If someone had told me that 7 weeks ago that the Denver Broncos would be 6-0 right now, including wins against New England and at San Diego, I would have laughed. Since the evolution of the 24/7 media, no team had a "worse" offseason than the the 2009 Broncos; at least that was the hype.
First long time head coach and two time Super Bowl champion Mike Shanahan was fired; replaced by a very young, unproven, Josh McDaniels. Then McDaniels alienated "franchise" QB Jay Cutler, forcing a trade to Chicago for Kyle Orton and picks.
Then Orton looked awful in the preseason, the media began calling for Chris Simms to take over as starter. Brandon Marshall threatened a hold out, got suspended, and got in plenty of legal trouble.
There was no chance the Broncos would even compete with the Chargers for the division title. The Chargers were focused, filled with leaders, and coming off of a hot end to 2008.
All of that seems so long ago now and leaves us with one lesson to be learned; NEVER believe the offseason hype regarding an NFL season.
Here's the Power Rankings for Week 7:
01. New Orleans Saints: They beat the Giants and I have to jump on board. They're undefeated, they win with style, and their offense has been compared to the 07 Patriots, 05 Colts, 01 Rams, and every other high octane offense you can name. Drew Brees is good and he has a lot of weapons. Whether or not they can beat the AFC elite remains to be seen, but they'll get a chance to really scare us Week 12 when they host the Patriots. Until then they shouldn't fall out of the Top 10.
02. Indianapolis Colts: They had a bye week and in typical Colts fashion kept a low profile. The only thing we heard from them all week was that Matt Stover was signed to replace an ailing Adam Vinatieri. Chances are this is for the better considering that outside of the 06 Super Bowl run, Vinatieri has been very, very, mediocre. The bye week continues this week @ St. Louis.
03. Minnesota Vikings: Despite their 6-0 record I have no envy for the Vikings fans right now. Will this team ever beat a good team in a considerable blowout? At this point it doesn't matter as long as you get the "W" and this team has 6. The schedule gets a little tough now, @Pit and Favre Bowl II: Live in Green Bay, but if they can come out of that 7-1 heading into a midseason bye, chances are they'll be in the Metrodome in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
04. Denver Broncos: They did it! They've taken back the AFC West from the Chargers who've won it the past three years. Somewhere John Elway and Jake Plummer are smiling... because it was Orton who did it and not Cutler. This team needs to stay healthy and get a first round bye if they want to go to the Super Bowl.
05. New York Giants: It was a bad loss in New Orleans, but if you can make any optimistic comment it'd be "it was in New Orleans." The Giants can still get a first round bye and even home field advantage, but have you wondered if that was the problem? I think this Giants teams head isn't always in the right place.
06. Pittsburgh Steelers: They'll never go 15-1 in the Ben Roethlisberger again, so people need to stop writing this team off every time they lose a regular season game. It's not what the Steelers are about. This team will be in the playoffs again, and if they get a home game they'll probably advance. How far? That's totally up to them. This team controls every game they're in.
07. New England Patriots: The 59-0 blowout does a lot to impress the casual sports fan, but any true NFL fan knows that it means nothing. This is a two loss team that will probably lose two to three more. After that, anything can happen and a return to the Super Bowl isn't impossible. They'll be in the playoffs though. That's for sure.
The Very Good
08. Atlanta Falcons: This team is good; probably not championship good, but definitely good. Matt Ryan is a top ten quarterback, and he's got this team in perfect shape for another playoff push. They've got two to go with New Orleans, so anything is possible for this team. First things first; a road trip to Dallas. Win that and I'll start considering them elite.
09. Arizona Cardinals: They've come scorching back into the NFC playoff race, now they get a hurting New York Giants. The Cardinals need to take it easy this week and not try to do anything they can't do (like try to hard to beat the Giants on the road in October), the Cardinals can return to the playoffs in the same position they were in last year if they just take care of business and win when they have to. A win this week could go a long way in competing for a first round bye though. Too early for a team like Arizona to be thinking about that though.
10. Green Bay Packers: Nothing helps cure the doubters better than a soft schedule. The pleasure should continue this week against the Browns. A loss and they're toast.
11. Chicago Bears: A tough loss on Sunday Night in a game they could've easily won. They're probably not going to win the division so they need to start taking care of business and winning the games they're expected to win; that includes this week against the Bengals.
12. Philadelphia Eagles: You can't lose to Oakland. Not at home, on the road, in London, or in Honolulu. If you're a Super Bowl contender you cannot lose to the Raiders. They get Washington this week at the perfect time.
Hanging In There:
13. Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys wish they could have bye weeks this good every year. The Giants lose, the Eagles lose, and things suddenly look much brighter in Dallas. A brutal home showdown with a very good Falcons team awaits. Winner takes command of the Wild Card.
14. Cincinnati Bengals: We'll know after this week if the Bengals have fallen back to earth. Both they and the Bears should be playing for their playoff lives. If you look at their schedule there could easily be six more wins on it; this probably has to be one them.
15. San Francisco 49ers: They're still in first in their division, but they're not the best team in their division. If this team wants to make the playoffs they're going to have to win the NFC West.
16. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins need to just come out of this next week against New Orleans alive. If they can do that they have an open path to a shot at the playoffs and a second straight division title. These next three weeks are the definitive weeks of their schedule. I like their fight though.
17. Baltimore Ravens: This team has dropped three heart breakers in a row. They have a bye this week but it doesn't get an easier after that (Den, @Cin, @Cle, Ind, Pit, @GB). If they're 6-6 we can start thinking playoffs. Chances are this team misses out.
18. New York Jets: Three weeks ago the Jets were on everybodys tongue. Now they're 3-3 and they look like exactly what they really are; Average. Rex Ryan isn't Weeb Ewbank. Mark Sanchize isn't Broadway Joe. This defense isn't the Sack Exchange. That being said this team can still win and improve this year. Maybe one day this core of personnel can bring the franchise it's second championship; not this year though.
19. Houston Texans: This team got it's first impressive win of the year and now everyone is back on the Texans playoff bandwagon. Though I'd love to join I need to see this team pull off back to back wins. I win this week against San Francisco would be a great start.
20. Carolina Panthers: As I predicted last week this team is still alive and can turn it around. They have a favorable schedule that can help them recoup and get to .500. That being said they need to make a statement against teams like Tampa. They have Buffalo this week, then things get tough.
21. San Diego Chargers: The division is out of reach. These aren't the 2008 Broncos and they won't blow a 3.5 game lead. The Chargers best shot at going back to the playoffs is as a wild card team. They've got two games they should win back to back (@KC, vs Oak) before they head to NY for Eli Bowl II. This team can still win 9 to 10 games; if they do they'll be the team that New England and Indianapolis least want to see.
22. Seattle Seahawks: This team needs a bye week badly. Coming off of a 41-0 slaying of the Jaguars, this team lost 27-3 to a divisional opponent at home. The only reason they're not buried is because they play in the worst division in the league.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars: Okay, so technically at 3-3 the Jaguars are totally alive in the AFC playoff hunt; but with two of their wins coming against the Rams and Titans, I can't really take this team too seriously. Especially after trailing the Rams in the 4th quarter this past week.
24. Buffalo Bills: The Bills impressed me enough this past week to move them up three spots. It would be really easy for the Bills to have given up coming into the game. It would've been really easy to give up when Trent Edwards left the game with a head injury. It would have made sense for the Bills to give up after Ryan Lindell missed what would have been a game winning field goal. The Bills fought though and picked up an overtime victory against a team they weren't supposed to beat.
25. Kansas City Chiefs: After flirting with the idea a few times this season, the Chiefs finally got a win. There's a chance the Chiefs may even get another one or two of these this season. Matt Cassell is "okay," but the Chiefs never should've invested their future in a player like that.
26. Oakland Raiders: Who saw that one coming? After spending the last three weeks as a punching bag, the Raiders won what some experts considered to be the toughest game on their schedule. The offense is still awful. We knew from the San Diego game that the defense was good. If the defense can start going both ways we may be talking wild card.
27. Washington Redskins: This is an ugly situation that keeps getting uglier. A smart idea would be to start building towards 2010, unfortunately this isn't exactly the youngest team in the league. A lot needs to change before this team can become a contender again.
28. Detroit Lions: Circle week 8 on your calendars, that's when this team will play their next game... against the Rams. Hopefully at that point Matthew Stafford is healthy, because other than to watch that one player, that game is hopeless.
29. Cleveland Browns: The Browns have nothing to look forward to the rest of the season. There's probably nothing to look forward to for 2010. I think Eric Mangini will get a second chance, he didn't walk in to the best situation in the league. It's going to take a few years to clean up that mess. Green Bay this week and an opportunity to play the role of spoiler.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: They showed signs of life against Carolina but left Sunday without a win. This team needs to start showing some direction both for now and the future. Their next game is in London vs New England... Ut oh.
31. Tennessee Titans: They're an embarrassment to any Titans/Oilers team in the past. Including the really bad ones. Sure, New England should've played classier, but Tennessee should have played. Talk has been brewing that maybe this is a "Cure of the Terrible Towels" (the Titans havent won a game since LenDale White stomped on the Steelers terrible towel... that's 0-8), but I think this is more of a curse of a team being bad. 2008 was a mirage; time for this franchise to rebuild... again.
32. St. Louis Rams: This team has been rebuilding for three years and still isn't close to good. Can they go 0-16 this year? Probably not.