Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

Week 6 NFL Wrap-up: Quasi-substantiated Team Rankings

Week 6 NFL Wrap-up: Quasi-substantiated Team Rankings

Image via Baller-Style

Editor’s note: This fall, Sam Ennis and Nathan Schiller will cover the 2012 NFL season with a blog called “Vinatieri, Back to Kick It Off.” (If you don’t know why we’re calling it this, you obviously didn’t play excessive amounts of Madden ‘98.) Each week, they’ll exchange thoughts on the previous week’s games, examine developing and ongoing league trends, bring in guest writers to irrationally breakdown their favorite teams, and unravel many more features. Imagine the format to be like a radio show, except written. (In other words, not like a radio show at all.) The blog will run every Tuesday at Construction.

Hi, this is Nathan. Today, we’re taking a break from our usual format to do the first of what will probably be a couple of power rankings posts. I know, I know—everyone does power rankings, especially at this point in the season (when teams have played enough games to assert themselves by record), and especially during this season (when teams have played enough games to assert themselves by record, only no one knows who’s actually good, so the records seem kind of meaningless, which somehow lends more gravity to the power rankings). So yeah, this here’s your everyday cop-out column. But there’s a catch: prescient as we are, we decided to do this a week ago, before the crazy weekend jumbled everyone’s perceptions of the teams (though, to be fair, we made this decision based on fact that we’d be out of town and have no time to really follow the games and write a real post). And if that’s not good enough, here’s another catch: sure, we rank each team in its conference, but after we rank them, we base whatever we say about them on nothing at all. Hence the quasi-substantiatedness of what follows.

Note: I ranked the NFC, Sam ranked the AFC. Next time, we’ll switch.

NFC

1. New York Giants (4-2). They’ve already lost two division games (by a touchdown in the opener vs. the Cowboys, by two points on the road vs. the Eagles), and while they seem to have a hard schedule (Steelers, Packers, Saints, Falcons, Ravens), so does the rest of their division. Plus, they should beat the Cowboys (revenge game) and Eagles (assuming Vick’s injured or continues to give up the ball) the next time around and sweep the Redskins. Remember, so long as they have a healthy QB and D-line, they’re the most dangerous playoff team in their conference.

2. San Francisco 49ers (4-2). Whenever I think of the Harbaugh Brothers, I think about how strange it is to read about how smart they are, only to see them, each week, after a blown call, throwing temper tantrums. Obviously I could never understand the intensity of an NFL game, but you never see (or saw) Mike Tomlin or Tony Dungy or Bill Belichick act like a petulant child (well, maybe not Belichick). When Tom Coughlin does it, he just seems goofy, like a cartoon character. Anyway, as I wrote last week, the 49ers aren’t interesting until the playoffs.

3. Green Bay Packers (3-3). They haven’t yet won two games in a row. But if you were starting an expansion team in L.A., and all players in the league were available for only the first selection of the draft, Aaron Rodgers would be the unanimous pick, no?

4. Atlanta Falcons (6-0). I’m always wary of NFC South teams. They play in NASCAR and SEC country. But the Falcons are going to steamroll the worst division in football to get home field advantage. Win two home games and you make the Super Bowl. It’s the easiest path—unless, of course, you secretly suck, which they might.

5. Chicago Bears (4-1). In college, a friend of mine told me that, some years ago (like early 2000s), when he went to Soldier Field, fans shamelessly fucked with his kid cousin for having the audacity to wear Bengals gear to a Bears game. I always imagine those fans to be the kind of slightly overweight middle-aged men who have a wood-framed oil-on-canvas print of Coach Ditka hanging on the wall of their lusciously carpeted wood-paneled basement.

6. Seattle Seahawks (4-2). Granted I grew up in Pittsburgh, went to college in the Midwest, live on the East Coast, and have never been to western Washington State . . . but I have never met a Seattle Seahawks fan, which is the only NFL team I can say that about. Also, the way people overreact and underreact and basically find it impossible to just normally react to someone like Russell Wilson (averaging 170 passing yards per game) makes me wonder if the constant, skittish, and polarizing nature of media has some mystical correlation to its subject’s production rate. Does Peter King truly believe there’s a relationship between the respect Wilson paid Tom Brady, Wilson’s ability to beat Brady’s teammates for a couple of late touchdowns, and King’s ability to contextualize it for millions of NFL fans? Then again, Peter King is the guy who had a nice long pre-draft phone chat with Aaron Curry and then wrote that Curry was the kind of kid he’d want his daughter to marry.

7. Minnesota Vikings (4-2). Probably can’t make the playoffs in a division with the Bears and Packers, neither of whom they’ve played yet.

8. Arizona Cardinals (4-2). Started 4-0. Lost two straight. Averaging 200 passing yards and 83 rushing yards per game. Worst offensive line in football. Before you start feeling bad for Larry Fitzgerald, just remember that he’s in the midst of a $128.5 million-dollar contract. At some point, all his records will have been broken by the next great wide receiver who isn’t yet born, and the only time we’ll remember his name is when we catch an NFL Films special while channel surfing, and somewhere in the world his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be supported by the best healthcare, educated by the finest teachers, and getting the coolest Christmas toys. (I’m assuming he’s not going the Vince Young route and won’t start buying up Southwest Airlines tickets because he wants to be alone.)

9. Dallas Cowboys (2-3). The case for why the Cowboys are perhaps not bad: beat the Giants, defensible losses on the road to Seahawks and Ravens, pass for 288 yards/game (5th in NFL), allow 182 passing yards/game (1st). The real reason the Cowboys are definitely not good: Tony Romo fumbled the snap five years ago. Just like the Tuck Rule that helped enable Brady’s career is one of sports’ all-time greatest “what ifs?” the Romo Fumble is one of sports’ all-time most pointless “what ifs?” Because of Brady’s subsequent success, we feel like he would have become great even if the Pats didn’t win that game, although we understand the baselessness of that thought. Similarly, because of Romo’s relative lack of success, we wonder, pointlessly and without reason, if he would have become great had he just not made that boneheaded error. Final thought: what are the odds that Romo and Brady have ever talked on the phone?

10. St. Louis Rams (3-3). Next four weeks: Packers home, Patriots home, bye, at 49ers. Of course, scheduling doesn’t matter if you’re a good team. But the only way to find out if you’re a good team is by playing the games on the schedule. This is just a superfluous way of saying that we won’t know for certain that the Rams aren’t very good until they’re 3-6. Semi-interesting fan-related Rams thing: back in 2010, when Roethlisberger was going through his personal and legal, um, troubles, I went on the record (by which I mean I “told some friends”) saying that I would be happy if, as the rumors suggested, the Steelers traded him for the rights to draft Sam Bradford. Again, just semi-interesting to imagine.

11. Washington Redskins (3-3). Rather than say something wrong and/or ignorant about a team with an awesomely awesome quarterback that I haven’t yet watched much, I’m going to defer to later in the season, when we’ll have a special guest break down RG3 (or is it RGIII?) and the past, present, and future of the Redskins.

12. New Orleans Saints (1-4). Losses by 8, 8, 3, and 1 . . . beat the 3-3 Chargers . . . still pass for a lot of yards (327/game, 1st in the NFL) . . . nothing is less interesting than Bountygate. (BTW, is Nixon happy or upset that every NFL scandal is named after his own? I imagine he takes a little bit of offense.)

13. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3). The Eagles have scored 103 points. Only Indy (100), Dallas (94), Carolina (92), Oakland (87), and Jacksonville (65; yikes) have scored less{{1}}. In a related story, while all these teams have played five games, the Eagles have played six.

14. Detroit Lions (2-3). Don’t care.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3). Care less.

16. Carolina Panthers (1-4). Rather than say something wrong and/or ignorant about a team with a possibly-not-as-awesomely-awesome-as-we-thought quarterback that I don’t care to watch that much, I’m going to defer to later in the season, when we’ll have a special guest explain what the hell the deal is with Cam Newton and the Panthers.

AFC

1. Houston Texans (5-1). Brian Cushing blew out his ACL last week and the Texans subsequently gave up six touchdowns to Aaron Rogers, I’m pretty sure that I saw Krusty the Klown getting reps as their second wide receiver, and Jonathan Joseph has somehow gone from the best non-Revis cornerback in the league last year to deserving of the nickname “Smoke Monster” this year. And yet because every team in the NFL sucks this year, they’re still the best in the AFC (a bad loss to a desperate Green Bay team isn’t the end of the world). Speaking of Cushing, he tested positive for steroids and also once took this picture. Guilty.

2. Baltimore Ravens (5-1). Although Baltimore has the weapons on offense, they just lost their best cornerback and their not-so-secretly-not-so-good spiritual leader for the season. Add that to the fact that the Ravens simply cannot stop the run under any circumstances (26th in the league), and they might be in trouble. Also, every time I see this commercial, I ad lib hilarious exchanges like “Favorite murder weapon? Knife” and “Favorite type of murder? Accessory, to” much to the delight of fellow bar patrons. I suggest you do the same.

3. New England Patriots (3-3). Despite the fact that they have three losses and that I already ranked the Texans and Ravens ahead of them, I still wholeheartedly believe that the Patriots are the best team in the NFL and will win the Super Bowl. Think about it this way: in Brady’s entire tenure with the Pats, he’s had one year with a running game you could consider even half decent (Corey Dillon in 2005), has never had a tight end/wide receiver combo like he does now, and has never played with so many young guns on defense. Basically, Brady and Belichick have willed the Patriots to five of the past twelve Super Bowls out of nowhere, and the Pats probably have their most talented team yet. I hate everyone.

4. Denver Broncos (3-3). Great win against the imploding Chargers this week, although that’s only if you consider being down 24 points to be great. Blah blah blah, Peyton Manning, etc. etc. etc. Demayrius Thomas (who looks just like Marlo Stanfield from The Wire), oui oui oui Von Miller is going to the Hall of Fame (where I hope he wears his draft day outfit). But Denver’s secondary (apologies to Champ Bailey) and running game are utter tripe, and these guys will be lucky to get bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Also, only two teams in the AFC have winning records, which is unfathomable.

5. Miami Dolphins (3-3). I could give you reasons why I’m a complete asshole for picking Miami to be the worst team in the NFL this year. But you know what? Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to translate new head coach Joe Philbin’s horrifying Hard Knocks performance into dire predictions for the team, or the only “pundit” clowning on Ryan Tannehill. Whatever, we were all wrong: Brian Hartline is a stud, Reggie Bush might be good, Cameron Wake is the best defensive player in the NFL not named J.J. Watt, Sean Smith is doing an amazing job taking over as #1 corner for the departed (and apparently insane) Vontae Davis, and my girlfriend is perpetually pissed off that she always starts Bush in fantasy and the Dolphins let his scrubby backups poach his touchdown runs. Could the Fins honestly make the playoffs?

6. San Diego Chargers (3-3). I currently live in downtown San Diego. As my girlfriend (a rabid Redskins fan) and I walked to the local NFL bar for the games last Sunday, she disgustedly pointed out that 1) it was ten minutes to gametime and there wasn’t a single Chargers jersey in sight and 2) the local bars were completely silent. She was right: in Pittsburgh, we start wearing our Steelers jerseys around Thursday, and hit bars by Friday afternoon. San Diego has no real fans, and if the team moved to L.A., the collective response would probably sound something like, “Whoaaaa, braaaaaaah, zoooooood, let’s hotbox my dad’s BMW and fail out of UCSD for the third time!” This city doesn’t deserve a team.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3). Despite the fact that I spent an entire column halfheartedly arguing to the contrary, I wish I could be convinced that a team with Ben Roethlisberger and that insane stable of wide receivers can turn things around. But I can’t. The Steelers haven’t drafted a legitimate defensive player since Timmons/Woodley, have blown three straight fourth quarter leads, have inexcusable losses to horrifying Tennessee and Oakland teams, and would probably give up a 100 yard rushing game to Tiki Barber, right now. But hey, at least our running back is psychotic and our alleged nose tackle of the future went Incredible Hulk on neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Everything’s coming up Tomlin!

8. Cincinnati Bengals (3-3). Despite the fact that A.J. Green is going to haunt my dreams for years, I can’t take the Bengals seriously for three reasons: first, Andy Dalton doesn’t have a soul and therefore isn’t good. Second, I watched the Bengals on Hard Knocks where they sent the morbidly obese assistant coach to inform players they’d been cut in the middle of the night, which was some trifling shit. Third, they lost to the Browns. Stewie Griffin might as well be discussing the Bengals.

9. Buffalo Bills (3-3). Despite having a front four of Kyle/Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, and the (now injured) Mark Anderson, the Bills are somehow giving up 175 rush yards a game. As for Ryan Fitzpatrick, well, I think Charlie Murphy said it best. The Bills are the classic (non-Carolina Panthers) example of what happens when you spend too much money on middling players: you get yourself stuck in a perpetual 7-9 to 9-7 record, where you can never bottom out and pick a stud and are never good enough to make the playoffs.

10. New York Jets (3-3). When the Steelers played the Jets in Week Two, there was virtually no doubt in my mind that the Steelers (who are absolutely terrible) would trounce the Jets, which they did. I’d say this nicely sums up this dysfunctional bunch of showboating underachievers. J-E-T-S TOP FIVE PICK!

11. Indianapolis Colts (2-3). Despite sucking like a vampire prostitute this week, Andrew Luck has thus far acquitted himself fairly well, Reggie Wayne (again, the only reason I know this is that he’s on my girlfriend’s fantasy team) has completely rejuvenated his career, Coby Fleener sounds like he should be related to Austin Collie just because, and they beat the Packers. Still, it’s hard to support Bruce Arians, the ex-Steelers offensive coordinator who instituted our vaunted “run for no gain, run for no gain, sack” offense and who’s now the Colts’ offensive coordinator/interim head coach. Fire Bruce Arians.

12. Tennessee Titans (2-4). They’d be 0-5 but for Detroit’s epically bad special teams and the inability of the Steelers to defend against the run and the pass, play offense, and play special teams. Through five games, erstwhile fantasy genius Chris Johnson is averaging 3.3 yards a carry and has rushed for less than 25 yards in three of five games, but that’s not his fault. Rather than dwell on this shitshow of a team, here’s a video of an adorable bulldog puppy.

13. Oakland Raiders (1-4). The team with the worst secondary in NFL history, and who legitimately spent their first pick in the 2011 draft on a fifth-round talent because his uncle played for the Raiders, has one win; it’s against the Steelers. Let’s move on.

14. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5). Last week, the disturbingly square-jawed Matt Cassel (note, a random Google image search for “Matt Cassel dreamboat” linked us to our friends at Get to Our Game) went down hard with a concussion, and the long-suffering Chiefs fans put down their barbecue ribs and their legitimate rape detectors to cheer heartily. But in defense of the fans, imagine if your team had five legit players on a fifty two-man roster (Jamaal Charles, Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry, and Dwayne Bowe, two of whom have linguini for ACLs) and just trotted out Brady “Brozilla” Quinn at quarterback? Your anger would be outstripped only by your cholesterol. Welcome to Kansas City!

15. Cleveland Browns (1-5). Despite having beaten Cincinnati fairly convincingly this week, I’m still not sure that these guys have won a game in my lifetime. Cleveland is so dysfunctional that they could teleport the entire universe back in time to 2000 and draft Tom Brady with the entire universe knowing that he’s Tom Brady, and he’d somehow last two seasons in the league before getting sent to prison for having sex with a wildebeest and ending his career with a 12.3 QBR. This video is the Browns franchise in a nutshell. So’s this.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4). In honor of the approximately seven good plays this team has run this year, here’s a haiku:

Blaine Gabbert is rich
Millionaire quarterback
I’m better at sports.

[[1]]Kansas City just missed the cutoff at 104. However, the Chiefs have given up 183 points, for a -79 point differential, which would be the worst in the league, were it not for the Tennessee Titans’ glorious -90.[[1]]