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Saturday, October 03, 2009

FRO's Performance rankings week three-by Jon Wagner Sr. Writer Football Reporters Online

FRO's Performance Rankings
2009 NFL Season
By Jon Wagner, Sr. Writer At-Large Football Reporters Online

While there are many power rankings out there based as much on hype, expectations, and too often, unrealized and inaccurate projections, at Football Reporters Online, we prefer to rank NFL teams on what's actually happened, taking into account only how teams have performed on the field and who they’ve played. At FRO, you won’t find yet another power ranking that doesn’t tell you much. Instead, here are the FRO NFL Performance Rankings:

Week 3

#1 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 3-0 Week 2: #1 Week 3: Won at Buffalo, 27-7
The Saints stay in the top spot for the second consecutive week, proving in Week 3 that they’re not all Drew Brees and their passing game. After scoring 93 in the first two games behind 9 Brees touchdown passes, New Orleans posted its third straight win by at least 20 points on the strength of a defense that limited the Bills to just 7 points and 243 total yards, and a running game (now second in the NFL) that racked up 222 yards on the road.

#2 NEW YORK GIANTS 3-0 Week 2: #3 Week 3: Won at Tampa Bay, 24-0
The Giants start 3-0 in back-to-back years for the first time since the 1993 and 1994 seasons. After a solid but not exceptional win against a Washington team that looks bad right now, and barely pulling out a win in Dallas on the leg of Lawrence Tynes at the final gun, Big Blue had a laugher, blanking the Bucs on the road, holding Tampa Bay to just 86 total yards, five first downs (none for the first 40+ minutes), and while rushing for 226 yards to help keep the ball for 43:38.

#3 BALTIMORE RAVENS 3-0 Week 2: #4 Week 3: Beat Cleveland, 34-3
Okay, so the Browns are awful, but the Ravens didn’t let them hand around, storming out to a 20-0 halftime lead en route to a 34-3 thrashing of the current Browns by the “original Browns.” The Baltimore defense returned to its usual form after allowing Phillip Rivers’ career-high passing game in the Ravens’ Week 2 win out west. QB Joe Flacco meanwhile, continues to show progress and no signs of a sophomore jinx after his very good rookie season.

#4 NEW YORK JETS 3-0 Week 2: #2 Week 3: Beat Tennessee, 24-17
It doesn’t seem to matter what the Jets are wearing, they just continue to play winning football. Even as the Titans (of New York), they can beat the current Titans (albeit, as the Oilers), on throwback day at The Meadowlands. Week 3 looked easy at first for the old Titans against the new ones, with the Jets taking a 14-0 lead before Tennessee ran its first offensive play of the game. In a game of streaks though, the Jets allowed the next 17, before scoring the final 10 to win, as the Jets’ biggest strength this year, making stops on defense in clutch situations, closed out another win. Despite that victory though, the Jets drop a couple spots to make room for the slightly better Giants and Ravens.

#5 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 3-0 Week 2: #8 Week 3: Won at Arizona, 31-10
The Colts have quickly shot up this list, from 17 (after a very mediocre 14-12 home win over Jacksonville), to 8 (after a nice comeback win on a Monday night in Miami), to 5 (after a blowout win in the desert against the Cardinals). Not easy to go on the road, on two different coasts, for consecutive national television night games, with a short week in between, and return to Indianapolis with a couple more wins to remain undefeated. Marvin Harrison gone or not, Peyton Manning is clicking right now with the receivers he has left.

#6 DENVER BRONCOS 3-0 Week 2: #9 Week 3: Won at Oakland, 23-3
We’re going to find out a lot more about the Broncos over the next five weeks as the schedule suddenly does a complete 180 on them (vs. Dallas, vs. New England, at San Diego, at Baltimore, vs. Pittsburgh). That’s a huge departure from the junior varsity cupcakes (Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Oakland –- okay, maybe the Bengals are at least pretty good out of that group) that Denver rode to a 3-0 start. Still, it’s hard to place the Broncos any lower as of now after a pair of easy routs in which they didn’t allow a touchdown, and especially not when Denver has allowed a league-low 16 points on the season thus far.

#7 MINNESOTA VIKINGS 3-0 Week 2: #5 Week 3: Beat San Francisco, 27-24
The Favrelous one did it yet again –- although not nearly enough credit was given to WR Greg Lewis for getting both feet in on a catch that was actually better than Brett’s game-winning heave. Whomever you give the credit to, the Vikings, after two easy wins, managed to barely pulled out their home opener, and thus deserve the last of the top spots occupied by the seven remaining undefeated teams, but two spots lower than they were last week.

#8 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 2-1 Week 2: #7 Week 3: Lost at Minnesota, 27-24
Looking just one spot up, you see just how close the 49ers were to being in the number 7 spot instead of the Vikings after losing in Minnesota on the a miracle play by the Vikings. So, just one notch lower, is a reasonable place for the Niners who by and large have played well over the first three weeks.

#9 DALLAS COWBOYS 2-1 Week 2: #10 Week 3: Beat Carolina, 21-7
The Cowboys have yet to put together a full 60 minutes of solid football, struggling in the first half before pulling away in the second half at Tampa Bay, and getting shutout at home for a half before sealing a win late with an interception against Carolina. Still, they have a couple of wins by double digits, have rushed the ball better than anyone by far (a league-leading 6.8 ypc; New Orleans is second at 5.0 ypc), and are a Lawrence Tynes miss from being 3-0.

#10 CINCINNATI BENGALS 2-1 Week 2: #16 Week 3: Beat Pittsburgh, 23-20
The Bengals have played pretty well ever since Brandon Stokley’s fluke play cost them a season-opening win. If not for that play, they would be 3-0. They thoroughly beat Aaron Rodgers in a win at Lambeau before breaking their 8-game home losing streak to Pittsburgh with two Carson Palmer touchdowns in the final 9:14, including the game-winner with 14 seconds left.

#11 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 2-1 Week 2: #13 Week 3: Beat San Diego, 23-13
The Chargers have been the epitome of inconsistency from week to week, even within each week. Favored heavily, they were outplayed in Oakland before pulling a win out of the fire. They responded with a huge passing game from QB Phillip Rivers only to lose a close game to Baltimore at home. And, they had problems with the Dolphins before they could put them away. Add it all up, and San Diego is okay at 2-1, and an enigma, playing both the bad Raiders and the good Ravens very close, as they continue to find their way through the early part of the schedule.

#12 ATLANTA FALCONS 2-1 Week 2: #6 Week 3: Lost at New England, 26-10
After home wins in dream matchups against winless Miami and Carolina, reality woke the up Falcons like a glass of ice water in the face when Atlanta traveled to New England for a 26-10 loss in which Matt Ryan and Michael Turner were suddenly held in check, unable to do what they did at home. For their own sake, the Falcons better not become that Jekyl and Hyde home/road team that’s often seen in the NFL, as three of the next four and five of the next seven are away from the Georgia Dome.

#13 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 2-1 Week 2: #17 Week 3: Beat Kansas City, 34-14
It’s tough to judge the Eagles without Donovan McNabb, and even in their one game with him, it was their defense that dominated in Carolina to beat the Panthers before McNabb left with an injury that’s kept him out since. With Kolb filling in, the Eagles were awful against the very good Saints, before rebounding with an easy win against the bad Chiefs. With three losing teams coming up (0-3 Tampa Bay, 1-2 Oakland, and 1-2 Washington), the Eagles are in decent position to compete in the tough NFC East until McNabb can get healthy and back into the flow.

#14 GREEN BAY PACKERS 2-1 Week 2: #20 Week 3: Won at St. Louis, 36-17
The perfect prescription for the Packers after a disappointing effort at home against the Bengals? Meet me in Saint Louie… at least that’s what Green Bay must have been thinking after falling to 1-1. Failing three times in the red zone, coming away with three first-quarter field goals, the Pack responded with touchdowns on each of their next four trips inside the Rams’ 20, for a fairly easy win to get a game back over the .500 mark.

#15 CHICAGO BEARS 2-1 Week 2: #14 Week 3: Won at Seattle, 25-19
Very much like the Bengals, the Bears have shown some mettle after a tough opening week loss. Chicago followed up a late loss in Green Bay by gutting out two games late themselves, with new QB Jay Cutler leading the way each time, once on a drive for a game-winning field goal against Pittsburgh, and another on a touchdown drive to win in Seattle with under two minutes left.

#16 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 2-1 Week 2: #22 Week 3: Beat Atlanta, 26-10
What’s wrong with Tom Brady? Are the Patriots still good enough to be considered among the elite in the AFC? Well, it wasn’t against another elite AFC team, but New England quieted some of the doubters asking those types of questions after the first two weeks, with a solid 16-point win over the Falcons at home, to get over .500 and right the ship. A very strange scheduling quirk has the Patriots playing their next ten games split evenly against five teams that are currently undefeated and another five against teams that are currently winless (of course, that will all change by the time Pats play a lot of those teams, but interesting nonetheless).

#17 PITTSBURGH STEELERS 1-2 Week 2: #11 Week 3: Lost at Cincinnati, 23-20
The defending champs started the 2006 season 2-6 after winning it all in 2005. They’re now 1-2 after winning last year’s Super Bowl, and they could easily be 3-0 or 0-3, after three straight games that went down to the final drive. The Steelers’ staple used to always be defense and a solid running game. The defense remains solid, but Pittsburgh won last year’s title in spite of a rushing game that lacked. This year, they might not be so fortunate if they can’t breathe life into the NFL’s 27th-ranked rushing offense.

#18 BUFFALO BILLS 1-2 Week 2: #12 Week 3: Lost to New Orleans, 27-7
The Bills have played well enough to have a winning record, but letting the opener at New England get away hurt. Buffalo rebounded by beating up on a bad Bucs team, but they showed they’re not in the class of a New Orleans. Running back Fred Jackson has been good running the ball for Buffalo, but the fact that he also has more receptions (15) than Lee Evans (8) and Terrell Owens (5) combined is a huge red flag for the Bills’ passing game thus far.

#19 ARIZONA CARDINALS 1-2 Week 2: #15 Week 3: Lost to Indianapolis, 31-10
Reaching the Super Bowl last season after just a mediocre 9-7 regular season, it’s not a major shock that the Cardinals have followed up that trip to the Big Game with a 1-2 start this season. What is a surprise however, is that both losses have come at home. Kurt Warner was nearly perfect (24 for 26 for 2 TD’s, no picks, and a 131.2 QB rating) in Jacksonville, yet at home, he’s been consistently bad (a 67 QB rating with only 1 TD and 2 INT’s in each game in Glendale in this season), while not being helped at all by a rushing offense ranked last in the NFL.

#20 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 1-2 Week 2: #27 Week 3: Won at Houston, 31-24
The Jags meanwhile, have been the opposite of the Cardinals… they’ve were awful at home (ironically, against Arizona), yet surprisingly impressive on the road (playing the Colts very tough and leaving Houston with a 7-point win led by RB Maurice Jones-Drew’s 3-touchdown, 119-yard effort). That type of formula, and the threat of more empty seats and television blackouts in Jacksonville has the Jags eyeing Orlando as a possible second site for some home games if the NFL expands its regular season to 17 or 18 games.

#21 HOUSTON TEXANS 1-2 Week 2: #18 Week 3: Lost to Jacksonville, 31-24
Now, here’s where the irony continues… Arizona’s lone good game on the road was at Jacksonville, which won at Houston, which is like Arizona, similarly struggling at home yet playing a good game on the road. The Texans are struggling to run the ball, at just 70.7 yards per game, good for 30th in the league. Houston also has the 28th ranked defense, the worst against the run. When you can’t run the ball and you can’t stop the run in the NFL, it makes for a lot of losses. The Texans have to address those two areas soon or all the pre-season playoff talk will be for naught.

#22 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 1-2 Week 2: #19 Week 3: Lost to Chicago, 25-19
The Seahawks looked great in a 28-0 whitewashing of the Rams. Oh, right, that was the Rams. Playing the 49ers and Bears was a wake-up call. Seattle had the game against Chicago until they couldn’t stop Cutler from marching the Bears down the field for a late game-winning score.

#23 TENNESSEE TITANS 0-3 Week 2: #21 Week 3: Lost at the NY Jets, 24-17
The Titans have been the hard-luck team of the NFL this season. They’ve been in all three games they’ve played in the fourth quarter or in overtime, yet have no wins to show for it. It’s hard to believe that last year’s top seed in the AFC which started 10-0 and finished 13-3 has already matched last year’s regular season loss total after just three weeks in 2009.

#24 DETROIT LIONS 1-2 Week 2: #31 Week 3: Beat Washington, 19-14
Congratulations are in order! No, not because Detroit lifted itself from the lowly 31 spot on this list, up to number 23, but because they avoided joining the old Tampa Bay Buccaneers era of the 1970’s as the NFL’s only teams to lose 20 straight games. Yup, 19 consecutive losses was all the Lions could bear. Lions’ owner William Clay Ford put it best, saying “We not only got the monkey off our back, we got King Kong off our back.” You have to feel good for the Lions, but are they that much better than last year’s 0-16 team? Maybe not. The Redskins might just be that bad…

#25 WASHINGTON REDSKINS 1-2 Week 2: #23 Week 3: Lost at Detroit, 19-14
… And the Redskins would be rated even lower than 25, but they’re here by default, since there are enough really bad teams in the NFL right now. Averaging 13.3 points per game, Washington’s offense isn’t scaring anyone right now, and they are the one team in the tough NFC East that teams outside of that division, do want to play.

#26 OAKLAND RAIDERS 1-2 Week 2: #25 Week 3: Lost to Denver, 23-3
Oakland’s season started promisingly. The Raiders were competitive against San Diego before choking away a possible win. Since then, they were awful against the Chiefs yet won by default almost, simply because Kansas City couldn’t score despite dominating the Raiders statistically; and they weren’t competitive against Denver. Jamarcus Russell is not an NFL starter, period. By far, he ranks last in the league among starting signal callers with a 39.8 QB rating a 41.3
completion percentage. Ouch!

#27 MIAMI DOLPHINS 0-3 Week 2: #24 Week 3: Lost at San Diego, 23-13
It’s looking like the fish may go from worst (1-15 in 2007) to first (11-5 last year), back to worst. The wildcat racks up yards and control the clock, but it doesn’t yield points, at least not for Miami. The Dolphins have rushed for the third most yards per game (161.3) but they only rank 26th in what really matters: points scored (just 14.3 per game) as they seek their first win. Add to that, Chad Pennington lost for the season with his latest of a career of injuries, and Miami may be looking for that first win for a while still.

#28 ST.LOUS RAMS 0-3 Week 2: #28 Week 3: Lost to Green Bay, 36-17
As expected, the Rams haven’t been competitive against a pretty good Packers teams and in a generally tough place to play (at Seattle). The only place they were competitive was against the bad Redskins. The way they’re going, the Rams couldn’t score in a brothel with a suitcase full of hundred dollar bills: just 24 points in three games, and 17 of those were in last week’s 19-point home loss to Green Bay. Not good.

#29 CAROLINA PANTHERS 0-3 Week 2: #29 Week 3: Lost at Dallas, 21-7
Like Tennessee, the Panthers were a serious pre-season playoff contender at in a huge 0-3 hole. They’re having their own problems putting points on the board: just 37 points in three games as Jake Delhomme has already thrown 7 picks and just 2 touchdowns.

#30 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 0-3 Week 2: #26 Week 3: Lost at Philadelphia, 34-14
The Chiefs were shockingly tied with Baltimore in the fourth quarter and should have blown out the Raiders. And yet, they’re 0-3 with the Giants coming to town next. This is no doubt another rebuilding year in KC. For all the talk of the Lions not being able to win until last Sunday, the Chiefs since 2006, are now a dreadful 6-29.

#31 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 0-3 Week 2: #30 Week 3: Lost to the NY Giants, 24-0
Yes, it was stated above, but again… 86 total yards? No first downs for the first 40+ minutes? The Giants defense is good, but come on, this is grown men playing, this isn’t Pop Warner. That’s just embarrassing. Seven straight losses and counting for Tampa Bay since its 0-4 December collapse cost it a 2008 playoff spot.

#32 CLEVELAND BROWNS 0-3 Week 2: #32 Week 3: Lost at Baltimore, 34-3
Ahh, the Browns. Outscored 95-29, the biggest differential in the NFL. Head coach Eric Mangini seems lost, and has already benched Brady Quinn, turning to Derek Anderson for help in Week 4. That will probably help, but for the Brownies, it’ll take more than that this season. A lot more.


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