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Posted: Wednesday October 22, 2008 11:36AM; Updated: Tuesday October 28, 2008 3:56PM
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NFL Power Rankings, Week 8

Story Highlights

6 Trends: 1. Top three remain unchanged; 2. Bucs climb into top five

3. Bills vault back into top 10; 4. Chargers tumble out of top 10

5. Colts take biggest fall, dropping eight spots; 6. Rams rise seven spots

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While meandering through the forest to come, you will notice an unusual thing. All four teams that underwent bye weeks received a raise in status. This doesn't represent the travels of a disconnected mind, it has been done with purpose. Conduct during a bye week is significant toward overall success. Every team was monitored closely, how carefully its members studied their playbooks, and maintained proper nutrition, and avoided establishments in which beverages of an alcoholic nature, to say nothing of hallucinogenics (not an easy one to spell), were served.

I hear the shouts: "Stop with the foolishness and let us get through this and go have lunch!" Righto and up she comes, guv'nah. Just funnin' a bit. (Send comments to

NFL Power Rankings
1Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 1
Maintaining their status as Queen of the Nile, the lordly Titans cruise along and wait for their first loss. On the squawk shows, I hear complaints that an unbeaten team should present better credentials, particularly at the QB position. "They'll get theirs".... "they'll be tested," and the rest of the blah blah. By whom? On the horizon is Indy, with that soft defense, at home in a Monday nighter, and then...ah, this might be a pair to circle. Unpredictable Packers at home, roughneck Bears on the road. But one never knows what's going to happen in the course of a season, does one?
2Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 2
Ex-Steeler star Plaxico Burress was reminded that he jumped ship to the Giants three years ago, just in time to miss Pittsburgh's Super Bowl triumph. Now they meet Sunday and he gracefully conceded that he "bears no grudges." Now I think that's damn nice of the lad. How much did he sign for? I believe it was $8.25 million in front, on the way to a $25 million package, which, of course, has been renegotiated. Don't get me wrong, the Giants might not have won the Super Bowl without him, but let's keep our grudges straight, OK?
3New York Giants
Last Week: 3
Well, I hope they're proud of themselves. They pinned a 12-point loss on the Niners and got their coach fired. I mean couldn't they at least have made it look closer?
4Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 6
This is the hot spot. The Redskins had to get moved down after the Browns nearly nipped them. Panthers and Blls were strong contenders, but to be brutally honest, what decided me was an AP story I read after the Bucs' defeat of Seattle. Garcia "outplayed fellow-back-up-turned-starter Seneca Wallace..." the clumsiness of that sentence mirroring the clumsiness of the thought. Back-up? Garcia won the starting job in camp then got hurt. The AP also noted that Gruden has no plans to bench him as starter when Griese returns. Bench him? The guy's playing at Pro Bowl level. You know something. The game's all about image -- blind, stupid image.
5Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 7
Yeah I know, they played just fine Sunday, but they did lose to Tampa Bay, and up here in the premium seats, head to head is big.
6Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 11
Kawika Mitchell, WLB, No.59. I loved him when he was battling at the mike LB spot in KC and last year when he was the emotional spur for the Giants' great drive in the post-season, and last Sunday when he turned the Chargers game around. At age 29, does he have a chance for his first Pro Bowl? He does if I were doing the picking.
7Washington Redskins
Last Week: 4
Oh here you are. Fancy meeting you here. You say what? That even a hairy-scary three-point win over the Browns, when Dawson missed a 54-yarder at the buzzer, shouldn't have caused a three-spot drop in the rankings. Well, you certainly have a point. File the complaint in duplicate, please, send it in and make sure it's postmarked no later than Friday, and I'll be glad to review it. Anything else?
8New England Patriots
Last Week: 10
Here's an interesting thing about Bill Belichick and his first lieutenant, Scott Pioli. They've got this thing about runners, who, seemingly, have had the schnitzel in other places. Who was their keynote runner on their first two Super Bowl champions? Antowain Smith, everybody's castoff. How about on their next one? Corey Dillon, supposedly a flunk at that grand emporium in Cincinnati. How about now, with Laurence Maroney down? Sammy Morris, 31, who couldn't get a regular job in Buffalo nor Miami. Smacked the Broncos for 138 yards in only one half Monday night. Interesting, isn't it?
9Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 5
Too much to say in this limited space. First observation: Either Brad Johnson had not been getting any reps in his back-up role, or he has crashed bigtime. Second one...ah, you've heard enough post-mortems. Let me just mention that when the Rams' Steven Jackson was conducting that postgtame sermon about how "we killed their morale," he was climbing a slippery slope. These are proud athletes, no matter what kind of disarray they are in right now. As the Greeks say, after hubris comes nemesis.
10Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 12
Found money. A bye then a hi-yup into the exalted tenski spot. Damn right I'm proud of the city of my birth. Step softly, though. Unpredictable Atlanta ahead.
11San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 8
Looking forward to a nice tape breakdown of the Bills game, when blooey! Off goes the transmission. So what did CBS, or DirecTV or whoever makes these decisions provide us with? Not Baltimore-Miami, in which I was really interested, but Pittsburgh-Cincinnati. Fooey! Yeah, I know, the regular action returned after enough of a delay to unhinge my mind, but do they invite guests of Dr. Phil to come up there and determine their programming, or what?
12Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 13
A bye, a hike by a modest one spot. What caused it was the doc coming to his senses and sliding the Colts, whom Jacksonville already had beaten, into the lower regions. See, things have a way of taking care of themselves, despite what that emailer said last week.
13Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 15
Another club that has gained ground by the same nefarious means, but I'm afraid the party will end against Carolina on the road, which has been a scene of two straight losses for Ariona.
14Chicago Bears
Last Week: 19
Well, somehow they got by Gus Frerotte and his aerial circus with three cornerbacks out. I'd feel better about this team if it could beat someone with a winning record. Let's see there's Sunday against...oh oh, bye week...the following Sunday against, no scratch that, Detroit is up...OK, here it is. Tennessee at home. I'm making the Bears a 1-point favorite in that one, and everyone will jump on the Titans, and, nope, I'm not giving it away right now.
15Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 18
OK, Atlanta fans, I got them in the top half of the ranking for you. Progress comes in small packages. The guys who do the numbers thing aren't very impressed, though, because your team is getting 8 in Philly. But they've been wrong before, you know.
16Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 21
Someone once asked me, long ago, in my playing days, "What is your greatest motivation?" My answer was a simple one. "Playing against a stiff." Nothing bad against the Indy line they faced last week, but something surely got them going. I felt sorry for Peyton.
17Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 9
And here he is right now to dispute that last observation. I think the problem is that we've been used to seeing things work too smoothly. But look what happened. Joe Addai was out. Reggie Wayne was dropping the ball. Marvin Harrison couldn't shake free. The O-line -- who are these guys, anyway? -- couldn't block anybody. And please, don't ask the defense to carry you because these are undersized, quick guys who can play with a lead but suffer when someone is doing the ball control number.
18Denver Broncos
Last Week: 14
The picture that stays with me was little Wes Welker blocking 237-pound LB Louis Green on Randy Moss' last TD. Talk about a team laying down, but honestly, it was tough to concentrate with that nonstop Forum of the Air to which ESPN was subjecting us. So the easy midweek observation is, gosh, everybody's hurt, Champ Bailey's down, who's gonna knock down passes? And so forth. They're finished. Unless they're not. Who will they beat? Oh, their next opponent. That's why it's so tough to handicap games this year. Form just isn't holding up (not that it ever is).
19New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 16
Got a quick message from Lord Barker of Hyde Park Corner. "Punting's legal here," he informed me. "But it's only third down, why punt?" "Punting...betting...don't be so dense." "OK, so what's up?" "Need a winner in San Diego-New Orleans, Chargers favored by three points." "Go with the home team, Barker old boy, and good luck to you." And that's it from my friends overseas.
20St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 27
Yes, yes, of course I am impressed by the Sunday passion and all that, but I will drop a very minor, quibbling little point on you. Fifty seconds left in the first half, Cowboys punting. Rams don't call a time out and the clock runs down. Defeatist thinking. Haslett's a defensive guy. Maybe he doesn't know what you can do with that much time left. Some coaches understand. The ones with an offense.
21New York Jets
Last Week: 17
Eric Mangini's starting to get the heat now. Soon it'll be Brett Favre's turn. Smiles of the summer turn to autumn frowns. Stay tuned for next weather report.
22Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 23
Even a rookie like Joe Flacco can produce one of those 75 percent games (17 for 23 in this case). That's what the game is now. High percentage, utmost care taken. Not knocking it, but I'd just like to see it more difficult once in a while.
23Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 22
The Ravens sneered at the Wildcat. It sure came and went in a hurry, didn't it? I still feel, though, that a team that devoted some real effort to true single wing principles, like Xavier Prep in NYC, would do great damage.
24Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 20
Now the special teams have gone kaput. Two Bear TDs off the well known punt play. It's like a hose with a lot of leaks. Patch one and the next one...OK, a tired analogy but the lull always comes around this time in the rankings.
25Houston Texans
Last Week: 26
They rise slowly, like an air bubble. Yes, I, too, am impressed by Andre Johnson's , knock'em dead statistics -- 11 catches for 141 yards in this case. Three straight games over 100 yards receiving. He gets overworked in this offense, however. Takes a beating, then he'll get tired and drop one or two. A solid Pro Bowl player, though.
26Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 29
They called timeout before Feeley's tying kick. Sure, he made the re-kick but the experience turned him into a nervous wreck, forced to seek psychiatric help. So why didn't the Jets return the compliment when Sebastian Janikowski lined up his winning 57-yarder? Because they were out of timeouts. Oh.
27Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 24
Kellen Winslow's ailment was revealed as a staph infection. Four other Browns have suffered from a similar problem since 2005. What was the club's reaction? He shouldn't have talked to the press. This is like the official reaction to torture at Abu Gharib. Not that it took place, but that the information got out. Great.
28San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 25
Handicapping formula. A coaching change produces a good team to bet on the following week. Concentration is heightened. Things take on a serious tone. "Cover the spread! Cover!" they yell on their way to practice.
29Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 31
Even with Ryan Fitzpatrick, they seemed in it against Pittsburgh. But I must admit my concentration was broken by cursing the TV set, as I waited for Bills-Chargers to appear. The Steelers put it away with three fourth quarter TD's, but they had to do it without my help because I was long gone.
30Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 28
Is this the worst Seattle team I've ever seen? Well, I'll say that it's the hardest to pull for. I used to love those old teams, with Jim Zorn and Steve Largent and that great defense with Kenny Easley and big Tez. There are still guys on it I think are really top rate, weakside LB Leroy Hill, for instance. Maybe it's just personnel that's the problem. Maybe they've let things slip too far.
31Detroit Lions
Last Week: 32
Queen for a day, who will it be, la la la. Not you, Lions. You actually showed some spunk, coming back against the mighty Texans. The place of honor is saved for...
32Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 30
They were offered a third-rounder for Tony Gonzalez, who longed to be traded to a contender. They held out for a No. 2 at the last moment. Ah, crafty Chiefs, how you carry on. No deal. Larry Johnson was suspended, and then a story broke that during the bye week, or maybe shortly thereafter, he was being investigated for spitting a drink in a woman's face. The very nerve, but I don't know if it's a good idea mentioning this as it might give the Flaming Redhead ideas. Is that it, boss? Have I written enough, about them? No what this week? No poetry to end it? Afraid not. Circumstances dictate otherwise.

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