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Holding the fort
St. Louis continues to keep watch from the top
Posted: Tuesday November 20, 2001 5:52 PM
I knew the Jets would beat Miami. So why did I pick the Dolphins? Quien sabe? I knew the Vikings were ready for a Green Bay-like performance. So why did I pick the Giants? I know this is a rankings, not a handicapping, column, but I just want to promise the investors and loyal followers of my forecasts that from now on I will go on gut instinct. No more will I be influenced by the nonsense I read. Speaking of nonsense, here comes the usual lineup:
| Dr. Z's Power Rankings |
St. Louis Rams (8-1)
Nice try, Patriots. For a while your changing alignments and imaginative blitz schemes had 'em scratching their heads, but one thing that hasn't been written about this Rams team is its great intelligence on the go. I'm talking about the ability to make the proper adjustments while things are happening. And even when a rusher or two leaks through, Warner can get to his hot reads so quickly and accurately that the defense is screwed.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2)
This seems to be the script now. People load up to stop Bettis, Kordell counterpunches 'em accurately and effectively. I'd say that the way he has been playing, he rates among the league's top half dozen or so QBs. Of course, he has the luxury of a heavy running game behind him.
Chicago Bears (7-2)
Yeah, they beat a fired-up Bucs team by throwing long, imagine, but strategically, the end of the game was not indicative of the coach's Yale degree. A handoff and three straight kneels, which stopped the clock and gave the Bucs the ball with 0:18 left and gave them a chance to tie the game with a final field goal. In a similar situation, Bill Parcells once had Neil O'Donnell pivot and heave the ball into the stands for a deliberate safety. Personally I would have had Jim Miller doing a slow jog toward his own end zone far away, back, back -- My god, what's the blighter doing? -- until either the clock runs out or he has given up the safety and then the Bears get to free kick it with a couple of seconds left. The only problem with this strategy is that it ruins your rushing stats for the year.
San Francisco 49ers (7-2)
Oh yes, they're Cinderella, destiny's darlings, until they get to face the Rams in the Speed-Dome next month.
Oakland Raiders (7-2)
I don't know, there just seems to be something lacking here. After three quarters of the San Diego game, they were only up by four, with Doug Flutie having one of his real bad afternoons. I picked them to beat the Giants in New York Sunday, but I wonder if they'll be as focused as Monday night's losers will be. I'm afraid this is one of those games that looks too easy, and thus I have fallen into the trap.
Green Bay Packers (6-3)
I heard one TV commentator say that right now Brett Favre has regressed to the point where he was early in his career when Mike Holmgren got hold of him and taught him to stop making stupid decisions. Following this progression, next season he'll be at the point where he was in Southern Mississippi, and in 2003 he'll be in his senior year at Hancock North Central High in Kiln, Miss., sifting through the scholarship offers.
Philadelphia Eagles (6-3)
Show this defense any sign of weakness and it'll eat you up. No team has scored more than 21 on the Eagles, a statistic matched only by Pittsburgh.
New York Jets (7-3)
Hey, the Jets are a good team with a defense that's coming around, but if I have to read any more of this junk about psychological motivation and the stuff they put on the bulletin board, I'm gonna throw up. I mean where are we, Hancock North Central High in Kiln?
Cleveland Browns (5-4)
If only they could pack Elvis Grbac into a suitcase and carry him around from city to city. Six picks in two games, wow! The Bengals should be just their meat Sunday, but the warning lights are flashing. Letdown game. Caution. Letdown.
Miami Dolphins (6-3)
It really bothers me how much heat Zach Thomas has taken for being honest and trying to light a fire under his teammates. The world is snapping at his heels now, but this is one of the really good guys and serious competitors in the NFL.
Baltimore Ravens (6-4)
Are we seeing a Year 2000 Tampa Bay syndrome here? A superior defense getting worn down, trying to cover for an offense that simply isn't pulling its weight. The Ravens have been on the short end of the time of possession contest for three straight games now.
New England Patriots (5-5)
In their Sunday nighter against the Rams their defense was like a sturdy pitcher, going on short rest and getting people out for five innings. Then uh oh, blam blam, blam, the crack of the bat was heard. Nevertheless, I salute the effort, and the way Bill Belichick is getting the most out of his skimpy material, which all translates into no drop at all in the rankings.
New Orleans Saints (5-4)
I mean 19 for 22 for 249 yards and two TDs, plus another TD rushing, for Aaron Brooks? C'mon now. I don't want to take anything away from the kid, but those are Hall of Fame numbers. Could this, uh, possibly be a reflection on the Colts defense he was facing?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5)
I raised them a notch after the Bears game because of their intensity of effort. Obviously, though, they weren't prepared for the famous Miller-to-Booker deep threat that has terrorized the league for so many years.
Tennessee Titans (4-5)
I hate to admit this, but after that heartbreaking Monday night loss to the Ravens, I had fallen into the typical sportswriters' trap of writing them off for the season. Then they came out and beat the Bengals, ho hum, business as usual. I guess other people agreed with me, though, because Cincinnati was actually favored. We forget that there are many proud people and intense competitors in the NFL.
Washington Redskins (4-5)
Some interesting things are happening. Against the Broncos, Big Daddy Wilkinson had the finest game I've ever seen from him. Of course, the fact that he was going against Dan Neil, his modus operandi severely softened by the NFL's fines, might have had something to do with it, but still ... LaVar Arrington is finally making big plays. And here's the weirdest thing, Ki-Jana Carter, who isn't even listed in the Pro Football Register ("Guys ask me, 'Are you still around? Haven't you retired?'") is actually playing well in the Skins' offense.
Indianapolis Colts (4-5)
Memo to Peyton Manning: I salute the creativity you showed with that fake-spike, run-it-around-end, play, but you have to remember who's officiating the contest and act accordingly. Jeff Triplette's the worst ref in the game. Everything functions about two beats slower with this guy. Next time, pick an official in charge of a crew that doesn't start blowing its whistles at any sign of movement.
Seattle Seahawks (5-4)
The Hawks ruined my upset special. Normally I'd exact some measure of revenge, in my sneaky way, for such an affront and penalize them in the rankings, covering it with some phony excuse. But I've turned over a new leaf, see. Ever since I got married. Everything on the up and up now.
Denver Broncos (5-5)
This is one of those sad things. I don't want to be overly critical because they're really playing with a short deck since they've got only one receiver, i.e., Rod Smith. Then when he twists an ankle they're left with very few weapons. Neither the running game, operating behind a deteriorating O-line (is it the chop block fines?), nor the defense, is enough to compensate for the loss of striking power.
San Diego Chargers (5-5) |
A grim sense of reality has settled in, the chilling thought that possibly Doug Flutie is not the answer. It's as if one of Santa's elves has been trying to hammer nails in upside down.
Minnesota Vikings (4-5)
OK, I can understand the Moss & Carter show going high voltage in a home contest, on artificial turf. But what's with the defense? That's twice now, against the Packers and Monday night against the Giants, that this rather listless outfit has risen up in real fury. I'm talking about the pass rush. I guess the handicapping formula is clear. Pick 'em to win big at home and lose big on the road. You know something, I figured this out all by myself.
New York Giants (5-5)
Kerry Collins, who has had plenty of big afternoons, especially in the NFC title game last year, has never been much of a favorite among the New York fans. He picks the weirdest times to drop the ball. When he's being chased toward the sidelines, you know that it's a real longshot that he'll complete anything. If he's comfortable in the pocket, look out. If not, lights out.
Atlanta Falcons (5-4)
How come I near nothing these days about Dan Reeves' program of splitting the workload among Chandler and Vick? Dan was a Dallas Cowboy when Tom Landry came up with the idea of alternating Craig Morton and Roger Staubach on every play . Nope, Chandler's the man, and I give the Falcons an outside playoff shot if, let's hear it, all together now, he stays healthy.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-5)
I'm trying to be fair. I close my eyes and and still hear the weakening protests of Bengals loyalists, like the chirping of baby birds waiting to be fed. Honestly, I respect Bengals fans. Anyone can root for the New York Yankees and teams like that. Bengals fans have character. And if your team wins in Cleveland Sunday, I'll, I'll, oh Lord, I don't know what I'll do. Ask the Redhead to bake 'em a cake or something.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6)
This used to be an exciting team. Then it became kind of interesting, but flawed. Now with Mark Brunell down and Jon Quinn running the show against the Ravens Sunday, it's become desperate. But at 3-6, I'm afraid the excitement has already disappeared.
Dallas Cowboys (2-7)
San Diego coach Mike Riley has sent Dave Campo a letter. It says, "Repeat after me. Ryan Leaf is my quarterback." This is what is known as a death threat.
Kansas City Chiefs (2-7)
Sunday's contest against Seattle is a crucial one to determine the eventual silver medalist in the AFC West. The Raiders are distancing themselves, and every one else looks about the same right now, mediocre to worse than that.
Arizona Cardinals (3-6) |
The Cardinals are the only member of last week's bottom half-dozen to win a game. What this means is that they do not, repeat do not, get penalized. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for their victim, the winless Lions.
Buffalo Bills (1-8)
I'm not giving up. In my heart I know they're gonna upset someone before this is over, but it'll probably come in a week in which I pick 'em to get blown out.
Carolina Panthers (1-9)
When they're at their absolute best, they become part of an opponent's year-end highlight film, thrilling moments department. They hung in against the Niners. Then they gave up a long TD drive at the end of regulation. Then they gave up a two-pointer to tie it and another drive to end it in OT. This is a team that's forgotten how to win. But they've climbed out of the cellar. The new tenant is ...
Detroit Lions (0-9)
Sorry, but you just can't give up 45 points and 417 yards to the Cardinals and stay on my good side. What's that you say? You scored 38 and gained 478 yourselves? Yeah, but you turned the ball over three times, and you ... Why am I having this argument? Win a game, then we'll discuss it.
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