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Posted: Wednesday September 24, 2008 11:35AM; Updated: Wednesday September 24, 2008 3:45PM
Dr. Z Dr. Z >
NFL POWER RANKINGS

NFL Power Rankings, Week 4

Story Highlights
  • 6 Trends: 1. NFC East owns top three spots; 2. Titans top AFC team
  • 3. One-win Bolts crack top 12; 4. Dolphins make biggest jump
  • 5. Browns take the biggest fall; 6. Rams hold down No. 32 again
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Does it seem to you that there should be more unbeaten teams at this young stage of the season? Yeah, me too. There are six, not many, huh? It's been bugging me, so I looked up last year's record of unbeatens, three weeks into the action. Hmmm, five. Freak year. Let's try 2006. Seven. That's more like it.
"Like what?" says my Wedded Red-Headed. "There you go with the nutty statistics again."

Think that's bad? Wait 'til you see what's coming up now. (Send comments to siwriters@simail.com)

NFL Power Rankings
1Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 1
So how good are they, really? They disposed of Green Bay handily. They destroyed an Eagle defense that showed what it was capable of against Pittsburgh. Or to put it another way, where are the weaknesses? Not really on defense, although Philly did inspired work against it. The QB is high level, although he might get a bit flighty at times. So what? His physical skills are impressive. Running backs? Marion Barber and Felix Jones are a very serious combo. O-line? Hudson Houck has those big mushers doing exactly what he wants. Receivers? Ah, now we're getting somewhere. T.O. can be taken out of his game, and who picks up the slack? Jason Witten, I guess. Best tight end in football. Maybe Miles Austin now, after those two long strikes against the Pack. Enough of this. I'm getting depressed.
 
2Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 3
Those were the Eagles I've known, ever since the Buddy Ryan days. Hungry, nasty dogs, blitz-happy maniacs, never mind how unsound the students of the game might find it. So why did they pull their horns in against the Cowboys? Maybe they're saving the real stuff for when they get them in Philly in December.
 
3New York Giants
Last Week: 5
Neat, isn't it, that my gold, silver and bronze medalists are all from the same division? No, I don't downgrade a team for almost getting upset and then coming through at the end. One true test is the ability to win when you're down for the game. Another is the entrance exam for the Sorbonne, which I flunked due to language difficulty. "Oh for God's sake," says the Flaming Redhead. Honey, they told me I could have fun with this thing if the mood struck me.
 
4Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 7
The defense has given up 29 points, second best in club history, after the first three games. Tops are the 17 they gave up in 1976, when they were the Houston Oilers and almost ready to launch a challenge to the Steel Curtain Steelers for kings of the division. Good defenses, boy. Curley Culp and Robert Brazile and Elvin Bethea. Good guys, too.
 
5Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 4
Watching Big Ben kiss the canvas nine times in Philly was like watching a guy fighting a school of sharks -- with everyone rooting for the sharks.
 
6New England Patriots
Last Week: 2
Let's not write them off after one weirdie, OK? I did get a kick out of Bill Belichick's regular Monday press conference, though.
Q: Miami threw a lot of passes down the seam. What happened there, defensively?
A: Well, they executed some plays better than we defended them.
Q: You said you have seen that formation by the Jets before. What did Miami do different?
A: They executed the plays well. They executed them better than we defended them.
You know something? I could have answered those questions and I wasn't even there.
 
7Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 8
When one unit struggles, the other one has to raise its game. That's a rule as old as football itself. So when the offense was floundering in the first half against Oakland, the defense kept cutting off the short Raider drives and holding them to field goals. Then things finally changed. Trent Edwards and the boys put together just what they needed to win by a point, two formful, fourth-quarter drives. They held Oakland to a three-and-out series in between, handed the ball to their kicker to win the game, and presto, an unbeaten record, celebrated by gallon jugs of Sparkling Cayuga all around.
 
8Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 6
Yeah, I'm the same guy who picked Green Bay in an upset. Even though the score stayed close for a while, I knew I was sunk. Nothing against the Packers. It was just a difference in class.
 
9Denver Broncos
Last Week: 10
Achtung Bronco fans! I raised you from No. 10 to No. 9 and that's all your threats are going to get from me. They're giving up 28 points and 425 yards a game. They've won their last two on a referee's blunder and a missed field goal. Stay cool, OK?
 
10Washington Redskins
Last Week: 13
My problem with this team is that I saw it, live, in that lackluster loss to the Giants, and the memory dies hard. But it has come back to beat two decent teams, and Jason Campbell hasn't thrown a pick this year, and would you stop laughing please? Can't you see that I'm going out of my way, trying to be fair?
 
11Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 9
They caught a sleeping giant on the road. It happens. Say, what do you think of their 5-foot-10, 235-pound rookie battering ram, Jon Stewart, runningback kicks? Not bad at it, either...five for a 29.2 average against the Vikes.
 
12San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 16
If it weren't such a grim business it might have been funny. I was watching the Jets game with a few gents who had more than a passing interest in the outcome. At halftime, with San Diego up, 31-14, one of them, let's call him Mr. A, said, "I think we're OK." "Not so sure," said Mr. B, twisting his diamond pinkie ring and staring darkly at yours truly. "I don't have good feelings." At 38-14, calm was settling over the room, but at 38-23, after San Diego had screwed up an onside kick and would probably mess up another one, you could hear the sound of heavy breathing. Chargers ball, but three runs and out would have brought the tension to the breaking point. Then on third-and-five, when Rivers cranked it up and hit Jackson for 60, there arose an involuntary outburst of animal shouts, the kind of thing one probably heard at public executions in England a few hundred years ago. They were out of danger, the danger being, of course, the nine points the Chargers had to cover for their bettors. Sometimes, you see, there's a little more to this game that meets the eye.
 
13Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 15
Unbeaten...yes, and very impressive defensively. I know all that, but I'm afraid I can't go higher, after victories over Cincinnati and Cleveland. See me after the trip to Pittsburgh, OK?
 
14New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 14
You've got to love their offense, right? I mean 502 yards against Denver. But 75 of those yards belonged to Jeremy Shockey, and now he's down for a month with a sports hernia, and that's two pieces of the attack missing -- Marques Colston being the second.
 
15Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 19
I've never liked offensive RT Jeremy Trueblood that much but he won them a game Sunday. The Bucs were stopped on their own 10-yard line in overtime, Trueblood comes into the pile late, as usual, goes after somebody, a fight breaks out, naturally, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman runs over to avenge the perceived wrong, and we know what the result will be, right? Tweet! Referee Tony Corrents flags Tillman. New set of downs on the 25, and Griese drives the Bucs the length of the field against the exhausted Bears for the winning field goal. Now here's my point. Officials almost always blow the call in this instance. Use the replay camera in situations like this. Make it a call from the booth. That way they'll find out who the real culprit is, and who should get the flag. It'll never happen, of course. Much too sensible for the monolithic world of the NFL.
 
16Chicago Bears
Last Week: 11
They play Philly on Sunday night, and I don't like their chances. Orton against that snarling pack of hounds, for one thing. For another, it's hard to recover from a grueling contest such as the one they just came from.
 
17Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 12
Defense is kaputski against the run, and I'm tired of hearing about Bob Sanders being out. He's out more than he's in, and they've gone 20-6 in those out games. Enough already. He's a good player but he doesn't walk on water.
 
18Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 20
They beat Carolina by 10 and looka here, seven places lower. Is this fair? Is this just? Now you look! Indy beat the Vikes. Chicago beat Indy. Carolina beat Chicago. In the old days I'd solve this ring around the rosie by setting up ties in the standings, but copouts are not favored by the new administration, which comes armed with cuffs and billy clubs.
 
19Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 22
They ran the ball 41 times for 236 yards with both guards and the center out. Perhaps they should be higher than Indy in the standings. Perhaps I'm guided by the fact that Jacksonville readers are exceptionally polite people who do not send nasty emails to poor, harassed writers just trying to make a decent living for their families and feathered friends.
 
20New York Jets
Last Week: 17
It's starting much, much earlier than I thought it would. The grumbling about Favre, mainly from journals that raged, not so long ago, about how the Jets owed it to themselves, their fans, and all the loyal suckers, uh, seat license payers, to immediately snap up this aging Hall of Famer.
 
21Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 18
In a fit of exuberance over the Dolphins great innovation, I had originally assigned Miami this spot, but then I thought it through. The Cards beat them fair and square. Arizona fans have been yelling "unfair" at me all season. So I hope this 21st spot makes you happy. It doesn't? A victory over the Jets on the road, will help.
 
22Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 28
They ran a direct snap to Ronnie Brown, with Chad Pennington out on the wing, six times, with spectacular results. This has caused journalists with a poor knowledge of football history to hail the return of the single wing, "a formation 100 years old," according to the AP. First of all, 100 years ago the basic formation was the T. Different, of course, than the open T-formation of today, but a tight alignment with the QB right behind the center. And the single-wing? Oh my, what a beautiful thing -- that few people today have ever seen. The run-pass tailback, and the spinning fullback, and the short, evil looking blocking back, designated QB in those days, cruising behind the line, delivering those devastating trap blocks. Dear departed past. Will I ever see it again?
 
23San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 23
They beat Seattle, they're ahead of Seattle. They'll meet for round two later this season. Wish it was all this easy.
 
24Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 27
Never thought I'd see them go for 245 on the ground, with Julius Jones, whom I always thought was a rather ordinary back, good for 140 of them. Never thought a lot of things. "Never thought, period!" says my mean Redhead, and yes, I deliberately set her up for that one.
 
25Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 25
They've beaten the two worst teams in the NFL, K.C. and Detroit. "Hey, wait a minute, how about St.Louis?" I hear. Oh yes, almost forgot. Not to be denied, they'll get their shot at the Rams in the season's finale.
 
26Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 24
Right, they gave the Bills all they could handle. But they went 2-for-12 on third downs, and their defense cracked at the end, and I just can't overlook those basic character flaws.
 
27Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 21
There have been offers for Brady Quinn. Not on your life, say the Browns. Translation: Was Derek Anderson really this bad, or was it just a typical meltdown against a Ravens defense that can play like madmen, when so moved?
 
28Houston Texans
Last Week: 26
Don't ask me how, but my computer pulled up their Web site. What did I see, along with some wacky poses by their QB, Matt Schaub? The ballad entitled, Big Bad Schaub (remember the old, Big Bad John?).

"Every Sunday on the field you could see him arrive,
He weighed 232, stood 6-foot-5,
Kind of broad at the shoulder and narrow at the hip,
And everybody knew you didn't give no lip ... to
BIG BAD SCHAUB"


I caught the Chronicle's beat writer, John McClain, strumming a guitar and singing along with this thing. I tried it myself but didn't have the rhythm right. Practice will do it for me.
 
29Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 30
"Big Bad Carson!" Nope, doesn't have the same swing.
 
30Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 29
Two games ago Larry Johnson complained about carrying the ball 12 times. So Sunday, after the game was a first-half blowout, he was allowed to pad his statistics with 17 carries and 102 yards after the intermission. Maybe they can't beat anybody, but they're not going to make an enemy out of their meal ticket.
 
31Detroit Lions
Last Week: 31
They're the Primo Carnera of the NFL. Match him against your young heavyweight. Let's see how many times he can knock poor Primo down?
 
32St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 32
Chris Long, their super rookie, is playing hard. Can't think of much else to say about this hopeless situation. Did I mention that their top draft pick is playing hard? I did? Oh, I can always get back to it next week.

 
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