Outside Wisecracker

Brandon Meriweather is the Worst Pro Bowler Since John Hadl of the 1972 Chargers; Your Week 17 NFL Power Rankings

Posted in Players, Power Rankings by Oliver Probert on January 2, 2011
Brandon Meriweather Todd Heap

Your third-string safety, AFC

Now let me get this out of the way first-up. Despite the picture, I’m not here to complain about Patriot Safety Brandon Meriweather’s inclusion in the Pro Bowl simply because of his dirty hit on Todd Heap in Week 6 this season.

I’m here to complain about his inclusion in the NFL’s 2010 AFC team because he’s done nothing of value this season, and is perhaps the worst pick in a Pro Bowl since quarterback John Hadl of the 1972 San Diego Chargers.

John Hadl

John Hadl, the man, the myth, the Pro Bowler

For those of you playing at home, Hadl was included in the 1972 Pro Bowl after finishing the season with 190 completions from 370 attempts (51.4 completion percentage) for 2,449 yards, 15 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. That gives him a QB rating of 56.7. All that together leaves you with, in my mind, the worst Pro Bowl selection ever.

But call me biased (or reverse-biased, or whatever this is) – Brandon Meriweather’s selection in this Pro Bowl comes close to Hadl’s.

Just to put it into perspective, the two AFC safeties starting ahead of Meriweather are Troy Polomalu and Ed Reed. Now, someone’s always going to have to play third fiddle to those two first-ballot hall-of-famers so, one might say, why not let it be Meriweather?

Because Meriweather plays third-string safety for the Patriots, too.

When healthy, the starting safety package in New England is Patrick Chung and James Sanders, who both have three interceptions this season to match Meriweather’s own three. Chung and Sanders, unlike Meriweather, have each returned one of their three picks for a touchdown.

Chung had that ridiculous game in Miami early in the season (blocked punt, blocked field goal, pick-six, remember?). Sanders picked off Manning in stunning fashion at the death of New England’s 31-28 win over the Colts a few weeks back. But Meriweather is yet to have a big moment this year. A Polamalu moment. A Reed moment.

It’s an easy thing to say at 3:00 in the morning as I sit in my underwear in my bedroom, typing away on my little notebook, but Brandon Meriweather has had a poor season this year. It seems that every second play (that he’s actually on the field) he’s blown an assignment, missed a tackle or is just plain in the wrong place. His mistakes range from the subtle to the downright ridiculous.

Case in point:

Now, rookie Devin McCourty is a shutdown corner in the making. He’s tied second in the league this year on 6 interceptions. His 21 pass defenses is good for tied sixth in the league and he doesn’t miss tackles. I have no doubt that McCourtey (marking Jones in the above video) would have made the tackle after that catch, and limited Jones to a 30-or-so-yard gain. But Meriweather, for no apparent reason, chose to run laterally behind the receiver and the path of the ball, and crashed into McCourty, ruining any chance he had at stopping the play.

That’s a Pro Bowler you’re looking at there, buddy.

Eric Berry

Eric Berry, better than Meriweather

Sure, there were some other questionable picks in the Pro Bowl. Pittsburgh’s Maurkice Pouncey may be good for a rookie, and he may have made a fantastic transition into the NFL. But he’s not the AFC’s second-best center. Ray Lewis might be a dynamic leader, but his league-sixth 128 tackles is not that ridiculous for an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, such as the Ravens’. But Meriweather’s selection, to me, is just beyond the pale.

I’m not suggesting, by the way, that Chung or Sanders should have been picked. I’m just saying that they would have been better selections. Clearly Kansas City’s Eric Berry would have been a better option.

Here, not that anyone cares, are my preferred Pro Bowl starters (I choose a 3-4 defense, because 4-3 sucks nutsack):

Position: AFC / NFC


Quarterback: Tom Brady (NE) / Mike Vick (PHI)

Running Back: Jamaal Charles (KC) / Adrian Peterson (MIN)

Fullback: Lousaka Polite (MIA) / John Kuhn (GB)

No. 1 Wide Receiver: Dwayne Bowe (KC) / Roddy White (ATL)

No. 2 Wide Receiver: Brandon Lloyd (DEN) / Calvin Johnson (DET)

Tight End: Antonio Gates (SD) / Jason Witten (DAL)

Left Tackle: Joe Thomas (CLE) / Sam Baker (ATL)

Left Guard: Logan Mankins (NE) / Chris Snee (NYG)

Center: Nick Mangold (NYJ) / Andre Gurode (DAL)

Right Guard: Kris Dielman (SD)Jahri Evans (NO)

Right Tackle: Jake Long (MIA) / Chad Clifton (GB)


Nose Tackle: Vince Wilfork (NE) / Ndamukong Suh (DET)

Right Defensive End: Richard Seymour (OAK) / Julius Peppers (CHI)

Left Defensive End: Haloti Ngata (BAL) / John Abraham (ATL)

Inside Linebacker: Jerod Mayo (NE) / Chad Greenway (MIN)

Inside Linebacker: Stephen Tulloch (TEN) / Patrick Willis (SF)

Left Oustide Linebacker: Cameron Wake (MIA) DeMarcus Ware (DAL)

Right Outside Linebacker: Terrell Suggs (BAL) / Clay Matthews (GB)

Cornerback: Nnamdi Asomugha (OAK) / Asante Samuel (PHI)

Cornerback: Darrelle Revis (NYJ) / Charles Woodson (GB)

Free Safety: Troy Polomalu (PIT) / Chris Harris (CHI)

Strong Safety: Ed Reed (BAL) / Charles Godfrey (CAR)


Kicker: Rob Bironas (TEN) / Ryan Longwell (MIN)

Punter: Sam Koch (BAL) / Matt McBriar (DAL)

Kick Returner: Brad Smith (NYJ) / Devin Hester (CHI)

Special Teamer: Montell Owens (JAX) / Eric Weems (ATL)

It’s really nice to look over that list when I’m done and see zero Indianapolis Colts on it. The only other teams without any players on there are Washington, Arizona and St. Louis. Shows what I think of the Colts…

One final Pro Bowl related tid-bit that I only notice because I’m a Patriots fan; with the selections of Richard Seymour (OAK), Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Brandon Meriweather, Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty (all NE), you’ve got six of Bill Belichick’s last ten first-round picks in the Pro Bowl. The only exceptions are 2002 pick Daniel Graham (winding up his career in Denver), 2003 pick Ty Warren (on IR with New England), second 2004 pick Benjamin Watson (in Cleveland) and 2006 pick Laurence Maroney (see Graham, Daniel).

Now, finally, on to my power rankings for Week 17, this time from the bottom up.

32. Carolina Panthers (2-13) — Their -191 point differential is the worst in the league by almost 70 points, and if they lose this week to Atlanta, they’ll be the only team in the league without a win in their division. With coach John Fox set to leave them in the upcoming offseason, it’ll be interesting to see how a new coach handles the quarterback situation entering 2011. Will he decide to create competition in camp between Clausen and Matt Moore, will he find a new leader in free-agency, or will he use his first-overall draft pick (now locked-in) on a quarterback?

Chan Gailey

Buffalo Head Coach Chan Gailey has done well to keep the Bills competitive in a lot of games this season.

31. Buffalo Bills (4-11) — They’ve looked good at times this season, but Buffalo just don’t have the right talent in the right places to fit coach Chan Gailey’s offense. Still, he’s done very well to keep that crew in a lot of games this year. Losing this week to division rival Patriots 34-3 at home won’t be good for their spirits, though. Perhaps a good D-Lineman in the draft?

30. Houston Texans (5-10) — Heading into their Week 7 Bye, the Texans were 4-2. Since then, they’ve gone 1-8, and lost their last four games. They have one of the better offenses in the league, but their 32nd overall ranking against the pass is what’s hurt them this year.

29. Denver Broncos (4-11) — Call me lame, but I really think Tim Tebow has a real future in the NFL. I think his determination and his desire to win will make him one of the more competitive quarterbacks in the years to come.

28. Arizona Cardinals (5-10) — And here’s another rookie QB I’d love to see in the new year. John Skelton is 6-5, 244 pounds and was picked in the fifth round this year. In his three starts for the Cards he’s had a touchdown and an interception, which might not seem like much to think about but when you consider that Arizona quarterbacks combine for 17 interceptions and 9 touchdowns this season, Skelton’s ratio looks a little better. It looks even better when you realise that Arizona also had two of their wins in that stretch. On the gamewinning drive against Dallas last week, Skelton looked poised, calm and, most importantly, he looked in control of his offense. I’d like to see them try to tailor the playbook a little more toward him in the offseason.

27. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11) — They’re starting to look a little more like the team they promised to be in the offseason, and it’s coming without Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Without the two diva-receivers, Carson Palmer has been able to spread the ball around the park a little better. In the first game without the two, the Bengals were able to focus more on their running game and Palmer completed 14 of 23 for 209 yards, no touchdowns and no picks. In the second game, he completed 16 of 21 for 269 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.

26. San Francisco 49ers (5-10) — It’s hard to believe that this time last week they were still technically in the playoff race. After losing Gore to injury in week 12, the 49ers gave up trying to enforce the run. Their two backs (Westbrook and Dixon) combined for just 108 carries over the last 5 games. They finished the season having run 376 running plays to 471 passing plays. To put that into perspective, the New England Patriots have run 409 rushing plays this season to 478 passing plays, and they’re an offense with Tom Brady at the helm. This season, the 49ers have flip-flopped between Alex and Todd Smith, and still ran too many passing plays. And now Singletary’s fired.

25. Cleveland Browns (5-10) — There was a stretch this season where Cleveland went 5-4, but it was bracketed by two 3-game losing streaks, the second of which could become a four-gamer on Sunday if they lose to Pittsburgh. Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy had a rough time last week against the Ravens, but before then he’d thrown 5 touchdowns and just 3 picks on 152 attempts. He also had 2 of Cleveland’s wins under his belt. I’d like to see them stick to him in 2011. Hillis is another guy they need to keep a tight hold of – the Brown with the second-most rushing yards on the team is McCoy.

24. Detroit Lions (5-10) — Another poor-performing team that is looking better for 2011. Hopefully Stafford can piece together a few weeks without an injury, and Jahvid Best can evolve into the feature back he can be. If the defense continues to grow and Megatron stays mega, they could get even more than 5 wins next year. Although, they might just do that this year – they’ve got Minnesota at home on Sunday.

Matthew Stafford

Can Matthew Stafford overcome his gimpy shoulder in 2011?

23. Seattle Seahawks (6-9) — The only reason they’re ranked above the Lions and Browns is because they’ll make the playoffs with a win this week against the Rams. Two of their wins this season came against Arizona, another came against the 49ers and another against Carolina. Their only other wins came against a disappointing San Diego team and the Bears. Their running game ranks last in the league, and their defence gives up 380.9 yards per game, which is 30th in the league. Every game they’ve lost this year, it’s been by more than 20 points. And they might make the playoffs.

22. Dallas Cowboys (5-10) — Easily the most disappointing team this year. Buehler missing that PAT last week against Arizona to hand them the game seems a pretty fitting way to start the end of their season. I don’t expect much from them this week in Philly.

21. Miami Dolphins (7-8) — The Dolphins are by far the most confusing team in the NFL. They went 1-7 this season at home, and have gone 6-1 away, with a match-up this week in New England. They’ve just lost two straight at home, to the Bills and the Lions, and that came after beating the Jets in New York in Week 14.

20. Washington Redskins (6-9) — At this stage they really don’t want to be winning games; it’s only making their 2011 draft choice go higher, and Donovan McNabb’s not coming back next season. Rex Grossman isn’t the solution at quarterback.

Brett Favre


19. Minnesota Vikings (6-9) — I like Joe Webb at quarterback for them, and I think he’ll play in the final game this season. Brett Favre’s final play of being smacked into the icy turf by a defender seems like a rather fitting one to end his career on.

18. Tennessee Titans (6-9) — They’ve lost seven of their last eight, and they’ve been pretty poor on both sides of the ball. I’d say only CJ2K is safe this offseason.

17. St. Louis Rams (7-8) — Let’s not get carried away with the Rams this season. Their opponents’ combined record so far this season is 100-123, and the records of the teams they’ve beaten combine to be 36-67. I think it’s fair to say that if they do indeed beat the Seahawks on Sunday, they won’t advance particularly far in the playoffs. They’re 1-3 against teams who currently have winning records. Having said that, I think they’re headed in the right direction with Bradford, who has certainly impressed in his first season.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7) — After being 8-5 after week 14, the Jags have faded down the stretch, and will probably end 8-8 without David Garrard (finger) and Maurice Jones-Drew (knee) against Houston this week. Even with the porous Texans’ secondary, I seriously doubt QB Trent Edwards’ chances of winning this for the Jaguars and leaving them with any chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Rashad Jennings showed last week against Washington that he can’t handle the lead back role as well as he handles his role as a change-of-pace back.

Darren McFadden

Darren McFadden has emerged this season as a feature back.

15. Oakland Raiders (7-8) — The Raiders are second in the league running the ball, led by third-year back Darren McFadden, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. They’ll be looking forward to this weeks game, playing potential spoiler to Kansas City. If they win, KC might slip in their playoff seeding, and Oakland will achieve a winning season after failing to record five wins in a single season since losing Super Bowl XXXVII after the 2002 season. They’ll also have swept their entire division (6-0). I don’t know if it’s the first time this has happened, but I’d be surprised if anyone’s ever done that before and not made the playoffs, like the Raiders could this year.

14. San Diego Chargers (8-7) — Well, when they started the season poorly, critics said “Yeah, they always do. They’ll recover it by the end of the season.” Looks like they’ve silenced the critics, but in the wrong fashion. Since starting the season 2-5, losses to Oakland and Cincinnati have hampered their playoff hopes. The question now is, will we see a new coach in 2011?

13. New York Giants (9-6) — They can still make the playoffs, but they probably won’t. I think Coughlin can keep his job so long as they beat Washington – when all is said and done, a 10-6 record is nothing to sniff at.

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6) — For me, they’re the best team that won’t make the playoffs, but Bucs fans can be confident in their team in the future. LeGarrette Blount (941 yards and 6 touchdowns in just 12 games) leads rushing for all rookies this year, and Mike Williams (924 yards and 10 touchdowns) leads receiving for all rookies. Add in the fact that they’re led by the up-and-coming Josh Freeman (who is younger than both Blount and Williams), and things look good for the Buccaneers offensively for years to come.

Donald Brown

Donald Brown (488 yards, 2 touchdowns) is leading a struggling Colts backfield.

11. Indianapolis Colts (9-6) — They look to have rediscovered their running game, which could make them a serious threat in the playoffs. However, with things shaping up for a potential Wild-Card round match-up against the stingy Baltimore Ravens, they might find themselves having to pass a little more than they wanted to. Let’s see if Manning’s up to the task.

10. Green Bay Packers (9-6) — With Aaron Rodgers back this week against the Bears, the Packers will look to end their season 10-6 and go on a playoff run. Their lack of a solid running game is their main issue right now, though.

9. New York Jets (10-5) — The Jets haven’t looked quite the same since going down 45-3 in New England. They’ve lost 3 of their last 4 games, and their defence looked leaky last week in the second half against Chicago. Rex Ryan might have been happy after the game when he learned that Jacksonville had lost and the Jets had made the playoffs, but he’ll have to work hard to avoid getting embarrassed in the first round. Things are shaping up for them to be playing the explosive Kansas City offense at Candlestick in the Wild-Card round, so the New York defence will have to be on key if they’re to have any hope advancing.

8. Philadelphia Eagles (10-5) — The health of Eagles’ quarterback Mike Vick is a key concern for them heading into the playoffs, but I think they can still win this week with Kevin Kolb at the helm. A loss last week to Minnesota doesn’t look good on their schedule, but every good team has their bad day.

7. Chicago Bears (11-4) — They may have averaged 39 points over the last two weeks, but three weeks ago they lost 36-7 at home to New England. In the third quarter last week against the Jets they looked like the most lethal team in the NFL, but in the second they looked like one of the worst. It’s been a hot-and-cold season for the Bears, and one wonders whether they’ll be able to find some consistency for the playoffs.

Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles

Dwayne Bowe (82) and Jamaal Charles (25) have both been integral to the Chiefs' success this season.

6. Kansas City Chiefs (10-5) — Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles’ ridiculous 6.4 yards per carry leads running backs with at least 50 carries. He’s second in the league rushing with 1,380 yards from 216 carries, and has 7 combined touchdowns (4 rushing, 3 receiving). His change-of-pace back, Thomas Jones, has 6 rushing touchdowns on top of 879 from 235 carries. Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe leads the NFL with 15 receiving touchdowns, and quarterback Matt Cassel seems to be getting comfortable in his second year in Todd Haley’s system; he’s got an NFL-fifth QB rating of 98.8. Couple those offensive gems with a defence that’s eleventh against the run, and you’ve got yourself a football team.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) — The Steelers desperately need to acquire the first round bye with a win this week against the Browns so they can rest some of their key players. Safety Troy Polomalu is perhaps more important to this team than quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and he needs the week’s rest more than anyone; he’s been battling an ankle/Achilles’ injury, and the Steelers can’t afford to miss him.

4. Baltimore Ravens (11-4) — The Ravens’ only losses so far this season came against the Bengals (4-11), the Patriots (13-2), the Falcons (12-3) and the Steelers (11-4). Quarterback Joe Flacco has taken advantage of the addition of Anquan Boldin to his receiving corps, throwing 25 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions so far this year. Their main issue now is that they’ll likely face the Colts first up in the playoffs, and then the Steelers if they advance to the Divisional rounds, and both matches will be away games.

3. New Orleans Saints (11-4) — They’ve had a shaky season, alright, but with the return of both Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas to their offence they could be one of the more threatening teams in the NFC. The return of the running game should fix Drew Brees’ picks problem, but they’ll likely not be able to play a playoff match in the Superdome, which was the secret to so much of their success in their 2009 championship run.

2. Atlanta Falcons (12-3) — Loss to the division-rival Saints taken into account, the Falcons are still the best team in the NFC, and the most likely to earn a trip to Dallas in February. Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Michael Turner head up their conference’s most explosive offence, and their defence is twelfth against the run and fifteenth against the pass this season.

1. New England Patriots (13-2) — Atlanta’s loss last week made it clear; New England is the best team in the NFL right now, and a Super Bowl favourite. Tom Brady leads the league in quarterback rating (109.8) and passing touchdowns (34), and this is on a team whose 119.5 rushing yards-per-game make it the NFL’s twelfth-best rushing team. They haven’t turned the ball over in seven weeks, and their turnover differential is +27.


2 Responses

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  1. mads reed thomsen said, on January 23, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Ed Reed is FS and polamalu is SS

    FS freesafety Ed Reed
    SS Strongsafety Troy Polamalu

  2. […] run and have a lousy secondary). The Pats made the aforementioned big moves (including cutting the worst pro bowler ever) but remained the pretty much the same and will as long as they employ Tom Brady (who apparently […]

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