BASN’s NFL Power Rankings: Week 14

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: December 6, 2007

NFL Power RankingsPHILADELPHIA — “AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME “, that would be the call for the NFL season (horse race) as the weeks are quickly ending with games becoming more important.

For the second week in a row, the undefeated Patriots needed every second and every player to come through for them in tough win. This time the victory came on Tom Brady’s 8-yard pass to Jabar Gaffney with 44 seconds left and a mad scramble hail mary pass that was stopped at the Pats two-yard line giving the Pats a 27-24 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

With their record now at 12-0 they are now in the neighborhood of the 1972 Dolphins’ Holy Grail of an undefeated season. With the win the Patriots became only the sixth NFL team to start a season 12-0 joining the 1985 Bears (12-0), 1934 Bears (13-0), 1998 Broncos (13-0), 2005 Colts (13-0), and 1972 Dolphins (14).

The Eagles and Ravens both almost pulled off the impossible, hanging with the mighty Patriots for almost four full quarters, but in the NFL there are no “moral victories” as only wins in the official standings count. Every NFL team can point to “shoulda woulda coulda” games that were almost victories, but the best teams find ways to win tough close games as the Patriots have done the last two weeks.

The Boston pretty boys still need to navigate two tough sandwich games coming up against the Steelers next week 14 and Giants in week 17. If they can get by the Steelers, they are almost assured of going 15-0 heading into their week 17 battle with the Giants as they face the lowly Jets in week 15 (revenge for spygate) and the winless Dolphins in week 16 — chasing their own piece of history, the 1976 winless Tampa Bay Bucs.

The wins seem to keep piling up for the Brady Bunch with the entire team including the usually mild-mannered Brady subscribing to coach Belichick’s “Us against world nasty attitude”. But I ask again, “Someone has to step up though, right ???” Each week as they approach the record will get tougher for America’s new team and other teams are now armed with the Eagles/Ravens”blueprint” (physicality).

With images of the 1985 Bears and 1998 Vikings (both finished 15-1), I still believe that someone will punch the town bully in the mouth. But even I have to acknowledge that this team is special and that I am inching closer to the Belichick dark side as each week the Pats find a way to put a “W” on the board.

As we head for the home stretch there are playoff and non-playoff scenarios everywhere:

— Division races are either wrapped up or will be soon with the Patriots already clinching the AFC East and the other seven division leaders with a two or more game lead entering the seasons final four weeks — NFC East (Dallas, 2 games), NFC West (Seahawks, 2 games), NFC South (Buccaneers, 3 games), NFC North (Packers, 4 games), AFC North (Steelers, 2 games), AFC West (Chargers, 2 games), AFC South (Colts, 2 games).

— The four conference wildcard spots (two in each) have distinctive leaders in the Giants (8-4), Jaguars (8-4), Titans (7-5), and Browns (7-5). However (6-6) teams the Lions, Cardinals, Vikings, and Bills could still sneak in. Teams at (5-7) including the Eagles, Vikings, Saints, Panthers, Texans, Broncos, and Redskins are going to need a lot of help to get to the big dance.

— Teams starting to play younger guys with an eye on next season plus getting ready for the draft in April (Chiefs, Rams, Jets, Falcons, Niners, Raiders, and most importantly the winless Dolphins who seem assured of picking first – Arkansas RB Darren McFadden is quickly moving up my list, but I still like the pro prospects of Kentucky QB Andre Woodson)

For the third week in a row the NFL schedule for this week kicked off on Thursday as the NFL Network will show the Bears versus the Redskins, in the battle of desperate (5-7) teams. Preparations for the game will be extremely tough for the Redskins as they have to deal with the funeral of tragically murdered player Sean Taylor on Tuesday.

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1. Patriots (12-0) – The Ravens gave them all they could handle in a physical game on a very cold night. However the Belichick stampede continued for another week. Face the physical Steelers in Foxboro in a game that very well could be their last major hurdle to an undefeated season.

2. Cowboys (11-1) – Even though most of the country couldn’t see the game, the Cowboys beat the Packers handily on Thursday Night football. Travel to Detroit to face the reeling Leos who have lost four straight games.

3. Colts (10-2) – Basically claimed the AFC South title by showing the upstart Jaguars that they are still the champs. It is a return trip to Baltimore to face the Ravens and the city they left again.

4. Packers (10-2) – Make it 0-9 for Favre now in Dallas as the venerable quarterback was knocked from the game in a tough loss. We will have to see if Favre’s 269 consecutive game streak will continue as the spoiler Raiders come to town.

5. Steelers (9-3) – Showed the mouthy Bengals that they are the kings of the AFC North with another convincing win. Get their chance to show the world that they can play with anyone as the Steelheads travel to Foxboro to face the hoody and his boys.

6. Jaguars (8-4) – They came close, but they don’t have just enough yet to beat the Colts and claim the AFC South crown. It is no time to sulk as they need to stay on top of the wild card race by beating the Panthers at home.

7. Buccaneers (8-4) – Almost have completed the improbably jump from the NFC South basement to the division championship after their comeback win over the Saints. Need to watch out for a letdown against he desperate Texans, who need a win badly.

8. Chargers (7-5) – Finally realized that their best player is LT and rode him to a big divisional win in Kansas City. In a possible playoff battle they travel to Tennessee to face V.Y and the Titans.

9. Seahawks (8-4) – Led by potential Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu they did just enough to beat the Eagles in Philly. Host the Cardinals in a game that they will need to win to retain their NFC West belt.

10. Browns (7-5) – Lost to the Cardinals in the desert due to penalties and a possible bad call on a “force out” catch on the last play of the game. Need to forget about the Cards and concentrate on a tougher than you would think road test against the spoiler Jets.

11. Giants (8-4) – It wasn’t the prettiest win, but it was a “win” as they beat the Bears in Chicago. Travel to Philly to face an Eagles team that will be desperate to get a win in a huge divisional battle.

12. Titans (7-5) – V.Y showed the Texans what they were missing again as he led the upstart Titans to a win, plus ended their three game losing streak. Host the Chargers in a potential playoff battle with marquee initial players V.Y and LT ready to impress.

13. Vikings (6-6) – Rode their power running game to a big win over the reeling Lions in a game that was a must-win. A.D and the crew travel to San Francisco to face a tough Niners defense led by tackling machine Patrick Willis.

14. Bills (6-6) – Stayed focused in an emotional atmosphere as they won in the final seconds over the Redskins. Need to guard against a letdown as they face the hapless Dolphins in Buffalo.

15. Lions (6-6) – Lost for the fourth straight time as they couldn’t find a way to stop Adrian Peterson or Chester Taylor. Their season will be on the line as they host the surging Cowboys.

16. Saints (5-7) – Had the Buccaneers on the ropes, but couldn’t deliver the knockout punch as the potential NFC South champs took control of the division. Need to concentrate on getting one win at a time as they travel to Atlanta in a Monday Night Football must-win game.

17. Cardinals (6-6) – Tried everything in the world to give the game to the upstart Browns, but hung on for a big home win. Have a huge “business trip” as they travel to Seattle to face a surging Seahawks team.

18. Bears (5-7) – Had their chance to make a move in the NFC playoff race, but couldn’t move up the latter as they lost at home to the Giants. Have a short week to prepare for the equally hungry Redskins in a battle where the loser should basically go home.

19. Texans (5-7) – Could not handle the rushing attack of the Titans as their playoff hopes are starting to flicker. Host the tough Buccaneers who are looking to clinch their division and a playoff spot.

20. Eagles (5-7) – AJ Feeley showed he was not the answer as he almost put Lofa Tatupu in the Hall of Fame in a big road win for the Seahawks. Their season is on the line as they host the Giants in a must-win game.

21. Redskins (5-7) – They were all-heart playing for Sean Taylor, but they ran out of gas losing in the last seconds to the Bills. Have a truly tough week where they have to attend the funeral of their fallen comrade and then play the Bears in a must-win game on Thursday Night.

22. Panthers (5-7) – Led by old man of the NFL Vinny Testaverde, they did just enough to beat the floundering Niners. If they want to stay in the playoff hunt they will need to slow down the Jags rushing attack in Jacksonville.

23. Raiders (4-8) – Showed that they weren’t dead yet as we got our first glimpse of prized rookie JaMarcus Russell in a big home win over the Broncos. Travel to Green Bay to face an angry Packers team who maybe playing without #4.

24. Broncos (5-7) – Showed they are as bad as most of the AFC West teams as they lost to the Raiders in a game they truly needed to help their playoff hopes. Need to focus on the Chiefs as another “supposed” lesser team comes to Denver in a must-win game.

25. Chiefs (4-8) – The Chargers basically turned out the lights on their playoff hopes in a bad home loss. Face the host Broncos in an AFC West pride game.

26. Ravens (4-8) – Like the Eagles the week before a moral victory is hard to chew on. Had the Pats on the ropes, but failed to deliver the big blow to the town bully. Must pick up the pieces at home as they host the hated carpetbagging Colts in a pride game.

27. Bengals (4-8) – The Steelers showed the mouthy Bengal the playoff exit as it we maybe seeing the final weeks of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati. Host a the Rams in a game that only matters to the top of the draft board.

28. Jets (3-9) – Showed that they are bad, but they are not the worst team in the NFL as they throttled the Dolphins. Host the surging Browns in a game that they can play the role of spoiler.

29. Rams (3-9) – Smacked the Falcons around in a game that will have implications on draft standings. Travel to Cincy to face the Bengals in another bottom of the barrel game.

30. 49ers (3-9) – Showed that their old quarterback (Trent Dilfer) was worse than the Panthers old man (Vinny) in a bad road loss. Must face the NFL’s nastiest running back combination as Peterson and Taylor come to town with the Vikings.

31. Falcons (3-9) – Continued their downward spiral as they moved closer to the bottom of the rankings with a bad loss to the Rams. On the day their former leader Michael Vick will be sentenced for his role in a federal dogfighting case, they host the hungry Saints on Monday Night football.

32. Dolphins (0-12) – Hung around for a little while, but the Jets put them almost over the top for the number #1 pick in the draft. Face the Bills in an old-time AFL battle where they could possibly get their first win, but I doubt it.