By Don Banks
November 11, 2009
NFL Power Rankings (cont.)
21 San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 19
Mike Singletary coaching against his old team, the Bears, Thursday night makes for a good story, but it's meaningless in the grand scheme of things. The 49ers are desperate for a win against anyone at this point, and if their four-game slide becomes a five-game losing streak, you can just about bring the curtain down on San Francisco's playoff chances for the seventh year in a row. At some point, Singletary's team is going to start tuning out all his talk, confident as it is, if no victories follow. For the 49ers, the crossroads game of the season has arrived.
22 Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 21
They scared the undefeated Saints, but the Panthers couldn't finish the deal in the Superdome and missed a huge opportunity to salvage their season. As good as he's been of late, DeAngelo Williams suddenly has an issue with fumbling, a problem Panthers head coach John Fox has never shown much tolerance. Williams really cost his team late in the game at New Orleans, and that trend can't continue this week at home against Atlanta.
23 Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 27
It's another big jump up the board for the once-bottom-dwelling Titans. After a five-notch rise last week, they move up four spots on the heels of their first road win, at San Francisco. Quarterbacks are dominating the MVP discussion this season, but you can't ignore what Titans running back Chris Johnson is doing. He's running away from the rest of the league's rushers, and even though he plays for a losing team, his name could surface in the second half as a legitimate MVP candidate.
24 Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 24
The Seahawks rallied and got the win at home against Detroit, but a 17-0 deficit early in the second quarter convinced me Seattle really won't be putting it together any time soon this season. Don't look now, but the Seahawks (0-3 away from home) are about to embark on a three-game road trip to Arizona, Minnesota and St. Louis. If they're lucky, they're going to be staring at 4-8 as December dawns.
25 Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 23
Sadly for Bills fans, the debate about whether to go with Trent Edwards or Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback is like a slightly better echo of the Brady Quinn-Derek Anderson discussion in Cleveland. It doesn't really matter. Neither QB has gotten much done this season, and neither one looks particularly likely to change the scenario much from here on out.
26 Washington Redskins
Last Week: 25
Doing my midseason review this week, I noticed that in last year's edition I had Redskins then-rookie head Jim Zorn as my midseason Coach of the Year. And it wasn't a bit laughable. Washington was 6-2 and had already beaten Dallas and Philadelphia on the road. My how things have changed in D.C. The Redskins are 4-12 since midseason of 2008, and the next eight games are not going to improve that .250 winning percentage much.
27 Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 26
The Chiefs dominated the Raiders statistically in Week 2 and still found a way to lose. Oakland gets a visit from Kansas City this week, and its secondary might want to be ready to play some pass defense. The Chiefs finally opened it up on offense in the fourth quarter at Jacksonville, and Matt Cassel threw two touchdown passes to the newly arrived Chris Chambers.
28 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 31
Josh Freeman looked good in the shotgun and on the move against the Packers, showing some nice touch on his passes. That's what the rookie quarterback was used to in college at Kansas State, and the Bucs would do well to maximize his comfort zone. After a week of Johnson being told he's the next big thing in Tampa Bay, let's see how the kid responds on the road against a Dolphins team that's better than its 3-5 record.
29 Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 29
I'm giving the Chiefs props this week for two things: Playing it close (at least offensively) against Jacksonville on the road, and cutting their losses with running back Larry Johnson. On his way out of K.C., L.J. bemoaned the tough Kansas City media. If K.C. passes for a tough market, let's hope Johnson signs with Philadelphia, Washington or New York in his next NFL incarnation.
30 St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 28
Between their win at Detroit and the bye, the Rams didn't lose for two consecutive weeks. That's probably as good as it gets for a while with New Orleans and Arizona headed to town in Weeks 10-11. But there are winnable games at home against Seattle in Week 12, at Chicago in Week 13, and maybe at home against a dispirited 49ers team in Week 17.
31 Detroit Lions
Last Week: 30
Wasn't a lack of accuracy the big knock on Matthew Stafford in this spring's draft analysis? Handed a 17-0 lead in Seattle on Sunday, Stafford went out and threw five interceptions in the 32-20 loss, all from the mid-second quarter on. Entering the game, Seattle had picked off three passes in seven games all season. And now Stafford heads for the Metrodome, where the Vikings pass rush and the noise level can combine to do unhelpful things to a rookie QB.
32 Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 32
I would just like to point out that the bottom six teams in our rankings all feature new fulltime head coaches this season, and they're a combined 7-41 (.146). At least Oakland's Tom Cable, Tampa Bay's Raheem Morris, Kansas City's Todd Haley, St. Louis's Steve Spagnuolo and Detroit's Jim Schwartz have the excuse of being rookie head coaches. The Browns' Eric Mangini has no such fallback. He's in his fourth NFL season, but it's looking more and more like it'll be his last as a head coach for quite some time.
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