Wednesday November 18th, 2009

NFL Power Rankings (cont.)
21San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 19
A fun sub-plot to Sunday's game at Green Bay will be the Alex Smith versus Aaron Rodgers competition. The quarterbacks are linked by the 2005 draft, where they were rated as the top two passers, but wound up going first overall (Smith) and 24th (Rodgers). Neither one of them had what you would call a conventional career route, but here they are four-plus years later, fighting one another for the next rung in the NFC wild-card race.
 
22New York Jets
Last Week: 17
Rex Ryan crying in a team meeting? There's no crying in football. No crying. Maybe some whining. Sniveling, yes. The occasional whimper. But no crying. Although I suppose with a trip to Foxboro looming and the wheels having come almost completely off for New York, it was certainly time for some over-the-top show of emotion from the Jets rookie head coach. I would have put my money on Ryan doling out a raging butt-chewing after that debacle of a loss at home to Jacksonville, but that's just the football romantic in me.
 
23Chicago Bears
Last Week: 20
Yes, the Bears have more problems than just Jay Cutler. The offensive line is a disaster, second-year running back Matt Forte looks overrated after his strong rookie season, and injuries have made a mess of the team's linebacker depth chart. But let's not make excuses for the Bears quarterback. He was brought in to be a difference maker for Chicago, and he's not remotely getting it done. Twelve of his league-worst 17 interceptions have come in the Bears' three primetime losses, at Green Bay, at Atlanta, at San Francisco. And here comes another big stage, a Sunday-nighter at home against Philly.
 
24Washington Redskins
Last Week: 26
Very nice comeback win for the Redskins against Denver, but did I really hear some of Washington's players this week talking about running the table? Easy now. The next three weeks for the Redskins? At Dallas, at Philadelphia, home against New Orleans. Let's take them one at a time, shall we boys?
 
25Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 24
Score another one for the trend toward shorter, smaller running backs being big contributors in the NFL. Second-year Seahawk Justin Forsett (wonder if he ever changed the pronunciation of his name like Tony Dorsett did?) took over for the injured Julius Jones at Arizona and wound up with 123 yards on 17 carries. The former seventh-round pick out of Cal goes all of 5-8, 194 pounds, but he can block too.
 
26Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 25
Add the Bills to the growing list of teams that obviously need to go out and land a starting quarterback this offseason. Fortunately for Buffalo, the college crop is pretty deep. But will the Bills wind up winning just enough games to miss out on the best of them? That would roughly be the story of Buffalo's lost decade.
 
27Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 29
Sheesh, the Chiefs finally get the Larry Johnson saga off their books, and here comes a four-game league suspension for third-year receiver Dwayne Bowe. I imagine new Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli and his rookie head coach, Todd Haley, by now understand the true width and breadth of the challenge they inherited.
 
28Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 27
Has one team ever had a three-year run of top 10 first-round picks quite like JaMarcus Russell (No. 1 in 2007), Darren McFadden (No. 4 in 2008) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (No. 7 in 2009)? Can't throw, can't run, can't catch. Which explains a good bit of why this year's Raiders can't win.
 
29St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 30
The Rams say they're not content to have played the undefeated Saints close in losing by five points, but the reality for a young, rebuilding club is that some moral victories are a helpful step if they convince players they can stay on the field with some of the NFL's better teams. You'd rather be in the game and lose close than get blown out every week. The gap between narrow defeats and close wins can often be just a play or two, and that's about where the Rams are right now.
 
30Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 28
It was another nice fourth-quarter comeback for Bucs rookie quarterback Josh Freeman at Miami, and it appears Tampa Bay may have something here. Freeman didn't lead the Bucs to a second straight win, but that had more to do with Tampa Bay's defense bending on the Dolphins' game-winning field goal drive. It's not far-fetched to imagine a scenario in which we end this season with Freeman's future generating more excitement within the league than that of Mark Sanchez's or Matthew Stafford's. You heard it here first.
 
31Detroit Lions
Last Week: 31
We get Browns at Lions this week, and I can't wait to see if CBS sends out one of those breathless releases about the TV ratings this one pulls down. It probably hurts to show this game even in the Cleveland and Detroit markets. In 1980, NBC did an announcer-less Dolphins-Jets game on one of those late-season Saturday games, letting the sounds of the action carry the day. That might be an idea whose time has come again. Why force anyone to sit in the booth and dress this one up?
 
32Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 32
I'm always fascinated by extremes in the NFL, and the Browns offensive "performance" Monday night against the Ravens was so spectacularly inept that I found myself almost mesmerized by it. Brady Quinn looked like he could have thrown left-handed with about the same results. The play-calling, the execution, its sense of timing, everything about the Browns offense was beyond pathetic. I'll ask it again, Cleveland: Is this really better than having no NFL team at all to root for?
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