Sports Opinion & Analysis

Ranking the NFL’s Best Mediocre Teams

In NFL on October 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm

By Chris Carosi

We’re nearly halfway through the 2012 NFL Regular Season, and the parity of this league that keeps the NFL so exciting week-to-week has power ranking modules all over the Internet tossing teams hither and yon.

But the only things we really know so far is this:

The Texans and Falcons are very good.

There’s like seven teams that are probably good but who knows for sure.

The Jaguars, Browns, Panthers, and Chiefs are very bad.

The Raiders and Lions are probably bad.

For the swath of teams straddling that muddy middle of the NFL, the weeks are up and down. A teams “identity” is based at the end of the day by wins and losses (not felony charges or their fan base), so this week we will rank them in neat little blog-friendly capsules of text. This isn’t your daddy’s power rankings. You are going to disagree. It’s a good thing you can’t actually meet me.

1. Denver

Wins: PIT, OAK, @SD

Losses: @ATL, HOU, @NE

Denver is the best mediocre team because they’ve only lost to quality teams (jury’s out on New England, but they get more than enough credit on paper) and it’s obvious that this team has all the pieces they need to succeed (solid on both sides of the ball). So why are they the king of the mediocre teams right now? Well they’ve only BEATEN teams at their level or somewhat below. They’re going to win at least five out of their next seven, but they still haven’t beaten a team better than themselves. They’ll have to do that to win the division. Jury’s still out on Manning until he can deliver an upset. The Broncos need that security to do anything in the playoffs.

2. Washington

Wins: NO, @TB, MIN

Losses: @STL, CIN, ATL, @NYG

Washington is rated higher because of the level of their competition and their obvious potential. Yes, they lost to Cincinnati and blah blah but they play everybody close (and they really should have beaten the Giants last week). The thing about the NFC East is that all the division games are wars—it battle-tests a plucky team like this. If they can stay above .500 going into an insane stretch after their bye week (PHI, @DAL, NYG, BAL), they can really run the table with two or three wins. The good thing they have going for them is that every big win seems like an upset. That’s like a shot of energy for a young, exciting team like this.

3. Pittsburgh

Wins: NYJ, PHI, @CIN

Losses: @DEN, @OAK, @TEN

The Steelers are going to be consistently overrated every week this year because they are completely unbalanced and they have a good quarterback. It’s pretty clear at this point that Todd Haley’s offense can play well with second and third string talent in key areas and Big Ben can carry the whole load (insert your goddamn rape joke, sissy). What’s also clear is that their defense just lets people down (people like me and my dad). What’s really weird is that it’s still a top ten defense, statistically. That’s the most frustrating thing I can think of right now; it’s also essential mediocrity.

5. St. Louis

Wins: WAS, SEA, ARI

Losses: @DET, @CHI, @MIA, GB

The Rams get a bump because they’ve proven they can win in their competitive division (at least on their home field). What they can’t do, like, at all, is win on the road. But it’s gonna happen at least once. That’s likely not enough to make the playoffs (even if they end up 9-7), but they can play defense and the only team that really gave them a spanking was Chicago at Soldier Field. If they can upset two or three teams by the end of the year, it will have been a good season for them. If the offense ever catches up to the defense, they can be dangerous next year.

6. Miami

Wins: OAK, @CIN, STL

Losses: @HOU, NYJ, @ARI

This team reminds me of Cincinnati from last year: easy schedule, rookie QB with chip on shoulder, an uncaring fanbase). And like the young Redskins, they reside in a competitive division which creates a certain attitude that could extend into the playoffs if they get lucky towards the end. They really can’t afford to lose to the Jets this week, or any division game for that matter. If they split the series with New England, they sneak in as the wild-card. The weakness of the AFC improves their chances. The only team they are competing with for the wild card will be Pittsburgh.

7. Philadelphia

Wins: @CLE, BAL, NYG

Losses: @ARI, @PIT, DET

Philadelphia straight pisses me off. Their season makes absolutely no sense so far. If I was an Eagles fan, I’d be clutching my Reggie White jersey for repentance with the Lord. Firing their defensive coordinator during the bye week right before they play a measuring stick game against Atlanta is so stupid it hurts my face. The whole tough love thing for a team might work. Might. I don’t buy it, not for Philadelphia. Too much hate in that city directed at sports franchises. It’s like poison in the air. Recovery for the Eagles depends on pushing people around in their own division, which they haven’t had an opportunity to do. Their fate won’t be clear until about week 13 or 14, when they’ve played some more division games. For now, they’re in purgatory.

8. San Diego

Wins: @OAK, TEN, KC

Losses: ATL, @NO, DEN

The Chargers have been secretly terrible for about a decade now, but no one ever seems to remember. Maybe it’s the fancy uniforms or the strange fantasy the media seems to have with a team from a beautiful city winning important games. Well, it hasn’t happened. Not even once. And the thing is. It won’t happen. Not ever. Not once. I’ve been consistently selling San Diego short since the Tomlinson days and they’ve never done anything about it. Not that they know me, but I’m just saying. That much bad karma directed at one franchise should yield at least ONE big win or at least some display of basic testicular fortitude. Nope. Their unraveling against Denver surprised no one.

9. Cincinnati

Wins: CLE, @WAS, @JAC

Losses: @BAL, MIA, @CLE, PIT

The Bengals are who we thought they were. I’m not saying they’re underrated or overrated or anything. They are the Bengals. They’ve always been this way. The Bengals are the ultimate mediocre team (they would be #1 in the all-time mediocrity rankings). They have potential every year, that’s what we always hear. And every year they win a few big games and upset the Ravens or Steelers here and there, but I don’t think they ever truly believe they belong. I don’t know what happened in the 90’s, but all the memories of Boomer Esiason and Anthony Munoz and the winning tradition they had (two AFC championships in the 80’s) was just washed away. They’re looking down the barrel at a 6-10 season right now. Schedule is way too hard.

10. Dallas

Wins: @NYG, TB, @CAR

Losses: @SEA, CHI, @BAL

Dallas too seems to always be the same story. They can’t keep momentum from big wins and they can’t rally around any kind of leadership after bad losses. The media in Dallas must be so incredibly soul-sucking that no one has even realized that Tony Romo is not the answer at quarterback. The one redeeming quality for the Cowboys is their ability to seem important at all times, no matter how good or bad they really are. It’s a weird kind of superpower that Jerry Jones has. It also makes them destined to forever be held under some kind of curse like they have nothing to prove but they haven’t actually proved anything since the 90’s. Similar thing went on with Oakland and Al Davis. The curse of mediocrity.

11. Indianapolis

Wins: MIN, GB, CLE

Losses: @CHI, JAC, @NYJ

Beating Green Bay was a great win for this team, and yes even though the Colts aren’t that good, people are very happy in Indiana with what they’ve seen from Andrew Luck. It’s clear they have some fight. It will be fun to watch what they can do all year, not unlike Washington, because nothing crazy is expected out of them. But the Colts don’t have that killer attitude that Washington has right now, so there’s no way they can challenge Houston. The sheer fact they might finish second is kind of amazing, even if you consider how horrible the AFC South is. Their schedule is really easy, so that gives them the opportunity to test their limits before next year when things will be more serious. Despite all this, I’m calling it right now: they’re beating the Texans in week 17 at Indianapolis.

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