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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sportaholic NFL Power Rankings Week 13

The AFC playoff picture is about as cloudy as Lindsay Lohan’s caree path. It’s a train wreck but no one can stop watching. This much is clear in the AFC, someone has to win the conference. It’s just hard to tell who it will be at this point. If the season ended today the Houston Texans would be the AFC’s top seed sitting at 10-3 with two missing QBs and their best defensive player. Baltimore would be # 2 but they seem to save their worst games for their worst opponents with two of their three losses coming to cellar dweller Jacksonville and a Seattle team that scares no one. At # 3 would be the Patriots and its been well chronicled how woeful that defense can be at its worst moments. I always knew Tom Brady played with a chip on his shoulder but geez does he have to go in on his offensive coordinator with such fire? If you can read lips, well really when I think about it you don’t even have to know how to see the venom that Brady was spitting at offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.

As a result of the shortcomings of the front-runners of the conference, in my opinion it makes for a wide open race. Any team that gets hot (Read: Denver Broncos) at that perfect moment can really steal the conference. That goes for all the bottom teams as well as all they have to do is ride their momentum and they could topple a Houston, Pittsburgh or whoever ends with the top seed in the conference.

In the NFC it’s a different story as the Packers continue their quest to go undefeated and clearly the best team in all of football. San Francisco and New Orleans each have a commanding lead in their respective divisions as well. The only division race that is up for grabs at this point is the NFC East or should I say the least with the way Dallas and New York are fumbling and bumbling all the way to the finish line. This is a role reversal as over the past decade its usually been the NFC that was scrambling to find the dominant team of the conference.

1. Green Bay Packers (12-0) – Their demolition of the Raiders couldn’t have gone better if it wasn’t for the loss of WR Greg Jennings. He was the team’s leader in recpetions with 67 and only second to Jordy Nelson in receving yards and touchdowns. This will slow down that vaunted passing attack and the you tell the Packers didn’t take any other risks after the Jennings as Rodgers and most of the other starters were taking out on the next series. That is the biggest unknown in Green Bay’s pursuit of perfection as injuries always play a role in a team’s season. The Pack has to make sure that their priorities are in order as they have to stay healthy more than they need to go undefeated. If another star player goes down look for the Packers to shut it down.

2. Baltimore Ravens (10-3) – I thought Indy might stand a chance against the Ravens as we all have seen how Baltimore seems to play down to their competition. But there was no let down this time for John Harbaugh’s team as they did what they were suppose. It was a nothing to see here victory that keeps them on top of the AFC North. Looking at their schedule they should at least win two out of three and take the division and se themselves up with a # 2 seed and a first round bye.

3. New Orleans Saints (10-3) – The Saints league leading offense looked downright pedestrian for 3 quarters against the Titans before finally waking up. It was a dog fight to the end as Jake Locker made some big plays but he couldn’t make the biggest one at the end of the game and spared them. You have to win games like that in this league. Winning ugly is better than losing pretty that much is for sure. Once the playoffs start games will slow down defenses will be ready so games like this are inevitable. I do still have my doubts about New Orleans secondary as they gave three big pass plays in this game. As long as Brees is standing upright though, this team has a chance at the Lombardi trophy.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3) – Was James Harrison’s hit on Colt McCoy worth a suspension? Considering it was Harrison, the NFL”s poster boy of big hits who has been fined over 100k since he began playing then I guess. But this is getting quite ridiculous that guys on defense can’t do what you pay them to do. It was a vicious hit I will agree to that but what was Harrison suppose to do? McCoy was ripe for a big hit and there is no way Harrison can just turn it off once he is in motion. The bigger problem I had in that game was the Browns training staff allowing McCoy to back into game when he clearly was concussed. The NFL may have a ticking time bomb on its hand as 5-10 years from now we will see a lot of guys who are not going to be in the best mind frame from all those concussions. Big Ben also suffered a bad ankle sprain in the game but he’s a gamer and I fully expect him to be in uniform for their big game against the 49ers.

5. New England Patriots (10-3) – The Pats have finally cracked the top 5 again on the strength of their 5 game winning streak. I wasn’t impressed with their victory over the Redskins as that defense again allowed to many points to Washington’s terrible offense. When Rex Grossman is looking good against your team then your team defense is a problem. And then we had the whole Tom Brady-Bill O’Brien shouting match on the sidelines. When it was all said and done the Pats took home the victory (Thanks to Grossman’s mistakes of course) and it puts them in the driver seat for the AFC East. They will have their hands full with the Denver Tebows especially with that league worst passing defense but more on that later.

News and Notes from the league:

Tebow and the Broncos do it yet again: Its so redundant at this point but I just have to ask the question once again? How in the hell are the Broncos able to do this week in and week out? Now granted they had a little help this time from Marion Barber as his two bonehead plays (Not staying inbounds on one play and fumbling on the next). Its just crazy how every week they seem to just hang around in the game and then just take the other team to the woodshed in the fourth quarter. Matt Prater deserves a lot of praise with his two +50 yard field goals as well. Now is this divine intervention as Tebow’s preacher is claiming in Denver? I don’t know and I don’t even want to speculate into something like that but you have to admit it does seem like Tebow is playing for a higher cause. We will really see what they are made of when they face New England this weekend’s premier game. Can’t wait to watch that one.

Cowobys lose again on last second FG miss: To be Cowboys fan these days has to be torture. You have your team up by 12 points with less than six minutes to play and somehow, someway they find a way to lose the game. While a friend and I were watching the game, we could just sense that Dallas letting the game slip away. After Miles Austin short-armed Tony Romo’s deep pass it was all but over for the Cowboys psyche. When a team is use to losing close games as Dallas is, all it takes is for one thing to go wrong in crunch time and all those doubts and fear begin to reappear. The game shouldn’t even have been in question by the time Giants stud linemen Jason Pierre-Paul blocked the game tying field goal. The Cowboys have to find a way to finish games and it may be too late this season to figure it out. The Giants on the other hand ended a four game losing streak and took control of the NFC East.

Sportaholic best games of the weekend:

New England Patriots (10-3) vs. Denver Broncos (8-5) – Tebow’s magic versus Brady’s golden arm in what should be an epic showdown. Brady and Belichek will surely say all the right things this week but come Sunday they will be ready to shatter the white Broncos Tebow aura. Tebow should actually have a lot of success against the Pats awful pass defense but more than likely he will struggle until the fourth and then go bonkers like he always does.

Detroit Lions (8-5) vs. Oakland Raiders (7-6) – Something has to give with the Raiders and Carson Palmer. He looked flat out horrible against the Packers last week and if he is to prove Hue Jackson and the organization right about the trade they pulled he has to at least put competitive performances. For the Lions they basically have to win out to secure a playoff spot with Dallas now breathing down their neck

San Francisco 49ers (10-3) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3) – This one just has playoffs oozing out of it. Two post season bound teams meeting in San Fran for a Monday night tile so of course you can count me in for this one. The niners are coming off an embarssing lost to the Cardinals so they should be ready to come out and raise hell. Will Big Ben play? Of course he will because like he earlier he is a gamer.

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