Perfection is hard to beat. With the Saints and Colts both marching towards potential undefeated seasons, they unsurprisingly maintained their stranglehold on the top of SB Nation's NFL bloggers power rankings for the umpteenth week.
The Titans were this week's biggest risers, moving up four spots to tenth despite the injury to Vince Young, as their utter demolition of the undermanned Rams kept their faint playoff hopes alive. The Steelers, meanwhile, dropped four spots after their shocking and embarrassing loss to the lowly Browns but them on the outside-looking-in when it comes to the playoffs. So much for Mike Tomlin's promise to "unleash hell" in December.
And for the first time in weeks, the Browns are not in the SB Nation power rankings basement, leapfrogging the Bucs, Lions and Rams after their inspired win over the rival Steelers.
NFL Power Rankings
|1 (2)||New Orleans Saints 13-0||You know you're having a charmed season when stunts like this don't come back to haunt you. Let's just say that if Bill Belichick had tried something like that failed fake field goal, Peter King and Bill Simmons would be writing columns excoriating him for all eternity.|
|2 (1)||Indianapolis Colts 13-0||Ah, the seemingly perennial "should-you-go-for-the-undefeated-season-or-rest-your-starters" argument. I feel like Skip Bayless and Jay Mariotti were destined to debate this forever, like Batman and Joker. Fortunately, if you want a sane take on the question, check out this piece (via Stampede Blue). Bottom line: the Colts should rest banged up players, but try to keep their healthy guys in the same rhythm.|
|3 (4)||Minnesota Vikings 11-2||After their shellacking at the hands of the Cardinals two weeks ago some pundits declared the Vikings had been "exposed", to which SBN's Daily Norseman says...uh, not so much. While the Vikings haven't played very many marquee opponents, they've played well in the opportunities they've had so far (aside from the Cardinals game).|
|4 (3)||San Diego Chargers 10-3||Are the Chargers really this good? SBN's Bolts from the Blue points out San Diego ranks a middling 14th in team DVOA rankings, and that only bumps up to 9th even when you only look at their eight game winning streak. So what's the lesson? In the era of perpetual putridity, an elite quarterback can make up for a host of deficiencies.|
|5 (7)||Philadelphia Eagles 9-4||While the Saints and Vikings keep chugging along, the Eagles are quickly becoming the NFC's Team That No One Wants To Play. How do we know this? Well, for one, they just dropped 45 points last week. And more importantly, their coach Andy Reid pulled off one of the most improbable mid-air jump celebrations in football recorded history with DeSean Jackson. This team has some chemistry and mojo working at just the right time.|
|6 (8)||Green Bay Packers 9-4||With the Packers marching methodically towards the postseason, is it too early to imagine a potential Minnesota-Green Bay playoff game? Would Fox train two cameras on Favre at all times so they could provide instant replays of his reactions from all angles? And would anyone notice that Aaron Rodgers is having arguably a better statistical season than Favre ever had in Green Bay?
|7 (5)||Cincinnati Bengals 9-4||Are the Bengals cooked come playoff time? That's the question SBN's Cincy Jungle asks in the wake of the team's disheartening loss to Minnesota, which saw Cincinnati pass for fewer than 100 yards in the game. While a tough defense and strong running game have been enough for the Bengals to eke out wins over the league's cellar dwellers the past few weeks, that's not enough against better teams. They need to start making plays in the passing game if they want to be more than a one-and-done in January.|
|8 (6)||Arizona Cardinals 8-5||After appearing to find their consistency, the Cardinals are back to their confounding Jekyll-and-Hyde ways, as SBN's Revenge of the Birds explains. Despite their lackluster effort last week, they can still clinch the NFC West with a win and a Niners loss this week. But remember: momentum means nothing to these Cardinals. They nearly won the Super Bowl despite coming into the playoffs reeling last year.|
|9 (9)||Denver Broncos 8-5||While the Broncos didn't complete their comeback against the Colts last week, they certainly showed that they can hang with Indianapolis. And that Brandon Marshall fellow is quite good at football when he decides to actually catch the ball rather than bat it to the ground.|
|10 (14)||Tennessee Titans 6-7||Chris Johnson is (justifiably) a confident dude. When reporters asked him if Dolphins speedster Tedd Ginn (who apparently backed out of a race against Johnson in the offseason) was faster than him, Johnson replied that it wasn't "even a legitimate question" and that he could probably beat Usain Bolt in the 50-meter dash. I wouldn't bet against him. He's nearly single-handedly carried the Titans back to the edge of playoff contention (with an assist from Vince Young).|
|11 (11)||New England Patriots 8-5||For those of you who haven't been following the "did Randy Moss quit last week" brouhaha, the answer is, probably yes, but that's what you get when you sign up for Moss. The fact that Belichick, Brady and Kraft have all defended Moss shows how much the team needs him to get back on track if they're going to fend off the pesky Dolphins and Jets.|
|12 (10)||Dallas Cowboys 8-5||Is it December in Dallas? Then it must mean the Cowboys are collapsing yet again! And this week there's a new culprit. While the Cowboys defense gave up too many big plays against the Giants two weeks ago, it was the offense (with the exception of Miles Austin) that was a no-show this past week. It doesn't get any easier with the Saints up next. It's panic time in Big D.|
|13 (15)||Baltimore Ravens 7-6||While the Ravens obliterated the Lions on the ground last week, SBN's Baltimore Beatdown is worried that the team has become too reliant on all-around talent Ray Rice, and that this has made the offense predictable. Maybe. But there are plenty of teams that wish they had that kind of problem. Rice very well could carry them into the playoffs. He's that good.
|14 (12)||New York Giants 7-6||While Giants fans are apparently still optimistic that their team will make the playoffs, a sizable percentage of the fans at SBN's Big Blue View would rather the team not play in January and get a higher draft pick. That's what happens when you get spoiled with four consecutive years of making the the NFL tournament, as Bill Parcells calls it.|
|15 (17)||Miami Dolphins 7-6||With Ronnie Brown sidelined, the Dolphins have more or less abandoned the Wildcat, and found out that they have a player in Chad Henne. With Ricky Williams hitting the rejuvenation machine and the defense peaking, the Phins are a real threat.
|16 (16)||Jacksonville Jaguars 7-6||After recording their first sellout of the season, Jaguars fans in Jacksonsville will finally be able to watch a home game from home. All it took was a visit from an undefeated Colts team, with the Jaguars' playoff hopes hanging in the balance.|
|17 (13)||Pittsburgh Steelers 6-7||Hell has been unleashed, but unfortunately for the Steelers it's their own private hell. Dropping games to the Chiefs, Raiders and Browns has all but removed the Steelers from playoff contention, and hammered home one point: they really, really miss Troy Polamalu.|
|18 (20)||New York Jets 7-6||This is more like it for Jets fans. After their 3-0 start, Jets' fans hoped that Rex Ryan could import the 2008 Ravens' formula of dominating defense, a multi-headed rushing attack, and efficient play from a rookie quarterback to New York. While it hasn't quite worked out that way for the Jets, their defense is back on top of the statistical heap, and has them in the hunt for a playoff spot. And for the record, Darrelle Revis is the best cover corner in the NFL this season.|
|19 (19)||Houston Texans 6-7||Their beatdown of the Seahawks was a typical Texans game: just when everyone has given up on you, put on such a show that you suck everyone back in...once again. It's clear where this is headed. Next summer the Texans will be the chic playoff sleeper (again) after they finish at 9-7 and draft a running back in the first round to address their woeful ground game. You heard it here first.|
|20 (21)||San Francisco 49ers 6-7||Is Alex Smith the long-term answer at quarterback for the Niners? That's the question everyone is asking after his solid performance last week, leading San Francisco in a must-win game over the Cardinals.|
|21 (18)||Atlanta Falcons 6-7||What is the Falcon's reward for giving the Saints all they could handle despite being short-handed offensively? A three-spot demotion in our power rankings. And unless the Falcons win out, their franchise long streak of never having back-to-back winning seasons will continue.|
|22 (22)||Carolina Panthers 5-8||Just having a quarterback who knows which jerseys his guys are wearing made a difference as the Panthers hung tough with the Patriots on the road. If they can make a move for a solid, better-than-a-game-manager type (Jason Campbell?) in the offseason, they could be dangerous next season.
|23 (23)||Chicago Bears 5-8||Bears fans can't wait to turn the page on what has been a horrific 2009 for Chicago. Among their offseason priorities, upgrading and getting younger along the offensive line should be at the top. Good thing they have their first and second-round picks. Oy, about that...
|24 (25)||Buffalo Bills 5-8||In what has been another disappointing season for the Bills, rookie safety Jairus Byrd has been one of the few bright spots, as SBN's Buffalo Rumblings notes. Now if they could just find a quarterback...|
|25 (26)||Washington Redskins 4-9||The Redskins seem to have discovered their winning formula: knock out the opposing team's starting quarterback. But on a more serious note, the Skins appear to be hitting their stride, with the offense really starting to click. Unbelievably, former bingo-caller Sherm Lewis seems to be the difference. Whatever has fueled the turnaround, the Skins look positively frisky now.|
|26 (24)||Seattle Seahawks 5-8||Way to show up last week, Seattle. First play, 64 yard bomb to Andre Johnson for a touchdown. And the Texans were just getting started, as Matt Schaub threw for 336 yards in the first half before essentially shutting it down after the break. That is the type of performance (or lack thereof) that gets a coach fired.|
|27 (27)||Oakland Raiders 4-9||How bad is Jamarcus Russell? So bad that the Raiders are reportedly going to start former third-stringer Charlie Frye rather than Russell in the place of the injured Bruce Gradkowski. Good thing Al Davis doesn't have a GM.|
|28 (28)||Kansas City Chiefs 3-10||SBN's Arrowhead Pride breaks down Matt Cassel's incompletions on the season, and finds that while Chiefs' receivers haven't done him any favors catching the ball, he's been slightly worse than last season, which is probably to be expected given the talent disparity between those two units. The bottom line? The Chiefs need to invest in talent along the offensive line to give Cassel more time.|
|29 (32)||Cleveland Browns 2-11||Eight sacks? Where did that come from? Regardless, congratulations are in order to the Browns for fighting through a miserable season, and mustering the pride to essentially knock their hated rivals out of the playoffs. Oh, and getting to come back into the locker room must have been nice too.|
|30 (29)||Tampa Bay Bucs 1-12||They're called rookie growing pains for a reason. Josh Freeman and the Bucs are finding out why. On the plus side, Bucs fans are beginning to get geeked up about the possibility of the incomparable Ndamukong Suh lining up for them next year.|
|31 (30)||Detroit Lions 2-11||Sometimes there's nothing to glean from a loss. The Lions got thoroughly dominated in every phase. And losing running back Kevin Smith to a possible ACL tear just adds injury to insult.|
|32 (31)||St. Louis Rams 1-12||At least it can't get any worse for the Rams. Starting Keith Null (a sixth round pick out of West Texas A&M) has to be bottom for the Rams this season -- right? Well, with Steven Jackson banged up, maybe not...Forget I asked.|