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NFL Power Rankings: Saints better watch out for Panthers

Drew Brees and the Saints lay an egg against the Jets.  (USATSI)
Drew Brees and the Saints lay an egg against the Jets. (USATSI)

What an exciting Week 9 in the NFL when many thought the matchups weren't very good leading up to the games. The top three teams in my Power Rankings all had to rally back late to win against teams with losing records.

Jason Campbell led the Browns to a win, but backup and replacement quarterbacks continue to falter with Buffalo, Houston, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis going down in defeat. It feels like the Browns and Bears have the kind of veteran backup quarterbacks that can win games. The latest victim of the quarterback injury woes are the Green Bay Packers, and they promptly lost to the Bears at home after a six-game winning streak against Chicago at Lambeau Field.

1. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs are 9-0 at their bye and there's a tough road ahead. They win with defense and an offense that doesn't give games away. That formula may not hold up deep into the playoffs but time will tell. Alex Smith is 28-5-1 since 2011 so he must be doing something right.

2. Seattle Seahawks: the Seahawks had to pull off the greatest comeback in franchise history to beat a winless Tampa Bay team at home, and that's a concern going forward. The Seahawks need their offensive tackles back ASAP.

The Seahawks escape with a win, but nearly losing to the Bucs isn't a good sign.   (USATSI)
The Seahawks escape with a win, but nearly losing to the Bucs isn't a good sign. (USATSI)

3. Indianapolis Colts: The Colts answered the big question about life without Reggie Wayne. T.Y. Hilton stepped up and Andrew Luck played like a 10-year pro.

4. Denver Broncos: The Broncos had the week off and John Fox will be away from the club for at least a month. The Broncos defense and pass protection have to improve if they want to stay in the top group.

5. San Francisco 49ers: They needed a bye last week to give their power running game a break. Let's see if the passing game improves over the next few weeks.

6. New England Patriots: Week 9 looked like the great Patriot offenses of the past. New England appears to be peaking at the right time and could be on their way up the rankings.

7. Green Bay Packers: Without Aaron Rodgers this team will start to drop in the rankings, but for now they sit in the No. 7 spot until we hear the severity of Rodgers' injury.

8. Detroit Lions: The Lions have weapons on offense and the defense is improving. Detroit needs to realize Carolina is hot on its trail for the last wild-card spot.

9. New Orleans Saints: If the Saints played all their games at home they would be the No. 1 team in the NFL. They just aren't the same on the road outdoors, and losing to the Jets with a rookie QB was a setback. Teams will be running on the Saints a lot more since the Jets carved them up on the ground.

10. Cincinnati Bengals: The hot-and-cold Bengals have lost a few starters on defense which is a concern, and QB Andy Dalton needs to be more consistent or the playoffs will be one-and-done again.

Andy Dalton and the Bengals will have to overcome the Geno Atkins injury.   (USATSI)
Andy Dalton and the Bengals will have to overcome the Geno Atkins injury. (USATSI)

11. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers are red hot and it's a combination of defense and Cam Newton. They have their sights set on the Saints and the top spot in the NFC south.

12. Chicago Bears: The Bears get a big win over the Packers and backup QB Josh McCown was fantastic. Jay Cutler is due back this week and this team is on the move up the board.

13. Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys are like the Bengals. They are inconsistent and have injury issues on the defensive side of the ball. The NFC East could be won with a 9-7 record and the Cowboys are still in the driver's seat.

14. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers should have won this week against the Redskins with a 1st-and-goal inside the 1-yard line. Not one power run and they didn't score in three shots before settling for a field goal. They lost in overtime. A wild card is still a possibility.

15. Tennessee Titans: A hard team to beat in the trenches, and finally Chris Johnson scored in the running game. The Titans look like a classic 8-8 team that just doesn't have the big play to get to the postseason.

16. New York Jets: They haven't lost two in a row but they haven't won two in a row either. Next game, they are scheduled to lose after beating the Saints this week.

17. Cleveland Browns: Jason Campbell is making a difference and the team could be a late comer to the playoff race after beating the Ravens.

Jason Campbell has the Browns in the playoff hunt.   (USATSI)
Jason Campbell has the Browns in the playoff hunt. (USATSI)

18. Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals defense is very good and when the offensive line protects Carson Palmer they can beat most teams in the NFL. The second half of their schedule is tough, but at 4-4 only eight NFC teams have more wins.

19. Baltimore Ravens: This just isn't the same team that won the Super Bowl a few months ago. They lack firepower on offense and the defense is average right now. Their 11-game winning streak over the Browns ended this week and probably their playoff dreams.

20. Washington Redskins: The Redskins defense looked much improved against the Chargers. RG3 is starting to look like the player who led the Redskins to the playoffs last year.

21. Philadelphia Eagles: I don't know how Chip Kelly can go back to Michael Vick after Nick Foles threw seven touchdown passes this past week. The defense has been improving over the past few games and they could make a run.

Nick Foles throws seven TDs -- but his status as the Eagles starting QB remains unclear.  (USATSI)
Nick Foles throws seven TDs -- but his status as the Eagles starting QB remains unclear. (USATSI)

22. Oakland Raiders: The Raiders defense was embarrassed by the Eagles' seven touchdown passes, and when that happens Terrelle Pryor and the offense simply can't stay up with any team.

23. Buffalo Bills: I think the Bills will start to win more games when EJ Manuel returns from injury. Right now they can produce big plays but consistency on both sides of the ball needs to be better.

24. Miami Dolphins: With their backs to the wall, the Dolphins found a way to beat the Bengals. Now they have to deal with player issues with Jonathan Martin absent and Richie Incognito suspended -- and likely done in Miami. Imagine what this ream would be right now if Jake Long, Reggie Bush, and Devon Bess were still on the roster.

25. St. Louis Rams: Without Sam Bradford wins are going to be hard to come by the rest of the way. The Rams were the seventh team unable to win the week after playing the Seahawks.

26. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger and the offense did all they could to beat the Patriots, but the defense looked as bad as I can ever remember. It's a lost season for this great franchise.

After an ugly loss the Pats, the Steelers look done.   (USATSI)
After an ugly loss the Pats, the Steelers look done. (USATSI)

27. New York Giants: At 2-6 they are not out of the NFC East race. A bye this week was what the doctor ordered for this team, and now it's time to see if they can make a run.

28. Atlanta Falcons: Injuries ruined this season, and Matt Ryan is throwing lots of interceptions trying to make something happen. I hope Ryan is healthy at the end of the year.

29. Houston Texans: The Texans played like a desperate team and almost beat the Colts, but now it looks like the season is over. Case Keenum looks like a QB they can win with in the future.

30. Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson still plays like a champion but this team just doesn't have enough other weapons to win games. Sooner or later we will have to see Josh Freeman again so the Vikings know what to do in 2014.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs played hard in Seattle and young Mike Glennon is starting to look like a solid QB candidate. It's tough to be an 0-8 team and make a case for them that they are getting better.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars may win a game or two but right now they look like they will be picking first in the 2014 draft.

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