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Green Zone League Articles

S2014Q03:: GZL Quarterly Power Rankings
By Anthony Fernandez
Special to gzl-football.com

The Summer Movie Edition
AF, GreenZone Media Committee
Saturday, March 20th, 2013

S2014Q01 | S2014Q02

32. Houston Texans ( LR #22 )
31. Dallas Cowboys ( LR #20 )
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the loss column. Since GZL opened, these have been two of the most productive, dependable franchises, but each team looks destined for a Top 5 pick. Each team still owns their pick, so no harm done, and if any GMs have earned a "mulligan" season, it's Keith Van Wagner and Paul Willis. There will undoubtedly be some changes going forward though, and after nearly half a decade of Schaub and Romo, it's very likely that Bennett and Stanzi open the 2015 season under center for the Texans and Cowboys. It will be the end of an era in Texas, and it's very surprising that page will turn with 0 Super Bowl rings for either QB.

30. Carolina Panthers ( LR #29 )
29. San Francisco 49ers ( LR #27 )
28. Miami Dolphins ( LR #32 )
27. Cincinnati Bengals ( LR #28 )
These are 4 pretty young teams, primarily at the most important position - QB. Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Russell Wilson, and Ryan Tannehill are likely to become household names with our custom progression system - but it won't be in 2014. Of the group, the Bengals have the best record and appear the closest to competing. The Dolphins, however, have the brightest future because they have SIX 1st Round Picks in the upcoming draft. The 49ers are coming off back-to-back Top 5 draft picks and likely are headed for one more. Thankfully, they have drafted well and should be headed in the right direction before long. The Panthers have drafted very well, but will surely have a bitter taste in their mouth on draft day as they watch their division rival draft in the Top 10 after the Panthers sent the pick to Tampa for [2.1] in last year's draft.

26. Minnesota Vikings ( LR #26 )
25. Chicago Bears ( LR #24 )
24. Philadelphia Eagles ( LR #25)
23. New England Patriots ( LR #18 )
These four teams are certainly feeling some heat, following a relatively long period of disappointment. The Eagles haven't made the playoff since 2010, and appear a virtual lock to miss for the 4th straight season. The Patriots won 12 games in 2010 as they made the AFC Championship, but since then have won 10 wins, 9 wins, 6 wins, and now have 4 wins. With 3 of the final 5 on the road, it won't be easy to break that trend, but they should be doing everything in their power to get to (8-8), even if that mark won't be good enough for the playoffs. The Bears started (3-1) before losing 6 in a row and falling completely out of the playoff race. A win last week over the Chiefs helped stop the bleeding, but even .500 seems like a mile away. The Vikings are staring at their 5th straight season without a playoff game. Aside from Bears GM Bryan Laurenson, who was recently hired, all of these GMs were hired when the league opened, and are surely feeling some heat from the fans. Laurenson is likely feeling it following the collapse, and a few questionable trades. Regardless, they are all great GMs capable of turning things around, but will likely have to wait until 2015 to do so.

22. St. Louis Rams ( LR #31 )
21. Baltimore Ravens ( LR #23 )
These two teams have been zombified by injuries and have basically played as a shell of their squads at various times this season. Despite that, Tyler Richardson and Joe Gaspar are two of the better GMs in the madden community so have kept their squads somewhat competitive. I don't expect either to rollover, and would not be surprised to see how many teams they can "bite" before 2014 ends. The Rams play the Seahawks twice, as well as the Redskins, while the Ravens play the Cardinals, Jaguars and Browns - so both teams will have plenty of shots to play spoiler. I fully expect both teams to bounce back in a big way in 2015.

20. Indianapolis Colts ( LR #17)
19. New York Jets ( LR #21 )
18. Kansas City Chiefs ( LR #13 )
17. New Orleans Saints ( LR #10 )
At certain points in this season, all 4 of these teams looked like serious contenders in their divisions, but a series of unfortunate events has sent their seasons in another direction. While there is still time for some of these teams to turn it around, all 4 are certainly headed towards darkness and in serious danger of having the lights turned out altogether. For the Saints, they have played to the level of their competition, and have unfortunately laid some eggs in winnable games despite playing good teams tough. The Chiefs have been a shell of themselves since losing Andrew Luck, but absent a 1st Round Pick, they should continue trying to win. The Smith Brothers in Indy and New York have bright futures and are still hanging on, but with them playing Tampa and Buffalo this week, we may be ready to turn the lights off on 2014 soon.

16. Detroit Lions ( LR #9 )
15. San Diego Chargers ( LR #19 )
14. Atlanta Falcons ( LR #30 )
Boy did that work out well. The Hangover is begrudgingly back this year with the 3rd and (hopefully) final installment, and despite 0% of the buzz the last two movies had, we all know we'll still see it. That's pretty much where we sit with the Chargers, Lions, and Falcons - 3 of the final 4 teams playing last year. This has just not been their year, and it's pretty safe to say that any of these teams have considerable work ahead of them if they even play to MAKE the tournament this year. The Falcons are trending the right direction, having won 4 in a row and within reach of the #6 seed if they keep it up. The Chargers would need some help, but are still within reach of the AFC West crown (although it would be a big upset). The Lions have put up huge numbers, and I'm sure nobody would WANT to see them in a single-elimination tournament, but they just don't have the resume to make it again this year.

13. Washington Redskins ( LR #16 )
The Redskins (6-5) record is a little more impressive when you consider they played (and won) three of their games with Bruce Gradkowski while Chad Henne was hurt. Henne has been pretty decent since returning stat wise, but they still lost at home to the Eagles and narrowly won in Dallas. As it turns out, they are still in control of their own destiny in the NFC East - one game back, but play the Giants twice in the final five games. The Redskins of course had the dramatic Week 17 win over the Giants last year to knock them out of the playoff race, and they have the Giants Week 17 this season as well. Unfortunately, the Giants get the @Philly and home games against Dallas and Arizona. On the other hand, the Redskins get @Buffalo, @Arizona, and @St. Louis. With that in mind, I don't see the Redskins winning the NFC East with anything short of a sweep of the Giants. Even if they don't win the East, they appear to be the Lone Ranger in terms of the 2nd Wild Card spot, with their biggest competition perhaps coming from the once-(1-6) Atlanta Falcons. I like the Redskins a lot as the #6 seed likely with 9 wins and a winnable road game against the Buccaneers or Giants.

12. Denver Broncos ( LR #14 )
11. Oakland Raiders ( LR #12 )
The brother duo each sit at (7-4), which has to be a great surprise to one GM, and a bit of a letdown for the other. I'll let you guess which way (Hint: The Broncos won 4 games last year, the Raiders won 11). I frankly think the Raiders have a much more impressive roster than the Broncos, and originally had the Raiders ranked much higher. That was until I examined their wins a little closer and realized I'm not all that enamored with wins over BAL, MIN, HOU, SD, KC, DEN, and NE. For my money, the Broncos win over the Bills was the most impressive win on either teams schedule. The brothers clash this week in a game that could very well decide who will win the AFC West and host a playoff game. My money is still on Oakland, but I have written Wade Pearce's name on my COTY ballot (in pencil).

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ( LR #11 )
9. New York Giants ( LR #4 )
Ah, the two despicable assholes of this and any league both sit at (7-4) and appear near-locks to at least make the tournament. The outspoken duo that co-host GZL's Pardon the Interruption do have some redeemable qualities (like Gru did in the movie), which I guess is why most people put up with them in these leagues. In many ways these two are polar opposites, yet for many of those reasons they get along so well. Paronne is perhaps one of the worst losers in madden league history, yet has been surprisingly humble the few times he's experienced some success. Fernandez, on the other hand, is a pretty graceful loser, but is perhaps the worst winner in the history of madden leagues. Unfortunately for some - he wins a lot. And he does that awful thing where he refers to himself in 3rd person. Like all the time, it's unbearable. I don't personally think either of these teams is capable of beating Pittsburgh or Green Bay in the playoffs, but at the very least it appears each team should win their division and host a playoff game. Depending on the matchups, it should make some very competitive and fun pairings (Seahawks @ Bucs? Redskins @ Giants?)

FAST 6::
8. Cleveland Browns ( LR #15 )
7. Tennessee Titans ( LR #8 )
6. Seattle Seahawks ( LR #5 )
5. Arizona Cardinals ( LR #7 )
4. Jacksonville Jaguars ( LR #6 )
3. Buffalo Bills ( LR #3 )
Just glance over this list of six teams for a second. These teams have all become winners FAST, and I think this is clearly the dark horse field to house the Super Bowl V Champion. That is ridiculous to think that one of these franchises could win a SUPER BOWL, considering their historical standings, but it does not seem like a stretch at all. The Bills have exactly ZERO playoff appearances in their Franchise history, and have never even won more than 8 games. They finished with the worst record in GZL just two short seasons ago. The Jaguars were a playoff team in 2010 and 2011, but combined to go (9-23) in 2012 and 2013 and finished in the bottom 5 both seasons. The Cardinals have won at least 7 games a season every year so far, but rarely finish much better than .500 and only have one playoff game on their resume, a blowout loss in New Orleans. They already have 7 wins with 5 to play, and are very much in play for a 1st Round BYE. The Seahawks broke into the conversation last year by winning a Wild Card at (9-7), but were (12-36) from 2010-2012 with numerous Top 5 picks. The Titans are easily the most experienced team on this list, having gone (14-2) last year and appearing in back-to-back AFC Championships, but lest us not forget they too are only a few seasons removed from going (1-15) - a record they shared with the Redskins that same year as the ONLY two teams to never win at least 2 games. The Browns have steadily improved each year, but the starting line was so poor that they STILL have zero winning seasons and zero playoff trips on the resume. Yet despite all that, and even with as talented as #1 and #2 in these Power Rankings are (Steelers and Packers), if I had wagered a bet with you on if the SBV Champ would be in that group, or this one, the smart money would be to take this group.

Man of Steel::
2. Green Bay Packers ( LR #2 )
The Packers have above and beyond been the best team in the NFC. Like their Week 7 loss to the Chiefs, the Packers did suffer one tacky loss this quarter to the Philadelphia Eagles, but overall they have been an extremely consistent team. With 5 games left to play, they can clinch the NFC North with just one win, or one Lions loss - so for all intents and purposes they are the NFC North Champions. The biggest question will be whether the Packers can wrap up Home Field Advantage, and with the 49ers, Chargers, Lions and Falcons on the schedule - it looks likely. There is an ominous Week 16 clash at home with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that could decide Home Field if the Bucs keep playing like they have the last couple weeks. Regardless, the Packers control their own destiny, and it would be very surprising if they don't wrap up the NFC before that game even kicks off. Kevin Mullendore has long been Super Man over in RZL, and he's brought those same qualities to GZL and I know it's personally made my life a lot easier.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers ( LR #1 )
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a remarkable season in their debut campaign with new GM Ricky Lung. The storied franchise that lost its Hall of Fame GM Brian Brown following their Super Bowl III win was very fortunate to land Lung this offseason, who had seemed to grew disenchanted with his situation in New Orleans. While some will knock the Steelers odds of an "epic" season following their loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, I will not. For starters, it was the first time anyone in the 4.5 year history of GZL had started (10-0). They also have pocketed very impressive wins over the Seahawks, Titans, Browns, plus the Ravens twice. They were certainly due a loss, and losing on the road against a tough Jaguars team in must-win mode to keep up with Tennessee is nothing to be ashamed of. The Steelers have the Bengals, Texans, and Chargers over the next 3, so they very well could be resting starters Weeks 16 and 17 against the Browns and Cardinals, as Home Field Advantage should be theirs.

Thanks for reading! This will be a QUARTERLY feature! Would love to hear your thoughts!

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