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NFL - Week 12 Power Rankings

By Brad Oremland
Wednesday, November 27th, 2002
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Five Quick Hits

* The snowy game in Denver signalled to me that the postseason is nearly upon us. That's the way football is meant to be played. I will never be totally happy until I have seen a Super Bowl played in Denver or Green Bay, or even some place like Buffalo.

* It could be my imagination, but it seems like kickers are deciding more important games than ever. Clutch kickers are among the most valuable players in the league.

* It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Chargers cannot play from behind. That said, I have no explanation for what happened on Sunday.

* Here's the most amazing thing about Marvin Harrison's record of four consecutive seasons with at least 100 receptions: 20 years ago, no NFL player had ever had 100 receptions in a season, and 10 years ago, Art Monk was still the only one. Now Harrison's done it four times in a row. Part of that is the changing nature of the game, but what a phenomenal accomplishment, in any era.

* Cincinnati has been officially eliminated from playoff contention. Mathematically, everyone else is still in it.

Now on to the Power Rankings. As always, the number in parenthesis indicates previous rank, although I'm hesitant to admit how much I'm changing last week's rankings. I don't like to move teams by more than four spots or so, but it happened twelve times this week. I'm getting it out of my system now so I can be faithful in December. Here goes...

1) Atlanta Falcons (5) -- Mike Vick doesn't put up sensational numbers, but he gets the job done. The last time Atlanta was held below 20 points, the Rams hadn't won a game yet. The running backs (Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett) have come around after a slow start, and perhaps most importantly, the defense has become a monster. It's 12th in the NFL in yards allowed, but ranks fourth in points allowed and has turned in two of this season's three shutouts.

2) Oakland Raiders (6) -- With five games left, Rich Gannon is on pace to throw for 5,142 yards, which would break Dan Marino's 18-year-old record. I'd say he's got about a 50% chance to do it. But in 1984, Marino also threw 48 TD passes, breaking the previous record by 12. Gannon is on pace to throw for 32 TDs, which is also very good, but don't think for a moment that he will Marino's mark for single-season excellence. It's also worth noting that Gannon plays with Charlie Garner and two future Hall of Fame receivers. Marino had the Marks Brothers and Lorenzo Hampton.

3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8) -- Don't tell me how great their offense is. Their scoring drives against Green Bay went for 39, 27, 18, and 2 yards (an average of less than 22 yards). The 39-yarder all came on a single pass, and only one of those "drives" went more than four plays. In fact, the Bucs never put together a 10-play drive. This team still lives and dies with its defense.

4) Green Bay Packers (1) -- Brett Favre, of all people, gave that game away. It was Green Bay's to lose, and they did. Nonetheless, I can't believe that all of Favre's magic is gone, and Green Bay's defense is playing very well. With their next two games at Lambeau Field in December, against the 3-8 Bears and Vikings, I think the Packers will right the ship.

5) Denver Broncos (2) -- Denver has played two Sunday night games this year, and they were the two best games I've seen all season. At 7-4 and with a tough schedule remaining, the Broncos aren't a lock for the playoffs, but it would be a shame if they didn't make it.

6) Indianapolis Colts (14) -- Peyton Manning is old-school. Did anyone else think of John Unitas during that game-tying drive at the end of the game?

7) Miami Dolphins (17) -- Now that Ray Lucas is playing competently, the Dolphins are welcome back in the Top-10.

8) San Diego Chargers (3) -- Have lost three of last four games.

9) San Francisco 49ers (4) -- The 49ers' defensive line is arguably the strongest unit on the team, but it got embarrassed on Monday night.

10) New York Jets (13) -- You heard it here first. I had the Jets in the Top-20 after Week 8, when popular writers at Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News had them in the 30s, and now I'll be the first to put them in the Top-10.

11) Philadelphia Eagles (15) -- That clicking sound you hear is a lock. As in the Eagles to win the NFC East.

12) Pittsburgh Steelers (12) -- Unconvincing win over the Bengals.

13) New Orleans Saints (7) -- The only team they've beaten in the last month is on an eight-game losing streak.

14) New England Patriots (16) -- I'd bet that if Bill Belichick could do it all over again, he'd still trade Drew Bledsoe and keep Tom Brady.

15) Kansas City Chiefs (10) -- Even in defeat, Priest Holmes had over 300 yards of total offense and scored three touchdowns. That is amazing.

16) Tennessee Titans (9) -- Steve McNair is one of my favorite quarterbacks, but the Titans lost because of his turnovers.

17) St. Louis Rams (11) -- Danny Wuerffel > Kurt Warner.

18) Cleveland Browns (20) -- Remember at the beginning of the season when we all thought Kevin Johnson was going to be their go-to guy?

19) Baltimore Ravens (19) -- Jamal Lewis averaged more yards per play on Sunday than Jeff Blake did.

20) New York Giants (21) -- May have been underutilizing Tiki Barber just a little bit.

21) Washington Redskins (24) -- The most erratic team in memory. In that sense, Steve Spurrier has certainly brought excitement to the league.

22) Seattle Seahawks (25) -- Speaking of erratic, um, Shaun Alexander...?

23) Buffalo Bills (18) -- 4-0 against teams with 3-8 records. 1-6 against everyone else, and the win came in Ray Lucas's disastrous first game for Miami.

24) Minnesota Vikings (23) -- Lost to a good team. The Vikings are much better than they were at the beginning of the season.

25) Jacksonville Jaguars (22) -- First team to give up 20 points to Dallas since Week 2.

26) Chicago Bears (27) -- Paul Edinger is remarkable for his unusual kicking routine, and he's also pretty effective.

27) Detroit Lions (26) -- Lost three in a row for the first time all season, and they play New England on Thursday.

28) Houston Texans (31) -- It will be amazing if David Carr lasts this whole season.

29) Dallas Cowboys (32) -- Thanksgiving game against a Washington team that is fighting to stay in the playoff race. All is right in the world.

30) Cincinnati Bengals (30) -- I refuse to rank them last after a win and three straight close games against good teams.

31) Arizona Cardinals (29) -- I hear the weather in Arizona is wonderful this time of year.

32) Carolina Panthers (28) -- Carolina has been shut out more times this season than the rest of the league combined.

I apologize for gloating about the Jets in the same week I admitted I was wrong about everything else. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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