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The CHARGED Elite: Week Twelve

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

The playoff picture looks clearer than it has in quite weeks.

The CHARGED Elite: Week Twelve

Let's take a look at this week's version of the CHARGED Elite after all 32 teams were in action over the Thanksgiving weekend.

1. Green Bay Packers  (11-0, Last Week 1) - I like to think that Aaron Rodgers was watching Drew Brees pick apart the Giants in a dim viewing room.  There's a fire roaring (because it gets cold in Green Bay) and he's holding a glass of wine.  A smug grin appears on his face as he thinks about what his offense can do against the Giants' defense. 

2. Baltimore Ravens  (8-3, Last Week 4) - Joe Flacco now has two straight games with a passer rating of over 100.  Unsurprisingly, both performances resulted in wins.  Flacco is the key to the Ravens success from here on out.  They have won despite some putrid performances by their quarterback.  If Flacco comes around, I like Baltimore's chances in the AFC.

3. New Orleans Saints  (8-3, Last Week 6) - New Orleans looked absolutely unstoppable against the Giants Monday night.  Even their fake field goal looked perfect until Jason Pierre-Paul sniffed it out and stopped Jimmy Graham just short.  Seeing what their full roster was capable of should put a lot of fear into the rest of the league.  This team is scary. 

4. San Francisco 49ers  (9-2, Last week 2) - Frank Gore had a string of five straight 100-yard games this season.  It stopped when the Giants held him to 0 yards three weeks ago.  Injuries played into that, but in the three games since his last 100-yard game, Gore has just 127 yards rushing.  The 49ers struggle enough offensively, without Gore's limited production lately.  They need him at 100% by the time the Playoffs roll around to have any shot.

5. New England Patriots  (8-3, Last Week 7) - I still don't quite understand Julian Edelman on defense for New England.  I know they are hurt/thin in the secondary, but the guy is a receiver/return man.  He's recorded three tackles in the last two games and he often looks overmatched on plays.  But he did lay into Vince Young on a blitz.  And one of those tackles kept Vince Young out of the end zone in the third quarter.  Just another Bill Belichik move working out for the Patriots.

6. Houston Texans  (8-3, Last Week 3) - Poor Houston.  Things were looking good with Matt Leinart under center.  Then Leinart went down for the year.  This team might make the postseason, but they can't get by with someone like T.J. Yates or Kellen Clemens at quarterback.  It helps that Yates has guys like Arian Foster, Ben Tate, and Andre Johnson to lean on, but teams are going to load up on the run now.  We'll see how Houston responds to a good run defense against Atlanta next weekend, and that will tell us a lot about this team.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers  (8-3, Last Week 5) - The Steelers have a lot of ugly wins this year.  They were outplayed Sunday night by the Chiefs but still won.  They very easily could have lost to the Colts in week three and Jacksonville almost upended the Steelers just three weeks after that.  But a win is a win.  The Steelers are still in great position for a wild card, but it has to be unnerving for Steelers fans to see their team struggle against lesser competition.

8. Dallas Cowboys  (7-4, Last Week 10) - I already spoke about Laurent Robinson's breakout season in Upon Further Review.  Robinson has really helped Tony Romo this season, but DeMarco Murray's ability to produce at running back has probably meant more.  Romo hasn't thrown for 300+ yards in the six games since Murray took over as starter.  Yet he has 13 touchdown passes to just three interceptions in that span.  When Romo doesn't have to carry the full burden, he can be incredibly effective.

9. Atlanta Falcons  (7-4, Last Week 11) -  Matt Ryan had probably his best game of the season on Sunday against the Vikings, going 27-34 for 262 yards, three scores, and no interceptions.  Ryan has finally gotten it going with Roddy White over the last two weeks, and this team has really heated up over the last six weeks.  They are 5-1 over their last six games and show no signs of letting up.

10. Cincinnati Bengals  (7-4, Last Week 14) - The Bengals couldn't afford to lose last week to the Browns, and for a while it looked like that was going to happen.  Cleveland jumped out to 17-7 and 20-10 leads, but Cincinnati scored the final 13 points to escape with the win.  With the Jets, Titans and Broncos all in the rear view mirror, the Bengals won a game they absolutely needed.  Andy Dalton and Cedric Benson both kept Cincy's playoff hopes alive.

11. Oakland Raiders  (7-4, Last Week 13) - Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler dominated Bears on special teams.  Janikowski scored the first 18 points for Oakland.  Lechler averaged 54.6 yards on five punts, including one that went 80 yards.  That's right, Lechler punted a ball 80 yards.  Devin Hester was only able to muster seven yards on two punt returns.  Oakland probably has the best punter and kicker in the league.

12. Chicago Bears  (7-4, Last Week 8) - If that is what the Bears look like without Jay Cutler, I don't know how much I like their playoff chances.  They do have a great chance of reaching 10 wins though.  Their only real tests coming up are Denver and Green Bay.  Haney might get better, which he did in the second half, and the defense is still solid.  But just like in Houston, Hanie needs to play better for the team to have any chance down the road.    

13. Detroit Lions  (7-4, Last Week 9) - Ndamukong Suh's suspension could not come at a worse time for Detroit. They head to New Orleans Sunday night to play the Saints, and without Suh in the middle the Lions won't be able to disrupt the Saints' rushing attack.  Suh has appealed, but I highly doubt the appeal will allow him to play on Sunday.

14. Denver Broncos  (6-5, Last Week 15) - The Broncos won't be able to win without running the ball, and Willis McGahee has been terrific for them.  He got his fifth 100-yard game of the season against Chargers on Sunday.  He is gaining 4.8 yards a rush on the year.  His previous career high was 5.0 YPC as Ray Rice's backup in Baltimore two years ago.  This kind of production as a starter has been a pleasant surprise for Denver this season.

15. New York Jets  (6-5, Last Week 16) - Mark Sanchez didn't make every throw against the Bills on Sunday.  In fact, he completed just 48.5 percent of his passes.  But when you give him enough time, he can make some damn good throws.  The Bills only hit Sanchez once the entire game, and as a result he had a healthy pocket to work with.  His four touchdown passes equaled a new game-high for the Sanchize, who kept the Jets alive.

16. Tennessee Titans  (6-5, Last Week 19) - Now that was a renaissance (can we use renaissance with such a young player?) performance from Chris Johnson on Sunday when his team needed it the most.  Johnson rushed for 190 yards on 23 carries (8.3 average) and really stepped up in the second half.  He carried the ball 14 times for 144 yards in the third and fourth quarters, including huge runs of 34 and 24 yards late in the final quarter.

17. New York Giants  (6-5, Last Week 12) - The offense wasn't the problem, though Eli Manning's first quarter interception definitely changed the momentum.  The Giants' defense didn't stand a chance against New Orleans last night.  Jason Pierre-Paul was the only one that seemed to be trying all four quarters.  The injuries have been brutal on that side of the ball, but there's no excuse for lack of effort.  This team will be very lucky to make the playoffs.

18. Buffalo Bills  (5-6, Last Week 20) - Buffalo looked like an actual football team on Sunday.  CJ Spiller played a very nice game in place of the injured Fred Jackson, and the Bills did about everything except win.  Ryan Fitzpatrick has to make that throw to Stevie Johnson in the end zone, and Johnson has to catch the pass he dropped a few plays before that.  The Bills had their chances, but they ultimately showed they aren't quite ready yet.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (4-7, Last Week 18) - This is where the rankings really turn into a crap shoot.  The next ten spots could really be interchangeable.  Tampa Bay really shot itself in the foot with the turnovers against Tennessee, but I totally expected Josh Freeman to lead a game-winning drive when they got the ball back late in the fourth quarter.  I have to remind myself that this is not last year's Buccaneers. 

20. Philadelphia Eagles  (4-7, Last Week 17) - I have said it over and over again, and I will say it again.  LeSean McCoy deserves more than 14 touches against the New England Patriots.  If I were him, I would be screaming at Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg about the lack of touches.  McCoy should be the offense in Philly.  The fact that he isn't explains the 4-7 record to me.

21. Miami Dolphins  (3-8, Last Week 21) - Miami really should have beaten Dallas on Thanksgiving day.  They outplayed the Cowboys, outgained them in yards, had fewer penalties and fewer turnovers.  But the one turnover Miami had ended up costing them the game.  That fumble right before halftime was a mistake that this team hasn't been making lately, but this team is still playing at a very high level.  They will definitely be a spoiler the rest of the way.

22. Carolina Panthers  (3-8, Last Week 23) - Can we all agree that Cam Newton is the offensive rookie of the year?  Are people still debating this?  Either way, if it already isn't, this decision should be a no-brainer.  Newton has 22 total touchdowns (12 passing, 10 rushing), 3,093 passing yards, 464 rushing yards, a completion percentage of 61, and a QB rating of 81.1.  Andy Dalton, likely his closest competitor, has 17 total touchdowns (16/1), 2,509 passing yards, a completion percentage of 60.1, and a QB rating of 81.8.  It has to be Newton. 

23. Arizona Cardinals  (4-7, Last Week 28) - Patrick Peterson.  That is all.

24. San Diego Chargers  (4-7, Last Week 23) - Philip Rivers didn't turn the ball over against the Broncos, but he wasn't accurate.  He hit on just 19 of 36 passes and connected with Vincent Jackson on just three of them.  As a starter, Rivers hasn't had a lower completion percentage (right now he's at 61.1 percent) since 2007 (60.2).  Couple that with a career high in interceptions, and the Chargers are 4-7. 

25. Washington Redskins  (4-7, Last Week 30) - Roy Helu made a grown man move on Sunday against the Seahawks.  He hurdled Roy Lewis, then absorbed a hit from Kam Chancellor, then strolled in for a touchdown.  It was a glorious play.  Why he hasn't been playing more since week one, only Mike Shanahan knows.  Here's the video:


26. Seattle Seahawks  (4-7, Last Week 22) - Seattle is still mathematically in the hunt for the NFC West, but in reality the season is over.  It's certainly a sophomore slump for Pete Carroll after their surprising playoff run last year.  But they were a 7-9 team last year, and they probably won't get to that mark this season.

27. Cleveland Browns (4-7, Last Week 25) - Peyton Hillis came back last week, and he didn't do a whole lot.  Ho hum.  Give the ball to Chris Ogbonnaya and let announcers try to pronounce his name. 

28. Kansas City Chiefs  (4-7, Last Week 26) - Dwayne Bowe caught a lot of flak for not making an effort on the final interception.  I don't think Bowe could have gotten to that ball it he were Manute Bol.  Palko overthrew him by a mile.  But the sentiment might ring true.  At least try for the ball.  Something.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars  (3-8, Last Week 29) - Jack Del Rio was finally fired today.  I thought we were going to make it an entire season without a coach getting the axe now that Jim Caldwell has been kept around in Indianapolis for so long.  Guess I was wrong.

30. St. Louis Rams  (2-9, Last Week 27) - Patrick Peterson has now burned the Rams twice this season on punt returns.  They have video.  They have scouting reports.  They know he's already burned them before.  Why punt him the ball again?   

31. Minnesota Vikings  (2-9, Last Week 31) - Minnesota fans have to at least be happy with Christian Ponder.  The kid has come in and performed very admirably.  He almost led the Vikings back against the Falcons without Adrian Peterson.  Many kudos.  Ponder has gotten to know Percy Harvin very well in his brief tenure.  This prompted Zach Harper (@talkhoops) to tweet the following: "Donovan McNabb just saw the throw to Percy Harvin and asked his teammates when they acquired this guy."

32. Indianapolis Colts  (0-11, Last Week 32) - It seems like Indy is in the clear in the race for Andrew Luck.  The Colts are two games ahead of the Colts and Rams for the worst record in the league.  They probably won't have to go 0-16 to ensure their spot at the top of the draft, but one California man is hoping the Colts don't win the rest of the year.

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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