Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NFL Rankings - Turkey Day Food

Well it’s just about that time to start preparing the food for tomorrow’s glutinous feast. Make sure you take some time to be thankful for all the good things you have going for you – healthy children (Congrats to Archie, his wife and new baby girl!), amazing family, great friends and the fact that there are 3 football games on Thanksgiving now. So after that final forkful of pumpkin pie that leads to your pants buttons screaming for mercy, there is still one more late game to watch while you finish off that bottle of wine or Fleishman’s Vodka.

Packers (-10) over LIONS
The loss of Al Harris is a major blow to the Packers defense, as his ability to rough up opposing WRs one-on-one allows Charles Woodson to blitz with abandon. The loss of Aaron Kampman is not as big of a loss, as he has struggled in the adjustment from a 4-3 end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. The Packers shouldn’t need either of them to slap around the Lions, who will be playing without last week’s hero, Matthew Stafford.

Raiders (+13.5) over COWBOYS
I don’t know what to make of the Cowboys offense, with only a garbage-time TD in Green Bay and one TD in Washington the past 2 weeks. I’m trying not to overreact to that or the Raiders miracle win over the Bengals, yet catching almost 2 TDs against a team that has only scored 2 TDs total the past two weeks seems like value. Especially now that Gradkowski gives Oakland some hope of moving the ball.

GIANTS (-6) over Broncos
This is a game the Broncos absolutely must win in order to right their ship. Then again, you could have said the same thing last week, and they completely laid an egg against the Chargers. Giants got things back on track by beating the Falcons in OT, and despite their running game still missing, they will be ready for a sucker punch from the Broncos – advice Jimmy Clausen needs to heed around the bars in South Bend these days.

To get you ready for the feast tomorrow, this week’s rankings are broken down into categories based on the essential parts of the Thanksgiving meal. The biggest climber this week is the Giants and the biggest sliders are the Broncos and the Texans.

The Turkey Category
It’s the star of the meal, and the most important centerpiece on the table. Whether you almost blow up your house by trying to deep fry it, or go the classic route in the oven, it is the biggest bird at the table, full of tryptophan to put you to sleep after you consume a couple pounds, doused in heavy gravy. These are the powerhouses of the league, the most consistent teams and in many instances, they are blowing out opponents, which can put you to sleep like the turkey.

1. Saints (last week: 1) – This week will go a long way to determining if they can run the table to 16-0 when they face off with the Patriots on Monday night.

2. Colts (2) – Another week, another improbable escape by the Colts. They have almost clinched their division already and will likely clinch home field in the AFC in the next 3 weeks, meaning Manning and company will be resting the final 3 weeks of the year.

3. Vikings (3) – Brett Favre and Brad Childress are the two biggest things since Salma Hayek, and so far this season, they have not been boobs. Favre is playing as well as he ever has in his career, is among the leaders for the MVP, and has the Vikings right on the tail of the Saints for home field advantage.

4. Patriots (5) – I guess all those “The Pats are Dead” articles from the first 4 weeks of the season may have been a little premature. Brady is back and throwing with zip on the ball, and he is right in sync with Welker and Moss.

5. Chargers (7) – They started the season like turkeys, but have now won 5 straight games and are showing they will be a dangerous out in the playoffs.

6. Cardinals (8) – Another streaky team that is cruising right now, playing like the team they were expected to be at the start of the season. There is concern if Warner has to miss time with his concussion, but the Cards have to hope that Leinart has matured like his draft classmate, Vince Young.

The Grandma’s Rolls Category
Every family has some food that is a tradition in their family that can never be replicated by anyone else. Maybe it’s pirogues, or polish sausage, or something else. In my family, it’s my grandma’s rolls, which can only be made correctly by my grandma. They are perfectly light and fluffy and it just isn’t the holidays without them. My mother is a tremendous cook, but she has tried to make them using the recipe given to her by my grandma (her mother), and they are not even close. It doesn’t make sense, but the rolls are among the best part of the holiday meals for me. Same with these teams that are maddening in that you know they are good, but you can’t figure them out for the life of you.

7. Bengals (4) – It was an improbable and awful loss to the Raiders, but they didn’t lose any ground in their division. Hopefully for them Cedric Benson will be back this week, and they need to bounce back in a big way.

8. Cowboys (10) – Like mentioned above, they have not been consistent enough, which is why Wade Phillips will not be coaching next year. Yet they are 7-3, leading their division and have a very winnable game against the Raiders on Turkey Day.

9. Steelers (6) – They need to fix their special teams immediately, as they have allowed 8 return TDs this season. It looks like Roethlisberger is going to be okay to play this week, but one hard hit could lead to Dennis Dixon taking regular snaps, which would end any hopes of a deep playoff run.

10. Packers (13) – Once again they catch the Lions on a week without Matthew Stafford or Calvin Johnson. Last time that resulted in a 26-0 thrashing, and that seems likely again on Thursday. It will be tough to adjust to losing Al Harris, and that could have an effect on the Packers ability to go deep into the playoffs.

11. Eagles (14) – Their young nucleus of explosive players (McCoy, D. Jackson, Maclin & Celek are all under 25) have been playing extremely well, and what’s been holding them back has been the sometimes inaccuracy of their veteran quarterback.

12. Giants (17) – The win over the Falcons kept the vultures at bay for another week, but the Giants don’t have many mulligans left in the bag. Eli stepped up and showed that heel recovered nicely during the bye week.

The Pumpkin Pie Category
The best desert of the holiday season, and nothing says Thanksgiving more than the pumpkin pie. It’s delicious and sweet, but you know it’s not that good for you and going to leave you with a rear end that starts to resemble Jennifer Love Hewitt before the weight loss. That also describes these teams that are good enough to beat anyone at any time, but they also can lose to anyone and they haven’t quite figured out how to win the big games.

13. Jaguars (16) – They are the least talked-about team in the league, and at 6-4 are well positioned to make the playoffs. To prove the lack of respect, they are underdogs against the 4-6 49ers this week in San Francisco.

14. Texans (9) – Kris Brown is not long for the league if he doesn’t figure out how to start kicking straight. First he misses the potential game winner against Indy, and follows it up by missing the game-tying kick against the Titans on Monday night. The Texans cannot make the leap without a reliable kicking game.

15. Falcons (12) – The Falcons were impressive in erasing a 14 point deficit in the 4th quarter against the Giants, yet couldn’t finish the deal and lost in OT. Michael Jenkins dropped an easy TD earlier in the game, and the defense couldn’t slow the Giants in overtime, which are the things that top teams do.

16. Ravens (15) – The learning process for Joe Flacco continues as I’m sure he quickly realized that he cannot make that pass and turn the ball over when you’re down 2, in field goal range, with under 2 minutes to go. Something tells me if he didn’t get the message, Ray Lewis will offer to give him the “Chris Brown” treatment until he gets it. Or he could stick it to him with the “Ray Lewis” treatment.

The Cranberry Sauce Category
Cranberry sauce is awesome, but only relevant at Thanksgiving. It’s not important in September or October, suddenly is all important in November, and then fades away by December. That is also a perfect description for these teams that were awful to start the year, and then got hot and everyone is wondering “Can they make a run at the playoffs?” But in the end, they will fade back to oblivion (or Bolivian if you ask Mike Tyson).

17. Titans (19) – Maybe if Jeff Fisher wanted to feel like a winner, he should have put on Vince Young’s jersey instead of the Peyton Manning one he chose. Young is still not a prolific passer, but combined with the unbelievable running of Chris Johnson, the Titans offense is churning.

18. Dolphins (20) – Ricky Williams proved he’s ready for his close-up with Ronnie Brown out for the rest of the year. However, the Dolphins are still limited until Ted Ginn or someone provides a deep threat to utilize the strong arm of Chad Henne.

19. Panthers (18) – The Panthers missed a golden opportunity to get into the thick of the playoff picture last week when they lost to the Dolphins in Charlotte. Now they head up to the Meadowlands to face the whining, loud-mouthed losers in the Meadowlands.

The Stuffing Category
Stuffing is another delicious treat at the Thanksgiving dinner table, but does anyone really know what’s in it? You probably don’t want to think about the ingredients and would rather go about your business naïve to what is really in there. Don’t lift up the covers and find out there is day old bread and turkey giblets – and if you don’t know what giblets are, don’t ask – and other odds and ends. It’s a fitting category for these teams that started off in pure stuffing eating bliss, but now the league has started to look at their ingredients.

20. Broncos (11) – Yikes, the Broncos have fallen faster than Kelly Clarkson, who incidentally should probably pass on the extra serving of stuffing tomorrow. And now they’re sniping at each other on the sidelines during games and in the locker room. They are 6-4, yet it feels like they’re closer to 4-6 and need a win on Thursday to slow the bleeding.

21. 49ers (22) – Have you heard any of the Mike Singletary comments in the past few weeks? It’s not really important what he says because he has the most intriguing and commanding voice this side of James Earl Jones. He always sounds extremely intense and majestic. Yet that hasn’t been enough to scare up more victories.

22. Jets (21) – Memo to Rex Ryan: SHUT UP. Stop whining, stop crying and stop talking smack. Your team has fallen out of the playoff picture, your quarterback has completely lost his mojo, and you haven’t done anything about it. It’s time to PUT UP & SHUT UP. Your routine has aged faster than Luke Wilson (have you seen him in those AT&T commercials with the fat face? What the…..?)

23. Bears (23) – Donovan McNabb was giving Jay Cutler a pep talk after the game last Sunday night? What was he telling him? “At least Rush Limbaugh won’t make fun of you because you’re white.” Or maybe “If it gets really bad, you can puke on the field.”

The Sweet Potatoes Category
I think the sweet potato is the most overrated food on the Thanksgiving table. Why is a potato suddenly a strangely bright shade of orange? I just don’t get it. I’ll stick to the regular potatoes that come from Idaho, and I’ll leave those crazy orange ones to the Oompa Loompas. These are the teams that are not very good, yet snuck up on some teams and have played their way out of the top 7 draft picks.

24. Chiefs (27) – It was an impressive win in overtime against the Steelers and the team appears to have bought into the fiery nature of Coach Haley since Larry Johnson left town. Is it a coincidence that the Chiefs are 2-0 without him and the Bengals are 0-1 with him?

25. Redskins (26) – The Redskin defense continued to try and keep the team interesting, holding the Cowboys to 1 touchdown. Yet that was enough to stop the Sherm Lewis “Bingo” offense. If you’re Jim Zorn, at what point do you just bring a lawn chair to sit on the sidelines?

The Crazy Relative Category
Everyone has one at all of their family gatherings. It may be an aunt, uncle, grandparent, parent, or heck, it might be you. The one who drinks too much, makes inappropriately non-politically correct comments, or is planning for the coming alien arrival. And yet, no matter what, they’re still family, so everyone is going to welcome them with open arms, and pour them another drink. Well, that’s Al Davis and the Raiders. And the league can’t do anything about it.

26. Raiders (31) – The team is still playing hard for Tom Cable, and the team definitely has more confidence with Gradkowski at quarterback judging by the comments after the win over the Bengals from various players saying how they appreciated the effort and confidence in the huddle.

The Brussels Sprouts Category

You have to have a well-rounded overflowing plate of food on Thanksgiving, and so that includes some greenery. The veggies have to be there, and we all know the one that has always scared us since we were little, and that was the dreaded brussels sprouts. Not surprisingly, we’re at the bottom of the league. Like the veggies, you don’t want to waste too much of your plate on these teams, and one helping is plenty. These teams stink, and even when they put up a bunch of points in a shoot out its against one another and it’s no different than saying broccoli is better than cauliflower – no one really cares, and it doesn’t mean all that much.

27. Bills (25) – New coach, new quarterback and same result. At least there was a Terrell Owens sighting, which is good because I was getting worried that he wasn’t going to be able to love him some him.

28. Lions (31) – Even when the Lions win, they lose. Stafford is the NFC offensive player of the week after his 5 TD performance in a win over the Browns, and now he’s out this week with a dislocated shoulder.

29. Seahawks (24) – This is the most uninteresting team in the league. They stink but they’re not really a laughingstock and there are no controversies. Let’s just move on.

30. Buccaneers (28) – Raheem Morris, in his first year as a head coach, fired his offensive coordinator during the preseason, and now reassigned his defensive coordinator this week. He has a young team with limited talent, but it is not a good reflection on his decision making.

31. Rams (29) – Quick quiz: who will be starting at quarterback for the Rams with Marc Bulger injured? Other than Kyle Boller’s mother, I’m guessing less than 1% of you knew that. The long season for first-year coach Steve Spagnuolo continues.

32. Browns (32) – Eric Mangini should worry less about the Lions faking injuries and more about himself faking that he will be employed in February. Brady Quinn looked good, granted against the Lions, when he was allowed to just get in the no huddle offense and sling it all over the field. That’s another revelation that doesn’t reflect well on Mangini who was faster on the trigger than Cool Hand Luke.

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