By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
NFL Power Rankings: Week #14
PHILADELPHIA — As we head to toward the final turn of the 2008 NFL season everyone better buckle-up for a fast and furious finish.
The NFL is filled with parity causing league officials, teams, media, and fans to not have any idea who is going to represent the AFC and NFC in the Super Bowl.
Could it be the Titans vs. Giants, Titans vs. Buccaneers, Steelers vs. Panthers, Colts vs. Cowboys, Broncos vs. Cardinals or any of a number of combinations.
There are 20 teams at .500 or better in the parity-laden league, so other than the Giants — I believe they are the most complete team in the NFL (Great running game, efficient passing, attacking defense, and upper echelon special teams), Titans, Cardinals (should win the hapless NFC West this weekend by default), and Broncos (another weak division champ or chump depending on how you look at it) the race for the 12 coveted playoff spots is up for grabs.
The standings show the (11-1) Tennessee Titans and New York Giants who are both riding a tough ground games and stingy turnover causing defenses into the playoffs; three (9-3) teams with the Pittsburgh Steelers – Another tough physical team, the efficient but boring Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the improving Carolina Panthers, who play the Buccaneers this week on Monday Night Football; five (8-4) teams who are fighting either for division crowns or top wild card spots – Cowboys, Falcons, Ravens, Jets and Colts; a jumble of six (7-5) teams who either will win weak divisions or better get it in gear to make the playoffs — Cardinals, Patriots, Vikings, Broncos, Dolphins and Redskins.
The (6-5-1) Philadelphia Eagles who still are mathematically in the race, but need to run the table starting against the Giants this week; three (6-6) inconsistent teams who are on the cusp of watching in January – Saints, Bears, and Bills; two (5-7) teams in the Texans and Packers hoping for a miracle to get in the playoffs; four (4-8) teams with three who could be labeled as the NFL’s biggest disappointment of 2008 and one spoiler – Jaguars, Browns, Chargers, and Niners; the (3-9) Oakland Raiders who are primed for an overhaul in the off-season; three (2-10) teams that all seem to be headed for fresh starts in ’09 which may include new head coaches — Seahawks, Chiefs, and Rams; the (1-10-1) Bengals who look horrible week in and week out as head coach Marvin Lewis moves towards the exit and the hapless (0-12) Detroit Lions, who look every bit as bad, if not worse as the (0-14) 1976 Buccaneers team.
The division standings also show a trend, where everything may have to wait until week 17. Here is the AFC picture: AFC South (Titans lead Colts by 3 games), AFC North (Steelers lead the Ravens by 1 game), AFC East (Jets lead the Patriots and Dolphins by 1 game – all the teams have .500 or better records), and in the AFC West (Broncos should clinch soon as they lead the Chargers by 2 games).
In the NFC the races are just as tight: NFC East (Giants lead the Cowboys by 3 games – all teams have winning records), NFC North (Vikings lead the Bears by 1 game but the Vikes will miss the Williams Defensive tackles), NFC South (Panthers and the Bucs tied at the top with the Falcons a game behind – all the teams have .500 or better records), and in the NFC West (Cardinals lead the Niners by 4 games and expect them to clinch this awful division in the next few weeks).
Now on to the rankings for this week
1. Giants (11-1) - The G-Men continue to stay on top of the rankings, because they are the NFL’s most complete team (running the ball downhill, winning time of possesion, effiicient passing by Eli, an attacking defense, and good special teams play). The Giants throttled the Redskins in the rain at FedEx Fielc despite Plaxico’s mess. The G-Men have a very tough game this week as they host the desperate Eagles in a key NFC East battle.
2. Titans (11-1) - Jeff Fisher’s team continues to dominate with an impressive running game and a defense led by DT Albert Haynesworth. In a Thanksgiving turkey shoot, the Titans ripped the Lions. This week the Titans look to strengthen their hold on home field advantage as they travel to muddy Cleveland to face a very injured Browns team.
3. Steelers (9-3) – You have to put the Steelers up there physically with any team in the NFL including the Giants and Titans. In week 13, the Steelers established themselves a potential AFC Champ by ripping the Patriots in New England. In the “Jackie Smith Bowl”, the Steelers host old-time 1970′s rival the Dallas Cowboys.
4. Panthers (9-3) – Behind a punishing ground game led by a rejuvenated DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers ran over the Packers at Lambeau. In week 14′s marquee match-up, the Panthers host the Buccanneers in a game for NFC South supremacy.
5. Colts (8-4) – Make it five in a row as the Colts defense led by DE Robert Mathis saved the day in a sloppy win over the reeling Browns. In a game that should be a cakewalk to their 6th straight win, but you never know, the Colts host the downtrodden Bengals.
6. Buccaneers (9-3) – It may not be pretty, but all Jon Gruden, Jeff Garcia, Derrick Brooks, and the rest of the Bucs do is win games. In another close-decision win, the Bucs ended the Saints playoff hopes. If the Bucs want to be taken seriously as an NFC title contender, they will need to beat the host Panthers in a huge ESPN Monday Night Football battle.
7. Jets (8-4) – I think Brett and Jets got caught patting themselves on the back from their upset win over the Titans. In a surprising home loss, the Broncos out-physicalled the Jets. With their AFC East title aspirations on the line, the Jets travel to the West Coast to face a spoiler Niners squad.
8. Cowboys (8-4) – In a Thanksgiving pass-the-gravy win, the Cowboys pounded the Seahawks for their third straight win. In a game that Cowboys’ fans wish Pittsburgh native and former Dallas Cowboys legend running back Tony Dorsett was in uniform, the Cowboys travel to snowy P-Burgh to face the tough Steelers.
9. Ravens (8-4) – In a total laugher, the Ravens pounded the woeful Bengals. An NBC Sunday Night Football battle awaits as the Ravens host the Redskins in “The Battle of the Beltway”
10. Patriots (7-5) – You have to wonder if Bill Belichick and Matt Cassel’s magic may have run out as the Steelers mauled the Patriots in Foxboro. A nice get-back-on-track game awaits for the Pats as they travel west to face a weak Seahawks squad.
11. Falcons (8-4) – In a game that proved this young team is better than most people give them credit for, the Falcons shutdown the overrated Chargers behind former LT backup, Michael Turner. In a huge game with NFC South and wildcard implications, the Falcons to New Orleans to face a desperate Saints squad.
12. Dolphins (7-5) – No one wants to give the ‘Phins a chance, but Tony Sparano and Bill Parcels have his team hitting all of the right notes. In a taking-care-of-business win, the Dolphins behind Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown slid past the Rams. In a game where the billboard screams, “Ricky Returns to Toronto”, the Dolphins go north of the border to face the limping-home Bills in Argos Country.
13. Broncos (7-5) – >Mike Shanahan’s team fueled by a monster passing day from Jay Cutler, showed the Jets that are for real. The Broncos can clinch the AFC title at home with a win over the tougher than their record Chiefs.
14. Vikings (7-5) – Running back Adrian Peterson and former Bears receiver Benard Berrian packed a mighty punch as the Vikings established themselves as the team to beat in the NFC North with a big Sunday Night Football win over the Bears. Questions about the Williams Defensive Tackle Girth’s availability should not matter as the Vikes look to send the pitiful host Lions closer to 0-16.
15. Redskins (7-5) - The ‘Skins were not ready for the physical tough nature of the Super Bowl champion Giants as the G-Men pounded for an easier than expected win. In a game that screams “Put-up or Shut-up”, the Redskins travel within their metropolitan area to face the host Ravens in the “Battle for Joe Washington”.
16. Eagles (6-5-1) – The Birds quite possibly saved their season and their quarterback’s standing with a big Thanksgiving mashed potatoe win over the Cardinals. In another desperation “We Need to Save Our Season” game, the Birds travel up the turnpike to face a possibly distracted Giants squad.
17. Cardinals (7-5) - Kurt Warner and his boys want some respect around the NFL, but their efforts on Thanksgiving against the Eagles make everyone think they are an okay team in a very weak division (0-4 on the East Coast in ’08). The Cardinals will look to put their travel woes behind them as they look to clinch their first division title since 1975 at home against the tomatoe can Rams.
18. Saints (6-6) – The pass happy Saints came up short against the scrappy Tampa Bay Bucs. Look for Sean Payton to pull out all of the stops as the Saints fight for their season as they host the upstart Atlanta Falcons.
19. Bills (6-6) - In a game that signalled the retreat of the Bills, the Niners came into Rich Stadium and basically put the Bills playoff hopes to rest. The Bills look to expand their ticket base as they invade Toronto to face a surprising Dolphins team in the “Damon Allen Bowl”.
20. Bears (6-6) – Lovie Smith’s team allowed the Vikings to go 99 yards on one play for a hugh touchdown, which essentially broke their will. With hopes of winning the NFC North still in their minds, the Bears start a critical 3-game home stand against the disappointing Jaguars.
21. Packers (5-7) – The Pack had no answer for Steve Smith or DeAngelo Williams as the Panthers came North and brought home a victory. The Packers host the Texans in a reclaimation game of two 5-7 teams.
22. Texans (5-7) – It was Monday Night Football madness as Mario Williams and the Texans continued to pour dirt on the Jaguars season. In a statement-game, the Texans get back quarterback Matt Schaub as they travel to Green Bay to face the Packers.
23. Chargers (4-8) – The Bolts continue to be the NFL’s biggest disappointment as this week the Falcons walked out of San Diego with a win. The Chargers host the Raiders in an NFL Network Thursday Night stinker of a game.
24. Jaguars (4-8) – The end of the Jack Del Rio era in Jacksonville is near as the Jags put up little fight in a bad loss to the Texans on Monday Night Football. In an interesting game, the Jags will look to play spoiler as they travel to Chi-town to face a desperate Bears team.
25. 49ers (4-8) – Iron Mike II is making believers of the Niners as his young squad hung a huge “L” on the Bills in Buffalo. The Niners can continue messing up the playoff picture of the AFC East as they host Brett Favre and the Jets.
26. Browns (4-8) – The Dawgs lost quarterback Derek Anderson for the season and to make matters worse the Colts won without scoring an offensive touchdown. With former Hurricanes triggerman Ken Dorsey at the helm, the Browns travel to Tennessee to face an angry Titans team.
27. Seahawks (2-10) - Another week, another bad loss for Mike Holmgren’s dog of the a team, this time the Cowboys stuffed them on Thanksgiving — no wonder the former Super Bowl Champion coach is leaving. In a potential rout, the Patriots come to Seattle very angry after being embarrassed by the Steelers.
28. Rams (2-10)- In a game where they hung tough for awhile, the Rams finally succumbed to the Dolphins. The Rams better bring champagne to Arizona as they help the Cardinals celebrate an NFC West title.
29. Chiefs (2-10) – Herman Edwards’ team proved that they are not the worst team in the lousy AFC West as they laid the distinction on the Raiders. The Chiefs can play spoiler and stop the hated host Broncos from claiming the AFC West crown.
30. Raiders (3-9) - Is it me or did former first overall pick JaMarcus Russell look like a Pop Warner quarterback in the Raiders loss to the Chiefs. The Raider will be thrust in the spotlight as they play the host Chargers on NFL Network Thursday Night Football — wonder if Congress wants everyone to see this cable nightmare game.
31. Bengals (1-10-1) – Marvin Lewis’ team was embarrassed by the bully Ravens. Look for the host Colts to score early and often against the Bengals, who are getting ready for the draft in April.
32. Lions (0-12) – The Titans took it easy down the stretch as they baked the Lions in a Thanksgiving rout. With 0-16 looking like a strong possibility the Lions host the ascending Vikings.