We're working our way into the meat of this season. When teams have to compensate for injuries, answer questions about controversy at positions, and when the weather might, just might, be cold enough for Tom Coughlin’s face to start getting red. As we enter Week 5, I think it’s time to give the Spogo Power Rankings a run. We’ll be looking at the top ten teams and their upcoming games. Forget everything you’ve read on ESPN, it’s tomfoolery compared to this incontrovertible excellence.
1. Houston Texans (4-0)
These Texans are far from the days of David Carr. In fact, they are the most complete football team in the league right now. Their offense is a multi-faceted monster headlined by Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, and Matt Schaub. On the other side of the ball, all those reps against this elite offense in training camp have paid off. This year, they rank 2nd in passing defense, and 11th in rushing defense. The offseason acquisition of Johnathan Joseph has seriously paid off for this secondary, and JJ. Watt could not be having a better season. Side note: did anyone see that hit Glover Quin put on Jake Locker? BAM! Now that’s how you hit a quarterback.
This week (@ New York Jets, Monday 8:00 PM, EST) - The Texans deserve to be on the biggest stage, and what’s bigger than Monday Night Football? Maybe they’ll get caught looking ahead to Green Bay in Week 6. If not, sorry Jets fans, but it seems like you’ll be crawling back into your caves come Tuesday morning.
2. San Francisco 49ers (3-1)
While the 49ers did drop a game to the Minnesota Vikings (biggest surprise of the year at 3-1), they took it out on the Jets and displayed just how merciless their defense is. They were so angry, I’m pretty sure Carlos Rodgers laughed at Santonio Holmes when he coughed up the ball on his season ending play. Sure the passing game is suspect at 30th in the league, but the running game makes up for that, finishing Week 4 in 3rd place (167.0 YPG). Even if they have a hard time in the running game, prepare to dig in against this squad that ranks 5th in both rushing and passing defense. They say defense wins championships, right?
This Week (vs. Buffalo Bills, 4:25 PM, EST) - I’d like to say the Bills will be fired up after their trashing, will journey to Cali, and stick it to the 9ers. But let’s be honest, the 9ers haven’t lost at home since Week 2 of last year (in overtime to the Cowboys). The Bills have such a putrid defense right now, Alabama’s offense might give them a run.
3. Atlanta Falcons (4-0)
Matt Ryan is still in the driver seat for MVP, especially after that ridiculous throw to Roddy White to beat the Panthers (seriously, I didn’t know he had that throw in him). Not every win in this league is going to be pretty, but Matty Ice found a way to get it done. They don’t have a dominating anything, but their cohesiveness is evident. They are blessed with possibly the best two-receiver combo in the game in White and Jones. Both are big, athletic players that can make all the catches. The distribution between the two each game is what worries me. Ryan seems to favor one guy or the other each week. I’m waiting for that game where they both get 100+ yards.
This Week (@ Washington Redskins, 1:00 PM, EST) - This is one of the more enticing QB match ups of the week. RG III has proven he is the real deal and the Falcons could use some help in their run defense (ranked 29th overall). RG III and Alfred Morris might be able to exploit that to make this a shootout. However, with the Falcons at home, and Ryan’s experience, the Falcons move to 5-0.
4. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
Flacco’s maturation process is starting to pay off. Last week he made all the throws he needed to, notably the 18-yard strike to Torrey Smith for a TD. While he did get picked off once, the Ravens have the 4th ranked passing offense in the league (310.3 YPG). To flatter this, they have the bowling ball beast, Ray Rice. This guy can plow through your snowed in driveway without breaking a sweat. He can also make plays as a receiver, which gives them a back not many teams possess.
This Week (@ Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00 PM, EST) - Sadly, we have another one-sided match up. While Arrowhead may be the loudest stadium in the country, the Ravens should have no problem going into KC, eating some delicious BBQ Saturday night and still pulling a W.
5. Green Bay Packers (2-2)
The Packers should be 3-1, but I guess we have them to thank for bringing the refs back. Aaron Rodgers had a classic line on the sound bites from the week. To a ref: "we could’ve used you last week". While they’re 2-2, they have the best player in the game in Rodgers. There is no quarterback who can make all the throws inside the pocket and on the run, has his football IQ, and can beat teams with his feet. While his speed isn’t RG III fast, he’s faster than defensive lineman, and most linebackers. He has an arsenal of weapons, and a defense that has considerably stepped up their game from last year (6th best pass defense). Hopefully, "The Call" in Seattle may come back to haunt them in a tight NFC North.
This Week (@ Indianapolis Colts, 1:00 PM, EST) - The loss of their head coach Chuck Pagano could fire this team up, or sweep the rug from under their feet (Spogo wishes Pagano a speedy recovery). With the Packers coming to town, I’m not sure it matters much. Luck will have his hands full with this pass defense, and the Colts, who seem to always be playing from behind, will undoubtedly have to throw the ball often against the Pack. Discount Double-Check will be a frequent citing.
6. New England Patriots (2-2)
Coming off one of the most outstanding halves of football, the Patriots stock rose. Not because Tom Brady lit up the field (which he did), but because the Patriots established a running game. This could be a sign of the Mayans having the end of the world correctly, or Belichick realizing he needs a ground game to win the Super Bowl again.
This Week: (vs. Denver Broncos, 4:25 PM, EST) - Two of the top ten teams clash in Gillette Stadium in the game of the week. We know Brady will get his, I’m watching to see if the Patriots can keep up the proficient running attack. This 9th ranked Broncos rush defense should be a better barometer for its success. If the Patriots rushing game thrives in this one, watch out AFC.
7. Arizona Cardinals (4-0)
Before all hell breaks loose that I have an undefeated team 7th, I’m sorry I’m not sorry. The Cardinals have showed me nothing that would merit them a higher position. How is this team 4-0?! They have the 25th ranked passing offense, 29th ranked rushing attack, 21st ranked passing offense, and 15th (they broke into the teens!) ranked rushing defense. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! Who does Kevin Kolb think he is, messing with my mind like this?
This Week (@ St. Louis Rams, 8:20 PM Thursday, EST) – Based on the last few years, this weeks Thursday match up seems on the boring side, but I believe it will be quite the contrary. I think St. Louis has a good chance in this one. Bradford has improved substantially in his downfield throws, completing 52.8 percent of his 10+ yard attempts (up from 34.5 percent last year). Rams, get these impostors of my list!
8. Chicago Bears (3-1)
The Bears last few years have been like Hollywood celebrity relationships. One minute it’s all sunshine and spa treatments, the next it’s pictures on TMZ of them crying as their girlfriend throws an appletini in their face. Then, three weeks later their holding hands again on Rodeo Drive. But, when they’re good, they’re good. Other than their drunken Week 2 performance in Green Bay, they’ve looked together on both sides of the ball. The Bears will be hoping that Matt Forte can recover quickly before they hit the thick of the NFC North schedule. Other than Forte, I need to see another receiver step up other than Marshall. Good teams can stifle any one receiver on a given day; they need a compliment to match.
This Week (@ Jacksonville Jaguars, 4:05 PM, EST) - The Jags only bright spot is their 15th ranked rushing attack (yeah, for Jacksonville, that’s bright). Even Maurice Jones-Drew will have a hard time breaking this Bears run defense (3rd best).
9. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)
It pains me so, but despite their loss to Arizona in Week 2, the Eagles have played solid football. Their only issue has been
turnovers, which has made their games closer than they’ve needed to be. Their win last week against the Giants shows how fast this offense and defense are. Most importantly, they took care of the ball all game, and it paid off in the end.
This Week (@ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 PM, EST) - This Keystone state matchup between two blue-collar towns is always a fun one to watch. While Big Ben and the Steelers offense has been relying on the pass heavily, they get back Rashard Mendenhall this week. They also get fierce leader James Harrison back from injury, and he may be the missing link for an uncharacteristically mediocre Steelers defense. Philadelphia will need to minimize turnovers again, against a productive Steelers offense, in order to move to 4-1.
10. Denver Broncos (2-2)
I don’t care what anyone says: Peyton Manning is BACK! We saw him make accurate fastball throws and call audibles that turned into touchdowns against Oakland last week. It got me all giddy. I had dreams that night that him and I were in the backyard playing catch and he was giving me high-fives and telling me how awesome it was to be my best friend for life. Then we went inside and had tapenade and watched football. Mmmm, tapenade. Wait, where was I?
This Week (New England Patriots, 4:25 PM, EST) – The Broncos are finally hitting the back end of this murderer’s row of games (Steelers, Falcons, Texans, Patriots). Peyton vs. Brady has always been a great watch. This time, Peyton has a defense though. We saw that defense shut down Darren McFadden last week, but after seeing the Patriots run all over the Bills, will the Broncos be too worried about the run? Leave it to Belichick to run it five times total on Sunday, throwing us all for a loop. Sneaky bugger…
Tune in for the recap Spogo Power Rankings where I put my foot in my mouth. Stay classy, football fans.