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The CHARGED Elite: Week Ten

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

More shuffling in this weeks rankings as we look at wild cards for each team going down the stretch.

The CHARGED Elite: Week Ten

We're now into the second half of the season and the picture is still foggy around much of the NFL.  Teams will not only have to rely on their star players down the stretch, but they will need some of the more unheralded players to contribute.  In this week's CHARGED Elite, I will identify a "wild card" for each team that has to step up.  It may be a minor player, a major contributor that hasn't gotten it going yet, or a player that really needs to keep his production up.  With that in mind, let's dig into this week's CHARGED Elite.

1. Green Bay Packers  (9-0, Last Week 1) - Tim Masthay, P Only two teams have punted fewer times than the Green Bay Packers: the San Diego Chargers and the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Green Bay's offense has been so sound this season that Masthay really hasn't been needed.  But when Masthay has punted, he hasn't been great.  He's 34th in the league in net average at just 34.9 yards a punt.  Green Bay's offense could very well keep this torrid pace up, but if they can't Masthay has to help win the field position battle.

2. San Francisco 49ers  (8-1, Last week 2) - Braylon Edwards, WR Edwards hasn't been able to contribute much yet this season for the 49ers.  He missed four straight games due to injury and is now just starting to get back into the flow.  So far, Edwards has 13 catches for 167 yards an no scores.  If Edwards can emerge as another receiving threat opposite Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, Alex Smith will be that much more dangerous going forward.

3. Houston Texans  (7-3, Last Week 8) - Matt Leinart, QB Houston has been snake bit this season by injuries to key players, but they have been able to overcome them all up until this point.  But that might change.  Matt Schaub, who was having one of his better seasons, is done for the rest of the season.  The Texans' fate is now in the hands of Matt Leinart.  Now is Leinart's time to disprove or cement his status as a first round bust.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers  (7-3, Last Week 5) - Lawrence Timmons, LB The Steelers defense hasn't been as staunch as in years past, and one reason might be Timmons. coming off a huge season last year, Timmons only has 46 total tackles through 10 games this year after recording 135 last year.  With the injuries Pittsburgh has suffered in their linebacking corps, Timmons has to elevate his play from here on out.

5. Baltimore Ravens  (6-3, Last Week 3) - Joe Flacco, QB There's no way to get a good read on this team.  They have lost to Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Seattle.  They've beaten Pittsburgh (twice), the Jets, and Houston.  The inconsistent play starts with Joe Flacco, who has seen several peaks and valleys so far this year.  This team will go as far as Flacco takes them.  Ray Rice and the defense can't do it all.

6. New Orleans Saints  (6-3, Last Week 6) -Mark Ingram, RB Ingram hasn't been exactly what the Saints had hoped he would be so far this season.  Injuries have played a role, but now he's back healthy.  Darren Sproles can't be an every down back running the ball, and Pierre Thomas has been up and down.  If Ingram can finish the season on a high note, he can give Drew Brees a balanced and lethal offense come time for the Playoffs.

7. New England Patriots  (6-3, Last Week 9) - Andre Carter, DE New England doesn't have the best defense in the league, but Andre Carter gave the unit a huge boost on Sunday against the Jets.  He had 4.5 of the 5 sacks on QB Mark Sanchez and is now tied for 4th in the league with 9 on the year.  If he can continue to generate a pass rush, a lot of New England's defensive deficiencies will be masked.

8. Chicago Bears  (6-3, Last Week 10) - Brian Urlacher, LB If Chicago keeps playing defense like this, they will be a very tough out come January, and it all starts with Urlacher.  He is having another fine season for the Bears at 33 years of age.  He's the leader of that physical defense, and if he can continue to play at this high level, the rest of the defense will follow suit.

9. New York Giants  (6-3, Last Week 7) - Mathias Kiwanuka, LB/DE The Giants have been no strangers to injuries this year, especially on the defensive end.  Linebacker Michael Boley was the most recent defensive player to fall, and although he is listed as day-to-day, hamstring injuries can linger.  That puts emphasis on Kiwanuka's play at linebacker.  He's been great in recent weeks, but will have to be even better if Boley is hampered and the Giants are forced to rely on rookies.

10. Detroit Lions  (6-3, Last Week 4) - Maurice Morris, RB With Jahvid Best's health still up in the air, Morris will likely be the number one back going forward.  He's not going to be able to replicate Best's production, but he can go a long way in helping to take some pressure off of Matthew Stafford.  Stafford hasn't been in a situation like this before, and decent production from the run game will help him down the stretch immensely.

11. Dallas Cowboys  (5-4, Last Week 16) - DeMarco Murray, RB Murray has been a breath of fresh air for a team that was in desperate need of a run game.  He has now gone over the 100-yard plateau in three of his four starts and has displayed the hard, aggressive running style that the Cowboys have lacked.  You can see how much the offense has opened up since Murray took over the reins, and it doesn't look like he'll be slowing down anytime soon.

12. Cincinnati Bengals  (6-3, Last Week 13) - Nate Clements, CB Leon Hall's injury is a potential killer for the Bengals, but they still have a pretty good corner to take his place.  Clements is getting up there (31 years old, 11th season) but he's no slouch.  He can help keep Cincinnati's pass defense stable in these final seven games by turning back the clock.

13. New York Jets  (5-4, Last Week 11) - Shonn Greene, RB The Jets aren't going to win games with Mark Sanchez slinging balls 35-40 times a game.  They need to be able to run the ball and control the line of scrimmage.  Enter Shonn Greene.  Most thought Greene would have a big season this year, but instead he is averaging just 62 yards rushing a game and has only scored two touchdowns.  Last year he averaged 51 a game on 12 carries.  This year he is averaging 16 a game.  With LaDanian Tomlinson now sidelined, Greene has to be the man for the Jets now.

14. Atlanta Falcons  (5-4, Last Week 12) - Roddy White, WR Another star player who hasn't contributed like most thought he would.  White hasn't been fully healthy this season (that's a common trend) but has played through his injuries.  He has just one 100-yard game this year and has topped 75 yards just three times all season.  Now White needs Matt Ryan to get him the ball, but his nagging injury might be hurting his route running and ability to get separation.  White has to be that number one receiver the rest of the way for Atlanta to be able to make the postseason.

15. Tennessee Titans  (5-4, Last Week 20) - Chris Johnson, RB Is Chris Johnson finally back?  Tennessee hopes he is.  Johnson turned in his finest performance of the season so far, rushing for 130 yards and a score against the Panthers.  Tennessee could really use a productive Chris Johnson, especially with Houston now vulnerable due to injury.  If Johnson plays up to his capabilities, the Titans might still have a shot in the AFC South.

16. Oakland Raiders  (5-4, Last Week 21) - Carson Palmer, QB The Raiders are hoping that Palmer plays like he did on Thursday for the rest of the season.  Palmer completed 70 percent of his passes, tossed two touchdowns, and averaged nearly 15 yards per completion.  If Palmer can perform like that, Oakland has a great shot of making the postseason.

17. Buffalo Bills  (5-4, Last Week 14) - George Wilson, S It was only a matter of time before teams figured out how to slow down Buffalo's high-powered offense.  Now that the Bills' scoring has been neutralized somewhat, the defense has to start stopping people.  Wilson has been Buffalo's best defender (and one of the best defensive players in the league) and he has to continue his great play for the Bills to have any chance of reaching the Playoffs

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (4-5, Last Week 17) - Mike Williams, WR It seems like no one is has been able to reproduce their production from last season.  Key offensive contributors Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount, and Mike Williams are all having down seasons in comparison.  Williams has had an especially small impact this year.  He hasn't reached the end zone since week one after scoring 11 touchdowns last year and hasn't topped the 100-yard mark yet.

19. Denver Broncos  (4-5, Last Week 24) - Tim Tebow, QB Ugh... I guess I just can't get around the idea of Tebow because he isn't aesthetically pleasing to watch.  Some of his throws are absolutely atrocious.  But if Denver can keep running the ball effectively (even without Knowshon Moreno this is possible) and Tebow can continue to run this college-style offense, Denver could conceivably sneak into the playoffs in the very mediocre AFC West.

20. San Diego Chargers  (4-5, Last Week 18) - Philip Rivers, QB Rivers' struggles this year are mysterious to everyone, I think.  It's hard to pinpoint why he hasn't played to his potential, but if he doesn't turn things around soon, San Diego might be on the outside looking in when the Playoffs roll around.

21. Kansas City Chiefs  (4-5, Last Week 19) - Derrick Johnson, LB The Chiefs' four-game win streak is starting to seem like a product of the very weak schedule they faced.  The offense is beginning to stumble and the defense is also sputtering.  Derrick Johnson has played great so far this season and has had to deal with the loss of star safety Eric Berry.  He and the rest of the defense have to play with urgency since the offense has now become sporadic.

22. Arizona Cardinals  (3-6, Last Week 27) - Beanie Wells, RB Wells started the season on a tear, but his production has decreased ever since that 138 yard, three touchdown performance against the Giants.  Between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, Wells can give the Cardinals a consistent option moving forward the rest of the season.  He has to stay healthy to do this, but that's another issue. 

23. Philadelphia Eagles  (3-6, Last Week 15) - LeSean McCoy, RB I've said it before and I will say it again.  LeSean McCoy is the best player on the Eagles.  The offense needs to run through him.  He leads the league in touchdowns with 12 (non-QB), he's second in rushing yards (906), and he's got 196 receiving yards.  It's obvious that Philly isn't winning with Michael Vick trying to be Superman, and if McCoy had been a more integral part of the offense Vick might not have two broken ribs.

24. Carolina Panthers  (2-7, Last Week 23) -Cam Newton, QB We already know what Newton is capable of doing.  The rest of the season will show us if he has learned how to win games on the pro level.  He can't control what the defense (or his kicker) does, but if he can consistently get this current roster to the point where they can win games, it will show me a lot.

25. Miami Dolphins  (2-7, Last Week 29) - Reggie Bush, RB The Dolphins are suddenly streaking, and a big reason is Reggie Bush's improved play.  He has 313 total yards and 3 touchdowns in his last three games, two of those Miami wins.  In his previous six games? Bush had 325 total yards, 1 touchdown.  If Bush can keep this up and Daniel Thomas can get healthy, they can form a pretty potent tandem in the backfield for Miami.

26. St. Louis Rams  (2-7, Last Week 28) - Chris Long, DE The Rams have underachieved this season when you consider the expectations going into the season.  The defensive struggles were surprising, but Chris Long was playing hurt.  Now he's healthy and has recorded 5 sacks in his last three games.  Long's pressure off the edge is huge for St. Louis' defense, and if he keeps this up St. Louis can play spoiler the rest of the year.

27. Seattle Seahawks  (3-6, Last Week 31) - Tarvaris Jackson, QB Here comes a stretch of quarterbacks that have to show something down the stretch, starting with Jackson.  The Seahawks traded Matt Hasselbeck to make room for Jackson, and right now it looks like Seattle chose incorrectly.  Jackson has the tools, and he did just engineer that win against the Ravens.  If Jackson can show Pete Carroll enough here, Seattle might choose to go with him next season.

28. Minnesota Vikings  (2-7, Last Week 22) - Christian Ponder, QB Ponder has responded well to this baptism by fire so far.  The rest of the season is an opportunity for him to work on some things like his accuracy.  Vikings fans would love if Ponder could get some wins, but that would be icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned.  As long as Ponder shows week-to-week improvement, that should be enough.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars  (3-6, Last Week 30) - Blaine Gabbert, QB Gabbert was also thrust into a pretty poor situation.  The Jaguars really aren't going anywhere right now (except maybe Los Angeles).  Gabbert is coming along slowly and is smartly letting Maurice Jones-Drew shoulder most of the load for now.  You would like to see Gabbert get more comfortable and assert himself more as the season moves along.  He has the tools, but he just has to put it together.

30. Cleveland Browns (3-6, Last Week 25) - Josh Cribbs, KR/WR/RB Cribbs is almost criminally underused in Cleveland.  He's electric with the ball in his hands, and with so many key playmakers out, Cleveland should be doing everything they can to get him touches.  He got three rushes last week against the Rams and should see a little more time in the backfield with both Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty out.  Cribbs has a chance to play a much more active role on the team besides kick returner and receiver.  

31. Washington Redskins  (3-6, Last Week 26) - Ryan Kerrigan, LB The Redskins are falling apart.  They've suffered a ton of injuries on the offensive side, but the defense has continued to plug away.  Rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is having a great first year, and he just put in his best performance in a loss to the Dolphins.  He had six tackles, two sacks, and forced two fumbles.  He has to keep building on this and finish the year strong.

32. Indianapolis Colts  (0-10, Last Week 32) - Andrew Luck, QB (Stanford) That's the only name the Colts should have their minds on right now.  No one is going to help the Colts do anything this year, but Luck can help the Colts continue to win for years to come.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let us know what you think in the comment section, and make sure you check out next week's updated rankings of the CHARGED Elite.

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