So, unfortunately, this week I will not be around. I have to conduct some training with my Cadets, and therefore, will not be able to contribute to the site as I would normally. However, I wanted to make sure that a Perspective was in its normal place.
As such, I decided to take a WAY too early look at the NFL playoff picture.
I understand that teams are only 4-5 games into their season, but there is something to be gained by looking at the current standings. First, we will examine the NFC. I'm going to list the standings as a conference, with the Division leaders annotated:
Atlanta Falcons (4&1) - NFC South Leader
Chicago Bears (4&1) - NFC North Leader
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3&1)
Washington Redskins (3&2) - NFC East Leader
Arizona Cardinals (3&2) - NFC West Leader
Green Bay Packers (3&2)
New York Giants (3&2)
New Orleans Saints (3&2)
Philadelphia Eagles (3&2)
Seattle Seahawks (2&2)
St. Louis Rams (2&3)
Minnesota Vikings (1&3)
Dallas Cowboys (1&3)
Detroit Lions (1&4)
San Francisco 49ers (0&5)
Carolina Panthers (0&5)
Basically, the NFC is still wide open. If you take ou the two 0&5 teams, we are leaving 14 teams in the running for the 6 playoff spots. You have to consider the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings as playoff caliber - even when one of them loses next week as they face off. Sure, it's going to be difficult, but in the NFC East and NFC North, there's no clear cut favorite, so why can't they climb back into contention?
Looking at the top of the Conference, four of the top five teams are questionable at best. The Falcons are a solid team, maybe a surprise to be ahead of the Saints, but a shock. After that, the Bears have questions all over the place, the Buccaneers are benefiting from wins over the Browns and Panthers to start the season - and have to deal with the Saints in the division, the Redskins are leading a division full of 3&2 teams (along with the Cowboys), and the Cardinals are moving on from the Matt Leinart era to the Derrick Anderson era to the Max Hall (who?) era.
The NFC is a mess.
But, what we, as Dolphins fans, really want to see is the AFC.
So, here it is:
Baltimore Ravens (4&1) - AFC North Leader
New York Jets (4&1) - AFC East Leader
New England Patriots (3&1)
Kansas City Chiefs (3&1) - AFC West Leader
Pittsburgh Steelers (3&1)
Houston Texans (3&2) - AFC South Leader
Jacksonville Jaguars (3&2)
Indianapolis Colts (3&2)
Tennessee Titans (3&2)
Miami Dolphins (2&2)
Oakland Raiders (2&3)
Cincinnati Bengals (2&3)
San Diego Chargers (2&3)
Denver Broncos (2&3)
Cleveland Browns (1&4)
Buffalo Bills (0&5)
Once again, we can rule out the two teams at the bottom. The Bills are horrid, and have a lot of work to do to rebuild into a mediocre team. The Browns have shown some skill lately, putting up a fight in most of their games thus far this season, but in a Division with Baltimore and Pittsburgh, they don't stand a chance this season.
Jumping to the top of the Conference, we find those Ravens and Steelers bookending the Jets, Patriots, and Chiefs as one-loss teams. Most of those teams are the expected to be there teams, but we do find the surprising Chiefs leading the AFC West. Wile not a particularly strong Division, Kansas City has jumped out to a great early season start, and it will be interesting to watch them the rest of the season.
Smack in the middle of the pack, the Miami Dolphins cling to the group of 2 loss teams. In the five teams with 2 losses, the Dolphins are the only team to not call the AFC South home. As the teams amongst the AFC South sort out their own standings, the Dolphins have to look at either climbing up to challenge the Jets and Patriots for the Division, or look to fight the Jets/Patriots, Ravens/Steelers, and Texans/Colts/Titans/Jaguars for one of the two Wild Card slots.
Assuming that the two best teams in the AFC will both make the playoffs, the Ravens or Steelers will claim one of the Wild Card slots. Leaving one Wild Card slot , the Dolphins will then have to deal with 5 other teams looking to make the playoffs. Assuming that the Jets win the AFC East and the Texans win the AFC South (their current positions in the respective Divisions), that leaves the Dolphins, Patriots, Colts, and Titans to fight for the last Wild Card.
As you can see, the Dolphins have a lot of work to do to stay in the Playoff chase. But, at the same time, they are currently right in the middle of the playoff hunt.
Again, it's WAY to early for this discussion. But, it's a fun discussion either way. With games upcoming against the (maybe) Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, the newly-returned Packers, the up-and-down Bengals, the dominant Ravens, the up-and-down Titans, and the questionable Bears, the Dolphins really are looking straight into the mouth of the beast. How they come out of Week 11 could determine their season.
Here's to a good 6 weeks.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week: 1) Holding on to the top spot over a team that beat you is a feat. Winning games with your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th string QBs is an even bigger one.
2. Baltimore Ravens(5) - The bye week allowed the Ravens to move up to #2. Could very easily be #1.
3. New York Jets (3) - The Jets are putting the pieces together for a deep run. As Revis, Pace, and Holmes get more playing time, expect this team to get even better.
4. New England Patriots (6) - They trade away Randy Moss and move up two spots. Could this be a case of addition by subtraction? Will the addition of Deion Branch return the Patriots to a dynastic threat?
5. Atlanta Falcons (8) - Beating the Super Bowl Champs in New Orleans brought the Falcons into the top ten. Beating the 49ers late brings them to the top eight. The bye brought them to the top 5, and the top NFC team in the league.
6. Indianapolis Colts (11) - Knocking off the last undefeated team in the league brings the Colts back into the Top Ten - even if it was the Chiefs.
7. New Orleans Saints (2) - Last week, the Saints moved up to #2 because no one was ready to jump over them. This week, there are many teams able to rightly claim a spot above the Saints.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (9) - Ugly loss to the Colts, but able to shut down Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. This time might be a better team than we have been giving them credit for.
9. Chicago Bears (10) - Jay Cutler is coming back to the Bears. That can only help a team that is already 4&1.
10. Green Bay Packers (4) - I'm just waiting for Hawkeye and Klinger to show up...
11. Houston Texans (7) - Starting to fall, but still leading the Division. If the pass defense finds away to stop someone, they really could challenge the Colts.
12. Washington Redskins (14) - I don't love the Redskins, but wins over the Cowboys, Eagles, and Packers make them contenders. Maybe McNabb has more magic left than the Eagles realized.
13. New York Giants (19) - The bye week could lead the Giants to build on their performance against the Bears, or it could result in a really big hangover.
14. Tennessee Titans (23) - A week at 23 before the Titans bounce back up to #14. The Titans easily kept the Cowboys searching for their second win of the season.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (17) - He's not the savior, but maybe Kevin Kolb is serviceable.
16. Miami Dolphins (15) - Starting the stretch of the season that really determines what this team is.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (24) - The Buccaneers are beginning to resemble a yo-yo on the Power Rankings.
18. Minnesota Vikings (16) - The first half was ugly. The second half started to look the Vikings we expected to see this season. If Brett Favre and Randy Moss can build on the second half of Monday Night's game, they may quickly rise in the standings and the Power Rankings.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars (18) - I can't completely buy into the Jaguars yet, but it might not take much longer.
20.Dallas Cowboys (13) - Do the Cowboys know they don't get to be the first team to host the Super Bowl simply because it's in their home stadium?
21. Arizona Cardinals (23) - Max Hall? Victory over the Saints? What?
22. San Diego Chargers (12) - Jumped way up the charts last week thanks to a 31-point win over the Cardinals. Fall back to Earth with a 12-point loss to the Raiders.
23. Oakland Raiders (30) - Looking to return to .500 against the winless 49ers.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (21) - They won against the Panthers and slid down two positions. They lost to the Browns and fall 9 more. This week, they lose to the Buccaneers and fall 3 more. At least Terrell Owens came to play (again). I wonder if the rest of the team was having popcorn (again).
25. Detroit Lions (27) - The Lions are finally starting to live up to the improvements expected in the off season. Not a great team. Not even a good team. But, a team better than they have been recently.
26. Denver Broncos (22) - Miserable loss to the Ravens. Kyle Orton is a machine at QB. Too bad there's nothing else to the Broncos.
27. St. Louis Rams (20) - Is it possible for the Rams to underestimate a team? Looks like they did against the Lions.
28. Cleveland Browns (26) - Look for Colt McCoy to join the Class of 2010 Starting QB class.
29. Seattle Seahawks (21) - They are a 2&2 team, but still aren't any good. Will probably continue to bounce around the bottom third of the power rankings.
30. San Francisco 49ers (24) - Alex Smith looks like the #1 overall draft pick, trying too hard to prove he was worth the high choice - great at times, but shaky most of the time. Too bad his selection was 6 years ago.
31. Carolina Panthers (31) - Jimmy Clausen and Matt Moore combined for a 11.98 QB rating and 62 yards passing against the Bears.
32. Buffalo Bills (32) - Beginning to look like a threat to tie the 2008 Detroit Lions record.