And Down the Stretch They Come
Just four weeks remain in the NFL regular season. How do the powers line up? Here are one man’s thoughts…
- Seattle Seahawks: Last night’s win cements them as the most complete and balanced team in the league. If they hold onto home field advantage, they have the easiest path of any team to the Super Bowl.
- Denver Broncos: I’m concerned about their — well, Peyton’s — ability to play well in bad weather, but they’re still the most talented team in the AFC. And even with the forces of nature against them, they lost by a mere three points to the next best team in their conference.
- Carolina Panthers: They’re for real. And get the nod over New Orleans because I think they are a more versatile team.
- New Orleans Saints: They’ve laid some eggs on the road. That is a real concern. If they can’t lock up the #2 seed, their days might be numbered.
- San Francisco 49ers: They seem to be rounding into form at the right time. They’re a less complete team than they were last year, but I think they can compete with anyone (save for Seattle on their home field).
- New England Patriots: Even though his numbers are way down, it just seems impossible to count out Tom Brady and company. But the question is whether they can pull out three consecutive wins against top competition, which is what it will take to bring up the Lombardi trophy. I don’t see it.
- Kansas City Chiefs: I was never that high on them to begin with, but am surprised that their defense has played so poorly. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them win a road game in the opening round of the playoffs, but I’m not sure they’ll go further than that.
- Philadelphia Eagles: I’m a homer, I know! But, the defense and Foles have both really been revelations. They have turned into a pretty well-rounded team and when everything is clicking, I think they are the best of this next bunch of teams. I will temper my criticism of Kelly somewhat, but still can’t stand his play calling/game planning when holding a late lead.
- Detroit Lions: They’re never out of it when Megatron is healthy and on the field. Unfortunately, they are too inconsistent and undisciplined to put much faith in.
- Indianapolis Colts: They beat great teams and lose to bad teams. A tough team to figure out. Losing Wayne hurts, but maybe all the “Luck is the greatest thing since sliced bread” talk was a bit premature?
- Cincinnati Bengals: Too inconsistent. Dalton doesn’t strike fear into the heart of anyone and losing Geno Atkins really hurts the defense.
- Arizona Cardinals: The defense is for real. Unfortunately, as goes Carson Palmer, so go the Cardinals.
- Dallas Cowboys: Attention everyone: Neither Dez Bryant nor Tony Romo are this team’s problem. The primary reasons they even have 7 wins is those two guys. The defense sucks. And the coaching is terrible. And they have too many damn holes.
- Baltimore Ravens: Yes, they’re playing better and looking like they’ll make the playoffs. No, they won’t repeat their improbable run of last year.
- San Diego Chargers: It would frustrate me to no end to be a fan of this team.
- Chicago Bears: I’m not sure why this team isn’t better. I know they miss Cutler, but McCown hasn’t been bad. They’re just not getting it done. Oh, and their coach is an idiot.
- Miami Dolphins: Not a good team. Not a bad team. Average. More importantly: boring (on the field, at least).
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Too old. No wonder Tomlin considered suiting up.
- Green Bay Packers: A prime example of why you should never disregard the backup QB position. They weren’t a great team with Rodgers, but they were probably the best team in a suddenly sputtering NFC North.
- Tennessee Titans: I don’t know if this team has been pleasantly surprising or underachieving. Do you?
- St. Louis Rams: Can we officially declare the Sam Bradford era over?
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I know their record doesn’t show it, but they have some solid pieces on this team. Greg Schiano is not one of them.
- Buffalo Bills: It is my sincere belief that sixteen games out of EJ Manual would have left this team optimistic for next year.
- New York Giants: They have yet to beat a QB that is both healthy and talented.
- Oakland Raiders: It feels like they should have more than 4 wins. But I feel like I think that about this team every year.
- Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson deserves better.
- Cleveland Browns: They can’t even tank properly.
- New York Jets: I know they were just in playoff contention a few weeks ago, but the team we’ve seen over the past three weeks is barely professional caliber.
- Atlanta Falcons: Are they primed to bounce back next year? Or has Matt Ryan’s window already closed?
- Washington Redskins: RGIII will be healthy again. Will Shanahan ever be a good coach again?
- Houston Texans: Ugh. Even when it seems like they have someone or something to get excited about, they still suck.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: I know they beat Houston and have three more wins than many people anticipated they’d get, but they’re still the least talented team in the league.
A better way to have done this might have been to break this up into tiers, as a number of teams feel roughly equivalent before a big drop off to the next group. Had I done it that way, it’d look like this:
Tier 1: Seattle
Tier 2: Denver, Carolina, New Orleans, San Francisco, New England
Tier 3: Kansas City
Tier 4: Philadelphia, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Dallas
Tier 5: Baltimore, San Diego, Chicago
And after that I just stop caring.