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Posted: Wednesday October 29, 2008 11:50AM; Updated: Friday October 31, 2008 12:14PM
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NFL Power Rankings, Week 9

Story Highlights

6 Trends: 1. Titans remain No. 1; 2. Bengals, Lions duke it out at bottom

3. Saints rocket up eight spots to No. 11; 4. Colts fall out of the top 20

5. Every NFC East team remains in top 10; 6. Pats stand steady at No. 8

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I sit here and stare out my window and watch the late October snowflakes descending on northern New Jersey and my confusion cannot be contained. I mean is this global cooling, or what? Snow in October? No, I don't want it. I don't want the 2008 football season to be sliding by so quickly. There are still so many unanswered questions, so many situations to be resolved. Then we can head into winter crunch time with clear goals ahead and a sturdy cast of characters to achieve them.

There is a precisely thought out top to the chart, a well defined bottom, but the middle is a muddle. Hopeless. Kindly proceed at your own risk. (And send comments to

NFL Power Rankings
1Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 1
I had a rooting interest Monday night, and it wasn't for these folks, and the reason had nothing to do with them. It was a reaction to the uncontained gushing emanating from the folks on TV. This is not a super team. The offensive line got out-quicked. The defensive line got tired. But their mistakes are minimal on both sides of the ball, and that, plus the zero on the loss side of the record, keeps them at uno.
2New York Giants
Last Week: 3
Brett Keisel, defensive end and CIA operative for the Steelers, says he heard Eli Manning's goal line call, or he read his lips and saw it -- the version changes -- last weekend when Pittsburgh stopped New York cold on the goal line. He passed this information on to his mates and thus they were ready for "32," which he translated to a smash "on the right guard-center drop," or the hole between the two positions. Now if all this is true, then Eli better lower his voice in the huddle, which, of course, is tough on the road. Or the Giants had better go to a different play designation. Reading an opponent's call, when a player is on defense, waiting for the huddle to break, has been done. But the guys who did it never never never, I mean never, would disclose this information, even to their teammates, for fear that when and if some people got traded they would reveal the secret. Besides, how did Keisel know it was coming to where it came? I always thought the 2-hole was between guard and tackle, the zero hold between center and guard. And how did he know it was right side, not left side? It all sounds very suspicious to me. Freddy Smerlas, the Bills' old nose tackle, said when he was at Boston College he would listen for signals being called in the opposing huddle, but the problem was his own guys making too much noise, hollering, "Let's go!" and such nonsense. "I'd tell them to shut the hell up," he said. "They'd say, 'YOU shut up!' So we'd get into these big arguments." Maybe it still goes on. Who knows?
3Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 2
The injury sitiation is acute, and we don't even know what kind of ailments Ben Ben took away from that smackdown against the Giants. And to that is added Santonio Holmes' pot suspension. The most obvious injury Sunday was the one to their long snapper, causing his back-up to fire one toward the Monongahela River. Giants coach Tom Coughlin noted his own squad contains three players who can serve as emergency long snapper plus another two who can fill in as emergency place-kicker. That's very good, Tom. You can return to your seat now. I want all you others to note that Tom came to school prepared today.
4Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 5
I know it's not fair. I have moved them three spots ahead of the Buccaneers, who beat them handily earlier this month. But look what I would have had to do to accommodate Tampa Bay? I'd have had to move Dallas, who beat the Bucs, up above them, which would have meant that poor Carolina would have been squeezed down one spot, after an honest victory over Arizona, and just think of the emails that would have drawn. All I'm asking for is a fair shake, and that you think it through before you fire off one of those hate mail things that serves to alert the editor to what an idiot I am.
5Washington Redskins
Last Week: 7
Well, the Lions were eight points down, and driving, when all of a sudden they learned that you need 10, not nine yards, for a first down and so the game went poof. This is not sufficient grounds, I realize, for a major reward in the standings for Washington -- unless, of course, those above them falter. Then it's a different ballgame.
6Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 9
Their defense will be able to hold off Eli Manning and the Giants next weekend, if it plays with the same intensity it showed against Tampa Bay, but unfortunately, their offense also must take the field. And that will be an overmatch because Brad Johnson, as fine a warrior as he's been through the years, simply can't compete at this level. He's heady enough to know not to take foolish chances, but at 40 he doesn't have the physical tools to keep the thing rolling by means of escape. And you know what happens to a player when his mental skills are acute, but the physicals are a memory? He becomes a coach.
7Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 4
The Cowboys' only touchdown drive, aided by four penalties, was a discouraging thing. The worst part of it was down near the goal line, when Cowboys tackle Mark Colombo messed with LB Cato June, drew an annoyed retaliation -- hardly anything serious -- and, naturally, had worked referee Gene Steratore for a major penalty on the defense. And then I heard an interesting piece of information from Fox's Daryl Johnston, the color commentator. Officials this year have been instructed to cut out the double foul penalty and designate only one recipient. Leave it to the league and its officials to screw things up wherever they can. For sake of expediency or image or whatever the hell motivates these people, they tell their officials to just make a call, whether it's fair or unfair.
8New England Patriots
Last Week: 8
Got the warning light. You're running too long, Z. Sorry boss. Patriots pressed hard by once hopeless St. Looie. They'll lose at Indy. Short enough?
9Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 6
Here's what the injury to No. 2 wideout Josh Reed means. It means that little Roscoe Parrish must assume more of a role in the offense. Which will take him away from his punt return duties, or at least put a strain on them. He's No. 1 in the league. There are few teams that take special teams as seriously as the Bills do.
10Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 10
Brian Westbrook came back from his injury and ran for 167 yards and made a very positive step toward...what? I was on a Philly talk show the other day when the guy said he was a shoo-in for MVP. He's too far behind, I think, but you never know.
11New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 19
I'd say Drew Brees is the front runner now, with all those yards of his. What if they go 8-8, though? What if, what if, what if? Sure wish this weather would clear up. Old people like warmth, not snow.
12Chicago Bears
Last Week: 14
Three teams above them dropped, one, two, three, just like that. Now that's the way to celebrate a bye week. Oh yes, they're also tied with Green Bay, another bye team last weekend, for division lead, one game up on Minnesota, which last week, enjoyed -- all together now -- a BYE! I always said there are a lot of good byes to be had in this part of the rankings.
13Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 16
They slide ahead of Atlanta in the Unfairness Bowl, since the Falcons beat them a few weeks ago. Three teams that were higher last week are also clamoring for accommodation. Not much separates them, except for miles of mountain and prairie.
14San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 11
We keep waiting for their enormous potential to be fulfilled. And while we wait they slip downward.
15Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 12
Taylor and Jones-Drew: 20 carries, 53 yards, combined. And the Browns add another trophy to the wall.
16Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 13
Kurt Warner threw for 381 yards in the loss to Carolina. That was his 44th 300-yard game. A record, or close to it? Not likely. Dan Marino had 63 of them. Brett Favre, who doesn't put up 300-yarders anymore, has 55.
17Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 15
Finally! I know it's unfair. They beat Chicago and Green Bay and all that. Just think of places 12 through 17 as a six-way tie. They got screwed by the officials Sunday, when they were credited with a fumble that never happened, and then couldn't review it because they were out of timeouts. The Competition Committee simply HAS to change this rule, the purists scream, but may I remind you that this Supreme Court of the NFL moves in slooowwww ways. First they take recommendations. Then they weigh them. Then they have lunch. Followed by a nap.
18Denver Broncos
Last Week: 18
Coming off a bye, and I refuse to raise them a single spot, do you hear, not one. Learn to play some defense. Learn not to get blown out by the Patriots when the Doc has picked you to win. Then come see me.
19Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 22
Ryan against Ryan. Baltimore Rex crushed Oakland Rob. Ah, the memories. Chatting with Jets defensive line coach Buddy Ryan, about his wild little twin boys at home. "They're good kids but I'm worried about them, being so wild and all." Yeah, we all were wild in those days.
20Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 23
Chad Pennington continues to chug along, with close to 70 percent completion percentage, and a triple figure rating and only three teeny weeny little interceptions, and that's for the season, not the last game. Yup, minds his business and completes his passes and embarrasses, oh gosh, you know who.
21New York Jets
Last Week: 21
The Jets lose their lead in the fourth quarter when Brandon Flowers runs an interception back all the way. Later in the period they take the lead for keeps on a Favre to Lavernues Coles touchdown pass. Thus another fourth-quarter, come-from-behind victory is added to the Favre dossier. I could see a person with a devious mind concocting a whole scenario based on the construction of this achievement. Not me, your honor, honest to God, not me. I would never consider such a thing.
22Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 17
There's something wrong with the way Peyton's delivering the ball. It seems to be aimed downward at times, the nose of the ball heading toward the ground, in other words. Weird, I know. Am I seeing things? This usually happens when he has to scramble and readjust. Could this be caused by a lingering knee thing? His passes are also "almost" accurate, which is not the same thing as on the money, hitting the receiver in stride, the way they used to be. Receivers come free, on occasion, but they wind up having to make diving catches. And that deep pass into the left corner in the fourth quarter against Tennessee, when the Colts were only down by three and it was anybody's game. Third and two. Cortland Finnegan had the coverage, but the ball was off target anyway. What's going on? Reminded me of Peyton's ill-timed longies late in the Pittsburgh game in the divisional playoff in the '05 season. I'll tell you, he's not right. Wait until after the season. You'll see. Something will come out.
23St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 20
Donnie Avery is the new Isaac Bruce, breathtakingly fast, a serious downfield threat. Torry Holt is still Torry Holt, maybe a step slower, a possession receiver now. And, uh, stepping into the Marshall Faulk role, I guess that's where this analogy breaks down. But at least they're competitive now.
24Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 27
Something affected their concentration last Sunday. They came into the Jacksonville game giving up the fifth most penalties in the league, 51 in six games. Against the Jags they were flagged only once for 15 yards. How did they win? That's a start.
25Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 24
Chris Kluwe is the punter. I don't know whether or not his incentive bonus is keyed to gross or net yardage. If it's gross, he's in good shape. His 48.1 yard average would be an all time NFL career record, with plenty to spare. But his net, which takes into account things such as touchbacks and return yardage, is a miserable 32.8, third from worst. How can this be, you ask. Remember those two long returns by Reggie Bush? They're called net-killers. Fishermen know all about those.
26Houston Texans
Last Week: 25
They're a pretty decent team, but they're not good enough to take anyone for granted. Thus, when someone like Cincinnati, which has hung in against a few pretty good clubs, comes to town, there is no mercy shown. "Why can't you use those wonderful theories when you pick games?" says my charming redheaded wife. If I could, sweetie, my poor readers would have only a distant memory of me because I'd be in Vegas, killing the sports books every week.
27Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 30
Just looking at the stats from the 49ers game and thinking deep thoughts. Seneca Wallace, who threw for two TDs and avoided the dreaded interception, ran up a rating score of 115.8. Now if he could somehow project this to a career, he'd be 19 points ahead of Steve Young, the all time lifetime rating leader. But then again, who rates lifetimes? Mine, under that system, would be abysmal, unless, of course, the grading was done on a curve.
28Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 26
The only time Nnamdi Asomugha, who is the best cornerback I've seen this year, was selected to the Pro Bowl (as an alternate) was in 2006, when he had eight interceptions. Since then he's had one, and that was last year. The problem, you see, is that there's a rule that says you can't intercept a pass when it's thrown to the other side of the field, and they don't throw it to Nnamdi's side because it probably won't be completed and might be intercepted. Pro Bowl selectors pick DBs based on interceptions, so Asomugha probably will get stiffed, unless, of course, they designate your faithful narrator as Official Pro Bowl Picker.
29Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 32
They are getting ripped, and rightly so, for failing to hold a lead over the Jets because they called three running plays, fell short and punted when they needed to hold onto the ball. Let me go into this a little deeper, just to show you how gutless this approach is. Their 91-yard pick for a TD was wonderful, but it also got their defense on the field right away, with no rest. After that score they somehow managed to force the Jets to punt, and now, with a three-point lead, the game was theirs. Holding onto the ball and keeping their defense off the field was a must because these poor guys had seen 33 plays run off against them, offset by the six their offense had run. Run three times, punt, hand the other guys the ball, and the game, take your shower, listen to a few speeches, get on your plane and go home. Next week you clap your hands and yell, "Let's go get 'em!" when every fiber of your being is saying, "How do I get out of here?"
30San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 28
Once, in the 1960's, I covered a basketball game matching Columbia and Rutgers, whose coach, Bill Foster, was coaching his first game. CU won in a heartbreaker, and afterwards Foster went down to the swimming pool in the depths of the Columbia gym and -- no, he didn't jump in -- he sat down next to the pool and put his head in hands and cried. He was still there when Columbia coach Jack Rohan found him. "Look," Rohan said, "you've got a long career ahead of you. You just can't take it so hard." Note to Mike Singletary. You've got a long career ahead of you. You just can't take it so hard.
31Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 29
Has a team ever gone 0-16? No. Winless? Yes. Tampa Bay was the last one, 0-14 in 1976. The gang out here at the Reservoir Tavern in Boonton, N.J., is getting up a pool on which team will get there, Bingos or Lions. There's also a premium if you can figure out where the win will come, if at all. Hmmm, there's money to be won here. I see Cincy snapping an 0-15 streak against KC, at home, on the final Sunday. Detroit? Same day, against the Packers, who will have clinched the division by then and will be playing JV's. You can get into this by driving out here, but you'd better plan to stay over because you'll be in no condition to drive home.
32Detroit Lions
Last Week: 31
Last possession, in their eight-point loss to the Redskins. They're driving, up near midfield. Fourth and three, Dan Orlovsky completes a two-yard pass to Calvin Johnson. Bugler plays Taps. Saturday night I attended a gathering of the 1968 Super Bowl Jets. Don Maynard, the Hall of Fame receiver, said, "It's not really that hard to figure out. On third and 10, you throw a 12-yard pass." And on fourth and three...ah, never mind.

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