Electrifying running back Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans are moving up this week’s Power Rankings after two straight wins
The 2009 NFL season has started toward its oh-too-fast ending with the midpoint of the season in everyone’s rearview mirrors. With the final two byes of the season (NY Giants and Houston Texans) passing this week, teams must now go into survival of the fittest mode. There are 12 coveted playoff berths left team to be claimed in the final eight weeks of the season and now is the time for teams to separate into “Contenders” and “Pretenders”.
In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown: The “Elite”—Saints (8-0), Colts (8-0), Vikings (7-1), Broncos (6-2), Steelers (6-2), Bengals (6-2), Cowboys (6-2), and Patriots (6-2); “Teams on the Cusp”— Chargers (5-3), Falcons (5-3), Eagles (5-3) and Cardinals (5-3); “Stuck in the Middle” inconsistent teams, who are caught in the NFL’s parity-filled middle and either need to join the playoff hunt or fall back—Texans (5-4), Giants (5-4), Ravens (4-4), Jets (4-4), Bears (4-4), Jaguars (4-4), and Niners (3-5); The “Pretenders”, who are only a shade away from the league’s bottom rung – Dolphins (3-5), Panthers (3-5), Bills (3-5), and Seahawks (3-5); and lastly the “Ugly” (i.e. These teams maybe looking to make themselves over by 2010 NFL Draft) – Titans (2-6), Redskins (2-6), Raiders (2-6), Chiefs (1-7), Lions (1-7), Browns (1-7), Rams (1-7), and Buccaneers (1-7)
Now on to the rankings for this week.
1. Colts (8-0) – In a crucial AFC South battle, the Houston Texans gave the injury-depleted Colts all they could handle. But in the end QB Peyton Manning, TE Dallas Clark, and DE Dwight Freeney rode to head coach Jim Caldwell’s rescue as the Colts remained perfect at the midway point. Next up is a battle of the two dominant AFC teams of the ‘OOs as the hungry Patriots come to town.
2. Saints (8-0) – “Who Dat, Who Dat is gonna beat them Saints”…another week and QB Drew Brees shines again in another win. This time division rival, the Carolina Panthers, jumped out to an early lead only to have the Saints roll over them by a big score. A “business” road trip awaits the undefeated Saints as they travel to St. Louis to face a dangerous 1-win Rams squad.
3. Vikings (7-1) – The NFC North’s #1 team used their bye week to recharge their batteries in anticipation of a possible playoff run in the months of November and December. You know QB Brett Favre’s 40-year old body is refreshed and ready to host the reeling Detroit Lions, who should even bother coming to the Metrodome.
4. Steelers (6-2) – Mike Tomlin’s team showed that they are really back as they won their fifth straight game with a dominating effort over the host Denver Broncos on MNF. On a very entertaining undercard of the marquee Patriots-Colts matchup, the Steelers will host division rival, the Cincinnati Bengals, in a battle for the top of the AFC North.
5. Patriots (6-2) – The Patriots bottled up the Miami Dolphins and the ‘Wildcat” as they further increased their lead in the AFC East. Next up is Super Bowl XLIII ½ as the Patriots play the Colts for the seventh straight year.
6. Bengals (6-2) — Marvin Lewis’ team proved that they are legit as they thumped the inconsistent Baltimore Ravens. The road to respectability gets even harder for the Bengals as they have to travel to Pittsburgh to face the red-hot World Champion Steelers.
7. Broncos (6-2) – Denver lost for the second straight week as the Steelers dominated them on Monday Night Football. Looking to get back on track, the Broncos will go to DC to face the dysfuncti0nal and reeling Washington Redskins.
8. Cowboys (6-2) – The ‘Boys were ready for the bright lights of NBC Sunday Night Football as they used big plays to beat the host Eagles in a huge NFC East battle. The Cowboys return to the site of the “Ice Bowl” as they travel to Green Bay to face their long time rival on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
9. Cardinals (5-3) – Good Kurt Warner showed up as the Cardinals dominated the Chicago Bears to build a surprising 4-0 road record. The dangerous Seattle Seahawks are up next in a game that could go a long way in determining the NFC West champion.
10. Falcons (5-3) – Mike Smith’s team was fighting mad as they pushed the dysfunctional Washington Redskins and lame-duck head coach Jim Zorn further into the abyss. In a battle to see who is second to the undefeated Saints, the Falcons travel to Carolina to face an inconsistent Panthers’ squad.
11. Chargers (5-3) – The Bolts look to be back as they won for third straight time with Philip Rivers leading a comeback win over the Giants in “The Battle for Eli”. In a game that could go a long way in establishing or curbing either team’s playoff hopes, the Philadelphia Eagles travel to the West Coast to face the surging Chargers.
12. Eagles (5-3) – In a disappointing home loss, the Birds lost their lead in the NFC East as the hated Dallas Cowboys came up big on NBC Sunday Night Football. The Eagles hope their second West Coast trip is better than their last one (lost to the Raiders) as they face the surging Chargers and QB Philip Rivers.
13. Texans (5-4) – Close but no win as the Texans looked like their old 8-8 selves in a crucial AFC South division loss to the undefeated Indianapolis Colts. I know head coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith will be encouraging their team get focused during their bye for a strong second half run.
14. Giants (5-4) – It was their fourth straight loss as the Chargers came east and pulled out a last-second win. It will be up to fiery head coach Tom Coughlin to pull his team out of their funk over the Giants’ bye week.
15. Ravens (4-4) – John Harbaugh’s team continued their inconsistent ways as their bark was worse than their bite in their second loss to the Bengals this season. I think the Ravens should get back on track this week as they return to Cleveland for the annual, “Art Modell Game”.
16. Packers (4-4) – In an old-time NFC Central match-up, the creamsicle unformed Buccaneers dominated the reeling Packers in a totally surprising win. It will be time to step-up or step aside for the Packers as they host the surging NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys.
17. Bears (4-4) – The road warrior Arizona Cardinals traveled to the Windy City and fueled by rejuvenated QB Kurt Warner, they dominated the inconsistent Bears. In an NFL Thursday Night special, Mike Singletary’s Niners will play host to his former beloved franchise.
18. Jaguars (4-4) – The “good” Jags were back as they held off the scrappy Kansas City Chiefs to climb back to a .500 record for the season. The Jags will try to win two games in a row for only the second time this season as they travel North to face an equally inconsistent Jets squad.
19. Jets (4-4) – Hopefully the bye week allowed Jets head coach Rex Ryan, QB Mark Sanchez and their special teams to find a modicum of consistency. Next up the J-E-T-S host the Jacksonville Jaguars in a battle of two of the AFC’s best rushers (Jags’ Maurice Jones-Drew and Jets’ Thomas Jones).
20. Panthers (3-5) – Carolina showed that 2008 was their year, but 2009 is the year of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South. If beleaguered head coach John Fox is smart, he will look to ride workhorse RB DeAngelo Williams as Atlanta comes to Bank of America Stadium for a crucial NFC South match-up.
21. Dolphins (3-5) – “The Return of the Wildcat” to New England proved more sizzle than substance as the Patriots fueled by a Randy Moss stiff-arm shook-off the Dolphins. The Battle of South Florida is up next as the Dolphins host the on-a-roll Tampa Bay Bucs.
23. Titans (2-6) – See Titans owner Bud Adams was right again as QB Vince Young and electrifying RB Chris Johnson led the Titans to their second straight win, this time on the road over the Niners. Next up is a road trip to Buffalo and V.Y, Johnson, and the Titans newly resurgent defense are looking to gobble up the Bills like a plateful of hot wings.
22. 49ers (3-5) – The Niners fought hard but the Titans, led by RB Chris Johnson and QB Vince Young, ran all over them. In a Thursday Night Special, the Niners will try to save their season as they face an inconsistent Chicago Bears.
24. Seahawks (3-5) – Beat the Detroit Lions in Week 9’s “Toilet Bowl” as Lions QB Matthew Stafford threw 5 picks. In a game that could save their season, the Hawks will travel to the desert to face the surging Cardinals.
25. Bills (3-5) – Maybe the bye week will help subpar QB Trent Edwards and T.O find the connection that has been missing all season from the Bills’ offense. In a must-win situation, the Bills coming will host the rising Titans and their explosive running game.
26. Redskins (2-6) – “Hotlanta” was too hot for the wilting Redskins as the only fight they really showed was on the sidelines in another loss. Next up is a home game against the suddenly struggling Denver Broncos, but the Skins maybe searching as several key players will probably miss the game with injuries.
27. Raiders (2-6) – Al Davis’ scurvy crew had too many problems to be cured during one bye week, at least emerging receiver Chaz Schilens should be ready to play in Week 10. The Raiders will look to defeat the struggling Chiefs for the second time this season in an AFL old-time battle in Oakland.
28. Chiefs (1-7) – After jettisoning malcontent RB Larry Johnson, the Chiefs showed some fight against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but came-up short. Next up is a battle against the Oakland Raiders in Week 10’s “Toilet Bowl”.
29. Rams (1-7) – The Rams probably really enjoyed their bye week after their first long-awaited win in Week 8. Back to Life, Back to Reality for the 1-win Rams as the explosive and undefeated New Orleans Saints come to the Edward Jones Dome.
30. Buccaneers (1-7) – Youngster quarterback Josh Freeman made all the right decisions as the creamsicle clad Bucs dominated the Green Bay Packers for their first win of the season. Next up Freeman and the Bucs will travel to South Florida for a battle with the inconsistent Miami Dolphins.
31. Lions (1-7) – Rookie QB Matthew Stafford looked like a rookie in a bad loss to the Seattle Seahawks. It could get real ugly, real fast as the rested Minnesota Vikings will host their lowly NFC North rival.
32. Browns (1-7) – After a bye week of contemplation, the Browns will look to just score a few touchdowns in the second half of the 2009 season. Next up the angry Baltimore Ravens come to town and could be curtains for returning starting quarterback Brady Quinn.
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 Season, Weekly Power Rankings Tagged: 2009 NFL Power Rankings, Chris Johnson, Football, NFL, NFL Power Rankings, NFL Rankings, Sports, Tennessee Titans