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NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys, Giants rise; Jets, Broncos fall

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) points to

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) points to a teammate after throwing a touchdown pass against the New Orleans Saints in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009. Photo Credit: AP Photo

 How do you not love this time of year in the NFL? With playoff races entering the final weeks, and with upsets galore, it is always the best stretch run in sports. This season is not disappointing, and with two more weeks to go, there is plenty of intrigue left. In a word: enjoy. Here we go with this week's NFL Power Rankings

1. Colts (14-0) (1): Peyton Manning has just about locked up MVP. Now it’s a matter of whether Colts go all-out last two games. First up: Jets at home on Sunday.

2. Chargers (11-3) (3): Philip Rivers has injected himself into the MVP discussion, although there’s no way he get past Peyton. Even so, Chargers red hot with nine straight wins.

3. Saints (13-1) (2): Maybe Saints were due to lose, since they’d come close in recent weeks. Now they have to hope it was only a blip, not a trend. Poor play on offensive and defensive lines against the Cowboys.

4. Eagles (10-4) (5): Iggles stay hot and are in control in the division. Not an easy finish, though. Home to Denver, at Dallas.

5. Vikings (11-3) (4): It was all going so smoothly at 10-1. Then December came along, and Brett Favre has lost two of his last three. Is he running out of gas?

6. Cowboys (9-5) (12): A season-saving win in the Big Easy? Could be. Tony Romo terrific against the Saints, and the Cowboys’ playoff hopes survive.

7. Patriots (9-5) (9): Pats continue their domination over the hapless Bills and take control in AFC East. Up two games with two to play.

8. Bengals (9-5) (7): An awful, awful week for the Bengals, who mourned the loss of wide receiver Chris Henry. They gave it everything in San Diego, but still couldn’t finish off the Chargers.

9. Packers (9-5) (6): Giants can thank the Packers for a last-second loss in Pittsburgh that suddenly makes the Packers, who looked to be a wild card lock, a bit more vulnerable.

10. Cardinals (9-5) (10): Cardinals nearly blew a big lead over the Lions, but hold serve to clinch the NFC West.

11. Broncos (8-6) (8): Broncos were 8-5 last year and lost three straight to miss the playoffs. Cost Mike Shanahan his job. Could it happen again to Josh McDaniels? At Philly on Sunday.

12. Giants (8-6) (15): That was as good a performance as the Giants have put together since their 5-0 start. Redskins are awful, yes, but had been much improved in recent weeks.

13. Titans (7-7) (14): Titans ridiculously hot play continues. They beat Miami at home to make it six wins in their last seven games.

14. Ravens (8-6) (16): Ravens trounce reeling Bears at home to stay in thick of wild card race. Only a game behind the Bengals, but need to win the division outright because Cincy has tiebreakers.

15. Steelers (7-7) (20): Talk about waiting until the last second. Big Ben wins it for the Stillers on the last play of the game, as Pittsburgh’s wild card hopes are still alive, if only barely.

16. Jets (7-7) (11): Same old Jets? You got that right. A chance to take a major step forward in the playoff race, and what do they do? They lose to the Falcons at home, blowing it late in the fourth quarter.

17. Dolphins (7-7) (13): Dolphins come up small in Tennessee, now they’re back in the wild card pack. Houston at home on Sunday, so don’t count ‘em out just yet.

18. Falcons (7-7) (21): Falcons find out the night before the Jets game that they’re out of the playoff race. Doesn’t stop ‘em from upsetting the Jets on the road.

19. Jaguars (7-7) (17): Jaguars give it everything they’ve got but can’t close out Indy in a shootout on Thursday night. Still in decent wild card position, though.

20. Panthers (6-8) (23): Huge effort by Carolina and journeyman quarterback Matt Moore as they upset the suddenly cold Vikings at home.

21. 49ers (6-8) (19): Niners outclassed by Philly after big home win over Cardinals. They're out of the playoff race. 

22. Texans (7-7) (18):Texans barely get past St. Louis to barely remain in the playoff hunt.

23. Raiders (5-9) (26): Raiders keep playing hard down the stretch and stun the Broncos, putting Denver’s playoff hopes in some peril.

24. Bills (5-9) (24): Bills had shown some life in recent weeks under interim coach Perry Fewell, but looked as bad as ever in losing to the Pats at home.

25. Browns (3-11) (28): Mike Holmgren comes in to save the day. First decision for new prez: what to do with Eric Mangini.

26. Redskins (4-10) (22): One of the most pathetic losses in franchise history. Giants roll Redskins at FedExField in front of new GM Bruce Allen and team owner Daniel Snyder. Looks like Snyder will stop at nothing to get Mike Shanahan.

27. Bears (5-9) (25): Lovie Smith’s job in danger? Could be.

28. Seahawks (5-9) (27): Just days after Holmgren turned down the front-office job, Seahawks lose at home to Tampa. What a disaster.

29. Buccaneers (31): (2-12): Incredibly, the Bucs found a way to win a game. On the road, no less.

30. Chiefs (3-11) (29): Chiefs defense so bad it makes the Browns look like a juggernaut. Could Todd Haley be on the hot seat after just one year?

31. Lions (2-12) (30): Lions make it interesting by tying the Cardinals late, but blow it in the end as usual.

32. Rams (1-13) (32): The season can’t end soon enough for Steve Spagnuolo. First up on off-season wish list: a quarterback. Michael Vick?

 

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