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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sportaholic Power Rankings Week 3: Rise of the Underdogs Edition.

It has to feel good to be a Detroit or Buffalo fan. It almost like a bad movie where the nerd keeps getting picked on until he finally stands up to bully.  These two teams have been bad since I can remember it seems but they have finally turned it around and are a combined 6-0. I don’t know which team was more surprising this weekend with Buffalo taking down the mighty Patriots for the first time in 15 tries or the Detroit Lions coming back from a 20 point first half deficit. These teams are for real too or at least that much can be said as I doubt any other team in the league is begging for these guys on their schedule. Buffalo has done it with an explosive offense led by Harvard grad Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson. Detroit has done it with a nasty defensive line that sets the tone for Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson on offense. Green Bay is still the defending champs and they moved to 3-0 as they continue their dominance over the Bears this year. What more can you say about Aaron Rodgers that hasn’t been already said.

Michael Vick just can’t stay healthy which is what I always said would be the determining factor for the so called “Dream Team” in Philly. Vick maybe should have sat this one out as he didn’t quite seem like himself. His rant on the refs won’t get him anymore calls and might even get him less. Refs don’t like to be shown up. Houston didn’t get a win against New Orleans but they showed mettle as they battled back instead of folding as they would have did in most years. Tennessee is winning with an unfamiliar formula of throwing the ball as Matt Hasselbeck is proving to still have some in the tank and then some. The loss of Kenny Britt will hurt though as Tennessee isn’t a team chalk full of playmakers. Chris Johnson where are you? He has looked sluggish as best but the team continues to win. It’s not his fault as the offensive line hasn’t had the same type of push it seemed to have the last couple of years blocking for him. It mystifies me that the Titans can have Mike Munchak, a hall of fame offensive linemen and Bruce Matthews, another hall of fame offensive lineman, yet they can’t seem to find anyway to get CJ a better scheme to run in.

Now let’s jump into the rankings:

1. Green Bay Packers (3-0) – The crazy thing about the Pack is that they are not even close to reaching their ceiling. Jermichael Finley is doing what I expected him to do this season as his three touchdowns broke the Bears spirit in their last game. He is such a match-up nightmare on the inside as he is big enough to catch over DBs and too fast for LBs to contain. Aaron Rodgers is consistently one of best each week as his 111.4 QB rating was more than enough to beat the hated Bears. Defensively this team just continues to churn out playmakers as well. Morgan Burnett basically is filling the role left by inured Pro Bowler Nick Collins and all he did was pick off two of Jay Cutler’s errant passes. The Packers have the mark of a great team as nothing seems to faze them. Having gone through the gauntlet last year, this team confidence is through the roof. They will rise to any challenge it seems.

2. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) – After laying a dud against the Titans, the Ravens went out and shellacked the no luck Rams. Baltimore may have found a new star at receiver as Torrey Smith racked up the fantasy points with 5 catches for 154 yards and 3 TDs. Joe Flacco has a couple of burners on the outside with Smith and Lee Evans. Flacco seems to be settling in this year as one of the better QBs in the league. Now is elite as he said in the off-season? No, not yet. Be he doesn’t have to be with Ray Rice in the backfield. (9 rushes 81 yards) and that tenacious defense behind him. Baltimore put up 21 points on the Rams before your beer could get warm. This is why last week I won’t get to high on the Ravens the way they beat the Steelers and I didn’t get too low on them when they lost to the Titans.

3. New Orleans (2-1) – Drew Brees just puts up numbers anyway you want to break it down. He and that offense can score at will as they did on Houston who incidentally entered the game as a top 5 ranked passing defense. Safe to say Brees exposed a few holes in that defense. Speaking of defense. New Orleans’s scares me. Even though they won the game, Andre Johnson was able to get over 100 yards receiving in the first half alone. Jabari Greer did intercept Matt Schaub when it counted the most but I still wouldn’t say that I trust that secondary of the Saints. And I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t mention those jerseys dating back to the Tom Dempsey days. They aren’t that nice on the eyes but I appreciate the heritage.

4. New England (2-1) – Admit it, when you saw the Pats go up 21-0 on the Bills you figured they would just run all over Buffalo. I expected Tom Brady to have some crazy stat line of 38/52 for 520 yards and 5 TDs or something but as the Pats found out Buffalo has some intestinal fortitude. The Pats offense stood up as Wes Welker went all Jerry Rice on us with his 16 catches for 217 yards and two TDs. But the most disturbing trend of that game was Brady’s penchant for interceptions. He threw as many as he did all last season in one game against the Bills. I can’t remember a game seeing Brady looked so flustered. The defense also couldn’t contain Fred Jackson on the ground nor Ryan Fitzpatrick in the air. Is it cause for concern on the Patriots march to the playoffs? Not in the bigger scheme of things but the Bills maybe made the blueprint for beating them. And they create yet another team of opposition in the all of a sudden tough AFC East division.

5. Detroit (3-0) – The Lions proved that they can take a shot and keep fighting as they overcame Minnesota’s 20 point lead in the first half. Minnesota would be 3-0 if it wasn’t for the 2nd half.. The Lions roared back (Pun intended) on the strength of Matt Stafford’sarm, Calvin Johnson’s hands, and Jason Hanson’s foot. Detroit doesn’t run the ball well as they only had 20 yards on 19 carries but Stafford has carried them so far. That defensive line isn’t too shabby either as they continue to control the line of scrimmage against all their opponents. The stop of Toby Gerhart did nothing more but add more motivation as it fueled the offensive players to get a score. Jim Schwartz deserves a lot of credit as he has this team 3-0 for the first time since the Billy Sims era. The Lions keep marching on and should be the chief opponent for the defending champs Green Bay. Who would have thought that going into the season?

Offensive Player of the Week: Wes Welker – This one was easy this week as Wes just obliterated the secondary of the Bills. He set franchise records with his 16 catches and 217 yards receving. It seemed that Buffalo let Welker get whatever he wanted to as they focused on the outside receivers and the tight ends. End result was a career day for Welker even though it came in a loss. Welker plays the slot like a maestro. He has every savvy move a veteran wide receiver should have. I know he made a lot of fantasy owners day with those monster numbers he put up. Tom Brady has thrown for more yards in a 3 game span than any QB in history (1,326) and a lot of that has to do with the exploits of Welker.

Defensive Player of the Week: Dwight Freeney This guy doesn’t ever slow down during the game. He and Robert Mathis just harassed Big Ben all night in their lost to the Steelers but it was Freeney who seemed to set the tone as always for the Colts defense. Freeney had two sacks and three QB hits and a forced fumble. Isn’t he supposed to be getting old? He has that constant motor that defensive coaches drool over. Freeney is one of the most underrated DEs ever in my opinion. If Peyton Manning had played in that game the way the Colts defense played then they probably would have pulled that one out. Freeney and Mathis will continue their reign of terror on opposing QBs this year even if it doesn’t amount into a playoff berth.

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