Thank God for the Power Rankings; my opportunity each week to lash out creatively at some of the other 31 teams in the league. Especially on Thanksgiving week, when we have three Thursday games, I think it's important to get these out early, so think of it as my gift to you, like the Indians gave the Pilgrims corn and other foodstuffs, only to be turned on and ruthlessly dehumanized over the next few centuries (please don't do that to me...). Read them Tuesday night, read them Wednesday, hell, read them Thursday while avoiding your more obnoxious relatives, for all I care!
As usual, I do these without looking at ESPN, CNNSI, or any other outlet's rankings, and though a lot of the scenarios are (obviously) fictional, I do think this is how the teams stack up right now. Onto the rankings:
32. Indianapolis Colts
For the first time this season, the Colts didn’t lose a game last week due to their bye. Or I should say they didn’t lose an NFL game last week. I like to imagine that Peyton Manning, bursting with competitive energy from not being able to take the field this season, hosted a game night at his place for his teammates, not really to build team unity or anything like that, but rather to ruthlessly dismantle his teammates in foosball, pool, air hockey, Risk, and the like. Why Risk? Of course, Manning probably prefers Axis and Allies, but he figured he’d “give the other guys a chance.” Manning probably also likes to use the horse pieces and cannons to make sound effects when rolling the dice. “Okay, Alaska to Kamchatka, Reggie Wayne. Look out for the horsey army. Neeeeiiiiiggghhh! Prrrfffft! Oooh, look, here come the cannons! KAPOW! BOOM! YEAH! THREE SIXES! IN YOUR FACE, REGGIE!” And they wonder why their good players leave as free agents…
31. St. Louis Rams
I really don’t know what else to say about this team. I already write five other columns about them every week. Well…more like 3 ½ if you count “Know Your Enemy” and half of the game preview as being about the other team. Can you blame me for trying to figure out ways to write about other teams? How many “injury”/”frustration”/”bad offense” columns can I possibly write? [insideSTL staffer comes and whispers in ear]. SIX MORE WEEKS?! Seriously? I thought we were almost done with this season already! Damn it…
30. Minnesota Vikings
With Adrian Peterson out, the Vikings are right alongside the Rams for that second spot. They get the nod at thirty right now, though, since they barely lost to a…err…”division contender,” while the Rams lost to the Seahawks…at home. It’s weird how Leslie Frazier’s team eerily mimics his good friend Steve Spagnuolo’s: franchise running back that the team hinges upon, young QB, lack of playmakers on the outside. I guess at least Minnesota has Percy Harvin to run back kicks, so that’s something, right?
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
How can you lose to the Browns, Jack Del Rio? This guy is like Rasputin; the allegedly occultist Russian adviser to the Czar and his family who was stabbed, poisoned, and shot four times, only to survive. He finally succumbed when his assassins clubbed him into submission, rolled him in a carpet and threw him in a river, where he drowned. Allegedly, water was found in Rasputin’s lungs, implying that he was alive and gasping for breath when thrown in the river. Of course, this was after Rasputin told Czar Nicholas that Nicholas should go lead Russian troops against the Germans in World War I personally, so as to allow Rasputin the opportunity to get…better acquainted…with the Czarina and consolidate power in St. Petersburg. I suppose you see where this is going: Jags Owner Wayne Weaver is the Czar, the Jags are the Czarina, and Del Rio will do…bad things…to the franchise unless Weaver rolls him up in a carpet and throws him in a river. Who said history is a waste of time!?
28. Arizona Cardinals
Uh oh. The Cardinals will come limping into the Edward Jones Dome this Sunday with likely starting QB John Skelton coming off of his worst game of the season last week against the Niners. Any “Coach of the Year” dreams that Ken Wisenhunt may have had probably have gone out the window, as Beanie Wells struggles with a knee injury, and the Cardinals lost TE Todd Heap last week, too. Of course, they ARE playing the Rams this week, and Patrick Peterson is healthy, so I suppose they can get their points that way. I don’t think this is going to be beautiful, high-tempo football at the Dome this weekend, folks…
27. Carolina Panthers
Okay, so the Panthers are 2-8. So their defense sucks. So? As a football fan in general, I’d much rather watch 49-35 Matrix-style shootouts than 13-10 snoozefests. I would compare Cam Newton to Neo, but quite honestly, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing with the way the Wachowski
brothers siblings butchered those final two movies in the Matrix trilogy. I thought the second one was good enough (though more mindless than the first) until the meeting with “the Architect,” which is when myself and roughly 20 million others tuned out for good. The final movie is an abomination. So if you’ve only seen the original, just think that what you would’ve done with a sequel is what actually happened and you’ll be far better off for it. Same goes for if you’ve only seen the first five seasons of Lost; just imagine how you think it ends, and it’s likely far better than how that show wrapped up. There’s my good deed for the day…
26. Washington Redskins
Mike Shanahan has to be fairly pleased with the play of on-again, off-again quarterback Rex Grossman, who had a fine game (25/38 for 289 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT) to take the Cowboys to the brink in overtime, only to finally yield. After getting back together, Shanahan and Grossman are likely in a second honeymoon phase, which will rapidly decline when Grossman starts flirting with other girls and “Dutch Ovening” Shanahan under the covers. Like an old Cougar in a bar, Shanahan will be left trolling around for a younger, more stable quarterback; one that he can not only have a good time with, but actually build something for the future. So, where does that leave John Beck? Still devastated at the corner bar, pounding cranberry juices, though he’s started to wonder if maybe he should take “the next step” and add a little seltzer water to prove what a “rebel” he is. What a soap opera…
25. Kansas City Chiefs
When I made my picks in last week’s game preview, I knew I had heard of “Tyler Palko” from somewhere, but I didn’t realize that he was a guy that had been a THIRD STRINGER ON A UFL TEAM!!! Come on, Todd Haley! Can’t you do better than this? That game against the Pats was embarrassing. To put it in terms that (I like to think notorious hoosier) Haley would understand, it’s as embarrassing as showing up for a hunting trip wearing skinny jeans, or watching the Bravo network. Yeah—THAT serious…
24. Miami Dolphins
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross can’t be too happy with the audacity that Tony Sparano and Matt Moore are showing in bringing the Dolphins back to the cusp of respectability. I mean, who the hell are these guys, anyway? If Moore is able to convert this, it’ll be the second time he’s ruined a franchise’s quarterback situation, the first being after he went 4-1 down the stretch for the 2009 Panthers. The Panthers took Jimmy Clausen in the 2010 draft as a developmental QB, and both Moore and Clausen ended up sucking. Of course, that eventually got the Panthers Cam Newton, so maybe this whole “lose now…and next year…to win later” thing that Ross is onto is worthwhile, after all!
23. Seattle Seahawks
Though the action on the field at the Dome this past Sunday was snore-inducing, if you watched the Seattle sideline closely, I think Pete Carroll was putting on quite a show with his newly-purchased Criss Angel Magic Kit. Not only did he levitate over an open Gatorade cooler, but he also found a way for Tarvaris Jackson to look like a semi-competent NFL quarterback, albeit for the second half. I think that’s his greatest trick of all. Well, that and being able to pull out a burning playing card with a stranger’s name written on it. That’s pretty cool, too.
22. Cleveland Browns
Forget Tim Tebow setting offensive football back several decades; is anyone paying attention to the murder Pat Shurmur is committing against offense in Cleveland? Somehow his team is 4-6 right now, and (let’s face it), barring a messed-up field goal snap, should be 5-5. How could this happen!? I mean, by all accounts Shurmur is a stand-up guy and everything, but his offense is more boring than being dragged to the opera. Unless, of course, you’re referring to this opera. Or this one. In which case, you are awesome; let’s grab a beer sometime!
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I was surprised that the Bucs hung in there so well in the “Battle of the Bays” against the Packers. Ultimately, they lost, though, and I can’t imagine that pleased notorious hothead RB LaGarrette Blount, who once headbutted an opponent after a game in college. In the eyes of Rams talent evaluators, that’s a negative. When you’re trying to install a power running game with some attitude? He sure would look awfully good as a secondary power option to Steven Jackson right about now, wouldn’t he…?
20. San Diego Chargers
Poor Norv Turner. Even though he’s been an NFL head coach for what…[looks it up]…OH MY GOD—14 YEARS!? SERIOUSLY!? Wow, okay then…even though Norv’s been a head coach for 14 YEARS, he still gets that same look of an in-over-his-head middle manager that’s finally gotten that promotion to Vice President, and has no idea what to do. Of course, when managing an enigmatic, temperamental QB like Philip Rivers, who is inexplicably beginning his decline a few years earlier than anticipated, it can make your job a lot more difficult. I’m surprised no one has dared to investigate the dreaded “Pujols question” with regard to Rivers; even though he allegedly only turns thirty on December 8, is it possible that he’s 4-5 years older than he claims? That’s the only way I can explain his sudden regression this season.
19. Buffalo Bills
I’m going to give the Bills the benefit of the doubt before plunging them into the abyss of the middle twenties. Harvard man Ryan Fitzpatrick has been atrocious since signing his 6 year, potentially $59 million extension. I imagine it’s probably because he’s finally getting calls from “Todd” and “Wink” to come hang out at the “club” in the “city,” instead “watching film” like a “knuckle-dragging Philistine.” I imagine the whole ordeal is something like Trading Places, and they kind of treat Fitzie like Winthorp. Speaking of which, I never understood the forhexation with a capella groups in the Ivy League. Ladies love going to see them, but I don’t need to listen to an a capella version of the “Ghostbusters” theme, or some hip hop song that happens to be popular, no matter how “inspired” and “hilarious” it is to everyone else. Just not my thing, you know?
18. Philadelphia Eagles
Finally, some signs of life from the Eagles! I’ll never understand how a team was able to outwork the New York Giants, especially without top wideout Jeremy Maclin, who probably single-handedly lost me one of my fantasy games this weekend, so thanks for that! Vince Young has a bit of a reputation for not being the brightest bulb in the league after reportedly scoring a 6 (out of 50) on the Wonderlic test (though to be fair, he reportedly bumped that up all the way to 14 on the re-take, so that’s something!). Even though he threw three INTs, Young also threw a couple of touchdown passes and somehow found a way to beat Coughlin’s squad. Just don’t expect much if you ever watch Jeopardy with him, okay?
17. New York Jets
I guess it’s pretty sad, Darrelle Revis, if your vaunted defensive unit can’t stop an offense that you said “can’t work over the long haul.” I guess the Jets’ defense succumbed to Revis’ worst fears and fell asleep. One thing that should help the Jets this week is that it has to be Rex Ryan’s favorite holiday: Thanksgiving! It’s the one holiday that combines two of the things that bring him the most joy in the world: eating and talking shit. Not both eating shit and talking shit—YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!! Can you imagine what the scene is like around the Ryans’ Thanksgiving table? Rex and Rob going at it, mouths full, turkey legs in hand, Buddy telling them both to pipe down, Rex sneaking a foot rub off of his wife; it has to be a zoo!
16. Denver Broncos
Things are getting ugly for John Elway in Denver, as Elway apparently said that he’s no closer to finding his long-term quarterback on his weekly radio show. This is on the heels of that now famous shot of Elway clapping for Tebow’s game-winning TD run with a look on his face like he just ate a turd sandwich. I know fans say they want honesty from their teams, but which is it, John? Half-hearted clapping or outright, brutal honesty? I would love for Elway to go total heel and bash Tebow publicly more; the evangelical Tebow-ites (which is most of them, best as I can tell) would turn on him quicker than a shopping cart with a busted wheel.
15. Oakland Raiders
Hue Jackson wisely realized that, with Carson Palmer at the helm, less is probably more, and wisely kept him within his abilities to get a pretty good stat line (17/23 for 164 yards and a TD). Michael Bush continues to carry the load 30 times per game for the injured Darren McFadden. The troubling thing is that they were up 27-7 and let MINNESOTA, of all teams, get back in the game at the end. Are they the best team in the weak AFC West right now? Maybe. But that’s not necessarily something to hang your hat on. A coat rack or some kind of hook would be better suited for that purpose.
14. Tennessee Titans
Jake Locker finally saw his first NFL action in relief of the injured Matt Hasselbeck and did…well? Really? This is the same Jake Locker who had completion percentages of 47.3%, 53.8%, 58.2% and 55.4%, right? The same one who would one-hop a throw to a receiver the play before throwing it fifteen yards over his head, correct? Granted, his completion percentage was still a lowly 47.4%, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t rally his team for a couple of scores, and keep the game close. Is it just that NFL defenses aren’t used to running quarterbacks that are quite as big and athletic as the current crop of running signal callers (Newton, Tebow, Locker)? Will the league catch up? Probably. But it’s sure fun as hell to watch them play before defenses do.
13. Houston Texans
I’m excited to see what Matt Leinart can (or more likely cannot) do in the pocket. Sure, the Texans play Jacksonville this week. And yes, they still have the two-headed running back monster of Arian Foster and Ben Tate, who could probably just take direct snaps and do just fine. But the possibility of a Leinart implosion, or some kind of confrontation with Gary Kubiak is too exciting to ignore! Ooooohhh! I can’t wait!
12. Dallas Cowboys
I simply cannot figure out this Cowboys team. It seems like they play up or down to the level of their opponents. Well, except for the Rams, whom they thoroughly thrashed. Of course, this week against the Dolphins is traditionally the last game that Romo is allowed to be good in, as he tends to fizzle down the stretch in December and January. Of course, next week they play at Arizona, so maybe he’s planning on stretching it into the first weekend in December; like Dr. Leo Marvin says in What About Bob?, baby steps, Tony…baby steps…
11. New York Giants
Coach Tom Coughlin was upset last week when several Giants players, including WR Victor Cruz, were at a nightclub in Chelsea at 2:30 am when a shooting occurred. He was quoted as saying, “I don’t know what good happens at 2:30 or 3 in the morning. I’ve never been able to figure that one out.” I don’t know why they stopped the quote there (silly New York Times!), I’m pretty sure that quote was followed immediately by, “…except for busting up some FINE ASS BOULDERS in the quarry after YOU LOSE TO VINCE YOUNG BY A TOUCHDOWN!” Uh oh…break out the floodlights! Looks like it’s going to be early to bed, early to rise for the Giants for the foreseeable future.
10. Cincinnati Bengals
When you play a hard-assed team like the Ravens, you need to have your most hardened players step up. For the Bengals, that wasn’t Andy Dalton, who threw for 373 yards, but with 1 TD and 3 INTs. Jerome Simpson, however, had 8 grabs for 152 yards in A.J.Green’s absence. As you may or may not recall, Simpson was caught by authorities having 2.5 pounds of marijuana delivered to his house, and police found another 6 pounds of weed in his house. Something tells me the “Biggest Phish fan in the world” defense isn’t quite going to work when that much reefer is involved. By my count, he’s the only potential felon left on the Bengals’ roster, unless you throw in perennial potential relapsee Cedric Benson, who scored 2 TDs in the game. Marvin Lewis is trying to toughen this team up, but I don’t know what else he can do at this point!
9. Atlanta Falcons
Is there a more boring “good” team in the league than the Falcons? Especially when dynamic playmaker Julio Jones is out? Though he’s a capable QB, I don’t know if Matt Ryan has the “killer instinct” you want out of your signal caller that allows him to ruthlessly put opponents away when given the chance. That leads me to an interesting point; I’ve covered who would win a battle royale of all of the NFL coaches in a previous edition of the Power Rankings, but what if you put all 32 starting QBs in a Running Man-type “kill-or-be-killed” battle royale? Who would take home the prize? No guns allowed, just an abandoned warehouse or chemical plant, but you could fashion weapons out of whatever’s around. Would it be a wily veteran like Tom Brady, hiding in the shadows and lurking for an opportune moment to strike with a shard of broken glass? Would it be Cam Newton, the most athletic young guy, who could just run guys down and snap their necks like they were chickens? Maybe Tim Tebow would find some acid and splatter it on guys while yelling “the power of Christ compels you!” I’m pretty sure Ryan would just help someone else fashion a board with a nail in it before that guy turned on him and hit him square in the chest. Hey, you know what they say about nice guys…
8. New Orleans Saints
I think the Saints are the first team to ever get to a bye week in the hopes that their coach would be able to use it to heal up a bit. Never mind all of the hell their bye week raised among Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham fantasy owners, who had to find third-rate replacements for pivotal stretch-run games. Why is the NFL having byes into week 11 in the first place? I could see weeks 5-9, maybe, but 11? That seems like an awfully big advantage for a team like the Saints, fighting to win a very competitive division.
7. Detroit Lions
When I heard that Kevin Smith was playing for the Lions this week, I immediately worried that there wouldn’t be a Clerks III. Actually not; Clerks II wasn’t even such a great movie. In fact, it can be argued that Kevin Smith never made a great movie after Mall Rats, and I’m pretty sure if I went back and watched that one again, it’s probably lost some luster from what my eighth grade self thought. I mean, Shannon Elizabeth is pretty hot and everything, and the Good Will Hunting II: Hunting Season spoof is pretty great, but other than those two highlights, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back isn’t terribly memorable, either. Did I really just turn the Lions capsule into a Kevin Smith movie discussion? Yikes, maybe I’m losing it…
6. Chicago Bears
The Bears came out of that Chargers game with a big victory, and a big loss, as Jay Cutler is now out for the rest of the regular season with a thumb injury. Unlike teammate Matt Forte, who I’ve hypothesized is an avid reader of the classics, I imagine Cutler will probably pass the time reading Us Weekly, National Enquirer, and maybe even work his way up to People, widely considered to be The Economist of trashy entertainment publications. I didn’t drop them just too far because they get the rest of the AFC West in consecutive weeks, and if there’s anything Mike Martz likes to do, it’s create a quarterback controversy just to prove to the incumbent that “he’s not so great.” Martz and Cutler both FEED off of drama like hummingbirds off of nectar, so I fully expect Caleb Hanie to step in and become their Marc Bulger.
5. New England Patriots
What amazes me about this Patriots team is that since taking those pictures with pornstar Bibi Jones, Rob Gronkowski has absolutely gone off, and become Tom Brady’s favorite target. Ever the innovator, you have to wonder if Bill Belichick will embrace the philosophy, and start asking some of his other offensive playmakers to pose for shirtless photos with pornstars. None of the guys would probably have a problem with it, with the lone exception of Julian Edelman, who “doesn’t go blue.” Belichick would shoot back, “Ya wanna be a star, donchya!” before a trembling Edelman slipped off his shirt next to Friend of the Show Kayden Kross. No wonder Belichick’s going to be a Hall of Fame Coach!
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger is coming off of
his own personal seventh circle of hell his bye week, and I can’t imagine anyone who was more eager to be back at the practice facility instead of being “cooped up” with his new wife, who does her best to keep Ben on the straight-and-narrow. Ben probably spent all four days with one of those fifties-era aprons on, fetching beers for the wife and doing chores around the house. One thing he just could NOT take was when his wife ordered him to “massage my feet!” Almost as if on cue, their doorbell rang; it was none other than Rex Ryan! “Hey kids, I…uh…just happened to be in the neighborhood picking up these oils and lotions, and wondered if you’d mind if I stopped by…NO!? GREAT!?”
3. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens simply “out-toughed” the Bengals on Sunday, setting themselves up as the leaders in a tight AFC North race. Though the Ravens’ defense usually gets credit for being one of the toughest in the league, you have to also credit their offense. WR Anquan Boldin is about as physical of a wideout as they come. WR Torrey Smith got tackled BY HIS HAIR. Joe Flacco may or may not be the notorious Wilmington Strangler, a serial killer on the loose whose ruthlessness is only exceeded by his guile in evading authorities. Of course, John Harbaugh’s team is going to have to be tough to beat…
2. San Francisco 49ers
…brother Jim Harbaugh’s squad. Something tells me that around Thanksgiving growing up, both Harbaugh brothers engaged in various macho activities to try to prove who’s tougher. For example, after John would beat Jim in an arm-wrestling match, Jim would just scream, “ Oh yeah? I’LL GIVE YA’ TOUGH!” and slam his brother into a door frame. Of course Jim always would HAVE to get the better of John; Jim just seems like the type of dick where he HAD to win, no matter how long it took. He’d be the guy that offered a truce, only to have this happen (fast-forward to 6:15, though I highly recommend watching the whole thing for laughs).
1. Green Bay Packers
Everyone’s saying that Green Bay is so “vulnerable” this week having to go into Detroit on three days’ rest. Quite frankly, I don’t even think it matters at this point. Blanket Greg Jennings? Jordy Nelson is becoming a hell of a complement on the outside, not to mention the three or four other guys that they have. When Detroit gets down early, they can come back. When they get down by too much too early, it’s game over, like in the most recent Chicago-Detroit game. Also, Randall Cobb is a special teams dynamo, and Detroit’s special teams haven’t been fantastic against top-end return men this season. I fully expect Green Bay to not only win, but cover the bargain basement 5.5 point spread. If I was in Vegas, I'd jump all over that one like Rex Ryan on a...HA! Gotcha! Was I going to make a food joke there, or a foot fetish joke? I guess you'll never know...okay, it was a food joke...
-Nothing really new to report. I thought I’d share a couple more Spags quotes from yesterday’s press conference:
-On the rash of injuries: ““[Head Athletic Trainer] Reggie [Scott] and I are sitting there many, many times. The soft tissue ones you go, you re-assess, okay are you doing the right things? Are you practicing too much, are you not practicing enough? It hasn’t been as many of those,” Spags said. “Those are starting to build a little bit now. I go back to an abdominal contusion, I don’t know that there’s anything you can do about that. You know a pec, I don’t know. I take them individually and try to decide. We talk all the time to the guys about…we’re constantly on them. I think our guys have done a great job. Simon [Lutsky], the nutritionist we got in has done a tremendous job. Reggie does it all the time about guys hydrating and we get three meals in on a three o’clock game. I mean all that stuff. And they’re in there, some guys get IVs. So we think we’re doing anything and everything there is you could possibly do to avoid injuries and yet the game’s a physical game, so we’re going to have them.”
-And on whether or not Spags thinks the team has enough talent to contend, ““Yeah, we’ve got guys out there that can make plays. We’ve got to get it to the playmakers, we’ve got to have time to get it to the playmakers,” Spagnuolo said. “We’ve got to do it a certain way, so back to the drawing board. We’ve got different opponent this week, plays it a little bit differently and try to come up with something that will work. That’s what you do. Nobody’s throwing in the towel. We’ve got guys. We go play.”
-I’ll be back with columns Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, and a game preview on Friday afternoon. Thanks for reading.
D.J. Gelner covers the Rams beat for insideSTL. Follow him on twitter for the latest Rams updates (@djgelner). Be sure to follow his live blogs and tweets on game days.