By Don Banks
September 16, 2009
NFL Power Rankings (cont.)
21 Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 19
You can say you don't buy the whole Super Bowl loser hangover effect, but the Cardinals have some sort of malaise looming over the entire team at the moment. And now they've got to head for Jacksonville and another one of those East Coast trips they struggled so mightily with last year, going 0-5 in the regular season.
22 Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 18
Don't be too surprised by the Panthers' meltdown at home against Philly last week. We kind of expected it to some degree. It doesn't come close to what the Falcons have had to deal with, but Carolina has never had back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history, and that trend might just hold in Year 15 for the Panthers.
23 Houston Texans
Last Week: 20
Things could get real ugly, real fast for Gary Kubiak and his Texans if they don't come up big at Tennessee this week. We're not talking must win just yet, but they must play worlds better than last week's egg-laying at home against the Jets.
24 Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 21
Some will say the Bengals were a fluky play away from winning last week against Denver, so don't be too harsh. But that's the slim margin that a lot of games are decided by in the NFL, and you pretty much get what you deserve. Isn't that right, Buffalo? If Leon Hall bats that ball down, rather than up, all is well in the world in Bengal-dom.
25 Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 27
I was really impressed with how physically and aggressively the Raiders defense played against San Diego. At least until the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, and then it regressed into the trying-not-to-lose mode that Oakland has been known for since 2003. Maybe Richard Seymour can help teach the Raiders how to finish.
26 Washington Redskins
Last Week: 24
It's going to help the Redskins confidence to play outside of the NFC East for a while. Their next five games are non-division games, and they all look winnable. If you're looking for silver linings in last week's 23-17 loss to the Giants, at least Washington topped seven points, which is all it could manage in a pair of losses to New York last season.
27 Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 25
There's hope for the Jaguars if they can hold opponents to just 14 points per game, as they did last week at Indy, but they've got to get more out of their passing attack than David Garrard's 122-yard first-week effort. That won't cut it in the pass-happy NFL.
28 Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 31
Putting 24 points on the board at Baltimore impressed me enough to move the Chiefs up three slots in my loser's half of the bracket. But as solidly as Brodie Croyle played last week, I can see the makings of a quarterback controversy should Matt Cassel struggle upon his eventual return. And after paying Cassel what they paid him, the Chiefs don't want to imagine that particular scenario.
29 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 30
The great news for the Bucs was the return to form of running back Cadillac Williams, whose 97 yards rushing gave real hope that the story of his career won't wind up being those devastating knee injuries. Tampa Bay's offense actually looked big-league with 21 points and 450 yards gained. But the secondary got glaringly exposed by Dallas and new kicker Mike Nugent let his team down.
30 Detroit Lions
Last Week: 29
I really expected more from Detroit's rebuilt defense last week at New Orleans. If the Vikings take the Lions apart this week at Ford Field, rookie head coach Jim Schwartz is going to face his first real challenge of keeping Detroit's long losing streak from becoming the story.
31 Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 32
It's the Browns at the Broncos this week, and that means Bill Belichick disciple Eric Mangini gets to coach against his fellow Belichick disciple, Josh McDaniels. Wonder if the pair of ex-Patriots coordinators will exchange notes on who has had the rougher start in their new gigs? It's a close call.
32 St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 28
It's going to be baby steps for the Rams this season, and getting shut out in Seattle last week represents standing still for the time being. St. Louis makes a trip to Washington this week, which was the scene of its only road win of last season. Maybe there's some good karma in that.
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