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SPF T.I. Poll (Week Six)

Posted: Oct 17, 2007

Here we are again for SPF's weekly Team Identity Poll.  Things have shaken up a bit.  We are much closer to how we saw things at the beginning of the season.

Let's start with a look at last week's Poll:

1.  Dallas Cowboys
2.  Indianapolis Colts
3.  Washington Redskins
4.  Tennessee Titans
5.  Tampa Bay Bucs
6.  Houston Texans
7.  Jacksonville Jaguars
7.  Cincinnati Bengals
9.  Carolina Panthers
10.  New Orleans Saints
13.  Miami Dolphins
13.  St Louis Rams
13.  Atlanta Falcons

Here's this week's...

1.  Indianapolis Colts - This was a good week not to play.  The Colts moved up because Dallas looked so outclassed by the Pats.  At this point, the Colts are the last team to have beaten New England's juggernaut.  The Colts can also distance themselves from their division with a win in Jacksonville on Monday night.  Tennessee and Houston both lost which helps them as well.

2.  Dallas Cowboys -  This is their first week out of the top spot.  It's only because this team was at such an emotional height with their fans that they had to fall a little harder than usual.  Randy Galloway writes that the Cowboys are not elite.  Maybe not by NFL standards, but they still are a great NFC team that could be in the Super Bowl.  There are still ten games left to get the kinks worked out of the Cowboys.  SPF still believes, and the fans will again after they rattle off another win streak.

3.  Tampa Bay Bucs - The Bucs had a gritty win against the Titans.  This team is hard to keep down.  They are thin as all get out, but they seem to will wins from Garcia.  This rightly concerns Martin Fennelly considering how much the Bucs have riding on Garcia. They just got another RB, Michael Bennett, which should help a little.  Some complain that the Bucs have had a poor offense under Gruden, but the distinction lies with the Bucs having big play potential.  As Joe Henderson comments, the Bucs are solid.

3.  Washington Redskins- Washington lost another close one.  That's Joe Gibbs' style of ball.  He keeps things so close that one mistake can cost you a ball game.  I suppose Redskins' fans can take heart in knowing that they could easily be undefeated right now.  Tom Boswell seems to be saying that in his column.  SPF only wonders whether the old "keep it close and win with defense" approach is still the way to go.  The Redskins have a lot of weapons on offense and a QB that is showing signs of being a good one.  The Patriots used to play it close and now they are throwing it all over the field.  Belichick knows that the new rules favor WRs.  SPF thinks that Gibb might just have to open the playbook a it more for the Redskins to challenge.  We think they have a Super Bowl caliber team because of the defense.  Dallas has the jump on offense, but a much worse defense.  Dallas may be all that stands in the Redskins way.

5.  Tennessee Titans - The Titans lost Vince Young and that pretty much took away their offense.  They still moved the ball, but they couldn't really score effectively.  They are also dealing with the injury bug with Young at the top of the list.  The Titans play like the Redskins do - they are never going to blow anyone out.  Fisher's team also has shown an ability to adapt well like Gruden's Bucs.  The Titans have enough leaders spread around the field so that the team usually plays the right way.  This Sunday's matchup against Houston on the road will be a huge test for Titans and their playoff chances.

6.  Carolina Panthers - It's a bye week for Carolina, and they need one.  Jake Delhomme is out for the season and David Carr couldn't play against Arizona.  Vinny Testaverde played well in a George Blanda-like performance, but Scott Fowler points out that the Panthers can't count on this over the course of the season.  The Panthers are back to playing good defense and establishing the run.  It's between them and the Bucs for the NFC South, and no one has a huge advantage right now.

7.  Houston Texans - Perhaps SPF got on the Texans' bandwagon too early.  We raised serious questions about this team's identity before the season.  They had an awful lot riding on unknowns like coach Gary Kubiak, Matt Schaub, Mario Williams, and Ahman Green.  Ever since Andre Johnson went down, the offense has been ineffective.  (John McClain chronicles Schaub's recent struggles.)  The defense has also been less than impressive.  Their drubbing in Jacksonville was telling.  Richard Justice noted their lack of toughness.  If the Texans don't win at home against the Titans who might be without Vince Young, then SPF believes it is time to press the panic button in Houston. 

Kubiak's hire was made in large part to justify personnel decisions (specifically choosing Mario Williams over Vince Young) made by the Texans franchise.  If the defense can't win you ball games and the offense struggles, then where are you going?  Furthermore, the Jags and the Titans appear to have better defenses and offenses as well.  The Colts will be good for as long as Manning is under center.  The Texans might be a playoff team in the NFC, but this team isn't moving conferences.  Owner Bob McNair needs to have one of the Bills (Cowher or Parcells) on his speed dial if the Titans win in Houston this weekend.

7.  Jacksonville Jaguars - So, the Jaguars win big at home against a division opponent.  The team appears to be gelling under Jack Del Rio.  Why aren't they higher?  Because the Jags continue to have a lack of support at home.  Gene Frenette keeps trying to sell this team, but no one is buying yet.  Jax has a legitimate NFL team, but the market isn't that interested in NFL football, especially a brand that is sort of bland.  Besides, nothing matters unless the Jags can win on Monday night against the Colts.  SPF predicts that a win in that game may finally ignite the fans behind the Jags and Del Rio.  Without that win, SPF continues to worry about the franchise's overall health.

9.  New Orleans Saints -  It had to happen.  The Saints won.  Going on the road and winning in Seattle is impressive.  John DeShazier points out that these are the Saints that the fans were used to seeing last season.  They play the Falcons this week which should net them another win.  Maybe they can climb out of this hole after all.

10.  Cincinnati Bengals -  SPF has to admit failure with this team.  The Bengals are officially circling the drain.  Losing to the Chiefs is unacceptable.  Even if they beat the Jets this weekend, the Bengals won't be making the playoffs for the second year in a row since their breakthrough two seasons ago.  Michael Vick's legal problems overshadowed the fact that the Bengals were one the worst offenders, leading the league in players arrested.

It seems that Marvin Lewis took too many chances on bad character guys, and none of them seem to be uniting in the face of adversity.  Carson Palmer deserves better teammates. Lonnie Wheeler does a great job describing the Bengals debacle.

11.  Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins jumped out of the cellar by finally stating the obvious.  Greg Cote writes that this week's trade of Chris Chambers shows that the Dolphins are admitting that the team is rebuilding.  Cote also points out that now is the time to play the young kids to see if Beck and Ginn are can be part of the future. 

Cote also points out that the Dolphins are in a bad spot even though they have admitted where they stand.  Ginn should have never been picked at the Dolphins slot.  Now, they might be faced with another WR in next year's draft or another QB.  Do they really pass up Brian Brohm because they picked Beck in the second round?  Also, are Cameron and Mueller the right guys to lead the rebuilding process?   SPF says absolutely no!  History has shown (one only needs to look at the Houston Texans) that GMs and coaches will rarely admit their mistakes.  Mueller and Cameron need to be broomed by season's end so that one of the Bills (Cowher or Parcells) can take over.

It should be another interesting off season for Dolphins fans.  Maybe, one day, they will have a team that makes the regular season interesting as well.

12.  Atlanta Falcons - Here's another rudderless franchise that has begun to throw out the oars.  Now, Bobby Petrino has named Byron Leftwich the starter.  This is probably a good thing since Joey Harrington is a career loser taking the team nowhere.  It would be a nice story if Leftwich could provide a spark for this team since he kind of got a raw deal in Jax, and Petrino is getting one now in ATL.  I think that Falcons' fans can relate better to Leftwich who actually won games as a starter vs Harrington who was only brought in as an insurance policy.  Maybe Leftwich can bring back a locker room that Terrence Moore thinks Petrino has lost.

The bigger story comes from the college ranks.  Alabama sportswriting legend, Paul Finebaum, sees Texas A&M making a big play for Auburn's Tommy Tuberville this off season.  If that were to happen, Petrino could be first on Auburn's list.  Is there another organization in more disarray than the Falcons?

13.  St Louis Rams - Yes, the Rams!  This is a transplanted franchise that has very shallow roots in St Louis.  They also have an obstinate organization that doesn't seem to want to change its ways.  Despite that, Jeff Gordon again makes the call to change the Rams from the top on down.  It is time for this to happen.  The Rams are in desperate, desperate shape.  Even if Bulger returns this week, the team is going nowhere.

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