Thursday - Jan 28, 2021
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Ranking the Contenders

The game of the week had to be the Saints vs. the Panthers. Not because it was the best game, but because it had the best outcome. Even Carolina fans had to have a small bit of gratification in seeing the Saints win one for a fan base that has lost everything. At the least it was an emotional victory, and at the best it is a game that propels them to a playoff appearance. The Saints need as many wins as they can get like this on the road, because they won’t have a true home field advantage all year.


Elsewhere in the league the happy go lucky feelings were left to a minimum. The Steelers and Chiefs did not have the same compassion for the Titans and Jets as both teams made a case for being among the top Super Bowl candidates. The Colts and Falcons did everything to reassure their positions high up on the list with key victories over playoff contenders. The Cowboys and Buccaneers showed a lot winning on the road against playoff teams from a year ago while 2004 playoff teams St Louis, Denver and Green Bay got embarrassed by teams that combined for 12 wins a year ago.


But let’s not get to excited here; after all it’s just a week.


1.      New England Patriots (1-0): Continued home dominance with 21st straight win in Foxboro.  How well they do this season could be decided in the next 5 weeks when they play 5 playoff contenders, 4 of which are on the road.


2.      Indianapolis Colts (1-0): Defense stepped up to clear first hurdle in their hunt for home field advantage. Beating Baltimore on the road will pay off later in year.


3.      Atlanta Falcons (1-0): Their defense and running game was too much for the Eagles, and will be too much for the rest of the NFC. But at some point Vick will have to be an effective passer to win at the next level.


4.      Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0): Willie Parker erased any RB woes with Bettis and Staley on bench. Roethlisberger again showed he is great in short doses and that there would be no sophomore slump.


5.      Kansas City Chiefs (1-0): The combination of Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson (combined for 211 yards and 3 TDs) is going to make the Chiefs offense tougher to stop than last year’s version. Let’s see how the defense deals with the Raiders.


6.      Philadelphia Eagles (0-1): The passing game and pass defense will be there, and that will be enough to beat most teams. But questions about their run defense exist after the Atlanta game with Corey Simon gone.


7.      Cincinnati Bengals (1-0):  Road wins are always tough even against a basement dweller like Cleveland. The big three made it look easy. Minnesota will be a bigger challenge for the defense.


8.      Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0): Jimmy Smith did something Ponce de Leon couldn’t do in Florida, find the fountain of youth. Smith led the Jag’s with 130 yards and 2 TDs. Defense played well minus a few big plays given up.


9.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0): The Carnell Williams show officially began but can Griese keep from imploding? Shutting down Minnesota’s offense at home shows how good this defense is.


10.  NY Giants (1-0): When the defense, special teams and Tiki Barber play this well it won’t Matter what Eli Manning does. But he’ll have to step it up if the Giants are to have legitimate playoff hopes.


11.  San Diego Chargers (0-1): Fantasy owners hate to admit it, but Antonio Gates is the key to them winning, not Tomlinson. Brees is a better QB with Gates on the field, and him not being on it cost the team a home win.


12.  Dallas Cowboys (1-0): Road win against a playoff team is a huge start. Parcels deserves coach of the year honors if the Drew Bledsoe resurrection continues.


13.  Buffalo Bills (1-0): Defense was absolutely dominating handing David Carr his worst start of his career. Losman didn’t try to do too much and McGahee was a work horse as usual.


14.  Baltimore Ravens (0-1):  The defense did their job, the offense failed miserably. The running game stalled and why was Mason only thrown to twice in the 1st half? Losing Kyle Boller could hurt as Anthony Wright made too many questionable throws.


15.  Miami Dolphins (1-0):  Sure Miami always wins at home in September, but they shut down Denver’s running game and only allowed one 3rd down conversion. Gus Frerotte played better than Feely or Fielder even dreamed of last year.


16.  New Orleans Saints (1-0): If at the least it gave the victims of Hurricane Katrina something to be happy about and look forward too. The simplified offense limited Aaron Brooks from making the mistakes that would cost them a game like this.


17.  Carolina Panthers (0-1): Tough loss at home to a division rival is not the way to start the season. Stephen Davis proved doubters wrong (including me). Tough assignment with Pats coming to town, and they’ll be without Pro Bowl DT Chris Jenkins.


18.  Detroit Lions (1-0): A Brett Favre offense has never finished a game scoring only 3 points and that says something about the Lions Defense, even if it is just for a game. Harrington made good decisions in the red zone and didn’t try to do too much leading to mistakes.


19.   Washington Redskins (1-0):  The defense is going to be good even though dominating the Bears offense is not a great accomplishment. Portis looked good, but the passing game was horrific as usual. Does anyone really think Mark Brunell is the answer?……..anyone?


20.   Minnesota Vikings (0-1):  Randy Moss or not, 5 turnovers by Culpepper won’t win many games no matter who is catching the ball. Culpepper is a better player than what we say (right?), and the Vikings defense actually played well creating a few turnovers and rushing the passer.


21.  Oakland Raiders (0-1):  Losing to New England in Foxboro is nothing to be ashamed about, but an inconsistent passing game and a questionable pass defense is. The run defense looked great, and the offense definitely showed its big play ability and they will need both as Kansas City heads to town.


22.  Seattle Seahawks (0-1):  So people thought the NFC West couldn’t get any worse than last year, well it might have and Seattle could find itself as the best of the worst. They lost to a good Jacksonville team on the road because the offense sputtered in the 2nd half, turning the ball over on 3 consecutive 4th quarter drives.


23.  NY Jets (0-1): Kansas City is not an easy place to start a season, and having Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes thrown at you ever other play doesn’t make it any easier. But the Jets offensive line couldn’t protect Pennington (3 sacks and 6 fumbles) or open holes for Martin. The Miami game this week will be telling.


24.  Chicago Bears (1-0): At least they played defense. Keeping the Redskins out of the end zone isn’t a great accomplishment, but the Bears will be a tough defensive team. Orton and Benson need some time to acclimate themselves to the NFL before we can determine how good or bad this team will be.


25.  San Francisco 49ers (1-0): Any win for them is a good one, but doing it to a division rival in a rebuilding year is all that sweeter. The 49ers do have an underrated defense, which produced 7 sacks, but they need to find a semblance of a rushing game to have any type of chance in a weak division.



26.  St Louis Rams (0-1): Some teams find a way to win, this team finds a way to lose and that’s a reflection on the coach. The Rams almost doubled the total yardage and time of possession of the 49ers and won the turnover battle, but still lost.


27.   Denver Bronco’s (0-1):  Winning in Miami in September is tough, but losing by 24 is inexcusable. The Bronco’s have the talent to be in the playoffs and to be a contender for that matter, but they just don’t play like it. Mike Shanahan’s genius status and 2 Super Bowls may be finally wearing off in Denver.



28.   Arizona Cardinals (0-1): They stuck with the Giants on the road for most of 3 quarters. After missing a game tying 2-pt conversion, Willie Ponder returned the kickoff for a TD damping the comeback fire.


29.  Tennessee Titans (0-1): Tough opening schedule will bury playoff hopes early. 3 turnovers on the road against Pitt didn’t make it easier. Loss of talent and the cap have hit the Titans and Jeff Fisher hard. But with Steve McNair there is always hope.


30.  Houston Texans (0-1): At least the Texans did a good job keeping the Bills to FGs. Carr had arguably his worse day as a professional and may not get much better with the Steelers coming to town.


31.  Cleveland Browns (0-1): This is not a talented team, and they got beat by a better team. But they didn’t embarrass themselves like some teams with much more talent.


32.  Green Bay Packers (0-1):  216 total yards, 3.3 per play with 3 turnovers and 0 TDs was all they could muster against the Lions D. But the biggest loss might be Javon Walker for the year. They’ll have a chance to get back on track at home vs. Cleveland.


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