NFL Rankings: Broncos take over top spot from 49ers

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NFL Rankings: Broncos take over top spot from 49ers

For the third straight week, there's a new No. 1 in our power rankings as the 49ers drop after their humbling experience in Seattle and the Raiders settle in among the bottom third of the league.
 

1 (2) Denver Broncos (12-3) Ten straight wins and a season-high in passing yards for Peyton Manning. Are the Broncos peaking too soon?
2 (3)  Atlanta Falcons (13-2) The previous two times they clinched the NFC's No. 1 overall seed, in 1980 and 2010, the Falcons lost their first playoff game.
3 (5) Seattle Seahawks (10-5) This is no misprint - the Seahawks have won their last three games by a combined score of 150-30.
4 (1) 49ers (10-4-1) Refit. Refocus. Reorganize. In any order. Got it? Good.
5 (6) Green Bay Packers (11-4) Dropping 55 points on Titans one thing, keeping it rolling in playoffs another challenge entirely.
6 (7) New England Patriots (11-4) Pat's hangover from Niners game nearly cost them against lowly Jags.
7 (4) Houston Texans (12-3) Anyone else getting that sinking feeling from the Texans as the postseason approaches?
8 (14) Baltimore Ravens (10-5) Shocking as it sounds, team revolves around Joe Flacco as Ravens are 12-1 when he throws for 300 yards.
9 (10) Minnesota Vikings (9-6) Bigger goal for Vikings - Adrian Peterson surpassing Eric Dickerson, or beating Packers?
10 (8) Indianapolis Colts (10-5) Interim coach Bruce Arians a legit NFL coach of the year candidate.
11 (9) Washington Redskins (9-6) Wait, didn’t Mike Shanahan throw in the towel back in October?
12 (12) Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) In last six wins, Bengals have given up an average of just 10.8 points per game.
13 (11) Dallas Cowboys (8-7) Dez Bryant, nine catches for 224 yards and two TDs, realizing his potential as top three WR.
14 (15) St. Louis Rams (7-7-1) Rookie CB Janoris Jenkins scores his fourth TD of the season, furthering his case for defensive ROY.
15 (16) Chicago Bears (9-6) Is pouncing the Cardinals a matter of too little, too late?
16 (13) New York Giants (8-7) About to join 2009 Steelers as last defending Super Bowl champ to miss playoffs.
17 (18) New Orleans Saints (7-8) Drew Brees first player in NFL history with three consecutive 4,500-yard passing seasons.
18 (20) Miami Dolphins (7-8) Real Hard Knocks - Fish have only been in playoffs once in past 11 seasons.
19 (21) Carolina Panthers (6-9) Kickin' and Bumpin' Icon and Entertainer Cam Newton flashes equal parts shiny smile and ugly true colors.
20 (17) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) Five of Steelers' losses by a mere three points.
21 (26) San Diego Chargers (6-9) Sunday just has to be Norv Turner's finale in San Diego, right? RIGHT?!?
22 (19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) That nice feel-good midseason story replaced by five-game losing streak.
23 (22) Tennessee Titans (5-10) Bud Adams is not happy. Not by a longshot.
24 (23) New York Jets (6-9) NFL player most in need of a fresh start? Paging Mark Sanchez.
25 (24) Cleveland Browns (5-10) Here's a far-fetched theory - Nick Saban leaves Alabama for Cleveland then trades for Rolando McClain. Hey, a lonely Raider Nation can dream, right?
26 (25) Buffalo Bills (5-10) Canisius hoops a hotter commodity than Bills football? Say it ain't so, Joe Ferguson.
27 (27) Arizona Cardinals (5-10) Brian Hoyer. 'Nuff said. 
28 (29) Philadelphia Eagles (4-11) So, about that whole Dream Team thing again…
29 (30) Detroit Lions (4-11) Ndamukong Suh just HAD to like "Scam" Newton's excuse for kicking Tommy Kelly in the grill.
30 (28) Oakland Raiders (4-11) TP Time? Even if he only has a handful of plays, Terrelle Pryor should get some run in San Diego. Unless staff has already decided on position switch or to cut him in offseason.
31 (31) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) Are the locals waiting in joyful hope for the return of Tim Tebow next year, or is Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst a more favored prodigal son?
32 (32) Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) Lose to the Broncos Sunday and the Chiefs "clinch" the No. 1 draft pick.

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

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Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Practically speaking, the 50th loss is no different than the one before or the one after, but this sport is built on milestones, and this one came quickly.

The Giants lost their 50th game on August 12 last year. This season, it was clinched when Ryder Jones grounded out in his fourth career at-bat, handing the Mets a 5-2 win on June 24. 

Bruce Bochy called losing 50 of your first 77 games "hard to believe" and "embarrassing." Johnny Cueto, who went seven strong, said the reality was "hard and sad." Brandon Belt, who got Cueto off the hook for a loss, agreed with his manager.

"That's a pretty good word to use -- it is embarrassing to come out and lose every day, especially with the group of guys we have," Belt said. "When you're losing as much as this, it is embarrassing. We're trying to do whatever we can to turn this thing around."

Lately, that has meant changes to the roster. It is officially audition season, and in that respect, it was not a particularly inspiring day for the bullpen. The Giants felt they would have a better mix this year, but it hasn't played out. Instead, they're once again trying to find pieces for the next successful Giants bullpen.

With Hunter Strickland suspended and Derek Law in the minors, two young relievers, a middle-innings stalwart, and a newcomer pitched the final two frames. They gave up four runs.

Sam Dyson was the first on the mound in the eighth. Belt had homered a few minutes earlier, tying a good starter's duel. Dyson gave up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson and walked Asdrubal Cabrera before throwing two good sliders past Yoenis Cespedes for the strikeout. With two lefties coming up and the go-ahead run still on third, Bochy turned to Steven Okert. He immediately gave up a seeing-eye RBI single to Jay Bruce. Wilmer Flores doubled off George Kontos later in the frame to make it 3-1. 

In the ninth, Kyle Crick showed some of the wildness that kept him in the minors for seven years. He, too, gave up a leadoff triple, a sin you always pay for. A walk helped put another run into scoring position and a wild pitch extended the Mets’ lead to four. 

Before the game, Bochy talked of getting an extended look at Jones. He was 0 for 4 in his first big league game but he’ll be back out there tomorrow. It’s time to fight for a job, and the same holds true of some relievers who didn’t fare well Saturday. It is a group with a closer locked into a longterm deal and little else decided. 

Are Strickland or Law eighth-inning guys? Will Dyson be a worthwhile reclamation project? Will Kontos be back, and will he carve out a different role? Are Okert and Josh Osich capable of giving Bochy lefties he trusts? Is Crick’s improvement in Triple-A a sign of things to come? There are many questions to be answered over the next three months. 

“This is a good time for them, this is what players get up here for, to show what they can do,” Bochy said. “Because of our situation, we’re going to take a look at these guys and we know there are going to be growing pains.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The promotion of an intriguing prospect can bring a certain buzz to the ballpark. It didn’t last long. 

The debut of Ryder Jones came in the latest flat performance from the Giants, who collapsed late and fell 5-2 to the Mets. The loss was their 50th of the season. They did not lose their 50th game last season until August 12. 

With the score tied in the eighth, Curtis Granderson crushed a leadoff triple into the alley. Sam Dyson walked the next batter and then whiffed Yoenis Cespedes, but Jay Bruce greeted Steven Okert with an RBI single to right. It kept going poorly from there. 

Here are five things to know from a cool day by the water … 

—- Jones grounded out to second in his first at-bat and then flied out to center, grounded out to first, and grounded out to second. He had one chance in the field, starting a double play that ended the second inning.  

—- Johnny Cueto seems to have turned a corner. Over his past two starts, he has allowed just three earned runs over 14 innings. Whether they trade him or not, the Giants certainly could use a nice little hot streak for the next six weeks. 

—- A few seconds after Bruce Bochy shook Cueto’s hand, Brandon Belt got him off the hook for a loss. He hit the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh into the seats in left-center, tying the game. The homer was Belt’s 14th. He’s on pace for 29. 

—- The Mets got eight one-run innings out of Jacob deGrom, who is quietly the most reliable of a star-studded rotation. He struck out seven and gave up just four hits. 

—- If Madison Bumgarner wants another Silver Slugger Award, he’ll have to chase down deGrom, who hit a homer in his last start. His single in the third was his 10th hit, and he finished the day with a .294 average.