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NFL Flower Rankings, Week 7

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Yes, Flower Rankings

New York Jets v Kansas City Chiefs
wide open though
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

No, you read that right, all of it. “Week 7,” “Flower,” all that’s for real.

It’s easy and bland — but not vanilla, because vanilla is awesome — for any old columnist to round up the NFL’s good teams and bad teams on Monday night, spin them around a little to make your readers dizzy, then barf them up in a new provocative order for the next morning.

Screw that shortcut, let’s aim instead for a moving target: the near future.

Based on all teams’ recent form and their upcoming schedule, the Flower Rankings precisely predict which teams will bloom in the next four weeks, and which ones will wilt. (It is a meh analogy that works meh, and I’m sticking with it.)

So in a month, who's going to be in their conference’s driver's seat? Who's going to need to catch fire to make the playoffs? Who's going to start thinking way too early about a first-round bye?

‘Cause take the 2009 Denver Broncos, for instance. They started the season 6-0 and entered the bye week on top of the AFC mountain. By season’s end, they were 8-8 and in the process of sending The Pick That Became Earl Thomas to your Seattle Seahawks, who you like.

The Flower Rankings would’ve totally seen that coming. But they hadn’t been invented yet!

Closer to, and also farther from, home, there's the not at all curious case of the 2015 Atlanta Falcons. Dan Quinn’s Qrew was 6-1 through seven weeks and printing playoff tickets. Also 8-8 at the finish.

Again, a lack of Flower Rankings is to blame. Good thing it’s 2016, then.

Last detail: The rankings are 1-16 for each conference, not 1-32 for the entire league. Overall power rankings make no sense! The Hawks aren’t fighting the Pats for the top seed in the AFC. When the Broncos stomped the Panthers to open the season, it didn’t help with any head-to-head tiebreakers. It just created a lovely tradition for all to follow.

AFC first. That’s called serving the hors d’oeuvres before the pièce de resistance, for all you cuisinarts out there.

AFC

The Best

The elite. The contenders. The crème de la crème. The possibly Superb.

1. PATRIOTS (6-1)

vs. Bills, at Browns, vs. Bengals, at Steelers

They’ll trip up against one of the NFC North teams in Week 6 or 7. Let’s say Cincinnati. No problem. They’ll probably still be working in this new quarterback off the street. Sure, he has a nice résumé, but he’s no Jimmy Garoppolo.

2. BRONCOS (6-1)

at Bucs, vs. Falcons, at Chargers, vs. Texans

Possible faux pas: Thursday night road game in San Diego. Those division games against lesser opponents are tricky. Otherwise, it’s the Bucs, Falcons, and Texans on the Broncos’ docket. “Oh, we get to play both South divisions this year? That’s too bad for us.” Shut up.

The Bourgeoisie

Playoff level teams whose station in life is comfortable. But they’re unlikely to rule the empire anytime soon.

3. RAIDERS (5-2)

at Ravens, vs. Chargers, at Chiefs, vs. Jaguars

Like I said, not likely to rule the empire anytime soon. But these guys will take respectability. No really, they’ll take it by force.

You don’t win your first two road games, even against the Saints and Titans, without being at least decent. Now you’ve got two home games and a date in Jacksonville ahead? That’s at least two wins, and I see three because Ken Norton reads Field Gulls and messing with him is stupid. And xoxoxoxo, Bruce.

4. RAVENS (5-2)

vs. Raiders, vs. Skins, at Giants, at Jets

Beating the Bills by 6, the Browns by 5 and the Jaguars by 2 is nothing to crow about (guffaw). Because close games tend to even out over time in the W-L column, the Regression Ravens will split their homestand, then also split their fortnight in New Jersey with the Giants and Jets. (Sadly, “A Fortnight in Jersey” did not win any Academy Awards this year, but as you know, it’s an honor just to be nominated.)

5. BENGALS (5-2)

vs. Dolphins, at Cowboys, at Patriots, vs. Browns

They’re 1-2, but that was two road games and receiving the Broncos. It’s understandable. This is the best 1-2 team in the league. Beating the Cowboys and Pats will rejuvenate their season. Beating the Dolphins and Browns at home will rejuvenate their record.

6. CHIEFS (4-2)

at Steelers, Bye, at Raiders, vs. Saints

I don’t think much of the Steelers, Saints or the Bye. Chiefs will only lose once in the next month, at the Raiders. Look, they’re not going to score two defensive TD’s every week. But that D is legit.

The Blinded by Parity

Because they’ve been deluded into thinking that 2016 is their year.

But in a month, they’ll be staring at long odds to make the playoffs. Parity gouged their eyes out and replaced them with glass eyes that throw stones at other teams’ houses while failing to see the plank in their own. (Yeah.)

7. TITANS (4-3)

at Texans, at Dolphins, vs. Browns, vs. Colts

They’re 0-2 at home right now, but just bear with me. Much more on them in subsequent weeks, especially as it relates to strength of schedule. Or lack thereof. So many observers have them as the chic pick — I have them as the chic bad team.

8. STEELERS (4-3)

vs. Chiefs, vs. Jets, at Dolphins, vs. Patriots

Are they the team that won by 22 on the road in Week 1, or the team that defeated the Bengals at home in Week 2, or the team that lost by 31 on the road just now? The answer is “No.” And also “Yes.” They are inconsistent. They’re about to drop a couple October home games to the Chiefs and Patriots. Steeler fans will feel like their team is still in the chase. But just like with the Bills, eight or nine wins does not a bourgeois make, not this year in the AFC.

Also, I wouldn’t be the least but surprised if they lost all four games.

9. BILLS (3-4)

at Patriots, at Rams, vs. 49ers, at Dolphins

They’re in a very tough AFC, which might require 10 wins to make the playoffs, but at least by then they’ll have crossed one Patriots loss off the to-do-list. I like them in the other three.

10. JETS (3-4)

vs. Hawks, at Steelers, at Cardinals, vs. Ravens.

They’re going to split those four, but if you can tell me which two are wins and which two are losses, then you’re a witch. Not that there is anything even remotely wrong with that. Some of my best friends are witches.

11. TEXANS (3-4)

vs. Titans, at Vikings, vs. Colts, at Browns

Falling to a respectablish 3-4 would put them just one game behind the Titans for first place in the South. But one game back in the AFCS isn’t even fool’s gold, it’s fool’s iron pyrite.

The Beggars

All they’ll be choosing high in, is the 2017 draft.

12. CHARGERS (3-4)

vs. Saints, at Raiders, vs. Broncos, at Falcons

They’re boring, they’re the fourth-best team in their division, but they’ll get a few wins — only a few — along the way because sometimes they score gallons of points. And because winning Thursday road games is hard, even for the Broncos.

13. DOLPHINS (2-5)

at Bengals, vs. Titans, vs. Steelers, vs. Bills

Give them credit for being in every game. Give them no credit for inching past Cleveland, losing the game to the Patriots in the first half, and generating minus-zero yards of offense in Seattle.

14. COLTS (2-5)

at Jaguars, vs. Bears, at Texans, at Titans

The worst 1-2 team in the league as of today. Their defense is suspect and their offense is suspect. In short, the usual suspects. Not great if your next three games are on the road. 1-6 is within reach. They could easily be 1-8 at the bye. Depends on the arm punting.

But let’s give them a win along the way because look at the warm pillowy softness of the opposition.

15. JAGUARS (1-5)

vs. Colts, Bye, at Bears, vs. Raiders

Gus Bradley could be fired during the bye. It’s probably then or at the end of the season. Prove me wrong, Gus. Like, by not giving away games.

16. BROWNS (0-7)

at Skins, vs. Patriots, at Titans, at Bengals

Three road games and they get to host the Patriots. Advice to Clevelanders: watch lots of baseball in October.

NFC

The Best

The elite. The contenders. The crème de la crème. The possibly Superb.

1. VIKINGS (6-0)

vs. Giants, vs. Texans, Bye, at Eagles

They’re sitting at 40 points allowed, Linval Joseph is back with a vengeance on defense, and Sam Bradford is walking upright. They host the Giants and Texans, then travel to Philly after the bye. If they prepare well and execute, it could be a long time before Minnesota loses. More on this developing story all season.

2. PACKERS (5-1)

Bye, vs. Cowboys, vs. Giants, vs. Bears

If Aaron Rodgers is fixed after his 10-game streak with a passer rating under 100, then they’ll win all three games. And handily. If not, all bets are off. Yes, even at Lambeau.

The Bourgeoisie

Playoff level teams whose station in life is comfortable. But they’re unlikely to rule the empire anytime soon.

3. EAGLES (4-2)

Bye, at Lions, at Skins, vs. Vikings

Three games, three wins, and a combined 92-27 scoring margin so far. How are they not the elite? It was the Browns, Bears and a home game against the suddenly inept Steelers. Besides the Week 4 bye, which comes at a terrible time for them, ahead lie two road games and a home date with the Vikings. Yeah, one win sounds about right.

4. SEAHAWKS (4-2)

at Jets, Bye, vs. Falcons, at Cardinals

Lose, Rest, Win, Win. You know you’d take it. Jets seem like they want to Ram. Bye comes at a good time. So do the Falcons. And do the Cards really scare anyone here?

5. CARDINALS (4-3)

vs. Rams, at Niners, vs. Jets, vs. Seahawks

Cards actually have a real interesting stretch here. A lot of division hay to be made here for the red-faced redbirds — or a lot of ground to be lost. They look to be favorites in the first three. Take ‘em all, if we can have the last one. We can.

6. FALCONS (4-3)

vs. Panthers, at Broncos, at Seahawks, vs. Chargers

Of this we can all be certain: the Falcons will win their two home games and lose their two road games. Thus setting up a season-long dogfight atop the NFC South, between mascots that are not dogs.

7. PANTHERS (3-3)

at Falcons, vs. Bucs, at Saints, Bye

Well what have we here this year, children of 15-1? An actual schedule? Yes. That is what we have. The bye’s coming up for Carolina, but before it — three division games, two on the road. (And then three more intriguing ones after that, but we get ahead of our flower selves.)

I can’t in good faith give them three wins. So two out of three it is, as they slowly climb back to .500, giving merchants of the Super Bowl Loser Hangover a field day.

The Blinded by Parity

Because they’ve been deluded into thinking that 2016 is their year.

But in a month, they’ll be staring at long odds to make the playoffs. Parity gouged their eyes out and replaced them with glass eyes that throw stones at other teams’ houses while failing to see the plank in their own. (Yeah.)

8. COWBOYS (3-3)

at 49ers, vs. Bengals, at Packers, Bye

I can see them taking down the 49ers in Santa Clara. I can’t see them holding the Bengals to under 63 points, or hanging with the Packers in Green Bay. Maybe next year, Jerry.

9. REDSKNS (3-4)

vs. Browns, at Ravens, vs. Eagles, at Lions

So they give up 31 points a game. That is not the good. So it’s the perfect time to the Browns on the schedule, and a few other non-dominant teams further along. Fine, serve them a couple wins here or there and a helping of false hope. Or, as Washington fans call it, “the usual.”

10. RAMS (3-4)

at Cardinals, vs. Bills, at Lions, vs. Giants

On track for 7-9.

11. LIONS (3-4)

at Bears, vs. Eagles, vs. Rams, vs. Skins

Who ever knows anything about what the Lions are going to do next? Split a few? Sure! Why not!

12. GIANTS (3-4)

At Vikings, at Packers, vs. Ravens, at Rams

Three losses at least, since the whole running game was put on IR already. Maybe all even very painful defeats, since the three contests so far have been decided by a total of six points. Why not give them the Ravens game, to even out both teams’ luck in close games.

13. BUCCANEERS (2-4)

vs. Broncos, at Panthers, Bye, at 49ers.

They can have the last one as a consolation prize. Weird for a season that started out so promising, with a division road win in Atlanta. But when I was making the list of NFC teams, 15 of them raced out of my fingers onto the screen. I had to read through twice and make a mental map of divisions to capture the last team, the poor guys I’d forgotten. That is what we call “a bad sign.”

The Beggars

All they’ll be choosing high in, is the 2017 draft.

14. 49ERS (2-5)

vs. Cowboys, vs. Cardinals, at Bills, vs. Buccaneers

They’re not as good as they looked Week 1 in Santa Clara, nor as bad as they looked in Seattle on Sunday. Bad news: they’re also not good, period. Don’t be fooled if they hang around at 2-3 by holding off the Cowboys or the Cardinals in one of the coming weeks. It’s still Blaine Gabbert, and Chip Kelly hasn’t looked like a genius since midseason of his first year with the Eagles.

15. BEARS (2-5)

vs. Lions, at Colts, vs. Jaguars, at Packers

Between their trip to Indianapolis and the visit by Jacksonville, it’s possible they could eke out couple of wins... which wouldn’t really change the direction of their season.

16. SAINTS (0-6)

at Chargers, Bye, vs. Panthers, at Chiefs

It’s going to be a long season. On the bright side, fantasy points!

Argue away. Every post has its thorn.