|NFL Power Rankings|
Detroit Lions (6-7)If MLB Paris Lemon clamps his mitts on Tony Romo's fumble instead of booting it, Dallas never scores its winning touchdown, the Lions snap a four-game losing streak, they're sitting pretty in wild-card land and the bars do a fine business downtown. But the ball goes to Kyle Kosier, a Dallas guard of modest persuasion, and as a result, many fortunes are changed.
Chicago Bears (5-8)Rex Grossman's down and Brian Griese is running things again. You ever run across a show that simply played too many nights before the same audience?
Cincinnati Bengals (5-8)Wonder how they got their defense ready for St. Louis. "OK, now here's what you can expect from Brock Berlin." Undrafted rookie signed from the taxi squad on Nov. 27. No experience. Shoved into the starting role when Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte both were injured and none of the wideouts nor running backs volunteered.
Carolina Panthers (9-4)We have turned a corner and ahead is a dark, dingy street littered with empty pivo cans. Yes, this begins the Great Dismal in our power rankings. Each of the succeeding teams lost last weekend and each has its own story that will, mercifully, be brief. Carolina's is an offense total of 149, but at least those represent yards.
New York Jets (3-10)They gave Cleveland a lively tussle, so I elevated them three places, just to see if anyone cares enough to complain.
Oakland Raiders (4-9)Two NFL players are on the verge of something never before achieved, since they started keeping records of this particular category. Net punting yardage. Forty never has been reached. Yet the Raiders' Shane Lechler was at 43.9 and the 49ers' Andy Lee was at 43.3 going into last weekend. A 57-yard return by Green Bay's Will Blackmon knocked Lechler's average down to 42.8 and into a tie with Lee. This is big stuff, and yes, I do find it exciting.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-9)I know, I said brief. Total yardage of 129 vs. Broncos. Lowest in the NFL. Is that brief enough?
Baltimore Ravens (4-9)Old football maxim. When you don't cover a receiver, he's gonna score a touchdown, and next year you'll be watching the games at your girlfriend's house. Yes, I understand ... I've said nothing ... but I've gotta keep moving it along.
St. Louis Rams (3-10)This went under USA Today's heading of Unheralded Performance. Tory Holt, eight catches, 90 yards. Still catching plenty of balls in that smooth, graceful style of his. Yes, unheralded, not only on Sunday but for most of his career.
Atlanta Falcons (3-10)Monday night, in the Georgia Dome, punter Mike Koenen had the highest average hang time I've ever recorded for a punter ... 5.07.4. That's for five of his six. I didn't average in a half-speed poocher. Top three clocked out to 5.31, 5.21 and 5.06. I've never seen an average over five. No punt was returned. One went out of bounds on the six, another on the one, fair catches took place on the nine and the 11. Might be the greatest performance I've ever seen by a punter, except that he faced no wind conditions.
San Francisco 49ers (3-10)Our San Francisco man on the scene had this report: "The crowds are getting increasingly ugly at Candlestick. A cop who rode up the elevator with writers after the game said he brawled with drunks all day and showed his mauled sunglasses as evidence." Linda ... quick ... what am I going to write now? "Don't wear sunglasses to a brawl." Bingo!
Miami Dolphins (0-13)Based on the Ravens' listless, dispirited showing against Indy, I picked Miami to upset them Sunday. Could be a disaster for yours truly, or I could emerge a hero. I'm old fashioned and I've got to believe there's more spirit in the 'Fins.