1. New York Giants (4-2, last week 4, ESPN #3)
How many defending Super Bowl champions can legitimately pull off a “Nobody Believed in us” season? Thing is… they’re actually 100% right. I saw so many people leave the Giants out of the playoffs entirely.
ESPN’s power rankings say, “Their victory in San Francisco was the best game any team in the league has played against any other all season.” I agree… so why aren’t they your number one?
2. Chicago Bears (4-1, last week 5, ESPN #6)
Hold on… did we just become a lot of people’s favorites during our bye week?
3. San Francisco 49ers (4-2, last week 1, ESPN #5)
You really can’t fault them too much for running into the buzzsaw that New York is turning into. Plus, can you really call it “home field advantage” when you’re playing the best road team in the NFL?
4. Atlanta Falcons (6-0, last week 7, ESPN #1)
It’s unconscionable to me that I had to move the Falcons up in the power rankings after their uninspiring win over the Raiders, but the entire AFC conspired to remind us, “Hey guys? We really stink.”
ESPN has this absolutely wrong. Did they even watch the game? They made the Raiders look good. The Raiders!!
5. Houston Texans (5-1, last week 2, ESPN #2)
6. Baltimore Ravens (5-1, last week 6, ESPN #4)
7. New England Patriots (3-3, last week 3, ESPN #7)
This is an absolute mess. I don’t trust anyone in the AFC right now. I had the Ravens on the top of this pile of fail, but the Lewis and Webb injuries could absolutely cripple them.
8. Denver Broncos (3-3, last week 9, ESPN #12)
It was a pipe dream at the beginning of the season, but I legitimately think they can win the AFC now.
9. Green Bay Packers (3-3, last week 11, ESPN #8)
10. Seattle Seahawks (4-2, last week 19, ESPN #9)
Okay: you have my attention.
11. Washington Redskins (3-3, last week 12, ESPN #15)
They look like legitimate contenders to me. I say this again: Mike Shanahan and RG3 are absolutely going to win Super Bowls together.
12. Minnesota Vikings (3-3, last week 10, ESPN #10)
Still very much in the playoff hunt.
13. New Orleans Saints (1-4, last week 17, ESPN #24)
I’m just saying you can’t rule them out. That’s all I’m saying. Don’t look at me like that.
14. San Diego Chargers (3-3, last week 8, ESPN #16)
15. New York Jets (3-3, last week 25, ESPN #23)
16. Miami Dolphins (3-3. last week 21, ESPN #17)
17. Arizona Cardinals (4-2, last week 13, ESPN #11)
No, I do not actually like any of these teams all that much better than the rest of the pile of mediocre that’s to follow, but what they have that the others don’t is a share of first place in their division.
18. Dallas Cowboys (2-3, last week 14, ESPN #18)
They’re just not playing well. And Tony Romo ran out of time on the play clock on nearly every play, they have him calling way too many adjustments at the line.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3, last week 15, ESPN #14)
I saw this coming. I also see them winning a lot of the creampuff games coming up on their schedule, followed by a million “Are the Steelers Back?” stories. (The answer will be no.)
20. Detroit Lions (2-3, last week 23, ESPN #19)
21. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3, last week 16, ESPN #13)
One of these teams relies on a frequently-injured quarterback and entered into the season with unreasonably high expectations. No wait, I’m sorry: that’s both of them. For the second week in a row, the Eagles may as well be married to the previous week’s opponents. They have so much in common!
22. St. Louis Rams (3-3, last week 22, ESPN #20)
23. Cincinnati Bengals (3-3, last week 18, ESPN #21)
Let’s keep the two-for-ones rolling with two teams that’ll beat some bad teams and give some good teams a run for their money, but are also more than capable of dropping a game to an awful team.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3, last week 26, ESPN #22)
25. Buffalo Bills (3-3, last week 30, ESPN #25)
I had to double-check that this team was 3-3. It still doesn’t sound right to me.
26. Indianapolis Colts (2-3, last week 20, ESPN #26)
Programming reminder: 2-14 last year, rookie quarterback, interim head coach.
27. Carolina Panthers (1-4, last week 24, ESPN #28)
I really very badly want this team to bounce back. Cam Newton is one of the league’s most inspiring young players and Carolina has been a model for small market success ever since they joined the league in 1995.
28. Tennessee Titans (2-4, last week 29, ESPN #27)
How often can you say that a 2-4 team is much worse than their record indicates?
29. Oakland Raiders (1-4, last week 27, ESPN #29)
With some quarterbacks you can just see the game-winning touchdown coming. With Carson Palmer it’s the game-losing interception.
30. Cleveland Browns (1-5, last week 32, ESPN #30)
They actually played pretty great in their win over Cincinnati.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4, last week 28, ESPN #31)
Not a good year to be a 1995 expansion team.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5, last week 31, ESPN #32)
Welcome to the Brady Quinn Era.
Revised Playoff Predictions
1. NFC South Champion: Atlanta (Preseason: Atlanta #2)
2. NFC West Champion: San Francisco (Preseason: San Francisco #3)
3. NFC East Champion: New York (Preseason: New York #4)
4. NFC North Champion: Chicago (Preseason: Green Bay #1)
5, 6. NFC Wild Card: Seattle, Green Bay (Preseason: Chicago #5, Carolina #6)
I also see Washington and Minnesota as strong contenders.
1. AFC South Champion: Houston (Preseason: Houston #2)
2. AFC North Champion: Baltimore (Preseason: Baltimore #3)
3. AFC East Champion: New England (Preseason: New England #1)
4. AFC West Champion: Denver (Preseason: Denver #4)
5, 6. AFC Wild Card: San Diego, Miami (Preseason: Pittsburgh #5, San Diego #6)
Can we just skip having an AFC Wild Card? Everyone’s in play for it at this point, but I refuse to be remotely excited about this playoff “chase.” I’ll stick with San Diego because they have the pedigree… I guess? I’m far from married to either pick. I’m just not sure who I’m supposed to pick over them at this point. Pittsburgh who just lost to Tennessee? Cincinnati who just lost to Cleveland? Buffalo? The Jets? Wow the AFC is weak this year…
MVP: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta (Preseason: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay)
OPOY: Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota (Preseason: Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons)
DPOY: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston (Preseason: Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets)
OROY: Robert Griffin III, Washington (Preseason: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis)
DROY: Chandler Jones, DE, New England (Preaseason: Luke Kuechly, OLB, Carolina Panthers)
CPOY: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver (Preseason: Peyton Maning, QB, Denver)
I think there’s a legitimate chance the MVP actually ends up being Rodgers if the Packers continue their rebound and the Falcons plummet as I expect them to, but neither of those things have happened yet so there you go.