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Dr. Z's NFL Power Rankings

Week 15

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Posted: Wednesday December 06, 2000 11:59 AM


If you want to stay on my good side never, repeat never, use the word, "parity." There is no such thing. It does not exist. And yet you will occasionally find some dim-witted sportswriter or sportscaster throwing it into the mix as the basis for some malformed observation about the state of the game.

If we had some degree of parity, you would find a great cluster of teams at the 6-7 or 7-6 level, the mediocre range, while here and there a few of the better teams would poke their heads out and a few of the worst would hide theirs. What you've got instead is nine teams with nine wins or better, the first time that's happened in 24 years, and eight other teams with nine or more losses, giving us a grand total of 17 of the 31 teams at what could be considered the extreme edges of the spectrum. And the 6-7s and 7-6s, which, statistically, should dominate the roster, total seven. Only a few times in history have the extreme so outnumbered the ordinary.

Oh, sure, a bad team will upset a good one, but that happens every year and indicates nothing except that the dog was hungrier than the fat cat that day, or better prepared, or less injured, or simply had its number, through tradition. So, please, take that word, parity, and put it back in the box it came out of.

You realize, of course, that I'm setting myself up for a knockoff here, and following my thesis, the act of ranking the 31 teams should be a snap. It's not, simply because fortunes change during the course of a season, and a September darling can be a December flopperoo, and vice versa. So get your nasty letters ready, you rippers out there, here we go:

To send a question or comment to Dr. Z, click here.

CNN/SI Power Rankings
11 Minnesota Vikings 11-2
They've already clinched a playoff spot. The edge is off. They're ripe for an upset by downtrodden but ever-dangerous St. Louis. If they win, it'll be almost guaranteed that they won't have to worry about the Rams in the playoffs. If they win big, then so many people will be writing about the downfall of the mighty Rams that there will be less space to reflect on the remarkable job Dennis Green has done this year, which, win or lose, is already impressive. Jim Haslett and Andy Reid are attractive choices for NFL Coach of the Year, but right now, Dennis gets my vote.
24 Denver Broncos 9-4
They took the ball out of the hands of Gus Frerotte, who'd had six picks in two weeks, and decided to run at the Saints, the NFL's third-ranked team against the rush. And the records toppled. Amazing stuff here, folks.
33 Baltimore Ravens 9-4
Bye week to rest, followed by a chance to clinch a postseason spot this week. It won't be easy, though. Ryan Leaf and his Chargers are ready to humble that once-proud defense. And if you're nodding your heads and agreeing, I've got a nice piece of real estate in the Jersey Meadows to sell you.
45 Tennessee Titans 10-3
I'd be screaming bloody murder at this point if they would have lost the Eagles game on that phony decision that Todd Pinkston did not step out of bounds on his 45-yard catch. Hey, Walt Coleman, three steps on the line isn't enough for you? Better get your eyes checked, buddy.
52 Oakland Raiders 10-3
Vicious, nasty game in Three Rivers. It happens. Doesn't do a lot to diminish the Raiders' achievements this year, but it does cost 'em three spots in the rankings and gets them down below Denver, which makes me more comfortable.
66 New York Jets 9-4
Many people still remain unconvinced about this team. Dan Henning's offensive game-planning against the Colts was as good as I've seen this year. I'll have more to say about it in this week's column, when I'll have more space to work with.
77 Miami Dolphins 10-3
This week's opponent is Tampa Bay, where everyone's moaning about how the forward pass is being phased out of the offense. Guess what? The Dolphins have thrown fewer passes than the Bucs this season and I haven't heard a complaint yet.
817 Jacksonville Jaguars 6-7
What? A tattered 6-7 Cinderella at the dress ball? I'm very sorry, and I'm bracing myself for the rips to come, but the Jags are simply playing terrific football these days. They're a different team.
98 New Orleans Saints 8-5
I'm looking for answers. Norman Hand, the gigantic run-stopping tackle, was hobbling. They were feeling too confident after their victory over the Rams. Maybe, and this is said sotto voce, they were not really as good as we thought they were. If San Francisco, a dangerous offensive team with an improving defense to go with it, hangs one on 'em on Sunday, then ... then ... well, I don't know what I'll do.
1016 New York Giants 9-4
I wish there was a spot on my all-pro team for defensive tackle Keith Hamilton, whose bruising, beat 'em up style, makes him one of the more feared linemen to play against.
1114 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-5
The Bickering Bucs of 2000. This isn't always a bad thing, though. It keeps the concentration level up.
1212 Philadelphia Eagles 9-5
They lose no ground after their heroic stand against the defending AFC champs. But even you Iggles fans out there would have to agree, the Titans did control the game.
139 Buffalo Bills 7-6
Sad days ahead. Battered defense, one-receiver offense if the running game isn't going, and a QB who may or may not be the answer.
1410 St. Louis Rams 8-5
OK, the party line is that Kurt Warner was rusty after his long layoff, but isn't he out there throwing to these guys in practice every day? Lots of turnovers, but I've also felt that his receivers, despite their brilliance, drop too many balls. If they hold onto them Sunday, I see an upset.
1511 Detroit Lions 8-5
Losing left corner Bryant Westbrook was a heavy hammer. He's one of the guys I'll be looking at very carefully for my all-pro team. The dropoff is great, and this is one team that needs every edge it can get. Biggest surprise, though, was how good Stoney Case looked in relief of Charlie Batch.
1618 Pittsburgh Steelers 7-6
Wow, were the emotional burners turned up against the Raiders. Did you see the block that Jerome Bettis threw on Kordell Stewart's TD? Really went after the guy. Or how about the way Mark Bruener twisted and struggled his way into the end zone? Or Stewart, absolutely refusing to sit on the bench after his knee was racked up? Can they keep this kind of intensity going? That's four questions in one ranking ... must be close to a record.
1715 Indianapolis Colts 7-6
Jets killed 'em with perimeter running off the crackback. The Colts sort of adjusted but then they were vulnerable to the cutback. But we knew their defense was flawed. The question is, why is Peyton Manning so out of sync with his receivers in the first half?
1819 Carolina Panthers 6-7
Logic says they should be ranked ahead of the Rams, whom they've beaten twice. But that would cause a big rumbling among teams that got moved down when they didn't deserve it. Sorry Panthers, you must be sacrificed to maintain sanity on my board.
1913 Washington Redskins 7-6
Pepper Rodgers? From which of Danny Boy's fantasy football cards did he emerge?
2020 Green Bay Packers 6-7
How fortunes change. Bill Schroeder, deep in Mike Holmgren's doghouse at one time, is now Brett Favre's go-to receiver while Antonio Freeman is just another guy. But Schroeder seems like the only wideout who can shake coverage downfield.
2121 San Francisco 49ers 5-8
The Niners have the capacity to mess up some people before the hunt is over -- New Orleans Sunday, Denver in the season's finale. Chicago is messed up enough on its own.
2222 Kansas City Chiefs 5-8
The last drive against the Patriots Monday night seemed typical. Lots of completions, lots of yards, screw up at the end. Next case.
2323 Seattle Seahawks 5-8
OK, let's assume that the Hawks get Trent Green next year. But unless they bring in some linemen to protect him, he'll wish he were back in St. Louis, holding the clipboard.
2427 New England Patriots 4-9
You're Drew Bledsoe. You're 28 years old. You have your whole life ahead of you. Then Bill Belichick tells you, "I think we'll start Adrian Klemm at right tackle [against the AFC's fourth leading sacker, Eric Hicks] this week. Got to find out if our No. 1 draft choice can play." After two quarters of the Chiefs' game, Bledsoe is thinking, "Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?" I mean, it was brutal.
2524 Chicago Bears 3-10
My ultimate all-pro, rookie MLB Brian Urlacher, has worn down of late. Now I'll have to reevaluate the whole thing, after swearing that he was my choice. I take this more seriously than anything I do. "Than anything in life that you do," advises the often-sarcastic Flaming Redhead.
2625 Dallas Cowboys 4-9
Can the old warhorse, hearing the bugle for the last time, mount one final charge against the desperate Redskins Sunday? I will be watching this game for the sheer emotional study that it provides.
2726 Cleveland Browns 3-11
They rise briefly, then they fall. The spirit of revolution stirs only faintly in these denizens of the lower depths.
2831 Cincinnati Bengals 3-10
I'll admit it, I have not seen them often enough to accurately judge which offensive lineman, or linemen, are the real keys to all the rushing yards they've accumulated. Will have to call the position coach. Then obtain tapes. RT Willie Anderson was a pick last year, but he hasn't exactly thrilled me when I've seen him. Maybe he's back in form. These are important questions that somehow must be answered.
2928 San Diego Chargers 1-12
They got their win, packed their bags, opened their "You, Too, Can Win a Free Vacation" folders and planned to head for ... for ... wait a minute, San Diego is vacation territory. Well, people have been known to head for Cleveland this time of year.
3029 Arizona Cardinals 3-10
Loved Dave McGinnis' line, "Who am I supposed to look at, college players?" when someone asked if it were time to look at younger guys. At least he hasn't raided the XFL yet.
3130 Atlanta Falcons 3-11
This is a brand new residence for the Falcons. Accommodations all right, guys? Enough towels? There's a beverage machine at the end of the corridor.

To send a question or comment to Dr. Z, click here.

Related information
Dr. Z's NFL Power Rankings: Week 14
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