The Fine Fifteen
1. New Orleans (12-0). In 2006, the red-hot Saints blew out Dallas on a Sunday night and lost to the 4-9 Redskins the next week. In 2009, the red-hot Saints blew out New England on a Monday night and lost ... uh, check that ... came back from the dead to beat the 3-8 Redskins in overtime the next week.
2. Indianapolis (12-0). Say this for the Colts' D: It can play the run better than it has played it in a while. In two games against the Colts, NFL rushing leader Chris Johnson averaged 73.5 yards; in 10 games against other opponents, Johnson has averaged 136.2.
3. Minnesota (10-2). Favre giveth. Favre taketh away.
4. San Diego (9-3). "Best team in football,'' one NFL coach told me Saturday. Don't laugh.
5. Cincinnati (9-3). Take away the bad loss at Oakland 15 days ago, and the Bengals have been playing terrific football. They have a 2.5-game lead with four to play, nearly insurmountable, though they do play at Minnesota and vs. San Diego the next two weeks. America doesn't see much of the Bengals and may not down the stretch. (Cincinnati has daytime games scheduled each of the final four Sundays.) But know this: The Bengals can play defense.
6. Arizona (8-4). If I were the Saints or Vikings, I wouldn't want to see the Cardinals, with Kurt Warner and that defensive front healthy, come calling in January.
7. Green Bay (7-4). Brett Favre's career-high single-season passing year as a Packer: 4,413 yards. Aaron Rodgers is on pace for a 4,561-yard season. Interesting. Some of us don't think of Rodgers' year as being particularly tremendous. Maybe because so many quarterbacks are having a good year. Think again.
8. Dallas (8-4). I don't know what to do with the Cowboys. Should they be eight? Ten? Fifteen? I wrote the other day Dallas hasn't had a winning December in 13 years, and after the loss to the Giants, it'll be incredible if it has one this fall. Next three December games: San Diego, at New Orleans, at Washington.
9. Philadelphia (8-4). Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott breathed a pretty big sigh of relief Sunday in Atlanta. Even with the quarterback and best running back out for the Falcons, holding them to no points for 59 minutes and 59 seconds (Atlanta got a garbage TD at the gun) was a welcome relief after giving up 75 points in the previous three games.
10. Denver (8-4). What a psycho team. Lost four in a row by an average of 20. Now have won two by an average of 25.
11. New England (7-5). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the game against Miami was the third this year in which New England has lost after holding a 10-point lead. The Pats had one of those in the previous seven years. Great line, by the way, from MLB/NFL stat maven Elliott Kalb about the Pats: "They've only won in England, and New England.''
12. Jacksonville (7-5). Jax has won four of the past five, and the wins have come by 3, 2, 3 and 5 points. If the playoffs started today, the Jags would be at Cincinnati in the wild-card opener.
13. Baltimore (6-5). Touring the NFC North over the next 14 days: at Packers tonight, home with Detroit and Chicago the next two Sundays.
14. Tennessee (5-7). Can't kayo the Titans for losing at an unbeaten team and playing competitively.
15. New York Giants (7-5). Though the Giants allowed 24 points to the Cowboys, the Dallas rushing line was 23 carries for 45 yards. That has to give Tom Coughlin hope that a major hole is starting to be plugged.
Quote of the Week I
"I'd have to cut him before he cost me my job.''
Quote of the Week II
"He's our knucklehead, and we love him.''
Quote of the Week III
"The commissioner has talked about the risk the owners take. We're not financially invested in ownership, so we don't face that, but we're physically invested in this. What's the price tag for that? Ask [permanently injured Buffalo tight end] Kevin Everett the price tag. We feel we take great risk every time we take the field. I'm sure the owners feel they take great risk every time they invest their money. Where is the common ground? That's what we need to find.''
Classic Brady -- he's not afraid of lobbing a bomb, but he'll usually do it wrapped in a nice padded box of respect.
Quote of the Week IV
"At some point I think players have to understand that there are certain risks that are involved, and if you decide that you want to go out and play football, then you've got to understand that part of that means you're going to break some bones and you may have some head injuries. But if you try to eliminate all of those things, then we're no longer playing football."
In Case You Missed It Quote of the Week
"I'm toward the end of my career. I don't think about one more game defining me, or them throwing me out. I'm thinking about the 50 years with my family after this part of my life. Football takes a huge backseat. I'm going to have 12, 13 years in this game, and 70 out of it. When I think about it that way, it makes the decision a little easier.''
NFL Truth & Rumors