By Don Banks
November 25, 2009
NFL Power Rankings (cont.)
11 New York Giants
Last Week: 16
Timing can be everything in the NFL, and New York getting to play the nose-diving Broncos now instead of the first two months of the season qualifies as a major break that must be taken advantage of. Look for the Giants pass rushers to pin their ears back and come after the gimpy Kyle Orton, and if New York can build an early lead, it'll be time to return to the power running game that has been missing most of the season.
12 Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 15
For all their troubles, the Packers are currently the NFC's sixth seed and have a decent path to 10-6 and a wild-card berth. Their must wins are at Detroit this week, at Chicago in two weeks, and then home against Seattle in Week 16. Green Bay then must secure one of its other three games: home against Baltimore next week, at Pittsburgh in Week 15, or at Arizona in Week 17. And just like that, Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson will have saved their skins.
13 Denver Broncos
Last Week: 9
It's not too tough to figure out what has happened in Denver. The Broncos defense allowed just 10 points in the second half in the course of going 6-0 to start the season, but has surrendered 77 points after halftime in the four subsequent losses. Giving up an average of more than 19 points a game in the second half gets you beat.
14 Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 19
Let's see how interesting the Titans can make this late-season revival. The '92 Chargers, led by rookie head coach Bobby Ross, went from 0-4 to 11-5 and a division title, but from 0-6 to anything resembling a meaningful game in December would be unprecedented.
15 Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 13
You can tell it's been a tough year in Baltimore, because every time they show Ravens head coach John Harbaugh on the sideline, he looks mad. And Harbaugh by nature is a pretty positive, upbeat person. But he set the bar pretty stinking high last year as a rookie head coach, and now 5-5 mediocrity hurts that much worse.
16 Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 14
I wrote plenty on Tuesday about the Falcons still having life in the NFC wild-card hunt thanks to their final six-week schedule, but if there was a silver lining in the overtime loss to the Giants it was the play of quarterback Matt Ryan. In the second half against New York, Ryan looked like the Ryan of last year, completing 20 of 35 passes without an interception or a sack, and putting 24 points on the board. After throwing 10 picks in his previous five games, Ryan needed that second half in the Meadowlands.
17 Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 20
I don't think I did it on purpose, but I just noticed I have the Ravens, Falcons and Dolphins in a row here, stuck firmly in the middle of the pack at 5-5. Last year they all lived a charmed existence as turnaround success stories, but winning for the first time is a tough act to follow in the NFL. You don't get to pick these sorts of things, but wouldn't it have been better to go .500 last season and then kick it up a notch and go to the playoffs in year two? I know. Of course it would have been. Dumb question.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 17
Jaguars fans, few they might be, have the right to complain about dropping a spot despite beating Buffalo for a third consecutive win. But I've still got time to be won over to the idea that Jacksonville belongs in my top 12. Let's see if the Jaguars this week can handle a trip to the West Coast (San Francisco) better than they did the last time they were out there, a 41-0 Week 5 egg-laying at Seattle.
19 Houston Texans
Last Week: 11
I'd like to drop Houston to No. 29 for lack of heart. The Texans just don't have what it takes to win a big game. They played not to lose in the fourth quarter against Tennessee, and that's always a recipe for defeat. Case in point: With eight seconds left and a timeout to spend, Houston quarterback Matt Schaub dives between the hash marks to give kicker Kris Brown a better angle for his 49-yard game-trying field goal try? How about trying to pick up another 10 yards and making it a 39-yarder?
20 San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 21
What's happened to the 49ers defense that I saw come within a Brett Favre/Greg Lewis miracle of winning at Minnesota in Week 3? I knew San Francisco wouldn't score a ton of points this season, but I thought Mike Singletary would continue to field a defense that hit you the whole game, and played smart, hard-nosed ball. Between the 49ers and the Raiders, the bay area's NFL drought has now reached the seven-year mark, and there's no end in sight.
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