1. (1) New England - An undefeated regular season is now a foregone
conclusion, but playing at home in the harsh New England weather is not
necessarily an advantage for this high flying offense -- and is the only thing
that could derail the Patriots.
2. (2) Dallas - Good football teams are judged by how they perform with the
game on the line and how they perform when playing on the road. The '07 Cowboys
have passed both tests with flying colors.
3. (4) Indianapolis - The wounded defending Super Bowl champions are not
about to concede anything to the rest of NFL and approach the postseason with
one very hot quarterback.
4. (3) Green Bay - Sure, Brett Favre and a very underrated receiving corps
have played exceptionally well, but how about the play of little known RB Ryan Grant, solid special teams and a very opportunist defensive unit?
5. (6) Jacksonville - Somebody probably needs to remind 31-year-old RB Fred Taylor (944 yards) that this is a young man's game. David Garrard has been
nothing short of sensational since returning from a mid-season ankle injury.
6. (5) Pittsburgh - The Steelers hung in there for about a half with the
Patriots on the road, but had few answers when they had to play catch up. Injury
to Troy Polamalu was huge and overall the secondary play was suspect.
7. (8) Seattle - The Seahawks left no doubt that they are once again
the class of a weak NFC West division. Once again Matt Hasselback, NFL sack
leader Patrick Kerney and a very underrated defensive have been the difference.
8. (11) NY Giants - They hardly look pretty doing it, but the 9-4 Giants, led
by a very consistent albeit banged-up defensive unit, was the difference versus
the Eagles. Plaxico Burress playing on a very tender ankle was this week's
9. (9) Cleveland - This week's matchup on the road versus the Bills might be
the most important contest in the Browns' recent playing history. And how about
the play of Jamal Lewis this season for the surprising Browns?
10. (10) San Diego - Last week's come-from-behind overtime road victory
versus the Titans was absolutely huge. As always, LT (146 rushing yards and 5
receptions) was LT, but QB Rivers' play in the 2nd half was most encouraging for
the Bolts offense.
Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
11. (12) Minnesota - Young guns QB Tarvaris Jackson (40-61-502, 4 TDs, 1 INT
in the past three games), RB Chester Taylor (8-101, 12.6 yards per carry, 1 TD
versus the 49ers) and LB Chad Greenway (8-plus tackles in five games in '07)
have been outstanding for the Vikings.
12. (7) Tampa - Although Luke McCown again showed he is a more than capable
backup, veteran Jeff Garcia will start this week versus the Falcons. RB Earnest Graham has been very impressive, particularly as a red-zone runner for the Bucs.
13. (14) Buffalo - Trent Edwards, the steal of the 2007 NFL Draft threw 4 TD
passes last week and is 5-1 as a starter for the surging Bills. How about RB
Fred Jackson (15-115-7.7 yards per carry) from mighty Coe College in his work
versus the Dolphins?
14. (15) Washington - Losing Jason Campbell for the remainder of the season
with NFC Conference games versus three of the league's hottest clubs (Giants,
Vikings, and Cowboys) offers little encouragement for a winning season in '07.
15. (17) Tennessee - Last week's 4th period collapse versus the Chargers was
devastating and will likely require the club to run the table if they are to
have any real chance to secure a AFC playoff birth.
16. (19) Denver - Far and away the top QB prospect from the 2006 NFL Draft,
Jay Cutler threw 4 TD passes last week versus the Chiefs while Brandon Marshall
(a T.O. clone) is a future star in the league. (Are you listening in St. Louis?)
17. (13) Arizona - Just when you think the Cardinals are on the verge of
taking that next step in their development, they take two steps backwards. Five
picks and five sacks are not going to get it done.
18. (16) Philadelphia - The Eagles came within inches of sending this one
into overtime. Donavan McNabb, likely in his final season with Philadelphia was
impressive on the opening drive, but struggled to move the ball in critical
19. (23) New Orleans - Drew Brees and the Mutt & Jeff receiving tandem of
Colston and Patten helped the Saints keep their faint playoff hopes alive with a
resounding victory over the critically undermanned Falcons.
20. (21) Detroit - I love the coaching staff and believe the team has made
some positive strides in 2007, but last week's last-second loss to the Cowboys
was reminiscent of too many recent Lions failures.
Chicago's outstanding return specialist, Devin Hester.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
21. (18) Chicago - From best to worst in the NFC North in just one season.
Shocking for many loyal Bears fans, but rather commonplace when one looks at the
recent history of NFL Super Bowl runner-ups in the following season.
22. (20) Carolina - Vinny Testaverde has had a long, distinguished career,
but the game is over. John Fox is one of the league's best, but when Jake
Delhomme was injured in Week 3, the season was essentially over.
23. (22) Houston - After failing in stints with both the Redskins and the
Dolphins, career backup Sage Rosenfels has impressed in relief of Matt Schaub by
throwing 3 TDs while completing 75 percent of his 36 passes.
24. (24) Cincinnati - Carson Palmer, one of the best young signal callers in
the league has struggled as of late, a fact that does not bode well for the
struggling, underachieving Bengals for the remainder of the '07 season.
25. (25) Baltimore - An offensive staff consisting of Sid Gilman, Bill Walsh, Ted Marchibroda, Tom Landry and Don Coryell couldn't get this offense
going given the current quarterback situation.
26. (26) St Louis - If I had known sooner who was going to be leading the
Rams into battle last week versus the Bengals and was a betting man, I might
very well have been able to retire my current 30-year mortgage.
27. (27) NY Jets - Last year's "boy wonder" and his staff will be
hard-pressed to return for his third season. Woody, it's very simple; you need
football people and not bean-counters making critical decisions on personnel.
28. (28) Kansas City - The Chiefs were thoroughly thumped last weekend at
home by division rival Denver. Expect numerous changes on both sides of the
football and most importantly a new person at the quarterback position.
29. (29) Oakland - The Raiders defense hung in there early, but were
essentially no match for the Packers on the road. Both journeymen QBs -- McCown
and Walters -- struggled to move the football through the air.
30. (28) Atlanta - Arthur Blank announced during the Monday night telecast
that he expects the Falcons to contend in 2008. Yeah, and I expect to be the Red
Sox's left-handed setup man when the season opens in April.
31. (31) San Francisco - I really feel sorry for Coach Nolan and some of the
truly best front-office people in the league, but after just three seasons I
would have to say the club has no chance of winning with Alex Smith under the
32. (32) Miami - I'm just as sure the Dolphins are the worst team in the
league as I am that the Patriots are the league's best. One year out of the
game, expect the name Parcells to surface in South Florida this coming