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The Polite Power Rankings: Week 4

Who, really, is the NFL favorite in Champaign-Urbana? The Bears obviously have the edge, as Chicago is just a little more than two bings away and the university’s undergraduate ranks are swollen with students from Chicagoland. But this is a downstate community with plenty of downstaters who have no problem throwing their allegiance to the St. Louis Rams. It should be pointed out, too, that the closest NFL team to us resides in Indianapolis — and there’s no shortage of Peyton Manning jerseys in C-U on a Sunday in the fall. And then, of course, are the transplants from all over the country who show up here to study, teach, work, and cheer on their favorite team. Packers. Steelers. Vikings. Cowboys. Let’s hear it for your team, C-U…who you got? Which teams have the most devoted following here in C-U?

1. Dallas Cowboys (1)

Two weeks running that the ’Boys have engaged in a virtual clash of the Titans. In the first of these, they took down the Eagles in a shoot out thanks to Tony Romo’s arm. In the second, they rode Marion Barber’s legs to a defeat of the Packers. Now an improving Redskins team heads to Dallas, but the weapons in the Lone Star state might be too much for ’Skins to handle.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (4)

Nine sacks. That’s how a swarming Philly defense treated the unprepared Pittsburgh QB, Ben Roethlisberger. And despite Brian Westbrook heading to the sidelines early and Donovan McNabb accumulating his fair share of scrapes and bruises, the Eagles offense showed the sort of resilience and skill that should secure them a high perch in the NFC throughout the season.

3. New York Giants (3)

Blowout shmo-out. What really shows a team’s mettle is how they react when their backs are against a tiger-striped wall. And Sunday, with defeat hot on their trail, the Giants rallied to an OT victory against a determined and desperate Cincinnati squad.

4. Denver Broncos (6)

Perhaps it’s time to admit that Jay Cutler is graduating from the ranks of “the newbies” and into the realm of “the really good young quarterbacks who are likely to lead a team to a Super Bowl before long.” And he’s being helped along by a diverse crew of rushers and receivers who make the Denver O explosive. And that high mountain air that makes breathing really hard.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (2)

A lot of weapons on this team, but anyone who watched last week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles knows that the team’s Achilles heel—and it’s a really big heel—is the offensive line that allowed Ben Roethlisberger to suffer nine sacks and Willie Parker to be held at 20 yards on 13 attempts.

6. Green Bay Packers (5)

7. Buffalo Bills (8)

8. Tennessee Titans (12)

9. San Diego Charges (16)

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (15)

Here’s a math problem for you:

Brian Griese’s age x 2 + 1 = ???

The answer: 67, which is the number of pass attempts Griese made in last week’s defeat of the Bears at Soldier Field. And the guy completed 38 of those passes. Recently a team in quarterback crisis, the Bucs now, at the very least, are a team with some legitimate entertainment coming from behind center.

11. New Orleans Saints (5)

12. Chicago Bears (10)

13. Washington Redskins (17)

14. Indianapolis Colts (9)

Let’s see—what can we say about the Colts? Well, the distance between the Schnucks in Urbana and the RCA Dome in Indianapolis (where the Colts play) is exactly 120 miles. Scramble the letters in “Indianapolis Colts” and you can come up with the following poetic lines: “Can spot a lion. / I slid.” Oh, and the Colts really seem to stink this year. Bad defense. Bad offense. And bad outlook for the rest of the season.

15. Carolina Panthers (9)

16. Minnesota Vikings (18)

Who would’ve thought that journeyman QB Gus Frerotte would be the guy to give the Vikes the push they needed to get off the schneid? Head coach Brad Childress, apparently. The horned Norsemen are still a far cry from the optimistic pre-season predictions that had them hovering near the top of the league, but they just may be on the way up.

17. New England Patriots (7)

This wasn’t just a loss. Not just a bad week. This was the air being let out of a once-dynastic balloon. On a side note, this was also the week in which I realized that there’s a high probability that Bill Belichick and Dick Cheney are somehow related. Ten bucks to anyone who can show me where the blood lines cross.

18. Jacksonville Jaguars (22)

19. Arizona Cardinals (14)

20. San Francisco 49ers (20)

21. Seattle Seahawks (21)

22. New York Jets (19)

23. Baltimore Ravens (27)

24. Atlanta Falcons (28)

Who are you, you fickle, funny Falcons? One week you look so good. Then next you’re an insult to the sport. And then, week 3, you’re sparkling. Are you playing games with me?

25. Miami Dolphins (29)

26. Cincinnati Bengals (30)

27. Oakland Raiders (23)

28. Houston Texans (25)

29. Cleveland Browns (24)

30. Detroit Lions (26)

31. Kansas City Chiefs (31)

32. St. Louis Rams (32)

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