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 Power Rankings – Week 7

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Fueled by a 3-game winning streak, WR Steve Breaston and the Arizona Cardinals are moving up our NFL 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” – Broncos (6-0), Saints (6-0), Colts (6-0), Vikings (6-1), Steelers (5-2), Bengals (5-2),  and Patriots (5-2); “Teams on the Cusp” — Giants (5-2), Falcons (4-2), Cowboys (4-2), Cardinals (4-2) and Eagles (4-2);  “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 – Jets (4-3),  Texans (4-3), Jaguars (3-3), Bears (3-3),  Niners (3-3), Ravens (3-3), and Chargers (3-3);  The “Pretenders”, who are only a shade away from the league’s bottom rung – Bills (3-4), Dolphins (2-4), Seahawks (2-4), and Panthers (2-4); and lastly  the “Putrid” (i.e. These teams  should just skip to the 2010 NFL Draft) – Redskins (2-5), Raiders (2-5), Chiefs (1-6), Browns (1-6), Lions (1-5), Rams (0-7), Buccaneers (0-7), and Titans (0-6)

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1.  Colts (6-0) – In the return of Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders, head coach Jim Caldwell’s team thumped the winless Rams for their 15th straight regular season win.  At least the poor Rams were able to end Peyton Manning’s 300-yard passing game streak at six games.  Next up for the NFL’s most efficient team is hosting the inconsistent Niners and their new quarterback Alex Smith.

2.  Saints (6-0) – “Who Dat, Who Dat is gonna beat them Saints”… it appears no one right now.  The Saints further legitimized themselves by coming back from 21 points down to beat the physical hard-running Dolphins.  The Superdome will be rocking as NFC South rival, the Atlanta Falcons, come to town for a huge Monday Night Football extravaganza.

3.  Broncos (6-0) – Head Coach Josh McDaniels’ ascending squad continued their unbeaten ways as they rested-up during a much-needed bye week.  In a highly anticipated physical football game, the Broncos will travel east to face an angry and rested Ravens team.

4. Steelers (5-2) – The Men of Steel made it four wins in a row as their defense rose to the occasion and helped give the Vikings and venerable quarterback Brett Favre their first “L” of the season.  Mike Tomlin’s team gets a timely bye week to heal-up for the second half of their Super Bowl Champion defense season. 

5.  Vikings (6-1) –Driven by All-World running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikes were on the verge of producing their 7th straight win.  However they got too bogged down in the redzone and the Steelers won fueled by their defense.  In probably the most hyped NFL reunion game ever – Thanks ESPN – No. 4 will return to Lambeau to face a Packers squad looking to avenge a loss to the Vikes earlier this season.

6.  Patriots (5-2) – The Patriots returned to Merry Ole England to give English NFL fans a glimpse of their version of the “Boston Massacre” as the winless Tampa Bay Bucs didn’t have a chance.  After a long flight back across the Atlantic, the Patriots can give their many veterans over 30 a much-needed rest during the bye.

7.  Bengals (5-2) — Revenge-minded RB Cedric Benson showed the Chicago Bears that they made a big mistake as the Bengals had a surprisingly easy victory over the Bears.   The bye week should give loquacious WR Chad Ochocinco the opportunity to Tweet away to his many followers.

8.  Cardinals (4-2) – The Cards proved that there is no kryptonite on the Eastern Coast as QB Kurt Warner led them over the Giants in a physical game.  The Cardinals will host the reeling Carolina Panthers in a rematch of last year’s divisional round playoffs when Arizona embarrassed Carolina 33-13.

9. Giants (5-2) –  After their second straight loss to another contending NFC team, this time the Cardinals, everyone is wondering if the G-Men fattened up on too many early season cupcakes.  The classic NYC-Philadelphia rivalry will be on full display in the “City of Brotherly Love” as the Phils meet the Yanks in the World Series and Big Blue will battle the Birds at the Linc.

10. Packers (4-2) – Quietly the Packers are showing that they are a dangerous team and this week they took care of business against the horrible Cleveland Browns.  QB Aaron Rodger and the Packers’ faithful will need to keep a lid their emotions as former Packers legend Brett Favre returns to Lambeau for an ultimate NFL grudge match.

11.  Eagles (4-2) – It was by no means a pretty sight, but the Eagles fueled by some big plays from WR DeSean Jackson and newcomer LB Will Witherspoon put away the descending Redskins  and their beleaguered head coach Jim Zorn on Monday Night football.  In a statement game, the Birds and QB Donovan McNabb will battle hated NFC East rival the NY Giants.

12. Cowboys (4-2) –In a statement game, the Cowboys stepped back into the NFC East hunt as they got offensive with the Atlanta Falcons in their 2nd straight win.  If the Cowboys want to prove their consistency and avoid a letdown, WR Miles Austin and the ‘Boys will need to take care of business at home against the reeling Seahawks.

13.  Falcons (4-2) – The Cowboys used their bye week to get ready for Matty Ice and the Falcons as they thumped them in Big D.  Mike Smith’s Dirty Birds will need to put last week behind them as they travel to Bourbon Street to face hate NFC South rival, the New Orleans Saints, on Monday Night Football.

14.  Jets (4-3) – It was so easy in a win at Oakland for rookie QB Mark Sanchez and the J-E-T-S that the young signalcaller had time to chow-down on a hot dog on the sidelines.  Next up is an AFC East grudge match as the Jets host the run-happy Miami Dolphins.

15.  Texans (4-3) – You never know which Texans team is going to show, but this week RB Steve Slaton and the rest of the gang came to play in an entertaining win over the Niners.  In a game to see who can jump from the NFL’s parity filled middle, the Texans travel to Western New York to face an equally confounding Bills squad.

16.  Bears (3-3) – It wasn’t even close as the Bengals, led by motivated RB Cedric Benson, feasted on the Bears in Cincy.  In a classic Midwest Battle that the Bears better not lose, the lowly Cleveland Browns will come to Soldier Field looking for their latest loss.

17.  Ravens (3-3) – John Harbaugh’s team probably used their bye week to lick their wounds from 3 straight losses.  Look for a motivated Ravens squad to return from their bye as they host the undefeated Denver Broncos in a match-up of two young energetic coaches.

18.  49ers (3-3) – The Niners waited too late to go with former first-rounder QB Alex Smith in a loss to the Texans that probably burned Niners head coach Mike Singletary’s britches.  The Niners will look for first rounder Michael Crabtree, emerging TE Vernon Davis, and new starter Smith to breakout as the Niners travel to Indy to face the dominant Colts.

19.  Jaguars (3-3) – Hopefully during their bye week the Jags found some consistency as they have been too up and down this season.  In a must-win game, the Jags will try to avoid a letdown against the struggling host Tennessee Titans.

20.  Chargers (3-3) –In a game where only a win was acceptable, the Chargers thumped the Chiefs leading RB Larry Johnson to lose his mind.  In an AFL old-time grudge match special, the Oakland Raiders will surely be an inhospitable host to the Chargers.

21.  Bills (3-4) – Just when you thought the Bills and their head coach Dick Jauron were gonna be cooked like some hot wings, they pulled a surprise with a convincing road win over the Carolina Panthers.  In a game pitting the NFL’s current superstar receiver (Texans Andre Johnson) versus the fantasy football former best receiver (Bills Terrell Owens), the Buffalo will host Houston in a “Loser Leaves Town” match.

22.  Seahawks (2-4) –The Hawks dearly needed a bye week as their roster was starting to look like a MASH unit.  The rested Seahawks will look to spoil the Cowboys current win streak (2) when they travel to Jerry Jones’ billion-dollar playpen.

23.  Panthers (2-4) – After a bad home loss to the Bills, it may finally be time for the Panthers to pull the plug on NFL interceptions leader, Jake Delhomme (13 iNTs).  The Panthers will look for revenge for last season’s playoff debacle as they travel west to face the ascending Arizona Cardinals.

24.  Dolphins (2-4) – After jumping out to an early 21-point lead, fueled by rejuvenated RB Ricky Williams, the Dolphins let the Saints fight back for a hard earned victory.   Next up is a trip to the Meadowlands to face AFC East rival, the New York Jets.

25.  Redskins (2-4) – The Philadelphia Eagles played ugly, but the Redskins were even worse in another bad loss that surely is another nail in the coffin of melancholy head coach Jim Zorn.  If Zorn and the rest of the Redskins are smart, they will leave town during their bye week as their fans are seeing red over one of the NFL’s ugliest situations.

26.  Raiders (2-5) – One week after shocking the Philadelphia Eagles, it was the same old Raiders as the Jets came to town and gave Al Davis’ team a 35-0 shutout thumping.  We will have to see if formerly benched quarterback JaMarcus Russell and the Raiders can rebound as they travel face-off against AFC West rival, the San Diego Chargers.

27.  Chiefs (1-6) – The Chargers were not having any upset talk as they quickly disposed of the reeling Chiefs.  During their bye week, Chiefs head coach Todd Haley will need to figure out how to keep a lid on unproductive nasty Tweeting RB Larry Johnson.

28.  Lions (1-5) – The Lions and aching stars QB Matt Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson probably got some rest during their bye week.  In truly the NFL’s “Toilet Bowl”, the Lions will host the winless St. Louis Rams in a game that will have implications at the 2010 NFL Draft.

29.  Browns (1-6) – The Packers put a beat down on the host Dawgs as each week we find out just how “bad” the Browns really are.  In a game that only NFL legends George “Papa Bear” Halas and Paul Brown could love, the Bears will host the Browns.

30. Titans (0-6) – During the bye week, Titans head coach Jeff Fisher tried valiantly to stand by QB Kerry Collins  but it is only a matter of time before owner Bud Adams gets his wish and V.Y is back in the starting lineup.  This week is as good as any for the Titans to finally get a “W” as the inconsistent Jacksonville Jaguars come to town.

31.  Rams (0-7) – Let’s face it …Steve Spanuolo’s squad shouldn’t even be allowed to stay in the same hotel as the Indianapolis Colts – lost their 17th straight game.  In another ho-hum win, the Colts and Robo-Quarterback Peyton Manning thumped the Lambs.  Next up is the “Toilet Bowl” as the Rams look to get off the schnide as they travel to Motown in search of a win over the Lions.

32.  Buccaneers (0-7) –The poor Bucs must have made fans in London, England throw-up their Fish and Chips as they were destroyed by the New England Patriots in the NFL’s 3rd regular season trip overseas.  During the bye week, the Bucs better get youngster quarterback Josh Freeman ready, because there is nothing else to play for at this point in the season.

 

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 3

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WR Mario Manningham and the NY Giants still hold the top ranking after a shellacking of the Bucs… Next up is the Chiefs

The 2009 NFL season is nearing it’s first quarter pole and already the short season may have written some season-long implications.  “Separation Sunday” in Week 3 brought some fantastic finishes (Vikings over Niners, Bengals over Steelers and Bears over Seahawks), One huge upset (Lions ended their 19-game losing streak by scoring a 19-14 win over the Redskins), and a whole bunch of blowouts (Eagles over Chiefs, Giants over Bucs, Broncos over Raiders, Ravens over Browns, Packers over Rams, and Saints over Bills).

As we look at the standings after three weeks of NFL action, there  is no doubt that parity is in the air.  There are 7 teams at (3-0) i.e. “The Haves” – Ravens, Jets, Giants, Vikings, Colts, Saints and Broncos; 9  teams at (2-1) i.e. “The Contenders” — Falcons, Niners, Packers, Eagles, Bengals, Patriots, Chargers, Bears, and Cowboys;  9 teams at (1-2) i.e. “Stuck in the Middle”  – Texans, Bills, Redskins, Jaguars, Steelers, Raiders, Cardinals, Lions and Seahawks; and 7 teams at (0-3) i.e. “The Have Nots” – Browns, Rams, Chiefs, Titans, Dolphins, Panthers and Bucs. 

For the poor 0-3 teams, there season is basically over as only three teams with that record made the playoffs since 1990.  The biggest surprises of the currently seven (0-3) teams has to be the three former 2008 divisional champs — Tennessee Titans (AFC South champs, finishing with a 13-3 record), Miami Dolphins (AFC East champs, finishing with an 11-5 record) and the Carolina Panthers (NFC South camps, finishing with a 12-4 record).  The plight of these “fallen from grace” teams shows that every year is different in the NFL.  Anything whether it is injuries, a coach on the hot seat, a harder schedule, poor quarterback play, etc can turn a champ into a chump real quick.

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1. Giants (3-0) – The G-Men found their physical running game as they pounded out over 200 rushing yards in beating the hapless Bucs into an early submission.  Someone at the NFL’s scheduling office must really like the Giants as they get another “cupcake” this week in the Chiefs.

2.  Colts (3-0) – This quietly undefeated squad led by possible repeat MVP Peyton Manning dismantled the Cardinals on Sunday Night Football.  Expect another offensive explosion as the Seahawks playing without their starting quarterback come to Indy.

3.  Jets (3-0) – Another week, another win for Rex Ryan’s young tough squad.  The Jets made a believer out of me as they outmuscled the Titans.  The Jets’ #1 ranked defense will have the test of their lives as they travel to New Orleans to face the high-flying Saints.

4.  Vikings (3-0)  –  In an “Instant Classic” win over the Niners that ended with a last second touchdown pass, quarterback Brett Favre showed the guts that made the Vikings take a chance on him.  In the possibly the game of the week, Monday Night Football will be abuzz as the Vikes host Favre’s former squad and rival, the Packers.

5.  Ravens (3-0) – QB Joe Flacco continued to build on his impressive growing resume as the Ravens #1 ranked offense (points and yards) embarrassed the grasping at straws Browns.  If ever there was a time to come of age, John Harbaugh’s team will travel to New England to face the former kings of the AFC, the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady.

6.  Saints (3-0)  – In a rare occurrence, QB Drew Brees didn’t throw a touchdown as RB Pierre Thomas took over in a rather easy win over the fighting Bills.  It will be offense vs. defense as the Saints host the Jets, who are looking like the reincarnation of the 1985 Chicago Bears.

7.  Broncos (3-0) – Head coach Josh McDaniels’ squad continues to pile up the wins as they beat-up on the hapless Raiders, but I still want to see if they are real “contenders”.  The league should get to know the new look Broncos this week as they face a tough early season test against the Cowboys.

8.  Patriots (2-1) – Quarterback Tom Brady and the Pats fought back against talk that they were falling back toward the pack with a quality win over the formally undefeated Falcons.  In a possible playoff match-up the Patriots host the hungry Ravens, who are looking to legitimize their place near the top of the AFC..

9.  Eagles (2-1) – In a game that marked the return of Michael Vick to the NFL, it was a true butt-kicking game as the Birds led by young quarterback Kevin Kolb throttled the reeling Chiefs.  The Eagles will have a much-needed bye week to help QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook and others heal-up for the second quarter of the NFL season.

10.  Chargers (2-1) – Led by new star LB Kevin Burnett and improving DB Eric Weddle, the Chargers moved the Dolphins further down the standings in a solid win.  In a Sunday Night Football showdown, the Bolts will travel to Pittsburgh to face the surprisingly struggling Super Bowl champion Steelers.

11.  49ers (2-1) – “Iron” Mike Singletary’s team was on the verge of huge road win until Brett Favre and WR Greg Lewis stepped in, giving the Vikings a miracle victory.  With the bad taste of an almost-win in their mouths, the Niners will host the Rams as RB Glenn Coffee comes off the bench.

12.  Falcons (2-1) – In Matt Ryan’s college homecoming game, the Falcons were out-physicalled by the Patriots.  This week the Falcons will be home resting and rooting against the division leading Saints during their bye.

13. Packers (2-1)  –  Another “quietly” good team that continued to just win as the Pack beat-up on the poor Rams, who also lost their quarterback.  In this week’s grudge match special, on Monday Night Football the Packers will face the hated Vikings with “What’s his name?” at quarterback.

14.  Bears (2-1) – Their win over the inconsistent Seahawks was not a work of art, but Lovie Smith and QB Jay Cutler will take the win and move on.  In an NFC North black-and-blue special, the Bears will be hosting the surging Lions and Lovie’s crew does not want to be their next victim.

15. Cowboys (2-1) – On MNF, QB Tony Romo and the Cowboys took a while to get it going, but in the end the Panthers continued their losing ways.  A highly anticipated battle awaits in Denver as the Broncos and Cowboys will figure out who is a “contender” and who is a “pretender”.

16.  Bengals (1-1) — HBO’s Hard Knocks #1 squad is starting to make believers around the NFL as they came back to surprise the overconfident Steelers in a huge AFC North win.  Head Coach Marvin Lewis’ team will be guarding against a big letdown as they face the reeling Browns in the “Battle of Ohio”.

17. Steelers (1-2) – The 2008 Super Bowl Champions are starting to understand how hard it is to be the “Hunted” as the Bengals fought for 60 minutes and came away with a big win.  In a possible desperation game, the Steelers will host the Chargers in a huge Sunday Night Football battle.

18.  Cardinals  (1-2) – The 2008 NFC Champs maybe experiencing the dreaded Super Bowl loser hangover as they had no answer for the Colts on Sunday Night Football and didn’t seem to care.  Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt decided that The Cardinals’ bye week would be a “work” week, so the team could get their heads back in the game.

19.  Texans (1-2) – For the last two years the Texans have been one of the NFL’s most inconsistent teams and the trend continued in Week 2 as the Jaguars and Pocket Hercules defeated them in a pinball machine game.  In a must-win home game, the Texans need to take care of business against a struggling Raiders team.

20.  Bills (1-2) – Bills quarterback Trent Edwards could not get the ball to T.O even once and the sparks are ready to fly after a lackluster loss to the Saints.  In an AFC East rivalry game, the Bills will try to heal their relationships by taking a road trip to sunny Miami to face winless Dolphins.

21.  Seahawks  (1-2) – Head Coach Jim Mora is still searching for a way to get the Hawks back to their consistent winning ways after they didn’t capitalize on chances in a home loss to the Bears.  The road back to respectability does not get an easier as the Seahawks travel to Indy to face a red-hot Colts team.

22.  Jaguars (1-2) – With head coach Jack Del Rio on one of the NFL’s hottest seats, the Jags responded with a big road win over the Texans.   Even though their game against the winless Titans will be blacked-out locally, you know RB Maurice Jones-Drew will be looking to outperform fellow Pro Bowl player RB Chris Johnson.

23.  Lions (1-2) – Well…Week 3 and the Redskins were the answer to a long awaited win for the Lions as head coach Jim Schwartz’s team ended their embarrassing 19-game losing streak.  You never know…the Lions could make it two in a row as they travel to Chi-town to face the hated Bears.

24.  Redskins (1-2)  – The hottest seat in the NFL got even hotter as Skins head coach Jim “Hip-Hip-Per-ay” Zorn could not get his team up as they suffered an embarrassing loss to the formerly winless in 19 games Lions.  It maybe win or get out of the way for Zorn as the Redskins host the “dangerous” currently winless Bucs.

25. Titans (0-3) – What a difference a year makes…head coach Jeff Fisher maybe looking to V.Y soon as the Titans lost another tight one, this time to the rising NY Jets.  In a game that is not only crucial to the AFC South standings, the Titans will travel south to face a resurgent Jaguars squad.

26.  Raiders (1-2) – It was another game that made you wonder how Al Davis’ team will ever pull out of their funk as the Raiders barely showed up against the Broncos.  In a game where the loser should pack their bags and go home for the rest of the season, the Raiders will travel to play the Houston Texans.

27.  Dolphins (0-3) – Much like the former 2008 AFC South Titans, the Dolphins have looked nothing like their former themselves and last week was no exception as the Chargers pushed them further down.  In an AFC East basement brawl, the Dolphins will look to get back in the win column against fighting Bills.

28.  Panthers  (0-3) – Carolina laid an egg on MNF against the Cowboys and it only looks like a matter of time before head coach John Fox is watching Bill Cowher coach the Panthers.  Maybe a bye week will help heal some injuries and the frosty relationship between WR Steve Smith and QB Jake Delhomme.

29.  Buccaneers (0-3) – Head coach Raheem Morris is searching for answers after another horrible loss this time to the Giants.  After being shutout by the G-Men, the Bucs will turn to young quarterback Josh Johnson in a respect game in Washington against the embarrassed Redskins.

30.  Chiefs (0-3) – I don’t know any other way to put it…but the Chiefs are a joke and last week against the Eagles there was little to no fight in this reeling team.  The Chiefs will try to not be further embarrassed as they host the run-happy Giants.

31.  Rams (0-3)  – New Rams head coach and defensive guru Steve Spagnuolo has his work cut out for him as there is not much on his team’s roster as shown by their blowout loss to the Packers.  The Rams will look to get their first win against heated rival, the Niners, who are angry over a last second loss to the Vikes.

32.  Browns (0-3) – It is looking more and more like Eric “Mangenius” Mangini has lost control of  a Browns team that has little or no fight in them.  The Ravens ran roughshod over the Browns in an embarrassing AFC North loss.  In the “Battle for Ohio”, the Browns will host the surprisingly surging Bengals as Mangini’s pins his fleeting hopes on backup QB Derek Anderson.

 

 

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)