Tuesday, October 28th, 2003
Five Quick Hits
* Memo to television people: we all hate it when you show alternate camera
angles on kickoff returns. Stop.
* Loved the Sunday night graphic comparing teams who throw long with teams
that rely on the short-passing attack. Defenses have adjusted to the "West
Coast" offense, and now teams that can stretch the field are the ones with
* Television announcers have one job during the week: prepare for that weekend's
game. I don't think pronouncing players' names correctly is too much to ask.
* Suzy Kolber is the only sideline reporter who actually adds anything to
* Boo-hiss for Brian Billick's rant against instant replay. I'd like to see
it enforced more consistently by different refs, but I'd hate to see it done
away with entirely.
Moving on to the rankings, brackets indicate a team's previous rank.
1) Kansas City Chiefs  -- The K.C. offensive line is the best the
NFL has seen since the 1998 Broncos. It gives Trent Green time to throw and
opens huge holes for Priest Holmes. The defense is solid at every position,
ridiculously opportunistic, well-coached, and maybe a little lucky. The Chiefs
won't go 16-0, but Sunday night left no doubt that they are the best team
in the league right now.
2) Tennessee Titans  -- Tennessee is solid in every phase of the
game. Steve McNair leads an offense that has scored at least 30 points for
five games in a row. The defense is good and will only improve as it gets
more comfortable. Even the special teams have a star, punter Craig Hentrich.
The Titans will contend all season.
3) Indianapolis Colts  -- With the offense clicking on all cylinders,
the defense almost let a weak team steal the game. Indy's defense got a lot
of hype after a few good games early in the season, but now it looks like
either those games were flukes or other teams have caught on. The Texans,
even with the impressive emergence of Domanick Davis, are hardly an offensive
4) New England Patriots  -- The defense had another sensational
game (or was it another terrible game by Cleveland's offense?). Kevin Faulk
has really stepped up as the lead RB, and Tom Brady played a solid game --
reminiscent of his 2001 campaign -- against the Browns, but I worry about
New England's offense and I'm uncomfortable having them ranked so high.
5) Minnesota Vikings  -- I am suddenly very worried about the Vikings.
Randy Moss has looked unstoppable this season, even in this week's loss to
the Giants, and I hope that won't change now that the Vikings are no longer
undefeated. At any given time, there are some players in the NFL who fans
are privileged to watch. So far this season, the guys at the top of that
list are Moss, Dante Hall, Peyton Manning, and maybe Priest Holmes or McNair.
6) St. Louis Rams  -- Suddenly look like Super Bowl contenders,
but I worry about injuries. Kyle Turley looked fine against the Steelers,
but he was hurt the week before. This week, Pro Bowl lock Leonard Little
left the game with a bruised shoulder. Those guys have to stay healthy.
7) Miami Dolphins  -- Miami's defense smothered San Diego in Tempe.
The Chargers just weren't up to the challenge, and I got bored with the game
almost as quickly as Al Michaels and John Madden did. Fortunately, there
was a "Married With Children" re-run on UPN.
8) Carolina Panthers  -- Two guys named Steve carry the Panther
offense. One is Stephen Davis, the motivated RB who has been reborn outside
Steve Spurrier's passing offense. The other is Steve Smith, a special-teamer
who has emerged as Carolina's primary receiving threat this year. The defense
and special teams remain among the league's best.
9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  -- Consistently rebound from losses,
but can they win two-straight? Responded to last week's defensive meltdown
in San Francisco by limiting Troy Hambrick to 25 rushing yards and intercepting
Quincy Carter twice. Key matchup at Carolina in two weeks.
10) Dallas Cowboys  -- The overachieving offense finally met its
match in Tampa Bay, but I'm wary of dismissing the Cowboys too quickly after
it took me so long to take them seriously.
11) Philadelphia Eagles  -- The announcers leapt to Donovan McNabb's
defense on Sunday, but I didn't think he looked particularly sharp. He threw
several bad incompletions when receivers were open, and other times, completed
passes, but failed to hit the receiver in stride, minimizing yards after
the catch. Correll Buckhalter played well, but I still think Brian Westbrook
is Andy Reid's best option at running back.
12) Green Bay Packers  -- Some of the best runners in history
have had terrible fumbling problems: Eric Dickerson, Franco Harris, and Tony
Dorsett all come to mind. Nonetheless, Ahman Green needs to stop putting
the ball on the ground.
13) New York Giants  -- I firmly believe that their offense turned
in an excellent performance just to spite me for shouting about how bad it
is. In any case, it will take more than one week to convince me. I liked
the PrimeTime line comparing Jim Fassel to Wayne Fontes and Rasputin,
although I give Fassel the edge in both cases.
14) Denver Broncos  -- One more tough game (New England at home)
before the bye. Hopefully, they'll have a real quarterback again soon. They
also miss Ian Gold in the linebacking corps.
15) Seattle Seahawks  -- They're still 5-2, but what happened
to the defense against Cincinnati? I didn't see the game, and I just don't
know how they let the Bengals do that to their defense.
16) Baltimore Ravens  -- If I were coaching against the Ravens,
I would put eight men in the box on every first- and second-down. Make the
Ravens win with Kyle Boller.
17) San Francisco 49ers  -- I still don't believe in San Francisco,
and I nearly put the Jets in this spot for their momentum and gutty performance
against a decent team. The 49ers have a quarterback controversy and aren't
getting enough production from their top WR. The passing game needs to be
a lot stronger if they're going to go anywhere this season.
18) Cincinnati Bengals  -- Ranking the Bengals this high is
nerve-wracking. Jon Kitna has played well for the last year. I don't think
Marvin Lewis could justify benching him next year to make room for Carson
Palmer. Keep an eye on this situation.
19) Cleveland Browns  -- True football fans hope there aren't
really 13 teams worse than the Browns, but after the dismal games from Pittsburgh
and Buffalo last weekend, I won't keep them ahead of Cleveland. The Browns
might even have beaten New England with a healthy William Green. All they
needed was a touchdown.
20) Washington Redskins  -- Better defense, less Fun 'n Gun.
Washington just doesn't have the tools to consistently outperform top teams
21) New York Jets  -- Never bench the hot hand. No explanation
will satisfy my disapproval of Herm Edwards' decision to bench Vinny Testaverde
for Chad Pennington in the second-quarter. Defense was ugly against the Eagles,
and they're in big trouble if John Abraham is out for any period of time.
22) Buffalo Bills  -- Atrocious on offense and defense against
Kansas City. They consistently failed to pressure Trent Green, gave up big
pass plays, and couldn't stop Priest Holmes. That begins with the defensive
line. On offense, I think most of the blame has to go to Drew Bledsoe and
whoever was calling the plays. Joe Theismann was right in pointing out that
they miss the speed of Peerless Price. Another playmaker might make a huge
difference for Buffalo.
23) New Orleans Saints  -- It wouldn't be unreasonable to move
the Saints higher after they took Carolina to overtime, but their run defense
clearly left something to be desired, Joe Horn isn't 100%, and the Panthers
seem to be fading a bit in any case.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers  -- Jerome Bettis is still getting
overhyped, and it needs to stop. He simply isn't an elite back anymore. Tommy
Maddox gets too much hype, too. He's a below-average starter and may be
better-suited to a backup role. Joey Porter, though, had a monster game against
the Rams -- I'll have to keep an eye on him for my All-Pro team even though
he's missed some games.
25) Oakland Raiders  -- Rich Gannon is out for a couple of weeks.
That's a shame, but it will also be interesting to see what happens with
Marques Tuiasosopo running the pirate ship.
26) Houston Texans  -- Domanick Davis looks like the real deal
(from the two highlights I have seen). He could do wonders for the Houston
27) Chicago Bears  -- Chris Chandler still has a couple of tricks
up his sleeve. They only work against teams like the Lions, though. Next
week is now officially San Diego's chance to avoid being categorized as "like
28) Arizona Cardinals  -- Won a game. Still stink. Marcel Shipp
should have been ahead of Emmitt all along.
29) San Diego Chargers  -- I feel bad moving them down even one
spot despite their abysmal performance Monday night, since the Chargers were
clearly thrown at least a little bit by having their "home" game moved to
Arizona. The offensive play-calling, though, was terrible; as John Madden
pointed out, they played into Miami's hands by running when the Dolphins
expected them to run, and passing when they were expected to pass. When they
finally started to mix things up in the fourth-quarter, they scored a touchdown.
They were especially silly on fourth-down early in the second-half. That
sweep on 4th-and-1 was a painfully bad call.
30) Detroit Lions  -- Even in the lower rankings, a team is required
to win occasionally to stay out of the basement.
31) Jacksonville Jaguars  -- Detroit will be a popular second-to-last
after this week, but I think the Jaguars really earned it. Mark Brunell,
if he's healthy, should be the starting quarterback for the rest of the season.
32) Atlanta Falcons  -- With Keith Brooking hurt and Mike Vick
still out, their chances of leaving the 30s any time soon are pretty slim.