Week 4 2008 Power Rankings
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 22, 2008
By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts culture vulture
Didn't we see this same movie last year?
A team with Super Bowl glory in its past loses a heartbreaker in the playoffs, adds some new pieces to the pigskin puzzle and enters the new season as a popular favorite to win it all. Then, in the first few games, it proves that all of the hype was justified.
Meet the 2008 Cowboys, a potential blockbuster if we've ever seen one.
Of course, like all sequels, they aren't quite as good as the original. The 2007 Patriots opened their season by absolutely dominating the opposition, which the Cowboys haven't quite done, other than their 28-10 win over a Cleveland team that, in retrospect, looks pretty bad (Dallas also beat Philly by four and Green Bay by 11). But Dallas, at the very least, is a solid No. 1 after three weeks.
As for the Patriots, their attempt at a remake is looking more like a direct-to-DVD release. New England falls out of the Dominant Dozen for the first time in the five-season history of the Cold, Hard Football Facts after its stunning 38-13 beatdown by the dreadful Dolphins. Two thumbs down from the critics.
Indianapolis also exits the Top 12 for the first time in CHFF history. Strange days indeed.
New York (NFC version) is No. 2, followed closely by two halves of the perfect coin – Tennessee and Denver. They have become the new frontrunners in the upside-down AFC.
Tennessee allows 9.8 PPG; Denver scores 38.0 PPG. Now, if they can just do something about their respective passing problems. Tennessee's passer rating is 76.7 (10 teams are above 100), while Denver's defensive passer rating is 114.9 (30th).
The real battle is at the bottom, where St. Louis, Kansas City and Detroit can all lay claim to the cellar. Maybe they should fight it out amongst each other, with only the survivor remaining in the league.
Now that's something we'd pay to see on the big screen.
On to the rankings...
THE DOMINANT DOZEN
(3-0 overall, 2-0 vs. Quality Opponents; previous rank: same)
Last week: The Cowboys piled up 453 yards of offense against a good Green Bay defense and won 27-16 at Lambeau Field.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Dallas DB Anthony Henry had two sacks in the win for Dallas. In his 104 previous NFL games, he had a total of zero sacks.
Week 4 matchup: vs. Washington. In 94 games all-time against the Redskins, the Cowboys have never been shut out. Dallas leads the series 56-36-2, but is 0-2 in the playoffs against Washington (1972 and 1982 NFC title games).
2. N.Y. GIANTS
(3-0 overall, 1-0 vs. Quality Opponents; previous rank: same)
Last week: The G-Men pulled out a 26-23 OT win over Cincinnati when Bengals coach Marvin "Don't Call Me Shanahan" Lewis went for the chip-shot field goal to send it to OT instead of going for the victory.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: New York is third in yards per game (400.3) and sixth in yards per game allowed (252.3). All seven of their TDs this year have been scored by different players.
Week 4 matchup: Bye. Then, the Giants host Seattle and play at Cleveland, two games that looked a lot tougher in August.
(3-0 overall, 0-0 vs. Quality Opponents; previous rank: 6)
Last week: CB Cortland Finnegan's fourth INT of the season (and subsequent 99-yard return) led the Titans to a 31-12 win over Houston.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Kerry Collins went over the 35,000-yard mark in Tennessee's win Sunday; he's thrown touchdown passes to Rae Carruth, Don Beebe, Rocket Ismail, Randy Moss, Tiki Barber, Pete Metzelaars and Bob Christian, among others.
Week 4 matchup: vs. Minnesota. The last time Tennessee hosted the Vikings, it was 1998 and the team was still known as the Oilers. It was also the last game of Minnesota's great 15-1 regular season, which concluded with a 26-16 victory.
(2-1 overall, 1-1 vs. Quality Opponents; previous rank: 9)
Last week: The Eagles helped the NFC improve to 7-3 against the AFC on the young season, beating Pittsburgh 15-6 at home.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Donovan McNabb is ninth in the NFL with a passer rating of 102.8; he might be leading the league if it weren't for Philly's league-high 11 drops.
Week 4 matchup: at Chicago on Sunday night. The first Bears-Eagles game was played 75 years ago and ended in a 3-3 tie.
(3-0 overall, 0-0 vs. Quality Opponents; previous rank: 7)
Last week: Despite losing the turnover battle and allowing New Orleans to pile up 502 yards and 27 first downs, the Broncos managed to take a 34-32 win over the Saints.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Broncos are averaging a whopping 6.8 yards a play, which is great except for the fact that they're also allowing 6.8 yards a play.
Week 4 matchup: at Kansas City. It seems doubtful that the Chiefs organization will be warning its fans about being too rowdy for this one.
6. GREEN BAY
(2-1 overall, 0-1 vs. Quality Opponents; previous rank: 4)
Last week: The Packers added 68 yards in penalties to their league-high total of 248 in a 27-16 home loss to Dallas.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Not only has Aaron Rodgers not thrown an interception in 99 attempts this year, but he hasn't even had a single ball tipped at the line.
Week 4 matchup: at Tampa Bay. The "Battle of the Bays" was more fun when both teams were terrible together in the old NFC Central. From 1983 to 1988, neither team had a winning record (combined 52-125-1 in games not against each other), but the more respectable Packers won 8 of 12 meetings.
(2-1 overall, 0-1 vs. Quality Opponents; previous rank: 3)
Last week: Steelers QBs were sacked nine times in a 15-6 loss to Philadelphia.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: In their last seven September games, the Steelers have allowed 12.1 PPG. In their last seven December games, they have allowed 24.6 PPG.
Week 4 matchup: vs. Baltimore on Monday night. The Steelers were hoping to see the 2007 Ravens defense in this one, not the 2008 version that is allowing just 3.0 yards per offensive play.
(3-0 overall, 0-0 vs. Quality Opponents; previous rank: 11)
Last week: The Bills turned in a comeback that seasons are built around, scoring 10 points in the final 6:22 to beat the Raiders 24-23 and stay undefeated.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Tackle Langston Walker, who allowed 10½ sacks and was whistled for eight penalties with the Raiders in 2006, has only allowed two sacks and been flagged three times in 19 starts with Buffalo.
Week 4 matchup: at St. Louis. Things change over the course of the season, but the Bills have only two more games the rest of the way against teams currently residing in the Dominant Dozen (vs. San Diego in Week 7 and at Denver in Week 16).
(2-0 overall, 0-0 vs. Quality Opponents; previous rank: 17)
Last week: The Ravens quietly stayed perfect, as running backs Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain combined for 166 yards from scrimmage – just three fewer than the total net yards for the opposing Browns – in a 28-10 win.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: In 2007, the Ravens allowed 15 plays of 40 yards or longer, second-most in the league (New Orleans, 17). Through two games this year, the longest play against the Baltimore defense has been 24 yards.
Week 4 matchup: at Pittsburgh on Monday night. It seems like these two teams have been battling it out for the AFC North crown for years, but they haven't finished 1-2 since 2004 (when Pittsburgh was 15-1 and Baltimore was 9-7).
(2-1 overall, 0-0 vs. Quality Opponents; previous rank: 8)
Last week: The Panthers were whistled for 12 penalties and mustered just 204 yards of offense in a 20-10 loss in Minnesota.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jake Delhomme is 25th in completion percentage (57.1 percent), but don't blame his receivers – they haven't dropped a single pass all season.
Week 4 matchup: vs. Atlanta. Despite having fought in the same division for all 14 years, the Panthers and Falcons have yet to play a truly important game; they've never finished over .500 in the same season. So yes, with first place on the line, this could be the biggest game in the history of the series.
11. TAMPA BAY
(2-1 overall, 1-0 vs. Quality Opponents; previous rank: 16)
Last week: The Buccaneers overcame a 4-2 turnover differential (and a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit) to shock Chicago in OT.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: QB Brian Griese was never asked to throw the ball much in starting stints with Denver and Tampa (the first time around), averaging about 30 passes a game. But since the beginning of 2007, he's thrown an average of 40 passes per game (helped significantly by his 69-pass effort Sunday).
Week 4 matchup: vs. Green Bay.
12. SAN DIEGO
(1-2 overall, 0-2 vs. Quality Opponents; previous rank: 14)
Last week: Antonio Cromartie had two INTs and a TD, Philip Rivers threw for three scores and the Chargers generally made the Jets their bitch, 48-29.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Including last year's playoffs, LaDainian Tomlinson has gone seven straight starts without a 100-yard rushing effort; in 2006, he had a run of nine straight starts with 100 yards or better.
Week 4 matchup: at Oakland. Four of San Diego's next five are on the road.
THE TEPID TWENTY
13. INDIANAPOLIS (1-2, previous rank: 10) — What in the name of Jack Trudeau is wrong with Peyton Manning (passer rating of 73.1)?
14. ARIZONA (2-1, previous rank: 12) — Edgerrin James has been among the NFL's leaders in runs for loss in each of his two years in the desert, but he's only been stuffed for a loss two times in 62 attempts this year (second-lowest percentage of 2008 behind Atlanta's Michael Turner).
15. NEW ENGLAND (2-1, previous rank: 5) — Randy Moss has caught just 19 passes for 257 yards and two TDs over his past six games (including playoffs).
16. MINNESOTA (1-2, previous rank: 19) — They know it's coming, and it doesn't matter: Adrian Peterson is averaging 5.7 YPA on 33 first-down carries this season.
17. JACKSONVILLE (1-2, previous rank: 21) — Brian Witherspoon, a rookie return man out of Stillman College, is averaging 32.0 yards per kick return and 13.0 per punt return. Wait, isn't Stillman College where Dwayne Wayne and Denise Huxtable went in "A Different World"?
18. WASHINGTON (2-1, previous rank: 20) — The Redskins have compiled amazingly average numbers thus far, ranking between 12th and 16th in rushing yards per game and passing yards per game – both on offense and defense. Oh, and don't expect any immediate improvement, as their next two tilts are at Philadelphia and at Dallas.
19. SAN FRANCISCO (2-1, previous rank: 22) — A sign of the new times: Punter Andy Lee is on pace to boot it just 53 times, after averaging 99.8 punts over his first four seasons with the 49ers.
20. CHICAGO (1-2, previous rank: 13) — Rookie running back Matt Forte is averaging 136.3 yards from scrimmage through three games. To put that in perspective, Jim Brown, the NFL's all-time leader, averaged 125.5 yards from scrimmage per game.
21. NEW ORLEANS (1-2, previous rank: 15) — Sometimes it's good to add a dash of defense to go with your delicious offensive stew.
22. ATLANTA (2-1, previous rank: 25) — Backup RB Jerious Norwood must wonder why he's not making $10 million a year. After averaging 6.4 YPC in 2006 and 6.0 YPC in 2007, he is averaging 6.0 (31 carries for 186 yards) through three games this season. Norwood has more yards rushing than No. 1s Ryan Grant (166), Brian Westbrook (161), Steven Jackson (159) and Reggie Bush (152).
23. SEATTLE (1-2, previous rank: 27) — New featured back Julius Jones is third in the NFL with 312 yards rushing; of the top 20 in that category thus far, only seven were starting RBs for their current teams in 2006.
24. N.Y. JETS (1-2, previous rank: 18) — Even the impartial passer rating formula is a Brett Favre rumpswab: A garbage TD and a high completion percentage gave him a 92.5 rating despite two INTs and a raw 6.4 YPA.
25. OAKLAND (1-2, previous rank: 24) — Lane Kiffin just plain needs a hug.
26. MIAMI (1-2, previous rank: 31) — The last time someone ran for four TDs and threw one, as Ronnie Brown did for Miami on Sunday, you could buy a 13-room home with two barns in New Jersey for $20,000 (1923, Paddy Driscoll).
27. CINCINNATI (0-3, previous rank: 29) — The Bengals have one sack and no interceptions in three games.
28. HOUSTON (0-2, previous rank: 23) — Matt Schaub had a good beginning in Houston, winning three of his first five starts as the team's new franchise QB in 2007. But he's 1-7 in his last eight starts, with five TD passes and 10 INTs.
29. CLEVELAND (0-3, previous rank: 26) — One indication of the problems plaguing the Browns: Derek Anderson has thrown 55 times to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow for a total of 22 completions and 190 yards (3.45 yards per attempt).
30. DETROIT (0-3, previous rank: 28) — What's left to say? Dating back to last year, the Lions have been outscored 287-148 over their past eight games (1-7 record).
31. ST. LOUIS (0-3, previous rank: 32) — Despite being last in third-down conversions on offense (22 percent) and on defense (51 percent allowed), Scott Linehan is still inexplicably listed as the team's head coach.
32. KANSAS CITY (0-3, previous rank: 30) — According to unofficial reports from the press box, salty defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham swore 1,529 times during Sunday's 38-14 loss to Atlanta. At least he doesn't coach offense; the Chiefs have scored 14 points or fewer in 13 of their last 19 games.
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