Before we start with the pros, let's acknowledge that the College Boys look like they have their national title game set. Oklahoma duly destroyed Missouri in the Big XII title game 62-21, rolling up an insane 627 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, the magically enchanted Tim Tebow threw for a scintillating 216 yards and ran for a jaw dropping 3.4 yards per carry to valiantly lead Florida to a 31-20 win over Alabama in the SEC Championship game and into the BCS Championship Game. Just you wait until Tebow gets into the NFL. You think I ride Donovan McNabb hard, ho ho ho, ha ha ha....ooooh boy.
1. NY GIANTS (11-1)
Last Week- W at Washington 23-7; This Week v. Philadelphia
One of the nice things about having this blog is that I can go back months and even years later and look at old posts to see what was going on at a particular point in time, be it in the the League or in my life. So humor me for a second here, I know everyone knows this, but I want it recorded for posterity's sake. Plaxico Burress went to Da Club with a gun tucked into the elastic waistband of his sweatpants, and Da Gun accidentally went off and shot him in Da Leg. After this Antonio Pierce played Vincent Vega to Plax's Mia Wallace and rushed him to some doctor-type guy's house in the middle of the night to administer to the wound. This on the one year anniversary of Sean Taylor, who was no Boy Scout while he was alive, getting shot and killed in his home.
I remember when the ESPN show Playmakers was on a few years ago that I thought it was stupid, because I spent 6 years of my life around an NFL locker room and I never saw any of that shit that they had on the show going on. The league has apparently changed a lot in 15 years, because now I think Playmakers is stupid because it did not go far enough. These players do shit far more ridiculous than any TV show writer can dream up.
As for the Giants, they are an unstoppable juggernaut and the way they are playing now, you'd have to shoot all of them in the leg to keep them from getting back to the Super Bowl. They are better than the 16-0 Patriots were last year. There I said it.
2. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (9-3)
Last Week- W v. New Orleans 23-20; This Week- at Carolina
In the NFL there's a big difference between winning your division and coming in second. If the Bucs case, if they win it, they will get a first round bye and merely have to win a home game to get to the NFC Championship game. If they come in second, not only do they not get a first round bye but they will probably have to win 3 straight road playoff games to get to the Super Bowl. For that reason, this game they've got in Charlotte this weekend means everything to both them and the Panthers. Personally, I don't think this run of success (the Bucs have won 6 of 7) this team is having is sustainable. This is a team that completed nine of 23 passes, against the Saints, who are not good at stopping the pass. I am going out on the proverbial limb and saying the Bucs get exposed this week.
3. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (7-5)
Last Week- W v. Chicago 34-14; This Week- at Detroit
Here's another team with a considerable amount of off the field drama. The Vikings emphatically took over first place in the NFC North last Sunday Night, when a goal line stand followed immediately by a 99 yard Frerotte to Bernard Berrian TD pass opened the floodgates to a 34-14 pounding of the Bears. However, whether the Vikings make the playoffs or not may hinge on what happens in federal court as much as on what happens on the field. The Vikings do two things well, run the ball and stop the run. They stop the run well because they have two all-world defensive tackles, Kevin and Pat Williams. The Williams twins are this close to being suspended for the rest of the year for use of a diaruetic called StarCaps which contains a substance banned by the NFL because it can be a masking agent for steroids. Never mind that the only steroids Kevin and Pat Williams probably have in their bodies are the residual ones given to the copious amounts of hog and steer that they eat, they are in trouble. A federal judge blocked the league from suspending them today, so it's looking like they may actually play this weekend against the Lions at the very least.
4. ARIZONA CARDINALS (7-5)
Last Week- L at Philadelphia 20-48; This Week- vs. St. Louis
The Cardinals have not beat a team that is not the Rams, Niners, or Seahawks since October 12. That's guaranteed to be a 2 month gap of not having beaten anyone who is not terrible, because they play the Rams this Sunday, Dec. 7. They've given up a combined 85 points in their last 2 games, losses to the Giants and Eagles. Their leading rusher had 10 yards in the Eagles game and 21 in the Giants game. They can thank their lucky stars the Niners choked on the goal line on Monday Night against them a couple of weeks back, otherwise the Cards would be 6-6 and the Niners 5-7, with the Niners playing much better football than the Cards have the last two months. On the plus side, neither Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald have shot themselves in the leg yet. So they've got that over the Giants.
5. CAROLINA PANTHERS (9-3)
Last Week- W at Green Bay 35-31: This Week- v. Tampa Bay
After we as a nation were subjected to a Monday Night crap session between the hopeless Texans and the nutless Jaguars, the Worldwide Leader makes it up to us this week with a showdown between a pair of 9-3 teams both hoping to win the NFC South. In Part I of Bucs-Panthers this year, Jake Delhomme was terrible, throwing 3 picks, and the running game awful, averaging 2.0 yards on 20 carries. Offense has not been the problem lately for the Cats though. Defense has. In their last 3 games, they've given up 31 points to the Packers, 45 to the Falcons, and 22 to the Lions. They may be 9-3 now, but if the defense doesn't tighten up, like now, they are going to start losing a lot of games down the stretch here.
6. ATLANTA FALCONS (8-4)
Last Week- W at San Diego 22-16; This Week- at New Orleans
I challenge you to find me a better QB/RB/Receiver triumvirate than the Falcons have right now in Matt Ryan/Michael Turner/Roddy White. Don't kill yourself on this because you won't find one. The win over San Diego last week was a perfect illustration of this. Ryan was about as efficient as you can be, throwing 2 TDs and posting a 130.2 passer rating. Turner carried 31 times for 120 yards, and White caught 6 passes for 112 yards. You get teams fearing both the run and pass equally, which every team playing the Falcons right now should be doing, and you can do some great things. There are 3 NFC South teams in the running for the playoffs right now, and probably only 2 of them will get in, because I think the Cowboys are going to get one of the wildcard spots. I'll tell you this, Carolina and Tampa better be worried, because I think it's one of them that are going to miss the playoffs, not the Falcons.
Every year it seems like there is one team that is playing better at the end of the year than 90% of the teams that are in the playoffs, but doesn't get in. Could the Cowboys be that team this year? Their schedule down the stretch is murder, and this week they go on the road without Marion Barber to face a hot Steelers team. Then they come home to face the Giants the very next week. It's conceivable they could be out of it by Week 16. The Redskins are 7-5, a game behind the Cowboys and Falcons in the race for the last wild card spot. Their offense has completely gone bye-bye, and I doubt it will show up against the Ravens tonight. The Bears are 6-6, and will have to win the NFC North to get in. They've gotten absolutely driled on the road against division opponents in 2 of the last 3 weeks. The Vikings need only to beat the Lions this week to clinch the tiebreaker over them, making it in essence a 2 game lead. The Bears are in trouble.
1. TENNESSEE TITANS (11-1)
Last Week - W at Detroit 47-10; This Week- vs. Cleveland
On Thanksgiving Day, the Titans came out angry, and took it out on the Lions. They can clinch the division with a win over the Browns today, and they are almost a lock to have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Still, that spanking they took at home against the Jets places them under suspicion until they can prove otherwise. Of their 11 wins, only 3 have been over teams with winning records.
2. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-3)
Last Week- W at New England 33-10; This Week- vs. Dallas
The Steelers had both Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore healthy and effective in the impressive win in Foxboro, with sexy results. Nobody in the AFC is playing better than the Steelers are, and their defense is one of the better ones we've seen this decade. They rank 1st in yards/attempt against both the run and the pass. Last week they slowed down the Matt Cassel Canton Express by inducing him to have a horrible 19 of 39, 2 INT outing. They catch a break in that the Cowboys will be running Tashard Choice instead of Marion Barber at them this week, which is good, because the one area they struggled in against New England was stopping the run. Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris ran for 118 yards on 16 carries.
3. NY JETS (8-4)
Last Week- L v. Denver 17-34; This Week- at San Francisco
I think last week I was spouting some nonsense about the Jets going to the Super Bowl. Forget it. The win over the Titans had a lot of people smoking banana peels and making bold pronouncements about the Jet. The more logical explanation is, the Titans aren't all that, and neither are the Jets. The Jets have the 31st ranked pass defense in the league, and they've now not only lost to the Raiders themselves, but they've lost at home to a team that lost to the Raiders at home. Not only did Jay Cutler throw for 357 yards against them in that rainy debacle against the Broncos, but the Jets gave up 129 yards to a fullback/tight end, Peyton Hillis. Now they go cross-country to play a 49ers team that got a sassy road win over the Bills last week.
4. DENVER BRONCOS (7-5)
Last Week- W at NY Jets 34-17; This Week- vs. Kansas City
The Broncos are a team that is impossible to figure out. They haven't won a home game since September, despite playing the awful Jaguars and Raiders at home during that drought. At the same time, they've won 3 road games in a row, culminating in a spanking of the Jets last week that confounded everybody. Now they are back home, where they never win, facing a Chiefs team, that never wins period, but did beat the Broncos 33-19 earlier this year. Larry Johnson ran for 198 yards in that game.
5. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (8-4)
Last Week- W at Cleveland 10-6; This Week- vs. Cincinnati
The Ravens, Dolphins, Patriots, and Bills need to take note that the Colts are pretty much a lock to win 11 games this year, and probably 12. It's not that the Colts are that good, Lord knows any illusions anyone had about that were dissolved during that 10-6 piece de resistance of awfulness in Cleveland last week. The Colts are going to go 11-5 or 12-4 because their remaining schedule is at home against Cincy, at home against Detroit, at a Jacksonville team that has quit, and then closing up at home against the Titans JV who will most likely have nothing to play for. So the Colts are getting one of the wildcard spots, leaving those 4 teams to fight over the #6 seed.
6. BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-4)
Last Week- W at Cincinnati 34-3; This Week- vs. Washington
Nobody in the AFC is playing better than the Ravens are right now. In their last two weeks, they've outscored the opposition 70-10. The defense is one of the best in the league, and Joe Flacco and the offense gets better every week. Now, think back to a couple of years ago, there was a Steelers team with a strong defense and an inexperienced quarterback (Roethlisberger=Flacco), and a bowling ball running back (Bettis=LeRon McClain) that got hot at the end of the year, got into the AFC Playoffs as the #6 team, then won 3 road games and then the Super Bowl. There's a precedent here, I'm just saying.
The Dolphins and Bills meet in Canada today, the first NFL regular season game played in America Jr. The Bills are playing like a team that could play 100 more games and not win any more this season, so expect the Dolphins to knock them out of the playoff picture. The Patriots go out to the west coast for the 3rd time this year, which is a good thing because all the west coast teams suck this year. Seattle's incompetent offensive boobery should be just what the Patriots beleaguered defense needs to not look as awful as they've looked recently.