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Posted: Wednesday December 9, 2009 12:34PM; Updated: Wednesday December 9, 2009 12:34PM
Don Banks
Don Banks>NFL POWER RANKINGS
NFL Power Rankings (cont.)
21Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 25
Remember that public flogging that Seahawks head coach Jim Mora administered to Olindo Mare after the Seattle kicker missed two makeable field goals in a six-point Week 3 home loss to Chicago? Mare apparently got the message. He hasn't missed a field goal since, with his team-record 18th successful attempt in a row providing the winning points at home against San Francisco on Sunday. Mare is 21-of-23 on the year, with only those two misfires against the Bears.
 
22San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 20
Amidst another disappointing finish to another disappointing season in San Francisco, there's at least a little hope for the future being generated by the feel-good comeback of quarterback Alex Smith. That's two strong games in a row for the former No. 1 overall pick, and the 49ers have even changed their out-dated run-first mentality on offense and are putting Smith in the position to spread the field and do what he does best.
 
23Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 23
By all rights, the Panthers should have been lucky this season to draw the AFC East on its schedule. The Bills, Jets and Dolphins are all at .500 or below, and even the first-place Patriots are on the downswing. But that's not how things have worked out for Carolina, which is 0-3 in its interconference games, with a trip to frosty Foxboro on tap this week. Had the Panthers fared differently in those games, they'd still be in the playoff hunt.
 
24Chicago Bears
Last Week: 26
The good news has been in woefully short supply this season in Chicago, but that 91-yard rushing game turned in by Matt Forte against the Rams qualifies. The second-year running back has been mostly MIA this year, and the Bears need to make sure his rookie season wasn't a complete fluke as they begin to make their plans for 2010.
 
25Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 28
Who said the Raiders are inconsistent? They've won once in September (at Kansas City), once in October (against Philadelphia), once in November (against Cincinnati), and once in December (at Pittsburgh). That kind of record really cranks up the pressure for Oakland's Jan. 3 finale at home against Baltimore.
 
26Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 22
At least this long, dreary decade is almost over for the Bills and their beleaguered fans. What a disaster it has been following in the wake of the roaring '90s, with those four straight Super Bowl trips and eight playoff berths in 10 seasons. They didn't know it then, but for the Bills the highlight of the decade was playing for a playoff berth in Week 17 of 2004, only to get blown out at home by a Tommy Maddox-led Steelers team that was missing rookie Ben Roethlisberger and a slew of starters.
 
27Washington Redskins
Last Week: 24
For all those proponents of overtime rule changes out there, please note the following: In this year's 10 overtime games, the team that has won the coin toss to start the sudden death period is just 5-5. Which means that the team that lost the overtime coin flip is also 5-5. On Sunday at home, the Redskins won the coin flip and still saw New Orleans prevail in overtime, 33-30. Playing defense in OT is part of the game, folks.
 
28Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 27
Silver linings are few and far between for the Chiefs this season. It's hard to identify a strength to build on, given that only Oakland and Cleveland have scored fewer points in the AFC than Kansas City's 196, and nobody in the conference has allowed as many points as the Chiefs' 326. Plenty of work still to be done for Scott Pioli and Todd Haley.
 
29Detroit Lions
Last Week: 29
I don't know about you, but I've seen enough of Matthew Stafford trying to play through that shoulder injury this season. What's the point of running your franchise quarterback out there for these last four meaningless games of the regular season? The Lions should let Stafford resume his work in next July's training camp.
 
30Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 30
On the other hand, Bucs rookie quarterback Josh Freeman needs to play out the string in Tampa Bay, getting past that putrid five-interception day at Carolina last week. Freeman didn't start until the Bucs' eighth game this year, and he can still progress plenty in this last month of the season.
 
31Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 32
Has the light finally gone on for Brady Quinn? The Browns quarterback has had big games in two of the past three weeks, and his 271-yard, three-touchdown day in a 30-23 loss to San Diego was downright hope-inspiring. Quinn hasn't thrown a pick in his past three games, with seven touchdowns passing and one rushing score in that span.
 
32St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 31
If there's one lock in next April's NFL Draft it's that the Rams select a quarterback of the future in the first round. How would Washington's Jake Locker or Oklahoma's Sam Bradford look in blue and gold?
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