As week 4 comes to a close, check out the power rankings for this week along with some thoughts about sports in general!
- New England Patriots(last week: 1). There should be no real shock, despite the bye for the Pats. They just got to rest up for a week. Their path of destruction continues this weekend, and honestly with the way Brady is playing, I am not going to be picking against them for a long time. They are still the best team in the league.
- Arizona Cardinals(last week: 2). Yes they lost last week, and yes the Packers won. However, I said that the Cardinals were the best team in the NFC last week and I am sticking by that. Here is the thing, the Rams show up for divisional games. Just look at their week 1 game with the Seahawks. Who would have thought the Rams offense would have scored over 30 points. Point is, give the Cardinals a few more weeks before you put the Packers atop the conference.
- Green Bay Packers(last week:3). Speaking of the Packers, I would have expected them to win by more than 14 points over the struggling 49ers, but that’s alright. Having Aaron Rodgers makes me give you the benefit of the doubt. The Packers should be just fine, especially looking at their schedule. Look for the Packers to continue to dominate.
- Denver Broncos(last week 4). That defense is going to take the Broncos places this year. It is really taking the load of an older Peyton. If Ronnie Hillman can help get the running game, the Broncos could be truly dominating team. The Broncos do need to continue to operate from the shotgun or pistol if they want Peyton to be efficient this year. Doing this allows him to beat teams with his head, when he can’t beat them as well with his arm. The Broncos could be the top threat to the Pats crown in the AFC.
- Cincinnati Bengals(last week: 5). What can I say, the Bengals continue to look good. My favorite thing about the Bengals thus far, is their ability to win games in a variety of manners. in weeks 1 and 4 they rode Jeremy Hill to victory. But in weeks 2 and 3 they relied more on Andy Dalton in the passing game to lead them to victory. If Dalton is actually here to play this entire year, watch out for the Bengals to make some noise in the AFC.
- Seattle Seahawks(last week: 6). Yes, I have the same top six from last week, but I really do think that all of them are still that good. This Seahawks ranking is really more of my belief in their talent and system to turn their record around(even though they are 2-2), and make them look like a powerhouse. The one thing that worries me is the health of Marshawn Lynch. They need him to be healthy to have a truly special run game. He isn’t called Beast Mode for nothing.
- Atlanta Falcons(last week: 8). The Falcons really put a beating on the Texans last week, and I guess that we should not have been surprised. With DeVonta Freeman playing the way he is, combined with the dominant season Julio Jones is having so far, the Falcons offense looks formidable for the first time in a few years. Combine that with Dan Quinn turning their defense from mediocre to not awful really has made a lot of a difference. I said it last week, but Desmond Trufant is a very good player. The Falcons are looking formidable in the NFC South.
- Carolina Panthers(last week: NR, probably 11). Well well well, the Panthers are undefeated through 4 weeks, and Cam Newton is an early season MVP pick. Not bad for a team that went to the playoffs o na 7-8-1 record last year. Cam is definitely healthy, and Jonathan Stewart has remained healthy so far. They will need to include Greg Olsen more in the passing game due to lack of established WRs, but the offense should be fine. Their defense also looks pretty good. The Panthers look like a team that is on the inside track to a playoff spot through four weeks.
- New York Jets(last week 10). The Jets have looked particularly strong all year long on the defensive side of the ball, forcing turnovers and disrupting teams since week 1. Their strong secondary is a big reason why, but their formidable front four really helps. On offense, Chris Ivory, Brandon Marshall, and Eric Decker will help carry the offense no matter who the qb is. The Jets could make a push for a playoff berth.
- Buffalo Bills(last week: 7). The Bills still stand out to me as a team that should make the playoffs, but they are going to have games where they struggle and not look like a great team. The strength of this team is traditional Rex Ryan style: ground and pound. The Giants have had a good rushing defense thus far, and were able to limit what Karlos Williams could do. Once shady gets back, watch out for this Bills rushing attack. I will say this all season long, but the Bills will only go as far as Tyrod Taylor will let them. Granted, he had two tds called back by penalties, but that is sometimes the difference between winning and losing. If Taylor can be average, the Bills can be great.
Next 5 in no particular order: Dallas, Minnesota, Oakland, Indy, and St. Louis. Pittsburgh was so close to making the cut, but Vick looked kind of limited to me on Thursday, lets see what he looks like on a full week of practice.
Final week 4 thoughts: The Bears with Jay Cutler look pretty good. You can see signs of life on this Bears team that were missing last year. If I am Andrew Luck, despite having any resemblance of a choice, I have to have some doubts about my long-term future in Indy. Relax Colts fans, I don’t think he’s going anywhere. If the Colts offer him $25 million a year, he should take it. But this week, the franchise announced that they would like him to make changes to his playing style to protect his health in the future. How about they draft competent O-lineman, and a defense that can keep hold up their end of the bargain. Again, not suggesting Luck is going anywhere, but if I am him I am not happy with those comments.
Now for some non-NFL thoughts, these are a little long so please stay with me. I am also a little more emotional invested in some of these, so be prepared for that. Here we go:
- I rarely cry during sports, no particular reason why, I just don’t. But I would be completely lying if I told you that watching Ian Desmond reflect on his time as a National did not make me tear up a little bit. I am sure that a bunch of Nationals fans are with me on that. Desmond has been an emotional leader for the Nationals, as well as a clubhouse leader. He is the last Expos draft pick, now set to leave the only franchise he has ever known this offseason after not being able to work out an extension over the last few years. This year I really wanted the Nationals to win a World Series, not just because every fan should want their team to win a title, but because I wanted nothing more than to watch guys like Desmond to win a ring in Washington before he leaves this winter. Good luck Desmond, I wish you the best wherever you go, you will be missed in Washington.
- Speaking of the Nationals, with just one out left in their season, down only one run, Bryce Harper stepped to the plate. This is a man that should be on his way to an N.L. MVP next month(if you disagree, then you are wrong. Check out my week 3 review for the stats, he put together a historic season. Others had good seasons, but none were historically great). He had no extra motivation to get on base, but there he was, potentially the last batter of the Nats season, smoking a double. So, the supposed loafer, is still out there showing heart and hustle for all 162 games. The narrative that he does not play the game is boring, and it quite frankly shows that you don’t watch Harper play everyday.
- Final note on the Nats I promise. To everyone on the team(minus one closer who was traded for in late July), thank you for playing your hearts out. You may not have ended up where you had hoped, but it was still a joy. It was still a fun ride, and there are some memories I will never forget(also a huge thank you to Jordan Zimmermann, that no hitter might be one of the coolest moments I have seen in sports, it probably is in the top 5)arguably the most notable being those no-hitters by Max Scherzer, and Bryce’s season in general(not one moment, but it was fun to watch him). My Favorite? I was able to get to one game this year(only one for a variety of reasons, not because I don’t love the team), and it was when they came to Baltimore. Zimm pitched the game. At some point midway through the game, Bryce came up to bat, of course heavily booed by the fans. So what did he do?, he hit a bullet, and I mean a bullet, out to right-center field. It was calculated that ball left the park in under 2 seconds. My Dad and I were sitting in seats he got through work, and I could actually see the power he put on that ball, and the way it curved and just shot out of the park. It was unbelievable. Can’t wait until February.
- Since the Nationals won’t be in the playoffs, I am jumping on the Cubs bandwagon for as long as they are in the playoffs. Not just because I am a fan of every other Chicago sports team, but because many of my family members are Cub fans. They have their stories of heartbreak from the Cubs, but this team has given some a lot of hope. The one in particular that I am thinking of as they make this run, besides my mom of course, is one of my grandfathers. He died when I was young, but from just talking to Cubs fans, both in person and over social media, most have a deceased relative who loved the Cubbies but never got to witness them win it all. That is part of the magic of this Cubs team. One of the cooler things that I own is actually a small replica(ish) of Wrigley field that lights up that I got from my grandfather. You see, it is not just the fact that the city of Chicago and its fans want this team to win it all, be it now or in the near future, but there are also generations, in some cases multiple, who never got to witness the Cubs take the World Series. The spirit of those people will travel with this Cubs team until(if) they win it all. They are playing for more than just their fans. They are playing for countless others who poured their life and soul into this team, and who are still watching somewhere waiting for their beloved Cubs to finally do it. That is part of the reason why I am hopping on the Cubs bandwagon.
- My predictions for the MLB playoffs? I think the Cubs and Astros win their wild card games. I think the Cubs face the Dodgers in the NLCS and the Blue Jays play the Royals in the ALCS. The Cubs win the World Series in 6 games, clinching in Chicago. I have absolutely no confidence in some of those picks, especially if the Cardinals have a healthy Wainwright and Molina. But you know what? I am sticking with it.
- The Blackhawks also receive their championship rings on October 4th, and their season begins this Wednesday. I can’t wait to watch them defend their title. This team is exciting, they may have lost some key pieces from last year, but could be a better regular season team than last year. How far they go in the playoffs is TBD, but I am as excited as ever to watch the Blackhawks this year.
as always follow me on twitter @TVG_5
Ted Van Green
Spark Sports NFL Analyst