|2013 NFL Power Rankings: Pre-draft edition||04.24.13 at 10:34 am ET|
It’s that rare time of year when the 32 NFL teams are graded by what they’ve done off the field just as much as what they’ve done on it. The last time we watched football, the Ravens were crowned Super Bowl champs. Since then, the champs have lost six starters on defense and their best pass-catching weapon. The Ray Lewis-less Ravens are at No. 7.
Once the joke of the NFL, the NFC West looks to be the preeminent division in the league. The Niners take the cake at No. 1, and the upgraded Seahawks, third in our rankings, will be a formidable opponent for the defending NFC champs.
The Patriots enter the draft in need of another receiver and a pass-rusher. The departure of Wes Welker has Tom Brady and company down to No. 4.
1. 49ers (11-4-1) — I’d like to hear an argument against the Niners being ranked the No. 1 team. They have a ferocious defense and an offense improved by the reliable Anquan Boldin. Right now San Francisco looks like the team to beat in 2013. (Pick 31 in Round 1 of the draft)
2. Broncos (13-3) — Barring injury to Peyton Manning, the Broncos have the AFC West wrapped up. The addition of Welker will make Denver’s offense even more unstoppable. Is there a better receiving tandem in the league than Demaryius Thomas and Welker? (28)
3. Seahawks (11-5) — After the year Seattle had followed by the offseason improvement, I’d expect nothing less than an NFC championship bid. Like many of the top teams in the NFL, Seattle is strong at defense. The D got even stronger with the addition of Cliff Avril. The Seahawks also strengthened one of their biggest weaknesses by adding Percy Harvin at receiver.
4. Patriots (12-4) — Danny Amendola replacing Welker is not an upgrade. The former Rams receiver may be younger and faster, but Welker offered consistency. He stayed on the field and worked well with Brady and the offense. There will be an adjustment period. The Patriots will go into the season with three talented receiving weapons (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Amendola), but all three are injury-prone. (29)
5. Packers (11-5) — Injuries plagued the offensive line last season. More depth on the line is important, especially with the Packers in a division where they have to playing against pass-rushers like Ndamukong Suh, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers. (26)
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 16: Niners, Broncos pull ahead of Patriots||12.18.12 at 10:42 am ET|
For the second straight week, the No. 1 team has been dethroned in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. After falling to the Niners at home, the Patriots drop to No. 3 while San Francisco leaps to the top of the class. Nine straight wins has propelled the Broncos all the way to the No. 2 spot, and the red-hot Seahawks fly jump to No. 7.
The Giants (8), Ravens (9) and Steelers (15) all plummet as those three teams are a combined 2-7 in the month of December. With just two games to go, many teams are fighting for their playoff lives. The NFC race will be fascinating as six teams — Giants, Redskins (10), Bears (11) Cowboys (12), Seahawks and Vikings (16) — fight for three remaining spots.
As usual, the Jaguars (32), Chiefs (31), Raiders (30) and Eagles (29) remain the bottom feeders of the NFL.
1. (2) 49ers (10-3-1) — Yes, the Niners blew a 28-point lead, but they also went into Gillette Stadium and beat the red-hot Patriots in December. It was very impressive that they were able to keep their composure after losing the lead. In the end, the best defense in the league beat the best offense.
2. (3) Broncos (11-3) — With games against two of the worst teams in the league remaining, the Broncos should wrap up the regular season and go into the playoffs with a first-round bye and 11 consecutive wins.
3. (1) Patriots (10-4) — The road to the Super Bowl got a little tougher, but the Patriots have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. No team in the AFC will want to play New England once the playoffs begin. Putting up 31 points in a half against the best defense in the league without Rob Gronkowski is pretty impressive.
4. (4) Texans (12-2) — The number of big plays the Houston defense has allowed over the past few weeks has to be concerning to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. The Texans have given up a 30-plus, an 80-plus, and three 60-plus-yard touchdown passes in their last five games.
5. (5) Falcons (12-2) — As the playoffs draw near, the Falcons made their best case on Sunday for why teams should be afraid to play them this postseason. This is a mentally tough, resilient and well-rounded football team.
6. (6) Packers (10-4) — Packers fans are optimistic their team will make another deep postseason run. Green Bay has won eight of its last nine, has wrapped up the NFC North, and is getting healthy at the right time.
7. (9) Seahawks (9-5) — Since November, the Seahawks have scored 210 points and are averaging 35 points per game. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch have developed into one of the best quarterback-running back tandems in the league.
8. (7) Giants (8-6) — The inconsistent play at the end of the regular season has to catch up to them eventually, right? It’s hard to count the Giants out after what they did in ’07 and ’11, but they have put themselves in a very dangerous position with just two games to go.
9. (8) Ravens (9-5) — The Ravens need to find a way to stop the negative momentum that has built up in December. The best way to do that is for Joe Flacco to focus on protecting the football. Flacco has turned the ball over six times this month with three interceptions and three fumbles.
10. (13) Redskins (8-6) — It’s amazing how this team has gone from out of playoff contention to first place in the NFC East. The Redskins control their destiny — two more wins and they can call themselves division champs for the first time since 1999.
11. (10) Bears (8-6) — What good is Jay Cutler if he can’t beat the Packers? The Bears QB is 1-6 against Green Bay since joining the NFC North. It’s hard to imagine that a team that started the season 7-1 could miss the playoffs. Chicago controlled the division for most of the season but lost both of its games to Green Bay this year.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 14: Patriots continue to climb||12.04.12 at 11:30 am ET|
Divisions are beginning to be won and playoff berths are beginning to be clinched as we approach Week 14 and the final stretch of the 2012 NFL regular season. The Texans (1), Falcons (2), Patriots (3) and Broncos (5) have guaranteed themselves a shot at the Vince Lombardi trophy, while others still have something to play for down the stretch.
Ten teams in last week’s top 15 played each other in Week 13, causing a shakeup in this week’s rankings. The Ravens were bounced out of the top five after losing to the Steelers, and the Saints drop to No. 16 after losing their second straight game. New Orleans most likely will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Many teams with high expectations before the season have sunk to the gutter of the Power Rankings. The Chargers (25), Panthers (28) and Eagles (29) haven’t lived up to the talent and potential they have on their rosters.
1. (1) Texans (11-1) — The balance on both sides of the ball is the main reason the Texans have been so successful. No defense is better on third down, while the offensive rushing attack is one of the most lethal in the game. That combination has put the Texans at the very top of league in average time of possession.
2. (2) Falcons (11-1) — The victory over the Saints not only gave the Falcons their 11th win, but it also gave Matt Ryan and company tremendous confidence going forward. The quarterback went into Thursday night’s game with a career 2-6 record against New Orleans. The victory all but knocked the Saints out of playoff contention while bolstering belief that this is Atlanta’s year.
3. (4) Patriots (9-3) — The next two weeks will tell us a lot about how good this Patriots team really is. The Pats have rattled off wins against inferior opponents, now Tom Brady and the high-octane offense will face two of the best teams in the NFL. The defense has shown improvement while continuing to force turnovers. That’s a great sign for New England fans.
4. (3) 49ers (8-3-1) — By relegating Alex Smith to holding a clipboard, Jim Harbaugh opened himself up to criticism. Much of the blame for Sunday’s loss to the Rams has to go to Harbaugh. Quarterback controversy of any kind is harmful to a team, and Harbaugh is solely responsible. Deciding to go with Colin Kaepernick is one thing, but failing to clearly name a starter is a whole different problem. Announcing that the team is going with the “hot hand” only creates instability and insecurity in the locker room. The coach needs to pick Kaepernick or Smith and stick with his decision the rest of the way. December is not the time to start messing around.
5. (6) Broncos (9-3) — The Broncos haven’t loss since October and mostly likely will extend their winning streak to eight games Thursday after playing the Raiders. Denver leads the league in second-half scoring with an average of 19.3 points per game.
|Boomer Esiason on D&C: Patriots best team in AFC||12.03.12 at 9:43 am ET|
CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan and talked about the Patriots’ victory over the Dolphins, the AFC playoff picture, the Jets’ quarterback situation and more news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Patriots defeated the Dolphins 23-16 and clinched the AFC East title. Although the victory wasn’t the most overwhelming, like the past two games, Esiason said coach Bill Belichick likely was happy with another win.
“I would say that if I were a fan of the Patriots I would be happy about my defense getting some headlines, especially late in the season like this,” Esiason said. “Because you know this offense is going to put up points. … As Bill Belichick will tell you, and as any coach will tell you, even Rex Ryan would say it this morning, ‘I don’t care how we win, I don’t care what it looks like, just give me one more point than the other team just so I can at least breathe a little bit easier when I wake up this morning.’ ”
The Patriots are on the heels of the Texans and play them next Monday night. Esiason said that if the Patriots can pull out a win over the Texans next week, they put themselves in a position to capture the No. 1 seed.
“If they can beat the Texans, go on to win the rest of their games, and the Texans somehow slip up against the Colts because they have to play them twice in the last three weeks, now all of a sudden you have a tied record, and by virtue of the fact that the Patriots beat the Texans on Monday night next week, they could be the No. 1 seed, which is really amazing when you think of all the stuff we’ve been through thus far to this point,” Esiason said.
In Sunday’s game, the Patriots rushed for 11 yards on seven carries in the first half. But in the fourth quarter, they turned it on when they needed. The Pats embarked on a drive of 77 yards that took 16 plays, 12 of which were runs, for a field goal that gave them a two-possession lead. Despite the loss, Esiason said the Dolphins defense played well.
“I give the Dolphins a lot of credit,” Esiason said. “They played a tough game last week against Seattle. A lot of people, including myself, thought that they would probably lose that game, but somehow they figure out a way to win. Now, all of a sudden, they come into this game knowing that they’re playing one of the best teams in football. They have to raise their level of play, they have to raise their focus during the week to get ready to go against Tom Brady. It’s a great challenge. … For the most part, I thought the Dolphins defense supported themselves very well yesterday.
“Ultimately, what’s going to happen, the best team is going to come out and they’re going to come out and they’re going to win nine times out of 10. And put these two franchises on the field and that best team is always going to be New England, and the reason that it’s going to be that way is because of the quarterback that’s behind center for them.”
After Sunday’s games, there are three AFC teams at 9-3: the Patriots, Ravens and Broncos. Esiason said he would rank the Patriots first among those teams, but cautioned that the return of Ben Roethlisberger could give the Steelers an edge.
“I thought about three weeks ago that it would be the Broncos and the Texans that would be heading to the AFC championship game, now I’m not so sure,” Esiason said. “Simply because, injuries start to take hold. The Texans lost two linebackers who are two of their most important players. And their quarterback in Matt Schaub is not as good as what’s going on in Denver and certainly with the Patriots. … If Pittsburgh can get Ben Roethlisberger back and that defense can play like it has for the past three weeks, now all of a sudden you have to put them in the mix. In my estimation, how I would rank them would probably be: Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Steelers, in that order. I think the Ravens are a little bit outside of that, simply because their defense is probably the worst of the four.”
|Pats DB Steve Gregory on M&M: Defense ‘starting to jell now’||11.26.12 at 12:42 pm ET|
Patriots defensive back Steve Gregory joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to talk about his role in Thursday’s Pats-Jets game, the defense’s progress, and other Patriots news. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Gregory intercepted Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez during the Patriots’ 49-19 win Thursday. He said the defensive setup allowed him to read Sanchez and pick off the ball.
“As in every play, you always want to disguise your coverages, disguise what you’re going to be doing so you can’t just kind of let the quarterback read and know exactly what we’re in,” Gregory said. “So we did a good job at disguising the look and Kyle [Arrington] was covering in the slot. … I got a good read on Sanchez where he was looking and was able to jump the route.”
Gregory recovered the fumble after Sanchez ran into linebacker Brandon Moore’s butt. Gregory said he was in the right spot to recover the ball.
“It was just a broken play,” Gregory said. “Obviously he went to hand it off and he read it wrong. And then I guess just trying to salvage what little loss he had left, he tried to run up into the line and get some positive yardage. I just happened to be standing there at the time and the ball popped out and I picked it up and ran. It was just kind of an interesting play, I don’t know that I’ve seen it before happen like that. But, hey, I’ll take it.”
Added Gregory: “Sometimes some funny stuff happens out there. This just happens to be one of them. Like I said, I’m glad I was on the positive side of the play and not the laughable side.”
Gregory said the defense is beginning to do better working together in games and that the Pats have been focusing on that over the course of the season.
“We’re starting to put it together now,” Gregory said. “We’ve been getting to know each other over the year. Obviously a lot of new faces, new guys playing with each other. Sometimes, when that happens, it takes a little time to build that chemistry. We’ve been working on that really hard in practice. Understanding certain guys’ tendencies, techniques, the characters of some of the players we are playing with. And I think it’s all starting to jell now.”
Gregory said Bill Belichick’s hands-on, detail-oriented coaching makes the team better.
“He has high expectations for us,” Gregory said. “The attention to detail, understanding the team you’re playing, the game plan that you’re going in with each and every week is really important. I think that’s a credit to the success that they’ve had here. The paying attention to the little things, the being in your playbook studying film. … I think the type of guys that they bring into this locker room is high-character guys. Guys that take pride in their profession. Guys that want to be in the film room studying, that really care about winning, and winning for the guy next to you. And I think that’s what this locker room is about.”
|Mark Sanchez gives new meaning to butt-end||11.22.12 at 10:24 pm ET|
EAST RUTHERFORD — Midway through the second quarter, with the Jets already down 14-0, Mark Sanchez tried to slide on a scramble near the line of scrimmage.
What happened next will go into NFL lore as one of the most humorous gaffes ever committed by a quarterback.
As he was going to the ground, he ran face-first into the rear end of his own lineman – Brandon Moore – and fumbled the ball. Steve Gregory scooped up the fumbled and ran 32 yards for the touchdown.
“I was thinking a different play in my head, just a mental error there,” Sanchez said of his aborted handoff. “So, as soon as I realized there was nobody to hand it to, I started to run to toward the line and tried to cover it up and just get down, and I slid right into Brandon Moore. That was kind of an unfortunate deal there. I’m not a big believer in luck but that was pretty unlucky. It was really too bad.”
On the ensuing kickoff, Joe McKnight fumbled the kickoff when Devin McCourty delivered a crushing hit. The ball popped up in the air and was hauled down by Julian Edelman, who returned it 22 yards for a touchdown.
But the head-into-butt moment will be the defining moment of a disastrous season for the Jets and perhaps Sanchez’ career.
|Boomer Esiason on D&C: Patriots lose a ‘major, major player’ with Rob Gronkowski injury||11.19.12 at 10:13 am ET|
CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan and talked about Rob Gronkowski’s injury, the Patriots’ 59-24 win over the Colts, and more news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
After the Pats’ commanding win Sunday, all focus shifted to Gronkowski, who reportedly broke his left forearm on an extra-point attempt while the Patriots were ahead by 35 points. Esiason said the loss would be big for the Patriots over the next few weeks.
“Gronkowski is a beast in the middle,” Esiason said. “He is impossible to cover. When he’s playing at the level that he played at yesterday, he’s a major difference-maker every time the Patriots play. With him out for the next maybe three to four to five weeks, maybe Aaron Hernandez comes back, maybe he’s ready to go. I don’t know. That is a major, major player that now is missing out of this Patriot offense. I know everybody else did their part yesterday, but certainly he is one of the guys that spearheads the success of that team. … We have never seen a guy who is that big, that talented, that athletic and to be able to make a play like that, to hold on to the ball while he’s getting hit in the back is pretty damn impressive.”
Added Esiason: “I would think that once Tom [Brady] found out, he probably was like, ‘I can’t believe this, I have to go down the next three or four weeks without legitimately my best player.’ ”
Keeping with the Patriot way, Bill Belichick did not pull his starters, including Gronkowski, out of the game even though New England far ahead and has a short week before the Thanksgiving game with the Jets on Thursday.
“I think it’s a part of the game,” Esiason said. “Belichick has always played it that way. Whether their team is 15-0 and there is a 16th game to be played, and they’ve already locked up home-field advantage, he’s playing his guys. He makes no excuses for that, he makes no apologies for that. It’s just the way it goes.”
The Patriots will have to plug the big void Gronkowski leaves as he recovers from the injury, and Esiason said he wasn’t sure exactly how they would go about this.
“A lot of this depends on where Aaron Hernandez is. I know he practiced on Friday,” Esiason said. “I thought when they first brought Aaron back, that was way too early. When you come back with the ankle injury he had suffered, you’re asking a lot for a guy to come back that quickly. … A lot of that will be determined by whether or not he is healthy. The other thing, too, remember, it’s a short week. So, I just don’t know if he is ready to go or not. … They’ll figure something out. If there’s a team that can do something on a short week and still be very good offensively, even without one of their best players, it’s going to be the New England Patriots.”
Overall, Esiason was impressed by the Patriots’ strong performance against the Colts on Sunday.
“Yeah, it was pretty impressive, no question,” Esiason said. “Julian Edelman was great. Certainly Tom Brady was more than efficient; he was actually surgical if you ask me. And then a couple of those interceptions that Andrew Luck threw were because of pressure that he was receiving. Anybody who watched the game can certainly see that Andrew Luck has all the skills to be one of the great ones, his time will definitely come. … I give Aqib Talib a lot of credit. He was in the right spot at the right time. A little bit of pressure forced the interception. To me, that was the point that really changed the whole dynamic of the game.”
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