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NFL Power Rankings, Week 9 (11-20)

NFL Power Rankings (cont.)
11Green Bay <a href=Packers" title="Green Bay Packers">
Last Week: 14
Last year through eight games, the Packers were 4-4, trailed Minnesota by three games plus the head-to-head tiebreaker in the NFC North, and couldn't protect Aaron Rodgers longer than two Mississippi's per pass play. Green Bay then proceeded to go 7-1 in the second half and make the NFC playoff field. By comparison, the Packers, for all their injuries, are on easy street at midseason this year. They're a half-game better than the Bears, comfortably ahead of the Vikings, and have the closest thing to a double bye coming up -- home against Dallas, then off in Week 10. (Yeah, I said it, Cowboys. Like you don't deserve that one?)
 
12Tampa Bay <a href=Buccaneers" title="Tampa Bay Buccaneers">
Last Week: 16
Is any team getting more offensive rookie impact than the Bucs, with receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn and running back LeGarrette Blount all making things happen of late? The shocker is that Tampa Bay is a lofty 5-2 despite first-round rookie defensive tackle Gerald McCoy showing up nowhere near the level of Lions rookie Ndamukong Suh, and second-round defensive tackle Brian Price going on IR this week after making just three tackles all season.
 
13Philadelphia <a href=Eagles" title="Philadelphia Eagles">
Last Week: 10
Hurt late in the first quarter of the Eagles' Week 4 loss to Washington, Michael Vick returns to the lineup in time for the Eagles to host the Colts in Week 9. Nothing much has happened in the league in that span, other than Randy Moss being sent packing by both the Patriots and Vikings, Donovan McNabb being benched in Washington, and Ben Roethlisberger reappearing in Pittsburgh. In other news, Vick says he'll be smarter this time when running with the football, if for no other reason than it's hard to stay in the NFL headlines when you're not even playing.
 
14Houston <a href=Texans" title="Houston Texans">
Last Week: 9
Altogether now, repeat after me: The Texans still aren't ready to play with the big boys. And in light of their 13-point loss at Indy on Monday night, you have to wonder, if not now, when? When will the Texans ever be better positioned to sweep the Colts than they were this year, having beaten the defending AFC champs at home in Week 1 and then gotten the rematch when the Colts' injury list was a mile long? But Houston couldn't get it done, and the Colts remain in the Texans' heads and above them in the AFC South standings.
 
15Oakland <a href=Raiders" title="Oakland Raiders">
Last Week: 22
I'm covering the Chiefs-Raiders game in Oakland on Sunday -- my first trip to the Coliseum since the 2002 AFC title game -- and the player I can't wait to see on Tom Cable's suddenly relevant Raiders is running back Darren McFadden. With 668 yards rushing and 217 yards receiving, the 2008 first-round pick has 885 yards from scrimmage in just six games. That's an NFL-high 147.5 per game among rusher, and with he and Kansas City's Jamaal Charles running the ball in the same game, this one might only take 2-and-a-half hours to play.
 
16Miami <a href=Dolphins" title="Miami Dolphins">
Last Week: 18
In case you haven't done the math, Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter is on pace to kick 41 field goals this season (he's 18 of 20 so far through seven games), which would break Neil Rackers' 2005 league record by one. My way of thinking, this is not a mark any self-respecting offense should aspire to. The Cardinals went 5-11 the year Rackers booted 40 field goals, finishing in third place in their division. At the moment, Miami is in third place in the AFC East. Draw your own conclusions.
 
17Seattle <a href=Seahawks" title="Seattle Seahawks">
Last Week: 15
The Seahawks have dropped three road games by an average of more than 21 points per game, including last Sunday's 33-3 drubbing at Oakland. But Seattle at home is 3-0, with an average winning margin of almost 15 points per game. I don't think the game changes that dramatically when you go from hearing cheers to boos, but maybe Pete Carroll's club is one of those sensitive types that needs a lot of affirmation.
 
18St. Louis <a href=Rams" title="St. Louis Rams">
Last Week: 20
Sitting .500 as they hit their bye week must feel pretty good to the Rams, who have already won more games this season (four) than they did the past two seasons combined (three). But in this season's mediocre NFC West, St. Louis has to be thinking 'Why not us?' Especially since the Rams play only one winning team (home against Atlanta in Week 11) in the coming month.
 
19Washington <a href=Redskins" title="Washington Redskins">
Last Week: 13
You know who has had a really bad week in Washington? I mean besides Donovan McNabb and the coaching Shanahans, all of whom have taken something of a hit in the aftermath of Two Minute-gate. Rex Grossman, that's who. The former Bears' Super Bowl starter didn't ask to go into that game in Detroit, but now folks are lining up to take shots at him. NBC's Rodney Harrison even said he wouldn't insert Grossman into a high school game to run the hurry-up offense. Really, Rodney? I get hyperbole. Dabble in it myself at times. But until you tell me public-school league or private-school league, I can't go along with you on this one.
 
20San Diego <a href=Chargers" title="San Diego Chargers">
Last Week: 25
Who do they have on that punt coverage team in San Diego? And in fairness, it's tough to really call it a coverage team when the punts keep getting blocked, often out of the back of the end zone for a safety. I have to wonder how Chargers special teams coach Steve Crosby is sleeping these days? With four blocked punts allowed by San Diego in just eight games, Crosby could be forced to hit the road without hope if that trend continues (a dated reference, no doubt lost on some of my younger readers).
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