With all byes completed for the 2009 NFL Season, this is when the real fun starts. There are 12 coveted playoff berths left to be claimed in the final 7 weeks of the regular season, so now is the time for teams to separate into “Contenders” and “Pretenders”.
Whether a team is the Indianapolis Colts (undefeated) or Tennessee Titans (rebounded with 3 straight wins after starting 0-6) there is still playoff hope for almost every NFL team.
In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown:
The “Elite"–Saints (9-0), Colts (9-0), Vikings (8-1), Bengals (7-2), Broncos (6-3), Steelers (6-3), Cowboys (6-3), Cardinals (6-3), Chargers (6-3), and Patriots (6-3)
“Stuck in the Middle” inconsistent teams, who are caught in the NFL’s parity-filled middle and need to either join the playoff hunt or fall back—Jaguars (5-4), Falcons (5-4), Eagles (5-4), Texans (5-4), Giants (5-4), Ravens (5-4), Packers (5-4), Jets (4-5), Bears (4-5), Niners (4-5), Dolphins (4-5), and Panthers (4-5)
The “Pretenders”, who are only a shade away from the league’s bottom rung–Bills (3-6), Titans (3-6), Redskins (3-6), and Seahawks (3-6)
And lastly the “Ugly” (i.e. These teams maybe looking to make themselves over by the 2010 NFL Draft)–Raiders (2-7), Chiefs (2-7), Lions (1-8), Browns (1-8), Rams (1-8), and Buccaneers (1-8)
Now on to the rankings for this week.
1. Colts (9-0) –Fueled by Bill Belichick’s gaffe, Peyton Manning and the Colts seized the opportunity for a crucial AFC playoff separation win over the Patriots in the final seconds of the game. To remain undefeated for the 19th consecutive regular season game, Jim Caldwell’s team must be focused for their road trip to Baltimore to face an improving Ravens squad.
2. Saints (9-0) –“Who Dat, Who Dat is gonna beat them Saints?" Another week and New Orleans keeps rolling. The Saints are now 9-0 for the first time in franchise history after disposing of the scrappy St. Louis Rams. Next up, Sean Payton’s team continues its tour of the NFL’s bottom rung as they travel to Tampa to face the one win Bucs.
3. Vikings (8-1) –The Vikes had the Metrodome rocking as QB Brett Favre and RB Adrian Peterson were all business in kicking the lowly Detroit Lions to the curb. With his contract extension in hand, head coach Brad Childress will lead his team back to the dome to face the dangerous Seattle Seahawks.
4. Bengals (7-2) -Marvin Lewis’ team proved that they are one of the NFL’s elite teams by out-phyicaling the champion Steelers at Heinz Field. The Bengals are now 5-0 in the AFC North, but there is still work to be done. The Bengals will look to avoid a letdown as they travel to Oakland to face the very dysfunctional Raiders.
5. Patriots (6-3) –The Patriots fought their hearts out in Super Bowl XLIII and a half against the Colts, but in the end, they were undone by their head coach Bill Belichick not believing in his defense. The Pats will need to put Belichick’s fourth down gamble behind them as they host the rival New York Jets and their emotional head coach Rex Ryan.
6. Steelers (6-3) -I guess Mike Tomlin’s team finally understands how it is to be the “hunted." The Bengals came into Heinz Field and physically beat up the Steelers in a crucial AFC North battle. Knowing that they are only one game behind Cincy, the Steelers will need to re-group as they travel to Kansas City.
7. Chargers (6-3) –After a quality win over the pass-happy Philadelphia Eagles, the Bolts have clawed their way back into playoff contention and a share of the AFC West lead. In one of Week 11’s biggest games, the Chargers will look to take control of the AFC West when they travel to Denver to face the reeling Broncos.
8. Broncos (6-3) –The Washington Redskins got on the same page real quick as they surprised the Broncos at FedEx Field. The Broncos and head coach Josh McDaniels will need to put their upset loss to the ‘Skins behind them as the Chargers come to town for a crucial AFC West game.
9. Cowboys (6-3) –Just when I was about to say that the ‘Boys were back, they went to Green Bay and put out a lackluster effort in a bad loss to the Packers. Before making their Thanksgiving plans, the Cowboys will have to beat their longtime NFC East rival, the Washington Redskins.
10. Cardinals (6-3) –The Cards finally figured out how to get a home win as they turned back the scrappy Seattle Seahawks. Next up for QB Kurt Warner and the rest of the Cardinals is a return trip to St. Louis as the Cards try to remain a perfect on the road.
11. Jaguars (5-4) –Fueled by MJD, the “good” Jags were back as they pulled out another close one this time in the Meadowlands over the J-E-T-S. As they try to continue their winning ways, the Jags face the Bills and their new head coach Perry Fewell at home.
12. Texans (5-4) –Hopefully the bye week was a working one for head coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith as the Texans cannot finish with a record of 8-8 for third year in a row. In a Monday Night Football special, the Tennessee Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers) will return to Houston for an AFC South grudge match. Too bad this game can’t be played in the old Astrodome.
13. Falcons (5-4) –Mike Smith’s team continued their inconsistent ways as they not only lost RB Michael Turner (ankle) for a little while, but they also got run over by the Panthers. Playing without Turner will be tough as the Falcons travel to the Northeast to face an equally inconsistent Giants squad.
14. Eagles (5-4) -The Birds went to the West Coast for the second time this season and for the second time they came up short, this time in a loss to the San Diego Chargers. The pass-happy Eagles will need to find some balance as they attempt to stop their two game skid against the host Chicago Bears on NBC Sunday Night Football.
15. Giants (5-4) –After four straight losses, the Giants and fiery head coach Tom Coughlin badly needed their bye week to clear their heads. With their season on the line, the Giants will host the Atlanta Falcons in a game that could have NFC wildcard implications.
16. Ravens (5-4) –John Harbaugh’s team thoroughly thumped the pathetic Browns on Monday Night Football. In a “Charm City” grudge match game, the undefeated Indianapolis Colts return to Baltimore for a battle with the Ravens.
17. Packers (5-4) –The host Packers thumped the inconsistent NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys, giving QB Tony Romo no time in the pocket. In a game that could have future playoff implications, the Niners will travel to Green Bay this week.
18. Bears (4-5) –Thursday Night was interception night for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler as the Niners held on for a big win on the NFL Network. Eagles QB Donovan McNabb returns to his hometown for a huge matchup involving two teams that right now are too inconsistent.
19. Jets (4-5) –The J-E-T-S squandered timeouts and opportunities as the Jacksonville Jaguars, fueled by RB Maurice Jones-Drew, made it over the .500 mark. Jets head coach Rex Ryan may have more to cry about this week as his team travels to New England to face an angry Patriots team looking for revenge from their earlier loss to the mouthy guys in green.
20. 49ers (4-5) –The Niners and running back Frank Gore did just enough to hold off the turnover prone Chicago Bears in a huge Thursday Night Football win. Mike Singletary’s team will look to get back to .500 and stay within striking distance of the division leading Cardinals when they travel to Green Bay this week.
21. Dolphins (4-5) –Tony Sparano’s team won “The Battle of South Florida” as they handled the reeling Tampa Bay Bucs, but they lost RB Ronnie Brown (foot) for the season. Next up it will be the ‘Phins turn to play on NFL Network Thursday Night Football as they travel to Carolina for a ground battle with the Panthers.
22. Panthers (4-5) –Led by workhorse RB DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers rolled over the young and inconsistent Falcons. Expect to see a ground churning affair when the Panthers and Dolphins play each other on NFL Network Thursday Night Football.
23. Titans (3-6) –Head Coach Jeff Fisher is now singing the praises of rejuvenated QB Vince Young, but it is the Titans defense and all world RB Chris Johnson (over 1,000 yards in 9 games) who really carried Tennessee passed the Buffalo Bills. The Titans will look to make it four wins in a row with V.Y. under center as they travel back to Houston for a Texas Showdown with the Houston Texans.
24. Redskins (3-6) -The ‘Skins figured out how to run the ball again (see Ladell Betts), which really helped the entire team surprise the reeling Denver Broncos. In an NFC East grudge match, the Cowboys will host one of their bitter rivals as the ‘Skins look to make it two upset wins in a row.
25. Seahawks (3-6) –The Arizona Cardinals gave the Hawks a taste of their former NFC West dominance as RBs Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower ran all over them. In a make-or-break kind of game, the Seahawks will need to beat the red hot Vikings in the Metrodome to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive.
26. Bills (3-6) –The Titans ran all over the Bills and after the game, Bills owner told former head coach Dick Jauron to take a long walk off a short pier. With new interim head coach Perry Fewell now calling the shots, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and frustrated WR Terrell Owens will try to help the Bills to a road victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
27. Chiefs (2-7) –New running back Jamaal Charles led the way for the Chiefs as they thumped the hapless Raiders. I hope the Chiefs enjoyed their little siesta playing the weak Raiders, because the Pittsburgh Steelers are coming to KC in a foul mood after losing at home to the Bengals.
28. Raiders (2-7) –The Raiders’ offense was inept again as the Chiefs pounded their way to an AFC West win over Tom Cable’s dysfunctional team. The Raiders have the misfortune of hosting the surging Bengals, but at least they will have new QB Bruce Gradkowski calling the shots instead of the struggling JaMarcus Russell.
29. Rams (1-8) -The undefeated New Orleans Saints powered right passed the poor Rams in a game where the Rams hung around for a little while. The high flying Arizona Cardinals and trigger man Kurt Warner return to St. Louis for a game that is sure to be ugly by the end of the first half.
30. Buccaneers (1-8) –After a great win the week before, the Miami Dolphins rolled right over the Bucs who probably should return to wearing their creamsicle orange uniforms. The NFC South leading New Orleans Saints will look to get to 10-0 when they travel to Tampa for a surprisingly dangerous game.
31. Lions (1-8) –The Minnesota Vikings returned from their bye week to thump the reeling Lions, who had no answer for all world RB Adrian Peterson and the passing combo of QB Brett Favre and WR Sidney Rice. In Week 11’s hands down “Toilet Bowl”, the Lions will host the Cleveland Browns and I can smell the stench from this one all the way in Philly.
32. Browns (1-8) –QB Brady Quinn was atrocious in a Monday Night Football shutout home loss to the Baltimore Ravens. In a game that will truly tell the entire league who is the ugliest team on the block, the Browns will travel to Detroit for this week’s “Toilet Bowl”.
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, 2009 Weekly Power Rankings Tagged: 2009 NFL Season, 2009 Weekly Rankings, Football, NFL, San Diego Chargers, Sports, Week 11, Weekly Power Rankings