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NFL Power Rankings (cont.)

NFL Power Rankings
21Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 22
I've been high on Matt Moore since he looked good in preseason for Dallas in 2007, but now the Panthers have to seriously view him as a contender to be their starter next year. Moore's career-best 299 yards passing and three touchdowns against Minnesota were a revelation, and the whole Carolina team seemed to respond to the spark he created. Something sure got into Julius Peppers and Steve Smith.
 
22San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 20
Like famine, the 49ers' plague of missing the postseason has now reached seven years. It's the same story across the bay in Oakland, of course, and you just wonder if this is karmic payback for all those decades of winning football those two franchises produced. The 49ers and Raiders have each played in five Super Bowls, and won a combined eight rings. Now it's 14 seasons and counting from 2003 on, with nary a winning record between them in that span. In fact, unless the 49ers win their last two to finish 8-8, it'll be a combined 14 losing seasons in a row for San Francisco and Oakland.
 
23Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 27
What a bizarro season the Raiders have had, and I'm talking even more so than usual. They've beaten the Eagles, Bengals, Steelers and Broncos, and lost to middling types like Kansas City, Washington, the Jets and Houston. Oh, and Oakland hasn?t won two in a row all year. How do you give your heart to a team like that, not knowing which version of the roster will show up that day? On whole, I suppose Raiders fans have bigger gripes than the Silver and Black's mere inconsistency.
 
24Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 23
As the Bills prepare to start their third quarterback of the season due to injuries on Sunday in Atlanta, I think it's fair to make the assessment that Buffalo most assuredly did not get its offensive line problems fixed this year. And that may well have at least indirectly resulted in two quarterbacks being injured (Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick) and two coaches being fired (Dick Jauron and Turk Schonert). Good luck, Brian Brohm.
 
25Chicago Bears
Last Week: 24
I've heard a lot of general managers come out and shoot down a media report that a coach's fate has already been decided before the end of the season. But I?m not sure I've ever heard what the Bears' Jerry Angelo did the other day, which was to come out and shoot down a report that Lovie Smith was safe and could count on returning in 2010. It could be that Angelo just didn't want the impression to linger that Chicago was willing to settle for more of the same because it still owes Smith $11 million. But any way you cut it, I don't think it was good news for Lovie.
 
26Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 25
When Tampa Bay embarrasses you in front of the home crowd, you know you'?ve reached the low point of a thoroughly disappointing season. That was a major league mail-in job by Seattle, the likes of which has not been seen in those parts since the dreary final days of the Seahawks? Tom Flores coaching era.
 
27Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 29
Did you ever in your wildest dreams think we'd be talking about Jerome Harrison and Jim Brown in the same sentence -- in that order -- in Cleveland's storied rushing history? Did you even know who Harrison was before his meteorite of a 286-yard rushing performance at Kansas City? Be honest. The NFL's ability to surprise us never ceases.
 
28Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 28
And so another desultory season for the NFL's two Missouri-based franchises is winding down. It's remarkable, but since the start of the 2007 season, the Chiefs and Rams are a combined 15-77 (.163), with Kansas City's 4-12 record in '07 representing the high-water mark so far in those six seasons. I'm guessing that 2003 -- when K.C. and St. Louis went a combined 25-7 and both finished as No. 2 seeds -- feels like an eternity ago in the Show Me State.
 
29Washington Redskins
Last Week: 26
How predictable. Albert Haynesworth came out after Monday night's debacle at home against the Giants and questioned both the team's leadership and how the Skins were using him, saying "it's totally different than what I thought." Well, no kidding. Doesn't it always wind up being "different" in Washington for free agents who come to town with their huge contracts and even bigger talk? Could it be, Albert, that all you cared about back in March was the biggest contract, not the best situation for your career? It's not as if Washington's track record with big-name free-agent failures went underpublicized.
 
30Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 31
Has anybody gotten to see more of the world this season than the Bucs? They journeyed all the way to London to lose badly to the Patriots and all the way to Seattle to win impressively over the Seahawks. That's about eight hours worth of time zones, and it must be playing havoc on Raheem Morris? wrist watch. Not to mention his sleeping patterns.
 
31Detroit Lions
Last Week: 30
When you have a season as dark as Detroit's, you have to look for the bright spots. And man was that 101-yard Louis Delmas interception return for a touchdown against Arizona a high point for the Lions. As many of you pointed out last week in the feedback to my annual re-draft, I really like Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew's 2009 draft. I had four Lions in my hypothetical do-over of the first round, and none of them have played better this season than Delmas, Detroit's rookie safety.
 
32St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 32
That Ndamukong Suh is going to be a heck of an NFL player. And that comforting thought is really the best Christmas present Rams fans could give themselves.
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