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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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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

Billy:
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.

Vote on the right-hand side of my blog!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

NFL 2012 Week 3 Power Rankings and Predictions

Week 2 was a very odd NFL week. A lot of teams that surprised everyone in Week 1 were the teams that took a step back in Week 2. It was a terrible fantasy week for me as I scored less points than I did ever. And to make matters worse, I was playing the very same Billy who does predictions for this blog. Blegh. Onto the power rankings.

Biggest Winner: Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks (+8)
Biggest Loser: New York Jets (-7)

1. San Francisco 49ers (2-0, +2): The 49ers has really established themselves as an elite team with two decisive victories over NFC North opponents that were strong bets for the playoffs. With an elite defense and an emerging offense, the 49ers look to be the team to beat in the NFC. Alex Smith holds a 115.9 Quarterback rating two games into the season... he's no longer a bust, that's for sure.

2Atlanta Falcons (2-0, +2): After dismantling the Chiefs, the Falcons proved themselves to be legitimate by defeating a tough Broncos team led by Peyton Manning. They didn't just defeat him, however, they forced three first-half interceptions from the future Hall-of-Famer. Even without Brent Grimes, the Falcons' defense looks frightening. Offensively, another good game by Matt Ryan and that Falcons passing game.

3. Baltimore Ravens (1-1, -1): Despite their 1-point loss to the Eagles, I still think the Ravens are the class of the AFC. The thing that really bugs me about that game is that Ray Rice was running the ball so well but OC Cam Cameron insisted on throwing the ball with Joe Flacco every play, despite the fact they had the lead. Poor play-calling and lack of adjusting to the Eagles' half-time adjustments lost the game for the Ravens. I think they should bounce back, however.

4. Houston Texans (2-0, +3): Statistically, there is no better team than the Texans right now. And while you have to consider their first two opponents, the lowly Dolphins and Jaguars, they still destroyed teams they should. Their RB tandem of Arian Foster and Ben Tate is obviously one of the league's best, and their defense is playing as well as anyone right now (Yes, even as well as San Francisco's!). They get their first real challenge this week at Denver, it will be interesting to see how they fare.

5. Green Bay Packers (1-1, +0): Bouncing back from strong criticisms in Week 1, the Green Bay defense had huge strides in Week 2. Clay Matthews had what was perhaps his best game of his career, sacking Jay Cutler 3.5 times on Thursday night. It gets even better, however, since the Pack was able to pick Cutler off four times. With that kind of defensive numbers, though, you'd expect Green Bay's "explosive offense" would be able to win by more than 13 points. Granted, they played arguably two of the best defenses in the league, but I don't think we've seen a complete game on both sides of the ball from this team yet.

6. New England Patriots (1-1, -5): Granted, the Patriots really should be 2-0 right now, and would be if it wasn't for the Field Goal miss by Stephen Gostkowski at the end of the game. Still, it shouldn't have been nearly as close as it was. Tom Brady and the offense made key mistakes, giving the Cardinals points. The good news is that the defense looked good despite the offense looking flat. Perhaps this is another sign of the Super Bowl Loser curse taking effect?

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1, +3): A convincing 27-10 win over the Jets is just what the doctor ordered for this team. The Steelers defense put the Jets offense back in its place. Mark Sanchez only completed 10 passes, and the most explosive run the Jets had on the day was a 22-yard Tim Tebow scramble. The Steelers offense played well enough to win given the advantage their defense gave them. Roethlisberger bounced back with 275 yards and two touchdowns, one to Mike Wallace, which is a good sign from the former hold-out.

8. New York Giants (1-1, +1): While Eli Manning got back to his 4th-quarter clutch ways against Tampa Bay on Sunday, the Giants defense (namely the secondary) looks mighty bad. Part of their early defensive woes could be attributed to Manning's turnovers in the first half, but allowing a shootout with Josh Freeman in the second half really isn't excusable. They need to address their secondary issues if they want to repeat.

9. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0, +8): I don't feel like looking it up, but it has to be some kind of record that the Eagles are 2-0 despite a league-high 9 turnovers. Their two 1-point wins are a testament to the great defense the Eagles have this year. Finally, the Eagles defense put it together, with a great pass rush combined with a lethal secondary. Too bad the offense forgot how to play in the off-season. Michael Vick looks awful to the point teams are okay stacking the box against LeSean McCoy. Their matchup against the Cardinals will be the battle of the two teams least deserving of being 2-0.

10. Chicago Bears (1-1, -4): I'm not ready to jump ship on the Bears just yet, but WOW, their offense got exposed on Thursday night. Jay Cutler has never been very good against the Packers, but he had his worst game of his career. He must be having nightmares about Packers defensive players sacking him and intercepting his throws all night long. Brandon Marshall was limited to just two catches (with one dropped in the endzone). Chicago's offense should be able to rally and bounce back, but it seems they are far from being the improved Bears offense we thought they were in Week 1.

11. San Diego Chargers (2-0, +3): Could this finally be Norv Turner's year? Even without star RB Ryan Mathews, the Chargers are off to a 2-0 start. With Mathews likely coming back into the lineup next week, or next week at the latest, the Chargers are getting him right when they need him. The Raiders and the Titans are two of the worst NFL teams. But they'll have their hands full against the Falcons in Week 3.

12. Dallas Cowboys (1-1, -4): From defeating the reigning Super Bowl champs to getting blown out by the Seahawks... where the heck am I supposed to put this team? Two games on the road to start the season is tough and I think the Cowboys should bounce back for their home opener, but this team is really confusing. I really like their defense and Tony Romo but 12th is as high as I can put them at this point.

13. Denver Broncos (1-1, -1): After an impressive outing against the Steelers, the "new" Peyton Manning struggled heavily against the Falcons, throwing three first-half interceptions that put them out of the game early. While they were able to get some garbage points in the 2nd half, it wasn't a good night for the Broncos. I trust Manning can fix his mistakes and bounce back but he gets another tough defense in Week 3 against the Texans.

14. Seattle Seahawks (1-1, +8): Maybe I jumped ship on this team too early. The Seahawks defense looked extremely solid at home against the Cowboys. Its true the Seahawks have one of the best homefield advantages in the league, but everything went right in the 27-7 win against the Cowboys. Rookie Russell Wilson looked quite good against a tough defense, too.

15. Detroit Lions (1-1, +0): Honestly, I think I had the placing for the Lions right after Week 1. This is a team that isn't as good as it was last year. While they still have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, teams are starting to figure out Mathew Stafford, and it doesn't help him that the Lions don't have much of a running game. The Lions should remain competitive for an NFC wildcard spot, however.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1, +2): The Bucs lost against the Giants in Week 2, but it was impressive how close they were able to make it against the reigning champs. The offense looked like it was starting to come together with good throws to Vincent Jackson from Josh Freeman. And the defense picked off Eli Manning three times. This should be a pretty solid team going forward but are in a tough NFC South division.

17Carolina Panthers (1-1, +2): Defeating Drew Brees and the Saints is still impressive, and a nice home opener for the Panthers. Cam Newton had a very good day against the same defense that gave up big numbers to Robert Griffin III, throwing for over 250 yards and running for over 70 and two total touchdowns. Their rushing game also rebounded from a pitiful performance against Tampa Bay, with their Runningbacks combining for over 100 yards and two touchdowns. They now take on the former Champion Giants on Thursday-night football.

18. New York Jets (1-1, -7): Last week, I was admitting how wrong I was about the Jets offense and how good it looked. Well, it turned a complete 180 against the Steelers at Pittsburgh on Sunday. Sanchez was totally inaccurate. The running game couldn't get going. Stephen Hill didn't catch a pass. To make matters worse, their defense gave up two touchdown passes to Ben Roethlisberger. Granted, Darrelle Revis was out, but the Steelers were without James Harrison and Troy Polamalu so what's their excuse?

19. Washington Redskins (1-1, -6): Their 6-point slide in these Power Rankings isn't so much due to their loss against the Rams, but rather, what we found out after the game. Two key Redskins defensive starters, Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo, are done for the year. This will severely hurt the unit since Orakpo is by far their best pass-rusher. Griffin is still good enough to win the Redskins games but it hurts their chances to make the post-season severely.

20. Buffalo Bills (1-1, +0): Okay, so, they were able to light up the Chiefs. The Chan Gailey-led Bills are all about Roller-coaster rides, however, so I'm going to hold off calling them a good team again. The one thing I will say is that C.J. Spiller is the real deal. I honestly thought when he was drafted that he would be a decent compliment back to Fred Jackson and nothing more but this kid could really carry the load for the Bills if he stays healthy. Moving forward, he's one of the most explosive Runningbacks in the game.

21. New Orleans Saints (0-2, -5): From one of the best teams in the league to an 0-2 start, the Saints are a team that is degrading quickly. Drew Brees has looked off while the defense is playing soft (probably with Bountygate still looming over their heads) and can't stop anybody. Obviously they have the talent to rebound, but it will be tough with their morale as low as it is. At least in Week 3 they get to play at home against another demoralized team, the Chiefs.

22. Arizona Cardinals (2-0, +5): While I admit I had this team far too low in my Power Rankings, this is not a 2-0 team. Their defense is good but their offensive line makes the Cardinals offense one of the worst in the league. Kevin Kolb can't get enough time to throw the ball to Larry Fitzgerald and it doesn't open up running lanes for Beanie Wells or Ryan Williams. Virtually all of their points against the Patriots came off of Patriots turnovers. Plus, Stephen Gostkowski shouldn't have missed his 42-yard field goal that gave the Cardinals the win. The Cardinals defense is good enough to keep them in most games but I think we'll be looking back at this 2-0 start as a fluke; this is not a playoff team.

23. St. Louis Rams (1-1, +3): Jeff Fisher has turned around the Rams in a hurry. Sam Bradford is looking calm in the pocket and is making good decisions, he had at least a 100 passer rating in each of his first two games. The defense is improved with the acquisition of Cortland Finnegan. Fisher held out star RB Steven Jackson for an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty on Sunday but the Rams were still able to run the ball effectively with 7th-round rookie Daryl Richardson. Like the Cardinals, its arguable if they would've won last week if it wasn't for a mistake by the other team. But I really like the development of this team and they will be a tough opponent to just about everybody.

24. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1, +0): Defeating the Browns isn't going to convince me that this isn't an overhyped football team. Plus, the defense has just looked awful in the first two games. Getting beaten by Joe Flacco and Ray Rice is one thing but getting destroyed by Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson is completely different. Offensively the Bengals looked good and you have to like what you saw from Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but man, this team isn't going to even come close to the playoffs until they can fix their defensive problems.

25. Indianapolis Colts (1-1, +4): Andrew Luck looked good in his home opener against the Vikings, going 20/31 for 224 and a pair of touchdowns in a 23-20 overtime win. This team won't seriously compete this season but I think the rewards of selecting Andrew Luck and switching to the 3-4 defense under Chuck Pagano will start showing themselves as early as next season.

26. Minnesota Vikings (1-1, -1): Christian Ponder had another good game against the Colts, going 27/35 for 245 yards and two touchdowns but wasn't able to come down with the ever-important win. Despite playing well in their first two games, one really must consider the competition: the Jaguars and the Colts. The Vikings are at home against the #1 ranked 49ers on Sunday, which will be their first real challenge of the season.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2, -6): I guess I really reached on the Jaguars this year. But a home 27-7 loss to the Texans, a game in which the Jaguars couldn't move the ball and got pummeled by the Texans running game, has me seeing the light about this team. I still like their defense and I still believe Blaine Gabbert is improving but this team has a lot of work to be done before it can start being a real contender. For now, it belongs in the bottom half of the league, where I'm placing it.

28. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2, -5): Even with their defensive starters coming back, the Chiefs defense looked awful for the second straight week, being let up by Bills RB C.J. Spiller. Offensively, the Chiefs were forced to abandon the run too early and put their hope in Matt Cassel to win them the game... and you're never in a good position when your hope is in Cassel. This team needs to play good defense and run the ball on offense to succeed but the defense just isn't getting it done right now.

29Miami Dolphins (1-1, +3): I'm really quite happy my Dolphins were able to prove they weren't the worst NFL team last Sunday with a dominating 35-13 win over the Raiders. Many in the Dolphins offense enjoyed career days against the Raiders. Tannehill threw no picks and had two total touchdowns, and Brian Hartline showed he had what it takes to be a legitimate receiver with a career-high 9 receptions for 111 yards. But perhaps most impressively, Reggie Bush is one step closer to proving he is a legitimate starting RB in the NFL with his 172 yard, 2 touchdown game. Looks like Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman's offense is starting to click.

30. Oakland Raiders (0-2, -2): I was thinking the Raiders could be a decent team this year but boy am I wrong. Whenever you are getting blown out by what many Power Rankings had as one of the two worst teams, you're not a good team. Carson Palmer's struggles have carried into the regular season and Darren McFadden is not getting running lanes, limiting his opportunities severely. It looks like the lack of high draft picks during the Al Davis era has crippled this team.

31. Cleveland Browns (0-2, +0): The Browns aren't short on one thing: hope. Too bad they won't put it all together this season, in all probability. In Week 1, they shut down one of the most dynamic NFL offenses in a 17-16 loss, but their offense played horribly. In Week 2, their offense plays great but their defense sucks leading to a 34-27 loss. While I'm still not high on Brandon Weeden, he showed with a strong running game from Trent Richardson, he can have some success. I expect to see them flash more "hope" in their Week 3 loss to the Bills.

32. Tennessee Titans (0-2, -2): I wouldn't have thought so at the beginning of the season, but the Titans look to be the NFL's worst team after two games. They didn't just lose their first two games, they were destroyed. Chris Johnson has not rebounded, in part due to the fact that no team fears their passing attack led by the disappointing Jake Locker. Now this should get better with Kenny Britt being re-integrated into the offense, but until then, the Titans are the NFL's worst team.

Predictions for Week 2

TKN's Week 1 accuracy: 11-5 (68.75%)
Billy's Week 1 accuracy: 11-5 (68.75%)
AFS's* Week 1 accuracy: 11-5 (68.75%)

TKN's Overall 2012 accuracy: 18-14 (56.25%)
Billy's Overall 2012 accuracy: 18-14 (56.25%)
AFS's* Overall 2012 accuracy: 21-11 (65.63%)
*American Football Simulator averages of 2,000 simulations.

All of our predictors hit and missed on some of our differences in Week 2, but the bottom line is everyone had a pretty good 11-5 prediction week. The Simulator still leads due to me and Billy's poor Week 1, however. I personally hope to improve for Week 3, however!

Cam Newton looks to build on his home opener success.
New York Giants (1-1) @ Carolina Panthers (1-1)
TheKillerNacho: The Giants are off to a rocky start for a Super Bowl champion, and they have to go to Carolina to play against Cam Newton on a short week. Like most Thursday night games, defenses seem to have an advantage so I don't think it will be super high-scoring. It will be a close game but I expect Eli Manning to win in the final minutes, as he always seems to.
New York G 24, Carolina 23

Billy:
New York G 17, Carolina 27

American  Football Simulator:
New York G 24, Carolina 23

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) @ Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
TheKillerNacho: Going on the road to play the Giants then the Cowboys must be tough for this young Bucs team. Dallas is looking to rebound after a pitiful 27-7 loss against the Seahawks, and I think they will take that anger out on the Bucs. The Bucs will need to force turnovers from Romo to win, but I don't think Romo will give them many opportunities. I'll go with Dallas.
Tampa Bay 24, Dallas 27

Billy:
Tampa Bay 20, Dallas 34

American  Football Simulator:
Tampa Bay 25, Dallas 27

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) @ Indianapolis Colts (1-1)
TheKillerNacho: Part of me still likes Jacksonville and wants to pick them but I have to go with Andrew Luck in his second home game. The Jags defense has struggled in the first two games and Blaine Gabbert will have his hands full with the Colts' pass rushers on Sunday. It will be close, but I think its a game the Colts should win.
Jacksonville 17, Indianapolis 21

Billy:
Jacksonville 14, Indianapolis 27

American Football Simulator:
Jacksonville 25, Indianapolis 21

C.J. Spiller has looked amazing for the Bills so far.
Buffalo Bills (1-1) @ Cleveland Browns (0-2)
TheKillerNacho: As I said in the Power Rankings, the Browns have shown "hope" on both sides of the ball but never at the same time. I think we'll see that again against the Bills. C.J. Spiller should have another good game while Ryan Fitzpatrick takes advantage of the Browns secondary that allowed three touchdowns to Andy Dalton.
Buffalo 23, Cleveland 20

Billy:
Buffalo 16, Cleveland 17

American Football Simulator:
Buffalo 23, Cleveland 21

New York Jets (1-1) @ Miami Dolphins (1-1)
TheKillerNacho: As much as I want to pick the Dolphins, the Jets are by far more talented and match up against us well. OC Tony Sparano will also be looking for revenge and has inside knowledge about the Dolphins defensive players, so I think he'll come in with a good game plan. Jets win.
New York J 24, Miami 17

Billy:
New York J 13, Miami 16

American Football Simulator:
New York J 24, Miami 19

Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) @ New Orleans Saints (0-2)
TheKillerNacho: Both of these teams I thought were good squads going into 2012 but have really stunk it up so far. The Saints are the better team and playing at home, so I think they'll be able to finally overcome Bountygate for their first win on Sunday. They could easily lose however if Brees continues to struggle.
Kansas City 21, New Orleans 28

Billy:
Kansas City 27, New Orleans 30

American Football Simulator:
Kansas City 22, New Orleans 28

Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) @ Washington Redskins (1-1)
TheKillerNacho: This is a tough game to predict but its hard for me to go against Robert Griffin III in his home opener against a pass defense that has looked abysmal thus far. Look for Griffin to continue his hot streak and please the home crowd for a Redskins win.
Cincinnati 24, Washington 27

Billy:
Cincinnati 26, Washington 21

American Football Simulator:
Cincinnati 20, Washington 22

Jay Cutler and the Bears need to get back on track.
St. Louis Rams (1-1) @ Chicago Bears (1-1)
TheKillerNacho: The Jeff Fisher-led Rams are much improved but their offense gets a tough opponent in the Bears in Week 3. Offensive the Bears will be angry and looking to fix their mistakes they had on Thursday night against the Packers. With the extra time to prepare, I think Cutler should come out and have a good game. I'll take the Bears at home.
St. Louis 16, Chicago 24

Billy:
St. Louis 21, Chicago 31

American Football Simulator:
St. Louis 20, Chicago 26

San Francisco 49ers (2-0) @ Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
TheKillerNacho: The Vikings had two easy opponents in the first two weeks, but that ends when they have to take on the 49ers. The Niners have two convincing wins against top teams due to their elite defense and an improved defense. The Vikings have one of the league's worst secondaries, so Alex Smith should put together another good game. Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson should have their hands full with one of the league's best defenses.
San Francisco 26, Minnesota 17

Billy:
San Francisco 30, Minnesota 19

American Football Simulator:
San Francisco 26, Minnesota 20

Detroit Lions (1-1) @ Tennessee Titans (0-2)
TheKillerNacho: If the Titans play even remotely the way they did the last two weeks, the Lions should get an easy win here. The Titans defense has all kinds of problems containing the run meaning even with a poor running game the Lions will be able to get balanced on offense which should open up some opportunities for big plays from Mathew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.
Detroit 28, Tennessee 14

Billy:
Detroit 28, Tennessee 24

American Football Simulator:
Detroit 26, Tennessee 25

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) @ San Diego Chargers (2-0)
TheKillerNacho: A battle of two 2-0 squads, Atlanta is clearly the more impressive of the two. Still, San Diego hopes to get Ryan Mathews back for this game which should boost their offensive firepower. However I think the Chargers will have struggle handing Matt Ryan and his two top receivers.
Atlanta 27, San Diego 26

Billy:
Atlanta 31, San Diego 30

American Football Simulator:
Atlanta 28, San Diego 27

Micheal Vick needs to stop his turnovers to stay undefeatd.
Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) @ Arizona Cardinals (2-0)
TheKillerNacho: The Eagles are clearly the better team but always seem to play down to the level of their opponents. They lead the league in turnovers but always seem to find a way to win due to their menacing defense. A defense I fully expect to have a field day with the Cardinals' offensive line. Maybe the Eagles will be able to get more than a 1-point victory this week? Nah.
Philadelphia 21, Arizona 20

Billy:
Philadelphia 24, Arizona 18

American Football Simulator:
Philadelphia 28, Arizona 23

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) @ Oakland Raiders (0-2)
TheKillerNacho: The Raiders offense has been atrociously sloppy in the first two weeks and will get one of the best defenses in the NFL in Week 3... which is a recipe for disaster. The Steelers are always strong against the run which means Darren McFadden won't be able to get going this week. Carson Palmer easily loses to his old division rival here.
Pittsburgh 27, Oakland 14

Billy:
Pittsburgh 17, Oakland 25

American Football Simulator:
Pittsburgh 24, Oakland 19

Houston Texans (2-0) @ Denver Broncos (1-1)
TheKillerNacho: If Peyton Manning thought that the Falcons defense was talented, wait until he gets to see his old division rival, the Texans! While Peyton Manning has enjoyed almost flawless success in his career against the Texans, this isn't the same Texans team. I think the Texans will take this opportunity for revenge against their long-time menace.
Houston 27, Denver 24

Billy:
Houston 30, Denver 24

American Football Simulator:
Houston 24, Denver 23

New England Patriots (1-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (1-1)
TheKillerNacho: Honestly, I think part of both of these team's losses last week is that they were looking past their opponents to this Sunday night game. In last week's power rankings, these were my top two AFC teams and at the end of this game, one will be 1-2. I think that the Super Bowl Loser curse plus an improved Ravens team will cause the Patriots to lose this in a well-fought game.
New England 24, Baltimore 26

Billy:
New England 26, Baltimore 29

American Football Simulator:
New England 25, Baltimore 26

Green Bay Packers (1-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
TheKillerNacho: Both teams had high hopes for 2012. Both teams suffered a heart-breaking loss in Week 1 but bounced back in Week 2. With nearly two weeks of perpetration, I think this is a game Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will win. But they better be prepared and not overlook the Seahawks like Tony Romo did - they have a good defense and one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL!
Green Bay 27, Seattle 24

Billy:
Green Bay 20, Seattle 27

American Football Simulator:
Green Bay 26, Seattle 21

Question of the Week

Last week, I asked "Which QB(s) will eventually become at least a franchise QB in the NFL?" between Andrew Luck (IND), Robert Griffin III (WAS), Ryan Tannehill (MIA), Brandon Weeden (CLE), and Russell Wilson (SEA). The poll has ended with the winner being Andrew Luck, who was given the nod by 88% of voters. Robert Griffin III was next with 77%, then Russell Wilson with 55%, Ryan Tannehill with 44%, and Brandon Weeden was last with a lowly 22%.

As you probably know, making the playoffs after an 0-2 start is very difficult in the NFL. Since 1990, only 11% of playoff teams started 0-2. Still, at least one team every year is usually able to overcome this and make the playoffs. In 2012, we have six winless teams. This week's question is, "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? The obvious answer may be the Saints, but considering their tough division (and conference) they will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs. As much as I'm down on the Chiefs, they have the best overall team and are in the weakest division giving them the ability to snipe a Wildcard spot. So I'll go with them.

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