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Welcome to the blog of The Killer Nacho, known to most mortals as Timothy J. Sharpe, a Computer Science graduate of Messiah College and currently a Systems Analyst for Sunoco Logistics. Within this tome of pages, one will find my innermost thoughts about various things concerning things that I enjoy. These subjects include, but are not limited to, roleplaying, gaming, American Football (the NFL), things to do with computers, philosophy, movies that are awesome, TV shows that are awesome, my own writings and creative works, and dangerous Mexican snacks.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Week 14 NFL Power Rankings and Predictions: Seperation Grows

Week 14 featured a lot of separation between NFL teams. In a lot of ways, the difference between the NFL's elite and pretenders is growing as the season goes down the road, and it was even more evident this week. The mark of a good team and a bad team is not necessarily record, but good teams will find ways to win, and bad teams will find ways to lose. To be a good team, one must beat good teams. And even if you beat bad teams, bad teams continuously lose against good teams. By this point in the season, the playoff picture is getting clearer and clearer. Let's see how each team stands.

Biggest Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Cowboys (+4)
Biggest Loser: Washington Redskins (-5)

1. Atlanta Falcons (10-2, +0): For once, my #1 is able to stand for another week! Do not undervalue the win against Tampa Bay, it is huge. This win propels Atlanta to really compete for homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs, something huge for them since they are one of the best teams in the NFL at home. Furthermore, in the NFC South, the most dangerous games are road division games. Beating a quality division opponent away from the George Dome shows that this team has what it takes to get to the Super Bowl.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (8-4, +0): Good win against the Texans on Thursday night. While they almost blew their early lead, they were able to rally late in the game to overwhelm them. The defense forced turnovers when they needed them, and the offense shredded the Texans defense like we all predicted. This team has the most dangerous offense in the NFL this season led by Michael Vick. All of their remaining opponents have a reason to fear their game against the Eagles.

3. New England Patriots (10-2, +1): The Patriots offense did great against the Jets offense on Monday night, they showed they are the better team and that they are elite. Bill Bellichick brought a great gameplan against Rex Ryan, and Tom Brady made great accurate passes to his improving receiving corp including Wes Welker, Brandon Tate, and Deion Branch. Something interesting was how well the Patriots defense was able to play, they did a great job for a squad that was ranked last in several categories prior to this game.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3, +1): Another thrilling Steelers-Ravens game last Sunday night, easily the matchup of the week but the Steelers were able to top Baltimore at Baltimore, which puts them in the prime position to take the AFC North. Even after their running game got stuffed against the Ravens, Big Ben was able to make key plays when they needed them go lead to a Steelers win. Considering the rest of their schedule, they will likely find themselves AFC North champions but they have a chance to compete for homefield advantage, too.

5. Baltimore Ravens (8-4, -2): Was a valiant effort against the Steelers last week, but it was ultimately in vain as they lost 13-10. Still, there were many positives in this game for the Ravens, which is why I believe they will find themselves with a wildcard. One, they were able to stop Pittsburgh's improved run attack. Second, Anquan Boldin did a good job against a tough Steelers secondary. They may not have come down with the win, but their is no use crying over spilt milk. If they find themselves in the playoffs, they could still go all the way. Their defense is still elite, and if they can put the offensive puzzle pieces together featuring Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and Anquan Boldin... they will be good enough on both sides of the ball for a championship run.

6. New York Giants (8-4, +1): After some rocky performances, the Giants absolutely dominated the Redskins. Their defense looked like it did earlier in the season... unfortunately for me since my opponent was playing the Giants DST in fantasy last week. Every-time I looked over to that game, I felt the hole I was in getting deeper and deeper as the Giants forced yet another sack, interception, or fumble. They accounted for 34 fantasy points.. ridiculous. Granted, the Redskins offense is far from good, but I think it had more to do with the Giants defense putting together a quality performance (which they can do if they put their mind to it) than the Redskins offense just playing poorly.

7. New York Jets (9-3, -1): Well, losing at New England was no surprise but the way the game went was. Their defense went off to a slow start, allowing Tom Brady to throw for 2 touchdowns in the first half. I suppose the loss of Safety Jim Leonhard was more critical than anyone thought. And once the Jets are down, they really do not have a good enough offense to come back against any team... especially when you have to outscore Tom Brady. This one got away from them. Now they will go back to the Meadowlands to try to not drop two division games in a row against the Dolphins.

8. Green Bay Packers (8-4, +1): One of the things that baffles me this season is how little credit Aaron Rodgers gets from the Packers. From most analysts and announcers, he is described as a good Quarterback but still has a lot to learn. This is a gross underestimation! Aaron Rodgers is elite in my eyes. Has a good, accurate arm, reads defenses brilliantly, calls audibles on the line of scrimmage, and has scrambling abilities to escape trouble and turn a negative play into a positive play. The 49ers defense are no slouches, and another 3-touchdown performance by Aaron Rodgers was the difference maker.

9. New Orleans Saints (9-3, -1): It really should've never been that close. Sure, they got the win against the Bungles but I was far from convinced this is the team with the same tenacity of last season. While Drew Brees played great all things considered, another costly interception almost cost them this game. Defensively, they let Carson Palmer carve them up. Those things being said, I'm still impressed with the guts of Sean Payton. Going for a touchdown to win it instead of a field goal to tie it (and send the game into overtime) on 4th down was gutsy but really shows his confidence in this team: The Saints are elite, and they know it.

10. Chicago Bears (9-3, +0): Chalk up another 4 sacks for Jay Cutler! But thankfully for them, they were still able to sweep the division-rival (and very beaten up) Lions. The thing that concerned me though about this win was that the Lions were able to run very effectively against the Bears defense that was usually very good against the run. If they do not patch this up, they open the door for problems down the road. The Bears are still a defensive football team, they will win or lose a game depending on defensive dominance.

11. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4, +2): They took care of business even if it was ugly, which is more than I can say about another certain AFC West team I was high on last week. The Chiefs are absolutely dominant at home this season but the main question for them is - can they win at home? It is unlikely they will be able to compete for homefield advantage in the AFC, so if they want a serious shot at the Super Bowl, they need to find ways to win away from Arrowhead. Still, I like the Chiefs' swagger.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5, +4): I really misjudged this team, and now they are in a good position to upset the Colts for the AFC South. While I still think Jack Del Rio is a poor coach, his team is playing their hearts out. Beating a Titans team that embarrassed them earlier in the season on prime time will do wonders for this team's ego moving forward. They've proven they can beat all of their division rivals now all there is for them to prove is whether or not they can finish out the season strong and earn their playoff spot.

13. San Diego Chargers (6-6, -2): Well, so much for a Chargers rebound. I can't even remember the last time the Raiders swept the Chargers, but it was highly unexpected and the Raiders didn't only defeat the Chargers - they embarrassed them. Once again, mistakes kill this team and I'm no longer convinced they will be able to overcome these mistakes to make the playoffs. Especially after falling to a division rival at home. They will need to beat out the Chiefs to win the division if they want a shot at the playoffs, and I'm not convinced the Chiefs will tank that badly.

14. Indianapolis Colts (6-6, -2): Well you want to talk about implosions, you need not look further than the Colts. The Super Bowl loser curse strikes again, I suppose. After fighting to go undefeated last season, they find themselves .500 and behind in the division this season. Peyton Manning has looked awful recently... throwing his second straight 4 interception game, this time against a Dallas team with nothing to play for. They need a turnaround, and fast. Their only chance is to win out.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5, +0): Their inability to defeat quality opponents is the bane of this team this season. While they came close against the Falcons at home, they were unable to get the win and their NFC wildcard chances took a hit with it. The NFC has looked much more crowded recently, and now that they are looking up to teams like the Giants, Packers, and Saints in that race, I doubt they will make it. Still, they are much improved and should be competitive in future seasons.

16. Miami Dolphins (6-6, -2): The Dolphins are truly their own worst enemy. As the defense continues to improve, the offense continues to regress. Anyone doubting Brandon Marshall's importance to the Dolphins need look no further than last game to see how important he is to the Dolphins. Except for Davone Bess, he is the only receiver on that Miami offense that can consistently get open and make receptions. Chad Henne's 3-interception game cost them the win here. Two of them were completely his fault, just bad decisions and inaccurate balls and not really the result of good Browns coverage or pass rush. For example, the deep ball to Brian Hartline. Hartline absolutely burned Joe Haden. Had Henne thrown an accurate ball, it would've resulted in a huge Touchdown. Instead, he underthrew it by a mile which allowed Haden to make the interception. Pathetic play by Chad Henne in this game - he is not the answer at Quarterback that the Dolphins have been seeking since Dan Marino.

17. Minnesota Vikings (5-7, +0): Adrain Peterson played, and boy did he play! Granted, it was against the Bills, but getting 3 touchdowns while averaging 6.7 yards per carry is ridiculously good. Leslie Frazier is having the same impact that Jason Garrett did for the Cowboys, this Vikings team is dangerous. Now they'll need to beat some higher quality opponents, though, to end the season on a high note.

18. Oakland Raiders (6-6, +1): This entire Raiders team got its mojo back against the Chargers, which they needed to keep their season alive. Rookie WR Jacoby Ford continues to impress, and Darren McFadden found whatever he lost in the last two games. While Jason Campbell did not do much, he was able to make key plays that led to an Oakland win, including a scramble on 4th down for a touchdown.

19. Cleveland Browns (5-7, +2): Seizing opportunities to win football teams is a key part of what separates bad teams from good teams and the Browns, despite all of their problems this season, have been able to seize those opportunities. They had no business winning against Miami last Sunday, they were outplayed in almost every facet. Jake Delhomme played awful, Peyton Hillis was stuffed, Miami ran at will against the Browns all day long. The difference? Cleveland was able to capitalize on Miami mistakes and Miami wasn't able to capitalize on Browns mistakes. They have a solid group of players and are on the right track for success. They'll get there in the next couple years.

20. Houston Texans (5-7, -2): Like expected, the Houston defense completely folded against Philadelphia on Thursday night. Even with all the offensive weapons and success that group has been having, one can simply not hide a poor defense. I've been saying it all season long and I will say it again - When you have the worst Pass defense in the league, every team in the league will have a chance to beat you. And you can't win a championship like that.

21. St. Louis Rams (6-6, +2): The Rams are just quietly winning games they need to win to put them into a strong position in the NFC West, and honestly I think they could be the team to do it. Sam Bradford is having a great rookie season and barring a huge collapse will win Rookie of the Year. Giving a playoff birth to a previously 1-15 team would just be icing on the cake for him. Even if it is only the Cardinals, winning at University of Phoenix Stadium is still far from easy.

22. Dallas Cowboys (4-8, +4): I like this guy, Jason Garrett. He has shown that he can motivate this team even without any playoff hopes to speak of. I hope for the Cowboys sake that Jerry Jones give shim serious consideration for the job in the off-season, the players seem to respond to his leadership in a positive way. He has this team playing hard and they are showing off that wasted talent we talked about early in the season.

23. Seattle Seahawks (6-6, +2): Well, they did not crumble against their free win vs Carolina this week, a good sign. Now, they will duel the St. Louis Rams for the NFC West. But honestly, I just don't like this team and honestly believe they do not have what it takes to even be competitive in the playoffs even if they get there. Time will tell, I suppose.

24. Tennessee Titans (5-7, -2): Dang, was Vince Young really so crucial to this team that they completely fall apart without him? I thought Kerry Collins was a pretty solid and accurate Quarterback, but he wasn't able to get anything going against the Jaguars. Furthermore, Chris Johnson has been stuffed two weeks in a row. So much for all that talk about him being the best Runnignback in the league... I guess he can't do anything unless he has a Quarterback to take the pressure off of him.

25. Washington Redskins (5-7, -5): I've come to the conclusion that this team as a whole is just awful. Their playmaking defense may force the occasional turnover, but they get burnt twice as much. And last Sunday we found out just how good their offense is: Pitiful. Donovan McNabb is over the hill, and they can't run the football. They turned the ball over 5 times against the Giants, and most of them was McNabb's fault - unacceptable by any standard.

26. San Francisco 49ers (4-8, +1): They were able to hang in there for awhile against Green Bay. Troy Smith played well but ultimately the 49ers defense was unable to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' outrageous passing attack. Mike Singletary may be done after this year. While he can keep his players motivated, he announced after the game that he will be benching Troy Smith to give Alex Smith yet another shot... how many shots is Alex Smith going to get? And I, for one, did not believe Troy was doing that badly as 49ers Quarterback. He deserved more than 5 games to prove himself as a starter. God knows Alex Smith got more than enough chances, too.

27. Denver Broncos (3-9, -3): So much for Denver's "good" passing offense under Kyle Orton. They were only able to muster up 6 points against a Chiefs secondary that has been exposed in recent weeks. That's pretty unacceptable. The one and only thing that impressed me about this team against the Chiefs was how well Champ Bailey is still playing - he shut down Dwayne Bowe, who is having a great season for the Chiefs. So much for Josh McDaniel's job being "safe". He becomes the 3rd coach fired this season, and he likely deserves it. He will be remembered as the coach who rammed this franchise into the ground after trading their star QB and WR.

28. Detroit Lions (2-10, +0): Well, you can't win many games when you're down to your 3rd Quarterback, but they did fight valiantly against the Bears. Jahvid Best rushed pretty well for a back who was criticized for not being able to run between the tackles. Their defense continues to disappoint me though, as they were exposed by Jay Cutler. They did, unsurprisingly, get 4 sacks, though with Cliff Avril getting 3 of them.

29. Buffalo Bills (2-10, +0): This was the largest disappointment for me from the Bills in recent weeks. We knew they could not stop the run, but I had no idea that they would be this bad and allow Tavaris Jackson to pass all over them after Brett Favre went out of the game. They were also absolutely stuffed on offense by the Minnesota defense even with 4 interceptions from their defense, not a good sign from a team whose identity is their explosive pass attack.

30. Cincinnati Bengals (2-10, +1): I'll bump them up from the bottom two after an impressive performance against the reigning Champs. Their defense played better than I expected and Carson Palmer had one of his better games of the season. Still, they had a big chance to beat the Saints on a 4th down but went completely undisciplined, got an Encroachment call for a 1st then allowed a touchdown on a blown coverage on the next play. They're still the Bungles, no matter how good they seem to play.

31. Arizona Cardinals (3-9, -1): It's not a good thing when you get embarrassed at home by an NFC West opponent. They tried throwing just about all of their Quarterbacks out there, but none of them were able to move the ball down the field. Sorry Cardinals fans, but your team is going to go back into rebuilding mode this offseason. They need a Quarterback in the worst way and will address that need early in the next Draft.

32. Carolina Panthers (1-11, +0): At this point, I would not be surprised if they weren't just tanking for Andrew Luck (and to get their coach fired)... even after drafting Jimmy Clausen last season. But their team is just gone and they will be in rebuidling mode, a lot of their staples will no longer be with the team. DeAngello Williams becomes a free agent next season, Julius Peppers jumped the ship last season, and they still need a Quarterback. Good bye, John Fox. Hello, change.

Predictions for Next Week

Prediction accuracy for Last Week: 12-4 (75.00%)
Overall prediction accuracy: 81-49 (62.31%)

Indianapolis (6-6) @ Tennessee (5-7): Indianapolis by 7. Both of these teams have been tanking recently, but the Colts have more to play for and if they lose this game it will virtually give the Jaguars the AFC South. To avoid that, the Colts must beat the Titans, who are struggling even more. Chris Johnson may be in for a big game, though, since the Colts have had trouble stopping the run.

Peyton Hillis may be in for a big game at Buffalo.
Cleveland (5-7) @ Buffalo (2-10): Cleveland by 3. Will be a close game, the Browns play pretty much every team close and Buffalo plays well at home. The Browns are the more solid team, however, and they should be able to handle the Bills to continue their surprising season. I think Peyton Hillis is in for a big game.

Green Bay (8-4) @ Detroit (2-10): Green Bay by 10. Aaron Rodgers has been on fire as of late, and the Lions have not been able to stop the pass as of late. Should be a recipe for disaster for Detroit. The Packers need this game, they are in a very tight NFC playoff race and can't afford to drop a division game against an inferior opponent. They should be able to handle the Lions convincingly.

New York G (8-4) @ Minnesota (5-7): New York G by 7. Despite Minnesota playing better under Leslie Frazier, the Giants are playing for their lives and are the better team and this point in time. Tavaris Jackson showed why the Vikings were still playing Favre last game so if Jackson starts against the Giants, the Giants will be in store for another turnover fest. The Giants just need to make sure they won't turn the ball over against the Vikings, either.

Cincinnati (2-10) @ Pittsburgh (9-3): Pittsburgh by 10. The Steelers can just about put this season in curse control, and they get an easy division matchup against the Bengals coming up. The Bengals did play well against the Steelers in recent memory, but now that the Bungles are back the Steelers should have no problem finding a W and putting the AFC North further out of reach for the Ravens.

Oakland (6-6) @ Jacksonville (7-5): Jacksonville by 7. The Jaguars want to continue winning to keep shoving the dagger in the heart of the Colts. But to do that, they will need to beat a Raiders team that has been very on-and-off this season. If the good Raiders show up, the Jaguars are in for a real fight. If it's the bad Raiders, this game could be a blow out. We'll see.

Atlanta (10-2) @ Carolina (1-11): Atlanta by 14. Hmm... my #1 team playing my #32 team... which do you think I'm going to pick? Should be an easy division matchup compared to the Bucs last week, and one that the Falcons should win. They have a lot to play for - NFC homefield advantage and they will not let that goal slip from their fingers by losing a game that is as close to "free win" in the NFL as one can get.

Tampa Bay (7-5) @ Washington (5-7): Tampa Bay by 3. The Buccaneers should be able to beat the Redskins, who are coming off their worst offensive performance of the season. The Bucs are a good team and they really need to win out of they want a real shot at the NFC playoffs. They get a pretty easy game here and the Bucs have been able to take care of business this season against teams they should beat. Little reason to believe this won't change now.

St. Louis (6-6) @ New Orleans (9-3): New Orleans by 7. The Rams may be playing their hearts out, but they're not better than the Saints, especially at home. I expect both teams to play pretty well, actually, but ultimately the Saints should win at home with Drew Brees having a big game.

Alex Smith gets yet another shot as 49ers Quarterback.
Seattle (6-6) @ San Francisco (4-8): San Francisco by 3. Upset alert! While the Seahawks got the 49ers in the huge upset Week 1, I think the 49ers are a much improved team now than they were at that point in the season. Alex Smith should be able to lead a victory at home against a Seahawks team whose record is better than the team actually is.

New England (10-2) @ Chicago (9-3): New England by 3. Should be a tough game but the Patriots' defense is actually one that matchups up well against Chicago's. Furthermore, Chicago's defense will struggle against the dead accurate passes of Tom Brady. For the Bears to win this game, they really need their offense to step up and have a big game against a below average Patriots secondary, but with no time likely in the pocket, will Jay Cutler be able to get the job done?

Miami (6-6) @ New York J (9-3): New York J by 7. Nothing would make me happier to get the upset against the Jets at the Meadowlands, but the Jets are the better team. For the Dolphins to win, they will need to be able to run as well as they were able to in the last two weeks to get pressure off of Chad Henne and the depleted passing game. Brandon Marshall is a must since he is one of the only consistent receivers on the Miami roster. Should actually be a low-scoring game - both teams have good defenses.

Denver (3-9) @ Arizona (3-9): Denver by 3. Urgh! I really do not want to pick a winner for this game because both teams have been so awful recently I don't know who to pick! I'll give the slight edge to the Broncos because Champ Bailey should be able to neutralize the Cardinals' only weapon, Larry Fitzgerald, and none of their Quarterbacks are good enough to get the ball to him regardless.

Kansas City (8-4) @ San Diego (6-6): San Diego by 3. Upset alert! If the Chargers want any shot at winning the division and getting in the playoffs, they will need to beat the Chiefs here. Key game for both teams. At home, I want to give the edge to the Chargers but after the debacle against the Raiders, I'm not quite as confident in this selection as I would've been otherwise. Still, I'll go with the Chargers. The Chiefs have struggled away from Arrowhead.

Philadelphia (8-4) @ Dallas (4-8): Philadelphia by 7. The Eagles better not sleep on the division-rival Cowboys, who have been playing better football and just knocked off the Colts! This is a trap game, it really is. At Dallas, anything is possible including the fall of Michael Vick and the Eagles to an inferior Cowboys opponent. Still, I'll go with the better team and go with the Eagles.

Anquan Boldin should be a difference maker against the Texans.
Baltimore (8-4) @ Houston (5-7): Baltimore by 7. The Ravens' second prime-time game in a row should go better than it did against the Steelers, they get to play one of the league's poorer defenses. Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin are set up to have big games, if you have them in fantasy don't hesitate to start them. From the Texans perspective, they will need to step it up on defense if they want to beat the Ravens. We know they can do things on offense, even against good defenses, but what about actually stopping an offense? Rather, an offense that isn't led by Rusty Smith? We need to see that form this team.

Results of Last Week's Poll

Last week, I asked my readers "What record does the winner of the NFC West end with?" between 6-10 or Less, 7-9, 8-8 or 9-7 or Higher?

The winner of the poll was 8-8 with 42% of the vote, with 7-9 getting 28% of the vote. The extremes, 6-10 or Less and 9-7 or Higher were tied with a mere 14% of the vote each. From the leagues worst division, we expect a bad record from the winning team. I voted 7-9, since none of them really even deserve a .500 record. Still, I may be able to see the Rams continuing and getting 8-8, but we'll see.

This week's poll is "Which current NFC wildcard contender is most likely to miss the playoffs?" between Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, or New York Giants?

Vote on the right-sidebar of my blog!

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