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NFL

2009 AFC Preview – The Once and Future King

By Ryan McGowan

Consider this my August article.  To paraphrase Jimmy Buffett, it must be August 31 somewhere.

My colleague Trevor Freeman broke down the NFC this past weekend and mentioned how baseball has become “unwatchable” for him.  Alas, unlike this sad soul, I am still watching the Sox on a nightly basis, and I generally hate watching preseason football, so it usually takes me a little while to mentally adjust to football.  Watching preseason football, to me, has always seemed like watching someone else play blackjack—sure it can be entertaining, and you can make comments about the play, but it’s no fun unless it’s real.

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NFL General

NFL Power Rankings Week 14

Every week it feels like we’re getting a little closer to truly discovering which teams are for real, and which ones are slowly falling apart.

We still don’t know what’s going on in New Orleans, and quite frankly, it’s possible we never will.

We have no idea what to make of the AFC East. We know the Jets, Patriots, and Dolphins are good, but how good? And more importantly, are any of those teams great?

The Patriots are the team that is supposed to win the division, a favorite to hold home-field advantage, and a good bet to reach the Super Bowl. Even without Tom Brady, a trophy-less end to their season will leave every head in the house hanging.

The Jets don’t have it much better. The anointed one, Brett Favre, was landed in a block buster trade, and is supposed to save the day. The same can be said for Jets’ management and their other pricey off-season additions. At 8-5, they’ve already made huge strides, but what would a collapse do to this team? And would reaching the playoffs, only to lose in the AFC championship game, somehow be worse?

Then you have Miami, a former winless season candidate, with seemingly no chance of being in this equation at the beginning of the season, yet here they are. Some Miami fan who dropped 10 grand on them reaching the playoffs is trying his damndest to not wet his pants in his parents basement, while he kicks his ankles together in his race car bed. Yeah, it’s that serious.

When you’ve got big names, big contracts, and big expectations, the worst fear in the back of your mind (If you’re the Jets or Patriots) is not losing-it’s the Miami Dolphins.

These Dolphins are not your dad’s Dolphins. They couldn’t have done what they’re doing with Jason Taylor or Zach Thomas, or heck, even Dan Marino.

This is the no-name squad, the relentless bastards that won’t go away even if you waive a million dollar check in their face. No sir, they’re here to stay. Well, at least until the final game of the season, when the Jets beat them 31-10.

Like usual, until the season ends and we see our collection of 12 teams who DO have a chance at completing this puzzle, it will remain a guessing game. One that, for now, I will step away from.

Here’s a look at this week’s power rankings:

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NFL General

NFL Power Rankings Week 13

Just when you think you have it all figured out, the surging Jets lose, the Packers blow another chance, and the Panthers and Buccaneers keep winning.

Just what exactly, in this ridiculous NFL season makes sense anymore?

The Chiefs are as competitive as any other team, yet have two wins, and the Lions, much the same, are still looking for their first.

The truth is, last season we had two 10-1 teams (Dallas and Green Bay) in the NFC, with neither representing their conference in the Super Bowl. And in the AFC, the team that went undefeated couldn’t take home the crown, either.

What does this tell us?

Probably nothing. But if we’re going on pure speculation, (which we kind of have to by now) then we can start betting against the Titans and Giants right now.

If the gods were as good to us as we’d love them to be, we’d see the Packers emerge from their division to face the Jets. And maybe it will happen.

But that’s not where my money is.

If I had to dumb this season down to a crazy prediction right now, I’d go with Pittsburgh against Dallas. And in a warped season like this one, that just might be what’s going to happen.

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NFL General

2008 Week 5 NFL Power Rankings

The great Miami Dolphins are surging, people. They are taking us all by surprise and laughing in our faces. Not simply because they’re winning games, but because they’re doing it by playing unorthodox football.

And the worst part? The two teams from last season’s AFC Championship couldn’t stop them. So who does that speak louder for; those teams or the Mighty Dolphins?

I, much like you, am “all aboard” for a “who cares” train trip to week six. There are too many disappointing teams that are supposed to be contenders, that a team like this is a real treat. And quite honestly, they’re one of the most exciting teams to watch.

They lost Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor, yet their defense is playing very well, and stuffing offenses that normally dominate teams. And we were dogging the Jets for barely beating this team?

The Fins’ won’t be in the top 5 anytime soon, but their tricky style of “Wildcat” offense has got us, and every NFL team that isn’t undefeated, reeling. They’ve got us all thinking, “Could they really make the playoffs?”. And while it’s unlikely, especially with the Pats’, Jets, and Bills standing in their own division, it is a definite possibility.

So, aside from reading my rankings and sly comments, I beg of you to do one thing: Keep watching. Because as I say each week, it’s only going to get better.

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NFL General

Week 4 NFL Power Rankings

Brett Favre throwing for six touchdowns does not mean the Jets are going to the Super Bowl. Heck, it doesn’t even mean they’ll compete for their division. With the Bills being 4-0 and a team that’s still pretty good in New England, the Jets have a battle on their hands.

However, this offensive outburst displayed improved communication and chemistry. It showed that with Brett Favre at the helm, this offense can score points, and a lot of them, when it has to. It also showed, that at 38 and with a new team, Favre is still a darn good quarterback.

You don’t score 34 points in a quarter by luck. The Jets defense harassed Kurt Warner all game, forcing four fumbles and three interceptions. Do you think they minded giving up 470 yards through the air and 35 points? Of course not. Their job was done at halftime.

These Jets, at worst, bring some extra life to the AFC. A conference with undefeated teams such as the Bills and Titans, and supposed Super Bowl contenders Jacksonville and San Diego gasping for air in the land of 2-2, is as wide open as it has ever been. And as long as Favre is slinging passes, he’s going to have something to say about it. If you haven’t been impressed yet, have no fear. I have a strong feeling that things are about to get even more interesting…

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NFL General

Week 2 2008 NFL Power Rankings

Aside from Redskins tight end Chris Cooley revealing more than just his playbook, this week was nothing but gravy in the NFL.

Aaron Rodgers continues to impress, while backed by a quite clearly explosive defense. However, the Packers were facing the Lions.

Interesting circumstances had certain teams winning or losing games, and sending a bunch of pre-season Super Bowl contenders to the dreaded 0-2.

Just off the top of my head, it’s looking like Mike Holmgren’s swan song is going downhill before it could really ever get started, the Chargers desperately miss Shawne Merriman already, and the Minnesota Vikings, despite already being labeled as one-dimensional, are…well, just that.

However, what has not changed, is that Tony Romo and the Cowboys are the team to beat in the NFC, the Colts are still relevant in the AFC, and Tom Brady or no Tom Brady, the Patriots are undefeated.

But aside from the rise and fall of many teams, the most telling fact in the league has remained the impact of the 2008 draft class.

Felix Jones returned a kickoff for a touchdown on Monday night, DeSean Jackson registered his second straight 100 yard game to start his career, Eddie Royal caught his second straight touchdown, and Jonathan Stewart had two rushing touchdowns. And that’s just on the offensive side of the ball.

Here are the week two NFL Power Rankings…

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NFL General

Week 12 2007 NFL Power Rankings

The Dolphins finally start John Beck and it doesn’t matter. The 49ers switch to Trent Dilfer and it doesn’t matter. Vince Young finally has a good statistical game and it doesn’t matter. None of these teams could win this past weekend.

The fact is, the main thing that helps teams win in the NFL is consistency and continuity. If a team is one-dimensional they will find ways to lose. And for a team like the Titans, now is not the time to realize that when your quarterback plays well, you can expect your receivers to drop all the passes thrown to them. While Vince Young played his heart out against Denver, it didn’t matter. In fact, as Tom Brady so eloquently WON’T tell us, none of this matters. What matters is the Patriots are undefeated and are likely to stay that way until the season is over. And that is why, once again, the Patriots triumph to the top of the rankings, and everyone else just sits and watches as history continues to be made.

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NFL General

2006 NFL Power Rankings for Week 11

It certainly took us long enough but here are Sportscolumn’s first NFL Power Rankings this season. This is really a tough season to do them. Outside of the Top 5, the next 10 or so can be interchangeable. You can make a very good argument for any of the teams ranked 6-15 in any order. In any case, let’s hear your questions, comments, and of course, gripes.