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NFL Power Rankings: Week #4
The groups include the “Elite” – Vikings (4-0), Broncos (4-0), Saints (4-0), Colts (4-0), Giants (4-0), Patriots (3-1), Eagles (2-1), Jets (3-1), Bears (3-1), Bengals (3-1), Falcons (2-1) and Niners (3-1).
The “Contenders”, teams stuck in the league’s ever growing parity-filled middle that will need to either join the playoff hunt or fall back – Texans (2-2), Redskins (2-2), Jaguars (2-2), Steelers (2-2), Cowboys (2-2), and Chargers.
The “Pretenders”, who are too inconsistent right now to move them to the middle or the league’s bottom rungs – Bills (1-3), Dolphins (1-3), Cardinals (1-2), and Seahawks; And the “Putrid” (i.e. See you at the 2010 NFL Draft) – Raiders (1-3), Lions (1-3), Rams (0-4), Chiefs (0-4), Browns (0-4), Buccaneers (0-4), and Titans (0-4)
Of the NFL’s elite, consisting of teams with winning records after four weeks, there are two distinct groups settling in at the top of the league this season. The “Veterans” – Colts, Giants, Patriots, and Eagles who are teams that have consistently gone deep in the NFL playoffs over the last five years.
And the “Young Upstarts” – Vikings (should be veterans if you include Favre), Broncos, Saints (opened the season with four straight wins for the first time since 1993), Jets, Bears, Bengals, Falcons and Niners.
Sure you expect to see teams like the New England Patriots (Since 2000, the Pats are 105-43 w/ a .709 winning percentage), Philadelphia Eagles (five NFC Championship Games since 2001) and Indianapolis Colts (NFL record six consecutive seasons of 12 wins or more) at the top of the standings it seems every year.
But to me, I think the great stories of the 2009 NFL regular season so far have been the upstart teams growing into contenders. Fans also seem to have embraced the young upstart/underdog teams fighting the veteran teams as the New Orleans Saints and the New York Jets rises to the top, have been two of the bigger stories thus far this season.
Many of the “new” teams at the top of the current NFL standings have made tough decisions of going younger and/or changing people at the top of their organizations (some have new head coaches, some have new starting quarterbacks, and in some cases both) over the last couple of seasons to move into the NFL’s elite.
With these two factions growing, each week there will be highly anticipated games where one team from each of the group faces off (ex. Week 5 — Patriots at Broncos and Week 6 — NY Giants at Saints).
Now on to the rankings for this week.
1. Giants (4-0) - Quarterback Eli Manning got a little banged-up with a heel injury, but the New York Express rolling along as the G-Men pounded the hapless Chiefs. The Giants may not even need Manning this week with the way WR Steve Smith and their defense is playing, especially against the rancid Raiders.
2. Colts (4-0) - Peyton Manning made household names of WRs Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie in a dominating win over the Seahawks. Looking for their 14th straight win, the Colts will travel back to Peyton’s college stomping grounds against the winless Tennessee Titans.
3. Vikings (4-0) - Magic was in the air as Vikings QB Brett Favre and his team got “revenge” against the Packers in a thrilling Monday Night Football game. Looking to avoid a letdown, next up for No. 4 and the Vikings is a game against the reeling host St. Louis Rams
4. Saints (4-0) - Led by new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and veteran safety Darren Sharper, the Saints defense befuddled Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez in a big home win. Hopefully during their bye week, the Saints will not over enjoy Bourbon Street as they are one of the hottest teams in the NFL.
5. Patriots (3-1) - The Pats continue to show that they are not going anywhere as Tom Brady led them over the fuming Ravens. In a possible playoff game, the Patriots will look to stop the win streak of the Belichick inspired Broncos and former Pats’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
6. Broncos (4-0) – Head Coach Josh McDaniels’ squad are starting to make believers in a lot of people and they showed their toughness in a to-the-gun win over the Cowboys. Next up in Week 5′s most anticipated game, it will be young “Belichick” vs. old “Belichick” as the Broncos host the Patriots in a CBS afternoon special.
7. Eagles (2-1) – The Birds used the bye week to heal-up and reacclimatize MLB Jeremiah Trotter back into their system. The Eagles host the Bucs as they try to stay on the heels of the Giants… did I mention that Eagles head coach Andy Reid has never lost after a bye week (10-0 in his career).
8. Bears (3-1) - QB Jay Cutler “helicoptered” his way into the hearts of Bears’ fans as Lovie Smith’s team dominated the Lions. The Bears get a much-needed bye week, so players like WR Johnny Knox (shin) and WR Devin Hester (shoulder) can heal-up.
9. Jets (3-1) - The J-E-T-S and QB Mark Sanchez quickly found out how good the Saints and their nasty defense are in an eye opening loss. Head Coach Rex Ryan and his team will need to put their ugly loss to the Saints behind them when they travel to Miami to face the hard running Dolphins on Monday Night Football.
10. Ravens (3-1) - Ray Lewis and the Ravens believe the official had it out for them in a physical and controversial loss to the Patriots. This week, head coach John Harbaugh will need to get his team focused on the rising Bengals rather than the officials.
11. 49ers (3-1) - The Niners took out their frustrations from their last second loss to the Vikings by shutting out the hapless St. Louis Rams. In a highly anticipated game, the Niners will host the Falcons in a game that clearly looks like a playoff preview.
12. Bengals (3-1) - I know it was only an overtime win over the Browns, but I think people are starting to believe in Marvin Lewis’ team. The almost undefeated Bengals will look for more respect as they travel to the Charm City to face an angry Ravens squad.
13. Falcons (2-1) - After a tough loss the Patriots, the Falcons and QB Matt Ryan probably used the bye week to re-focus. In a huge former NFC West battle, the Falcons will travel to Frisco to face Mike Singletary’s tough Niners.
14. Steelers (2-2) - After jumping out to a big lead, the Steelers led by their O-line and RB Rashard Mendenhall defeated the Chargers on SNF. Next up is a return to Detroit (site of their Super Bowl XL triumph) as Mike Tomlin’s team looks to climb over .500 against the better then their record Detroit Lions.
15. Chargers (2-2) - The Bolts just are not the same team without huge NT Jammal Williams. The Chargers fought back, but still lost to the Steelers and where are LT and Shawn Merriman hiding. Head Coach Norv Turner will use the bye week to find some consistency within his underachieving squad.
16. Cowboys (2-2) - The ‘Boys just might the most inconsistent team in the NFL and it shows. I don’t know if it is injuries, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s playcalling, or QB Tony Romo, but the Cowboys didn’t have enough fight in a loss to the Broncos. Look for the Cowboys to do what they do best and that is eat-up a cupcake as they travel to play the hapless Chiefs.
17. Cardinals (1-2) - Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt kept his team in town during the bye week to try and cure their “Super Bowl Hangover”. The Cards will need to bring their “A” game as the hungry Texans come to town in a game that will tell who is a contender or a pretender.
18. Packers (2-2) - You have to take your hat off to QB Aaron Rodgers as he took a beating (8 sacks), but the Packers could not spoil Vikings QB Brett Favre’s Monday Night Football party. The Packers will surely use their bye week to get some O-line help so that Rodgers isn’t killed in their next game.
19. Texans (2-2) - RB Steve Slaton and the Texans gladly took their layup as they pounded the putrid Raiders. Next up for the Texans is a sure-fire shootout game against the QB Kurt Warner and the offensive minded Cardinals.
20. Jaguars (2-2) - Behind a career day throwing the ball by QB David Garrard, the Jags won their second game in a row as they pounded the reeling Titans. Looking to get above .500 for the first time this season, the Jags will travel to the Northwest to face the Seahawks and their 12th Man fans.
21. Seahawks (1-3) - Playing without starting QB Matt Hasselbeck for the second week, the Hawks were thumped by the red-hot Indianapolis Colts. In a battle to see who is a possible “Contender” or “Pretender”, Seahawks host the hard charging Jaguars.
22. Dolphins (1-3) - The Fins got off the schnide as they pounded the reeling Buffalo Bills behind their chain-moving running game. In a huge Monday Night Football AFC East battle, the Dolphins will look to ride their stellar running game past the visiting mouthy New York Jets.
23. Redskins (2-2) - It was an “ugly” win over the Bucs, but you have to believe that owner Daniel Snyder is looking for any excuse to get rid of head coach Jim Zorn. With new offensive consultant Sherman Lewis on board, the ‘Skins must take care of business against the desperate Carolina Panthers.
24. Bills (1-3) - It is only a matter of time before quarterback Trent Edwards feels the wrath of T.O as the Bills were pounded by AFC division rival, the Miami Dolphins. Next up is the Cleveland Browns in a game that should be called the “Toilet Bowl”.
25. Titans (0-4) - You have to wonder how much longer veteran head coach Jeff Fisher will stick with QB Kerry Collins after a humiliating loss to the Jaguars. It will be mission impossible as the Titans gear-up to face AFC South rival, the scary Indianapolis Colts, who have won 13 straight.
26. Panthers (0-3) - Head coach John Fox was probably preaching to his team during the bye week that it maybe “Win” or else for him and some key members on the team (i.e. QB Jake Delhomme). The Panthers play host to the Redskins who also have a head coach, Jim Zorn, on their owner’s hot seat.
27. Lions (1-3) - QB Matthew Stafford and the rest of the Lions couldn’t make it two in a row as the Bears cleaned their clock after a slow start. Probably playing without Stafford (dislocated kneecap) the Lions will host the Steelers, who are looking for another win in the same venue as Super Bowl XL.
28. Buccaneers (0-4) - Head coach Raheem Morris’ squad put up a good fight, especially in the first half, and almost beat the inconsistent Redskins. Next up for the Bucs is a tough road game against the Eagles, who rested and healed-up during their bye last week.
29. Raiders (1-3) - Every week the news gets worse and worse in Oak-town and this week was no different as the Texans put the spurs to the Raiders and head coach Tom Cable maybe heading to lock-up. A cross-country trip to play the red hot Giants is up next, maybe they can push struggling QB JaMarcus Russell out of the plane over the Grand Canyon..
30. Chiefs (0-4) - Head coach Todd Haley may have the hardest cleanup job in the NFL as not many players, other than veteran LB Mike Vrabel, seemed to care this past week when the Giants embarrassed them. “The Battle of Dallas” is next as the angry Cowboys come to town looking to beat up on the Chiefs (formerly the Dallas Texans in the old AFL).
31. Browns (0-4) - I don’t ever want to hear Browns head coach Eric Mangini referred to as “Mangenius” ever again. The Dawgs fought hard led in an overtime loss to the Bengals, but Rich Gannon’s OT rules gaffe and an alleged fight involving now former Browns WR Braylon Edwards and a LeBron backer made more news. In “The Battle for Lake Erie”, the Browns will look to get a “W” against the equally desperate Bills.
32. Rams (0-4) – I know fiery new Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo is sick over his team’s lack of effort in another drubbing, this time in a shutout loss to the Niners. Spags and the Rams will have their work cut-out for them as the red hot Vikings and ESPN’s favorite player QB Brett Favre come to town.