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Posted: Wednesday October 15, 2008 11:25AM; Updated: Thursday October 16, 2008 11:10AM
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NFL Power Rankings, Week 7

Story Highlights

6 Trends: 1. Two teams coming off byes lead the pack; 2. Giants fall to No. 3

3. Chargers make monster jump; 4. Bears stumble nine spots

5. Rams finally vacate last position; 6. Winless Lions, Bengals bring up rear

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The year was 1992. I was in Philadelphia, covering a Monday nighter, Eagles against the Cowboys. Dallas was 3-0, all three victories over division opponents. The Eagles also were unbeaten, and the city was stoked for the game. The morning of the contest, I took a walk with Jimmy Johnson, and the fans we passed offered him many predictions about what the Iggles were going to do to his 'Boys, and what he could do with that whole club of his anyway. He got a kick out of it.

"We're going to lose tonight," he said, "and it'll be the best thing that could happen to us."

I was dumbfounded. Astounded. What coach ever predicted a loss before a big game? But the point was it was an October game, with the whole season to go. He was a very astute coach at gauging the mood of his players, and he knew that right then, in early October, his team was flying too high, getting too much adulation. It needed a sobering reminder that, "great generals, my friends, are not made of jeweled swords and mustache wax."

And it got it. The Eagles won big -- and reached the Divisionals, where they were crushed by, you got it, the Cowboys. Who went on to a 13-3 record, destroying Buffalo in the Super Bowl.

The message: Arizona beat Dallas last weekend, Cleveland beat the Giants in a Monday nighter, St. Louis defeated Washington. It's October, folks. And my rankings will not display the usual panic you are no doubt expecting. (Send comments to

NFL Power Rankings
1Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 3
They stand atop the NFL like a colossus, the only remaining unbeaten team, etc. Quick now, who are your Pro Bowl Titans, once you get by Haynesworth? Cortland Finnegan? Yeah, I know. I like the name, too. Erin Go Bragh and all that. Feisty guy, lots of action. Maybe. Who else? There must be an O-lineman, you say. Name him, please. How about Jeff Fisher as an early sleeper for Coach of the Year? Now you're making some sense.
2Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 5
The safest place last weekend was the bomb shelter known as the Bye. Both of this week's gold and silver medalists shuddered as they watched the Slaughter of the Innocents. How bad was it? Well, each of last week's top eight, except for the pair mentioned above, suffered a defeat, four of them at the hands of teams with losing records.
3New York Giants
Last Week: 1
I picked them to cover the 7 against Cleveland, and do you know when I realized I was in trouble? When I saw all the ESPN pre-game stuff. All the idolatry, the blind adulation. Down home with Tom Coughlin...what's your favorite food? Oh, shrimps with marinara sauce. What do you listen to on the radio? Only ESPN in the morning. And the rest of the chazerei. How much on the Cleveland side? Almost nothing. And outside the gates of Rome, the Visigoths waited for the revelry to die down and sharpened their spears.
4Washington Redskins
Last Week: 2
Not a terrible demotion, is it, Lord Snyder, after losing to the worst team in football?
5Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 4
The nucleus of Johnson's Cowboys of the '90's was the trio of Aikman, Irvin and Emmitt, vastly talented athletes with great work habits that motivated an entire squad. Now? Tank Johnson, who was found with an an illegal arsenal in his car; T.O. and the philosophy of me, me, me; Pacman and his regular appearances on the police blotter. Oh sure, here and there are old-style players, tremendous competitors such as Marion Barber, but the team has been contoured along hazy lines, and cold eyed moralists such as myself believe that sooner or later, a Dies Irae is coming, if it hasn't already.
6Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 9
End of sermon. We're back to football. Why doesn't Jon Gruden like Jeff Garcia? Why did it take, not six picks in two games but shoulder and elbow injuries to Brian Griese to get the better quarterback in there? And is Garcia in favor only until his first interception?
7Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 7
They hold their ground. They're the only member of the higher echelon that lost to a fellow top-tenner. Besides, where do you find enough quality to justify a meaningful selection at this position?
8San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 23
Sorting through their laundry list of injuries this season, plus a few tough losses, a clear and eloquent statement emerged against the Patriots on Sunday night. Was it the true Chargers we saw? Well, no, of course not. Not with L.T. still tilting to starboard with the damaged rudder, but close to it, I believe. They got a huge 15-position raise which many might feel is ridiculous at this stage of the season, but they just had that look. And then again, if they come off their bye week and land in the dumper against KC, why they won't have the look anymore. Ever the merciless rankings.
9Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 13
You're looking for the Patriots somewhere in here, eh? Sorry, you'll have to wait. Peyton got the long ball working again, and to Marvin Harrison no less. Remember when people said he'd lost a step, and couldn't remember where he left it? "You said was wrote that!" is a Red-Headed admonishment, with appropriate fury. Calme-toi, ma cherie. We write, we forget it, we change things, it's all part of the journalista.
10New England Patriots
Last Week: 6
Bill Belichick's Monday press conference followed his viewing of the Chargers film, with one team at normal speed and the other in slow motion. "From what I saw of the game," he said, "it's not different than what we saw last night." This reminds me of an old horse racing joke.
The wife of this racetrack degennie tells him, "You're losing all our money at the track. I can't stand it anymore. If you go to the track once more our marriage is finished."
Now it's getting close to post time and he can't stand it. So he ducks into a movie. Sure enough, it's a racing film. Long shot lovingly cared for by little crippled girl. She enters him in the big race. The hands down favorite is a sure thing. And then comes the final scene...they're off!
Our guy can't stand it. He turns to the man behind him and says, "I've got 50 bucks on the favorite."
"You're on," says the guy behind him. "I've got the long shot."
Sure enough, the long shot nips the favorite at the wire. Our man turns around to pay.
"I can't take it from you," says the guy behind him. "I've seen the film before."
"I've seen it, too," says the racing buff, "but I figured he'd do better this time with the extra race under his belt."
11Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 11
The good news is that for the last three years they've been victorious, coming off the bye week. Second bit of good news is that while they were relaxing on the sands of the Riviera they picked up a game on two division foes, New England and Miami. The Jets avoided awarding them the hat trick.
12Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 12
OK, they got by without
Brian Westbrook, but that's living dangerously, especially with...uh, with...who's coming up? With the bye week coming up. So they gambled and won, holding him out against the Niners. Then they'll have Atlanta, a contender of sorts, at home, followed by a trip to Seattle, hmmm, could be a trap game, and then the big one. Giants at home in a Sunday nighter. You know something? In November we could be looking at a new power in the division, or am I on this giddy roll just because I picked them as my Super Bowl choice?
13Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 19
Why do I always feel tired after watching a Jags game, like I want to lie down somewhere. They don't blitz on defense, seldom do they pass for more than 200 yards. The hitting always is ferocious. You can see the TV set rocking and shaking. They wore down the Broncos on Sunday, but they brought out the best in them, too. Probably made them a better team in the long run. And wasn't Maurice Jones-Drew just magnificent, picking up the slack for a fallen Fred Taylor?
14Denver Broncos
Last Week: 8
Hey, I was just reading about you. Scheffler and Young already were out against Jacksonville. Then Brandon Stokley went down in the second quarter. It left them with only one serious weapon, Brandon Marshall, and it wasn't enough against an aggressive team such as the Jaguars. No dishonor, you lost with dignity, and I sincerely apologize for moving you out of the top 10, but I would guess that a strong showing against the Patriots in Foxboro on Monday night will get you right back in there.
15Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 18
I took a careful look at the Adrian Wilson hit on Trent Edwards that cost him $25,000. He came in high and did not duck his head, which could have caused a blow with the crown of the helmet and is punishable. It was almost a face-to-face hit, granted with considerable force, but coaches tell their players to hit hard, do they not? I honestly don't know what he could have done differently to make the contact any more legal. What, exactly do they want pass rushers to do to make the game safer for QBs? I am really puzzled. All coaches, from PeeWee upward, tell their players not to duck their heads or turn their heads or remove their heads when making a tackle. Wilson obeyed all rules. Give him his money back, Marshal Goodell. It's a bum rap.
16New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 16
Drew Brees continues to pile up knock 'em dead stats, this time against Rob Ryan's Rabid Raider Roughnecks. My favorite to come out of the 34-3 annihilation was nine of 14 third down conversions. "Honest to God, guv'nah, we couldn't get them bleeders off the field..."
17New York Jets
Last Week: 17
Once again, the Men of Favre are denied entry into the top half of the board. There are a few reasons for this. Two picks and a fumble by No. 4 returned for a TD, but most of all, I am hyper-sensitive about the accusation that I am prejudiced in favor of New York teams, even though they're now in Jersey by way of Long Island.
18Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 21
They're one of the two teams I have yet to see for an entire game, Detroit being the other, but I swear to you that I will take careful note of their contest against Philly. Not everyone would admit something like this. I try to see everybody, but something just seems to come up each week. Please, Falcons fans, hold off on the ugly email. I will treat this team fairly, this I promise.
19Chicago Bears
Last Week: 10
Chicken football, by way of a squib kick, did them in. Jerious Norwood ranked 18th in the league in kick returns, going in. I mean we're not talking about Gale Sayers here. OK, he broke one against you the time before, so you get your special teamers on the sideline and grab 'em by the throat and say, "Cover, dammit. This is the ballgame." Instead, with 11 seconds left, you played puss in boots and set the Falcons up at the 44, which required one 26-yard pass to move them into field goal range and end the contest. You were playing on the road, so you know what the clock was going to be like. Having only five seconds run off, counting return, etc., and then only five more after the pass, never would have happened in Chicago, but...ah, why go on? No more short kickoffs, OK? If you're going to go down, go down like men!
20Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 15
Be thankful that you only fell five spots after that debacle against Detroit. Five sacks, two Peterson fumbles, a blocked field goal. Let me move on before I change my mind and drop you lower.
21Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 22
I guess there was a nostalgia angle, the Pack against their old coach, Mike Holmgren, and with the score tied, 10-10 at the half, the Hawks were ready to mount a drive, right? Uh, not quite. Three third quarter possessions netted eight yards. Two fourth quarter drives ended in interceptions.
22Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 14
They have dropped precipitously because I fear I had them too high to begin with. They got a gimmick TD early but spent the rest of the afternoon getting shoved around by the Texans (the Texans!). Worst of all, they were one of my upset special picks. "You shouldn't let that influence your..." is the sentence Old Red began before my glare froze her cold.
23Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 20
Maybe I shouldn't have dropped them three places, but I didn't want to treat the Dolphins any more severely than I did, and this team showed signs of hopelessness when confronted by a Colts outfit in a shootout mood. The Ravens aren't built for shootouts. Joe Flacco isn't built for shootouts. Or shoot-ins.
24Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 28
Gently, gently, they were 28, now they're 24. At Washington, at Jacksonville, they'll have plenty of chances to prove themselves and rise from this swamp. Especially if that was anything close to the real Derek Anderson we saw Monday night.
25San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 24
I was wondering whether or not the super-athlete tight end, Vernon Davis, was still with the team. He had five catches for minimal yardage, going in, but he grabbed half a dozen against Philly. Good ones or gimmies? Ah, that's what my tape will show me later this week.
26Houston Texans
Last Week: 29
Now comes the part in which I reward bad teams for good performances. First, the Texans, for showing competence in all departments against Miami. Ding! Red light, red light, three steps forward, take!
27St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 32
Five paces forward for you, m'lads! Well done, I say. Just because you had lost eight straight, no reason for the Redskins to take you lightly.
28Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 25
Wonder if the blackberries are still in season out there. Boy, did I love to cover their camp and feast on all those nice juicy berries growing on the fence around their field. Nah, I guess their season's over. So's mine.
29Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 26
Saturday night Tom Cable gave his first major address to the team. My spies reported that the players labeled it "a hit." Then on Sunday the Saints went out and completed their first 16 passes against Oakland. Next week's topic will be, "The limits of oratory."
30Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 27
All the talk during bye week was how they could unload Tony Gonzalez and possibly Larry Johnson and anyone else with talent. Note to Chiefs: You're expected to field a team composed of players with at least some experience at the collegiate level.
31Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 30
Why not assign them No. 30, when I'm so negative against the Chiefs and Cincy did at least make it competitive for a while in the Jets game? Oh, I don't know. KC actually did beat someone, and the memory dies hard.
32Detroit Lions
Last Week: 31
Dan Orlovsky got sacked six times. He also stepped out of the end zone for a safety. "That'll show 'em. They can't get me there, you bet." Hey Lion fans, want to blame this on Matt Millen, too?

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