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Old 12-08-2004, 11:15 AM  
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CBS Sportsline Week 13 power rankings

Power Rankings: Six solid teams and everyone else
By Pete Prisco
SportsLine.com Senior Writer
Tell Pete your opinion!

Updated Dec. 7, 2004

There's a clear dividing line in our SportsLine.com Power Rankings, and we're not talking about somewhere in the middle, either.


The Ravens let one slip away against the Bengals and the upcoming schedule isn't kind. (AP)
It's in the top 10. When the teams ranked from No. 7 to No. 10 in this week's rankings lose and don't drop out of the top third of the league, it's a sign of how much delineation there is between the top six teams and the rest of the NFL. And that's not even counting Seattle, which lost at home for the second consecutive week to a sub-.500 team. They drop all the way to 15 in the rankings.

The Atlanta Falcons, the team with the second-best record in the NFC, gets blown out by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, yet they have to get the seventh spot because so many teams lost behind them.

Do the Falcons look like a seventh-best team in the NFL?

Green Bay, Minnesota, Denver and Baltimore all joined the Falcons as Week 13 losers, blowing chances to move up in meaningless rankings like these, but, worse, blowing their chances to do something about their playoff hopes.

Which team should be most concerned about its playoff hopes?

Atlanta is still likely guaranteed the second seed in the NFC, so they need not worry much. But those other so-called power teams have work to do -- lots of it. With four weeks to go, their once-solid playoff chances are now shakier than a Christmas drunk full of eggnog.

Here's a short look at their chances:

Green Bay
The Packers got caught in a Donovan McNabb whirlwind Sunday, and it never let up. But they're better than that. We think. The defense seemed to be coming around until McNabb lit it up, so that remains a concern. After playing host to Detroit this week, their final three games feature tough matchups at home against the Jaguars, at Minnesota on Christmas Eve and at Chicago the final week.

Chances: We still like them to win the NFC North.

Losing at Chicago to Chad Hutchinson shouldn't happen to a playoff team. The Vikings have to turn this thing around quickly. A dinged-up Randy Moss has really impacted the offense. As for the remaining schedule, aside from the Christmas Eve home game against the Packers, they have Seattle at home this week and have road games at Detroit and Washington. It's a tough finishing stretch.

Chances: They better be careful. Could this be the second consecutive seasonal collapse?

The Broncos played the Chargers tough Sunday, but the loss now has them two games back with four to go. It's looking like the wild card or nothing. To get there, they have to get through a tough final three games. They play at Kansas City and at Tennessee before closing at home vs. the Colts. The one thing that could help them is if the Colts are locked into a seed before the final game. They might rest some of their stars, which Denver could use to their advantage.

Chances: So-so. If they get there, they'll earn it. Kansas City and Tennessee are both down, but road games to those places will be tough.

The Ravens have lost back-to-back games that have them limping into the final four games. At 7-5, they would be the sixth seed if the playoffs started today. But after playing the Giants this week at home, they have road games at Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. Losing both those games could leave them on the outside looking in come playoff time.

Chances: Not good. Assuming they lose the two road games, 9-7 might not be good enough.

So there you have it, a quick look at the teams from 8-11, supposedly good football teams, but ones that seem to be floundering.

The line of delineation is now thicker than it has been at any point this season. Good luck putting together a top 10.

A top six is more like it.

The Power Rankings through Week 13:

Current Team Previous
1 Pittsburgh Steelers 1
A close victory like they had against the Jaguars will serve them well when they get to the playoffs.
2 New England Patriots 2
They continue to dominate teams and might actually be the best team, even though they lost to the Steelers earlier this year.
3 Philadelphia Eagles 3
This looks like a lock to be the NFC team in the Super Bowl. The offense has made major strides.
4 Indianapolis Colts 4
Can the offense be stopped? Not a chance. Now the next big test will be how they do outside in the playoffs.
5 San Diego Chargers 6
They now have a two-game lead in the division with four to go. The defense played well against Denver.
6 New York Jets 7
Looks like they're pretty much locked into the fifth seed, barring a collapse by the Patriots, which isn't likely.
7 Atlanta Falcons 5
Are they as good as their record? Or did the Bucs expose them for what they are?
8 Green Bay Packers 8
That loss to the Eagles should send a big wakeup call to this defense. Play better, or stay home.
9 Denver Broncos 9
It now looks like the wild-card path is the one that will be traveled -- and that's a maybe.
10 Minnesota Vikings 10
Losing to the Bears and staying in the top 10 tells you what kind of week the NFL saw. They are in danger of missing the playoffs if they don't wake up.
11 Baltimore Ravens 11
Here's another team that has to get things back on track. With road games at Pittsburgh and Indianapolis coming up, it won't be easy getting to the playoffs.
12 St. Louis Rams 14
Winning ugly games against the worst team in the league -- at home no less -- isn't a good sign. Do they scare anybody anymore?
13 Jacksonville Jaguars 12
It's looking like that target of 2005 for a playoff berth is now looking more like a reality, although they still can get in. They're better, but not quite there.
14 Buffalo Bills 16
What a good turnaround for this team. The schedule is soft the rest of the way, so the playoff hopes aren't over yet.
15 Seattle Seahawks 13
Those playoff hopes, and probably Mike Holmgren's job, are slipping away. That was an awful defensive effort against the Cowboys.
16 Cincinnati Bengals 20
We're seeing the maturing of a young offense before our eyes. Next year is the year.
17 Carolina Panthers 17
Give tons of credit for this team's fight. With a soft schedule, it wouldn't be a shock to see them sneak into the playoffs.
18 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 22
At 5-7, they have a tough test on the road at San Diego. If they can win it, they stay in it.
19 New York Giants 15
That move to the rookie quarterback has blown up in a big way. But this team wasn't ready to compete this year, despite the start.
20 Houston Texans 18
Here's another team that has to make a playoff push in 2005 -- or the staff could be in trouble.
21 Detroit Lions 21
When did 5-7 ever feel so good? They're still in the playoff race, thanks to their dominance of the Cardinals.
22 Dallas Cowboys 23
The playoff hopes are still alive, thanks to the return of Julius Jones. At 5-7, they have a chance.
23 Chicago Bears 28
Chad Hutchinson had a nice game in his first start and the defense showed well against the Vikings. Lovie Smith is doing things right.
24 Kansas City Chiefs 27
Winning at Oakland still means something to the Chiefs, even if the playoffs are long gone. That was a nice effort Sunday.
25 Washington Redskins 29
What do you know? They can score over 20 points. If they had done that more this season, they'd be in the playoff hunt.
26 Tennessee Titans 19
It's hard to believe this is the same team that won at least 10 games each of the past five seasons. Injuries and the cap have killed them.
27 Arizona Cardinals 24
You think Dennis Green might be regretting taking Josh McCown out of the starting lineup?
28 Oakland Raiders 25
There are a lot of good signs for the future coming out of the past three weeks. Kerry Collins might be their guy at quarterback.
29 New Orleans Saints 26
At some point you expect this thing to get better, but it doesn't. The defense is terrible.
30 Cleveland Browns 30
The Terry Robiskie era got off to a similar start to the way the Butch Davis era ended, which isn't so good. This franchise has a lot of work to get back to a playoff level.
31 Miami Dolphins 31
That A.J. Feeley trade really looks to be paying off. Memo to new Dolphins coach: Get a quarterback.
32 San Francisco 49ers 32
Four more weeks, guys. Keep repeating that to yourselves as you try and get through this week.
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