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2009 NFL Season – Week 17 Rankings by Lloyd Vance

Backup QB Troy Smith and the Baltimore Ravens need a win in Week 17 to secure an AFC playoff spot

The last week of the 2009 NFL regular season will either be a happy or forgettable event for some NFL teams as the New Year rolls in.  Though 10 of the NFL’s 12 coveted playoff berths have been claimed, there are several Week 17 storylines around the two remaining berths plus  the “Who” and the “Where” pieces of the playoff puzzle left to be decided. 

The NFC playoff picture is pretty clear as all six playoff spots have been claimed (New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, and Green Bay Packers) with the Saints as the No. 1 seed, but the other five seeds need to be sorted out.  The AFC side of the ledger is a bit more complicated, though the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers have clinched the top two seeds, because there are 7 teams vying for the conference’s last two wildcard spots.

In looking at the current NFL standings one last time before the “real” games start, here’s the breakdown: The “Elite” – Colts (14-1), Saints (13-2), Chargers (12-3), Eagles (11-4), Vikings (11-4), and Cardinals (10-5); “In the Playoffs or on the Cusp” — Bengals (10-5),  Packers (10-5) Cowboys (10-5), Patriots (10-5), Ravens (8-7), and Jets (8-7); “Help Needed” teams that need help from others in their conference just to get in the playoffs  — Texans (8-7), Steelers (8-7), Broncos (8-7), Jaguars (7-8) and Dolphins (7-8); and lastly the “Finishing Out the String” teams (See you at the 2010 NFL Draft) – Giants (8-7), Falcons (8-7), Titans (7-8), Niners (7-8), Panthers (7-8), Bears (6-9), Seahawks (5-10), Bills (5-10), Raiders (5-10), Browns (4-11), Redskins (4-11), Chiefs (3-12), Buccaneers (3-12), Lions (2-13), and Rams (1-13)

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1.  Colts (14-1) – The champagne corks were flying for the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the Colts chose to “rest” key players in the second half of a disappointing loss to the “thankful” NY Jets.  I will debate the point all day that the Colts’ management was wrong to rest players, but GM Bill Polian’s crew has stuck to their “Non-Perfection” stance and we will see how the playoffs turnout.  Expect to see more of backup QB Curtis Painter and company as the Colts close out the regular season against the host Buffalo Bills.

2.  Chargers (12-3) – The Chargers won their 10th game in a row as they thumped the host Tennessee Titans on Christmas Day.  Don’t expect to see head coach Norv Turner to take his foot off the gas when San Diego hosts the Redskins in Week 17 as the Chargers want to go into the playoffs “hot”.

3.  Saints (13-2) – Ought…Oh, the formerly “perfect” Saints appear to be leaking oil as they head to the playoffs.  Though the Saints wrapped up the NFC’s number one seed, they did not look good as they squandered a 17-point lead in a disappointing home overtime loss to the scrappy Tampa Bay Bucs.  Even though the Saints shouldn’t have much to play for against the host Carolina Panthers, expect a strong effort from QB Drew Brees and company.

4.  Eagles (11-4) – Don’t look now, but outside of the San Diego Chargers, the Birds are the hottest team in the NFL.  In another tough close victory, the Eagles put aside Brian Dawkins homecoming to pull-out a win over the reeling Denver Broncos.  Somewhere former Eagles head coaches Dick Vermeil and Buddy Ryan are smiling as it will be Philly vs. Dallas for the NFC East division in Week 17.

5.  Cardinals (10-5) – As the playoffs approach, the Cards are getting better and have a running game.  The 2008 NFL runner-ups looked good in pulling out a tougher than expected NFC West division win over the St. Louis Rams.  With playoff seeding on the line, the Cardinals will host the Green Bay Packers and these two could possibly meet next week in the 1st round of the playoffs.

6.  Vikings (11-4) – I don’t care what anyone says, the Vikings are not on the right page at the wrong time of the season.  QB Brett Favre and company continued to limp into the playoffs as they lost in overtime to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.  With a shot at still claiming the NFC’s #2 seed, if the Eagles lose, expect the Vikings to get back on track by thumping the Giants.

7.  Patriots (10-5) – The Pats showed their veteran pedigree as they won their 3rd straight game with a drubbing of the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars.  You know Patriots head coach Bill Belichick would like nothing more than putting an end to the Houston Texans’ playoff hopes, so expect to see QB Tom Brady and WR Randy Moss in Week 17.

8. Cowboys (10-5) – The ‘Boys continued to answer the bell in December 2009 as they shutout the crawling home Washington Redskins.  In a signature game, Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips and QB Tony Romo have a chance to wash away a long history of end of season woes by beating the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17 and claiming the NFC East crown.

9.  Bengals (10-5) — The veteran group of head coach Marvin Lewis, QB Carson Palmer, and — dare I say it – Chad Ochocinco willed the Bengals to a win over the Chiefs to claim the AFC North.  With not much to play for by their late Sunday Night Football start, expect the Bengals to “rest” against the NY Jets who they quite possibly will see in the first round of the playoffs.

10. Packers (10-5) – Led by Pro Bowl CB Charles Woodson, the dangerous Packers destroyed the reeling Seattle Seahawks to claim one of the NFC’s wildcard spots.  Expect the Packers to go for a “momentum” win against the Cardinals in Week 17.

11.  Ravens (8-7) – The Ravens lost a tough road game to the Pittsburgh Steelers (dropped passes, touchdowns negate by penalties, and not enough pressure on Big Ben), but they still are in the driver’s seat in the AFC Wildcard race.  Expect to see Ravens head coach John Harbaugh to pull out all of the stops as Baltimore needs to get a win over the host Oakland Raiders to fulfill their playoff hopes.

12.  Steelers (8-7) – You have to wonder how bad the Steelers as kicking themselves for their 5-game losing streak that included losses to the Chiefs and Raiders.  The Steelers kept their flickering playoff hopes alive by winning a thrilling game over the Ravens.  The first order of business for the playoffs is for the Steelers to beat the host Miami Dolphins then hope for some help.

13.  Texans (8-7) – You know the upstart Texans would like nothing more than to end their 8-8 streak and sneak into the playoffs for the first time.  In Week 16, the Texans went on a mission to South Florida and kept their playoff hopes alive while sending the Dolphins closer to next year.  It will be “Put Up or Shut Up” time when the Texans host New England in Week 17, but Houston still will need some help for their first playoffs.

14.  Falcons (8-7) – Too bad QB Matt Ryan was hurt for some earlier crucial games as the Falcons are playing some of the best football in the NFL.  Mike Smith’s team continued their end of season run by thumping the hap-hazard Buffalo Bills.  In a pride game that will mean a winning season, expect Ryan and the Falcons to go all out in Week 17 versus the surging host Tampa Bay Bucs.

15. Jets (8-7) – I know the J-E-T-S are very close to securing one of the AFC’s wildcard berths, but they have a lot of work to do.  After Peyton and his crew handed the Colts’ backups a 5-point lead, it didn’t take long for Rex Ryan’s team to secure Jim Caldwell’s gift victory.  The Jets may get their second “gift” win in a row, on the way to the playoffs, when they face the Bengals who may also be resting players.

16. Giants (8-7) – The G-Men never showed up in a terrible loss to the Carolina Panthers in the Meadowlands’ last game.   It is player evaluation time for GM Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin as the G-Men travel to Minnesota in Week 17.

17.  Broncos (8-7) – Not even the return of former Eagles veteran safety Brian Dawkins could spur the reeling Broncos to a win in Philly.  Hard to believe after their hot start, the Broncos and energetic head coach Josh McDaniels are on the brink of missing the playoffs.  In order to keep their flagging playoffs hopes alive, the Broncos must first win at home against the Chiefs.

18.  49ers (7-8) – Mike Singlegtary’s team is getting better, but 2010 maybe their season.  The Niners hammered the ready-for-the-draft Detroit Lions. Looking to build something for next year, expect the Niners to try like crazy for (8-8) as they face the 1-win Rams in Week 17.

19.  Panthers (7-8) – Panthers head coach John Fox got the okay to return in 2010, but does he? Too bad Fox took so long to insert QB Matt Moore as the starter, because the youngster looked good again this time in a win over the Giants.  The Panthers will continue to play “spoiler” when they host the suddenly stumbling New Orleans Saints.

20. Titans (7-8) – Not even Santa could wrap-up a win for V.Y and the Titans against the red-hot Chargers on Christmas Day.  With visions of V.Y producing again in 2010, the Titans will look to finish (8-8) when they face the Seattle Seahawks.

21.  Dolphins (7-8) – Week 16’s “Desperation Bowl” against the Houston Texans did not produce a good result for Miami.  The Dolphins will be looking to finish .500 and keep their flickering playoff hopes alive when they face the Steelers in Week 17.

22.  Jaguars (7-8) – The Jags have limped home after being in the AFC Wildcard driver’s seat at (7-5) after 13 weeks.  The  New England Patriots showed no mercy as they pounded the Jags in a deflating loss.  With their playoff hopes on life support, the Jags will try to get a win in Cleveland against the red-hot Browns.

23.  Bears (6-9) – The real “Monsters of the Midway” showed up as the Bears looked like a new team in producing a Monday Night Football overtime win against the Vikings.  Maybe QB Jay Cutler can pull another win out of his magic hat as the Bears face the Detroit Lions in Week 17.

24.  Browns (4-11) – You have to believe that the Browns are really starting to impress new football czar Mike Holmgren as they dominated the Oakland Raiders.  The Browns will try to save head coach Eric Mangini’s job as they host the playoff-hopeful Jacksonville Jaguars.

25.  Raiders (5-10) – Oakland put-up a fight, but the surging Cleveland Browns were too much for them.  Could the Raiders play the role of spoiler for the second year in a row?  The Raiders host the Ravens, who just need to get a win to make the playoffs.

26.  Bills (5-10) – It looks like the Perry Fewell head coaching experiment is about to end as the Falcons bludgeoned the Bills in Week 16.  It will be interesting to see how the Colts’ JV team does in a meaningless Week 17 game in Buffalo.

27.  Seahawks (5-10) – The Hawks’ didn’t even bother to show up at Lambeau in a horrible loss to the playoff hungry Packers.  Expect to see plenty of young players when the Seahawks host the Titans in Week 17.

28.  Redskins (4-11) – After the Redskins were shutout by the Cowboys, new GM Bruce Allen probably cannot wait for Black Monday to fire “Dead Man Walking” head coach Jim Zorn.  Look for the ‘Skins to mail-it-in when they travel across the country to play the red-hot San Diego Chargers.

29.  Buccaneers (3-12) – Head coach Raheem Morris’ team responded to the challenge of facing the host 13-win Saints by beating them in overtime. The Bucs will look to keep fighting and learning when they host the Atlanta Falcons in Week 17.

30.  Chiefs (3-12) – The Bengals pulled out a tough home win over KC to win the AFC North.  With not much else to play for other than stats, the Chiefs travel to Denver for an old-time AFL battle with the Broncos.

31.  Lions (2-13) – The Niners showed no mercy in  thumping the Lions.  In a game that will only have draft slotting implications, the Lions will host the Chicago Bears.

32.  Rams (1-14) – The Cards piled-up more offensive stats in a quality win over the Rams.  It is “Just Lose, Baby” time for the Rams against the Niners so they can claim the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft – more than likely Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 16 Rankings by Lloyd Vance

LB Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers are looking to wrap-up a playoff berth in Week 16

It is now crunch time around the NFL and there is little time left to secure one of the league’s 12 coveted playoff berths.  Though the Saints, Colts, Eagles, Vikings, Chargers and Cardinals are all already in the playoffs, there are 13 teams still vying for the 6 remaining playoff spots up for grabs with two weeks left in the 2009 NFL Season.  Hopefully Week 16 of the NFL season will bring some much-needed clarity to a jumbled playoff picture, but we will have to wait and see as teams out of the mix like the Oakland Raiders (5-9) are still playing hard.

In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown: The “Elite” – Colts (13-0), Saints (13-1), Vikings (11-3), Chargers (11-3), Eagles (10-4), and Cardinals (9-5); “Strong Playoff Contenders” — Bengals (9-5),  Packers (9-5) Cowboys (9-5), Patriots (9-5), Giants (8-6), Ravens (8-6), and Broncos (8-6); “In the Hunt” teams that will soon be either in or out of the playoffs  — Jaguars (7-7); Jets (7-7), Dolphins (7-7), Steelers (7-7), Texans (7-7), and Titans (7-7); and lastly the “Finishing Out the String” teams (See you at the 2010 NFL Draft) – Falcons (7-7), Niners (6-8), Panthers (6-8), Bears (5-9), Seahawks (5-9), Bills (5-9), Raiders (5-9), Redskins (4-10), Chiefs (3-11), Browns (3-11), Lions (2-12), Buccaneers (2-12) and Rams (1-13)

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1.  Colts (14-0) – What a great game! The Jacksonville Jaguars fought hard the entire game but Manning to Wayne did the Jags in and the Colts wrapped up everything in the AFC.  It will be interesting to see if the NFL’s last unbeaten continues to chase the 1972 Miami Dolphins or rest players when they host the desperate New York Jets.

2.  Saints (13-1) – The Cowboys decided to not go into the December Night, so quietly.  QB Tony Romo and WR Miles Austin led Dallas to an upset on Saturday Night football that knocked New Orleans from the ranks of the unbeaten.  Though “perfection” is gone, the Saints still have work to do when they host the 2-win Bucs because NFC home field advantage is still at stake.

3.  Chargers (11-3) – In an emotional game, the Chargers continued their ascension to the top of the AFC playoff picture by pulling out a gritty win over the heavy-hearted Bengals.  With a chance to secure the AFC’s #2 seed and a first round bye, the Chargers will look to win their 11th game in a row as they travel to Tennessee to take-on the improving Titans in a Christmas Day special.

4.  Vikings (11-3) – Is it me or are there some cracks — no running game, injuries, poor quarterback play, and Favre/Childress feuding —  starting to form in the Vikings’ armor.  In a lackadaisical game, the Vikings were thumped by the Carolina Panthers on Sunday Night Football.  The Vikings better wake-up when they face the host Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, because the Eagles are hungry for the NFC’s #2 playoff spot.

5.  Eagles (10-4) – The Birds are looking like real contenders for the NFC crown after dismantling the Niners at the Linc –- Thanks to WR DeSean Jackson.  The Birds clinched their 8th playoff berth in Andy Reid’s 11-year tenure as head coach.  It will be an emotional homecoming for Denver Broncos safety Brian Dawkins as the Eagles and Broncos meet in a game with huge playoff implications.

6.  Cardinals (9-5) – It was a struggle, but the Cardinals pulled themselves together enough to put away the 2-win Detroit Lions and win the NFC West title for the second year in a row. If the Cardinals want to prove that they are legitimate contenders to return to the Super Bowl then they must take care of business against the 1-win Rams.

7.  Patriots (9-5) – Despite injuries all over the place, the Patriots gutted-out a tough victory over the better than expected Buffalo Bills.  With an eye on clinching the AFC East, the host Patriots will need to be ready for the desperate Jacksonville Jaguars led by RB Maurice Jones-Drew.

8. Cowboys (9-5) – Despite former kicker Nick Foulk trying to give New Orleans a chance, led by remarkable DE DeMarcus Ware, QB Tony Romo, and WR Miles Austin, the ‘Boys finally reversed their December fortunes by beating the formerly undefeated Saints.  The Cowboys cannot celebrate their big win over the Saints too long as they will need to take care of business in the Nation’s Capital against NFC East rival, the Washington Redskins.

9. Packers (9-5) – The Pack almost sent the Steelers to their 6th straight loss, but it was Big Ben and emerging rookie receiver Mike Wallace to the rescue as Pittsburgh pulled out a narrow victory.  Mike McCarthy’s team will be looking to get the one win needed to qualify for the playoffs when they host the struggling Seattle Seahawks.

10.  Bengals (9-5) — Cincy playing with a very heavy-heart almost stopped the San Diego Chargers winning streak, but the Bolts led by QB Philip Rivers pulled out a close victory.  Now that the Bengals have found their passing game again, expect Cincinnati to win one for fallen teammate Chris Henry and put away the AFC North when they host the tougher than their record KC Chiefs.

11. Giants (8-6) – The G-Men played with pride and emotion as they trounced the Redskins in all three phases of the game on Monday Night Football.  With no room for error, the Giants will need to forget about their big MNF win and concentrate on beating the Carolina Panthers in the Meadowlands.

12.  Broncos (8-6) – You would have thought Denver would have put up a better effort against their hated rival, the Oakland Raiders, but Tom Cable’s team ran all over them in a big win.  It appears that the Broncos are heading for their second straight year where they lose focus at the end of the year and nearly miss the playoffs.  In order to reverse their end of season swoon, the Broncos led by former Eagles veteran safety Brian Dawkins will need to beat the Birds in Lincoln Financial Field.

13.  Ravens (8-6) – The Ravens look like a new team as they have outscored their last two opponents 79-10.  It wasn’t even close as Baltimore humiliated the Bears to move closer to a playoff bid.  In a true grudge match, the Ravens travel to Pittsburgh to face the desperate Steelers, who have to win-out and get some help just to make it back to the playoffs.

14. Titans (7-7) – It took overtime, but V.Y gave a gritty performance and kicker Rob Bironas nailed the game-winner against the resilient Miami Dolphins.  On Christmas Day, the Titans will hope to unwrap a win over the surging San Diego Chargers.

15.  Dolphins (7-7) – In an overtime thriller, the Dolphins came back to make it a game, only to have the Titans led by QB Vince Young pull out the victory in the extra quarter.  In Week 16’s “Desperation Bowl”, the Dolphins will host the Houston Texans – both are (7-7) teams – with the loser packing it in for the season.

16.  Jaguars (7-7) – The only thing that I do know about the Jags is that they are the most inconsistent team in the NFL.  With a chance to put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat for the AFC playoffs, the Jaguars played great for 3 ½ quarters only to let the undefeated Colts off the hook on Thursday Night Football.  Hopefully the extra rest that the Jags got will help them in cold New England as the hungry Patriots are looking to permanently derail Jacksonville’s playoff hopes.

17. Steelers (7-7) – It was gut-check time for the 2008 Champs as it took a miraculous 500-yard passing performance by Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger to beat the upstart  Green Bay Packers by a very narrow margin.  For the second straight week at Heinz Field, the Steelers will look to revive their flagging season by winning a tough game against a playoff worthy opponent, this time against the Baltimore Ravens.

18.  Texans (7-7) – Can you please tell me how QB Matt Schaub threw for over 350 yards and the Texans still struggled to beat the 1-win Rams…but a win is a win.  If the Texans are hoping to avoid their third straight (8-8) season and want to keep their dimming playoff hopes alive, they will need to take care of business in Miami against the equally desperate Dolphins who are also (7-7).

19.  Falcons (7-7) – Even though they were eliminated from the playoffs earlier in the day, the Falcons led by tough QB Matt Ryan showed their resiliency in coming back to beat the host NY Jets.  You have to hand it to Falcons head coach Mike Smith as his team continues to fight-on and I am sure it will be no different this week when Atlanta hosts the T.O and the Buffalo Bills.

20. Jets (7-7) – With a chance to jump to the front of the AFC’s crowded playoff pack, the J-E-T-S, especially interception-prone QB Mark Sanchez, blew it against the comeback Atlanta Falcons.  NY Jets head coach Rex Ryan will definitely need a better effort from his quarterback and offense when the Jets travel to Indy with the J-E-T-S hoping that the Colts will be resting players.

21.  49ers (6-8) – Mike Singlegtary’s team showed that they are still just a little too young as mistakes doomed the Niners in a winnable game against the playoff bound Philadelphia Eagles.  With only pride on the line, the Niners will look to finish their season strong as they host the 2-win Detroit Lions.

22.  Panthers (6-8) – Maybe Panthers head coach John Fox is not done in Carolina after all.  The Panthers dominated the playoff-bound Minnesota Viking and harassed QB Brett Favre into mistakes in a season-defining Sunday Night Football win.  The Panthers can continue playing the role of “spoiler” when they travel to the cold and windy Meadowlands in search of a win against the G-Men.

23.  Raiders (5-9) – Al Davis’ team is one tough bunch and they showed it as they piled up over 200 rushing yards in a huge road win over the suddenly dormant Denver Broncos.  In a game that a couple weeks ago looked like Week16’s “Toilet Bowl”, but now it doesn’t…the Raiders will travel to Cleveland to face the improving Browns.

24.  Bills (5-9) – Buffalo lost two quarterbacks and possible Defensive Rookie of the Year, safety Jarius Byrd, in a physical loss to the New England Patriots.  Bills receiver Terrell Owens’ returns to his part-time home in Atlanta, Georgia as his team faces off against the Falcons in a “Pride Only” game.

25.  Bears (5-9) – Wow have the Bears fallen!  It looked like Chicago should have never boarded the flight to snowy Baltimore as the Ravens ran up and down the field with little resistance in a huge win.  With possibly Bears head coach Lovie Smith’s job on the line, the “Monsters of the Midway” better find their bite when they host the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.

26.  Seahawks (5-9) – The Hawks’ horrible season got even worse as they were humiliated at home the Tampa Bay Bucs.  Former Green Bay quarterback and current Seattle starter Matt Hasselbeck will look to return to Lambeau Field with win as the Seahawks face-off against the playoff hungry Packers.

27.  Redskins (4-10) – The ‘Skins probably made new GM Bruce Allen sick to his stomach as they were embarrassed by the NY Giants at FedEx Field on Monday Night Football.  With “Dead Man Walking” Redskins head coach Jim Zorn finishing out the string, Washington will hope to pull themselves together to give the surging Dallas Cowboys some competition.

28.  Browns (3-11) – With unbelievable performances by KR Josh Cribbs and RB Jerome Harrison, the Browns answered the bell over and over in a thrilling victory over the scrappy KC Chiefs.  With new Browns football czar Mike Holmgren watching, Cleveland will try to make it 3-consecutive wins when they host the Oakland Raiders.

29.  Chiefs (3-11) – Though quarterback Matt Cassell continues to struggle, the Chiefs may have found their running back of the future in speedster Jamaal Charles.  The Chiefs fought to the end against the Browns, in a game that may have been Week 15’s Game of the Week.  The Chiefs maybe facing “Mission Impossible” as they travel to Cincy to play the emotional Bengals, who are looking to lock up the AFC North.

30.  Buccaneers (2-12) – You can say what you want about young head coach Raheem Morris and his Bucs, but this improving team showed heart last week in a big win over the Seattle Seahawks.  The young Bucs better watch out as they are travel to New Orleans just one week after the Saints lost their first game of the season.

31.  Lions (2-12) – The Lions fueled by young QB Drew Stanton and their scrappy defense put up a good effort in a close loss to the playoff-bound Arizona Cardinals.  In a “Pride Only” game, the Lions travel to San Francisco to face the Niners and no-nonsense head coach Mike Singletary..

32.  Rams (1-13) – The poor Rams gave it their all, but they came up just short in a surprisingly tough game to the Houston Texans.  If the Rams know what is good for them – drafting dominating Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh first overall– they will lose to the Arizona Cardinals this week.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 14 Rankings by Lloyd Vance

December 10, 2009 1 comment

 

It is time for the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers (backup QB Dennis Dixon pictured) to rise from .500 into the playoff picture or get out of the way

With the third quarter of the 2009 NFL Season completed there is not much time left for teams to either join the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs or step aside.  I love this time of the year as desperation is in the air for everyone in the NFL with jobs and playoff berths both on the line in equal numbers.  After 13 weeks of NFL play, there are still the “Have’s” (10 teams with 8 wins or more including the league’s two undefeated teams — Colts and Saints both 12-0) and the “Have Nots” (8 teams with 4 or less wins, who are now basically spoilers).  But a good portion of the league (14 teams) are still caught in the parity-laden middle with records ranging from 7-5 to 5-7 including former 2008 playoff teams – NY Giants (7-5), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6), Baltimore Ravens (6-6), Atlanta Falcons (6-6), Tennessee Titans (5-7), and Carolina Panthers (5-7).  So with only four games remaining for teams there is little time left for the “Contenders” and “Pretenders” to sort themselves out — 10 playoff berths remaining.

In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown: The “Elite” – Saints (12-0), Colts (12-0), Vikings (10-2), Bengals (9-3), Chargers (9-3), and Cardinals (8-4); “Strong Playoff Contenders” — Broncos (8-4), Eagles (8-4), Packers (8-4), Cowboys (8-4), Patriots (7-5), Giants (7-5), and Jaguars (7-5); “Middle of the Road” teams that will soon be either in or out (8 losses or more) of the playoff hunt — Jets (6-6), Ravens (6-6), Steelers (6-6), Falcons (6-6), Dolphins (6-6), Texans (5-7), Titans (5-7), Panthers (5-7), Bears (5-7), Seahawks (5-7) and Niners (5-7); and lastly the “Ugly” (See you at the 2010 NFL Draft) – Bills (4-8), Raiders (4-8), Redskins (3-9), Chiefs (3-9), Lions (2-10), Browns (1-11), Rams (1-11), and Buccaneers (1-11)

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1.  Colts (12-0) – In a dominating win over the upstart Tennessee Titans, Jim Caldwell’s team pulled a hat trick.  The Colts tied the Patriots (2006-2007) NFL record for consecutive regular season wins (21), won their 12th game for an NFL record 7 seasons in a row, and claimed the AFC South Crown.  You have to wonder if Caldwell will follow in Tony Dungy’s footsteps by resting players rather than go for an undefeated season.  Look for all the Colts to play this week including QB Peyton Manning as potential playoff foe, the Denver Broncos, come to Indy.

2.  Saints (12-0) – Somebody up there likes the Saints as the Washington Redskins were one shanked field goal by now-departed kicker Shaun Suisham from winning in regulation.  However the Saints led by WR Robert Meachem took advantage of Redskins’ mistakes on their way to a thrilling overtime win.  The Saints undefeated express heads south to face the very injured Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome.

3.  Chargers (9-3) – Led by RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who ran into the NFL record books, the Chargers won their 8th straight game, this time over the tougher than expected 1-win Cleveland Browns.  Very quietly QB Philip Rivers is having a MVP type season and the Chargers are strong playoff contenders again (15-0 in December since 2005).  In a “respect” game, the Chargers will travel to Dallas in hopes of continuing the Cowboys’ December swoon.

4.  Vikings (10-2) – Sunday Night Football was not so magical for Vikings QB Brett Favre (2 INTs) and his crew as the Arizona Cardinals sprinted past Minnesota.  In a great match-up of two potential division winners, the Vikings will host the Cincinnati Bengals who are primed to claim the AFC North crown.

5.  Bengals (9-3) — Marvin Lewis’ team gladly feasted on the haphazard Detroit Lions in a game where Chad Ochocinco’s sideline antics were more entertaining than the game.  In a true test that will show the NFL where the Bengals stand in the league’s pecking order, Cincy will hit the road to Metrodome to face the angry Vikings.

6.  Cardinals (8-4) – With veteran QB Kurt Warner back under center, the Cards offensive firepower was hitting on all cylinders as they rolled over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football.  In a game that will definitely settle the NFC West, the Cardinals will travel to the Bay on Monday Night to face the inconsistent Niners, who are trying to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive.

7.  Eagles (8-4) – The Birds are making their usual December playoff push (3 consecutive wins) despite not having RB Brian Westbrook.  The Eagles had no problems hammering the beat-up Atlanta Falcons in QB Michael Vick’s triumphant return to the Georgia Dome.  In a highly anticipated NFC East black-and-blue game, the Eagles will travel up the turnpike to face the rejuvenated NY Giants on NBC Sunday Night Football.

8. Cowboys (8-4) – You hate to bring it up, but something about the end of the season brings out the worst in the Cowboys.  In a December Swoon Special, bonehead LT Flozell Adams woke-up the sleeping NY Giants in a tough NFC East divisional loss.  The Cowboys’ on the hot seat trio of head coach Wade Phillips, QB Tony Romo, and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett better turn desperation into a win when the surging San Diego Chargers come to town.

9. Packers (8-4) – The penalty flags were flying everywhere at Lambeau Field on Monday Night Football, but the Packers gladly accepted an easier than expect win over the reeling Baltimore Ravens.  The Packers and their highly rated defense cannot rest on their laurels when they travel to Chi-town to face bitter longtime rival, the Chicago Bears.

10.  Broncos (8-4) – In a true laugher, the Broncos led by their new one-two running back tandem thumped the lowly KC Chiefs.  It is time for the Broncos to show if they are truly a playoff contender as they travel to Indy to face the undefeated Colts.

11.  Patriots (7-5) – What the “bleep” is going on with the Patriots (lost two consecutive games for the first time since 2006) as the Miami Dolphins threw ball all over the place in a big AFC East win.  With the Dolphins and Jets getting dangerously close, the Patriots will need to find their playoff pedigree when they host the Carolina Panthers this week.

12.  Jaguars (7-5) – In a physical win that may propel them to a wildcard berth, the Jaguars dug deep for a tough win over desperate division rival, the Houston Texans.  In a “Battle for Florida” special, the Jaguars will host the Dolphins and it should be a good one as both teams are making their playoff push.

13. Giants (7-5) – The G-Men rebounded from being the Denver Broncos’ Thanksgiving turkey by protecting their home turf in a tough win over the Dallas Cowboys.  For the second week in a row, the Meadowlands will be the place to be in the NFC East as the rebounding G-Men host the hard-charging Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football.

14.  Dolphins (6-6) – The ‘Phins decided that going to the air was the best way to beat the Patriots and they were right as QB Chad Henne had a career game in a big AFC East win that kept Miami’s playoff hopes alive.  In a huge game with AFC playoff implications, the Dolphins will travel north to face the tough Jaguars.

15.  Ravens (6-6) – I am sure that Baltimore is still complaining about the officiating in their Monday Night massacre at the hands of the Packers, but where was QB Joe Flacco in the loss.  With basically their season on the line, the Ravens must thump the pathetic two-win Detroit Lions who come to the Charm City this week.

16. Steelers (6-6) – In a game that really showed a ton of cracks in the former Super Bowl Champion’s  armor, the Oakland Raiders continually got off the mat in a huge road win over the Steelers.  On NFL Network Thursday Night Football, it is no excuses time for the Steelers as they dearly need a win over the lagging Cleveland Browns to get back on track.

17. Jets (6-6) – The J-E-T-S continued their inconsistent ways, this time winning over the scrappy Buffalo Bills on Thursday Night football.  With some extra rest this week, everyone is expecting another “W” as the Jets head south to face the young Tampa Bay Bucs.

18.  Falcons (6-6) – Mike Smith’s team is so injured, it looks like the end of the Falcons playoffs hopes is near.  The Philadelphia Eagles took advantage of the Falcons’ depleted roster to cruise to an easy win.  With their season on the line, the Falcons maybe facing “Mission Impossible” when the high-flying undefeated New Orleans Saints come to town for a huge NFC South game.

19. Titans (5-7) – You knew after five straight wins, V.Y and the Titans had a loss coming their way and the undefeated Colts were very glad to put it on them.  After a brief derailment, the Tennessee .500 express should be back on track as the Titans play host to the struggling St. Louis Rams.

20.  Texans (5-7) – How come every year seems to turn-up 8-8 or worse for the Texans?  The Jaguars won a tough AFC South playoff type game and unfortunately for the reeling Texans, injured QB Matt Schaub was on the sidelines once again.  With their season on the line, it may be time for backup QB Rex Grossman to come to the rescue when the desperate Texans host the Seattle Seahawks in a 5-7 team special.

21.  Seahawks (5-7) – The Hawks made it two wins in a row as they pulled off a narrow victory over the Niners.  Veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck hopes to continue the Seahawks tiny resurgence as Seattle travels to Houston, TX play the desperate Texans in a game that will virtually end one team’s season.

22.  49ers (5-7) – Mike Singlegtary’s team showed once again that they are probably a year away from contending as the Seahawks pulled a minor upset to stay even with the Niners.  San Francisco’s season will be on the line as they host the NFC West division leading Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football.

23.  Panthers (5-7) – With head coach John Fox’s future hanging in the balance, the Panthers led by backup QB Matt Moore saved their coach for another week by disposing of the struggling Tampa Bay Bucs.  The Panthers better figure out a way to add some passing to their vaunted running attack when they travel to New England to face a Patriots defense that has allowed a ton of big passing plays.

24.  Bears (5-7) – It wasn’t a masterpiece, but the Bears kept their waning playoff hopes alive by beating the 1-win St. Louis Rams.  It is time for Bears QB Jay Cutler to earn his huge contract and trade promise by stepping up this Sunday when Chicago hosts the wildcard leading Green Bay Packers in a traditional Midwest black-and-blue game.

25.  Bills (4-8) – Not even interim head coach Perry Fewell and scrappy QB Ryan Fitzpatrick could pull the Bills past the NY Jets, who made it a point to shutdown receiver Terrell Owens (see Pro Bowl CB Darrelle Revis) in a big AFC East win on Thursday Night Football.  In Week 14’s “Toilet Bowl”, the Bills will be playing for pride this week when they travel to KC to face the finishing-out-the-string Chiefs.

26.  Raiders (4-8) – What a game for Pittsburgh homeboy and Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski.  The gritty former Bucs starter willed the Raiders to a tough road win over the Steelers after there were several opportunities for Oakland to quit.  In a game of two of the NFL’s biggest spoilers, the Raiders will attempt to equal their highest season win total in the last 7 years (5 games in ’04 and ’08) when they host the Redskins.

27.  Redskins (3-9) – The ‘Skins deserved a win for their never-say-die effort against the undefeated Saints, but kicker Shaun Suisham –since cut – was their undoing in a tough overtime loss.  With their season basically over an only a matter of time before beleaguered head coach Jim Zorn can hit the unemployment line, the Redskins will travel across the country for a showdown against the tougher than their record Raiders.

28.  Chiefs (3-9) – The Broncos ran up and down the field on the reeling Chiefs and it looks like some big changes to head coach Todd Haley’s team and staff are coming this off-season.  The Chiefs will host the Bills in this week’s Toilet Bowl, but I will be interested in seeing who gets more receiving yards KC’s Chris Chambers or the Bills’ Terrell Owens.

29.  Lions (2-10) – Detroit showed some fight in a loss to the Bengals, but with the losses mounting everyone needs to remember that this team set an NFL-low of going 0-16 in 2008.  Playing without injured starter Matthew Stafford, the Lions led by retread quarterback Daunte Culpepper will hope to spoil the host Baltimore Ravens playoff plans.

30.  Browns (1-11) – Too bad Browns quarterback Brady Quinn waited until the end of the season to look competent as the hapless Dawgs didn’t have enough for the surging San Diego Chargers.  On NFL Network Thursday Night Football, the Browns will hope to end their futility against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers (have lost 12 games in a row to P-Burgh) plus push Big Ben and the rest of the Steelers from the playoff picture.

31.  Rams (1-11) – Another ugly loss for the rebuilding Rams as the Bears found a way to not lose.  Strike-up the band as the Tennessee Titans fresh off a tough loss to the Colts will be looking to barbeque the struggling young Rams.

32.  Buccaneers (1-11) – The Carolina Panthers badly needed a win and the lowly Bucs were more than happy to provide them one.  In a game that could prove to be an upset special, the Bucs will host the inconsistent NY Jets, who will have QB Kellen Clemens under center.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 13 Rankings by Lloyd Vance

 

The New Orleans Saints led by their O-line (pictured OG Jahri Evans) thumped the New England Patriots and now they are No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings

With their comeback win over the Houston Texans in Week 12, the Indianapolis Colts clinched the AFC South crown so now there are only 11 coveted NFL playoff berths left.  In the next five weeks, we can expect the remaining 25 NFL teams with records ranging from 11-0 to 4-7 to continue to self separate into “Contenders” and “Pretenders”.  The upcoming NFL schedule has some great match-ups that will surely make it easier to see which teams will survive the league’s regular season championship rounds (December and early January) to make the playoffs, so buckle-up as the 2009 NFL regular season is almost ready to land. 

A common trend that I will be interested in, is the number of new teams making the playoffs after missing them the prior year.  In 2008, for the 13th consecutive NFL season, five or more teams qualified for the playoffs that were not in the postseason the year before (Arizona, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minnesota, Miami and Carolina).  This year the Bengals, Saints, Cowboys, Patriots, Packers, Broncos, and Jaguars are all strong contenders to make the playoffs after missing out on them in 2008.

In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown: The “Elite” – Saints (11-0), Colts (11-0), Vikings (10-1), Bengals (8-3), Cowboys (8-3), and Chargers (8-3); “Stuck in the Middle” teams, who are caught in the NFL’s parity-filled middle and need to either join the playoff hunt or fall back — Cardinals (7-4), Patriots (7-4), Broncos (7-4), Eagles (7-4), Packers (7-4), Giants (6-5), Steelers (6-5), Jaguars (6-5), Ravens (6-5), Falcons (6-5), Dolphins (5-6), Texans (5-6), Jets (5-6), Titans (5-6), and Niners (5-6); The “Pretenders”, who are trying to avoid their 8th loss which means they have joined  the league’s bottom rung – Panthers (4-7), Bears (4-7), Bills (4-7), and Seahawks (4-7); and lastly the “Ugly” (See you at the 2010 NFL Draft) – Redskins (3-8), Raiders (3-8), Chiefs (3-8), Lions (2-9), Browns (1-10), Rams (1-10), and Buccaneers (1-10)

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1.  Saints (11-0) – Wow, after their Monday Night football dismantling of the Patriots, there is no denying Sean Payton’s team the top spot any longer.  The Saints are explosive on offense, defense, and special teams plus their quarterback, Drew Brees, is putting up some unbelievable stats.  New Orleans will look to continue their franchise best start and try to avoid a letdown as they travel to the Nation’s Capital for a game against the dangerous Redskins.

2.  Colts (11-0) – Jim Caldwell’s team pulled out another “W” in a very close game against the Texans, but the Saints were more impressive.  The Colts are now AFC South champs and you have to wonder if they lock-up home field in the AFC, will they start “resting” some veterans.  In a clash of two miraculous streaks, the Colts will host the hard-charging Tennessee Titans (winners of 5 straight) and team-first QB Vince Young.

3.  Vikings (10-1) – If the Saints were not around everyone would be talking about comeback QB Brett Favre and the scary good Minnesota Vikings.  It wasn’t even close as Favre almost put up career number in a rout of the Chicago Bears and their inconsistent quarterback Jay Cutler.  Next up is a Sunday Night Football “flexed” game as the Vikes travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals in a potential playoff preview game.

4.  Chargers (8-3) – The Bolts have now won 6 games in a row after throttling the KC Chiefs in Week 12.  Surprisingly, the Chargers continue to fly under the NFL’s mainstream radar despite a MVP type season from QB Philip Rivers.  Head coach Norv Turner’s squad continues their tour of the NFL’s underbelly as they travel to Cleveland to face the 1-win Browns.  

5.  Bengals (8-3) — Marvin Lewis’ team rebounded from a bad road loss to the Oakland Raiders by thumping the Cleveland Browns to finish a perfect 6-0 in AFC North divisional games.  Another NFL cupcake awaits as the Bengals will gladly host the 1-win Detroit Lions.

6. Cowboys (8-3) – As usual the ‘Boys rolled on Thanksgiving, this time beating up the hapless Oakland Raiders on national television.  In an NFC East grudge match, the Meadowlands will be rocking as the struggling New York Giants host the Cowboys with their season on the line.

7.  Eagles (7-4) – The Birds made it two ugly wins in a row as they outlasted the reeling and injured Washington Redskins in a knock-down-drag-out NFC East battle.  Hoping to continue their usual November/December playoff push (2-game winning streak), the Birds will travel to the Georgia Dome to face a very injured Falcons’ squad.

8. Packers (7-4) – While probably trying in vain to catch the red-hot Minnesota Vikings in the standings, the Pack continues to put themselves in playoff contention.  The Packers dominated the terrible Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving.  In a great match-up of two teams looking to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt, the Baltimore Ravens led by future Hall of Famer LB Ray Lewis will look to get a tough road win at Lambeau Field on Monday Night Football.

9.  Broncos (7-4) – It was pass the gravy time as the Broncos feasted on the reeling NY Giants on Thanksgiving.  Denver hopes to stay on the heels of the surging San Diego Chargers, but they cannot look past the host Kansas Chiefs who are playing better since jettisoning malcontent Larry Johnson.

10.  Patriots (7-4) – The Pats looked old and confused as they had no answer for the high octane undefeated Saints on Monday Night Football.  Looking to rebound from an embarrassing national TV loss, the Patriots and QB Tom Brady will look to jump all over the host Miami Dolphins in a key AFC East match-up.

11.  Cardinals (7-4) – Even without starting QB Kurt Warner (concussion), the Cardinals were seconds away from a huge inter-conference win, but it was V.Y to the rescue for the Titans in a thriller.  In a game that was “flexed” by NBC to Sunday Night Football, the Cardinals hope to get Warner back and match the offensive firepower of the visiting Minnesota Vikings.

12. Steelers (6-5) – P-Burgh had another tough loss in Week 12 — their 3rd in a row — this time to the hated Baltimore Ravens in overtime.  Head coach Mike Tomlin’s team should be prepared this week and you have to feel sorry for the visiting Oakland Raiders, who are looking like a potential homecoming tomato can.

13.  Jaguars (6-5) – Just when you want to move Jack Del Rio’s team higher in the rankings, they lay another stinker. This time it was the San Francisco 49ers who laid the smack down on the up-and-down Jags.  In a game that is sure to have a playoff feel, the Jaguars will travel to Houston for a “Loser leaves town” match with the equally desperate Texans.

14.  Falcons (6-5) – Mike Smith’s team showed their toughness (lost QB Matt Ryan – toe and RB Michael Turner – ankle) in a win over the scrappy Tampa Bay Bucs.  In a huge game that will definitely have NFC playoff implications, the Falcons will take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the Georgia Dome with backup QB Chris Redmon making the start.

15. Giants (6-5) – The G-Men continued to fall further behind the Eagles and Cowboys in the NFC East race as they were soundly thumped by the Denver Broncos on Thanksgiving.  With QB Eli Manning trying to gut it out (foot injury), the Giants will look to save their season as they host the NFC East division leading Dallas Cowboys.

16.  Ravens (6-5) – Baltimore continues to show their toughness as this past week they beat the Steelers in overtime on Sunday Night Football.  With no room for error, the Ravens will travel to Lambeau to face the surging Packers on Monday Night Football.

17. Titans (5-6) – Titans QB Vince Young outdueled Matt Leinart again as he answered his critics with an incredible last second win over the Cardinals.  With their season on the line, the Titans will look to stop record setting QB Peyton Manning and the host Indianapolis Colts in a huge AFC South game.

18.  Texans (5-6) – It looks like the inconsistent Texans are headed toward another 8-8 season which could spell curtains for head coach Gary Kubiak.  The Colts came back from a 17-0 deficit to send the Texans to a tough home defeat.  If the Texans want to save their season and possibly their head coach’s job, they will need to take care of business in Jacksonville in an AFC South survival game against the Jaguars.

19. Jets (5-6) – The J-E-T-S, led by CB Darrell Revis, shutdown the pitiful Carolina Panthers as rookie QB Mark Sanchez outplayed struggling Panthers QB Jake Delhomme.  In an NFL Network Thursday Night special, head coach Rex Ryan will need his team to take care of business against the equally desperate Buffalo Bills.

20.  49ers (5-6) – The Niners continued their climb back to .500 as they beat-up on the inconsistent Jacksonville Jaguars.  If Niners head coach Mike Singletary’s team wants to climb all the way into playoff contention, they will have to avoid a letdown in Seattle against the Seahawks.

21.  Dolphins (5-6) – Buffalo Bills receiver Terrell Owens got his revenge on Miami Dolphins czar Bill Parcells as the Bills led by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick dominated the Dolphins.  If the ‘Phins are going to show the NFL that they belong in the playoffs, they will need to defend their home turf against the angry New England Patriots.

22.  Seahawks (4-7) – The Hawks finally found someone that they could beat-up on and the 1-win Rams were the willing victims.  In an NFC West statement game, the Seahawks will host the Niners in a game that will end someone’s season.

23.  Bills (4-7) – Despite the best efforts of the NFL’s new fantasy football combo, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and  WR Terrell Owens, the Bills came up short to Jacksonville in Perry Fewell’s head coaching debut.  In annual AFC East grudge match, the Bills will host the surging Dolphins and new Wildcat/former Toronto Argonaut RB Ricky Williams.

24.  Panthers (4-7) – It looks like Panthers head coach John Fox is going to go down with struggling QB Jake Delhomme.  The NY Jets capitalized on many Panthers’ mistakes to produce an easy win.  With their season on the line, the Panthers will host the 1-win Bucs in an NFC South basement special.

25.  Bears (4-7) – When the Bears traded for Jay Cutler, they thought they had the missing piece to competing with the Vikings for the top of the NFC North…Man were they wrong.  Cutler struggled again as  Minnesota and 40-year old QB Brett Favre picked the Bears apart.  In a game they have to win to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive, the Bears will host the 1-win St. Louis Rams in a must-win sitiuation.

26.  Chiefs (3-8) – KC had no answer for the surging Chargers, who won going away.  With their season basically over the Chiefs will now try to play spoiler as they host the Denver Broncos who are in the thick of the AFC West race.

27.  Redskins (3-8) – The injured ‘Skins and beleaguered head coach Jim Zorn couldn’t even capitalize on the sloppy Philadelphia Eagles mistakes in a loss that basically ended their season.  After the Saints huge win over the Patriots, could they be primed for a letdown game against the Redskins…probably not.

28.  Raiders (3-8) – Al Davis’ boys served as the turkeys for Dallas Cowboys on  Thanksgiving game.  The season can’t end any faster for embattled head coach Tom Cable’s team and I am sure it will get even worse as the Raiders play the angry Steelers in Pittsburgh.

29.  Lions (2-9) – Once again the Lions were stuffed and cooked on Thanksgiving, this time by the surging Green Bay Packers.  The road to the NFL Draft got even more tougher for the Lions as they face the host Bengals, who want to keep their lead in the AFC North.

30.  Browns (1-10) – QB Brady Quinn struggled badly as the Browns were spanked by the Bengals as they lost “The Battle for Ohio” badly.  Browns head coach Eric Mangini is on the hot seat after only 11 games and it may get even worse as the surging San Diego Chargers come to town.

31.  Rams (1-10) – If nothing else, Steve Spagnuolo’s team will fight till the end.  Unfortunately for the scrappy Rams, the Seahawks had too many offensive weapons in their lopsided win.  Look for the Rams to hand the ball off to powerback Steven Jackson when they travel to Chicago to face the inconsistent Bears.

32.  Buccaneers (1-10) – The Bucs are young, but improving and it showed in their effort against the Atlanta Falcons last week.  In a battle for the NFC South basement, the still hopeful Carolina Panthers will need to keep an eye on emerging rookie QB Josh Freeman.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 12 Power Rankings by Lloyd Vance

 

Led by new starting quarterback Vince Young, the Tennessee Titans are climbing up this week’s NFL Power Rankings after four straight wins

With only six weeks left in the NFL Season, the intensity has surely picked-up around the league.  With America’s holiday, Thanksgiving , upon us there are 23 teams with records ranging from 4-6 to 10-0 hoping to be thankful for one of the NFL’s 12 coveted playoff berths come this January.  But there is still is a lot of football left to be played and as shown by Week 11’s upsets — Chiefs over the Steelers and the Raiders over the Bengals — nothing is guaranteed.  So every NFL team better be prepared weekly as the separation into “Contenders” and “Pretenders” continues.

In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown: The “Elite” – Saints (10-0), Colts (10-0), Vikings (9-1), Bengals (7-3), Cowboys (7-3), Cardinals (7-3), Chargers (7-3), and Patriots (7-3); “Stuck in the Middle” inconsistent teams, who are caught in the NFL’s parity-filled middle and need to either join the playoff hunt or fall back — Broncos (6-4), Steelers (6-4), Jaguars (6-4), Eagles (6-4), Packers (6-4), Giants (6-4), Dolphins (5-5) Ravens (5-5), Falcons (5-5), Texans (5-5), Jets (4-6), Titans (4-6), Niners (4-6), and Panthers (4-6); The “Pretenders”, who are only a shade away from the league’s bottom rung – Bears (4-6), Bills (3-7), Redskins (3-7), and Seahawks (3-7); and lastly the “Ugly” (See at the 2010 NFL Draft) – Raiders (3-7), Chiefs (3-7), Lions (2-8), Browns (1-9), Rams (1-9), and Buccaneers (1-9)

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1.  Colts (10-0) – I know that Indy was glad veteran kicker Matt Stover was on their sideline instead of the Baltimore Ravens as Jim Caldwell’s undefeated team pulled out another “W”.  In a key AFC South game, QB Peyton Manning will lead the undefeated Colts into Houston to face a desperate Texans team looking to avoid another 8-8 season.

2.  Saints (10-0) – Alright I won’t break into my “Who Dat,” chant this week, but in another offensive explosion Sean Payton’s undefeated team quickly disposed of the 1-win Bucs.  The Saints are a perfect 10-0 for the first time in franchise history and with an incredible 369 points scored thus far, they are looking like the 1998 Minnesota Vikings or 1999 St. Louis Rams (you can choose) in terms of firepower.  Next up is the much-anticipated, “Battle of the Bayou” on Monday Night football as the surging New England Patriots come to town looking to halt the undefeated Saints magical run.

3.  Vikings (9-1) – Hard to believe with the Colts and Saints magical undefeated runs that the Vikings seem to be the forgotten team around the NFL.  Last week it was the Seattle Seahawks turn to remember that this year QB Brett Favre and the Vikes are not messing around.  In a NFC North divisional grudge match, the Vikings and Favre will host the inconsistent Chicago Bears and fickle quarterback Jay Cutler who reminds me a lot of a young No. 4 (takes too many chances that lead to INTs).

4.  Patriots (7-3) – The Pats wiped the awful taste of their 1-point loss to the Colts out of their mouths by dismantling and muzzling the reeling New York Jets.  In a statement game and the Week 12 Game of the Week, the Patriots and their second-guessed head coach Bill Belichick will look to re-establish themselves back to their lofty perch in the NFL when they take on the undefeated Saints on Monday Night Football.

5.  Chargers (7-3) – The Bolts have now won 6 games in a row and have re-established themselves as the lead dog in the AFC West after destroying the reeling Denver Broncos.   The Chargers will need to guard against a letdown when the tougher than their record Chiefs come to town for an old school AFL grudge that should bring back images of Hank Stram and Sid Gillman.

6.  Bengals (7-3) — Marvin Lewis’ team may have been a tad bit overconfident as they were surprised by the dangerous Raiders in Oakland.  Next up is “The Battle of Ohio” as heated rival, the Cleveland Browns, come to town fresh off finding their offense in a loss to the Detroit Lions last week.

7.  Cardinals (7-3) – The Cards had to hang-on after building a big lead and then losing QB Kurt Warner  in a physical win over the Seattle Seahawks.  In one of Week 12’s feature games, the Cardinals will travel to the Music City to face the red-hot Tennessee Titans who are led by rising quarterback Vince Young (4-0 as a starter in ’09).

8. Cowboys (7-3) – It was a win, but man was it ugly as the Cowboys put together one last drive to put away the Washington Redskins who were undone by their kicker.  Naturally America’s Holiday, Thanksgiving, on Thursday will feature “America’s Team” as the Cowboys take on the dangerous Oakland Raiders in Jerry Jones’ billion dollar play pen.

9. Steelers (6-4) – Mike Tomlin’s team surprisingly has lost two games in a row.  The Kansas City Chiefs hung around and next thing you know some big plays led to a great overtime win.  In a game that may define the Steelers season, Pittsburgh will need QB Ben Roethlisberger (head) to get back quickly as the 2008 champs  travel to Baltimore to face their bitter rival, the Ravens.

10.  Jaguars (6-4) – Despite a big effort by the Buffalo Bills led by WR Terrell Owens, the Jaguars continued their winning streak (3 games) and now look like a legitimate AFC wildcard contender.  The Jaguars cannot rest on their laurels when they travel to the Bay to take on the dangerous Niners who are still in the NFC wildcard hunt.

11.  Eagles (6-4) – The Birds ended their 2-game losing streak as QB Donovan McNabb and WR DeSean Jackson continued their big play ways plus Bears QB Jay Cutler overthrew everyone in an Eagles’ Sunday Night Football win.  With an eye on keeping pace with the NY Giants and gaining some ground on the Dallas Cowboys, the Birds will host the tough Redskins in an NFC East grudge match.

12.  Broncos (6-4) – What the “bleep” happened to the formerly 6-0 Broncos who were sent to their 4th straight loss in a bludgeoning by the AFC West leadting San Diego Chargers.  In an NFL Network Thanksgiving night special, the Broncos will need to wake-up as the NY Giants come to town led by improving quarterback Eli Manning.

13. Giants (6-4) – After four straight losses, the Giants and fiery head coach Tom Coughlin coming off the bye had to work overtime to finally subdue the resilent Atlanta Falcons.  The G-Men continue their quest to return to the team that started 5-0 this season as they travel to the Rockies for a huge Thanksgiving night game against the Broncos that will have playoff implications in both the AFC and NFC.

14. Packers (6-4) – The host Packers won the game over the inconsistent Niners, but the home win was costly as both CB Al Harris and OLB Aaron Kampman were lost for the season with knee injuries.    In an old-time Thanksgiving Day traditional match-up, the Packers will travel to Detroit to face the Lions who maybe without QB Matthew Stafford (shoulder).

15.  Ravens (5-5) – John Harbaugh’s team continues to fight till the end, but the NFL is all about “W’s” and this past week the undefeated Colts did just enough to leave their old hometown with a big win.  If the Ravens are ever going  to fully get into the AFC playoff race, they will need to wake-up and it starts this week as they host the Steelers in an AFC North grudge match.

16.  Texans (5-5) – Unfortunately for the Texans, their kicker Kris Brown turned into “Shank-a-surus” at the wrong time as the Titans won a crucial AFC South road game in Houston.  With possibly their season on the line, the Texans will host the undefeated AFC South leading Indianapolis Colts who could clinch the division with a win and a little help.

17.  Dolphins (5-5) – On Thursday Night football, it was Run Ricky—Run Ricky time as the Dolphins rode their new Wildcat to a big road win over the Panthers.  I wonder if Dolphins’ football czar Bill Parcels and Buffalo Bills receiver Terrell Owens, aka “The Player”, will get together for the Thanksgiving holiday as the Dolphins travel north to face the Bills.

18.  Falcons (5-5) – Without tough running back Michael Turner (ankle), the Falcons just are not the same and it showed in an overtime road loss to the Giants.  Next up is a must-win game as the Falcons host the energetic and dangerous Tampa Bucs in a possible letdown situation.

19. Titans (4-6) – Led by homeboy QB Vince Young and All-World RB Chris Johnson, the Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers) returned to their former hometown and won a close thrilling game over the host Texans. V.Y and the Titans will look to make it five in a row as they host the Arizona Cardinals in a game that could pit the starting quarterbacks from the 2006 Rose Bowl against one another again (Texas’ Vince Young and USC’s Matt Leinart).

20.  Panthers (4-6) – It was a rushing fest on Thursday Night Football, but the Panthers had no answer for the Dolphins Ricky Williams in a tough loss.  With their season on the line, the Panthers will look for their defense and Thunder-and-Lightning running back combo, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, to answer the bell against the inconsistent NY Jets.

21.  49ers (4-6) – The Packers despite missing a couple key players thumped the Niners, who look like they will be looking for a new quarterback in 2010.  In possibly their last chance to stay in the NFC playoff race, the Niners will look for some consistency against the surging Jacksonville Jaguars.

22.  Bears (4-6) – After another bad outing, Chicago fans maybe looking for their receipt for inconsistent quarterback Jay Cutler who overthrew at least three WR’s on potential scoring plays in a SNF loss to the Eagles.  In their last chance to get back in the NFC playoff race, the Bears will travel to Minnesota to face the surging Vikings and their multitude of offensive weapons.

23. Jets (4-6) – The J-E-T-S were no match for the angry Patriots, who were throwing the ball even when they had a big lead.  I think rookies head coach Rex Ryan and QB Mark Sanchez are both understanding that it is better to say “nothing” and just play the game in the topsy-turvy NFL.  In a battle of two desperate teams almost on the cusp of being eliminated from the playoff race, the hard-running Carolina Panthers travel to the Meadowlands to face the Jets.

24.  Redskins (3-7) – The ‘Skins put up a tough effort, especially on “D”, in a game where they came up just short against the Cowboys….Thanks kicker Shaun Suisham.   With their playoff hopes basically extinguished, we will see if beleaguered head coach Jim Zorn’s team can answer the bell in Philly while probably playing without big-ticket DT Albert Haynesworth.

25.  Seahawks (3-7) – The Hawks are tumbling to the bottom of the NFL at an alarming pace and last week they couldn’t even capitalize on the Cardinals playing the second half without QB Kurt Warner (concussion).  In Week 12’s “Giblet Bowl”, the Seahawks will travel to St. Louis for an ugly match-up with the 1-win Rams that will surely be blacked-out locally.

26.  Bills (3-7) – Despite the best efforts of the NFL’s new fantasy football combo, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and  WR Terrell Owens, the Bills came up short to Jacksonville in Perry Fewell’s head coaching debut.  In annual AFC East grudge match, the Bills will host the surging Dolphins and new Wildcat/former Toronto Argonaut RB Ricky Williams.

27.  Chiefs (3-7) – Look what getting rid of a malcontent like LJ can do for you.  The Chiefs led by new starting running back Jamaal Charles surprised the overconfident Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime sending the defending champs to their 2nd straight loss.  In an old time AFL special, the Chiefs will travel to San Diego to face the surging Chargers.

28.  Raiders (3-7) – With the addition of new starting QB Bruce Gradkowski into the line-up, the dysfunctional Raiders found their offense in an upset win over the bigheaded Cincinnati Bengals.  The Raiders will try to win two consecutive games for the first time this season as the Men in Black travel to Big D for a Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys.

29.  Lions (2-8) – In a game that was surprisingly the best game of Week 11, the Lions led by gritty rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford sent the surprisingly spirited Cleveland Browns further into the abyss.  Yes… everyone just like going to your grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving, even though it seems like forever, the nation still has to endure watching the Lions on TV on Turkey Day.  This year,  heated NFC North rival, the Green Bay Packers, come to town looking to feast on the Ford Family’s team.

30.  Browns (1-9) – QB Brady Quinn played courageously as the Browns and Lions clean-up Week 11’s “Toilet Bowl” in a close high-scoring game.  This week in “The Sam Wyche Bowl”, the Browns will travel to Cincy for an AFC North grudge match with the angry Bengals.

31.  Rams (1-9) – You have to hand-it to the spunky Rams as they fought the Cardinals to the bitter end even though they were badly short-handed due to injuries.  Since injured quarterback Marc Bulger (broken leg) cannot go this week, it will be up to backup QB Kyle Boller to lead the Rams against the visiting Seahawks.

32.  Buccaneers (1-9) – The undefeated NFC South leading New Orleans Saints let the Bucs score once then thoroughly spanked them.  The Bucs will look for a spark from rookie quarterback Josh Freeman when they travel up the road to face angry rival, the Atlanta Falcons.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 11 Power Rankings by Lloyd Vance

November 20, 2009 2 comments

 

After four consecutive wins,  WR Legedu Naanee and the San Diego Chargers are moving up Week 11’s Power Rankings

With all byes completed for the 2009 NFL Season, now the real fun starts. There are 12 coveted playoff berths left to be claimed in the final 7 weeks of the regular season, so now is the time for teams to separate into “Contenders” and “Pretenders”.  Whether a team is the Indianapolis Colts (undefeated along with the New Orleans Saints) or Tennessee Titans (rebounded with 3 straight wins after starting 0-6) there is still playoff hope for almost every NFL team.

In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown: The “Elite” – Saints (9-0), Colts (9-0), Vikings (8-1), Bengals (7-2),  Broncos (6-3), Steelers (6-3), Cowboys (6-3), Cardinals (6-3), Chargers (6-3), and Patriots (6-3); “Stuck in the Middle” inconsistent teams, who are caught in the NFL’s parity-filled middle and need to either join the playoff hunt or fall back — Jaguars (5-4), Falcons (5-4), Eagles (5-4) Texans (5-4), Giants (5-4), Ravens (5-4), Packers (5-4), Jets (4-5), Bears (4-5), Niners (4-5), Dolphins (4-5) and Panthers (4-5); The “Pretenders”, who are only a shade away from the league’s bottom rung – Bills (3-6), Titans (3-6), Redskins (3-6), and Seahawks (3-6); and lastly the “Ugly” (i.e. These teams  maybe looking to make themselves over by  2010 NFL Draft) – Raiders (2-7), Chiefs (2-7), Lions (1-8), Browns (1-8), Rams (1-8), and Buccaneers (1-8)

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1.  Colts (9-0) – Fueled by Bill Belichick’s gaffe, Peyton Manning and the Colts seized the opportunity for a crucial AFC playoff separation win over the Patriots in the final seconds of the game.  To remain undefeated for the 19th consecutive regular season game, Jim Caldwell’s team must be focused for their road trip back home to Baltimore to face an improving Ravens squad.

2.  Saints (9-0) – “Who Dat, Who Dat is gonna beat them Saints”… another week and New Orleans keeps rolling.  The Saints are now 9-0 for the first time in franchise history after disposing of the scrappy St. Louis Rams who stuck around for a little while.  Next up Sean Payton’s team continues its tour of the NFL’s bottom rung as they travel to Tampa to face the 1-win Bucs.

3.  Vikings (8-1) – The Vikes had the Metrodome rocking as QB Brett Favre and RB Adrian Peterson were all business in kicking the lowly Detroit Lions to the curb.  With his contract extension in-hand, head coach Brad Childress will lead his team back to the dome to face the dangerous Seattle Seahawks.

4.  Bengals (7-2) — Marvin Lewis’ team proved that they are one of the NFL’s elite teams by out-phyicalling the champion Steelers in Heinz Field.  The Bengals are now 5-0 in the AFC North, but there is still work to be done.  The Bengals will look to avoid a letdown as they travel to Oakland to face the very dysfunctional Raiders.

5.  Patriots (6-3) – The Patriots fought their hearts out in Super Bowl XLIII ½ against the Colts, but in the end they were undone by their head coach Bill Belichick not believing in his “D”.  The Pats will need to put Belichick’s 4th down gamble behind them as they host heated rival, the New York Jets and their emotional head coach Rex Ryan.

6. Steelers (6-3) – I guess Mike Tomlin’s team finally understands how it is to be the “hunted” now.  The Bengals came into Heinz Field and physically beat-up the Steelers up in a crucial AFC North battle. With the thought that they are only 1 game behind Cincy in their mind, the Steelers will need to re-group as they travel to Kansas City.

7.  Chargers (6-3) – After a quality win over the pass-happy Philadelphia Eagles, the Bolts have clawed their way back into playoff contention and a share of the AFC West lead.   In one of Week 11’s biggest games, the Chargers will look to take control of the AFC West when they travel to Denver to face the suddenly reeling Broncos.

8.  Broncos (6-3) – The Washington Redskins got on the same page real quick as they surprised the Broncos at FedEx Field.  The Broncos and head coach Josh McDaniels will need to put their upset loss to the ‘Skins behind them as the hard-charging Chargers come to town for a crucial AFC West game.

9. Cowboys (6-3) – Just when I was about to say that the ‘Boys were back, they went to Green Bay and put out a lackluster effort in a bad loss to the Packers.  Before making their Thanksgiving plans, the Cowboys will have to beat their longtime NFC East rival, the Washington Redskins.

10.  Cardinals (6-3) – The Cards finally figured out how to get a home win as they turned back the scrappy Seattle Seahawks.  Next up for QB Kurt Warner and the rest of the Cardinals is a return trip to St. Louis as the Cards try to remain a perfect on the road.

11.  Jaguars (5-4) – Fueled by MJD, the “good” Jags were back as they pulled out another close one this time in the Meadowlands over the J-E-T-S.  With the thought of continuing to win in mind, the Jags will need to win at home over the Bills and their new head coach Perry Fewell.

12.  Texans (5-4) – Hopefully the bye week was a working one for head coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith as the Texans cannot finish with a record of 8-8 for third year in a row.  In a Monday Night Football special, the Tennessee Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers) will return to Houston for an AFC South grudge match.  Too bad this game can’t be played in the old Astrodome.

13.  Falcons (5-4) – Mike Smith’s team continued their inconsistent ways as they not only lost RB Michael Turner (ankle) for a little while, but they also got run over by the Panthers.  Playing without Turner will be tough as the Falcons travel to the Northeast to face an equally inconsistent Giants squad.

14.  Eagles (5-4) – The Birds went to the West Coast for the second time this season and for the second time they came up short, this time in a loss to the San Diego Chargers.  The pass-happy Eagles will need to find some balance as they attempt to stop their 2-game skid against the host Chicago Bears on NBC Sunday Night Football.

15. Giants (5-4) – After four straight losses, the Giants and fiery head coach Tom Coughlin badly needed their bye week to clear their heads.  With their season on the lines, the Giants will host the Atlanta Falcons in a game that could have NFC wildcard implications.

16.  Ravens (5-4) – John Harbaugh’s team thoroughly thumped the pathetic Browns on Monday Night Football.  In a “Charm City” grudge match game, the undefeated Indianapolis Colts return to Baltimore for a battle with the Ravens.

17. Packers (5-4) – The host Packers thumped the inconsistent NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys as QB Tony Romo had no time in the pocket.  In a game that could have future playoff implications, the Niners will travel to Green Bay this week.

18.  Bears (4-5) – Thursday Night was interception night for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler as the Niners held on for a big win on NFL Network.  Eagles QB Donovan McNabb returns to his hometown for a huge match-up involving two teams that right now are too inconsistent..

19. Jets (4-5) – The J-E-T-S squandered timeouts and opportunities as the Jacksonville Jaguars fueled by RB Maurice Jones-Drew made it over the .500 mark.  Jets head coach Rex Ryan may have more to cry about this week as his team travels to New England to face an angry Patriots team looking for revenge from their earlier loss to the mouthy guys in green.

20.  49ers (4-5) – The Niners and running back Frank Gore did just enough to hold off the turnover prone Chicago Bears in a huge Thursday Night Football win.  Mike Singletary’s team will look to get back to .500 and stay within striking distance of the division leading Cardinals when they travel to Green Bay this week.

21.  Dolphins (4-5) – Tony Sparano’s team won “The Battle of South Florida” as they handled the reeling Tampa Bay Bucs, but they lost RB Ronnie Brown (foot) for the season.  Next up it will be the ‘Phins turn to play on NFL Network Thursday Night football as they travel to Carolina for a ground battle with the Panthers.

22.  Panthers (4-5) – Led by workhorse RB DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers rolled over the young and inconsistent Falcons.   Expect to see a ground-churning affair when the Panthers and Dolphins play each other on NFL Network Thursday Night Football.

23. Titans (3-6) – Head Coach Jeff Fisher is now singing the praises of rejuvenated QB Vince Young, but it is the Titans Defense and All-World RB Chris Johnson (over 1,000 yards in 9 games) who really carried Tennessee passed the Buffalo Bills.  The Titans will look to make it four wins in a row with V.Y under center as they travel back to Houston for a Texas Showdown with the Houston Texans.

24.  Redskins (3-6) – The ‘Skins figured out how to run the ball again (see LaDell Betts), which really helped the entire team surprise the recently reeling Denver Broncos.  In an NFC East grudge match, the Cowboys will host one of their bitterest rivals as the ‘Skins look to make it two upset wins in a row.

25.  Seahawks (3-6) – The Arizona  Cardinals gave the Hawks a taste of their former NFC West dominance as RB’s Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower ran all over them.  In a make-or-break kind of game, the Seahawks will need to beat the red hot Vikings in the Metrodome to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive.

26.  Bills (3-6) – The Titans ran all over the Bills and after the game, Bills owner told former head coach Dick Jauron to take a long walk off a short pier.  With new interim head coach Perry Fewell now call the shots, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and frustrated WR Terrell Owens will try to help the Bills gain a road victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

27.  Chiefs (2-7) – New running back Jamaal Charles led the way for the Chiefs as they thumped the hapless Raiders.  I hope the Chiefs enjoyed their little siesta playing the weak Raiders, because the Pittsburgh Steelers are coming to KC in a foul mood after losing at home to the Bengals.

28.  Raiders (2-7) – The Raiders’ offense was inept again as the Chiefs pounded their way to an AFC West win over Tom Cable’s dysfunctional team.  The Raiders have the misfortune of hosting the surging Bengals, but at least they will have new QB Bruce Gradkowski calling the shots and not struggling former 1st overall pick QB JaMarcus Russell.

29.  Rams (1-8) – The undefeated New Orleans Saints powered right passed the poor Rams in a game where their hung around for a little while.  The high-flying Arizona Cardinals and triggerman Kurt Warner return to St. Louis for a game that is sure to be ugly by the end of the first half.

30.  Buccaneers (1-8) – After a great win the week before, the Miami Dolphins rolled right over the Bucs who probably should return to wearing their creamsicle orange uniforms.  The NFC South leading New Orleans Saints will look to get to 10-0 when they travel to Tampa for a surprisingly dangerous game.

31.  Lions (1-8) – The Minnesota Vikings returned from their bye week to thump the reeling Lions, who had no answer for All-World RB Adrian Peterson and the passing combo of QB Brett Favre and WR Sidney Rice. In Week 11’s hands-down “Toilet Bowl”, the Lions will host close neighbor the Cleveland Browns and I can smell the stench from this one all the way in Philly.

32.  Browns (1-8) – QB Brady Quinn was atrocious in a Monday Night Football shutout home loss to the Baltimore Ravens.  In a game that will truly tell the entire league who is the ugliest team on the block, the Browns will travel to Detroit for this week’s “Toilet Bowl”.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 10 Power Rankings by Lloyd Vance

Electrifying running back Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans are moving up this week’s Power Rankings after two straight wins

The 2009 NFL season has started toward its oh-too-fast ending with the midpoint of the season in everyone’s rearview mirrors.   With the final two byes of the season  (NY Giants and Houston Texans) passing this week, teams must now go into survival of the fittest mode.  There are 12 coveted playoff berths left team to be claimed in the final 8 weeks of the season and now is the time for teams to separate into “Contenders” and “Pretenders”. 

In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown: The “Elite” – Saints (8-0), Colts (8-0), Vikings (7-1), Broncos (6-2), Steelers (6-2), Bengals (6-2),  Cowboys (6-2), and Patriots (6-2); “Teams on the Cusp” — Chargers (5-3), Falcons (5-3), Eagles (5-3) and  Cardinals (5-3); “Stuck in the Middle” inconsistent teams, who are caught in the NFL’s parity-filled middle and either need to join the playoff hunt or fall back – Texans (5-4), Giants (5-4), Ravens (4-4), Jets (4-4), Bears (4-4), Jaguars (4-4), and Niners (3-5); The “Pretenders”, who are only a shade away from the league’s bottom rung – Dolphins (3-5), Panthers (3-5), Bills (3-5), and Seahawks (3-5); and lastly  the “Ugly” (i.e. These teams  maybe looking to make themselves over by  2010 NFL Draft) – Titans (2-6), Redskins (2-6), Raiders (2-6), Chiefs (1-7), Lions (1-7), Browns (1-7), Rams (1-7), and Buccaneers (1-7)

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1.  Colts (8-0) – In a crucial AFC South battle, the Houston Texans gave the injury-depleted Colts all they could handle.  But in the end QB Peyton Manning, TE Dallas Clark, and DE Dwight Freeney rode to head coach Jim Caldwell’s rescue as the Colts remained perfect at the midway point.  Next up is a battle of the two dominant AFC teams of the ‘OOs as the hungry Patriots come to town.

2.  Saints (8-0) – “Who Dat, Who Dat is gonna beat them Saints”… another week and QB Drew Brees shines again in another win.  This time division rival, the Carolina Panthers, jumped out to an early lead only to have the Saints roll over them by a big score.  A “business” road trip awaits the undefeated Saints as they travel to St. Louis to face a dangerous 1-win Rams squad.

3.  Vikings (7-1) – The NFC North’s #1 team used their bye week to recharge their batteries in anticipation of a possible playoff run in the months of November and December.  You know QB Brett Favre’s 40-year old body is refreshed and ready to host the reeling Detroit Lions, who should even bother coming to the Metrodome.

4. Steelers (6-2) – Mike Tomlin’s team showed that they are really back as they won their 5th straight game with a dominating effort over the host Denver Broncos on MNF.  On a very entertaining undercard of the marquee Patriots-Colts matchup, the Steelers will host division rival, the Cincinnati Bengals, in a battle for the top of the AFC North.

5.  Patriots (6-2) – The Patriots bottled up the Miami Dolphins and the ‘Wildcat”  as they further increased their lead in the AFC East.  Next up is Super Bowl XLIII ½ as the Patriots play the Colts for the 7th straight year.

6.  Bengals (6-2) — Marvin Lewis’ team proved that they are legit as they thumped the inconsistent Baltimore Ravens.  The road to respectability gets even harder for the Bengals as they have to travel to Pittsburgh to face the red-hot World Champion Steelers.

7.  Broncos (6-2) –  Denver lost for the second straight week as the Steelers dominated them on Monday Night Football.  Looking to get back on track, the Broncos will go to DC to face the dysfuncti0nal and reeling Washington Redskins.

8. Cowboys (6-2) – The ‘Boys were ready for the  bright lights of NBC Sunday Night Football as they used big plays to beat the host Eagles in a huge NFC East battle.  The Cowboys return to the site of the “Ice Bowl” as they travel to Green Bay to face their long time rival on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

9.  Cardinals (5-3) – Good Kurt Warner showed up as the Cardinals dominated the Chicago Bears to build a surprising 4-0 road record.  The dangerous Seattle Seahawks are up next in a game that could go a long way in determining the NFC West champion.

10.  Falcons (5-3) – Mike Smith’s team was fighting mad as they pushed  the dysfunctional Washington Redskins and lame-duck head coach Jim Zorn further into the abyss.  In a battle to see who is second to the undefeated Saints, the Falcons travel to Carolina to face an inconsistent Panthers’ squad.

11.  Chargers (5-3) – The Bolts look to be back as they won for 3rd straight time with Philip Rivers leading a comeback win over the  Giants in “The Battle for Eli”.  In a game that could go a long way in establishing or curbing either team’s playoff hopes, the Philadelphia Eagles travel to the West Coast to face the surging Chargers.

12.  Eagles (5-3) – In a disappointing home loss, the Birds lost their lead in the  NFC East as the hated Dallas Cowboys came up big on NBC Sunday Night Football.   The Eagles hope their second West Coast trip is better than their last one (lost to the Raiders) as they face the surging Chargers and QB Philip Rivers.

13.  Texans (5-4) – Close but no win as the Texans looked like their old 8-8 selves in a crucial AFC South division loss to the undefeated Indianapolis Colts.  I know head coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith will be encouraging their team get focused during their bye  for a strong  second half run.

14. Giants (5-4) – It was their 4th straight loss as the Chargers  came  east and pulled out a last-second win.  It will be up to fiery head coach Tom Coughlin to pull his team out of their funk over the Giants’ bye week.

15.  Ravens (4-4) – John Harbaugh’s team continued their inconsistent ways as their bark was worse than their bite in their second loss to the Bengals this season.  I think the Ravens should get back on track this week as they return to Cleveland for the annual, “Art Modell Game”.

16. Packers (4-4) –  In an old-time NFC Central match-up, the creamsicle unformed Buccaneers dominated the reeling Packers in a totally surprising win.  It will be time to step-up or step aside for the Packers as they host the surging NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys.

17.  Bears (4-4) – The  road warrior Arizona Cardinals traveled to the Windy City and fueled by rejuvenated QB Kurt Warner, they dominated the inconsistent Bears.  In an NFL Thursday Night special, Mike Singletary’s Niners will play host to his former beloved franchise.

18.  Jaguars (4-4) – The “good” Jags were back as they held off the scrappy Kansas City Chiefs to climb back to a .500 record for the season.  The Jags will try to win two games in a row for only the second time this season as they travel North to face an equally inconsistent Jets squad.

19.  Jets (4-4) – Hopefully the bye week allowed Jets head coach Rex Ryan, QB Mark Sanchez  and their special teams to find a modicum of consistency.  Next up the J-E-T-S host the Jacksonville Jaguars in a battle of two of the AFC’s best rushers (Jags’ Maurice Jones-Drew and Jets’ Thomas Jones).

20.  Panthers (3-5) – Carolina showed that 2008 was their year, but 2009 is the year of the  New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.  If beleaguered head coach John Fox is smart, he will look to ride workhorse RB DeAngelo Williams as Atlanta comes to Bank of America Stadium for a crucial NFC South match-up.

21.  Dolphins (3-5) – “The Return of the Wildcat” to New England proved more sizzle than substance as the Patriots fueled by a Randy Moss stiff-arm shook-off the Dolphins.  The Battle of South Florida is up next as the Dolphins host the on-a-roll Tampa Bay Bucs.

23. Titans (2-6) – See Titans owner Bud Adams was right again as QB Vince Young and electrifying RB Chris Johnson led the Titans to their second straight win, this time on the road over the Niners.  Next up is a road trip to Buffalo and V.Y, Johnson, and the Titans newly resurgent defense are looking to gobble up the Bills like a plateful of hot wings.

22.  49ers (3-5) – The Niners fought  hard but the Titans led by RB Chris Johnson and QB Vince Young ran all over them.  In a Thursday Night Special, the Niners will try to save their season as they face an inconsistent Chicago Bears.

24.  Seahawks (3-5) – Beat the Detroit Lions  in Week 9’s “Toilet Bowl” as Lions QB Matthew Stafford threw 5 picks.  In a game that could save their season, the Hawks will travel to the desert to face the surging Cardinals.

25.  Bills (3-5) – Maybe the bye week will help subpar QB Trent Edwards and  T.O find the connection that has been missing all season from the Bills’ offense.  In a must-win situation, the Bills coming will host the rising Titans and their explosive running game.

26.  Redskins (2-6) – “Hotlanta” was too hot for the wilting Redskins as the only fight they really showed was on the sidelines in another loss.  Next up is a home game against the suddenly struggling Denver Broncos, but the Skins maybe searching as several key players will probably miss the game with injuries.

27.  Raiders (2-6) – Al Davis’ scurvy crew had too many problems to be cured during one bye week, at least emerging receiver Chaz Schilens should be ready to play in Week 10.  The Raiders will look to defeat the struggling Chiefs for the second time this season in an AFL old-time battle in Oakland.

28.  Chiefs (1-7) –  After jettisoning malcontent RB Larry Johnson, the Chiefs showed some fight against the  Jacksonville Jaguars, but came-up short.  Next up is a battle against the Oakland Raiders in Week 10’s “Toilet Bowl”.

29.  Rams (1-7) – The Rams probably really enjoyed their bye week after their first long-awaited win in Week 8.  Back to Life, Back to Reality for the 1-win Rams as the explosive and undefeated New Orleans Saints come to the Edward Jones Dome.

30.  Buccaneers (1-7) – Youngster quarterback Josh Freeman made all the right decisions as the creamsicle clad  Bucs dominated the Green Bay Packers for their first win of the season.  Next up Freeman and the Bucs will travel to South Florida for a battle with the inconsistent Miami Dolphins.

31.  Lions (1-7) – Rookie QB Matthew Stafford looked like a rookie in a bad loss to the Seattle Seahawks.  It could get real ugly, real fast as the rested Minnesota Vikings will host their lowly NFC North rival.

32.  Browns (1-7) – After a bye week of contemplation, the Browns will look to just score a few touchdowns in the second half of the 2009 season.  Next up the angry Baltimore Ravens come to town and could be curtains for returning starting quarterback Brady Quinn.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)