Time again here on Tuesday for the weekly power rankings. With just three weeks remaining in the regular season, it’s time to finally put up or shut up for many teams around the league. Here are the top 5 and bottom 3 in each conference.
NFC Top 5
1. Chicago (1) – A special win to say the least Monday night in St.Louis for the Bears. We all know that the defense and special teams will have to be the strong points once this team starts playoff action in mid-January. I think that based on what I have seen and how this team plays at home, that will at least be enough to earn them a shot at the Super Bowl with a home NFC Championship game. Nice for Bears fans to finally see Rex Grossman get on track as well Monday night.
2. New Orleans (3) – I guess all those, myself included, that thought that early season success for the Saints would end, are dead wrong. New Orleans is about as dangerous on offense right now as the Chargers, and with the way they are playing, a shot at the NFC crown is not out of the question in the least. Drew Brees should get major consideration for MVP, and Sean Peyton is a lock for coach of the year. Big games vs the Giants and Panthers remain for this young group of stars.
3. Dallas (2) – The Cowboys freight train to the NFC East title took a hit last week with a bad home loss to the Saints, 42-17. That loss may end up being a good thing in the long run, as it will refocus this bunch along with their young QB Tony Romo. Dallas has to be careful this week as they travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons. They finish up with the Eagles and Lions at home, two games they should win. The Falcons game Saturday is their biggest of the season.
4. Seattle (4) – Despite a loss, the Hawks will clinch their division by Sunday, and had better start playing better because its almost certain they will be playing a wild card game at Qwest Field. They are 5-1 at home, which boasts well for that game, but then they will have to go on the road, where they are 3-4. The loss to the Cardinals was just awful, and this team looks as if they are not going to be able to match the level of where they were in 2005.
5. Philadelphia (5) – Give props to Jeff Garcia and the Eagles for not folding despite the loss of Donovan McNabb. They still have a shot at the wild card at 7-6, but have to win on the road this week at the Meadowlands against a team that stunned them early in the year in the Giants in a game they simply gave away. They do have confidence going for them right now, and a win this week would be huge for a wild card playoff push.
NFC Bottom 3
1. Detroit (1) – The Lions followed up a gutsy performance two weeks ago at New England with a poor home outing vs the Vikings. They have yet to win a road game, and with two of the last three on the road at Green Bay and at Dallas on 12/31, plus a home game in between vs the Bears, it looks as if a 2-14 mark is a foregone conclusion for the Lions. They have a lot of holes, so the #1 pick in the draft could be one of a number of players.
2. Tampa Bay (2) – Might be time for Chucky Gruden to call it quits with this team. Seems like his message is no longer getting across to the players, and with an aging defense and lackluster offense, the Bucs might not be much better in 2007. Another team that is winless on the road, and the last two weeks it seems as if they have stopped trying, which is dangerous.
3. Washington (-) – Arizona has won two straight to earn their way out of the bottom three, so we turn attention to the Skins, who had so much promise coming in this year, and have tanked it basically from day one. Joe Gibbs says he’ll return in 2007, which I don’t think will be a good thing. One positive is that Jason Campbell looks like he can be a solid NFL quarterback.
AFC Top 5
1. San Diego (1) – My pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, the Chargers have everything going their way right now. They have clinched the AFC West, have the best record in the conference, and are 6-0 at home and have won seven in a row. Sunday they let the Broncos back in the game at 28-20, but then ran off 20 straight for a 48-20 win. The big question now is what can Marty do to blow it this time in the playoffs?
2. Baltimore (3) – The Ravens are red-hot, stopping the Chiefs on the road 20-10 in a game that was not as close as the score. Baltimore is solid on offense, very good on defense, and solid on special teams, making them overall a good team top to bottom. Despite that, I don’t know if in the end they have the firepower to match up with the Chargers. Let’s not forget though, they were one of two teams to beat San Diego this season.
3. Indianapolis (2) – The city of Indianapolis is gripping right now as the Colts title dreams are simply slipping away right before our eyes. They have lost home field, and may even lose out on a first-round bye if they can’t get back on track. Hard to believe five weeks ago that this team would drop three of four. Tony Dungy has to take control of this defense and start making some serious corrections to stopping the run.
4. Cincinnati (5) – The Bengals had the benefit of beating up an uninterested Raiders team on Sunday, and right now hold the top wild card spot in the AFC. They have three tough games left to prove they belong – at Indy, at Denver and vs Pittsburgh in a game that is likely to be on New Years Eve night. Carson Palmer and the offense looks like they did in 2005, which is going to give headaches to anyone that may play them in round one.
5. Jacksonville (-) Jacksonville gets the nod over the Pats after winning five of seven while New England has limped to a 3-3 mark over their last six, including Sunday’s shutout loss at Miami. At 8-5, the Jags look wild card bound, and can all but clinch a spot with a win Sunday at Tennessee vs the red-hot Titans. The running game was unstoppable Sunday vs the Colts, and the defense is only giving up 87 yards per game on the ground. Another team that can give a high seed fits in the playoffs.
AFC Bottom 3
1. Oakland (1) – The 2-11 Raiders have lost six in a row, and Sunday vs the Bengals seemed to have little passion in a 27-10 loss. With two home games up next vs the Rams and Chiefs, they have a shot to go 3-13, but no one would be shocked to see a 2-14 finish. Another team that will have lots of options on draft day with plenty of holes to fill.
2. Cleveland (3) – The Browns allowed over 300 yards rushing to the Steelers on Thursday, and barley put up a fight in a bad 27-7 loss. Two of their last three games they have been outscored 57-7, and if it were not for that heroic comeback vs the Chiefs two weeks ago, Romeo Crennel may be out of a job. Derek Anderson has shown some skill at the QB spot, but the rest of the team appears in total disarray.
3. Houston (2) – While the Texans have shown some fight most of the season, they just don’t have the horses to get the job done. Sunday they had a late lead, only to allow the Titans to comeback and then lose in OT when hometown hero Vince Young ran in for the winning score. Two wins over the Jags and a win over the Dolphins shows this team can get it together, but look for more changes in the offseason to try and take that next step.