NFL Week 12 Power Rankings

Five Quick Hits

* There's no substitute for football in the snow. Seeing the white field in Denver was like getting my presents a month early.

* Best football moment from the holiday: Dallas DB Terence Newman intercepting a pass, then giving the ball to a little girl in the stands.

* Second-best: six-way tie involving Peyton Manning.

* I really liked Jim Nantz in the studio, but he's been a disaster in the broadcast booth.

* I complain about television all the time, so here's something positive: eBay commercials. They're sweet.

Rather than asking whether Brett Favre's 200 consecutive games started is a streak as impressive as Cal Ripken's, the question should be whether Favre's streak is as impressive as Jim Marshall's. ESPN would love for you to forget that Marshall, a Pro Bowl defensive end with the Vikings, holds the NFL record for consecutive games played.

Favre is probably as tough as anyone in the NFL today. His streak is very impressive, and through it all, Favre has played at an exceptionally high level. His mark of 200 consecutive starts -- and counting -- may never be matched by another quarterback. But Marshall's streak is unlikely to be matched by anyone.

He played in 282 consecutive games over 21 seasons with the Browns and Vikings. Add 20 playoff games, and that number rises to over 300. It's also worth noting that defensive ends hit someone on every play; Favre, in contrast, has been sacked fewer times than any other starting QB this season. And Marshall weighed only 235 pounds, so he took a beating on the line. Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant called Marshall "a physiological impossibility." Marshall played while recovering from (among others) pneumonia, a shotgun wound, and ulcers so severe he was hospitalized for treatment.

Brett Favre is one of the truly good guys in pro sports. He's a cinch Hall of Famer, an iron man, a joy to watch, and by all accounts, a genuinely nice person. But his streak is overblown, and it doesn't come close to matching Marshall's. Respect for the game of football and its history on the professional level demands that we acknowledge the NFL's true consecutive-games record. Two hundred is a nice, round number, but it doesn't have the same ring as 283.

On to the last power rankings of November. Brackets show previous rank.

1. New England Patriots [1] -- Defensive football at its best was on display when New England beat Baltimore this week. The final score shows a Patriots blowout, but for three quarters, the game was under lockdown and neither team found the endzone. While Kyle Boller was passing 35 times, the Pats were handing off, and Baltimore's defense simply wore down. Playing on a wet field, New England pounded the ball with Corey Dillon and didn't give the Ravens anything on defense. It's not as easy as it sounds, but if you can pull it off, it does the trick. Great game by two very good teams. The Patriots' coaching staff continues to stand out.

2. Philadelphia Eagles [3] -- In 1999, Donovan McNabb was a rookie, and Doug Pederson was Philadelphia's leading passer. The Eagles went 5-11. One year later, Pederson was backing up Tim Couch for 3-13 Cleveland, and McNabb threw 99.8% of Philly's passes. The team went 11-5 and McNabb went to the Pro Bowl. Each of the next three years, the Eagles won at least 11 games and McNabb won a trip to Hawaii. Terrell Owens is awesome, but in my mind, McNabb is the guy who makes Philadelphia's team. Owens is icing on the cake.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers [2] -- It doesn't necessarily mean anything that Ben Roethlisberger has struggled for three games in a row. When I've seen Roethlisberger this year, I have been impressed by his ability and shocked by his poise. But is he in the same league as Peyton Manning or Daunte Culpepper or Tom Brady? Right now, no. He's close. Big Ben reminds me of a prime-of-their-careers Bernie Kosar or Phil Simms. Since the phenomenal rookie QB presumably hasn't yet reached the prime of his career, the sky's the limit. Roethlisberger acts nothing like a rookie on the field, but he's still got some learning to do, and he's not yet elite -- just very good.

4. Indianapolis Colts [4] -- Really, what can you say at this point? Enjoy watching Peyton Manning, folks. As I've been saying all year, it's a rare privilege to see an offense as good as the Colts'. When you are old, you will tell young people about seeing Peyton Manning play.

5. San Diego Chargers [6] -- LaDainian Tomlinson was back to his 2003 form, catching 10 passes against the Chiefs on Sunday. Except in 2003, Tomlinson averaged more than two yards per carry. Every week I think to myself, "San Diego isn't really the fifth- or sixth-best team in the NFL. Denver would beat them head-to-head." But the Chargers keep winning -- five in a row now -- and the Broncos have lost three of their last five, and I always get in trouble when I go with my gut instead of my head. My head says the Chargers are the fifth-best team in the league as we enter Week 13.

6. Baltimore Ravens [5] -- Lost to a good team, on the road, in a game that was closer than the score makes it appear. But the offensive game plan stunk. Even if New England shuts down the run, you have to stick with it. Kyle Boller averaged less than three yards per pass attempt, and anything under six is unacceptable.

7. Green Bay Packers [7] -- Against St. Louis, the defense bent, but didn't break. Largely overlooked among the "200" brouhaha were Favre's extension of his streak for consecutive games with a TD pass, which is now second in history, and a new record for consecutive seasons with at least 20 TD passes. In both cases, Favre overtook Dan Marino, and John Madden made a good point, noting what a credit it is to Marino that it seems like whenever a record falls, he's the one who held it.

8. Atlanta Falcons [8] -- Four wins in a row, and the close ones count just as much as the Colts' wins do. Atlanta has outscored its opponents by just 17 points this season -- less than 5-6 Buffalo -- but has also beaten San Diego, Denver, and Tampa Bay when the Bucs were on a roll. The Falcons clearly have a knack for winning, but until they show that they can really put away mediocre opponents, the Falcons will have to be content with this sort of ranking. They won't face another good team until the playoffs. And, since Atlanta plays in the NFC, maybe not even then.

9. Buffalo Bills [12] -- Four wins in the last five games. The loss was to New England. The Bills can't make the playoffs at this point, but they're playing like they deserve to.

10. New York Jets [10] -- Get well soon, Chad Pennington. No one was too excited about Quincy Carter moving up to first on the depth chart, but Brooks Bollinger moving up to second is real cause for concern. Defense has been carrying this team recently. I haven't gotten a good look at Jonathan Vilma, but he always seems to be around the ball.

11. Minnesota Vikings [14] -- Their recent three-game losing streak has been replaced by a two-game winning streak. The defense remains a definite weak point -- Fred Taylor gained 147 rushing yards and averaged nearly seven per attempt -- but at 7-4, Minnesota's a virtual lock for the playoffs. I had a dream on Saturday night that Kenechi Udeze was in the Hall of Fame. Seriously.

12. Denver Broncos [9] -- When the season began, the Week 13 matchup between Denver and San Diego probably wasn't circled on your calendar. Circle it now. Decisive game in the AFC playoff picture, and it should be pretty well-played.

13. Cincinnati Bengals [18] -- Scored double-digits in each quarter against Cleveland. The Bengals hit the scoreboard twice each in the first and third quarters, and three times each in the second and fourth. I believe it is unprecedented for a team to score more than 50 points in a game despite three interceptions by its quarterback.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars [13] -- Thanks for playing, Jacksonville, but your playoff dream is over. The Jags do not really deserve to remain this high in the rankings, having lost three of their last four games -- with the win over sorry Detroit -- but no one else really deserves to be this high, either. It's the top 12, and then a bunch of teams pretty close. Don't be surprised by big moves around the middle of the rankings.

15. Houston Texans [15] -- Scored a season-high 31 points against Tennessee. Domanick Davis and David Carr had nice games, but give a lot of credit to the defense that forced three Steve McNair turnovers.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [11] -- Against an opponent that admirably shut down the running game, Brian Griese simply threw the ball to RB Michael Pittman, who responded with 134 receiving yards and two TDs. It would be easy to blame the normally stout Tampa defense, which allowed 100 rushing yards to Nick Goings and 10 yards per pass to Jake Delhomme, for this week's loss. The burden, though, is on the offense, which turned the ball over three times and only produced 14 points -- not including seven for Carolina on an interception return for a touchdown. The Bucs should have won, but critical errors and an underprepared defense cost them the game. The responsibility for fixing that sort of thing ultimately rests with Jon Gruden, and he's had more than a year now.

17. Tennessee Titans [20] -- Steve McNair isn't the concern. Tennessee's next two games are against Indianapolis and Kansas City. The real challenge falls to the defense.

18. St. Louis Rams [16] -- Madden was right about that phony timeout that nullified a Rams turnover. No whistle blew before or during the play. When the action was over, it was suddenly announced that Mike Martz called timeout, and St. Louis got third-and-one instead of a lost fumble. That stretches credibility, and no rule should allow for something like that. If a timeout was called before the play began, the whistle should blow before or immediately after the ball is snapped.

19. Seattle Seahawks [19] -- I know they fell behind early, but a 14-point halftime deficit isn't the end of the world. Abandoning the run, going with Matt Hasselbeck instead of Shaun Alexander, is.

20. Kansas City Chiefs [17] -- Four losses in a row, two on the road and two to great teams, since they beat 9-2 Atlanta and 8-3 Indianapolis in consecutive weeks. When a team is as good offensively as KC, it's usually at least .500 or so even if the defense is awful. Kansas City is first in the NFL in total offense and third in scoring offense, but 3-8. The defense is bad, but not that bad. The Chiefs just can't close out games.

21. Carolina Panthers [28] -- Three wins in a row. Against teams with a combined 9-24 record.

22. Arizona Cardinals [22] -- Shaun King was pulled in favor of Josh McCown, who threw two interceptions in only ten passes. Larry Croom led the team with 25 rushing yards. A scoreboard may not be necessary when the Cardinals travel to Detroit next week.

23. Cleveland Browns [21] -- Hung with Cincinnati, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Had to score 48 points to do so, which is shameful.

24. Oakland Raiders [29] -- In their last three games, the Raiders have beaten Carolina and Denver on the road, sandwiching a close loss to San Diego between the two. The offense was shockingly effective against Denver's defense. Norv Turner used to coach Champ Bailey, and the Raiders went after him all night. Torched him. It seems like that happens about every other Broncos game I watch. Bailey may be the most overrated player in the NFL.

25. New York Giants [23] -- I'm anything but a Kurt Warner fan. I'm on record saying before the season that I thought he was done. Warner's been a little better than I expected, but nothing special. However, I have difficulty believing that Eli Manning gives the Giants a better chance to win than Warner does right now.

26. Dallas Cowboys [30] -- You play to win. That means you start Vinny Testaverde. Trust the coaching staff to know what it's got in Drew Henson. Besides, sitting behind Testaverde didn't seem to hurt Chad Pennington.

27. New Orleans Saints [25] -- Offensively, New Orleans was respectable against a team with a good defense. On the other side of the ball, unfortunately, the Saints were unable to slow their opponents, including Atlanta's weak passing game (30th entering this weekend). NO's 312 points allowed is 31st in the league, ahead of only 1-10 San Francisco.

28. Washington Redskins [26] -- Pittsburgh has a terrific defense, so Washington's abysmal offensive performance wouldn't be too troubling, except that it looks like that against everyone else, too.

29. Detroit Lions [27] -- Joey Harrington or Mike McMahon? Does it matter?

30. Chicago Bears [24] -- If the rest of the team were any good, the unsettled QB situation would be a nuisance. In this case, however, it is doom.

31. Miami Dolphins [31] -- Big game from the defense, especially Jason Taylor. Nice win for Jim Bates.

32. San Francisco 49ers [32] -- Maybe after this season, John York will replace Dennis Erickson with another underqualified white guy. Or replace his whole team with guys from the CFL and Arena League who won't want big contracts. Anything to save a buck.

Comments and Conversation

December 1, 2004

Ric:

I can’t believe you would say Farves streak is not that impressive. He’s the man with the golden hand. Look at his touchdown streak. There is no one better than Farve. You need to give him the utmost respect or don’t even bring him up in your article. Getting back on the subject, the Falcons are a great team. There plenty better than Baltimore. You must not watch football often. The Falcons still have some tuff games. They play at Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Seattle. That’s a real easy schedule Einstein. The Falcons just know how to win. Vick has won his last 9 out of 12 games. That’s all there is to it. Give us the respect we deserve.

February 1, 2006

JAY:

Who wore # 12 for the Carolina Panthers in their history? If possible mostly likely 1998 who #12 for the Carolina Panthers?

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