Smile Politely

The Polite Power Rankings: Week 5

Illinois standout turned Steelers prospect Rashard Mendenhall had what some might call a rough week. It began with a supposed text message (Mendenhall denies it) to a buddy who also happens to be a rookie on the Baltimore Ravens defense. The message said, basically: “I’m going to rip the Ravens defense to shreds this week.” A few points of note: 1). This was Mendenhall’s first NFL start, as he came in to replace injured starter Willie Parker, and this means that modesty is probably a good idea. 2). The Ravens, a division rival who the Steelers played on Monday night, have a vicious defense that loves to set its sights on trash-talking opponents. 3). The Ravens hate the Steelers. So what happened? Mendenhall was knocked out of the game with a fractured shoulder. He’s done for the season. Nothing dirty by the Ravens, but no doubt they took advantage of every shot they got.

What’s up with other former Fighting Illini who’ve made their way to the NFL? Check out the Illini football website for weekly updates.

1. New York Giants (3)

A week off lets a strong team get stronger. And they’d be even stronger than that if Plaxico Burress would set aside his T.O. complex and recognize that he does, indeed, have to play by the same rules as everyone else.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (5)

A tough division rivalry. A roughed up QB. Down to the fourth-string QB. A reserve linebacker carted the field on a stretcher at the open of the game. And yet, they found a way to win. This all gives the Steelers high marks in the “character” and “tenacity” departments. It also suggests that unless they find replacements quick, the Steelers might not be near the top of the rankings for long.

3. Dallas Cowboys (1)

What is this, college football? Is this the 2007 Patriots we’re looking at? The answer to both questions is no. In fact, NFL teams drop a game here and there all the time. This is still a very strong team that knows how to command the football on both sides of the line. I’m just going to say it now: Cincinnati’s in a load of trouble this weekend.

4. Buffalo Bills (7)

Finally, when someone uses the words “Buffalo” and “football” in the same sentence, you don’t automatically think of drunken Sunday afternoons at Buffalo Wild Wings. Ok, maybe you do, but that’s your problem. The rest of the world knows that the Buffalo Bills are looking like an NFL franchise on the way up.

5. Tennessee Titans (8)

Vince Young takes a time out and the Titans’ season goes down the drain, right? Hardly. Without a single superstar, the Titans are playing like they’re all superstars.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (2)

7. Chicago Bears (12)

Look, I’m not trying to heave Kyle Orton into Canton or anything like that. But very little happened on the ground on Sunday, yet Orton kept his head up and found a way to drop three balls into the arms of receivers in the end zone. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you also have a defense that’s playing a style of football that can only be described as violent.

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10)

9. San Diego Chargers (9)

10. New Orleans Saints (11)

11. Washington Redskins (13)

12. Green Bay Packers (6)

Oh, you fragile, fragile boy. Did you not know, Mr. Aaron Rodgers, that Mr. Brett Favre never got hurt? Keep the fans on your side, young man, by keeping you keister on the field.

13. Denver Broncos (4)

14. Carolina Panthers (15)

15. New York Jets (14)

16. Indianapolis Colts (16)

Take the week off, sure. League rules, right? Bye week and all of that? Ok. No prob. But other teams stuck around for week four, and some of them did pretty well, and those teams just might snake you in line. Know what I mean, Peyt? (Ditto for the Pats down at 18.)

17. Jacksonville Jaguars (18)

18. New England Patriots (17)

19. Seattle Seahawks (21)

20. Baltimore Ravens (23)

21. Arizona Cardinals (19)

22. Kansas City Chiefs (31)

Is it possible that LJ and the boys know how to play the game? Mark my words: That was actual football they engaged in on Sunday.

23. San Francisco 49ers (20)

24. Miami Dolphins (25)

25. Atlanta Falcons (24)

26. Kansas City Chiefs (31)

27. Houston Texans (28)

28. Cleveland Browns (29)

A close win in an ugly game against an awful team — a one-spot leap is a gift. Now let’s see if the Browns can muster some momentum as they try to catch up to their promise.

29. Oakland Raiders (27)

Kiffin was the problem in Oakland, Al? Really? The reality is that now that Lane’s out the door, it’s probably fair to say that high expectations shouldn’t be expected in the otherwise delightful San Francisco Bay.

30. Cincinnati Bengals (26)

31. Detroit Lions (30)

32. St. Louis Rams (32)

Related Articles