December 31, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 17 (SEASON FINALE)

At last, the regular season is over.  This weekend (Saturday & Sunday) is Wild Card weekend, where the top seeds in each conference take a much-needed rest while the other teams battle it out to decide who's going where next week.

It's exciting stuff, but it hardly ever goes the way I want it to.

So, what about the 2013 season?  I didn't really plan out anything, so I don't have "Red's NFL Awards" or some nonsense like that.  That's actually not a bad idea, even if just a blogger nobody really knows (or, God forbid, reads).

At any rate, let's move past my own self-serving nature.

In 2013, Denver was the "most powerful" team, ranking in the top 5 every week I posted a set of Rankings (to wit, I missed Week 7 because I was on vacation).  Seattle was a close second with 14 of a possible 16 weeks in the top 5.  New Orleans and New England weren't too bad either: they were in the top 5 12 out of 16 weeks.  Does this really mean anything for the playoffs? No, not particularly.  It just means they were good in the regular season, especially in Denver's case.  That, and despite the number of teams that finished with 10 or more wins, there were never enough of them at any one time to get Denver out of the top 5, which is quirky if nothing else.

I think the only problem I had with the final week was that Pittsburgh didn't make it into the playoffs.  It was looking good for them up until the 4th quarter of the Chiefs/Chargers game.  Technically, it was looking good for 59:52.  Then in the last 8 seconds, Ryan Succop missed a field goal slightly to the right and the Chargers eventually won in OT.  Chargers are in, Steelers are out.  If it were Pittsburgh going to Cincinnati, I'd bet the house on them. Since it's San Diego (and we have no idea if they can force 4 INT's out of Dalton or take advantage of such a situation if they do, unlike effing Baltimore), I wouldn't bet squat.

Also, the Cowboys finished 8-8 and Jason Garrett is apparently safe.  I'm not sure which of those is more disappointing.

Here are the Rankings for Week 17:

1.) Denver (13-3) [no change]
 They were pretty much the best team from the word "go", the Thursday night opening demolition of the Ravens.  Peyton Manning is the MVP, the only thing to figure out now is who's going to be a rebel and vote for someone else. Oh, and there's the whole playoff lack of success story that will be repeated ad nauseam until he gets another Super Bowl.

2.) Seattle (13-3) [no change]
 Without a doubt the best team in the NFC and damn near unbeatable at home.  Seattle's success is a bit surprising to me, at least, because they have a throwback offense (literally, since they hardly throw the ball downfield and are content to run it with Marshawn Lynch ad infinitum) and attempt to win with defense in a time when neither one ought to work.  Somehow, it does work, and the Seahawks are tied for the best record in the NFL.

3.) Carolina (12-4) [no change]
 Probably the most surprising of the teams in this top 10.  When they started 1-3, I had no expectation of them doing anything good, especially finishing 12-4 and making the playoffs.  They also won the NFC South over the Saints (more on that below).

4.) San Francisco (12-4) [no change]
 Credit is due to Jim Harbaugh, who took a team to a Super Bowl earlier this year and then got them back into the playoffs.  Hard to believe, especially when one considers just how limited that offense is.  Their defense is for real, but Kaepernick can barely throw the ball most days.  The running game is fairly strong, I suppose.  It doesn't interest me, and San Francisco moving on is not something I look forward to.

5.) New England (12-4) [no change]
 Tom Brady had a "bad" year according to most metrics, yet the Pats are 12-4, won their division (again), and get a first-round bye.  Pretty impressive stuff considering the player movement prior to the season and the eventual loss of Rob Gronkowski.  Are they going to win the Super Bowl?  Probably not, but it's not like I expect them to lose to anyone other than Denver, either.

6.) Indianapolis (11-5) [+2]
 Some expected a bit of a step back from the Colts in Luck's second year.  I was not one of those people.  In fact, I wondered aloud just what would prevent them from winning the AFC South.  The answer is nothing, because none of the other three teams put up anything resembling a fight.  I guess Tennessee is the closest, but that's not saying much.  They also get a rematch with the Chiefs in the first round, which should mean another win, but like I said above, these things hardly ever work out how I want them to.

7.) New Orleans (11-5) [+2]
 I expected more from the Saints, really.  To finish 11-5 and second in their division is pretty disappointing to me.  They whupped Carolina at home (as expected), but their road performances were all sorts of terrible.  They didn't show up at Seattle and played poorly in Jersey, St. Louis, Carolina, and Tampa (yet somehow won that one due to typically moronic Bucs nonsense).  It's hard to believe they actually went to Chicago and won, but that did happen. I don't know what to think of the Saints now.  They're stuck with the 6th seed and given how they've played on the road lately, their chances of advancement have to be in the 0-10% range.  This is particularly galling because Drew Brees is one of the few bonafide elite QB's in the game today, he's got weapons galore, a decent if unspectacular running game, and a defense that is opportunistic and quite good.  So basically, I'm throwing my hands up and walking away.

8.) Kansas City (11-5) [+2]
 A meaningless game (for them) results in the Chargers making the playoffs. The fall is more cosmetic than anything.

9.) Cincinnati (11-5) [-]
 I had to let the Bengals back in thanks to them winning the AFC North and being flat-out better record-wise than Green Bay or San Diego.  That said, I don't expect much out of this team, unless you count INT's and general buffoonery.  And an inevitable loss in either the Wild Card or Divisional Round.

10.) Philadelphia (10-6) [no change]
 Philly won the NFC East by beating Dallas in Jerryworld.  As expected, they took advantage of a late turnover to seal it.  At least this time it was Orton and not Romo.  I guess that's something.  At any rate, Philly might actually be dangerous.  I don't expect them to go into Seattle and win, necessarily, but I think they'd make a game of it since they can actually play offense (unlike Carolina or San Francisco).  However, their defense is not great. Actually, it's probably not even "good".  I don't think that's a problem if they're putting up 40 or more.  But can they put up 40 or more against the defenses they could potentially face?

That's all for this season.  I'm always unsure as to how I'll cover the playoffs, or if there's actually a point to it.  That said, if I do post anything, it'll be here on NHC, likely after all the games have been played next week.

December 25, 2013


Merry Christmas to everyone here and abroad.

Not only has NHC reached 3000 total views, but December is the third month in a row with over 500 views.  I wasn't sure anyone would actually read this blog when I started.  I had no expectation of anything, really.  So to be at this point in just a few months feels quite nice.  It's been a success as far as I'm concerned.

My thanks go out to everyone who has viewed the blog since June, the people who commented on various threads, Metal Bandcamp (without which the seed for NHC would not have been planted), and all the people who follow me on Twitter.

Thank you, everyone.  Enjoy your holiday.

Bleach 563 - Superstar Never Die

It's Christmas and there's a new Bleach chapter out!  What are the odds?

Spoilers after the cut.

December 24, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 16

I guess it's now a given that unforeseen crap will occur in any given week. This week it was the supposed favorite losing at home for the first time in what seems like a millennium.  That's right, Seattle went down and it was one of the ugliest games I've seen this year.  Actually, I didn't even see that much of it because the Red Zone channel was covering other games.  At any rate, it's not like the Rankings are totally screwed up, but there was a lot more movement than there should have been.


The playoff picture has just about shaken out, but there are a couple of teams that can clinch in the final week.  Obviously, the ones people will be looking at the most are Philly and Dallas, as they play each other Sunday night with the division on the line.  It's been crap for most of the year, but both teams appear to have rounded into form somewhat.  That said, even though my team won (barely), I think Philly looks better.  It doesn't hurt to put up 50, that's for sure.

I'm undecided as to what I'll do as far as the playoffs are concerned.  Power Rankings are pretty useless once the regular season is over, but I should probably write something about the games either as they occur or after they're all finished.  We'll see how it goes; the playoffs are a different animal and one that usually annoys me more than any given week of the regular season.

My picks are usually worse.  That said, I did get 10 right in Week 16.  So I'm finally not being total shit.  Yippie.

Here are the Rankings for Week 16:

1.) Denver (12-3) [+1]
 Peyton & co. regain the top spot with a record-breaking performance and a galling loss by Seattle.  Losing Von Miller to a knee injury hurts an already compromised defense.  We'll see how that affects them in the playoffs.

2.) Seattle (12-3) [-1]
 Really, an inexcusable loss, even considering that Arizona is a division rival. The Seahawks intercepted Palmer FOUR times and still couldn't get points on the board.  I find Seattle's offense to be incredibly boring, much like San Francisco's.  I don't know why they insist on running the ball as much as they do (or how it's so successful in a time when passing is supposedly the better option), but it's really galling to see them pile up so many wins only to disappoint here at the end.

3.) Carolina (11-4) [+1]
 Is Cam Newton clutch?  Not really.  He got a lucky break, again.  Still, it looks like they're a serious contender since they can play defense (despite it being legislated out of the league) and Newton can kinda throw, sometimes.

4.) San Francisco (11-4) [+1]
 NaVorro Bowman was the hero last night.  Somehow, when SF lined up on defense for that play, I felt that something good was going to happen for them.  What do you know, they get the right bounce and Bowman takes an INT 89 yards to the end zone.  That seals up the game and San Francisco is looking a lot better today.

5.) New England (11-4) [+1]
 Just when you think they're due to stumble (again), Brady and Belichick say "not so fast".  A pretty incredible win.

6.) Kansas City (11-4) [-3]
 I haven't lost faith in KC.  Then again, I didn't have that much to begin with.

7.) Arizona (10-5) [+1]
 I still don't think Arizona is a contender.

8.) Indianapolis (10-5) [+1]
 A surprising win for the Colts.  I hardly expected them to beat KC (though I did pick it, so there's that).

9.) New Orleans (10-5) [-2]
 Another disappointing performance on the road leads to another loss. The Saints were looking like one of the great teams, and then they went to Seattle, St. Louis, and Carolina...and went 0-3.  Utterly ridiculous.  I think they'll win against Tampa in the final week, if only because they're at home.  Then again, Tampa played them tough....

10.) Philadelphia (9-6) [no change]
 Six losses ensure that Philly stays where it is, despite the very impressive 50+ point performance.  Let's face it, it's their matchup with Dallas that everyone cares about.  The rest was merely a lead-in.  Funny how things turn out, especially in a league where every game supposedly matters more than any individual game in any other league.

Three Games to Watch (Week 17):
Green Bay @ Chicago (FOX)
San Francisco @ Arizona (FOX)
Philadelphia @ Dallas (NBC)

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

December 18, 2013

Bleach 562 - The Villain 2

The newest Bleach chapter is out.  So let's talk about it!

Spoilers after the cut.

December 17, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 15

I'm guessing that if there was a result you didn't want in Week 15...things didn't go your way.

Another crapshoot with the picks.  But that's what happens when a bunch of games go bonkers.  So-called contenders went down left and right and pretenders were exposed (I'm looking at you, Dallas).  It was rough all the way around, really.

Here's hoping for better in Week 16, but if the last few weeks have taught me anything, it's that crazy shit is in and predictability is long gone.

Here are the Rankings for Week 15:

1.) Seattle (12-2) [+1]
 Given that they were playing a bad team on the road, it'd be (somewhat) excusable for Seattle to win with a bit of trouble.  Instead, they dominated. Color me surprised.

2.) Denver (11-3) [-1]
 The #1 seed in the AFC went out on Thursday and got beat.  Truly pathetic, especially considering who they lost to.

3.) Kansas City (11-3) [+2]
 Meanwhile, their main competition in the AFC West went out and blew the doors off of Oakland, putting up 56.  That's the highest number of points scored in a single game this season.  Alas, KC's defense gave up 31, so it wasn't quite the runaway the "blew the doors off of Oakland" makes it sound like.

4.) Carolina (10-4) [+2]
 Just when you think New Orleans has the NFC South locked up...they have another inexcusable road loss and Carolina handles a bad team at home. Pathetic.

5.) San Francisco (10-4) [+2]
 A solid, if unspectacular, road win.  But let's face it, they weren't going to look more impressive than Seattle this week.

6.) New England (10-4) [-3]

7.) New Orleans (10-4) [-3]
 More disappointing.

8.) Arizona (9-5) [+1]
 Surprisingly, the Cardinals remain in the conversation.  How this is possible, I have no clue.  They're still on the outside looking in since the NFC's wild card teams are quite burly, but they still have a chance.  It's more than I thought I'd say after 15 weeks.

9.) Indianapolis (9-5) [+1]
 Domination.  That is what you do when a division rival comes to your place. You let them have a field goal (maybe) and then proceed to outplay them in every phase of the game.

10.) Philadelphia (8-6) [-2]
 If I expected anything out of the Eagles (aside from disappointment, I suppose), I'd be really disappointed.  I didn't foresee them losing on the road to Minnesota, but at the same time, I'm not terribly surprised that it happened.  Now if only Dallas hadn't failed to capitalize on it....

Three Games to Watch (Week 16):
New Orleans @ Carolina (FOX)
Indianapolis @ Kansas City (CBS)
New England @ Baltimore (CBS)

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

December 11, 2013

Bleach 561 - The Villain

The newest Bleach chapter is out.  So let's talk about it!

Spoilers after the cut.

December 10, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 14

A bit of a weird week, especially early on Sunday.  To be honest, I didn't care for it much.  Still, the playoff picture is starting to shake out a bit, especially since six teams have already been eliminated in the NFC.  That makes it a lot easier to determine who has a shot, obviously.  The AFC remains a mess of mediocrity with a scant few good teams at the top.

But it's not like anyone is perfect.  Everybody has flaws and the weather will surely expose them now that it's getting colder across the country.

The interesting results meant that my picks were pretty disastrous.  I ended up 8-8 straight up after the Cowboys' Monday night debacle.  It's pathetic, really.

Here are the Rankings for Week 14:

1.) Denver (11-2) [+1]
 Back at #1, but for how long?  I'm hoping the next three weeks, at least. Then when the playoffs start, everyone is back to square one.  Well, everyone who makes the playoffs, that is.  Peyton Manning slightly allayed concern about his cold weather performance.  Of course, it doesn't really matter now as much as it will next month.

2.) Seattle (11-2) [-1]
 The darlings of the NFC were bound to slip up on the road again, apparently. I wish someone would have told me in advance.  Seriously, it's a really good thing for them to have all but sealed up home-field advantage.  If they can't beat a team with no offense just because they're playing on the road, that is troublesome.

3.) New England (10-3) [+1]
 Speaking of troublesome, the Pats now have to regroup without Gronkowski, again.  I can't say I'm terribly confident about their chances.  Sure, they'll win their division and likely get a first-round bye, but what happens after that? Most likely a tough loss.  If anyone can prevent them from getting into a funk, it's Tom Brady.  That said, his weapons seem far less imposing, especially without Gronk.

4.) New Orleans (10-3) [+1]
 What better way to rebound from a terrible loss than to put it to a division rival?  New Orleans fairly well dominated Carolina and look like they'll take the NFC South and if they're lucky, a first-round bye.  I wouldn't want to play them in New Orleans, though they seem to be fair game anywhere else.

5.) Kansas City (10-3) [+1]
 They put a drubbing on Washington.  Still, it looks like the fifth seed or bust.

6.) Carolina (9-4) [-3]
 I wonder if that ball control stuff will work in the playoffs.  Maybe if they're not playing Seattle or New Orleans.  Otherwise, I don't particularly like the Panthers' chances.

7.) San Francisco (9-4) [no change]
 The offense is sickening, even with the overhyped return of Crabtree.  But at least they showed up this time.

8.) Philadelphia (8-5) [-]
 Trading out one NFC East team for another.  But let's be honest here: that race won't be well and truly finalized until the last week of the season. Unless Dallas continues to bumble their way to bad losses, Philly will still have to beat them in Dallas to secure the division.  Who'd have thought that the winner would have a >.500 record?  It's gonna happen.

9.) Arizona (8-5) [+1]
 I thought the Rams would give them more of a fight.  Oops.  So now the Rams are eliminated and the Cardinals still have a shot, amazingly.  I don't think anyone expected them to be the dark horse in the NFC West.

10.) Indianapolis (8-5) [-2]
 Despite winning the AFC South, the Colts hardly look like a threat to anyone. I didn't think they'd miss Reggie Wayne quite so much.  I mean, it's one thing to not perform as well when missing a star player (which Wayne clearly is), but it's quite another to look as badly as the Colts have looked over the last few weeks.  I hope they can right the ship, but I wouldn't put money on it.

Three Games to Watch (Week 15):
New Orleans @ St. Louis (FOX)
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (NBC)
Baltimore @ Detroit (ESPN)

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

December 4, 2013

Bleach 560 - Rages at Ringside

The newest Bleach chapter is out.  So let's talk about it!

Spoilers after the cut.

December 3, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 13

It stinks.

Well, maybe "stink" is the wrong word for it.  At any rate, things are not so rosy at the moment, though the Rankings seem pretty strong.

I'm disappointed in New Orleans' complete and utter lack of effort.  They weren't in that game from the opening whistle.  Also, I believe I called it about Arizona not being a contender.  So how do I explain Cincinnati and Carolina?  I mostly throw my hands into the air and walk away sulking.

I still have no clue how Pittsburgh managed to give away that game on Thanksgiving.  And as far as the supposed story with Tomlin goes: nothing happened.  He didn't touch Jacoby Jones or the side judge who was following the play.  Nothing should happen to him as a result, especially this ridiculous nonsense about draft picks.  That said, the NFL will probably fine him.  I don't think it's deserved, but as you probably already know...I wasn't consulted.

Here are the Rankings for Week 13:

1.) Seattle (11-1) [no change]
 A nice win, I guess, but it's rather obvious that the Saints can be had on the road.  I still have a problem trusting Seattle on the road, as they are much closer to mediocre than great outside of whatever they call that architectural marvel.  They put teams away at home, though.  And that will serve them well as they run off to the Super Bowl.

2.) Denver (10-2) [+1]
 It's probably just me, but with Peyton Manning's performances the last couple weeks, I could see someone else sneak into winning the MVP.  True, he tossed four TD's to Eric Decker (he who couldn't catch a cold through most of the season), but the sharpness we were accustomed to seeing through the first half of the season is starting to wear off.  It's nothing huge, really, unless his current play continues into the postseason.  But with a first-round bye and a home game to follow, they have no excuses anyway.

3.) Carolina (9-3) [+2]
 I've been wrong on this team so far.  And now they go to New Orleans; the winner is the favorite to win the division...until the next meeting.

4.) New England (9-3) [+2]
 I love how beating a crappy team could somehow be turned into accusations of cheating.  Incredible.

5.) New Orleans (9-3) [-3]
 A tough road to hoe, perhaps, especially with Carolina coming up.  But Drew Brees was bad from beginning to end and they never looked like they were in the game.  A concern.

6.) Kansas City (9-3) [-2]
 The darlings of the first half of the season have fallen on hard times, losing twice to Denver and once to no-account bums San Diego.  Even with Alex Smith playing slightly better (he still doesn't throw it down the field enough for my taste, but no matter) and putting up points, all of a sudden the defense is sagging.  Talk about yards all you want, it's scoring defense that really matters.  The Chiefs are now hemorrhaging points and can't get pressure on the opposing QB.  Not a good combo.

7.) San Francisco (8-4) [no change]
 They won and Crabtree is back.  Yippie.  Now do us all a favor and beat Seattle, okay?  Or at least try to compete this time around.

8.) Indianapolis (8-4) [+1]
 The Colts have to be concerned.  By all accounts, they're an shoe-in for the playoffs, but boy, do they look confused.  I'm not sure how Andrew Luck will do in the postseason.  Maybe it doesn't matter.  But right now it looks like one win in the Wild Card round and then out to a significantly better team in Denver or New England.  Ouch.

9.) Dallas (7-5) [+1]
 November has ended and December begun, which usually doesn't bode well for the Cowboys.  The division is eminently winnable.  How they'll do in the playoffs is anyone's guess.  Assuming they get there.

10.) Arizona (7-5) [-2]
 "Dude, I called it".

Three Games to Watch (Week 14):
Indianapolis @ Cincinnati (CBS)
Seattle @ San Francisco (FOX)
Carolina @ New Orleans (NBC)

That's all for this week.  See you next week.