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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, January 3, 2011

Wildcard NFL Power Rankings and Predictions: Playoff Schedule revealed

This will be my final power rankings this season, let's see where each team stands after the regular season concludes. Week 17 included a few surprises and several heartaches for fans of certain teams. But now we know who will be in the playoffs and who won't. I will not try my best to predict each playoff game.

Biggest Winner: Houston Texans (+7)
Biggest Loser: Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns (-4)

1. New England Patriots (14-2, +0): As much as it infuriated me to watch the Week 17 matchup between the Dolphins and the Pats, I have accepted that the Patriots are the best team in the NFL at the moment. Bill Belichick has done a fantastic job coaching this team this season. Earlier in the season, there were so many question marks about the Pats defense, how well they could play offensively without Randy Moss, but they were able to overcome all that and come out on top. The turning point of the season for them was when they got embarrassed by Cleveland - they used that loss as motivation to improve.

2. Atlanta Falcons (13-3, +0): They took care of business at home to wrap up the division and home-field advantage in the NFC, unlike their rivals, the Saints, who dropped at home last week. Granted, all they had to do was demolish the Panthers, but it is the thought that counts. In the Georgia Dome, the Falcons should be favored against anyone in the playoffs. They have a very good chance at a Super Bowl run this season.

3. Baltimore Ravens (12-4, +0): Likely the best team that will not have a first round bye. Although they were not able to secure the AFC North from the Steelers, I like Baltimore's chances this postseason. They have a lethal combination of a good offense led by Cam Cameron and a defense that has been potent for years. Any team playing the Ravens better watch out - they will play hard against any opponent even if they have to do it on the road.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4, +2): Talk about a statement win for the Steelers, who demolished the Browns 41-9 in Week 17 to clinch the AFC North. The Browns were considered no pushovers going into this game - especially at home, and was considered a team that was likely to get an upset. Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace sure had something to say about that! It's not so much they won, it was how they won, that impressed me. After securing a first round bye and a home game after that, the Steelers are in a strong position. But if they want to get to the Championship, they will still have to likely face the Patriots. And that didn't turn out too well last time.

5. New Orleans Saints (11-5, -1): Granted, the Falcons did end up winning so the game was technically meaningless for the Saints, but I'm disappointed nonetheless about their loss to the Bucs. I mean, the Falcons losing wouldn't be the strangest thing that ever happened in the NFL, there was still a pretty good reason to play. Drew Brees and the Saints offense looked lost. Luckily for them, they virtually get a first-round bye anyway as they have the distinct pleasure of playing the 7-9 Seahawks in the Wildcard round.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6, -1): They rested their starters as expected against the Dallas, seeing as they were locked into the No. 3 NFC seed no matter what. Kevin Kolb tried to lead a victory, but ultimately he was not able to. I was still somewhat impressed by the level of depth the Eagles have, though. Despite mostly starting the 2nd team, the Eagles kept in close and aspired to win. This team has depth. And with Michael Vick at the helm, they will threaten any team with their deadly offense.

7. Green Bay Packers (10-6, +0): Having been in playoff mode for some weeks now, they did it. They are in the actual playoffs. Now, what remains to be seen is how well they will be able to play against the Eagles, whom will be their Wildcard opponents. The Packers defense looked great against the Bears in Week 17 but they will face a much larger challenge against the Michael Vick-led Eagles. When Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick clash next Sunday, you better be prepared for a high-scoring affair!

8. Chicago Bears (11-5, +0): Having already clinched the NFC North, they had nothing to play for against the Packers except to eliminate their hated division rivals. I was quite surprised that they actually started everyone the entire game, but you could tell that they probably weren't as in it as they could have been. At least they have a first-round bye to think it over.

9. New York Jets (11-5, +0): The Jets made it, and played pretty great against the Bills considering they didn't have much to play for. Now they face the Colts, who eliminated them in the playoffs last season, in a matchup that will surely be interesting. These Indianapolis Colts are not the same as last season, and the Jets wish to prove that they are indeed much improved from last season. Last year, they did pretty well as a wildcard team, and one would be a fool to claim they don't have a chance to make a splash, again.

10. Indianapolis Colts (10-6, +0): Ultimately, Peyton Manning does what he must for the Colts. While it wasn't pretty against the Titans, they were able to squeak by and clinch the AFC South. However, their first opponent, the Jets, will be no pushover. The Jets defense is a solid bunch and will cause problems for Peyton Manning. The key will be how well the Colts defense will play at home against a below-average Jets offense.

11. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6, +0): Having already clinched the AFC West, the Chiefs did not have much to play for against the Raiders, they were clearly holding back. Despite the loss, however, Jamaal Charles looked very solid even if his Quarterback, Matt Cassell did not. They better wake up from last week's performance though as Baltimore comes into town this weekend!

12. New York Giants (10-6, +0): They did their end of the bargain by beating the Redskins, but due to a Packers win, the Giants were eliminated. But in all honesty, they have no one to blame but themselves. They had their shot against the Packers the week prior, and blew it. They also had a chance against the Eagles but blew that as well. Their lack of a playoff appearance falls directly on their shoulders. The defense did not play well when they needed to, and Eli Manning went back to his turnover-prone ways (not to mention Ahmad Bradshaw's troubles in that area). Still, they may be the best team currently out of the playoffs.

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6, +1): I feel bad for the Buccaneers. They are so much improved over last season and earned their 10-6 record after beating the Saints with fire in their own dome. Still, before the day began, their hopes were considered a long-shot. They required both the Packers and Giants to lose, and neither happened. However, with much improvement they will go into the offseason with confidence. I think next season we can also expect to see a playoff run.

14. San Diego Chargers (9-7, -1): Having secured another winning record under Norv Turner, it appears his job is safe according to rumors coming out of San Diego. Like the Giants, they can blame mistakes for the lack of their playoff appearance. With how good both the Offense and Defense has played yardage-wise, their mistakes on Special teams and turnovers absolutely killed them this season. On a side note, Ryan Matthews looked like a star last week. If it weren't against the Broncos, I might be impressed.

15. Oakland Raiders (8-8, +1): There are rumors flying around that Tom Cable may be out in Oakland. I would view this as another grave mistake on behalf of Al Davis, but I suppose that would not surprise me. The Raiders have played great this season. 6-0 in the AFC West, and playing exactly like Al Davis likes. Why fire the head coach after so much improvement? Makes no sense. Would be another poor move on behalf of Al Davis.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8, -1): Being demolished when they had a shot at the division is not a good sign. Arian Foster just lit them up (which also cost me my fantasy championship, might I add!). There was no excuse. Jack Del Rio deserves to be fired for this mess. Granted, I'm probably a little biased since I hate Jack Del Rio, but still. With what was on the line for this Jaguars team, you'd think they'd play better. Instead, they are happy with yet another mediocre season.

17. Dallas Cowboys (6-10, +2): The Cowboys have confirmed that Jason Garrett will be back, and I must say I support this decision. Although it was only against the backups of the Eagles, the Cowboys showed that even with their 3rd string Quarterback, they are willing to fight for this coach. While I'm unsure how they will be able to address all the roster problems revealed in this season during the offseason, I will leave it to Jerry Jones to build both his team and its hype during that period.

18. Houston Texans (6-10, +7): Not much went right for the Texans towards the end of the season, but they defiantly went out with a bang! Against a Jaguars team that still had playoff hopes, they came out and dominated. I really think Arian Foster has several more years left as a good Runningback and if Matt Schaub can improve and they can improve their defensive secondary, they could be much better last season. To the surprise of most, the Texans claim that Gary Kubiak will return. I don't know how I feel about this, seeing as I believe he is holding them back. However, Kubiak has stated that if he does stay, he will look into bringing in Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator. If there is anything I trust Wade to do anymore, its to coach defensive secondaries. While I would consider it much better to get rid of Kubiak, the Texans do have hope even with him going into next season.

19. Miami Dolphins (7-9, -1): Head coach Tony Sparano preached about the importance of going 9-7 even without playoff hopes, but instead he went 7-9. I must say, I was never in the "Fire Sparano" boat of Dolphins fans until last game. Before Week 17, Sparano never lost his team but it seemed the Dolphins just quit on him during that last game against the Patriots. While I'm still leaning towards giving Sparano another chance due to really liking what Mike Nolan has done with the defense, I think that a change in offensive coordinator is in order. As well as fixing our major problems, the interior offensive line and Quarterback positions.

20. Detroit Lions (6-10, +4): Finishing off the season on a 4-game winning streak against fairly strong opponents will do loads for morale going into the next season. Keep in mind the roster that Jim Schwartz inherited was that of a 0-16 football team, change can't occur overnight. They now have a very solid core of players, and will look to make a big splash next season.

21. Minnesota Vikings (6-10, -4): After an exciting win against the Eagles Week 16, they follow it up with a disappointing loss to the division-rival Lions in Week 17. Still, what they saw from Leslie Frazier was apparently enough, since the rumor is they are going into contract negotiations with the interim coach. They enter the off-season last in the division with many positions needing to be addressed... chief among them, Quarterback, now that Brett Favre seems unlikely to return (but I would never rule him out).

22. Tennessee Titans (6-10, -2): They tried against the Colts, and that's the best I can really say about them. I remember earlier in the season when the Titans seemed like a virtual lock for the playoffs having defeated Philadelphia and signed Randy Moss. Since then, they just kept going downhill. The real question is who will be gone from Tennessee? Current relations between Jeff Fisher and Vince Young suggests one of the two won't be returning for next season.

23. Seattle Seahawks (7-9, +3): It is a horrible atrocity to see this team in the playoffs, they are awful beyond words. I remember watching last night's "NFC West Championship" last night and thinking without a doubt that neither of these teams deserved to be in the playoffs. Well, congratulations to the Seahawks, the first team in the playoffs with a losing record, you truly are the Best of the Worst! Enjoy being demolished by the Saints.

24. Washington Redskins (6-10, +0): It kind of disgusts me that the Redskins look better with Rex Grossman than Donovan McNabb, but whatever. In any event, Shanahan has improved this team I believe. McNabb is unlikely to return, so it will be interesting to see how they address the Quarterback position or if they are really going to stick with Grossman. As for McNabb, there are several teams looking for a Quarterback currently so he will find a job somewhere. Minnesota or Arizona come to mind the most.

25. St. Louis Rams (7-9, -4): The fact that they blew it was their own faults. They were probably the best team in the NFC West, and most likely to win a playoff game (they play okay at home), but they let the Seahawks beat them out. Sam Bradford looked lost. The Rams played pretty well defensively, enough to win, but the Rams could not get anything going on offense. Oh well, there is always next season. Let's see what the kid can do with some legitimate receivers to throw to.

26. Cleveland Browns (5-11, -4): I must say, I was a Mangini supporter up until the last game. A 41-9 loss proves that he has lost the team, and a chance was needed. The Browns were the first to make their head-coaching change official, and for some reason a little birdie in my ear is telling me "John Gruden" as his successor. We shall see.

27. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12, +1): I was still pretty impressed how well they played against Baltimore in the season's final game. However, that does not change that this season will be considered a huge disaster. 10-6 last season with many picking them to be Super Bowl contenders, they go 4-12 after picking up a big-name WR that even ended up being pretty productive. While Chad Ochocinco's comments are rarely wise, he may be right that it is time to find a new coaching staff for these Cincinnati Bengals.

28. San Francisco 49ers (6-10, +1): Pretty impressive win for the 49ers. Shows the potential they have without Mike Singletary running the helm. Still, they have a lot of work to do in the offseason. Who will they get to be GM? Who will they get as head coach? How will they address the Quarterback need? The offensive line? The defensive secondary? The receivers? While this team can be considered solid in some areas, they still have a lot of areas that need improving. Luckily, they are in the NFC West.

29. Buffalo Bills (4-12, -2): They had a falling out late in the season, but Chan Gailey showed some things that made some believe he may be the right man for this job. The Quarterback position was surprisingly filled by Ryan Fitzpatrick, so now they need to build on their other weaknesses, like the offensive line and defensive line / linebackers. Some interesting news for them is that it seems that Shawn Merriman wants to return to the Bills for at least next year. This surprises many who thought he would want to pack it up for a big-town team. Not a bad turn of events for Buffalo, they could certainly use the OLB help.

30. Denver Broncos (4-12, +1): So is Tebow the real-deal? I guess we'll find out next season with whoever they decide to bring in as head coach. This Broncos team however has a lot of holes that need to be addressed, most of them on the defensive side of the football. As for Kyle Orton, I'm curious to see what becomes of him. Are they content enough with Tebow to let him walk? If he does become available, I would not mind seeing him in a Dolphins uniform next season.

31. Arizona Cardinals (5-11, -1): It is never a good sign when a team gets demolished the last game of the season against a poor division rival, but that is exactly what happened to the Cardinals. Granted, they were down to their what - 6th guy to play the Quarterback position this season? But still, Ken Whisenhunt for all the credit he gets for being an "offensive genius" sure didn't show it this season. I'm starting to wonder if he can run a legitimate offense without a future-HOF Quarterback at the helm.

32. Carolina Panthers (2-14, +0): John Fox was fired unofficially before the game was played, that came to surprise of no one. He did lead the Panthers to the worst team in the NFL, winning only two games. With the first overall pick of the draft, I expect them to take Andrew Luck. As for who will coach the Panthers, my first suspicion is Bill Cowher, but I will wait and see.

Predictions for Next Week

Prediction accuracy for Last Week: 11-5 (68.75%)
Overall prediction accuracy: 122-72 (62.88%)

New Orleans (11-5) @ Seattle (7-9): New Orleans by 14. This game has the potential of being the largest blowout in playoff history. The former-Champs, the Saints, will play the first losing-record team ever in the playoffs. The Seahawks have problems on both sides of the ball. Expect to see the Seahawks struggle to move the ball while the Saints score via the air or the ground at whim. I will be highly surprised if this particular prediction is wrong.

New York J (11-5) @ Indianapolis (10-6): New York J by 3. Slightly harder to call, but I'll go with my gut instinct that the Jets will be victorious over the Colts. At home, the Colts do have a chance to get pressure on Mark Sanchez with their dominating defensive-line, but Peyton Manning may struggle since he has struggled this season and the Jets have a good defensive secondary with lots of pressure packages.

Baltimore (12-4) @ Kansas City (10-6): Baltimore by 10. Nothing personal against the Chiefs, but I really like the Ravens this season. The Chiefs secondary has been abused this season, and Joe Flacco is having his best season yet as Ravens Quarterback. I like Joe Flacco to systematically dink and dunk past the Chiefs. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens have one of the league's best defenses and while Matt Cassel also had a good year I do not think he has what it takes to lead them to a victory here. Not to mention Baltimore's dominating run defense which will give Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones problems.

Green Bay (10-6) @ Philadelphia (10-6): Philadelphia by 7. This should be a fun game to watch, my two favorite Quarterbacks in the NFL going at it. Both teams have playmakers on both sides of the ball, but Philadelphia is the healthier team right now and Michael Vick creates a dynamic offense. Unlike the Packers, Philadelphia can run the ball and the Packers will struggle to get pressure on Michael Vick in the same way they got pressure against Jay Cutler.

Results of Last Week's Poll

Last week, I asked my readers "Which currently-out, but still alive, team is most likely to take a playoff spot in Week 17?" between the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or Seattle Seahawks?

The poll was dominated by, as expected, the Seattle Seahawks with 60% of the vote. Those who voted that way would be correct - all they had to do was win to be in and did end up making it despite their 7-9 record. Both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers also got a vote, to bring them up to 20% each, and the New York Giants got no love.

In my opinion, quite a few players got snubbed in the Pro Bowl selection so this week's poll is "Which non-Pro Bowler should be in the Pro Bowl?" between Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Browns Runningback Peyton Hillis, Titans Runningback Chris Johnson, Dolphins Fullback Lousaka Polite, Chiefs Quarterback Matt Cassel, or Cardinals Wide-receiver Larry Fitzgerald?

Vote on the right-sidebar of my blog!

1 comment:

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