After a huge win over the New York Giants, Sean Payton and his high-flying Saints have not only garnered respect, but they have also moved up this week’s Power Rankings
This is one of my favorite times on the NFL calendar right before the midway part of the season. Teams are starting to separate into “Contenders” and “Pretenders” and each week certain teams are getting closer to the playoffs while others get closer to preparing for the 2010 NFL Draft.
In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown: The “Elite” – Vikings (6-0), Broncos (6-0), Saints (5-0), Colts (5-0), Falcons (4-1) and Giants (5-1); “Teams on the Cusp” — Steelers (4-2), Bengals (4-2), and Patriots (4-2); “The Contenders”, who are teams that are a step above average—Eagles (3-2), Bears (3-2), Cowboys (3-2), Cardinals (3-2), and Niners (3-2); “Stuck in the Middle” inconsistent teams, who are caught in the NFL’s parity-filled middle that either need to join the playoff hunt or fall back—Ravens (3-3), Jets (3-3), Texans (3-3), Jaguars (3-3), Dolphins (2-3), and Chargers (2-3); The “Pretenders”, who are also in the middle of the pack but are only a shade away from the league’s bottom rung—Seahawks (2-4), Panthers (2-3), Raiders (2-4), Bills (2-4), and Redskins (2-4); and lastly the “Putrid” (i.e. You should just skip to the 2010 NFL Draft) – Chiefs (1-5), Browns (1-5), Lions (1-5), Rams (0-6), Buccaneers (0-6), and Titans (0-6)
Now on to the rankings for this week.
1. Colts (5-0)— Head Coach Jim Caldwell’s team got a well-deserved bye week and maybe injured players SS Bob Sanders and WR Anthony Gonzalez will be back after the off week. Some will say the Colts have their second bye in a row as they travel to St. Louis to face a winless Rams squad. Don’t expect a letdown from Peyton Manning (should get his 6th straight 300-yard passing game this season) and his guys.
2. Vikings (6-0)— In one of Week 6’s marquee games, the Vikings were able to squeak past the Ravens as Baltimore’s young kicker missed a makeable field goal at the end of regulation. In a game that will truly tell everyone just how good QB Brett Favre and his young Vikings are, the new rulers of the NFC North will travel to Pittsburgh to face a resurgent Steelers squad.
3. Saints (5-0)— The Superdome was rocking as the undefeated Saints showed the bottom-feeding Giants the door in a blowout win that put New Orleans near the top of the NFC. The Saints road to legitimacy gets harder this week as they face a physical hard-running Dolphins team in Miami.
4. Broncos (6-0)— After a dominating road win over the Chargers on Monday Night Footbal—could have been a classic letdown situation—I am finally ready to jump on the Broncos and head coach Josh McDaniels bandwagon. The Broncos will remain undefeated for sure this week as they have a bye.
5. Giants (5-1)— Well I guess we got our answer on whether the Giants were fattening up on cupcakes at the beginning of the season. The Saints throttled the Giants by a lopsided score, so it will be interesting to see how Tom Coughlin’s team responds. The G-Men return to the Meadowlands this week to face the high flying Cardinals, who have seemed to be back on track offensively and defensively.
6. Steelers (4-2)— For the 12th time in a row, the Steelers push aside the woeful Cleveland Browns this time at Heinz Field. The resurgent Steelers will probably get their sternest test of this young season this week as the high-profile Vikings and QB Brett Favre come to town.
7. Patriots (4-2)— Playing in the snow, QB Tom Brady and the Patriots had one of the greatest passing days in NFL history as they embarrassed the Tennessee Titans, who some say simply quit . Next up for the Patriots is a trip across the Atlantic to Merry Ole England to feast the winless Tampa Bay Bucs.
8. Falcons (4-1)— In a match-up of two of the NFL’s best “Young Guns”, the Falcons led by Matt Ryan delivered when it mattered most in a win over the Chicago Bears and strong-armed QB Jake Cutler. In a tougher than you would think battle, the Falcons travel to Dallas to face a well rested Cowboys squad, who are looking for some consistency.
9. Bengals (4-2)— A week after a big AFC North win at Baltimore, the Bengals were surprised by the offensive minded Houston Texans. In a highly anticipated inter-conference battle, the Bengals and revenge-minded RB Cedric Benson (going against the team that released him) will host the Bears and their new pass rusher DE Gaines Adams.
10. Bears (3-2)— On Sunday Night Football, the Bears continually turned the football over in the redzone which was their downfall against the Atlanta Falcons. Next up is a respect game against the host Cincinnati Bengals and the loser will fall right back to the NFL’s parity-filled middle.
11. Cardinals (3-2)— The Cards continued to shake their Super Bowl hangover by pounding NFC West rival, the Seattle Seahawks. Next up, QB Kurt Warner and the rest of the Cards will need to prove that they can win a game in the Eastern timezone as they travel to Pittsburgh to face the resurgent Steelers.
12. 49ers (3-2)— Head Coach Mike Singletary and his staff were probably working overtime during the bye week to improve a team that has been a little inconsistent as of late. Look for the return of injured running back Frank Gore and the debut of just-signed first rounder Michael Crabtree as the Niners travel to Houston to face the inconsistent Texans.
13. Ravens (3-3)— John Harbaugh’s team was just a field goal away from putting an “L” on the undefeated Vikings, but it was not to be and the Ravens have now lost 3 straight games. Look for the Ravens to enjoy their bye week as they try to find a breakout receiver and their once fearsome defense.
14. Eagles (3-2)— In probably the biggest upset of the week, the Eagles went across the country and laid an egg against the supposed pushover Raiders—well at least the Fightin’ Phils are picking up the Birds slack. Eagles head coach Andy Reid better find his running game and quick as his team travels to FedEx field to take on the reeling Redskins and their beleaguered head coach Jim Zorn.
15. Packers (3-2)— It wasn’t even close as the Detroit Lions served as the Packers homecoming team in a lopsided win. The Packers and freewheeling quarterback Aaron Rodgers continue their tour of the NFL’s underbelly as they travel to Cleveland to face a horrible Browns team.
16. Cowboys (3-2)— Hopefully head coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett put the Cowboys bye to good use as it may be win or leave if the ‘Boys continue their inconsistent ways. In a statement game, the Cowboys will host the hard-charging Atlanta Falcons and QB Matty “Ice” Ryan.
17. Dolphins (2-3)— I am sure during the bye week that the Dolphins were adding even more wrinkles to their Wildcat offense. In a game that could prove to be a season saver, the Dolphins and their rushing average of 177 yards per game—will host the undefeated Saints.
18. Jets (3-3)— Head coach Rex Ryan and rookie QB Mark Sanchez are finding out how tough the NFL can be as they lost in overtime to Buffalo Bills in a game the J-E-T-S were “supposed” to win. Gang Green will look to avoid being the Raiders second straight upset victim as they travel to Oakland this week.
19. Texans (3-3)— Head coach Gary Kubiak’s team continued their inconsistent ways as they surprised the Bengals in an offensive road victory in Cincy. In a battle of upstarts, the Texans will host the emerging Niners and the loser will definitely fall to the NFL’s middle.
20. Panthers (2-3)— The Panthers continued their climb back to respectability with their second straight win, this time over the winless Tampa Bay Bucs. In a game that can get them back to .500, look for the Panthers to ride their stellar running game against the injured Buffalo Bills.
21. Jaguars (3-3)— The NFL’s most inconsistent team was back up to their old tricks as they bounced back from a shutout loss to beat the winless Rams in overtime. The Jags should put their best player, Maurice Jones-Drew, on ice during the bye week because as he goes, so goes the team.
22. Chargers (2-3)— Head Coach Norv Turner’s team put up a mini-fight but in the end you could clearly see that the AFC West division leading Denver Broncos were hungrier on Monday Night Football. In a must-win game, the Chargers will travel to Kansas City to face a Chiefs squad coming off their first win of the season.
23. Seahawks (2-4)— The Hawks showed that they are a “Pretender” even with QB Matt Hasselbeck at the controls as they were throttled by the Arizona Cardinals in a huge NFC West battle. The Seahawks will have a much-needed bye week to get players like Hasselbeck and DE Patrick Kerney healthy again.
24. Bills (2-4)— The Bills surprised the J-E-T-S in overtime as kicker Rian Lindell made the most of his second chance to win the game. In a battle of two teams that either are going to get back in the race or fall down with the NFL’s dregs, the Bills travel to Carolina to face a hungry Panthers’ squad.
25. Raiders (2-4)— Al Davis’ team put aside all of their drama for one week to out-hustle the arrogant Philadelphia Eagles, who left their game plan and intensity back in Philly. Now that head coach Tom Cable doesn’t have to worry about the Po-Po knocking on his door any longer, you have to wonder can the Raiders pull another home-win shocker against the fluttering Jets.
26. Chiefs (1-5)— Even though it was more of an indicator of the ineptness of Redskins and head coach Jim Zorn, the Chiefs had to be ecstatic about their first win of the season. The Chiefs will try to make it two upsets in a row as they host the angry San Diego Chargers.
27. Redskins (2-4)— After a horrible home loss to the formerly winless Chiefs, the Skins handed the team’s offensive reins to offensive consultant Sherman Lewis. Before a Week 8 bye, the Redskins will try to salvage their lagging season in a crucial home Monday Night Football battle against the embarrassed Philadelphia Eagles.
28. Lions (1-5)— Not even former Packers killer QB Daunte Culpepper could keep the still rebuilding Lions from being torn apart by the Packers. I am sure during the bye week that the Lions will try to focus more on the fact that they have already won a game this season rather than their many holes.
29. Browns (1-5)— It was the same old story for the Dawgs as the Steelers tamed them once again as QB Ben Roethlisberger had a career day throwing the football. The Browns will try to pick-up the pieces as they host the surging Green Bay Packers in a match-up of two Midwest teams going in opposite directions.
30. Buccaneers (0-6)— Once again the Bucs fought hard, but they just didn’t have the depth or overall talent to beat the rebounding Carolina Panthers. For the Bucs, It must be a hard thing knowing that you are going all the way to London, England to be the New England Patriots next “homecoming” opponent.
31. Rams (0-6)— Steve Spanuolo’s squad gave it their all , but unfortunately they came up short against MJD and the Jaguars in overtime. The road doesn’t get any easier for the Rams as they host the well-rested and scary Indianapolis Colts who are hitting on all cylinders on offense and defense.
32. Titans (0-6)— In an embarrassing loss that the NFL has not seen in years, the Patriots ran the score-up (59-0) on the Titans and some say Jeff Fisher’s team just plain “quit”. During the bye week, Fisher better clean-up his horrible secondary and start thinking about playing former rookie of the year QB Vince Young since veteran thrower Kerry Collins could only manage -7 yards passing against the Patriots.
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)Posted in 2009 NFL Power Rankings, 2009 NFL Season, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, NFL Power Rankings, Sean Payton Tagged: 2009 NFL Power Rankings, 2009 NFL Season, Football, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, NFL, NFL Power Rankings, Sean Payton, Sports