By Don Banks
October 28, 2009
NFL Power Rankings (cont.)
11 Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 16
Everybody's arrow is pointing up when it comes to the Cowboys this week, and with good reason after that impressive rout of the Falcons. But why does one win seem to have changed everything in Dallas? Maybe because the Cowboys' three previous victories had come against teams that were winless at the time (Tampa Bay, Carolina and Kansas City). Miles Austin aside, the best news in Dallas is the Cowboys pass rush is once again alive and well.
12 Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 7
The Falcons secondary was already their potential Achilles, and now they keep losing bodies back there, with cornerback Brian Williams and rookie safety William Moore gone in the past two weeks. Dallas exposed Atlanta's cornerbacks, and that's not the kind of development you need just before heading into the Superdome to face the Saints' multi-faceted passing attack.
13 Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 17
Though the Packers will be facing the Vikings less than four weeks since getting thoroughly beaten by Minnesota, I'm expecting a very different kind of game at Lambeau on Sunday. Green Bay has gotten some of its offensive line issues patched up, so Jared Allen shouldn't be running wild in the Packers backfield again. And Green Bay's Ryan Grant-led ground game finally showed up last week, giving the Packers hope of attacking the Vikings with a more balanced offense.
14 Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 13
The Ravens need a big bounce back effort from its defense this week against Denver. Baltimore's cornerbacks haven't been playing well this season, but another part of the problem is that all-world safety Ed Reed has been off his game, too, often showing a tendency to freelance in unproductive ways. It's time for new Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison to get back to basics and stop trying to be Rex Ryan.
15 Houston Texans
Last Week: 18
OK, we're impressed by the Texans fighting their way over .500 for the first time since being 3-2 in 2007. That's a start toward that long-awaited winning season in Houston. But if the Teasin' Texans are for real, they'll go into Buffalo this week and put away a pesky Bills team that doesn't have an offense remotely capable of matching Houston point for point. With the Texans facing at Indianapolis, Tennessee and Indianapolis in their next three games, they can't afford to let this one get away.
16 New York Jets
Last Week: 14
Last week, I was among those NFL observers noting how much the Jets were going to miss injured defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, who is gone for the year. Naturally, New York's defense immediately responded with a shutout. OK, it was against Oakland. But conventional wisdom strikes again. This week, we're all opining about how difficult it'll be for the Jets to replace offensive play-maker Leon Washington, who's out for the season with a broken leg. But then again, did you see what rookie running back Shonn Greene did with his first extended work in New York's offense? Maybe we just all shut up and wait.
17 San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 20
I like what I saw from the Chargers at Kansas City: A sense of urgency on both sides of the ball. The defense sacked Matt Cassel four times, igniting a San Diego pass rush that has been lacking all season. The Chargers used the blitz to create the pressure, and my guess is they'll turn loose the dogs this week at home against the beleaguered JaMarcus Russell. On offense, San Diego got back to running the ball with some authority, totaling 135 yards on the ground.
18 San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 15
Quarterback Alex Smith, tight end Vernon Davis and receiver Michael Crabtree were all top 10 picks for the 49ers in the past five years, and none of them got off to what you would call immediate success in San Francisco. But in the second half at Houston on Sunday, remarkably enough, all of them played like the first-rounders they are. If those happy trends continue, Mike Singletary might be the last head coach the 49ers hire for a while.
19 Chicago Bears
Last Week: 11
The Bears look like a mess right now, and it's been a month of Sundays since they won a game (Week 4, at home against Detroit). The defense is the biggest culprit, giving up a late, game-winning touchdown at Atlanta, and then mailing in (postage due, I might add) last week's debacle at Cincinnati. All in all, you have to admit it's a great week to be hosting Cleveland.
20 Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 21
If the Jaguars can go into Tennessee and keep the Titans' misery going for another week, then come back home and take care of business against the Chiefs in Week 9, I'd be willing to declare 5-3 Jacksonville the first half's most surprising winner. Alas, I'm getting ahead of the story. Let's let Jack's Jaguars do their thing first.
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