Wednesday September 22nd, 2010

NFL Power Rankings: Week 3 (cont.)
11San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 9
The Chargers won impressively at home against Jacksonville and still managed to fall a couple notches. Sorry about that, Bolts. These things have a way of working themselves out in time. San Diego stays on the West Coast this week, at Seattle. In fact, the Chargers don't venture further east than the Central time zone until a Thanksgiving weekend trip to Indianapolis, and won't play a game on the East Coast this year. I read that as a very good development for Norv Turner's streaky team.
 
12Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 14
Don't anyone dare take the Saints over the Falcons as a no-brainer pick in the office pool this week. Atlanta twice played New Orleans very tough last season, and this one is critical for the Falcons' division chances, because the two teams don't meet again until Week 16, in the Georgia Dome. Even with Jerious Norwood lost for the season, the Falcons still have enough depth at running back. But at what point do you start worrying about Michael Turner's inability to stay healthy for longer than a couple weeks at a time?
 
13Chicago Bears
Last Week: 25
Hail, hail the 2-0 Bears! It took a horrendous NFL rule and an imploding Cowboys team to help get Chicago to 2-0, but the Bears deserve credit for playing tough and smart in Dallas. And let's all salute Jay Cutler for persevering through all kinds of heat from the Cowboys pass rush to post a second consecutive impressive showing. But Monday night's home game against Green Bay should tell us if the Bears intend to stick around all season in the NFC North race.
 
14Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 23
I'm covering the 49ers at Chiefs on Sunday and I can't wait to see both the renovated Arrowhead Stadium and the renovated Kansas City roster. It's hard to imagine the Chiefs continuing their early-season success story without getting better play from quarterback Matt Cassel (55.8 passer rating). But so often a losing team's turnaround starts on defense, and that's where the progress is obvious in K.C. (an AFC West low 14 ppg allowed).
 
15Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 29
How about that Bucs rushing defense? It was horrendous last season (32nd overall, 158.2 ypg), but the youthful makeover has paid early dividends. Tampa Bay is tied for 15th with 111.5 rushing yards allowed per game, and last Sunday at Carolina, the Bucs held the vaunted Panthers running game to just 3.6 yards per carry (119 yards on 33 attempts). Granted, Tampa Bay has beaten two pretty awful teams in Cleveland and Carolina, but this week's home game against Pittsburgh offers the opportunity to earn legitimate respect.
 
16Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 13
Maybe it was just a really sloppy day against a superb, attacking defense, but the Titans and Vince Young looked like they weren't ready for what Pittsburgh threw at them last Sunday. That's why this week's game at the Giants is an interesting one for Tennessee, because New York clearly wasn't ready for what the Colts had in store Sunday night. Somebody's got to win and get their mojo back.
 
17New York Giants
Last Week: 11
I'm not loving the vibe I'm getting from the Giants in terms of some of the peripheral stuff that's going on in Year 7 of the Tom Coughlin era. Brandon Jacobs throwing his helmet into the stands, and pouting about his backup role. Antrel Rolle complaining about the team's travel schedule (that's a new one for me). This is a team that should be burning with the desire to erase the stench of last season's collapse, and I'm not hearing that across the board.
 
18Washington Redskins
Last Week: 15
The Redskins were so very close to 2-0 and being top-10-with-a-bullet material, but they let that one slip away Sunday against Houston. It had to feel good for Texans head coach Gary Kubiak to beat his mentor, Mike Shanahan. And wasn't Shanahan the first NFL coach to try the last-second timeout before a field goal trick? Yes, yes he was. Against Oakland in 2007. It would seem Kubiak beat Shanny at his own game.
 
19Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 19
I think Andy Reid made the exact right call at quarterback, for all the right reasons. If Kevin Kolb struggled, or even failed to play up to the level of Michael Vick the past two weeks, he was going to get buried by the Eagles fans and the media. And that wouldn't serve his long-term development as a franchise QB one bit. It might have actually stunted it for a good long while. You can't really go wrong in this league playing the hot hand. It's a win-now world in the NFL. More than ever.
 
20Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 10
OK, let's see Wade Phillips earn his head coaching paycheck and pull these Cowboys out of the mire they're in as they head to undefeated Houston. The last time we were all burying Dallas, it rose up and beat the 13-0 Saints on the road last December. Phillips doesn't always do his best work when fixes are needed, but if he doesn't get this thing turned around pretty quickly in Dallas, I don't believe he'll ever get another chance to call the shots as an NFL head coach.
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