Before I break down the rankings of these top NFL teams in what I have now dubbed “CoorsSpeak”, I have to let everyone know why my heart has been so downtrodden over the past two weeks. As a fan or enthusiast of every team associated with New York City (and if you want to count the Buffalo Bills, NY State), it has been a tumultuous, heart-wrenching, disastrous run since the advent of October. Let’s look at this trail of tears:
September 29- The Mir’land Terps merck the nationally-ranked Rutgers squad on their home turf in Jersey by running buckwild over Greg Schiano’s coaching aspirations in the second-half, ending any possible attempt for Rutgers to compete as a national title contender.
September 30: 1pm- The New York Mets complete the most historic collapse in sports history, coughing up a 7 game lead in the NL East with two weeks left in the season. The Mets are officially the biggest choke artists in the Big Apple since Charles Smith in the ‘93 Eastern Conference finals.
September 30: 4pm- Chad Pennington confirms the arguments of every sound critic, print journalist, and Deion Sanders-esque talking head around the NFL by throwing an floating gumdrop to Bills CB Terrence McGee, ending the Jets’ chances in Buffalo. In other news, Curtis Martin tears another ACL in his sleep.
October 2- GM, Head Coach (and potential brother on the DL) Isiah Thomas is found guilty for sexual harassment. The Knicks are officially the laughingstock of the NBA.
October 3- The NHL returns. Enough said.
October 4- The Yankees get burned at the Jake , (instead of the stake...get it?) 12-3.
October 5: Joba Chamberlain delivers a passed-ball in the bottom of the 8th, wasting Andy Pettite’s spectacular performance and allowing the Indians to go up 2-0 in the series.
October 6: Kevin Garnett proves that he actually WANTS to make the playoffs this season, putting up a 19-17-5 steal night as Boston demolishes the Atlantic Division champion Raptors.
October 7: The Jets get shellacked at the Meadowlands by the G-Men (our hated rivals), 35-24, topped off by Plexi-Plax Burress stiff-arming CB Andre Dyson to put the Giants ahead for good.
October 8: Joe Torre receives
October 9: Mike Benjamin repeatedly bangs his head on desk...over...and over....
However, after this terrible string of failure, the Knicks decide to bring a little hope to the abused New York sports fan. Allan Houston, after a year struggling to make sense of the monstrocity that is ESPN’s NBA Fastbreak, has rubbed Ben-Gay on his surgically repaired knees and has elected to return to the Garden as a member of the New York Knickerbockers. I was....speechless.
Even though I received a deluge of hate mail from every Knick hater and realist in America, I have to believe that this Houston signing is the one option that can only benefit this team. If you think about it logically, he is a low-risk, high-reward type of gamble that the Knicks can afford to pull. I don’t doubt that the move a ploy to take the heat off of Isiah after the trial. I don’t doubt that it puts more fans in an arena that already sells out almost every game of the NBA season. (At the very least, we know Allan Houston's gonna lead the half court prayer after the game. With crazies like Marbury, Curry, and Z-Bo on our team, that's a positive start out of the Eastern Conference cellar...)
Anyway, let’s get back to the Power Poll:
Dennis Green- “That’s bulls***. Bull-S***!!!”
12. Baltimore Ravens (3-2): As many of you pointed out over the last week, I failed in my placement of the resurging Cleveland Browns. The Browns kept pace with a red-hot Patriots team for an entire half, won a shootout with the Bengals, and demasculated these Ravens at the Dog Pound. Truth be told, I believed that this Raven team would be ready to compete with the best of the AFC going into 2007. The Ravens went out and grabbed a top running back (Willis McGahee) to replace the artifact that cost them the game against the Colts last January (Jamal Lewis). Brian Billick’s young weapons showed promise as dangerous threats (Demetrius Williams, Mark Clayton) for Air McNair, and the aging receivers still had serviceable years left on the tank (Derrick Mason). The Ravens also had an top-5 TE (Todd Heap), and a strong offensive line led by perennial Pro-Bowler Jon Ogden. However, the Ravens’ victories haven’t been reassuring (Niners, Jets, Arizona...Kurt Warner only played the 2nd half) and they’re only one McNair groin injury away from another Kyle Boller year.
Dick Vermeil- "You have to learn to handle it, okay? You have to learn to handle your own intensity."
11. Houston Texans (3-2): Now’s not the time for Texans fans to get overzealous. Houston has played well above anyone’s expectations, and has hopes to challenge for a wild-card spot in the confusing AFC picture. No matter how well Matt Schaub has been playing without Andre Johnson, he’s gonna need his top gun back in the saddle for the Texans to have a ghost’s chance at beating the powers atop the AFC.
10. Tampa Bay Bucs (3-2): Picture this. You’re Jeff Garcia. You are the leader of a team that can outright win their division because the Saints (terrible), Panthers (Vinny Testaverde as QB), and Atlanta (no offensive line) are all starting to cough up blood. The team that you get canned from is struggling to find their groove, your coach (Gruden) has anointed you the Savior of the franchise (as well as his fading head coaching career). Plus, everybody now thinks the guy that intimated your gayness on national TV (T.O.) is mentally unstable in his own right, and voila!....you’ve got a revised public appearance. If the Bucs continue to rack up W’s, I’d expect to see Jeff Garcia sipping a martini on the rocks with David Letterman in a few weeks.
Dennis Green- “The rules are fair. The regulations are fair. The competitive balance is fair.”
9. Tennessee Titans (3-1): Vince Young is one of the most erratic QB’s in the NFL right now. Vince can either destroy your fantasy team or hand you this trophy. Jeff Fisher made a smart move by signing a hired gun (Eric Moulds), a guy who knows all about working with erratic signal-callers. I really don’t understand why the Titans have proven to be one of the stronger teams in the NFL this year. I’ll just deride them by pointing at their two weak victories (New Orleans, Atlanta) and ride into the sunset, waiting until they eventually level off.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-1): Existing as the super-sleeper in the NFL right now, the Jags have beaten teams with ball control and few mistakes. Switching to the more mobile, accurate QB (David Garrard) has brought a proven winner to the forefront. Also, the evolution of Dennis Northcutt as a pass-receiving wideout has helped the Jags ease pressure on their running attack while improving their success rate on 3rd downs. If Jack Del Rio continues to work on his team’s progress rather than making routine trips to Men’s Warehouse, we might see Jacksonville make the playoffs.
7. Seattle Seahawks (3-2): The Seahawks, a team that once made America giddy with their snazzy four WR sets, their Pro-Bowl RB, and their strong, power OL (Hutchinson and Walter Jones), now reeks with the smell of normalcy. I finally understood this fact once I looked at my FoxSports fantasy roster (Hasselbeck, Alexander, Branch, Seattle DEF) and asked myself this question:
“Why do I consider these three guys untradeable?”
Only a few years ago, Deion Branch was an elite receiver (Tom Brady effect), Shaun Alexander was atop the league in rushing (#2 RB taken in Fantasy), and Hasselback was the undisputed best QB in the NFC. Now? I think Mike Holmgren’s best years are behind him.
6. Arizona Cardinals (3-2): Yes, those Arizona Cardinals get the favorable spot here at #8 for a myriad of reasons. First, they beat the Seahawks in Week 1. Secondly, the QB controversy is finally over thanks to Will Witherspoon’s snapping of Matt Leinart’s collarbone. Since Warner took over for Leinart in the Baltimore game, the defense has been lights out, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald woke up from their slumbers, and Edge James...well, maybe EVERYTHING’s not glee-filled in Cardinal land. (Kurt Warner must have Kurt Franklin’s “Jesus Is The Reason for the Season” playing in his SUV...)
5. Washington Redskins (3-1): The Skins have one of the best defenses, top to bottom, in the NFL. They demolished a highly touted Lions team at FedEx Field, and Jason Campbell looked like a superstar, sharing the wealth with Randle El, Cooley, Portis, and Betts. Even Mike “The Weapon” Sellers got into the action. Once Washington takes care of business up at Lambeau this Sunday, folks will start to take this team seriously...at long last. (When you have ½ of the Jets’ roster in your locker room, of course your team will be dominating!)
Mike Ditka- “I have the drive...believe me...and the enthusiasm is growing in me as I talk to you people.”
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1): After an 8-8 season and a year where they lost a legendary coach to retirement, many reporters and NFL fans had written off the Steelers in 2007, especially because Pittsburgh was in a solid AFC North division with improving teams. (Plus, no one believed that Mike Tomlin was the real deal) However, the Steelers have prospered. Though Hines Ward has been shelved with another leg injury, guys continue to step up as targets for Big Ben to find in the offense. Though the Steelers have decided to create the most blatantly gay mascot for their proud city, the people...as well as this team...have responded.
3. Dallas Cowboys (5-0): When a legend like Bill Parcells gets canned for a guy that was on the wrong side of the Music City Miracle, it just doesn’t look promising for America’s team. Jason Garrett, the Dallas offensive coordinator was found guilty of using performance enhancement drugs during his playing days, and was punished by the NFL. While T.O. led the league with TD catches, he also dropped the most catchable passes, some that could have been potential game-changers. Also, would Tony Romo recover from the fumbled snap in Seattle? Though many question marks were looming over the ‘Boys at the start of their 2007 campaign, their intensity has placed them atop the league, seen by many as the team to beat in the NFC. On Monday night, Dallas proved that they could win an intense game, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. We’ll see if this trend continues when they take on the Pats…perhaps the most touted matchup of the NFL season.
2. Indianapolis Colts (5-0): A lot of folks choose not to respect the Colts. Here are the common complaints from the peanut gallery:
“Sure, Peyton Manning puts up gaudy numbers, but their defense has no superstars.”
“Of course Reggie Wayne is atop the league leaders in TDs…he’s got Marvin Harrison drawing double coverages on the other side of the field.”
“Any quarterback with a cohesive offensive line would be successful in that offensive system.”
These are the defending World Champs! These guys tore through a Rex-led Bear team to win the championship. (Wait…gotta retract that argument…) The Colts are built with a bend, but don’t break attitude, a philosophy that usually decays most teams. But…they just know how to win games. And now that Peyton Manning doesn’t have to worry about being compared to Marino…watch out.
1. New England Patriots (5-0): After the incident with the Jets victory, dubbed many different names (CameraGate, BeliGate), a finding that destroyed a lot of Bill Belichick’s credibility as coach. Most people would have been emotionally shaken, and floundered under the unimaginable pressures that faced them as head coach of a football dynasty. Not Chairman Bill. The Patriots have beaten every team they’ve played this year by 20+ points, and will surely roll through Dallas at the Star this Sunday. I picked New England to be waiting at the Super Bowl this year, and I know we’ll see the deluge of Brady-talk and Belichick….and some Moss…in February ’08. The only thing these guys can’t win? A high performance helicopter.
Peace! I’ll leave you with one more clip. Enjoy the weekend!