Week 4: Steelers claim No. 1 spot behind ball-hawking defense (cont.)

Wednesday September 29th, 2010
NFL Power Rankings (cont.)
11 Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 10
It's probably not the best week for Ray Rice to be nursing a bruised knee, with the Ravens' showdown in Pittsburgh looming. Baltimore has yet to fire all of its offensive weapons in the same game, and with the Steelers defense playing at an otherworldly level, Sunday would be a fine time to start. Going to 0-2 on the road in the division would make us question if the Ravens are who we thought they were.
12 Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 6
Miami has hosting duties on Monday night against the Patriots -- the team that first got the Dolphins' Wildcat formation sprung on it back in 2008 -- making it somewhat ironic that Miami's gimmick offense seems to be less of a difference-making factor all the time. Maybe that's because with Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall starting to click, the Dolphins don't need the Wildcat as much as they once did. You would think that's probably the goal in Miami.
13 Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 14
It's been so long since the Chiefs blew the doors off anyone they almost didn't know how to react to Sunday's 31-10 beatdown of the demoralized 49ers. But this versatile and imaginative Kansas City offense is going to have a few more fun days like that before the season is over. Just maybe not next game at Indianapolis, though.
14 Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 16
These Titans are a chippy bunch, aren't they? That Cortland Finnegan can mix it up with the best of them. Tennessee went into the Meadowlands and got the Giants all riled up and off their game in no time last Sunday. But the Titans are back to playing some solid defense, with that unit giving up just three touchdowns in three games and holding opponents to a league-best 16.7 touchdown percentage in the red zone.
15 Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 19
Could you ask for anything more than this week's dramatic tableau of Donovan McNabb vs. Michael Vick, in an intriguing matchup of the Eagles' accomplished past and surprising present? I suppose you could get greedy and wish that both teams were 3-0 and tied for the NFC East lead, or that Andy Reid started talking trash for the first time ever, but other than that, McNabb vs. Vick should suffice.
16 Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 20
The last two seasons have taught us the Cowboys know how to play with a sense of desperation, when their backs are pressed firmly to the wall. But they're not so good at knowing how to handle big expectations. Dallas gets a bye this week, and then the Titans at home next week. The Cowboys owe their fans a better showing against Tennessee than the sloppy home-opener against the Bears in Week 2.
17 Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 23
The Seahawks are buying what Pete Carroll is selling, and that really is half the battle when it comes to coaching in the NFL. Seattle is nowhere near being a complete team, but who in the NFC West is? Somebody's got to win the division. We checked with the NFL office. It's apparently a rule.
18 Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 26
The Vikings' struggles on offense have gotten all the attention, but Minnesota's defense is quietly getting the job done. Only the Steelers have given up fewer than the 38 points allowed by the Vikings, and Minnesota's run defense has allowed only one touchdown in 2010.
19 Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 21
I'm not sure how many games the Cardinals can win this season with just 12 completions and 122 yards passing, but that was good enough to win against the mistake-prone Raiders. The best news of all was seeing Larry Fitzgerald find his way back into the end zone for only the second time this season.
20 San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 11
Can't quite recall if there has ever been an NFL team so habitually prone to slow starts as Norv Turner's Chargers. San Diego just isn't comfortable unless it has dug itself an early-season hole. But, shoot, being 1-2 after three weeks is nothing. Need we remind you that two years ago the Chargers were 4-8 entering December and still won their division?
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