These are the Final 2008-2009 Regular Season NFL Power Rankings. The stage is set for the 2008-2009 NFL Playoffs and NFL Draft positioning. The Power rankings expose the fatal flaw concerning today’s NFL Playoff format. Division winners are rewarded with home playoff games at all costs. The seeding favors mediocre franchises that hail from weak divisions:
1: New York Giants (12-4 / Last Week #1) – The NFC road to the Super Bowl runs through the Meadowlands. Defending Super Bowl Champions hold the crown until another team takes the position by successfully imposing its will on the G-Men.
2: Indianapolis Colts (12-4 / LW #5) – 9 straight wins and Peyton Manning is laying claim to the NFL MVP Trophy. The cat is out of the bag. Indianapolis is no longer “flying under the radar.” Still, the white-hot Colts must travel to Qualcomm to face off against a scrappy Chargers club that has given Manning and Co. fits over the years.
3: Tennessee Titans (13-3 / LW #4) – Is Tennessee just happy to be here, or are the Titans committed to a legitimate run towards the Super Bowl? Week 16 disrespect of the Terrible Towel at Nashville may come back to haunt the Tennessee Titans.
4: New England Patriots (11-5 / LW #5) – Are the Patriots the best team ever to be watching the NFL Playoffs from the outside looking in? Certainly, New Englanders are outraged at the idea of the .500 San Diego Chargers sneaking into the 2008-2009 NFL Playoffs on the strength of another Denver Bronco flop. The offseason drama begins. Is Matt Cassell coming back? Is Brady on schedule to be ready to go next season? Early reports indicate yes and no.
5: Carolina Panthers (12-4 / LW #2) – Week 17 victory over the division rival Saints in the raucous Superdome will prove to be an ideal NFL Playoff tune-up.
6: Baltimore Ravens (11-5 / LW #7) – Two more interceptions ball hawking safety Ed Reed in the final week of the season. Reed has solidified his case for yet another NFL Defensive player of the year. Offense remains the question for Baltimore. Can rookie quarterback maintain poise and execute the game plan amidst a hostile NFL Playoff atmosphere at Miami?
7: Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4 / LW #6) – The concussed Ben Roethlisberger being carted off on a stretcher is not a welcoming sight at Steeler Nation. Big Ben may be too much of a warrior for his own good. There is a thin line between gritty quarterbacking and stubbornly clutching onto the football for one split second too long.
8: Miami Dolphins (11-5 / LW #10) – The Dolphins have quietly rattled off a streak of five consecutive wins. Pennington exorcised his New York City demons last Sunday. The Miami Dolphins also exorcised their cold weather December-January demons with the victory in the Jersey swamp. The prize: a January 4 NFL Playoff date with the physical Baltimore Ravens at South Florida.
9: Atlanta Falcons (11-5 / LW #8) – Matt Ryan is no rookie quarterback.
10: San Diego Chargers (8-8 / LW #11) – The Chargers have the talent to run with the elite. The “team that nobody wants to play B” will face off against Indianapolis, the “team that nobody wants to play A” Saturday, January 3 at San Diego this NFL Wild Card weekend. Will the bickering 4-8 turf toed Ladainian Tomlinson Chargers reemerge, or will the Colts sample a dose of the hungry squad that rocked AFC West rival Denver in a must-win NFL Playoff “play-in” game?
11: Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1 / LW #17) – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are gashed by the fun house Oakland Raiders and the Bears fall to the Houston Texans – paving the way for an improbable Eagle NFL Playoff birth. The Eagles follow suit – destroying the Dallas Cowboys 44-6 at Lincoln Financial for a road wild card game versus the Minnesota Vikings. The blowout was sweet victory for McNabb, Andy Reid, and the City of Brotherly Love.
12: Minnesota Vikings (10-6 / LW #14) – The Minnesota Vikings rely upon a last-second 50-yard Ryan Longwell field goal at the Metrodome to slide past a disinterested New York Giant bunch of second stringers. This is the exact opposite of catching fire heading into the NFL Playoffs. The surging Eagles loom large for a Sunday, January 4 wild card showdown in Minneapolis.
13: Houston Texans (8-8 / LW #21) – The Texans are playing the best football in the history of this young franchise. The large move in the rankings is based both upon the strength of this club’s late-season surge and the shocking collapse of wild card contenders into stretch run flops left stranded at the altar of the 2008-2009 NFL Playoffs. The Texans are again the typical ‘up and comer’ sleeper pick that whips fans and the media into a tizzy for the upcoming season, only to be exposed as fringe players by Week 8. We are not buying. Example: 2008 Browns.
14: Arizona Cardinals (9-7 / LW #17) – The Cards are stumbling into the 2008-2009 NFL Playoffs. Still, the 9-7 NFC West Champion Arizona Cardinals will be treated to a home playoff game in the desert. This is foreign territory.
15: Dallas Cowboys (9-7 / LW #9) – Is this the most disappointing edition of Cowboy football? The Dallas Cowboys were awarded the Super Bowl Trophy before the first snap of the 2008-2009 season. The 2009 Super Bowl run was crushed early and often at Philadelphia. Next Week on Dallas, the soap opera: Is Wade Phillips done? Can Tony Romo win in December? Is T.O. about to lose it?
16: New York Jets (9-7 / LW #15) – Brett Favre showed his full thirty-nine years of age down the stretch. The saga continues anew: To retire or not to retire? To retire, come back, and retire again? “Mangenius” has been canned and derided as a simpleton after this disastrous 1-4 finish. Brett, we are not in Wisconsin anymore. The locals are agitated.
17: Washington Redskins (8-8 / LW #16) – Treading water at .500 in the toughest division in football must count for something.
18: Chicago Bears (9-7 / LW #12) – Da Bears have been playing .500 ball since their 2006-2007 Super Bowl XLI loss to the Colts. Same ‘ol Bears: aging defense cannot shut down the opposition entirely with little offensive help and big-play receivers torch Chicago Bear one-on-one coverage.
19: New Orleans Saints (8-8 / LW #19) – Brees falls 16 yards short of Marino’s single season 5,084-yard passing record because his wide receiver stopped just short of running out the full pattern. The clutch miscue crystallizes the 2008 New Orleans Saints season.
20: Denver Broncos (8-8 / LW #18) – Week 16 loss to Buffalo at home in a must-win, followed by Week 17’s 52-21 debacle at San Diego. Shanahan must prove that he can win without John Elway.
21: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6 / LW #20) – The mirror image of the Denver Broncos. First, get blown out by the Chargers in a must-win game, and then get out-physicaled by a non-contending Raider outfit that is only playing for pride. The vaunted Tampa 2 has become old-hat and reinforcements must be called in a.s.a.p.
22: San Francisco 49’ers (7-9 / LW #23) – Singletary does not need to drop his pants anymore for San Francisco to be competitive. We are all anxiously awaiting the return of top-tier Bay Area football.
23: Buffalo Bills (7-9 / LW #22) – The Bills are still haunted by the ghost of Scott Norwood. O Canada! Anyone?
24: Oakland Raiders (5-11 / LW #28) – Oakland played themselves right out of a top NFL draft pick by actually winning games. The franchise will be rewarded with good karma for these efforts.
25: Green Bay Packers (6-10) / LW #27) – Narrowly avoided the shameful fate of posing as the lone team to have actually lost to the 2008 Detroit Lions.
26: Seattle Seahawks (4-12 / LW #24) – The city of Seattle must have been featured on the cover of “Madden” this year. The beloved Sonics bolt for Oklahoma City, the Washington Huskies go winless, and the Seahawks are holding midseason open tryouts at wide receiver.
27: Cleveland Browns (4-11 / LW #25) – Browns cleaning house: GM Phil Savage has been issued a pink slip and Romeo is right behind him out-the door.
28: Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10 / LW #26) – High expectations coming off late season surge in 2007 were dashed by midseason. The team has quit on coach and the organization is paralyzed by locker room drama. Sound familiar? This is Cleveland – South and Dallas – East. The story would have received a lot more pub if the Jacksonville Jaguars were not losing a battle to the SEC for newspaper headlines in their own backyard.
29: Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1 / LW #29) – The Bengals largest contribution to the 2008 NFL Season was to serve as the other half of Philadelphia’s tie-gate.
30: Kansas City Chiefs (2-14 / LW #30) – Tony Gonzalez will go down as one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. The tailgating, barbecue, and game day atmosphere will always be legendary. Yes, we are searching for something good.
31: St. Louis Rams (2-14 / LW #31) – Does Marc Bulger = Matt Cassel’s future?
32: Detroit Lions (0-16 / LW #32) – The whole “worst” thing got old three weeks ago. Let’s think draft. The Lions hold the top pick and are loaded with future NFL Draft selections courtesy of shipping Roy Williams to Dallas. Is Georgia’s Matthew Stanford the answer in Motown?