NFL Goes Awol: Drew’s Review

NFL Review Through Week 3

This list will reflect power rankings by conference, updated on a weekly basis (posting Wednesday nights). Rankings are based solely on what my eyes tell me from each game. With injuries piling up for every team, it’s challenge trying to pinpoint an identity to these teams, who are having issues creating one for themselves. The first quarter of the season will be in books this Monday night, but until then, this is what each team has shown us so far.

– NFC –

1. SEAHAWKS
This team is built for the Superbowl TODAY. They can control the clock with their run game, and shift defenses to open up passing lanes with play-action. Seattle has the ability to pull off comeback wins AND win the turnover battle. The Hawks’ defense is elite, and they keep proving it with huge wins over strong playoff teams. This could be the deepest roster in the league, and why? Management, coaching and scouting. They win in the draft and their QB is making $500,000! Plenty of room to sign big time players at the skill position, and that’s what they did in the offseason. They made SF look pitiful TWICE. Who does that? The best part is, Percy Harvin (who Adrian Peterson called the best athlete he has ever seen) is yet to hit the field.

2. BEARS
Chicago must be very pleased to see this Marc Trestman offense marry quite well with Cutler. He just seems comfortable doesn’t he? This design is balanced, unique, it has tempo, it’s creative and efficient. Obviously we will see how it progresses throughout the season, but if they continue to improve and succeed with it, watch out. The Bears’ defense has already been known to haunt teams with their relentless attack, causing turnovers with INT’s and sacks that often turn into scores. The depth scares me a bit. Would the offense struggle without B Marsh? A versatile and ellusive Forte? Tillman? We know this team is capable of greatness. Is this the year?

3. PACKERS
We already know that Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL. Let’s be real. Now that they are producing strong rushing performances with any RB on the roster it seems, this team has their eye on a deep playoff push. There are still questions about the defense without their leader in Woodson, but there is definite hope for more stars to shine in Burnett, Shields and Hayward. I believe in their front seven, but they need to stay discipline on big plays and keeping points off the board. Losing Bulaga for the season is a heartbreaker, but if Finley can manage to stay a threat in the passing game while working as part-time blindside help for Rodgers, He can light up anybody on any given Sunday.

4. SAINTS
It seems as if Rob Ryan’s presence is the ammunition for the attitude in New Orleans’ defense. Top 5 in the NFL so far in total defense and points allowed, after facing teams with respectable offensive scoring talent. I’m not buying in just yet. Atlanta was really struggling without their third down man (White), Tampa Bay hasn’t done anything offensively this season and the Cards were for majority without Fitzgerald, who aggravated a hamstring. New Orleans hasn’t been the same offensively. I can’t say that I’ve watched every snap, but they’re getting minimal production from Colston, Moore is irrelevant and Sproles isn’t making the highlight plays that he is accustomed to. Sean Payton could very well be pulling a fast one on us all and saving his chips for the big pot, but until they show me they can still score and hang with any team, I’m hesitant to up their rank but we know what this offense can do with Brees. Rob Ryan teams usually don’t finish well, and I dont trust their defensive roster, especially without such a leader in Will Smith.

5. FALCONS
Some flashes early showed what this explosive offense can be with an addition like Steven Jackson. The defense is… solid… As usual and Atlanta ran pretty well with Snelling and Rogers splitting, and will have to continue that success until they are confident using recovering Roddy White in his full role. To their credit they were a few plays away from winning both games on the road against a heated rival, and a red hot youngster team in Miami. I thought my Rams had a shot to win but the Falcons scored at will against an above average Defense. Now I may be wrong, but Tony Gonzalez doesn’t look like he’s getting the separation we’re so used to seeing. ATL needs to get healthy fast looking up to three 3-0 teams ahead of them.

6. NINERS
These guys will bounce back. I think. I believe this team of 53 is arguably the strongest in skill and talent, with great coaches. The players have so much invested in Harbaugh, it pushes them to perform at a high level. Kaepernick has massive talent and athleticism, but he has never truly been tested or ‘proven’ as a thrower. Their read-option was so effective, it shifted defenses creating massive throwing lanes. No doubt he made plays, but the Colts and Seahawks have posted the blueprint. They trusted their front seven to play the run and contain the QB. With press man coverage on top, Kaepernick hesitated to make an accurate throw in the pocket with tight coverage. When he did pull the trigger it was an overthrow. Greg Roman was brilliant last year but has been outplayed twice recently.

– BUBBLE TEAMS –

7. COWBOYS
It’s because they are the Cowboys. They’re great every year. For some reason the Boys just don’t win. If they can stay focused on the run and more play-action looks, you keep a healthy and efficient Romo. But I don’t trust them or Murray’s ability to stay on the field. Such a great highlight team, and also risky to hit top 6.

8. GIANTS
I wouldn’t overreact too quickly. The team does look horrible, that’s not a lie. But this team has tremendous talent and a leader in Eli. The offense will mesh to win games but only with a dramatic change up front on the offensive line will they make a playoff berth. They’re too deep now.

9. LIONS
It’s probably clear that you can’t ever really rely on the Lions. They just don’t get it done. The offense even more explosive and efficient with Reggie Bush, and I like Joique Bell as a pure runner and solid receiver. Maybe.

10. CARDINALS

Arizona hopes they found their QB because that’s the only way this team makes noise. They could quite possibly have a diamond in the rough RB, but it’s doubtful. Fitz is slowed down by a hamstring and everyone is still embracing the offense. They will click. Mathieu and Peterson is a great combo, and Daryl Washington’s return will boost some morale. Carson needs to step up here.

11. PANTHERS
They always play well at home and their Defense is very underrated. They are running well and Cam is Cam. Offense needs a boost but Steve Smith does seem ageless.

12. VIKINGS
Adrian Peterson needs a QB. Now. Defensive Secondary is horrible. Use Patterson more, it’ll be perfect for inaccurate QB’s. Remember how good Percy made Ponder look sometimes?

13. REDSKINS
This team is built to run. They still had success running this season, they’re just getting scored on with ease. They’ll get creative, and Shanahan will get his wins. This is a great running team with depth at RB. Defense needs help.

14. EAGLES
The offense is beautiful but they’ve lost twice at home, with their only win against an 0-3 Redskins. Chip has also had some slips on Game management that could cost this team more games. Health is also a concern for Vick every week.

15. RAMS
Very slim at RB and the offensive line never seems to stay healthy. Sam looks accurate as always with some real weapons, but I believe the OC is hurting their progress. The defensive line is as good as it gets in the league, but it’s not enough.

16. BUCS
Their defense could easily rank top 3 this year, but with nothing from Freeman and now a fresh QB, things are looking slim. Let’s see how much this ‘Muscle Hamster’ can handle.

– AFC –

1. BRONCOS
They have Peyton breaking records again with outstanding receivers adding Welker and Julius Thomas. The defense will be there once injuries and suspensions roll through. They have Peyton, and a great offensive line blocking for a very solid committee at RB. And they have Peyton.

2. PATRIOTS
Never count Belichick out. Gronk will be back very soon which will improve the run game as well. I believe in Thompkins’ talent and Edelman will step up all year long with or without unreliable Amendola. This defense is extremely underrated. They have hidden weapons in the run game and will be in full force just in time for the playoffs once Vereen is back. Tom Brady is a stud. He breathes playoffs. They will be there.

3. BENGALS
I’m not the biggest Andy Dalton fan, but I like him more than Schaub. His supporting cast couldn’t be better. Two athletic tight ends, maybe the best receiver in the game, two great change of pace backs and an elite defense. Marvin Lewis does a great job every year, but this is all on Dalton.

4. TEXANS
Houston has been looking for a WR opposite Andre Johnson to relieve double teams and make plays and they just found him. DeAndre Hopkins is shining early showing his abilities in an OT win. With new addition Ed Reed and Cushing back from injury, this defense is poised for stardom. Daniels is healthy so Schaub has all he needs to win.

5. COLTS
Andrew Luck is going to be a Hall-Of-Fame QB. The guy is just ridiculous. Such an intelligent player, student and leader. His team believes in him, and that’s why this team is succeeding. Hope. Reggie Wayne is still so effective now with two stud RBs. The defense should improve under a full year with Pagano, they have the players. The way they handled SF was impressive and EVERYBODY saw it.

6. CHIEFS
Alex Smith is looking great again, this time with Andy Reid. This team has some real exciting players. Jamaal Charles is one of a kind and Dwayne Bowe is so athletic. Pro Bowl players all over this Defense including Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson and Brandon Flowers. Justin Houston is also making a huge name for himself. If they can figure out a way to get down the field production from Smith, the offense wouldn’t be so limited.

– BUBBLE TEAMS –

7. RAVENS
I really think Anquan Boldin was the best player in the playoffs last year. Joe Flacco was extremely lucky to have him and Pitta making tough catches. Ray Rice is always solid and is a great competitor, but every great RB needs his QB to perform. I see Flacco strugging in tough games without Boldin and Pitta. Ray Rice is going to have some sore shoulders this year.

8. DOLPHINS
Tannehill is improving every game and starting to look like a solid starter in this league. The defense is playing outstanding and they fight to win every game. There is plenty of talent offensively, scoring in multiple fashions. If Mike Wallace can be the player they expect him to be, this team could easily be in the mix for 6th.

9. TITANS
This is a team committed to running and controlling the ball with efficiency. Jake Locker is playing fairly well and is a threat to run for yards at any time. Their offensive line looks better and that defense is tougher than nails. I’m not too sure what to make of this team yet.

10. CHARGERS
San Diego is always involved in heartbreak losses. Mike McCoy is showing a promising offense but again, they need to get stops on defense. Hopefully the Pagano defense molds soon. The committee at RB should help Mathews stay on the field, and Woodhead will be clutch down the stretch when Rivers needs first downs.

11. STEELERS
The Pittsburgh Steelers will always be relevant. Maybe not with wins lately, but this team always has fight in them. Key players are lost on the front line which would hurt any team the same way. They need to open up this offense and get creative. Speed is also needed on the defensive side.

12. JETS
Geno Smith is playing some suprisingly solid football so far. The ground attack is improving and Rex has the defense playing pretty well. They will be limited on offense with the lack of explosive players, but with their defense and running gameplan, they can stay in games.

13. BILLS
The Spiller and Jackson combo is moving the ball nicely for Buffalo, and E.J. Manuel is doing a great job managing his throws. He has made some big plays so far and the Defense has stepped up with some injuries in the secondary. Their WRs lack game-breaking speed so this offense could get predictable.

14. BROWNS
Trent is gone and they’re unsure of their QB. Doesn’t smell good in Cleveland. Fans are hoping for some brilliant gameplan to come out of this but as of now, it’s not pretty. They get to dig for some possible talent in what’s left of their RBs then look to a huge draft year. Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon are a couple of bright futures to build around.

15. JAGUARS
This team needs a QB so bad, even Tebow would be an upgrade at this point. They’ve scratched their zone blocking scheme and went back to power football, which is MJD’s strongpoint anyway. This team is lost.

16. RAIDERS
Terrelle Pryor is doing a pretty good job keeping up whatever hope is left for Oakland’s season. If Darren McFadden stays upright this year, a read-option approach wouldn’t be the worst idea. But then again, It’s the Raiders.