NFL Power Rankings – Week 11

The old adage about football being a game of inches has come to the forefront of the entire league after the epic decision made by Patriots coach Bill Belichick against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night. Clearly, things did not work out in his team’s favor. The Bengals have made believers out of everyone (even me, finally), the Chargers caught the Broncos sooner than expected, and the Browns look just plain awful. Let’s make our way all the way from No. 1 to No. 32…

  1. New Orleans Saints (9-0)—OK, so it wasn’t their best week but I don’t think most of us would complain about any of the steps that got one’s team to the 9-0 status that the Saints enjoy. New Orleans played it tight with St. Louis but, as we know, on any given Sunday…Anyway the Saints will need to avoid the three turnovers they committed against the Rams if they want to stay perfect. A divisional game against the Bucs awaits them.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (9-0)—On a night when you give up 477 yards of offense, QB Peyton Manning throws two INTs, and allow Tom Brady & Co. to hold the ball for 35 minutes you shouldn’t expect positive results. But, the door was left ajar and a 17-point comeback ensued putting the Colts very much in the driver’s seat for home field advantage in the AFC playoffs. They will take their three-game lead to Baltimore for another tough conference matchup.
  3. Minnesota Vikings (8-1)—Adrian Peterson ran for 133 yards, the Vikes racked up nearly 500 yards of offense, and they rolled over Detroit 27-10. Converting only 3 of 11 first downs and committing 13 penalties kept it close until the fourth quarter but it still never seemed in doubt. Next up: Seattle in Minnesota.
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (7-2)—The Bengals hurried Big Ben and had the Steelers’ offense off-balance all day which resulted in a season sweep of the defending champs. Cincy is now 5-0 and in full control of the AFC North as they head to Oakland this Sunday.
  5. New England Patriots (6-3)—Fourth and two…ad nauseum. The Pats blew a big one in Indy but may have proved to themselves in the process that they can score at will on the Colts’ defense. It’s not often that you see 477 yards of offense racked up in defeat – no one would be surprised to see that rematch in January. The Pats go home and need to regroup against the Jets who dealt them an early-season loss.
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)—The inability to protect Roethlisberger reared its head again on Sunday and puts the Steelers in a position of chasing the Bengals for the remainder of the year. The loss of Troy Polamalu was felt again when he left this game and will have a potentially big impact if he misses more time or plays hurt. The offense will be looking to put a hurt on the Chiefs in KC this week.
  7. San Diego Chargers (6-3)—The Chargers have been red hot and made a nice leap up the rankings leading into their big divisional showdown against the Broncos on Sunday. LaDainian showed us a flash from the past as he ran for 96 yards and two scores. After starting 2-3, their four game win streak has put them in contention to take the AFC West lead with six games to play.
  8. Denver Broncos (6-3)—The tide turned in a big way against the Broncos after QB Kyle Orton was knocked out of the game in the second half. They threw for minus-8 passing yards and were unable to hold the lead against Washington to drop their third straight. A HUGE battle for first place will ensue this Sunday against the Chargers.
  9. Dallas Cowboys (6-3)—The ‘Boys did not convert a third down until nine minutes remained in the game and snapped a four-game winning streak. While they had an uncharacteristic offensive performance, they still remain in first place in the NFC East and will face divisional foe Washington this Sunday in Dallas.

10.  Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)—The Eagles simply had a hard time punching the ball into the end zone and came up short against a hot Chargers team. In the now unpredictable NFC East, Philly missed out on a huge opportunity to gain ground on their divisional rivals. They will need to win at Chicago to keep pace with Dallas who leads by one game.

11.  Atlanta Falcons (5-4)—The entire Falcons team appears to be slumping right along with QB Matt Ryan’s play. His two picks were crucial in the loss to Carolina on Sunday. Michael Turner’s injury will add more intrigue to a must-win game against the Giants this weekend which amounts to a possible elimination game for two teams battling for a playoff spot.

12.  Arizona Cardinals (6-3)—Finding balance on offense may be possible after all as rookie RB Beanie Wells ran for 85 yards and two second-half scores in a win over Seattle. The Cards have opened up a two-game lead in the NFC West and still have the Rams twice including this Sunday; these are good signs for their playoff hopes in 2009.

13.  New York Giants (5-4)—The ‘sky is falling’ routine was bandied about New York all during the bye week but it is now gut-check time as the Giants host Atlanta and may be out of the playoff mix with a fifth straight loss.

14.  Baltimore Ravens (5-4)—It was an ugly game all around but the Ravens pitched a 16-0 shutout over the Browns. The offense was not impressive at all in scoring only 10 third quarter points but it’s best to turn the page and record the win in these instances. They have a fight on their hands as they try to stay alive in the playoff hunt against the Colts and Steelers the next two weeks.

15.  Houston Texans (5-4)—The Texans’ bye week was an extra day longer as they pulled Monday night duty versus the resurgent Titans. Perhaps the week off is just what they needed to prepare for Chris Johnson.

16.  Green Bay Packers (5-4)—The Pack sacked Dallas QB Tony Romo five ties, hurried him plenty more, and forced three turnovers in a huge win to keep their season alive. Green Bay can score with almost any team in the league and with the defense playing inspired football perhaps they can be the team to steal a playoff berth in December.

17.  Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4)—The Jags showed their discipline by running down the clock on the Jets and opting for a FG when being given the space for a TD by the Jets – not something you see very often. This team has been impossible to figure out all season and now find themselves back in the playoff hunt with seven games to go.

18.  San Francisco 49ers (4-5)—It may not have been pretty, but it counts. The Niners forced (and I use that term lightly) Bears QB Jay Cutler into five INTs and held on for a 10-6 victory. If you commit nine penalties, barely gain 200 yards of offense, and win then consider yourself lucky and move on the next opponent which is Green Bay at Lambeau in this instance.

19.  Carolina Panthers (4-5)—Head coach John Fox has his team back in business and doing what they do best: run, run, and run some more. After being an NFC worst minus-9 in turnover ratio they were able to protect the ball and force Atlanta into some big INTs. Hosting Miami on Thursday night could get them right back to .500 and in position for a late-season run at meaningful game in January.

20.  Miami Dolphins (4-5)—It was reminiscent of earlier this decade when Ricky Williams stepped up in the absence of Ronnie Brown late in the game and willed the Dolphins to victory over Tampa. The Dolphins racked up almost 200 yards on the ground and will face the Panthers on Thursday night in a game that could effectively end the loser’s playoff hopes.

21.  New York Jets (4-5)—The Jets and Jags matched up evenly across the board…except for Mark Sanchez’ two picks. They have got to protect him and the ball better if they have any chance against the Pats who will be looking to take out the fourth-and-two frustration on Gang Green this Sunday.

22.  Chicago Bears (4-5)—Five, count ‘em five picks for the alleged savior at QB.  Jay Cutler’s play and body language have been a very bad sign for things to come in Chicago and from the looks of it their playoff hopes are nearly extinguished. Trying to get back on track with Philly and Minnesota up next is not what they expected in Week 11 this season.

23.  Tennessee Titans (3-6)—Too bad the one thing we will remember about this game is owner Bud Adams getting fined $250,000 for flipping the bird at Buffalo fans. (Haven’t they had enough, Bud?) On the field, the Titans have been rejuvenated by Vince Young’s versatility and Chris Johnson’s spectacular running ability. They are legitimately fighting their way towards .500; Houston is next on Monday night.

24.  Washington Redskins (3-6)—Credit to the Redskins for fighting back from a fourth quarter deficit and earning the win over Denver. They held Denver’s offense in check after QB Kyle Orton went down and Skins’ RB Ladell Betts was a beast rushing for 114 yards in the comeback victory. The next stretch of games is brutal for Washington (Dallas, Philly, New Orleans) and may very well just secure the end of the Jim Zorn era.

25.  Buffalo Bills (3-6)—It’s not often you see a 24 point-loss declared a close game but this one was tied going into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Dick Jauron was our first coaching casualty of the season as he was let go after this loss. Coordinator Perry Fewell takes over for a Bills team with zero identity, so…good luck with that, Perry.

26.  Seattle Seahawks (3-6)—Amazingly, Seattle finds themselves in big trouble after another loss to the Cardinals. Allowing nearly 500 yards of offense and not punching the ball in during the second half has put them on life support for a playoff berth this season. The Vikes may put them out of their misery on Sunday.

27.  Kansas City Chiefs (2-7)—Despite three turnovers, KC was able to earn the victory and a season split with the rival Raiders. Jamaal Charles picked up 103 yards on the ground and may provide the Chiefs with a more consistent ground game than his predecessor did. There are signs of life with this team but a four-game suspension to Dwayne Bowe going into the Steelers game is not a god way to keep the momentum going.

28.  Oakland Raiders (2-7)—JaMarcus Russell went 8 for 23 and was benched, they committed 10 penalties, and continue to rank near the bottom of the league in almost every offensive category. Cincinnati, Dallas, and Pittsburgh is not the trifecta of teams they would like to be matching up against but they need to find some heart somewhere…quickly.

29.  St. Louis Rams (1-8)—As I say often in this space, there are no moral victories in the NFL. The Rams fought hard, Steven Jackson was his usual nasty self, and the defense forced three turnovers but it was just not enough against the top-ranked Saints. Another high-octane offense comes to town with Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals.

30.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8)—Tampa Bay committed nine penalties and allowed the Dolphins to run roughshod over them resulting in yet another loss, this one with only 10 seconds remaining. Rookie QB Josh Freeman was adequate for the Bucs but will continue his development throughout the year.  Next up is the Saints is what could be an ugly matchup for Tampa Bay.

31.  Detroit Lions (1-8)—The Lions allowed almost 500 yards of offense to the Vikings and continue to rank dead last in the league in points allowed. This is obviously a building process for the Lions who will have an opportunity to bounce back when the Browns come into town this Sunday.

32.  Cleveland Browns (1-8)—The Browns have managed only 5 offensive TDs in 36 quarters this season. That is truly remarkable. They travel to Detroit next in what may be their last legit chance at a victory for the rest of the season.

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