Week 14 NFL Power Rankings
by Robert Ferringo - 12/07/2006
You know what Monday Night's clash between Philadelphia and Carolina looked like to me? A playoff game.
That's right. It's December. It's time for men to take over. It's time for cute stories and gimmicky teams to step aside and try not to get pummeled as the brutes and ogres take over and run roughshod throughout the land. Nothing is going to happen for anyone in the next month unless they have the guile of a Russian spy and the icy will of a Chinese surgeon. Strength is the only virtue worth salvaging in the NFL in winter. And even armed with that, victory will have to be pried out of the cold, lifeless grip of your opponent.
It won't be easy for us gamblers either. The ripe lines of the harvest time have long since been devoured. All that remains are the rotten and disease-infested spreads of the last four weeks. Who is still playing for pride and who is packing it in? Which team in the NFC is about to get hot and bulldoze their way to a playoff run? Who will be the first to blink in the quest for home field advantage in the AFC? Right now there are more questions than answers, and anyone who thinks they know what's going to happen in the next to weeks is either a liar or a thief. Maybe both.
If you don't believe me, just check out the opening lines for Week 14. Only six of 16 lines are greater than 3.5. Even the gypsies and soothsayers in Vegas are throwing their arms up this week and professing, "We don't know what the hell is going on either." The whole thing stinks of confusion and desperation. How else can you explain Houston opening as a two-point favorite over the hottest team in football right now, Tennessee? What about the decrepit Detroit Lions, posted as a home favorite over Minnesota despite their standard 2-10 start? The Giants lose on a last-second field goal at home and it's revitalizing. The Panthers lose on a last-second interception on the road and it's crippling. How is that?
But fear not; we've been here before. Only the ruthless and the cunning will make it through Christmas. Ask for no quarter and expect none given. Things are getting serious in the NFL.
And without further ado here are my Week 14 Power Rankings:
1. Chicago (10-2) - The Bears have used the shotgun formation just 10 times. The results: 2-for-6, 1 yard, two false start penalties and a 10-yard sack. I will be shocked if we see Tommie Harris before the playoffs.
2. San Diego (10-2) - Six of their last eight wins have been over teams with losing records. And they were getting their asses handed to them before two classic choke jobs by the other two "winning" teams (Cincy and Denver). That's why they're No. 2. Besides, is there any doubt Marty is going to choke in the playoffs?
3. Indianapolis (10-2) - Since winning back-to-back road games at Denver and New England the Colts are just 1-3 ATS. Peyton Manning has lost back-to-back games in two of the past three years.
4. Baltimore (9-3) - Over the past two years Baltimore is 5-8 ATS when listed as an underdog. Starting guard Keydrick Vincent should return this week to bolster the offensive line, and Michael Clayton will fill in for BJ Sams returning punts.
5. New England (9-3) - Since rushing for over 140 yards in three of their first four games, the "vaunted" duo of Dillon and Maroney have combined to top 100 yards in just three of their last eight games, and twice they didn't top 40 yards. The Pats rush offense is currently 12th.
6. Dallas (8-4) - Don't be fooled by this team: they still have issues. Two days after getting called out for poor play, Marcus Spears and Chris Canty each got in separate fights in Dallas' practice. The Cowboys are 0-5 ATS against New Orleans.
7. Seattle (8-4) - Right tackle Sean Locklear will be back in the lineup this weekend after missing six weeks with a high ankle sprain.
8. New Orleans (8-4) - Hollis Thomas is a tremendous loss, but it doesn't end there for the wounded Saints. DE Will Smith and WRs Joe Horn and Marques Colston are all listed as questionable, and LB Scott Fujita and OT Jon Stinchcomb are probable.
9. Jacksonville (7-5) - The Jags are 7-2 ATS and 3-1 ATS at home against Indianapolis. They are also 5-1 ATS at Alltel Stadium this season.
10. Cincinnati (7-5) - The Bengals will see a lot of man coverage this weekend against the Raiders, a rarity given Cincy's passing prowess. The Bengals are the No. 4 passing team and will be toe-to-toe with the league's No. 3 overall defense.
11. Kansas City (7-5) - The Chiefs are 10-2 ATS in their last 12 games at Arrowhead and they haven't lost a home game in December since 1996 (18 games).
12. Denver (7-5) - Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to hop on San Diego this weekend. Denver is 6-2-1 ATS in its last nine games as a visitor against the Chargers. And don't think that Al Wilson suiting up won't be a huge lift.
13. Carolina (6-6) - After their meltdown in Philly, the Panthers are now 0-3 both SU and ATS against the NFC East this year. They've been installed as a favorite in all three games. I'll be shocked if Jake Delhomme doesn't play on Sunday.
14. New York Jets (7-5) - Chad Pennington's quarterback rating is 101.3 this year when he's playing with a lead. But it falls to just 66.7 when New York is trailing in a game.
15. New York Giants (6-6) - The Giants have gotten outscored 58-10 in the fourth quarter during their recent four-game losing streak. The Giants offensive line hasn't given up a sack in its past two games, the first time that's happened since 2002.
16. Philadelphia (6-6) - Man, this is going to be hilarious when all of the warm and fuzzies are sucked out of Philly this week when Garcia goes 11-for-24 for 118 yards and two interceptions. No chance he matches what he did on MNF. No way.
17. Buffalo (5-7) - After a SU home loss the Bills are 8-4 ATS the following week when they play on the road. They are 8-2 ATS in those situations as an underdog. Three of Willis McGahee's six 100-yard days over the past two years have come against the Jets.
18. Tennessee (5-7) - Vince Young is 8-1 ATS in his last nine starts for the Titans. Tennessee is 3-2 against playoff teams but just 2-5 against teams that didn't make the postseason last year.
19. Miami (5-7) - Ronnie Brown won't play again this week, and we saw what happens when the Dolphins become one-dimensional offensively. The Fins are 6-2 ATS at home against the Patriots.
20. St. Louis (5-7) - The Rams are 5-2 ATS against the Bears. St. Louis has the second-most penalty yards this season, trailing only Dallas. Their 31 false start penalties (Alex Barron has nine) lead the world.
21. Atlanta (6-6) - Falcons receivers won't be facing the league's 28th ranked pass defense this week. Atlanta is 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games against the Bucs.
22. Pittsburgh (5-7) - The over/under on the amount of bone-jarring hits that Anthony Smith lays out tonight: 3.5. Smith and seven-year vet Tyrone Carter will be starting at safety tonight.
23. San Francisco (5-7) - Not only did the 49ers lose starting LB Derek Smith, but also they had to release Tony Parrish, one of the most well-like and respected veterans in the locker room. Alex Smith is completing 70 percent of his passes in his last four home starts.
24. Minnesota (5-7) - I'll end the suspense: Brad Johnson is starting on Sunday. Of Johnson's 78 third-down completions, a whopping 36 of them came up short of the first-down marker. That's absurd. Chester Taylor won't be available.
25. Washington (4-8) - In six of Washington's eight losses they actually held a lead at one point. In four of those games they were leading at halftime.
26. Cleveland (4-8) - Quarterbacks making their first career start are 0-4 this season.
27. Green Bay (4-8) - Brett Favre is 5-0-1 ATS in his last seven trips to San Francisco and the Packers are 7-1-1 ATS in their last nine games against the 49ers.
28. Houston (4-8) - Houston is just 2-7 SU in its last nine against Tennessee but they are 4-2 ATS in the last six. The Texans are 0-5 all-time in December home games against AFC South teams.
29. Detroit (2-10) - A 12-game losing streak between 1985-1988 is the last time that the Lions have lost more than three consecutive games against division rivals. They have a shot on Sunday to avoid their fourth straight defeat to NFC North foes.
30. Arizona (3-9) - Marcel Shipp hadn't even scored one touchdown - let alone three - since 2002 (505 touches). His last three-touchdowns game, interestingly enough, during a outburst against the St. Louis Rams.
31. Tampa Bay (3-9) - Yeah. They suck. The average differential in their past 10 games with Atlanta is 14.4 points, meaning that one team is usually blowing out the other.
32. Oakland (2-9) - I don't care if they win out for the rest of the season. After that shit show that they put on last week the Raiders are the worst team in the NFL. Period.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his Insider Page here.