Rough and tumble week

Rough and tumble week
By Charles Robinson, Yahoo Sports
December 13, 2005

Charles Robinson
Yahoo Sports
For the elite, it was a difficult week.

Five inhabitants in the Top 12 lost Sunday, tightening division playoff races and creating a second layer of quality teams that will make a run for upper-tier status in the final weeks. Four teams barely missed out this week: Dallas, Atlanta, New England and Minnesota. Conversely, the bottom of the rankings is busting at the seams with poor teams.

Every team in the Bottom Five has now hit double-digit losses, and seven more 4-9 teams are on the verge of accomplishing the dubious feat – Arizona, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Oakland, Tennessee and Detroit.


Indianapolis 1. Indianapolis Colts (13-0) – People keep talking about how this is becoming a more run-oriented team, but Peyton Manning is tied for the NFL lead with 27 touchdown passes, and is second in passing yardage. And he's as efficient as ever, leading the league in completion percentage and passer rating.

Seattle 2. Seattle Seahawks (11-2) – The Christmas Eve game against Indianapolis should be an epic. Maybe even a Super Bowl preview. But Seattle fans will surely start complaining right now that they're not ranked No. 1.

Denver 3. Denver Broncos (10-3) – After last week's loss to Kansas City, the Broncos should have tattooed a poor Baltimore team at home. A win's a win, but letting the Ravens hang around into the fourth quarter is troubling.

 Cincinnati 4. Cincinnati Bengals (10-3) – Chris Perry is a huge loss for this offense. The Bengals still have plenty of firepower, but Perry was the wild card that gave Cincinnati another level of explosiveness.

N.Y. Giants 5. New York Giants (9-4) – Getting some more consistency out of Eli Manning has to be the No. 1 goal down the stretch. He's got five interceptions against one touchdown pass in his last two games. Manning's touchdown to interception ratio in his first eight games was 14 to 5. His last five games, it's 7 to 10.

Tampa Bay 6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-4) – Will Allen hit Steve Smith so hard Sunday, my television moved three feet. When Chris Simms doesn't turn the ball over, the Buccaneers are locks to win.

San Diego 7. San Diego Chargers (8-5) – The loss to Miami was the most costly defeat of the season. On the bright side, Kansas City and Jacksonville lost, too. But no other team in the AFC's wild-card race is trying to dig itself out of a bigger hole at this point.

Chicago 8. Chicago Bears (9-4) – Enough is enough. You can't wait until the division is tied up to move Rex Grossman into the starting lineup.

Carolina 9. Carolina Panthers (9-4) – Simply throwing more deep passes isn't going to solve the offensive problems. Someone has to be open to make the big plays downfield.

Pittsburgh 10. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) – Losses by Kansas City and San Diego put the Steelers back in the driver's seat for the playoffs. If they win against Minnesota this weekend, the Steelers will run the table and finish 11-5.

Jacksonville 11. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4) – The Jaguars put up a noble fourth-quarter fight against Indianapolis. With or without Byron Leftwich, this is going to be a dangerous playoff opponent for New England.

Kansas City 12. Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) – Whatever happens with Priest Holmes' health, it's hard to imagine putting Larry Johnson back on the bench. If Holmes returns, it will have to be as a backup or on another team.


Dallas Dallas Cowboys (8-5) – You can call it gimmickry, but Dallas showed some surprising offensive imagination against the Chiefs. Opening up the attack shows this is a team that can change gears to compete with anyone.

THE MUDDLED MIDDLE (in alphabetical order)

Arizona Arizona Cardinals (4-9) – Reggie Bush isn't going to be an option, but the class is healthy enough for the Cardinals to find another franchise running back in the top 10. But that would also be an admission that J.J. Arrington was a blown pick after only one year. But does Dennis Green really have the luxury of hoping Arrington will develop next season?

Atlanta Atlanta Falcons (8-5) – Losing Michael Vick for any amount of time at this point would be a major setback, but Matt Schaub is capable enough to get this team into the playoffs.

Baltimore Baltimore Ravens (4-9) – If they had it to do over again, Derrick Mason and Samari Rolle wouldn't have signed with the Ravens. Now there is talk Kyle Boller could see a sports psychologist. An optometrist seems more appropriate.

Buffalo Buffalo Bills (4-9) – What Eric Moulds did two weeks ago was despicable. Even Terrell Owens never took himself out of a football game.

Cleveland Cleveland Browns (4-9) – Charlie Frye has put up solid back-to-back games against playoff-caliber competition. Add Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. back to this offense next season, and the Browns will be in decent shape on one side of the ball. As for the defense, well, Rome wasn't built in a day.

Miami Miami Dolphins (6-7) – If Nick Saban gets this team to .500, he deserves at least a few votes for coach of the year.

Minnesota Minnesota Vikings (8-5) – It's judgment week. If the Vikings topple Pittsburgh, expect them to be 10-5 for the season finale against the Bears.

New England New England Patriots (8-5) – The Patriots are as healthy as they've been in a long time. This week's game against Tampa will be the last big playoff primer of the season.

Oakland Oakland Raiders (4-9) – About the only thing surprising about LaMont Jordan's complaints is that he wasn't wearing a "Fire Norv" T-shirt when he made them. Defensive end Derrick Burgess now leads the NFL in sacks with 13.

Philadelphia Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) – Rookie running back Ryan Moats is debuting for the Eagles' valuable No. 2 running back spot over the last few weeks of the season. It's time to make a final decision on wide receiver Billy McMullen, too.

St. Louis St. Louis Rams (5-8) – So much for Steven Jackson becoming more of a workhorse under Joe Vitt. In the last five games, Jackson's number of carries have been as inconsistent as ever: 17, 12, 25, 11 and 19.

Tennessee Tennessee Titans (4-9) – Defensive Kyle Vanden Bosch needs only 2½ sacks to match the franchise record. Not bad for a player making $455,000 this season. He'll get a nice raise when he hits free agency this offseason.

Washington Washington Redskins (7-6) – The injuries at cornerback couldn't come at a worse time. Especially with Dallas opening up its passing game against the Chiefs last week.


Detroit Detroit Lions (4-9) – Sunday's play-calling and game management was poor enough, but Shaun Rogers' overtime penalty was just plain stupid. The Lions look like a team that will be lucky to win another game this season.


Green Bay 28. Green Bay Packers (3-10) – Maybe the search for a new running back to replace Ahman Green is over. But with such a nice running back class coming out in the 2006 draft, the Packer had better be absolutely sure about Samkon Gado.

New Orleans 29. New Orleans Saints (3-10) – Aaron Brooks' bashing of Paul Tagliabue and Tom Benson in an interview before Monday's game wasn't a big surprise. With 13 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, nobody needs more excuses for his play this season.

San Francisco 30. San Francisco 49ers (2-11) – Calling Alex Smith a bust at this point is absurd. He's been awful, but there's not a whole lot to work with on that offense.

N.Y. Jets 31. New York Jets (3-10) – Curtis Martin's knee surgery has deeper implications than just the end of this season. The Jets could go into this offseason looking for their next starting tailback.

Houston 32. Houston Texans (1-12) – For all the conspiracy theorists, consider what you're saying. If the Texans missed that field goal on purpose, someone committed a felony. It was a terrible kick, which is simply par for the course this season.

Charles Robinson is the senior investigative reporter for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Charles a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Tuesday, Dec 13, 2005 5:29 pm, EST

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