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Green Zone League Articles

S2018W05:: GZL Power Rankings
By Anthony Fernandez
Special to gzl-football.com

The 'Joaquin Phoenix' Edition
Sunday, February 15, 2018
AF, GreenZone Media Committee

S2017W10 (Robin Williams) | S2017W08 (We Are Scientists)

32. Atlanta Falcons ( LR #24 )
31. Indianapolis Colts ( LR #31 )
30. San Francisco 49ers ( LR #30 )
In case anyone missed this movie, it was about genocide in Africa. The combined (0-10) record these teams share is certainly not even on the same importance scale as such a horrific event, but it's an ugly way to start the season for sure. Now that we've got the PC disclaimer out of the way, I'll go as far as to say it's been awful. The Falcons have a history of some fringe success, so you can almost understand and give them a pass, but the Colts and 49ers are perennial door mats who are locks for Top 10 picks every year. I may be misremebering, but I seem to remember BOTH teams floating the idea this off-season of trading their FUTURE 1st round pick for draft picks last year. Thank God they decided against that. In closing, I wonder how the Amnesty of QB Matt Ryan has played into the fact the Patriots are (3-0) and the Falcons are (0-4)? Even struggling in Tampa, I can't help but feel grateful I decided not to Amnesty Josh Freeman.

29. New Orleans Saints ( LR #20 )
Oh c'mon, like I was passing this up! My good old buddy Jeff Downey is back in GZL, and he's in my very own division. I've been sucking this year too, so I'm not in a great position to be critical, but I can see obvious improvement with the Saints roster, so it's only a matter of time before I'll be unable to take these shots. So here it is. See you WK12, you filthy animal!

28. Cincinnati Bengals ( LR #32 )
27. Minnesota Vikings ( LR #19 )
26. Baltimore Ravens ( LR #7 )
Lots of potential on these rosters, but it's almost like these three GMs have detached from modern society, moved to a deciduous forest to start a secret primitive life as Quakers and secured government contracts to not have any planes fly over the top so that nobody in GZL would ever find them again. But surprise, we've found them, and they are all at the bottom of the standings. I like all three GMs a lot, so there's no reason these teams can't turn it around down the stretch, but it seems somewhat unlikely in 2018.

25. Cleveland Browns ( LR #18 )
24. Dallas Cowboys ( LR #5 )
These teams have been pretty bad so far this year, but there have been subtle signs that perhaps we should trust them as we set out into the last three quarters. I'd go so far as to say these two teams WILL finish .500 or better. The Cowboys are 5th in Scoring Offense, and the Browns three losses were @STL, @DEN, vARZ. The schedule lightens up considerably for both teams down the stretch, and I've got a good amount of confidence in Mark Sanchez and Boston Mallett. Don't rule these teams out yet.

23. Detroit Lions ( LR #12 )
Ah, the Lions. Hate them of love the, there is little doubt that everyone in GZL has a strong opinion about them one way or the other. They are not the 49ers, where most teams have no opinion on them whatsoever, outside of say the NFC West when they're counting their BYE weeks on the schedule. Even struggling the Lions are (and always will be) a threat to do damage because they seemingly have more offensive yards than anyone in GZL history. That would be an interesting article to read, come to think about it, as it seems the Lions have been Top-5 in total yards every year of Stafford's and CJ's careers (which is, um, yea, ALL of the GZL years). Despite trade talks, both remain in Detroit, so the Lions remain a threat.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ( LR #2 )
Big thanks to Kevin for all that he does to keep RZL and GZL afloat. I'm sure it has seemed to many that I'm not around much - and there's no denying I haven't come close to my old activity levels. That said, I can assure you my passion for what we do here is still alive and well, despite it being hard to log on some days due to thoughts of JP, or having three crazy children at home, or continually taking more and more on at my school. In fact, I was just nominated for Teacher of the Year in my building. I'm a bit of a cynic, so I'm still surprised I turned out to be "good" at anything other than these Madden leagues. It turns out teaching might be one of them, but it's been a complete roller coaster. Last year I took on coaching, and our baseball team went (13-0) and won our conference. This year I helped launch the new PLTW program with a focus on engineering, and results were so good that we have been announced as a STEM magnet for next year and are the pilot school for the 1-to-1 laptop initiative for each student. I also started a TSA chapter that is going to Regional Competition in 3 weeks, taken on the NASCAR P.I.T. Crew Challenge with another group of students, and agreed to take part in the Gravity Games in Lenoir, NC with another group of students. To top all that off, we just launched a school newspaper that publishes every other week, which debuted with outstanding praise (but an ungodly amount of time and commitment). So yes, I guess what I'm getting at is that I've just been really, really busy. I had a nice 4-day weekend with some time, so I tried to make it up to you guys be tying up some loose ends around here (and RZL), and then pitching in an article, but I know I've got to find time to get my team some W's, too. (1-2) and facing the very real threat of being 4-games back after this week is very unfamiliar territory for me, and being here at 22nd overall is justified. Just know it's not because I don't still have a passion for this, because when you strip away my family and work, the next most important thing to me is winning a GZL Championship and winning my 5th in RZL. Thank you to not only Kevin, but everyone else that is doing their part to keep GZL and RZL alive and well while I adjust to being a grown up (haha). The summer is coming!

21. Seattle Seahawks ( LR #23 )
It's been a rocky and confusing year for the SB VI Champions. After closing 2017 so strong, there was a real sense that the back-to-back NFC Champion Seahawks (2015+2016) were much closer to that team than the team that started last year (1-5). Now sitting at (1-3) this year, you have to wonder if there is some flaw in the Seahawks we are missing, rather than just an anomaly season last year were Cam Newton went to the IR early. I'm going to wait a few weeks before I buy into that narrative, however, as I have a ton of faith in St. Marie as a GM. It's almost like things are backwards for the 12s and Seattle. Can they flip the script?

20. Philadelphia Eagles ( LR #25 )
19. Kansas City Chiefs ( LR #17 )
18. Jacksonville Jaguars ( LR #29 )
17. New York Jets ( LR #27 )
Each team has looked decent to start 2018, you could easily argue better than expected by the popular majority. That said, I've got some serious question marks about QBs Tyler Bray, EJ Manuel, Malik McNabb, and Jonathan Higgins. Of the group, I think Higgins has the most potential for sure, but in just his 3rd season I'm not sure his 83AWR will be enough to make any noise in the playoffs. The Jaguars have a duo of similar QBs in Bray and Glennon and while I like both of their potential long-term, I can't rate their chances higher than Andrew Luck or Collin Klein. I'm not huge on the scrambler model, so I'm not sure how Timmy has won as many games as he has with guys like Manuel and Matthew Tebow. Malik McNabb? Forget about it. His QBR is up from 54.4 to 70.1, but I still get the feeling they're winning in spite of him. But kudos are in order for stopping the losing streak at 17 and sitting at .500 after a quarter!

16. Buffalo Bills ( LR #26 )
15. Chicago Bears ( LR #11 )
A bit of a slide for the NFC Champion Bears, and a bit of a jump for the never-accomplished-shit Bills - but c'mon, the Buffalo Bills - Solider Field reference was too good to pass up! And even still, you can almost make a case for it, because as good as the Bears have been lately, they remain 2.5 games behind the surging Packers and just lost their high priced addition CB Morris Claiborne for a huge chunk of the season. The Bills on the other hand have looked pathetic, but have a few young exciting players that can swing games, and also still have a QB in Andy Luck that I trust a hell of a lot more than some of the QBs leading the .500 clubs like the Jets, Chiefs, and Eagles. The Bills also have 20 sacks so far, 8 more than the next closest. There are some serious analytic connections between teams with high sack numbers and teams that make the Super Bowl. For reals. Go back and check. Breck has certainly felt detached lately, and Bryan has been busy with the revival of his band, so it's not incredibly surprising these teams got off to rocky starts. These GMs could turn it on at any moment, and they will be fringe playoff teams for sure, or better.

14. Arizona Cardinals ( LR #3 )
13. New York Giants ( LR #22 )
12. San Diego Chargers ( LR #9 )
11. Houston Texans ( LR #14 )
10. Miami Dolphins ( LR #10 )
9. Denver Broncos ( LR #13 )
8. Washington Redskins ( LR #15 )
These seven teams are all huddled at (or around) .500 after one quarter, and it's typically par for the course. These are teams that rarely have awful years, but rarely put together amazing regular seasons, either. Now before you get all over me for including the Chargers in that group, it's a good time to remind everyone that the Chargers have been .500 or worse FIVE times in GZL history. So sure, they have a pair of Super Bowl trophies (that they won from the Wild Card round), but they're not a team that's going to storm out to an (8-1) start very often. The Broncos and Dolphins have won division titles and Wild Card trips recently, but most people outside of those divisions probably don't know because the teams have been so quiet in postseason play. The Texans collect QBs these days, while they used to collect wins. There was a brief period in GZL history where they were a lock for 10-14 wins a year, but recent play has made them just as likely historically to bat around .500 as they are to hit it out of the park. The Redskins have easily been the best of this bunch this year, but their biggest claim to the GZL history book is annually tormenting former Division Rival James Paronne. The Cardinals on the other hand are easily the best roster on paper, but they've done nothing to this point in GZL history to make a big mark, either. The fact of the matter is though, that all of these teams are shaping up to be at (or around) .500 again, per historical norm. That means about half of these will probably trend a game or two OVER .500, while the rest will fall to a game or two BELOW .500. Each team boasts a roster and GM talented enough to put it together in the playoffs and CHANGE history, if they get the chance - so watch out.

7. Carolina Panthers ( LR #21 )
6. New England Patriots ( LR #28 )
These two teams were absolutely awful last year, going a combined (8-24). This year they are already a combined (6-1), so expectations are reasonably high at the quarter mark. The Patriots weren't that much better in 2016 either, going (2-14). That means they are only 2 wins away from matching their win total from the last two years COMBINED. A tough contest this week in Tennessee will prove if they are legitimate contenders in the AFC, but a remaining schedule that features the Eagles, Bengals, Colts, Jets, Cowboys, and Bills twice tells you this team could have a landmark season. It was only a matter of time, too, as they have been killing it on draft days the last few years, similar to how the Bears pulled themselves out of mediocrity. Speaking of mediocrity, the Panthers have NEVER won fewer than five games, but they've also NEVER made the playoffs - one of the last couple teams left with that designation. GM Hickman surely doesn't want to talk about it, but a win in Tampa this week would give them a FOUR game lead in the NFC South after just five games. That would be a monumental hole to dig out of for the struggling Bucs, Falcons, and Saints. Then again, a loss puts the Bucs just half a game back, and who knows if a team that's (literally) never been there could overcome that kind of pressure to close 2018.

5. Oakland Raiders ( LR #16 )
4. Pittsburgh Steelers ( LR #6 )
3. Tennessee Titans ( LR #1 )
With 4 weeks in the books, we've had 9 prime time games so far. These three teams were in 6 of them, and they went (5-0-1) in those games. These are teams made for the night, as they've proven to be three teams that almost always deliver. The Raiders have a loss, but it was a loss against the undefeated Packers that the Raiders were winning at halftime, so I can hardly blame them for that. That ugly KC tie may hang over the Steelers heads, but they have built such a big lead in the AFC North it probably won't matter. The other three teams are a combined (3-9). The Titans are THE team to beat in the regular season, so it's no surprise they're kicking ass and taking names again in 2018. With as many golden tickets as they get into the tournament, it's only a matter of time until some of this regular season success bleeds over into the playoffs.

2. St. Louis Rams ( LR #8 )
Some may say this is a little high for the Rams, and perhaps I've just got an intimidating image of this team scorched into my mind after they eliminated my buddy JP's Giants in the playoffs, and then had myself ousted too until some final minute Madden gibberish. The Rams also had a nice playoff run in 2016 that only ended against the Cinderella Seahawks, who would eventually win the Super Bowl. This team has been tossed into the fire time and time again, and while they don't have any hardware to show for it, they have held their own. I have not forgotten that this team has a WINNING RECORD against everyone in the NFC West (including the Seahawks), and I think spotting the Rams a lead like this so early in the year is going to come back and bite the Cardinals and Seahawks. The upcoming 4-game road trip looks daunting, but this will be an outstanding opportunity for the Rams to run the gladiator gauntlet and emerge as a legitimate threat to the Packers for NFC dominance.

1. Green Bay Packers ( LR #4 )
I got the sense last year that the Packers were very bothered by the Bears securing back-to-back NFC North Championships, and then even making (and nearly winning) the Super Bowl. If there is any indication that this was in fact the case, perhaps it is the (4-0) start that includes a 34-17 thrashing of the Bears. The Packers are at their best when they use their dominating ground game, and it certainly appears Doug Martin is back to his old ways with a league leading 545 yards. The Packers are Top 6 in scoring offense AND scoring defense, and are about to play a stretch of four games that features just ONE team ranked higher than 19th on this list. Expect their reign of terror to continue. The main thing separating Kevin and his Packers from the other teams doing similar damage this year? Kevin has a ring.

Thanks for reading! This is an OCCASIONAL feature! I would love to hear your thoughts!

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