Posted: Monday December 18, 2006 2:40AM; Updated: Monday December 18, 2006 9:47AM
The Fine Fifteen
Brian Westbrook scored twice in Sunday's win over the Giants, moving the Eagles one step closer to the playoffs.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
1. San Diego (12-2). The Chargers are a wonderful team, the class of the NFL with two games to play, and I'd say this is the best team Marty Schottenheimer has had this late in any of his 21 seasons as a head coach. And you know what he told me the other day when I asked him about being sixth on the all-time victory list (203 wins in 21 years), just six behind Chuck Noll (209 wins in 23 years)? "I still think my best coaching job was in Washington , going 8-8,'' he said. Me, too. Imagine if Dan Snyder had stuck with Schottenheimer instead of getting seduced by Steve Spurrier.
2. Baltimore (11-3). Adalius Thomas/Terrell Suggs/Trevor Pryce: 21 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble. That's one oppressive defense.
3. New Orleans (9-5). I give up on trying to figure out the NFC.
4. Chicago (12-2). I mean, I just give up.
5. Cincinnati (8-5). Bengals climb in the standings by not playing until Monday. It's just one of those Sundays when you gain in the Fine Fifteen by busing 98 miles up I-74 to the capital of Indiana.
6. Indianapolis (10-3). Last week I had Cincinnati 7 and Indy 5. And I'm picking Cincinnati to win tonight in Indy. So I'm thinking: How can I have Indy ahead of the Bengals if I don't think the Colts are going to beat the Bengals at the RCA Dome?
7. Dallas (9-5). Nice comeback in Atlanta, and Tony Romo will keep them in every game. But the stat about the Cowboys that would worry me quite a bit right now is this one: Last eight quarters: Nine TD passes, 70 points, 624 passing yards allowed.
8. New England (10-4). A 40-7 win would imply all is well in Patland. All is better. But 230 yards of offense? Against the league's 28th defense? Good thing the Pats had incredible field position all day.
9. Philadelphia (8-6). Brian Westbrook is the glue that keeps this team together. After he burst through the line to give Philly the 21-16 lead over the Giants in the fourth quarter, it was clear that he's the biggest difference-maker in the Giants-Eagles series right now.
10. New York Jets (8-6). Amazing. This week the Jets will root hard for the Patriots. The Pats are at Jacksonville. The Jets and Jax are both 8-6. First tiebreaker is head-to-head, and Jags beat the Jets 41-0
11. Jacksonville (8-6). More turnovers than a Betty Crocker cookbook.
12. New York Giants (7-7). Last six weeks: 1-5. Doesn't it seem like every week -- I mean every single week -- the Giants are playing the most important game in the NFC? Well, check out the Christmas Eve sked: Saints at Giants, 1 p.m.
13. Buffalo (7-7). Since Halloween, the Bills are 5-2 ... and the two losses were by one to Indy and three to San Diego.
14. Tennessee (7-7). Titans had five yards in the third quarter against the Jags. And Tennessee still scored 17 points. "That's what defensive turnovers will do for you,'' Jeff Fisher said afterward. "Sometimes your defense has to win the game for you.''
15. (tie) San Francisco (6-8). Niners 20, Seattle 14 at Candlestick. Niners 24, Seattle 14 at Qwest.
Pittsburgh (7-7). "We've got too many roadblocks to the playoffs,'' Hines Ward said after the Steelers won for the fifth time in six games. "I don't know if there's a realistic chance. But I do know we're playing well, and that's what's important to everyone on this team.''
Denver (8-6). Back in the land of the living with an impressive Jay Cutler performance at Phoenix.