Week 15 2008 Power Rankings

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 08, 2008



By Jeremy Gottlieb
Cold, Hard Football Facts resident seismographer
 
The earth sure does shift a lot in the NFL.
 
Consider how things looked just a couple weeks ago. The Jets were No. 2 in our world-renowned rankings after impressive road wins over New England and Tennessee. The Titans, bumped out of the No. 1 spot for the first time in weeks, sat with their collective tail between their legs at No. 3. And the Giants claimed the top position while looking like they would never lose another game, ever.
 
So what's happened since? The Jets have dropped two straight in brutal fashion and fallen out of the Dominant Dozen. The Giants lost their best receiver to a scorching case of stupidity and then lost a game for the first time since Week 6. And the Titans, those paragons of pigskin patience, quietly bided their time and were rewarded with a return trip to the catbird seat.
 
So brace yourselves, faithful readers. There are just three weeks left in the regular season, but that's plenty of time for more seismic activity on the NFL landscape.
 
 
THE DOMINANT DOZEN
 
1. TENNESSEE (12-1, previous rank: 2)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 4-1 (+2.4 PPG)
 
Last week: LenDale White was one rushing yard away from giving the Titans two backs with 100+ yards in consecutive weeks, as Tennessee steamrolled the visiting Browns in an AFC South-clinching 28-9 win.
 
Cold, Hard Football Facts: White and Chris Johnson have combined for 1,768 yards and 22 TDs through the first 13 games.
 
Week 15 matchup: at Houston. When these teams played in Week 3, the Tennessee defense picked off Matt Schaub three times and held him below 200 yards passing and 50 percent completions.
 
2. N.Y. GIANTS (11-2, previous rank: 1)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 7-1 (+10.0 PPG)
 
Last week: On a cold, windy day in New Jersey, the Giants allowed just eight fewer total yards to Brian Westbrook than they amassed as a team, losing to the Eagles 20-14.
 
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Eli Manning's 13 completions, 127 yards passing, 48.1 completion percentage, 4.6 YPA and 73.3 passer rating were all season lows.
 
Week 15 matchup: at Dallas on Sunday night. The G-Men rushed for 200 yards in the first meeting, but they have accumulated a total of just 283 yards on the ground over their last three games.
 
3. CAROLINA (10-3, previous rank: 6)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 5-3 (+1.1 PPG)
 
Last week: With first place in the NFC South on the line, the Panthers ran roughshod over the Bucs, getting more than 300 yards from the combo platter of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in a 38-23 win.
 
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Williams and Stewart became this season's second pair of teammates to rush for over 100 yards and score two touchdowns in the same game, and they are just the sixth duo to accomplish the feat since 1970.
 
Week 15 matchup: vs. Denver. The Broncos' 26th-ranked run defense must look very appealing to Williams and Stewart right about now.
 
4. INDIANAPOLIS (9-4, previous rank: 4)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 4-2 (+2.0 PPG)
 
Last week: The Colts barely broke a sweat, blowing out the woeful Bengals 35-3 for their sixth consecutive win.
 
Cold, Hard Football Facts: A week after his worst statistical game of the year, Peyton Manning turned in a vintage performance, completing 26 of 32 passes for 277 yards, three TDs and a 134.0 passer rating.
 
Week 15 matchup: vs. Detroit. For Indy, this is the fifth of what will be six straight games against teams with losing records (vs. Houston, at San Diego, at Cleveland, vs. Cincinnati, vs. Detroit, at Jacksonville).
 
5. PITTSBURGH (10-3, previous rank: 5)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 4-3 (+4.3 PPG)
 
Last week: Staring a home defeat right in the eyes, the Steelers scored 17 fourth-quarter points, including 14 in a span of 24 seconds, to beat the Cowboys 20-13.
 
Cold, Hard Football Facts: After four forced turnovers in the first half netted just a field goal, Pittsburgh's defense produced the game-winning points themselves, getting DeShea Townsend's interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter .
 
Week 15 matchup: at Baltimore. The league's first- and second-ranked defenses collide, with a victory by the Ravens resulting in a tie atop the AFC North.
 
6. TAMPA BAY (9-4, previous rank: 3)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 5-4 (+2.8 PPG)
 
Last week: A run defense that was previously ranked ninth was gashed for 299 yards and four touchdowns by Carolina in a 38-23 road loss that may wind up costing the Buccaneers the division.
 
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Wide receiver Antonio Bryant continued his tremendous comeback season after a year out of football, catching nine passes for a career-high 200 yards and two TDs against the Panthers.
 
Week 15 matchup: at Atlanta. After giving up four times as many rushing touchdowns as they had all season, the Bucs must now face the league leader in that category, Michael Turner.
 
7. BALTIMORE (9-4, previous rank: 9)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 3-4 (+0.5 PPG)
 
Last week: In the Battle of the Beltway, the Ravens held the visiting Redskins to 254 total yards and just 14 first downs in a 24-10 win.
 
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Baltimore has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 32 straight games and had gone 46 drives without allowing a touchdown until the Redskins scored with 11:27 left in the fourth quarter.
 
Week 15 matchup: vs. Pittsburgh. In the Week 4 meeting at Heinz Field, the Ravens lost 23-20 despite outgaining the Steelers and holding the edge in time of possession.
 
8. PHILADELPHIA (7-5-1, previous rank: 16)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 4-5 (+0.9 PPG)
 
Last week: Continuing their late-season renaissance, the Eagles rolled the Giants in the Meadowlands, 20-14, behind Brian Westbrook's career-high 33 carries for 131 yards.
 
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Westbrook, who also caught six passes for 72 yards, has become the Eagles all-time leader in total yards with 9,085.
 
Week 15 matchup: vs. Cleveland on Monday night. The Eagles have rushed for 329 yards in their last two games, a stat that doesn't bode well for the 28th-ranked run defense of the Browns (148.5 YPG).
 
9. DALLAS (8-5, previous rank: 8)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 3-4 (-3.5 PPG)
 
Last week: The Cowboys lost yet another late-season game, blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in a 20-13 loss to the host Steelers.
 
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Rookie running back Tashard Choice stepped in for the injured Marion Barber and posted 166 total yards (88 rushing, 78 receiving), more than half of what the Cowboys accumulated as a team (289).
 
Week 15 matchup: vs. N.Y. Giants on Sunday night. Dallas is 18-37 in its last 55 games played in December or January, with Romo quarterbacking four of the wins and eight of the losses.
 
10. NEW ENGLAND (8-5, previous rank: 11)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 3-4 (+1.3 PPG)
 
Last week: The Patriots survived injuries to three defensive starters (NT Vince Wilfork, LB Tedy Bruschi and S James Sanders) and came from behind to beat the Seahawks at Qwest Field, 24-21.
 
Cold, Hard Football Facts: With 12 catches for 134 yards, Wes Welker is on pace for 118 receptions this season, which would top his league-leading total of 112 from a year ago.
 
Week 15 matchup: at Oakland. A New England victory will even the all-time series record for regular-season games at 14-14-1.
 
11. ATLANTA (8-5, previous rank: 10)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 3-5 (-2.2 PPG)
 
Last week: The Falcons got a career high in passing yards from Matt Ryan (315) but were outlasted by a desperate Saints team, 29-25, at the Superdome.
 
Cold, Hard Football Facts: After catching 10 passes for 164 yards, stud receiver Roddy White now has 1,249 yards on the season – 47 more than he had all of last year.
 
Week 15 matchup: vs. Tampa Bay. The Falcons play another game against a division opponent, one they've beaten just twice in the last eight meetings.
 
12. MINNESOTA (8-5, previous rank: 18)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 3-4 (+0.6 PPG)
 
Last week: Quarterback Gus Frerotte was ineffective (2 INTs) and then injured (lower back), but the Vikings rallied behind former starter Tarvaris Jackson, keeping the Lions winless with a 20-16 victory in Detroit.
 
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Adrian Peterson exceeded 100 yards rushing for the sixth time in eight games, putting him on pace for 1,739 for the year.
 
Week 15 matchup: at Arizona. The Vikings are eighth in total defense (291.0 YPG) but just 20th against the pass (217.7 YPG), which could hurt against the high-flying Cardinals, who average over 300 YPG through the air.
 
  THE TEPID TWENTY
 
13. ARIZONA (8-5, previous rank: 14) — The Cardinals have clinched their first division title in 33 years and will host their first playoff game in 61 years.
 
14. N.Y. JETS (8-5, previous rank: 7) — After getting doubled up in total yards (375-182) by the middling 49ers, the Jets have nosedived to the second grouping in the illustrious CHFF Power Rankings.
 
15. NEW ORLEANS (7-6, previous rank: 19) — The Saints won when trailing at the start of the fourth quarter for the first time since 2005.
 
16. MIAMI (8-5, previous rank: 17) — Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter is as big a reason for the team's resurgence as any, having posted 16.5 sacks – six more than his previous career high.
 
17. DENVER (8-5, previous rank: 15) — Continuing their completely mind-boggling pattern, the Broncos needed a late goal-line stand to beat the awful Chiefs at home.
 
18. CHICAGO (7-6, previous rank: same) — Rookie running back Matt Forte has produced more that 100 yards from scrimmage in 10 of 13 games this season, including the last six.
 
19. WASHINGTON (7-6, previous rank: 16) — The Redskins haven't scored more than 20 points in a game since a 25-17 win over Detroit in Week 8.
 
20. HOUSTON (6-7, previous rank: 17) — In his first game back from a knee injury, Matt Schaub directed the Texans to a season-high 549 yards of total offense.
 
21. BUFFALO (6-7, previous rank: 20) — Finally getting his chance to start with free agency on the horizon, J.P. Losman banged out a sparkling line of 13 of 27 for 123 yards, no TDs, an interception and a 45.8 passer rating in a 16-3 loss.
 
22. SAN FRANCISCO (5-8, previous rank: 24) — After consecutive wins over the Bills and Jets, the 49ers will try to hit the AFC East trifecta by beating the Dolphins on Sunday.
 
23. SAN DIEGO (5-8, previous rank: 23) — LaDainian Tomlinson's 91-yard performance was his best rushing game since Week 8, but he didn't catch a pass for the first time all season.
 
24. GREEN BAY (5-8, previous rank: 21) — The Packers, who have lost two in a row on their opponent's final possession, have stumbled to 23rd in total defense (346.2 YPG). 
 
25. CLEVELAND (4-9, previous rank: same) — The Browns registered less than 200 yards of offense for the second straight game, and their leading rusher was receiver and return specialist Josh Cribbs, who produced a mere 24 yards on seven carries.
 
26. JACKSONVILLE (4-9, previous rank: same) — Against the Bears' 29th-ranked pass defense, David Garrard managed only 178 yards and completed just 50 percent of his throws.
 
27. SEATTLE (2-11, previous rank: 28) — In their crushing loss to the Patriots, the Seahawks got season-best games from Seneca Wallace (20 for 28, 212 yards, 3 TDs) and Deion Branch (4 catches, 88 yards, 2 TDs).
 
28. KANSAS CITY (2-11, previous rank: 27) — Surefire Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez has averaged 12.9 yards per catch in his last three games and is on pace for 96 receptions, 1,082 yards and nine TDs.
 
29. OAKLAND (3-10, previous rank: same) — The Raiders have now been beaten by the Chargers 11 straight times, and they have lost at least 10 games for six consecutive years.
 
30. CINCINNATI (1-11-1, previous rank: same) — The Bengals average a putrid 3.8 yards per offensive play and have scored just 15 touchdowns on the year (while allowing 41).
 
31. ST. LOUIS (2-11, previous rank: same) — Torry Holt is on pace to catch just 62 passes this season, which would be his lowest total since his rookie year of 1999 and the first time he hasn't reached 90 receptions since 2001.
 
32. DETROIT (0-13, previous rank: same) — In the last eight years, the Lions have lost 94 games. That's nearly 12 losses per year for those of you keeping score at home.
 

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