacks, excellent running games and a superstar wide receiver but the difference here is defense; the Giants may have allowed 35 points to Dallas but they are still top 10 in both pass defense and run defense. Perry Fewell has done wonders to bring this defense back to prominence.

7(6). Atlanta Falcons (5-2) - I'm still worried about this team defensively since they allowed 29 second-half points to Cincinnati and let the Bengals crawl back into the game through the air. Their 27th-ranked pass defense will need to improve if they expect to challenge the Giants and even the Saints for NFC supremacy.

8(7). New Orleans Saints (5-3) - After a terrible loss to the Browns, the Saints came out with a spirited defensive performance to knock the Steelers out of the top spot. Drew Brees took care of the football and the Saints defense stepped up. Whenever Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush are ready to return, this team could become extremely dangerous again.

9(10). Miami Dolphins (4-3) - If it weren't for a controversial call at the goalline, Miami would be 5-2 with a win over Week 7's top-ranked team. Instead, they sit a spot behind the team that actually did beat the Steelers.

10(11). Tennessee Titans (5-3) - Heading into their bye, the Titans have some work to do on defense on their way to Miami, a game that will have important Wild Card implications for both teams.

11(14). Green Bay Packers (5-3) - I said the Packers could be 3-6 after next week and they've done the complete opposite. They squeaked by a disaster of a Vikings team and while the Jets were able to completely shut down Green Bay's offense, the Packers defense didn't let New York get on the scoreboard. With a matchup against another disaster of a team in Dallas, the Packers should be 6-3 heading into their bye. Talk about a resilient team.

12(16). Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) - The Chiefs are 5-0 against teams outside the top 20 of these rankings. They are 0-2 against teams in the top 20 (Indianapolis, Houston). Outside of Oakland this week and Tennessee in Week 16, they don't have any games against a top-20 team the rest of the way. Looks like 12-4 is a realistic possibility; too bad that will all come crashing down in the first round of the playoffs.

13(9). Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) - Michael Vick's return could catapult this team back into the top 10 within a few weeks, but that loss to Tennessee definitely hurt their short-term stock. Spots 9-14 this week are pretty interchangeable.

14(12). Houston Texans (4-3) - Losing to the Colts on the road is nothing to be ashamed of, but the Texans had a chance to beat the Colts in Indy and sweep the season series; both would've been franchise firsts. But in typical Texans fashion, they couldn't win that game to put themselves over the top. Until that changes, Houston will forever be another explosive, average team.

15(19). Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2) - The NFC's version of the Chiefs, they've beaten one team with more than 3 wins and that was the rookie-led Rams. You have to beat somebody before I believe in your 5-2 record and your coach's claim that you're "the best team in the NFC." The Bucs will have that chance going into Atlanta this week, but I don't see it happening.

16(15). Washington Redskins (4-4) - It has to be bad when you're benching your starting quarterback (or any quarterback, ever) for Rex Grossman. Their bye comes at a perfect time to allow Donovan McNabb to rest whatever is ailing the old man and get their backfield healthy; if Ryan Torain can't go in Week 10, we'll see a lot of Keiland Williams (and a lot of Eagles in the backfield).

17(13). Chicago Bears (4-3) - If the Bears could only protect Jay Cutler, which they can't, this team could challenge Green Bay in the North. As it is, it looks like nobody will. This team definitely teased us with their 4-1 start.

18(NR). Oakland Raiders (4-4) - Dare I say the Raiders look good? A win over Kansas City this week will bring Oakland within a half-game of the division lead and this team sure can run the football. If they could only stop the run they might be a legitimate contender, but those struggles are a recipe for disaster against the ground-pounding Chiefs.

19(NR). St. Louis Rams (4-4) - Two years ago, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco led their teams to the playoffs as rookies. Last year, it was Mark Sanchez. Sam Bradford will try to extend the streak of rookie quarterbacks in the playoffs to three seasons and with the state of the NFC West, a great running back and an improved defense, I like his chances.

20(18). Seattle Seahawks (4-3)
- Oakland's defense is decent, but 3 points?!? And Seattle is supposed to be good defensively against the run
, but they allowed Darren McFadden to run all over them, although they aren't the first defense to do that this year. The NFC West looks like it could be won by a rookie.

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