The Fine Fifteen, er, Twelve
1. San Diego (13-3). If I'm Ron Rivera, I walk into Norv Turner's office this morning and say, "We've got to practice some live running Wednesday. Full pads.'' Shonn Greene might be more dangerous to the Chargers than Thomas Jones.
2. Indianapolis (14-2). Happiest guys in the Colts locker room this week, after three low-pressure weeks, are Dwight Freeney (abdominal) and Robert Mathis (quad), who've needed some real downtime. They can be fresh, at least as fresh as speed-rushers can be in Week 19, to torment Joe Flacco Saturday.
3. Dallas (12-5). DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, my two all-pro outside linebacker picks, combined for three sacks, four quarterback pressures, a pass deflected and a forced fumble Saturday. On the rug Sunday at Minnesota, they're going to be tough to stop.
4. Minnesota (12-4). Pressure's on the two vulnerable Vikes tackles, Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt. McKinnie, with Ware on his left shoulder, could have a very long day.
5. New Orleans (13-3). The more I thought about it the past few days, the more faith I had in the Saints offense to play well this weekend after slumping late. They just have to use Kyle Eckel or one of the tight ends more than Sean Payton probably wants -- but that's the cost of keeping Brees clean.
6. Arizona (11-6). Pray it doesn't come down to Neil Rackers, Cards faithful.
7. Baltimore (10-7). John Harbaugh is one heck of a coach. Last year, the Ravens went to AFC top-seed Tennessee in the divisional round and dominated the game physically, winning 13-10. On Sunday, the Ravens went to three-time Super Bowl champ New England, which hadn't lost a home playoff game in the Belichick Era, and embarrassed them. Good head coach, good coaching staff.
8. New York Jets (10-7). Best sign for the Jets is they won't have to win in spite of Mark Sanchez. They can win with him playing a big role.
9. Green Bay (11-6). I'd feel sick this morning but pretty good about the future if I were a Packers fan. Aaron Rodgers is special.
10. Philadelphia (11-6). Eight sick quarters to end the season.
11. New England (10-7). Four turnovers yielded 20 Baltimore points. End of story.
12. Cincinnati (10-7). You can't convince me that Carson Palmer's not hurt. Either that or he's become Steve Sax or Steve Blass. You know, with some sort of thrower's block.
Quote of the Week I
"I felt great. I loved our plan. I was seeing everything well. And it accumulated into 50 points.''
Quote of the Week II
"I know what's coming. Eighteen's coming.''
Quote of the Week III
"The issue is they haven't always been the big dog and they won't always be the big dog, and I think they're being really short-sighted and that's pretty much in my mind the definition of the ugly American where you say, 'Hey, it's all about me and this is the way it's always going to be, and if you don't like it, that's your problem.' ''
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