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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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NFL 2012 Week 4 Power Rankings and Predictions

The first three weeks of this NFL season has been straight up weird. Top teams from last season are struggling... Green Bay is 1-2, New England is 1-2, Pittsburgh is 1-2, New Orleans is 0-3. Meanwhile, Arizona is 3-0, Minnesota is 2-1 (who just convincingly beat the 49ers), and Cincinnati is 2-1. Maybe it's the replacement officials. Or maybe its a changing of the guard of the top teams. Don't worry everyone, I'm here to sort it all out!

Biggest Winner: Arizona Cardinals (+13)
Biggest Loser: Philadelphia Eagles (-6)

1Atlanta Falcons (3-0, +1): There are two NFL teams that have looked nearly flawless in the first three weeks. One of those teams is the Falcons. I'm putting them as #1 because thus far they have had a harder schedule, yet have dominated their competition every week. In Week 3, the Falcons faced also-undefeated San Diego, and dominated them 27-3. Mike Nolan  has done a great job with this defense. And with perhaps the best WR duo in the NFL and an emerging Quarterback in Matt Ryan, the Falcons are now my top team.

2. Houston Texans (3-0, +2): The other team that has looked flawless in their first three games is the Texans. After facing the Dolphins and Jaguars in the first two weeks, the Texans faced their first real challenge when they took on long-time rival Peyton Manning with his new team, the Denver Broncos. Houston rose to the challenge, earning a 31-11 4th quarter lead. They did let Peyton get two garbage-time touchdowns, but that's not really important. This Texans team is legitimate as they are explosive and make plays on both sides of the ball.

3. Baltimore Ravens (2-1, +0): Joe Flacco perhaps took his next step in becoming an elite Quarterback with his two-minute touchdown drive to get a victory over the Patriots on Sunday night, 31-30. With Baltimore's defense struggling more than they have in recent years for a variety of reasons, the offense led by Flacco has thus far stepped up. I'd still like to see them involve Ray Rice more in the offense to get a more dynamic attack but the Ravens have a rightful place in the Top 3.

4. San Francisco 49ers (2-1, -3): Okay so... I guess the best way to get a team to lose is to place them #1 on my Power Rankings. In Week 1, I had Green Bay number 1... and they lost. In Week 2, I had New England #1... and they lost. In Week 3, it was the 49ers' turn. I guess the Falcons are next...? Anyway, no one should jump off the 49ers bandwagon just yet. It was an ugly loss against an inferior opponent, yes. But it was only one game.

5. New York Giants (2-1, +3): The Giants are masters of doing one thing: Proving everyone wrong when they are being doubted. That's exactly what happened on Thursday Night, where the Giants staged a debacle against the Panthers in their own stadium, 36-7. The Giants did everything right. Obviously, the Giants aren't a team that is going to get these kind of blowouts every week. Their defense should return to its normal, point-giving self soon enough. But this team makes enough plays to win games, they should be a strong contender this year.

6. New England Patriots (1-2, +0): The Patriots beat the Ravens for three quarters. The only thing they did wrong was give it up in the 4th. At 1-2, you have to start wondering if the Patriots are getting hit by the Super Bowl loser curse again, as they did when they last lost the Super Bowl to the Giants. My gut says this team should be lower than #6 but my mind says this is right where they should be. This team has an improved defense with still a good offense. They should easily be a playoff team at year's end.

7. Green Bay Packers (1-2, -2): Green Bay did get screwed by the refs in the final play of the game, as they gave Golden Tate a touchdown that was clearly not a touchdown. Still, we can't dwell on that. The fact of the matter is this team is no where near where it was at a year ago. Aaron Rodgers has failed to even show a glimmer of his 2011 form, and it hurts this offense severely. Green Bay's defense has improved from a year ago but Aaron Rodgers needs to get his mojo back if he wants to lead the Packers to the post-season in a very competitive division. Luckily for him, he faces the easiest defense on his schedule thus far with the Saints in Week 4.

8. Dallas Cowboys (2-1, +4): Don't get me wrong... I'm not putting Dallas up this high because I like what I see from their offense. Their offense has been abysmal in the last two weeks... Tony Romo has failed to get anything going through the air and DeMarco Murray has been continually stuffed. However their defense is stingy and can keep them in games. I think Dallas's offense should improve as the season goes on, making Dallas a significant challenge to New York for the NFC East.

9. Arizona Cardinals (3-0, +13): What else can I say except I was wrong about this squad? The Cardinals get the largest jump in rankings since I've been doing these Power Rankings, and they can thank their defense. The NFC West has somehow become a defensive powerhouse with Arizona, Seattle, and San Francisco all sporting elite defenses (not to mention St. Louis, whose defense has also been good so far this season). While the offensive line woes still worries me, it didn't stop Kevin Kolb from having a spectacular game against the Eagles in Week 3.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2, -3): The Raiders always seem to have the Steelers' number but giving up 34 points to a team that struggled against the Dolphins is unacceptable. The Steelers defense has taken a huge step back from where it was the last several seasons. Pittsburgh is still out out of the playoff picture obviously but they will need to figure things out during their bye week this week.

11. Seattle Seahawks (2-1, +3): To be honest, the team was probably given the win by the Refs on a questionable call giving Golden Tate a touchdown at the end of the game. Still, the team played well against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense on defense and proved their defense is legitimate. The offense struggled though against the tough Packers defense. I will need to see more from Russell Wilson at the Rams in Week 4 in order to put this team higher.

12. Chicago Bears (2-1, -2): The Bears won convincingly thanks to their monster defense but their offense did not show what I wanted to see from them against the Rams in Week 3. The Bears struggled to run the ball efficiently without Matt Forte and Jay Cutler had another questionable performance, throwing for less than 200 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. The Bears have always had a good defense but I need to see their offense finally step up before I push them back in the Top 10.

13. San Diego Chargers (2-1, -2): So much for the Chargers' strong start to the season. They were brought back to Earth with their humiliating 27-3 loss at home to the Falcons. The good news is Ryan Mathews didn't look awful in his first game back and their offense should get more dynamic as he returns to his old self. In the meantime, Philip Rivers needs to play much better if they want to continue to win games.

14. Denver Broncos (1-2, -1): Peyton Manning didn't play so bad against the Texans but they didn't let him get any touchdowns until garbage time in the 4th quarter. The game really wasn't as close as its 31-25 score indicated. The Broncos are still a solid team on both sides of the ball and should be considered a strong contender for the AFC West, still. But I just don't see this team making any kind of deep playoff run.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1, -6): I really should've seen this coming. The Eagles led the league in giveaways, the Cardinals led the team in takeaways, the Eagles had to travel west to play the Cardinals in their dome. All of the tendencies should've pointed to an Eagles defeat. Fact of the matter is, while the Eagles defense is good, their offense is pathetic. Michael Vick can't read defenses which is sorely exposed now that his offensive line is in shambles. If the Eagles don't correct these offensive woes, Andy Reid will be fired at the season's end.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2, +0): The Bucs have played good, hard football against two tough teams in recent weeks. I think this is a talented team that could easily compete for an NFC wildcard. Their defense has shown they can be stingy and their offense has shown they can put points on the board but their biggest problem in the last two weeks is that they have failed to be able to play a complete game. They will get an easier job against a depleted defense of the Redskins in Week 4. We'll see of they can seize the opportunity to get back to .500.

17. Detroit Lions (1-2, -2): First of all, I don't disagree with the call to go for it on 4th and 1 in overtime. The Lions could not stop the Titans all game, and had a shot of winning the game with a touchdown if they could pick up one yard and then have four downs to score a touchdown. Having said that, the Lions defense is awful. The Titans have struggled all season yet they made Jake Locker look like an All-Pro. They won't go anywhere until their defensive woes can be addressed.

18. New York Jets (2-1, +0): The Jets are not a good football team. Mark Sanchez is not a good Quarterback and the circus with Tim Tebow doesn't help either. Their running game has struggled and receiving corp is average. The only thing they have going for them is an above-average defense which will now be without their best player since Darrelle Revis suffered an ACL injury on Sunday. They shouldn't have won against the Dolphins and should thank Dan Carpenter for his two huge misses that would've caused the Jets to lose. They'll win some close games but I don't see this team as a serious playoff contender.

19. Buffalo Bills (2-1, +1): This Bills team is a tough one to figure out, but they did get a convincing win against an opponent they should have on Sunday. Of course, the injury to C.J. Spiller will cripple this team. It's really a big blow for the Bills, losing a dynamic play-maker finally looking to have broken out. And with Fred Jackson also out to injury, this only puts more pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick, an at-best mediocre NFL talent.

20. Minnesota Vikings (2-1, +6): Christian Ponder has really looked legitimate this season and had another great game, this time against arguably the NFL's best defense in a shocking 24-13 win over San Francisco. I have a Vikings fan who was really high on this squad but I still have my reservations. Still, its hard to argue against 2-1 and a team that has looked solid on both sides of the ball. We'll see if they can keep the ball rolling. Their division rivals have all disappointed at this point in the season, the Vikings could snipe a division title if they continue playing this level of football.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1, +3): I would've liked to see how the Bengals faired against the Redskins before they lost Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo, but man, did the Bengals offense look legit in that game. Their first score of the game was a gadget play that resulted in a huge touchdown pass to A.J. Green from rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu. The biggest problem with this team is still its defense - which gave up another 31 points on Sunday. I just don't see this team as a serious contender so long as they keep letting their opponents hanging around in games. They got away with it twice this season but I don't see them getting away with it for long.

22Carolina Panthers (1-2, -5): Looks like I was right about Cam Newton having a sophomore slump. He was just awful against the Giants on Thursday night, throwing three picks and only leading the Panthers to 7 points. While the Panthers have gotten their rushing game going again in the last two weeks, their below-average defense play and lack of explosion from Cam Newton has killed them so far. I don't see this team as competing this year. Maybe next year, Panthers fans.

23. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2, +5): Has Jamaal Charles finally returned to his pre-injury self? It certainly looks like its possible judging from his elite performance in Kansas City's 27-24 overtime win at New Orleans. Charles (who was on my fantasy bench, sadly) exploded for over 280 total yards and a score against the Saints. He'll face a stingier defense in Week 4 in San Diego so I guess we'll see there if Charles is really back. If he is, the Chiefs could rebound and make a play for the AFC West.

24. Washington Redskins (1-2, -5): Robert Griffin continues to look good but not the Redskins defense since they lost two of their best defensive players. They have given up 69 points in their last two games, both offensive shootouts. As I said with the Bengals, I simply do not trust teams with poor defenses, no matter how well their offense plays. If you can't stop your opponent, you will always have the chance to lose in the fourth quarter.

25. New Orleans Saints (0-3, -4): Another week, another loss for the Saints. This time, though, it actually seemed like the Saints were going to pull off a win until their defense totally collapsed in the second half and got destroyed by Jamaal Charles. Having an 11-point lead and blowing it in the 4th quarter is an even worse sign this team sucks than their first two convincing losses. This team badly needs Sean Payton, and they won't get it. Maybe they can start getting wins when Joe Vitt returns, who knows. Bountygate has officially destroyed the Saints' 2012 campaign.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2, +1): Blaine Gabbert has shown spots of greatness so far this year, none more impressive than his 80-yard touchdown to Cecil Shorts in the final minutes to win over the Colts 22-17 on Sunday. To help the Jaguars further, it seems Maurice Jones-Drew is starting to return to form, rushing for 177 yards and a score. With the Jaguars solid defense, they are a team that teams can't afford to overlook. But they still lack the talent needed to become a contender this year, especially with Houston in their division.

27. St. Louis Rams (1-2, -4): The Rams defense gave Sam Bradford and the Rams offense every opportunity to win the game against the Bears, but for the first time this season, Bradford failed to get anything going. I really thought Bradford may have turned things around but his poor two interception (one of which a pick six) performance was the direct cause of their defeat. Granted, the Bears defense is one of the NFL's best but this team won't go anywhere this season, especially since their division is apparently full of elite defenses.

28Miami Dolphins (1-2, +1): I've always liked Dan "the Carp" Carpenter, but he lost the game for the Dolphins on Sunday against the Jets. He missed two 45-50 yard field goals in a 23-20 overtime loss. Had he made the first, the Dolphins win by 3 and there would be no need for overtime. Then he missed one in overtime. Still, he wasn't completely to blame for their loss. Ryan Tannehill struggled even after Darrelle Revis went down to injury and after Reggie Bush was injured, the Dolphins struggled to run the ball with Daniel Thomas. Rookie RB Lamar Miller looked good in his opportunities, he should probably be the #1 back until Bush gets back. Daniel Thomas lacks vision and is fumble-prone.

29. Oakland Raiders (1-2, +1): The comeback win against the Steelers was impressive, but I'll need to see more than a win against a team you always seem to beat for me to give any love to the Raiders. The biggest difference in Week 3 than the previous two weeks is that the Raiders were finally able to establish the run with Darren McFadden, who burst for 113 yards and a score against the Steelers. If they can have similar success with the run at Denver in Week 4, they may have a chance.

30. Indianapolis Colts (1-2, -5): The good news is that Andrew Luck continues to improve. The bad news is the Colts defense is average at best, and the team lost. I really like what we've seen from Luck in his first few games but he is on a team that is currently rebuilding. The Colts defense has been bad against the run and has been prone to giving up big plays. While Luck has played pretty well, they lack a running game which also hurts this team. Like most teams in the 25 - 30 range, no team should overlook the Colts as they have the potential to pull of upsets but they aren't a contender this year.

31. Tennessee Titans (1-2, +1): I'm unsure what to do with this team after their 44-41 win against Detroit on Sunday. After horrible performances offensively in the first two weeks, Jake Locker was amazing against the Lions in Week 3. Granted, the Lions are known to be soft against the pass. Meanwhile, the Titans defense and Chris Johnson still sucks. So yeah, I'm still going to say this Titans team sucks in general. But if Locker can continue to develop and take pressure off of Chris Johnson and the running game, maybe they could have other shocking performances this year.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-3, -1): One again, the Browns showed they have hope but just aren't talented enough to win games int he NFL. Trent Richardson had another solid performance but that was ruined by another sub-par game from Brandon Weeden. The Browns are going to be lucky to win more than a few games this season. If Holmgren gets the axe after this year as I expect, they will probably distance themselves from Weeden and select Matt Barkley.

Predictions for Week 2

TKN's Week 1 accuracy: 8-8 (50.00%)
Billy's Week 1 accuracy: 8-8 (50.00%)
AFS's* Week 1 accuracy: 9-7 (56.25%)

TKN's Overall 2012 accuracy: 26-22 (54.17%)
Billy's Overall 2012 accuracy: 26-22 (54.17%)
AFS's* Overall 2012 accuracy: 30-18 (62.50%)
*American Football Simulator averages of 2,000 simulations.

There were a lot of upsets in Week 3, which always equates to a poor prediction week. I feel like I have learned some times however and I hope to perform better in Week 4! The AFS continues to dominate us mere mortals, expanding its lead by one more game.

So far, Weeden has been a disappointment.
Cleveland Browns (0-3) @ Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
TheKillerNacho: While strange things always seem to happen on Thursday Night Football (probably due to the short week), this shouldn't really be close. The Ravens are playing at home and are a very good team. The Browns, on the other hand, well, isn't. It will probably be a defensive, low-scoring game but one Baltimore wins handily.
Cleveland 13, Baltimore 23

Cleveland 17, Baltimore 35

American  Football Simulator:
Cleveland 19, Baltimore 26

San Diego Chargers (2-1) @ Kansas City Chiefs (1-2)
TheKillerNacho: This is a tough one for me. Kansas City is at home after their first win of the year, and it seems Jamaal Charles may have found his pre-injury mojo. On the other hand, San Diego is the better team but is coming off a bitter loss. Their RB, Ryan Mathews, is also a question mark since this will be his second game back. I may learn to regret this prediction, but I'm going to go with the Chargers. Philip Rivers should be able to expose the Chiefs' defensive issues.
San Diego 27, Kansas City 24

San Diego 45, Kansas City 56

American  Football Simulator:
San Diego 25, Kansas City 24

San Francisco 49ers (2-1) @ New York Jets (2-1)
TheKillerNacho: The 49ers have to be obvious favorites here. The only thing going against them is the fact that they are traveling east. However, that has not been a problem for the Jim Harbaugh-led 49ers. The Jets defense will regress with Darrelle Revis out of the lineup. The Jets won't start finding running success against the Niners and Mark Sanchez will struggle, as always.
San Francisco 24, New York J 16

San Francisco 20, New York J 24

American Football Simulator:
San Francisco 25, New York J 20

Seattle Seahawks (2-1) @ St. Louis Rams (1-2)
TheKillerNacho: Seattle has proved this season that its defense is legitimate, the Rams will struggle against them as they did the Bears. Russell Wilson needs to improve going into this game. The Rams defense isn't bad, but its far easier than what he was faced with against Green Bay.
Seattle 21, St. Louis 17

Seattle 32, St. Louis 29

American Football Simulator:
Seattle 23, St. Louis 22

Carolina Panthers (1-2) @ Atlanta Falcons (3-0)
TheKillerNacho: If the first three weeks repeat themselves, the Falcons (my #1 team) will lose. Of course I don't see this happening. Granted, the Panthers have had a long week and will have extra motivation to knock off its division rival. But the Falcons at home are tough to beat and should expose the Panthers defense as the Giants did last week.
Carolina 23, Atlanta 28

Carolina 24, Atlanta 35

American Football Simulator:
Carolina 25, Atlanta 28

Ponder hopes to continue his strong season at Detroit.
Minnesota Vikings (2-1) @ Detroit Lions (1-2)
TheKillerNacho: This should be a high-scoring affair. Neither of these teams can defend against the pass so this should turn into a shootout between Matthew Stafford (if he is good to go) and Christian Ponder. I'll take Stafford at home, but the Vikings will come to play and could pull off the upset.
Minnesota 26, Detroit 27

Minnesota 25, Detroit 27

American Football Simulator:
Minnesota 22, Detroit 25

New England Patriots (1-2) @ Buffalo Bills (2-1)
TheKillerNacho: The Patriots improved defense shouldn't have much problem with a Bills offense now lacking a legitimate rushing threat. They'll bring the house on Ryan Fitzpatrick and force Fitzpatrick to beat them. Ryan Fitzpatrick is an average NFL Quarterback, I don't think he'll play well against the improved Patriots defense. On the other side of the ball, Tom Brady should have a nice day against a Bills defense that struggled to contain the Jets.
New England 28, Buffalo 20

New England 41, Buffalo 30

American Football Simulator:
New England 26, Buffalo 19

Tennessee Titans (1-2) @ Houston Texans (3-0)
TheKillerNacho: The Texans defense is light-years ahead of Detroit's, especially against the pass, so don't expect Jake Locker to have an encore performance here. The Texans should easily contain Chris Johnson and keep Locker running for his life all game long. Meanwhile, the Texans offense are smirking at the opportunity to post huge numbers against one of the league's most inept defenses.
Tennessee 14, Houston 30

Tennessee 19, Houston 30

American Football Simulator:
Tennessee 23, Houston 28

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)
TheKillerNacho: Just like last year, the Bengals seem to be getting lucky breaks when it comes to their early scheduling. The Jaguars are looking better but are still a pretty below-average team. Having said that, give me the Jaguars in an upset at home. Although I wouldn't be surprised if the Bengals pull out the W, this game is a toss-up.
Cincinnati 17, Jacksonville 20

Cincinnati 23, Jacksonville 13

American Football Simulator:
Cincinnati 20, Jacksonville 24

The Cardinals D shouldn't slow down against Miami.
Miami Dolphins (1-2) @ Arizona Cardinals (3-0)
TheKillerNacho: Miami really doesn't stand a chance here, having to travel west to face the undefeated Cardinals and their defense which has looked amazing in the first three games. With their largest playmaker, Reggie Bush, likely out, they will struggle to move the ball and turn the ball over. While the Dolphins should dominate the Cardinals offensive line, they will get enough points to win the game.
Miami 9, Arizona 20

Miami 17, Arizona 28

American Football Simulator:
Miami 20, Arizona 24

Oakland Raiders (1-2) @ Denver Broncos (1-2)
TheKillerNacho: After two tough games, Peyton Manning gets to come home to play a team coming off its first win, the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders need to establish Darren McFadden in order to stand a chance. But the Broncos defense is tough and at Mile High stadium, I think Peyton Manning will pass his way to success while Carson Palmer struggles.
Oakland 20, Denver 27

Oakland 22, Denver 15

American Football Simulator:
Oakland 23, Denver 22

Washington Redskins (1-2) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)
TheKillerNacho: This is the Bucs' third NFC East matchup in a row. This time, however, they get to come home and face the Redskins, likely the worst of the four after their defensive injuries. Griffin should have another good game but so should Josh Freeman and Doug Martin. I'll go with the Bucs here.
Washington 24, Tampa Bay 27

Washington 24, Tampa Bay 26

American Football Simulator:
Washington 23, Tampa Bay 25

New Orleans Saints (0-3) @ Green Bay Packers (1-2)
TheKillerNacho: Before Week 1, this looked to be a amazing matchup between two teams that were on top of the NFC last season. Now its the struggle of two teams trying to avoid being all but finished off. Green Bay has clearly been the better team this season and Aaron Rodgers should rebound now that he's finally not playing an elite defense (his first three matchups were SF, CHI, and SEA. Ouch!). Green Bay improves to .500 while New Orleans drops to a mind-blowing 0-4.
New Orleans 27, Green Bay 31

New Orleans 30, Green Bay 34

American Football Simulator:
New Orleans 24, Green Bay 27

Pierre-Paul looks to add to his season sack total on Sunday night.
New York Giants (2-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)
TheKillerNacho: Giants / Eagles games are always tough to predict due to the close rivalry. However, if the Michael Vick and the Eagles offense can't get something going, this could be a long outing for them. Jason Pierre-Paul will put the heat on Vick all night long. And eventually Eli Manning is going to beat a good Eagles defense for some scores.
New York G 26, Philadelphia 23

New York G 37, Philadelphia 33

American Football Simulator:
New York G 24, Philadelphia 26

Chicago Bears (2-1) @ Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
TheKillerNacho: Monday night gives us a match-up of two teams struggling on offense but have very good defenses. Its a tough game to predict but if Jay Cutler plays as bad as he's played the last two weeks, Dallas's offense is good enough at home to pull up a win. I'll go with Dallas.
Chicago 18, Dallas 20

Chicago 14, Dallas 28

American Football Simulator:
Chicago 26, Dallas 25

Question of the Week

Last week, I asked "Out of the six 0-2 NFL teams, which is the most likely to make the playoffs?" between the New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, or Tennessee Titans? Not surprisingly, most voters voted for the Saints (70%). However it looks like I was right to say the Chiefs with their huge win over the Saints. The Chiefs came in second in that poll, with 30%. No one voted for the other teams (for good reason).

As I said earlier, the first three weeks have been shocking. So this week's question is "For better or worse, which NFL team's performance has been most shocking so far?" between the New Orleans Saints (0-3), New England Patriots (1-2), Green Bay Packers (1-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2), Arizona Cardinals (3-0), or the Minnesota Vikings (2-1)? With bountygate I'm unsure to call the Saints a "shock". The largest shock for me is how wrong I was about the Arizona Cardinals. I thought their defense would be good, but the Cardinals have somehow also managed hide their offensive line problems giving them a very balanced team.

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