2014 NFL POWER RANKINGS Week 8: Bengals and Panthers Losing Their Roar

NFLTeamsA power ranking of all 32 NFL teams after week seven play.

The Twist: Each week the top 12 ranked teams will consist of 6 NFC teams and 6 AFC teams since 6 from each conference will qualify for the post season. Reflecting the top 12 teams most likely to make the playoffs. One NFC team and one AFC team occupy the top two spots to reflect who may end up in the super bowl. At least one team from each division is represented in the top 12.

Changes In TOP 12:

After another poor performance in a 27-0 shutout to the hands of the Colts, the 3-2-1 Bengals fall out of the top 12 teams. With a rather lopsided loss to the Broncos Sunday night, the 49ers fall out of the top 12 teams and are replaced by the surging Packers and Aaron Rodgers who blew up the once highly regarded Panthers defense. Speaking of Panthers, they remain in the top 12 simply because all the other teams in the NFC South are awful. All lost Sunday (Bucs bye week)

TEAMS ON FIRE:

Cowboys- 6 wins in a row. Murray with an unbelievable 7 games over 100 yards.

Colts- 5 wins in a row. After a 0-2 start, this team is on fire.

Ravens- Offense starting to really find their groove. Only trail the Colts in total points scored in the AFC.

Packers- 4 straight wins and the Rodgers led offense is starting to do what they do. Defense looking much better.

TEAMS STRUGGLING:

Bengals- After a great start, this team is having problems on both sides of the ball.

Falcons- 4 straight losses and their inability to win outdoors continues.

Seahawks- Lose their 2nd straight game to the lowly Rams who completely punked Seattle on that punt returned for a TD and then rubbed it in with a fake punt late to burn out the clock.

Panthers- Are not the defensive team they were a year ago but still lead a very soft NFC South.

Jets and Raiders- Both teams with 6 straight losses.

Week 8               Change
1. Broncos    (5-1)   0
2. Cardinals  (5-1)   0
3. Cowboys    (6-1)  +3
4. Eagles     (5-1)  +1
5. Colts      (5-2)  +2
6. Ravens     (5-2)  +3
7. Chargers   (5-2)  -4
8. Packers    (5-2)  +6
9. Patriots   (5-2)  -1
10. Lions     (5-2)  +2
11. Panthers (3-3-1)  0
12. Steelers  (4-3)  +8
13. 49ers     (4-3)  -9
14. Bengals  (3-2-1) -4
15. Seahawks  (3-3)  -2
16  Chiefs    (3-3)  +6
17. Bills     (4-3)  +1
18. Dolphins  (3-3)  +5
19. Browns    (3-3)  -4
20. Giants    (3-4)  -4
21. Texans    (3-4)  -4
22. Bears     (3-4)  -3
23. Rams      (2-4)  +6
24. Vikings   (2-5)  -1
25. Falcons   (2-5)  -4
26. Saints    (2-4)  -2
27. Redskins  (2-5)   0
28. Titans    (2-5)  -2
29. Jaguars   (1-6)  +2
30. Bucs      (1-5)   0
31. Jets      (1-6)  -3
32. Raiders   (0-6)   0

Giants at Cowboys Preview

After a HUGE win at Seattle, the Cowboys are clearly off to a great start with an impressive 5-1 record. Dallas was the more physical team in that game and have established an identity in 2014 as a running team with a dominant offensive line.

Sunday will be their first division game this season as the Giants come to AT&T where they have had plenty of success in the past.

So far it has been an up and down kind of season for the Giants who have played well at times (a 30-17 victory over the Texans) but were completely shut down and shut out by the Eagles 27-0 last Sunday night. It may be a mistake to assume they will play that poorly again this week. A look at what went wrong in that game for the Giants and how Dallas may try to capitalize on some of the same weaknesses exposed by the Eagles.

Giants Defense: Giants Look for the Big Play
Romo beware because the Giants lead the entire NFL with 10 interceptions this season. They also have 11 sacks which is certainly more than Dallas has so far this season. Against the Eagles, the Giants intercepted Foles two times.

On defense the Giants like to get after the QB and play the short passes tight looking for a pick when the QB is pressured. However it also means they are some what vulnerable to the deep pass as they have allowed a significant amount of passing yards. The Giants rank 24th in the NFL in passing yards allowed.

But when they get a sack they make it tough on the offense as they have been impressive on 3rd down only allowing a 32% conversion rate.

Dallas Strategy:
Against the Eagles McCoy had a HUGE game rushing for 149 yards. Clearly Murray can put up those kind of numbers too and is looking for a sick 7th game with over 100 yards. The Cowboys are going to continue to ride that horse and why shouldn’t they? Establish the run and pound Murray at them.

If the offensive line can allow Romo time, he should have some opportunities to throw deep to Terrance Williams a proven deep threat with a spectacular catch last week in their win. Was that pass actually intended for Witten? We give Romo the benefit of the doubt on that one.

The Giants are kind of the opposite of the Seahawks in their approach to defense. They pressure the QB, jump the short passes, and dare you to throw it deep.

It will be important to establish the run and take a few deep shots off play action. Romo needs to be careful with the ball when pressured, as the Giants secondary has been quite opportunistic. They are aggressive and looking for the pick.

Giants Offense: O-Line Struggles to keep Manning up right:
Against the Eagles, Manning was sacked 8 times! Interesting that six of those sacks were Eagle linebackers blitzing. LB Connor Barwin had three sacks in the game.

When Manning is getting bounced around like that, he not only makes that notorious pouting face but he becomes frustrated which can make things go down hill quickly for the offense. As a defense, you want to see that face.

Eli Pout

Eli Pout

This season the Giants have had more success running than passing the ball as they average over 100 yards rushing per game.

Dallas Strategy:
Get after Manning with blitzing LBs! Among the LBs, Durant has probably been the most effective at blitzing for Dallas so it makes sense to fire him on passing downs to exploit a not so great Giants offensive line. Also Dallas has DE Anthony Spencer back and in the Seahawks game he really got off the ball quickly and applied pressure regularly. He could potentially have a big game against Giants tackle Justin Pugh who struggled a great deal in the Eagles game. Coming out of college, it was noted by scouts that Pugh possesses short arms which don’t serve a tackle well in the NFL.

The Cowboys defense must make stopping the run a priority as it is what the Giants do best. In the Giants win over the Texans, RB Rashad Jennings had a career high 176 yards rushing for the game. In that game the Giants special teams blocked a punt so the Cowboys, who had one blocked Sunday, need to tighten up punt protection.

Recap Main Points:
-Establish the run and take some shots deep against the Giants defense.
-Romo take care of the ball. The Giants will intercept passes.
-Pressure Eli particularly with LB blitzes which the Eagles had a lot of success doing. Manning is no scrambler.
-Defend the run first. The Giants can run it.
-Get ahead early and make the Giants play catch up with a pass game.
-Clean up the special team blunders from last week.

2014 NFL Power Rankings Week 7: Hawks Knocked Off Their Perch.

NFLTeams
A power ranking of all 32 NFL teams after week six play.

The Twist: Each week the top 12 ranked teams will consist of 6 NFC teams and 6 AFC teams since 6 from each conference will qualify for the post season. Reflecting the top 12 teams most likely to make the playoffs. One NFC team and one AFC team occupy the top two spots to reflect who may end up in the super bowl. At least one team from each division is represented in the top 12.

Hawks Knocked Off:
The Seahawks fall out of first place after the Cowboys came into their stadium and punched them in the mouth. At 4-1 the Broncos move into the top spot.

With their impressive win at Seattle, Dallas swaggers into the top 12 for the first time this season. The Cowboys look like a power running playoff team but have business to tend to in the NFC East.

The Cardinals take the 2nd spot based on a couple impressive wins this season against the highly ranked Chargers and 49ers.

Week 7 – Change
1. Broncos (4-1) +1
2. Cardinals (4-1) +3
3. Chargers (5-1) 0
4. 49ers (4-2) +2
5. Eagles (5-1) +2
6. Cowboys (5-1) +7
7. Colts (4-2) +1
8. Patriots (4-2) +3
9. Ravens (4-2) 0
10. Bengals (3-1-1) -6
11. Panthers (3-2-1) -1
12. Lions (4-2) 0
13. Seahawks (3-2) -12
14. Packers (4-2) 0
15. Browns (3-2) +9
16 Giants (3-3) 0
17. Texans (3-3) -2
18. Bills (3-3) -1
19. Bears (3-3) +1
20. Steelers (3-3) -2
21. Falcons (2-4) -2
22. Chiefs (2-3) 0
23. Dolphins (2-3) 0
24. Saints (2-3) +1
25. Vikings (2-4) -4
26. Titans (2-4) +4
27. Redskins (1-5) -1
28. Jets (1-5) -1
29. Rams (1-4) -1
30. Bucs (1-5) -1
31. Jaguars (0-6) 0
32. Raiders (0-5) 0

Patience Could be Key for Dallas in Seattle

The defending champ Seattle Seahawks provide an effective formula for winning championships. Currently they are first in the NFL in rushing and first in the NFL in defending the run. They also rarely turn the ball over. That along with a very vocal home crowd (unlike in Dallas!) make it very challenging for teams to leave Seattle with a win. Their fans hold Guinness world records for noise at about the 137db level so they don’t mess around when it comes to the 12th man stuff. That’s a little louder than a 747 taking off and nearly as loud as Texan fans in the Cowboys stadium last week.

Remember the last trip out there for Dallas in 2012 where it fell apart quickly for Dallas and Sean Lee got blindsided with a vicious block in the game?

Sean Lee gets jacked

Sean Lee gets jacked

Do the 4-1 Cowboys even have a chance to win this one? Maybe if Dallas plays a nearly perfect game, so to borrow a quote from the movie “Dumb and Dumber”, “So you’re sayin’ there is a chance!”.

Running the Ball:
So far Dallas has run the ball effectively with Murray behind a talented offensive line. In fact, the Cowboys are only second to the Seahawks in rushing yards per game. Dallas will likely want to stick to that winning formula of running Murray however the Seahawks are excellent at shutting down the run. The Seahawk defense only allows about 62 yards rushing a game which is far less than Dallas has been getting on the ground at 160 yards. The Seahawks will make stopping Murray a top priority.

Running the ball is going to be difficult for Dallas especially early in the game, however I think it is going to be important for them to not completely abandon it. But to score in this game, they will rely on Romo passing it.

Turnovers:
As I mentioned earlier, the Seahawks simply take care of the ball better than any team in the NFL. Russell Wilson will not make mistakes that cost his team. Remarkably this season the Seahawks have only one turnover and that was an interception. They have committed 0 fumbles which is in sharp contrast to the Cowboys running back Murray who has four fumbles already this season. In addition Romo has thrown 5 interceptions for a total of 9 turnovers compared to 1 by the Seahawks.

Dallas committed 3 turnovers last week but over came then to defeat the Texans. I can not see them over coming three turnovers in Seattle. Murray must eliminate his weekly first quarter fumble and Romo must take care of the ball too.

Pass with patience and T.O.P.:
The Seahawks were defeated this season in a game at San Diego. Looking back at that loss, the Chargers dominated the time of possession that game. This season Dallas has dominated T.O.P. in all but one of their games.

The Chargers held the ball for a stingy 42:15 compared to just 17:45 for the Seahawks. But it wasn’t because they were running it that well as the Chargers only had 2.7 yards a rush but they kept at it to get 84 yards rushing.

What the Chargers did effectively on defense was hold Lynch to only 36 yards on 6 carries and made Wilson more of a passer than I believe the Seahawks prefer as he passed 25 times.

Offenses have had success passing the ball against the Seahawks particularly the shorter passes that basically substitute for running the ball. It will be critical that Romo and the offense not become impatient and try to get all the yardage in one play. Instead have a move the chains mentality in the passing game and chew the clock with drives. The Seahawk defense ranks only 22nd in passing yards allowed. Clearly they commit to stopping the run but allow underneath passing for short gains. Rivers passed for 284 yards on 28 completions with 3 TDs in their win.

Manning and the Broncos were probably a coin toss in overtime away from coming out of Seattle with a win and they used a similar strategy as the Chargers.

DALLAS GAME PLAN:
DEFENSE:
Stopping the run is priority one. Remember Wilson is an effective runner.
Make Wilson become a passer.
Blitz to pressure the passer.

OFFENSE:
Don’t abandon the run and become impatient when it isn’t working.
Take the short passes and consume the clock with drives.
Taking care of the ball is a top priority. Tuck that ball away Murray!
Expect it to be very loud. Trust your silent count and don’t panic.

I think the Cowboys best hope is to keep the game close and find a way to win at the end with a special teams play or rare turnover from Wilson. Becoming impatient will only lead to trouble. Make the Seahawks become impatient.

2014 NFL POWER RANKINGS Week 6: Patriots Make a Statement

NFLTeams
A power ranking of all 32 NFL teams after week five play.

The Twist: Each week my top 12 ranked teams will consist of 6 NFC teams and 6 AFC teams since 6 from each conference will qualify for the post season. I reflect the top 12 teams most likely to make the playoffs.

I have one NFC team and one AFC team in the top two to reflect who may end up in the super bowl. I also include at least one team from each division in the top 12 teams.

Patriots Make Statement:
Unlike other NFL rankings, I kept the Patriots in the top 12 teams last week after the Monday night debacle. With all the talk last week of Tom Brady and the Patriots being pretty much finished, had to see that beat down they put on the Bengals coming. They made a statement in that game and remain the team to beat in the AFC East as far as I’m concerned. Brady may have few more good passes left in him.

Chargers on the Move:
After their complete thrashing of the Jets along with a loss by the Bengals, the Chargers move up to number 3 just under the Broncos.

Week 6 And Change
1. Seahawks (3-1) 0
2. Broncos (3-1) 0
3. Chargers (4-1) +3
4. Bengals (3-1) -1
5. Cardinals (3-1) -1
6. 49ers (3-2) +2
7. Eagles (4-1) 0
8. Colts (3-2) +3
9. Ravens (3-2) -4
10. Panthers (3-2) -1
11. Patriots (3-2) +1
12. Lions (3-2) -2
13. Cowboys (4-1) +1
14. Packers (3-2) +1
15. Texans (3-2) -2
16. Giants (3-2) +3
17. Bills (3-2) +1
18. Steelers (3-2) +3
19. Falcons (2-3) -2
20. Bears (2-3) 0
21. Vikings (2-3) -5
22. Chiefs (2-3) 0
23. Dolphins (2-2) 0
24. Browns (2-2) +3
25. Saints (2-3) 0
26. Redskins (1-4) 0
27. Jets (1-4) -3
28. Rams (1-3) 0
29. Bucs (1-4) 0
30. Titans (1-4) 0
31. Jaguars (0-5) 0
32. Raiders (0-4) 0

Tony Romo Notices 12th Man Missing in Dallas

When Romo and the Cowboys offense broke the huddle for their first possession Sunday in their home stadium at AT&T, I noticed that it was very loud. Like what you would expect if it were a road game for the Cowboys. Visiting Texan fans showed up in force and made their presence heard. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo certainly noticed the noise from opposing fans.

Romo pointed out that they had to go with a silent count which is something that would be expected in a road game not in AT&T. “That was the first time I had to do that throughout the game at home,” Romo said. The 12th man refers to the home field advantage a football team can usually expect with noise from its fans but the 12th man has been missing in Dallas.

Romo went on to say, “That was every bit as loud as going to St. Louis or Tennessee.” “We need to understand that we lose a lot of our ability to do some things at the line of scrimmage that gives us big advantages, from my perspective. We have got to make sure going forward that we have a lot more percentage of Cowboy fans.”

Romo isn’t real pleased with the Cowboy fans performance Sunday and thinks the fans need to show up and help the home team have an advantage. But when it comes to these matters, I think the players have it backwards.

There are a plethora of reasons that may have contributed to why the Texan fans were about 50/50 in attendance as the Cowboys fans. It’s a huge stadium that offers an experience other than just football, purchasing season tickets is expensive, and let’s face it, the Cowboys have been pretty mediocre in recent years. Did you know that the stadium in Arlington, Texas is the only NFL stadium inaccessible via public transportation?

When Romo and the Cowboys go to Seattle next week, they will certainly experience what a difference the 12th man can make. The Seahawks enjoy a major home field advantage with crowd noise and it is nearly impossible for the visiting team to come out of there with a win. Sure Romo would like that in Dallas but what will it take to get there?

Since opening in 2009, the Cowboys record through the 2013 season at AT&T is 22-18. That represents a slight home field advantage. Things actually got off to a bad start when the Giants won the first regular season game in the stadium 33-31. Manning signed the locker room wall with “first win in new stadium”.

Despite the slight winning edge at home over the years, Romo talks like the Cowboys can’t be beat in the stadium when it’s full of the home team fans, “The place has been a tough place for other teams to come in and win when it gets going. I think the fans have been awesome this year, but I think we need to tighten up selling our tickets a little bit.”

But is that the answer? No visiting team fans allowed by controlling ticket availability? The Cowboys certainly enjoy a good fan following on the road at other stadiums I have noticed.

It’s a little like which came first, the chicken or the egg? Bring the fans and then we will win or win and the fans will come? I say it’s the latter.

It comes down to winning and being relevant in the post season which Dallas simply hasn’t done in a long time. Instead of finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs each season, win those critical play in games, make a run deep into the playoffs, and then see if things don’t get pretty darn loud in AT&T for the Cowboys.

Visiting fans will not want to make the trip and spend the money to watch their team lose. The fact that Houston fans showed up in such large numbers tells me they felt good about their chances of beating Dallas in their big stadium. Defeating the Texans in overtime Sunday to go 4-1 is a good start to getting back a home field advantage in AT&T.

NFL ticket prices aren’t cheap these days and fans don’t owe the players anything when it comes to support or loyalty. NFL teams have been known to pack up and move over night to another city while star players jump to rival teams all the time for more money. Support of fans is earned and there is no better way to earn it than winning on the field consistently.

In the past, the Cowboys were referred to as “America’s Team” because of the incredible success they experienced on the field. The Cowboys home stadium filled with opposing fans Sunday was because of a lack of success in recent seasons.

2014 NFL POWER RANKINGS Week 5: 49ers Back Into the Top 12

NFLTeams
A power ranking of all 32 NFL teams after week four play.

The Twist: Each week my top 12 ranked teams will consist of 6 NFC teams and 6 AFC teams since 6 from each conference will qualify for the post season. I reflect the top 12 teams most likely to make the playoffs.

I have one NFC team and one AFC team in the top two to reflect who may end up in the super bowl. I also include at least one team from each division in the top 12 teams.

This week several teams near the top were inactive so no change in the top 4 teams but there was some movement within the top 12 teams.

Change in Top 12:
The Falcons tumble out of the top 12 teams after losing at Minnesota. Their inability to win games played outdoors continues for the Falcons. Their defense was certainly exposed a bit Sunday.

It is the 49ers who take the Falcons place in the top 12 by handing the Eagles their first loss of the season. It was impressive to see how the 49er defense completely shut down the Eagles run game and beat them upfront.

Week 5 / Change
1. Seahawks (2-1) 0
2. Broncos (2-1) 0
3. Bengals (3-0) 0
4. Cardinals (3-0) 0
5. Ravens (3-1) +1
6. Chargers (3-1) +1
7. Eagles (3-1) -2
8. 49ers (2-2) +7
9. Panthers (2-2) -1
10. Lions (3-1) +1
11. Colts (2-2) +1
12. Patriots (2-2) -3
13. Texans (3-1) 0
14. Cowboys (3-1) +5
15. Packers (2-2) +2
16. Vikings (2-2) +9
17. Falcons (2-2) -7
18. Bills (2-2) -2
19. Giants (2-2) +3
20. Chiefs (2-2) +4
21. Bears (2-2) -7
22. Steelers (2-2) -4
23. Dolphins (2-2) +3
24. Jets (1-3) -3
25. Saints (1-3) -5
26. Redskins (1-3) -3
27. Browns (1-2) 0
28. Rams (1-2) 0
29. Bucs (1-3) +2
30. Titans (1-3) -1
31. Jaguars (0-4) -1
32. Raiders (0-4) 0