Wow, power rankings are fun to write! Until now, I had never really had time to write a power rankings article, but now that I've done it, I feel like I've reached a personal milestone.
Anyway, the top 10 spots are split between the NFC and AFC, with the Steelers heading the cream of the crop and the Panthers coming in at a bit of a surprising No. 2. The Colts, Titans, and Cowboys round out the top five.
This team, on a six-game winning streak, is coming off a clutch victory in Baltimore that its offense earned against a stout Ravens defense, and its defense hasn't wavered. On top of that, Pittsburgh just clinched the AFC North.
The Panthers will beat you through the air, on the ground, or defensively— and they have a newfound knack for neutralizing an opponent's greatest strength.
The league's only 10-4 team, the Colts are winners of six in a row, including a victory over the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Peyton Manning is back to old form (forget the Browns game) and getting this team back to the upper echelon of the NFL that it's accustomed to. There's no doubt that this team will get a wild card spot.
The Titans have lost defensive anchor Albert Haynesworth in addition to LB Kyle Vanden Bosch to injury until the playoffs. The loss of Haynesworth in particular will allow teams to run on Tennessee more easily, which should open up the entire defense a bit. Plus, these guys are too smug for their own good, and Jeff Fisher's controversial call shows that he's not invincible.
The Cowboys' defense dominated the Giants, albeit without Plaxico Burress or Brandon Jacobs. Even though Tony Romo was hurt for much of the game against the Giants, he still made enough plays for the 'Boys to win. Still, if the Cowboys want to do any major damage in the remaining two weeks of the season, they must get healthy.
Sammy Morris has quietly had a solid, if limited, season. Matt Cassel continues to lead this team well. But the defense worries me, as it gave up 26 points to the Raiders.
The fact that this team lost to the Steelers, who are arugably the best team in the AFC, is not a big deal. They stayed with the Steelers for 59 minutes, but in the end Big Ben and Santonio Holmes (especially Holmes with his toe-drag catch) made one of the best plays of the year to win in the waning seconds. Don't fault the Ravens for that; credit the Steelers. The Ravens still have a top rookie QB, one of the league's best rushing attacks, and a top three defense.
The fact that they lost DT Pat Williams for up to six weeks is a major blow to the defense, but the return to the starting lineup of QB Tarvaris Jackson provided just the shot in the arm that the Vikings needed to blow the Cardinals out. Plus, Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor are one of the best RB duos in the league, as always. The Vikings are supposed to be a defensive team, but with the swap of Tarvaris Jackson for Pat Williams, they may have turned into a more offensively-oriented team. Not only that, but an offensive team with far more balance than Gus Frerotte provided.
DE John Abraham (three sacks) was a one-man wrecking crew against the Bucs. The Falcons' pass defense allowed backup Brian Griese to throw for nearly 270 yards in addition to a score.
But when you have an offense as high-powered as the one that Matt Ryan and Michael Turner lead, most of the time you don't need to be perfect.
The Giants are barely average without Plaxico Burress and Brandon Jacobs. Their pass rush was the reason their loss to the Cowboys wasn't worse. As good as NY's offensive line is at run-blocking, they sure can't pass-protect. Dallas LB DeMarcus Ware got three sacks against the G-Men, and he came off the left edge for at least two of them.
That could spell trouble for the Giants this week against the Panthers' Julius Peppers, one of the NFL's sacks leaders and Carolina's speedy linebacking corps.
This team is dangerous when it wants to be. But does it have that all-important desire? Kurt Warner has been there, done that. He's gotta get his teammates' heads on straight.
The Bucs recovered from their Carolina stupor to hold Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Co. to 10 points (although Turner still got their number with a score and 152 yards rushing). Now they just have to get Garcia back on the field.
Bill Parcells and Chad Pennington's veteran expertise has rubbed off on this offense. Even better, the Dolphins are as unpredictable offensively as any team in the league because they can pull the Wildcat out at any team. You'd be surprised at how much unpredictability helps. Joey Porter (17 sacks, 2nd NFL) provides a consistently top-notch pass rush.
The Jets are 9-5 because of their overall running game and Brett Favre's better performances, but a recent skid and dip in overall play quality has led to some doubt about their legitimacy.
The Eagles have won three in a row and are only one game out of the wild card race. Brian Westbrook is a big reason for that. Warning to Bucs and Falcons: Object in mirror may be closer than it appears.
If the playoffs started today, it would be interesting to put the Texans in as the No. 6 seed. They would clearly have enough offensive firepower in a hot Matt Shaub and Andre Johnson in addition to Steve Slaton to win. And in a do-or-die situation, the whole team—but in particular the defense—would have a great sense of urgency and give everything they had to come out on top, similar to the way they played against the Titans. Boy, would that be interesting.
Two things allowed the Bears to stay in the playoff hunt even though Kyle Orton was injured. One is RB Matt Forte, who is still playing well. The other is the Bears' run defense. Only problem is, Chicago got shredded by Saints RBs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush last week. Goodbye, defense, and so long, playoffs.
Jay Cutler should recover from his ugly game against the Panthers just fine. Denver should be encouraged by the fact that their two backup running backs—one of which they plucked off the practice squad, the other they picked up off the street a few weeks ago—combined for nearly 100 yards in limited action against Carolina. The defense is still a major concern, however, and will likely earn them a first-round exit from the postseason (provided they make it that far).
Philip Rivers pulled a rabbit out of his hat with a last-minute, come-from-behind win over the Chiefs in Kansas City. It wasn't pretty; but they got the job done, and now they still have a chance at the AFC West crown because the Broncos lost to the Panthers.
If only the Saints had a better running game to compliment Drew Brees and a better defense to keep other teams from scoring against the Saints as much as the offense scores for them.
On the tail end of a hugely disappointing season, the Jags managed to do something right—they beat the Packers by four via David Garrard's two touchdowns and Maurice Jones-Drew's score.
The only things that have been going right for the Packers lately are Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings.
My, how the mighty have fallen. Just a couple months ago the Redskins were supposed to be one of the best teams in the NFL. Now they're losing to the then-one-win Bengals. Even Clinton Portis, who was in Pro Bowl consideration a short time ago, couldn't help much against Cincinnati.
The Bills have fallen just as hard as the Redskins, but faster. As inept as the Bills are in every aspect of the game (with the exception of Marshawn Lynch), it's almost impossible to imagine that this team was 5-1 and in first place in the AFC East in mid-October.
The reasons that the Seahawks aren't 0-14 and on their way to 0-16 are RB Julius Jones and three games against the equally-as-inferior Rams and 49ers (two against St. Louis and one against SF).
That win over the Jets seems a far cry away now, after the 49ers lost to the Dolphins at Dolphins Stadium, where Miami hasn't played well this season and has barely beaten the likes of the Seahawks and Raiders.
On the plus side, Mike Singletary, who conducts himself like a professional and demands the same of his players, is now the face of the franchise.
I've always wondered what would happen if a coach like Mike Singletary took over a professional sports team. Looks like we're going to find out if he remains with the 49ers beyond this season.
The Chiefs are the epitome of the team that just can't win close games. Their record is worse than the actual team. If some games had gone their way, the Chiefs may have been 8-6 at this point and in the thick of the AFC West race. Pity.
The Bengals didn't just tie—they actually won—again! Wow, Marvin Lewis just might keep his job!
The Rams lost to another "scum of the league" team—the Seahawks. The Rams just can't do anything right. Even Donnie Avery should ask for a trade.
The little bit of life that the Browns had left disappeared when Brady Quinn went down with a season-ending injury.
Nnamdi Asomugha—do yourself a favor and ask to be traded in the offseason. That way people can appreciate how good you are and you could get a chance to win a championship next year.
It's the Lions. No explanation needed. If Detroit wants to win a game, Rod Marinelli needs to be fired. The man's remarkably patient—maybe too patient. His team is 0-14 and getting mowed down every week, yet he keeps saying he's not discouraged. Or maybe he's just insane. Could it be both?