– Bill Annechino, Jim Bearor and Evan Sally
The Hard Foul team presents the first edition of our NFL Power Rankings Roundtable. Jim Bearor, Bill Annechino and Evan Sally all created their ranking separately and averaged them together to get our consensus rankings.
1. New England Patriots
Evan Sally: We can start at the top with the consensus #1 the New England Patriots. We all have New England over the undefeated Vikings, what was your guys rationale on that?
Bill Annechino: The Patriots are undefeated with Brady and according to my research, the patriots with brady would be expected to win a full game more than any other team in the league this year. The second place team is Minnesota.
Jim Bearor: Do I have to explain why I trust a team that went 3-1 before they were able to roll out the best quarterback of all time over a team that is relying on Sam Bradford to stay healthy for an entire year?
Evan: Good point. For me it’s just about pedigree. In the NFL there’s a prove it quality when it comes to new contenders and even with Minnesota making the playoffs last year, you needed to see if Bradford and crew could do it and they have with resounding success.
Bill: Yeah I mean the Patriots are the best team of the last 20 years. Hey do you guys think Brady is better looking than Edelman or is it the other way around?
Evan: I’m more of a Gronk guy.
Jim: Moving on.
2. Minnesota Vikings
Bill: How do you guys feel about Sam Bradford?
Evan: I think he’s a guy where if he’s playing with confidence he can be good. But he has to be in a good situation with good coaching, which is what Minnesota is at that moment.
Jim: He’s a good quarterback. Plays safe and manages the game. Better version of Alex Smith I think. And in a league where offenses led by Phil Rivers and Drew Brees aren’t enough to make up for bad defenses, Bradford and Minnesota shows there’s more ways to get it done than to revolve your team around an Andrew Luck-type young franchise quarterback.
Bill: Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but they’ve been going on runs. 5 wins in a row has to be respected. In a league where shitty quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins and Tyrod Taylor can win 4 games in a row, you have to give Bradford his due.
3. Dallas Cowboys
Bill: Jim you were the only one to rank Dallas over Minnesota. Why’s that?
Jim: That run game. It is everything it was cracked up to be, and I think it might be the best unit in football. Paired with a quarterback that has been almost as safe as you can be with the football, it’s a foolproof formula. They start games with long drives that set the tempo, and Elliott runs better in the second half of games. As great as Minnesota’s defense is, I just have more confidence in Dallas’ ability to establish a run game, and control things that way. Oh, and they’re doing all this without Dez or Romo. Before you ask, yes, I think Romo is still the guy.
Bill: Do you think the Cowboys will beat the Vikings when they play later in the season?
Jim: Yes I do. It’s a Thursday night game, so it might end up being a little funky, but I think Zeke puts his stamp on that game, like he will with almost every game this season.
Bill: I say they’ve got zero chance of going into Minnesota and winning that game.
Evan: Don’t be silly, Dallas has lost 1 game by a single point and you’re giving them no chance? Bill what do your numbers say about Dallas? Is what they’re doing sustainable?
Bill: They’re on pace for 13-14 wins, but they have the point differential of an 11 or 12 win team.
Jim: I think they’re here to stay. They’re missing Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick and DeMarcus Lawrence. They’re not even in their final form yet.
Evan: It was impossible to imagine before the season ranking a Cowboys team this high without those dudes. What a weird year.
Bill: The Cowboys have only had a defense that generated positive expected points in one of their games all year. Gross.
Evan: So the defense is playing over their heads a bit, that may be their biggest weakness going forward. Jim you mentioned that you think they should still go back to Romo, but I gotta be honest I’m starting to lean towards the Dak camp. And I can’t believe I’m saying this.
Jim: And I can’t blame any of you guys. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken right?
Bill: I think of it like this. Let’s say you’ve been dating a girl for 10 years. You guys had your ups and downs but when it was good it was really good and when it was bad things got tough. So you guys finally break up and you start dating someone new. And she’s really hot and seemingly perfect in every way. Now a few months into this relationship your old girl comes back around and wants to come back. It’s tempting because you remember the good but that bad side still exists and nothing will be different. You stay with the new girl, this isn’t rocket science.
Evan Sally: That’s the analogy we’ve been waiting for.
Jim: If you’d allow me to counter, you’ve seen your old girl at her best and her worst so there won’t be any surprises. The thing about the perfect new girlfriend is that things could go downhill and really downhill at any moment. The Cowboys are still in the honeymoon phase and there’s bound to be a dip eventually. Odds are Dak won’t be all sunshine and rainbows all season. And when the time comes to play a really good defense on the road, when there’s weeks of tape out on Dak, who do you just more Dak or Romo?
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Seattle Seahawks
Jim: We were speaking of pedigree earlier, and you guys both slighted the Seahawks to give the edge to Atlanta in our Power Rankings. Why do you feel like you trust Atlanta more than Seattle at this point?
Bill: Simple. The Seahawks have been way luckier than Atlanta so far, which isn’t sustainable. The Seahawks also beat up on shitty teams to maintain their reputation. When they play good teams and don’t get extremely lucky with officiating, they don’t win.
Evan: I picked Atlanta over Seattle because I was really impressed about how they looked despite losing. The stage was set for them to get hammered and that response in the 3rd quarter was incredible. What was it, 240 yards in that quarter alone? I love Atlanta’s explosiveness and I love the way they’re getting after people.
Jim: Still, resounding success at this point should be taken with a huge grain of salt. We know the stories of Kansas City and Atlanta last year. We know getting to the playoffs isn’t (usually) the problem for Andy Dalton and the Bengals, it’s handling shit when they get there that they struggle with. That’s sort of where mind’s at with Atlanta and Seattle. I think MVP candidate Matt Ryan unfairly gets a bad rap, but I don’t think it’s unfair to say that I have more confidence in Russell Wilson’s ability to butter bread at this point.
Evan: It’s hard to argue with that. To be fair to both of them if I could rank them both at 4 I would have. They’re very even.
Jim: Although I do think this version of Atlanta’s offense is much more sustainable over the course of a full season. Coleman and Freeman are complimenting each other better than any tandem in the league right now. And Alex Mack is mauling people on their offensive line.
Bill: This isn’t the Falcons team of last year. i just crunched more numbers and through 5 games last year, atlanta was undefeated but had a luck factor of 4.7 which is nearly unheard of. This year, their factor is 1.0 so they’re a lot more “real” this time around.
Evan: Look at Bill with the numbers! Don’t you love when the numbers confirm what you see? It’s a beautiful thing.
Bill: My algorithms are doing work.
Jim: That lines up with the eyeball test. I’m loving this luck factor so far.
Evan: It’s pretty solid. (Check out Bill’s article on the Luck Factor)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Denver Broncos
8. Philadelphia Eagles
Evan: Pittsburgh, Denver and Philadelphia are next in our rankings. And this is where it starts to get a little muddled. I’m not sure what to make of this group especially Denver. Do we trust Siemian yet?
Bill: They’re the defending champs. Top 10 until otherwise noted.
Evan: But you don’t want to live in the past. That Panthers win doesn’t look nearly as impressive as it did 5 weeks ago. They beat a bad Indy team, a Bengals team that’s questionable and a bad Tampa team. I have Denver this high out of respect but I think they they’re due for a slip.
Jim: That’s how I feel too, Bill. The shine has worn off a little from Philly’s big win over Pittsburgh as well. Denver’s defense, while still very good, isn’t at the level it was last year and that’s the biggest difference in my eyes. They’re still very good in my eyes, and I trust them.
Bill: Philly has been unlucky, losing two games by combined 8 points. Pittsburgh and Denver are right where you would expect them to be. I’d expect the Eagles to go on a run again soon.
Evan: Philly has had back to back tough losses, don’t want to punish them too much.
Bill: I hate Carson Wentz.
Evan: Off the Wentz Wagon are we? Or did you never buy a ticket?
Jim: But you guys hit it off so well at the start? What happened? (Check out Bill’s article on Carson Wentz)
Bill: I was never anointing him. I hate his little awe shucks routine like he’s not the 2nd overall pick. I’m not sure he’s that great but his team is good enough to win the way he’s playing.
Evan: What do you guys make of Pittsburgh? Two terrible losses and 4 resounding wins and now Big Ben is missing games. I know they’re good when everyone is available but I’m not sure I trust them.
Jim: Trust them to do what?
Evan: Win a big game against a good team, especially on the road. Ben’s home and road splits are terrible.
Bill: Yeah they haven’t been really good for a long time. Their defense stinks and their offense has played 2 terrible games.
Evan: Big Ben has that pedigree. But will he be available when it counts?
Jim: But in an AFC that consists of the Patriots then everyone else, I trust them more than the rest, i.e. the Texans, Broncos, Bills, Raiders.
9. Oakland Raiders
10. Buffalo Bills
Evan: There’s a team in the AFC that’s 3rd in points scored and 7th in points allowed that hasn’t been mentioned yet. That of course is my Buffalo Bills. How crazy is it to say that after 6 weeks they’ve been the second most impressive team in the conference?
Jim: Yeah they’re hot and well rounded. They should be competitive for the duration of the season. Projecting anything more is difficult for me, part because we’re dealing with Buffalo, and part because of Tyrod. At his worst, he won’t blow games, but he’ll be pretty lame. Four games in a row is impressive and my opinion of this team has changed, but I’m not getting too crazy with it yet.
Evan: Jim you were the only one of us not to rank them. Which of course is a massive blow to our friendship. But you are right to an extent; cautious optimism is the name of the game here in Buffalo. Bill what are your thoughts on the Bills?
Bill: Meh they’ve beat some bad teams. They’re going to get beaten on in two weeks by New England. Very average team. The fact that the Bills made the top ten tells you how bad the NFL is this year. I mean they lost to the Jets and the Ravens.
Evan: All true, but they have made substantial and tangible change since then that have been working.
Bill: Haha they beat the Rams and 49ers. And the Patriots who looked like they weren’t trying.
Evan: Ok so Bill’s not a fan. Looking forward to them passing some of these big tests coming up. One more team left in our rankings, and we have them ranked ahead of the Bills however I didn’t have them ranked at all. It’s the Oakland Raiders.
Jim: They’re a lot like the Falcons and I’m still holding out hope that defense improves.
Evan: The Atlanta parallel is interesting. But unlike Atlanta they have a rotten point differential.
Bill: Derek Carr is what I like about Oakland.
Evan: He’s been very good this year, however Sunday didn’t flatter him. I wonder about him against good defenses.
Jim: Understandable, but between his weapons and his offensive line, I think he’s well insulated. If he gets pressured and screws up, I’ll bet there are other things going wrong outside his control.
Evan: No doubt, and their offense certainly isn’t their problem. However I have another parallel to Oakland which is why I didn’t rank them. The Saints and Chargers. The Chargers in particular. They’ve actually had very similar seasons except Oakland has had good luck at the end of games and San Diego has had horrendous luck.
Bill: I really don’t care about any of these teams we’ve been discussing beyond Minnesota, New England, Denver and Dallas. And this is our NFL top 10 so theoretically, 2 teams we didn’t even talk about will make the playoffs. That’s how bad the league is this year. Oakland sucks kinda but they also might be good. You can say that about pretty much every team except New England and Minnesota.
Evan: And that about summarizes how watered down the league is this year. Might as well end it there.
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