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Wednesday, August 15 2018

NFL 2002 Final Post Season Power Poll

SportThe season is over, but I still feel the need to assess where I rank each team. The {}ís indicate where I put each team in my final pre-season poll.

1 (3) {5} Tampa Bay (15-4) Laugh if you want, I still donít think they were the best team in the NFL. I rank them here out of obligation. The best team doesnít always get the title, they beat a substandard 49ers team, a headless Eagles team (McNabb was not his old self) and then a banged up and mystified Raiders team. No repeat, mark my words.

2 (1) {3} Oakland (13-6) My buddy Mike said it best. They had one week to prepare, while Gruden had been preparing in his mind for months. Everyone knew Oakland would reach this game, and the tireless Gruden no doubt prepped for them all during the playoffs.

3 (4) {9} Tennessee (12-6) They were clearly a second tier team that lucked their way into the AFC championship game, but two visits in three years is still impressive. Unlike other dummies I pay attention to head to head and they beat Philadelphia.

4 (2) {4} Philadelphia (13-5) I talked to some Philly fans at the hotel on Super Bowl weekend. They were in disbelief over how flat their defense played. Did everyone lay down for Tampa Bay in the post-season or what?

5 (6) {1} Pittsburgh (11-6-1) This is still a team to be feared, and possibly the departure of Bettis and Stewart will lead to more consistent offensive effort. They will undoubtedly reload their defense in the draft, especially the secondary.

6 (7) {26} Atlanta (10-7-1) Hold onto your shorts, theyíre not going to go 16-0 next year. Maybe theyíll be as good, but with the Saints and Bucs in their division it is hard to imagine them doing a lot of damage. Vick is a ticking injury bomb. I rank them this high because they finished great, but they are truly not a top 10 overall team.

7 (5) {7} Green Bay (12-5) Their defeat was mystifying, but if you boil it down they lost 13-7 when you discount one horrible call and one badly missed block on a punt. Honestly it looked intentional that the guy just let the defender run down the middle and block the kick. Maybe theyíll bounce back, but Sherman needs to go.

8 (8) {8} San Francisco (11-7) After their fortunate win over the Giants, they gave away any shot at upsetting Tampa Bay by forking the ball over on seemingly every drive. Then they gave up on a great coach just because he wasnít ďtheir guyĒ and as of the writing of this they still have no replacement. Bad move with St. Louis reloading for another run.

9 (9) {21} NY Giants (10-7) The latest is that they donít want to move Ron Dayne. Really? Then why didnít you run him right up the middle and milk the clock with a 38-14 lead? Thatís just plain dumb, but this team is still dangerous in an improving division.

10 (11) {14} NY Jets (10-8) Chad Pennington is not ready for the big time, and this team clearly needs another wide receiver if they are going to make it to the next level. Nice little run, nice story, but donít book 2004 Super Bowl reservations Jet fans.

11 (12) {6} Miami (9-7) To say they are the best team not to make the playoffs would be a huge understatement. The injury to Fiedler killed their chances because they would have clearly beaten Buffalo the first time around if he was on the field. Iím not certain this team would not have made it an all-Florida Super Bowl had they made the playoffs.

12 (13) {13} Denver (9-7) If you donít think the Dolphins are the best team not to make the playoffs, then you must think it is the Broncos. The difference between being the #2 seed and being home for New Yearís was their season sweep at the hands of Oakland.

13 (14) {10} New England (9-7) Now that they are underdogs again they will have a much easier time making a run. Getting a running back will also help because Antowain Smith sucks.

14 (10) {11} Indianapolis (10-7) Mike Vanderjagt ripped Peyton Manning, who in turn referred to it as being talked about by the bat boy. When you lose 41-0 in the playoffs these things overshadow the fact that your team won double digit games following a losing campaign.

15 (15) {20} Cleveland (9-8) Iíll say this, theyíre an exciting team to watch. However, since they donít play in the Arena league they are out of luck until they shore up that defense.

16 (16) {16} New Orleans (9-7) They will do exactly what the Rams did a couple years back, defense, defense, defense in the draft and free agency. They were better than Tampa Bay (they did beat them twice) this year and will probably win the South next year.

17 (17) {27} Kansas City (8-8) Everyone looks at them as a dangerous team, but they continue to pay large amounts of money to average wide receivers while ignoring their stud tight end. His declined play is a direct result of his treatment.

18 (18) {23} Buffalo (8-8) The key is Price, because getting him back puts all of their emphasis on their defense, much like what New Orleans will do. The only other factor is if Drew Bledsoe can last another full season.

19 (19) {18} Seattle (7-9) Mike Holmgren did the right thing by relinquishing some duties, and he still prepares his troops well. If his replacement picks up better groceries as Ron Wolf did for him in Green Bay he might win more games.

20 (20) {25} San Diego (8-8) They collapsed, and I wasnít surprised. Their offense is horrible and teams started to figure that out. Once Conway was under 100% they couldnít move the ball.

21 (21) {22} Minnesota (6-10) They are a serious dark horse contender in my book because a lot of the pressure is off now. Tice didnít get fired, no one is demanding a trade, and I think they still believe they can contend. They might be right.

22 (22) {24} Baltimore (7-9) They want David Boston, and he could be a huge boost for their sagging offense if he is healthy. Truthfully though, with all the young players on this team they can only get better.

23 (23) {15} Washington (7-9) I canít wait for Spurrier vs. Parcells. Not the game, the interviews after the game. That will be memorable.

24 (24) {2} St. Louis (7-9) Kurt Warner may never be the same, but Marc Bulger is probably good enough to lead this team to 10 or more wins and possibly a playoff run if they avoid the injury bug of 2002.

25 (25) {28} Jacksonville (6-10) I donít like the hiring of Del Rio, but Iíve been wrong before. I think this team is out of sorts and is in sore need of leadership. Maybe he can provide it, I really donít know. Remember when David ripped me for rating them so low? Guess I was right.

26 (26) {31} Carolina (7-9) John Fox started strong and finished strong, now he just needs to get the middle straightened out. His division is murder, however, so donít expect too much.

27 (27) {29} Arizona (5-11) This franchise is a joke. Everyone wants out, and for my money they should just fold up the Bengals and Cardinals and make all of their players free agents. Then they can award two truly expansion teams to Los Angeles and whoever else lost out last time.

28 (28) {17} Dallas (5-11) Tuna is going to bring this team back to respectability right away. Hear me now, believe me later. They have enough talent to win nine or more games.

29 (29) {12} Chicago (4-12) They have won 17 games in two years, and I think they will win 8 or 9 next year.

30 (30) {32} Houston (4-12) I would not be surprised if they lost double digit games again next year.

31 (31) {30} Detroit (3-13) Awful PR move firing Marty for Mooch, but Iím not surprised. This team needs a three year plan.

32 (32) {19} Cincinnati (2-14) See Arizona. They need to contract this team immediately. Stop the pain.

I made my final poll without referencing my initial poll, and overall Iím pretty pleased with my picks. Seven of my top 10 remain the same, and eight of my bottom 13 stayed in place. In my top 5 I had the Super Bowl teams, the NFC title game loser and the team that was robbed of a chance to play for the AFC title. I was wrong about the following teams:

Atlanta, who I thought had not nearly the offensive weapons. Turns out that Michael Vick was ready to make something out of nothing.

NY Giants, but they overachieved again to an extent. I believe in their talent, and was pretty much nervous about expecting too much from their dead zone offense.

Kansas City, who was just a little better than I thought they would be. Their wide receivers were a M*A*S*H unit in camp, and I expected teams to be able to focus in on Holmes more, leading to a losing campaign.

St. Louis, who is apparently only good in odd years. End of subject.

Dallas, who clearly could have won enough games to earn a #17 final ranking if their coach wasnít inept.

Chicago, who was an injury mess, and Iím still trying to figure out how they lost to only three teams the entire 2002 season.

Cincinnati, who I made the mistake of counting on for a run towards 8-8 or dare say a playoff spot. Benching Kitna cost them two or three wins and probably 8 rungs on my final poll.

Thatís 7 teams I was wrong about, which leaves 25 I pretty accurately assessed before a single snap of the 2002 season. Keep that in mind when my 2003 preview rolls around because 78% accuracy isnít bad when you consider all the ups and downs of an NFL season in the free agent atmosphere.

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