Posted tagged ‘NFC South’

NFL Power Rankings – End of Season

January 7, 2010

Since each NFL season carries with it the weight of expectations and the ultimate stark realities for every team and their fans, I tried something a little bit different for the final edition of NFL Power Rankings for the 2009 season. With the end of the holiday season and the end of the NFL season running parallel to one another, I decided to get some of my friends, colleagues, and readers involved in the assessment of their respective team’s season. It’s a ranking by the people, for the people, if you will.

Also, I did not try to justify any non-playoff team being better than one who actually made ‘the tournament’ – you’re either good enough or you’re not (I’m looking at you Steelers, Texans, and Falcons). On that note, I wish you all a Happy New Year, thanks for reading and one last time…let’s navigate all the way from No. 1 to No. 32…


1.      San Diego Chargers (13-3)—Ten wins to close out the year and a red-hot offense has San Diego ranked at the top of the list. My preseason pick for the AFC Super Bowl rep looks to be in great shape all around but ‘uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.’ A well-earned bye week awaits the Bolts.

2.      Indianapolis Colts (14-2)—All one can say is ‘I hope they know what they’re doing.’ They bailed on the 19-0 campaign only to insert starters in horrible conditions for personal milestones – seems counterintuitive. A loss in their first game of the playoffs will bring the entire organization into question but we have a week to wait on that debate.

3.      New Orleans Saints (13-3)—From 13-0 to 13-3 is not the way to close things out but the Saints don’t appear to be concerned about it. They earned home-field advantage throughout and will await some legit potential opponents for next week. The league’s No. 1 offense should be fine in the comfort of the Superdome.

4.      Minnesota Vikings (12-4)—The Vikings pounded the Giants into the next decade and earned a week off. Similar to the Saints, the Vikes will enjoy the comfort of dome and weather has been eliminated as a factor in the NFC playoffs altogether. Can Favre pull off another title and walk into the sunset? And then come back again?

5.      Dallas Cowboys (11-5)—Big D posted consecutive shutouts for first time in franchise history and grabbed the NFC East title, but this ranking is based on how I think they stack up. ML from Boston: “I came away satisfied from the season but not feeling Dallas has played their best yet – too many penalties and poor tackling.” For his sake, let’s hope he’s right. And, would Wade survive a first round loss to Philly???

6.      Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)—Despite getting shellacked in Dallas on Sunday, MM likes his team to come back and beat Dallas this week but concedes, “the defense will not get them to the Super Bowl…and anything short of that is a disappointment.” Andy Reid has never lost a first-round playoff game and if he does this week, there will be no calls for his head given the contract extension he just signed.

7.      Green Bay Packers (11-5)—The Packer bandwagon is pretty full at this stage. The sixth-ranked offense and the second-ranked defense reside in Green Bay and QB Aaron Rodgers looks the part of a seasoned veteran except he has no postseason experience. Arizona may not be bad place for this team to start even thought the smackdown last week was against backups.

8.      Arizona Cardinals (10-6)—The Cardinals are not an easy team to figure out. Last year, they shocked the football world and nearly won the Super Bowl after a 9-7 season so given their explosive nature on offense, it would not be wise to count them out. Looking towards 2010, a lot will depend on Kurt Warner and/or Matt Leinart’s future.

9.      New England Patriots (10-6)—A meaningless game in Houston resulted in a loss on the scoreboard and of go-to WR Wes Welker who is out for the playoffs after wrecking his knee. With Tom Brady rumored to be ailing as well, the Pats’ playoff expectations have taken a hit in the public’s eyes. Even die-hard New England fan RS admits “this team seems destined for a second round playoff loss at San Diego.”

10. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)—The AFC North champs did very little against the Jets last Sunday so that they could prepare for, um, the Jets on Sunday. Hosting a playoff game in Cincinnati will be a solid home field advantage but if they don’t stop the rushing attack early, they will be home early. Overall, Marvin Lewis finally has his team built the way he wants moving into the new decade.

11. New York Jets (9-7)—Living in NY, I am surrounded by slightly euphoric Jets fans this week who are dreaming of a Super Bowl appearance. DA is “very happy with Rex Ryan as he learned…and got better”. LJ adds “Sanchez’s regression was a bit alarming but I think there’s a reason to be optimistic for the future.” It seems most Jets fans would love a win this week in Cincy but are realistic about not advancing after that…for now…

12. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)—The Ravens did what they needed to do in Oakland by running all over The Black Hole. They make the third playoff appearance in four years and will head to New England to try to advance. Joe Flacco’s less than stellar play (9TDs and 7 INTs in his last 9 games) has some worried and a banged-up Ed Reed further hurts their chances to advance but with the way the Pats look, they may just steal one before bowing out.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)—MO agreed that watching the Steelers blow five 4th quarter leads was excruciating but “it might have been worse watching the Jets win two games that the other teams just handed to them”. Even with the Polamalu injury and winning out tough games against Green Bay, Baltimore, and Miami there are no excuses for the Steelers dropping earlier games to the Chiefs and Raiders. Getting healthy, building some depth through the draft and revamping special teams is likely to be the approach to get back to the playoffs in 2010.

14. Tennessee Titans (8-8)—Closing the season on an 8-2 run ranks them right up there at the top of the league in those last 10 games. Unfortunately, there are those pesky six losses to open the season that did not vanish from the record. But, the Vince Young Era has officially resumed and they will go into 2010 with a clear picture of who is leading them; Chris Johnson will be tearing up opposing defenses as well.

15. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)—A win over the Bucs secured consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. Unfortunately, the Falcons were the only NFC team with a winning record to miss the ‘second season’ but DH from Atlanta is less worried about “not meeting lofty expectations” for 2009 than he is about QB “Matt Ryan not progressing from his rookie year”.

16. Houston Texans (9-7)—The Texans beat the Pats to secure their first ever winning season but the celebration was tempered after being eliminated from the playoffs on tiebreakers. Matt Schaub led Gary Kubiak’s explosive offense very well and the defense has plenty of talent but poor special teams play led to some close losses that find them on the outside looking in yet again.

17. Carolina Panthers (8-8)—John Fox teams never quit, you have to give him credit for that. Saddled with an aging, expensive QB in Jake Delhomme the team struggled until he was injured. Backup Matt Moore won four of the last five games to get them back to .500 which gave all the doubters ‘evidence’ to call for Delhomme’s pink slip. Changes will be made to the roster but expect the Panthers to challenge for the playoffs in 2010.

  1. San Francisco 49ers (8-8)—The Niners throttled the Rams to close out the season winning three of their last four to finish a respectable 8-8 but clearly, the expectations are higher in San Fran. Mike Singletary: “In order to make wise decisions, we have to evaluate closely what we need to do. We’re going to take our time and be thorough.” So far, the special teams coach has been axed and while Alex Smith remains the top guy for now, the QB question will rage on throughout the offseason.

19. Denver Broncos (8-8)—The most hot and cold team in the NFL this year along with the Giants, the Broncos 6-0 start did not hold up when they lost their last four games to miss the important January games. Rookie head coach Josh McDaniels will have to deal with more drama regarding star wideout Brandon Marshall which is likely to end up in a trade around draft time. To an extent, I feel like they overachieved based on expectation but the perception is that they choked big time in ‘09.

20. Miami Dolphins (7-9)—Miami’s playoff hopes were officially dashed with a loss to the Steelers. KK from NYC thought his Dolphins had “hope and promise with a young, flourishing QB, but momentum was lost when Ronnie Brown went down.” Never lacking confidence in his beloved Fish he “guaranteed an AFC East title” in 2010.

21. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9)—The Jags stood at 7-5 and controlled their own destiny to the playoffs only to drop their last four and end the season with a loud thud in Cleveland. Head coach Jack Del Rio is likely to stick there as he is owed $15 million over three years and rumors of the team being for sale swirl constantly these days. Del Rio tagging his QB David Garrard as “middle-tier” this week is accurate but a strange motivational tool when there is no football for such a long period after that commentary.

22. Chicago Bears (7-9)—While the Bears ended the season on a positive note by winning their last two, KL from Los Angeles summed up ‘09 by saying “this season got intercepted by another errant Cutler throw”. Ouch. The guillotine fell hard in Chicago already as six coaches were let go this week.

23. New York Giants (8-8)—The Giants uncharacteristically mailed in the last two games were summarily blown out and it cost people jobs namely defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. AJ from PA sees a glaring “need for personnel changes” and “wouldn’t be surprised to see as many as 10 new starters” which is a long way from where the expectations were going into the season.

24. Cleveland Browns (5-11)—Jerome Harrison put the team on his back in this last month to close out 2009 on a positive note. TR says the Browns were “disappointing in every aspect” but admits that you “can’t sleep” on their first four-game winning streak since 1994. The Mangini-hating also seems to have quieted with the wins and the arrival of football guru Mike Holmgren. Promise in Cleveland? Always…

25. Oakland Raiders (5-11)—When a team is 5-10 and down eight points with three minutes to go in its final game, is punting and playing the field position/timeouts strategy really the way to go? Live a little, Tom Cable, it’s not like your job hung in the balance during the loss to the Ravens. Or maybe it did, I don’t know, but I’m not about to try to get into Al Davis’ head – I may never come back. Cable throwing JaMarcus Russell under the bus will not help save his gig since Al is apparently still a fan – we’ll know more next week regarding this soap opera.

26. Buffalo Bills (6-10)—The Bills beat up on the fake Colts in the snow and then fired the entire coaching staff following a very disappointing year that saw them finish in last place in the AFC East for the second year in a row. Interim head coach Perry Fewell will interview for the head job there but he is unlikely to land it as they look for someone with a strong resume to come in and turn this around. Bill Cowher will provide writers like me with a lot of puns, so, there’s that…

27. Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)—The Chiefs surprisingly stomped the Broncos right out of the playoffs with a resounding win at Denver. KC was a sneaky sleeper pick for many before the year but after ranking 25th in offense and 30th in defense, it appears the rebuild will continue onward towards 2010.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13)—After the Bucs dropped the finale to Atlanta, RH wondered “Does the ship have a rudder?” which indicts everyone from the Glazers down through rookie Head Coach Raheem Morris. While Morris was officially retained, wholesale changes will need to be made to the roster and among the coaching staff. Josh Freeman has shown potential but we all know that’s a long way from being any good at the QB position in this league.

29. Washington Redskins (4-12)—Jim Zorn was our first post-season coaching casualty as new GM Bruce Allen made his first major move after a disastrous season. The ‘Skins lost 18 of last 24 games under Zorn and have more roster issues now than when he first came on board.  Kevin H. from D.C.: “Poor coaching and bad players…you get what you see”. I think Kevin will feel just fine with new coach Mike Shanahan but will Jason Campbell be around for 2010?

30. Detroit Lions (2-14)—Everyone expected a long road ahead for the Lions and two separate six-game losing streaks locked up the No. 2 pick in the draft. Building blocks like QB Matt Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson on offense are bright spots for 2010.

31. Seattle Seahawks (5-11)—There’s nothing worse than watching a team quit like the Seahawks did this season. They didn’t make it too tough for the Titans’ Chris Johnson to break the NFL yards-from-scrimmage record but they have made it tough for their fans to have faith in the direction of the team. What can Jim Mora, Jr. say to defend himself?

32. St. Louis Rams (1-15)—CG said about his beloved Rams: “With so many holes and so few current players showing much, it is hard not to see this as a three-plus year project back to respectability.” It may not be the sexiest No. 1 overall pick ever but everyone’s guess is that it will be Nebraska DT Ndamakong Suh since he will be a stable building block in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense for years to come. With that, the Rams are officially on the clock…

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Mike Blewitt’s NFL Power Rankings – Week 15

December 18, 2009

The NFL Power Rankings for Week 15 STILL features two undefeated teams in the Saints and Colts, two red hot teams in the Chargers and Packers, as well as the Bucs and Rams who just can’t get out of their own way.  Let’s make our way all the way from No. 1 to No. 32…

  1. New Orleans Saints (13-0)—Yet another tight one for the Saints who set their franchise win record in a season to 13 games. New Orleans clutch third-down conversions (8 of 12) allowed them to finish off key scoring drives in the three-point win. A key matchup against the Cowboys looms this week and could determine a big portion of the NFC playoff picture.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (13-0)—Despite Peyton Manning’s three INTs and Brandon Marshall owning the football for much of the game, the Colts came out on top again. Style points are of no concern when they are allowing the second least points in the NFL – a rare tip of the cap to this defense is deserved. Thursday night against the Jags has every fantasy owner associated with a Colts player worried about early benching but all should be well for this week at least.
  3. Minnesota Vikings (11-2)—The Vikings bounced back nicely after the Arizona loss by pummeling the Bengals 30-10 in the Metrodome. The Vikes eliminated the Cincy passing game and were efficient on the offensive side all day. They can lock up the NFC North with a win over the Panthers and a Packers loss this Sunday.
  4. San Diego Chargers (10-3)—Not only have the Chargers won eight games in a row but they have run off 16 straight in December dating back to 2005, an NFL record. A good road win over Dallas should translate into even more momentum when they host the Bengals this Sunday.
  5. Philadelphia Eagles (9-4)—A big win for the Eagles but allowing 512 yards of offense and 38 points will not be acceptable come January. DeSean Jackson may be the most explosive WR in the league and can contribute in ways that could make him dangerous all throughout the playoffs. Next up: 49ers.
  6. Green Bay Packers (9-4)—Ryan Grant paced the rushing attack with 137 yards and two scores as the Pack won its fifth game in a row over the rival Bears. The defense had another great game as they held Chicago to only 254 yards and forced two turnovers. They head to Pittsburgh to maintain the hot streak this week.
  7. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4)—QB Carson Palmer was shut down by the Vikings in a miserable performance that saw the Bengals throw for only 94 yards. Moving on to this week, they can clinch the AFC North with a win at San Diego…tall order against a scorching hot Chargers’ squad but it will serve as a measuring stick for the playoffs.
  8. Arizona Cardinals (8-5)—Seven was not a lucky number for the Cardinals against the 49ers on Monday night. Turning the ball over that many times is a guaranteed loss in this league. The Lions are nice team to bounce back against; it could get ugly in Detroit as Arizona tries to wash this taste out of their mouth.
  9. Denver Broncos (8-5)—The spotlight shone brightly on Brandon Marshall but the day belonged to the Colts. Marshall’s NFL-record 21 catches were not enough to get key conversions on third (6 for17) or fourth (0 for 3) down and left them short on converting Peyton Manning’s three INTs. They host the Raiders this week to try and get back on track.

10.  New England Patriots (8-5)—All the controversy surrounding the Pats’ win over Carolina was focused on Randy Moss and whether or not he quit. The fact that they actually won seems obscured but there is no question that New England is not very sharp right now.  They still lead the division by one game and will travel to Buffalo to keep that buffer intact.

11.  Dallas Cowboys (8-5)—The ‘December Dallas Woes’ story is old, I admit, but they have to win at some point for us to stop talking about it, right?  That’s what I thought…1 for 8 on third down is not going to cut it against good teams like San Diego. Heading to New Orleans is a heck of a way to try to stop a two-game skid but Dallas is desperate – they may need it badly to make the playoffs.

12.  New York Giants (7-6)—The Giants roll up 500 yards of offense with Eli Manning throwing for 391 and three TDs and they lose? Say it ain’t so.  Philly was opportunistic in all three phases and outpaced the Giants to sweep them on the season. The G-Men will be fighting for their playoff lives in D.C this Monday night.

13.  Baltimore Ravens (7-6)—The Ravens rushed for a staggering 7.7 yards per carry and 308 yards on the day in a 48-3 thrashing of the Lions. Utilizing several big plays, the Ravens’ offense showed signs of explosiveness that we have not seen for much of the year – pretty solid timing with the playoffs nearing on the horizon. Up next: Chicago Bears.

14.  Miami Dolphins (7-6)—The Fish overcame three turnovers and edged the Jags thanks to a strong day by RB Ricky Williams (108 yds, two TDs). The playoff push is very real for the Dolphins as they head to Tennessee on Sunday to try to make it five wins out of their last six.

Ricky Williams' has the Dolphins primed for a comeback to reach the playoffs

15.  Jacksonville Jaguars (7-6)—The Jags were stymied offensively gaining only 217 total yards on offense despite winning the turnover battle three to zip against the Dolphins. The playoff picture will only get murkier with another loss and up next are the undefeated Colts.

16.  New York Jets (7-6)—With QB Kellen Clemens filling in for an injured Mark Sanchez, the Jets piled up the rushing yardage (175 yards) in dominating the Bucs. Josh Freeman never had a chance as the Jets confused him all day with different looks and blitzes. Unfortunately, the Jets have convinced their fan base yet again that they have a shot at the playoffs…will they never learn?

17.  Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7)—The downward spiral of the Steelers’ 2009 season is nearly complete after losing their fifth straight game, the latest to the lowly Browns. One could blame injuries but that lame excuse doesn’t fly when Pittsburgh displayed a complete inability to protect the quarterback (eight sacs allowed) or stop the run (171 yards) against their longtime rivals. They host the Packers Sunday to try and save some pride as their playoff window officially closes.

18.  Tennessee Titans (6-7)—The Titans dispatched of the Rams easily and RB Chris Johnson continues his assault on the NFL and opposing fantasy owners. Nearly 450 yards of offense and 47 points kept the momentum going for the Titans who will try to extend their slim playoff hopes another week against the Dolphins.

19.  Atlanta Falcons (6-7)—Playing without Michael Turner and Matt Ryan yet again, the Falcons hung tough and were stopped by the Saints on a potential game-tying or go-ahead drive with just over a minute to go. The defense will need to come up with more stops if they have any chance to run the table against the Jets, Bills, and Bucs…not exactly murderers’ row.

20.  Houston Texans (6-7)—The Texans snapped a four-game losing streak by pouring it on offensively, mainly through the air. WR Andre Johnson hauled in 11 receptions for 193 yards and two scores to lead the way in a blowout win over Seattle. They will continue to fight back to .500 this week against the basement-owning Rams.

21.  San Francisco 49ers (6-7)—This is the type of team the 49ers hoped they would be this season.  Tough, opportunistic defense (seven forced turnovers) with a strong running game headed up by Frank Gore (167 yards); they got it for one game at least. Now, they head to Philly to keep their very slim playoff hopes alive.

22.  Carolina Panthers (5-8)—So, the Panthers shut down Randy Moss, force three turnovers by the Patriots, still lose by 10 points and they’re bragging???  What am I missing? Head coach John Fox’ seat is likely to get hotter after the Vikings come to town this weekend.

23.  Seattle Seahawks (5-8)—Seattle simply looks like a beaten team after the 34-7 drubbing they took in Houston. An abysmal 1 of 14 in third-down conversions highlighted their offensive struggles that managed only seven points in three trips to the red zone. They get a break with the Bucs coming into town but at this point, the ‘Hawks won’t rest easy until this season is over.

24.  Chicago Bears (5-8)—The Bears were swept by the Packers for the first time since 2003 and find themselves in a miserable offensive funk. I think it’s fair to say at this point that the Broncos knew they might have had a head case on their hands named Jay Cutler.  Grow up, Jay…and quickly because you’re playing Baltimore on Sunday.

25.  Buffalo Bills (5-8)—The Bills counted on the leg of K Rian Lindell in a 16-10 win over the Chiefs. Four INTs helped them seal the win on a day where the offense was conspicuously absent. Spoiler is the role of choice this Sunday when they host the Patriots.

26.  Washington Redskins (4-9)—The ‘Skins scored 30 points in consecutive games for the first time since 2006 and LB Brian Orakpo terrorized the Raiders with four sacks and a forced fumble. With a new GM in Bruce Allen in town, this Monday night game against the Giants may sadly be Coach Jim Zorn’s last.

27.  Oakland Raiders (4-9)—Committing 14 penalties for 118 yards is difficult for any team to overcome, let alone a 4-9 team with two quarterbacks who were running for their respective lives all afternoon against Washington. Charlie Frye will be starting QB No. 3 in the mix as they head to Denver.

28.  Kansas City Chiefs (3-10)—Matt Cassel threw INTs on the final three drives in a game that KC was trailing by six – difficult to overcome. Well, at least they didn’t lock him up with a $60-million dollar contract…oh wait. Hosting Cleveland this weekend will assure them only of millions of people not watching their game.

29.  Cleveland Browns (2-11)—The Browns climbed out of the cellar this week after an inspired defensive performance against the Steelers, allowing just over 200 yards of offense. Jack of all trades Josh Cribbs contributed big plays on offense and special teams in the win, their first over Pittsburgh since in 13 tries. This week the Browns try to do more damage to their chances of the potential number one overall pick by attempting to beat the Chiefs.

30.  Detroit Lions (2-11)—Duante Culpepper started for the injured Matt Stafford and nothing went right on offense. But, I suppose that’s an improvement over the defense where everything went wrong. This season has gone about as bad as expected and they will continue to try to improve against Arizona this Sunday.

31.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-12)—Sometimes you’re reminded how bad an NFL team can get after you’re forced to watch their crappy game against Gang Green because you live in New York.  As Forrest Gump eloquently said: “That’s all I have to say about that.”

32.  St. Louis Rams (1-12)—If you knew that starting QB Keith Null went to West Texas A&M then you can only be a Rams fan…or one of his family members. Throwing five INTs in a 40-point loss is a rough start to one’s career but I can only say this…it’s not your fault…it’s not your fault…it’s not your fault…

NFL Power Rankings – Week 12

November 25, 2009

Injuries and upsets were big stories over the weekend and the worst game of the year was actually the best. The Colts and Saints moved to 10-0 making it only the third time in league history with two undefeated teams at this stage, the AFC West threw down with the AFC North and won (!), and the Browns found yet another way to lose. Let’s make our way all the way from No. 1 to No. 32…

1. New Orleans Saints (10-0)—Efficient and dominant in each phase of the game, the Bucs were in control of this game against the Bucs throughout. By creating four turnovers and leading a perfectly balanced offensive attack, New Orleans put their stamp on this game. They are 10-0 for the first time in franchise history and will look to continue their unblemished run in a huge contest on Monday night when they host the Patriots.

2. Indianapolis Colts (10-0)—Certainly not their prettiest win of the year but as we like to say “good teams win ugly”. The Ravens forced three turnovers and held the Colts to just 17 points but Indy shut the door late with two late turnovers of their own to run their record to 10-0. Next up is a scrappy Houston Texans team who is looking to put a signature win up on the board.

3. Minnesota Vikings (9-1)—It doesn’t often go much easier than this in an NFL contest. QB Brett Favre was able to check out in the start of the fourth quarter holding a 28-3 lead after completing 88 percent of his passes and 4 TDs against Seattle. The reeling Bears visit Minnesota on Sunday.

4. New England Patriots (7-3)—The Pats certainly dished out a measure of revenge, embarrassing the Jets by holding the ball for 40 minutes and creating five turnovers. WR Wes Welker ran free most of the day racking up 15 catches for 192 yards and exposing a less-than-stellar game plan. The Pats play another “Game of the Year” when they travel to New Orleans to take on the undefeated Saints.

5. San Diego Chargers (7-3)—Right back where they belong, the Chargers withstood some early season trials and tribulations and fine themselves in first place in the AFC West and playing commanding football. San Diego ran over the Broncos on Sunday picking up 203 yards on the ground in a 32-3 shellacking. They now have their eyes focused on a No. 2 seed in the AFC Playoffs and will host the Chiefs this Sunday.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (7-3)—This will be permanently filed under ‘One that we let get away’. The Bengals of old would have even been shaking their heads after Cincy gave up 10 point to the Raiders in the last 41 seconds of the fourth quarter. A big special teams gaffe gave the Raiders the ball in field goal range one play after the game-tying TD which resulted in a 20-17 loss. They forfeited a huge chance to go up two games on Pittsburgh but will attempt to bounce back against the cellar-dwelling Browns this Sunday.

7. Arizona Cardinals (7-3)—The Cardinals have inched their way up the power rankings in recent weeks and find themselves in complete control of the AFC West yet again. Kurt Warner’s injury is not deemed to be serious and he staked them to a commanding 21-3 lead before being forced out of the game against the Rams. The Cards take on the red hot Titans in an effort to stay within a reasonable distance of the Vikings or Saints for the No. 2 spot in the NFC.

8. Dallas Cowboys (7-3)—This one was very ugly so Big D should be thankful this holiday for the win on Sunday. They scored their points (a Romo-to-Crayton-TD) with less than three minutes to play and hung on to beat the Redskins 7-6. The Thanksgiving tradition continues when they host the Raiders on Thursday.

9. New York Giants (6-4)—As head coach Tom Coughlin succinctly put it “it was miserable around here for a month” and that ended with an overtime victory over the Falcons. Eli Manning threw for a season-high 384 yards along with 3 TDs to pace the offense to 34 points. They go to Denver on Turkey Night to try to make it two wins in a row.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)—Despite picking up over 500 yards of offense, three costly turnovers, ANOTHER kickoff return for a TD, and eight penalties doomed the Steelers in the OT loss to Kansas City. With S Troy Polamalu out for several more weeks and Ben Roethlisberger banged up after this loss the defending champs are in a danger zone. This week’s showdown against the Ravens should result in the losing team being out of the playoffs at year’s end.

11.  Philadelphia Eagles (6-4)—Was that balance we saw on Sunday night?  Yes it was. Philly came out running the ball and throwing which led to nearly 400 yards of offense despite three turnovers. They sealed the win with a LeSean McCoy with five minutes to go and now will need to keep pace with a jumbled wild card group in the NFC. Next up: Redskins in Philly.

12.  Denver Broncos (6-4)—After opening the season at 6-0, the Broncos are in serious danger of missing the playoffs. They managed exactly three points in four trips to the red zone and held the ball for less than 23 minutes.  Their 25th-ranked offense will need to get back on track for a huge Thanksgiving night game in Denver.

13.  Atlanta Falcons (5-5)—The Falcons battled the Giants into overtime in a game during which they trailed throughout, ultimately falling 34-31. They will need to find a way to get stops on defense if they are going to have a chance at a playoff run in 2009. The back end of their schedule is loaded with home games so they can get started with a win over Tampa Bay this week.

14.  Green Bay Packers (6-4)—The Pack completely dominated the 49ers despite only winning by six points. They held the ball for over 41 minutes including the last six to run out the clock and racked up nearly 500 yards of offense. The Pack takes on the Lions on Turkey Day and are back in the thick of the NFC playoff race.

15.  Jacksonville Jaguars (6-4)—The Jags came from behind to beat the Buffalo Bills by three and put themselves right into playoff contention. One of the hardest teams’ to figure out in the whole league, the Jags have a balanced offense and hard-hitting defense that creates problems for most of their opponents. A loooong road trip to San Fran is up this holiday weekend.

16.  Baltimore Ravens (5-5)—The Ravens failed to score a TD in four red-zone trips settling for five field goals on the day as their only points. Two late turnovers cost them in a game that was there for the taking against the unbeaten Colts. They are in serious jeopardy of missing the AFC playoff race and have a clash against the rival Steelers this Sunday night.

17.  Miami Dolphins (5-5)—A big week from Ricky Williams with 3 TDs allowed the Dolphins to keep pace with the rest of the playoff pack in the AFC. His role will be significant down the stretch as QB Chad Henne continues to develop. They received a nice 10-day break before they head up to Buffalo to take on the last-place Bills.

18.  Tennessee Titans (4-6)—While the hill may be a little too steep for the Titans’ to climb all the way back into the playoff picture, they are playing as well as many teams on that level. RB Chris Johnson, who ran for 151 yards against Houston, is following up his excellent rookie campaign with a breakout season that may make him the NFL’s next big star. The four-game winning streak will be heavily tested against the Cardinals and Colts the next two weeks.

19.  Houston Texans (5-5)—Yet another loss in the books thanks to missing a field goal on the last play of the game…just inexcusable. From clock mismanagement to poor execution, the Texans’ show no signs of being able to get above the .500 mark for any length of time. Titans’ RB Chris Johnson tore them up and now they will need to set their sights on Colts’ QB Peyton Manning.

20.  San Francisco 49ers (4-6)—The only positive thing the Niners showed on Sunday was their ability to fight until the end of the game. Their defense was beaten up all day and their offense only had 18 minutes with which to move the ball. The playoff window is just about closed on San Fran in what has shaped about to be a disappointing 2009 campaign; they host the Jags this Sunday.

21.  Carolina Panthers (4-6)—Carolina has been fighting inconsistency all year and likely dropped out of the playoffs with that loss to Miami. The Dolphins dared QB Jake Delhomme to throw and the he was unable to do so accurately or take advantage of red zone opportunities. They face the Jets this Sunday in a battle of two teams whose seasons have come off the rails earlier than anticipated.

22.  New York Jets (4-6)—The seemingly limitless prospects of rookie QBs are often perfectly counterbalanced with the reality of the developmental process. Mark Sanchez offered up five turnovers against the superior Pats’ team who combined pressure and good coverage to confuse the youngster making just his tenth NFL start. The playoff window has shut on the Jets as they wait ‘til next year yet again. Next up: Hosting Carolina on Sunday.

23.  Chicago Bears (4-6)—The Bears were unable to capitalize on three turnovers and ended the game with two punts, a blocked field goal, and an interception on offense. Unfortunately for the Bears, they appear to have personnel issues on both sides of the ball and will be retooling in the offseason after a third straight year of missing the playoffs. They travel to Minnesota this week in a must-win game for the Vikes…bad times…

24.  Kansas City Chiefs (3-7)—A look at the boxscore will not tell you the story of the Chiefs’ huge upset over Pittsburgh in Week 11. Key turnovers and a few clutch plays in overtime allowed them to snap their 10-game home losing streak, their longest ever. Head Coach Todd Haley has them playing inspired football and we’ll see if they can make it three straight against the Chargers this week.

25.  Oakland Raiders (3-7)—Kudos to the Raiders for causing and then taking advantage of the Bengals mistakes in a shocking 20-17 win over Cincinnati. The league’s worst offense managed 10 points in the final 41 seconds of the upset and look better suited having Bruce Gradkowski under center to run the show. Heading to Dallas on Turkey Day could be interesting as neither offense has lit the world on fire over the last month.

Gradkowski may not be the "future" but he is definitely the "now"

26.  Washington Redskins (3-7)—The Redskins battled for the entire contest keeping Dallas QB Tony Romo off-balance and holding them to only seven points. But they were plagued with their own inability to do anything in the red zone in losing their fifth game out of their last six. The ‘Skins go on the road to Philly to try to play spoiler for the remainder of the season.

27.  Buffalo Bills (3-7)—The Bills went 3 of 11 on third down, coughed up three turnovers and came away with three field goals in three tips to the red zone – tough way to win a football game. They played more inspired ball with interim head coach Perry Fewell and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the way but will need to be better to break the three-game skid against the Dolphins.

28.  Seattle Seahawks (3-7)—The wheels have come off the wagon in Seattle. Injuries and abysmal play have them out of the playoffs and wondering where the future may lead them in 2010. Only four rushing yards on 12 carries put them in a position to hold the ball for less than 18 minutes. They visit the Rams this week to try and heal some of their war wounds.

29.  Detroit Lions (2-8)—The Lions and Browns combined for over 900 yards in a very competitive contest that ended with Detroit victorious. Their defense has myriad issues but Matt Stafford and the rest of the offense came back from 24-3 in the first quarter to take the game on the last play, 38-37. Lions host the Pack on Turkey Day in one of the oldest traditions in the NFL.

30.  St. Louis Rams (1-9)—The Rams went 4 of 16 on third down and failed to capitalize on another great performance by RB Steven Jackson. Their inability to stop the Cardinals’ offense put them in too big of a hole to finish off their second-half comeback. They will take on the Seahawks in an NFC West battle (read: pillow fight).

31.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-9)—Mama said there’d be days like this…a 38-7 drubbing at the hands of the Saints. Considering how badly he was harassed in this game, the Bucs should be thankful that QB Josh Freeman is not injured. They travel to the Falcons looking for improvement in all three phases.

32.  Cleveland Browns (1-9)—The Browns suffered a heartbreaker in finding a shockingly new way to lose an NFL game. A pass interference penalty on a “Hail Mary” pass was followed by an untimed down for a Detroit TD on the last play of the game; that really was a tough way to go out in Week 11. Bengals, Chargers, Steelers is a tough stretch for Cleveland as we head into December.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 11

November 20, 2009

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.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 10

November 14, 2009

The slate is officially clean on winless teams thank to Tampa Bay’s upset of the Packers which means maybe the creamsicle orange jerseys are a blessing and not the curse they were once thought to be. The Saints and Colts both dodged bullets to stay perfect, the Bengals continue to impress us, the Giants have us scratching our heads, and the Patriots are right near the top again which altogether make the NFL gloriously unpredictable. Let’s make our way from No. 1 all the way down to No. 32…

  1. New Orleans Saints (8-0)—It was not a signature performance for the Saints as they toughed out a win against Carolina at home scoring 24 second-half points. Drew Brees was his usual self after a sluggish first half but the defense will need to address getting gashed for 182 rushing yards before they visit Steven Jackson and the Rams this week.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (8-0)—The Colts were the beneficiaries of a missed field goal and a coaching blunder that allowed them to hang on for a three-point victory over the Houston Texans. QB Peyton Manning threw 40 passes in the first half (!!!) but ultimately raised the Colts’ record to 14-1 versus their AFC South ‘rival’. Now, it’s on to an actual real rival in the New England Patriots this Sunday night.
  3. Minnesota Vikings (7-1)—The Vikings’ only loss was a tight one at Pittsburgh that left us more impressed than we were when they were undefeated. The 7-1 start is no fluke as Minnesota has been putting up points (2nd in the NFL) and stuffed the run on defense (ranked 6th in the NFL) for much of the year. Hosting Detroit and coming off a bye is a nice way to start the second half.
  4. New England Patriots (6-2)—The Dolphins put up a solid fight but the Patriots made big plays to ensure the victory and run their record to 6-2. All the worries from earlier in the season have begun to fade as the offense appears to be clicking again. The Pats are 71-17 in games played after Nov. 1 since 2001, not a good sign for the Colts this week and everyone else for the rest of the year.
  5. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)—The Bengals controlled the ball for 40 minutes exactly as RB Cedric Benson churned out 117 yards on 34 carries. Cincy is now 4-0 versus the AFC North and will look to run their record to 5-0 when they take on the Steelers this week. They are certainly the surprise team of the first half of 2009.

     

    cedricbenson

    Benson's success has the Bengals pacing the AFC North

  6. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)—After a first half in which the Steelers could not get anything going offensively, they went no-huddle and shredded the Broncos for 173 yards on the ground and three touchdowns by game’s end. Big Ben and Rashard Mendenhall shined on Monday night for the Steelers to get to 6-2 and will host a big AFC North matchup this Sunday.
  7. Denver Broncos (6-2)—Following a field goal on their opening drive, every Broncos possession ended with an interception or a punt. Kyle Orton was forced into three picks and the Broncos’ previously vaunted D had no answers for the Steelers offense in the second half. Time to shake off two consecutive blowouts; the Redskins may be the cure for what ails them.
  8. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)—The ‘Boys have ripped off four straight wins and find themselves atop the NFC East at the midway point of the season. Their offense’s ability to run out the last 4:27 of the game was an impressive exclamation point in their win at Philly and should have them feeling good as they head to Lambeau this week.
  9. Philadelphia Eagles (5-3)—The Eagles’ up-and-down season continues as they dropped a home game to Dallas, failing to hold a 4th quarter lead with a series of miscues including some from the bench. Now, Philly travels to San Diego to take on an energized Chargers team who is surprisingly fighting for first in their division at the halfway mark.

10.  Atlanta Falcons (5-3)—The Falcons sacked Campbell five times in the first half — a team record for sacks in a half. While they didn’t play their best game, they did manage to run the ball well and secure a victory over a reeling Redskins team. Next up is Carolina where they will try to continue to run their balanced offense and stay in control in the wild card race.

11.  San Diego Chargers (5-3)—Sometimes one drive can turn around a whole season and that may have happened in the Meadowlands this past week. QB Philip Rivers drove the Chargers to a go-ahead score with 21 seconds left on the clock for a dramatic comeback win against the Giants. That win coupled with the Broncos loss has them just one game out of the lead which seemed like it could be a runaway a few weeks ago. They get another chance to prove their worth this week when they host the Eagles.

12.  Arizona Cardinals (5-3)—QB Kurt Warner shredded the Bears for five TDs in a game that was really never in doubt. At 5-3, they control the NFC West for now and could deliver an early knockout blow to the Seahawks this week.

13.  New York Giants (5-4)—Four short weeks ago, the G-Men found themselves atop this hallowed list (shameless self-promotion) and now goes into a bye week out of playoff contention in Week 10. If one could point to one issue it would be easier to analyze their problems but, right now, several areas are failing them. They will fight back into the playoff picture this season but injuries and age have made their once formidable defense look ordinary.

14.  Baltimore Ravens (4-4)—The Ravens had not given up 100-yard rushing games to the same player in the same season since 1997 until Cedric Benson accomplished the feat this week. They also must have left the game a bit shell-shocked having held the ball for only 20 minutes and scoring only seven points in garbage time. It’s regrouping time when they play the Browns on Monday night.

15.  Houston Texans (5-4)—Gary Kubiak let time run out to the two-minute warning and cost his team the ball (and crucial points) after a replay reversal and K Kris Brown came up empty after coming up so big earlier in the game which led to a tough loss at Indy. Frankly, turning the ball over three times will keep you out of the win column most times against anybody and almost always when it’s the Colts on the other side of the ball. The Texans will have a long two weeks to think about that loss with the bye week preceding a Monday night matchup.

16.  Green Bay Packers (4-4)—Three interceptions and six sacks allowed go a long way in explaining how the Pack blew a 4th quarter lead and allowed 21 points in the final stanza. High hopes for Green Bay have faded fast for this season with the realizations that they cannot protect QB Aaron Rodgers or come up with key stops on defense when they need them.

17.  Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4)—The Jags’ went into ball control mode from the start of the game and held the ball for over 36 minutes. They held off a valiant comeback effort by the Chiefs and at 4-4 are at least in position to challenge for the playoffs in the second half of the year. Next up: New York Jets.

18.  Chicago Bears (4-4)—QB Jay Cutler’s super fantasy stats should fool no one. The offense is not clicking in the way that anyone anticipated and the defense finds themselves in the lower third of the league in points allowed.

19.  San Francisco 49ers (3-5)—The Niners committed four turnovers which led to 24 points for the Titans. Getting run over for 152 yards is not something we would expect out of a Mike Singletary-coached squad.

20.  Miami Dolphins (3-5)—There may not be a team fighting harder to get to .500 than the Dolphins. They are giving it all for Tony Sparano but they just couldn’t get the key stops versus the Pats. They host Tampa coming off their first win and the Fish are unlikely to let them make it two in a  row…

21.  New York Jets (4-4)—The Jets’ embodied the trials and tribulations of a .500 team as they saw great highs (upsetting hated rival New England) and terrible lows (swept by hated rival Miami) through eight games. One can be sure that head coach Rex Ryan worked tirelessly during the bye week to get the team back on track for this week’s contest against Jacksonville.

22.  Buffalo Bills (3-5)—Despite some significant injuries and, at times, abysmal play the Bills can potentially build on their first half. That building process better ramp up quickly as most players and coaches should consider themselves on the hot seat for the duration of the season. Out of their bye week, they go to Tennessee where they hope there is no Music City Miracle in sight.

23.  Carolina Panthers (3-5)—The Panthers hung tough with the league’s top team at New Orleans but three lost fumbles were too much to overcome. Their ability to run the ball so effectively is a sign that they may be one of the struggling teams that rights the ship in the second half of 2009. Hosting Atlanta this week will be a big test.

24.  Seattle Seahawks (3-5)—Seattle capitalized on five INTs turning them into 20 points as they battled back from a 17-point deficit. They travel to Arizona this week in a game that could have their season on the line.

25.  Washington Redskins (2-6)—Looking at the box score would not tell the Redskins’ whole story since they matched up well with the Falcons’ stats. Their inability to protect QB Jason Campbell (5 sacks) and to get the ball in the end zone (they have yet to score over 17 points) have everyone, especially Jim Zorn, wishing the second half of the season simply is over quickly.

26.  Oakland Raiders (2-6)—When your team can’t score points (30th in the NFL) and can’t stop other teams from scoring (25th in the NFL), it doesn’t need to be said that you’re in possession of a failure recipe. It starts at the top where exceedingly eccentric owner Al David hired a head coach, Tom Cable, who appears to be one of the inmates running the asylum. The Raiders may have more talent on defense than other teams but there are just too many holes organization-wide for them to be able to overcome the obstacles. This will get worse before it gets better.

27.  Tennessee Titans (2-6)—After committing 18 turnovers in their first six games, the Titans have none in their last two (both wins). RB Chris Johnson leads the NFL with 959 rushing yards and with play like this will lead the Titans to a few more wins before the season is over. QB Vince Young is playing his role well and will try to make it three in a row against Buffalo.

28.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7)—The Bucs make a nice-sized leap out of the basement based on the level of competition that they beat relative to their peers in or near the basement. It may have taken a wild finish to ice the game but came up with six sacks and three INTs to put their newbie QB Josh Freeman (3 TDs) in a position to win. The creamsicle-colored jerseys appropriately had years and years of losing associated with them until Sunday. Maybe they can make it two in a row against Miami…

29.  Kansas City Chiefs (1-7)—With the Larry Johnson scandal hanging over their heads, the Chiefs once again fought hard and came up short to the Jaguars. LJ is no longer with the team and head coach Todd Haley will need to figure a way for his 27th ranked offense to get it going along with his 27th ranked defense…it’s a marathon, not a sprint, right???

30.  St. Louis Rams (1-7)—The NFL schedule-makers probably even feel guilty about setting the one-win Rams up with the Saints at this stage of the season. I suppose if there IS a week for St. Louis to play them, it might as well be with an extra week to prepare as they come off their bye week.

31.  Detroit Lions (1-7)—“In youth we learn; in age we understand.” Matt Stafford threw five INTs and the Lions blew a 17-point first half lead against the Seahawks. These are tough lessons to learn for the young Detroit team and playing the Vikings in Minny coming off a bye may be another one of those lessons…

32.  Cleveland Browns (1-7)—The Browns were given a much-needed bye week to collect themselves after a miserable first half of the season that ended with the firing of their GM George Kokinis. Now, head coach Eric Mangini will have to decide whether Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson will be the QB to make the second half of the season a little more productive and save his job in the process.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 9

November 6, 2009

We have whittled our way down to two teams (Colts, Saints) on top of the mountain and they both appear to be poised to remain there for quite some time. The Ravens sent a message that they are not to be forgotten about and the Cowboys followed suit. The Rams scratched and clawed their way out of the cellar and we have a new team blazing its way toward a dubious distinction despite a week off…here we go from No. 1 to No. 32…

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The Saints keep on marching on...

1. New Orleans Saints (7-0)—Just another day at the office for Drew Brees, who threw for 300 yards and two scores. You know they are playing at a high level when the offense picks up 437 yards and 28 points and you come away not as impressed as usual. The defense was the difference-maker again, picking off Atlanta QB Matt Ryan three times.

2. Indianapolis Colts (7-0)—Good teams win ugly so the saying goes. Indy struggled at times and QB Peyton Manning failed to throw a TD pass despite racking up 347 yards through the air. But, they were able to control the clock enough to keep Niners’ RB Frank Gore in check most of the day and will face the Texans is a big divisional matchup this week that could be a shootout.

3. Minnesota Vikings (7-1)—Favre’s big return to Lambeau was a success for him and left Packers fans feeling betrayed. With the Vikings off to their best start since 2000, they have hit the halfway point of their season and bye week feeling great.

4. Denver Broncos (6-1)—The Broncos finally fell from the ranks of the unbeaten and decidedly so. The Ravens controlled the action all day allowing Denver to enter the red zone just one time on the day. This week, they host Pittsburgh in another key AFC contest.

5. New England Patriots (5-2)—The Pats have crept into the Top 5 during their week off which is probably where they have belonged all along as they are an elite team. This week’s tilt against the Dolphins will set the tone for them and the AFC East for the remainder of the season.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)—The Bengals’ bye week appears to have been well-timed as they host Baltimore in a huge AFC North matchup. They will be out to prove that the first half of 2009 was no fluke.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2)—Monday Night Football gets another great game as the Steelers travel to Mile High to take on the now once-defeated Broncos. The Steelers are another team that received a well-timed bye, we’ll see if they can take advantage of it.

8. Philadelphia Eagles (5-2)—The sheer 40-17 domination of their bitterest rival was enough to make Eagles fans happy for a long time. Hitting three huge plays of over 40 yards for touchdowns got the Eagles’ swagger back in a big way and they will need to show it again on a national stage this Sunday night vs. Dallas.

9. New York Giants (5-3)—The Giants are finding ways to plummet down this list every week. Between their inability to attack opposing defenses without turning it over and their linebacking corps getting torched a few weeks in a row (180 yards rushing for the Eagles this week), they look like a team in desperate need of a bye.  Unfortunately, they need to play the Chargers before their week of rest.

10. Baltimore Ravens (4-3)—The Ravens got back on track after a three-game skid by playing their game. They ran the ball well (125 yards), threw the ball efficiently (20 of 25), and held Denver to only 200 yards of offense. Up next is Cincinnati in a game where the Ravens will seek payback for a loss earlier this season.

11. Dallas Cowboys (5-2)—The Cowboys played well in all three facets of the game which paced them to an easy 38-17 victory over Seattle. It was a necessary win as they head to Philly this week for a first-place battle in the NFC East.

12. Atlanta Falcons (4-3)—The Monday night game in New Orleans had to be a wakeup call for the Falcons. They will need to be much better than they were to compete with the Saints in that division because giving up over 400 yards and throwing three interceptions is not something that will win you many games.

13. Houston Texans (5-3)—Kudos to Houston who, at 5-3, is two games above .500 for the first time in franchise history. RB Ryan Moats filled in nicely for the benched Steve Slaton and the Texans’ defense held the Bills to only 207 yards of offense. Indianapolis will prove to be a much stiffer test and it will put the league on notice if an upset occurs.

14. San Diego Chargers (4-3)—The Chargers won their 13th consecutive game against the Raiders and did so by outgaining them 346-180. It was not a win that would earn them any style points but is just what they needed as they travel to NY to face the slumping Giants.

15. Arizona Cardinals (4-3)—Kurt Warner was forced into six turnovers in a brutal loss to Carolina on Sunday. His struggles are front and center as the Cardinals have failed to gain any momentum this season. Next up: a trip to Soldier Field to face the Bears.

16. Green Bay Packers (4-3)—The Packers are going to need to find a way to protect QB Aaron Rodgers or he won’t be around to finish the season suffering a league-high 31 sacks. Heading to Tampa this week should be a nice way to land safely and get back on track.

17. Chicago Bears (4-3)—Matt Forte paced the Bears with two rushing touchdowns as they controlled the clock for over 37 minutes versus the lowly Browns. They will try to keep things moving forward when they take on the Cardinals this Sunday.

18. San Francisco 49ers (3-4)—The Niners suffered yet another tough close defeat, this time courtesy of the Colts. Their inability to convert on third down (2 of 10) coupled with two turnovers kept them from holding their 14-6 halftime lead. Tennessee comes to San Fran this weekend trying to make it two in a row, not something the Niners can afford to let happen.

19. Miami Dolphins (3-4)—The Dolphins scored 21 third-quarter points without the benefit of having their offense on the field and outlasted the Jets 30-25. Ted Ginn’s return heroics were a huge boost for a Miami team looking to get back to the .500 mark. Their trip to New England this weekend will likely set the agenda for the AFC East for the remainder of the season.

20. New York Jets (4-4)—Giving up two 100-yard plus touchdowns on kickoff returns is no way to win a football game as the Jets proved against Miami. They head into their bye week looking every bit the up-and-down team their record suggests.

21. Buffalo Bills (3-5)—The Bills held the ball for only 20 minutes and simply could not sustain any drives going 2-for-10 on 3rd down conversions. Buffalo heads into their bye week with a ton of question marks but will be getting Trent Edwards back after the hiatus. Coach Dick Jauron and his young QB will both be on the hot seat in the second half.

22. Carolina Panthers (3-4)—The Panthers ran the ball for 270 yards and took advantage of six Cardinals’ turnovers in their 34-21 win. They will look to establish the run yet again and get to .500 with a very big test at New Orleans.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4)—Giving up 305 yards rushing and holding the ball for 20 minutes make it very difficult to win in the NFL. The Jags were gashed by the Titans and will look to rebound against the well-rested Chiefs this week.

24. Seattle Seahawks (2-5)—Seattle made it look easy for Dallas and with injuries that have piled up; they need to turn it around quick before the season is completely lost. Facing the Lions this week should help but a loss here will effectively end their season.

25. Washington Redskins (2-5)—The Redskins have created enough drama amongst their coaching staff an front office to last several seasons and we’re not even at their halfway point yet. Head coach Jim Zorn has his work cut out for him against the Falcons in Atlanta this week.

26. Oakland Raiders (2-6)—Another week, another struggle. The Raiders had a difficult time moving the ball against the Chargers and continue to look for answers on the offensive side of the ball as they head into bye week. Hint: JaMarcus Russell is not it.

27. Tennessee Titans (1-6)—The insertion of QB Vince Young into the lineup appeared to be just what the doctor ordered as the Titans exploded for 30 points. RB Chris Johnson paced Tennessee with a franchise-record 228 yards rushing as they held the ball for nearly 40 minutes. They head to San Fran to battle a tough Niners team this Sunday.

28. Kansas City Chiefs (1-6)—I would imagine that anytime you’re 1-6, an off week is a good thing. But, it’s back to business again the Jaguars this Sunday.

29. St. Louis Rams (1-7)—No one wants to see another team go 0-16 so good for the Rams for digging out of last place of the rankings. Steven Jackson was the big factor in their first win after 17 straight losses by ripping off 149 rushing yards and a score. Consider this a bye week well-deserved for St. Louis.

30. Detroit Lions (1-6)—That single win is starting to seem like a distant memory. One can appreciate QB Matt Stafford playing hurt but he will have to be better for them to have a chance at the end of games. They go to Seattle this week to try and steal win No. 2.

31. Cleveland Browns (1-7)—QBs Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn both saw time in a 30-6 debacle of a loss to the Bears. Five turnovers, less than 200 yards of offense, and a listless defense led to more controversy and the firing of their GM George Kokinis. The downward spiral may very well continue but the bye week gives the organization and their fans a one week respite.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7)—Hopefully, some of the Bucs players were able to take advantage of their off week and stayed in London because the vacation is over…and the reality that awaits them is ugly. Maybe their throwback jerseys can shake things up against the Pack this Sunday—then again it could remind us of the good old days.



Mike Blewitt’s NFL Power Rankings – Week 7

October 20, 2009

One would think that you could not ask for a better game than matching up the top two teams in the power rankings only a blowout left us…unfulfilled. Tom Brady had Patriots fans thinking of the glorious days of yesteryear (it was 2007, relax), Favre-mania is running wild in Minny, and the QB passing numbers across the entire league had fantasy geeks awkwardly high-fiving each other on Monday morning at the water cooler.  Here we go from the NEW No. 1 New Orleans Saints all the way to ol’ reliable Rams at No. 32…

Is this the year it all comes together for Brees in New Orleans?

Is this the year it all comes together for Brees in New Orleans?

1. New Orleans Saints (5-0)—The marquee matchup was ALL New Orleans as Drew Brees & Co played nearly flawless offensive football and torched the Giants 48 points. The Saints topped the 40-point mark for the third time this season and this time did it against the league’s previously top-ranked defense. They have officially earned this No. 1 ranking on the field.

2. Indianapolis Colts (5-0)—The Colts bring their well-rested and increasingly healthy team to St. Louis after the bye week which almost seems unfair.

3. Minnesota Vikings (6-0)—Another fantastic finish in Minnesota as the Vikings and Ravens combined for 34 fourth-quarter points. While the Vikes defense does not seem as dominant as they were a year ago, the Adrian Peterson-Brett Favre combo is providing a well-balanced punch that can put away any team in the league. Next up: They go to Pittsburgh for another stern test of their undefeated record.

4. Denver Broncos (6-0)—The Broncos defense came up with five sacks and held San Diego to just 2 of 11 on third downs; they continue to impress the entire NFL-watching nation. Oh, by the way, Eddie Royal returned a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown, only the 11th player to do so in league history.

5. New York Giants (5-1)—When it rains, it pours. The Giants No. 1 pass defense looked anything but that on Sunday against the Saints as they allowed four touchdowns and 369 yards through the air. This is still a team who will be fighting for home-field advantage at season’s end but they lost some leverage after this past week’s performance against New Orleans.

6. New England Patriots (4-2)—A little film study and a 0-5 opponent can go a long way to boosting a team’s confidence. Skewering that team for team records of 59 points, 651 yards, and five passing TDs in one quarter is like a Tony Robbins infomercial boost…in the snow.

7. Atlanta Falcons (4-1)—While Matt Ryan the rest of the offense took advantage of their scoring opportunities, the real story for Atlanta was their defense who created two Chicago turnovers in the red zone. The Falcons travel to Dallas needing every win they can get to keep pace with divisional rival and top-ranked New Orleans.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)—Their inability to run the ball effectively led to their second loss of the year as Houston also tore their defense apart all day. The loss of DE Antwan Odom is a big one for the Bengals who will need to rally quickly as they take on a desperate Bears team this Sunday.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)—Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to over 500 yards of offense as they beat the Browns for the 12th consecutive time. Three lost fumbles prevented a blowout and showed signs that Pittsburgh is still having trouble putting teams away but Troy Polamalu’s return from injury will be a big key for their success moving forward in 2009.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)—The Eagles were able to pick up 4.8 yards per carry on the ground yet called only 14 rushing plays on the afternoon in Oakland. The one-dimensional offense provided the Raiders the opportunities for six sacks and led to QB Donovan McNabb having an inaccurate day under center (22 for 46). I would guess the Redskins are in for a heavy dose of Eagles bounce-back win on Monday night.

11. Baltimore Ravens (3-3)—Heartbreak city again for the Ravens as kicker Steven Hauschka missed a 44-yard field goal with no time left. This was their third consecutive last minute loss so they will use this bye week to get past the frustration and figure out how to slow down opposing offenses; they rank 22nd in the league in pass defense.

12. Arizona Cardinals (3-2)—Kurt Warner had a very efficient day as he passed the 30,000-yard mark for his career and put Arizona back on track as they head to New York to take on the Giants. The Cardinals pass defense, which ranked dead last before Sunday, held Seattle to just 112 yards through the air and 128 total—great sign for them moving forward this season.

13. San Francisco 49ers (3-2)—The Niners probably spent most of their bye week erasing the 45-10 shellacking from Atlanta out of their memories. They get RB Frank Gore back and will head to Houston to try to slow down their offensive attack.

14. Green Bay Packers (3-2)—It may be difficult to find negatives in a 26-0 win but I am up for the challenge. The Packers have allowed a league-high 25 sacks and committed 13 penalties for 130 yards against the Lions. They were a favorite amongst many to be the dark horse this season but look every bit the also-ran at this stage of the season.

15. Chicago Bears (3-2)—The Bears may be shaking their heads over this one for a while, losing by seven points after coming up empty in the red zone three times. They will need to regroup quickly as the Bengals are up next.  The 27th-ranked rushing attack needs a boost as well…

16. Dallas Cowboys (3-2)—The Cowboys have managed to make every game seem tough but their opponent coming off the bye week, the Atlanta Falcons, will likely prove to be more than just a worthy adversary this week.

17. New York Jets (3-3)—For all the people who bought tickets to the Mark Sanchez bandwagon, they are non-refundable…five interceptions by the rookie killed a 300-yard rushing performance by Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. This was an inexcusable loss for the Jets who have now dropped three straight and look every bit a .500 team.

18. Houston Texans (3-3)—The Texans are arguably the hardest team in the league to figure out but their offense seems to be very straightforward right now; Matt Schaub threw for nearly 400 yards and four TDs in a key victory over the Bengals. They stuffed the run and dominated the clock with over 36 minutes of possession providing them with great momentum as they take on the Niners this Sunday.

19. San Diego Chargers (2-3)—After this week’s loss to the undefeated Broncos, the division crown already looks lost but there are plenty of games left and an immediate turnaround is necessary. The transformation needs to begin on defense where they are near the bottom of the league in points allowed.

20. Seattle Seahawks (2-3)—Seattle’s offense looked inept just a week after posting 34 points on offense. They held the ball for only 17 minutes and roll into their bye week a very up-and-down team.

21. Miami Dolphins (2-3)—After the way the Saints looked on Sunday, the Dolphins should be happy to have had two weeks to prepare for them, they may need every last minute.

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3)—The squeaky wheel got the grease as Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 133 yards and three TDs against the lowly Rams. MJD said last week that he was upset with his “decoy” role yet manned up and helped earn a victory for the Jags despite three crucial turnovers that forced this contest to overtime.

23. Carolina Panthers (2-3)—The Panthers got back to their strong suit by rushing for 267 yards in a victory over Tampa Bay. Despite continually shaky play by QB Jake Delhomme, their ability to pound opponents on the ground will win them some games going forward and this is not a team that should be counted out yet.

24. Washington Redskins (2-4)—The ‘Skins have yet to play a team that has a win entering the game in which they face off. Head Coach Jim Zorn’s days are clearly numbered as he was relieved of his play-calling duties by the team’s management and Q B Jason Campbell was benched. Maybe Sherm Lewis can get things on the right track…I’m not buying that either but I had to try.

25. Buffalo Bills (2-4)—It doesn’t matter how you win, just if you win. Trent Edwards was added to the long list of injured Bills players and K Rian Lindell made up for his miss in regulation by nailing a 47-yarder in OT to win it. The Bills will have a long road to climb in the AFC East but they can get some momentum going by taking out Carolina this Sunday.

26. Oakland Raiders (2-4)—The Raiders played their most complete game of the season and earned a shocking win over the Eagles. Oakland controlled to clock and put Philly in a position to throw the ball downfield, amazing considering they ranked 30th against the run going into the game. They host the Jets this weekend in what should be a very ugly contest.

27. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)—This one was not pretty but the Chiefs toughed it out by controlling the ball for over 37 minutes. They have been embroiled in close battles all season and will be in for a brawl this Sunday versus the Chargers.

28. Detroit Lions (1-5)—It’s a good thing the Lions grabbed that win when they had the chance a few weeks ago because they have been awful since. They managed only 149 yards of offense total and have run their winless streak in Green Bay to 19 games.

29. Cleveland Browns (1-5)—Less than 200 yards of offense and four turnovers led to a 12th consecutive loss to the Steelers. They rank 31st in the NFL in total offense and will probably not climb much further than that if this QB play continues.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6)—The Bucs are off to their first 0-6 start since 1985 and are in the midst of a 10-game losing streak. Five fumbles, four sacks allowed, and two turnovers really does not point to any signs of improvement on offense. This week they get to take their show on the road to London, where the Pats will likely put on an offensive clinic for our international fans.

31. Tennessee Titans (0-6)—The wheels fell off the wagon a few weeks back but who would have thought it would come to this? The 59-0 shutout at the hands of the Pats was the largest point margin in an NFL contest since 1976 and shockingly has the league’s longest tenured head coach, Jeff Fisher, on the hot seat.

32. St. Louis Rams (0-5)—It will be no consolation to Rams Nation (is there one?) that their 16th straight defeat was a hard-fought one that went into overtime. Yielding 500 yards of offense and scoring only one offensive touchdown is simply nowhere near getting it done on the field. Lastly, playing the Colts coming off a bye week is about as bad a way to try to build momentum as there could be in the NFL…good luck, Rams.