After a real life motivated week away from the update, we are back. Obviously some of the highlights of the last couple of weeks include frankly a lot of old reliables making statements - the Patriots that they can score, the 49ers that they are pretty darn rugged and the Steelers that they can shut down a good team now and again. And we still have the stunning continuing success of the NFC West. The regular referees are back - which is obviously a good thing - and the season feels like it is hitting its stride. So without further adieu the rankings, based on a combination of head to head, schedule rating, scoring margin, record vs good teams and common opponents. The methodology can be found here:
I think it was George Harrison years ago who wrote the song "When We Was Scab". Oh wait, that's not the title? My bad - but still, the refs have exploded into a new stratosphere of awfulness. The Packers-Seahawks ending was obviously the tipping point, but the Sunday Night game between New England and Baltimore also had enough ghastly whistles to inspire wonder. Cris Collinsworth's fascination was particularly interesting to regard. As Barney Rubble, er Ed Schultz noted last night - it was beautifully hilarious to see Paul Ryan and Scott Walker lament the absence of the football officials without a lick of irony. Now - don't get me wrong - the refs position in the lockout has not exactly oozed with sympathy (I mean I respect the fight to keep pension, but lots of us have lost that battle) but clearly their absence has shown in the brand on the field. They have won this in the public eye for sure - the league needs to get them back on the field. What has been particularly amazing is how bad the refs have been at the easy stuff - you'd like to think high school refs would at least get the basic ball spotting correct.
That said, there HAS been some non-scab football being played - and I'd be dishonest if I did not claim that the primetime games this past week (well not the Thursday night one) were absolutely compelling television programs. The brutal officiating has certainly created theater. How does it show in the rankings? As always this is a combination of head to head, adjusted scoring margin, record vs common opponents, and strength of schedule. The methodology is here.
Well, another week with scab referees - and finally a bit of leaguewide reputation damage due to it - comes a week of very chippy football and a whole bunch of ghastly calls. Obviously, refs using this as a way to break into the big time is very hard to tolerate - one can hope that the black eye the league is suffering can precipitate an agreement with the pros. That said, pro sports now is as ripe as any for management trying legitimate union busting - see the ghastly positions of the owners when locking out NBA and NHL players as proof. Yeah these dudes are millionaires, but it does not mean that the labor battles are not legitimate - and a mirror on the increasingly Dickensian society that has been wrought.
That said, 32 games have still been played so far, and with every team having played twice, we have strength of schedule data - granted only very little. Just as last year, the rankings are based on a combination of adjusted scoring margin, strength of schedule, head to head, record vs common opponents and record vs good teams. The rankings are explained here with a cheap plug for my blog. This week's list are after the jump.
Oh how time has flown. As you might recall, quite possibly the earliest direct reference to the events of this week's Democratic National Convention came in the form of a sports story when NBC and the NFL decided to move up the annual primetime opener to Wednesday instead of the traditional Thursday spot. After a thankfully fairly regular offseason with the usual comings and goings and hanging on, finally some honest to goodness games. We know the National Conventions are usually pretty manicured, stage managed productions aside from occasionally celebrity ad-libbing (for what its worth, that segment if nothing else got Bob Newhart trending on Twitter, nothin wrong with that), so the change in script that football represents is welcome from this view. Like most of you, I am fascinated by what Elizabeth Warren has to say, less fascinated by what Bill Clinton has to say (the OFA ad with him talking about the dangers of deregulation was a triumph of chutzpah), and happy to have something to click back and forth between. As for the rest of the view of the season? Keep on readin'
February 9th, 1964 - A scant two days earlier, The Beatles - just a couple of weeks after release of their second album Meet the Beatles - appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show to a 45.0 rating - the sort of thing only Super Bowls seem to get anymore. It is pretty amazing - from the album release to the TV appearance, to the spring release of A Hard Day's Night, a movie made to sell the soundtrack - but also ended up being one of the great musicals of movie history - just an amazing traffic accident of events, skill, a small spectrum of media and luck - and Beatlemania was for real.
Four games leaves us with four teams - no point wasting time here ... to the quick notes:
San Francisco 36, New Orleans 32 - The game of the weekend, and certainly another log thrown on the pile of "greatest playoff games". The four lead changes in five minutes, the unthinkable bootleg (with one of the great sprints in NFL history - Joe Staley's pull - and a receiver crackback that parted the sea for Alex Smith), the remarkable Jimmy Graham and then the site of Vernon Davis overcome sobbing - an almost perfect companion image to the similar site of an overwhelmed Terrell Owens the last time 49ers fans got a taste like this.
New England 45, Denver 10 The dream had to die eventually, but who knew it would be New England's defense that would strangle Tebow so completely. By deferring after winning the toss, Denver bet on the ability to hold the Patriots down, but the cruelly efficient 5 play drive to score put that notion in its place. The Patriots played with a lethal fury and heightened precision that makes them almost impossible for even the best defenses to contain fully.
Baltimore 20, Houston 13 New England's defense is not as stout as Houston's. This is a good thing for Baltimore as they were totally strangled in a not-very-inspiring effort considering how hard they pushed the "finally, a home game" angle. Thank god they were facing a 3rd string QB. TJ Yates will be a good quarterback someday - but this was too much to soon.
New York Giants 37, Green Bay 20 And it wasn't even that close. The Packers could have lost this 44-13 or worse - a couple of ghastly calls went their way, but they'd have needed the 1972 Gold Medal basketball officials crossed with the judges who gave Roy Jones' 1988 Gold Medal bout to the Korean guy to close the chasm here. The Giants have been gaining steam as any non-ostrich could tell you. The execution was there, the pass rush was there, and the receiving brilliance was there. Whatever edge and fury the Patriots displayed a night earlier, the Packers did not. Turnovers, missed open receivers, forgetting how to defend a Hail Mary - the Packers provided no evidence that they went 5-11 in the regular season let alone 15-1. The Giants are proving to be a tough out, but the Packers never challenged the Giants to reach deep - not in the least.
One of the most interesting things about Muhammad Ali's career - a career so decorated from the gold medal in 1960 to his three times winning the heavyweight title (unprecedented then) to his fights with Joe Frazier and the Rumble in the Jungle with Foreman which was the subject of the Oscar-winning When We Were Kings - is that we never knew his peak. After all, when he was stripped of the heavyweight title in 1967, he was 25 and when he was reinstated to fight, he was 28 - and this was in an era where the champ was still fighting 4-6 times a year - so roughly a dozen fights in the man's physical prime were gone. The two movements of the Ali symphony before and after then were a fundamentally different fighter. Floating like a butterfly really only applied to the first half.
Well, THAT was interesting. Well, the wild card weekend delivered a couple of genuine surprises, one mild surprise and one not surprise at all. Obviously Tim Tebow's continuing crusade to bring Jesus and the single wing to towns like Pittsburgh (and now Foxboro and the rest of the 6-state region of New England) has left many football fans perplexed in its wake - not the least of which is simply being perplexed by why Pittsburgh had no deep help at all in a non goal-line situation. But I'd also add the way the Texans laid waste to the Bengals in the surprise category. I know I thought it would be a close game, but yet that rugged running game of the Texans pounded the Bengals into dust. On the bright side, the Bengals have pieces - now it just has to get better.
The Giants executed a mild surprise in how easy it was to dust Atlanta. On the other hand, we should have seen it coming to a degree - Atlanta's ceiling was so much less than the Giants. Yeah the Giants have been inconsistent, but their best is so much better than Atlanta's best, and they brought it. Finally there was New Orleans rallying to blow away Detroit - but they have been breathtaking on offense under the Dome the last month and change. In any case, now the big kids show up to the playground. How does it go? As always, we'll use the adjusted scoring margin as a starting point.
Well, after 4 months - a bout with the power of the Lawd, some very QB friendly rules and the quarterbacks that took advantage, and some truly great stories in some places that could use a smile (Cincinnati, San Francisco and, snark be damned, Denver). But now we are at the playoffs - and it's now a matter of winning the games. I can say the Packers were the best team wire to wire- but it hardly matters. The trophy is the goal, full stop. Anyway, we've been doing rankings all year with the final ones last week - rankings which take into account several criteria. However, one of the criteria - adjusted scoring margin - is better suited to make statements on the future. So diving into the rankings detail as a starting point, let's talk about this weekend's setup.
rankings are cross posted at sk7326's personal site:
First of all, hope the Holidays are going well for all of you. Hopefully Roman Calendar 2012 will be as good or better than all of your 2011s.
After a lockout that generated some suspense, and 16 weeks of collisions, peculiar unnecessary roughness penalties, and high flying passing, we are at the end of the Power Rankings road. Sure, there is still a lot more football to be seen and discussed, but with the peculiarities of personnel choices for Week 17, the Rankings get off the train here. If you've followed this space to this point, you don't need to know how the rankings are calculated. Let's get it out of the way before we hop to the news of the week. Suffice to say, the playoff picture got a lot clearer.
Rankings are cross-listed on sk7326's personal site:
Perfection will have to wait. With the Chiefs stunning the Packers and the Colts ripping out the Titans' playoff hearts, the 1972 Dolphins can pop some champagne, the 2007 Patriots can get their heads out of the pillow of remorse and seek assurance that the unbeaten 16-0 is still theirs alone, and the Lions and Creamsicle Bucs will be the only guests at their party. While this space has maintained that Green Bay is the league's best team, this is a tough game if you can't block - and with the injuries sustained Sunday, blocking has become just that much tougher. This of course is the first of many developments this week - including an emphatic statement (well, two emphatic statements) in San Francisco, a brief victory over God and a couple of truly wild dreams suddenly not being so wild anymore. As always, the rankings combine RPI, adjusted scoring margin, head to head, record vs common opponents and record vs good teams.
Rankings are cross-listed on sk7326's personal site
So here we are, 14 weeks down, three to go, and two more editions of this volume for the regular season. Never has the league gotten to see this - sure there have been years with team's chasing perfection, but TWO - this late in the game? But sure enough, we are here with the Packers three games away and the Colts for the second time in three years starting at a chance at history. Famously, Jim Caldwell sat the varsity in the chase for perfection in 2009 - will he play the starters now with a chance to taste the apple? Oh, the intrigue.
Green Bay, with its vivisection of Oakland, continues to truck along unabated. Yes, the defense has given up a lot of yards - but it is instructive to note that they are also almost always leading - but has made up for it with a lot of big plays. As I noted last week, they are the best team in the league. Of course, as far as the title goes - the only thing that is of import - nothing is set in stone. After all, if a favorite in politics can allow himself to get outflanked by probably the single worst human being to run for public office in a non-stunt campaign, anything is possible when the games start to really count. As always, the rankings are a comparison of RPI, adjusted scoring margin, record vs common opponents, record vs good teams and head to head results.
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