Winks Thinks: The Ranking NFL Teams in Terms of Power Edition
For months, the roommates and I wrestled with the decision over whether or not to get a new television provider for our apartment in the form of DirecTV. As big of NFL fans as we are, and for as much as we watch StatTracker on our laptops more than the actual games themselves on Sundays, we figured that it was finally time to buy into the NFL Sunday Ticket and Red Zone Channel way of life. So despite the fact that we actually are getting cable television throughout the rest of the house for free, we decided we’d still be willing to enter the contract and pay whatever we had to for the privilege of watching any game we wanted to at any time. All we needed was for the satellite to be installed, and we’d be up and running.
After waiting a few weeks for when DirecTV finally had an appointment available, I arraigned to meet a technician on a Wednesday afternoon. He arrived ready to go, but since we lived in the second level of an apartment complex, he deemed that we were unable to get the service. That was of course unless we manually bolted some plywood to our deck so that the satellite could be hooked up to that contraption, since drilling into the apartment was out of the question per the landlord’s agreement for us to live there. He told me what pieces of equipment were necessary to purchase, and I headed to Menards frustrated that I was without DirecTV, but encouraged that we would soon be watching NFL Sunday Ticket once this little side project was taken care of.
Heading to Menards would prove to be just part of the battle, because even though they have the best bathrooms in Fond du Lac*, the service that day was not very helpful. Bounced around from department to department before I finally got a representative who at least pretended to know what I was talking about, a quick trip to Menards turned into an hour long visit. Whether all of that blame should be put upon the staff that day or whether it should fall on myself for having a very unexplainable anxiety attack that led to me walk around the store for 50 minutes before I asked for help is a debate for another day.
* Having the best bathrooms in a city like Fond du Lac is kind of like being the cutest girl in 4H Club. Doesn’t take much. Still, I remember back in junior high needing to use the bathrooms there during a visit to the store with my family. I was so impressed with the facilities – most specifically that the walls in the toilet stalls go all the way down to the floor to prevent you from seeing your neighbor’s feet when he’s on the John – that it is the gold standard for me when I compare other restrooms throughout town. In fact, I was so impressed that day that even though I’ve been back to that very same Menards plenty of times in my life, I will never go back into that bathroom, for fear that it won’t live up to my expectations.
Regardless, the trip to Menards was at least somewhat of a success, and once we bolted the plywood to our deck, we were ready for another DirecTV technician. When the next guy game to our apartment, he looked at our creation like it was an optical illusion, not quite figuring out why we did what we did. “The other technician’s boss might have let him do it that way, but mine won’t,” the new tech told me, even though half of the other satellite dishes installed amongst our complex were done in a similar fashion. The new guy then told me he’d have to bolt some pole into the ground and attach the dish on to that, which would be an additional 75 dollars. Desperate for Sunday Ticket I agreed to this price, but realized when I wrote the check out to the technician himself and not to DirecTV that I may have been taken for a fool. Yeah, your boss won’t let you install it on the plywood, sure. OR, you’re a sneaky one and wanted to squeeze another 75 bucks out of me. Well played.
So after a few rescheduling issues, a self-anxiety attack, and an embarrassing explanation to the roommates about why they owe me more money than they thought they did, our dish was hooked up and ready to go. And boy, was I glad we did it. I’ve seen RedZone channel and watched Sunday Ticket before, but never in the comfort of my own home. Touchdown after touchdown, fantasy update after fantasy update, I don’t we were forced to see a commercial until 5 o’clock. The dish is going to be a huge hassle when the weather gets bad (as it already has been), and getting out of this contract with them is going to be torture, but for now, it was worth it.
The point is, you get to watch a lot more different football with the RedZone Channel and Sunday Ticket than you do if you’re just watching the three games on local broadcast during a Sunday afternoon. You think by being able to watch more games, I’d be a little more knowledgeable about just how good or how bad some of these teams look already this season. But unfortunately, when I decided to emulate the rest of the internet and put together a power ranking after week one, I ended up doing what I usually do – rank more on emotion than I do on actual facts. So let’s take a look at the first ever Winks Thinks Power Rankings, a feature that I’ll only do when I can’t really think of anything else to write about. So here are the rankings, although they are based more on how good of chances I think each team has at winning the Super Bowl rather than just their respective positions after the first week of action.
32. Detroit Lions – The funny thing about the NFC North for me is that I really don’t hate the Lions or even the Chicago Bears. I mean I hate when the Packers lose to both teams, but as franchises I respect both and even like some of their players. In the case of the Vikings though, I hate everyone that wears the purple and gold and can’t fathom for the life of me why anyone would openly root for that franchise. So when the Lions and Bears played last weekend, I was just hoping for an entertaining game, and whoever won, won. I may have been a little more pro-Chicago for fantasy reasons (Jay Cutler) but I really didn’t care which of these teams started 1-0. When the Lions lost though the way that they did against Chicago, that pretty much reaffirmed the notion that the Lions just aren’t destined to win anything this year or anytime soon. I’ve seen a lot of end zone catches less secure than the ball that Calvin Johnson brought in to nearly win that game, and I wouldn’t be able to comprehend it if they didn’t change the rule this offseason.
31. Cleveland Browns – About two years ago at this time, I was just beginning my extended unemployment after I decided to leave the television business and move back home without another job lined up. One of the things that I did during this period was send out resumes and cover letters to pretty much any open position that met one of my qualifications – public relations, marketing, sports intern, loser - and then I just waited for phone calls. Since then, I’ve been trained to get a bit excited every time an unknown phone number showed up on my phone, just in the off chance that someone dug up my resume and wanted to give me a call. So when I received a phone call from a number that turned out to be the Cleveland Browns front office of which I did send a resume, I got a little giddy inside. Unfortunately, since the Browns are so hard up on season ticket owners, and I arraigned a trip to bring fourteen people from Wisconsin to Cleveland Browns Stadium last season, they had my number and gave me a call. What’s more desperate? The Browns trying to get season tickets out of away fans? Or me holding on to hope that a resume from two years ago is going to be my ticket out of this town?
30. Buffalo Bills – There’s a new show on ESPNews that takes a look at the “lighter side of sports” (always that was a dumb phrase), and the host had Jim Kelly on this week to try to convince him that the Bills wouldn’t go winless this season. Jim Kelly had a hard time answering that question. Jim Kelly of all people! Enough said.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – A win against Cleveland, a game against the struggling Panthers this week, and then a Dennis Dixon led Steelers team in week three. Could the Buccaneers be 3-0 heading into their bye week in week four? No, they could not. The Buccaneers are just as bad as the Cleveland Browns are, it’s just that they somehow happened to get the victory when the two teams took the same field. That’s the only reason why they are even this high, which is fairly impressive for the Buccaneer franchise.
28-25. The Entire NFC West Division – Somehow, this division has emerged with two wins after the opening weekend. Ah right, it’s because there were two intra-division games. Every team in this division is beyond bad. I never realized how valuable Kurt Warner was to this franchise until I saw Derek Anderson in an Arizona uniform. I mean, I know Anderson is terrible as I was in a sixteen team fantasy league last season where you can start two quarterbacks, so I lived and died by D.A. for a few weeks towards the end of the season. Trust me when I tell you how bad he is. For some reason though I thought wearing a Cardinals uniform would transform him into something better. It did not.
I don’t know how the Cardinals even ended up beating the Rams last weekend, but they did. I think the Rams actually have a better chance of doing something this year than Arizona does, because I am a firm believer now in Sam Bradford. I was just impressed with the kid and how he played, especially with how he formed an instant bond with the veteran Mark Clayton. Those two guys will do a lot together this season, and Steven Jackson is still legit. Unfortunately for the Rams though, the NFL isn’t NBA Jam. You have to have more than three guys on the roster. And those other 50 guys that they do have aren’t very good.
Speaking of not very good, how disappointing were the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday? This is a team that is being predicted to go 10-6, 11-5 in some circles, and they definitely have work to do if that is going to be the case. They have a lot of weapons on offense, and they have a good defense, it’s just that Small Hands Alex Smith is terrible. Thank God when Mike McCarthy was a coach in San Fran he wanted Smith over Aaron Rodgers. Actually I think if that team did have Rodgers they probably would be an 11-5 team, at least. But they have Small Hands, and until they get another option at QB they won’t be going very far. Also, I’m not sure how good of a coach Mike Singletary is. I think there is a line that coaches have to try to find. You can’t be a boring personality, but too much emotion isn’t a good thing either. I think Singletary is just a little too over the top, and while it’s cool to see him demand a lot out of his players, it’s lame to see him thank Pete Carroll for beating them. Actually, a lot of his motivation tactics seem to come off more lame than successful. I get what he’s doing there, but everything Mike Singletary does comes off more weird than it does helpful.
As for the Seahawks, that game was a fluke. They are terrible.
24. Oakland Raiders – Al Davis is dead! He’s dead, he has to be! Did anyone else see him in the box seats during the Raiders game against Tennessee? There is no way that is a living man. I’m not even trying to make like the typical Weekend at Bernie’s jokes here either, I’m just in shock that despite the fact that Al Davis is worse off than a corpse at this point, he’s still making personnel decisions! Has this been too many exclamation points so far in this paragraph! Davis is running drafts, he’s giving the final say on roster moves, he’s still in a complete control of a franchise that has been in disarray since the 1970s. Even the year they went to the Super Bowl they were a mess. I’m telling you, the Raiders become legit perennial Super Bowl contenders within three years of Davis dy…. um, leaving.
23. Carolina Panthers – We are in year three of our Madden franchise now, and after Favre retired from the Vikings after year one (Favre has been retiring after year one of franchises in Madden since the 2006 edition), Minnesota went out and signed Matt Moore as their quarterback. I don’t know if the Vikings offensive line gets worse as the franchise progresses, but Matt Moore is far and away the easiest quarterback to sack in that game. I’m at the point where real life football and Madden football are so blurred, so if something is true in Madden it has to be true in real life.
22. Denver Broncos
21. Jacksonville Jaguars
20. Miami Dolphins
Outside of a few differences such as Tim Tebow hype or reliance on the Wildcat formation, aren’t these all the same team right now? At worst, these teams are going to go 7-9. At best, they are going to go 9-7. And none of them will make the playoffs.
19. Cincinnati Bengals – When you have Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco on your team, there are going to be plenty of distractions. Both have had shows on VH1 in the past two seasons. Both will be hosting a show on Versus later this year. Ochocinco hosted this weeks’ edition of Monday Night RAW (but believe or not, I did not watch it. Okay, don’t believe it, because I did. Hey, I’m doing a lot better with wrestling than I was at this time last year, but bad habits are hard to break). Despite the distractions though, I never thought that would be a problem, and I was still high on this Bengals team. But then I realized that their defense is terrible and Carson Palmer hasn’t been the same since his injury. At the end of the day, T.O. and Ocho are going to be the bright spots of this team, it’s the parts around them that need some help.
18. Chicago Bears – I hate to say this, but I think I am falling in love with Jay Cutler. Other than Brett Favre, Cutler was far and away the player I hate the most in this league, but my strange love for the Bears offense this season and the fact that I drafted Cutler is swaying my emotions heavily. Even though I did make that big stink two weeks ago about how I drafted Favre as my fantasy quarterback, and I ended up going with Cutler for the start last week, a decision which may have earned me the win. I know Cutler is a douche and I know that he’s going to throw 30 picks this year, but feelings change when you have someone on your squad week in and week out. That’s why I’m afraid to start Favre this week against the Dolphins instead of Cutler against the Cowboys. Might I begin to feel the same about Favre as I currently feel about Cutler? Please God no.
17. Washington Redskins – They aren’t really that bad, but I guess you could lump them in with the Broncos/Jaguars/Dolphins group. They’ll fall right in that 7-9 to 9-7 range and fall short of the playoffs. Unless teams decide to gift wrap victories to them the same way that the Dallas Cowboys did last Sunday night, then who knows how far this team could go.
16. Atlanta Falcons – I sat here for about five minutes and couldn’t really think about anything to say about the Atlanta Falcons. Then, I got up, and started to pour myself a Captain and Coke. Realizing we didn’t have any Coke I started to panic, but then thankfully I found some root beer as a substitute. I also can’t remember the last day I went without having a drink. And that’s this week’s Desperate Call for Help.
15. Kansas City Chiefs – As good as the Chiefs played against the Chargers on Monday night, I think more people have applauded how loud the Chiefs’ fans were than they have the actual players for their performance. Kansas City is known for having good crowds, but that place was insane in that game. I’ve been the Chiefs for my franchise the last couple of years in Madden because they were usually one of the worst teams in the league (playing with a good team to start is just cheating), and since them I feel like I’ve began to know these guys quite well. I have to say, factor the Madden allegiance with how awesome they looked on Monday night, and the Chiefs are officially my second favorite team in the league.
14. Minnesota Vikings – You’ll see them higher in other Power Rankings this week, but this is as high as I could put them. Hell, the fact that I put them this high should be a surprise. They’re not a bad team at all, and I’m still apprehensive for both of their games against Green Bay, but there’s no chance they win the Super Bowl this year. Favre had the chance to go out on top but he blew it, and now he’s back for a season that is going to not only end badly but really put a damper on his legacy. Remember the last season of Roseanne? The show wasn’t supposed to come back but ABC kept throwing ridiculous amount of money at her until she agreed. Then Dan ran off to California, Roseanne won the lottery, Jackie got involved with a prince, and the whole thing was revealed to be a dream, where Becky actually married David and Darlene actually married Mark. I really do think that Roseanne is one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, but that last year was complete garbage. Expect a season nine performance out of Favre this year.
13. Dallas Cowboys – It doesn’t matter what the Cowboys do. It doesn’t matter how good their roster is or even how bad their roster might be. It doesn’t matter that they’ve only won one playoff game since 1997. For some reason, the Cowboys are always Super Bowl contenders, and the fact that the Super Bowl will be held in Big D this year only makes them more of a sexy pick. The Cowboys are a good team this year, but they’ve found a lot of goofy ways to lose over the years, and Sunday night was no exception. Expect more of the same going forward.
12. San Diego Chargers – So, they miss Vincent Jackson a lot more than we thought they might. They’ll be fine though. Rivers is good when he’s not a hot head and they have a talented squad, so the AFC West should still be theirs for the taking. How awesome was it though having two games on Monday night? I can understand why the NFL might only want to do the MNF double header once a season to make it special, but I wouldn’t be opposed to a double dip every week at all. Or maybe just a couple times a season. I don’t know, all that I really look forward to in the fall are the six hours that I can plop down at my couch on Sunday afternoons and watch football. It’s kind of nice to be able to do that twice a week.
11. Philadelphia Eagles – Andy Reid has got himself in a situation here, because this is a lot better team with Michael Vick. I think Kevin Kolb is going to be a quality player and a fine quarterback for that franchise, but they were unstoppable with Vick at quarterback in the second half of that game against the Packers. Granted, the Packers didn’t really anticipate having to defend Michael Vick instead of Kevin Kolb, but I’m all over the Vick Train at this point. I think he looks every bit as good as he did when he was starting for Atlanta, and this is the second best team in the NFC if Vick is the starting quarterback. If he just starts this week though and then the Eagles put Kolb back in when he’s healthy, then they are just another above average team. I’m just glad we got the Eagles out of the way in week one, because I would not want to face them in the playoffs if Mike Vick was still under center. No way.
10. Tennessee Titans – I was watching a show on the NFL Network the other day about the greatest opening week performances of all time, and one of the entries on the list was Eddie George’s 200-plus yards for the Tennessee Oilers in their first game after they moved from Houston. One of the things I found the most curious about that game was how many fans went to that game from the Tennessee area to boo the Oilers. Tennessee was just given a professional football franchise and fans showed up to boo? How ungrateful is that? It’s one thing to boo your team when they are a colossal disappointment and they are taking orders from an owner that died three years ago, but to boo the new kid in town before they’ve even taken a snap? By the end of the game, George won them over with his hard work and persistence, but I’m a little disappointed in the good people of Tennessee after hearing that. Not cool, Tennessee, not cool.
9. New York Giants
8. New York Jets
What has happened in New York over the last couple of seasons? Ever since I can remember the Giants came first and the Jets came second, but all anyone seems to be talking about these days is the New York Jets. From Hard Knocks, to Revis Island, to this female reporter that apparently was harassed, the Jets are the talk of the town while the Giants have become just another team. Strange. Unfortunately for the Jets though, of these two teams they are the one with the loss. As good as their defense is, they pretty much became the 12th man for the Ravens on the third downs with those penalties, and as much as I like Mark Sanchez after watching Hard Knocks, he’s actually not very good. The Jets have a very real possibility of starting 0-2 after their matchup with New England this weekend, while the Giants are getting ready for Manning Bowl II. It’ll be interesting to see how Eli and Peyton work against each other after competing so well together in the Double Stuffed Racing League.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers – This is the team that Sports Illustrated’s Peter King thinks is going to win the whole thing this season, against our beloved Green Bay Packers no less. If they were to win this season, that would be three titles in six years, which would have to make them somewhat of a dynasty. Still though, when you think of the best teams in the last decade, I usually think of the Patriots and the Colts before I think of the Steelers, even though Pittsburgh has won more Super Bowls than Indy has. I don’t know if it’s a universal feeling or if I’m the only one not giving the Steelers their due. Maybe it’s because the Steelers won two Super Bowls against teams from the dreadful NFC West, I’m not sure.
6. Indianapolis Colts
5. Houston Texans
The Texans beat the Colts last weekend for only the second time in franchise history, and it may have finally been the moment that will allow this franchise to turn the corner. Sure, that’s been the mantra down in Houston for years now, but this team is scary. They have the quarterback (I think), they have a running back who will prove to be more than week one fantasy stud (I’m pretty sure), they have a great receiving core including the best wideout in the game (now this I’m sure of), and the number one pick of Mario Williams proves to be a better choice every season. The Colts are still a legitimate threat to win the Lombardi trophy, no question, but in terms of the AFC South, I think that the Texans finally have the better shot. Yes, I’m basing this off of one game, but if the Texans don’t make the playoffs this season then I’m not sure they ever will. We’ll see what happens the rest of the season, but I think the Texans can carry the momentum from week one well into a playoff push.
4. New Orleans Saints –
The saying goes that the champions are still the champions until someone beats them, which would mean that the Saints should be at the top of this list. But since I’m an extreme homer, you’ll see in a few minutes why that is not the case. The Saints played a bit sloppy in their opening week game against the Vikings, but then again so did pretty much everyone in week one. As good as the Saints can be this season, I just don’t see them repeating. Blame it on the whole Super Bowl hangover thing, or the lack of motivation after you’ve already won a title, or the awful cameo Drew Brees provided on this season of Entourage. The NFC really isn’t that strong of a conference this season, and honestly if it comes down to the Packers and Saints in the NFC Championship I wouldn’t be that nervous. Even if we somehow had to face Minnesota, I wouldn’t be that concerned. I really just feel like the Packers are the team to beat in the NFC, and if they are going to win the Super Bowl I think this year will probably be their best chance within the next five years. The only threat I’m seeing right now is a Vick-led Philadelphia Eagles squad. Seriously, I’m just super scared of what that team can do with a 2005 version of Mike Vick running around.
3. Baltimore Ravens –
If the Jets are supposed to be the team to beat in the AFC, then what becomes of the team that beat them in week one? The AFC is by far the better conference this season, and I really think that the Ravens are right near the top of the food chain. You would think that their running game would be their strong point, but Joe Flacco is really primed for a big season this year now that he has the best crop of receivers around him that he’s had since he’s been drafted. Plus, anyone that is a friend of Pizza Hut is a friend of mine. Add that new dynamic on offense to the fact that Ray Lewis looks the best that he’s looked since he killed someone, and you have yourselves a Super Bowl contender.
2. New England Patriots
1. Green Bay Packers
As I’ve mentioned before in some of these columns, for the past few years some friends and I have arraigned a road trip to an away Packers game. We’ve so far hit St. Louis, Nashville, and Cleveland, and this year we wanted to make the trip the biggest yet. We thought about heading to Atlanta, maybe even the Big Apple, but when we saw that the Packers were going to be playing New England in a Sunday Night game near the end of the season, we had to pick Boston. It’s going to be cold, it’s going to be snowing, and it’s going to be expensive as hell. But it’s going to be worth it. This feeling was reaffirmed to me just hours ago when my game tickets finally came in the mail. Now all I have to do is try not to be paranoid about if the tickets are real or not for the next three months, and then I’ll finally be able to enjoy some football.
I worried at first about it being a Sunday Night game because I don’t want to get myself all jacked up for a day of drinking and then watching football under the lights, only to have the game flexed out for a better contest. But these two teams figure to be at the top of their respective conferences come mid-December, and it very well could be a potential Super Bowl preview. The greatest day of my life as a sports fan was when the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI against the Patriots, but that memory has been forever tarnished because of the Ol’ Gunslinger. Let’s do it the right way this season. I want to see the Packers and Patriots in a Super Bowl rematch, only with Aaron Rodgers as the victorious quarterback.
I know it really dampens all credibility when I do power ranking column only to put the Packers at number one, especially when I said I was going to base these rankings more on what I saw last week and less from emotion. But as I said before, I really do feel like while the Packers will be Super Bowl contenders for the next decade, this year presents what could end up being their best opportunity because I don’t feel like the competition around them is that strong. I know the Packers are going to lose a few games this season, and those will no doubt crush my soul, but I really feel that with Aaron Rodgers leading this team, and with the weapons we have on both sides of the ball, this team can do anything. Of course, I thought that the last two seasons as well, but this year I actually believe it. The fact that they didn’t play their best football in Philadelphia but still came out of there with a still pretty convincing win makes me even more optimistic. Still, I do know that the season is a long one, and we have a long way to go. And from now until the final whistle in Cowboys Stadium on February 6th, 2011, it’s going to be a long ride. One that is going to see me spend a lot of money on things like DirecTV, trips to Boston, visits to Lambeau Field, fantasy football leagues I won’t win, and therapy sessions for my insane fear of talking to people wearing blue vests at Menards. But when I’m watching Aaron Rodgers hoist the Lombardi trophy on a stage assembled where the Dallas Cowboys star would normally be, I’ll know it was all worth it.
As long as the satellite dish is working when he does it.
See you at Lambeau Field….
(And if you somehow made it this far, feel free to check out my actual blog over at The Bucky Channel ).