NFL Power Rankings: Houston Texans on top
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 22:10
With the exception of the Steelers and Colts who had early byes in Week 4, every single team in the NFL has completed exactly one-quarter of their schedule. Although it seems like just yesterday that the Giants and Cowboys kicked off the season on the first Wednesday in September, the last four Sundays have flown by faster than Brandon Marshall in the open field. Too many slackers out there, Matt Stafford and Darren McFadden included, clearly still have their calendar stuck on the summer months. Others, like Joe Flacco and A.J. Green, are dominating the league thus far and have had no issues picking up right where they left off from last year.
Aside from enjoying his witty one-liners on Monday Night Football and getting a kick out of his routine grilling of quarterbacks, I am a big fan of former coach and current color commentator Jon Gruden for one reason: his personal philosophy on breaking down the NFL season. Of course, I’ll always remember the dude for leading the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl win, as well as coaching the Raiders in the playoff game where the “Tuck Rule” was invented. That being said, nothing resonates with me more about Gruden than when he laid down the blueprint for what should be every team’s approach to the 16-week schedule.
Gruden was notorious for taking the entire year, dividing it into fourths, and coming away with four “mini-seasons.” Each mini-season was to be composed of four games, and the goal was to focus on the immediate future and ignore the tough road that laid ahead. A 2-2 record would suffice, however a 3-1 or a 4-0 showing could propel a team from good to great, and could serve as the difference between making or missing the postseason.
Saints and Browns fans, you may want to forward this idea to your respective front offices and remind them that all is not yet lost. New Orleans, we understand that your defense could not cover a corpse. And Cleveland, we’ve heard how you pick your wide receivers out from the crowd on game-day. But, at least for the kids, look on the bright side and consider the fact that you’ve only tanked one “mini-season!”
For now, let’s take a peek (without cameras, Mr. Belichick!) at my top-7 power rankings for the first quarter of the year. As always, both positive and negative feedback is recommended and appreciated. Just please don’t attempt to defend the Jets.
1. Houston Texans: Has Houston (4-0) clinched the AFC South yet? In a division with the Colts, Jaguars and Titans, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak may as well rest the starters beginning with the team’s bye in Week 8. Defensive end J.J. Watt leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks, which is six more than former Texan and current bum Mario Williams has with the Bills.
2. Atlanta Falcons: Just when we thought running back Michael Turner couldn’t outrun anyone anymore (including the cops), he goes for 103 yards on the ground on Sunday and records his first ever receiving touchdown as a pro. Matt Ryan’s touchdown to interception ratio (12:1; 11 passing TD, 1 running TD) actually makes me a little queasy.
3. San Francisco 49ers: In a game that saw QB Alex Smith only throw for 143 yards and leading rusher Frank Gore average a paltry 3 YPC (yards per carry), San Fran still shut out the Jets to improve to 3-1 on the season. First off, keep in mind that the Jets leading wide-out was someone whose parents named him Chaz. Secondly, the 49ers defensive unit is second to no one.
4. Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens claim a 2-0 record in the division, very well could be undefeated right now (1 point loss at Philly in Week 2), and get to enjoy some playoff baseball in Baltimore. I’m still not totally sold on this squad, however. In a game in which the Ravens led the whole way on Thursday night against the Browns, why is Flacco tossing the pigskin 46 times? Running back Ray Rice, for some inexplicable reason, is averaging just 16 rushing attempts per contest. But no, really, continue to believe that sixty year-old Anquan Boldin will give you 9 grabs for 131 yards consistently.
5. Arizona Cardinals: What is it with the Cardinals’ secondary and them letting rookie quarterbacks play pitch-and-catch with guys all afternoon? In Cam Newton’s NFL debut last year, Superman threw for 422 yards in the desert. Fast forward to Sunday, and Dolphins rookie Ryan Tannehill passed for a gaudy 431 yards, 253 of them to wide receiver Brian Hartline. Luckily for Arizona, no one should remember the aerial assault delivered by Tannehill. Instead, they’ll focus on his interception in overtime that led to Cardinals kicker Jay Feely’s game-winning field goal. One of the three unbeaten teams remaining, fans are constantly confusing QB Kevin Kolb for rapper DJ Khaled. All he does is win.