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Old 10-15-2010, 03:19 PM    (permalink
Join Date: Feb 2010
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Morton Morton Morton Morton Morton Morton Morton Morton Morton Morton Morton
Default (Early) Mid-Season Rankings

The NFL season is almost at the half-way point. Where do the teams stand in their respective conferences at this point?

The NFC elite, as I see it:

1. New York Giants - They currently have the best defense in the NFC. Eli Manning has developed great chemistry with his young WR corps, and Hakeem Nicks in particular. The offense is not elite, but it is good enough to make a deep playoff run if it is paired with their elite defense. Barring a sudden improvement on the part of Dallas, look for the Giants to run away with their division.

2. Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan is not an elite quarterback, but he is a solid, above-average signal caller. Their rushing offense is solid also. The defense is above-average. An all-around good team that will probably win their division. Whether or not they make a deep playoff run is up in the air, but count on seeing the Falcons in the divisional round of the playoffs.

3. Minnesota Vikings - Brett Favre has not looked good so far, but I believe that it is merely a matter of time before the Vikings offense "clicks". They have arguably the best running back in the NFL, and with the addition of Randy Moss they once again have a reliable deep threat. The defense, of course, is one of the best in the league, but tends to be slightly weak vs. the pass. With the rash of injuries suffered by the Packers, the Vikings are the favorites to win the NFC North despite their poor record.

4. Dallas Cowboys - This team is the most talented in the NFL, but they simply do not play up to expectations. The defense has looked shakier than it did in 2009. The offense is suffering due to lack of consistent offensive line play. They can still compete for a divisional title and even make a deep playoff run, but they need to dramatically improve their overall level of play and answer questions about their offensive line. If they can ensure that Romo is protected, they have the potential to have the #1 offense in the NFL.

5. Green Bay Packers - A few weeks ago, the Packers were my #1 team in the entire NFL. Losing Ryan Grant in week one was a big deal, but I was confident that the team could persevere without him. Losing Jermichael Finley, however, is an entirely different ordeal. Finley is their matchup nightmare who opens up their entire playbook. Their offense can still be successful without Grant and Finley, but it is no longer the explosive offense it was going into the season. They can still win their division, but it will be tough at this point. It doesn't help, obviously, that their secondary, at this point, is thirtysomething Charles Woodson and a bunch of scrubs.

The rest of the NFC:

6. Chicago Bears - The defense is solid, but questions remain as to whether the offense is nothing but smoke and mirrors. If Martz can fix the protection issues exposed in the Giants game, they can compete for their division and make a playoff run.

7. New Orleans Saints - Their offense is no longer as explosive as it was last year. Losing Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush really hurt. I don't think they can wrest the division from the Falcons, who are a better team this year.

8. Philadelphia Eagles - They might be a decent playoff team with Michael Vick. Regardless of quarterback, however, their defense needs to improve to be considered playoff-worthy.

9. Washington Redskins - The Washington offense is average. The defense is average or slightly below-average, despite the low number of points allowed by them. They will be exposed if they make it into the playoffs.

10. Tampa Bay Bucs - Their young offense is improving, as is their defense. They are still a year or two away from competing, however.

11. Detroit Lions - With Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best, they finally have some elite playmakers on offense. The defense is still more than a year away from being anything more than mediocre, however.

12. San Francisco 49ers - Tons of talent on this team, terrible execution and luck. Can they put it together before the team quits on Mike Singletary?

13. St. Louis Rams - Sam Bradford will be an elite quarterback some day, but not this year. However, the team is definitely on the right track.

14. Seattle Seahawks - Their offense is inept. Pete Carroll has to sort out his QB situation.

15. Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals really miss Kurt Warner. I don't see anything out of Max Hall to suggest a potential franchise QB, but I could be wrong.

16. Carolina Panthers - Their offense is even worse than that of the Seahawks and the Cardinals. They possibly have the worst QB situation in the NFC. I don't know what John Fox will do after 2010, but there is a good chance that he won't be coaching the Panthers.

The AFC elite, as I see it:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers - This is the best team in the NFL right now. The defense is the best in the league, and with the return of Roethlisberger they finally have the ability to put up some real points. There are no real holes in this team, barring injury. Pencil them in for the AFC Championship game, and, in all likelihood, the Super Bowl.

2. New York Jets - This is probably the second best team in the NFL right now. You know about the defense, but what's going to take this team deep into the playoffs is the continuing improvement of Mark Sanchez and the suprising late-career resurgence of LT.

3. San Diego Chargers - Suprised to see the Chargers this high? Don't be. Despite horrific special teams play, I think they are a serious playoff contender. Phillip Rivers is once again playing at an MVP level, and the defense has been surprisingly stout against the pass. I think they fix some of their special teams issues and finish the season with 11 or more wins.

4. Indianapolis Colts - The defense is not as good as it has been in the past. I think that the offensive line is regressing. However, Peyton Manning is still one of the top five QBs in this league and I have a hard time imagining the Colts losing more than 6 games as long as Manning is under center. Cliched, but true.

5. Baltimore Ravens - Joe Flacco is a solid quarterback. The defense is not as elite as the Steelers or the Jets, but it is still playing at a high level. They can contend in their division, but I don't think they overtake Roethlisberger's Steelers.

The rest of the AFC:

6. Tennessee Titans - The Titans have a surprisingly good defense. Chris Johnson is not going to reproduced 2009, but they will score points. Could compete with Indy for the division.

7. New England Patriots - Tom Brady is still elite. Losing Moss will hurt them a little bit, but what's really holding them back from a top 5 spot is their porous defense.

8. Kansas City Chiefs - It's a shame that Matt Cassel sucks as much as he does, because their defense is playoff-caliber.

9. Miami Dolphins - The whole team shows promise, but I'm not sold on Chad Henne just yet.

10. Denver Broncos - Kyle Orton, MVP? Shocking. Their defense and their lack of a ground game will keep them out of the playoffs.

11. Houston Texans - Matt Schaub does not look as good this year as he did in 2009. Regardless of how he plays, however, their atrocious pass defense will keep them from contending for a playoff spot.

12. Cincinnati Bengals - Just like the Chiefs, this team boasts a solid defense but Palmer is going to hold them back all year long.

13. Jacksonville Jaguars - I'm confused by this team. Are they horrible or are they solid? They have looked like both at different times.

14. Oakland Raiders - This is another team I don't really have a read on. Could be higher.

15. Cleveland Browns - One of the worst QB situations in the NFL. They don't have a good enough defense to overcome their shoddy passing offense.

16. Buffalo Bills - And rounding out the AFC is the worst team in the NFL. I'm almost certain that we'll be hearing Roger Goddell announcing their pick first in the 2011 draft. They better pick a QB this time!

My playoff predictions:

NFC Championship: New York Giants vs. Atlanta Falcons
AFC Championship: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Diego Chargers

Super Bowl: New York Giants vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
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