T hroughout the
NFL season, Metro football writer Jeff Howe will rank all 32 teams from top to
bottom. Don’t like his calls? Want to pat him on the back for giving props to
your favorite team? Send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Saints (13-0, —). If the Saints hold serve at home Saturday against the
fading Cowboys, who will likely be without all-world linebacker DeMarcus Ware, they’ll
coast to an undefeated record. New Orleans finishes its season against the
Buccaneers and Panthers, whom the Saints handled by a combined 68-27 score last
2. Colts (13-0, —). Sure, Peyton Manning wants the Super Bowl ring first and
foremost, but he’d be lying if he said he didn’t want to go undefeated to trump Tom
Brady in the process. Manning will get in Jim Caldwell’s ear about that.
3. Chargers (10-3, —). LaDainian Tomlinson has nine touchdowns in his last
seven games, but he hasn’t hit the 100-yard mark in 20 consecutive contests.
Even still, the Chargers are rolling, and there’s no way the Colts want them in
4. Vikings (11-2, +1). Yeah,
it would have been a nice story if Brett Favre won the MVP as a 40-year-old,
but is it reasonable to think the national sportswriters who bashed him the
last two offseasons would give him an MVP vote?
5. Eagles (9-4, +1). Because of his immediate impact during his first two
seasons, along with his high-profile plays on offense, DeSean Jackson has a
chance to be recognized as the best returner in history.
6. Bengals (9-4, -2). Go
figure, the Bengals have been one of the best teams in the league all season,
but quarterback Carson Palmer is 19th in the league with an 84.8 passer rating,
18th with 2,641 yards and 14th with 17 touchdowns.
7. Packers (9-4, +1). Running back Ryan Grant is quietly having the best season
of his career. He just surpassed 1,000 yards for the second year in a row and
is on pace for 1,314. He also has seven touchdowns and no fumbles.
8. Patriots (8-5, +4). On the surface, this team doesn’t deserve a four-spot
bump, but the Patriots are the only 8-5 team that picked up a victory Sunday. They’ve
got their issues, but the league’s second tier is full of teams like that.
9. Cardinals (8-5, -2). The Cardinals turned it over seven times against the
49ers, and they’ve got 18 turnovers in their five defeats this season, compared
to 11 turnovers in their wins. Sounds like a simple recipe, doesn’t it?
10. Broncos (8-5, -1). Brandon
Marshall had an NFL-record 21 receptions, 200 yards and two touchdowns Sunday
against the Colts, and he became the first player ever to catch 18 passes in a
game and lose.
11. Ravens (7-6, +3). It’s
bad enough the Ravens embarrassed the Lions by 45 points Sunday, but then Ray
Lewis had to pile it on by comparing Ray Rice to legendary Detroit running back
Barry Sanders. Salt in the wound, Ray.
12. Cowboys (8-5, -1). This isn’t really another December choke job for the
Cowboys. More than that, they just took advantage of a cushy schedule early on
to build up a nice record, and they’re losing to better teams these days.
13. Giants (7-6, -3). New York quarterbacks are at the center of SlideGate.
After Mark Sanchez’s refusal to slide got him injured, Eli Manning’s poor form
turned into a game-changing fumble in a loss to the Eagles.
14. Titans (6-7, +1). WR
Kenny Britt joked pointed out to reporters this week that you can’t stop
blocking down the field for RB Chris Johnson because he can reverse course so
fast even the blockers are never out of the play.
15. Dolphins (7-6, +2). A
week after going all Dan Marino on the Patriots, first-year starting
quarterback Chad Henne tied a Dolphins franchise record with 17 consecutive
completions, two more than Marino’s personal best.
16. Jets (7-6, +2). Mark Sanchez went to the team owner’s ranch while the Jets
traveled last weekend. Rex Ryan joked Sanchez “just wanted to go shoot
something.” With Sanchez’s accuracy, he’s lucky there were no Dick Cheney
17. Steelers (6-7, -4). So, the Browns were giving up 25.8 points per game and
had given up at least 30 points six times this season, but the Steelers put up
a six-spot last week and their season is effectively over.
18. Jaguars (7-6, -2). With their next two games against the Colts and Patriots,
it looks like the Jaguars will be haunted by losses to the Dolphins and 49ers
in two of the last three weeks. No playoffs for the Jags.
19. Texans (6-7, —). The Texans were a fun pick in the preseason, but pundits
overlooked a major issue with Houston. The team is 5-19 against divisional
opponents since Gary Kubiak took over in 2006.
20. 49ers (6-7, +4). If San Francisco can win two of its last three games it
will end its streak of six consecutive seasons with a losing record. This is
the same organization that won at least 10 games every year from 1983-98.
21. Falcons (6-7, -1). GM Thomas Dimitroff is taking heat now that the Falcons
are below .500 for the first time in his tenure because his defensive additions
haven’t panned out (read: gotten hurt). Yet, the Braves remain Atlanta’s
22. Seahawks (5-8, -1). Head
coach Jim Mora told the Seattle media last week the Seahawks’ lime green
jerseys will mercifully be stuffed away in the back of the closet. Seattle
knows grunge and coffee, but lacks fashion.
23. Bills (5-8, +3). A Buffalo News columnist worded it beautifully when
describing interim coach Perry Fewell’s second win, a 16-10 snooze-fest against
the Chiefs: “… any victory looks like Kate Winslet in an evening gown.”
24. Redskins (4-9, +3). Rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo had four sacks Sunday
and told reporters the Redskins would “love to be the Grinch” against their
division rivals in December. The holidays bring the best out of us.
25. Bears (5-8, -3). If the Bears fire Lovie Smith after this season, will they
go after an offensive-minded head coach to gear toward quarterback Jay Cutler,
or do they stick with a defensive-oriented guy? Should be fun to watch.
26. Panthers (5-8, -3). If anyone knows what it’s like to see a player quit on
the field, it should be members of the Panthers, who can’t get out of their own
way to muster up a respectable performance this season.
27. Raiders (4-9, -2). Tough to imagine owner Al Davis had this in mind prior
to taking JaMarcus Russell first in the 2007 draft. Bruce Gradkowski has two
sprained knees and is still the better option at quarterback.
28. Browns (2-11, +4). They had scored single-digit points in seven of their
first 12 games this season, but the Browns busted loose for an explosive 13
points in a great win against the defending champion Steelers.
29. Chiefs (3-10, -1). Jamaal Charles barely sniffed the ball in his first
seven games, but in his last five, he’s got 87 carries for 453 yards (5.2 per
carry) and four touchdowns. The Chiefs can seriously churn out running backs.
30. Lions (2-11, -1). The Lions had a 9-7 record in 2000, a nice start to the
decade. Since, they’ve won more than five games twice and have an NFL-high 115
losses this decade. They’re also on their seventh coach of the 2000s.
31. Buccaneers (1-12, -1).
Coach Raheem Morris found the magic formula for success, telling reporters, “We’ve
got to establish our offensive identity as far as the run, get [QB Josh
Freeman] some easy completions.” So simple.
32. Rams (1-12, -1). Running back Steven Jackson, who is second in the league
with 1,279 rushing yards, told reporters after Sunday’s 47-7 loss to the
Titans, “Instead of standing here embarrassing myself and my family, I’m just
going to say I’m tired. I’m just tired. I’m tired. You fill in the blanks.”
Seriously, though, can you blame him?