F*ck You, ESPN! Unsolicited advice to people I don’t know on a situation in which I’m not involved

So, Grantland is dead. ESPN played a Halloween trick on us all by sticking a knife in the heart of the home to the majority of the organization’s best quality work. Grantland, if you didn’t have the pleasure, was a sports and pop culture website founded a few years ago and led by former ESPN writer Bill Simmons. It featured unique, long-form journalism and story telling from a deep and varied stable of quality writers. Simmons himself recently joked during one of his newly launched independent podcasts that Grantland had 18 of the 23 best writers employed by ESPN. From where I’m sitting, it was less a joke than a statement of fact.

I’ve been a sports fan for most of my life, and as such, ESPN attracted me with its 24 hour coverage during a time when the alternative was some box scores in a few pages of the local paper. It was Sportscenter, in particular The Big Show days of co-anchors Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, that really hooked me. But as they got more successful, things fell apart between them and the network, and everyone eventually moved on. Sportscenter and ESPN carried on, but a void was created and, as I’ve seen over the ensuing years, a pattern of trouble between the network and it’s top-level talent seems to have emerged.

Grantland brought me back into the fold. Every day, there were multiple quality pieces of writing across a wide range of subjects thrown out into the world. For a sports fan like me, hungry for analysis deeper than the basic stereotypical columns and studio shows that proliferated the sports media landscape, it was a godsend. Writers like NBA aficionado Zach Lowe, the great NFL duo of Bill Barnwell and Robert Mays, pop culture superstar Wesley Morris and, of course, Simmons himself, with his lengthy, footnote laden and often simultaneously insightful and funny pieces, made Grantland a home for the discerning and knowledgeable sports and entertainment fan.

And then there were the podcasts. I’d often spend hours with the Grantland staff, soaking up Lowe’s NBA chats on his Lowe Post (I’d forever listen to Lowe and former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy chat about the weather and what they had for breakfast) Barnwell and Mays’ three-times-a-week Grantland NFL Podcast, the spectacularly irregular and hilariously funny NBA After Dark podcast with Chris Ryan, Juliet Litman and Andrew Sharp, former NBA player Jalen Rose and David Jacoby always giving the people what they want on their Pop The Trunk podcast, and Simmons’ BS Report were must-listen material in my house, among many others. That’s all gone now, thanks to some of the most bone-headed corporate decision making I’ve seen. And believe me, I’ve been privy to some spectacularly poor choices.

To be fair, it’s not totally gone. It appears Jalen and Jacoby’s show will continue on ESPN radio. Simmons has moved on with his own independent podcasts, an unnamed and vague “future editorial project” for which he hired a quartet of former Grantlanders, including Litman and Ryan, as well as an HBO show slated to start next spring. And ESPN has said they plan to shift the sportswriters like Lowe, Barnwell and baseball writer Jonah Keri to other platforms under their umbrella. So help me, if they stick those guys behind their Insider paywall, I’ll fucking flip! I love those guys and I’ll do whatever to support them but I’ll be damned if I’m giving so much as a penny to an organization that disrespects both its audience and top talent like ESPN has here.

There are several lessons here, I think. But before I start, let me say I have absolutely no direct knowledge of the financials, the terms of anyone’s contracts or any specifics of the internal power struggles outside of the few tidbits that have come from former Grantlanders. These are my opinions and observations based on what I’ve seen both in watching what was a beloved website crumble and what I’ve seen personally in similar situations. By similar, I mean isolated products under a somewhat disinterested corporate parent who are, themselves, beholden to an uber-corporate giant. The scale of my experiences is smaller than Grantland/ESPN/Disney, but the dynamic is eerily similar. Here goes:

1. ESPN’s management is disrespectful and unprofessional.

Bill Simmons found out he was fired on Twitter. The vast majority of the Grantland staff found out who his replacement was also on twitter. The axe on Grantland fell via press release, blindsiding nearly everyone involved. This is Management Professionalism 101 stuff. ESPN has a duty to the people it employees and to leave them twisting in the wind, discovering details crucial to their futures over social media rather than being informed by their employers is disgraceful. And when it happens multiple times over a period of months, well, can it be any clearer they just don’t give a shit about you? It shows how little they value the people under their umbrella. They’re assets, chess pieces to be shuffled around on the whims of the suits. It’s more important to the company that their employees be kept as much in the dark as possible so as to prevent their ability to prepare if things go badly south. The suits are protecting themselves by screwing people who should be trusted allies. Working for those kinds of people is simply not worth it. Unless you enjoy having to watch your back 24/7 lest somebody jab a knife in there when you’re not looking.

How an organization treats people matters, even if you’re not the one currently getting shafted. It’s a “there but for the grace of god” thing. If they’re willing to treat someone in their employ this way, they’re also willing to treat you the same, if circumstances dictate. If you find yourself working for someone who fucks other employees over, even if you’ve gotten nothing but gold-star service, get out. Maybe you’ll be lucky and never have that target on your back. But most likely, it’s only a matter of time and elements outside of your control before they get around to you. Do yourself a favor and don’t give them that chance.

2. Contracts matter. Always have an exit plan.

I know it seems a bit counter-intuitive to prepare to leave a job before you’ve even got it, but in my experience, failure to do so adequately is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make. That non-compete matters more than you realize. Trust me, you really don’t want to find out how much more when it’s too late to do anything about it. Much like the Grantland writers left behind in ESPN’s employ, you can find your legal binding to a place outlast both why you were hired and the people who hired you. I cringed when I saw that statement from ESPN about repurposing those former Grantland staffers. Been there, done that. Never, ever again.

I do not envy them. There’s a small chance this shift will turn out well for them and an overwhelming one that it turns out poorly. I don’t wish the level of bitterness and misery I’ve seen in similar situations on my worst enemy, let alone some of my favorite writers. ESPN apparently has a policy that none of its talent can appear on outside platforms. Can’t guest on a Fox Sports podcast, for instance. This is asinine. A policy that exists for one reason, they want your success and profile to be entirely dependent upon their platforms. It’s a means of controlling your career (and minimizing your ultimate value). It saves them money at your expense and gets you to keep yourself in check.

Grantland was different. As such, writers like Lowe and Barnwell have built broader positive reputations than would otherwise have been possible from within ESPN-proper. I can almost guarantee that wherever “The Mothership”, as ESPN likes to call itself, sticks them, it’ll minimize the broader appeal and presence they’ve created. Without knowing the terms of their respective contracts with the network, my (completely unsolicited) advice to them would be to move on. Hopefully, they have the contractual ability to do so. You may never have more positive leverage to land a gig you actually want than right now. You almost certainly won’t if you allow yourself to be thrown in as an add-on to other network properties. This looks like a “use it or lose it” choice. Not a simple one, by any means, but one that comes with huge regrets if you fail to pursue it.

3. Grantland is gone. And it’s never coming back.

Every so often, if you’re lucky, you’ll fall into a situation where the right people and the right circumstances will converge with where you are at the time to create a truly unique and rewarding work experience. You can’t predict when one will appear, nor when it all gets taken away, often very unexpectedly on both counts. Once you’ve been through that, it leaves an indelible mark, becoming somewhat mythologized in your own memories, and of those you were in it with.

But when it’s gone, it’s gone. You can chase all you like; seeking out similar-looking gigs, joining up with some of the original cast for new things; but you won’t get what you had back. You may well find other good people and places and situations. But they’ll all be different. Sorta like a first love, you recall it more fondly, at least in part, because you didn’t have the history or experience to understand it as it was happening. Now you do, and as a consequence, you won’t be blazing as many new paths so much as backtracking over more roads already traveled.

Whatever roads the former Grantlanders travel, it behooves them to not chase that Grantland feeling. Simmons new things won’t get you there, writing for ESPN’s other things won’t either. And neither will going to a different platform at another company. Nor founding your own independent thing. All of those options have positive potential outcomes, and could each produce something good, rewarding. They also each carry risks, possible downsides that can’t be ignored. But if you’re looking to replicate the unique thing you just experienced, even subconciously, whatever you do is always going to seem lacking in something. Let yesterday go and let the next thing be what it will.

4. Deal with corporations on a risk/reward basis. Don’t be the one taking all the risks while they get all the rewards.

What seems pretty clear from Grantland’s history is that ESPN both didn’t understand what it had and either didn’t bother or didn’t know how to properly market it. All this talk about the financials relating to the site is really more an indictment of ESPN than Grantland itself. After all, what good is this huge corporate sales infrastructure that’s so demanding of profits if it doesn’t adequately service or exploit quality content at its disposal?

As a fan and outside observer, I was often surprised how little actual promotion ESPN gave Grantland. I would’ve thought, given the audience Grantland garnered, that would be something ESPN would want to push. But here’s the crux of the situation for modern day creatives. Sure, Grantland could have blown up, made the folks working there some nice coin and turned a good profit at the end of the day for The Mothership. And probably not even covered the bill for the rights to a third rate college football bowl game on December 18.

ESPN, and so many of our major media corporations, are in another stratosphere financially. They need billions of dollars every year just to pay the rights fees for the games they broadcast. A comfortable profit for an offshoot like Grantland is a rounding error. So they allow it to exist, until they don’t, but will almost never give it much more than the bare minimum of resources. In their view (the mega-money view) there’s no upside of consequence.

So consider, you’re working for something you believe in, for a company who neither believes in you nor adequately supports what you’re doing. You have three choices; quit, stay and ride it out until they pull the plug, or bust your ass even harder to make up for the resources you’re not being given. I’ve done all three at one time or another and, frankly, the first option is the best one. Riding it out is just sad and depressing; like watching a loved one waste away from some debilitating disease. Doubling down on your effort is self defeating. You’re putting in a ton of work and resources of your own all so the company who withheld those needed resources can reap all the rewards if you’re successful. Maybe, you’ll get some recompense in future considerations. Likely, not much though, if at all. One thing is for sure, when it comes time to cut the check, they’ll find some reason to downplay your success.

So if that’s where you find yourself, move on. Find somewhere you can choose option three and actually be appreciated and rewarded for the results. It’s not going to be where you are, a place that has just demonstrated a tendency to do the exact opposite. Happiness isn’t found in security. Hell, in this kind of business, security doesn’t exist anyway. Working the corporate thing has to be a quid pro quo. It advances your career while advancing their interests. When it turns to advancing their interests at your expense, and it inevitably will, it’s time to get off the treadmill.

5. What to do, what to do…

Given that several Grantland staffers have already simply up and left into new jobs elsewhere, some even to Simmons unnamed whatever, I’ll presume the contracts of those remaining don’t have any kind of onerous, restrictive clauses. Unless, of course, they’ve signed something new very recently. Again, I have no idea, just a presumption. But assuming that, I’d quit before I got shuffled off to some other thing without my consent. Then I’d try to hitch on with Simmons. I know I said don’t chase Grantland, but that’s not why I’d go that way. Simmons is smart, he has connections, he has an upcoming HBO show to raise his profile. And most of all, he’s motivated. Unless I’m way off base, he’s likely pissed off and will channel that with no little consideration given to shoving his future success straight up ESPN’s ass. No, you can never get back what you’ve lost. But you sure can burn the fuckers who took it from you.

But most of all, I’d better understand what I didn’t the first couple times I went through shit like that. You’re not simply an employee of the publication you help produce. Nor simply one of the corporation that owns that publication. You’re an individual. This is your career at stake, not theirs, and act in whatever you feel is in the service of that end. I would better understand that the company, despite how they may behave, doesn’t make the talent. The talent makes the company. ESPN has lost sight of that.

R.I.P. Grantland. You will be missed.

Dan Meadows is a writer living on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay. Follow him on Twitter @watershedchron

Surprise! Roger Goodell upholds own ruling on Pryor suspension

Do you remember when football used to be a contact sport?  I do.  It was what made the game great.  Now, however, thanks to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, it’s quickly turning into a video game with passing yards piling up in ways that make every defensive player sick to their stomach.  Defense was once the most important aspect of the game.  Under Goodell, however, it’s little more than a necessary evil that needs to be constantly restrained for fear that the high-priced offensive talent might actually get banged up.  Um, Roger, in case you didn’t know, that’s what the game’s all about.  If you’re gonna drop back to pass, you’re gonna get smacked down.  Risk/reward, you know?  Or it used to be, anyway.  The new defenseless player rules are quickly making for an entirely defenseless league.

He also recently upheld Terrelle Pryor’s suspension for NCAA violations.  Just consider that for a moment. He suspended a guy for violations he has exactly zero jurisdiction over, and the violations themselves aren’t even against NFL rules.  There also just might be a conflict of interest in allowing the guy who issued the thoroughly unjustified suspension to rule on the appeal, as well.  But, hey, apparently integrity only matters when Goodell says so.  This might have been something the players should have addressed in the recent CBA battle, if they weren’t too busy caving in to the owners’ ludicrous claims of poverty.

Read full article on Killer Crossover Sports

Published in: on October 2, 2011 at 12:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Brady Quinn? Really?

I was only too ready to stand up and tell anyone who would listen after last year’s NFL Draft that I thought former Florida QB Tim Tebow would be a bust.  Well, I’m still not convinced that he will pan out, but he has shown me enough over the past year that I now believe he at least deserves a fair shot.

Denver apparently disagrees, however, dropping Tebow behind genuine, unquestioned bust and total waste of roster space Brady Quinn.  There is even talk that Tebow will be released by the Broncos.  I may not like the guy, but he’s really getting the shaft here.

Read full article on Killer Crossover

Published in: on August 26, 2011 at 1:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Absolute Power: With Terrelle Pryor ruling, Roger Goodell proves he’s been corrupted absolutely

Just when you thought NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell couldn’t do anything to look like more of a deuchebag than he already has, here comes the Terrelle Pryor decision.  Pryor, the disgraced former Ohio State quarterback, petitioned the league for entry into the supplemental draft.  What should have been a simple yes or no decision has turned into an ugly, invented punishment for a guy not even in his league yet.

Goodell inexplicably ruled that Pryor could enter the supplemental draft but he’d be suspended for five games.  Not coincidentally, that’s a suspension exactly the length of one he agreed to at OSU before things took a massive turn for the worse with the NCAA earlier this year.  Goodell somehow has decreed that he has the authority to enforce NCAA sanctions, even when the rules violated aren’t even prohibited activities in the NFL.

It’s an egregious over-stepping of authority by Goodell, and a blatant give away as a favor to the NFL’s de facto minor league, the NCAA.

Read full article on Killer Crossover

Published in: on August 19, 2011 at 11:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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NBA Draft 2011 Winners and Losers

In brighter NBA news, just before the lockout, the league held its annual draft.  The NFL draft gets all the buzz, but I’ve always liked the NBA version better.  In the NFL, so many players are hyped so much but so few of them actually pan out or are ever heard from again.  The NBA’s model is much more concise  (2 rounds as opposed to 7) and players have an increasing likelihood of affecting their team’s immediate fortunes.

This year’s draft was, admittedly, anti-climactic coming off of a fantastic playoff run and directly before a work stoppage that could mean we don’t see any of these guys on an NBA court until sometime in 2012, if we’re lucky.  Even still, I enjoyed it and spent a little time breaking down who I thought the winners and losers were.  I can only hope I get to find out whether I was right or wrong sometime soon.

Read my NBA Draft 2011 Losers on Bleacher Report

Read my NBA Draft 2011 Winners on Bleacher Report

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lockout Woes: An Entire NBA Season in Jeopardy

Over the past few months, sports fans everywhere have been subjected to endless labor struggles and shutdowns of our favorite leagues.  The NFL battle, while being somewhat inexplicable to me given the heaping gobs of cash that league is rolling in, has at least come to an end and players will be back on the field soon enough.  The NBA, however, is an entirely different matter.

Over time, my mood and opinion on the NBA issues has shifted a bit.  Initially, I backed the owners as a cursory look at the state of the league seemed to indicate that some significant structural changes needed to be made in the owners benefit.

Read my original take on the NBA’s then upcoming lockout on Bleacher Report

However, once the season ended with a thrilling championship win by the Dallas Mavericks over the much-despised Miami Heat, I’ve had more time to look a little more deeply into the issues at hand.  While I still believe that a deal has to be struck more to the owners benefit, what the league is seeking isn’t reasonable concessions but total destruction of both the player’s union and their ability to be fairly compensated.  Commissioner David Stern’s hardline stance has totally turned me off, as well, and their effort now looks a lot more like a giant screw job of the players rather than a fair deal where everyone benefits.  

Read my updated point of view on the NBA lockout on Bleacher Report

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail, but it’s looking more and more like the owners are more than willing to throw away an entire season in order to break the players, you know, the folks that actually generate all that revenue in the first place.   Stupidity knows no bounds, apparently, even among billionaires.

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Extra, Extra! Clever headlines suffering from technology’s limits

As I’ve mentioned, I’m humoring the kid in me who always wanted to be a sportswriter with this website called Bleacher Report.  Well, yesterday, after hearing that Randy Moss was traded by the Patriots, I wrote up an opinion piece stating the Pats coach Bill Belichick was basically bagging this year to get on with the future.  To cap it off, I gave it the headine “No Moss Growing Under Bill Belichick’s Feet”. 

(If you don’t know football, then you probably have no idea who I’m talking about.  But bear with me, I have a point in here that has nothing  to do with sports.)

I was proud of my modest little headline.  It mentioned two of the principles by name in Moss and Belichick, and it was a both a play on Moss’ name and a metaphor for the direction New England was taking as a team.  About as perfect as you can get for a throw-away opinion piece on a sports blogger website.  If I do say so myself, it was also one of the most, if not the most, clever headline I saw on any of the Moss articles.  Bleacher Report has an editor process for each submission.  When I went later to look at my article, I noticed that the editor had slapped a three-word preface on my clever headline;  “Randy Moss Trade:”. 

Now let me say, I understand completely why this was done; three other little words- search engine optimization.  But I still couldn’t help feel that this slight addition for visibility’s sake somehow lessened the original.  Moss’ name, in particular, being mentioned prior to the pun took something away from its impact.  Besides, the article was already tagged every which way, including the phrase “Randy Moss Trade”.  Was it really necessary to sacrifice cleverness and presentation in this, or any other, case?

I say no.  Never once have I penned a headline here for any other reason than to creatively present the piece I had written.  Limiting interesting headlines for search engine optimization is a sacrifice I’m not willing to make, given the choice.  Nor do I think any of us should have to.  Why are we dumbing down the content we produce to accommodate the technology? Instead, we should be making search engines to better catalog and present that content, to suit the standards of the creators.

For an inherently visual and dynamic medium, the internet is still all-too-frequently about long blocks of words.  Certainly, the possibilities for disseminating content are amazing and nearly without limit, but we are giving up some creativity and presentation value in the bargain.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, it shouldn’t be that way at all.

Put Me In, Coach! My Personal Sportswriter Fantasy

Over the course of the past year since I started blogging here, I would periodically mix some articles on sports into my stream of conciousness.  Well, now I’ve decided to try my hand at it a little more regularly.

To that end, I’ve done a couple of things that will help.  First, I created an entirely separate site just for sports related material.  It’s called Killer Crossover, named in honor of my all-time favorite NBA player, Tim Hardaway, most famous for his years with Golden State and Miami.  But the site won’t be just basketball, it will literally cross over from sport to sport as the mood strikes me.  Right now, for instance, there’s my
preview of week 4 in the NFL, a conference by conference look at the upcoming NBA season, and next up is a look at October baseball.

The other thing I’ve done is sign up with a sports syndication website called Bleacher Report.  If you like sports and haven’t seen it, you should definitely check it out.  My articles will also appear on the BR site, but in a much fancier fashion.  With that site, I’ll have access to an archive of images to spruce up my copy, and can create photo and video slideshows on topics of my choosing.  It doesn’t pay (what does these days?) but that’s not really the immediate point.  What I do get is a much larger audience and resources of potential material.  Plus, I get to fake being a sportswriter.  It’s awesome!

I’ll be setting up some rss feeds, and cross  links between this site, the new site, Bleacher Report, Facbook, and likely various other places in the next few days.  But until then, you can check out Killer Crossover by clicking here, and Bleacher Report here.  Stay tuned for more.

Post Week One NFL Power Rankings- NFC Edition

Yesterday, I went through the superior AFC.  Now it’s on to the NFC.

16.  St. Louis Rams-  Sam Bradford looks like he might be the real deal, but he’s still a potentially injury prone rookie.  And this could be the year Stephen Jackson finally wears down from being the only game in town.  Losing at home to a hollowed out Arizona team is the beginning of another bad season.

15.  Detroit Lions-  Even without Matthew Stafford, the Lions were an absurd NFL catch rule away from beating the Bears in Chicago.  Still, with Stafford possibly missing half the season, Detroit may see a promising year go up in smoke.

14.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers-  The Bucs held on to beat Cleveland in Tampa last week, which is nice and all, but the Browns are awful.  Josh Freeman may end up as a first rate QB, but the rest of the roster is woefully thin on talent.

13.  Carolina Panthers-  If it wasn’t for the quarterback position, these guys could be amongst the top NFC teams.  As it is, they are probably good enough to lose a lot of close games.  Getting whipped by the Giants last week with three interceptions from Matt Moore makes the start of this season look a lot like last year.

12.  San Francisco 49ers-  Here they are, the it-team in the NFC.  After getting unmercilously stomped by what to even the best estimations is a pretty generally lousy Seattle team, so much for that division title.  If Alex Smith doesn’t show something soon, all that preseason hype will result in nothing more than a high draft pick on a quarterback.

11.  Arizona Cardinals-  The Derek Anderson era of Cardinals football started off with a tight win on the road against the worst team in the conference in St. Louis. With those two, and the 49ers troubles, the league may need an emergency realignment to prevent a 5-11 division winner.

10.  Chicago Bears-  The Bears held on (unlike Calvin Johnson) to win against the Lions.  Not exactly inspiring.  On the plus side, Jay Cutler racked up tons of yards and threw more touchdowns than interceptions.  Matt Forte is going to have a monster season in Mike Martz’ offense.

9.  Philadelphia Eagles-  Ain’t America great?  Michael Vick is the savior of the Eagles’ season.  Everyone in the City of Brotherly Love is channeling memories of Randall Cunningham after his second half performance against Green Bay.  The Eagles are going to the Superbowl!  Well, maybe they should win a game first. 

8.  Dallas Cowboys-  The Cowboys offense looked putrid in the preseason, and looked just as bad losing to Washington last week.  If things on the line don’t improve, Tony Romo’s season could be shorter than expected.

7.  Seattle Seahawks-  Big, big win over San Francisco.  Still, the quality of whipping put on by Seattle rates this high a spot.  But can they keep it?  Hopefully, for the western division’s sake.

6.  Atlanta Falcons-  Losing a close game in Pittsburgh, even without Big Ben, isn’t the worst thing in the world.  Still, Matt Ryan and Michael Turner better turn it on to avoid a .500 season.

5.  Washington Redskins-  A big early-season division win over the Cowboys kicked off the Mike Shanahan era.  If the defense plays like that, they’ll be in the playoff hunt all season.  And Donovan McNabb will settle in eventually.

4.  Minnesota Vikings-  Brett Favre was rusty, the receiver corps was decimated and the Vikings still almost won in New Orleans.  Make no mistake, this team will be a factor all season.  The only question is can they keep up with Green Bay in the division.

3.  New York Giants-  The Giants beat Carolina in New Jersey thanks to Matt Moore interceptions.  Still, it was a big win and until they prove otherwise, they deserve a high spot in what looks like a fairly weak conference overall.  But remember, they started 5-0 last year and we know how that turned out.

2.  Green Bay Packers-  The Pack was probably the most impressive team in the first week, at least until Michael Vick started channeling his Falcons days.  They went into a hostile environment and gave it to the Eagles.  They did lose Ryan Grant for the season, and that could be a problem, but they’ll wins lots of games.  This is the season we get a Favre against Green Bay playoff game.

1.  New Orleans Saints-  Holding Minnesota to single digits was impressive but for the Vikings issues on that side of the ball.  The offense didn’t produce like it needs to, but Minnesota is no slouch on defense , either.  I still have concerns about the Saints defense, namely their total reliance on turnovers.  Still, they beat one of the best few teams in the league and they are the defending champions.  Until someone beats them, they’re number one.

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 5:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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Post-Week One NFL Power Rankings: AFC Edition

Instead of making preseason NFL predictions this year, I decided to wait until some actual games were played to rank the teams.  That way, actual performance on the field would theoretically be more important than hype.  Two things seems pretty clear so far, the AFC is a much, much deeper conference, and both western divisions could conceivably send under .500 teams to the playoffs.  So, here goes, my first NFL power rankings of the year, AFC version.

16.  Cleveland Browns-  Jake Delhomme looks suspiciously like the turnover machine that lost his job in Carolina last year in their road loss to somewhat-less-putrid Tampa Bay.  Holmgren or no, these guys still suck.

15.  Buffalo Bills-  The passing game is awful, the rushing game is worse and they lost at home.  But at least they were competitive against a pretty good Miami team.  That gets them a nod over Cleveland.

14.  Denver Broncos-  This team, outside of a few players, is just plain bad.  This season will likely be closer to the 2-8 finish to last year than the 6-0 start.  Getting pretty handily beaten by a mediocre Jacksonville team is a bad start.

13.  Oakland Raiders-  This team is precisely why I wanted to avoid preseason hype.  Lots of people were talking playoffs for the Raiders.  Seriously?  They played a genuinely good team in Tennessee and showed why they’re still not ready for prime time by getting beaten worse than anyone other than San Francisco.  Bad week for the Bay area.

12.  Kansas City Chiefs-  Sure they beat the only supposedly good team in either western division in San Diego, but Matt Cassell was the worst QB in the league.  Their running game alone could be enough to win this division, but that is not saying much.

11.  Jacksonville Jaguars-  Yes, they beat Denver pretty easily at home, and David Garrard looked the part of a real quarterback.  But playing in a division with Houston, Indianapolis and Tennessee is going to make for a long season.

10.  San Diego Chargers-   Even though they lost, the Chargers are still better than Kansas City.  However, Ryan Matthews looked like the early-season favorite for bust of the year, and without Vincent Jackson, the passing attack looked pedestrian, even with one of the top QB’s in the league in Phillip Rivers.

9.  Cincinnati Bengals-  Losing to New England in Foxboro is nothing to be ashamed of.  But the big question for Cincinnati is if they are the team that got blown out in the first half or played well in the second half.

8.  New York Jets-  The defense lived up to its billing, holding Baltimore to only 10 points.  Unfortunately, the offense only scored 9.  Losing a close game at home to a Superbowl contender makes the Jets a good team but not a great one.

7.  Indianapolis Colts-  Wow, is their run defense bad.  Peyton Manning went wild through the air, but it wasn’t enough to win in Houston.  It could be an uncharacteristic long season in Indy, having Chris Johnson, Vince Young and Maurice Jones-Drew running the ball in their division.

6.  Miami Dolphins-  Sure, the Fins weren’t spectacular or flashy, by they dominated the Bills on defense and time of possession on the road.  They may only get stronger as the year goes on.

5.  Pittsburgh Steelers-  Every win they can get before Big Ben comes off suspension is gravy for this team.  If the defense holds up as it did against Atlanta,  by season’s end, they will be a real player in the Superbowl hunt.

4.  Tennessee Titans-  Vince Young looks like he may finally have figured things out, Chris Johnson is the best back in the league and they just stomped the Oakland Raiders’ bandwagon out of existence. If the Colts can’t stop the run, Tennessee will eat them for lunch.

3.  Baltimore Ravens-  The defense is already in mid-season form after holding the much-hyped Jets to single digits.  The offense wasn’t exactly brilliant, but it’s bound to get better against defenses that aren’t one of the top two or three in the league.  They have a strong-armed quarterback, quality receivers all over the field, a deep and talented backfield and a first rate defense.  They might be this season’s Saints.

2.  New England Patriots-  They looked absolutely dominant in the first half against Cincinnati, then took their foot off the gas a bit.  If they stay healthy and focused, a run at a playoff bye is a definite possibility.

1.  Houston Texans-  Matt Schaub had a very average game, but the emergence of a monster running game led the way in a victory over the defending AFC champs.  The defense did allow over 400 yards passing and three touchdowns, which is concerning.  But the Colts also happen to have the best passing offense in the league, so it’s understandable.  The offense will get better, and the defense should, too.  Finally, this will be the year the Texans made a play for the top of the AFC.

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 12:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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