Every Tuesday, I see one of these posts scattered around the internet aimlessly like Messier objects throughout the universe. Every website that focuses solely on sports or the NFL puts one out; I lazily yawn and quickly pass over it. They can be useful to capture a snapshot in the league at that moment in time, but the problem is that they are all put together the same way. Teams are ranked 1-32 with a sentence jotted down about each and readers quickly run through until they see their team, fuss about it, and then move onto something else. Really, the only thing more worthless than a week-to-week power rankings is a mock draft. However, at least a post about power rankings has some sort of evidence and a way to test the rankings instead of trying to capture something that happens once a year and is nearly impossible to predict.
Despite my dislike of power rankings, I do believe they can be utilized in a different way. By that, I don't mean this team won last week so now they're 8th best team in the league instead of the 11th. The problem with the current structure is every team moves too high or too low based on last week's game. If this was how everyone reacted with each new piece of evidence, the economy would fluctuate weekly from peak to trough as people freaked out every time the NASDAQ moved up or down a point.
I believe the best way to look at the season is in four week increments because of the scarcity of games in the NFL. It takes awhile for trends to emerge in a small sample size, and that's what a NFL season is. 4 NFL games is equal to 20.5 NBA games. In MLB, it would be equal to 40.5 games. As a result of the larger sample size, trends have now begun to emerge and there's a clearer understanding of each team. Then four weeks later we'll have an even better understanding of the league and so on until the end of December arrives.
So I present to our loyal readers here at Battle Red Blog my first ever Power Rankings. We'll call it the Quarter Pole until someone can come up with a better name for it. The teams will be placed in subjective groups and each team will have its record, points scored, allowed, and differential next to it. If one or two are funky, it's because that team recently had its bye week.
We Should Only Watch Football on Saturday
There's bile-puking horrendous and then there's the Jacksonville Jaguars. Before the season began, I thought the Jags would be 5-11 terrible, not a stomach churning 2-14. My reasoning was they had a new promising head coach, general manager and owner. Maurice Jones-Drew would be healthy and play the whole season and there was no way Blaine Gabbert could be as vile with a better running game. They had a new logo and that can change everything.
My logo theory is simple: Bad teams change their logo and find success shortly afterwards. There's a long history of teams who were miserable, but finally found success after creating a new image. For example, the Vancouver Grizzlies moved to Memphis and changed their ferocious Grizzly Bear...The previous logo is sweeter, but it was not until after the logo change in 2004 that the team finally won a playoff series. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers changed from the creamsicle swashbuckler to the the demonic pirate flag in 1997. That season, they went to their first playoff game since 1982 and five years later they won their only Super Bowl. The Tampa Bay Rays, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Anaheim Angles, Anaheim Ducks (won the Cup the year they changed logos), Buffalo Sabres, and Dallas Mavericks are all teams who turned the tides of ineptitude by forgetting their past with a new logo.
The Jaguars have been so ghastly that not even a new logo could scrape the stink off this team. They have scored only 31 points, given up 129, have lost their four games 2-28, 9-19, 17-45, 3-37, have the worst four week DVOA of all time (-83.8%), and just traded their left tackle Eugene Monroe to the Ravens. Jacksonville is about to turn into a Goodwill where all of their old suits and 1996 company picnic t-shirts will be for sale for only $1.99. In the next few weeks, we'll be shaking our heads in agony when the Broncos give up a 3rd and 4th round pick for MJD. Additionally, they can't even get fans to stroll into the stadium. In last week's home game against the Colts, they gave away free beer and they still couldn't get people into the seats. I would go with my mother to Macy's to watch her shop for cardigans if they were giving away free beer. I don't understand people who live in Jacksonville. For $40 you get free beer, get to witness the Real American live in person and see Jackson DeVille, the finest mascot in the league. I really can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
As bad as everything seems right now, it looks like they will end up with Teddy Bridgewater. The Texans will have to play against Luck and him for the next fifteen years. At least if I ever have grandchildren, I can tell them about the time Grandpa saw Houston win two AFC South championships in a row.
I thought the Steelers were going to miss the playoffs before the season started. Little did I know they would be hanging out in the sewers hunting rats with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their defense is old and can't tackle, they have one of the worst offensive lines in the league, Ben Roethlisberger doesn't have enough time to throw the ball deep and spends the entirety of the game using his enormous head to get out of sacks. The only good news is that the rest of the AFC North is 2-2 (well, they were until Cleveland won on Thursday night), but the problem is simple--they suck. When you lose to Matt Cassel, who started in the place of the injured Christian Ponder last week, you should be forced to forfeit the rest of the season.
The Giants are in a similar place as Pittsburgh. They are a past Super Bowl champ wallowing around in the glory days like Don Billingsley's dad in Friday Night Lights. There are offensive line issues, a flustered quarterback and what they have prided themselves on in the past has diminished this season. Their pass rush has been simply nonexistent. Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre Paul, and friends have accrued only 4 sacks and have an adjusted sack rate of 2.9%, last in the NFL. As a result, the secondary is left to run around until a wide receiver finally gets open. This season the Giants have given up 1,047 passing yards (19th) and 10 passing touchdowns (29th). On offense, the running game has struggled as the carries have been split by myriad running backs struggling to survive behind a poor offensive line. Consequently, Eli Manning has spent the first four games trying to carry the team on his back like a guy who tries to show off his toughness by carrying more than everyone else while moving; in the process of his showing off his brawn and brute strength, he ends up bedridden after straining his back. Manning has thrown ten interceptions, most in the league, compared to six touchdowns. The only fun thing about watching this team for the rest of the year will be observing Eli flail his arms in misery like a child who had his Capri Sun stolen and Tom Coughlin's poofy red face when the weather turns frigid.
I haven't had a chance to watch the Bucs much this year, except for the end of the Jets game, where a stupefying late hit out of bounds put the Jets in field goal position. Their defense has been one of the best in the league thanks to Darrelle Revis moving his island to Tampa. They are 8th in the league in points allowed and are 2nd in defensive DVOA at -19.6%. The problem with the Bucs is that Greg Schiano has managed the team as poorly as possible. Schiano turned the team against itself by how he oversaw the Josh Freeman situation. He takes the hot-headed, tough guy approach, and as a result his players make dumb mistakes and they blow games. It's reminiscent of the problems the Lions had with Jim Schwartz last season. The Bucs are 0-3 in one possession games, but I don't see it changing because of the mental errors they make. They're in a similar situation as the Panthers, except Carolina has a quarterback who wasn't replaced by an outstretched Chucky Doll that goes by the name of Mike Glennon. The entire franchise is messier than a Waffle House bathroom at 3 a.m. because of the culture Schiano has established. If their defense continues to play great and keep them in games, 4-12 is the future if Glennon can play well in crunch time.
Congratulations to the Rams for being this year's sleeper who was the quickest team to turn belly up like a family pet that everyone forgot to feed. People fell for them for the following reasons: Jeff Fisher, Sam Bradford was due for a breakout year, they played the 49ers tough twice last year, and their defensive line. What people seemed to forget was Fisher is maybe an above-average coach with a career record of 150-131. Bradford averages only 6 yards an attempt and has been inaccurate during his time in the pros. If he doesn't improve, they will finally be able to wash their hands from the last absurd rookie contract before the rookie wage scale went into effect and move on. Since tearing up the Cardinals' offensive line in Week One, they've been outscored 97-42. Their run game is terrible on both sides of the ball. They've given up 4.6 yards a carry (26th) and have only gained 2.6 yards a carry (31st). It's safe to say Steven Jackson escaped St. Louis at the right time even if he made a poor choice by venturing off to Atlanta.
The Raiders won a game this year, but it was against the Jacksonville Jaguars. As bad as they have been, not all is lost for Oakland. They at least get to watch Terrelle Pryor run around and make plays instead of witnessing Carson Palmer throw interceptions play after play or Matt Flynn stink up the field like Spongebob after downing a peanut, ketchup, and onion sundae. This may very well turn into the most fun Raiders season since 2002, when they lost to the Bucs in the Super Bowl, simply because of Pryor. The last quarterbacks they had to watch were Kerry Collins, Andrew Walter, Daunte Culpepper, JaMarcus Russell, Jason Campbell, and Carson Palmer. That ugly bunch of squirting zits could give the Browns a run for their money. Despite the rain clouds, Jadeveon Clowney will look sweet in a Raiders jersey next season. It just seems like one of those things destined to happen.
This Season Can Go Very Badly
Like St. Louis, Washington had numerous neon signs pointing to them having a bleak season. Their defense last year was embarrassing, they had to make a second half run to win the division, and Robert Griffin the Third had his entire knee restored like a classic muscle car. On top of that, he played exactly zero plays in the preseason. Just like last year, the Redskins employ a pitiful defense that's in the bottom of the league for stopping the pass and the run. The offense hasn't been much better. RGIII and company's offensive stats are heavily inflated because their points come in garbage time. Washington has scored one first half touchdown and eight second half touchdowns. They've been down 26-7, 24-0 and 17-10 in their losses. Their inflated numbers are the outcome of Griffin getting to toss bombs against lackadaisical defenses who want to hurry up and get home so they can catch late night mass. Despite their problems, they can make a run because they play in the worst division in the league and RGIII should start playing better as he gains confidence in his mechanically engineered knee.
It's a shame Adrian Peterson can only play one position at a time. If there was a way Zygi Wilf could clone him and make three of him to play RB, FB, and QB to run the WIshbone, I'm sure he would call up those science learning folk and make it happen. It would automatically turn them into a Super Bowl favorite and the most exciting team in the league. Could you imagine Adrian Peterson pitching the ball to Adrian Peterson while Adrian Peterson blocked for Adrian Peterson? Again this season Peterson has had to carry the offense and make up for the filth Christian Ponder slings around. He's second in the league in rushing yards, first in touchdowns, all while playing against stacked boxes. Last year's run seemed improbable and another one this year is looking the same. Only four weeks into the season, they're staring up at the 1-2 Packers, 3-1 Bears, and 3-1 Lions.
The Chip Kelly offense that was supposed to revolutionize the game has roller bladed over a stick and skidded its illustrious face across the pavement. Yes, they're running a lot of plays. Yes, they're scoring a lot of points. The problem is that no matter how many points you score, if the defense is carrying its tired fly-ridden carcass across the field on every drive, you won't win. Their offense is ranked 5th in DVOA and their defense is 30th. My favorite part of the Chip Kelly offense is that you're giving a team that had 37, 38 and 25 turnovers in the Michael Vick era 20-25 more plays to make mistakes. So far they've only turned the ball over seven times (14th in the league), but I guarantee that number will increase. It will be intriguing to see if he can get the perfect personnel to run his offense or if he will join the Nick Sabans and Bobby Petrinos of the world. As of right now, Kelly made Twitter fun one Monday Night and changed the history of the NFL for maybe fifteen minutes.
Before the season started everyone was pegging the Jets to win only two to three games. They have already matched that total in four weeks. Their surprising little start can be attributed to having the best run defense in the league and Geno Smith's heroics. They are ranked 1st in run defense DVOA (-47.7%), give up an average of 3 yards a carry (2nd), and have allowed one rushing touchdown. On offense, Smith and his enormous nostrils have done just enough to carry the Jets to wins. This year they have won games 18-17 and 27-20, and lost another one possession game to the Pats 13-10. Their run game has improved since they moved past the con artist known as Shonn Greene and started giving the ball to this year's fantasy sleeper, Bilal Powell. There will be bumps along the road, but if the Jets can keep playing defense the way they have been, they could win 6-7 games against a rough schedule. If the defense does stumble like a drunken Cinderella, things can get ugly fast since they have to play Atlanta, New England, Cincinatti, New Orleans, Baltimore, Miami, Carolina, and Cleveland.
In 2013 the Cardinals have been good at one thing and one thing only--stopping the run. Calais Campbell, Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett have been terrorizing offensive linemen like a pack of mangy rapid dogs chasing down the scent of a tabby cat. This season the desert dwellers have a run DVOA of -26.9% (3rd) and running backs are gaining a crumb sized 3 yards per carry (3rd). The problem is they aren't laudable at anything else. The run game has been about as effective as sunbathing in a snow storm. Rashard Mendenhall and Alfonso Smith are averaging 3.4 yards a carry for the worst rushing offense in the league.
Last season the quarterback play was at Jaguarian levels, as Ryan Lindley, John Skelton, and Kevin Kolb played a disastrous game of musical chairs. Whoever was the last one standing received the honor of trotting out there to throw lame ducks above, behind, and below, but not to Larry Fitzgerald. Chuck Knoblauch would have been a better quarterback than that crusty bunch. For Larry and the fan base's sanity, they traded for Carson Palmer. As expected he's been inaccurate, turnover prone and has had problems dealing with the pass rush. The yardage numbers are misleading because they have thrown the ball 152 times (11th), but they have been inefficient. Palmer has a completion percentage of 57.2%, 6.65 Y/A (20th), and the passing game has a DVOA of -9.1% (26th). Hopefully, this will be the year teams learn not to trade for Carson Palmer because he ain't been good since 2009. Arizona is 2-2, despite their poor play, and should see their record plummet when they play Carolina, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, and Houston over the next five games.
I'm Saying There's a Chance
I've never met an actual real life Bills fan. However In my own personal movie machine called imagination, they are a stark raving mad lunatic hollering with glee that the Bills are not out of contention before hockey season starts. This year they are 2-3 and were one or two plays away from upsetting New England. The Bills are like the Jets in that they make just enough plays to keep them in games. This season the Bills have played games with scores of 21-23, 24-23, 20-27, and 23-20. They're the perfect Redzone team. Their games will be filled with nonsensical plays to giggle at and the game will come down to the final few minutes.
The defense has been fairly good this year, but the data is skewed to make them out better than they really are because bad Joe Flacco threw five interceptions last week. E.J. Manuel has been the prototypical rookie quarterback. Make plays when you can, but most importantly don't tap you inner Matt Schaub and make awful decisions. In his first year, Manuel has thrown 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and has a completion percentage of 57.4%. I'm looking forward to seeing how Manuel's arm holds up when the howling winds of Buffalo and Toronto start to pick up and turn artillery shells into bottle rockets. The Bills this year are a nice story, but they should start to fall behind as the season progresses.
There's good Joe Flacco, and then there's slime frothing from the lips and a mouth full of teeth that look like corn Joe Flacco. This year we have seen no semblance of the man who was on fire and led the Ravens offense to a Super Bowl victory. He's like a werewolf. There will be no sight of a player that can have a four game streak of 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions and then out of nowhere, AWROOOOOOOO, he turns into a great quarterback. However, this year the moon has yet to to turn full; it has been somewhere between waxing crescent and first quarter this season. In 2013, Flacco is 97/169 (57.4%), 6.5 yards an attempt, and has thrown 5 touchdowns compared to 7 interceptions. Part of the reason his play has suffered is because he lost his security blanket, Anquan Boldin, and his other deep threat, Jacoby Jones, has been injured since Week One.
Flacco is a boom or bust quarterback who excels at throwing the ball deep and lacks consistent accuracy. Despite Flacco's problems, the issues with the run game seem more troubling. Ray Rice has 89 rushing yards, 3 yards a carry and Bernard Pierce has 151 yards at 2.7 yards a carry. As a team, they are getting a mere 2.7 yards a run. This Cardinals-esque running game has led to safeties being able to play back and Flacco unable to get his deep ball mojo going. However, not all is lost in Baltimore. The defense has been impressive despite losing two Hall of Famers. They're in the top 15 in both run and pass defense DVOA, have forced 6 turnovers and are in the top ten in most yardage categories. Baltimore is 2-2, but they haven't played like it on offense. Until they can fix their issues in the run game, I don't see them winning more than seven games. However, the Ravens have a veteran defense and they can make a run at around Week Eight or so if they can solve their offensive woes.
If this was two weeks ago, the Browns would be hanging out with the group of guys who should only be watching football on Saturdays. Then, Brian Hoyer got the nod over the 40 year old second year quarterback Brandon Weeden and magic started to happen. In Hoyer's first two starts, the Browns have scored 48 points compared to the 16 they managed in the first two games. Coincidentally, this happened after trading 2012 first round pick Trent Richardson to Indy and after Josh Gordon came back from suspension. Gordon adds a deep threat to Cleveland's passing attack that was about as much fun as watching two old people putting a puzzle together. It seems they have not missed Richardson's three yards a carry and have ran for more yards in each of their games since his departure. Cleveland's defense has been outstanding this season. They capture opposing players like an evil dog catcher who utilizes his net like a scythe. D'Qwell Jackson is an unknown star in this league and Barkevious MIngo has sacked the quarterback in each of first three starts. Mingo is second only to Andrew Luck as a player whose name is a perfect fit with the team he plays for. The Browns now sit atop the AFC North and could ride their defense to the playoffs this year. The Indians made it to the playoffs, even if it was for only one game, and there's a possibility LeBron James comes back to join forces with Kyrie Irving next year. Things might actual be looking up in the second saddest city in America.
In the Ron Rivera era, the Panthers have a record of 4-15 in one possession games. As I've said in the past, these games usually vary from year to year and regress towards the mean in extreme circumstances like this. The Panthers are the exception to this rule, and the exception takes the form of the creature known as Ron Rivera. In wins, the Panthers win by an average score of 31.14 to 16.42. It is maddening to see a team with this much talent lose games in these circumstances. Carolina would be a playoff team if they could win some of these one possession games. They are angelic compared to the demonic, sell your soul to the devil Colts when it comes to one win games. This season, we have already seen a classic Ron Rivera game where the Panthers lost 24-23. Manuel marched the Bills 80 yards down the field with no timeouts and 1:38 remaining after being down 23-17. If you want more examples, just type "Bill Barnwell Thank You For Not Coaching" into Google and there will be example after example of dumbfounding decisions. After starting the season losing two one possession games, they squished the Giants 38-0 at home and proved once again how great they can be at times. Because of their front seven and talent on offense, I believe Carolina can be a playoff team, but it will only be a mirage until they start to win these games they always seem to lose.
Atlanta is the exact opposite of Carolina. The big bad Super Bowl contender that has been nearly perfect in these "clutch" situations is starting to show cracks and has finally started losing those close games they usually win. Every game Atlanta has played this year has been a one possession game. Last season, Atlanta was average in nearly every advanced stat, but they won the division because of a weak NFC South and went 7-2 in one score games. These include wins against crappy teams like Oakland, Washington (they were awful at the beginning of the year), Arizona, and Tampa Bay twice. In these same sort of situations this year, Atlanta is 1-3 and already starting to fall behind the Saints through four weeks. Add the injuries to Roddy White and Steven Jackson to a team that won more games than they should've in the past, and you get an Atlanta team that is 1-3.
Part II coming soon.
Edit: Because of a lack of time and a focus on a writing a Texans-49ers preview, there will not be an illustrious Part II. Below are the rankings for the other 16 teams. Hopefully, I can deliver a full 32 after Week 8.
2-2, But Talented
12. Packers ( I know they aren't .500, but they'll win on Sunday because of Aaron Rodgers)
Jury Has Yet To Reach A Verdict
Starting To Separate From The Pack