2009 NFL Season – Week 17 Rankings

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)

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2009 NFL Week 12 Power Rankings

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 6 Power Rankings

payton

After a huge win over the New York Giants, Sean Payton and his high-flying Saints have not only garnered respect, but they have also moved up this week’s Power Rankings

This is one of my favorite times on the NFL calendar right before the midway part of the season.  Teams are starting to separate into “Contenders” and “Pretenders” and each week certain teams are getting closer to the playoffs while others get closer to preparing for the 2010 NFL Draft. 

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

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1.  Colts (5-0) – Head Coach Jim Caldwell’s team got a well-deserved bye week and maybe injured players SS Bob Sanders and WR Anthony Gonzalez will be back after the off week.  Some will say the Colts have their second bye in a row as they travel to St. Louis to face a winless Rams squad.  Don’t expect a letdown from Peyton Manning (should get his 6th straight 300-yard passing game this season) and his guys.

2.  Vikings (6-0) – In one of Week 6’s marquee games, the Vikings were able to squeak past the  Ravens as Baltimore’s young kicker missed a makeable field goal at the end of regulation.  In a game that will truly tell everyone just how good QB Brett Favre and his young Vikings are, the new rulers of the NFC North will travel to Pittsburgh to face a resurgent Steelers squad.

3.  Saints (5-0) – The Superdome was rocking as the  undefeated Saints showed the bottom-feeding Giants the door in a blowout win that put New Orleans near the top of the NFC.  The Saints road to legitimacy gets harder this week as they face a physical hard-running Dolphins team in Miami.

4.  Broncos (6-0) – After a dominating road win over the Chargers on Monday Night Football — could have been a classic letdown situation — I am finally ready to jump on the Broncos and head coach Josh McDaniels bandwagon.  The Broncos will remain undefeated for sure this week as they have a bye.

5. Giants (5-1) – Well I guess we got our answer on whether the Giants were fattening up on cupcakes at the beginning of the season.  The Saints throttled the Giants by a lopsided score, so it will be interesting to see how Tom Coughlin’s team responds. The G-Men return to the Meadowlands this week to face the high flying Cardinals, who have seemed to be back on track offensively and defensively.

6. Steelers (4-2) –For the 12th time in a row, the Steelers push aside the woeful Cleveland Browns this time at Heinz Field.  The resurgent Steelers will probably get their sternest test of this young season this week as the high-profile Vikings and QB Brett Favre come to town.

7.  Patriots (4-2) – Playing in the snow, QB Tom Brady and the Patriots had one of the greatest passing days in NFL history as they  embarrassed the  Tennessee Titans, who  some say they quit .  Next up for the Patriots is a trip across the Atlantic to Merry Ole England to feast the winless Tampa Bay Bucs.

8.  Falcons (4-1) – In a match-up of two of the NFL’s best “Young Guns”,  the Falcons led by Matt  Ryan delivered when it mattered most in a win over Chicago Bears and strong-armed QB Jake Cutler.  In a tougher than you would think battle, the Falcons travel to Dallas to face a well rested Cowboys squad, who are looking for some consistency.

9.  Bengals (4-2) – A week after a big AFC North win at Baltimore, the Bengals were surprised by the offensive minded Houston Texans.  In a highly anticipated inter-conference battle, the Bengals and revenge-minded RB Cedric Benson (going against the team that released him) will host the Bears and their new pass rusher DE Gaines Adams. 

10.  Bears (3-2) – On Sunday Night Football, the Bears continually turned the football over in the redzone which was their downfall against the Atlanta Falcons.  Next up is a respect game against the host Cincinnati Bengals and loser will fall right back to the NFL’s parity-filled middle.

11.  Cardinals (3-2) – The Cards continued to shake their Super Bowl hangover by pounding NFC West rival, the Seattle Seahawks.   Next up, QB Kurt Warner and rest of the Cards will need to prove that they can win a game in the Easter timezone as travel to Pittsburgh to face the resurgent Steelers.

12.  49ers (3-2) – Head Coach Mike Singletary and his staff were probably  overtime during the bye week to improve a team that has been a  little inconsistent as of late.  Look for the return of injured running back Frank Gore and debut of just-signed first rounder Michael Crabtree as the Niners travel to Houston to face the inconsistent Texans.

13.  Ravens (3-3) – John Harbaugh’s team were just a field goal away from putting an “L” on the undefeated Vikings, but it was not be and the Ravens have now lost 3 straight games.  Look for the Ravens to enjoy their bye week as they try to find a breakout receiver and their once fearsome defense.

14.  Eagles (3-2) –  In probably the biggest upset of the week, the Eagles went across country and laid an egg in against the supposed pushover Raiders – well at least the Fightin’ Phils are picking up the Birds slack.  Eagles head coach Andy Reid better find his running game and quick as his team travels to FedEx field to take on the reeling Redskins and their beleaguered head coach Jim Zorn.

15. Packers (3-2) – It wasn’t even close as the Detroit Lions served as the Packers homecoming team  in a lopsided win.  The Packers and freewheeling quarterback Aaron Rodgers continue their tour of the NFL’s underbelly as they travel to Cleveland to face a horrible Browns team.

16. Cowboys (3-2) – Hopefully  head coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett put the Cowboys bye to good work as it maybe win or leave if the ‘Boys continue their inconsistent ways.  In a statement game, the Cowboys will host the hard-charging Atlanta Falcons and QB Matty “Ice” Ryan.

17.  Dolphins (2-3) – I am sure during the bye week that the  Dolphins were adding even more wrinkles to their Wildcat offense.  In a game that could prove to be a season saver, the Dolphins and their rushing attack – average of 177  yards per game — will host the undefeated Saints.

18.  Jets (3-3) – Head coach Rex Ryan and rookie QB Mark Sanchez are finding out how tough the NFL can be as they lost in overtime to  Buffalo Bills in a game the J-E-T-S were “supposed” to win.  Gang Green will look to avoid being the Raiders second straight upset victim as they travel to Oakland this week.

19.  Texans (3-3) –  Head coach Gary Kubiak’s team continued their inconsistent ways as they surprised the Bengals in an offensive road victory in Cincy.  In a battle of upstarts, the Texans will host the emerging Niners and the loser will definitely fall to the NFL’s middle.

20.  Panthers (2-3) – The Panthers continued their climb back to respectability with their second straight win this time over the winless Tampa Bay Bucs.  In a game that can get them back to .500, look for the Panthers to ride their stellar running game against the injured Buffalo Bills.

21.  Jaguars (3-3) – The NFL’s most inconsistent team was back up to their old tricks as they bounced back from a shutout loss to beat the winless Rams in overtime.  The Jags should put their best player, Maurice Jones-Drew, on ice during the bye week because as he goes, so goes the team.

22.  Chargers (2-3) –Head Coach Norv Turner’s team put up a mini-fight but in the end you could clearly see that the AFC West division leading Denver Broncos were hungrier on Monday Night Football.   In a must-win game, the Chargers will travel to Kansas City to face a Chiefs squad coming off their first win of the season.

23.  Seahawks (2-4) –The Hawks showed that they are a  “Pretender”  even with QB Matt Hasselbeck at the controls as they were throttled by the Arizona Cardinals in a huge NFC West battle.  The Seahawks will have a much-needed bye week to get players like Hasselbeck and DE Patrick Kerney healthy  again.

24.  Bills (2-4) – The Bills surprised the  J-E-T-S in overtime as kick Rian Lindell made the most of his second chance to win the game.  In a battle of two teams that either are going to get back in the race or fall down with the NFL’s dregs, the Bills travel to Carolina to face a hungry Panthers’ squad.

25.  Raiders (2-4) – Al Davis’ team put aside all of their drama for one week to out-hustle the arrogant Philadelphia Eagles, who left their game plan and intensity back in Philly.  Now that head coach Tom Cable doesn’t have to worry about the Po-Po knocking  on his door any longer, you have to wonder can the Raiders pull another home-win shocker against the fluttering Jets.

26.  Chiefs (1-5) – Even though it was more of an indicator of the ineptness of Redskins head coach  Jim Zorn, the Chiefs had to be ecstatic about their first win of the season.  The Chiefs will try to make it two upsets in a row as they host the angry San Diego Chargers.

27.  Redskins (2-4) – After a horrible home loss to the formerly winless Chiefs, the Skins handed the team’s offensive reins to offensive consultant Sherman Lewis.  Before a Week 8 bye, the Redskins will try to salvage their lagging season in a crucial home Monday Night Football battle against the embarrassed Philadelphia Eagles.

28.  Lions (1-5) – Not even former Packers killer QB Daunte Culpepper could keep the still rebuilding Lions from being torn apart by the Packers.  I am sure during the bye week that the Lions will try to focus more on the fact that they have already won a game this season rather than their many holes.

29.  Browns (1-5) – It was the same old story for the Dawgs as the Steelers tamed them once again as QB Ben Roethlisberger had a career day throwing the football.  The Browns will try to pick-up the pieces as they host the surging Green Bay Packers in a match-up of two Midwest teams going in opposite directions.

30.  Buccaneers (0-6) – Once again the Bucs fought hard, but they just didn’t have the depth or overall talent to beat the rebounding  Carolina Panthers.  For the Bucs, It must be a hard thing knowing that you are going all the way to London, England to be the New England Patriots next “homecoming” opponent.

31.  Rams (0-6) – Steve Spanuolo’s squad gave it their all , but unfortunately they came up short against MJD and the Jaguars in overtime.  The road doesn’t get any easier for the Rams as they host the well-rested and scary Indianapolis Colts who are hitting on all cylinders on offense and defense.

32. Titans (0-6) – In an embarrassing loss that the NFL has not seen in years, the Patriots ran the score-up (59-0) on the Titans and some say Jeff Fisher’s team just plain “quit”.  During the bye week, Fisher better clean-up his horrible secondary and start thinking about playing former rookie of the year QB Vince Young since veteran thrower Kerry Collins could only manage -7 yards passing against the Patriots.

 

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 Power Rankings – Week 5

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After a big win over the J-E-T-S on Monday Night Football, RB Ricky Williams and Dolphins are moving up the Power Rankings

Each week the 2009 NFL Season’s “Contender” and “Pretender” scoreboard becomes a little clearer.  This year in the league, there appears to be two worlds, the “Have’s” and “Have Nots” with a smaller than usual parity-filled middle.  So much for “Any Given Sunday” talk as each week there are more and more blowouts –  Week 5 featured six games where teams won by 19 points or more.

In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown: The “Elite” – Vikings (5-0), Broncos (5-0), Saints (4-0), Colts (5-0), and Giants (5-0); “Teams on the Cusp” — Bengals (4-1), Eagles (3-1), Bears (3-1), and Falcons (3-1); “The Contender”, who are teams that are a step above average — Patriots (3-2), Jets (3-2), Steelers (3-2),  and Niners (3-2); “Stuck in the Middle” inconsistent teams, who are caught in the NFL’s parity-filled middle that either need to join the playoff hunt or fall back – Cowboys (3-2), Cardinals (2-2), Seahawks (2-3), Dolphins (2-3), and Chargers (2-2);  The “Pretenders”, who are also in the middle of the pack but are only a shade away from the league’s bottom rung – Panthers (1-3),  Texans (2-3), Redskins (2-3), and Jaguars (2-3); and lastly  the “Putrid” (i.e. You should just skip to the 2010 NFL Draft) – Browns (1-4), Raiders (1-4), Bills (1-4), Lions (1-4), Rams (0-5), Chiefs (0-5), Buccaneers (0-5), and Titans (0-5)

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1. Giants (5-0) – The G-Men were able to rest QB Eli Manning earlier than expected in a bludgeoning of the hapless Raiders.  Finally the Giants get more than a cupcake as they travel south to face the undefeated Saints and someone’s “O” has got to go.

2.  Colts (5-0) – Peyton Manning continues to play like a machine as the Colts won their 14th straight game with an easy win over the winless Tennessee Titans on Sunday Night Football.  Head Coach Jim Caldwell’s team gets a well-deserved bye week and just maybe injured players SS Bob Sanders and WR Anthony Gonzalez will be back after the off week.

3.  Vikings (5-0) – The Vikes easily handled the reeling host St. Louis Rams in a game that showed the dominance of DE Jared Allen.  In one of Week 6’s marquee games, the Vikings should finally get tested as they host the angry Ravens come to the Metrodome.

4.  Saints (4-0) – Hopefully during their bye week, the Saints stayed off Bourbon Street and focused on getting ready for the Giants.  The Superdome will be alive as the undefeated NFC East leading Giants led by QB Eli Manning and emerging receiver Steve Smith come to town for a much-anticipated FOX early afternoon special.

5.  Broncos (5-0) – “Young Belichick” Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels got the best of his mentor and he was pumped up by his young squad disposing of the veteran Patriots in overtime.  The road to respectability does not get any easier for the Broncos and their young head coach as they travel to San Diego to face a borderline desperate Chargers team.

6.  Bengals (4-1) — Marvin Lewis’ team was tough and gritty in beating the Ravens in Baltimore.  The Bengals not only brought some much-needed sunshine to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer (wife passed away last week), but they also now look like the team to beat in the AFC North.  In a game where the Bengals will need to avoid a letdown, they will host the high-powered Houston Texans and All-World receiver Andre Johnson. 

 7.  Eagles (3-1) – The Birds came off their bye week with a vengeance and led by promising rookie WR Jeremy Maclin, they hammered the poor Buccaneers into an early submission.  Eagles head coach Andy Reid got his 100th regular season win over the Bucs and now Big Red is 11-0 after the bye for his career.  Next up, the Eagles will go a long way from Philly to Oakland, just so they can feast on the hapless Raiders.

8.  Falcons (3-1) – In a total surprise, the Falcons destroyed the Niners in their own stadium.  The Falcons were led by QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, and TE Tony Gonzalez as Singletary fumed over his team’s lack of focus.  Next up is a “Young Guns” shootout as the Falcons led by Ryan take on the Chicago Bears and strong-armed QB Jake Cutler.

9.  Bears (3-1) – The Bears got a much-needed rest during their bye week and hopefully injured players WR Johnny Knox, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer and WR Devin Hester were able to heal-up. In order to stay on the heels of the red-hot Vikings, the Bears will need to continue to win this time on the road against the improving Falcons on Sunday Night Football.

10. Steelers (3-2) – Mike Tomlin’s team climbed back over .500 after finally waking-up to dispose of the scrappy Detroit Lions.  Next up is the reeling Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field in P-Burgh and I am sure the Steelers faithful will not allow their heroes to “Sleep-on“one of the NFL’s worst teams, especially when they are an AFC North rival.

11.  Jets (3-2) – So much for Jets head coach Rex Ryan’s mastery of the Wildcat as the Dolphins ran all over the J-E-T-S in a big Monday Night Football win.  After two straight losses the Jets will need to pick-up the pieces and take care of business at home against the subpar Buffalo Bills.

12.  Patriots (3-2) – It seems like a million years ago that the Patriots ran roughshod over the NFL in 2007.  And the upstart Broncos showed the veteran Pats that teams are no longer fearful of their mystique in a thrilling overtime win.  Hopefully QB Tom Brady will find his long ball accuracy and the Patriots can find some semblance of a running game when they host the desperate for a win Tennessee Titans.

13.  Ravens (3-2) – The Ravens lost their second game in a row as the hungry Bengals seemed to want it more in a tough road win.  In a much anticipated game, it will be the Ravens’ attacking defense against graybeard quarterback Brett Favre as the Ravens travel to Minnesota to face a Vikings squad hitting on all cylinders.

14.  Chargers (2-2) – I am sure during the bye week that the Bolts tried to find their “swagger” again, especially underachievers L.T and LB Shawn Merriman.  Head Coach Norv Turner needs to fire-up an inconsistent Chargers team as they host the division-leading Denver Broncos in an AFC West showdown game on Monday Night Football. 

15.  Cardinals (2-2) – Looks like head coach Ken Whisenhunt’s bye week practices worked as the Cards fueled by QB Kurt Warner and a great goalline stand stopped the Texans in their tracks.  The Cards next go on the road to the Northwest to face an improving Seahawks team and their rejuvenated quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, in a key NFC West battle.

16.  49ers (3-2) – I guess the Niners are not be ready for primetime just yet as they laid a huge egg in an embarrassing home loss to the Atlanta Falcons.  Head Coach Mike Singletary and his staff will be working overtime during the bye week to improve a team that is a little inconsistent.  Expect to see injured running back Frank Gore and just signed first rounder Michael Crabtree in the line-up after the bye.

17. Cowboys (3-2) – The ‘Boys continued their inconsistent ways as they needed a monumental effort from QB Tony Romo and emerging receiver Miles Austin just to pullout an overtime win over the reeling Chiefs.  During the bye week, head coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett better figure out a way to save their jobs as the Cowboys will be facing some tough games coming up.

18.  Dolphins (2-3) – In a thrilling Monday Night Football AFC East battle, the Dolphins rode their stellar running game, including the Wildcat, to a late second win over the visiting New York Jets ( have lost two in a row).  After a big win over the J-E-T-S, I am sure it will be fun in the sun for the Dolphins and their Wildcat offense.

19. Packers (2-2) – The bye week allowed the Pack to heal their bodies and egos from a tough loss to the Vikings and you know who.  QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will look to feast on the retooling Detroit Lions when the young squad visits Lambeau this week.

20.  Seahawks (2-3) – Getting back starting QB Matt Hasselbeck was all the difference as the Seahawks were a new team on offense and defense in a dominating win over the Jaguars.  The Hawks will need to figure out if they are a “Contender” or “Pretender” as they host the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals in a huge NFC West battle.

21.  Texans (2-3) – It was the same old inconsistent Texans as they could not string together two straight wins.  The Cardinals bent but didn’t break on defense and QB Kurt Warner picked apart the Texans secondary in a big win.  In a desperate spot on their schedule, the Texans travel to Cincy to face an ascending Bengals team led by stoic head coach Marvin Lewis.

22.  Panthers (1-3) – The Panthers put together a huge confidence building win over the crumbling Redskins and their beleaguered head coach Jim Zorn.  The Panthers will look to make it two in a row as they travel to Tampa Bay for a game against the Bucs that I am dubbing, “The Battle for the NFC South Basement”.

23.  Jaguars (2-3) – I don’t even know why the Jags got on their long cross-country flight as they never really showed up in Seattle, losing 41-0 to the Seahawks.  Next the Jaguars host the St. Louis Rams in a game that is sure to be a blackout, but would it even matter as both teams are not very good.

24.  Redskins (2-3) – For the second time this year, the Redskins or as some fans are calling them, “The Dead Skins”, lost to a formerly winless team.  The Panthers out-physicaled the Redskins and now it look like not “if”, but “when” will head coach Jim Zorn be fired.  For Zorn’s sake, the Redskins better not lose to the winless Kansas City Chiefs or it may be time for defensive coordinator Greg Blache or new offensive consultant Sherman Lewis to take over.

25. Titans (0-5) – It wasn’t even close as the Indianapolis Colts showed the reeling Titans what a true contender looks like in a dominating win.  It may be time to unveil V.Y as the Titans have nothing else to lose in a tough road test against the angry Patriots.

26.  Lions (1-3) – It took a while, but the Steelers returned to the place of their Super Bowl XL victory and pulled-out a hard fought win.  The Lions will probably be led again this week by QB Daunte Culpepper, which could prove to be a good thing as he used to be a killer of this week’s opponent, the Green Bay Packers.

27.  Chiefs (0-5) – Head coach Todd Haley’s team gave a terrific effort against the inconsistent Cowboys, but in the end the Dallas’ passing combination of Tony Romo and Miles Austin was on fire in their Week 5 win.  Next up is an ugly match-up against the equally deficient Redskins in game that could seal the fate of their beleaguered head coach Jim Zorn

28.  Browns (1-4) – “The Battle for Lake Erie” against the Bills looked more like one big quagmire as the Browns pulled out an ugly 6-3 win.  Hopefully Browns QB Derek Anderson will be able to complete more than two passes against the tough Steelers defense, which may get back Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu.

29.  Bills (1-4) – This game truly was the “Toilet Bowl” as the Bills and Browns combined for only nine total points in an ugly Browns’ 6-3 win.  The Bills will next travel to the big city to face a hungry J-E-T-S’ squad and just maybe underachiever T.O will finally get back in the endzone.

30.  Buccaneers (0-5) – The re-tooling Bucs, other than TE Kellen Winslow, looked very disinterested as the Philadelphia Eagles easily dismantled them at the Linc.  In an NFC South pride game, the Bucs will host the hopeful Panthers.

31.  Rams (0-5) – Steve Spagnuolo’s boys had no answer for QB Brett Favre and the Vikings in a disheartening loss. The Rams will look to get their first “W” as they travel to Jacksonville in a game that is sure to be blacked-out.  Well at least the team will not have to worry about Russ Limbaugh being part of their franchise any longer as the big-mouth talk show host was removed from a group trying to buy the team.

32.  Raiders (1-4) – I can longer sit by and rank the Raiders any higher than the last spot in my rankings.  Even though the Raiders have one win – it’s a “Miracle” by the way – there is no team in the NFL more dysfunctional or in a deeper hole.  With more “drama” regarding the police and NFL security nipping at Raiders head coach Tom Cable’s heels, the Philadelphia Eagles will fly across the country to eat this giant cupcake of a team.

 

 

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 Power Rankings – Week 4

 

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WR Brandon Marshall and the Broncos continued to climb the NFL Power Rankings after a solid 17-10 win over the Cowboys

The quarter pole of the season has brought one of my favorite things, “Separation” amongst the league’s 32 franchises.  Though it is still a little too early to make season-long assumptions, NFL teams are starting to break apart and bring clarity weekly.  The groups include  the “Elite” – Vikings (4-0), Broncos (4-0), Saints (4-0), Colts (4-0), Giants (4-0), Patriots (3-1), Eagles (2-1), Jets (3-1), Bears (3-1), Bengals (3-1), Falcons (2-1) and Niners (3-1); The “Contenders”, teams stuck in the league’s ever growing parity-filled middle that will need to either join the playoff hunt or fall back – Texans (2-2), Redskins (2-2), Jaguars (2-2), Steelers (2-2), Cowboys (2-2), and Chargers;  The “Pretenders”, who are too inconsistent right now to move them to the middle or the league’s bottom rungs – Bills (1-3), Dolphins (1-3), Cardinals (1-2), and Seahawks; And the “Putrid” (i.e. See you at the 2010 NFL Draft) – Raiders (1-3), Lions (1-3), Rams (0-4), Chiefs (0-4), Browns (0-4), Buccaneers (0-4), and Titans (0-4)

 Of the NFL’s elite, consisting of teams with winning records after four weeks, there are two distinct groups settling in at the top of the league this season.  The “Veterans” – Colts, Giants, Patriots, and Eagles who are teams that have consistently gone deep in the NFL playoffs over the last five years.  And the “Young Upstarts” – Vikings (should be veterans if you include Favre), Broncos, Saints (opened the season with four straight wins for the first time since 1993), Jets, Bears, Bengals, Falcons and Niners.  Sure you expect to see teams like the New England Patriots (Since 2000, the Pats are 105-43 w/ a .709 winning percentage), Philadelphia Eagles (five NFC Championship Games since 2001) and Indianapolis Colts (NFL record six consecutive seasons of 12 wins or more) at the top of the standings it seems every year.  But to me, I think the great stories of the 2009 NFL regular season so far have been the upstart teams growing into contenders. Fans also seem to have embraced the young upstart/underdog teams fighting the veteran teams as the New Orleans Saints and the New York Jets rises to the top, have been two of the bigger stories thus far this season. 

Many of the “new” teams at the top of the current NFL standings have made tough decisions of going younger and/or changing people at the top of their organizations (some have new head coaches, some have new starting quarterbacks, and in some cases both) over the last couple of seasons to move into the NFL’s elite.  With these two factions growing, each week there will be highly anticipated games where one team from each of the group faces off (ex. Week 5 — Patriots at Broncos and Week 6 — NY Giants at Saints).

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1. Giants (4-0) – Quarterback Eli Manning got a little banged-up with a heel injury, but the New York Express rolling along as the G-Men pounded the hapless Chiefs.  The Giants may not even need Manning this week with the way WR Steve Smith and their defense is playing, especially against the rancid Raiders.

2.  Colts (4-0) – Peyton Manning made household names of WRs Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie in a dominating win over the Seahawks.  Looking for their 14th straight win, the Colts will travel back to Peyton’s college stomping grounds against the winless Tennessee Titans.

3.  Vikings (4-0) – Magic was in the air as Vikings QB Brett Favre and his team got “revenge” against the Packers in a thrilling Monday Night Football game.  Looking to avoid a letdown, next up for No. 4 and the Vikings is a game against the reeling host St. Louis Rams

4.  Saints (4-0) – Led by new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and veteran safety Darren Sharper, the Saints defense befuddled Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez in a big home win.  Hopefully during their bye week, the Saints will not over enjoy Bourbon Street as they are one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

5.  Patriots (3-1) – The Pats continue to show that they are not going anywhere as Tom Brady led them over the fuming Ravens.  In a possible playoff game, the Patriots will look to stop the win streak of the Belichick inspired Broncos and former Pats’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

6.  Broncos (4-0) – Head Coach Josh McDaniels’ squad are starting to make believers in a lot of people and they showed their toughness in a to-the-gun win over the Cowboys.  Next up in Week 5’s most anticipated game, it will be young “Belichick” vs. old “Belichick” as the Broncos host the Patriots in a CBS afternoon special.

7.  Eagles (2-1) – The Birds used the bye week to heal-up and reacclimatize MLB Jeremiah Trotter back into their system.  The Eagles host the Bucs as they try to stay on the heels of the Giants… did I mention that Eagles head coach Andy Reid has never lost after a bye week (10-0 in his career).

8.  Bears (3-1) – QB Jay Cutler “helicoptered” his way into the hearts of Bears’ fans as Lovie Smith’s team dominated the Lions.  The Bears get a much-needed bye week, so players like WR Johnny Knox (shin) and WR Devin Hester (shoulder) can heal-up.

9.  Jets (3-1) – The J-E-T-S and QB Mark Sanchez quickly found out how good the Saints and their nasty defense are in an eye opening loss.  Head Coach Rex Ryan and his team will need to put their ugly loss to the Saints behind them when they travel to Miami to face the hard running Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

10.  Ravens (3-1) – Ray Lewis and the Ravens believe the official had it out for them in a physical and controversial loss to the Patriots.  This week, head coach John Harbaugh will need to get his team focused on the rising Bengals rather than the officials.

11.  49ers (3-1) – The Niners took out their frustrations from their last second loss to the Vikings by shutting out the hapless St. Louis Rams.  In a highly anticipated game, the Niners will host the Falcons in a game that clearly looks like a playoff preview.

12.  Bengals (3-1) – I know it was only an overtime win over the Browns, but  I think people are starting to believe in Marvin Lewis’ team.  The almost undefeated Bengals will look for more respect as they travel to the Charm City to face an angry Ravens squad.

 13.  Falcons (2-1) – After a tough loss the Patriots, the Falcons and QB Matt Ryan probably used the bye week to re-focus.  In a huge former NFC West battle, the Falcons will travel to Frisco to face Mike Singletary’s tough Niners.

14. Steelers (2-2) – After jumping out to a big lead, the Steelers led by their O-line and RB Rashard Mendenhall defeated the Chargers on SNF.  Next up is a return to Detroit (site of their Super Bowl XL triumph) as Mike Tomlin’s team looks to climb over .500 against the better then their record Detroit Lions.

15.  Chargers (2-2) – The Bolts just are not the same team without huge NT Jammal Williams.  The Chargers fought back, but still lost to the Steelers and where are LT and Shawn Merriman hiding.  Head Coach Norv Turner will use the bye week to find some consistency within his underachieving squad.

16. Cowboys (2-2) – The ‘Boys just might the most inconsistent team in the NFL and it shows.  I don’t know if it is injuries, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s playcalling, or QB Tony Romo, but the Cowboys didn’t have enough fight in a loss to the Broncos.  Look for the Cowboys to do what they do best and that is eat-up a cupcake as they travel to play the hapless Chiefs.

17.  Cardinals  (1-2) – Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt kept his team in town during the bye week to try and cure their “Super Bowl Hangover”.  The Cards will need to bring their “A” game as the hungry Texans come to town in a game that will tell who is a contender or a pretender.

18. Packers  (2-2)  –  You have to take your hat off to QB Aaron Rodgers as he took a beating (8 sacks), but the Packers could not spoil Vikings QB Brett Favre’s Monday Night Football party.  The Packers will surely use their bye week to get some O-line help so that Rodgers isn’t killed in their next game.

19.  Texans (2-2) – RB Steve Slaton and the Texans gladly took their layup as they pounded the putrid Raiders. Next up for the Texans is a sure-fire shootout game against the QB Kurt Warner and the offensive minded Cardinals.

20.  Jaguars (2-2) – Behind a career day throwing the ball by QB David Garrard, the Jags won their second game in a row as they pounded the reeling Titans.  Looking to get above .500 for the first time this season, the Jags will travel to the Northwest to face the Seahawks and their 12th Man fans.

21.  Seahawks (1-3) – Playing without starting QB Matt Hasselbeck for the second week, the Hawks were thumped by the red-hot Indianapolis Colts.  In a battle to see who is a possible “Contender” or “Pretender”, Seahawks host the hard charging Jaguars.

22.  Dolphins (1-3) – The Fins got off the schnide as they pounded the reeling Buffalo Bills behind their chain-moving running game.  In a huge Monday Night Football AFC East battle, the Dolphins will look to ride their stellar running game past the visiting mouthy New York Jets.

23.  Redskins (2-2)  – It was an “ugly” win over the Bucs, but you have to believe that owner Daniel Snyder is looking for any excuse to get rid of head coach Jim Zorn.  With new offensive consultant Sherman Lewis on board, the ‘Skins must take care of business against the desperate Carolina Panthers.

24.  Bills (1-3) – It is only a matter of time before quarterback Trent Edwards feels the wrath of T.O as the Bills were pounded by AFC division rival, the Miami Dolphins.  Next up is the Cleveland Browns in a game that should be called the “Tiolet Bowl”.

25. Titans (0-4) – You have to wonder how much longer veteran head coach Jeff Fisher will stick with QB Kerry Collins after a humiliating loss to the Jaguars.  It will be mission impossible as the Titans gear-up to face AFC South rival, the scary Indianapolis Colts, who have won 13 straight.

26.  Panthers  (0-3) – Head coach John Fox was probably preaching to his team during the bye week that it maybe “Win” or else for him and some key members on the team (i.e. QB Jake Delhomme).  The Panthers play host to the Redskins who also have a head coach, Jim Zorn, on their owner’s hot seat.

27.  Lions (1-3) – QB Matthew Stafford and the rest of the Lions couldn’t make it two in a row as the Bears cleaned their clock after a slow start.  Probably playing without Stafford (dislocated kneecap) the Lions will host the Steelers, who are looking for another win in the same venue as Super Bowl XL.

28.  Buccaneers (0-4) – Head coach Raheem Morris’ squad put up a good fight, especially in the first half, and almost beat the inconsistent Redskins. Next up for the Bucs is a tough road game against the Eagles, who rested and healed-up during their bye last week.

29.  Raiders (1-3) – Every week the news gets worse and worse in Oak-town and this week was no different as the Texans put the spurs to the Raiders and head coach Tom Cable maybe heading to lock-up. A cross-country trip to play the red hot Giants is up next, maybe they can push struggling QB JaMarcus Russell out of the plane over the Grand Canyon.. 

30.  Chiefs (0-4) – Head coach Todd Haley may have the hardest cleanup job in the NFL as not many players, other than veteran LB Mike Vrabel, seemed to care this past week when the Giants embarrassed them. “The Battle of Dallas” is next as the angry Cowboys come to town looking to beat up on the Chiefs (formerly the Dallas Texans in the old AFL).

31.  Browns (0-4) – I don’t ever want to hear Browns head coach Eric Mangini referred to as “Mangenius” ever again.  The Dawgs fought hard led in an overtime loss to the Bengals, but Rich Gannon’s OT rules gaffe and an alleged fight involving now former Browns WR Braylon Edwards and a LeBron backer made more news.  In “The Battle for Lake Erie”, the Browns will look to get a “W” against the equally desperate Bills.

32.  Rams (0-4)  –  I know fiery new Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo is sick over his team’s lack of effort in another drubbing, this time in a shutout loss to the Niners.  Spags and the Rams will have their work cut-out for them as the red hot Vikings and ESPN’s favorite player QB Brett Favre come to town.

 

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 Power Rankings – Week 2

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Jaguars QB David Garrard and his team will look to move up the Power Ranking this week as they take on the Houston Texans

Though early the 2009 NFL Season is starting to take shape with some interesting results.  The NFL continues to be a parity driven league as there are 14 teams at (1-1) – Texans, Packers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bengals, Bills, Patriots, Redskins, Steelers, Chargers, Raiders, Cardinals, Bears, and Seahawks.  Then there are 9 “Have” teams at (2-0) – Ravens, Jets, Giants, Falcons, Niners, Vikings, Colts, Saints and Bronco.  And 9 “Have Not” teams at (0-2) – Browns, Rams, Chiefs, Lions, Jaguars, Panthers, Titans, Dolphins and Rams.

For the 23 teams that are either 1-1 or 0-2, there is still good news as since 2002, 48 of 84 (57.1%) teams made the playoffs after starting at those marks.  Last year, the Chargers and Dolphins started 0-2 and still made the playoffs as each won their respective division.

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1. Giants (1-0) – The G-Men helped by Cowboys QB Tony Romo’s blunders overcame a sloppy day running and stopping the run.  Quarterback Eli Manning and his receivers, namely Steve Smith and Mario Manningham seemed to mature in front of our eyes as the Giants claimed the top spot.  Tom Coughlin will need his team to run the ball to avoid a letdown at Tampa.

2.  Colts (2-0) – Peyton Manning continues to amaze as the Colts made the most of the little time that they had the ball in their big MNF win over the host Dolphins.  The future hall of famer passed Colts great John Unitas in franchise career wins (119) in the victory.  Expect an aerial show in the desert as the Manning, Wayne, Clark, and now Garcon travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals on NBC Sunday Night Football.

3.  Jets (2-0) – The J-E-T-S, QB Mark “Cool Hand Luke” Sanchez, and their brash head coach Rex Ryan backed up their big talk with a potential “Changing of the Guard” win over the Patriots.  Next up for Ryan’s crew is another big test as the tougher than their record Tennessee Titans come to the Big Apple in search of their first win of the season.

4.  Vikings (2-0)  – Brett Favre and the Vikings put in a yeoman effort in taking care of business against the hapless Detroit Lions.  Brad Childress’ team will finally get a real challenge this week as the Vikings host Mike Singletary’s rising Niners in FOX’s game of the week.

5.  Ravens (2-0) – The Chargers put up the aerial numbers, but in the end LB Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco and Ravens laid the wood at the right times in a big road victory.   Though the Cleveland Browns are now one of the NFL’s most downtrodden teams, they are a dangerous team in coming to Baltimore for “Art Modell” bowl.

 6.  Saints (2-0)  – Led by record setting QB Drew Brees, Sean Payton’s offense is looking like the 1999 St. Louis Rams “Greatest Show on Turf” group. The Saints clobbered the Eagles in Philly via another offensive explosion.  Expect more aerial fireworks as the Saints coming to Buffalo looking for a win over T.O and the Bills.

7. Steelers (1-1) – The 2008 Super Bowl Champions fell from their perch atop the rankings as a combination of the Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, a strong Bears defensive effort  and Steelers kicker Josh Reed’s potential GW misses spelled the champs doom in Chi-Town.  In a true grudge match, the Steelers travel to Cincy to face a tougher than expected Bengals squad led by Ocho Cinco.

8.  49ers (2-0) – Look out for “Iron” Mike Singletary’s hungry young squad.  For the second week in a row, the Niners served notice to the NFC West that they are the new sheriffs in town by beating the Seahawks.  In a highly anticipated FOX Sunday afternoon tilt the Niners travel to the Vikings in a game to prove who is a contending NFC team.

 9.  Falcons (2-0) – Not many people are talking about Mike Smith’s efficient team at this point in the season, but everybody better take notice of QB Matt Ryan and the rest of the Falcons.  In a get out of the way win, the Falcons pushed former NFC South champ the Carolina Panther aside.  Next up for Matty Ice and his team is a trip back to the Boston area for a huge showdown with the Patriots.

10.  Patriots (1-1) – In a classic AFC East grudge match, Pats’ quarterback Tom Brady was harassed by Rex Ryan’s attacking Jets defense over and over as he lost in the Meadowlands for the first time.  Brady will look to outplay from Boston College star Matt Ryan as the Falcons come to New England looking for respect.

11.  Eagles (1-1) – The Birds had no answer for the Saints high-powered offense and their special teams didn’t do them any favors in losing the field position battle.  In a more dangerous than expected game, the much injured Eagles and newly activated QB Michael Vick host the Chiefs before they head off to their bye week.  Andy Reid’s team better be careful as the Birds are 4-6 going into the bye under the veteran coach.

 12.  Broncos (2-0) – We really don’t know how good Josh McDaniels’ squad really is at this point in the season, but they are undefeated after beating up the Browns last week.  In an old-time AFL battle, the Broncos look to distance themselves from the rest of the AFC West as they travel to Oakland.

13.  Chargers (1-1) – The Bolts moved the ball and scored a lot of points, but in the end the Ravens led by LB Ray Lewis stuffed them when it mattered most.  In a game that could have future playoff implications, the Chargers host the Wildcat happy Dolphins who are looking for their first win of the season.

14. Cowboys (1-1) – All eyes were tuned in for the opening of  billion dollar Dallas Cowboys Stadium, stadium last week, but Cowboys QB Tony Romo was not ready for primetime as Eli Manning and Giants beat them on SNF.  In their second primetime match-up in two weeks, the Cowboys will look to bury the 0-2 Carolina Panthers season as they host them on Monday Night Football.

15.  Cardinals  (1-1) – The 2008 NFC Champs and QB Kurt Warner (NFL record for completion %) found their “A” games in Jacksonville as they beat-up on the reeling Jaguars.  In a Sunday Night Football special, the Colts and Peyton Manning come to town looking to extend their 11-game winning streak.

16. Packers  (1-1)  –  HBO’s Hard Knocks’ heroes, the Bengals surprised the entire NFL by beating the Packers in Lambeau and Ocho Cinco even came back from a Lambeau Leap unscaved.  come to town looking for their first victory of the season.  The Pack will look to get back on the winning side of the ledger against the rebuilding Rams.

17.  Bears (1-1) – Lovie Smith’s team and QB Jay Cutler looked a lot better than in Week 1 as they hung tough and beat the Super Bowl champion Steelers.  A cross-country trip to Seattle awaits the Bears as they take on the injured Seahawks.

18.  Texans (1-1) – The Houston’s new team beatup their old team (Tennessee Titans formerly the Houston Oilers) as quarterback Matt Schaub  went deep to Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson over and over.  The Texans continue their tour of the AFC South as they host the Jags who look like they are ready to fall further down the NFL’s ladder.

19.  Bills (1-1) – The rebuilding Bucs were just the medicine that T.O and the Bills needed.  VH1’s favorite reality star got in the endzone and now the sky seems the limit for Alex Van Pelt’s offense.  In a sure to be shootout, the Saints and the golden arm quarterback Drew Brees are coming to Buffalo and they are not in search of some wings.

20.  Bengals (1-1) –  Ochocinco and the Bengals took over historic Lambeau Field by storm as they pulled the NFL’s biggest victory of Week 2.  In a game where Steelers receiver Hines Ward better have his head on a swivel, the Super Bowl Champion Steelers come to Cincy in an old fashioned AFC North grudge match.

21.  Seahawks  (1-1) – The Hawks were beaten-up as Singletary’s Niners continued to show the NFC West that they are the division’s new lead dogs.  Without quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (ribs), the Seahawks and backup QB Seneca Wallace will look to slowdown the Bears and QB Jay Cutler.

22.  Raiders (1-1) – The reeling Chiefs were just the medicine that the Raiders needed to forget their MNF season opening loss.  Head Coach Tom Cable will need a better effort from quarterback JaMarcus Russell as the Raiders host the division leading hate rival the Denver Broncos.

23.  Redskins (1-1)  – It was not pretty, but the Skins barely beat the Rams despite the a booing home crowd.  On the hot seat head coach Jim Zorn will need much more offense from QB Jason Campbell as the Redskins attempt to be the Lions first victim since the 2007 season.

24. Titans (0-2) – Who would have thought it after two weeks that the 2008 AFC South champion Titans would be 0-2.  But the truth hurts as the Texan went downtown on them in a big win over Jeff Fisher’s guys in Houston.  In a huge game, the Titans travel to Gotham to take-on the red hot NY Jets.

25.  Dolphins (0-2) – On Monday Night Football, the Wildcat and the Dolphins ran all over the Colts, but Peyton Manning had the final answer.  In search of a much-needed win, the Dolphins travel across the country to face the Chargers.

26.  Panthers  (0-2) – John Fox’s team looks like they are facing a letdown season after the Panthers fell to the Falcons.  It will be a Monday Night Football showdown against the Dallas Cowboys, which will either save or move closer to the end of the Panthers season.

27.  Buccaneers (0-2) – Head coach Raheem Morris’ squad didn’t have an answer for the offensive  Bills as T.O and his mates please their home crowd.   The top ranked New York Giants come to Tampa looking to continue their Beast of the East roll.

28.  Jaguars (0-2) – Cardinals triggerman Kurt Warner was pinpoint as the Cards quickly made a laugher out of a game with the hapless Jags.  The Houston Texans will host the Jags in an AFC South battle that could spell doom for head coach Jack Del Rio, if his team loses.

29.  Browns (0-2) – I don’t know how the Dawgs head coach Eric Mangini got a nickname like “Mangenius”.  The Browns continued their losing ways as the Broncos outmuscled them.  The Browns travel to Baltimore as them attempt to stop LB Ray Lewis and QB Joe Flacco.

30.  Chiefs (0-2) – The hated Raiders put a big “L” on the Chiefs and big offseason pickup QB Matt Cassel is being questioned already after only one game.  It will be back to Pennsylvania for Chiefs RB Larry Johnson as he leads his team against the Eagles in Philly.

31.  Rams (0-2)  – Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo’s defense did not allow a touchdown, but the Redskins were just  a little bit better.  The Rams will try to defend their home turf against the Packers and QB Aaron Rodgers.

32.  Lions  (0-2) – The Lions losing streak is now at  19 games after a rather easy win by the Vikings and QB Brett Favre.  I have a feeling this could be the Lions week as they host the Redskins in a “loser” leaves town match.

 

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 Power Rankings – Week 1

The “real” games finally began around the NFL and everyone celebrated from New England to San Diego.  Week 1 gave us some surprises (Niners handling the Cardinals), expected results (Colts, Giants, Steelers, and Patriots all found a way to win), and some heartbreakers (Bengals, Bills, and Jake Delhomme).

But let’s not forget that it was only one week of the 17-week and 16-game endurance testing 2009 NFL Season.  Fans and media need to wait the provisional 5 to 6 weeks before making broad assumptions or viewing trends as anything can happen in the wacky parity laden NFL.

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1. Steelers (1-0) – The 2008 Super Bowl Champions still remain in my top spot until someone knocks them off their perch.  In order to be the man, you have to beat the man…wooo!!  The Steelers won ugly against the scrappy Titans, needing overtime in the NFL’s season opener.  The champs overcame Hines Ward’s potential game-changing fumble, but they should be worried about a ground game that only produced 36 yards.  Next up for Mike Tomlin’s team is a trip to Chi-town to face confident quarterback Jay Cutler – despite throwing 4 INTs in his debut — and the Bears.

 2. Giants (1-0) – The G-Men won in their typical way playing tough defense and being efficient on offense against the Redskins.  Quarterback Eli Manning spread the ball to 7 different receivers and the Giants defense was led by returning Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora (defensive touchdown).  The Giants next travel to Dallas for the opening of Cowboys Stadium on NBC Sunday Night Football with a goal of shutting down early season phenom Tony Romo.

3.  Patriots (1-0) – Quarterback Tom Brady returning from a devastating knee injury in 2008 took a little while to heat-up.  But in the end the Pats found their rhythm late and the Bills gave them the breaks they needed to shockingly win on MNF in the last minutes of the game.  Everyone knows “Spygate” is long over, but there will be an emotionally charged atmosphere when the Patriots travel to the Meadowlands to face the rising Jets in an AFC East grudge match.

4.  Eagles (1-0) – The Birds answered many questions as they pounded the Panthers in Week 1 led by a defense that caused 7 turnovers.  But the win was costly as quarterback Donovan McNabb fractured a rib and may not be available for 2 to 3 weeks – hello Jeff Garcia.  The Eagles will finally have their regular season unveiling of “starting quarterback of the future” Kevin Kolb in their home opener against the high powered Saints.

5.  Vikings (1-0)  –  It was all good news and roses for the Vikings in Week1 as All-World running back Adrian Peterson led them in pounding the hapless Browns.   The hits should keep on coming in Week 2 as the Vikings travel to Motown to face another one of the NFL’s bottom teams, the Detroit Lions, and just maybe Brett Favre will get more involved this week.

6.  Colts (1-0) – For Indy it was a new season and a new head coach (Jim Caldwell) but it was also the same old Peyton Manning (threw for over 300 yards).  The future hall of famer tied Colts great John Unitas in franchise career wins (118) as the Colts squeaked by the Jaguars, but lost receiver Anthony Gonzalez (knee).  Next up is trip to Miami as the Colts return to the place where they won Super Bowl XLI  to battle fellow 2008 playoff team, the Dolphins.

7.  Ravens (1-0) – QB Joe Flacco looked like he is ready to take the next step in his maturation by passing for over 300 yards in a tougher than expected win over the Chiefs.  Next up for John Harbaugh’s team is a trip out West to face a hungry Chargers squad led by quarterback Phillip Rivers, RB Darren Sproles, and an attacking defense.

8.  Saints (1-0)  – Sean Payton’s team was back to their big play ways as they roasted the hapless Detroit Lions led by quarterback Drew Brees, who set a franchise record of 6 TDs in one game. However the road to returning to the playoffs will get a little harder as the Saints travel to Philly to face the Eagles and their hostile defense.

9.  Chargers (1-0) – The Bolts got the win in a tougher than expected battle with the Oakland Raiders in a “throwback” AFL game on MNF.  In one of Week 2’s feature games, the Chargers hope to get LT back to full strength for anticipated tough battle against the improving Ravens.

10.  49ers (1-0)  – “Iron” Mike Singletary got his first win of the 2009 NFL Season as his Niners showed the entire league that they are ready to fight for the NFC West by out-toughing the former NFC champion Cardinals in Arizona.  The Niners quest to conquer the NFC West continues in Week 2 as they host the Seahawks … wonder if malcontent draftee Michael Crabtree will be watching.

11. Titans (0-1) – Jeff Fisher’s team went toe-to-toe with the Super Bowl champion Steelers and came up a little short in the NFL’s inaugural game of the 2009 season.  In a game I will call “The Battle of Bum Philips”, the Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers) will host their former city’s new squad, the Houston Texans, in a key AFC South game.

12.  Falcons (1-0) – Head Coach Mike Smith and 2008 Rookie of the Year QB Matt Ryan started to prove that last year was not a fluke by dismantling the Dolphins led by their turnover happy defense.  I am sure the Falcons will not show the Carolina Panthers any “Southern” hospitality when they host them in Week 2.

13. Cowboys  (1-0) – QB Tony Romo was up to his early season highlight reel ways  once again as the Cowboys went to the air for several big plays in beating the Tampa Bay Bucs  All eyes will be on Texas this Sunday Night as the Cowboys  move into their new billion dollar stadium by hosting the New York Giants in the latest chapter of one of the NFL’s best rivalries.

14.  Broncos (1-0) – Young head coach Josh McDaniels’ squad should be thanking their lucky stars as the Bungles — I mean the Bengals — found a way to hand them a victory in the last minutes of their opening game…kudos to WR Brandon Stokely.  The Broncos continue their tour of the lower portion of the AFC North as they host the Browns in Week 2.

15.  Cardinals  (0-1) – The 2008 NFC Champs had their Super Bowl glide going and forgot that the Niners came to play in their opening game loss.  In a respect game, the Cardinals travel to Jacksonville to face a Jaguars team that is fighting to keep their head coach Jack Del Rio off the hot seat.

16.  Jets (1-0) –  In a surprise road victory over the Texans, Rex Ryan’s team gave notice to the NFL that there is a new sheriff in town and his name is Mark Sanchez.  The J-E-T-S will look to continue to ride their growing rookie passer and attacking defense when they host the Patriots in an old-time AFL grudge match.

17. Packers  (1-0)  –  On Sunday Night Football, the Pack served notice to the NFL that they were a team to be reckoned with as they outmuscled the Bears behind their new 3-4 defensive scheme.  The Packers for the second week in a row host another team from the Midwest as the stars from HBO’s Hard Knocks, the Bengals, come to town looking for their first victory of the season.

18.  Seahawks  (1-0) – The Jim Mora era got off to a good start for the Seahawks as they slapped around the punch-less Rams in an easy Week 1 shutout win.  I am sure the 12th Man will be parked in front of their television set for a highly anticipated NFC West battle as the Hawks travel to Frisco to take on Singletary’s Niners.

19.  Bears (0-1) – Despite losing Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher (wrist), Lovie Smith’s squad hung in there for awhile against the Packers unfortunately too many turnovers were their undoing on SNF.  QB Jay Cutler will need to start proving to the Windy City that he was worth all of the hoopla from this summer as the Bears host the Steelers.

20.  Texans (0-1) – The team everyone picked to be the breakout team for 2009 laid an egg at home against the upstart Jets as none of the Texans’ offensive weapons (Schaub, Slaton, or A. Johnson) could get going.  The Texans will be playing for civic pride as they travel east to face Houston’s former pro football team, the Tennessee Titans, in an AFC South divisional game.

21.  Dolphins (0-1) – Last season the ‘Phins protected the ball like no other NFL team — only 13 turnovers all season.  But against the hungry Falcons nothing seemed to work right as the Dolphins committed five turnovers in a bad opening season loss.  This week the national spotlight will be in Miami as the Peyton Manning and Colts come to town for a Monday Night Football showdown.

22.  Panthers  (0-1) – The 2009 NFC South Champion Panthers imploded at home again as turnovers (i.e. Jake Delhomme) cost them dearly in a blowout loss to the attacking Eagles.  I hate to put the term “must-win” on an early season, but John Fox’s team and quarterback have to bounce back in a big way when they travel to Atlanta to take on Matty “Ice” and Falcons.

23.  Redskins (0-1)  – You have to wonder when owner Daniel Snyder will start putting pressure on head coach Jim Zorn after his team once again could not get the job done against the Giants in a key NFC East battle.  The ‘Skins may get their necessary medicine for winning as they host the hapless Rams in Week 2.

 24.  Raiders (0-1) – Of course Al Davis will talk about being jobbed by the referees again, but playing on the national stage for the first time in a while, the Raiders being the Raiders just could not finish the job against the Chargers on MNF.  In a rivalry game that goes back to the heydays of the AFL, the Raiders travel to KC to face the Chiefs and a hostile Red Storm crowd. 

25.  Bills (0-1) – The new look Bills still played like the old Bills in a heartbreaking MNF loss to the Patriots.  I am sure Orchard Park will be rocking as the Bucs come to town in an interesting game where Bills quarterback Trent Edwards better get T.O the ball, if he knows what is good for him.

26.  Buccaneers (0-1) – Head coach Raheem Morris’ squad did some nice things against the Cowboys, but they were unable to stop long plays down the field which cost them.  Morris and his retooling squad will head north to Buffalo as they face a Bills’ team also looking for their first win and some respect.

27.  Jaguars (0-1) – The Colts continued to be the Jaguars’ AFC South nemesis as they outlasted the Jags to open the season. The Jags’ secondary better be ready for some fireworks as the high octane Cardinals and triggerman Kurt Warner come to town looking for their first win of the season.

28.  Browns (0-1) – “Mangenius” decided that Brady Quinn was his starter, but he should have been more worried about his defense, who allowed Vikes RB Adrian Peterson to embarrass them in a bad opening loss.  In a battle of two former Bill Belichick protégés, the Broncos (Josh McDaniels) host the Browns (Eric Mangini) in Week 2.

29.  Chiefs (0-1) – Head coach Todd Haley had to be proud of his team’s effort as the short-handed Chiefs almost pulled an upset against the Ravens.  Somewhere former head coach Hank Stram will be smiling as the Chiefs host the hated Raiders in an old time AFL rivalry game.

30.  Bengals (0-1) –  Fresh off the positive experience of being on HBO’s Hard Knocks, you would have thought the Bengals had turned the corner, but to the dismay of head Coach Marvin Lewis the “Bungles” were back in a shocking loss to the Broncos.  The road to redemption doesn’t get easier for the Bengals as they travel to historic Lambeau Field for a battle with the Packers.

31.  Rams (0-1)  – New Rams head coach and defensive guru Steve Spagnuolo got a first-hand look of how much work his rebuilding squad needs in a shutout loss to the Seahawks.  Spags’ team travels to the Nation’s Capital to face a hungry Redskins team.

32.  Lions  (0-1) – Just like the Super Bowl Champion Steelers, the lowly Lions continue to retain the other end of my NFL power rankings.  The Lions showed a little fight, but unfortunately the Saints blew the doors off them in an offensive explosion game.  The Lions will look to end their 18-game losing streak as they host the Vikings and their venerable quarterback Brett Favre.

 

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)