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11-30-2004, 01:35 PM
Power Rankings: Regular-season losers might be winners
By Pete Prisco
SportsLine.com Senior Writer
Tell Pete your opinion!

Updated Nov. 30, 2004

There are seven 4-7 teams in the NFC.

Bad, right? Well, not exactly.


Can Dennis Green's Cards make the playoffs with all of his changes at quarterback? (AP)
Those 4-7 teams are alive and kicking in the NFC playoff race, making it more of a reality that a team with a losing record could get into the playoffs.

The Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals are all at 4-7.

To say they are all flawed is a big understatement.

But they're alive.

We're big fans of parity, but this is sickening. Earlier this year we said the NFC stinks like New Jersey, which led to a bunch of nasty e-mails from Jersey. So we'll refrain from saying the NFC stinks like any state. How's this: The NFC stinks like an airport men's room. (I nearly died walking into the men's room from inhaling poisonous gasses in the A-concourse Monday at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport).

Do any of those seven 4-7 teams look anything like a playoff team right now? Of the seven, Carolina has looked the best lately, winning three consecutive games. Is a repeat trip to the Super Bowl still possible?

In the NFC, anything is possible.

Which of these NFC teams is most likely to make the playoffs?

If the season ended today -- yeah, yeah, you hate that -- a team with a losing record would be in the playoffs. That would be the 5-6 St. Louis Rams, who would get the nod over the 5-6 New York Giants based on their conference record.

Yes, the same Rams who were clubbed 45-17 on Monday night by the Green Bay Packers.

At least the Packers are showing well in the NFC, which is why they're up to eighth in the SportsLine.com Power Rankings with a chance to move up even higher if they can beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday on the road.

See, the NFC can provide a power game once in a while.

In compiling this week's rankings, it was a challenge to slot the teams from 13 to 27. Here's why. They're all the same. No. 13 is Seattle, fresh off a blowout home loss to the Buffalo Bills, a team with a 5-6 record. Is Seattle that much better than No. 24 Arizona, considering they lost to them earlier this year?

The NFC is a mess, a good mess if you're a fan of one of the 4-7 teams, a bad mess if you like quality football.

At 5-6, the Bills have come on the past two weeks. But in the AFC, that's probably not good enough. Even if they run the table, which they won't, they would still likely be out of the playoff picture in the AFC, which has eight teams at 6-5 or better.

So Buffalo is playing for next year. If they were in the NFC with that record, they'd have playoff thoughts dancing through their locker room.

As it is, they can only envy those 4-7 teams. That just doesn't seem right, does it?

The Power Rankings through Week 12:

Current Team Previous
1 Pittsburgh Steelers 1
They didn't look particularly good against the Redskins, but teams will have those kinds of games. Recovering from them is key.
2 New England Patriots 2
Every week what they do on defense becomes more and more amazing. They're going to be hard to beat in the playoffs.
3 Philadelphia Eagles 3
They have looked dominant for much of the season, but watch out for a tough test against the Packers.
4 Indianapolis Colts 5
Can the offense be stopped? It's doubtful. So if the defense continues to improve, this might be their year.
5 Atlanta Falcons 4
At 9-2, they are the second-best team in their conference. But they have to learn how to put teams away.
6 San Diego Chargers 7
Their offense is special. Drew Brees is doing a heck of job spreading the ball around.
7 New York Jets 9
Two road victories with two touchdowns in two weeks is the kind of thing that gets you into the playoffs.
8 Green Bay Packers 10
They seem to be clicking at just the right time. Can it carry over to Philadelphia on Sunday?
9 Denver Broncos 6
Did they get caught looking ahead to the Chargers in losing to the Raiders? If they did, it was a big mistake that could cost them a playoff spot.
10 Minnesota Vikings 12
Randy Moss is back. That means the offense is on its way back to putting up big numbers.
11 Baltimore Ravens 8
They learned a valuable lesson in New England: Don't try to play the big boys without an offense.
12 Jacksonville Jaguars 11
Their playoff hopes will be on the line Sunday night against the Steelers.
13 Seattle Seahawks 14
This team has been taking a big fall the past six weeks. Do they have the look of a Super Bowl team anymore? Not close.
14 St. Louis Rams 13
Talk about a team that doesn't look close to being a playoff team. And either the Seahawks or Rams will win the NFC West. Yecch.
15 New York Giants 15
Here's another team that hasn't played well the past month. They need to turn it around in a hurry.
16 Buffalo Bills 22
Here come the Bills. But is it too late? At least they can build on things for next season.
17 Carolina Panthers 23
Here's another team coming on, but in the NFC it might not be too late. What a great job by this staff.
18 Houston Texans 20
That victory over the Titans might not get them into the playoff hunt, but it will be a character builder for next year.
19 Tennessee Titans 16
Blowing that big lead at Houston is a stinging loss, one that will challenge coach Jeff Fisher in the motivation category the rest of the way.
20 Cincinnati Bengals 25
Where's the defense? At least the offense is taking steps to get better as they head down the stretch.
21 Detroit Lions 19
Is it time to pull Joey Harrington? It's starting to look that way.
22 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21
They have to be kicking themselves (right, Martin?) for losing that game to the Panthers, crushing their playoff hopes.
23 Dallas Cowboys 29
They're alive and kicking with the rest of the 4-7 teams, but for how long?
24 Arizona Cardinals 24
Dennis Green might want to reevaluate that decision to pull Josh McCown. They're 0-2 since he did it and now he turns to rookie John Navarre.
25 Oakland Raiders 30
Give Norv Turner and his staff loads of credit for keeping the team focused in pulling out that victory over Denver.
26 New Orleans Saints 26
That was a heart-wrenching loss in Atlanta, which will be tough to bounce back from.
27 Kansas City Chiefs 17
They have to take a long, hard look at the defensive personnel after the season. Changes have to be made.
28 Chicago Bears 18
Jeff George to the rescue? Can that be? The quarterback play has been terrible, so anything has to be better. For now, it's Chad Hutchinson's turn.
29 Washington Redskins 27
The defense continues to play well, but the offense continues to be an eyesore.
30 Cleveland Browns 28
Nothing like rallying around the embattled coach -- Butch Davis resigned Tuesday after their brutal loss to the Bengals. That defense is terrible.
31 Miami Dolphins 32
Enjoy the victory, Dolphins fans. There aren't any more 49ers on the schedule.
32 San Francisco 49ers 31
Now on the clock with the first pick in the 2005 NFL Draft ... the San Francisco 49ers.

Mr. Laz
11-30-2004, 01:38 PM
27 Kansas City Chiefs 17

They have to take a long, hard look at the defensive personnel after the season. Changes have to be made.

free agents are overrated ... keep your own players in key