NFL Powder Rankings: Second "Quarter"
And more picks to bet against!
Week 5 record: 6-8-1
Overall record: 50-70-3
La Cerradura De El Padre: 6-2
My self-imposed punishment of not analyzing games continued unabated. 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 6-2. So that’s nice. Maybe look for that. Now, let’s update our first quarter powder rankings for the second quarter of the season.
Remember the rules? 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 (100 percent likely for playoffs)
Boron: 9.5 Buffalo Bills down (10)
Still first, but not with a bullet anymore, the Bills lost some ground with a tough road loss to the Titans. While I think they were just unlucky to lose, and they were on the road, I am docking them a little. The Bills are still a complete team. They still have good health for the most part. They have a very easy schedule coming up, and probably won’t lose again before the next ranking. They are still our top dog.
Ruby: 9 Arizona Cardinals same
A tough Thursday night loss to the Packers doesn’t move this number much for me. It’s tough to prepare for those Thursday night games. They added Ertz, but lost JJ Watt for the season, so that was a net negative, especially for a team that relies on pressure to mask a soft secondary. Kyler Murray is dealing with a banged up ankle. Hopefully it won’t derail their season like his injury did last year.
Silicon Carbide: 9 Los Angeles Rams up (8.5)
The Rams haven’t lost since our last ranking. They added Von Miller at the deadline, which bolsters an already strong defensive line. This team is also very complete the ways the Bills are. I am still not totally sold on their offense or defense, which seem to have some cracks teams keep exploiting, but I think working Miller in will alleviate a lot of that. They could easily top the next version. They are going for it right now.
Chromium: 8.5 Dallas Cowboys same
Not much movement for the Cowboys. They did a great job pulling together to defeat the Vikings without Dak Prescott to show they are a complete team. Their defense seems to be holding steady in their improved state. I am still not totally convinced though. Turnovers have played a huge part in that improvement and they can be a fickle mistress.
Chrysoberyl: 8.5 Green Bay Packers up (8)
The Packers haven’t lost since their opening day disaster. Covid has taken center stage this week though, with word coming out that Aaron Rodgers has Covid and was never vaccinated. This is a big hit, a week after losing Davante Adams to the same issue. Still, they came through against the previously unbeaten Cardinals on the road in a big win that improved my view of their defensive limitations. Despite missing their two best defensive players (Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander) they have been staying strong. I’ll move them up if they survive this Covid spell intact.
Hardened Steel: 8 Tampa Bay down 8.5
I’m not too worried about their loss to the Saints. For whatever reason, this Saints team has caused them a lot of problems. Their two losses are to two teams with a combined 3 losses total, so there are no bad losses present. They still have clear issues in their secondary however, and until they can put a real band aid on that, they are going to struggle to beat teams convincingly. The offense remains at a high level, so there just isn’t going to be much of a drop off.
Amethyst: 7 Baltimore Ravens same
Few teams are harder to assess than the Ravens who have a very high upside and very low downside. When the offense is humming they are basically unstoppable. The problem is that Lamar Jackson is still prone to bouts of mediocrity in the passing game, and that can put a limit on them in some games. Their defense is usually stout, but their high risk approach with blitzing can contribute to surprising outcomes. Their last outing came against an improved Bengals team that made them pay for this. I’m not ready to buy yet, because you need consistency to win 3 straight games against good teams to win the Super Bowl. You will also notice this is just the second team from the AFC on this list. The AFC is a real split pea soup right now. I have no idea if any of it is good.
Plausibly Playoff Worthy (75 percent likely for playoffs)
Titanium: 6 Tennessee Titans up (4)
The Titans have improved their defense a little bit in recent weeks, including a stellar showing against the Chiefs. However, with that gain, came a major loss. Derrick Henry is likely out for the year. This is an incalculable loss for a team that relied on him more than any team relies on a running back. His ability to get tough yards, make big plays, set up play action, and keep the defense off of the field will be missed tremendously. Here’s the catch though. They are already 3 games up in the division (with the tiebreaker as well). I find it hard to believe they will completely blow that lead. For now, we will reward their recent success. It’s also possible Henry could return for the playoffs.
Uranium: 6 New Orleans Saints up (4.5)
The Saints are a weird team like the Ravens, who have some really bad losses (Giants and Panthers) and some really big wins (Tampa Bay and Green Bay). It is hard to calculate what this means for them, especially after losing Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas for the season. They are still a very well coached team. Their defense is still strong. Their backup QB is better than most. I think they will continue to hold down a wild card spot, even if their upside is pretty limited.
Opal: 6 Los Angeles Chargers down (8.5)
The Chargers fell off hard since our last outing, losing games to the Ravens (not that bad) and the Patriots (not good). The inconsistency that plagued them last year has returned with Justin Herbert mixing good and bad outings and the defense mixing good and bad outings. The game against the Browns also probably should have been a loss, but a series of great tactical decision stole victory from the jaws of defeat. This team is heading into a lighter part of the schedule so I would expect them to sneak back up a little heading into our next check in. Keep an eye on them however. If they lose 2 of the next four they could be in trouble.
Manganese: 5.5 Las Vegas Raiders same
What a four weeks it has been for the Raiders, who fired their head coach following an email scandal and lost a starting wide receiver for murdering a woman with a DUI. In the midst of this chaos, the Raiders have stepped up. They beat the Broncos and the Eagles. While that isn’t the stiffest competition, it came at a time of great chaos. We will see how this same group handles a much tougher schedule following this weeks bye against the Giants.
Glass: 5.5 Cincinnati Bengals same
The young Bengals fell victim to the classic trap games, losing the Jets right after a status affirming win over the Ravens and right before a critical game against the Browns. While I am willing to sort of let the Ravens and Jets games wash out, this is a team that has shown it is immature and inconsistent. The way a few games end will probably decide whether this group gets into the playoffs or not. I think they will get there. For now, the good seems farther ahead than the bad.
Mediocrity Zone (50/50 playoffs)
Apatite: 5 Kansas City Chiefs down (7.5)
Their defense has been downright appalling all year, but now their is an added problem. Patrick Mahomes appears to have developed a case of the yips. He is wandering all over the field, throwing terrible passes, and acting totally overwhelmed by the 7-8 man coverage schemes teams are using against him. I expect the Chiefs to make some game plan adjustments, but they have a real problem on their hands. This team doesn’t have the defense to get away with turning the ball over like they have been. I am holding out hope for a turnaround, but as things stand now, they are a mediocre team.
Obsidian: 5 Cleveland Browns down (8)
The Browns have regressed on offense this season. This is no doubt related to the injuries suffered by Baker Mayfield and the obstinance of Odell Beckham (more of the first than the second). With Odell out with a case of unhappiness, and Baker likely to play through this injury the rest of the year, things are not looking good for the Browns offense. Things aren’t looking very good moving forward either, as the Browns have one of the toughest schedules remaining. The only really obvious win is against the Lions. This rating might drop even further unless Baker can get well and back to second half of last season (also without Odell) Baker Mayfield. They desperately need their defense to step up and be consistently great.
Palladium: 5 San Francisco 49ers down (5.5)
The 49ers continue to be buried under injuries for the last 3 games, however, the tide is starting to turn. I have noticed a number of key contributors returning. Their next two games are very tough, but they have a winnable schedule the rest of the way. I don’t think we are done hearing from them yet, but they need to stay healthy to make a late run at the wild card. They are in a brutal division. The returns of Trent Williams, Jimmy G, George Kittle, Jeff Wilson and several less noticeable defenders might be enough to get them through though.
Ordinary Steel: 4.5 Steelers up (3)
They have been squeezing out wins lately on a steady diet of running and short passes mixed with great defense. By getting the ball out of the hands of Ben Roethlisberger, they have been able to minimize their biggest weakness. The problem is, that has been possible due to a soggy schedule that they (appropriately) took advantage of. They have two more winnable games, and then things get really tough. It might be enough for them to sneak into a wild card, but this team has a very clear ceiling of mediocrity.
Fluorite: Minnesota Vikings 4 down (6)
The Vikings still have all of the same problems they had last year. They have a very weak pass defense. They have a very limited QB in Kirk Cousins who can do some good stuff, but can’t win games on his own. The offense has hit a real cold spell. Outside of a strong outing against the Panthers, they laid eggs against the Browns, Cowboys and Lions. It’s going to be up to Cousins to fix this lull and get his team back in the 24+ range each week if they want to sneak into the playoffs to get murdered on Saturday afternoon. Their next 4 games are really tough, though, and they could easily be out if they can’t go 2-2.
Nickel: New England Patriots 4 same
Bill Belichick is coaching the hell out of this team. They have managed to sneak their way back to 4-4 looking very good the last two weeks. I was ready to write them out of playoff consideration, but that was a little premature. Mac Jones continues to improve week to week and he can now be counted on to do some good things. The problem for the Pats is that they are almost out of games against the Dolphins and Jets. The rest of their schedule is going to offer real resistance. I think they end up falling short, but it will close.
In Big Trouble (25 percent playoffs)
Iron: 4 Indianapolis Colts same
The Colts have actually been playing a little better since Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson returned to something resembling full health. Jonathan Taylor has been running wild. They are making up ground after a rough 0-3 start. Their schedule is also pretty light the rest of the way. Here is the bad news. They are already three games back of the Titans and have lost twice to the Titans, which means it’s really 4 games back. Unless they can sneak into the wild card (unlikely) they will have to hope the Titan fade significantly without Henry. That’s not impossible, but it’s asking a lot.
Platinum: 3.5 Carolina Panthers down (5)
As I expected, the real Sam Darnold emerged down over the last 4 games and it isn’t pretty. There is still some reason to be optimistic here however. I think this team can still presumable sneak into the playoffs IF Stephon Gilmore and Christian McCaffrey can stay healthy. They have enough pieces here to be a medicore contender and no one is running away with that last wild card spot in the NFC. In fact, the Panthers currently have it (remember it’s seven teams now). As long as they have Sam Darnold they are a mediocre group, but the playoffs is plausible.
Arsenic: 3.5 Seattle Seahawks down 5
An expected drop off occurred following the Russell Wilson injury. While this will probably have ramifications in the offseason (I’m sure Russ has noticed how much he carries them) we are focused on this year. The problem is that there are still several more weeks before Russ can return, and when he does, the defense will still be there. While they hung in there against the Jags and Saints the last two weeks, there are a number of tougher tasks ahead. It’s not over over, but they are in major jeopardy. They are playing to keep Russ for another year now.
A penny: 3 Denver Broncos down (6)
Our biggest collapse from the first ranking, the Broncos followed up their reality check loss to the Ravens with 3 more reality checks. Even squeaking by the WTF last week wasn’t enough to convince management this was their year, and they sold off Von Miller for draft assets. Teddy Bridgewater game manager isn’t enough here, and with injuries and some unusual defensive weakness the team has decided to look toward next year. I doubt this team will really bottom out, as Vic Fangio is probably coaching for his job, but hopes of a surprise playoff trip are over.
Dentin: 3 Chicago Bears down (3.5)
The Bears are a sneaky good bad team. While they are usually not good, they are the kind of team that comes out of nowhere to steal wins they shouldn’t here and there. Justin Fields looks like he is starting to settle in a tiny bit, and if he could figure out even a shred of pocket awareness, could prove dangerous. The problem is they lost Khalil Mack for a few weeks and they have very little to no room left for error. This weeks matchup on the road against a tough Steelers defense doesn’t bode well. My guess is they lose and hope is extinguished.
Completely Doomed (no chance at playoffs)
Gold: WTF down (5)
I’m going to do my best to ignore the constant off-field issues here and focus on the on-the-field product. Their defense still has not resolved the issues that have plagued it, getting pounded week after week. Their offense with Taylor Heinicke has fallen way off. After a fun start, the Heinicke era is over. Ryan Fitzpatrick will try to ride to the rescue after the bye presumably, but the hole is just too big. They probably are a better team than this, but it hasn’t come together this year.
Calcite: 3 Atlanta Falcons same
The Falcons actually played a little better over the last few weeks, opening the door to some mathematical possibility for the playoffs. They lost Calvin Ridley however, and their defense is still porous. Their next two games are probably losses, and that will basically seal the deal. They needed to do better than 2-2 against the Jets, WTF, Dolphins and Panthers. They just don’t have enough this year.
Chalk: 3 Philadelphia Eagles same
The Eagles blew out the Lions to ensure they stayed in their current spot. Jalen Hurts is simply not a starter caliber QB in this league. I am not sure what to say. He really limits what they can do in the passing game, and they have been refusing to run in. Perhaps the return of Lane Johnson will push them to run more, but unless they can find success running the ball, this team is going to stay right here for the whole season.
Fingernail: 2.5 New York Giants down (3)
The Giants are exactly who we thought. I turnover prone team with no offensive line and a mediocre defense. That gets you exactly where they are. I could definitely see this team quitting on Joe Judge (the team already seems to hate him). I don’t see anything good happening here, but I also think they have enough talent to avoid a total bottom out. This team needs a total redo.
Rock Salt: 2 Miami Dolphins down (3)
The Dolphins just keep falling deeper and deeper down the well. An ill fated pursuit of chronic sexual predator Deshaun Watson left the team’s morale sapped and constant errors in executions on offense, defense and special teams have overwhelmed a team that is probably more talented than it’s current state. It’s baffling how a team that was coached incredibly well last season, could be coached so unspeakably poorly this year. This season is over and now the questions begin over who will be back next year. Tua? Flores? Grier? The last 9 games will probably decide.
Tin: 1.5 Houston Texans down (2)
The Texans have gone nowhere without Tyrod Taylor, losing every game this quarter by fairly large margins. They also have been subtracting contributors for assets. This is smart for the long term, but it’s hard to give them much hope for this year. With Tyrod Taylor returning this week against the Dolphins, though, they could easily switch places with Miami. Regardless, the lost season continues and Deshaun Watson remains a lingering ghost of what was.
Lead: 1.5 New York Jets same
I know what you are thinking. They won twice! Against two good teams! The Bengals and Titans. While those are notable and a good sign, something much worse happened in that Bengals win. Mike White played like a superstar with all of the same pieces that Zach Wilson had struggled to do anything with all year. THEN LAST NIGHT JOSH JOHNSON!!! DID THE SAME THING. This puts in stark relief just how poorly he had been playing. It’s NOT the pieces, it’s the player. If Wilson fails, it’s likely back to the drawing board for the Jets and that is terrible news in a lost season that was supposed to be his first step on the way to greatness. The potential of having him be a bust is worse than any loss this season. But, then, they also lost to the Patriots by 41, so maybe not.
Talc: 1 Jacksonville Jaguars up (0)
The Jaguars got some desperately needed good news with a miraculous win in England that presumably saved them from total destruction. Also, Trevor Lawrence has shown growth after some early growing pains, so there is hope there that he is not a bust. The problem for the Jaguars is that it is extremely clear Urban Meyer is not qualified to coach an NFL team. The constant errors the Jaguars exhibit show someone who is in way over his head, and the worry is that the Jaguars won’t realize this and they might bring him back next year (that’s a huge contract to eat for a small market team). In that sense, this franchise is still in a very dark place, even if it is not quite a black hole anymore.
Potassium: .5 Detroit Lions down (1)
The Lions somehow slide down the rankings. While they still have no wins, they continue to give it everything they have, with risky coaching gambits and aggressive play calling. They are playing as hard as they can (see the Rams game). The problem is, they simply have almost no talent on either side of the ball (see the Eagles game). I expect they will steal a win from somebody who shows up unprepared along the way, but we can safely say this is the end of the Jared Goff era as an NFL starter.
Week 9 picks:
New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts: Colts -10
Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Bengals -2.5
Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys: Broncos +10
Houston Texans vs. Miami Dolphins: Texans +5.5
Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints: Falcons +7
Las Vegas Raiders vs. New York Giants: Raiders -3
New England Patriots vs. Carolina Panthers: Panthers +3.5
Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bills -14.5
Minnesota Vikings vs. Baltimore Ravens: Ravens -6
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Chargers -2 La Cerradura De El Padre
Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Chiefs -7.5
Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers: 49ers +1
Tennessee Titans vs. Los Angeles Rams: Rams -7.5
Chicago Bears vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Bears +6