Wednesday November 11th, 2009

NFL Power Rankings (cont.)
11Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 13
The Cardinals continued their Mr. Toad's Wild Ride of a season last Sunday at Chicago, looking as good against the Bears as they did bad the previous week in that home loss to Carolina. Now 4-0 on the road, Arizona has yet to get its act together in Glendale. The Seahawks come to town this week, and the Cardinals already throttled them once this season, in Week 6 at Qwest Field. No more excuses for the defending NFC champs. It's time to start pulling away from the NFC West.
12San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 15
The Chargers pass rush has finally returned, and credit to defensive coordinator Ron Rivera for getting it going with some creative blitz packages. San Diego has totaled 15 sacks in the course of its three-game winning streak, with Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman -- remember them? -- doing most of the damage. Phillips has five sacks in the past three games, and Merriman has logged back-to-back two-sack games after being shut out in his first six games. Good thing the Chargers didn't send him packing at the trade deadline.
13Houston Texans
Last Week: 12
I don't penalize Houston's ranking too much for a close loss at Indianapolis, but the Texans just don't have that killer instinct you need to topple the giant. And what must it be like to be Texans running backs coach Chick Harris these days. Steve Slaton gets benched because of his fumbling problem. Ryan Moats steps in and promptly coughs up the ball in a huge situation at Indy, which was arguably the difference in the three-point loss.
14Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 10
Well, at least it's homecoming week in Baltimore. That'll make the Ravens feel a bit better and rally the troops after last week's bitter pill at Cincinnati. Baltimore faces Cleveland on Monday night, and if that's not a sacrificial lamb being brought in for the easy kill, nothing is in the NFL these days. Browns fans are threatening to arrive late to the game in a show of protest. That'll turn things right around. I've already used my best line about the Browns not showing up all season, so feel free to supply your own.
15New York Giants
Last Week: 14
There's no way to sugar coat that one-point loss to the Chargers, when the Giants secondary inexplicably allowed Vincent Jackson to roam free in the end zone with the game on the line. But there was some good news for New York, and that was Eli Manning's strong performance. Getting him squared away for the season's second half was job one for the G-Men, and on that front it was mission accomplished. Manning was accurate with his passes, and we didn't see those wild-high throws that he had specialized in the past few weeks. Now the hope is the bye week helps heal his injured right foot.
16Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 17
What a weird tenure it has been for Joey Porter in Miami. He was a major disappointment in his first season as a Dolphin in 2007, registering just 5.5 sacks after earning a big free-agent contract. Then last season, he came back in a huge way, leading the AFC with 17.5 sacks and helping spark Miami's run to the playoffs. This year? He's back to low-impact Joey, with just 2.5 sacks, 10 solo tackles and one forced fumble so far. Shut out on the stat sheet Sunday at New England, Porter, you'd think, would stay equally quiet in the media for a while. We'll see.
17New York Jets
Last Week: 18
With the Jets' big trip to New England looming in Week 11, this week would be the classic trap-game scenario at home against the Jaguars. Except for the fact that New York is battling for playoff contention, and the Jaguars, at 4-4, are every bit as viable as the Jets are in the AFC wild-card picture. In other words, New York isn't good enough to overlook anyone. Maybe that's something it can build up by December.
18Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 16
As much as I believe Aaron Rodgers is a top-notch NFL quarterback, his three-interception game at Tampa Bay was perhaps the low point of his year and a half long starting career. While he's playing behind a Green Bay offensive line that has had the worst half-season of any positional unit in the NFL (37 sacks allowed), Rodgers isn't helping matters with his penchant for holding the ball too long. Then against the Bucs he got wild and tried to force some throws. With three of their next four games at home, the Packers still have time to make a wild-card push. But the turnaround had best start this week against Dallas, and it must include No. 12 playing better.
19Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 22
The Jaguars have been 2-2, 3-3 and are now 4-4 this season. The other two times they got to .500, they were blown out on the road by losing teams, first at Seattle, 41-0, and then at Tennessee, 30-13. This week they're at the Jets (4-4), who need the game every bit as much as they do in the AFC wild-card chase. I expect Jacksonville to pound away at New York with its sixth-ranked rushing game, led by the league's top touchdown scorer, Maurice Jones-Drew (11 touchdowns, all rushing).
20Chicago Bears
Last Week: 20
I know injuries tell part of the story, but the disintegration of the Bears defense has been truly spectacular in Chicago's past two losses. The Bengals scored the first seven times they had the ball in that 45-10 rout, and the Cardinals got points on their first six drives in a 41-21 win last Sunday. Chicago gave up as many as 41 points only once last season, and that was in a win over Minnesota. Have things ever really been the same on the Bears defense since defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was let go after the Super Bowl season of 2006?
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