32. Carolina Panthers (Last Week: 32)
The Panthers almost pulled out a win over the Cleveland Browns, but it wasn’t to be. Jimmy Clausen looks like he might have some sort of future — if the next head coach doesn’t decide to go out and get his own guy with the No. 1 overall pick.
31. Cincinnati Bengals (Last Week: 31)
I still can’t figure out the problem with the Bungals (oh yeah, they’re back to the Bungals now). They have all the talent in the world and some good coaches, but it just continues to fall apart. On the bright side, they should get a fresh start next season as there’s almost no way Marvin Lewis is back.
30. Arizona Cardinals (Last Week: 26)
Don’t make fun of my power rankings. You think this is funny? I put my heart and soul into this every week. I study my ass off. This isn’t a joke. You know what? I’m done. Sorry, I’m done.
29. Detroit Lions (Last Week: 29)
The Lions are only staying put because the Cardinals look so bad. There was some promise early in the season, but once Matt Stafford went down things took a turn for the worse. Now that Shaun Hill has gone down as well, the franchise is left in the hands of Drew Stanton. Oh boy.
28. Denver Broncos (Last Week: 24)
I wrote last week that the Broncos’ high-powered offense might be enough to keep them in games. Well, after getting beaten by the St. Louis Rams’ offense, their offense is inconsequential at this point. Whether they score 0 or 30, this defense will make sure they lose.
27. Dallas Cowboys (Last Week: 28)
The Cowboys almost pulled out a win against the New Orleans Saints on Thanksgiving day, but Roy Williams blew it in the end after getting stripped by Malcolm Jenkins near the goal-line. This team will find a way to mess things up week after week until the season puts them out of their misery.
26. Cleveland Browns (Last Week: 23)
When you almost lose to the Carolina Panthers, you deserve to drop. If Colt McCoy is able to come back, they might start climbing the rankings again. But with Jake Delhomme taking the snaps, this is an unimpressive team to say the least.
25. Buffalo Bills (Last Week: 30)
I don’t know where the put the Bills, but it can’t be very high with only two wins, can it? The way they’re playing it seems like they could stick with anyone in the league, but it might be more of a raccoon fighting its way out of a corner type of thing than it is a good team showing up.
24. San Francisco 49ers (Last Week: 27)
They beat the Cardinals. Hooray. They’re one game out of the NFC West lead. Hooray. They lost Frank Gore — probably for the season. Oh no.
23. Washington Redskins (Last Week: 18)
I don’t know who this team is, and I don’t think they even know who they are. Mike and Kyle Shanahan can’t decide if they want to rely on Donovan McNabb or their running game, and the 3-4 in Washington has been a complete disaster all year. Why take a talented defense in the 4-3 and try to mess that up?
22. Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: 20)
Seattle got throttled by the Kansas City Chiefs, and I think now we’re starting to see the real Seahawks. Like most bad teams, the Seahawks don’t have an identity or that one go-to guy. They’ve shown flashes, but not enough to make anyone think they’re going to be making a push this year or even in 2011.
21. Oakland Raiders (Last Week: 16)
Like Denny Green would say, they are who we thought they were. So, false alarm — they’re still the Raiders.
20. Minnesota Vikings (Last Week: 25)
They were able to beat the Redskins in Leslie Frazier’s first game as head coach, but it was close. I think they’re a much better team than they’re showing, but it hasn’t looked good all year long and there’s still not going to be a huge jump regardless of who’s the head coach.
19. Tennessee Titans (Last Week: 19)
Luckily for the Titans, the teams below them were not very good, either. But even though they stay put this week, I expect them to tumble in the coming weeks. They’ve got a young quarterback not even Titans fans have heard of, and coach who could be on the way out. That’s not a good mix, and it’s going to get ugly very quickly.
18. St. Louis Rams (Last Week: 21)
The team at the top of the NFC West can’t even crack the top half of the league. It might be time for the NFL to take a look at revamping the playoff seeding.
17. Houston Texans (Last Week: 22)
The Texans are another team that is impossible to figure out. Would anyone be surprised if their offense led them to a playoff berth or conversely if their defense made sure they finish 5-11?
16. Miami Dolphins (Last Week: 17)
Chad Henne and the offense looks like it might be on the right track again, but it’s tough to judge after playing the Raiders who showed that they are still in fact a below-average team. If this team played in the NFC West, they’d probably have their ticket to the playoffs already punched. But since they’re in the AFC East, they’ll be on the outside looking in yet again.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week: 13)
They suffered a comeback loss to the Giants, but showed a lot of fight and have the look of a team that might be able to pull things together and unseat the Indianapolis Colts. But, until they do, they’ll stay in the middle-of-the-pack.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Week: 11)
Putting aside a bad second quarter, the Buccaneers might have been able to pull off the upset over the Baltimore Ravens. But they once again fell to a good team and have yet to put up a quality win.
13. New York Giants (Last Week: 15)
Their win over the Jaguars was a step in the right direction, but they seemed to get a lot of breaks throughout the game that ultimately helped them pull it out. I’m waiting for the Giants to simply go out and beat a good team without needing the other guys to shoot themselves in the foot first.
12. Indianapolis Colts (Last Week: 10)
The Colts got spanked by a surging San Diego Chargers team, and have looked lost for a few weeks now. Peyton Manning’s potential MVP season (what would be his fifth) is headed down the tubes and the injuries appear to be catching up to a team that has previously looked unstoppable.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: 12)
After throttling the Seahawks, the Chiefs stayed on top of the AFC West, but they might not be there for long. They’re finally getting some steady quarterback play, but they’ll have to keep on winning if they’re going to fight off the Chargers and their annual late-season surge.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: 7)
For all his struggles, Michael Vick played well enough for the Eagles to beat the Bears. The problem is that defense and the way it got flat-out beaten by a sub-par receiving corps and an erratic quarterback. Until they shore up that defense somehow, the Eagles will face an uncertain future.
9. San Diego Chargers (Last Week: 14)
The beating they put on the Colts was impressive, and they’ve shown over the past few seasons that it’s not wise to bet against them down the stretch. I’m not a fan of Norv Turner and don’t believe he’ll ever take them where they want to be, but winning the West is certainly a possibility and then anything is possible from there.
8. Baltimore Ravens (Last Week: 8 )
Joe Flacco looked good and Ray Rice appears to be getting back on track, but they will have to find some consistency if they hope to unseat the Steelers in the AFC North.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week: 6)
It’s not usual a team moves down after winning, but when they needed overtime to beat the two-win Bills, I’d say this is more than fair. The Bills’ defense has been their problem, and the Steelers could only put up 16 points on them. Perhaps the Steelers should stop worrying so much about attacking the league’s fine policy and actually playing the games.
6. Chicago Bears (Last Week: 9)
The offense was impressive and, for the most part, so was the defense in their win over the red-hot Eagles. The defense allowed 26 points, but held the Eagles to kicking four field goals and allowed a late touchdown that wound up being meaningless. If they can keep this up, they might just wind up taking the NFC North.
5. New Orleans Saints (Last Week: 5)
The Saints needed a terrific play by Malcolm Jenkins to beat a Cowboys team that has only three wins. The talk of them as the favorites in the NFC is probably a bit premature, but they’re keeping pace and that’s all that matters until the playoffs kick off.
4. Green Bay Packers (Last Week: 2)
Just because the Packers lost and the Bears won does not mean the Bears are now the favorites in the NFC North. The Bears sit on top of the division for now, but that could change when the two teams meet in Week 17.
3. New England Patriots (Last Week: 3)
Was I the only one who got the feeling Bill Belichick walked into the Patriots’ locker room at halftime and just said “Hey guys, you do know we’re playing the Lions, right?”
2. New York Jets (Last Week: 1)
They kept it too close with the Bengals. They seem to play down to their competition and must break that habit if they’re going to make a run in the playoffs. They’ve got some very good teams breathing down their necks in their conference (and division) and cannot afford to slip up if they want the road to the Super Bowl to go through New York.
1. Atlanta Falcons (Last Week: 4)
It’s impossible to beat the Falcons at home. They’re undefeated in the Georgia Dome this season and Matt Ryan is an incredible 19-1 there in his career. They have two losses on the season, but they were an overtime loss to the Steelers and a let-down against the Eagles. As long as they stay out of Pennsylvania, the Falcons are the favorites in the NFC.
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