Wednesday, November 6th, 2002
Five Quick Hits
* When everything is going right for your team, why would you change anything?
Notre Dame, a close third in the BCS, wore bright green uniforms and
got upset by Boston College. The Chargers, 6-1 and playing
one of the NFL's worst defenses, wore powder blue and got blown out by the
Jets, who were previously 2-5. Don't mess with a winning formula.
* My take on the hefty fines for helmet-leading hits: anything that reduces
serious injuries without fundamentally changing the game is a step in the
right direction. I'm totally behind the league on this issue.
* For all the hype about the Redskins' defense this offseason, Sunday's
game against Seattle was only the second time they held an opponent
to less than 20 points.
* Washington DE Bruce Smith recorded two sacks and continues to inch
towards Reggie White's all-time sack record, but this is nowhere as
sacred as Walter Payton's old rushing record. The NFL didn't record
sacks for years, and Deacon Jones -- the man who invented the term
"sack" -- insists that if stats had been kept throughout his career, White
wouldn't have the record at all.
* I am second in my fantasy league, but I have no hope of winning. My nemesis
has Donovan McNabb, Brett Favre, Marshall Faulk, Deuce
McAllister, and Tampa Bay's defense. I have the one-man army that
is Priest Holmes, but it's not enough.
* Sixth hit/apology: I usually only do long summaries for the top-five teams,
but I have more to say about No. 6 San Diego than No. 5 San Francisco this
week, so things are a little out of kilter. What can I say, it's been a weird
Now on to the Power Rankings. Number in parenthesis indicates previous rank.
1) Green Bay Packers (2) -- The defense certainly rose to the
challenge on Monday night, dominating Miami from start to finish. My one
hesitation about putting the Packers this high is the injury situation. A
lot of injured guys have returned, but the fact is that Brett Favre still
isn't 100%, and the Packers aren't a top-five team without him.
2) Denver Broncos (1) -- After all the offseason talk about
Terrell Davis and Brian Griese and everything else, the big news in Denver
now is that 10-year veteran Tom Rouen was released. The team signed ex-Cowboys
Micah Knorr to take over punting and kickoff duties. I can't remember another
season when so many teams have made kicking changes in the middle of the
3) Philadelphia Eagles (4) -- Chicago gave them a scare on
Sunday, and the Redskins and Giants won to remain within two games of the
division lead, but the Eagles aren't worried. They only play one more game
against a team with a winning record (San Francisco) and they've already
beaten Washington and New York.
4) New Orleans Saints (5) -- Is there a team getting better
production from its rookies than New Orleans? DE Charles Grant, G LeCharles
Bentley, and WR Donte Stallworth have all made significant contributions
for the Saints this year. Former GM Randy Mueller, fired this offseason,
could join ex-Washington GM Charley Casserly as the second man in the last
three seasons to win Executive of the Year after being fired.
5) San Francisco 49ers (7) -- Why did Jeff Garcia and Terrell
Owens need the first few weeks of the season to warm up?
6) San Diego Chargers (3) -- I suppose they missed Rodney Harrison
(suspended by the league), but what on earth happened to the defense, which
gave up more points against the Jets than it did in the first four games
combined? And what were they thinking only running LaDainian Tomlinson 12
times? Things were so out of whack that I'm inclined to regard the game as
an aberration, and San Diego only slips three spots for now, but teams are
figuring out how to move the ball against the Super-Chargers.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8) -- Just when everyone was talking
about Shaun King again, Brad Johnson throws five touchdown passes.
8) Pittsburgh Steelers (9) -- Quickly establishing control
of the AFC North.
9) Kansas City Chiefs (10) -- Holmes and 42-year-old kicker
Morten Andersen (in his 21st season) are first and second in the NFL in scoring.
10) St. Louis Rams (12) -- Marshall Faulk is still the best
player in the NFL.
11) Atlanta Falcons (13) -- Dan Reeves called several trick
plays on Sunday, so I fully expect the second sign of the Apocalypse within
the next week or two.
12) Miami Dolphins (6) -- I didn't see their game against
Buffalo, so I had no idea how much Ray Lucas had regressed. Maybe they could
trade for Jeff George.
13) Oakland Raiders (14) -- Jeff Garcia had a big game against
them, but you have to like seeing Charles Woodson back in uniform.
14) New England Patriots (15) -- Are the real Patriots the
guys who lost four in a row or the ones who crushed one of the league's hottest
teams on Sunday?
15) Buffalo Bills (11) -- Before Sunday, the Patriots defense
had the league's smallest differential between rushing and passing yards
allowed. Everyone was running on them, and they had the NFL's second-ranked
pass defense. Buffalo RB Travis Henry was fifth in the NFL in rushing. But
against New England, Buffalo threw 45 times and only handed off to Henry
11 times, even though he averaged almost 5 yards per carry.
16) New York Jets (19) -- Over a three-game span early in
the season, the Jets scored only 13 points. Against the Chargers, who had
the third-ranked defense in the AFC, they scored a season-high 44.
17) Baltimore Ravens (16) -- Since Ray Lewis was injured, they
have lost by 2, 13, and 3. They could be 5-3 or 6-2 if he were healthy.
18) Cleveland Browns (18) -- Dennis Northcutt has become one
of the league's most explosive return men.
19) Tennessee Titans (24) -- Three straight wins after I called
them this year's Carolina.
20) Washington Redskins (20) -- Now that's what we expected
at the beginning of the season: great defense, a good ground game, and Shane
Matthews going 10-of-27.
21) New York Giants (23) -- Michael Strahan had no statistical
impact in the entire first half against Jacksonville.
22) Arizona Cardinals (17) -- After winning four of five --
with the loss to 6-2 San Diego -- they have dropped two in a row to division
opponents, both by double-digits.
23) Detroit Lions (22) -- It's not so much that they have a
good defense as that Dallas has a really bad offense.
24) Indianapolis Colts (21) -- Haven't held anyone but Houston
under 20 points.
25) Dallas Cowboys (26) -- For the second time this season,
held an opponent to less than 10 points and lost.
26) Jacksonville Jaguars (27) -- This is a very puzzling team.
27) Chicago Bears (31) -- Played tough against a good team.
28) Seattle Seahawks (25) -- Kenny Watson ran for 110 yards
29) Carolina Panthers (28) -- The last time they won, I was
wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
30) Minnesota Vikings (30) -- I know the personnel is a little
different, but I'm still pretty sure Dennis Green could do a better job with
this team than Mike Tice has.
31) Cincinnati Bengals (32) -- If they had only won by 30,
I'd have kept them last.
32) Houston Texans (31) -- How do you lose to the Bengals on
a day when Corey Dillon rushes for less than 100 yards?