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Posted: Wednesday November 19, 2008 1:40PM; Updated: Wednesday November 19, 2008 2:17PM
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NFL Power Rankings, Week 12

Story Highlights

6 Trends: 1. Top five spots remain unchanged; 2. Jets jump from 11th to sixth

3. Cowboys make biggest leap, rising 12 spots; 4. Falcons tumble out of top 10

5. Bears, Vikings continue to slip; 6. Raiders, Lions have bottom locked up

It's too depressing, looking at the stock market ticker, so I'll give you a brief Power Rankings ticker. Top five unchanged, with very few traded. Is that brief enough? Jets registering a sizeable gain. Patriots suffer a loss. Eagles suffer a tie. Readers of this nonsense just suffer. (Honest, coach, I didn't know I could end this. I thought I just keep writing until there's a decision). Send comments to Dr. Z.

NFL Power Rankings
1Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 1
Bill Walsh used to like to draw the analogy between NFL football and a heavyweight fight. On Sunday the Titans got knocked to the canvas in the early rounds. Then they got up and landed the heavy blows. In the second half the Jaguars ran off six series until they crossed midfield. They picked up three first downs in the half. Jeff Fisher believes in multiple subs on his D-line, which is great if you have the personnel. Why are they ranked No. 1 ahead of the Giants? Because they didn't get blown out by Cleveland and NY did.
2New York Giants
Last Week: 2
A lot of ink has been devoted to the trio of Earth, Wind and Fire, which translates to Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. Jacobs is the 264-pound punisher; Ward, at 228, is the most well rounded of the three, if you count pass-catching; Bradshaw is a zippy guy, quick into the hole. He was hardly used at all in the first part of the season. They'll probably keep Jacobs out of the Arizona game, with a sore knee. They say the depth will take care of it. I don't agree. Jacobs sets the tone for the whole offense. It's called pain. He's unique, an oversized runner with a mean streak. He reminds me of Steven Jackson of the Rams. The knee thing is not to be taken lightly. Bill Parcells once said he did some research on really big backs, 250 or so, and generally, they don't last very long. "Christian Okoye might be the only exception," he said. We'll see.
3Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 3
The prettiest team in football, when the souped up offense is working. "We're a no-huddle team," Peyton Manning said after the Houston game, "and we never took our foot off the gas."
4Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 4
Yeah, I know, the bettors who laid the price took one in the chops, but let's face it. They didn't deserve to cover in the first place. Anyone who tapped out on this one with the rent money has my sympathy, however, and now from the pages of my True Life Adventures comes a story about a desperate bettor named Jack. He's my ex-wife's brother. He found himself in Denver, broke and out of work. He had enough money for one really good sized play at the dog track, and a friend of the owner had given him a very solid tip. So he played it. It was a weird night at the track, with lightning and thunder rolling in from the foothills of the Rockies. Bang, and they're off! His dog is running away with it. It's a lock. Kuh-rash! A bolt of lightning hits the electricity pole, and the lights go off, but a moment later the emergency kicks in and on they go. And the dogs are running every which way, all over the track. No race. No killing for ex-brother-in-law Jack. No more gambling, either. Forever. God had sent a clear message.
5Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 5
OK, they've proved themselves, and I really wish I could get up for that division crucial at Atlanta, but there's something holding me back. Just a feeling, I guess, that this is for the B Division championship.
6New York Jets
Last Week: 11
Here's a real sumo match-up Sunday to see who's king of the ring, Kris Jenkins vs. the Titans' Albert Hayneswsorth. Yeah, I know, they're not playing against each other, but connoisseurs of buffalo strains might take interest. Every D-line these days seems to need a super-heavyweight not only to serve as an anchor, but, when agitated, a pocket collapser. Shaun Rogers is another one. Jamal Williams, Haloti Ngata. Their value increases according to how many bull rushes they can supply. The difference between Haynesworth and Jenkins at this point? Albert has more destructive power, Kris more technique. It'll be interesting to see if each man, fully desirious of being considered No. 1 of the heavies, will stay on the field just a bit longer, exert just that extra bit of oomph.
7Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 8
Graham's down, Cadillac is ready to return. The film must keep rolling. Does anyone like little Warrick Dunn better than I do as a solid professional for more years than I can count?
8New England Patriots
Last Week: 6
What I liked about their Thursday nighter against the Jets was that nothing was decided by some fluke thing or other. Everything was hard fought, dearly won, the way contests at this level should be. Next trip? Who knows?
9Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 13
Every working day, Arizona's defensive coach Clancy Pendergast and the team's QB, Kurt Warner, smile and nod to each other and say, "How's it going?" A few days more than four years ago, Pendergast harassed and bedeviled Warner, first by blitzing and catching his blockers short-handed, then by faking the blitz and dropping back into coverage and wasting Kurt's max protection. It was a game-planning triumph and the score read, Cardinals 17, Warnered-quarterbacked Giants 14. Giants coach Tom Coughlin had seen enough and Warner was benched for a rookie named Eli Manning. Next year Warner was the starting QB for the Cards. He lost to the Giants, 42-19, and those were the last two times he was involved in a Giants-Cardinals game, a loser for both sides. This time, though, I like him. An upset, yeah! Why not?
10Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 22
Forgive me, I should have been providing up to date information all along on why I'm placing these teams where I do. This is an easy one. There are no teams left on the board better than 6-4, and with Romo back, even though the ball seemed to leave his bandaged finger kind of weird Sunday night, I think they're the best on the block.
11Washington Redskins
Last Week: 9
Well sure, of course they're right behind. I'm not nuts, you know. I hope you appreciated the terrific duel you saw between Clinton Portis, who was playing hurt, and Marion Barber, who was playing like a demon possessed him. Worth the price of admission alone. "Since when do you pay admission to the TV?" says ma femme flamoboyante, who is back in fighting form, after three weeks of la dolce vita.
12Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 7
You're waiting for me to say something smirky about Donovan not knowing that 15 minutes equal OT, and that's all she wrote, aren't you? I would, except that many of his teammates didn't know, either. And some fans. And billions of people in Asia. I just would feel better if Andy Reid hadn't muttered that nonsense about McNabb not playing any diffrerently, even if he did know the rule. My hero! I'll stick up for my QB, even though it makes me look foolish. No difference, and ...? Only the difference between taking your time, and getting a nice leisurely drive going into quarter No. 6, or busting your hump to get in under the wire.
13Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 12
I didn't think they were really shoved around and manhandled that much by the Giants, I think they were stunned by a series of longer runs. Still, it's going to be embarrassing for these guys. Every time they walk the dog or go to the super market, people will be pointing their fingers and shouting, "Yards, yards, 207 yards rushing!" See, that's why I don't want to live in Baltimore.
14Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 17
He took his time and put together a long, winning drive, leaving only 38 seconds on the clock. On fourth and five his coach gave him the chance to get his field goal kicker closer, and he calmly completed a seven-yard pass to Ted Ginn Jr. "My first fourth and five with a minute left, probably his 20th," Ginn said. And that's why I like Chad Pennington, QB.
15Denver Broncos
Last Week: 20
The AP pointed out that fullback-linebacker Spencer Larsen was the league's first two-way player since Orlando Brown in 2003. Dear AP. Remember Troy Brown? Wideout-cornerback for the Patriots in 2004, '05 and '06. Wire service research! Fooey!
16Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 10
The Broncos knocked them out of the top half of the standings, despite their decent record. When's the last time I had them in the nether region? Three weeks ago, hmmm. Why, for some reason, do I just not feel charitably inclined toward this team?
17New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 15
Tackle Jon Stinchcomb bemoans the inability to put together two straight victories. Or even gay ones. Loss, win, loss, and so forth. "London was great," he says, " but you look at Carolina and Atlanta, and they were big busts." While we're on the subject, Linda, could you come here a moment, please?
18Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 18
MLB Nick Barnett's injury moves A.J. Hawk to the middle and Brandon Chillar in his place as a starter on the weakside. But Chillar was already coming in for Hawk in the nickel. Why? Everyone always raved about the pass-coverage instincts of Hawk, a former No. 1 draft pick. Something's funny here and I, "Z of the Yard," will crack this case.
19Chicago Bears
Last Week: 14
They held Tennessee to 20 yards rushing, and Green Bay to 200. There! There's a swollen statistic for you to contemplate. And while you're at it, see if you can figure out why they still use that antiquated, mid-14th Century term, "rushing."
20Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 16
How can Adrian Peterson not have touched the ball from scrimmage, with the team behind in the fourth quarter? That's what everyone in Minnesota except Lars the Blacksmith wants to know. On the series that got the Vikings into the period, Peterson lost three yards on first down. That set up two passes on the next two, preceding the punt. Thanks to a long Bucs' drive and a fumbled Minnesota kickoff return, the Vikings didn't see the ball until they had 3:23 left, on their own 20. They passed, which was logical. And they also did on their last possession, on their 36 with 1:55 left. Brad Childress didn't deserve all the heat he got but he answered it with the following anonymous quote at his Monday press conference: "Editorialists and columnists are like men who come down from the mountain after the battle and shoot the wounded."
21San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 21
Do you mean to tell me that, going back to the days of Jim Thorpe and the Oorang Indians, there never has been an NFL game that ended 11-10? I find that hard to believe. Impossible to believe. Please, don't disturb me while I research this. Just leave a plate of cookies and a pail of milk outside the door.
22Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 24
Wild, at times a bit inaccurate, but an action guy, always working hard to beat you, that's what a good young rookie or second-year QB is supposed to look like. That's Brady Quinn. It's considered a coach's job to tone him down at times, not to try to pump life into some stiff.
23Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 19
They chose to make camp on the 29-yard line, which meant the winning kick would have to be 47 yards, into a swirling wind. The kick was wide right. The Bills lost to the Browns by two points. They could have moved the ball closer, if they hadn't run three times into a mob. There was time. A dink pass or two by Trent Edwards and the chances of winning would go up immeasurably. Choosing to make 47 yards their kick of choice was just nuts. Except...except...maybe their confidence in Edwards was so abysmally low, after the miserable game he'd had, that they didn't trust him to throw even one safe short pass without the danger of mishap. He had spent practically the whole fourth quarter frozen in the pocket, even with time, unable to pull the trigger, finally dumping one off to Marshawn Lynch time and again and praying that he make something happen. But then on the critical final drive, guess what? He drilled one down the seam to tight end Robert Royal, zzzzip, 22 yards. Maybe now the kid had his confidence back, maybe now they were in business. For what? Five yards on three runs and wide right. It's just so abysmally sad when they are not given a chance to win.
24Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 23
Justin Durant is what I call a real linebacker with real coverage responsibility, not just a pass rusher who bears the title, linebacker. A big check for Justin on my all-pro check list after his game against the Titans.
25Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 27
For God's sake, somebody stop them! They listened to McNabb and now they're still out there, playing.
26Houston Texans
Last Week: 25
You know what they lead the league in? Wasted statistics, such as Steve Slaton's eye-catching 14 carries for 156 yards. Andre Johnson has collected about a million wasted afternoons such as this one.
27San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 30
When you're down in this coal mine to begin with, and you whip some poor devils in even worse shape than you are, well, I can raise you three spots, but I'm afraid no higher.
28St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 26
Three hurt and out of the game in the first half, two of them offensive linemen, including Orlando Pace. It just keeps going on. The dreadful parade of headlines.
29Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 28
Flash! Matt Hasselbeck apologizes to the Cardinals for saying after the game that they should be fined for the shots they were taking at him. This is ironic. I saw Matt's dad, Don, the old Patriot tight end, deliver the filthiest blow I've ever seen on a football field. They were playing the Jets, and New York tackle Joe Klecko went down in pain with torn ligaments in his knee. While he was on the ground, gripping his knee in agony, Don Hasselbeck came along and drilled him. It made me sick.
30Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 29
The newsletter, Arrowhead Pride, goes through the Chiefs' first three rounds of the draft for the past seven years. Fifteen players were drafted on defense...which now rates last in the league. What happens? Does an evil genie hand them a magic potion when they get there?
31Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 31
Here are two prospective all-stars who are at odds with their environment. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha isn't making any mid-season all-pro teams because he isn't doing much and he isn't doing much because no one wants to throw at him and they don't want to throw at him because he's too good. Punter Shane Lechler is trailing Matt Scifres in the all important net average, which subtracts return yards, because the guys covering Raiders punts are doing a miserable job. Hey guys. You ever hear of free agency?
32Detroit Lions
Last Week: 32
Detroit's Kevin Smith rushed for 112 yards. In the same Carolina game, the Panthers' Jon Stewart and DeAngelo Williams went for 130 and 120, respectively. "I was leading them at halftime," says Smith, who, God bless you, son, has managed to retain his sense of humor.

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