Wednesday, November 27th, 2002
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
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
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
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
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.