It’s the third installment of TDR’s weekly NFL power rankings. And we actually have some movement for once! Because gosh darnit, I wasn’t going to go a second week in a row without shaking things up.
1. Packers (11-0; Last week: 1) — Does Aaron Rodgers already have the MVP award in the bag or what? Just look at those numbers. But then again, Andrew Luck practically had the Heisman in the bag until a shaky game a few weeks ago, losing at home in an uber-important game with Oregon. The Packers do have four more games against teams currently with winning records. Here’s the difference, though: Aaron Rodgers plays in the NFL. Andrew Luck plays college football, a sport in which your season is often unfairly scrutinized based on what you — individual or team — did in your worst game. Am I saying Andrew Luck won’t win the Heisman? No. Am I saying Aaron Rodgers won’t win the MVP? Uhhh, seriously, have you seen his numbers? Am I asking too many questions? Yes?
2. Ravens (8-3; LW: 3; +1) — The thing that really bugged me about the Ravens on Thanksgiving against the Niners was their unwillingness to pass the ball. Going up against the team with the top-ranked rush defense, the Ravens handed the ball off 28 times, but against that same team’s lousy, 28th-ranked pass defense, the Ravens threw the ball just 23 times. I understand running to set up the pass, but what were the Ravens waiting for? (Realizing who the Ravens’ QB is.) Oh, right.
3. Steelers (8-3; LW: 2; -1) — Man, did the Steelers look ugly Sunday night, barely beating a team quarterbacked by Tyler Palko, a guy who couldn’t even make it in the UFL and CFL (which I think makes the Chiefs either Palko’s Island or Sideways Universe?). But what kept the Pittsburgh from losing was its D, which forced four turnovers, including a late interception of Palko that sealed the win. Reason No. 15,340 why, if I could only chose one, I’ll take a stacked defense over a stacked offense on my team.
4. Texans (8-3; LW: 5; +1) — Thoroughly, thoroughly bummed Leinart came out of Sunday’s game injured. I sincerely thought it was going to be the start of the Matt Leinart career revival. I know get on him on here for being such a bro and partying a lot. That’s because he is a bro who parties a lot. Truth is, though, that I’ve always liked Leinart, starting with his days at USC. (Except when he was caught canoodling with Paris Hilton in Vegas. That just made him look like the alpha douche.) And he was actually playing well in Sunday’s game before he got hurt. Now he’s out for the year, and the Texans look to TJ Yates, whose name makes him sound like he should be character on Grey’s Anatomy. Unless, you know, they sign He Who Must Not Be Named.
5. Patriots (8-3; LW: 6; +1) — The Patriots get the profound fortune of playing the winless Colts this week. So I think it’s safe to say we can mark the Pats down for being 9-3. That said, gambling degenerates should be privy to this tidbit as dictated by history: take the Colts and the points. The Pats opened as 21-point favorites over the Colts. This is only the 10th time since 1978 that a team has been favored by at least 20 points (the last five of which had New England as favorites). However, underdogs are 7-0 against the spread in the last seven instances. And if the Colts were to incredibly pull off the upset and get their first win of the year, it’d be just another memorable wrinkle to this longtime rivalry.
6. 49ers (9-2; LW: 4; -2) — You can say the Niners had next to no time to prepare for the Ravens. They had to play on a Thursday on top of traveling literally coast to coast. The NFL did kind of screw the Niners by making them go through that just so they could have a storyline (the Har-bowl) played out for a national audience, something that otherwise could have had the same effect without giving an edge to one team if done on a Sunday night. Fine. Those are all valid points. But still, the Niners were the ones, knowing they had a big game in four days, who the Sunday before played first-string and primary rotation guys on offense all the way through a 23-7 rout against the Cardinals, a game in which the Niners ran a franchise-record 87 plays. You could say the Niners lost that game because they were beat up. But I’m pretty sure the Ravens’ D was going to dominate Alex Smith no matter what.
7. Saints (8-3; LW: 7) — Convincing win yesterday. Brees had a hell of a game. My fantasy team would like to thank him for the 45-point performance. Brees is definitely in the top three NFL active quarterbacks discussion along with Rodgers and Brady. But anybody who says Drew Brees is on Aaron Rodgers’ or Tom Brady’s level is foolish and/or owns a Brees jersey. All three are unquestionably prolific passers. No team would be unsatisfied with any one as its quarterback. But in comparison Brees is too sloppy with the football to be considered on the highest echelon with those two. Take a look at their career TD-to-INT ratios: Brees (1.83) sorely lacks behind Rodgers (3.33) and Brady (2.55). Even when you take away Brees’ forgettable first three years in San Diego — when things didn’t “click” for him, you could argue — he still trails the other two with a 2.08 ratio. So there you go, Drew Brees is the Khloe of the three.