Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tripodi's Top Teams: Week 17

1(1). New England Patriots (13-2) - The Pats blew out the Bills and that's that. I do nothing but hate on their defense but they've allowed just 64 points in the last five games and 7 or less in three of the five. And their +174 point differential leads the NFL. They're definitely the Super Bowl favorite right now.

2(3). Baltimore Ravens (11-4) - It seems weird to put a team that's likely to make the playoffs as a Wild Card this high, but I think Baltimore is a better team than Pittsburgh and the rest of the AFC contenders. They're probably the team with the best chance to unseat the Pats, as they can play defense and at least keep up offensively. Nobody else in the AFC can.

3(5). New Orleans Saints (11-4) - Despite a couple bad interceptions from Drew Brees, the Saints still managed to go into Atlanta and beat the Falcons. And that gets them a week in front of their division rival, even if they're the second team in my top three that's likely to be a Wild Card.

4(2). Atlanta Falcons (12-3) - It seems harsh to drop Matt Ryan and company two spots after a home loss to a very good Saints team, but Atlanta has beaten just four teams with winning records and their major strength, their ability to win at home, is now in doubt. This team can be beat even with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and that alone is enough reason for a slight drop. I can't see them losing to the Panthers though.

5(7). Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) - Carolina is terrible, but the Steelers did what they had to and blew them out. Cleveland is all that stands between them, the AFC North title and a first-round bye and with a beat-up Peyton Hillis going up against the league's most feared run defense, I think the Steelers will get their week off.

6(8). Chicago Bears (11-4) - The Bears reach their highest point of the season in the rankings after beating the Jets and if Jay Cutler can continue to rack up the points like he did, this team may be more of a threat to the NFC's top contenders than anybody has given them credit for this season. Beating the Packers would get this team to the playoffs riding high.

7(4). Philadelphia Eagles (10-5) - If not for the best eight minutes of football anybody has seen in recent memory, this team could be 9-6 and out of control of their own destiny, much like the Giants. Instead, they have the NFC East locked up. Vick's presence always gives this team a chance but when he's human like he has been in 112 of the team's last 120 minutes, the Eagles lack the defense and running game to seriously compete with the big boys.

8(6). New York Jets (10-5) - The Jets showed they could put up points on a good defense, which is a positive to take from a close loss. But if they can't go into Chicago and beat the Bears, how are they going to go into New England in round two (possibly) and beat the Pats. This team better hope to avoid Tom Brady if it wants to see another AFC Championship game.

9(10). Green Bay Packers (9-6) - The Packers control their own destiny, but this week's game with the Bears will be far from easy. Even with the Eagles' loss last night clinching a first-round bye for the Bears, they can still grab the NFC's top seed and home-field advantage if Atlanta loses at 1 p.m. (this game is at 4:15 p.m.). The Packers should really be rooting for Atlanta to kill the Bears' incentive.

10(12). Kansas City Chiefs (10-5) - The Chiefs crack the top 10 in my rankings for the first time this season after clinching the AFC West. Kansas City's only wins against teams over .500 this season were against the Chargers and Jags and they haven't played anybody with more than nine wins so far. The Jets will be their biggest test to date and it's tough to figure out how they may respond, even with an undefeated record at home.

11(13). Indianapolis Colts (9-6) - All Indianapolis has to do to make the playoffs is beat a reeling Titans team at home. Peyton Manning is not one to let an opportunity like that slip away.

12(9). New York Giants (9-6) - If the Giants knew how to keep the football on offense they could be a top-five team. But Eli Manning continues to make bad decisions and Ahmad Bradshaw continues to fumble (no I didn't forget about your miscue, Brandon Jacobs). If the Giants don't turn it over they should beat Washington and if Chicago can hold off Green Bay, this team could limp into the playoffs.

13(15). Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6) - The Bucs need a lot of help to make the playoffs, namely a win over New Orleans (who can still clinch the NFC's top seed), a Giants loss and a Packers loss (or ties for those who actually account for that rarity). Too bad I'm predicting a Bucs loss, a Giants win and a Packers win. There's always next year, when Josh Freeman should be even better.

14(11). San Diego Chargers (8-7) - The Chargers, as usual, are nothing but a tease. A team worthy of making the playoffs would've gone into Cincinnati and blown out a team missing its top two receivers. It's painstakingly obvious that this team didn't deserve to get in.

15(14). Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7) - Without David Garrard this week, Jacksonville's hopes rest on the arm of Trent Edwards and the hope that Tennessee can upset the Colts. Talk about your slim chances.

16(19). St Louis Rams (7-8) - The four teams above them in the rankings are likely out, but the Rams can get in with 8 wins. Life is unfair sometimes and if Charlie Whitehurst is under center for the Seahawks on Sunday night, it will feel unfair for Seattle fans. Sam Bradford looks likely to make it three straight seasons in which a rookie quarterback has led his team to the playoffs. Good luck winning a game though.

17(16). Oakland Raiders (7-8) - At least the Raiders aren't a total disaster! Jacoby Ford is a playmaker week in and week out and once this team finds a franchise quarterback, they may compete in the AFC West. JaMarcus Russell has seriously set this franchise back.

18(17). Miami Dolphins (7-8) - Chad Henne's chokejob pretty much assures me that this team will be looking to take a quarterback in the first round. Whoever they draft will have a decent stable of receivers to throw to and a solid defense. But what has happened to this team's running game?

19(NR). Minnesota Vikings (6-9)
- Minnesota shocked the world beating the Eagles on Tuesday night and while Joe Webb may not be the answer for them at quarterback, he's one heck of an athlete and looks like a potential playmaker if they move him to receiver. This is another team that will take a serious look at guys like Ryan Mallett, Jake Locker and Cam Newton in the middle of round one.

20(NR). Washington Redskins (6-9) - The Redskins have shown signs of life under Rex Grossman and Donovan McNabb is all but cut in the offseason. The team claims to want him back as a backup, but not at the price they just signed him for. And I highly doubt McNabb wants to be in Washington after the past few weeks. This is the third straight team in my rankings that will be taking a hard look at the triumvirate of mid-first round quarterbacks.

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