Taking it to the House: 2011 NFL Week 14 Power Rankings

Kevin Burnett’s 34-yard interception return for a touchdown put the Dolphins up 34-0 en route to a 34-14 win over the Oakland Raiders. Given the way the Dolphins have been playing they vault to number 12 in Taking It To The House’s Week 13 Power Rankings
  1. Green Bay Packers (12-0) – The Packers wrapped up the NFC North and are now focused on home-field advantage in the playoffs.  Week 14: 12/11 vs. Oakland
  2. Baltimore Ravens (9-3) – The Ravens offense is best when Ray Rice is the focal point.  Week 14: 12/11 vs. Indianapolis
  3. New England Patriots (9-3) – The Patriots have the inside track on home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.  Week 14: 12/11 @ Washington
  4. New Orleans Saints (9-3) – The Saints offense looks unstoppable in the Superdome.  It will be an interesting race for the number 2 seed in the NFC over the next month.  Week 14: 12/11 @ Tennessee 
  5. San Francisco 49ers (10-2) – The 49ers defense hasn’t given up a rushing touchdown in 12 games this year.  Their number one priority over the next month will be getting Patrick Willis healthy for the playoffs.  Possible letdown game this Sunday without their leader.  Week 14: 12/11 @ Arizona Continue reading
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Taking it to the House’s NFL Week 9 Power Rankings

After topping the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers continue to rank atop Taking It To The House‘s Power Rankings.

  1. Green Bay Packers (8-0) – The defense gave up 460 total yards and 38 points on Sunday.  They still won the game.  Remember Packers fans the same thing that makes you laugh, also makes you cry.  Week 10: 11/14 vs. Minnesota
  2. San Francisco 49ers (7-1) – Another Sunday, another win on the East Coast.  People forget if they didn’t give up a 14-point fourth quarter lead against the Cowboys in Week 2, the Packers wouldn’t be the only undefeated team.  Week 10: 11/13 vs. NY Giants Continue reading

Taking It To The House NFL Week 8 Power Rankings

Fred Jackson led the charge for the Bills past the Redskins on Sunday in Toronto. Buffalo leads the AFC east and after shutting out Washington in week 8, jump to number four in Taking It To The House‘s Power Rankings. 
  1. Green Bay Packers (7-0) – Just what the Packers needed, a week off after playing a sloppy game atMinnesota.  Week 9: 11/6 @ San Diego
  2. San Francisco 49ers (6-1) – Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman have this defense playing as well as any defense in football.  Frank Gore is carrying the load on offense.  Jim Harbough has his team very disciplined and they don’t turn the ball over.  They have only committed six turnovers this season.  Week 9: 11/6 @ Washington Continue reading

2009 NFL Season – Week 13 Rankings

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

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

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

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

Now on to the rankings for this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23.  Bills (4-7) – The NFL’s new fantasy football combo, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and  WR Terrell Owens, helped the Bills dominate the Dolphins.  In a Thursday Night football special, the Bills will travel to the Meadowlands to face a rebounding Jets’ squad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2009 NFL Season – Week 10 Power Rankings

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

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

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

Now on to the rankings for this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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 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)