Not a whole lot of change this week given none of the teams in last week’s rankings lost. But nonetheless, it’s time once again for me to break down who I think are the seven best teams in the NFL. These are Week 12’s Sexy Seven:
1. Packers (10-0; Last week: 1) — Struggling against the Bucs is the last thing a team that many expect to go undefeated wants. And the chances they go undefeated are presumably the focus on the Packers now, especially with the annual stories about those ornery, aging ’72 Dolphins farts and their death clutch on the identity of being the only undefeated NFL team creeping into the news again. While people get lost on the potency of Green Bay’s offense, I won’t be surprised when their 30th-ranked defense bites them in the butt. By allowing an average of 21.2 points (a stat that’s watered down because of playing the lowly Rams), the Packers are almost daring teams to try to outscore them. With the Pack’s average margin of victory being 14.3 points, bad defense has hardly mattered this year, which is why they still claim my top spot. But all it’s going to take for it to finally matter is an off day from Rodgers. And what a nightmare that would be if it finally comes in the playoffs.
A play by LaGarrette Blount (OOO!) Sunday exemplifies the Packers’ defensive woes. You’ve seen it by now. Blount scored in the second quarter on a 54-yard scamper. Along the way, he bruised and plowed his way through of six (six!) would-be tackles by Packers defenders. Green Bay’s rush defense ranking (12th) would suggest it is somewhat decent against the run, but I have a theory for this: the Packers hardly have to face the run because after their offense jumps out to a quick lead, teams abandon the run in order to keep up. By the way, the Pack also let Josh Freeman, who’s averaged 251.6 yards per game this year, throw for a season-high 342 yards.
2. Steelers (7-3; LW: 2) — The Steelers play the Chiefs this week. The Chiefs played on Monday Night Football last night. As such, Steelers linebacker LaMar Woodley came out with an excellent tweet beforehand: “Got some #MNF studying 2 do 2nite!! tyler ‘dont call me shane falco’ palko makes his 1st career start lol.” I think if you’re Tyler Palko, it can’t be a good sign for your career if your name makes people think of a badly acted Keanu Reeves character from a movie about sucky football players. And if you thought Palko sucked against the Patriots, wait until he sees the Steelers, who actually have a defense.
3. Ravens (7-3; LW: 3) — After the Ravens eeked out a win over the Bengals, a team I’ve openly complained on here isn’t as good as their record makes people believe, I considered dropping them down a spot. But I looked closer at the game and saw they really only played poorly in the fourth quarter, when they let Cincy right back into the game. The Bengals aren’t a great team, but they’re certainly much better than the Cardinals, who the next-ranked team beat up on last week. The next rankings for sure will have movement in either the three or four spot with the Niners and Ravens set to battle on Thanksgiving.
4. 49ers (9-1; LW: 4) — The Ravens haven’t completely played stellar since defeating the Steelers two weeks ago, struggling at times against lesser teams. So, Thanksgiving can be the Niners’ chance to prove they’re for real.
But the Niners need to be better in the red zone. This became apparent to me watching their game vs. the Cards last Sunday. Before the Niners even had a touchdown, they attempted six field goals, three of which were from within the red zone. It was uncomfortable to see such an inability to score a TD after coming within 20 yards of it (one time as close as four yards out). Turns out the Niners are in the bottom five when it comes to touchdown scoring percentage in the red zone. Even the winless Colts are better than them, and their quarterback looks like Phil Collins in a blonde lady wig. What’s more, the six field goal attempts before a touchdown meant they had total trouble with moving the football in the opponent’s part of the field. Perhaps unsurprisingly, overall the Niners are inept in third-down situations, ranking sixth-worst when it comes to third-down conversions. Red zone troubles. Third-down troubles. No wonder David Akers leads the league in field goals made. He can thank the dopes on offense for that.
5. Texans (7-3; LW: 5) — The Texans were on a bye last week, but I wanted so badly to see them play, namely because of Matt Leinart. If you’re late to the program, the once-heralded Leinart was elevated to the starting quarterback spot after Matt Schaub was lost for the year to injury. I have a feeling Leinart is serious about this new opportunity to reignite his career. Bro probably spent the bye week watching extensive game film, getting his timing down with Andre Johnson and going through meetings for once without taking swigs of Four Loko from his thermos.
I think Leinart can flourish in this new role. I really do. The key is that he’s hardly going to have the pressure squarely on him. He has the league’s best defense backing him up and the second-best rush offense to fall back on. A stout defense and a top-form running game — those are two things he never had in Arizona.
6. Patriots (7-3; LW: 6) — So, last night on Monday Night Football the guy who hung out (no pun intended) with a pornstar scored two touchdowns and the guy who allegedly groped a woman while dressed as a cop on Halloween scored on a 72-yard punt return touchdown. Something tells me we would have already heard these stories if people used the Internet back during the Cowboys dynasty in the ’90s. You know, when they were snorting cocaine and receiving lap dances just as often as they were winning games.
7. Saints (7-3; LW: 7) — Did you know the Superdome is now sponsored by Mercedes-Benz and has been renamed the Mercedes-Benz Superdome? I just found that out doing research for this post. That just seems like an odd pairing: A sexy car and a run-down stadium. To me it has the same effect if Daihatsu became the name sponsor for Cowboys Stadium. Anyway, the Saints had a bye last weekend but have tough remaining schedule. They’re only a game up in the standings over Atlanta, which has just two games left against .500-or-better teams, including the Saints. The Saints, however, have four such games left. But at least they get the Falcons in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome!