Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NFL Power Rankings - College Football Bowls

It is Bowl Season, which is just as much a part of the holiday season as eggnog, a jolly fat man in a funny suit or chocolate “gold” coins (depending upon your beliefs). So for this week’s NFL Power Rankings, the teams are broken down by categories based on the bowl games.

With only three weeks left in the regular season, the league has pretty much separated itself into (1) the top teams that are legit Super Bowl contenders, (2) teams that believe they have a shot but in reality have fatal flaws, (3) teams just fighting to make the edge of the playoffs, and (4) everyone else. But since those categories are boring, we’ll go with the college football bowls.

This week’s big climbers are the Titans and Browns – yes the Browns – and the biggest declines belong to the Bengals and Panthers.

The National Championship Game
Alabama (-4.5) vs. Texas in Pasadena, CA
This is the game we’ve waited all season for, and it shouldn’t disappoint. The stifling Bama defense goes up against Colt McCoy and the prolific Texas offense. It will be must watch television, like all these teams in the top tier of the NFL. I’ll take Alabama and give the points based on their offense being better than the Texas defense.

1. Saints (last week: 1) – They squeaked out a win over the Falcons and have made no secret that they want the undefeated season. That doesn’t bode well for the Cowboys on Saturday night.

2. Colts (2) – They’re on cruse control, so no matter what happens in the last three weeks, they will maintain one of the top two spots in the league. However, Manning’s three interceptions moved him to 3rd in the MVP voting behind Brees and Favre.

3. Chargers (3) – The Chargers are like Kristin Bell: they are among the most talented things out there, yet they get overlooked when the discussion turns to the top talent around. Random aside, did you know Kristin Bell is the narrator voice on Gossip Girl?

4. Vikings (6) –
It was a serious bounce back game for the Vikings to lay the smack down on the Bengals. They needed that for their own confidence as much as anything else.

The Rose Bowl
Oregon (-3.5) vs. Ohio State in Pasadena, CA
The Grand Daddy of them all, The Rose Bowl pits a very dangerous Ducks offense against a very stout Ohio State defense. Oregon pasted the USC team that won in Columbus, which is not good news for Buckeyes fans. These NFL teams are much like this game in that everyone loves the pageantry and talent of these teams, but they can’t quite buy into them as being the best teams or game out there. I’ll take Oregon to lay the lumber to the Buckeyes.

5. Eagles (7) – The Eagles have the inside track to win the NFC East, and have unleashed some real creativity on offense. Oh, and DeSean Jackson is more dangerous from more than 50 yards away than the Eagles running game is from the goalline.

6. Cardinals (5) – Way to follow up that impressive win over the Vikings with an absolute stinker against the 49ers on Monday night. The turnovers are the fatal flaw that could keep the Cardinals from advancing very far in the playoffs.

7. Packers (8) – Their defense continues to dominate games, and Charles Woodson not winning the defensive player of the year award would be a bigger injustice than Steve Czaban getting bounced from Fox Sports Radio in favor of Stephen “Screamin’” A. Smith. Czabe is intelligent and entertaining, neither of which could ever be used to describe Smith – the loud-mouthed moron from Philly.

The Sugar Bowl
Florida (-10.5) vs. Cincinnati in New Orleans, LA
Florida has to bounce back from their SEC Championship Game disappointment, and Cincy has to rebound from the loss of their coach. Tim Tebow’s final college game and as much as I’m not a huge believer in Saint Tim, he may go down among the greatest college football players of all time. I like Cincy’s senior leaders to try and keep it close, but they don’t have the defense to stop Urban’s offense. Take the Gators to blow them out.

8. Bengals (4) – They may have peaked too early, kind of like Britney Spears, and while they haven’t fallen as far as the “shaved head stage” but they are teetering on marrying a back-up dancer/wannabe rapper.

9. Broncos (10) – Denver hung tough against the Colts by relying on their best player, Brandon Marshall. Unfortunately, it also highlighted that they have a very visible ceiling, and it’s the first round of the playoffs.

10. Cowboys (9) – It’s December, of course they’re slipping. I’m not sure there is anything Wade Phillips can do at this point to keep his job, short of getting to the Super Bowl. Without DeMarcus Ware, Wade should call his real estate agent.

11. Patriots (10) – Everyone’s worried about the Kate Hudson break up causing Alex Rodriguez to revert back to his non-clutch ways. Should we be worried that the new Brady baby has Tom’s other baby Randy Moss feeling neglected and ruining the Patriots?

12. Ravens (13) – The Ravens have the inside track to get the final wildcard spot in the AFC, but will only go as far as Joe Flacco can take them.

13. Giants (11) – It was a disheartening loss to the Eagles, and the only thing keeping them in the playoff hunt is the swoon of the Cowboys. Their defense has been horrendous and Tom Coughlin will have to make a chance in the off season.

The Champs Sports Bowl
Miami (-3.5) vs. Wisconsin in Orlando, FL
It’s the speed of the Hurricanes against the power of the Badgers. Miami likes to let JaCorey Harris throw it all over the field, and the Wisconsin secondary has been terrible all year, which is a major advantage for Miami. Then again, the Hurricanes have not seen a running game like the one John Clay and the Badgers bring to town. Look for the Badgers to slow the game down, keep it close and have a chance to win it late. Take the Badgers and the points. Much like this game, this team is entertaining to watch but really has no actual consequences on the national scene.

14. Titans (17) – Chris Johnson continues to light up the league with his rushing and his receiving, but unfortunately the Titans will not be able to completely dig out of that 0-6 start to make the playoffs.

The Fiesta Bowl
TCU (-7) vs. Boise State in Phoenix, AZ
It’s the battle of the disrespected little guys! At the end of the day, no one really cares who wins this game because they wouldn’t beat Texas or Alabama either way. TCU has an impressive defense and should be able to slow down the Bronco offense. Take the Horned Frogs. These teams are fighting for the final AFC playoff spot but it doesn’t really matter because they will only be winning the right to lose to the Bengals or Patriots.

15. Dolphins (14) – Considering they started the season 0-3 and were 3-5 at the midpoint, it’s impressive that they are even in the discussion. Looks like Miami found their quarterback of the future in Chad Henne, and now they need to find him some receivers.

16. Jets (15) – The Jets were able to get away with Kellen Clemens at quarterback against the Bucs, but will need Mark Sanchez to play like he did the first three weeks of the season if they want to make the playoffs. It’s a long shot, as they don’t hold a tiebreaker over any of the teams they are currently tied with.

17. Jaguars (16) – This team is so unimpressive, and with the Colts and Patriots the next two weeks, should find themselves out of the playoffs. They’re talking about drafting Tim Tebow purely for marketing and ticket sales, which seems like a bad idea. Let’s now worry about if the team stinks as long as we sell a few more tickets!!

The Capital One Bowl
Penn State (-2.5) vs. LSU in Orlando, FL
This game pits big-time name schools in a game that can continue to fuel the argument between talent levels in the SEC and Big Ten. Thankfully the game starts at 1pm, so it should end in time for Joe Pa to make his 4:30pm dinner reservation at Perkins. (Resisting the urge to make a Tiger joke) Take the Tigers over the Nittany Lions.

18. Texans (20) – The Texans have the big names like Penn State and LSU, yet have been extremely disappointing, much like both teams in the Capital One Bowl. Could this be a tempting place for Bill Cowher to make his return?

The Orange Bowl
Georgia Tech (-4) vs. Iowa in Miami, FL
This game actually presents a good matchup for Iowa, as the Hawkeyes are much less athletic than most teams. Yet Georgia Tech runs the triple option, allowing the size of the Hawkeyes to come into play more than their speed. The Orange Bowl has great tradition, but this doesn’t appear to be a game that will go down among its great games of the past. Yellow Jackets cover the spread.

19. Steelers (19) – Much like the Orange Bowl, the Steelers have the tradition but have been a disappointment this year.

The Holiday Bowl
Arizona (-1.5) vs. Nebraska in San Diego, CA

Nebraska was one second away from playing in a BCS Bowl and instead heads to the Holiday bowl to take on Mike Stoops Arizona squad. The question is whether Nebraska’s super stud defender Suh is going to play full speed or try to protect himself from getting injured in his final game. Take the Huskers to get it done.

20. Falcons (18) – The Falcons were about as close to the playoffs as Nebraska was to the Big 12 championship before injuries to Matt Ryan and Michael Turner derailed their season.

21. Seahawks (22) – Seattle was also racked by injuries this year, meaning Coach Jim Mora is not enjoying his first year with the team nearly as much as Bruce Pearl is enjoying his time in Tennessee.

The Emerald Bowl
USC (-9) vs. Boston College in San Francisco, CA
The Bay Area is not exactly what comes to mind when you think of Bowl locations, and definitely not where Pete Carroll thought he’d be ringing in the New Year. Actually, Pete has his New Year free as this game is being played on December 26th. The Trojans had a very atypical season, yet have enough weapons to dismantle the Eagles.

22. 49ers (24) – The pro team located in San Francisco has a tradition as strong as USC’s however they haven’t been at that level in a long time. Monday night’s dismantling of the Cards showed that they have some strong foundation pieces in Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, and Patrick Willis on defense.

The Little Caesars Bowl
Ohio (-2.5) vs. Marshall in Detroit, MI
So to reward you for your boring season in a boring conference, good luck headed to Detroit for the holidays!! I have no idea about either one of these teams other than Randy Moss, Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington are no longer at Marshall and former Nebraska coach Frank Solich still coaches Ohio. That’s enough for me to take Ohio. This is a depressing game with minimal redeeming qualities…..which is the perfect description of:

23. Bears (23) – This has been a depressing season for the Bears that started out with such promise when they acquired Jay Cutler. Unfortunately they forgot to take one key point into account: He’s Jay Cutler. Look for Lovie Smith to end up as a defensive coordinator somewhere next season.

The Gator Bowl
West Virginia (-3) vs. Florida State in Jacksonville, FL
The Konica Minolta Gator Bowl and the ACC really were a sham this year, taking the 6-6 Florida State Seminoles over many more deserving ACC teams. The ACC allowed it to happen so that Bobby Bowden could coach his final game in Florida. I guess it’s a nice tribute to a guy that revitalized football in northern Florida, but it just seems like the game became a puppet show to make sure Bobby got his wish. Take the Seminoles to rally behind their coach and send him off with one last victory.

24. Redskins (26) – Speaking of puppet shows, it’s not really clear who is doing what in Washington, and yet whatever it is seems to have been successful. Jim Zorn stopped paying attention weeks ago, and Sherm Lewis couldn’t have made that much of a difference fresh out of the bingo parlor, could he? Suddenly Jason Campbell remembered how to be a legit quarterback and the Redskins are on the verge of being a dangerous spoiler.

The Cotton Bowl
Ole Miss (-3) vs. Oklahoma State in Dallas, TX
This game matches up a highly overrated team with a turnover machine for a quarterback against a team with a troublemaker wide receiver who ended up getting suspended. Both descriptions fit one NFL team: The Carolina Panthers. Since Mike Gundy is a man and over 40 years old, I expect him to have some creative defense ready to confuse Jevan Snead.

25. Panthers (21) – Bill Belichick took a great little shot at the Panthers when reacting to Chris Gamble’s comments about Randy Moss. After basically saying he wasn’t worried about it, he ended his thought by casually tossing out there “well, I mean, they haven’t won very many games this year.” Ouch.

The Hawaii Bowl
Nevada (-15) vs. SMU in Honolulu, HI
This game has the biggest spread among any of the bowl games. I guess Craig James, Eric Dickerson and the Pony Express must not be playing for SMU any more. If you lived in Hawaii and were not an alumni from either school, is there ANY chance you would go to this game? There is a better chance of me watching a Real Housewives of Orange County marathon…….wait, I might actually watch that to see what stupid things Gretchen is going to do next. This seems like too many points to give to a team that got destroyed by Notre Dame in Nevada. Take the Pony Express.

26. Bills (27) – Did they move to Toronto permanently yet?

27. Raiders (25) – After losing to the Redskins, what do we make of the Raiders? They have beaten the Eagles, Bengals and Steelers and lost to the Chiefs and Redskins. At least they seem to have realized that their best rookie WR is Louis Murphy and not Darius Heyward-Bey.

28. Browns (31) – The Browns have been talking to Mike Holmgren about being their football czar, but they’re going to need to do some construction in their football offices. If Holmgren takes the job, he’s going to need an adjoining office for his ego, but maybe they can convert Mangini’s office because he won’t need it.

The Insight Bowl
Minnesota (-2.5) vs. Iowa State in Tempe, AZ

Typically the worst bowl games are played early in the season, like the New Mexico Bowl, The St. Petersburg Bowl or the New Orleans Bowl. But the Insight Bowl is the only game that pits two teams without winning records, as both teams come in with 6-6 records. This game and these teams in this category are terrible. They are just fighting for the right to draft Ndamukong Suh with the first pick.

29. Chiefs (28) – The Chiefs have that bad feeling like they woke up next to a Waffle House waitress that was pushing a deuce to deuce in a half after a really long night of boozing. Matt Cassell is the Waffle House waitress and he convinced the Chiefs to go to Vegas, tie the knot and signed a 5 year pre-nup.

30. Lions (29) – I guess there has been progress this year based on two more wins than last year, but judging by the hammering they took from the Ravens, it’s hard to see it. The Big Ten is talking about expanding, and the Lions should consider applying to be that 12th team because they might be able to beat Minnesota and play in the Insight Bowl.

31. Buccaneers (30) – After Josh Freeman was impressive in his first couple of starts, teams actually watched some film and he’s struggled mightily. After a 5 interception game two weeks ago, the Bucs offense didn’t get a first down until the third quarter against the Jets.

32. Rams (32) – Keith Null started at quarterback last week for St. Louis. Yeah, I don’t know who that is either. I guess he’s a rookie from West Texas A&M where the quarterback coach was Ryan Leaf. And we’re surprised that he wasn’t good in his debut?

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