By Don Banks
December 09, 2009
NFL Power Rankings (cont.)
11 New England Patriots
Last Week: 6
Despite the Patriots obvious struggles, I still have them winning their final four games -- Carolina, at Buffalo, Jacksonville and Houston -- to finish 11-5 and claim their seventh AFC East title of the decade. The Patriots have had some history with an 11-5 mark, you might recall. Last year, it wasn't good enough for them to even make the playoffs. But in 2001, the 11-5 Pats earned a first-round bye and won the Super Bowl.
12 New York Giants
Last Week: 16
Good to see Brandon Jacobs running downhill once again, because the Giants can't really be the Giants without him lowering his shoulders and carrying the running game in these cold-weather games. New York is going to need another big dose of No. 27 again this week if it hopes to knock off the Eagles and maybe force a delicious three-way logjam atop the NFC East.
13 Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 18
If the upstart Jaguars finish 9-7 and just out of the money in the AFC wild-card race, the shame of it all will be that the lowly NFC West kept Jacksonville out of the postseason. The Jags went 1-3 against the worst division in football, losing at home against Arizona, at Seattle, and at San Francisco, with only a three-point win over visiting St. Louis to show for themselves. That's going to sting.
14 Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 12
Sorry, but I'm of the mindset that the pass interference rules make a mockery of any notion you can play legitimate pass defense in the NFL these days. The Ravens and Packers deserved some of the PI's they picked up in Green Bay Monday night, but you've got to allow defenders to do more than just make the tackle once the pass is completed. It's not really football without some level of contact being accounted for.
15 Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 17
Credit to the Dolphins for fighting back to .500 with a 6-3 run after that miserable 0-3 start, but I'm not sure this train is going all the way to the station. But hey, even if Miami doesn't make a return trip to the playoffs this year, it can win the NFL championship of the state of Florida this week at Jacksonville. The Dolphins already beat the Bucs, and a win over the Jags makes them 2-0 in the Sunshine State division.
16 Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 15
They say the more you're forced to play your backup quarterback, the more he'll re-enforce all the reasons he's your backup in the first place. That's the adage that came to mind watching Chris Redman struggle in his second week of work in relief of the injured Matt Ryan. Here's hoping Matty Ice returns in time for this week's make-or-break game against New Orleans in the Georgia Dome. Ryan and Co. played the Saints almost even six weeks ago in that Monday nighter at the Superdome.
17 New York Jets
Last Week: 19
Mark Sanchez against fellow rookie first-round starter Josh Freeman will be an interesting little sidelight at Tampa Bay this week, but New York should just keep pounding with that top-ranked running game and hold firm to the formula that worked so well against the Bills in Toronto last week. Thomas Jones is once again a 1,000-yard running back, and his six 100-yard games this season have largely gone unnoticed.
18 Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 14
Now that the Titans' playoff hopes are all but extinguished, Chris Johnson's drive for 2,000 yards rushing takes center stage. Johnson is just the fifth running back to top 1,500 yards in his team's first 12 games (1,509), and if continues his average of 125.8 yards per game, he'll wind up with 2,012 yards, which would be the fourth-best rushing season in league history.
19 Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 13
If this isn't rock bottom for the defending champs, I don't think anybody in Pittsburgh wants to imagine the horrors that await. (Would the city even survive a loss at Cleveland?) Mike Tomlin's club surrendered three fourth-quarter touchdown passes to the Raiders, a team that entered Week 13 with five touchdown passes and 10 offensive touchdowns all season. Now that's humiliation.
20 Houston Texans
Last Week: 21
There's nothing Texans owner Bob McNair still needs to see. Sitting 5-3 at midseason, his club proceeded to drop four consecutive division games to fall out of playoff contention yet again. If McNair brings back head coach Gary Kubiak, it's only because he has decided to settle for mediocrity.
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