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Old 12-08-2004, 11:50 AM  
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Sporting News Week 13 power rankings

Week 14 NFL Power Rankings
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In the AFC, it seems as if every team could make a Super Bowl push.

Nobody can beat the champion Patriots. Nobody can faze rookie phenom Ben Roethlisberger. Nobody can stop the Peyton Manning freight train toward the record books. And nobody has noticed, but the Chargers and Jets are balanced and darn dangerous.

In the NFC, it's Philadelphia and the 15 dwarfs. Honestly, it appears as if the Bucs (5-7) might be the second-best team in the NFC. There might be a dozen AFC teams better than every NFC team but Philadelphia.

ON THE RISE: No team made a ground-breaking leap this week, but four teams rose three positions in the poll the Jets (No. 9 to No. 6), Bucs (No. 16 to No. 13), Redskins (No. 27 to No. 24) and Bears (No. 29 to No. 26).

FALLING FAST: The Vikings fell four spots after losing at Chicago from No. 11 to No. 15, while both the Chiefs (No. 17 to No. 20) and Giants (No. 26 to No. 29) dropped three slots.

NOTE: Rankings are updated by Tuesday midday every week.

Rk Team Last Week Rising/Falling High/Low Comment
1. Patriots (11-1) 1st SAME 1st/2nd New England is the most balanced team in the NFL. RB Corey Dillon can get 100 yards on any foe, and QB Tom Brady is ahead of last year's pace for TD passes. If Pittsburgh slips and New England gets home-field advantage, it's back to the Super Bowl.
2. Eagles (11-1) 3rd

(+1) 1st/3rd The Eagles leapfrog the Steelers because we're not sure QB Ben Roethlisberger can do for his team what QB Donovan McNabb does for his. Big Ben has only two games with more than 200 yards passing. In January playoff games, a QB must do more.
3. Steelers (11-1)


(-1) 2nd/24th The Steelers have great balance on offense and defense. Attitude and toughness oozes from this group.
4. Colts (9-3)

4th SAME 3rd/5th The defense is bad, but the offense compensates by scoring 40-plus points seemingly every week. Not many teams can score 40 points even against the Colts' pitiful defense.
5. Chargers (9-3) 5th SAME 5th/32nd The Chargers remain under the radar because three AFC teams are ranked above them. Last week, we moved the Chargers ahead of Atlanta and were right.
6. Jets (9-3) 9th

(+3) 4th/18th QB Chad Pennington is back, and the defense gives up the fewest points in the NFL (14.6 per game). How will the team handle the (temporary?) loss of DE John Abraham to a sprained knee?
7. Falcons (9-3)


(-1) 5th/20th So the Falcons laid an egg in Tampa. They have had that type of game before and bounced right back. By the way, Tampa has been climbing up the Power Poll the past month.
8. Packers (7-5) 7th

(-1) 7th/23rd Every year, QB Brett Favre has about three games like the wipeout in Philadelphia. He always responds by dominating the next few games, and the loss by Minnesota helped ease the pain.
9. Broncos (7-5) 10th

(+1) 5th/14th QB Jake Plummer is good enough to beat most teams. Against elite teams, it's another story. The Broncos now are in a dogfight with Baltimore, Jacksonville, Buffalo and Cincinnati for the final wild-card berth.
10. Ravens (7-5)


(-2) 7th/12th A Super Bowl defense and a Super Bowl running attack needs a QB who can take care of the ball and complete a handful of key passes. Kyle Boller is not that guy.
11. Bills (6-6) 13th

(+2) 11th/30th Some might be shocked at ranking Buffalo this high, but the Bills are averaging 39 points a game the last three weeks now that the coaches have figured out how to protect QB Drew Bledsoe. First-year players RB Willis McGahee and WR Lee Evans are breaking out.
12. Rams (6-6) 12th SAME 7th/22nd The Rams don't deserve a playoff spot, but neither do the Seahawks. And one of them is going to win the NFC West. The Rams barely are holding on and lack the defense to be taken seriously. Only their strong division record (in the worst division in the NFL) will save them.
13. Bucs (5-7) 16th

(+3) 13th/29th Like the Bills, the Bucs are tough to beat right now. The Bucs just shut out the second-best team in the NFC. Coach Jon Gruden has the team playing with a great competitive fire now that they are healthy.
14. Jaguars (6-6) 14th SAME 8th/22nd The Jaguars play so many games close to the vest that they get caught once in a while. Injuries to the DEs make it tough to mount a consistent pass rush against good teams.
15. Vikings (7-5) 11th

(-4) 3rd/15th WR Randy Moss is not healthy enough to win games, and opponents know it. The defense can't even stop the Bears, who now are starting their fourth-string QB.
16. Seahawks (6-6) 15th

(-1) 3rd/17th The NFC is wide open, and these underachievers can't take advantage. Even if the Seahawks were to win the NFC West or get a wild card, they aren't going anywhere in the playoffs.
17. Texans (5-7) 18th

(+1) 12th/30th At the end of September, David Carr appeared in position to become an elite QB. But he has flattened out, and this expansion team remains a year away.
18. Bengals (6-6)


(+2) 13th/29th Some how, some way coach Marvin Lewis improved a defense that could not slow down anyone two months ago. QB Carson Palmer has been handled with perfection. He sat a season (like Eli Manning should have) and then was put on the field with the opportunity to grow patiently. The Bengals will not make the playoffs but will be the preseason talk of 2005.
19. Panthers (5-7) 21st

(+2) 2nd/31st John Fox is doing the best coaching job in the NFL even better than he did during the Super Bowl run last season. He is playing with a sixth-string RB and a banged-up O-line and without his star WR and All-Pro DT. Yet, the Panthers have won four consecutive games.
20. Chiefs (4-8) 17th

(-3) 5th/22nd The defense regressed in '04, which nobody thought possible. The offense lost RB Priest Holmes, and All-Pro return man Dante Hall mostly has been a non-factor. K.C. is headed toward its fourth non-winning season in five years.
21. Titans (4-8) 19th

(-2) 4th/23rd Jeff Fisher is one of the best coaches in the NFL. He hardly has enough players to suit up but still gives his team a chance with onside kicks and aggressive play-calling. Most of the 11 teams ranked below the Titans have more talent but couldn't beat them.
22. Lions (5-7) 22nd SAME 13th/28th Like the Texans, the Lions are a year away from contention. The Lions should crack the top 20 before season's end because of coach Steve Mariucci and the emergence of rookie RB Kevin Jones.
23. Cowboys (5-7) 24th

(+1) 8th/30th Coach Bill Parcells still can make the playoffs, and his veteran team still plays hard. Can't say that about too many teams at this level of the Power Poll. Parcells' decision to stockpile picks and trade down for Julius Jones is looking pretty good right now.
24. Redskins (4-8)


(+3) 14th/27th Finally, the Redskins broke the 20-point barrier. Coach Joe Gibbs eventually will get it done, but to think he could remake this dysfunctional franchise into a playoff team in Year One was wholly unrealistic.
25. Raiders (4-8)


(-2) 17th/30th What a disappointing season for a veteran team with a veteran coach. What was DT Warren Sapp thinking when he picked Oakland over Cincinnati?
26. Bears (5-7) 29th

(+3) 24th/32nd Coach Lovie Smith is doing a heck of a job. If the GM had signed a good backup QB in the off-season, the Bears would be at least 7-5 right now.
27. Saints (4-8) 25th

(-2) 16th/29th The underachievers never addressed their issues from a year ago, and the problems festered. This lackluster team has just 10 first-quarter points in 12 games, and the defense is awful.
28. Browns (3-9) 28th SAME 19th/29th It looks like a strip-mining crew drove through Cleveland. The coach quit, the front office was dismantled and poor Terry Robiskie is left coaching a bunch of losers.
29. Giants (5-7) 26th

(-3) 6th/29th Kurt Warner led the team to road wins at Green Bay, Minnesota and Dallas. Yet, coach Tom Coughlin benched him. Coughlin alone is to blame for the five-game losing streak. The Giants still could make the playoffs but only if they put Warner back in the lineup.
30. Dolphins (2-10)


(+1) 17th/32nd QB A.J. Feeley is getting valuable experience, but his five-interception game last week probably is a sign that he won't survive the upcoming purge in Miami. This organization needs an overhaul, from the top down. Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress is the right guy.
31. Cardinals (4-8) 30th

(-1) 22nd/32nd Coach Dennis Green set this franchise back years with his QB decisions. First, he passed on two good, young QBs (Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers) in the draft to stick by Josh McCown. Then, he panicked and benched the young McCown after Week 10. It's no wonder that nobody attends the Cardinals' home games.
32. 49ers (1-11) 32nd SAME 29th/32nd The NFL should have a way to force bad owners to sell their teams. It's a shame Dennis Erickson has to lose sleep over this franchise. It is not his fault.
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