Football teams aren't excluded from the moments of reflection, as even the Browns and Rams among us have something to be thankful for this season. So that's the theme for this week's version of the Power Rankings as we run through the 32 teams and find them giving thanks for something.
- 1. Saints (10-0) Last Week: 1
New Orleans is still perfect at 10-0 and Drew Brees says that this team still hasn't played its best football. If that's not something to be thankful for, look forward to a Week 12 matchup with New England that will surely be one of the best Monday Night Football games of the season. That game should also go a long way to establishing whether or not the road to the Super Bowl runs through New Orleans or Minnesota.-- Knox Bardeen
- 2. Colts (10-0) Last Week: 2
There shouldn't be a day that goes by without someone in Indianapolis giving thanks for what the union of Archie and Olivia Manning has provided, but this season there should also be some gratitude shown to defensive coordinator Larry Coyer. His more aggressive approach to defense has helped the Colts survive injuries in the secondary well enough to make an undefeated season a real possibility.
- 3. Vikings (9-1) Last Week: 4
Retired life is far less exciting than being a starting quarterback in the NFL, a fact that shouldn't escape mention at dinner tables around the Twin Cities this week. Brett Favre may have been at the first Thanksgiving but he's held up a lot better than the rest of the Pilgrims.
- 4. Patriots (7-3) Last Week: 6
Patriots fans who had their hair on fire about Bill Belichick's fourth-down judgment against the Colts should be extremely thankful that that's the worst thing that's happened to their football team since he slipped on his Patriots hoodie. It's a good holiday for a refresher course on perspective.
- 5. Chargers (7-3) Last Week: 8
Heading into Turkeytown with a somewhat surprising 7-3 record (although no one's REALLY freaking about it) you have to believe that the Chargers are pretty freaking thankful that their division is pur-tee awful; they're more or less running out their schedule while trying to jockey for playoff position. -- Will Brinson
- 6. Cardinals (7-3) Last Week: 7
Kurt Warner's health, mostly, is what Ken Wisenhunt and Co. should be thankful for ... oh, right. Forgot that they they play in the NFC West which allows anyone to start however they want and still be very much in the position to dominate their division. So that's nice. But seriously, Warner being smart enough to take himself out of the game is pretty nice too. -- WB
- 7. Bengals (7-3) Last Week: 4
They should be thankful that there are still a couple of good teams on their schedule because their habit of blowing games against bad teams stinks worse than finding raisins in your stuffing.
- 8. Cowboys (7-3) Last Week: 9
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett should be awfully thankful that he's got more talent on his offense than Wade Phillips has sides on his Thanksgiving table. He's done a pretty poor job of putting them in position to succeed this season, but talent has won out just often enough for Dallas to feel good about themselves.
- 9. Steelers (6-4) Last Week: 5
Right now, the Steelers should be thankful that you're allowed to just kick the ball out of bounds on a kickoff. Sure, giving the other team good field position is a risk, but nothing's riskier for the defending champs than actually giving the other side a chance to do something with the ball.
- 10. Packers (6-4) Last Week: 13
The switch to a 3-4 defense may wind up saving their season. There have been some ups and downs during the transition, but if Aaron Kampman was lost for the season in the old 4-3 scheme the Packers would be cooked. It's weird to give thanks about something regarding a devastating injury, but there you have it.
- 11. Jaguars (6-4) Last Week: 12
Blackouts don't strike you as something to be thankful of, but the Jaguars should consider how much more attention they would have gotten for their early struggles if anyone actually showed up to watch them play. They've worked out their problems and are looking like a stronger playoff bet by the week.
- 12. Eagles (6-4) Last Week: 16
We should all take a moment to give thanks for the chance to watch Brian Westbrook during his NFL career, because he's provided a lot of fun moments over the years. Hopefully there will be more to come, so long as they don't come at the expense of his health later in life.
- 13. Giants (6-4) Last Week: 17
This week they should be giving thanks for the fact that the Falcons seem unfamiliar with how to play defense when the opposition puts the ball in the air. Overall, they should be sending some gratitude to the NFL schedulers who gave them an easy slate early and a chance to control their own destiny down the stretch.
- 14. Broncos (6-4) Last Week: 10
It would be easy for Josh McDaniels and his crew to be bitter right now considering that they're smack-dab in the middle of a four-game losing streak which has every preseason critic thumbing their nose at the Broncos and their Enron-like stock. But they should at least give thanks that they're still just a game out of the playoffs right now, even if plenty of people wouldn't be shocked to see them finish last in the AFC West. -- WB
- 15. Ravens (5-5) Last Week: 11
There have been times this season when the offense looked great, and there have been other times when the defense was outstanding. Put that together and you're thankful that there's still six games left for both sides to click at the same time.
- 16. Dolphins (5-5) Last Week: 18
Miami should be eternally grateful that Ricky Williams took so much time off during what would have been the prime of his career. Whatever you think of the reasons for his exiles, it's impossible to argue that the Dolphins would be in the playoff race if he didn't have so little mileage on his body.
- 17. Titans (4-6) Last Week: 20
This is a pretty easy one. They're thankful for Chris Johnson being even better than Friday's leftover turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwich and doubly thankful that Jeff Fisher finally realized there's no point to having Vince Young if you're going to expect him to be the second coming of Neil O'Donnell.
- 18. Texans (5-5) Last Week: 14
Despite many protestations to the contrary, it doesn't actually look like the Texans are on the verge of breaking out of the .500 hamster wheel they've called home in recent years. So they should be thankful that 2010 will bring a fresh round of "This is their year!" proclamations.
- 19. Falcons (5-5) Last Week: 15
No one is sure how long he'll be gone, but losing All-Pro running back Michael Turner while his backup Jerious Norwood was already injured is not a good sign for a team that needs a big finish to make the playoffs. The Falcons can be thankful that their remaining schedule gives opportunity for that strong finish and that the Giants, Eagles and Packers -- Atlanta's Wildcard competitors -- have tougher roads. -- WB
- 20. Panthers (4-6) Last Week: 19
With Thursday night's loss to Miami, Carolina, while not mathematically eliminated, has almost no shot at making the playoffs. A string of injuries has set back the team and Julius Peppers, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are all hobbled. Fans should forget about postseason play and embrace the spoiler role. So what are they thankful for? John Fox loved this season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. -- KB
- 21. Chiefs (3-7) Last Week: 25
Larry Johnson is gone, but the lightning-fast Jamaal Charles took a kick return and a shovel pass to the house. Dwayne Bowe is suspended, but Chris Chambers set up their game-winner. Their trick plays are working and they just upset the defending champs in a fantastic game. So, yeah, there's still plenty to be thankful for. -- WB
- 22. 49ers (4-6) Last Week: 21
Mike Singletary and his staff could sit around on the holidays and bemoan the fact that they're not a playoff team, which is only surprising after the way they started the season; otherwise there wouldn't have been high enough expectations for people to be disappointed. And now they have young talent and a revived belief that a once proud franchise can return to glory. Of course, that's probably a little too defeatist for a team that's just two games out of the playoffs. -- WB
- 23. Jets (4-6) Last Week: 22
The Jets have spent a lot more time talking and winning since September ended and their season is all but over, but that doesn't mean they get a pass on giving thanks. For one thing, Mark Sanchez isn't the first rookie quarterback to struggle, nor is Rex Ryan the first rookie coach to find out he's got a lot to learn. So be thankful that 2010 is just over a month away.
- 24. Bears (4-6) Last Week: 23
If Chicago wants to entertain any thoughts of making a last-ditch playoff run, they simply can't afford more than one more loss over the final six weeks. That means a word of thanks that they will only be playing one more night game, since it's become quite clear that allowing Jay Cutler out after dark is a worse idea than mortgaging your entire future in a trade for Cutler.
- 25. Raiders (3-7) Last Week: 28
I guess at this point the realization that Jamarcus Russell is not the future and that they probably need to invest something else in a "franchise quarterback" -- this is demonstrated, of course, by Bruce Gradkowski winning his first game as a stater -- should be enough to dive into the cornucopia. -- WB
- 26. Seahawks (3-7) Last Week: 24
After the beatdown that the Vikes put on Seattle last weekend, the only thing that Jim Mora should be thankful for is that this is his first year ... and not his last. Otherwise he'd have to go out like this; as bad as things are, at least he's not still tasting the sad in his moustache like Mike Holmgren. -- WB
- 27. Bills (3-7) Last Week: 26
Let's see, they've fired their coach and benched their quarterback en route to another losing season. That hardly sounds like the recipe for giving thanks, but this whole exercise is about finding the silver lining. In the case of the Bills, it is the fact that no matter how bad things get Toronto still wants you to move to their town.
- 28. Lions (2-8) Last Week: 31
Yes, it's another losing season and there's plenty of work to be done before winning returns to Ford Field. But it is hard not to thank the heavens for Matthew Stafford at this point. Seeing him drag his injured wing back onto the field for the last play against the Browns was remarkable. Not because he threw a touchdown pass, but because someone was that eager to play for the Lions. That's progress, people.
- 29. Redskins (3-7) Last Week: 27
Dear Redskins, Thank you for your splendid season. Because of everything that you've done this year, you have made it possible for us to better deal with complaints from our fans and ticket holders. Whatever comes up, we can now say, "Hey, at least we're not the Redskins." Signed, the other 31 teams in the NFL.
- 30. Rams (1-9) Last Week: 30
Steven Jackson. Because, well, when you're 1-9 and your "star" quarterback is likely out for the season and the only thing you have going for you is a running back who's continually overlooked because he plays for a 1-9 team despite racking up yardage, well, yeah, that's really all you can be happy about. -- WB
- 31. Buccaneers (1-9) Last Week: 29
Tampa Bay took a big step backwards on Sunday as rookie Josh Freeman was hit often and threw three interceptions and the team flailed around most of the day against New Orleans. The remaining schedule doesn't get a whole lot easier with Atlanta twice and the Saints again, meaning the Buccaneers may be ready to get the 2009 season behind them. Be thankful it's almost done. -- KB
- 32. Browns (1-9) Last Week: 32
At every Thanksgiving table, there's one person whose presence you just can't stomach and whose every utterance has you rolling your eyes. That seems like a negative until you realize that you make fun of that person, tell stories about them and otherwise relive the experience all year because it winds up making you feel better about yourself. The Browns are the football version of that person, which is reason enough to be thankful for their existence.