NFL Power Rankings – Week 4

(Philadelphia, Pa) — This has been one wacky season around the NFL, where any team can beat another at any turn.  The main thing is that almost every team – probably except for the 0-3 teams, only two have made the playoffs since in the free agency era -still has a shot at the playoffs.

Most teams are in the 2-1 to 1-2 range (20 teams) entering Week 4, but seperation and desperation are the two key words at this phase of the NFL schedule.  As we turn the first quarter pole of the race, I thoroughly believe that we will see good teams keep moving forward (ex. Cowboys and Bills) toward the playoffs. But teams that are winless at this point (Texans, Lions, Chiefs, Rams, Browns and Bengals) are trying anything including starting backup quarterbacks and playing younger players in an attempt to save their season and in some cases their coaches jobs.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

The “U” is the NFL’s version of the minor leagues – The University of Miami may not be the powerhouse that they were in the ‘90s, but they sure can produce NFL caliber players.  For 14 straight years they have produced a first-round draft choice and the “U” was the top college for producing NFL players on opening day rosters with 44.  The rest of the schools were Florida State 37; rivals Michigan and Ohio State along with Georgia 36; LSU 35; Tennessee 34; USC 32; Florida 30; Notre Dame 28; Auburb and CAL 27

NFC East is the NFL’s Best Division – Three weeks into the season and the NFC East is off to a flying start!  “I believe the NFC East is the best division in the league right now,” says NFL Network analyst Steve Marucci.  All four teams – Dallas (3-0), the New York Giants (3-0), Philadelphia (2-1) and Washington (2-1) – boast winning records, the only division that can make that claim — The 1935 Western Division is the only division in NFL history to have all its teams finish with a winning record.  This season, NFC East teams are a combined 10-2 (.833), with both losses coming in games played within the division.  Among the eight divisions, the NFC East ranks first in a number of categories, including total wins (10), winning percentage (.833), points scored (329) and net point differential (+116). 

Now on to the rankings for this week

1. Giants (3-0) – The G-Men squeaked one out against the lowly Bengals as 44-year old kicker John Carney came to their rescue in OT.  The Giants, who are still my #1 get a week off with bye.  Their bye week should be real interesting as they have to deal with violatile but talent receiver Plaxico Burress’ non-team behavior.

2. Cowboys (3-0) – The ‘Boys proved to be too powerful for the youthful Packers.  The Cowboys showed they have multiple weapons as RB Felix Jones and seldom used receiver Miles Austin made big plays. In a traditional NFC East rivalry game they host the hated Redskins.

3.  Eagles (2-1) – The Birds won the physical battle of the Keystone state led by a devastating defense that knocked Big Ben out and produced 9 sacks.  It is time for some home cooking for McNabb as he and the Eagles travel back to Chicago for a big Sunday Night Football game.

4.  Bills (3-0) – After 3 weeks of the NFL season, everyones surprise team keeps rolling.  The Bills  earned a top five spot by disbatching a tougher than expected Raiders team.  The Bills get a pseudo “bye” as they face the hapless Rams in Stl Louis this week.

5.  Patriots (2-1) – The Brady-less bunch fell in a classic NFL trap game against the Dolphins.  The ‘Phins were inventive in bringing out the “Wildcat” spread option and the Pats had no answers.  Unfortunately for the Patriots they will have two weeks to think about a loss to a former 1-15 team as they are on a bye this week.

6. Steelers (2-1) – The men of steel found their kryptonite in a loss to Philly as the Eagles defense could not be stopped by their porous O-line.  Without  Willie Parker and Casey Hampton, the Steelers look to rebound on Monday Night Football against the surprising Ravens.

7. Packers (2-1) – The magic carpet ride of Aaron Rodger s came to a halt against a very explosive Cowboys team on Sunday Night Football.  The Packers will have to lick their wounds and get ready for a trip to Tampa to face former NFC Central rival the Bucs.

8.  Panthers (2-1) – The Vikings led by Gus Frerotte were more hungry than the Panthers even with the return of WR Steve Smith.  The Panthers will try to re-group as they host the upstart Falcons in a key NFC South battle.

9.  Broncos (3-0) – The luck kept on continuing for Mike Shanahan’s boys as they escaped another high scoring battle this time with a little help from Saints kicker Martin Gramatica, who was 1-3 on FG attempts.  In an old-time AFL battle the Broncs travel to KC, who is still looking for their first win.

10.  Titans (3-0) – All they do is win and win even with veteran Kerry Collins at the helm.  This week they dominated the Texans defensively as they had several sacks and an interception return for a touchdown by Courtland Finnegan.  Host the Vikings in a interesting game pitting a despereate dome team playing outdoors against a team no one thought would be undefeated, especially while playing without V.Y.

11.  Redskins (2-1) – The ‘Skins showed the Cardinals just how tough the NFC East is as their defense and the rejuvenated passer/receiver combo of Jason Campbell and Santana Moss led the way.  In one of Sunday’s bigger games, the Reskins and Cowboys renew their annual rivalry for the last time in Texas Stadium.

12.  Buccaneers (2-1) – T he Bucs marched into Soldier Field and out-muscled the favored Bears for a big NFC win.  In an old NFC Central match-up the Bucs will travel to Green Bay to face the Packers in the “Battle of the Bays”.

13.  Chargers (1-2) – In a must-win situation, superstar L.T, gutted it out and the Chargers offense scored early and often as they rode a huge first half lead to an eay victory.  Travel to Oakland to a desperate Raiders team in what could be Lane Kiffin’s last game in Silver and Black.

14.  Ravens (2-0) – After an unexpected bye week, the Ravens returned to the field and got a big AFC North win over the Browns.  Their defense led by safety Ed Reed was soficating as the Browns were harrassesed all game.  In a huge ESPN Monday Night Football game in Pittsburgh, we will finally see if the undefeated Ravens are contenders or pretenders.

15.  Colts (1-2) – The old Colts from the 2005 regular season showed up as they could not stop the run (236 rushing yards) in a home loss to the physical Jags. Quarterback Peyton Manning and the many others of the of Colts’ MASH unit will have a break as they are on a bye this week.

16.  Saints (1-2) – They had their opportunities versus the Broncos producing large chunks of yardage, but in the end their kicker Grammatica had a rough day.  It will be be dome sweet home as they face the upstart Niners in a former NFC West clash.

17.  Vikings (1-2) – In Gus they Trust as the Vikes got their first win of the year spurred by the veteran quarteback and some big plays on defense.  An intriguiging match-up awaits against the Titans in Tennessee in a battle of two teams that love to run the football.

18.  Jaguars (1-2) – Jack Del Rio’s team knew they had to win against familiar AFC South rival the Colts and they did by pounding the rock for over 230 yards rushing and over 40 minutes of possession in a their first win of the season.  The Jags continue their trek through the AFC South portion of their schedule as they host a dangerous Texans team looking for their first win of the season.

19.  Cardinals (2-1) – Traveling to the East has been a house of horrors for the Cards (2-15 in the Eastern timezone since 2003) and last week was no different as the Redskins won a shootout mainly due to their defense.  It maybe the same story as Whisenhunt’s boys travel to the East again to face Brett and Jets in the Meadowlands.

20.  Bears (1-2) – It was sweet revenge for fomer  Bears’ starter Brian Griese as he aired it out (67 attempts) while leading led the Bucs to a big win over the defensive-minded Bears.  The Bears must now face the rising Eagles as Donovan McNabb returns home to Chicago to face the Bears on NBC Sunday Night Football.

21.  Seahawks (1-2) –  This past week it was the Hawks turn to send the hapless Rams further into NFL wasteland as they soundly beat their NFC West rivals.   The Seahawks get a much-needed bye week to heal up their receiving core.

22.  Jets (1-2) –  The Chargers pounded Brett Favre and the Jets in a Monday Night Football game that was over before halftime.  The J-E-T-S will look to rebound at home against the high-flying Arizona Cardinals.

23.  49ers (2-1) – The Niners took care of business against a sinking Lions team as quarterback JT O’Sullivan showed his former team the door.  The surprising Niners will have a big road test as they face the Saints in a potential Super Dome scoring fest.

24.  Falcons (2-1) – The upstart Falcons led by quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner sent Herm Edwatrds closer to the door in a dominating win.  The Dirty Birds wil show us if they are for real as they have to travel to Carolina for a big NFC South game.

25.  Dolphins (1-2) – Forget all  of the rebuilding talk as the Dolphins stunned the Patriots in Foxboro.  The ‘Phins equaled their  2007 win total by running the “Wildcat” offense to perfection as Ronnie Brown starred.  It will be sunny days and cool drinks as the Dolphins and Miami celebrate their big for two weeks as they have a bye in week 4.

26.  Browns (0-3) – The Dawgs were embarassed this week by the Ravens as quarterback Derek Anderson looked terrible against his old team.  In a must-win situation the Browns and on the hot seat coach Romeo Crennel face the hated Bengals in an old-time AFC North brawl.  Watch for quarterback Brady Quinn in this game if Anderson continues his bad passing ways.

27.  Texans (0-2) – The Titans showed the Texans what Is needed to be a top team in a ground attack fueled win.  The Texans will need to have better production from quarterback Matt Schaub if they are to beat the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

28.  Raiders (1-2) – Lost to the Bills on a late field goal and it maybe only a matter of days before Al Davis pulls the plug on the Lane Kiffin era.  The Raiders need to showup against the rejuvenated host Chargers in a must-win game or it will be curtains for Kiffin.

29.  Lions (0-3) – After being dismantled by the “mighty” Niners, Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr headed the words of his son Billy Jr and fired CEO/GM Matt Millen.  With Millen now out of the way, maybe the Lions during their bye week can fix an offense that is having a hard time running the ball and getting it to stud receiver Roy Williams.

30  Bengals (0-3) – As bad as the Bengals were in the first two weeks of the season, you have to give them credit for putting up an overtime fight with the Super Bowl champion Giants.  In a classic rivalry game Marvin Lewis and the Bengals have a good chance getting their first “W” against the host Browns in the “Battle of the Defeated”.

31.  Chiefs (0-3) – The young Falcons proved that the Chiefs are a hapless bunch as they scored often and had a dominating defensive effort.  Herman Edwards’ job is not on the line just yet, but another loss (franchise record 13-game losing streak) especially against division rival the Broncos may turn up the heat on the jovial coach.

32.  Rams (0-3) The Lambs had no answer to the Seahawks power running game as the Hawks went over 200 yards rushing in a dominating win.  Scott Linehan better have his resume ready as he and Lane Kiffin are battling for the first fired crown.  The struggling coach will turn to veteran quarterback Trent Green this week as the upstart Bills come to town.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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