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Tuesday, January 3, 2012
NFL Power Rankings: Call me pineapple

By Dan Graziano

Well, there's no sense in denying it any longer. It turns out that I am a pineapple. I never realized it before, but the proof is in the final edition of this year's ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings.

9. New York Giants (Last week: 12). Back on Oct. 4, the Giants cracked the Power Rankings top 10 for the first time. I was... skeptical. At the time, citing their poor rush offense numbers and obvious flaws on defense, I wrote that "If the Giants are one of 10 best teams in the NFL, then I'm a pineapple." As it turns out, however, you didn't need to be able to run the ball or give up fewer than 400 points to be one of the top 10 teams in the league this year. Flaws and all, here the Giants are -- ninth in the Power Rankings. Personally, I'd rank the Giants 11th among the playoff teams -- behind Houston and Cincinnati and ahead of Denver -- but that's splitting hairs. Their record is tied for ninth-best in the league, and if they win at home Sunday (as they surely can), they'll be one of the eight teams left playing. For me to sit here, stomp my feet and insist I was right on semantic grounds would be foolish. I was wrong, and I can own up to it. Fortunately for me, I like being surprised. It's one of the reasons I love sports -- because we really don't know what's going to happen until it does. Whatever else these Giants may or may not be, they are a lot of fun to watch, and I look forward to seeing how far they can take this.

13. Dallas Cowboys (11). I think the voters were generous to the Cowboys, in the end. They have them ahead of the playoff-bound Broncos, and two spots ahead of the Eagles, who beat them twice and finished with the same record. Yeah, I thought the Cowboys would be better than 8-8, but they weren't, and a 1-4 finish after they had the division in their pocket is just inexcusable. Good teams don't do that.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (17). The Eagles finish with their highest ranking since Week 3, when they were ranked No. 6 and we all thought they'd get things right eventually. They eventually got things right enough to finish 4-0 once all was nearly lost, and there's reason to believe they can correct their problems and be a top team next year. But for purposes of this exercise, there's little doubt that they belong on anyone's list of biggest sports disappointments of 2011.

26. Washington Redskins (25). They began the season at No. 28, got as high as No. 10 and then settled right back down around where they started. I don't think the fast start was a mirage. I think the Redskins just didn't have enough to overcome their injury problems. And yes, that means they're not a great team. The Giants had injury problems too. Maybe even worse, and look at them. Had they stayed healthy all year, I agree with Mike Shanahan that the Redskins could have been a contender. But if a frog had wings, it wouldn't bang its little froggy butt on the ground when it hopped, right?