NFL Powder Rankings: First "Quarter"
Plus the Week 5 NFL Preview
Week 3 record: 6-10
Overall record: 28-35-1
La Cerradura De El Padre: 4-0
An absolutely disastrous week picking games occurred last weekend where I missed most of the games, and it wasn’t really close. It’s clear I don’t know what the f*** I am talking about picking games this season so far, so I am going to stop giving terrible analysis for a week. If you are dying to know who not to pick against the spread, I will put my picks in at the end. One little silver lining here is La Cerradura De El Padre, which moved to 4-0 pretty easily. So that’s nice. Maybe look for that. Now, let’s update our preseason powder rankings for the first quarter of the season.
Remember the rules? If not, pay attention. I am sick of NFL power rankings, so I mixed it up by doing a powder ranking, ranking teams from 10 (best) to 0 (worst) by certain gems/minerals and their hardness (using the Mohs hardness scale). It’s possible for one team to have the same ranking as another and it’s possible to miss numbers or half numbers completely if there is a big gap. We are going to do this every 4 weeks. Here we go.
The Serious Contenders
Diamond (10): Buffalo Bills up (9.5)
Yes, I’m aware that the Bills have a loss. That loss occurred to a Steelers team that won because they blocked a punt. Josh Allen, as usual, started the season cool. Now that he is all warmed up there is no longer an issue. Since that game the Bills have outscored their opponents 118-21 (and several of those 21 were garbage time points). While those three teams weren’t great, NO ONE is beating teams as thoroughly as the Bills are. We will find out a lot this weekend when they play the Chiefs, but I expect them to beat the Chiefs and maintain this advantage. They’re a complete team that has been great in every aspect of the game (except blocking for punts).
Ruby (9): Arizona Cardinals up (7)
I had a lot of belief in this Cardinals team this offseason and it was justified. They have gained a lot of strength in their defensive front 7. Chandler Jones is back and wreaking havoc. They have fast, good linebackers. JJ Watt is still playing. The only Achilles heel is the secondary. On offense, Kyler Murray has made a critical jump that young QBs must make where he has moved from keying in on one or two options to being able to work players across the formation to get mismatches. It seems like every week a new WR is taking over the game. DeAndre Hopkins, last year’s security blanket, has taken a step back and is now just another piece (a really damn good piece, but still).
Alexandrite (8.5): Los Angeles Chargers up (4)
One of the teams I was most off on headed into the season. After a season last year where some of the worst coaching I have ever seen completely destroyed the fortunes of an otherwise talented team, I really wondered what could happen if their coach was really good instead of really bad. I just wasn’t sure if Brandon Staley was a good coach yet. The answer is yes. His defense faced off against the Cowboys, Chiefs, WFT and Raiders, all of whom have put up big points elsewhere only to get slowed against the Chargers. On offense, there has been no sophomore slump. Justin Herbert has expanded his options in the passing game, and a healthy Austin Ekler has kept them moving on the ground. The only danger in sight is an increase in offensive line injuries. If the line reverts to a talent level like last year, this won’t last.
Silicon Nitride (8.5): Los Angeles Rams (no change)
It’s been a banner year for LA football. The Rams tore apart the defending Super Bowl champs in a home game I dubbed the Rams “early season Super Bowl”. Well, there is a reason the Super Bowl is at the end of the season. Because afterward, there is a big let down, which the Rams experienced last week against the Cardinals. The offense looks much stronger under Matt Stafford than it looked last year. The problem is the defense has taken a small step back, giving up almost 30 points a game since an easy win over the lifeless Bears. I think the defense will improve, but they are clearly behind the Cardinals at the moment. (Editor’s note: They looked better against the Seahawks last night)
Chromium (8.5): Dallas Cowboys up (6)
The Cowboys offense has been exactly what we expected once we confirmed Dak Prescott was 100 percent healthy. They have moved the ball very consistently, and if it weren’t for Mike McCarthy’s clock management “skills” they would be pretty unstoppable. The defense on the other hand has been the real revelation. They have been forcing a ton of turnovers week after week to keep their opponents off of the field. Their 10 is second to the Bills. The problem is that turnovers tend to fluctuate naturally. It’s unlikely they will remain this hot. Still, most of those turnovers are picks, which tend to be easier to replicate than fumbles, so here they are. If they can keep it up defensively, they are a contender.
Holtite (8.5): Tampa Bay Buccaneers down (10)
The first team to drop in our rankings, the Bucs haven’t played poorly, they simply aren’t as dominant as expected. Their secondary has taken a clear step backward. Small limitations we saw in the regular season are still there. A limited running game, a passing offense than needs to work in the middle of the field, a defense that struggles outside the middle of the field, and a middling special teams group are all small problems that make your team fallible. The Bucs could still pull it together for another run, but will they have the same huge advantage in health this year? If not, they are just part of the crowd.
Topaz (8): Green Bay Packers down (8.5)
The Packers got crushed on opening day when they clearly weren’t ready to play. Since then, they have righted the ship and been fine. They beat longtime nemesis San Francisco, and taken care of business with the Lions and Steelers at home. Still, I am not in love with this team. Rodgers is a little bit worse than last year (when he put out maybe his greatest season ever, so that makes sense). The real issue is going to be on defense. Last year's defensive heroes Jaire Alexander and Za’Darius Smith are both dealing with injuries and beyond them is a real dearth of talent. They have been blessed thus far taking on the Lions, Saints, Steelers and San Francisco (full of injuries) offenses that had little to offer. Soon we will see what they are really made of in a stretch against the Cardinals, Chiefs and Seahawks, Vikings and Rams.
Zirconia (8): Cleveland Browns down (9)
The Browns have done what they were supposed to so far this season. Their defense looks pretty good compared to last year. Their only loss was to the Chiefs in Kansas City and it was a nail biter. Their run game is just as dominant as last year. So why the dip? I don’t trust Baker Mayfield. He continues to have processing difficulty, locking on too early to a target, not working progressions, not getting a variety of players involved. He is not a bad player, but he is also nowhere near the level of the QBs on the teams above the Browns. Unless he can develop significantly and the offense can open up, he is the governor of this offense, and not the good kind. The kind that makes your golf cart go 5 miles an hour.
Galaxite (7.5): Baltimore Ravens down (8)
The Ravens are very difficult to rank because they have this annoying habit of playing to the ability of their opponents. They have fantastic games against the Broncos and Chiefs (combined 5-1 record against other teams) and terrible games against the Lions and Raiders (3-4, and let’s not forget the Raiders BARELY beat Miami). So who are they? To me, they are inconsistent because Lamar Jackson is inconsistent. As Lamar goes, the team goes. When he is dialed in, the offense hums. When he isn’t they are doomed. Sometimes his level of attention can vary within a game, like against the Chiefs. I expect them to be up and down all season, because that’s just the quarterback Jackson is. Few players have a wider gulf of possible outcomes.
Beryl (7.5): Kansas City Chiefs down (10)
The Chiefs defense is terrible. That’s it. The reasons are numerous. Injuries to key contributors, offseason losses on that side of the ball, free agency spending (and roster spending) heavily leaning to offense. Scheming that is questionable at best. It all adds up to one of the worst units in the NFL so far. Opponents are AVERAGING over 30 points a game. Patrick Mahomes and the offense are great, but you simply cannot have a great team like that. That defense cannot win the Super Bowl, period. Something has to change and quickly if they want to head back this year.
Plausibly playoff worthy
Titanium (6): Denver Broncos up (4)
The Broncos failed their heat check at home last weekend against the Ravens, getting clearly beaten by a better team. With that said, the Broncos are a solid team when Teddy Bridgewater is healthy. Their defense is very strong, and they really crushed the bad offenses they faced. The problem is, their offense is not high enough octane to put up big points. Their offense is designed (probably not intentionally) to get field goals. They have a safe QB, good WRs and an ok but not great RB group. This team is going to cruise between the 20s, but when the end zone appears, they are going to falter. Field goals don’t get you to the Super Bowl anymore.
Magnetite (6): Las Vegas Raiders up (3.5)
The Raiders are better than I expected. This is due to the always solid but not spectacular play of Derek Carr and an improved (but still not elite) defense. This team is mediocrity defined, having two OT wins. This team could easily be 1-3. Look, I’m not saying 8-8-1 is definite… no, wait, yes I am. I always say that about the Raiders. Any attempt to move in any other direction is quickly mitigated by their mediocrity.
Feldspar (6): Minnesota Vikings up (5)
This is the difference between the standings and a powder ranking. Yes, I am aware the Vikings are 1-3. They also lost one game in OT, another a last second missed kick, to the Browns by one score and beat the Seahawks. This team could easily be 3-1 Their opponents have gone 12-4 against other teams. This 1-3 reflects their strength of schedule and some bad luck. They have a strong offense and their defense is ok. They just need this to be true for both units the same week a little more. When all is said and done, I think they will be in the playoff mix.
Cobalt (5.5): Cincinnati Bengals up (2.5)
Another team with a solid offense and defense, the Bengals are the definition of balanced mediocrity. I would prefer balanced mediocrity to a team that has an extreme weakness like the Seahawks, Titans or Dolphins. It is much easier for me to imagine the Bengals making some tweaks on offense or defense or adding a player or two who can help than a team that is totally lost on one side of the ball. The Bengals aren’t going to win anything significant this year, but they have the bones of a playoff team in place.
Fabulite (5.5): San Francisco 49ers down (8)
If this team could stay healthy they would be a lot higher on this list given their consistently solid play on both sides of the ball, but… they can’t. Injuries have already cut their season down, and they face a daunting schedule in a tough division. Healthy they are ahead of a number of teams on this list, but that seems less like a bug, and more like a feature of who they are. The thing is, I don’t know what you do about it. I really doubt that the training staff is doing things so much different than other teams. The WFT trainer appears to have been running a drug ring on the side, and they aren’t having this problem. So where do you go from here? No idea.
Childrenite (5): Seattle Seahawks down (6.5)
The Seahawks just beat the 49ers, so why are they here? Because the Seahawks can’t get healthy and get better like the 49ers can. They are the 2-2 team they are. Their defense is awful. Russell Wilson is a great player, but this team just seems to have hit it’s ceiling on offense with the current mix. It’s why I wanted Pete Carroll fired this offseason. I simply think this team has nowhere to go as constituted. They need a retool around Wilson that they just don’t want to commit to. Any given week, they can beat anyone and be beaten by anyone. (Editor’s note: The Russell Wilson injury last night will likely push them down this list next quarter)
Spurrite (5): Washington Football Team down (5.5)
This team is not at all what anyone thought they were. Everyone believed they were a great defensive team that should improve offensively thanks to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick played one half, but the offense DID improve thanks to Taylor Heinicke. The defense, however, has taken a HUGE step back. From being one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, the WFT is suddenly allowing near 30 points a game to teams like the Giants and Falcons. This team could pop up the rankings a bit if they can fix this, but what is to stop the offense from getting worse? They can’t play the Giants and Falcons every week either.
Turquoise (5): Carolina Panthers up (2)
This team has made real progress in year two under Matt Rhule. Their defense is much stronger than last year. The offense was ok when Christian McCaffrey was healthy (kind of like it was last year when Christian McCaffrey was healthy). The problem with allotting a huge chunk of your cap to a running back is that running backs get hurt. A lot. This team will likely be up and down, because they are relying way too much on a mediocre Sam Darnold to get points. This team is better, but the ceiling of a team like this is very clear and they are already very close to it.
Steel (4.5): New Orleans Saints down (5)
The Saints absolutely obliterated a clearly unprepared Packers team in week 1. Since then, however, they have been a very mediocre team that lost to the Panthers and the Giants. I don’t think the Saints are bad, but they definitely are not a team that is “We crushed the Packers” good. Jameis is still not a good QB. Their defense has some obvious holes. Overall, I am probably a little low on them, but it’s hard to ignore how bad they were in the Panthers and Giants games. This team going to bounce around from 4-6 for the rest of the season.
Flourite (4) Tennessee Titans down (6.5)
Injuries have decimated the Titans offense, which is where their bread was supposed to be buttered this season, with Julio Jones, AJ Brown, and Taylor Lewan all missing time. That hurts a bit extra, because Ryan Tannehill is just exactly as good as the pieces around him. When those pieces become stinky, so does he. He does not elevate anyone. Their defense is an atrocity. They are just as bad as last year, because the players are just as bad as last year’s players. And yet… this is probably a playoff team. Because they are in the NFC south and SOMEONE has to win that division.
In Big Trouble
Nickel (4) New England Patriots down (6)
The Patriots have had some hard luck, losing two games by the narrowest of margins at home to the Dolphins and Buccaneers and by a not so narrow margin at home to the Saints. So I think there is a decent team here. The problem is, all they have to show for that is a win over the overmatched Jets, and three blown home games. I don’t see how they can rally from this and be a playoff team. The Patriots spent through the nose this offseason, but this team barely sniffing mediocrity now. They could climb into the 5s by the end of this, but that seems like an obvious ceiling.
Iron (4) Indianapolis Colts down (5.5)
The Colts are another team that has been beaten up by injuries quite a bit. The problem is, one of the culprits is Carson Wentz, who is notoriously injury prone. That feels less like a bad break, and more like a regular break. This team is much more balanced than their counterparts in Tennessee in the battle for a wildly undeserved playoff spot, but both their offense and defense lack the top end potential of the Titans offense, and it showed when the Titans beat the Colts.
Wurtzite (3.5) Chicago Bears down (4)
The Bears offense has been every bit as bad as expected. Whether it is the experienced-only-at-being-bad errors of Andy Dalton or the It’s-my-first-day errors of Justin Fields, this team simply does not have an effective attack. Their defense remains a stout unit, but the cracking around the seams in the secondary is showing. This team no longer has a good enough defense to automatically win 8 games. Being .500 is an unlikely outcome this year. I wish I could offer more hope for Bears fans, but until they get rid of Ryan Pace, this team is going nowhere.
Dentin (3) Miami Dolphins down (6.5)
The Dolphins have been completely undone by one unit on their team, the offensive line. The offensive line is one of the worst ever constructed. Their offensive line the last couple years wasn’t good either, and there was the thought that a young group would get stronger with some experience and possibly become league average. Instead the opposite has happened. They have struggled dramatically, leading to an injury to their starting QB, a totally ineffective run game, and no real hope for improvement (it’s not injuries, they just suck). With an offense that can do nothing, the defense, that is designed to defeat teams trying to pass, cannot use their elaborate schemes since the other team can just tuck it in and run all game as they salt away a lead that the Dolphins offense can’t get back to. Even though this team has a lot of young talent they are going absolutely nowhere this year behind that line.
Arsenic (3) Pittsburgh Steelers down (4.5)
The Steelers have no chance at a good season with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. They also have a pretty terrible offensive line which is preventing them from running the ball to avoid having Roethlisberger throw. I think what is most shocking about how bad Roethlisberger has been, is that they haven’t even thought about trying the other QBs on the roster, which means that whatever is behind him must be absolute garbage. The number of atrocious plays Ben has made is so high, it is almost as many as the number of excuses he has thrown out that don’t involve him. It is hard to put in words how bad he must be personally and professionally to ruin what is actually a pretty good defense (that is already struggling with injuries again).
Chalk (3) Philadelphia Eagles up (1.5)
The Eagles have some good players on their roster. But neither their offense or their defense should be considered even league average. Jalen Hurts seems like a great guy, but he simply isn’t that good. He struggles to read coverage, make quick decisions and be accurate. When he can run, or buy time for a broken play, he can make points happen, but that won’t lead to a reliable offense. On defense, the Eagles are running the simplest scheme possible, and the results are exactly what you would think. Still, they are better than I expected, so I guess that’s good.
Calcite (3) New York Giants no change
Except week one, when they were thoroughly outplayed by the Broncos, the Giants have been in all their games. They seem to have an ok defense. Daniel Jones can even have a great week here and there. It just feels like this team beats the hell out of itself, which, ironically, is the ONE thing Joe Judge said they wouldn’t do at his introductory press conference. Yet week after week, stupid penalties, bad decisions, poor clock management, and ineffective schemes lead to another L. This team needs a reboot with a fresh GM and coach.
Fingernail (2.5) Atlanta Falcons no change
The Falcons are exactly what I expected. A terrible defense and an offense that is ok. They are going nowhere this season with this combination, but as they have shown the last few weeks, they can make it seem like there might be something there for a quarter or two. After a total demolition week one, they have played ok against the Bucs, Giants and WFT. Until they add defensive pieces, this is who they are.
Rock Salt (2) Houston Texans up (.2)
The Texans looked very feisty in their week one pounding of the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, the following week, an injury to QB Tyrod Taylor derailed what had been a solid team through 1.5 games. Since that injury, they have been exactly what I envisioned at the start of the season. Awful. All is not lost though. They are one game back of the Titans. Tyrod Taylor will be back. Could this team make the playoffs? Don’t be ridiculous. But I can admit I was wrong about them being generationally awful.
Lead (1.5) New York Jets down (2)
God damn the Jets are bad. And they just won on Sunday. Unfortunately for them they were aggressively overmatched in their first three showings of the year. So far Zach Wilson has left very much to be desired. Could last week be a sign of him turning the corner? Maybe, but more likely the Titans defense is just abysmal. I think this team will get better as the season wears on, but I wouldn’t expect anything beyond 4 wins.
Talc (1) Detroit Lions no change
The Lions have actually had a few strong halves of football. The first half against the Packers, the second half against the 49ers, the second half against the Ravens, and the second half against the Bears. The problem is, the bad halves are DISASTROUSLY BAD. The Lions can’t string together strong play for a whole game. They probably should have won the Ravens game, losing on the longest field goal ever, so they might be a little better than this. When you are the Lions though, this is just how it goes, and they are going nowhere.
The infinite void of a black hole (0) Jacksonville Jaguars down (1.5)
It’s hard to describe exactly how bad the Jaguars have been this season. Not just at football, but at being an NFL franchise. There were people talking about this being a PLAYOFF team before the season. While that was ridiculous, what has transpired is some sort of football Chernobyl. First, they were DESTROYED by a team with a terrible roster and a brand new coach with NO head coaching experience. This eliminated not only the talent excuse, but also the “we are trying out new schemes” excuse. They got absolutely curb stomped. They followed that up with almost no competitive spirit against the Cardinals and Broncos. They finally played a good half of football against the Bengals, until the Bengals remembered to try, crushed them in the second half, and Urban Meyer got busted getting touchy feely with a college student. It’s hard to see where this team goes from here. Their division is so bad, it’s hard to envision them losing out (they play the Texans, Falcons, Jets, Dolphins, Colts twice and Titans twice) but they are an absolute mess. They are experiencing a massive leadership void. They will probably win one or two by sheer luck, but getting DESTROYED by the TEXANS means there is no silver lining here.
My week 5 picks: Feel free to ignore
Los Angeles Rams (-2) at Seattle Seahawks (got it right, thank God)
New York Jets (+3) vs. Atlanta Falcons (neutral field)
Green Bay Packers (-2.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
Detroit Lions (+10) at Minnesota Vikings
Denver Broncos (+1) at Pittsburgh Steelers
Miami Dolphins (+9.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Orleans Saints at Washington Football Team (+2.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers (-3)
Tennessee Titans (-4.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
New England Patriots (-9) at Houston Texans
Chicago Bears at Las Vegas Raiders (-5) This is also La Cerradura De El Padre
Cleveland Browns (+2) at Las Vegas Chargers
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-7)
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (-4)
Buffalo Bills (+3) at Kansas City Chiefs
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (-6.5)