NFL Week 10 Power Rankings

Five Quick Hits

* In the NFL, success involves a degree of luck, and the Giants' is taking a turn for the worse as injuries to key players continue to pile up.

* How many four-TD games can one man have? It seems like LaDainian Tomlinson lives in the end zone.

* Chris Gardocki's record for punts without a block is impressive, but we don't need to hear about it every week. What a tired, overplayed stat.

* You know FOX doesn't think highly of its viewers when it advertises for a commercial.

* Albert Haynesworth is (probably) coming back next week. Watch your forehead.

***

NFL officials, by and large, do an incredible job, so it's noteworthy when they make obvious mistakes. The most obvious of those come on replay reviews, when officials pervert the definition of indisputable visual evidence, ignore indisputable visual evidence, or simply issue make-up calls. Early in the third quarter of the Washington-Philly game, Brian Westbrook caught a pass on the Washington two-yard-line, then dropped the ball, which was picked up by Washington LB Lemar Marshall.

The officials ruled it a catch, down by contact, but Washington challenged, and replays clearly showed that Westbrook dropped the ball before any defender touched him. Referee Ron Winter, however, inexplicably upheld the call on the field, ruling that Westbrook was down by contact. The replays seemed to indicate that Westbrook had fumbled, and one could see how Winter might have ruled an incomplete catch, but the down by contact ruling was indefensible.

Referees trained by the league should have no trouble doing the same job that announcers and viewers at home can do with the benefit of replay.

Moving on to the power rankings, brackets show previous rank.

1. Indianapolis Colts [1] — Played better against Buffalo than the score shows, but the Colts are only +60 in point differential, which ranks fourth in the AFC and seventh in the NFL, behind 5-4 Dallas (+76) and nearly 100 behind Chicago (+152). Indianapolis has only won by more than a touchdown twice this season, against Houston in Week 2 and Washington in Week 7.

2. Chicago Bears [3] — So they're not the most consistent team in the league. Nobody — including the Colts — wants to play them. In their sloppy win against the Giants, Chicago shut down Eli Manning on defense and converted half of its third downs on offense. When Rex Grossman is on, I don't know if anyone can beat this club.

3. Denver Broncos [4] — In their first six games, both teams combined for 123 points. In the three games since, the Broncos and their opponents have combined for 146 — more than doubling their previous output. Some of that has to do with playing the Colts, but what happened to that record-setting defense?

4. Baltimore Ravens [5] — In Steve McNair's return to Tennessee, 16 of Baltimore's 19 first downs came through the air. Throwing is probably a good strategy for the Ravens, because Jamal Lewis is averaging 3.4 yards per rush for the second season in a row. Lewis is finished as an effective runner in the NFL.

5. San Diego Chargers [7] — Nate Kaeding made seven extra points this week. There's a temptation to overrate good offensive teams, but the Chargers haven't held an opponent below 20 in their last four games, and that 545-yard, 41-point debacle against Cincinnati isn't encouraging heading into their biggest game of the season, at Denver.

6. New England Patriots [2] — Don't look now, but New England might not win the AFC East. The Patriots are only up by one game, and an upset or two could have them looking up at the Jets. The team already misses Rodney Harrison, who is likely to be out for another month.

7. New York Giants [6] — I don't have anything to say about Eli Manning that I haven't said before. Little Manning and Michael Vick are the two most overrated quarterbacks in the league. When either one has a good game — just one game — people act like they're the second coming of John Unitas. Damon Huard strings together four games like that and people wonder about whether he should start.

8. New Orleans Saints [8] — Combined with Pittsburgh to produce nearly 1,000 yards of offense. Both teams converted more than half of their third downs, and New Orleans had a remarkable 29 first downs in the game. The Saints have allowed a league-low nine sacks, but they're only averaging 3.4 yards per carry, and Reggie Bush has been a big disappointment on the field so far.

9. Kansas City Chiefs [9] — You could blame the offense. Huard completed under 40% of his passes and got sacked three times. You could blame the defense. In four previous games as starter, Joey Harrington had thrown at least two interceptions in all of them, and he didn't have any against Kansas City. Or you could blame the Dolphins, who have a great defense and didn't make mistakes when they had the ball.

10. Seattle Seahawks [13] — Can effectively wrap up the division with a win at San Francisco in Week 11. Maurice Morris had his first good game of the season this weekend, rushing for 124 yards and an average of nearly six yards per carry, but Shaun Alexander should be back soon. It will be interesting to see if Alexander, who was overworked last season, ever returns to his MVP form. He's already missed a lot more games than projected.

11. Carolina Panthers [14] — What an ugly game on Monday night. It's hard to take the Panthers seriously while their offense is so inconsistent and so dependent on one player. Keyshawn Johnson has helped a little bit, but he's also become the most fumble-prone wide receiver in the NFL.

12. Philadelphia Eagles [15] — Let's not get too excited about their win against a punchless Washington team. Donovan McNabb went 4-of-16 in the first half, and Ladell Betts averaged over four yards per carry. The Eagles are last in the NFL in time of possession, giving up nearly six minutes per game.

13. Dallas Cowboys [16] — Tony Romo has been exceptional, with the second-highest passer rating in the league, trailing only Peyton Manning. The Cowboys are ranked third in total defense, second in third down percentage, and second in time of possession. Last week's loss to Washington notwithstanding, this has become a very dangerous team.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars [11] — Conversation in my house on Sunday: "A team with aspirations of winning its division can't afford to get swept by Houston." "No one can afford to get swept by Houston."

15. Cincinnati Bengals [12] — They've lost five of their last six games, and I feel kind of stupid for keeping them in the top half of the rankings, but those losses came against teams with a combined record of 32-20, and the only one that wasn't close was a month and a half ago.

16. Atlanta Falcons [10] — This was a big weekend for upsets in both college and professional football, but the Falcons are falling apart. This is not a team that responds well to adversity, and it's now lost two in a row and three of the last five. The defense played well against Cleveland, but the offense was a disaster. Vick had a 43.4 passer rating, lowering his season average to 73.2, which trails three guys who have been benched.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers [21] — Not to take anything away from a guy who had two runs of more than 70 yards this weekend, but how did Fast Willie Parker get caught from behind twice?

18. New York Jets [23] — Sweet win for Eric Mangini, establishing his team with a huge division victory against his old mentor, Bill Belichick. The Jets won by putting pressure on Tom Brady, sacking him four times, a season high for Brady. Maybe Mangini saw something in practice during his days in New England.

19. Green Bay Packers [22] — Three wins in their last four games, including road victories against the Dolphins and Vikings. The Packers, once invincible at home, are 1-3 at Lambeau Field but have a winning record on the road.

20. Miami Dolphins [29] — No team has been more impressive in the last two weeks. Following the bye, the Dolphins went into Chicago and won a blowout, then upset Kansas City at home. Miami is second in total defense this season, trailing only the Bears, and old man Jason Taylor has eight sacks.

21. Washington Redskins [19] — Better late than never with the quarterback change, but it's too late to save their season. The secondary is just getting torn apart, with teams really starting to pick on Sean Taylor and Carlos Rogers.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [18] — It wore down at the end, but you can't blame the defense for their loss against Carolina. Ronde Barber had a monster game, and Dewayne White ( filling in for Simeon Rice) made some really nice plays. Isn't Jon Gruden supposed to be an offensive coach? Four years after his departure, this team's successes can still be traced to Tony Dungy.

23. St. Louis Rams [20] — Four losses in a row. So much for being a serious contender. The offense is in place — Steven Jackson is really coming into his own — but the defense needs some serious work this offseason. The Rams haven't held an opponent below 20 points since September.

24. Minnesota Vikings [17] — Three losses in a row since their big win over Seattle, and the offense seems useless. The Vikings have dropped to 25th in points scored, Chester Taylor leads the team in receptions, and no one is averaging 40 receiving yards per game. Troy Williamson, who fans hoped might replace Randy Moss, has had a total of one catch in the last two games.

25. Buffalo Bills [24] — Most of the teams in this area of the rankings seem too low, but Buffalo has lost four of its last five games. And while three of those losses were to the Patriots, Bears, and Colts — which doesn't sound too bad — they came by a combined 56 points, which is pretty bad.

26. Cleveland Browns [25] — Against Atlanta, they only managed nine first downs, including 2-of-14 on third downs. They lost two fumbles, only posted 236 yards of total offense, and Charlie Frye was sacked five times. I guess the defense played well, but really, how do you win with an offensive performance like that?

27. Houston Texans [26] — This is very simple. When you are +4 in turnovers, you will win, as long as you are not the Cardinals. Houston had pressure on David Garrard all afternoon, netting four sacks to go with their four interceptions.

28. Tennessee Titans [28] — Steve McNair threw the winning pass to Derrick Mason, and the Titans lost. That has to kill Tennessee fans. Did anyone else notice that the announcers called Vince Young "McNair" about half a dozen times? Don Criqui also called James Brown "J.R."

29. San Francisco 49ers [30] — Frank Gore had a monster game, and the defense played well again, containing Detroit's offensive weapons and forcing three turnovers. The 49ers are 4-5, and while they're not playoff contenders, they've already doubled their win total from last season, and there's a decent chance they have a better record than your favorite team.

30. Detroit Lions [27] — Couldn't get their defense off the field, allowing 10 third-down conversions and giving up an incredible 17½-minute deficit in time of possession. Their three biggest stars — Jon Kitna, Kevin Jones, and Roy Williams — all lost fumbles against San Francisco.

31. Oakland Raiders [31] — The defense had another good game, and the offense played better than usual, but they still lost. If Warren Sapp keeps playing the way he has the last few weeks, he could be a contender for Comeback Player of the Year.

32. Arizona Cardinals [32] — Against the Cowboys, Edgerrin James averaged four yards per carry for the first time all season, and Larry Fitzgerald — playing in his first game since returning from injury — led the team in receiving. To make up for that, Matt Leinart threw two interceptions and James lost a fumble.

Comments and Conversation

November 19, 2006

Jasmine Johnson:

For the steelers, Fast Willie Parker was just caught because someone was already down on the other end of the field

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