The Fine Fifteen
1. New Orleans (10-0). Don't look now, but Drew Brees has a new weapon who's pretty good -- wideout Robert Meachem, who caught two touchdown passes in the 38-7 rout of the Bucs.
2. Indianapolis (10-0). Peyton Manning looked like his dog had just died during his postgame press conference, but that's because he seeks perfection, and the offensive performance was hardly perfect in the escapist 17-15 win over Baltimore. Interesting stat passed along by Scott Parsell of Indianapolis,: "In November, the Colts have outscored their opponents by just 10 points but are still 4-0."
3. Minnesota (9-1). As great as the offense was against Seattle, let's remember this one stat about the Viking defense: Minnesota allowed two first downs in the game's first 40 minutes.
4. New England (7-3). I flip-flopped the Vikes and Patriots this week, and really, New England easily could be tied for third. The Patriots let the Jets back into the game Sunday, but give some credit to Leigh Bodden, a scrap heap pickup after wearing out his welcome in noted powerhouses Cleveland and Detroit, for his three-interception day in Foxboro.
5. San Diego (7-3). LaDainian Tomlinson, welcome back to relevance.
6. Arizona (7-3). Talk about a role reversal: Cards are 5-0 on the road after their 21-13 win over the Rams at the Jones Dome ... and they ran for 183 yards, which is highly uncharacteristic.
7. Cincinnati (7-3). Disgraceful loss, but Bengals shouldn't have left it so much to chance at the end in Oakland.
8. Green Bay (6-4). Nice win, but two very big asterisks -- injuries to Aaron Kampman and Al Harris that look to be season-enders. "Doesn't look good,'' coach Mike McCarthy told me after the 30-24 victory over the Niners.
9. Pittsburgh (6-4). Rodney Harrison said it Sunday night: That line had better protect Ben Roethlisberger or else ... let me finish that -- or else Roethlisberger won't be around to play January football. He simply won't survive.
10. Dallas (7-3). Don't be alarmed. Really. But the Cowboys have scored on two of their last 23 possessions -- the garbage touchdown at Green Bay and the late game-winner over the Redskins Sunday. That's it. That's not doing a lot for your job security, Jason Garrett.
11. Philadelphia (6-4). Donovan McNabb did what good quarterbacks must do: drive his team 62 yards in the fourth quarter, down three points, in a game he called a must-win. Terrific drive.
12. Houston (5-4). Steve Slaton gets his running-back job back -- with one very important proviso: hold onto the ball, or you'll be standing next to Gary Kubiak for the rest of the year.
13. Miami (5-5). Valiant win by the Dolphins, playing without Wildcat triggerman Ronnie Brown. But the one stat that has to change for Miami to be a serious playoff contender in the last six weeks is this one: 24.4 points allowed per game. The Chad Henne-led offense is just not good enough to be scoring in the high 20s and 30s weekly.
14. Jacksonville (6-4). Maybe Maurice Jones-Drew (84 total yards, one TD) should apologize to his fantasy owners again this week.
15. Tennessee (3-6). Save your breath, Giants fans. Tennessee's playing better over the last month than the Giants are, and the way I consider this ranking is if the teams played today on a neutral field, who would win? If they lined up tomorrow in Morgantown (well, they'd both be a little tired, particularly Tennessee, which plays tonight), I'd pick the Titans to win.
Quote of the Week I
"Gutsy game by the kid.''
Quote of the Week II
"The uncapped year is definitely going to happen. We're already running short on time. I could be wrong ... But I think at this point in the life of the NFL, the uncapped year is something the owners are willing to take a look at. If that ends up happening, it could really change the landscape of the NFL.''
Quote of the Week III
"There are New England football fans who'd support Belichick if he pledged to eradicate indoor plumbing.''
1. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. He's 10-0, and on Sunday he unveiled another receiver no one's ever heard of -- tight end Tom Santi -- and quarterbacked a 17-15 survival game in Baltimore.
2. Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota. We might be watching the most amazing year of his ridiculous career. At age 40, Favre's touchdown-to-interception ratio is 21-3, and his game Sunday (22 of 25, a career single-game-best 88 percent) was flawless. Does 22 of 25 sound familiar? It should. It's Phil Simms' Super Bowl-record for accuracy by a quarterback in one game.
3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans. It's a good sign for the development of the total team that Brees wasn't even the big star, yet the Saints still romped. Not sacked, not intercepted, three touchdowns. And his team's 10-0.
4. Tom Brady, QB, New England. I believe Brady will one day look back on the day Wes Welker was traded to New England for second- and seventh-round picks and say it was a watershed moment in his career. Brady has found him an average of 7.5 times a game in Welker's 40-game New England career.
5. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego. Edges Chris Johnson for the last spot by virtue of his 10-touchdown, three-pick performance in the Chargers' five-game winning streak that's put them atop the AFC West.
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