Now in his 15th season in the NFL, Philip Rivers has started 218 straight games, recorded over 55000 passing yards and almost 400 touchdowns. He has made the Pro Bowl eight times, beaten basically every quarterback record in Chargers history and even seen them move cities. However, there is one thing he has never been able to do – beat Tom Brady. In eight total games versus the Patriots, Rivers’ only win against them came in 2008, when Matt Cassel replaced an injured Brady. And I don’t want to make this all about the quarterbacks, but these two guys have been the constants in that matchup for more than a decade now and so I thought the title makes a lot of sense. The Bolts finished the 2018 season tied for the best record in the AFC at 12-4, but with the Chiefs holding tie-breakers over them, they entered the postseason as a Wildcard team and already had to go on the road to beat the Ravens in Baltimore. Now they once again travel up to New England, where the Patriots are being questioned once again but still have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time under center. What might be different this time around? Rivers has the best team surrounding him since they went to the conference championship game over ten years ago. Will he finally slay the dragon?
With the regular season wrapped up and a full 16-game schedule for the first-year players in the books, I decided to name my All-Rookie team for 2018. To do so I put together starting lineups on offense, defense and the specialists, plus I added key substitutes for each unit. While I did want to put the best 11 players out there respectively, the full body of work for these players had to be considered and I could not go with a couple of players I liked but simply didn’t play enough. So here are my starting lineups:
Every year the Pro Bowl rosters are revealed at this time and every year I have a problem with the voting process. While NFL defenses get more hybrid players every year that don’t have a clearly defined position, the league hasn’t adapted the categories people can vote for. That leads to stand-up 4-3 linebackers like Anthony Barr being compared to 3-4 outside linebackers, who primarily get upfield, like Jadeveon Clowney, five-technique defensive ends in a 3-4 being compared to true edge rushers in fronts with four down-linemen and other stuff. My solution would be differentiating between interior D-linemen, edge rushers, stand-up linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties. This would make things easier in terms of comparing job descriptions and not tag players for one specific alignment and responsibility. Offensively I don’t understand why there are only three running back and four wide receiver slots and we also need more depth on the D-line, but let’s work on one issue at a time. Since these are the parameters to work within, I tried to make appropriate exchanges of one player at that position with another and then I listed a few other players I think deserve a trip to Orlando. So instead of just listing snubs, I actually tried to provide solution. I don’t blame the fans too much for some of these mistakes because they are obviously biased for their team, but players and coaches contribute to this with a third of the votes each as well. So I would expect a more objective outcome.
We have now played 14 weeks and it is time to reflect a little. At this point I want to take a look at the five rookie signal-callers, who were drafted in the first round and all played between four and twelve games. To make this clear, I didn’t want to rank the quarterbacks against each other because I think it’s still too early for that, but we can see what they have shown so far and talk about them. So I listed them purely based on where they were drafted at. While all of them have shown promise and won some big games, the guy at the very top has truly stood out.
I usually like to do my power rankings after the first four weeks, where I feel like I have a beat on who these teams are, and then with about four games left, because I can already look ahead to potential playoff implications and how I think these squads could perform down the stretch. At this point of the season the records of all these teams are pretty indicative of where they stack up against each other, but that makes it even more crucial to compare teams with the same records, because not all schedules are built the same and not all teams are as good or bad as they seem like on paper. For the purpose of this edition I wanted to focus on the teams in the actual playoff race, so the criteria for me to analyze them more exclusively was to have at least five wins on the record, because I think you have to be at least 9-7 in both conferences to earn a Wild Card spot. With that being said, here are my power rankings heading into a crucial week 14:
We are entering the final five weeks of the 2018 NFL season and we have seen some teams really set themselves apart from the rest. You look at the Saints, Rams and Chiefs, who are all putting up North of 35 points per game as the league’s three highest-scoring teams and have lost a combined four games. Then there’s teams like the Texans, Bears and Seahawks who are stringing together winning streaks right now and on Sunday night we will see a matchup of two other highly talented teams in the Chargers and Steelers, who only have three losses on their resume. I don’t want to undermine what some other teams have done and obviously this is the time of the year a sleeping dragon like the Patriots starts waking up, but I just want to say there are a lot of actual contenders right now. However, I think there is one team that not only looks very dangerous right now, but I believe is on its way of becoming a perennial threat to compete for the Super Bowl – and that’s the Indianapolis Colts. To explain why I believe they are set up for a bright future, I will talk about different key factors for them going forward. Here they are:
Through ten weeks of the NFL season I feel like we have a pretty good image of all teams, but a lot of them share similar records while not being on the same level as the others and it’s time to differentiate between them. This discussion is not about teams like the Saints, Rams or Chiefs, who have only lost one game and neither are we talking about Giants, Cardinals or 49ers, who have only won twice. This is about separating the middle of the pack, meaning all teams from a .500 record to twice as many wins as losses. With that in mind, all these teams are still in the hunt for a Wildcard Spot or in some cases even a division crown right now, but some of them are tricking us with their record and you see that they are not as good a football team when you look at the numbers and watch the tape. So which of these nine teams are actually ready to make a playoff run and which of them just pretend to be?