Nine weeks down, eight to go in the National Football League regular season. Many teams are starting to look ahead to that tough stretch run that will determine for most if there is going to be a second season, meaning the playoffs. For some, the second half will be about pride and putting on a show to audition for teams for next season. Here below is the latest Power Rankings for Week 9.
NFC Top 5
1. Chicago (1) – The Bears have had the top NFC spot for awhile, but a major slip up at home has shown they can be beat. Now that top NFC spot is on the line vs the Giants Sunday night. The next three weeks can be a measuring stick to see just how far the Bears are going to go, with road trips to New York vs the Giants, again to New York vs the Jets, and then to New England to tackle the Pats. They have got to be a little concerned after Sunday’s poor showing against the weak Dolphins.
2. New York Giants (2) – The Giants continue to make a push as the top NFC team after Sunday’s ho hum 14-10 win over the Texans. You have to wonder when and if the injuries the team is being hit with is going to take its toll, as now Michael Strahan is out 2-4 weeks with a sprained foot. Plax Burress is suffering with a back injury, and the defense is suffering with Strahan and a host of others hurt. The Sunday night game vs the Bears will be a huge test for this team.
3. New Orleans (4) – The Saints have flip-flopped from 3 to 4, and now back to 3 after Sunday’s impressive win in the heat in Tampa Bay. I like how this team quickly regained its focus following the loss two weeks ago vs the Ravens, and you have to now look at not only Reggie Bush as a ROY candidate, but how about wide out Marques Colston? The 7th round pick has 44 catches for 700 yards and 7 TD’s. They need to keep playing at a high level as they travel to Pittsburgh this week, then host the Bengals.
4. Atlanta (3) – A big setback in Detroit this past week against the Lions once again shows that the Falcons are not all that ready for prime time. The Lions harassed Michael Vick, forcing two first half turnovers that they turned into points, and the Falcons D couldn’t stop Roy Williams, who had 138 yards and a score. This week at 5-3 the team hosts the Browns, who Atlanta cannot take lightly despite a 2-6 record.
5. Seattle (-) – After being gone for a few weeks, the Seahawks are back in the rankings after a shutout win on Monday night vs the Raiders 16-0. With the Rams losing three straight, it looks as if the Hawks can get some players back they can again run away with the division. They have a big game this week vs the Rams, and can go up two games in the division. Then its two games vs not so good teams – the 49’ers and Packers. This could be a team to watch in the second half.
NFC Bottom 3
1. Arizona (1) – You know your bad when in two straight weeks ownership has to come out and say that they are not firing the head coach. I’m not so sure that is the right move, as maybe saying good-bye to Denny Green now would allow this team to start to build for 2007. Any way you look at it, this teams play may very well be the biggest shock of the season. They host Dallas and Detroit off the bye and at 1-7 must start finding a way to get some wins.
2. Tampa Bay (-) – The Bucs were playing much better, but then over the last two weeks have gone backwords again, this week with a bad home loss to the Saints. This team is close to its third losing season since winning the Super Bowl in 2003, and last years division win now seems like a distant memory. Sunday they allowed 314 passing yards, and the offense was stuck in the mud despite the perfect weather in Tampa. This week things don’t get much easier as they head to Carolina on Monday night.
3. Detroit (2) – The Lions took a big step forward Sunday in beating the Falcons at home 30-14. One encouraging sign is the way the team has played at Ford Field, with winning two of their last three there, and having only lost the other two home games by a combined 10 points. The offense really is pretty solid if Roy Williams, Jon Kitna and Kevin Jones continue to put up decent numbers. Win #3 should be had this Sunday as they host the 49’ers.
AFC Top 5
1. Indianapolis (1) – Let the undefeated questions begin for the Colts, who after starting 13-0 a season ago are now 8-0 and not slowing down. Consider the last two weeks they have dispatched the other two best teams in the AFC – Denver and New England, and again, the Colts look Super Bowl bound. Now they have to focus on two things – making sure they clinch home field, and also looking at not losing their edge late in the season like last year which lead to the letdown and eventual loss in the playoffs.
2. San Diego (3) – The Chargers move up, but only by a hair, past the Pats after Sunday’s ho hum 32-25 win over the Browns at home. LT had three second half TD’s, and the team did what it had to do against one of the weaker AFC teams. At 6-2 they are headed for a major showdown in two weeks at Denver, but first have an interesting game at the Jungle vs the Bengals. Look for LT to get plenty of carries against a team that has been unable to stop the run all year.
3. Denver (4) – The Broncos exercised some demons Sunday as they basically ended the Steelers season with a 31-20 win on the road. Javon Walker made plays all day long, going over 200 total yards with three TD’s. The concern is that the defense, which was so good the first six games, has allowed a staggering 778 yards passing the last two weeks. That stat should improve greatly this week vs the Raiders in Oakland, but the Broncos cannot get caught looking ahead to the Chargers at home in two weeks.
4. New England (2) – Sunday night’s loss to the Colts was a big letdown, as Tom Brady had a pretty bad game, throwing 4 picks and not being able to move the ball through the air enough to support the running game of Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney. Now that they have seen the Colts, the team can focus on possibly seeing them again in a AFC Title game in Indianapolis. On to this week, the team up two games in the division hosts the Jets. One head scratching number is the fact that the Pats are just 2-2 at Foxboro, while going 4-0 on the road.
5. Baltimore (5) – The Ravens now look like they have a solid grip on the AFC North, this after a big home win vs the Bengals, who played like a bunch of 6-year olds in the final minutes, making stupid plays and then crying and throwing helmets when not getting calls. The Ravens created turnovers Sunday, and built an early lead, which is their formula for success. The offense is way better now with Brian Billick calling the plays. At 6-2, four more wins should be enough to clinch the division, and with Tennessee, Cleveland, two games vs the Steelers, and Buffalo still to play, 11 wins seem easy to reach.
AFC Bottom 3
1. Houston (3) – The Texans back to back losses in Tennessee and New York vs the Giants have earned them the worst team in the conference. They were held in check running Sunday, with just 3.1 yards per carry, and David Carr threw for just 176 yards. The defense did a respectable job, holding the Giants to just 14 points, but allowed the late drive to lose the game when they were up 10-7. At 2-6 things will not get much easier as they travel to Jacksonville this week.
2. Cleveland (-) – The Browns are back in the rankings after falling to 2-6 with a sloppy loss to the Chargers. The team was in the game but couldn’t punch it in the end zone, and had to settle for six Phil Dawson field goals. If they could have converted 1 or 2 of those for TD’s, the outcome would have been different. They also got away from running the ball again, as Ruben Droughns was stopped for just 36 yards on 19 carries, an awful 1.9 yards per carry average. This week will be another tough road game, as the team heads to Atlanta.
3. Pittsburgh (-) – Who would have ever thought the Super Bowl Champs would be on the list of bottom three, but low and behold – here they are. They have now lost three straight, and their hopes of a title defense are over at 2-6. The turnovers are just disgusting, with six more Sunday, and 13 in the last three games. Bill Cowher says he has no answers, Willie Parker questioned the teams heart after the game, and Hines Ward is already talking about 2007. What a mess.