Tuesday, November 12th, 2002
Five Quick Hits
* We just finished Week 10, and the Packers' magic number for the
playoffs is two. They can clinch the division next week with a win
and a Lions loss.
* A lot of people seem puzzled by the Eagles' 1-3 record against the
worst division in the NFL, the AFC South. But consider who they're used to
playing: the Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins; they all
have good defenses, but you don't need to score 30 points to beat them.
Philadelphia has outscored division opponents 98-23 and all others have outscored
them 130-116. When they have to put a lot of points on the board, the Eagles
* If you don't believe in karma, you haven't been watching the Bears.
This season full of unlikely losses has got to be payback for all those miracle
wins last year.
* Referees, enough with the dramatic pause between "automatic" and "first
down." You sound like you're either trying to show off or imitating William
Shatner. Either way, it's bad. Just say the three words normally and
* I like to help out coaches, so here's this week's tip. Everyone can benefit
from this advice, but it's aimed mostly at a white-haired egomaniac in the
midwest. It's really just a list: Doug Williams, Jeff Hostetler,
Tom Brady. A list of backup quarterbacks who were successful and who
remained starters when the previous guy returned from injury. Oh yeah, and
they all won Super Bowls. Williams and Brady were Super Bowl MVPs. This doesn't
even count Kurt Warner...
On to the Power Rankings. Number in parenthesis indicates previous rank.
1) Green Bay Packers (1) -- For the zillionth time, Brett Favre
had a fabulous game. If he hadn't been bothered by a thumb injury in 1999
and 2000, young fans might take it for granted that he -- not Joe Montana
-- was the greatest quarterback of all-time. And anyone who didn't already
consider Favre a contender for that title has to alter her/his position now.
2) San Francisco 49ers (5) -- As the season goes on, other
good teams are fading away, and San Francisco looks a little better every
week. Green Bay, that noise behind you is the 49ers announcing that you'll
have some competition in the playoffs. If there's any justice, we'll see
two of the NFL's best quarterbacks go head-to-head at Lambeau Field -- hopefully
in the snow -- in the NFC Championship Game.
3) New Orleans Saints (4) -- Okay, so maybe that San Francisco
entry is a little unfair to 7-2 New Orleans, which hasn't faded away quite
yet. But you have to admit it's alarming that everyone they've played has
scored at least 20 points against the Saints. That's not true for any other
team in the league.
4) Denver Broncos (2) -- Injuries played a big role in the
loss on Monday night, but no team can win when its defensive line gets dominated
like they did against the Raiders. Oakland's play-calling clearly threw them
off, and the whole team was worn out and demoralized by the second half.
5) Pittsburgh Steelers (8) -- Through 10 weeks, Joey Porter
is the defensive MVP of the league. He's tied for the league lead in
interceptions (4) and has returned them for 153 yards, an average of almost
40 yards per pick. And against the Falcons, he recorded his 7th sack of the
season and forced a fumble. He's faster than some wide receivers and stronger
than some tight ends. He and Tampa's Derrick Brooks are making this seem
like the 1980s, when outside linebackers had as much impact as anyone but
6) Atlanta Falcons (11) -- My Packers/49ers dream notwithstanding,
this team is a Super Bowl contender.
t7) Philadelphia Eagles (3) -- Donovan McNabb had an awful
game, but a lot of blame has to go to OT Tra Thomas, too. Rookie DE Dwight
Freeney destroyed him on Sunday.
t7) San Diego Chargers (6) -- Still playing well, but they've
got a killer schedule.
t7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7) -- After the upcoming game against
Carolina, they'll finally be tested during a three-game stretch in which
they play Green Bay (1), New Orleans (3), and Atlanta (6).
10) Kansas City Chiefs (9) -- Not quite the shootout we anticipated
in San Francisco.
11) Oakland Raiders (13) -- For one game, Rich Gannon was Joe
Montana, Dan Marino, and John Elway rolled into one.
12) New England Patriots (14) -- Top three clutch QBs in the
NFL: Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Steve McNair. In that order.
13) St. Louis Rams (10) -- Dropped from sixth when I learned
that Marshall Faulk will probably miss next week's game.
14) New York Jets (16) -- Remind me why Vinny Testaverde was
the starter at the beginning of the season?
15) Tennessee Titans (19) -- Getting Derrick Mason back has
been a huge boost.
16) Buffalo Bills (15) -- If you discount their win against
non-Fiedler Miami, the teams they've beaten are 9-27.
17) Baltimore Ravens (17) -- Does anyone else wonder how far
Baltimore could have gone last year if Jamal Lewis had been healthy?
18) Cleveland Browns (18) -- Wouldn't it be awkward if the
Browns draft Willis McGahee next year?
19) Miami Dolphins (12) -- You know, Miami, Ryan Leaf is available.
20) Jacksonville Jaguars (26) -- Each of the last two seasons,
Jacksonville has gotten really hot around this time of the year, so I'm giving
them an irrational boost into the top-20.
21) New York Giants (21) -- Without Tiki Barber, the Giants'
might be winless. I figure he's worth at least a field goal per game for
them, and all of their wins have come by a touchdown or less.
22) Indianapolis Colts (24) -- No one in the league right now
-- not even Favre --- is as good as Peyton Manning at playaction and pump-fakes.
That man has his fundamentals down.
23) Washington Redskins (20) -- Awful tackling against
Jacksonville. Marvin Lewis can't wait for Michigan State to call.
24) Seattle Seahawks (28) -- Matt Hasselbeck held off Jeff
George for another week.
25) Arizona Cardinals (22) -- After winning four of five --
with the loss to 6-3 San Diego -- they have dropped three in a row to division
opponents, all by double digits.
26) Detroit Lions (23) -- They got Favred.
27) Minnesota Vikings (30) -- Well, now Randy Moss is playing
well, and they're still losing. Maybe they should, you know, play defense.
t28) Carolina Panthers (29) -- Close games against good teams
each of the last two weeks, but they've still lost six in a row.
t28) Chicago Bears (27) -- Close games against good teams each
of the last two weeks, but they've still lost seven in a row.
30) Dallas Cowboys (25) -- Over the last three games, they've
averaged 9 points. The Bengals have averaged 29.7.
31) Cincinnati Bengals (31) -- Since they're 1-8, I'm already
thinking ahead to the draft. And this is what I'm thinking: Mike Brown, don't
condemn Byron Leftwich to the black hole that is your team. Trade for a veteran
like Kordell Stewart or Testaverde.
32) Houston Texans (32) -- This happens to expansion teams.
They'll be better in a year or two.