NFL Power Poll
OK, there are a lot of folks who drop an NFL rankings-type thing. I'm one of them.
But this morning, on ESPN Radio Jason Fitz and Mike Golic Jr. listed a top four of NFL teams in how the college football playoff committee might view them.
That's fine. But when they reviewed in Golic or Wingo, it dawned on me. I'm done with a morning radio institution. Trey Wingo makes if very difficult to listen to that show for me.
So there's that, and now, like Moon Beam to the main stage, let's get to the poll. (And man, the cream rising to the top is every bit as noticeable as the dregs swirling the bottom of the drain. Each of the top five teams below is 10-2 how crazy is that?)
1. Baltimore. Hard to dismiss what this bunch has done, considering they toppled a very complete 49ers team in the rain and housed the Patriots in the last month. Still, as everyone lines up in the "Oh we were all so wrong about Lamar Jackson" apology tour, the very real truth is that the vast majority of his success hinges on his running ability. That's not a knock — truly — as much as it is a statement that must be pitched. We love the offense. We love the pieces — Hollywood Brown going vertical, Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards pounding between the tackles and Mark Andrews working the middle, combined with Jackson's speed — and they are doing next level things in spreading the field. What happens if Jackson rolls an ankle? (Yes, every team faces very real 'what if' injury considerations, but with Jackson in the line of fire more often than any other QB, those questions are magnified and multiplied.)
2. New Orleans. Yes, the loss to the Falcons was perplexing, but this may be the most complete team in the league. The Saints skill guys are top-level (there may be a team who would say no thanks to a QB1-RB1-WR1 swap with the Saints, but Brees-Kamara-Thomas is not apologizing to any trio on the league) and there defense is filled with young dudes who make plays. The race for home-field in the NFC playoffs — the Saints have clinched the NFC South — will be quite interesting. And even more important.
3. Seattle. The Seahawks are going to be the organizational blueprint that NFL teams will try to follow in the modern era. Draft the right QB. Pay your supporting cast very well while QB is on the rookie deal. Extend the QB with a monster contract, jettison the big contracts and rebuild around the franchise gut. Of course the biggest swing piece is 'the right QB' in the whole equation. Russell Wilson is the right guy. Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Mitchell Trubisky, and several others? Well, franchise QB money does not make you a franchise QB friends.
4. New England. I know a lot of folks are writing the Pats off. "Tom Brady is old." He is. "The Patriots have limited weapons." They do. "The team is tired." They might be. But they still have the GOAT roaming the sideline, and Baltimore, you better not let the path to the Super Bowl go through Foxboro. How many times have we written off the Pats and Brady? Fool me once . . .
5. San Francisco. Sunday's slugfest with Baltimore may have been more telling for the 49ers — on the road in the driving rain and it was a tug of war all the way that was decided on a last-second kick — than it was for a Ravens team we kind of already believed in beforehand. Still, just like I am scared and cautious about writing off New England, I'm not buying the Jimmy G stock until he makes some plays in the 'ary' months. (Yes, like our baseball philosophy of putting the stock in the 'er' months, football legacies are made in the 'ary' months, no?)
28. Atlanta (3-9). Yes, I'm still a little bitter. Side fantasy update: We have Julio Jones on our red-hot fantasy team right now. (Side note on the side fantasy update: We decided to roll the dice on some trades and dealing depth and have fashioned a pretty complete team that this week was Jameis Winston at QB — a much better fantasy QB than a reality QB — Josh Jacobs, Leonard Fournette, Julio, Davante Adams, Mark Andrews and the Saints D. It's a complete bunch. My bench — and I tried to deal several good players for a single great player — has Kareem Hunt, Carlos Hyde, Miles Sanders among others. It's a crap shoot, yes, but we've got a shot.) Back to Thanksgiving night, well, when Julio was sidetracked with a shoulder injury, we popped in reserve WR DeVante Parker from the Dolphins. Good times. Also of note: How did the Falcons recover three straight onside kicks? Seriously. Also of note: The Falcons' slew of young receivers make it understandable why they dealt Mohamed Sanu to the Patriots for a second-rounder.
29. Miami (3-9). A spot ahead of the Jets? You bet. The reason? The Dolphins seem to actually care. And what do we make of Ryan Fitzpatrick, legacy wise? He's the definition of journeyman with eight career teams. But he also is 42nd all-time in passing yards — ahead of Steve McNair and Y.A. Tittle, among others — and depending on how much longer he plays could climb considerably higher. Let's say he gets at least one more season as a starter, he almost assuredly would throw for another, 3,500 (at least — 500 the rest of this season and 3,000 over one more season), which would spring FitzMagic into the top 30 all-time, ahead of some names like Aikman, Young, Warner and Jurgensen. (This also demonstrates how unbelievable some of the all-time passing numbers are. Troy Aikman was great, so was Steve Young. Combined they threw for a smidge more than 66,000 yards — which is roughly 10,000 yards short of what Drew Brees has in his career.)
30. New York Jets (4-8). This may be the most disappointing team in the league, right there with the Falcons, considering the roster and the results. Yes, there are worse teams, but with injuries, illnesses and puzzling performances, the Jets are much better than the other folks in the low-rent district.
31. New York Giants (2-10). What does this team do well? We'll wait. The Giants are 25th in total offense (316.7 yards per game), tied for last in turnover margin (-14) and 26th in total defense (372.8 yards allowed per game).
32. Cincinnati (1-11). The Bengals are dreadful, but truth be told, other than not selling high some of their veterans, you have to acknowledge that the front office has managed the disaster as well as possible. They gave a rookie QB the reins and saw that Ryan Finley has career back-up as a ceiling. They are still playing hard — without far and away their best player in AJ Green — and won last week. (Hey, it's Christmas, let's try to say nice things can we?)
College football playoff rankings
Yes, the Power Poll was long — yes, that's what she... nevermind — so let's move quickly.
As we noted yesterday, the committee got a gift when Auburn beat Alabama. That opened the last spot up for a one-loss conference champion from the Big 12 or Utah from the Pac-12 to get into the field. More on the importance of that in a moment.
First let's look into Kyle the Magic 8 Ball and roll the dice on what may happen tonight when the CFP releases its penultimate rankings. (Couple hard and fast 5-at-10 rules: Picks are for entertainment purposes only, never count out a healthy Brady and Belichick, golf is always better when Tiger's in the mix, and always — ALWAYS — take advantage of using the word penultimate when appropriate.)
Issue 1: Who is No. 1. LSU thumped Texas A&M, which will be listed as the best win for Clemson and Alabama, so there's that. THE Ohio State hammered a top-15 Michigan team on the road. Each has a good case for being 1 — and it could easily change next week since LSU has the tighter conference title game tilt — but here's an interesting side question: Since Alabama is now out of the running for that 4 spot — and we firmly believe the committee did not want an LSU-Alabama rematch in the semifinals — would that help LSU's case since the Tigers clearly have the best resume.
Issue No. 2: What will be said about Dabo's bellyaching and whining? Not sure much will be made of it from the committee's point of view, but man o' man, would we love to see Virginia topple Clemson and see ol' Dabo Swinney have to flip his tune Saturday night.
Issue No. 3: And this is not an issue just my hard-and-fast belief for our Georgia fans out there: Bulldogs beat Tigers, Bulldogs in playoff. And so are the Tigers.
Issue No. 4: Who is 5? This is the big one, at least going in because it will be perceived that if Utah is 5, then does that mean if they win, they are in (assuming LSU beats UGa)? Maybe, maybe not.
Here's my guess on what the poll will look like tonight:
THE Ohio State, LSU, Clemson, Georgia, Utah, Oklahoma, Baylor, Alabama.
Speaking of the committee
I have long been against expanding the playoff field.
I think four is enough and I want to do nothing to damage the joy of college football Saturdays.
I have been steadfast on this point and I know many of you do not agree.
But look, as we prepare for the penultimate CFP rankings (see) what would a field of eight mean right now?
Well, the conference championship games simply would not matter a lick in THE Big Ten, the SEC and the ACC. (Not unlike the conference championship games in basketball.) And yes, THE Big Ten and the ACC would have a chance at two teams in the dance if a multiple-TD upset happened, but we're not holding our breath.
Parity away from the SEC? Not hardly. If there was an eight-team field right now, there likely would three SEC teams in there regardless what happened in the SEC title game.
It completely renders the Iron Bowl loss for Alabama meaningless, which would be a downright shame. It would add a slew of mulligans to the big boys too.
OK, if there was eight, and it took five conference champs and three at-larges or two at-larges and a Group of 5 team, the field would likely be:
THE Ohio State, LSU, Clemson, Utah and Oklahoma. Then Georgia, Alabama and who, Memphis?
Sorry gang, that is not better and it's certainly not worth risking the loss of every-Saturday value for that expansion in my opinion.
(Is it coming? Sure. The money is impossible to ignore. Do I want it to happen. Absolutely not.)
This and that
— We discussed Jim Harbaugh acting like a cry baby after THE loss to THE Ohio State. When asked whether it was a player issue, a preparation issue or a coaching issue to explain the struggles again THE Buckeyes, Lil' Jimmy got his khakis in a bunch. Well, from ESPN's Paul Hembo, who helps organize "Get Up" this is a very telling run of stats: "Ohio State 2016-19 — 4/5-star recruits (69); 1st/2nd-round draft picks (18). Michigan 2016-19 — 4/5-star recruits (71) 1st/2nd-round draft picks (4) Michigan's problem isn't recruiting. Player development is." Sounds about right.
— Not sure how many of you have seen the Peloton commercial running in several loops on ESPN, but apparently it has hit a nerve with some folks. Here's the story — and yes, we are a culture of folks waiting for the slightest thing anywhere to get bent out of shape about — but I do believe this guys: Tread lightly on getting the Mrs. exercise equipment, because that can come across quite awkwardly in the "Hey babe, love you may want to drop a few LBs" kind of way, even if it is completely unintended.
— For those that listen to Press Row, our red-hot NFL picks continue to roll. We're not counting it, but in conversation with Wells about the Monday Night Game, we offered Seahawks minus-3 and over the 50. Seattle's 37-30 win over Minnesota offers a bona fide winner-winner (chicken dinner optional of course).
— Breaking news: Chad Kelly is not a good dude. Here's the latest run-in with the law for the former Ole Miss quarterback.
— Last year in college hoops was a lot about the big boys and the dominance of the Duke freshmen and some SEC intrigue in Knoxville and Auburn. This year, there may not be a truly great team (yet) but the scattered chance of just about anyone beating anyone (uh, Stephen F. Austin over Duke at Duke for Pete Newell's sake) means everything is possible. Case in point: In five weeks of the AP poll, there have been four college basketball teams ranked No. 1. So there's that.
— Yeah, this video of a shark knocking a 7-year-old off his surf board is covered in "Oh My" moments for a slew of reasons. Buckets.
— Oh one more 5-at-10 rule we forgot: When Weeds writes college hoops, we read what Weeds has to say about college hoops. Here's TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer on the Mocs chances to win the SoCon.
— Speaking of local sportswriting legends, here's TFP college football ace David Paschall on the Bulldogs using the "No one believes in us" card for the SEC title game. That's a powerful card gang.
— Also, here's today's A2 column on why I am anti-Cyber Monday, and all for Giving Tuesday.
True or false Tuesday.
True or false, you are prepared to write off the Patriots. (Danger Will Robinson on this one gang.)
True or false, you had a problem with the Bengals (1-11) dumping Gatorade on head coach Zac Somebody (his last name could be Somebody, you don't know for sure) was OK. (Yes, I know it's Zach Taylor. I Googled the ever-lovin' stuffing out of that one.)
True or false, Utah will be 5 tonight in the playoff rankings. (Follow up: True or false, Utah controls its playoff chances.)
Julianne Moore is 59 today. What's her Rushmore, and it will be a little better than you may realize? Go.