Posted: Monday December 25, 2006 12:00AM; Updated: Monday December 25, 2006 8:16PM
The Fine Fifteen
With 395 rushing yards in his last three games, Maurice Jones-Drew is making a late push for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Jimmy DeFlippo/US PRESSWIRE
1. San Diego (13-2). Watching as much football as I have for the last couple of months, I'm starting to think that the shame of this playoff season will be that the two best teams won't meet in the Super Bowl. San Diego and Baltimore clearly are superior to every other team. They're a combined 17-1 over the last nine weeks.
2. Baltimore (12-3). Brian Billick was right a few weeks ago, as it turns out. He told me the Ravens were playing for a bye, even though it appeared the Colts and Chargers were the clear bye favorites. And now a win over Buffalo at home this week means they've got two weeks off, which would be vital for a veteran team.
3. New Orleans (10-5). Giants ran zero plays in New Orleans territory. I mean, think of that. The Saints' D is supposed to be along for the ride. Those guys made some plays at the Meadowlands.
4. New England (11-4). "We're pretty good when we don't beat ourselves,'' a gallant and well-beaten Tom Brady said. You can say that again. You don't want the Patriots, 6-1 on the road this year, coming into your house in the playoffs.
5. Chicago (13-2). Hard to read much into what happened at Ford Field, struggling to beat a bad team in a meaningless game.
6. Dallas (9-5). Visions of a playoff rout of the Giants dance in Bill Parcells' head.
7. Indianapolis (11-4). The Colts' defense will doom them. The Texans, of all people, the league's 28th-rated offense entering play Sunday, had the ball seven times. The seven drives: 10 plays, 9, 5, 14, 8, 15, and 6. That's 77 plays, seven drives. Imagine a team averaging 11 plays per drive.
8. Philadelphia (8-6). Does Jeff Garcia have one more Christmas miracle in his sack?
9. Denver (9-6). Think back to Halloween. I can't fathom the Broncos being in a must-win game in Week 17 for the playoffs.
10. Cincinnati (8-7). That was a snap that will live in infamy.
11. New York Jets (8-6). Who'd have dreamed in August the Jets would be playing a playoff-entitling game on Christmas night?
12. Tennessee (8-7). Titans are 6-0 since Nov. 19.
13. Seattle (8-7). Belonged on the same field with the Chargers. Impressive performance, if not quite good enough.
14. Jacksonville (8-7). Maurice Jones-Drew is trying to win Offensive Rookie of the Year in the last month. He's rushed for 131, 98 and 166 yards in the last three weeks.
15. St. Louis (7-8). A maddening team, but any football team with Marc Bulger under center, having to beat an under .500 team to make the playoffs next Sunday (at Minnesota), has a heck of a chance.
Quote of the Week
"[Boxing trainer] Teddy Atlas said to me the other day, 'Success is like a martini. It relaxes you.' I think there's an element of truth to that in anything you do. We talk about that quite a bit, but it's the battle against human nature. If you're being successful, you can't gloss over the things that need to be fixed. On the other hand, if things aren't going too well, you can't look at it as if the sky is falling and dwell on the mistakes so much that you can't make progress.''
-- New York Jets coach Eric Mangini, on the challenges of trying to coach his 8-6 team into the playoffs.