By Don Banks
December 30, 2009
NFL Power Rankings (cont.)
11 Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 16
The Steelers are getting a certain amount of plaudits for not giving up and fighting their way back into the AFC wild-card picture. But you have to wonder where all that fight was when they lost to Kansas City, Cleveland and Oakland in the midst of that five-game losing streak? Seems to me that's an indication of a bad coaching job in Pittsburgh this season.
12 Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 11
If the Ravens are the team I think they are, they'll head out to the West Coast this week, take care of business against the rollercoaster Raiders, and punch their second consecutive wild-card playoff ticket in the two-year tenure of coach John Harbaugh. But I've been wrong a time or two before in my life, so who knows?
13 Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 21
It appears to be happening in both Carolina and Cleveland, and maybe even Houston. And that would be the relatively rare phenomena of an embattled coach saving his job with an unexpected late-season winning streak, albeit for a non-playoff team. But is it a good thing to let some late wins influence such a decision? It can be at times. I'm sure the Bengals are glad they didn't can Marvin Lewis after he started 1-11-1 last year, before winning their last three games. But a false sense of hope can also be the outcome. Either way, it sounds as if John Fox could come back to Carolina with a one-year contract if he cares to.
14 New York Jets
Last Week: 20
Cincy doesn't have much to play for against the Jets, and that means New York might draw just the right opponent for the second week in a row in its once long-shot bid to crack the AFC playoff field. It's better to be lucky than good, they say, and the Jets might just be the perfect example of that adage.
15 Houston Texans
Last Week: 19
Now that there's a modicum of pressure back on the Texans, let's see how Gary Kubiak's club handles the heat once more. Then again, New England probably mails this one in for the most part, giving Houston a pass. What might have been still rings true as the operative phrase this season in Houston.
16 Denver Broncos
Last Week: 13
What a long, strange trip it has been for Josh McDaniels and his team in year one of his Broncos tenure. From 6-0 and a Rocky Mountain high, to stumbling into Week 17 needing a win and plenty of help to reach the playoffs. I just get the feeling there's one more big plot-twist to come, as if Denver fans don't have a severe case of vertigo already.
17 Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 14
They won't be in the playoffs, but one of the things the Titans had to do this season was find out what they really have in Vince Young. Mission accomplished on that front. I'm pretty sure there's more than a few teams wishing Tennessee and Young had parted ways after his troubled 2008 season. And again, credit is due Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger for his role in Young's career revival.
18 Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 15
Tony Sparano is going to coach a long time in the NFL, but he hasn't had his Dolphins ready to go at the opening kickoff in the two biggest games of Miami's season -- those being the last two. The Dolphins fell way behind against Tennessee and Houston, fought back into the game both times, but couldn't win either one. And now those huge wins earlier this month at home against New England and at Jacksonville feel kind of wasted.
19 Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 18
Matt Ryan looks like Matt Ryan again, and the Falcons are a win at Tampa Bay away from salvaging a winning season with three consecutive victories. Write it down now: The Falcons will be a popular pick this offseason as a team ready to return to the playoffs in 2010. Injuries, and a shaky secondary, were Atlanta's undoing this year.
20 New York Giants
Last Week: 12
Ch-ch-ch-changes coming in New York. You can just feel it. All eyes are on defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, whose unit all but disappeared from mid-October on. But Sheridan doesn't deserve all the blame. Guys like Osi Umenyiora played soft and made a mockery of the notion that the Giants defensive line was the best and deepest in the NFL.
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