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Green Zone League Articles

S2015W03:: GZL Power Rankings
By Anthony Fernandez
Special to gzl-football.com

The One Hit Wonder Edition
AF, GreenZone Media Committee
Monday, August 5th, 2015


SURPRISE!! With my student internship this semester and a newborn, I'm not quite sure WHEN I'll be able to post these, and highly doubt I'll be able to commit to the "every quarter" structure you've all grown used to. With that in mind, I'll simply post them periodically as I have time. It might mean having two in a month, and then not again for another 5 weeks, who knows. It may ultimately mean we get more than 4 installments like usual. We'll see!

32. Cincinnati Bengals ( LR #27 )
31. Detroit Lions ( LR #20 )
The Bengals saw the return of GM Brady Tinnin this offseason, and one of his first actions was reaching on a couple draft picks. He immediately embraced the reach, and vowed to make the picks work – a wise move for a newer GM. We saw the opposite when GM Tom Riddell was in New York, a chapter in GZL history that will live on in lore. While Riddell, who dismantled a pretty good Jets team, defended his moves vigorously at the time, he has since reminisced in a very apologetic manner. He jumped to the Lions midseason and enjoyed some success with a team that he did not build, but hey – how much “building” actually occurred prior to Tom – the best players on the roster were already there when we started. Regardless, the Lions struggled last year, and now both the Lions and Bengals have begun (0-2) in 2015. At the end of the day though, I can not believe they’d die for these sins, they were merely freshmen. I think each GM has learned from past mistakes and will still make positive memories in 2015.

30. Atlanta Falcons ( LR #3 )
Last week the Falcons lost not only the game, falling to (0-2), but also lost star QB Matt Ryan for the season with a Broken Elbow. There have been reports that WR Roddy White is available, and who knows what the Falcons will look like moving forward. While the team has certainly dug themsleves out of deeper holes than this, they've never had to do it with such a shitty shovel. Stranger things have happened, but at the moment it looks like the only things the fans in Georgia have to look forward to is the Falcons abandoning their stadium in San Diego, and fucking their sisters.

29. Baltimore Ravens ( LR #19 )
Where did you come from, where did you go, where did you come from Cotton Eye Joe Gaspar? The Ravens were ravaged with injuries in 2014, so most gave the Ravens a pass – but the team is off to an ugly (0-2) start in 2015 as well. Most of us remember Joe from RZL, where he was a perennial playoff GM with the Buffalo Bills. It’s been noticeably tougher for him in Baltimore, and one has to think if he still hasn’t settled in since moving over following his dismissal from Miami. He’ll have to get comfortable soon, as the Ravens fans are not satisfied with mediocrity, and while the Ravens have never won fewer than 7 games in a season, they also only have double-digit wins once.

28. Dallas Cowboys ( LR #18 )
Having played the Cowboys Week 1, I can personally tell you that they are much better than this ranking. That said, they are (0-2) and coming off the darkest year in their GZL tenure. KVW is one of the best GMs in our community and a true architect with a roster, but the cap has forced him to make some tough decisions. Did they move Romo too soon? Mile Austin? Are we really that far removed from those record breaking seasons that could have easily ended in a Cowboys Super Bowl? Perhaps it was similar to a confident GM trying to ride his bike with no handlebars. Did he faceplant? Fly over the handle? Who knows. They are only a game back, so it’s far from over, but they’ve got ground to make up.

27. San Francisco 49ers ( LR #28 )
26. New Orleans Saints ( LR #22 )
The 49ers have been among the worst teams in the win column the last few years, and despite a bevy of high draft picks, they thus far have little to show for it. The Saints were once the dominant team in the NFC South, perhaps even the NFC, but have really fallen from grace. GM Dorian Edwards has made a vow to get more involved in his team. Maurice Heard is usually pretty quite on the forums, so who knows what’s up with him. Either way, it’s time for these two teams to start performing, as it’s almost closing time – they might not have to leave, but they won’t be able to stay in their current location.

25. Carolina Panthers ( LR #32 )
24. Miami Dolphins ( LR #23 )
The Panthers and Dolphins have made a lot of decisions recently that will greatly shape which way they are headed, but do they know which way? The Dolphins gutted their team for draft picks and still have many question marks to answer. The Panthers are equally young, but then trade multiple picks (including a 2nd and 4th) for a QB like Kevin Kolb. Do these teams think they are ready to compete NOW? Are they hoping to compete in the near future? A good amount of talent on these rosters, with two great GMs – but I’m still not sure which way they’re headed – up or down.

23. Cleveland Browns ( LR #8 )
Ah, my least favorite song of all time. 2014 was nice, 2014 was bumping, everyone was having a ball, but then 2015 came and saw Brad and his Browns fall. I’m clueless as to what’s going on in Cleveland, but at this point I refuse to believe they were just a one-hit wonder and fully expect them to turn things around. If they continue trending this way though, it will be hard to defend them.

22. Tennessee Titans ( LR #5 )
21. Jacksonville Jaguars ( LR #11 )
20. Green Bay Packers ( LR #2 )
These three teams were serious players in the 2014 playoffs, and after solid off-seasons there was no reason to believe they wouldn’t be this year, too. In a truly bizarre twist however, each team is (0-2) and in serious trouble headed into Week 3. Each team could legitimately be forced to mail in the 2015 campaign if they fall to (0-3), and knowing all three GMs, that would be a very tough pill for each to swallow. I want to believe that this was just an anomaly and that each team will bounce back, but every time I look around, every time I look around, their records are in my face. Even at (0-2) though, they are better than a few 1-win teams.

19. Houston Texans ( LR #29 )
The Texans started the season off with an impressive win in Green Bay, but cooled off last week. This is a really tough team to forecast, as the AFC South is wide open right now with the Jags struggling and the Titans minus starting QB. That said, the situation in Houston is too hectic right now for me to commit to anything higher than 19th. Hell, even Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan doesn’t know who’s going to start at QB each week. Will it be Kyle Orton, who they gave up a 2nd Round Pick for? Terence Bennett, who they just gave a 7 year deal to? Or Kendall Irving, who they took with the #1 overall pick only to bench? Scotty doesn’t know, and neither do I.

18. Minnesota Vikings ( LR #26 )
The Vikings are coming off of a precarious victory over the talented Tennessee Titans, and while I’d like to rank them higher than 18th, an upcoming schedule that features the (2-0) Colts, AFC Champion Jaguars, and St.Marie-led Seahawks has me worried about getting ahead of myself. AC has done a great job with the Vikings, earning himself a couple GMOTY nominations, routinely making great trades and draft picks. But coaching is another deal completely, and if they are going to keep up in the NFC North they will need to impress over the next few weeks. Check back later, and in the mean time, hum that super catchy “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” tune.

17. St. Louis Rams ( LR #24 )
Jason wishes he was a little bit taller, he wishes he was a baller, he probably wishes he was still a Lion, because he’s only been a Ram for two weeks and he’s already cryin’. That’s right; it took one full game for Jason to complain about a tough loss, a staple of his time spent in Detroit. To his credit, he bounced back and got a nice win last week in New Orleans. Have they shown me enough to be ranked higher? Not quite yet, but they did play the Bears very tough, and have two shots at the Cardinals over the next three weeks – so we’ll see.

16. Kansas City Chiefs ( LR #16 )
Tim is a confident guy, and when I hear Right Said Fred, I totally get that “Miller Time” vibe. Unfortunately for Mr. Miller, that hasn’t really translated so well to the GZL Standings in years past, but they are off to a decent start in 2015. It’s entirely possible that the Chiefs are in the playoff hunt this year, but much of that will depend on the health and performance of Andrew Luck. Luck is definitely NOT a model, and he doesn’t shake his toosh on the catwalk, but hopefully he can at least shake it on the football field. (YO, why does Right Said Fred look so much like Jeff Van Gundy??)

15. New England Patriots ( LR #15 )
The Patriots have had a decent season so far and are about right where most expect them to be – borderline playoff contenders. I personally picked them to win the AFC East, but until we know how good the Colts actually are, it’s tough for me to judge how good the Patriots are on the heels of that loss to Indy. It’s hard to get too committed to Mark Sanchez, but there is no doubt he has the tools on paper to push the Patriots into the tournament. This week will be a huge challenge, as I assure you the Defending AFC Champion Jaguars are not going to fall to (0-3) lightly. And that statement in itself pays homage to how big of underachievers the Patriots have been so far in GZL. How did the Jaguars win the AFC before any of the Patriots teams? I’m a big Matt Spencer fan, so I’m rooting for them to turn it around.

14. New York Jets ( LR #30 )
The Jets fans get knocked down, but they get up again. After a few solid years under GM Douglass Williams, the team promptly saw all of its progress undone by a GM with one foot out the door. GM Corey Smith came in with much fanfare, and while most expected the team to experience Buffalo-Breck-Like-Effects, the challenging situation proved to be one that was unfixable in one offseason. Despite the turbulent 2014 year and the lack of their own 1st Round Pick, they bounced back and once again have much fanfare. QB E.J. Manuel looks like the real deal, and the Jets look like they may be as close as ever to relevance.

13. San Diego Chargers ( LR #13 )
Two beefs with the Chargers. First, the city itself is beautiful, and probably my favorite city to play in OTHER than Tampa (hey, Atlanta played there for like two seasons just for shits and giggles). Secondly, I had a great deal of success in RZL and was reaching unanimous “most successful in the RZL/GZL family” status, but then Stanley won 1 in RZL, and 2 in GZL. I think he has another 1 or 2 in other leagues, but we know those don’t really count. Fact remains, he evened up with me at 3 in RZL/GZL, and I’m not even sure if he’s not a far superior GM than me at this point. He’s definitely been so in GZL, and has totally been stealing my sunshine. While he’s (1-1), he’s definitely in striking range and I think he’s easily a borderline playoff team in 2015.

12. Seattle Seahawks ( LR #12 )
While the Week 1 loss to Arizona surely must have been somewhat humbling for the defending NFC West Champs, they managed to right the ship last week against Detroit, in a game that was underrated as far as high pressure games go. Nic really needed a win, and he went out and got it. Both road games were important, because the Seahawks don’t lose very often at home, so if they can get 3-4 road wins you have to figure they will challenge for a playoff spot. They now return to rainy Seattle for a 3-game home stand where they will look to move to (4-1) before hitting the road again.

11. Indianapolis Colts ( LR #31 )
There is a case to be made I have underrated the Colts a little, but the truth is they just truly spin me round. I don’t know how to forecast this team, as on paper they look like a Schaub injury away from being under .500, but great coaching has them off to a (2-0) start with outstanding performances by long-forgotten names like Vincent Jackson and Montee Ball. So far they have road wins over the Jaguars and Patriots, two teams I think very highly of. Looking at their schedule, there is no reason this team can’t climb all the way to (6-0), at which point I’d be forced to rank them higher.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ( LR #10 )
“I had visions, I was in them, I was looking into the mirror, to see a little bit clearer, the rottenness and evil in me.” Yes, I used to be an asshole in these leagues, and it really felt like I won a hell of a lot more. I don’t think it’s an inaccurate claim that winning Super Bowls in RZL made me kind of soft, much like I hinted it might after I won the first one. It’s really such a great feeling that I genuinely wanted as many others as possible to feel it. This passiveness grew each time I won another, resulting in the killer instinct I once possessed to never truly transfer over to GZL. Despite being to the playoffs all 5 seasons we’ve had, I’ve only advanced past my first playoff game ONCE. I instead have focused my enjoyment in these leagues on providing content, and revolutionizing what a “madden league” is. It pains me to have to ask you all, many of you long tenured friends of mine, to pay even $1 a month to keep the lights on, so my focus has instead switched from endless gameplanning and ruthlessly scouring trade blocks to countless hours on articles, graphics, radio, fantasy games, and league growth. There is no doubt my team has struggled as a result, but I can’t say my enjoyment level has dropped – in fact probably the opposite – it’s not like I’ve been a doormat. That was until recently, when my good friend JP won the Super Bowl. I was overwhelmed with joy for him, and I was so happy to see him reach that pinnacle, to experience that feeling I once (twice, thrice) had. And then the offseason hit and I was flooded with insults and comparisons. Instead of relishing and savoring the moment, my pal used the platform to talk down my accomplishments and paint me in an inferior light. And whether it should or shouldn’t have – it has motivated me. He’s right, I’ve accomplished very little in GZL. I have become soft. The mere fact that I ranked myself 10th here, despite an outstanding draft, being (2-0), and just beating the Super Bowl Champs in THEIR HOUSE is further proof I’ve gone soft. OR are the Bucs just doing what they always do, and getting off to a hot start only to cool when it matters? We have a tendency to take pole position, and then do nothing with it. But the winds of change are blowing, and if that means I’ll have to channel some of Asshole Anthony, I’ll do it. Ask Tom Hughes. If that means I’ll have to tone down league contributions to focus on TEAM contributions, I’ll do it. We NEED to win a Super Bowl. Don't be surprised if these Power Rankings get MEANER as we go.

9. Washington Redskins ( LR #6 )
The Redskins have been a trouble team in GZL lore, but they’ve very much been on the uptick since GM Kurt Ison took over. He has recently returned from another tour of duty, and he returns to a defending NFC East Champion that was a botched 2-point conversion away from being (2-0). TONIGHT they travel to Tampa Bay to play the undefeated Buccaneers in a game that I’m very afraid the Redskins will be dominating. It’s going to be an interesting game for sure, as if the Bucs win it will be hard to argue they aren't much better than 10th in the league, but if the Redskins win it will be hard to argue they aren’t much better than 9th. I’m bound to be wrong on one forecast, and I think I know which one. Save tonight, tomorrow I’ll be gone.

8. Philadelphia Eagles ( LR #21 )
7. Arizona Cardinals ( LR #17 )
These two birds are coming off of a rough 2014 season, but they kicked off the 2015 season with a ton of spirit and adrenaline. These high-octane offenses look like the second coming of the 2013-14 Falcons, and each team needs to be considered a serious threat to challenge in their respective divisions. How long can they continue to make noise? We’ll see – but I’d like to see them play division rivals like the Giants and Seahawks before I thrust them into the Top 5.

6. Denver Broncos ( LR #14 )
5. Oakland Raiders ( LR #9 )
I know, I know… the Pearce brothers hate being lumped together. However, might I critique that if you want to be separated, stop making it so easy to lump you together! You are a pair of undefeated AFC West teams with two impressive wins on the resume each and share the last name! The truth of the matter is, I have never got the “rival” vibe from these brothers, and while I’m sure each GM wants to win equally bad, when they are not playing I have no doubt they root for each other. So right now they are in a pretty good place, but the bitter sweet part is that only one of them can win the AFC West. Last year it was the Raiders, and I have a feeling that as we get closer to their two matchups in the final month of the season (to be featured on GZL Hard Knocks), things will get a little more tense.

4. Buffalo Bills ( LR #4 )
For GMs that hate on guys like myself, take a long hard look at what Breck has done in Buffalo. He’s putting on a clinic on how to build a team. This is how we do it:: shed mediocre players at maximum value, stockpile draft picks, draft in the trenches, secure a starting QB with high THA/AWR, build DEPTH into your roster. Breck was the 2014 GMOTY for a reason, and he could be a candidate for COTY this season if he continues at the pace he’s at. It’s hard to imagine the Jets, Dolphins, or Patriots catching him if he continues to play like he did last season.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers ( LR #1 )
The Steelers were pretty unanimously voted the “Team of the Lustrum”, honoring the best team of the first 5 years of GZL. That was in large part due to the footwork by great GMs like Brian Brown (Hall of Famer) and Ricky Lung (Future Hall of Famer). Despite that storied history, the league has still had trouble keeping a GM in Pittsburgh. While the team has had a handful of GOOD GMs – like Frank Malara, and presumably Tom Hughes – it appears the team now has another GREAT GM. But we’ve seen about 50 shades of Travis Robbins over the last few years, so which will show up for work? The Steelers have a lot of talent on the roster, but the talent is OLD. Could this be the final countdown on this Steelers Super Bowl window? Will GM Travis Robbins have the resolve to stick around and guide the Steelers towards their next Super Bowl window (with no 1st Round Pick next year)? Or, like the Steelers super ambitions, will this also be the final countdown to Mr. Robbins time as a GM in GZL? Lots of questions remain to be answered, but when you’re (2-0) and the rest of your division is (0-6) – you have time to answer those questions.

2. Chicago Bears ( LR #25 )
I’m probably going to get ripped for this pick, as this really is a LARGE rise for a team that was ranked 25th at the end of last year. Even at (2-0), neither of their wins (@STL, vSF) jumps off the page as a “page turning” victory. The fact is I just really love this roster, I think Laurenson is outstanding, and I think this division is ripe for the picking. There is no doubt in my mind that the Bears “won” the offseason, with a few nice moves and the best draft class in the league, and they have carried that momentum into the 2015 season. While this pick might seem questionable as of this publication, I think more will get on board when the Bears win in Green Bay this week. A bold prediction, but one I feel very comfortable making. The future is definitely bright in cloudy Chicago.

1. New York Giants ( LR #7 )
That’s right boys and girls, the New York FOOTBALL Giants are still atop the Power Rankings. While this will surely not be a popular pick – the fact remains they are the defending Super Bowl Champions. While it’s true they lost last week at home by 1 point to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they had numerous opportunities to win, and had their coach not went for 2 points at the buzzer, they probably take their momentum into OT, win the game, and move to (2-0). Looking past that loss and reaching back to their historical playoff run, they had won five straight high pressure contests. They began by overcoming GM Nic St. Marie (who has more playoff victories than most) on the road in Seattle. Then they shut down the best team in the NFC as they upset outstanding GM Kevin Mullendore and his Packers. Then they exercised their demons by winning in Washington and snatching back the NFC East crown. Then they became the first team in Madden history to pitch a shut-out in the Super Bowl, dispatching the upstart Jaguars. Then they opened 2015 by once again exercising those divisional demons, beating the Redskins again for good measure, erasing the painful memories of the last couple Week 17’s. So sure, they narrowly lost at home to a good Bucs team, but I have an obligation not only to rank based on the now, but to also be able to forecast the future by carefully evaluating the recent past and the upcoming. And from my chair, the Giants have the Bengals, Falcons, Saints, and Cowboys twice over the next five weeks, and had I ranked them 10 spots lower I’d look pretty silly at the halfway mark. And yes, baby has back. Baby’s back has almost reached maximum capacity.

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

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