Turn On The Jets NFC Mid-Season Power Rankings

Chris Gross with a power poll for the NFC at the halfway point of the season

Yesterday, Turn On The Jets brought you their mid-season AFC power rankings. Tonight, we breakdown how the NFC stacks up heading into the final half of the 2012 NFL season. Categorically, these rankings hold the same idea, with a slight variation. We will divide the 16 NFC teams into 4 separate categories, placing each team where we see them fitting at this point in the season. Explanations for each category will precede the respective rankings.

Contenders

The following teams have proved to be the real deal up until this point. All have a very realistic chance to win their respective division, and barring any unlikely second half meltdowns, all will earn trips to the postseason.

1.) Chicago Bears (7-1) – Yes, the 8-0 Atlanta Falcons continue to get very little respect as the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL. The Falcons have played great football, make no mistake, but Chicago is playing with all the intangibles necessary for a deep postseason, possible championship, run. Defensively, the Bears made history in Tennessee last week as they became the first NFL team to return 7 interceptions for touchdowns through their first 8 games. In fact, Chicago’s defense has 28 total takeaways (17 INTs, 11 Fumble Recoveries), resulting in a league best 3.5 takeaways per game, with an astounding league high +2.0 turnover differential. While the Bears statistically rank 6th in overall defense, they stand behind only San Francisco in points allowed per game, surrendering just 15 each week. Led by a strong veteran presence in the front 7 in Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Julius Peppers, Chicago ranks 3rd in the league in sacks with 25 total, helping propel them to a league best +116 point differential, which is by far the highest in the conference (SF +86).

Offensively, Chicago may not be jumping off any stat sheets, outside of Brandon Marshall who is putting together one of the greatest seasons you will ever see by an NFL wide receiver, but Chicago has the necessary weapons in place to complement their dominant defense, making them arguably the most balanced team in the entire league. While Jay Cutler is certainly sporadic at times, he has the tools and mental tenacity to take this team deep into the post season. Matt Forte is undoubtedly one of the most balanced backs in the NFL, and role players like Michael Bush and Alshon Jeffrey have contributed nicely at times. If the Bears’ continue to play at the level they have been playing at, they will likely nudge Atlanta for the coveted #1 playoff seed.

2.) Atlanta Falcons (8-0) – Although Atlanta has yet to face defeat all season, they are still partially untested, having beaten only one team with a winning record. However, while they currently rank behind the Bears here, the Falcons are certainly not pretenders. Matt Ryan has put together a fantastic first half, throwing for 17 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. With a surplus of offensive weapons in Roddy White, Julio Jones, Michael Turner, and Tony Gonzalez, just to name a few, Atlanta certainly has the offensive fire power to compete with any defense, not only in the NFC, but in the entire league. To edge out the Bears as the top team in the NFC, Atlanta needs to win some games more convincingly, meaning not winning nail biters against Carolina, Oakland, and Dallas (combined 8-16 record) at home.

3.) New York Giants (6-3) – While the Giants surely disapointed this past week at home, most people are making this loss out to be a far greater upset than it actually is. The league seems to have fallen asleep on the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite the fact that they have a two-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback, and a Super Bowl coach, along with a defense that still has the pieces in place to dominate on any given Sunday. New York is surely notorious for poor play in the month of November, but Eli Manning has played MVP caliber football, despite going cold in recent weeks. What stands out about the Giants, and separates them from the teams that fall behind them here, is their ability to come up big in big spots. New York already has a very convincing 26-3 road victory, against an excellent team (SF) under their belts. Although they have struggled to defend the pass and have been relatively mediocre running the ball, New York excels in areas necessary for a championship team – quarterback play and rushing the passer.

4.) San Francisco 49ers (6-2) – The 49ers, aka Rex Ryan’s idols, are winning with the same formula that propelled them to the NFC Championship game last season – dominant defense and a strong rushing offense, ranking 2nd and 1st in the entire league, respectively. Like the Jets in the early days of the Rex Ryan era, though, San Francisco’s only handcuff may be the quarterback position. Can Alex Smith take that next step and lead his team to a Super Bowl? Probably not, but the way the rest of this team is playing, all he has to do is avoid preventing them from taking him there.

5.) Green Bay Packers (6-3) – While Green Bay started somewhat rocky, the Packers have rattled off four straight victories, a streak that began with a dominant road win over the AFC’s best Houston Texans. Aaron Rodgers seems to be finding that MVP form that helped win this team 15 games last season, despite losing top target Greg Jennings to injury.

Sink or Swim

These teams have been relatively up and down all season, and at the halfway point, will either take the step into the upper echelon of teams, or will sink to the bottom of the barrel.

6.) Seattle Seahawks (5-4) – Seattle has been a great story this season, led by rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, one of the greatest underdogs in sports today. The Seahawks, or as we call them “San Francisco Lite” posses a very talented, young, and fast defense, coupled with a dominant rushing offense, led by “Beast Mode” Marshawn Lynch. Pete Carroll seems to have gotten his guys to buy into his high energy philosophy, and this team has suddenly become fun to watch. However, like San Francisco, Seattle will ultimately end up being hampered by the play at the quarterback position. While Russell Wilson is surely a great story, and has played relatively above average, he is still a rookie whose inexperience will cause his physical limitations to be exposed down the road. If Seattle can overcome this, they too may be poised for a postseason run.

7.) Minnesota Vikings (5-4) – The Vikings have been a reflection of their young quarterback up until this point – the epitome of inconsistency. After an early season 3 game win streak, which began with a dominant defeat of the San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota has dropped 3 of their last 4, and quarterback Christian Ponder’s play has dipped dramatically. However, the Vikings still have Adrian Peterson at the helm of their 5th best rushing attack, along with players like Jared Allen who make their defense competitive each week.

8.) Detroit Lions (4-4) – Despite leading the league in passing yards per game (307.3), Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have hooked up for a score just once this season. The defense has been average, and seems to have lost that nasty edge that it had last year. In a division that is all but sure to place at least two teams in the playoffs, Detroit will need to have an extremely strong second half to return to the postseason.

9.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) – 2-2 on the road, 2-2 at home. The Bucs have been a very average team thus far. However, they may have found lightning in a bottle, or a muscle hamster, last week, after rookie RB Doug Martin exploded onto the scene for 251 yards and 4 touchdowns. Quarterback Josh Freeman is very quietly putting together an excellent season, having already thrown 16 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions. Tampa ranks 1st in the NFL in run defense, surrendering just 77.3 yards per game, and despite being only .500, have an average margin of defeat of just 5.5 points. The Bucs have won convincingly in three of their last four games, and could very well be poised to turn the corner as the season enters the final furlong.

10.) New Orleans Saints (3-5) – After an uncharacteristic 0-4 start, New Orleans has responded by winning 3 of their last 4, setting themselves up to make a second half postseason push. Despite the struggles, Drew Brees has still played at an elite level having completed over 61% of his passes for 2,549 yards and 22 touchdowns. Although the NFC South is likely lost to Atlanta at this point, the Saints could certainly find some fire down the stretch and steal a wild card spot. The world knows the NFL is a quarterback driven league, and New Orleans still has one of the best.

Free Falling

These teams had high expectations after starting the year hot, but have fell down a slippery slope as of late. While none are mathematically dead, the odds of any of these teams making the playoffs at this point are about the same as Mike Tannenbaum telling the truth about…well, anything.

11.) Arizona Cardinals (4-5) – After starting the year with 4 straight wins, Arizona has seemingly fallen into the abyss of the losers by dropping 5 in a row. The quarterback situation in the desert is more laughable than that of the Jets, and the Cardinals rank dead last in rushing offense, averaging a putrid 76.2 yards per game. Ken Whisenhunt is surely feeling the flames on his backside these days.

12.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) – There was once a time when this team was proclaimed “The Dream Team,” and Nnamdi Asomugha was viewed as an equal to Darrelle Revis. My, how the mighty have fallen. The Eagles have become the biggest disappointment in Philadelphia since Rocky Balboa was KO’d by Clubber Lang at the Spectrum in ’81. The defense has been horrible, resulting in the firing of Defensive Coordinator Juan Castillo, and the offensive line has seemingly been persuaded by PETA to let opposing defensive lineman tee off on Michael Vick. There is really no sign of any possible reconciliation in Philly, which will likely result in a complete regime overhaul this offseason, starting with Vick and Head Coach Andy Reid.

13.) Dallas Cowboys (3-5) – After an eye opening road victory against the defending Super Bowl Champions on opening night, Dallas has completely fallen apart. Tony Romo, for some reason, has the longest leash of any player in league history, as he continues to get a public backing from GM/Owner/Dictator Jerry Jones, despite throwing three more interceptions than touchdowns this season. Jason Garrett looks lost on the sidelines most of the time, and the entire offense seems to have no cohesion or continuity whatsoever. One bright spot has been Rob Ryan’s fifth ranked defense, but even Rex’s brother himself cannot save the Cowboys from their ultimate destiny of hardship.

14.) Washington Redskins (3-6) – The skins have dropped 3 straight after finishing the first 6 weeks at .500. Rookie sensation Robert Griffin III has looked magnificent at times, but has certainly shown his human side as well. Washington has a promising future ahead, but Mike Shanahan and co. do not quite posses the pieces to make a serious run this year.

Bottom of the Barrel 

These teams have already started planning their January vacations.

15.) St. Louis Rams (3-5) – The Rams have one of the most promising defensive front sevens in all of football led by emerging stars Chris Long, James Laurinatis, and Robert Quinn. However, Sam Bradford cannot stay off of his back, and Brian Schottenheimer is their offensive coordinator. Need I say more?

16.) Carolina Panthers (2-6) – Has the league caught on to Cam Newton? It sure seems that way based on the reigning offensive rookie of the year’s rather pedestrian play this season. Newton has thrown for just 6 touchdowns thus far, and has yet to surpass the 2,000 yard mark. General Manager Matt Hurney has already been dismissed of his duties, and more pink slips could certainly trickle down by the end of the year, including one to second year head coach Ron Rivera.

 

NFL Week 15: Playoff Picture Remains Blurry

With three games to go, the NFL picture remains blurry

There are only three games left in the 2011 NFL season. Where did the time go? Despite heading into week 15, 21 teams technically remain alive for a playoff spot and we are only sure about one thing when it comes to seeding, that Green Bay will be number one in the NFC. Let’s take a closer look —

AFC

  1. Houston (10-3)
  2. Baltimore (10-3)
  3. New England (10-3)
  4. Denver (8-5)
  5. Pittsburgh (10-3)
  6. New York Jets (8-5)
  7. Tennessee (7-6)
  8. Cincinnati (7-6)
  9. Oakland (7-6)
  10. San Diego (6-7)

The battle for a bye and the NFC North title should prevent Houston, New England, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh from resting any starters in the coming weeks. Denver looks to be in the driver’s seat for the AFC West, considering how Oakland has looked in the previous two weeks. San Diego is technically still lingering around in the West but Baltimore could end that this weekend. In terms of the wild-card, the Jets control their own destiny but have three very losable games approaching on the schedule. Cincinnati and Tennessee still have a good shot if they could win out, but that could be more difficult than it initially looked. Pretty funny that if the season ended today, the Jets would be traveling to New England for wild-card weekend.

NFC

  1. Green Bay (13-0)
  2. San Francisco (10-3)
  3. New Orleans (10-3)
  4. New York Giants (7-6)
  5. Atlanta (8-5)
  6. Detroit (8-5)
  7. Chicago (7-6)
  8. Dallas (7-6)
  9. Seattle (6-7)
  10. Arizona (6-7)
  11. Philadelphia (5-8)

We are going to learn plenty about San Francisco this Monday night against Pittsburgh. Their battle with New Orleans for a bye should be interesting to watch. The Giants are in the driver’s seat now for the NFC East and would be dangerous in the playoffs because of how well Eli Manning is playing. Atlanta, Detroit, and Dallas will battle it out for the last spot but all three feel like one and done type teams. Yes, Eagles fans are still counting on running the table and the Giants and Dallas losing two of their last three so they could sneak in.

I’m Coming Home: Halfway Through NFL Season (NFC)

Justin breaks down the NFC at the mid-point of the season. Who are the real contenders?

If the playoffs started today, the Bengals would lead the AFC in wins and get a home playoff game. Take a few moments to breathe, loosen your tie, and try and remember that there are 4 divisional games remaining for the Bengals, 2 of which are against the Ravens, and 2 of which are against the Steelers. The Bengals will win none of those games, if not for only the fact that both the Ravens and Steelers playoff chances hinge on divisional wins against the shakiest team in the hardest division of the AFC.

Enough hating on the Bengals….for now.

Let’s look at the playoff picture in its entirety, starting with the NFC. The Falcons notoriously took Julio Jones in the first round and gave up two draft picks. That will come to be one of their best draft moves for the next 5 years. While the Falcons are currently ranked as the 7th best team against the run, that will probably bump up to the 15th by the end of the season. The Falcons defense has two first round picks at defensive line, one at linebacker and one at defensive back.
There is a formula to the Falcons that makes it one of the potentially greatest offenses in the league. They have their big power running back with Turner, their safety valve in Tony Gonzalez, and two of the top 15 receivers in the NFL. Roddy White and Julio Jones will be huge threats in the second half of the year, especially anywhere indoors.

The problem for a defense facing the Falcons in the second half of the year is that they understand how to roll their three headed dye with precision. If you get double coverage on either receiver, check down to Gonzalez, if Gonzalez has double coverage, find one of three on the outside, and if the defense drops 2 deep and man coverage on both receivers, run it up the middle. Packers have more explosive receivers, Bears have a better running back, but no one has a tight end as good as Gonzalez unless you count Hernandez and Gronkowski for the Patriots as one unit.

The only issue I have with the Falcons is the fact that they have only one quality win this year. Philly? No Vick. Colts? No Manning. Detroit? My feelings on Detroit are mixed, and I think they have a few more losses throughout the year as people start to pick up on how to stop Calvin Johnson and confuse a still relatively inexperienced Matthew Stafford.

Moving on. As I described previously, I have mixed feelings on the Lions. They have flash on defensive line and at receiver, but I don’t think they have enough experience to dig themselves out of a hole against a playoff team when the weather gets cold and Matthew Stafford is asked to find guys that aren’t Calvin Johnson. Next year? Sure, Lions easy playoff team. This year, I still can’t see them getting out of the first round of the playoffs, even though they have three first round picks on their defensive line and the 6th ranked pass defense halfway through the season.

The Saints. Next to Green Bay, the Saints have the best offense in the league. In fact, I would call the Saints the Big Brother to the Packers, if only because of experience in the playoffs. Are they a better overall offense? That depends on if you consider the running game as important as the passing game. The Saints easily have the best tandem at running back in the NFC. Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram is the best 1-2 potential, and there is simply no argument against the potential of Mark Ingram as a power running back in the second half of the season if he can stay healthy.

The Giants, despite the strange tendencies of their offense to be able to run the ball, pass the ball, and then not be able to do those things in the same game, still have the best defensive line/linebacking core in the NFC. This despite the fact that Goff and Sintim are on IR for the rest of the season. If they can get a shutdown corner with Prince Amukamara, then the Giants defense will be able to get nearly as insane as the Jets do in terms of blitz variety and amount of guys they can send to rush the passer.

Someone completely out of their mind may assume the 49ers are the second best team in the NFC. That sort of proclamation can easily be countered by looking at the number of quality wins they have. Philly? Didn’t have their team together yet. Lions? A team so up and down you never know what you’re gonna get. They will face the Giants, Ravens and Steelers, and most likely lose 2 out of 3 games there. Those defenses will show everyone that they are at least a 4 loss team.

Where will I give the 49ers credit? For finally utilizing the pieces that should have been walking all over the NFC West for the past 3 years. Mike Singletary was a great player. He was a below average coach and the turnaround by Harbaugh is most likely split credit between the coach and the division.

Look at what they’ve had. Justin Smith is a 2 time Pro Bowler. Patrick Willis is a 4 time Pro Bowler who will be the only linebacker to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ray Lewis. Vernon Davis averages 12.7 a catch and has over 29 receiving touchdowns as a tight end. They had pieces, and the fact that the 49ers took a defensive back in the third round and the sixth round while grabbing another linebacker in the first round makes it clear that Jim Harbaugh is going to have the perfect mix of youth and experience on defense. The fact that they did not take a quarterback in the first round may have been the best decision by the front office in years.

The Green Bay Packers have caught that Patriots bug of luck mixed with insanely efficient quarterback play. Cullen Jenkins? Gone. Nick Barnett? Gone. Nick Collins? Out on injured reserve. They get Jermichael Finley back, resurrect the youth of Donald Driver, and sling it to Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Greg Jennings in no particular order. They’ve got their future linebacker tandem of Hawk and Matthews for another 7 years and the secondary is stacked with young value talent. The only thing more terrifying than this year’s Packers is what next years Packer’s will look like when Randall Cobb finds his role at receiver and their two tight end draft picks (5th and 7th round) start to see more playing time.

By the end of the season, look for the 49ers to win their division easily, sneak in at 11-5, and lose at home to either the Lions or the Saints. The one thing I think can happen is the rematch of Falcons/Packers in the divisional round. If the Giants play the Packers I think they’ll be able to get to Aaron Rodgers, but only for a half. He will exploit the middle of the field and keep the pass defense on their toes. The Packers are much harder to scheme for than the Patriots. There has been a torch passed, whether people are willing to admit it or not.

Forget Same Old Jets, Time To Show Who The Best Team In NFL Is

Photobucket

Follow Turn On The Jets on Facebook and Twitter (@TurnOnTheJets)

There is no reason the New York Jets shouldn’t beat the Green Pay Packers this Sunday, while covering the 6 point spread they deserve. Forget the same old Jets bullshit for a second and consider the Packers have 10 players on IR, including their starting running back and All-Pro caliber tight end. Their defense is average at best and is banged up at all levels. This is an undisciplined team that is at 4-3 in the NFC, where the best team wouldn’t even be playoff caliber in the superior AFC. I am sorry but if the Packers can’t beat the Redskins or Bears on the road, or win at home against Miami why should I believe they are capable of getting victory in the Meadowlands.

Yes, Aaron Rodgers is one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL. He has plenty of targets too. Yet, this is a one-dimensional offense that is going against a Jets defense that is 100 percent healthy for the first time this season.

Coming off a bye week, against a team who is flying half way across the country after an emotional Sunday night game, in front of your home fans for the first time in 3 weeks, the Jets need to take care of business. The Jets believe they are the best team in the NFL, talk like they are the best team in the NFL, and honestly probably are the best team in the NFL. This is a week to go out and stomp on the Packers throat, one of the supposed top contenders in the NFC, and demonstrate what kind of team they are going to be the rest of the season.

There is no reason the Jets shouldn’t be able to run the ball down the throat of the Packers, especially considering how banged up their defensive line is. There should be no hesitation to be aggressive if the Packers begin to stack the box. They don’t have the personnel to cover Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller and Jerricho Cotchery, all while worrying about LaDainian Tomlinson out of the backfield and Brad Smith popping in for an option.

This is a week to jump out to a quick 14-0 lead and never look back. Get the Packers down early, man up with your secondary and blitz them when they are forced to throw every play. This is the kind of game that can springboard the Jets through the upcoming soft part of their schedule and get them to the 9-2 or 10-1 they need to be heading into New England on December 6th for a Monday Night showdown.

Stop thinking about the Jets, as the Jets of the past and start thinking about them like the Colts or Saints from a year ago, a team who found a way to win just about every week. The Jets have the talent and coaching to do it and five very, very winnable games coming up on the schedule.

It starts with a win on Sunday.

Trying To Make Sense Out Of A Senseless NFL

mark sanchez jets Pictures, Images and Photos

Follow Turn On The Jets on Facebook and Twitter (@TurnOnTheJets)

Parity is a beautiful thing in the NFL. It helps makes the slate of games every week unpredictable and always throw you an “are you ‘effing kid me” game or two each weekend. It is a large part of why a Jaguars/Titans turd fest on Monday Night Football, featuring Trent Edwards at quarterback could easily get higher rating than the Yankees and Rangers in the ALCS. I do know that through seven weeks, it is nearly impossible to see where this season is headed, particularly in the NFC.

You get a team like the Giants who look ready for 6-10 and a coaching change after back to back early losses and now they are the consensus top team in the NFC. Dallas, Green Bay, and New Orleans were easily the top three picks to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl heading into season, yet could anybody pick any of those three teams with any type of confidence now? Dallas could end up with the first pick in the draft the way they are headed. The Saints can’t even keep it close against the Cleveland Browns in their own building.

The Colts have more holes than ever around Peyton Manning and keep dropping like flies. The Broncos go toe to toe with the Jets and then make the Raiders look like a a juggernaut by allowing a 59 spot to them. The Bengals and Chargers have been major disappointments.

Here is what I am thinking moving forward –

Despite the Chiefs and Seahawks looking capable of pulling away with their division, every team is alive in the AFC and NFC West with the exception of the teams in the London Bowl this week. The 49ers are completely incapable of winning a close game and are delusional with their perception of their team’s talent level and I don’t think Denver can recover from the whooping they took last week.

As much as it feels like time to bury Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings (and trust me I’d love to), they are far from out of it. The Bears are probably the worst 4-3 team I have ever seen in my life. They aren’t going to be in the mix for a playoff spot when it comes down to it. Green Bay isn’t healthy or consistent enough to pull away. In the NFC South, I do think Atlanta has the ability to pull away from the Saints if they don’t get their heads on straight now. Tampa Bay is a tough, young team who will stay around .500 and will probably amazingly stay in the wild-card race.

There are three teams across the entire NFC, I would feel confident saying are playoff teams right now: Atlanta, the Giants, and the Eagles. Yes, I saw Philadelphia lose to Tennessee last week but I think when Vick gets back and gets rolling again, they will be right there with the Giants for the NFC East title. Everything else is a crap shoot, in a conference filled with mediocrity.

Back in the AFC where things are a little clearer, the Patriots and Jets are going down to the wire for the division title and are both playoff teams. Miami is nothing more than a 8-8 team. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are going down to the wire for their division title and are both playoff teams. Cincinnati is a 6-10 team. I don’t trust the Texans and think the South will come down to the Titans and Colts, with the other team battling it out for the Ravens for that last wild card spot.

Jets New DL Jarron Gilbert