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Carolina on my mind

Surging Panthers have quietly snuck into the top five

Posted: Tuesday November 1, 2005 6:20PM; Updated: Wednesday November 2, 2005 1:28PM
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I have an e-mail from somebody in Santa Monica who calls himself King Alfred and, oddly enough, it's on my own personal e-mail, which only eight people in the world know, and I'm not one of them. It reads as follows (let me strap on my glasses):

"When I read the rankings, I'm not interested in all that silly, smirky, smart-ass stuff (hmmm, pretty good onomatopoeia there) that you write every week. I want to know why you ranked a team where you did, and save the other stuff for the funny papers."

Funny papers? This must be an old person, around my own vintage. I think I know who it is, and if it is who I think it is, he's armed, and I will certainly comply with his request. So all you folks please sit up straighter in your chairs because serious stuff is coming:

NFL Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 1 First they'll run Edgerrin James at the Patriots, and see if they have anywhere near the success Buffalo did with Willis McGahee last Sunday night. When New England stops that, the Colts will see how Duane Starks likes trying to cover Reggie Wayne, giving Starks the same unmerciful treatment they awarded Denver's poor Roc Alexander in last year's playoffs. Remember? The Patriots will be forced to give Starks double-team help, and if they ease up on the way they're covering Marvin Harrison on the other side, Peyton's gaze will switch to the right, where Asante Samuel will surprise him by how well he's handling Indy's premier receiver. But oh oh, look out for Brandon Stokley, working his crossing patterns against nickel back or combination coverage, or Dallas Clark finding yardage down an open middle. What can change this scenario would be: 1) the Colts screwing it up; 2) the Patriots' defense coming up with something weird and unexpected; or 3) the Colts' defense being a mirage, and Tom Brady making a track meet out of the game, a track meet New England wins.
2 2 Whew, I'm exhausted, and we're just starting. Big Ben wasn't right in the wheels dept. on Monday night. But after the Steelers gave him emergency repairs in the locker, he was out there same as usual, the Statue of Liberty being attacked by hawks. He's a big, strong kid, and he prevailed. After the game his insurance actuaries got together, studied his policy and decided to raise his premium by 18 percent.
3 3 They won it for Wellington, and how. After the smoke had cleared from the Washington Massacre, you heard all sorts of optimistic opinions, such as, "if they can only keep this going every week," etc. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. These emotional maelstroms, except in the most abnormal circumstances, usually are quickies, one-shots. I mean look what happened to the Philly defense the week after it overran San Diego. Consistency is what the coaches preach. Just play smart, play nice, don't fight.
4 6 Yes, a wonderful victory, to be sure, but they came very close to blowing it by leaving a crippled Champ Bailey in too long, after it was obvious he couldn't run or cut. It's not like the guy replacing him was a stiff. Domonique Foxworth only made the biggest play of the game, intercepting a pass in the end zone and halting Philly's comeback.
5 12 It suddenly dawned on me. The Panthers have won four straight, and I've been neglecting them ... my Super Bowl team, no less. See that, King Alfred. You thought I was going to write about Steve Smith's Loveboat thing in the end zone, didn't you?
6 7 They've taken me off their mailing list, so Sunday night I had to use an older roster of a month ago. And I was having a hell of a time, trying to identify new people not listed, squinting at the little figures on the screen and trying to read the names on their backs. You're laughing, but it's no joke. A person could go blind that way.
7 8 I raised them a spot after a bye because I had to get Jacksonville and Philly the hell out of the penthouse after last weekend.
8 9 Ditto, but they'll drop after Miami upsets them. "So tell me, ace, did you bet it that way?" What am I, nuts?
9 13 I will give you an interesting statistic on this team. There has been no game this year in which the Cowboys committed more penalties than their opponent did. Coaches, as you know, hate penalties. Come to think of it, I don't like them much, myself.
10 15 Karl Rove did the game planning last weekend. It went like this. "Tell you what we'll do. If Favre's making a run at you at the end, there's this guy who'll come out of the stands and grab the ball away from him. Without a football, he'll have a hell of a time completing any passes. You all got it now?"

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