The Real NFL Power Rankings + The Cap

Alex Tichenor@alextichenorCorrespondent IDecember 3, 2009

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 22:  Reggie Wayne #87 of the Indianapolis Colts runs the ball against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 22, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Colts defeated the Ravens 17-15. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

Week 12 of NFL action was an action-packed week with blowouts, comebacks, and last-second wins alike.

There were many heroes and goats, surprises and disappointments and I will detail them here in my NFL recap (aka The Cap) of week twelve action.

The Real Power Rankings

T he Super Sixteen

1. New Orleans Saints (11-0)   Previous Rankings: 2, 2, 1, 1, 2

The Saints may have struggled in the past few weeks, but New England saw them in early season form on Monday night.

Brees now has three receivers, in Colston, Meachem, and Henderson; playing at a high level and the team has one of the best qualities of a great team: showing up for big games.

They put a shellacking on the only other team 7-4 or better that they've played on the road up in Philly. The Saints have to be the favorites to win the Super Bowl right now.

2. Indianapolis Colts (11-0)   Previous Rankings: 7, 1, 2, 2, 1

Indy has been down in the fourth quarter in five straight games...and won all of them. No team in NFL history has ever done that even in four straight games (I credit CBS's broadcast with that stat).

That's just a testament to how good Peyton Manning is in the fourth quarter. He's truly one of the best clutch athletes to ever walk the face of the earth (although in the playoffs, not so much).

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There's a reason Belichick went for that fourth and two, Manning is good. Really, really, really good.

3. Minnesota Vikings (10-1)   Previous Rankings: 8, 4, 4, 3, 4

The Vikings, whose one loss could have just as easily been a win, can legitimately say that they are the best team in football.

Of Indy, New Orleans and Minnesota; Minnesota has the best defense and probably the most versatile offense with Favre throwing to a deep group of pass catchers and having Adrian Peterson run behind a top three offensive line.

Jered Allen is playing as well as any defensive end in football as well. Minnesota is one dangerous team.

4. San Diego Chargers (8-3)   Previous Rankings: 10, 14, 15, 12, 7

Now this is the Chargers team that I thought they would be going into the season. Sure, destroying a few cupcake teams looks good on the resume, but that nearly 30-point win in Denver looks much more impressive after what Denver did to the Giants in Mile High.

This win streak is also amidst Vincent Jackson struggling and Tomlinson coughing up the ball in the red zone.

If those ills can be fixed, San Diego is likely looking at a first-round bye in the playoffs this year.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (8-3) Previous Rankings: 18, 15, 9, 7, 3

Things went from looking bright and sunny to murky and cloudy in Cincinnati. Yes, Cedric Benson has been out, but they have really struggled on the offensive side of the ball.

How does a good team only manage 33 combined points against Oakland and Cleveland's sorry excuses for defenses? Bengals fans can only hope Cedric Benson brings back the offense's firepower with him.

6. New England Patriots (7-4) 
Previous Rankings: 12, 6, 5, 5, 5

Twice in the past three weeks has New England gone on the road, and twice have they lost. Both were equally heart breaking to the Pats and their fans.

The Indy game was gut-wrenching because of the now infamous fourth-and-two call from their own 28 that let Peyton Manning work with a short field to throw the game-winner to Reggie Wayne with 16 seconds left on the clock.

The New Orleans loss was so sickening because they just found out that they weren't as good as they thought they were.

Since when does Drew Brees show up Tom Brady the way that he did on Monday night? Since now. Brees is playing at a higher level than No. 10 right now.

7. Arizona (7-4)   Previous Rankings: 17, 20, 16, 16

A last-second loss on the road to maybe the hottest team in football, on the road, without their starting Pro Bowl quarterback does not affect the way I look at Arizona at all. How could anybody expect Matt Leinart to go into Nashville and win?

That's kind of like asking Vince Young to win five straight games after sitting on the bench for the first six of the season...oh, crap. The Cards were just the victims of bad circumstances on Sunday.

8. Green Bay Packers (7-4)   Previous Rankings: 19, 16, 10, 14, 13

Green Bay went from not likely to make the playoffs to looking very likely to get in as an NFC wild card team.

Aaron Rodgers continues to play lights out when he's not on the ground and Charles Woodson is looking like he did in his Heisman days in Ann Arbor. Woodson's been ridiculous the past few weeks.

9. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)   Previous Rankings: 1, 5, 11, 10

Baltimore probably shouldn't be this high after barely beating a Dennis Dixon-led Steelers team at home, but they are. They just seem like a better team than their record right now.

Every game they've lost has come right down to the wire (with the exception of the second Bengals game). Ray Rice continues to have a remarkable breakout season with over 140 yards against Pittsburgh's D.

10. Dallas Cowboys (8-3)   Previous Rankings: 14, 17, 20, 11, 11

The Cowboys have beat every team that they should beat this season and lost most of the games they should have lost. They've had a favorable schedule and their record shows it.

No question, on a good day, they are a very good team, but the Cowboys still have trouble being consistently good.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)   Previous Rankings: 9, 12, 8, 6, 6

Make no mistake, Troy Polamalu's health struggles and the Steelers' winning troubles are directly related. Whenever the best defensive playmaker in the league is off the field, the team he leads will struggle.

Pittsburgh fans still need not panic. They have a very easy schedule from here on out and will get Ben and Polamalu back down the stretch.

Even if Pittsburgh looks like a mediocre team at the end of the season, if they sneak into the playoffs, beware of them.

12. Tennessee Titans (5-6) 
Previous Rankings: 20, 22, 30, 24, 16

Everybody knew that the Titans weren't 0-6 bad. Now it is clear that they are yet a  good team. Chris Johnson continues to run all over everybody and Vince Young throwing for almost 400 yards in one game helps a little bit as well.

Can the Titans finish 10-6 after starting 0-6? Anything is possible, but Tennessee faces a big roadblock this week: undefeated Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.

13.  Philadelphia Eagles (7-4)   Previous Rankings: 16, 13, 13, 8, 12

This is a typical Eagles team. Very inconsistent on offense, always solid defensively, plays to their competition.

Nobody is scared of them, just like every year. They will likely sneak into the playoffs once again and fall short of the big game once again. A typical year in Philly.

14. Denver Broncos (7-4)   Previous Rankings: 13, 7, 3, 4, 17

Just when the Broncos were left for dead, they go and kick the snot out of the Giants. Kyle Orton looked as sharp as ever and their defense looked in early season form.

The team that played on Thanksgiving was the one that started the season on a six-game win streak, not the team that lost four straight games. The question is: which team will we see in the remaining five games?

15. Houston Texans (5-6)   Previous Rankings: 15, 19, 18, 10, 10

When Peyton Manning led the Colts down the field to make bring the Colts within six points of the Texans on Sunday, it was clear that the Colts would win, just like always. Houston always seems to find a way to lose against Indy.

They completely dominated the first half and the entire second half was just completely dominated by Indy in every facet.

Matt Schaub is one of the worst QB's in the league when under mental pressure as well. The pick six he threw to give the Colts a comfortable lead did not surprise me in the least.

16. Atlanta Falcons (6-5)   Previous Rankings: 5, 10, 7, 13, 15

Atlanta is clearly a second-rate good team. The Tampa game can basically be thrown out because of the Ryan injury, but they've been struggling lately.

It appears the Birds will be on the outside looking in on the playoffs this year unless they can find replacements for their costly injuries.

The Rest of the Pack

17. San Francisco 49ers (5-6)
  Previous Rankings: 6, 9, 14, 18, 21

18. New York Giants (6-5)   Previous Rankings: 3, 3, 6, 17, 18

19. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-5)   Previous Rankings: 26, 18, 23, 25, 20

20. Miami Dolphins (5-6)   Previous Rankings: 27, 21, 17, 19, 19

21. New York Jets (5-6)  Previous Rankings: 4, 8, 19, 20, 22

22. Carolina Panthers (4-7)   Previous Rankings: 22, 25, 21, 21, 14

23. Buffalo Bills (4-7) 
Previous Rankings: 21, 26, 29, 22, 27

24. Washington Redskins (3-8) 
Previous Rankings: 25, 24, 26, 28, 25

25. Chicago Bears (4-7)   Previous Rankings: 11, 11, 12, 15, 23

26. Seattle Seahawks (4-7)   Previous Rankings: 23, 23, 22, 23, 24

27. Kansas City Chiefs (3-8)   Previous Rankings: 29, 31, 25, 27, 29

28. St. Louis Rams (1-10)
  Previous Rankings: 32, 32, 32, 29, 26

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-10)
  Previous Rankings: 28, 29, 31, 32, 28

30. Oakland Raiders (3-8)
  Previous Rankings: 24, 30, 24, 26, 31

31. Detroit Lions (2-9)  Previous Rankings:  30, 27, 27, 30, 30

32. Cleveland Browns (1-10)  Previous Rankings: 31, 28, 28, 31, 32

Five WOW Performances

1. Vince Young (27/43, 387 yards passing, 1 TD, 0 int, 4 carries, 8 yards rushing)

It's amazing how far VY has come in a year. Last season, even amidst a 13-3 season, he was grumbling about playing time and was whining constantly.

Now he's the toast of Nashville. He's 5-0 as the starter this year and lit up the stat sheet with almost 400 yards and threw a great game winning touchdown in the back of the end zone.

Truly a great, heads up play. Young has been a clutch player since his days at Texas and he showed that on Sunday.

2. Drew Brees (18/23, 371 yards passing, 5 TD, 0 int)

Drew Brees did something Peyton Manning could not do. Destroy the Patriots and throw for five touchdowns against them. He totally took control of the offense and found open receivers all over the field all game long against Bill Belichick's team.

Brees worked his way back into MVP talks with the magical performance he cooked up in the Superdome on the big stage of Monday Night Football against a supposed "elite" team. Bravo Drew, bravo.

3. Brett Favre (32/48, 392 yards passing, 3 TD, 0 int)

The old man does it again. Wasn't this supposed to be Adrian Peterson's offense. Now Peterson is just a piece in the clockwork that is Brett Favre's scoring machine.

The Vikings aren't just great defensively, they boast one of the league's top offenses in the league.

It's amazing that Favre continues to roll along the way that he has. His league high passer rating sure didn't take a hit after his amazing Week 12 performance.

4. Chris Johnson (18 carries, 154 yards rushing, 1 TD, 3 catches, 32 yards receiving)

Every week it seems inevitable that Johnson will break Eric Dickerson's single season rushing record. He's just incredible.

He now has 125+ yards in six straight games, something only the aforementioned Dickerson and Earl Campbell have done.

That's some Hall of Fame company. If Johnson continues at this pace, he'll have himself a bust in Canton.

5. Charles Woodson (2 interceptions, 1 sack, 1 forced fumbles, 6 tackles)

Wasn't Woodson supposed to be washed up about three years ago? Now he's possibly headed for the All-Pro team. It's amazing what leaving Oakland can do to a player.

Woodson is locking down elite receivers right now and picking footballs off right out of the air. The NFL's top corners might be Asomugha, Revis, then Woodson right now.

Yes, his two picks were off a rookie, but still, he took Calvin Johnson out of the Lions game plan.

Five Surprises of the Weekend

1. Vince Young playing his fifth straight good game. Jeff Fisher must be kicking himself for sticking with Kerry Collins now.

2. Concussions keeping out marquee quarterbacks. Warner and Roethlisberger looked like "goes" until game day, but were pulled at the last minute. Just shows that the NFL and it's teams are taking concussions very seriously.

3. Seattle not passing the ball nearly at all. I guess when Justin Forsett is racking up 130 yards on the ground, there is no need to pass. Forsett is Seattle for the long run.

4. Cincinnati's struggles against Cleveland. Eric Mangini must have something on the Bengals that Tomlin and Harbaugh do not. The Browns shouldn't give the Bengals two competitive games like they did. Still, the Bengals did finish 6-0 in the AFC North this season. Pretty amazing.

5. New Orleans dismantling of New England. I was one of the many to pick against the Saints in that game. The Saints continue to prove me wrong.

Top Five Games of the Weekend

1. Tennessee vs. Arizona

Two "backup" quarterbacks from the same draft class started this game and the higher drafted player ended it in spectacular fashion. What a great game-winning drive from Young. Ninety-nine yards? Are you kidding me?

2. Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh

Dennis Dixon put in a good performance for never starting an NFL in his life, but it's the mistakes a player is remembered for. Dixon's pick in OT gave the Ravens the win.

Ray Rice making big plays down the stretch had something to do with Baltimore's win as well. The little man is the best running back in the fourth quarter I've seen all season long. Just think, he was the third-stringer last season.

3. Houston vs. Indianapolis

This was a great game until Schaub threw the six-point interception late in the fourth. Any game where we see Peyton Manning take over like he did is awesome to watch.

Manning rarely plays two bad halves, and he sure looked like a different guy in the second half of that game than in the first half.

4. Atlanta vs. Tampa Bay

The Falcons met some unpleasant road blocks at home against the Bucs when Matt Ryan left the game early and Michael Turner re-injured himself. Josh Freeman played the best game of his young career as well (his career is off to a very good start, by the way).

All things pointed to an upset by the Bucs, yet Chris Redman led Atlanta down the field and found Roddy White with about a half minute to go for the go-ahead score. Must be depressing to be a Bucs fan this year.

5. Philadelphia vs. Washington

Have to admit, I did watch a second of this game, but who would. Washington is the most boring team to watch in the NFL year after year, and I find Philly boring as well for some reason.

Maybe it's because the broadcast shows Andy Reid seemingly more than any other coach in the NFL. Kinda weird. Good game, though. Philly didn't impress anybody with a three-point victory against the 'Skins at home.

Five Things to Watch for Next Week

1. Tennessee's five-game win streak is on the line in Indy against the undefeated Colts. Should be one heck of a game.

2. Will the concussed quarterbacks come back this week? The Cardinals really need Warner if they can hope to beat the Vikings. The Steelers would be wise to sit Big Ben one more week since they play the hapless Raiders, but if either still can't go it will be a big turn for their team's season.

3. Green Bay-Baltimore on Monday Night Football should separate one of those teams as being good and one as mediocre. My money's on the Ravens.

4. Can Terrell Owens keep up his outstanding play? He's playing like a No. 1 right now. Bad news T.O., you've got Darrelle Revis this week.

5. Will Chicago blow out a bad Rams team? If Cutler throws a pair or more of picks in this game, it's time to stop calling him a franchise quarterback already. It's one of my very outspoken opinions that Cutler just isn't built to be a successful quarterback. Maybe not physically, but mentally. The kid isn't a good decision maker, on and off the field. Sure, Tim Lincecum has a good arm too, it doesn't mean he's a good quarterback.

End of the Year...If I Had to Pick

MVP: Peyton Manning

Offensive Player of the Year: Chris Johnson

Defensive Player of the Year: Jered Allen

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Percy Harvin

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Brian Cushing

Comeback Player of the Year: Tom Brady

Coach of the Year: Jim Caldwell

AFC Divisional Champions (in seed order): Indianapolis, San Diego, New England, Cincinnati

AFC Wild Cards: Baltimore, Pittsburgh

NFC Divisional Champions: New Orleans, Minnesota, Arizona, Philadelphia

NFC Wild Cards: Green Bay, Dallas

AFC Champion: San Diego

NFC Champion: Minnesota

Super Bowl Champion (MVP): Minnesota (Peterson)

Thursday Game Prediction: New York Jets 20 (-3.5), Buffalo 13

Hope you guys enjoyed.