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12-01-2004, 12:58 PM
Week 13 NFL Power Rankings
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War Room Scouts /
Posted: 1 hour ago

A slew of games this week will help us decipher the contenders from the pretenders.

Red-hot Green Bay will give the Eagles their first test since they were hammered by Pittsburgh. Denver and San Diego will meet for the AFC West title. Pittsburgh gets its first tough road test (at Jacksonville) since its lone loss (at Baltimore in Week 2).

Atlanta, Buffalo and Minnesota all face intradivision road hurdles this week, too, but at least one of these teams figures to fail its test of focus and determination against a lesser opponent.

ON THE RISE: Thanks to RB Julius Jones saving the season, the Cowboys have some life in leaping six spots from No. 30 to No. 24. The Jets have also hung in there without QB Chad Pennington, and rose four places from No. 13 to No. 9.

FALLING FAST: A couple teams (Broncos *

(* Violated the salary cap during their championship seasons) and Cardinals) dropped three positions, but no team fell flatter than the Giants. Once the NFL's biggest surprise (before the Chargers), the G-Men have lost four straight games and fell nine slots in this week's Poll (from No. 17 to No. 26).

NOTE: Rankings are updated by Tuesday midday every week.

Rk Team Last Week Rising/Falling High/Low Comment
1. Patriots (10-1) 1st SAME 1st/2nd A convincing win over the Ravens and the remaining schedule has the Patriots in a good position to regain home-field advantage from Pittsburgh. Coach Bill Belichick never seems to run out of ways to utilize his players.
2. Steelers (10-1) 2nd SAME 2nd/24th We like almost everything about the Steelers, but 11 sacks allowed in the past two weeks is a yellow flag. Only the Patriots figure to be capable of stopping QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers' train.
3. Eagles (10-1) 3rd SAME 1st/3rd All the Eagles do is win games. WR Terrell Owens didn't catch a TD pass in Week 12, but the Eagles still won. The defense struggles to stop inside runs, but they still win. The NFC playoffs will go through Philadelphia. QB Donovan McNabb has become a terrific leader and has his team on a Super Bowl-or-bust mission.
4. Colts (8-3) 4th SAME 3rd/5th QB Peyton Manning is proving he can outscore opponents, and the defense has generated 14 turnovers in the past three weeks. Those 14 bonus possessions are an entire extra game of offense for Manning. It's no wonder the Colts score 40-plus points seemingly every week.
5. Chargers (8-3) 6th

(+1) 5th/32nd It is time to move the Chargers ahead of Atlanta. What's not to like about San Diego? QB Drew Brees has 21 TD passes against only three interceptions and hasn't thrown an interception in his past 190 attempts. RB LaDainian Tomlinson is healthy, and tight end Antonio Gates is unstoppable. The Chargers score eight more points per game than Atlanta.
6. Falcons (9-2) 5th

(-1) 5th/20th The Falcons could get home-field advantage in the NFC if the Eagles slip. QB Michael Vick is on top of his game, the team averages an NFL-best 5.1 yards per carry and the defense is excellent. The Falcons could run the table.
7. Packers (7-4) 8th

(+1) 7th/23rd QB Brett Favre's effort and coach Mike Sherman's play-calling have resulted in a six-game winning streak. The Packers could tumble from this spot because the team's health is so fragile. Next week's game at Philadelphia could be a doozy.
8. Ravens (7-4) 9th

(+1) 7th/12th The Ravens are trying to reach the Super Bowl without a passing game. They can beat every team ranked below them and slow down every team above them, but the elite teams can find a way to score 20 and the Ravens can't match it.
9. Jets (8-3) 13th

(+4) 4th/18th Two wins without QB Chad Pennington is impressive. New York can run the ball and play defense. Coach Herm Edwards is a great motivator. This team will make its mark in the playoffs.
10. Broncos *

(* Violated the salary cap during their championship seasons) (7-4) 7th

(-3) 5th/14th Denver's running game has slowed a bit, so QB Jake Plummer has more weight on his shoulders. That's typically when his game shatters. CB Champ Bailey must perform better and neutralize opponents' No. 1 receivers. The loss to Oakland hurt, but a win at San Diego this week could remedy that.
11. Vikings (7-4) 10th

(-1) 3rd/13th Minnesota can't play consistent defense and has allowed 98 more points than the Eagles. The Vikings' offense, like the Colts', must outscore opponents. QB Daunte Culpepper is good but might not be able to do that every week. But if WR Randy Moss is close to 100 percent, it seems as if anything is possible.
12. Rams (5-6) 11th

(-1) 7th/22nd This is another team in "outscore" mode. The defense can't stop good teams, and the offense is a tick below its heyday. The NFC is so bad, though, that the Rams still might make the playoffs. If the Rams were in the AFC, the Rams' season basically would be over.
13. Bills (5-6) 16th

(+3) 13th/30th Nobody wants to play the Bills. RB Willis McGahee is a force, and QB Drew Bledsoe is getting the time to spread the ball around. The defense can stop the run, and its pass rush is improving.
14. Jaguars (6-5) 12th

(-2) 8th/22nd The Jags have won a number of games in the final seconds, but now time is running out on them. This solid young team is a year away. RB Fred Taylor is running better, but there are too few holes.
15. Seahawks (6-5) 14th

(-1) 3rd/17th The Seahawks, a major disappointment, are too inconsistent. The defense disappeared, the QBs don't scare opponents and the WRs still drop tons of passes. When RB Shaun Alexander can't control a game single-handedly, Seattle has no hope.
16. Bucs (4-7) 15th

(-1) 15th/29th This team still has a competitive fire. The Bucs are not out of it yet and will make a strong push for the playoffs. It's too bad the team doesn't have a trustworthy kicker.
17. Chiefs (3-8) 19th

(+2) 5th/22nd The season is over, so management should put RB Priest Holmes on IR. It's time to showcase RB Larry Johnson to increase his trade value. The defense went backward this year, and nobody dreamed that would be possible.
18. Texans (5-6) 21st

(+3) 12th/30th The Texans have the foundation for a good team but lack intangibles. One week, the defense gets picked apart. The next week, they can't run the ball. Elite WR Andre Johnson goes weeks without scoring. Next year, this team will blossom into a playoff contender.
19. Titans (4-7) 18th

(-1) 4th/23rd QB Steve McNair blames himself for the latest loss and hints at retirement. Call Brett Favre! McNair would learn that Favre and the other true warriors often have similar emotions.
20. Bengals (5-6) 22nd

(+2) 13th/29th You wouldn't know it by watching the Browns score 48, but the Bengals' defense actually is playing better. Coach Marvin Lewis' team made a big playoff push this time last year. Nobody has noticed, but Cincinnati is 4-2 in its past six games.
21. Panthers (4-7) 23rd

(+2) 2nd/31st John Fox is doing a better coaching job now than when he led the team to the Super Bowl last year. Six different RBs have been featured backs this year, the offensive line is always hurt, the best WR is on IR and yet the Panthers have won three in a row.
22. Lions (4-7) 20th

(-2) 13th/28th The Lions' fast start raised expectations the team wasn't good enough to meet. To be evaluated properly, QB Joey Harrington needs RB Kevin Jones all year and WR Charles Rogers opposite Roy Williams. Playing backup QB Mike McMahon will not change this team's fortunes.
23. Raiders (4-7) 24th

(+1) 17th/30th A snow-blown victory in Denver could propel these veterans to a couple more wins, but don't expect a big finish. The Raiders need coaching stability, fewer old veterans and an owner that doesn't meddle with the roster.
24. Cowboys (4-7) 30th

(+6) 8th/30th Coach Bill Parcells will play the guys who give him the best chance to win. You would think owner Jerry Jones would feel the same way, but he wants raw QB Drew Henson to play now. Parcells knows more about winning than anyone, and Jones ought to let him do his job.
25. Saints (4-7) 25th SAME 16th/29th The NFL's most inconsistent team struck again this week. The Saints almost beat the second-best team in the NFC, Atlanta. The defense just doesn't play hard every week, and QB Aaron Brooks is a "coach killer."
26. Giants (5-6) 17th

(-9) 6th/27th The Giants were playoff contenders with QB Kurt Warner at the helm, but the team's momentum died when rookie Eli Manning took over. Right now, the team's only chance at a recovery is to bring back Warner. Playing a young QB behind this line could lead to long-term psychological damage.
27. Redskins (3-8) 26th

(-1) 14th/27th The Redskins can't score, can't run the ball effectively and don't have an NFL-caliber QB on the roster. The Redskins need an overhaul in the personnel department, and coach Joe Gibbs needs a young offensive mind in his meeting room.
28. Browns (3-8) 29th

(+1) 19th/29th Coach Butch Davis' forced resignation is the first step toward blowing up the franchise. This team needs, at the least, a new coach, a new GM, a new personnel department, a new quarterback and defensive players with character.
29. Bears (4-7) 28th

(-1) 24th/32nd The signing of QB Jeff George is all you need to know about this team. This decision not to have a quality backup to QB Rex Grossman was a colossal mistake. Clearing a path for a young QB to start is never better than healthy competition. Never. When will coaches and GMs learn?
30. Cardinals (4-7) 27th

(-3) 22nd/32nd Things were progressing nicely before coach Dennis Green fired the offensive line coach and benched QB Josh McCown. Just when Arizona could have seized the NFC West from struggling Seattle and St. Louis, Green killed the season by switching to QB Shaun King. Two losses, four interceptions and four fumbles later, Green went back to a confidence-shaken McCown. The Cardinals were 3-1 at home before the big mess.
31. Dolphins (2-9) 31st SAME 17th/32nd The Dolphins beat San Francisco last week. Is that good news or bad news? It probably means the Dolphins won't have the first pick in the draft. With a little luck at Seattle, interim coach Jim Bates could be 2-0.
32. 49ers (1-10) 32nd SAME 29th/32nd The worst team in the NFL. We never thought we would say that in Bill Walsh's lifetime. The sad news is it was accomplished by design