Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Postseason Reassessment

As we sit here a third of the way through the 2009 season and with the Bucs’ situation being too pathetic to write about, I figured I’d take a look at some of the successful teams around the league. At the 7 week mark, here are my top teams in each division, the teams I see winning them in the end:

AFC East – New England
AFC North – Pittsburgh
AFC South – Indianapolis
AFC West – Denver
NFC East – NY Giants
NFC North – Minnesota
NFC South – New Orleans
NFC West – Arizona

I’d say that at this point there’s a clear leader in every division except the NFC West. From the remaining teams (bottom feeders aside) here are my pretenders, contenders, and revised playoff predictions (green=win and red=loss):


1) San Diego Chargers (2-3) – After the MNF loss at home against Denver, sitting 4 games (or 5 depending on how you look at it) games behind the Broncos, I think they’re done. They’re not going to turn it around this year, especially with the questions they have in the run game and on defense. Only the Raiders, Panthers, Browns, Bucs, and Bills allow more yards on the ground per game than San Diego.

Remaining games: @KC, vOAK, @NYG, vPHI, @DEN, vKC, @CLE, @DAL , vCIN, @TEN, vWAS

Final Record: 8-8 (2nd place, AFC West)

2) NY Jets (3-3) – What a difference 3 game can make. After starting the year 3-0 and looking like a serious contender, the Jets have dropped 3 straight contests (@ New Orleans, @ Miami, and vs. Buffalo). Mark Sanchez is showing his youth, throwing 8 interceptions in his last three games, and the defense hasn’t been as dominant. They look more like a .500 team than a contender, and even if they have some strong games, I think they’re too inconsistent to be a factor in the end.

Remaining games: @OAK, vMIA, vJAX, @NE, vCAR, @BUF, @TB, vATL, @IND, vCIN

Final Record: 8-8 (2nd place, AFC East)

3) Miami Dolphins (2-3) – The Wildcat will only take them so far, and they’ve got a tough 3 game stretch coming up. Chad Henne looked comfortable against the Jets at home in week 5, but he’ll be tested in the next 3 contests against the Saints, Jets (road), and Patriots (road). Their receivers are junk, as Davone Bess leads the group with 23 catches for 175 yards. Only 5 receivers have scored, and none has more than 1 TD. I don’t see them having enough to make a run.

Remaining games: vNO, @NYJ, @NE, vTB, @CAR, @BUF, vNE, @JAX, @TEN, vHOU, vPIT

Final Record: 7-9 (3rd place, AFC East)

4) Dallas Cowboys (3-2) – Folks are already reaching for the panic button with Jerry’s boys, but I simply don’t think they’re that good. Tony Romo is too inconsistent for a QB that gets as much praise as he does, 2/3 of their RB arsenal is banged up, and they lack a #1 receiver. They’re 26th in the league against the pass and 23rd in the game with only 10 total sacks on the season. I think they’ll struggle and stumble the rest of the way, raising questions of “what happened to the Cowboys?” Again, they’re simply not that good. Wade Phillips out at the end of the year to the surprise of no one.

Remaining Games: vATL, vSEA, @PHI, @GB, vWAS, vOAK, @NYG, vSD, @NO, @WAS, vPHI

Final Record: 8-8 (3rd place, NFC East)

5) San Francisco 49ers (3-2) – Even with the addition of Michael Crabtree, I think this club is heading down in the standings. They’re a run first team that sits 28th in the league with a meager 161 passing yards per game despite having faced the Cardinals, Rams, and Seahawks, teams that rank 31st, 27th, and 17th in the league in passing yards allowed per contest. Will Frank Gore pick up right where he left off prior to the ankle injury he sustained against the Vikings? They may make things interesting, but I don’t think their bark will have bite much longer.

Remaining Games: @HOU, @IND, vTEN, vCHI, @GB, vJAX, @SEA, vARI, @PHI, vDET, @STL

Final Record: 7-9 (2nd place, NFC West)


1) Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) – I’m not completely giving up on them, but after a home loss to Houston, I think the luster is wearing off a bit. Sure, they “should” be 5-1 if not for the Stokley miracle, but I don’t see them maintaining the pace of a serious playoff contender for the rest of the season. Their largest margin of victory is 7 points, and that came at the Packers. Will the defense finish 4th in the league in sacks (as they currently are with 16)? They’re among the worst in the league against the pass, averaging 255 yards allowed per game, and are 8th worst in the league with 381 plays/snaps against. Their defense has been on the field a lot, and that’s not a recipe for success going forward. Hats off to Cedric Benson for his impressive performance thus far, but is he really going to finish 3rd in the league in rushing? I’ll go with history and say the Bengals fall short.

Remaining Games: vCHI, vBAL, @PIT, @OAK, vCLE, vDET, @MIN, @SD, vKC, @NYJ

Final Record: 9-7 (3rd place, AFC North)

2) Atlanta Falcons (4-1) – Matt Ryan certainly isn’t suffering a sophomore slump, and their defense epitomizes bend but don’t break, ranking 25th in the league with 360 yards allowed per game but sitting 4th best in the only category that matters, points allowed per game (15.4). Due to a steady run game, Ryan “only” averages 232 yards passing per game. What’s impressive is that due to a combination of his offensive line’s protection and his intelligence, Ryan has only been sacked twice this year. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they’re in the same division as the seemingly unstoppable Saints and looked to be forced to settle for a wild card spot in order to make the playoffs. I see enough winnable games on the schedule to get them to at least 10 which should be good enough for a postseason spot.

Remaining Games: @DAL, @NO, vWAS, @CAR, @NYG, vTB, vPHI, vNO, @NYJ, vBUF, @TB
(Lose at Tampa? Hell, why not?)

Final Record: 11-5 (2nd place, NFC South)

3) Baltimore Ravens (3-3) – I think they’re the best 3-3 team in the game and in the end will finish ahead of the Bengals. The defense isn’t among the elite anymore. They’re still steady against the run at 8th in the league (91 yards per game), but they can be thrown on. The Ravens sit a surprising 22nd in the league with 242 yards passing allowed per game. The 7 interceptions they’ve collected (5th best) has helped, and I’ve got to think they improve upon their 22 points allowed per game (12th worst). On offense Ray Rice has sure been something to watch, and he just seems to be getting started. Joe Flacco struggled a bit at New England and at home against the Bengals, but the second year man sits 11th in the league with a 93.8 passer rating and 6th overall with 11 passing TDs.

Remaining Games: vDEN, @CIN, @CLE, vIND, vPIT, @GB, vDET, vCHI, @PIT, @OAK

Final Record: 10-6 (2nd place, AFC North)

4) Houston Texans (3-3) – My “high hopes” team for the season is hanging in there at .500, alternating wins and losses in each of their first 6 weeks. A healthy Matt Schaub the rest of the way keeps them in contention, but the defense has to do at least a piece of its part. Their 125 yards per game allowed on the ground ranks them 9th worst in the league, and their 23 points allowed per contest has them 11th from the bottom. Steve Slaton has been a monumental disappointment this season, failing to rush for more than 76 yards in a single game and scoring only 1 time on the ground this year. Having offensive weapons like Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels can hide some deficiencies, but Slaton has got to get it going for them to hang in this thing.

Remaining Games: vSF, @BUF, @IND, vTEN, vIND, @JAX, vSEA, @STL, @MIA, vNE

Final Record: 10-6 (2nd place, AFC South)

5) Chicago Bears (3-2) – I think it’s going to be tough for the NFC North to get two teams into the playoffs, but I see the Bears keeping their noses in this thing the whole way. Jay Cutler seems to have found his groove in Chicago, throwing 7 TDs in his last 3 games, winning 2 of those contests. He’s not getting a lot of help though from second year RB Matt Forte, who aside from his 121 yard outburst against the doormat Lions, has failed to reach 70 yards rushing in any other contest. His last performance, a 15 carry for 23 yard effort against the Falcons which included fumbles on back to back goal line rushes, wasn’t one for the scrapbook. He’s rivaling Steve Slaton for most disappointing RB of the year honors. As much as I have dogged Gaines Adams, his addition could only help the team on the field this year, but they’re going to struggle without Brian Urlacher the rest of the way. Still, they’re 6th in the league against the run and 14th vs. the pass. I see the late season stretch of games doing them in.

Remaining Games: @CIN, vCLE, vARI, @SF, vPHI, @MIN, vSTL, vGB, @BAL, vMIN, @DET

Final Record: 9-7 (3rd place, NFC North)

6) Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) – The loss at Oakland was an ugly one, but there’s too much talent on both the field and sidelines to think they won’t contend. They’re one of the better defensive squads in the game (ranking 5th against the pass with 179 yards allowed per game), have multiple explosive offensive weapons (Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Brent Celek), and line up the veteran McNabb behind center. I was really high on this team prior to the start of the season, but with shoddy performances against the Saints and Raiders, this team has shown they can be beat on any given Sunday. With a very tough remaining schedule, I think their playoff fate will once again come down to the final week of the season and that they’ll be contending with this next team for the final spot.

Remaining Games: @WAS, vNYG, vDAL, @SD, @CHI, vWAS, @ATL, @NYG, vSF, vDEN, @DAL

Final Record: 10-6 (2nd place, NFC East)

7) Green Bay Packers (3-2) – Here’s the hardest team in the league for me to get a read on. They haven’t looked too good or too bad in any one area thus far this season but seem to have adjusted well to the switch to the 3-4 defense. They’re sneaking around statistically defensively at 10th against the pass and 17th against the run, and Aaron Rodgers is once again among the league leaders in passing at 291 yards per game. Donald Driver looks to once again be putting together a fine season, but Greg Jennings (17 catches and 1 TD) has really struggled to improve upon his 80 catch 9 score ’08. Ryan Grant is another Packer who has struggled to get it going in ’09, failing to rush for 100 yards in any of 5 games thus far, ranking an unimpressive 18th with 69 yards per contest. Jennings and Grant are going to be big factors in determining Green Bay’s fate, but if these guys get going, they’re going to be hard to keep out of the playoffs.

Remaining Games: @CLE, vMIN, @TB, vDAL, vSF, @DET, vBAL, @CHI, @PIT, vSEA, @ARI

Final Record: 10-6 (2nd place, NFC North)

I can’t possibly go against Brett Favre in his gargantuan return to Green Bay. Dude always shows up when the spotlight is on him. Green Bay’s December 13 contest at Chicago could decide their fate. I’ve got them coming out on top and giving them a shot at making the playoffs despite a 1-2 finish.

So who gets the final spot????

The 6th seed in the NFC playoffs goes to the……………………Green Bay Packers.

Since the two teams don’t face each other this year, the tiebreaker will be conference records. By my projections, the Eagles end up with 4 conference losses while the Packers finish with 1 less.

How do I see the playoffs playing out?

1) Indianapolis Colts
2) New England Patriots
3) Denver Broncos
4) Pittsburgh Steelers
5) Baltimore Ravens
6) Houston Texans

Round 1
Houston @ Denver = Denver
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh = Baltimore (after two regular season losses to the Steelers)

Round 2
Baltimore @ Indianapolis = Indianapolis
Denver @ New England = New England

AFC Championship
New England @ Indianapolis = Indianapolis

1) New Orleans Saints
2) Minnesota Vikings
3) New York Giants
4) Arizona Cardinals
5) Atlanta Falcons
6) Green Bay Packers

Round 1
Green Bay @ NY Giants = Green Bay (huge upset)
Atlanta @ Arizona = Atlanta

Round 2
Green Bay @ New Orleans = New Orleans
Atlanta @ Minnesota = Minnesota

NFC Championship
Minnesota @ New Orleans = Minnesota (Favre hits Shiancoe with under 30 seconds to go to win it)

Minnesota vs. Indianapolis
In a contest that lives up to the hype, the Vikings withstand three Peyton Manning touchdowns and put this one away late in the fourth quarter. Adrian Peterson wins MVP honors and caps the game off with his second score of the game which takes Minnesota to a 30-24 victory.

Here’s a far too early look at how I see the 2010 draft order playing out (with current records):
1) St. Louis Rams (0-6)
2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6) - Ndamukong Suh, DT (Nebraska)
3) Cleveland Browns (1-5)
4) Detroit Lions (1-5)
5) Tennessee Titans (0-6)
6) Buffalo Bills (2-4)
7) Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)
8) Oakland Raiders (2-4)
9) Washington Redskins (2-4)
10) Carolina Panthers (2-3)
11) Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3)
12) Seattle Seahawks (2-4)
13) Miami Dolphins (2-3)
14) San Francisco 49ers (3-2)
15) NY Jets (3-3)
16) Dallas Cowboys (3-2)
17) San Diego Chargers (2-2)
18) Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)
19) Chicago Bears (3-2)
20) Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
21) Green Bay Packers (3-2)
22) Houston Texans (3-3)
23) Baltimore Ravens (3-3)
24) Atlanta Falcons (4-1)
25) Arizona Cardinals (3-2)
26) Denver Broncos (5-0)
27) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)
28) NY Giants (5-1)
29) New England (4-2)
30) New Orleans Saints (5-0)
31) Indianapolis Colts (5-0)
32) Minnesota Vikings (6-0)


  1. Barring a Seattle-resonating-bridge-swinging-in-the-wind collapse by the gentleman in question, I will end up paying off my Matt Schaub beer debt. The irony here is that for years I held strong to the opinion that Schaub was 10x the quarterback M.V. would ever be, that Atlanta would be better served with him as the starter, AND I was pimping the Bucs to go after him a couple of years ago too.

    Looking at the ratings, I hadn't figured on about 7 of the guys ranked between 8-16 having lower ratings than Schaub. But, I certainly didnt think Favre or Orton would be cracking the top ten, so to paraphrase a once great coach, you are what your rating says you are (mostly).

    You've had a semi-good look at Josh Johnson now: NFL or CFL?


  2. Ha ha, I told you not to doubt the greatness that is Matt Schaub!!

    When I did my Gruden vs. Morris franchise QB piece, Schaub was the top QB I identified as the Bucs "missing out on". He's a hell of a QB and a guy who, if he can just stay the hell healthy, could win a couple rings during his career. Now that may not happen in Houston, but imagine what he could do on a team with a defense and a real running game.

    Regarding Josh Johnson, I'm going to be a bit biased because he was my second favorite QB (behind Brian Brohm) in the '08 draft. I think he can play in this league, but he really needs better play calling than he’s been getting. His reps with first teamers were very limited, so he wasn’t coming into a great situation as the starter. Yeah he has wheels, but he doesn’t take off to run at the first hint of pressure (only one rush attempt against the Patriots) like a lot of younger QBs would. He may not see every open receiver, but the high number of drops isn’t helping him. Nor is the complete lack of effort on Michael Clayton’s part. That bum has no business being on the field.

    I think Johnson is a QB worth holding onto, but I have no delusions that he’s going to get another look as the starter anytime soon. He’s never going to throw the prettiest football, but I liked the consistent confidence he showed. Despite predominantly poor results, he didn’t give up on plays or make asinine decisions. The interceptions will get more than enough attention, but what doesn’t get mentioned are the impressive throws he makes either on the move or just fitting a pass into a tight window. I think he has something to work with, but these assclowns aren’t the ones to maximize his potential.