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The Food Chain: NFL Rankings & Updated Super Bowl Odds

The Food Chain: Tom Danyluk's Weekly NFL Rankings

 

One of the first things I remember not to do in late summer is look at any of the 2.3 million preseason ranking charts that leak onto the web, some of them which have been hanging around since June. They’re worthless. You are grading imaginary creatures at that point,  unproven, entities that haven’t stepped on a battlefield in nearly a year. Okay, let’s go with Chimera at one (last season’s winner; has all the pieces)… Griffon is at two… Let’s go Minotaur at three (held strong against Theseus until late), etc.

After Week 1 arrives, well, you’ve got something to work with. Not much, but at least you’ve seen these creatures in the flesh and operating under live fire. After Week 2, now we’re talking. Substantiated data abounds. So as Casey used to say, on with the countdown:

1. Jacksonville (2-0): Defense continues to swing the big hammer. Passing game terribly dull but effective, the endless stream of dump offs and petite crossing-patterns. The reincarnation of the Raiders’ pesty Gnat Attack of the early Millennium. QB Bortles is King Gnat. (SB odds 12:1)

2. L.A. Rams (2-0): Only 6.5 ppg allowed this season, including shutout mangling of the Cardinals. “You put a bunch of alpha dogs on one defense like that, man, it’s either going to be good or it’s going to be terrible,” says alpha corner Aqib Talib. “And this one turned out good.” Cards didn’t cross midfield until the final play of the game. Quick, get the Elias people on the phone! Is there an official stat for midfield crossings? (7:1)

3. Kansas City (2-0): The picture of frenetic imbalance. Offense scoring 40 ppg, the defense allowing 508 ypg. Something’s gotta give, right? QB Mahomes (10 TDs) to Hill a thing of artistry, mega-arm finding mega-speed. (15:1)

4. Tampa Bay (2-0): The wedding crasher. All forecasts had them near the bottom of the conference. So they blow the Saints out of their own building in Week 1, then overthrow the Super Champ Eagles as an encore. Washout QB Fitzpatrick suddenly averaging over 400 ypg thru the air. What grandma said was true: life is weird, boy. (32:1)

5. Minnesota (1-0-1): Massive 4Q rally keeps them unbeaten for now. Favored by 16.5 over Bills, the biggest Viking point-spread in 20 years, since Randall Cunningham was throwin’ and Randy Moss was catchin’ and, in the stands, citizens drank to the general joy o’ the whole table. (9:1)

6. Green Bay (1-0-1): Could be winless or unbeaten, the way they’ve played. Sorry roughing call on Clay Matthews, which kept Vikings alive late. Another sign of the times we live in. Genius question to Matthews in the postgame: “Clay, what does a tie feel like?” Like kissing your brother, right? Or is it nephew? Dammit, been so long I can’t remember. (8:1)

7. Cincinnati (2-0): Another wedding crasher. Bengals have come out of the gate meaning business. Beatdown of Baltimore last Thursday highly unexpected. The hardest team on the board to get a read on. Let’s see what they do this weekend in Carolina, where they’ve won some and lost some. A cop-out summary, I know. (38:1)

8. New England (1-1): Pats ran a straight-ahead running play in Jax and it threw a jolt into CBS analyst Tony Romo. “A throwback to 2003 and 2004!” he chirped with excitement. A reference to the Corey Dillon days, when the Pats actually took the run game seriously. Power days in New England, when it wasn’t all about Brady. Now it is. When he isn’t on, or the pass rush or heat is getting to him, there really is no Plan B. (5:1)

9. L.A. Chargers (1-1): Rare matter-of-fact victory, the disposing of Buffalo, for Rivers and company.  Little insight to be gained from it. Like the missive from the French General Vicomte Rurenne at the Battle of Dunen: “The enemy came. He was beaten. I am tired. Good night.” (20:1)

10. Miami (2-0): Solid, hold-the-fort win at Jets. Run defense sturdy up front. Downfield tackling not so much, although LB Kiko Alonso the best tackler on the field. I remember the second half of the Marino years, where going into New York was basically a death sentence for ‘Fins. Quietly, however, over the past decade, they’ve taken eight of 11. (67:1)

11. Philadelphia (1-1): Barely escaped with win in their opener, then surprising Bucs set them straight last Sunday. Tough to formally judge with QB Wentz still counted among the wounded. Hold on, breaking news! Wentz back in the huddle this Sunday! (9:1)

12. Atlanta (1-1): Offense burst to life against Carolina. Julio Jones, however, no TD catches so the Sarkisian watch continues. Dum…dum-da-dum. Two or three more stallout games and the Falcons could make an in-season switch at coordinator. Just sayin’. (15:1)

13. Pittsburgh (0-1-1): Not a good scene in Pittsburgh. Biggest deficiency continues to be defense, yet you look back at their ’18 draft and, in rounds 2-3 ,you get WR, QB, OT. What, were they going to sneak rookie receiver James Washington into a Chiefs uniform and see if Mahomes would throw to him? Might’ve worked, actually. Six TD throws, most ever allowed by the Steelers in an afternoon. (11:1)

14. Baltimore (1-1): More of the same of what we saw last year. Big performance in Week 1, then follow up by getting pushed around Cincy’s home turf. Upsy-downsies, like a cat watching a yo-yo. If this continues, Raves fans, you’re headed back to 8-8. (15:1)

15.Denver (2-0): Most interesting story is the undrafted little rookie at running back – Phil Lindsay. Back-to-back 100-yard games for the Broncs. Not interesting in the sense he’s a free agent, but that he played college ball at Colorado. The Buffs, one of the most sterile pipelines for RBs ever. Can you name the Colorado back with the most all-time NFL rushing yards? Betcha can’t. In fact, I need to look that baby up myself. Ah, there he is, a chap named Cullen Bryant, ’73 draftee of the Rams. 3,264 yards. Raise your hands if you remember. Congratulations to both of you. (38:1)

16. Carolina (1-1): I feel, sense, surmise they should be lower. But I really can’t find a club in the bottom half that belongs here instead. “I was nauseous and tingly all over. I was either in love or I had smallpox.” That’s a Woody Allen line. (35:1)

17. San Francisco (1-1): Considering all the hoo-ha about Jimmy G at quarterback, Niners rank near the bottom in passing yards. Thus far, it’s been a ground operation in SF. That will change this Sunday, however, in Kansas City, as both sides will be bombing the hell out of each other. (30:1)

18. New York Jets (1-1): QB Darnold played well enough to almost win last Sunday. Big things to come from him if line keeps him healthy and management doesn’t screw it up. Most exciting Jets prospect since the earth was cooling. Ok, since Namath. (50:1)

19. Tennessee (1-1): Another of the nondescripts. Competitive but won’t thrill you. Put Cam Newton on this bunch and you’d have Carolina. (67:1)

20. Indianapolis (1-1): A much livelier team than forecasted. Had a chance late to beat Cincy in opener until a turnover bit ’em. Waxed the ‘Skins in Washington last week. Gut tells me they go into Philly and pick off the Eagles this week. (70:1)

21. New Orleans (1-1): My favorite evil stat of the week – Saints averaging 52.5 yards/game on the ground. That’s basically from here to my garage. Too many people bought into last year’s cute little playoff run. Should be 0-2 right now if not for shoddy Cleveland placekicking. (20:1)

22. Dallas (1-1): Fine rebound against Giants Sunday night, after sad offensive showing in Carolina. Receiving corps just doesn’t scare any defense; no one commands a double-team. Another yo-yo. (38:1)

23. Chicago (1-1): Could be unbeaten if offense hadn’t gone to sleep in Green Bay. That’s one thing about QB Trubisky, his streakiness. He can catch fire for a stretch, bing, bing, really light it up. Then comes a run of blah threes-and-out. Progress, however, being made. (75:1)

24. Washington (1-1): Flat loss to Colts squelched any enthusiasm generated by opening win at Cards. Did you catch any of the posts/Tweets from FedEx field, exposing all the empty seats? A dead ballpark. One fella wrote “Redskins attendance looks like a preseason game.” For years ‘Skins management bragged about their centuries-long waiting list for season tickets. Now, at 301-276-6800, they’re a phone call away. Get ’em while they’re not. (70:1)

25. Houston (0-2): Depressing start to season. Playing well enough to lose. QB Watson in lower quadrant of league completion percentage. Next four games, however, include Giants, Colts, Cowboys, Bills. 4-2 rebound very much in question. Meaning why not? (30:1)

26. Seattle (0-2): I understand their receiving corps is damaged, but the biggest problem I saw Monday night in Chicago was that miserable offensive line. Everything the Bears sent at it broke through. Running plays maimed at the line. QB Russell Wilson got a second and change to operate before the play disintegrated. Thank goodness he can move, or there’d be another name on that injury report. (75:1)

27. NY Giants (0-2): All that talk out of New York about the firepower of the Giants offense. Where has it been? The offensive line is blushing with guilt. Eight sacks this far on Eli Manning. Gene Collier of The Pittsburgh Press once had a smart line about QBs with poor protection: “He sees the entire field, but the offensive line played so poorly in front of him that he more commonly saw the entire sky.” (60:1)

28. Oakland (0-2): 35 years since their last Super Bowl win. The glory that was Rome….  (100:1)

29. Cleveland (0-1-1): Poor Zane Gonzalez, my lord, have you ever seen a kicker have a worse start to a season? Goes from making the most field goals ever in college ball to the waiver wire…in less than a year. A study in psychology. Oh, well. Buddy Ryan once said, “Kickers are like taxi cabs; you can always go out and hire another one.” (100:1)

30. Detroit (0-2): Not the start new coach Matt Patricia had envisioned. QB Stafford already leading the league with 5 INTs. Ok, a few crumbs for the admirable, make-it-close rally in San Francisco, after being left for dead in opening fiasco against the Jets. Fiasco – now there’s an interesting word. Italian for “bottle.” A pair of Lions tickets to anyone who can explain how a “bottle” came to imply failure, unless you hit it too often. (100:1)

31. Arizona (0-2): Cards haven’t been this depleted since the early part of the century. Y2K days. I remember my gourmet sister went out and bought all sorts of bottled water and batteries and dehydrated foodstuffs. I asked why all the water? She said, “What else am I going to cook the batteries in?” (300:1)

32. Buffalo (0-2): Just think, a year ago Bills were a play away from toppling Jacksonville in the AFC playoffs. Now? The team’s collective QB rating of 40.2. Reminds me of the line from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: “Willie tried to enlist in the army and was turned down; whereupon he threw his job, came home, announced that he was a failure, and went to bed…. He said he was going to stay in bed and never get up as long as he lived.” Tell me it’s not that bad, is it? IS IT? (500:1)

"For day-in, day-out football writing, I think the most knowledgeable person covering the game is Tom Danyluk." -Paul Zimmerman, SI.com (5/17/2007) Tom has been a pro football writer for over 30 years, starting at The Pitt News - the University of Pittsburgh's student newspaper - where he won the schools' first Outstanding Sports Columnist Award. He has been a member of the Pro Football Writers Assocation since 1987. Tom joined Pro Football Weekly in 2004, where he was a feature columnist through 2013. At Pro Football Weekly, he won several PFWA writing awards, including "Best Column," the most coveted of the awards (2009). This is his first season with SportsGamblingPodcast.com. Tom's first book, The Super '70s, was published in 2005. "The Lost Super Bowls" was published in July of 2016. None Yards! 30 Years of John Madden in the Broadcast Booth is his latest effort.

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