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NFL Week 9 Power Rankings: Ravens Claw Their Way Into Top 10

With the NFL season at its midpoint, our the SB Nation Power Rankings -- as voted on by our network's bloggers -- have settled into a rhythm: the Saints and Colts still reign supreme, although the Rams have finally fought their way out of the basement into (relative) respectability. 

The Ravens were this week's biggest riser, moving up four spots to 10th overall after their closer-than-it-looked-but-still-dominating win over the Broncos. Ray Rice continued to show off his otherworldly talents, while Joe Flacco registered another efficient if unglamorous performance.

The Cardinals fell back to earth after last week's big jump, as the previously top-ranked rushing defense surrendered huge chunks of yards to the DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, while Kurt Warner threw picks like he was Jamarcus Russell. Of course, knowing the Cardinals, they'll come back to eviscerate their next big opponent, right after everyone has written them off.

Without further ado, here are this week's rankings:

NFL Power Rankings

Team Rank (LW) Record Comments
1 (1) New Orleans Saints 7-0 The Saints defense has scored more touchdowns than the Browns offense has this season. Their running game is actually ranked ahead of their passing game. And Reggie Bush can fly. Only one of these statements isn't true. 
2 (2) Indianapolis Colts 7-0 While Peyton Manning and Co. have stolen all the headlines, their defense showed last week that the Colts are far from being a one-dimensional team. 
3 (4) Minnesota Vikings 7-1 In case you missed the game while watching the Favre Cam last week, the Vikings all but put away the NFC North after holding on for the win in Green Bay. Now that the Favre sideshow is out of the way, the real question in Minnesota is whether the Vikings are the most complete team in football. As long as Favre can keep slinging it, they very well might be. 
4 (5) New England Patriots 5-2 After a shaky start to the season, the Pats look like they will cruise to another AFC East title. Get ready for the inevitable Pats-Colts playoff showdown. Jim Nantz and friends are already excited. 
5 (6) Pittsburgh Steelers 5-2 It's beginning to feel like 2008 in Pittsburgh. The defense is back to its elite level now that Polamalu is healthy, and Roethlisberger is making enough plays to carry the offense. Rashard Mendenhall's breakout performance simply gives the team another dimension they didn't have last year: an explosive between-the-tackles running attack. You have been warned.
6 (3) Denver Broncos 6-1 The game was much closer than the final score indicated, but the Broncos still have plenty of questions going forward. Chief among them, the Broncos must get back to protecting Kyle Orton long enough for him to get the ball down the field - and the injury to starting RT Ryan Harris certainly won't help. The Broncos' offensive line will face another stiff test on Monday night, when they take on the Steelers and their blitz-happy defense. 
7 (9) Philadelphia Eagles 5-2 A classic Donovan McNabb game: just as Eagles fans were beginning to grumble about McNabb and the offense, Philadelphia unloads on the Giants and puts to rest any and all questions (for now). 
8 (7) Cincinnati Bengals 5-2 The Bengals' bye fortuitously came before key divisional games against the Ravens and Steelers in the next two weeks, which should go a long way towards determining whether Cincinnati will be playoff-bound this year.
9 (11) Dallas Cowboys   5-2 The Cowboys have quietly moved their way up the standings, finally doing what good teams do: easily handling lesser teams. If Marion Barber can get healthier and Miles Austin can continue his strong play, the Cowboys could be right where everyone expected them to be before the year began: in position for Tony Romo to choke away the season in December. 
10 (14) Baltimore Ravens 4-3 The Ravens are this week's big riser after pulling through in last week's must-win over the previously undefeated Broncos. While Ray Rice continued to do this thang, racking up over 100 total yards, the Ravens defense was the real story, as they pressured Kyle Orton, and kept the Broncos' offense out of rhythm all game long. 
11 (8) New York Giants 5-3 Uh-oh, Giants fan. After looking like the class of the NFC earlier in the year, Big Blue have dropped three straight, and are the clear third banana in the NFC East. 
12 (15) Houston Texans 5-3 The good news: the Texans have their best midseason record in franchise history. The bad news: Owen Daniels is done for the season, and Steve Slaton is making Ted Ginn look sure-handed. Still, the Texans second-half schedule sets up very favorably, outside of two showdowns with the Colts. The playoffs could well be within reach in Houston. 
13 (13) Atlanta Falcons 4-3 Michael Turner and Roddy White both finally showed off some of the big-play ability that has been in short supply in Atlanta this season, but it wasn't enough against the juggernaut known as the Saints. Matt Ryan and the passing game have quietly struggled the last few weeks, and until they fix that, the Falcons will we hard-pressed to keep pace with the league's elite. 
14 (12) Green Bay Packers 4-3 It was a rough week for the Pack. They lost a few defensive starters to injury. QB Aaron Rodgers is banged up after taking another beating at the hand of the Vikings. And, oh yeah, they lost -- again -- to Wrangler's top spokesman. Unless they can keep Rodgers from getting beat to a pulp every week, the playoffs seem out of reach for the Packers.
15 (10) Arizona Cardinals   4-3 So much for their top-ranked rush defense. Between DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart exposing their defensive front, and Kurt Warner reverting to his turnover-prone ways, the Cardinals suddenly went from looking like shoo-ins for the NFC West crown to a question mark. But this is nothing new in the desert; the Cardinals have been pulling this Jekyll and Hyde act for most of the last year and a half -- outside of last year's run in the playoffs. Which Cardinals team will show up next week is anyone's guess.
16 (17) San Diego Chargers   4-3 The Chargers took care of business against an inferior opponent once again, but they must still be concerned about their struggles running the ball. LT scored twice, but had trouble against the Raiders' abysmal defensive front. 
17 (18) Miami Dolphins    3-4 For one week at least, Dolphins fans had to feel good about drafting Ted Ginn. Maybe not about drafting him with the ninth overall pick, but good about having him on their roster. Jaw-dropping returns like these remind everyone what a dynamic player Ginn can be once he gets his hands on the ball. Which is the problem -- getting his hands on the ball is no small task for the Ohio State product. 
18 (20) Chicago Bears 4-3 Despite crushing the lowly Browns, the Bears should be concerned with their struggles moving the ball, particularly on the ground. While Matt Forte has drawn criticism for his "sophomore slump", the Bear's below-average offensive line play is more to blame. 
19 (19) San Francisco 49ers 3-4 Another week, another moral victory for the Niners.  Alex Smith's play at quarterback - along with Michael Crabtree's rapid development - continues to give the Niners hope of having a more explosive offense than they've had the rest of the season, which could be enough to propel them to the NFC West title given the Cardinals' inconsistency. 
20 (16) New York Jets 4-4 Mark Sanchez was back to looking "poised", but the Jets forgot the number one rule of special teams: do not kick to Tedd Ginn. And Rex Ryan is finding out that the loudmouth routine does not play nearly as well when your team is losing. 
21 (24) Carolina Panthers    3-4 The Panthers have found their winning formula: run nearly every down, and then every now and then, bomb one deep to Steve Smith. In other words, make your $42.5 million quarterback as much of a non-factor as possible. 
22 (21) Jacksonville Jaguars 3-4 22 yards per carry. Maurice Jones-Drew averaged 22 yards a carry last week - thanks in large part to this run. I'm not an offensive coordinator (though I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night), but it might make sense to get your best offensive threat the ball more than eight times a game, especially when he's averaging over two first downs a carry.
23 (23) Seattle Seahawks   2-5 Last year the Seahawks collapsed under a deluge of injuries, making them a chic pick to bounce back in 2009. This year? They're just another mediocre-to-bad team in a league filled with them. 
24 (22) Buffalo Bills 3-5 Despite Terrell Owens making a cameo in the 2009 NFL season, the Bills weren't able to continue their "hot streak" last week against the Texans. Actually, considering that the Bills have no offense and no run defense, it's a minor miracle that they have three wins. Kudos, Dick Jauron? 
25 (25) Oakland Raiders 2-6 Jamarcus Russell Pro Bowl fever! Catch it! After last week's close loss to the Chargers, Russell told reporters that he did a "pretty good job" - despite the fact that he threw for a little over 100 yards with an interception (and no touchdowns, of course). The sad part? Raiders fans would probably agree that this was an improvement for Russell. 
26 (30) Tennessee Titans 1-6 The Titans apparently can't spell "victory" without VY. Why exactly did it take the team so long to bench journeyman Kerry Collins again? Of course, Vince Young's job is a lot easier when Chris Johnson is busting runs like this. Still, the Titans could be a frisky team down the stretch if they can get their secondary back to full strength and keep gouging teams on the ground offensively.
27 (28) Washington Redskins   2-5 The Skins had their best week in awhile last week. Now let's see if they can roll their unbeaten streak to two weeks (survey says: no). 
28 (26) Kansas City Chiefs 1-6 The Chiefs claimed former Chargers wideout Chris Chambers off waivers, at least in part to gain whatever insight they can into San Diego's offensive playbook. Somehow our bloggers doubt this will be the difference between who will win in their upcoming rematch.
29 (27) Detroit Lions 1-6 How are the Lions ranked ahead of the Rams despite losing to St. Louis this past weekend you ask? Um, good question. I mean, do you presume to criticize the great SB Nation NFL bloggers? But seriously, the Lions were missing Calvin Johnson and were a fake field goal away from dispatching the Rams. The Lions are (gulp) simply a more talented team.
30 (32) St. Louis Rams 1-7 It took a fake field goal and another superhuman effort from Steven Jackson, but the Rams finally locked down their elusive first (and only?) win of the season. Lost amid the embarrassment that has been the Rams' season is the fact that Jackson is once again putting up silly numbers, tied for second in the league in rushing yards. Just imagine what he'd do on an actual NFL team!
31 (29) Cleveland Browns 1-7 The fans are revolting. The GM has been fired. The coach appears next on the chopping block. And the quarterback has arguably been the worst in the league. Somewhere, Drew Carey is crying.  
32 (31) Tampa Bay Bucs 0-7 And then there was one totally defeated team. Will the Bucs win this year? Let's check out their remaining slate: vs GB, at MIA, vs NO, at ATL, at CAR, vs NYJ, at SEA, at NO, vs ATL. Aside from their trip to Seattle, it's hard to see a game where the Bucs will have a decent shot at winning. Ouch.