2009 NFL Power Rankings: Week 10

Here’s how I see things 1-32 in the NFL with nine weeks in the books:

1. New Orleans Saints (8-0)
Nobody should be surprised that the Falcons and Panthers gave the Saints issues at home the past two weeks. After all, Atlanta and Carolina are familiar with New Orleans since they play them twice a year. The real story is how the Saints never panicked when they got down early and outplayed both the Falcons and Panthers in the fourth quarter.

2. Indianapolis Colts (8-0)
The Colts have the eighth best defense in the NFL, which is rather remarkable given that starters Bob Sanders and Marlin Jackson haven’t played much at all. Dwight Freeney has terrorized opposing quarterbacks this season.

3. Minnesota Vikings (7-1)
Heading into the second half of the season, the only question I have about these Vikings is whether or not Brett Favre will stay healthy enough to lead this team deep into the playoffs. Last year, he couldn’t and the Jets tanked in the final month of the season.

4. New England Patriots (6-2)
We’ll get a great idea of how good this Patriots team is this weekend when they travel to Indianapolis to take on the undefeated Colts. Bill Belichick better figure out a way to get Dwight Freeney blocked so Tom Brady can build off the momentum he has created the past three games.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)
I get the feeling that people keep waiting for the Bengals to cave and sink back to reality. Those folks will be waiting a while because this team is underrated, not overrated. A win this week in Pittsburgh and everyone will be believers.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
Jon Gruden hit the nail on the head when he said on Monday night that the Steelers close out games better than anyone in the league. One of the rare times they didn’t close out a team was earlier this season in Cincinnati, when the Bengals beat them on a last-second touchdown. They’ll get a chance to avenge that loss this Sunday in Pittsburgh, as well as take a one-game lead in the AFC North if they can pull off a win.

7. Denver Broncos (6-2)
I’m not ready to suggest that Denver is overrated or will start to freefall, but it is a little troubling that they’ve played two good teams the past two weeks and were beaten soundly in both contests. It’s time for Josh McDaniels to prove that he can make adjustments and Kyle Orton needs to take better care of the ball when his team is trailing.

8. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)
Given all their talent, I want to believe that the Cowboys have turned the corner under Wade Phillips. But this isn’t the first time in the past couple years where they’ve stringed together a couple of good outings to get people to believe. Their win in Philadelphia was awfully impressive, but they need to prove that they can sustain their momentum.

9. Philadelphia Eagles (5-3)
The Eagles had an opportunity to make a statement at home against the Cowboys last Sunday night and failed. Hopefully Brian Westbrook will return soon, because Philly’s offense can look stagnant at times without him.

10. Atlanta Falcons (5-3)
Michael Turner started hearing the words “one-year wonder” being tossed around a couple weeks ago and didn’t like it. He’s responded with two 150-plus rushing performances and has looked like the back he did last year. It’s a good thing too, because Matt Ryan hasn’t played well since Atlanta’s win in San Francisco four weeks ago.

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2009 NFL Power Rankings: Week 9

Here’s how I see things 1-32 in the NFL after eight weeks in the books:

1. New Orleans Saints (7-0)
The Saints have the most balanced offensive attack in the NFL, have been a more aggressive and opportunistic defense under new coordinator Gregg Williams and are off to their best start in franchise history. There is a lot of season left, but this team has a Super Bowl-feeling about them.

2. Indianapolis Colts (7-0)
I don’t know if the 49ers necessarily laid out a blueprint on how to stop Peyton Manning and the Colts, but they at least showed how to contain the potent Indy offense for four quarters.

3. Minnesota Vikings (7-1)
I bet Brett Favre and Jared Allen wish they could play the Packers every week, because they’ve owned Green Bay in two games this season.

4. Denver Broncos (6-1)
Teams always learn more from losses than they do wins, so it’ll be interesting to see how Josh McDaniels and his coaching staff adjusts heading into Monday night against the Steelers.

5. New England Patriots (5-2)
We’ll see what kind of team the Pats are over their next five games: vs. Miami, at Indy, vs. the Jets and at New Orleans. Is Tom Brady back to his usual self or did he just benefit from putting up outrageous numbers against two bad teams in the Titans and Bucs the past two games?

6. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)
The Bengals should be fresh coming off their bye, but they face two opponents in the Ravens and Steelers in the next two weeks that are looking to avenge losses to Cincinnati earlier in the season. Can the Bengals at least earn a split to stay atop the AFC North?

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2)
The Steelers are feeling good after beating the Vikings two weeks ago and then getting Week 8 off. But they travel to Denver and then host Cincinnati the next two weeks, so we’ll see whether or not their record isn’t just a byproduct of facing bad teams like the Titans, Lions, Browns and the ever-inconsistent Chargers.

8. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)
Wade Phillips’ defense is starting to do a better job of creating turnovers and getting pressure on the quarterback. In the Cowboys’ last two games, they’ve racked up five takeaways and seven sacks. It’s no surprise that Dallas won both of those games and they’ll need more of the same when they travel to Philadelphia on Sunday night.

9. Philadelphia Eagles (5-2)
What an impressive win last Sunday as the Eagles thumped the Giants in every facet of the game. Can they do it again this week in another big divisional test?

10. New York Giants (5-3)
I don’t know what to make of this team – are they suffering from injuries or have the last three weeks been the norm? To date, the G-Men only have one win against a winning team, which came in Week 2 against the Cowboys. Their four other victories came against the Redskins, Bucs, Chiefs and Raiders. Yikes.

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2009 NFL Power Rankings Week 8

Here’s how I see things 1-32 in the NFL now that seven weeks are in the books.

1. New Orleans Saints (6-0)
Considering they gave up 34 points last week, it would be easy to assume that the Saints defense didn’t play well. But it was actually Drew Brees that allowed the Dolphins to jump out to a 24-3 halftime lead with all the turnovers he had. Credit Sean Payton for not abandoning the run and getting away from his game plan despite the early deficit.

2. Indianapolis Colts (6-0)
The Colts continue to feast on bad teams, as they blew out the Rams in St. Louis last Sunday. But they’ll get a couple of decent challenges from their next four opponents: 49ers (or maybe not considering how overrated Mike Singletary’s team now looks), Texans, Patriots and Ravens.

3. Denver Broncos (6-0)
It’s amazing how this team continues to be underdogs week after week. Despite being undefeated and facing an opponent that has lost three straight, the Broncos are 3-point underdogs at the Ravens this Sunday. Something tells me Josh McDaniels wouldn’t have it any other way.

4. New England Patriots (5-2)
I’m not overlooking the fact that the Patriots absolutely demolished two bad teams the past two weeks. But I’m also not going to overlook how comfortable Tom Brady seems in the pocket again.

5. Minnesota Vikings (6-1)
Why Brad Childress decided not to use Adrian Peterson more in those final six minutes on Sunday is beyond me. Brett Favre shouldn’t be attempting 51 passes in a game unless it’s a blow out and the Vikes need to throw to get back into it.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)
Any lingering doubts about whether or not the Bengals could put their home loss to the Texans in Week 6 behind them were erased once they scored their fourth touchdown of the first half against the Bears. What a season Cedric Benson is having.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2)
This hasn’t been an overly impressive team through the first seven weeks of the season, but the Steelers always have a knack for making their opponents look really bad on Sundays.

8. Arizona Cardinals (4-2)
This may be a little high for the Cardinals, but I can’t force myself to rank them below the Giants after their impressive win last week in East Rutherford. There’s a lot to like about this Cardinals team right now: They’re playing well defensively, their offense is starting to get into a rhythm and Beanie Wells is even showing potential in the running game. ‘Zona is once again the team to beat in the NFC West.

9. New York Giants (5-2)
The Giants are who we thought they were: An injury-riddled team that is going to have to battle some tough opponents over the next couple weeks to stay afloat in the NFC East.

10. Dallas Cowboys (5-2)
If the Cowboys can play with the same intensity, focus and determination every week as they did last Sunday against the Falcons, they’ll have no problem making the playoffs. I swear the Dallas players thought it was the Super Bowl with how they got up for Atlanta.

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2009 NFL Power Rankings: Week 6

Here’s how I view things 1-32 after five weeks of NFL action:

1. New York Giants (5-0)
The G-Men didn’t suffer a letdown against the Raiders last weekend and Eli Manning didn’t appear to be slowed by his foot injury. The Giants will now get their biggest test of the year this week: A road trip to New Orleans.

2. Indianapolis Colts (5-0)
The Colts carved up opponents in the first five weeks of the season and now have the bye week to rest up before making a run at the top seed in the AFC.

3. New Orleans Saints (4-0)
A win over the Giants this Sunday will prove that the Saints are the best team in the NFC. Drew Brees and company is well rested, but the Giants have one of the best defenses in the league and will challenge New Orleans from start to finish.

4. Minnesota Vikings (5-0)
Everything is working out swimmingly right now for the Vikings. Opponents are still stacking the box in efforts to stop Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre is beating teams with his accuracy through the air. The Vikes’ defense has played great thus far, but the Ravens will test them this Sunday.

5. Denver Broncos (5-0)
After earning a fluke win against the Bengals in Week 1 and notching two gimmies against the Browns and Raiders in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively, the Broncos showed their meddle in wins over the Cowboys and Patriots. This team is legit.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)
The Eagles may possibly have the easiest first half schedule of anyone in the NFL. With wins over the Panthers, Chiefs and Bucs already in the books, the Eagles will take on the Raiders and Redskins in the next two weeks. They better notch two more victories because after they play Washington in Week 7, Philly faces a daunting second half schedule that features the Giants (twice), Bears, Falcons, Chargers, 49ers, Cowboys (twice) and Broncos.

7. Cincinnati Bengals (4-1)
The Bengals have beaten playoff-caliber teams virtually every week and the amazing thing is that they should be undefeated right now had they not allowed a fluke TD to the Broncos in Week 1. And much like Denver, this Cincy team is for realsies.

8. Atlanta Falcons (3-1)
The Falcons absolutely destroyed a good 49ers team last week and it all started up front with the offensive line. Atlanta’s front five gave Matt Ryan excellent protection so he could carve up San Fran’s defense and also gave Michael Turner ample running room. The Falcons have a tough stretch of games coming up, but if Mike Smith’s team continues to play as well as it did last week, then Atlanta will hold strong.

9. Chicago Bears (3-1)
The Bears return to the scene of their most heart-breaking loss of the 2008 season this week when they travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. Think Lovie Smith’s defense will cover the out route this time if Matt Ryan needs a big completion along the sidelines with the game on the line? Jay Cutler won in Atlanta last year as a member of the Broncos and his current team is well rested after having their bye last week. Chicago will be well prepared.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)
Troy Polamalu and Willie Parker are set to return for the Steelers this week, although defensive end Aaron Smith could miss the next three months after he has surgery to fix a torn rotator cuff. While Smith’s loss will be felt, getting Polamalu back is huge.

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2009 NFL Power Rankings Week 5

Here’s how I see things 1-32 in the NFL after four weeks.

1. New York Giants (4-0)
The Giants have the deepest collection of depth in the entire league. GM Jerry Reese did an outstanding job adding defensive depth this offseason and it’s paying off following injuries to Kenny Phillips, Chris Canty and Michael Boley. Eli Manning’s foot injury is a concern, but the G-Men look as good as anyone in the league right now.

2. New Orleans Saints (4-0)
Thanks to Darren Sharper and new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the Saints finally have the D to match their explosive offense. Teams are going to find it hard playing inside the Superdome all season.

3. Indianapolis Colts (4-0)
Peyton Manning is playing up to his Pro Bowl-caliber self and the defense looks faster and more aggressive under new coordinator Larry Coyer. Indy is currently the team to beat in the AFC.

4. Minnesota Vikings (4-0)
The Vikings look great so far this season, but the theme all year is going to be whether or not Brett Favre can stay healthy. Last night the Packers took away Adrian Peterson and Favre beat them with some amazing throws. But he also faced zero rush and teams aren’t going to give him that kind of time every week.

5. New York Jets (3-1)
It’s not surprising that a team finally made Mark Sanchez look like a rookie because it was bound to happen. What he does next will determine how good this kid will be and whether or not he can lead the Jets to the playoffs.

6. New England Patriots (3-1)
Something still seems off with the Patriots, but they have a great opportunity over the next couple weeks to rack up three more wins before their bye. Their defense still has holes and they’ve benefited from some questionable calls, but give Bill Belichick and Tom Brady credit for finding a way to get to 3-1 after a lackluster start.

7. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
A couple of calls didn’t go their way on Sunday, but that’s no excuse for Baltimore’s receivers to drop two key passes in the red zone with the game on the line. This is still a very good football team, but the Ravens cost themselves an opportunity to stay undefeated last week.

8. Denver Broncos (4-0)
The Broncos’ offense is still a work in progress, but Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno are a form a nice duo in the running game, the offensive line is solid and Brandon Marshall is a weapon. As long as the defense continues to play as well as it has, the Broncos should overcome their limitations on offense.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
Is Rashard Mendenhall the key to what ails the Pittsburgh running game? If he is, the defending champs are going to be tough to beat from here on out. The offensive line played great against San Diego on Sunday night.

10. Atlanta Falcons (2-1)
Hopefully over the bye, Mike Smith fixed some of the Falcons’ defensive issues that were on display in New England two weeks ago. This team needs to do a better job of applying pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run or else they’re going to continue to have problems against elite teams. Michael Turner and the running game need to get going as well so that Matt Ryan can benefit from a balanced attack.

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