Monday Morning QB (cont.)
Posted: Monday December 10, 2007 3:32AM; Updated: Monday December 10, 2007 2:31PM
The Fine Fifteen
1. New England (13-0). Has there ever been an easier path to 15-0? The next two foes, Jets and Dolphins, come to frigid Foxboro, a combined 3-23.
2. Indianapolis (11-2). Funny how they've become the NFL's forgotten team while putting up 31, 28 and 44 points the last three weeks, and winning this year at Jacksonville, Tennessee and Baltimore. Perhaps an indication that Jan. 20 at Foxboro might not be such a house of horrors for Peyton Manning & Co.
3. Dallas (12-1). Name the quarterbacks you'd take over Romo for the next few years. Brady and Manning. OK. Now who? Big Ben, Carson Palmer? Maybe. But it's a discussion.
4. Green Bay (11-2). No one heard of Ryan Grant 10 weeks ago. Now he's the key to the Packers' playoff fate.
5. Pittsburgh (9-4). We're all left to wonder how much of a factor Troy Polamalu would have been at the line of scrimmage in Foxboro last evening.
6. Jacksonville (9-4). Jags at Steelers this week. Game of the Week. A Jag win and they've pretty much got the fifth playoff seed locked up.
7. Minnesota (7-6). I am bullish on the Vikes being the NFC's sixth seed. Maybe the fifth. Look at the schedule: Chicago, Washington, at Denver. Look how they're playing. Look at the competent quarterback.
8. Seattle (9-4). Matt Hasselbeck's four-TD day put him two short of his career high for touchdowns in a season. How nice that his little brother, Tim, was on the other sideline (Arizona's) to witness it. And nice to see the Hawks get another three-sack day out of Patrick Kerney and three interceptions from Marcus Trufant. They're clicking on all cylinders in the Pacific Northwest.
9. San Diego (8-5). TV sets all over the southern tip of California had tomatoes thrown at them for three quarters (or longer) Sunday. Then Philip Rivers woke up from his nightmare and actually played competent football.
10. New York Giants (9-4). Plaxico Burress (900 yards, 10 touchdown catches) is campaigning very, very hard to get one of my two all-pro votes at wideout.
11. Tampa Bay (8-5). Think the Bucs are flukish? A lie. Three different quarterbacks have engineered the team's last four games. Including the kicker and punter, 23 of their 24 starters are signed at least through the end of 2009. (Only center Jon Wade will be a free-agent next March.) Good thing the Glazers hung onto Jon Gruden after last year's debacle.
12. Tennessee (7-6). Isn't it funny how, looking back at the 2006 draft, we all laughed at Houston for even suggesting Mario Williams was better than Vince Young? Who's laughing now?
13. Cleveland (8-5). I wish the Browns, just once, would put away a team they should put away. But as NBC stat maven Elliott Kalb pointed out last night, we're getting to Jamal Lewis season, when he can ground out a couple of wins in 13-degree wind chill and swirling flurries and get the Browns into the playoffs.
Lewis looks like he's got a lot left. Watching his Sunday highlights with Bettis, particularly the play where Lewis partially carried three Jets before breaking free for a touchdown, it was interesting to see Bettis' enthusiastic reaction. "Wow!'' he said. "I know that feeling. [Jamal] has really energized that team.''
Last year, I'd look at Lewis' numbers and see a 3.2-yard average. Now, with healthy ankles, his yards-per-carry against the Jets was 5.6.
14. Buffalo (7-6). The offense is catching up to the defense. Trent Edwards (four touchdown passes in the win over Miami) gives the Bills a fighting chance in their big playoff-implication game this week at Cleveland.
15. Washington (6-7). A reward for their perseverance -- and for the best game of Todd Collins' life.