Week Nine NFL Power Rankings: Saints Brees Their Way to the Top

Read on to see who won the Simple Jack Award this week.

Read on to see who won the Simple Jack Award this week.

So, basically, what I learned this weekend is that the NFL cannot compare to college football. Not a great hook to keep you NFL fans reading, right?

Well the two would be a lot closer if I didn’t wake up Sunday to the biggest horror story in the history of our planet Earth.

No, I didn’t have a skull-rattling hangover. No, my legs weren’t sore from jumping over the 20-foot fence onto the field Saturday night. And no, no douche-bag teenagers smashed our pumpkins or egged my house.

Why was Sunday so bad? The last several weeks, the NFL Red Zone channel, God’s greatest creation, had been mysteriously been working. In HD.  At first, I thought it was just a one week trial.

But come the next Sunday it was still there. And then the next one. And then another. Seven straight Sundays! I thought my Guardian Angel was watching over me.

So when I woke up, albeit at 1:30 PM, I expected to walk to my living room, check my fantasy team, and turn on the Red Zone Channel. In HD. But that did not happen. Instead, a simple “channel not authorized” messaged displayed on the screen.

You know in movies, when a character screams and they zoom out attempting to show that the entire world can hear his cries (eg: Eurotrip , when Scotty wakes up after the party)? Well, that was me, except not as loud, or silent. I don’t remember. I was too angry.

On to the rankings.
32 (31) – Buccaneers

It was a bad week for Tampa—and they didn’t even play. First they get called out by Tatum Bell of the UFL’s Florida Tuskers, who said they would beat the Bucs “handily,” and then they see the only other remaining winless teams pick up their first victories.

I wonder it Bell knows that his quarterback, Craig Nall, is most famous for being Brett Favre’s backup. The only time he ever played was in Madden . But they probably still could beat Tampa.

31 (30) – Browns

Cleveland once again got demolished. And to rub salt in the wound, has-been running back Jamal Lewis said he plans to retire after the season. What will Browns ever do to replace their overweight, slow, injured, and flat out not good running back?

30 (32) – Rams

Isn’t it kind of sad that the Rams poured the Gatorade cooler on Steve Spagnuolo after getting their first win in Week Eight? They must have really thought they weren’t going to win again the rest of the way. And by the way, shouldn’t there be some sort of rule that you can’t pour Gatorade on your coach unless you win something of importance? Beating the Lions in November doesn’t really qualify.

29 (29) – Chiefs

I can only imagine what Larry Johnson’s apology would sound like: “I apologize for using the term ‘f-g.’ I intended to use ‘f-ggot’, but Twitter has a character limit.”

28 (26) – Lions

Back to our good friend, ESPN’s Jeffri Chadiha, for an update on what the loss to the Rams means for Detroit: “A loss to St. Louis is a step in the wrong direction.”  And now here’s Ollie Williams with the black-u-weather forecast…

27 (28) – Raiders

The only thing sadder than JaMarcus Russell’s performance (109 yards, no TDs, an INT, and five sacks) is that after the game he told reporters he thought he “played pretty good.” If that’s good, then what was he expecting?

26 (24) – Redskins

No point preparing for what will surely be a loss in Atlanta, so Sherm Lewis rounded up his Hogs and headed out to the old folk’s home for a scintillating week of Bingo. I’ve heard there are quite a few prestigious Bingo tournaments in the DC area.

25 (27) – Titans

This Sunday will be a highly anticipated matchup of two former top-three overall picks who sucked for years before getting benched but then got the starting job handed back to them become the replacement sucked even worse: Alex Smith vs. Vince Young. Now here’s a story to tell your grandchildren.

24 (25) – Panthers

I could have sworn that I saw Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme switch uniforms before kickoff.

23 (23) – Seahawks

I’m still debating with clip is funnier, the Coor’s light version of Jim Mora’s “playoffs” rant of the real press conference . I wonder if the junior Jim Mora ever shows either to his team for comic relief.

22 (22) – Bills

There goes Ryan Fitzpatrick’s five-game winning streak as a starter.

21 (21) – Jaguars

The only thing tougher than getting the Jaguars to play good football will be for Jacksonville to avoid a blackout against the Chiefs. This could be a long week for the marketing department.

20 (20) – Dolphins

Here’s ESPN’s Michael Clayton trying to be funny: “After a week in which Ted Ginn was grim, his two kickoff returns for touchdowns have Dolphins fans wearing grins.” Cute, Michael, very cute.

19 (17) – Jets

Hey Rex Ryan, never go full retard.

18 (18) – 49ers

Finally the 49ers are showing signs of being a good football team. The bad news? They still lost and are now 3-4. The good news? They are in the NFC West, and are only one game back because the Cardinals lost to Jake Delhomme’s Panthers.

17 (13) – Cardinals

The only thing more embarrassing than Kurt Warner’s five interceptions is that they didn’t even pick off Jake Delhomme once. I mean, how hard can it be? Even Tampa Bay picked him off twice.

16 (19) – Bears

Three of their four wins have come against Seattle, Detroit and Cleveland. Not a good sign when they still have to play contenders in seven of their next nine games.

15 (15) – Chargers

Fox Sports’ Adrian Hasenmayer actually writes good team summaries. Read and learn, ESPN: “It was kind of like “Old Timers’ Day” for the Chargers last week, with LT scoring twice (just TDs No. 2 and 3 for him this season) and Shawne Merriman notching his first two sacks of 2009.”

14 (16) – Texans

This is the first time in the history of the Texans that they are two games over .500. It really is too bad they have to play at Indy next week.

13 (7) – Giants

Eli, don’t try to be a tough guy and play through the injury. Be the pussycat you are, sit out a few weeks, and then go back to be the same old overpaid, overrated, mediocre quarterback you usually are.

12 (12) – Falcons

If only Michael Turner and Matt Ryan could show up at the same time. Just as Turner has finally started to get hot, Ryan is now ice cold. And Ryan’s stat line would have looked much worse if it weren’t for Roddy White’s manhandling of Jabari Greer for a 68-yard touchdown.

11 (11) – Packers

Aaron Rodgers is like a Bugatti Veyron on the Pacific Coast Highway at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon: absolutely worthless.

10 (14) – Cowboys

Don’t look now but Tony Romo is on pace for 4,400 yards and a 26:8 touchdown to interception ratio.

9 (10) – Eagles

I guess Philadelphia was a little angry about losing to the Raiders last week. I couldn’t be happier that they took it out on Eli and the Giants.

8 (8) – Bengals

Best athlete tweet of the week goes to (who else?) Chad Ochocinco: “@BritneySpears Britney are you still looking for a back up dancer, there might be a lockout in 2011, my number is the same, call me.”

7 (6) – Steelers

Huge game at Denver this Sunday. This contest will go a long way in deciding the AFC hierarchy for the rest of the season.

6 (9) – Ravens

And Jeffri Chadiha is back, this time with the “stating the obvious” quote of the week: “They’re celebrating a big victory over Denver, breaking a three-game losing streak.” Oh my god, I had no idea!

5 (4) – Broncos

That was Kyle Orton’s first game all season under 10 fantasy points. Seriously. Kyle Orton.

4 (5) – Patriots

Bill Belichick’s eyes must have lit up like Christmas lights when he found this out: The Patriots are the only team in the league with each of the NFL’s remaining two undefeated teams left on its schedule. I think they take down at least one.

3 (3) – Vikings

John Madden must have had a three-hour long boner from watching Brett Favre play on Sunday. Who needs Viagra when you have Brett Favre? John Madden, that’s for sure.

2 (2) – Colts

The more I think about it the more this Colts team reminds me of the 2007 Patriots. And I don’t like it. The only that comforts me is that Indy’s competition is right up there with the Big Ten’s non-conference schedule. I can’t wait for Colts-Patriots in two weeks.

1 (1) – Saints

New Orleans doesn’t play another team with a winning record until a monster Monday Night showdown against the Patriots in Week 12. Why do I relate everything back to the Patriots? That Tom Brady sure is a good-looking guy. And he’s from San Mateo.

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Pictures From Seattle Trip

On Facebook – check em out!

Here’s a taste:

I love Amanda Pflugrad.

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Rivalry Renewed: Oregon Ducks Look for Sixth Straight over Huskies

I remember going to my first Oregon Duck football game last fall as a freshman. Because of weird scheduling circumstances, the Washington Huskies came to Autzen in just the second week of the season.

If Masoli is healthy, the Ducks will roll over the Huskies.

If Masoli is healthy, the Ducks will roll over the Huskies.

And being a fan of the Ducks for several years before I stepped on campus, I was well aware of the rivalry and was excited to witness it firsthand.

Soon after entering the stadium, I was quickly thrown into the competitive trash-talking that those clever collegians in the student section like so much. Well, this time we weren’t so clever.

From the very second the first purple-clad player appeared in the tunnel, there was a telekinetic-like power that united the entire stadium; students, alumni, and even children to stand up and chant: “Fuck the Huskies!”

Over and over again. I didn’t even know we were allowed to do that. Looking back, we probably weren’t, but it was too much fun it didn’t matter. The loathing between the two teams was palpable.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on the way you look at it, the dislike quickly turned to sympathy, as the Ducks went all Michael Vick on the Huskies, 44-10. To make matters worse, Washington didn’t win a single game the rest of the season, including a heartbreaker to the lowly Washington State Cougars.

For some reason, the rivalry didn’t feel so much like a rivalry to me anymore after that game. It was more of a business as usual, fifth straight win in a row type of thing.
But the Huskies are no longer a joke. No more Tyrone Willingham or Rick Neuheisel and his March Madness office pools.  Washington now has a legitimate head coach: Steve Sarkisian, who learned from the best of the best in Pete Carroll at USC. Coach Sark finally has the Huskies playing up to their full potential.

Despite going winless last season, Washington had plenty of talent, although most of it was inexperienced. Willingham brought in several solid recruiting classes, including QB Jake Locker in 2006 and receivers Jermaine Kearse and Kavario Middleton last season. He just couldn’t get anything out them. I mean, Locker is good enough that he should be able to win a handful of games by himself.

But now Locker has developed into the player many expected him to become, the West Coast’s version of Tim Tebow, Chris Polk emerged as a talented running back and Kearse has excelled in his first season.

However, the one thing that has kept the Huskies from a 2008 Miami Dolphin-like turnaround is their defense. Although better than last season, the Huskies still rank ninth in the Pac-10 in total defense, allowing 424 yards per game.

And that’s why the Huskies are at least a year away from putting a stop to Oregon’s five game winning streak. Jeremiah Masoli (who should play) and LaMichael James, two of the hottest players in the country, should be able to feast on the porous Washington defense.

With two weeks for the Ducks to rest up, and two weeks for offensive mastermind Chip Kelly to game plan, Oregon should be focused and ready to march into Husky Stadium for their sixth straight win.

Kelly has instilled his mantra of “one game at a time” into his players, as offensive tackle Bo Thran can attest: “They’re just the next team on our schedule.”

The only worry for the Ducks, is adjusting to the unfriendly confines of Husky Stadium. Only one game in their current five game winning streak over Washington came in Seattle.

But Chip Kelly has done a tremendous job preparing this team week in and week out. Going into the Rose Bowl before the bye, many fans were frightened because it was the first road game since the Boise State debacle, but Oregon overcame a lackadaisical first half to win handily.

“We don’t put any more stock in this game than another,” Kelly said. “By that, I don’t mean to diminish it, but we put everything we have into every game. We haven’t done anything different in terms of our approach. It’s a league game. It’s on the road. And that’s enough to get our players up and excited for practice.”

In Big Balls Chip I trust.

Prediction: Oregon 34, Washington 24

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Oregon Must Overcome Several Challenges at UCLA to Stay in The BCS Hunt

I’m worried. For the first time all season. Seriously.

I bought into the hype before Boise State. I was certain Oregon would get their revenge against Purdue. I knew Utah was overrated. I had a feeling the Ducks would step up against Cal. And Washington State is, well, Washington State.

But UCLA? What’s so special about the Bruins?

Costa will need to step up in a big way for the Ducks to win in the Rose Bowl on Saturday

Costa will need to step up in a big way for the Ducks to win in the Rose Bowl on Saturday

It’s really not that I’m worried about UCLA at all. I mean, yeah, they’re a decent team. Actually, they’re a little better than that. They went into Knoxville and knocked off the Volunteers. And they gave Pac-10-leading Stanford a late scare in Palo Alto. Both pretty impressive.

But in a vacuum, there is nothing about the Bruins themselves that scares me. Kevin Prince? Johnathan Franklin? Terrence Austin? I’m sure they’re nice guys, but man, that’s a whole lot of mediocrity.

So you ask, what could I possibly be worried about? What is it that caused me to stay up late last night, tossing and turning while I pictured what will happen when the Ducks travel to Westwood on Saturday?

There are four things. And any single one of them could be enough to derail Oregon’s Rose Bowl aspirations with a devastating loss at, coincidentally, the Rose Bowl.

Jeremiah Masoli’s Injury

Just as Masoli finally started playing up to his Heisman-like potential the past two weeks, the curse of the Oregon quarterback struck: a knee injury. Seriously, another one?

Masoli came out in the second quarter against Washington State with the Ducks already leading 35-0. So when he came out, the initial thought was they were just resting him and putting in the second stringers in early.

Turns out Masoli has a sprained MCL, an injury that usually takes at least a couple weeks to heal completely. So the Ducks will turn to junior backup Nate Costa as the starter on Saturday. And if things go according to plan, Costa will lead Oregon to victory, allowing Masoli to rest this week and during the open date next week, before suiting up at full strength in Husky Stadium on Oct. 24.

Costa, who was supposed to be the starter last season before re-tearing his ACL in fall camp, has never started before. And the only in-game experience he has, is against the second team during blow outs over Cal and Washington State this season, Portland State in 2006, and during a big loss at USC that same season.

Sure, he has an inspiring story, as he has come back from multiple devastating knee injuries. Sure, he was a top recruit coming out of high school. And sure, he has a career 84.4 completion percentage. But he only has 21 career passes has never started a game before.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that Chip Kelly has enough confidence in Costa to let Masoli rest up and avoid any resemblance to what happened with Dennis Dixon in 2007. It’s just that getting handed the ball in the Rose Bowl with the season on the line is a lot of pressure to deal with.

Playing on the Road

Oregon has had it easy the last month with four straight home games. And for the Ducks, playing in Autzen stadium is an advantage that very few other teams are privileged with.

Before Cal came to Eugene two weeks ago, Jahvid Best told reporters that the crowd at Autzen is the only one that stands out in his mind as having gotten to him.

Former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr once said, “Autzen Stadium is where great teams go to die.” And trust him, he knows from experience.

So when Oregon travels south to UCLA, it will be their first road game since the debacle in Boise.

The Ducks have had some trouble playing away from Autzen in the recent past, with a 9-9 road record since 2006.

It will interesting to see how focused Kelly has team this time, because Oregon looked lost and overmatched in the season opener against the Broncos.

Injuries in the Secondary

Apparently knee injuries don’t only happen to quarterbacks at Oregon.

Just weeks after team captain Walter Thurmond suffered an ACL ending his season, fellow senior cornerback Willie Glasper succumbed to the same fate. That leaves Talmadge Jackson as the only remaining cornerback with starting experience.

“We just got to plug the next guy in,” Kelly said. “You deal with injuries every day. It’s college football. UCLA’s quarterbacks are banged up. Tim Tebow’s hurt. Sam Bradford’s hurt. It doesn’t just happen at Oregon. It happens everywhere in the country.…We’ve got a lot of guys out so it’ll be interesting to see how this thing finishes up.”

After the defense stepped up following the loss of Thurmond, despite already being without T.J. Ward, they held Cal and WSU to just nine total points, it will interesting to see how the Ducks respond to yet another hit to their secondary. Inexperienced reserves, Anthony Gildon and Chad Peppars will compete for the starting spot.

Playing With Expectations

Oregon has gotten off to many fast starts throughout the decade. But just when they appear to be a serious contender, the Ducks have wilted under the pressure.

For example: 2003, 2006, 2007, and this season, in the opener against Boise State.

Playing with the hype of being a contender for the BCS is a completely different animal than fighting for the Emerald Bowl. The entire country is watching. Every play matters. Just one mistake marks the difference between playing in San Diego in December instead of the Rose Bowl in January.

And now, as Oregon has climbed back to No. 13 in the rankings, they have once again emerged as the sexy, dark horse pick for the national championship.

By all means, I think the Ducks have a great chance to run the table and end up in Pasadena on New Years Day, or possibly better. But it’s up to Chip Kelly to have his team focused for every single game, whether it’s UCLA or USC.

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How Will Oregon Respond to Adversity?

Please Masoli, don't just be a flash in the pan!

Please Masoli, don't just be a flash in the pan!

College football is the only sport where you can have a must-win game in just the second week of the season.  Well, that’s if you want any chance for a BCS bowl game, but that’s how it goes when there are 120 teams competing for eight spots. And unfortunately, the Ducks are stuck in that situation this weekend.

Oregon came into the season with substantial expectations, carrying the momentum from brilliant wins over Oregon State and Oklahoma State to finish the season. So dominant, were these wins, that national pundits were touting Jeremiah Masoli as a sleeper candidate for the Heisman, despite only throwing for 135 yards per game last season.

What I’m getting at, is that Oregon was banking on a player who basically only had two good games to be their leader this year. To be honest, I was not impressed with Masoli at all in 2008 until he blew up against the two OSU’s. I thought he tried to run the ball too much (east and west), made poor decisions (i.e. the Cal interception) and wasn’t the most accurate passer. There were definite flashes of excellence that foreshadowed his potential, like the touchdown pass to Chris Harper against Washington, and any one of the several times to bludgeoned a would-be tackler, but he lacked consistency.

Oregon fans were so eager and excited to buy into the Masoli kool-aid, that they subconsciously bit off more than they could chew for this season’s expectations.

So now where does that leave us for this season?

As horribly as the Ducks played against Boise State last Thursday, voters will look back at that game in November and see it as an 11 point loss to the #14 ranked team on the road. That really doesn’t sound so bad.

But before Oregon can think about having BCS aspirations again, Oregon has to take care of business at home against Purdue, and in a big way. Purdue is an ok team, nothing more, nothing less, but they carry the Big-10 brand with them to Autzen, and anytime you can beat a team from a BCS conference in non-conference play, it’s huge. So what the Ducks need to do is come out ready to play, and blast Purdue like this is biggest game of the season – because, well, it is.

After being so unprepared for Boise State, I think Chip Kelly can rally the troupes and move past the debacle that was last Thursday night.

Prediction: Oregon 38, Purdue 17

LaMichael James will go off in his first start at TB, rushing for over 100 yards and a pair of scores.

Masoli will improve, throwing for two scores and running in another, though I do expect him to give the ball away once or twice. He needs to be less careless with the ball.