Fantasy Football News

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Classic Uniforms: Which Throwback Unis are the Best of the Best?

Over the last couple of years we've seen more and more teams turn back the clock by bringing some of the franchise's classic uniforms back out on to the field. So that begs the question: whose classic unis are the best of the best?

I've limited this uni search to as late as 1960, nothing before then. I've noticed lately that most of the classics from prior to 1960 have been a bit too much––note the Steelers' 1930s "bumblebee" throwbacks (below) that are being used in tomorrow's game against the Redskins.
A little too much(^), wouldn't you agree?

Here's a short list of the best post-60s NFL uniforms:

Denver Broncos "D" logo--orange jerseys: 1968-1996

Before Jake Plummer, Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning, it was Hall of Famer John Elway who quarterbacked these Broncos. And before the current uniforms donned by Denver, it was the classic "D" logo uniforms that Elway made so famous. The "D" logo with a Bronco in the middle is the epitome of old school logos. The light blue helmets with the orange jerseys are more Bronco-esque than the current dark blue/orange jerseys. It's unfortunate that we only see these when the Broncos play on Thanksgiving.
New England Patriots "hiking Patriot" logo: 1961-1996

Luckily for us, the Patriots sport these throwbacks quite often, not just on Thanksgiving. Why wouldn't they? The logo is another very simple concept, not to mention it's on a white helmet. Why do more teams not have white helmets? As of right now, only five teams have primarily white helmets (Dolphins, Jets, Colts, Titans, Cardinals), but I happen to think white helmets look the best. Perhaps that's a personal preference in style but either way the simpler the logo, the better the overall uni turns out. At least that's what history has pointed out to me.
Houston/Tennessee Oilers baby blues: 1981-1998

Baby blue jerseys are always the way to go, as history has taught us, and the red outlining on the Oilers' uniforms of the '80s and '90s was enough to crack the list. Especially those red facemasks. The overall concept of the oil rig hadn't changed from the 1960s through the late '90s, but it did however receive numerous tweaks over the years before the franchise finally settled on a final product in '81.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers "Creamsicle": 1976-1996

A lot of people would probably disagree with this selection and call me crazy, but you gotta love these tacky throwbacks. As an expansion team in '76, the Bucs wore these creamy orange-colored unis with an un-intimidating Buccaneer logo nicknamed "Buccaneer Bruce." After reading the description, you're probably thinking 'why on earth would you like a logo that isn't intimidating?' especially for football. But in this case, it just works. It's classic Buccaneer football. You know, the Bucs that went 0-14 in the franchise's first-ever season? We've already gotten to see a glimpse of the uniforms once or twice this season. They're just fun to look at.
San Diego Chargers powder blues: 1960s-80s

It's tough to put exact dates on San Diego's powder blues, because they were tweaked and changed so often, but the general concept stayed relatively the same. One thing is certain, however. It'd be tough to find a football fan out there that would argue against San Diego's powder blues being the NFL's best uniforms of all-time. They worked so well, especially with the white helmets––you all knew that one was coming. The Chargers clearly cherish these unis because they've brought them back so many times and, in fact, still wear them quite regularly to this day.

Additional noteworthy unis:

Most of the unis pictured above have in fact been "brought back" in recent seasons by their respective teams as sort of a tribute from teams in the past. It's a great thing that teams are doing in honoring the franchise's history.

Any classic unis from the 1960s-90s that you believe we missed? Feel free to let us know in the comments section.

Note: We do not own any of the above images. No copyright infringement intended.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Contenders or Pretenders: Week 8 Edition

As we approach Week 8, we begin to decipher the playoff contenders from the "pretenders."

Now, this should come as somewhat self-explanatory but, just in case you were born yesterday, the teams labeled below as "pretenders" are teams that appear to be teams that we compete for a playoff spot this season but aren't quite as good as they appear to be.

We'll start off with the obvious contenders:

Houston Texans 6-1

As if the Texans couldn't look any more impressive, they went out and destroyed the AFC's second-best team in Baltimore this past Sunday. It wasn't just a victory, it was a clinic that Houston put on Baltimore's depleted, aging defense. Before Sunday's win, the Texans were the scariest team in the AFC. The 43-13 onslaught just makes J.J. Watt & Co. look even more superhuman(ish).

Baltimore Ravens 5-2

With Hall of Fame-bound linebacker Ray Lewis and Pro Bowl cornerback Lardarius Webb lost for the season, Baltimore's defense showed major weakness against Houston. But a returning Terrell Suggs should assist the Ravens in re-gaining that on-field energy. As for the offense, the success is riding on the right arm of Joe Flacco. I have them as viable contenders to win the North, but Flacco will need to put the offense on his back and carry them the rest of the way.

New England Patriots 4-3

Though the Patriots are currently sitting at 4-3, I list them under the obvious contenders for a couple of reasons. 1) They are the Patriots and, under HC Bill Belichick, have reached the postseason 9 times out of the last 11 seasons. 2) Tom Brady has been putting up his normal, stunning passing numbers, plus the Patriots now have the league's 4th-ranked rushing offense. Deadly combination. 3) And lastly, who else is really going to compete for the division title in the AFC East? Exactly.

Atlanta Falcons 6-0

The only remaining undefeated squad in the entire league, Matt Ryan has surely made his case for MVP (minus his 3-interception performance against Oakland) early on. Atlanta's No. 4 overall defense has kept the offense in games and has forced at least one turnover in each of the six games. With both sides of the team in tip-top shape, Atlanta is one of the more balanced teams, hence the 6-0 record.
San Francisco 49ers 5-2

The No. 2 scoring defense hasn't quite put up the defensive numbers as they did in 2011, but there's no doubt they're still top-tier material. On offense, the league's second-best run game is what's putting points on the board and allowing the Niners to come away with close victories. Alex Smith isn't lighting up any stat sheets, but his performance has been solid enough to get them by in close games with dangerous teams such as Green Bay, Detroit and Seattle. San Fran's two losses came against Minnesota and the New York Giants, who have a combined record of 10-4 this season.

New York Giants 5-2

Eli Manning continued what he did last season, proving to everyone he's a force to be reckoned with when it comes time for the fourth quarter of play. Lets face it, the Giants fall behind early in games but, in the end, put points up in the fourth quarter and prevail. After destroying opponents with 15 4th quarter TDs last season, Eli has already racked up 5 4th quarter TDs this season and has posted a QB rating of 107.2. After watching Eli's 80-yard game-winning hook-up with Victor Cruz on Sunday, it's clear that having the youngest Manning on the field with two minutes to play gives New York the advantage in close games.

Chicago Bears 5-1

The lone loss for these Chicago Bears came against division-rival and pre-season NFC North favorite Green Bay Packers. Jay Cutler has been a bit of a hit-or-miss thus far, but his offense has produced 40-plus points on two different occasions this season and the Bears have the No. 1 overall defense through seven weeks. The Bears are one of the top teams in the NFC alongside Atlanta.

The not-so-obvious contenders:

Denver Broncos 3-3

At 3-3, Denver's season could clearly go any direction at this point in time. But, with Peyton Manning orchestrating the Bronco offense, there's no way the Broncos aren't in the race for the AFC West by season's end. With each passing game, Manning seems to get more and more comfortable in John Fox's system. With 35 unanswered points against San Diego two Monday night's ago, the Broncos' offense has shown it can keep up with just about any offense in the game right now.

Pittsburgh Steelers 3-3

Without Troy Polamalu on the field, Pittsburgh's usually stingy defense has been lacking fire this season, but they've managed to hold their own despite this. The offense is what people should be worried about. Sure, Ben Roethlisberger is in total command of this offense, and is throwing the ball more than ever, and had arguably one of the best games of his career earlier this season––in a losing effort. But the Steelers are dead-last in yards per carry and has run for just 3 TDs. Injuries to Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman have depleted the backfield, but Jonathan Dwyer's 122 yards in his first career start this past weekend gives Pittsburgh some hope.

Tennessee Titans 3-4

Sophomore quarterback Jake Locker was supposed to come out this season, more matured, and tear up opposing offenses. And he did just that in his first couple of games, throwing for 781 yards and 4 TDs through the first four games. Though the Titans were 1-3 over that span, Locker held his own (90.2 QB rating) but just lacked run support from a struggling Chris Johnson. Since Locker's shoulder in a Week 4 loss to Houston, veteran Matt Hasselbeck has taken over and Tennessee has gone 2-1 with him as starter. Locker is set to miss his fourth consecutive game this weekend, but Chris Johnson seems to be out of his slump following his 195-yard performance in a 35-34 victory over Buffalo.

Seattle Seahawks 4-3

One game above .500 in the NFC West would, in season's past, warrant a division title. Ever since last season, however, we figured it'd take a little more than that. But last Thursday it was discovered that Seattle is not far behind San Francisco. Average quarterback (rookie Russell Wilson), excellent running game (Marshawn Lynch) and a defense capable of getting the job done––3rd in points allowed, have yet to allow any more than 23 points all season. Upsets over New England and Green Bay (though that one was controversial) have turned heads. Falling just 7 points shy of upsetting San Fran, the Seahawks are a force in the West.
New Orleans Saints 2-4

There's no way they'd beat out Matty Ice in Atlanta, but never count Drew Brees and his Saints out of it, even if they are without head coach Sean Payton and (were) without middle linebacker and captain Jonathan Vilma. New Orleans started the season 0-4, but have since won two consecutive and they haven't lost a game by more than 8 points. Brees' numbers have been there and the Saints are still No. 2 in passing offense, so nothing has changed there. A slight boost in the run game (currently ranked last in NFL) and the return of Vilma this Sunday should help put the Saints back on the map.

Green Bay Packers 4-3

Did anyone see Aaron Rodgers on Sunday? Yeah, he's officially back to his 2011 form. You know, when the Packers went 15-1 last season while lighting up scoreboards all over the country. Rodgers was nearly perfect, completing 30 of his 37 pass attempts for 342 yards and 3 TDs. Rodgers seems to be at his best when the Packers don't have a running game (26 carries, 70 yards, 0 TDs vs. St. Louis), which is rather strange. But hey, whatever helps him post a 132.2 QB rating, right?

Philadelphia Eagles 3-3

Turnovers. Yes, turnovers are the problem in Philly. This may not come as much of a surprise to many, but the Eagles could be sitting atop the East with New York at 5-2 had they reduced the mistakes (penalties have been a problem, too). Currently on a two-game losing streak, all of the Eagles' problems are fixable. Which is the lone reason why they are listed under contenders. Two of Philly's three losses have been by three or less points (to Pittsburgh and Detroit in OT). Careless mistakes can kill a team, and that's exactly what has happened to Mike Vick's Eagles. Oh, and Andy Reid should also be using LeSean McCoy a little more often as well.

Others: Bengals, Dolphins, Redskins, Cardinals

...And now the pretenders:

New York Jets 3-4

I'm not sure that this one really comes as a surprise. Is there really anyone––other than Rex Ryan––who believes that the Jets' two-headed monster at quarterback is really going to work out in New York? That is, of course, if you can even call it a "monster." Losing Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes for the season was a huge blow and, considering the Jets' three wins came against teams with a combined record of 9-10, I don't see them beating out the Patriots for the East.

Indianapolis Colts 3-3

Andrew Luck has looked brilliant, at times, this season in his rookie campaign. They have come away with a couple of close victories against Minnesota, Green Bay and Cleveland, but losses to Jacksonville and New York (Jets) tarnishes their 3-3 record. Injuries, much like numerous other teams in the league, have ravished their current 3-3 record. With Houston winning the South, the Colts would have to beat out Pittsburgh and Tennessee for a Wild Card spot. I don't see it happening, at least not this season.

San Diego Chargers 3-3

The Bolts finished 8-8 last season, just missing out on the postseason as Denver, also 8-8, held the tiebreaker between the two. We obviously have not yet hit December yet, so it's tough to completely give up on the Chargers considering Philip Rivers has made it a yearly occasion to over-perform in the final month of the season. But as the Broncos gain momentum and strength, it's tough to stick with the struggling Rivers, who blew a 24-point halftime lead to Peyton's Broncos just two weeks ago.
Minnesota Vikings 5-2

I'm not completely sold on the Vikings despite Christian Ponder's early sophomore-season success (5-2 record, 67 comp %, 1,492 yards, 9 TD, 6 INT, 87.6 rating) and the healthy return of All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson. The Vikes can surely put up double-digit wins this season, but that doesn't mean they will be playoff-bound, considering they share the NFC North with Chicago and Green Bay. The offense just doesn't have the fire-power to keep up with Cutler and Rodgers.

Detroit Lions 2-4

One season after breaking 5,000 yards passing, signal-caller Matt Stafford has shone a slow start to the 2012 campaign. Stafford and Megatron have yet to link up for a touchdown pass this season (Johnson's one TD was thrown by Shaun Hill) after a career-high 16 last year. Detroit's slow start, which has seen just two wins over St. Louis and Philadelphia, can be overcome but it will take more than just a couple of Stafford/Johnson touchdowns. With teams such as Seattle, Minnesota, Green Bay (2), Houston, Chicago and Atlanta, I just don't see the Lions coming out with a second straight postseason berth.

Dallas Cowboys 3-3

This has nothing to do with Tony Romo. I think he's an above-average quarterback and doesn't deserve all the backlash he often receives. The lack of weapons this offense has is a much larger problem to me. It's not really a concern of whether they have the talent, but whether they have the ability to play as a team for a full 4 quarters. At times they have shown brilliance, but they've become much too inconsistent to be a force coming out of the East.

Others: Bills, Browns, Jaguars, Raiders, Chiefs, Bucs, Panthers, Rams

Photo credit
Julio Jones: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America
Russell Wilson: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images North America
Shaun Phillips: Donald Miralle/Getty Images North America

Friday, October 19, 2012

Week 7: NFL Divisional Matchups - Part II

Analyzing the Week 7 divisional matchups - Part II. Take a look here to see Part I.

Jets (3-3) at Patriots (3-3): Sunday October 21, 4:25pm EST CBS
The AFC East has a 4-way tie for first with each team, Dolphins, Patriots, Bills and Jets, all at 3-3 (notwithstanding tiebreakers). Even though the Jets had some crucial injuries – shutdown corner Darrelle Revis and veteran wide receiver Santonio Holmes, both out for the season – they still find themselves in the hunt for the division lead. And in spite of a somewhat shaky start with the receiving corps of Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill, both now seem to be settling into their respective roles. Along with receiver Chaz Schilens, all three will need to take advantage of the Patriots injury-depleted secondary. Since the Patriots have been good at stopping the run, expect running back Shonn Greene's production to be minimal, forcing quarterback Mark Sanchez and his receivers to exploit the Pats' rookie safeties. The Pats will also have to contend with any sub packages using backup quarterback Tim Tebow.

Tom Brady heads the Patriots high-powered offense and they lead the league in average total yards per game (445) and points per game (31.3). The usually pass-happy Patriots have also added a very effective run game this year. Perhaps the Jets biggest challenge though, will be counteracting the Pats hurry-up, no huddle offense. The Pats have successfully used it in keeping defenses guessing and off-balance, and most of all, exhausted. To keep the game close, the Jets need to contain wide receiver Wes Welker and the always dangerous tight end tandem of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Expect to see safeties Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry helping corners Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie cover the tight ends. The Patriots, though, will use this game to re-establish their supremacy in the AFC East.

Prediction: Jets 19 Patriots 41
Steelers (2-3) at Bengals (3-3): Sunday October 21, 8:20pm EST NBC
If any team has shown us the folly of making preseason predictions, it is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Currently sitting at 2-3 and 3rd in the division, the Steelers will undoubtedly take this opportunity to turn their season around. But it will be no easy task as they are 0-3 on the road with all three losses coming after leading in the 4th quarter. Another factor making their task difficult is the injuries they've suffered to key personnel, especially on defense and their failure in jumpstarting a viable running game. Star running back Rashard Mendenhall has only played in one full game due to injury and backups Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, who have also suffered injuries, have not taken up the slack. With the Bengals ranking 2nd in sacks with 20, Big Ben's skill of evading defenders and extending the play will be tested. But if it's a case of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object, my money's on the immovable object, Big Ben.

The Bengals greatest offensive asset is 2nd year wide receiver A.J. Green. The Dalton-Green connection has contributed to their averaging 282 passing yards per game, good enough for 8th in the league. However, quarterback Andy Dalton has been vulnerable when pressured, throwing 8 interceptions when blitz pressure is applied. Can the Steelers defensive line keep enough pressure on Dalton to disrupt his flow and force miscues? Both teams are struggling with the run. The Bengals are 21st averaging 99 yards per game; while the Steelers rank 31st averaging just 74. The game will be decided by each quarterback's ability to connect with their respective receivers: Dalton with Green and Andrew Hawkins and Big Ben with Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emanuel Sanders. Because of the injuries to key Steelers, and the fact that those who are returning this week may not be playing to full potential, here's my one upset pick of the 6 division matchups this week (if picking the 2nd place team over the 3rd place one can even be called an upset).

Prediction: Steelers 17 Bengals 23

Update: QB Ben Roethlisberger left Thursday's practice early after sustaining an ankle injury. We will have to stay tuned to see if this development will impact Sunday's game.

Lions (2-3) at Bears (4-1):  Monday October 19, 8:30pm EST on ESPN
To say that the Detroit Lions have gotten off to a slow start is an understatement. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw for over 5,000 yards last year, has only 4 touchdowns to 5 interceptions through 5 games. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who led the league in touchdown receptions for WRs last year with 16, only has one so far. They face a stout Chicago defense that is ranked No. 1 in defending the run, only allowing an average of 65 rushing yards per game. The Bears are also No. 1 in points allowed per game with 14.2. The Lions' running game has gotten off to a slow start, though back Mikel Leshoure, who missed the first two games of the season, has given the Lions some spark at the position. Because of their stalled running game, the Lions will rely heavily on the pass.

Bears' running back Matt Forte's big play potential keeps defenses on their heels and opens up the passing game. The Lions will have to keep pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler to disrupt his connection with deep-threat wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The key to the game will be how well the Bears' defense can contain the Lions' receiving arsenal of Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young, and tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. With the Lions trying to get back in the hunt in the AFC North, this will be a crucial game for both teams.

Prediction: Lions 21 Bears 23

Note: statistics quoted (exc. pts per game) are rounded off for clarity

Photo credit
Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Week 7: NFL Divisional Matchups - Part I

There are six division match-ups scheduled for Week 7. A week sure to be full of excitement as some long-standing and bitter rivals meet head-to-head. Part I will feature an analysis of three of these division matchups.

Seahawks (4-2) at 49ers (4-2)  Thurs. Oct. 18, 8:20pm EST NFL Network
Two power defenses go head-to-head in their first divisional matchup. Though the Seahawks have shown they can upset offensive juggernauts like the Patriots and Packers, facing the #1 overall ranked defense will present a different challenge. Offensively, the 49ers have the statistical edge. In passing yards per game they average 210 to Seattle's 169; rushing yards 176 to 131; and points per game 25.3 to 18.3. The 49ers rely heavily on the run game with backs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter and they will attempt to establish the run game early. This will be critical but not easy as the Seahawks are only allowing 70 rushing yards per game. It is also critical to establish a run game early because their passing game is mediocre at best with No. 1 receiver Michael Crabtree.

Defensively, they're a closer matchup with each allowing 15 points per game average. And the 49ers have only allowed five rushing touchdowns since 2011, though the Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was one of them. This matchup will come down to which defense shows up. Both teams will be facing a short week. The Niners are looking to rebound after an embarrassing 26-3 loss to the Giants in Week 6. But the Seahawks have youth and energy, and of course, a stout defense. And under the tutelage of Pete Carroll, they are just young enough to believe they can beat anyone. Expect a low scoring game and possibly more snaps for wide receiver Randy Moss as the 49ers attempt to boost their passing game.

Prediction: 49ers 19 Seahawks 14
Saints (1-4) at Buccaneers (2-3): Sunday October 21, 1:00pm EST Fox
Even without suspended coach Sean Payton, very few people would have predicted that the Saints would be 1-4 and sitting in last place in their division. They are also ranked last in overall defense, allowing 283 passing yards per game and 172 rushing. Look for the Bucs to exploit the Saints defensive weaknesses. Fresh off a 38-10 drubbing of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bucs receiving tandem of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams seems to be finally clicking. There is also opportunities for backs Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount to be very real threats out of the backfield. But the Bucs, whose defense ranks 25th overall, allowing 312 yards passing per game, will struggle to contain the Saints potent passing offense. The Saints will need wide receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham to continue to play at their 2011 levels. The Saints are coming off a bye week in which they hope to build on the success they had in Week 5 against the Chargers. This will be a battle of offenses and no one puts up big numbers better than Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Prediction: Saints 31 Bucs 22

Redskins (3-3) at Giants (4-2): Sunday October 21, 1:00pm EST Fox
With Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora providing some bulletin board material for the Redskins in the offseason, the stage is set for the first meeting between these two division rivals. Umenyiora said that rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is nicknamed RGIII, hasn't yet earned the right to a 'cool' nickname and referred to him as 'Bob Griffin.'  With bulletin board material aside, the Redskins will go into MetLife Stadium to face a team fresh off an impressive 26-3 win over one of the league's best teams, the San Francisco 49ers. In that game, the Giants defense, including LB Mathias Kiwanuka, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, and DT Linval Joseph, continually harassed 49ers QB Alex Smith, particularly in the 4th quarter, and prevented the 49ers from establishing the run game. The Redskins can expect more of the same.

For the Giants, they will be facing a quarterback in RGIII who has captivated us since his surprising Week 1 win over the Saints right up to his 76-yard run last week against the Vikings. His mobility, accuracy and drive will keep the Redskins in this game. Also rookie running back Alfred Morris has proved an effective every down back that will definitely garner attention. It appears that star receiver Pierre Garcon will continue to be out with a foot injury. Can wide receivers Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson, along with tight end Fred Davis take up the slack? In the end, the Giants receiving corps, including Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Domenic Hixon, will prove too much for the Redskins weak secondary who have allowed the most yards to opposing receivers. Along with running back Ahmad Bradshaw who has 100+ rushing yards in his last two games, the edge goes to the Giants.

Prediction: Redskins 24 Giants 28

Stay tuned for Part II, featuring Sunday's NYJ/NE, CIN/PIT match-ups and Monday night's Lions/Bears showdown.

Note: statistics quoted (exc. pts per game) are rounded off for clarity

Photo credit
Frank Gore: Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas Become Newest Members of Miami's Ring of Honor

There will be plenty of time to break down Peyton Manning's monster second half in Monday night's matchup, a game in which Peyton's Broncos came back from a 24-point halftime deficit to capture a 35-24 victory. For now, I would like to take the time to recognize two former greats.

T'was a great weekend for the Miami Dolphins, I'd say. Not only did rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill lead the 'Phins to a 17-14 win over the Rams, but they also added two former All Pro defenders to the franchise's Ring of Honor.

Jason Taylor, 38, and Zach Thomas, 39, were officially honored as the Dolphins' newest inductees, as they shared the stage in Miami on Sunday afternoon. Not only did Taylor and Thomas anchor Miami's defense for over a decade, but they also happen to be brother-in-laws (Jason is married to Zach's sister, Katina).

Thomas, an 8-time Pro Bowler, played linebacker for the Dolphins from 1996-2007, racking in over 1,600 total tackles and 19.5 sacks. As one of the most reliable pieces on defense throughout his 12 seasons, Thomas missed just 13 starts before playing in just five games in his final campaign as a Dolphin.
His 13-year career ended with a stint in Dallas in 2008––he spent the 2009 preseason with Kansas City before being released prior to the start of the regular season. Thomas' career, however, wasn't officially in the history books until he signed a one-day contract with Miami on May 18, 2010 to announce his retirement from the game.

Jason Taylor's career as Miami's massive, 6'6" defensive end was a wild one. Drafted by the Dolphins in the 3rd round of the '97 NFL Draft, Taylor spent 11 productive seasons in Miami before being traded to the Redskins. Taylor spent the next, and final, four seasons of his career jumping from Washington (2008), back to Miami (2009), to the Jets (2010) and finally back to the Dolphins last season.

The final three seasons of his career were spent transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker. With the Jets and Dolphins during those seasons, Taylor combined for 97 total tackles, 19 sacks and 5 forced fumbles in 22 starts.

Taylor announced on December 28, 2011 that he would officially retire from the game at season's end and he played his final game on January 1, 2012, with Miami. Taylor joined the ESPN NFL coverage team this past summer.
Both Thomas and Taylor were integral pieces to Miami's defense over the last decade, and spent many seasons with success alongside each other. Both guys find themselves on the Dolphins' top 5 list of most games played (Taylor, 3rd with 188; Thomas, 5th with 168).

Taylor is the franchise's sack leader (131) and his 139.5 career sacks is good enough for 6th on the NFL's all-time list. As for Thomas, he's the franchise's leader in career tackles. Combined, Taylor and Thomas have 13 Pro Bowl selections, 8 First-team All Pro selections and are both on the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.

Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas were the 20th and 21st players to be inducted into Miami's "Honor Roll" (not including the 1972 undefeated team, two coaches and founder/owner Joe Robbie, who are also members). They have officially been honored alongside the likes of Dan Marino, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Nick Buoniconti, Mark Clayton and Don Shula, among others.

Note: I do not own the above images. No Copyright infringement intended.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Baltimore's Narrow Victory over Dallas Comes with a Huge Price

Despite allowing the now 2-3 Dallas Cowboys to posses the ball for 40 minutes and running the ball for 227 yards and a touchdown, the Baltimore Ravens captured a 31-29 victory on Sunday afternoon and improved to 5-1.

The victory, coming after Dallas kicker Dan Bailey missed a late 51-yard field goal, was Baltimore's 15th consecutive win in front of the home crowd at M&T Bank Stadium. Heading in to the matchup, Baltimore's already banged up defensive unit was ranked 22nd against the run (No. 8 overall).

After allowing 481 yards and 30 first downs against Tony Romo's offense, more importantly the 5.4 yards per carry average on 42 rushing attempts, Baltimore's struggles have been put on full blast.

Baltimore's apparent defensive weakness, Dez Bryant's three drops (leads league) and Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown (tied for longest of all-time) was all overshadowed by three key injuries that could have a huge impact on how the remainder of the season plays out.
We'll know more on the extent of the injuries by the time Monday afternoon rolls around, but it's sure not looking good. Baltimore cornerback Lardarius Webb went down with a right knee injury, and it has been speculated that he has torn his ACL. A torn ACL would likely mean season-ending knee surgery.

The captain and the heart and soul of the Baltimore defense, linebacker Ray Lewis, left the game with an apparent triceps injury.

Neither returned to the game after suffering their respective injuries, and head coach John Harbaugh already stated that he expects Webb to be out for the remainder of the season. It almost seems inevitable for him at this point. As for Lewis, Harbaugh and the team have speculated that he has suffered a torn triceps.

While a torn triceps may not exactly end Lewis' 2012 season, it would at the very least keep him out a couple of months.

Nose tackle Haloti Ngata, while he finished the game, was said to have suffered a sprained knee during the matchup as well. He entered the game with an ailing shoulder but, after suffering the knee sprain, was shown favoring his left leg a little more than his right leg in between plays.
I wouldn't expect Ngata's knee injury to hold him back too much and we wont know all the gory details of the extent of Webb and Lewis' injuries until they undergo their scheduled MRIs on Monday.

Either way, Baltimore should be concerned after narrowly escaping Dallas––you can thank a couple of key dropped passes and 13 penalties on Dallas' part––and allowing teams to put up 200 rushing yards in back-to-back weeks for the first time in franchise history.

All Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs (achilles) isn't even expected to return to action until at least after the team's Week 8 bye. With the 5-1 Houston Texans playing host to Baltimore next weekend and 3+ playmaking defenders expected to be out of the lineup, Baltimore will need Joe Flacco's no-huddle offense to be in tip-top shape.

Note: We do not own the above images. No copyright infringement intended.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Never too Early: MVP Candidates Through Week 5

Who said it was too early to look forward to the Most Valuable Player of the 2012 season? It's never too early to talk MVP! Through five weeks of play there are numerous players in the running for the league's most coveted individual award. Here are All-Out Blitz's nominees:

Matt Ryan, ATL: 68.3%, 1,507 yards, 13 TD, 3 INT, 106.1 rating

Ryan has struggled to stay consistent, especially in the postseason, in recent seasons. But from the looks of the Atlanta offense this season, 2012 could end up being Matt Ryan's time to shine. Obviously the Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees' will still be in the hunt for the MVP, but I decided to keep Ryan as the only quarterback on this list. The signal caller of one of two remaining undefeated squads, Ryan has played near-perfect football and has possibly created one of the best trios (Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones) in the league right now.

Jamaal Charles, KC: 551 yards, 2 TDs, 5.4 Y/C

One year after suffering a season-ending ACL, Charles has broken out as the league's leading rusher. His three total TDs (2 rushing; 1 receiving) doesn't top the charts, but 5.4 Y/C and a league-best five runs of 20+ yards certainly gives the Chiefs an edge over the opponent and, with Matt Cassel struggling under center, Charles has been carrying the load for Kansas City.
Arian Foster, HOU: 532, 5 TDs, 4.0 Y/C

Fitting that the top two leading rushers are the two backs to crack the list of top MVP candidates, but I didn't just look at the top of the stat list to make these choices. Foster, despite his 4.0 yards per carry, has helped Houston's offense immensely. Thanks to his 106.4 yards per game and 5 rushing TDs (in addition to 1 through the air), Houston has managed to stay balanced on offense and put up nearly 30 points per game.

A.J. Green, CIN: 36 Rec., 493 yards, 4 TD

There are other wideouts out there that could be substituted in for Green, but I give the second-year receiver the edge over guys such as Victor Cruz, Wes Welker and Reggie Wayne. Sure Brian Hartline and Demaryius Thomas each have better numbers than Green, but do you really expect them to keep up this pace? Green, on the other hand, is quickly blossoming into a superstar wide receiver before our eyes. And the crazy thing is, he's in just his second season with a second-year quarterback in Andy Dalton throwing him passes. If he can keep up the numbers throughout the season, especially against teams such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh within the North, it would be a well-deserved MVP.

J.J. Watt, HOU: 26 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 8 PD, 2 FR

In just his second professional season, Watt is leading the league's 4th overall scoring defense. Fellow Houston Texan Brian Cushing has been lost for the season after tearing his ACL on Monday night, but the crazy thing is they may not even skip a beat. Watt is making an impact in every aspect on defense, recording 26 tackles and a league-leading 8.5 sacks. His 8 passes defensed ranks at No. 3 (tied with five others) among a group of cornerbacks and safeties. Coming off the edge, Watt will make an impact in some sort, whether it's getting to the quarterback or disrupting the play by throwing up his huge hands and knocking the ball down. Just an overall impressive first five games.
Clay Matthews III, GB: 21 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 1 PD, 1 FF

Matthews is having a great start to the season, on pace to top his career-high 13.5 sacks set in 2010, his second season in the league. Yet he's still five tackles, a half a sack and seven passes defensed behind Houston's Watt. Defenders don't win the MVP very often at all, but if I were to choose two defenders that could compete for it this season, it would be Watt and Matthews (in that order). The 26-year old Matthews is as scary as ever.

Other top performers by position:

Drew Brees, NO
Eli Manning, NYG
Aaron Rodgers, GB
Tom Brady, NE

Running back
Frank Gore, SF
Alfred Morris, WAS
LeSean McCoy, PHI
Stevan Ridley, NE

Wide receiver
Demaryius Thomas, DEN
Brandon Marshall, CHI
Reggie Wayne, IND
Marques Colson, NO

Note: The last non-QB/RB to win the Associated Press Most Valuable Player award was LB Lawrence Taylor in 1986. Since the award started in 1957, there have been just three non-QB/RB winners of the award (Taylor, Washington PK Mark Moseley in 1982 and Minnesota DT Alan Page in 1971). So, a wideout has never won and only two defenders have ever been awarded an MVP award.

What does this mean? Well, basically we can eliminate A.J. Green, J.J. Watt and Clay Matthews. Unless of course they end up tripling their current numbers by the end of the season––and even if Green did so, he still probably wouldn't have numbers good enough to compete.

Our Early Favorite: Matt Ryan

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Vikings, Cards Top List of Surprise Teams

Every NFL season, a team seems to come out of nowhere and shake our faith in what we think we know about how they will perform. The 2012 season has proved no different. A few teams have already exceeded expectations and find themselves ranked at or near the top of their respective divisions. Here are some of my favorite surprise teams this year:

Minnesota Vikings, NFC North
Before the season began, the Vikings were not even in the discussion when pundits talked about the NFC North. The Green Bay Packers were crowned top dog with the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions nipping at their heels. The Vikings were barely an afterthought. But now through 5 games, they lead the division, tied with the Bears at 4-1.

 Keys to success:
  • Christian Ponder is emerging as an efficient passer who recognizes coverages and protects the ball. He's averaging a 95.5 passer rating and has only thrown two interceptions, both in Sunday's game against the Titans. In that game, he showed poise and maturity by quickly recovering and completing 11 of 12 passes in the second half.
  • Offense -- The Vikings have rolled out a dynamic offense highlighted by wide receiver Percy Harvin and shored up by running back Adrian Peterson and even tight end Kyle Rudolph.
  • Defense -- Perhaps the most improved aspect of the Vikings game is the defense. First year defensive coordinator Alan Williams seems to have them back on track and improving every week. Safeties Jamarca Sanford and Harrison Smith look strong in the secondary while defensive end Jared Allen heads up an impressive front four who are among the best at rushing teh passer and stopping the run.

Arizona Cardinals, NFC West
The talk coming out of Arizona before the season started centered around who the quarterback would be. With neither John Skelton nor Kevin Kolb distinguishing themselves during preseason, it's no wonder the announcement naming Skelton the starter came only one week before the regular season began. With instability at the quarterback position, the Cardinals weren't given much chance for success. But then they started the season 4-0 and suddenly looked like a team to be reckoned with in the NFC West.

Keys to success:
  • Defense -- The Cardinals defense will be key. They will be tasked with keeping games close like they did their first four games. Even with the great wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals offense will not be a juggernaut. And the running game has taken a hit with Beanie Wells, and now Ryan Williams out for the season with injuries. With players like linebackers Sam Acho and Daryl Washington, the Cardinals defense will need to continue to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. So far, they are 5th in points allowed (15.6) and have only allowed 6 touchdowns through 5 games, the fewest in the league. And with one of the best young cornerbacks in the game in Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals have an opportunity to be legitimate contenders.

Honorable Mention: St Louis Rams, NFC West
Let's face it – in the NFL, as in other sports, there are certain teams that other teams count as an automatic “W.” Rightly or wrongly, consciously or subconsciously, some teams are just not taken as a viable threat. The Rams found themselves as one of 'those' teams last year, finishing 2-14 for the season. Teams should not take them for granted this year, however. Through 5 games, they have already topped last season's record and stand at 3-2. Though a 3-2 record may not be worthy of calling them a true surprise team, they are worthy of keeping an eye on. Head coach Jeff Fisher has brought a new attitude which is evidenced in the Rams' inspired play, especially on defense. Adding Cortland Finnegan at cornerback, along with Janoris Jenkins, adds a feisty, hard-nosed edge to the secondary. Defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long highlight a formidable pass attack no team can take for granted. How the Rams deal with injuries, particularly to the No. 1 receiver Danny Amendola, will determine whether their progress continues upward or not.

Obviously, there is still a lot of football left to play. These teams could actually tank from here on out making their great starts just a distant memory. Each team has their own particular flaws to overcome, but for now, they are at least in the discussion of possible playoff contenders.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fantasy Meets Reality

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson had fantasy owners miffed before his breakout game in Week 4
With 4 weeks of the NFL season in the books, fantasy football players have experienced a mixed bag of surprises, disappointments and unpredictable replacement refs. Some players like RB Arian Foster and WR Roddy White have performed as expected. While others like those listed below have turned high fantasy expectations into just plain fantasy.

Chris Johnson
The Tennessee Titans running back finally looked like CJ2K in Week 4 with 141 rushing yards and 16 receiving. Prior to that though, Johnson's performance was woefully inept. Through the first 3 weeks, he had 33 carries for 45 yards and no touchdowns. Though his Week 4 performance gives his fantasy owners hope, many are still wondering which performance is the real CJ.

Marques Colston
The New Orleans Saints wide receiver was another fantasy bust until Week 4, when he posted 153 yards and 1 TD. But it's no wonder that some fantasy owners may have benched him after less than stellar performances in Weeks 1, 2 and 3 -- 71, 49, and 40 yards respectively.

Antonio Gates
The San Diego Chargers tight end missed Week 2 due to injury, but his low fantasy production has his owners hurting too. Weeks 1, 3 and 4 -- 43, 22, and  59 yards respectively. Gates also hasn't posted a touchdown and fantasy owners are anxiously awaiting developments.

Dez Bryant
Another fantasy letdown prior to Week 4, the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver posted 85, 17, and 62 yards in Weeks 1, 2 and 3, respectively. His Week 4 performance of 105 yards and a 2 pt conversion netted some relief for any owner who had enough faith to still have him in their starting lineup.

Greg Jennings
Perhaps it's not surprising that this Green Bay Packers wide receiver has posted low fantasy numbers since quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a multitude of weapons at wideout. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones and Donald Driver are all on the reception-by-committee roll, not to mention their new focus on running the ball more with back Cedric Benson. Throw tight end Jermichael Finley in the mix and we may see these types of numbers continue for Jennings. Weeks 1, 3, and 4 -- 34, 35, 9 yds/1 TD, respectively (Jennings was out Week 2 due to injury).

Michael Crabtree
As the #1 depth chart wide receiver for one of the best teams in football, fantasy owners were hoping for more production out of the San Francisco 49ers wideout. Yet through 4 games, his numbers are dismal and he has yet to score a touchdown Weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4 -- 76, 67, 40, and 15 yards, respectively.

Greg Little
Some fantasy gurus touted 2012 to be a breakout season for this Cleveland Browns wide receiver, but through 4 games with just one touchdown and minimum yardage, he has not lived up to that potential. Weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4 -- 0, 57 , 17 and 77 yards, respectively. He's also been battling a case of the "drops" throughout the first 4 games.

Mark Ingram
Another player many thought would have a breakout season, this New Orleans Saints running back has posted one fantasy point in 3 of 4 games. Yes, 1 fantasy point, and with the exception of Week 2 (11 pts), that is the dismal number staring back at you on your fantasy roster if you rolled the dice and started Ingram.*

Steelers Defense
Actually the Steelers rank 5th in overall defense, but in most of the categories that concern fantasy owners, they rank near the bottom. In takeaways like interceptions (1), forced fumbles (1), fumbles recovered (2), and points allowed (25.7), the Steelers have not been the vaunted defense we're accustomed to. Through 3 weeks of action, they have allowed 334, 219, and 321 yards to opposing teams, netting their defense 4, 8 and 2 fantasy points.* (Stats for Games 1, 2, and 3 respectively. Week 4 was a bye week).  Fantasy owners hope the return of James Harrison and Troy Polamalu this week will give the Steelers defense a boost.

A few other fantasy studs from 2011 who had fantasy owners nervous until breakout games in Weeks 3 and/or 4 were Cowboys TE Jason Witten, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Bears WR Brandon Marshall, and the Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles. It's still too early in the season to write off any of the above players, but the next quarter of play should give a clear indication whether they will be a boon or bust for your fantasy rosters.

*fantasy stats based on default scoring in a standard league on
Photo credit: Antonio Dixon

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rams Host Kolb, Fitzgerald on Thursday Night

Don't you just love the new Thursday Night Football schedule? Football games every Thursday night, couldn't be better.

Tonight, beginning in just a few minutes on NFL Network to be exact, the 2-2 St. Louis Rams host one of the three remaining undefeated teams in the 4-0 Arizona Cardinals.

With the perfect record on the line, Kevin Kolb and Arizona's 15th-ranked overall offense will look to continue its hot streak. Thus far this season, however, its been the Cardinal defense that has kept the squad in games and allowed them to upset teams such as the Patriots and Eagles.

The Rams are 2-0 at home this season, defeating the Redskins 31-28 (thanks in part to a huge mistake of WR Josh Morgan) and the Seahawks 19-13 this past weekend.
But, the Cardinals defense has yet to allow any more than 21 points to a team and has a perfect 1-0 record on the road, entering a tough crowd in New England and coming away with a Week 2 victory. The No. 3 overall defense (21st against pass, 16th against run) will be a tough match for quarterback Sam Bradford and the Rams' 24th-ranked overall offense.

It'll certainly be an interesting matchup with Larry Fitzgerald going up against St. Louis' secondary, led by feisty cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who have allowed just 2 passing touchdowns in four games.

I wont be calling for an upset tonight, however, as Kevin Kolb has been playing great football and with Fitzgerald having two consecutive games with a receiving touchdown, I expect another big game from Arizona's passing offense.

My prediction: Arizona improves to 5-0 with a 31-14 victory over St. Louis.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Week 5 Power Rankings: League's Top 10 After First Quarter of Season

With Chicago's 34-18 beat-down––well, more like massacre––of Tony Romo's Cowboys in the books, Week 4 is now history. Meaning a quarter of the 2012 NFL season is already behind us. It's a bit odd when you think about it, but I thought this would be the perfect time to crank out a list of the top 10 teams as of right now.

Here's what I came up with, in addition to a few other teams that were considered, but just missed the cut for top 10:

1. Houston Texans 4-0

Houston has gone from AFC South cellar dweller (2002-10), to playoff team (2011) to AFC favorites this season. Houston's top tier defense has allowed just 56 points, good enough for first in the NFL. With a healthy Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson back this season, Houston has a competent passing game that can hold its own. As a team, Houston has put up 27 or more points in each of its first four games and has allowed 14 points per game and forced nine turnovers. One could argue Houston's offense isn't as great as Atlanta's (and I would agree with you), but the Texan defense more than compensates for that.

2. Atlanta Falcons 4-0

Matt Ryan, A.K.A. Matty Ice, holds an early lead for the league's Most Valuable Player. The signal caller has thrown for 1,162 yards, 11 TDs and only 2 INTs while completing nearly 70% of his pass attempts. The high-flying offensive attack, made up of Ryan and Pro Bowl-caliber wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones, has put up a third-best 31 points per game. It's not all offense in Atlanta, however, as the defense has forced the second-most turnovers (12) and allowed just three points to the 3-1 Chargers last week.
3. Baltimore Ravens 3-1

The loss to the Eagles in Week 2 doesn't look too great on an otherwise solid 2012 resume, but there's no doubt that Baltimore's defense can still live up to expectations despite age. Ray Lewis, 37, is miraculously looking as strong as ever this season and there has officially been a timetable set for Terrell Suggs' return this season.

As for the offense, quarterback Joe Flacco seems ready to handle the bulk of the offense. The coaches have put the offense in his hands and he has shown great promise in running Baltimore's no-huddle offense thus far. An emerging Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta should only help Flacco and his stride towards a Super Bowl appearance.

4. San Diego Chargers 3-1

As mentioned earlier, San Diego was shut down by Atlanta's tough defense in a Week 3 matchup, but besides that game the Charger offense proved they can put points on the board against division rivals. In the other three games, all wins, Philip Rivers' offense has put up 32.3 points per game and Rivers' has posted a QB rating of 100 or better. The rushing offense has been inconsistent, but they have run for 100+ yards in each of the last three games and consistently should only get better with Ryan Mathews' recent return to action.

5. Arizona Cardinals 4-0

Arizona is the third of the remaining undefeated teams. The most shocking of the three, too. The quarterback controversy of John Skelton and Kevin Kolb was sure to doom the Cards this season, but so far that has not been the case. Skelton's injury opened the door back up for Kolb to retake the starting job and he hasn't looked back since then. Arizona ranks 29th in rushing offense and 25th in passing offense, but the defense has kept things interesting.

As a team, the Cards have allowed just 15.3 points per game and forced 10 turnovers. Thanks to opposing offenses scoring four total touchdowns against them (3 passing, 1 rushing), the Cards have managed to pull upsets over such teams as the Patriots and the Eagles.
6. San Francisco 49ers 3-1

The Niners suffered a disappointing loss to Minnesota, 24-13, last week. But with that the only loss of the season, I think we can overlook that game considering Christian Ponder played a great game and the Vikes played near-perfect aside from Toby Gerhart's two fumbles. San Francisco defeated division rivals Green Bay and Detroit in Weeks 1 and 2 with four TDs and zero turnovers from quarterback Alex Smith.

The stingy defense of the Niners finally broke out this past weekend with a 34-0 shutout of the New York Jets. San Fran forced four turnovers and put the ball in the end zone with a 51-yard fumble return TD from cornerback Carlos Rogers. Looking at the 49ers' next four games, they very well could end up going into the bye week in the beginning of November with a 7-1 record.

7. Cincinnati Bengals 3-1

At 3-1, the Bengals have won three straight following its embarrassing 44-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football's season opener. Ever since that game, the Bengals have out-dueled the competition with 33 points per game and three multi-TD games from second-year quarterback Andy Dalton. What has impressed me the most, however, is probably the QB-WR tandem of Dalton and A.J. Green, both of whom are in their second professional seasons. Green has turned heads with his 428 yards and 3 TDs over the first portion of the season and Andrew Hawkins (15 Rec., 247 yards, 2 TDs) has emerged as a viable second option for Dalton.
8. New England Patriots 2-2

The Pats are one of two 2-2 teams on this list. Tom Brady has this Patriots offense ranked No. 1 in scoring and No. 6 in passing. Once again, it's Bill Belichick's defense that is holding the team back. With a new defensive coordinator (Matt Patricia) and a couple of young guns in the lineup (rookies Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower) it comes as no surprise that the Pats have allowed 28 or more points in back-to-back games. In fact, it's the first time since 2002 that the Patriots have lost back-to-back games in general (upset against Arizona in Week 2 and against Baltimore in Week 3). The reason New England cracks the top 10 with a 2-2 record is partly because both teams they fell to are in my top 5. The other reason is because the Pats still have one of the top scoring offenses in the league, and that will not change this season.

9. Green Bay Packers 2-2

The replacement officials clearly took a victory away from the Packers last Monday night in Seattle, so I almost want to put an asterisk next to Green Bay's 2-2 record. Aaron Rodgers (69.9 comp %, 1,064 yards, 7 TD, 3 INT) isn't in his 2011 MVP form, but that doesn't mean he's having a bad season either. I expect the running game, led by Cedric Benson, to improve upon its current 25th-best as the season progresses. It's the defense that I've been impressed with so far. Clay Matthews III has been playing out of his mind lately, sacking the opposing quarterback 7.0 times in four games. As a team they are 10th-ranked in overall defense, but sixth against the pass and have allowed just one TD on the ground. The unit as a whole has looked much more impressive (so far) than they did in 2011, and I don't think they've reached their full potential quite yet.
10. Philadelphia Eagles 3-1

Philly is lucky to crack the list. Heck, they're lucky to even be 3-1. They could just as easily have started the season at 1-3. To play as awful as they did on offense in the first two weeks of the season and to win by one point after a come-from-behind game-winning scoring drive at the last minute is what I call lucky. I usually avoid using that word when it comes to winning football games–in fact, I kind of hate when people say "they got lucky." But I think it's justified in the case of the Eagles.

Michael Vick combined for six interceptions, a lost fumble and four sacks in the first two weeks, producing five touchdown drives total. Sure, one of those two games came against the heavy-hitting Baltimore Ravens, but the other came against rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden in Cleveland...and he threw four interceptions in that game as well. Then came a 27-6 loss to Arizona. If Philadelphia had lost to New York on Monday night, they would have been nowhere near the top 10. I just can't see myself leaving a 3-1 team that contained Baltimore's offense and put up 191 rushing yards on the Giants off the list. That's all.

Just missed (in no particular order):

Pittsburgh Steelers 1-2

By far the worst run game in the league. But Ben Roethlisberger has been having a great season and hopefully the return of Rashard Mendehall this week will improve the offense. The Steelers are still awaiting the return of James Harrison and Troy Polamalu on defense, however.

New York Giants 2-2

A loss to the Eagles on Sunday night has certainly hurt the Giants' and may have cost them a top 10 spot. But I expect to see them back at it in the next couple of weeks. Never count Eli Manning and his two Super Bowl MVPs out of anything.
Chicago Bears 3-1

You would think a spectacular 34-18 victory over Dallas, a game in which the Chicago defense forced 5 Tony Romo interceptions and returned two of them for TDs, would be enough to crack the top 10. But the inconsistency of the offense throughout the first quarter of the season has them on the outside looking in, for now.

Minnesota Vikings 3-1

Minnesota has been a bit of a surprise, sitting at 3-1 in the NFC North right now. The team was unsure whether or not Adrian Peterson would be fully recovered from his ACL injury in time to begin the season on the field. Well, he was. And he's produced 332 yards and 2 rushing TDs through four games. Oh and second-year quarterback Christian Ponder has been playing alright too (68.3 comp %, 824 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT).

Biggest disappointments:

New Orleans Saints 0-4

They are winless, losing to the likes of Washington and Carolina, and without head coach Sean Payton. Enough said. Brees hasn't lost a step or anything like that, he's still put up his usual gaudy passing numbers. It's just the defense has yet to allow anything less than 27 points in a game.

New York Jets 2-2

A 34-0 shutout this past weekend, a game in which Mark Sanchez threw for 103 yards and an INT on 13/29 passing and the run game managed just 45 yards on 17 carries (2.6 yards/carry). Sure, they're 2-2 and tied atop the division, but the fact that you've lost Darrelle Revis for the season and Santonio Holmes has suffered a serious foot injury sure isn't looking good. Fans are already calling for Tim Tebow to start? Ouch, looks like desperation mode has begun quicker than expected.
Detroit Lions 1-3

An overtime loss (44-41 to TEN) and two losses of eight points or less is rather heartbreaking. But either way I wasn't expecting a 1-3 record and a spot at the bottom of the NFC North from this Detroit Lions squad. Matthew Stafford has tossing the rock plenty of times, ranking first in passing yards per game (322.0), but injuries to the backfield have prevented the team from establishing the run early in games, relying too heavily on the arm of Stafford.

Carolina Panthers 1-3

I, personally, was (and still am) expecting big things from Carolina this season. Unfortunately Cam Newton hasn't quite shown that he has matured from his impressive rookie campaign of a year ago. He seems a bit too tied up with how he himself is performing rather than rallying his guys together as a team. He's been lacking that leadership quality you'd like to see in your franchise QB and he will need to get it together rather quickly if Carolina is to compete in the South.

- - - - -

There you have it, my first edition of the 2012 Power Rankings.

The bottom two of the list were tough to pick. You could really make an argument for putting the Giants, Bears or Vikings in place of the Packers or Eagles on the list and it could be justifiable. Just goes to show you the parity we've seen in this league over the years.

Re-visit this list a couple of weeks down the road and I can assure you that the new list will look radically different from this one. The Bears and Giants offenses have been inconsistent thus far, but they have the potential to crack the top 10 and surpass Philly, Cincy and Arizona by the time October is complete.

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