Blaine Gabbert has stepped in adequately as the Jaguars starting quarterback. Regardless, Jacksonville won’t compete for an NFL playoff berth in 2011. They’re not alone, though. Seven other NFL franchises find themselves facing a similar destiny.
Obviously, it’s too early for any team to be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Although I’m no mathematician, I know which teams won’t be relevant come December.
Also, since I was wedding-it-up this weekend and didn’t post a Week 6 recap, I’ve included my weekly rankings below.
It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, but let’s be honest; it’s over
Even in the miserable AFC South, the 1-5 Jaguars are finished. Rookie quarterback, Blaine Gabbert has shown promise, but he has little help. Marcedes Lewis has been a ghost and the receivers are arguably the worst in the league. Further complicating matters, Gabbert is under the tutelage of a lame duck coach. While they aren’t the worst team in the league, the Jaguars are probably the least marketable, making Andrew Luck even more appealing. If Gabbert wants to protect his career, he should start winning as soon as possible.
I think we all declared the Colts “finished” the moment we learned Peyton Manning wouldn’t return until at least December. The Colts without Manning is equivalent to the Eagles without Michael Vick… multiplied by 100. Backup quarterback, Curtis Painter, has been surprisingly effective, however. In fact, he’s played well enough to win Indianapolis’ last three games. Unfortunately, the rest of the team isn’t very good.
At 2-3, the Browns have the best record of anyone on this list. They also play in the rugged AFC North, though, where the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals all boast menacing defenses and the number “4” under the “Wins” column. The Browns lack talent and have regressed since their late season surge under Eric Mangini in 2010. The controversy surrounding Peyton Hillis’ strep throat hasn’t helped matters, either. The 2011 season should now be dedicated to determining if Colt McCoy is a long-term solution or merely a capable backup.
The Dolphins are so incredibly bad, they’ll probably screw up their chance to draft Andrew Luck. Miami has flashy names (Reggie Bush, Brandon Marshall, Cameron Wake), but no production. What was thought to be a top ten defense surrenders nearly 26 points a game. Considering Miami’s offense only scores 15 points a game, it’s safe to assume the Dolphins may struggle to win two games in 2011.
My preseason pick to win the NFC West. Obviously, I missed. While I didn’t expect Kevin Kolb to transform into Kurt Warner in his first season, I didn’t expect him to play like Derek Anderson, either. It’s not all Kolb’s fault, though. The Arizona defense has been embarrassingly awful. Still, the Cardinals let games slip away late. Losses to the Redskins, Seahawks, and Giants could just as easily been victories. I suppose if the Cardinals find a groove and the 49ers regress, there’s hope, but I’m comfortable calling Arizona’s 2011 campaign after only five games.
The NFL’s version of ABC’s Charlie’s Angels. For months, all we heard about was Sam Bradford and the Rams evolving into a playoff contender and winning the NFC West outright. Here we are six weeks later and, just like Charlie’s Angels, the Rams 2011 season has been cancelled. Sure, St. Louis has endured one of the toughest schedules in the league and been stricken with injuries, but they’ve hardly competed. Good teams adjust to injuries and move on. The Rams just need to move on… to 2012.
Donovan McNabb has been benched, probably for the last time in his NFL career, and the Vikings once again find themselves playing meaningless contests before Thanksgiving. I would argue the Vikings are the best team on this list. Unfortunately, blowing double digit 2nd half leads in their first three games scuttled their entire season. The Vikings never recovered. Now, it’s Christian Ponder’s turn to prove he should be the cornerstone of the Vikings future. A future now present much sooner than anyone anticipated.
Living on a prayer
At 1-5, Carolina’s record is just as bad, if not worse than most of the teams I’ve already written off. However, the Panthers have proven an ability to hang with playoff contenders in the NFC (Bears, Saints, Packers, Falcons) and boast an unpredictable rookie quarterback capable of winning any game at any time. Will Carolina make the playoffs? No. But I don’t want to be the one to write off Cam Newton. Not this early, at least.
The only reason the Broncos are listed here is because we haven’t experienced the full impact of Tim Tebow. At 1-4, the Broncos are a near certainty to miss the playoffs again. I simply figured we should wait to see what Tebow does before we write him and the Broncos off completely.
Prior to their bye last week, the Seahawks were impressive in nearly defeating the Falcons in Week 4 and then topping the Giants in Week 5. At 2-3, Seattle has little chance of catching the 5-1 49ers. On the other hand, there’s plenty of time for San Francisco to collapse a la the 2009 Broncos. If that happens, the Seahawks are clearly the second best team in the NFC West.
Someone take them to Chick-fil-A (NFL’s top 5)
1. Packers – I think Green Bay moved on to Week 7 with about 37 minutes remaining in their Week 6 contest against the St. Louis Rams. The rest of the NFC can only hope the Packers hit their stride too early.
2. Patriots – The offense wasn’t explosive, but it scored when needed. More importantly, the defense held a potent offense to less than 17 points. Finding different ways to win is always a promising sign.
3. Ravens – Beating the hapless Texans was expected. Joe Flacco still needs work, though.
4. 49ers – If it weren’t for a 4th quarter collapse against Dallas, Jim Harbaugh’s boys would be 6-0. Although they may not seem like a top 5 team, it’s hard to argue with San Fran’s results. Until they start losing, they’ve proven they belong here.
5. Cowboys – Call me crazy, but you can’t find me a better team at this spot. The Lions are overrated, the Chargers haven’t found a groove yet, the Saints have obvious flaws, and the Steelers look off. Plus, the Cowboys could just as easily be 5-1 or 6-0.
(Last Week: GB, NE, BAL, NO, DET)
Hardly Ramen Noodle worthy (NFL’s bottom 5)
28. Jaguars – Give the Jaguars credit, they’re still fighting.
29. Colts – It’s nice to see Curtis Painter making the most of his opportunity. If it weren’t for an awful turnover late in the 4th quarter, the Colts may have pulled out a W.
30. Cardinals – Based upon their upcoming schedule (PITT, BAL, STL, PHI, SF), the future does not look bright in Arizona. Kevin Kolb would do well to have a great game soon. Arizona is twice as hot when fans are breathing down your neck.
31. Rams – I’m beginning to worry that Sam Bradford will retire. St. Louis will need a miracle to win before November..
32. Dolphins – That was the worst Monday Night Football performance since Dennis Miller. The Dolphins don’t have a soul.
(Last Week: AZ, IND, JAC, STL, MIA)