Wednesday, December 11th, 2002
Five Quick Hits
* My previous top six all played each other this week. Don't expect to see
Atlanta, San Diego, or Denver drop too far for their
losses to other good teams.
* Al Michaels tried to pass it off as a joke, but John Madden
was dead on when he said Chicago needed a creative mind. Injuries
are what killed the Bears this season, but offensive coordinator John
Shoop has to go.
* In the mid-late-'80s, the Bears were the scariest team in the NFL, even
when they weren't the best. On Monday night they were pathetic, just waiting
* Darren Sharper's attempt to run back an interception for a touchdown
at the end of the Packers/Vikings game showed absolutely no class, or game
smarts. Mike Sherman must have been almost as furious as the
* A reader complained last week when I called Jerome Bettis "perhaps
the most overrated running back in NFL history." What it comes down to is
that Bettis can't catch, doesn't score touchdowns, and has a mediocre average
per carry. He flops in big games. Barring unforeseen future achievements,
no way should Bettis go to the Hall of Fame. His achievements are good, not
Now for the Power Rankings. As usual, the number in parenthesis shows previous
1) Oakland Raiders (1) -- Oakland's wide receiver trio of Jerry
Rice, Tim Brown, and Jerry Porter is among the best the game has ever seen.
Rice and Brown are past their primes, but they're still great receivers,
and Porter is the deep threat that makes the whole operation work. This isn't
the '98 Vikings, '91 Redskins, or '82 Chargers, but it's close.
2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5) -- I can't understand why they
don't give the ball to Mike Alstott more often. He's a big guy, but I doubt
he gets tired after two or three carries. It's like Ron Dayne Syndrome in
New York, like, "Oh, we're tired of giving it to the good player, let's bring
in the guy who sucks." In this case, that's Michael Pittman.
3) Atlanta Falcons (2) -- The MVP chatter surrounding Mike
Vick got a little out of hand this week, and I hope the Falcons' miserable
performance against Tampa will quiet it down a bit. CNNSI.com writer Don
Banks called it "runaway hype." I like that. Priest Holmes is league MVP,
folks. And if you insist on taking a quarterback, Rich Gannon is your man.
4) Philadelphia Eagles (9) -- Not that a seven-point victory
over Seattle is very impressive, but it's time for me to admit that I
overestimated the McNabb factor. I dropped them a ton when he got hurt and
I've been moving them back up slowly. I was wrong; they've barely missed
5) New York Jets (6) -- If the Jets had played anywhere but
Oakland last week, they would currently be on a six-game winning streak,
including four against teams with winning records. You could make a legitimate
argument for ranking this team second.
6) New Orleans Saints (10) -- Two impressive games after an
ugly four-week slump.
7) San Diego Chargers (3) -- The way this team is put together,
Drew Brees cannot throw three interceptions in a game.
8) Green Bay Packers (8) -- Not the same team that looked
unstoppable a month ago.
9) Denver Broncos (4) -- Three straight losses. One more and
they slide a ton.
10) Kansas City Chiefs (13) -- Outscored last two opponents
by an average of 49-5. No one wants to play the Chiefs right now.
11) Tennessee Titans (14) -- Steve McNair went 19-of-23 against
the No. 1 pass defense in the AFC.
12) Indianapolis Colts (7) -- Loss killed momentum and gave Titans the tiebreaker
in AFC South.
13) Miami Dolphins (16) -- After incredible performances in
consecutive games, Ricky Williams is sure to be the latest MVP fad, but he
isn't even the league's best player at his position.
14) San Francisco 49ers (11) -- Divison title is clinched,
but if they play like this in the postseason, they won't make it out of the
15) New England Patriots (15) -- Bill Belichick sure knows
how to beat Drew Bledsoe.
16) Pittsburgh Steelers (12) -- It's easy to look back and
say Tommy Maddox should have rested another week, but I say you never bench
the hot hand.
17) New York Giants (17) -- Jeremy Shockey tore up Washington
again, but he needs to solidify his run-blocking to play tight end. Right
now, he's just a big wide receiver.
18) Buffalo Bills (18) -- They're done for 2002, but with some
defensive help and another quality offensive lineman, this team could be
scary next season.
19) Minnesota Vikings (20) -- Outplayed against Green Bay,
but they should have won.
20) Baltimore Ravens (19) -- I'm adding my voice to the chorus
praising Ravens egomaniac/head coach Brian Billick. The Ravens have terrible
personnel, but they're only a game under .500.
21) Cleveland Browns (21) -- Lots of teams have seen the "Cardiac"
moniker attached to them this year, but none merits it quite like the Browns.
22) Dallas Cowboys (25) -- Emmitt Smith is enjoying a
mini-renaissance, but let's not pretend he's the same runner he was in 1995.
23) Jacksonville Jaguars (24) -- Only one of their eight losses
was by more than seven points.
24) Seattle Seahawks (23) -- Shoddy defense against Philly.
Which is nothing new, really.
25) Houston Texans (29) -- Great year for an expansion team.
26) Washington Redskins (26) -- Stephen Davis was only averaging
5.83 yards per carry against the Giants, so Steve Spurrier decided to throw
27) St. Louis Rams (22) -- This team is in shambles.
28) Carolina Panthers (30) -- On a two-game winning streak,
but the five teams they have beaten have a combined record of 20-45.
29) Chicago Bears (27) -- The defense was subpar on Monday
night. The offense was a triple bogey.
30) Detroit Lions (28) -- Forget the final score -- I think
they're better than the Cardinals.
31) Arizona Cardinals (32) -- The five teams they have beaten
have a combined record of 24-41.
32) Cincinnati Bengals (31) -- Should have a big fund raiser
with a Mike Brown dunk tank. Proceeds could go towards helping the Bengals
sign some good players.