Posts Tagged ‘Joe Flacco’

NFL Week 15 Power Rankings

NFL Week 15 Power Rankings

Long term, who knows? But this has been the greatest rookie class of quarterbacks in terms of instant impact in NFL history. When the playoffs open in a couple weeks, there’s a more than decent chance Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson will all be there, with the valuable Kirk Cousins backing up Griffin in Washington.

Wouldn’t that be something? Something unprecedented. Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan both led their teams to the playoffs as rookies in 2008. And in that famed Class of ’83, both Dan Marino’s Dolphins and John Elway’s Broncos made the postseason dance, albeit with both quarterbacks as their team’s part time starters. But three rookie full time starters in the playoffs? That’s ridiculous.

And now, entirely plausible. Indianapolis, Seattle and Washington all have work left to do, but they’re all in the driver’s seat with two weeks remaining in the regular season. And that alone makes the promise of this year’s postseason kind of special. And that’s not even counting second year quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder, who could all get involved in January’s fun.

We don’t have much longer to wait until the playoffs unfold. Now on to this week’s rankings.

Denver Broncos (11 3)

Time to give Denver its due. Despite those three early losses to Atlanta, Houston and New England, clubs with a combined record of 34 8 so far the Broncos are clearly Super Bowl ready. Denver has been almost flawless during the course of its NFL high nine game winning streak, and with two winnable home games remaining (Browns and Chiefs), nobody will be hotter entering January than Peyton Manning and his new friends.

San Francisco 49ers (10 3 1)

Other than the Rams, nobody has made Colin Kaepernick look all that defensible in his first five games as a starter, and the debate over whether Jim Harbaugh should have benched a healthy Alex Smith is looking a little sillier all the time. I have a feeling if we asked the Patriots who they would have rather faced Sunday night in Foxboro, Smith would have resoundingly gotten the nod. And that says it all.

New England Patriots (10 4)

The uncharacteristic turnover spree was the most alarming facet of the home loss to San Francisco, because if you have that kind of sloppy game in the playoffs, you’re throwing stuff in garbage bags at your locker the next day. The Patriots will win their final two games and finish 12 4, but that defeat Sunday night probably means New England faces playing in the first round of the playoffs and then having to win two road games to get to the Super Bowl.

Green Bay Packers (10 4)

In one of those weird twists, the Seahawks this week can help out Green Bay, the team they stole one from way back in Week 3’s replacement ref debacle. By beating the 49ers at home, Seattle can pave the way for the Packers to move into the No. 2 seed in the NFC, earning a first round bye and a divisional home game in the process. I’d say the Seahawks would be all square with Green Bay at that point, but I would understand if I’m in the minority on that one in Cheesehead Nation.

Houston Texans (12 2)

The Texans steadied themselves nicely with the division clinching win over the Colts, but they need one more win to ensure they stay home (or in a dome) throughout the postseason. But it won’t be easy this week against the visiting Vikings, because running into a determined Adrian Peterson about now is one of the larger misfortunes a defense can suffer. Especially since Houston’s run defense has been anything but air tight of late.

Atlanta Falcons (12 2)

No disrespect intended, but I think even Falcons fans know their team isn’t quite that good, and the Giants aren’t quite that bad. But the 34 0 mauling of the defending Super Bowl champs had to feel pretty cathartic for an Atlanta team that got embarrassed by New York in last year’s playoffs, and was coming off a no show performance at Carolina. If there were a coordinator of the year award handed out by the league, Falcons DC Mike Nolan might win it.

Seattle Seahawks (9 5)

The Seahawks are playing fast break football in December, and they don’t seem to know they’re not supposed to be hanging a Hawaii 5 0 on opponents. But this week is the ultimate test. Washington’s five game winning streak makes it the hottest team in the NFC, and the franchise’s first division title in 13 years is tantalizingly close to coming to fruition. That makes this week’s game against the wounded and beaten down Eagles quite dangerous.

New York Giants (8 6)

The Giants usually don’t do their best work until they absolutely have to, but that moment has now arrived with this week’s trip to struggling Baltimore. Two wins still gets at least a wild card berth locked down, so it’s no time to panic in Gotham. I didn’t foresee that egg laying in Atlanta coming, but then again, I didn’t have New York making the playoffs either this season, so I suppose I was expecting trouble of some sort in December.

Indianapolis Colts (9 5)

The Colts have looked playoff bound for weeks now, but they have to keep their heads down and take care of business this week at 2 12 Kansas City. Then they deserve to celebrate and take what could amount to a Week 17 bye at home against Houston, getting healthy and ready for a first round postseason date against the AFC North champion.

Baltimore Ravens (9 5)

Forget the drama about Mark Sanchez’s future in New York, is Joe Flacco one more bad game away from having the Ravens rethink the width and breadth of their commitment level to the impending free agent? Has a team ever made the playoffs with the same starting quarterback for all five years of his NFL career and then said goodbye? Intriguing topics, sure to be debated, if Baltimore falls again at home in ugly fashion, this week against the desperate Giants.

Minnesota Vikings (8 6)

The MVP race is daunting to figure out this season, but I don’t know how one player could do more to make a team relevant and keep it in the playoff race than what Adrian Peterson has done in Minnesota. He has almost literally carried the eight win Vikings on his back, and if they somehow reach the postseason, I think you’re going to see the MVP momentum swing firmly his way.

NFL Playoffs Divisional Round Picks

NFL Playoffs Divisional Round Picks

Baltimore Ravens (11 6) at Denver Broncos (13 3)

Love the Baltimore shakeup on the offensive line, re inserting a newly motivated (at least for now) Bryant McKinnie at left tackle; he played a dominant game against the Colts, keeping Joe Flacco free of Dwight Freeney, and I don’t doubt he’ll play very competitively against Elvis Dumervil here. But this is Peyton Manning we’re talking about, Manning on a mission with the kind of skill players that match his best days in Indianapolis. And it’s Manning with a nine game win streak against the Ravens (including playoffs). He’s won those nine by an average of 14 points per game. I understand the emotion of playing for Ray Lewis, but unless the Ravens force three or more turnovers (and that’s possible, if last week’s effort is any indication), I don’t see them holding Manning down.

Game of the weekend. Aaron Rodgers finally gets to play in a real game at Candlestick Park. To win, he’s going to have to do what a quarterback he loved growing up, Steve Young, did in these parts for years: throw efficiently on the run. San Francisco knows the way to win this game is to hit Rodgers and be physical with his cadre of top receivers. The one vision I have from last week’s game against Minnesota is Rodgers twice running at a full gallop out of the pocket and flicking a dead on accurate pass 15 yards or more downfield. Not that I don’t think Colin Kaepernick can’t do the same he’ll be in Clay Matthews’ sights all night but throwing accurately outside the pocket, with the posse chasing . Rodgers is the best in football at it right now.

Seattle Seahawks (12 5) at Atlanta Falcons (13 3)

Most significant NFL Wednesday injury report line: “ATL DE John Abraham (ankle), limited.” He’d better not be limited Sunday, two weeks after what looked to be worse than the apparently nasty ankle sprain Abraham suffered in the last game of the season. Not quite sure why, with Seattle missing its best pass rusher (Chris Clemons, torn ACL on the FedEx cow pasture last week) and Abraham likely not at full health, I pick only 30 points to be scored here. I think both secondaries will play stout and smart, and the physicality of the Seattle back four (or five, or six) will have a big impact on the game.

Houston Texans (13 4) at New England Patriots (12 4)

I want to believe it can be different than New England’s 42 14 rout of the Texans (28 0 after 36 minutes), and I believe it will be different. For the Texans, though, not different enough. Teams don’t like to be embarrassed, and the Dan Shaughnessy comparison to the Texans as “tomato cans” in his Boston Globe column will be ringing in the players’ ears by the time the ball’s kicked off. But the only way, other than a Patriots turnover fest, that I can see Houston winning this game is to use the same recipe as last week against Cincinnati: a heavy dose of Arian Foster. Foster ran it 32 times and caught it eight times last week, and the same thing here will limit Tom Brady’s possessions and his chances to beat up the Houston secondary. It’s possible; Foster’s a back who can wear a defense down. But this is a game where it’d all have to go right for Houston to win.