Walter - I feel your pain re SD; they have had a huge injury list! I thing I note - doing analysis for AFL Australian football - is that teams with a huge injury list often underperform when they begin to get players back from injury; this is often because the injured players return a week too early and fail to fire (or get re-injured); also the players who have been carrying the extra load for them tend to relax that week; the trend in the AFL is that these teams generally miss the spread (often by a lot) as the year goes on - but they sometimes have 1 (maybe 2) unexpected wins against unwary middle to lower ranked teams. They may fire against JAX this week, but I would like a SD expert to tell us if the recently returned players are likely to improve.
Speaking of injuries - these are good reasons for being confident on TB and DEN this week. Harry Young, Melbourne
Run Defenses: Rush yards per carry allowed to running backs: (Last game/Season)
The Playoff Teams:
New England Patriots (16-0) - The Patriots really haven't played a good game in a month and a half. As I wrote in my Week 17 picks, they're leaking oil. They can't stop pedestrian quarterbacks like Kyle Boller, Adam Joshua Feeley and Eli Manning. They struggled to score against the Jets and Dolphins. But I just realized that I can't put a 16-0 team second on this list. No matter how much sharper the Colts look right now, I don't think I can legitimately place them above the Patriots right now.
Indianapolis Colts (13-3) - The Peyton Manning Priceless Pep Talk of the Week: "Hey, Tennessee Titans. Two things. First of all, did you notice that Reggie Wayne caught 12 passes in the first quarter and a half? This is because I was planning to have him set the all-time single-game receptions record with 34,105. Unfortunately, my jerk coach pulled me out of the game. Damn it. But second, I realized why he did it. You guys are losers. We want you in the playoffs instead of the Browns. We know we can blow you out at will. That's why I purposely called the worst plays ever for Jim Sorgi. Man, I hate that guy. We only need one quarterback on this roster. Me! I asked Dungy to give me his salary, but he said no. Don't worry, I will get it some day." That was Peyton Manning, and he hopes his priceless pep talk has helped you!
Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5) - I don't like how Jacksonville disrupted its winning streak by sitting its starters and going with Earl Gray Quinn. Then again, maybe they still would have lost to the Texans; I'm sure Andre Davis still would have had his two returns.
Green Bay Packers (13-3) - Everyone's concerned about Brett Favre's 0-9 mark in Dallas. But I wouldn't even be surprised if the Packers don't have to play there. The Cowboys have a multitude of problems, and Green Bay looks like the elite squad in the NFC.
Washington Redskins (9-7) - To make a Tom Collins, pour about three or four shots of gin into a cup, and mix it with club soda and sour mix. Mmm... tastes like carbonated lemonade. To make a Todd Collins, take a team that never wins a Super Bowl, have them draft him as a successor to Jim Kelly, make sure they never give him a chance, stick him behind a perennial Pro Bowler on another squad, watch him tear up the preseason every year, and don't give him a shot until all hope seems lost. Mmm... tastes like uncanny postseason success.
Seattle Seahawks (10-6) - The last four quarterbacks the Seahawks have played: Mandy Moore, Troy Smith, Chris Redman and Todd Collins. I know Collins is good, but those names indicate that the NFL is in a sad state of affairs.
Dallas Cowboys (13-3) - Everyone insists on blaming Wade Phillips' triple chin for Dallas' late-season collapse. However, I'm willing to bet that Tony Romo is struggling because he stashes naked photos of Jessica Simpson inside his playbook. So that's why he's touching himself during film sessions...
San Diego Chargers (11-5) - Get ready, Vince Young... If the Chargers are winning Sunday afternoon, Philip Rivers is going to yell at you across the field and call you a "baby." But don't worry - if you respond, "I am rubber, you are glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you," Rivers will break down and cry. He'll tell on you, so you could be in a bit of trouble, however.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7) - The Buccaneers can blitz all they want Sunday afternoon; but the best way they can attack the Giants is giving Eli Manning a Wal-Mart clipboard and smock. It'll be awesome because then we can watch Archie Manning tell Wal-Mart he doesn't want his son stocking shelves in San Diego.
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) - The Steelers can't run the ball, tackle, play physically or gameplan effectively. Other than that, they're looking pretty sharp.
Tennessee Titans (10-6) - I'm willing to bet Romeo Crennel called Jeff Fisher after his 16-10 victory over the Colts, and thanked him for knocking his squad out of the playoffs. Now, instead of gameplanning for the Chargers, Crennel can sit at home and eat chocolate chip cookies all day!
New York Giants (10-6) - I love how people all over ESPN and other networks are commenting, "The Giants looked really good! They can beat Tampa Bay now! Har har har!" Hey, idiots - the Giants' perennial problem has been finishing! They suck in December and January, and they suck in fourth quarters.
Final Bottom 10:
32. Miami Dolphins (1-15) - I'm so upset. Randy Mueller was fired, so he won't be joining me anymore on my power rankings page. Boo hoo. Though I can't say I'm surprised - I didn't expect Bill Parcells to get along with a man whose vocabulary includes "gee whiz," "good golly," "good golly gee wow," "geepers," and "hoo boy golly gee willickers." Bill Parcells' reaction to that? "Get away from me, you weird f***ing a****le!"
31. Kansas City Chiefs (4-12) - When the Chiefs were 4-2, I was scared my Kansas City Under 7.5 wasn't going to hit. So much for that. Anyway, I thought it was hilarious when Bill Simmons said that Herm Edwards could admire both teams he ruined last Sunday like a proud poppa.
30. St. Louis Rams (3-13) - Thanks for showing up to play the Cardinals. Losers.
29. Baltimore Ravens (5-11) - Brian Billick was fired, but don't feel too sorry for him - he's going to move to his Vermont house and live together with his true love, Kyle Boller.
28. New York Jets (4-12) - A Jet fan's nightmare: Right after Mike Nugent hit the decisive 43-yard field goal, Herm Edwards announced to the media that he and Eric Mangini would be switching jobs. "I knew we had Darren McFadden locked up! But you play to win the games! I played to win! So what if we can't have McFadden or Chris Long?! You play to win the games! Hello!? You play to win the games!" Luckily this is only a bad dream. I really feel sorry for Chiefs backers.
27. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) - The Falcons definitely gave Bobby Petrino the middle finger by beating Seattle last week. But I don't think they're done with getting revenge. Let's do some oddities to guess how they're going to further claim vengeance on a greedy coach who quit on them: 25:1 - Sleep with his underage daughter on a football field (Chris Henry must be involved). 12:1 - Help Arkansas football players violate Petrino's double-secret probation. 6:1 - Ruin Petrino's parade by leading the band astray and tossing marbles onto the road. 3:1 - Steal a car, drive off with Mandy and become a senator.
26. Oakland Raiders (4-12) - If Mike Tirico, Tony Kornheiser and Ron Jaworski can have the likes of Jimmy Kimmel and Drew Carey in the booth, why can't I have a celebrity guest on my Power Rankings page? I've had Keyshawn Johnson, Emmitt Smith, Channing Crowder, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Brian Billick, David Carr, Andy Reid, Michael Vick, Jessica Simpson and Bobby Petrino thus far. OK... I'm here with Sean Payton! Sean, I'm glad that I finally have a sane person on with me. I'm sorry for your team's misfortune in Week 17. What went wrong? "Well, before I answer that, Walt, I'm going to run around your desk three times, lay a couple of sheets of paper on the ground, hop over them, call in a translator, tell you the answer in French and have him tell you what I said." Umm... what are you talking about? Why don't you just tell me what you need to work on next year. "OK, now, before I delve into that, I'm going to run down to your family room, turn on the Nintendo Wii, beat all of the Super Mario Brothers games with one life, then go outside, run a mile, come back to your house, open and close your laptop 20 times, organize your address book..." Ugh... 17 weeks and no sane guests. Sigh.
25. San Francisco 49ers (5-11) - Emmitt Smith loved giving his "analysts" of the Wizard of Oz and Little Red Riding Hood, so he got excited at the prospect of doing something like this every week. Emmitt will now discuss Hansel and Gretel: The girl... Gretel and the boy... Handles... he got kick from his crib cuz the mom get mad. They went strollin in the wood til they got hungry and sees a house made of candy. Then the witch, she catch them, and put Gretel in a cage and Handles in a cage with foods. The witch, she try to feed Handles enough for him to gains weight so she can throw him in the oven and ate him up for dinner. But Grendel fly out of her cage, and storm into the house, and throws the ol' witch into fires. Then, the two childrens run on home and collect breadcrumb.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9) - People in Cincinnati have been complaining about the Bengals. Apparently, they've been causing too much trouble in the neighborhood. In honor of this, I never polled about 1,000 people in Cincinnati, asking why they're angry. Here aren't the results: 20% - I followed Walt's 5-unit pick on the Dolphins, thinking the Bengals weren't going to try. They did and consequently covered. Now, I'm ruined. Ruined!!! 20% - Chris Henry had his way with my daughter! She's only 3 years old! 20% - Chris Henry sold alcohol to my daughter! She's only 2 years old and thought it was milk! Now she's throwing up everywhere! 20% - Odell Thurman crashed his car into a restaurant and fled the crime scene. 20% - Eric Steinbach came back to the city and nearly rammed his boat into mine. Then, just about when I thought everything was safe, he dropped his anchor right onto my hull!
23. Carolina Panthers (7-9) - So long, Vinny Testaverde. What a great career. Vinny will now move to his retirement home, where he will undoubtedly be summoned by another one of these crappy teams next year.
The Rest: 13. Cleveland Browns (10-6). 14. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8). 15. Minnesota Vikings (9-7). 16. Houston Texans (8-8).
17. Buffalo Bills (7-9). 18. Chicago Bears (7-9). 19. New Orleans Saints (7-9).
20. Arizona Cardinals (8-8). 21. Detroit Lions (7-9). 22. Denver Broncos (7-9).