NFL POWER RANKINGS WEEK 13: Texans, Falcons, and Ravens Survive Close Games

All 32 NFL teams ranked after week 12.

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 each week.

TOP 12 Teams:

  • Top Five unchanged.
  • The top three teams barely win. The Texans, Falcons and Ravens stay at the top after surviving close games.

Steelers out of top 12 and Bengals in– Without Big Ben, I don’t like the Steelers chances of making the post season. Bengals move up to #10 and Steelers down to #13.

The Bengals have played well their last two games and appear to be putting it together to make a run at the playoffs again this year . Both teams are 6-5 and the Steelers won their only meeting but right now I think the Bengals have the edge. But if Ben returns, game on.

Seahawks– They hang on to #12 even after losing as the Bucs and Vikings failed to take advantage by losing too.

 WEEK 13  2012    0= no change.                              

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

PREVIOUS WEEK

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It’s official you can stick a fork in the Cowboys. It’s just not working and here is why.

If any Cowboys fans came away from the Redskins game debacle on Thanksgiving Day still believing in what the Cowboys are trying to do, then you are not an optimistic person, you are simply delusional. It’s time to face the reality that this team isn’t going to the playoffs any time soon and instead are headed down hill quickly.

GM Jerry Jones: Let’s start at the top and it’s actually where I want to spend the least time because this one isn’t going to change any time soon. I would prefer to focus on the controllable. Jerry is in charge and he isn’t going to fire himself.

First of all, Jerry is an excellent salesman (it’s how he made his fortune) and when it comes to getting a deal done, Jerry is as good at it, as you will see.

Now for the bad news. Jerry is terrible at evaluating NFL talent. He doesn’t know near as much about football as he thinks he does and that is a big problem when you are the GM of an NFL team. Jimmy Johnson has pointed that out before.

Like many mega rich successful guys, Jerry has an enormous ego and will not be content to just be behind the scenes playing a low profile role. That’s not exciting enough for Jerry. He didn’t buy the team to watch some other guy get the credit. This is his toy and it provides Jerry an adrenalin rush to be in the war room making deals and picks. He is hooked on it like a drug and he can’t just drop it and let someone more qualified make the calls.

Think of it like this. Jerry would prefer to drive the car and wreck than let someone else drive and get to the destination safely. That is a big problem.

Enough on that topic. Until Jerry decides (if ever) to let someone better qualified run the show, this will continue to undermine the teams chances of success. When will winning become more important than being in the spot light? Where is that point? I don’t know but it is probably not going to happen.

Coach Jason Garrett: Jason was a back up NFL QB and he is now a back up NFL head coach. That’s all he will be too. He took over in mid season after the firing of Wade Phillips and so far it hasn’t turned the corner for the good. Things are getting worse actually.

Numerous, never ending offsides penalties on the offensive line are unacceptable. Real head coaches would clean that crap up in the preseason but the Cowboys still have it past the midpoint of the season. A real NFL head coach would do what is necessary to fix it even if it meant cutting players. Usually a coach only has to cut one player and then the rest of them get the message loud and clear.

This week former Cowboy Michael Irvin stated that Jimmy Johnson would have cut tackle Doug Free on the spot for his poor play against the Browns. Hey I’m not arguing with old number 88. He is right. HERE

Communication between the QB (Romo) and his WRs continues to be an issue every game. It never seems to get corrected. That is on the offensive coordinator and head coach and Jason wears both hats.

Jason a nice fellow? Yes, without a doubt and probably better suited to coach QBs only, and not the entire team. Garrett is the kind of guy anyone would want to call friend I think, but can he effectively mold and lead a group of men into a team? So far it isn’t happening.  Often I think Garrett is too nice and encouraging to players that could use a kick to the rear for their own good. His low key demeanor is not what is needed at times.

Players who played on the super bowl teams coached by Jimmy Johnson will tell you he was tough on them and pushed them very hard to be the best. They actually feared not doing their job right. That’s missing in Dallas these days where it is more like a country club environment which is how Johnson described it recently. His words not mine.

All the players in this league think they’re self-motivated and that’s a bunch of bull because there are only a handful that are self-motivated,” Johnson said. “So you’ve got to motivate these players through some respect but the No. 1 motivator is fear. Fear of letting down your teammates, being embarrassed or fear of losing the job. Where is the fear in Dallas? There’s no fear in Dallas. It’s a country club where everybody is buddies.”

Jason uses a boy scout approach of where he wants players to “earn the star” on their helmet in preseason. Give me a break. This is NFL football. It’s a man’s game and there is a lot at stake so the sooner players learn they must produce to stay in the NFL, the better off they will be in the long run.

Rob Ryan: Like all the Ryans, Buddy and Rex too, they suffer from diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain. Rob would be way better off getting involved in pro wrestling where he can talk up big matches and then not be held accountable for the results. But that’s just not the way it is in the NFL. In the end you either get it done or you don’t.

Last year we heard his excuses of how they didn’t have time to learn his complex defense. This season investments were made in the defense too. CB Carr cost them 50 million and they traded up to get another CB Morris Claibourne with the 6th pick in the draft. So far neither has had great seasons. Claibourne was awful in the Browns game where he just grabbed hold of the WRs. What was that about? Anyone can cover WRs in the NFL if allowed to grab them.

Ryan has a big heart for sure. He cares about winning and losing and I like that however he doesn’t seem to ever get it that the other team cares about it too. Too often his talk down plays his opponents’ ability and that only serves to motivate them while not motivating his own players. That’s pretty much the opposite of what a defensive coach should do.

Ryan has failed to pressure QBs without blitzing. Dallas must pressure QBs better for them to win and Ryan just hasn’t figured out how to do it.

ROMO at QB: A very polarizing topic but the fact is the gun slinger experiment is over. Romo can make some of the most exciting plays you will see in the NFL but his turnovers (leading the NFL in interceptions) just kill a team.

The Cowboys would be better served with a well disciplined less exciting QB that is well coached. Kind of like Alex Smith in San Francisco. Not making ESPN with a spectacular play all the time or making ESPN with a horrible play either. Alex just “drives the bus” as coach Parcells preached. Parcells (a super bowl winning coach) made Romo better but even he couldn’t win a title with him.

Time for a QB to just drive the bus.

O LINE: If there is one thing Dallas had back in the day, it was a physical offensive line that would crush opponents. They do not have it now at all. This line today was patched together as an after thought by the GM (Jerry) and consist of guys that other teams simply didn’t want. (I called Jerry out for this in a blog in April) It is the weakest part of the team but I would argue it is the most important area where a GM can spend money. The O-line is critical to success.

The inability to run the ball and protect the QB starts and ends right here. The foundation to building a winning team will be the offensive line.

Is there hope of a better Cowboys team in the future?

I’m convinced that the combination of Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson was successful because Jimmy made the personnel decisions while Jerry cut the deals behind the scenes. I’m convinced it stopped working because Jimmy started getting more credit for their success than Jerry the owner. I also believe both were better together than apart.

Change must come at the top for the Cowboys to improve. When Jerry’s desire to win super bowls becomes greater than his desire to be in the spot light and get the credit, that is when things will get better. That means putting his ego on the shelf and playing an important but lower profile role.

For now, this Cowboys fan is not holding his breath for that to happen any time soon….

Preview of Redskins and Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day and a Look Back at that Humdinger They Played Back in 1974

It doesn’t get much more Americana than the Cowboys playing the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day. With Redskin rookie and former Baylor QB RG3 coming to Dallas to play for the first time, Thursday’s game is rich with story lines. But no matter what happens Thursday, the game they played on Thanksgiving Day in 1974 will be a tough act to follow.

Of all the memorable games in this long rivalry, that game in ’74 stands out most in my mind. It was the game where QB Roger Staubach was knocked out of the game with Dallas trailing 16-3 in the third. The Cowboys back up was a little known rookie no, make that a completely unknown rookie (remember it’s the 70’s and no ESPN) named Clint Longley who had played at a small college Abilene Christian University the previous year. He led a come back that was amazing. VIDEO

Longley threw three TD passes to lead the Cowboys to a 24-23 victory. All of them were bombs. The winning TD was a 50 yard bomb to Drew Pearson that lifted stuffed Cowboys fans off their couches at home to exchange high fives. How was it every time Dallas needed a miracle Drew Pearson always seemed to get open? He had an uncanny ability to make a game winning play.

In 1976 during preseason, Longley sucker punched Staubach in the locker room so Longley was immediately traded to the Chargers. In that deal, the Cowboys picked up a first round pick they used to get RB Tony Dorsett. Now you know the rest of that story. Had Longley not had such an outstanding game on Thanksgiving Day would the Chargers have been willing to give up so much? I think not.

Longley eventually proved to be a one game wonder.

INJURIES: Both teams come into Thursday’s game with significant injuries.

SKINS are THIN– The Skins have been hit hard on the defensive side with LB London Fletcher and CB Josh Wilson uncertain for the game.

Boys Banged Up– The Cowboys are hurting on their offensive line where they lost tackle Tyron Smith with an ankle injury Sunday. They were already without two centers Costa and Cook. It’s not known if any of them will play. They have been without their top RB Murray and it is doubtful he will return Thursday either.

Redskins Defense: The Cowboys have played several teams this year that were weak against the run however this is an area where the Redskins are gettin’ er done. The Redskins are allowing an average of less than 100 yards rushing a game which ranks them 7th in the NFL.

It’s the Redskin secondary that has led to their losing record as they have allowed 289 yards a game which is 29th in the NFL. Last week against the Eagles rookie QB starting his first game, their secondary played well. But Romo isn’t a rookie and this won’t be his first rodeo. The Skins defense does have an impressive 12 INTs this season.

My Take: The Cowboys will likely struggle to run the ball. This is one game where I think you turn Romo loose in Clint Longley style because the Cowboys receivers will be open. The big question is will Romo have enough time to throw the ball? Last week he was sacked 7 times. If they can give Romo some time, I think he has a big day. If Romo is sacked more than 2 times, I don’t like their chances of winning. Also I think Dallas will need to score at least 27 points to win the game.  

Redskins Offense: Lead by rookie QB RG3, the Redskins offense has been impressive. The Redskins are 2nd in the NFL in rushing the ball at 165 yards/game. Coach Shanahan is a rushing guru and knows how to get yards on the ground. Rookie RB Alfred Morris is having an outstanding season with three 100 yard games and he could be trouble for Dallas. Of course RG3 is a very capable runner that Dallas will have to defend as well.

MY TAKE: Priority number one for the Cowboys defense will be to keep Morris in check in the running game and number 2, keep RG3 in the pocket. With recent injuries, the Dallas defense has not been quite as tight in their run defense. The Dallas safeties will need to be aware that the Redskin QB is very good at buying time and then launching a missile far down the field to open WRs. They can not afford to ease up on the play no matter how far down the field the Redskin WRs take them. Open field tackling will need to be crisp when RG3 scrambles.

For Dallas to win, Morris needs to be held under 100 yards rushing.  Also I think Dallas must come up with at least two turnovers to win the game.

NFL Power Rankings Week 12: Houston has a problem but pulls it out in OT to remain at the top.

All 32 NFL teams ranked after week 11.

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 each week.

TOP 12:

  • Same teams remain in the top 12 with the Bears moving down 3 spots after losing in SF. Bears without Cutler aren’t very good.
  • Patriots move up 2 spots after an impressive beat down of the Colts.

The Bucs and Saints are sneaking their way right into the playoff picture. WOW.

WEEK 12  2012                                 

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

PREVIOUS WEEK

Short Handed Cowboys Outlast Short Handed Browns 23-20.

This is supposed to be the easy part of the Cowboys schedule but as Tina Turner says in the song Proud Mary, “we never do nothing nice and easy, we always do it nice and rough”. That’s just how these Cowboys roll.

Short handed Browns

The Bowns came into the game without starting CB Joe Haden who was a game time decision to not play. That put back up Buster Skrine in the line up and he just grabbed the Cowboys WRs over and over again when the ball came his way. He was flagged numerous times and gave the Cowboys several first downs in the game. Last week the Cowboys rookie Morris Claibourne had a similar problem but Buster’s problems were even worse than what MO displayed.

The Browns finished with a laughable 12 penalties for 129 yards.

Short handed Cowboys

And the Cowboys came into the game without a center with Costa and Cook out so they had to move Bernadeau from guard to center. Bernadeau seemed to have a decent game considering it was his first start at center however the problem was with Dockery who replaced Bernadeau at guard. To add insult to injury or just another injury in this case, their left tackle Tyron Smith went out of the game with an ankle injury.

How that go? Not too good as Romo was sacked 7 times! That’s right 7 times. Dockery and Parnell were both terrible but Free didn’t play great either at starting right tackle. The Cowboys offensive line isn’t great when healthy so when you move down the depth chart it can get real ugly. And it did.

The offensive line had numerous holding penalties too and at times the Browns were given a multiple choice as to which Cowboy to hang the penalty on.

The Cowboys finished with a silly 9 penalties for 92 yards.

There was so much flag throwing going on that evidently the refs starting getting confused by going under the hood to review plays that aren’t reviewable. Also they called a horse collar tackle on Dallas when he clearly had the players long hair. That however is not reviewable. Refs could use an anatomy lesson it would appear.

New rule suggestion: Players are not allowed to have hair hanging out of helmets. Just because these guys tackle like girls doesn’t mean they get to look like them.

The game was decided in over time and in the end, the Browns quite simply stunk more than the Cowboys. The Cowboys post season dreams are still alive, just barely, as they head into a division game Thursday with the Redskins.  Unfortunatley for Dallas, they have very little time to heal up and get them selves ready for the quarterback known as RG3.

The good news is they probably won’t have time to watch and review the game film from the Browns game. Got a feeling the Cowboys brass will recommend destroying that film….

Browns @ Cowboys Analysis: Come on Cowboys, it’s the Browns.

First let’s look back at the previous pregame analysis of last week’s game where the Cowboys defeated the Eagles 38-23. In that blog I stated what I thought had to happen for Dallas to win.

1. “QB with most turnovers will lose”.  Coming into the game both Romo and Vick had plenty of turnovers. Romo had no turnovers in the game while Vick left early with an injury and was replaced by the back up QB Foles. Foles, a rookie, threw a pick 6 and had a fumble that went for a TD. The Eagles QB had the most turnovers and they lost.

2. “Cowboys need to run the ball at least 20 times to win.”  Actually I say this every week and they rarely do it but against the Eagles the Cowboys rushed 24 times for more than 100 yards. And they won the game. Romo had less yards than normal (209 yards) but the Cowboys were able to generate a bit of a running game even without Murray. This appears to be a winning formula. Less passing and more rushing plus take the ball away = win.

3. “Cowboys need to keep McCoy under 100 yards rushing”.  The Cowboys held McCoy to 82 yards rushing and they won the game. McCoy did break off a couple nice runs but the Cowboys kept him in check and were effective at keeping him out of the endzone. That put the game in the rookie QB’s hands and Foles made mistakes.

4. “Cowboys can’t fall behind by more than 10 points and win.” Dallas trailed to the Eagles by 7 in the second half but never more than that which meant they did not have to go to the pass only game in trying to catch up. With Romo, less is more. Having him throw less, results in him being more effective with less turnovers.

BROWNS (2-7 record)

The Browns don’t have an impressive record but they have played good teams tough. They have rarely lost by much of a margin and while it may sound cliché, they truly are much better than their record would indicate.

QB Brandon Weeden: He is a rookie and has looked like one at times this year by throwing 12 INTs (but still one INT  less than Romo) this year. Weeden’s QB rating is 67.9 placing him near the bottom of the NFL. He doesn’t exactly have a strong supporting cast around him at WR and the Browns rank 18th in the NFL for passing yards.

BROWNS Ground Game: The Browns rushing game currently ranks 27th in the NFL with 82 yards a game. Not rushing effectively has just put more of the pressure on their rookie QB leading to mistakes. Rookie Alabama RB Trent Richardson provides a running game and in fact he has over 100 yards rushing in each of their last two games.

My Take: To win the game the Cowboys need to intercept Weeden at least once. This is not the time to let the rookie QB feel comfortable. Make sure the game is in his hands and allow him to make turnovers. The Cowboys defense only has 4 INTs this season but managed a pick 6 last week in Philly. Rookie CB Morris Claibourne had an awful game last week and must play better this week. At least stop the holding penalties.

Also keep Richardson under 100 yards.

BROWNS DEFENSE:

The Browns are yet another opponent that Dallas faces who have not been very good against the run. Allowing 132 yards a game rushing, places them at 27th in rush defense. Former Cowboys RB Tashard Choice had 91 yards against the Browns for the Bills. Now that’s saying something.

While the Browns run defense hasn’t been stellar, their pass defense has 10 INTs this year which makes them one of the better teams in the NFL in picking off passes. In comparison, Dallas only has 4 INTs this season. The Browns have 14 sacks this year which only ranks them 28th in that category.

MY TAKE: The Cowboys need to run the ball at least 20 times to win. They can’t abandon it and put it all on Romo or the Browns will be too close for comfort. They also should get 100 yards rushing or more against the Browns defense. Romo needs to know that the Browns secondary is opportunistic and picked off Michael Vick 4 times in the first game of the season. Since Romo has a tendency to throw it up for grabs at times, he must protect the ball and stick with the run a bit more than normal. If Romo throws more than one INT, I don’t like the Cowboys chances of winning the game.

SUMMARY: No doubt about it, the Cowboys are a better team than the Browns and they have an excellent opportunity to gain ground in the NFC East. But as Cowboy fans know, with this team there is no such thing as a sure thing. Can’t underestimate Romo’s ability to let the Browns have a shot to win this one. Another week where it would be nice to have Murray however Felix Jones has been playing better and should provide enough running game to take pressure off Romo.

NFL POWER RANKINGS WEEK 11: Texans Claim Top Spot

All 32 NFL teams ranked after week 10.

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 each week.

TOP 12:

My top 12 NFL teams remain the same with some changes in order.

  • By beating the Bears in Chicago, along with the first loss for the Falcons, the Texans take over the top spot.
  • The Giants played poorly in losing to the Bengals and it was their second loss in a row. They fall 5 spots to #10.

Who Dat moving up 7 spots?

The Saints win 2 weeks in a row by knocking off the previously undefeated Falcons Sunday. Their defense has been terrible this year but they made stops when they had to Sunday to win the game. Drew Brees is still Brees and can get them points. Maybe the Saints are not done this year? Up 7 spots this week to #19.

WEEK 11  2012                                 

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

PREVIOUS WEEK