(Ed. note: No surprise to fans of the Cold, Hard Football Facts (Hi mom!), but an independent survey found CHFF the most consistently accurate NFL Power Rankings on the web in 2007. "The Megalist" sized up the 12 most important rankings in the sports world last season and simply confirms what you already knew: a lot of reporters and web sites throw out "controversial" rankings just to get a rise out of the simpletons who actually react to the mindless opinions of the "pundits." Only CHFF consistently hands you the truth with no agenda. And that's not just the whiskey talking.)
By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts man of the millennium
Regardless of the playoff outcome, the 2007 NFL season will forever be linked with the Patriots and their 16-0 record. All that is to be determined now is the ending to their movie.
Which will it be?
Best team of the modern era finishes the job at 19-0 ... or the road to perfection ends at the hands of some ruthless Cinderella.
Whichever way it turns out, the Patriots are driving the bus right now – it's New England's world and we're just living in it.
But 2007 was also the season of ...
QB accuracy. The league-wide pass completion rate of 61.2 percent was the best ever, topping the 59.8 percent of 2004 and 2006. The interception rate of 3.1 percent of passes was a near record low (3.0 in 1997).
Breakaways. Four teams won 13 or more games for just the second time in history (the other year was 1999), and they don't come more dominant than New England. The Patriots are just the third team to best the field by three or more games (1972 Dolphins and 1985 Bears).
Great rookies. The class of 2006 was excellent, but the class of 2007 had some remarkable breakouts. Cleveland's Joe Thomas, San Francisco's Patrick Willis and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson are all on Hall of Fame track as rookie Pro Bowlers.
Many happy (kick) returns. There were 44 total kick/punt returns for scores this year, topping the total of 39 achieved in 2002. But it was the number of kick returns (27) that was most remarkable – the previous mark was 18, set back in 1998.
Great divisions: The AFC South ended up with the best divisional record of all time, finishing 42-22, while the NFC East wasn't far behind at 40-24.
Conference equity. After going back and forth all year for interconference supremacy, the NFC and AFC both finished with 32 wins apiece.
Risers and fallers. The 10-6 Browns added six wins to its 2006 total. Tampa Bay (9-7) and Green Bay (13-3) improved by five games each. Meanwhile, Baltimore (5-11) fell eight wins shy of 2006. The Bears (7-9) and Jets (4-12) dropped six games each. Miami declined by five games from a poor 6-10 record in 2006 to a historically inept 1-15, tying the NFL record for most losses in a season.
On to the final regular-season rankings. New England, obviously, finishes the year atop the Dominant Dozen, after beating six of the playoff teams chasing them for the crown. But will they be there in the end?
We'll revisit in February.
Until then ...
1. NEW ENGLAND (16-0, previous rank: 1)
  • Preseason rank: 2nd 
  • Record vs. Quality Teams: 7-0, +19.3 PPG
  • Last week: The Patriots and Giants put on one of the best shows of the season, with New England preserving perfection 38-35.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: Perhaps the most obscure Patriots' superlative: they led the league with fewest field goals against (12). They also boasted a league-high 16 100-yard receiving games.
  • Next: AFC divisional game vs. PIT, JAX or TEN.
  • Team MVP: QB Tom Brady
2. INDIANAPOLIS (13-3, previous rank: 2)
  • Preseason rank: 1st 
  • Record vs. Quality Teams: 4-3, +4.9 PPG
  • Last week: Indy's mix of starters and reserves wasn't quite enough to knock the Titans out of the playoffs, 16-10.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The defense held opposing receivers to 9.0 yards per reception, best in the NFL.
  • Next: AFC divisional game against SD, PIT or JAX.
  • Team MVP: QB Peyton Manning
3. DALLAS (13-3, previous rank: 3)
  • Preseason rank: 13th 
  • Record vs. Quality Teams: 4-2, -1.0 PPG
  • Last week: Dallas rushed 16 times for a grand total of 1 yard in a 27-6 loss to Washington.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Cowboys led the league in fair catches (21) and in second-half passer rating (115.5).
  • Next: NFC divisional game against TB, NYG or WAS.
  • Team MVP: WR Terrell Owens
4. GREEN BAY (13-3, previous rank: 4)
  • Preseason rank: 22nd 
  • Record vs. Quality Teams: 3-1, +5.5 PPG
  • Last week: The Packers showed some pride, rolling past the pride-free Lions 34-13 in a meaningless game for Green Bay.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts:  Packers receivers led the league in yards after the catch (2,294), but their running backs were worst in the league running up the middle (1.9 yards per carry).
  • Next: NFC divisional game against SEA, TB or NYG.
  • Team MVP: QB Brett Favre
5. JACKSONVILLE (11-5, previous rank: 5)
  • Preseason rank: 9th 
  • Record vs. Quality Teams: 4-3, +0.3 PPG
  • Last week: Backup QB Quinn Gray played well (4 TD, 0 INT), but the Jags allowed two kickoff returns for scores in a 42-28 loss to Houston.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Jaguars led the league in fourth-down attempts (33) by a wide margin over No. 2 New Orleans (25). They converted 19, (57.6 percent) which ranked 10th in effectiveness. But Jacksonville was last in total kick/punt return yards (1,434).
  • Next: at Pittsburgh, Saturday night, 8 p.m. on NBC. Jacksonville is 11-8 all time against the Steelers,
  • Team MVP: QB David Garrard
6. SAN DIEGO (11-5, previous rank: 7)
  • Preseason rank: 3rd
  • Record vs. Quality Teams: 2-3, -6.0 PPG
  • Last week: San Diego forced four turnovers and beat up yet another bad team, taking down Oakland 30-17. The Chargers outscored non-Quality Teams 311-153 on the season.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Chargers led the league with 30 interceptions, eight more than Indy and Tennessee at 22. They also led the league in pass breakups (94). But on offense, they were the only team in the league not to have a pass play of 50+ yards.
  • Next: vs. Tennessee, Sunday, 4:30, CBS. The Chargers are 22-13-1 all time vs. the Titans/Oilers, and beat Tennessee 23-17 in Week 14.
  • Team MVP: RB LaDainian Tomlinson
7. PITTSBURGH (10-6, previous rank: 7)
  • Preseason rank: 15th 
  • Record vs. Quality Teams: 3-2, +4.6 PPG
  • Last week: Back-up Charlie Batch and the Steelers couldn't get past the Ravens, losing 27-21 in Baltimore.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Steelers led the NFL in average time of possession at 33:29 per game. The defense led the league in yards-per-pass against (5.7 YPA) and completion percentage (54.5%), but tied for last with 11 interceptions.
  • Next: vs. Jacksonville. The Steelers are favored by only 1.5 points at home.
  • Team MVP: QB Ben Roethlisberger
8. SEATTLE (10-6, previous rank: 9)
  • Preseason rank: 8th 
  • Record vs. Quality Teams: 1-2, -3.3 PPG
  • Last week:  The normally stingy Seahawks defense allowed 44 points to Atlanta, losing a meaningless one by three points.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Seahawks were the least-penalized team in the NFL, and also allowed the fewest TD passes (15). But they were the worst at picking up first downs running it on 3rd-and-short (30.5 percent, well behind No. 31 San Francisco at 37.5 percent).
  • Next: vs. Washington, Saturday. The Seahawks beat Washington 20-10 in the 2005 playoffs en route to Super Bowl XL.
  • Team MVP: LB Lofa Tatupu
9. TAMPA BAY (9-7, previous rank: 8)
  • Preseason rank: 29th 
  • Record vs. Quality Teams: 2-3, -5.0 PPG
  • Last week: With many starters on the bench, Tampa lost 31-23 at home vs. Carolina.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bucs defense led the NFL in yards per play allowed (4.56). Tampa RBs were hit for a loss on only 5.8 percent of their runs, second only to Cleveland (5.7 percent)
  • Next: vs. New York Giants, Sunday. According to sportsbook.com, Tampa is a 75-1 shot to win the Super Bowl, same as the Giants.
  • Team MVP: QB Jeff Garcia
10. NEW YORK GIANTS (10-6, previous rank: 13)
  • Preseason rank: 19th
  • Record vs. Quality Teams: 1-5, -8.5 PPG
  • Last week: The Giants got a nice moral victory, putting up 35 points against the Patriots and pushing them to the wire. But they might have lost center Shaun O'Hara for the playoffs in the process of earning the moral victory.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Giants led the league with 1,163 rushing yards on first down, but were last with 42 dropped passes.
  • Next: at Tampa, Sunday. In a close game, special teams matter, and the Giants are last on our Special Teams Index.
  • Team MVP: DE Michael Strahan
11. TENNESSEE (10-6, previous rank: 12)
  • Preseason rank: 20th 
  • Record vs. Quality Teams: 2-4, -2.9 PPG
  • Last week: The Titans won their way into the playoffs with a 16-10 over the resting Colts.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: Tennessee had an NFL-low nine TD passes this year, but a league-high 35 field goals. They also led the NFL with rushing attempts (543).
  • Next: at San Diego. The Titans ranked 16th in net points (+4) this year, behind non-playoff teams Arizona (+5), Cleveland (+20), Philadelphia (+36) and Minnesota (+54).
  • Team MVP: DT Albert Haynesworth
12. WASHINGTON (9-7, previous rank: 16)
  • Preseason rank: 24th 
  • Record vs. Quality Teams: 2-5, -4.7 PPG
  • Last week: The Redskins completed the comeback of the year with a 27-6 win over the Cowboys. Washington won its final four games to grab the NFC's last playoff spot; the 2005 Redskins ended the season with five straight wins to reach the playoffs.
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: If the Redskins should run the table and become improbable Super Bowl champions, Joe Gibbs (17 playoff wins) would surpass Don Shula (19) and Tom Landry (20) for most postseason victories by a head coach.
  • Next: at Seattle. It's safe to say the majority of non-Pacific Northwesters will be pulling for the underdog in this one.
  • Team MVP: LB London Fletcher
13. CLEVELAND (10-6, previous rank: 11)  
  • Preseason rank: 30th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Browns led the NFL in kick/punt return yards (2,348), and in average yards per reception (12.7). They were also the only team not to allow a 50+ yard pass play.
  • The 2007 equation: Great left side of line + skill players + terrible D = promise but no playoffs.
  • Team MVP: T Joe Thomas.
14. PHILADELPHIA (8-8, previous rank: 15) – 
  • Preseason rank: 7th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Eagles were the only team in the league not to score a single point with their defense.
  • The 2007 equation: Westbrook – clutch wins + controversy = lost season.
  • Team MVP: RB Brian Westbrook
15. MINNESOTA (8-8, previous rank: 10) – 
  • Preseason rank: 28th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: In addition to leading the league in almost every rushing category (including negative runs, 60), the Vikings had an NFL-best eight defensive touchdowns in 2007. But they allowed a league-high 4,225 passing yards.
  • The 2007 equation: Running game + stopping the run – bad at everything else = mediocre
  • Team MVP: RB Adrian Peterson
16. ARIZONA (8-8, previous rank: 19) – 
  • Preseason rank: 25th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Cardinals were the most penalized team in the NFL this season. But they were also the only team not to commit a fumble on punt or kick returns, and had a league-best 551 interception return yards (6 TDs).
  • The 2007 equation: Quality Wins – too many bad losses/the Desert Curse = hopeful but still struggling
  • Team MVP: QB Kurt Warner
17. HOUSTON (8-8, previous rank: 17) – 
  • Preseason rank: 26th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: Texan receivers had the most fumbles in 2007 (10), but dropped the fewest passes (15).
  • The 2007 equation: Offense – defense = .500.
  • Team MVP: WR Andre Johnson
18. NEW ORLEANS (7-9, previous rank: 14) – 
  • Preseason rank: 6th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Saints were last in the NFL in yards per play allowed (5.8) and in 20+ yard passes allowed (54). But they did lead the league in two-point conversions made (4).
  • The 2007 equation: Playoff-tested team + horrific start / Reggie Bush's big plays (zero) = calculator error.
  • Team MVP: QB Drew Brees
19. CHICAGO (7-9, previous rank: 21) – 
  • Preseason rank: 4th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The up-and-down Bears were down this year after two NFC North titles – the Bears haven't been a winning team three years in a row since the Mike Ditka run of 1984-88. Before that, you have to go back to 1954-56.
  • The 2007 equation: Super Bowl team – QB + injuries = plucky but bad.
  • Team MVP: KR Devin Hester
20. DENVER (7-9, previous rank: 20) –
  • Preseason rank: 12th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Broncos had a season-best 5.3 per carry rushing average on artificial turf.
  • The 2007 equation: Good young offense – terrible young D + Jason Elam in the clutch = averting disaster.
  • Team MVP: T Matt Lepsis
21. CAROLINA (7-9, previous rank: 22) –
  • Preseason rank: 16th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: Steve Smith had more receiving yards (1,002) than the Panthers' leading passer (Vinny Testaverde, 952).
  • The 2007 equation: Panthers – Delhomme = pushovers.
  • Team MVP: LB Jon Beason
22. BUFFALO (7-9, previous rank: 18) –
  • Preseason rank: 23rd
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bills were worst in the NFL in yardage differential (-1,309 yards), but still managed to win seven games.
  • The 2007 equation: Special teams + good coaching – talent = pretty decent team.
  • Team MVP: CB Terrence McGee
23. CINCINNATI (7-9, previous rank: 24) –
  • Preseason rank: 14th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bengals had the fewest sacks in the league (22), but the most tackle assists (315).
  • The 2007 equation: Offense – defense – special teams = time to rebuild?
  • Team MVP: WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
24. DETROIT (7-9, previous rank: 23) –
  • Preseason rank: 27th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Lions finished last in the NFL in scoring defense (27.8 PPG). They also allowed 70.1 percent completions, worst in the league by a wide margin and an NFL record to boot.
  • The 2007 equation: Guarantee – reality = 7 wins.
  • Team MVP: QB Jon Kitna
25. BALTIMORE (5-11, previous rank: 26) –
  • Preseason rank: 3rd
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Ravens finished last in the NFL in turnover margin (-17). They also led the league in fumbles lost (27) and were last in fumbles forced (12) and recovered (6).
  • The 2007 equation: McNair + Boller + Smith = team in search of a franchise QB, coach in search of a job.
  • Team MVP: LB Ray Lewis
26. NEW YORK JETS (4-12, previous rank: 27) –
  • Preseason rank: 10th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: In 2005, the Jets went 4-12 and allowed 355 points. In 2006, they made the playoffs. In 2007, the Jets pretended like that never happened, going 4-12 and allowing 355 points again.  
  • The 2007 equation: Playoff team – cushy schedule / snitching = relapse
  • Team MVP: S Kerry Rhodes
27. SAN FRANCISCO (5-11, previous rank: 29) –
  • Preseason rank: 18th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The 49ers finished last in the NFL in average time of possession (27:08 per game) and last in yards per offensive play (4.1). They tied KC for most sacks allowed (55).
  • The 2007 equation: Expectations - free agent curse – bonus-baby bust = draft-trade regrets.
  • Team MVP: LB Patrick Willis
28. OAKLAND (4-12, previous rank: 25) –
  • Preseason rank: 32nd
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Raiders allowed a league-high 24 rushing touchdowns in 2007.
  • The 2007 equation: New blood + young blood = Just Bloody Awful, Baby!
  • Team MVP: LB Kirk Morrison
29. KANSAS CITY (4-12, previous rank: 28) –
  • Preseason rank: 11th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Chiefs were the only team in the league without a kick or punt return of at least 40 yards. And they had fewer 1st-and-10 rushing yards than anyone (526) But the Chiefs led the league in stopping teams on fourth down (2 successful in 11 tries), and might have saved money on car insurance at some point.
  • The 2007 equation: Good defense – horrific offensive line – no QB = Hard Knocks.
  • Team MVP: DE Jared Allen
30. ATLANTA (4-12 previous rank: 31) -
  • Preseason rank: 31st
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Falcons allowed a league-high eight return touchdowns, and a league-worst 12.7 percent of their running plays went for negative yards.
  • The 2007 equation: New coach – Michael Vick – dog-loving fans – new coach = surprisingly not that terrible
  • Team MVP: LB Michael Boley
31. ST. LOUIS (3-13, previous rank: 30) –
  • Preseason rank: 17th
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Rams had the fewest rushing touchdowns in the NFL (5) and the most interceptions thrown (28). They also had the worst passer rating in the fourth quarter (38.7).
  • The 2007 equation: Greatest show – biggest blocker = ugly season.
  • Team MVP: WR Torry Holt
32. MIAMI (1-15, previous rank: 32) –
  • Preseason rank: 21st
  • Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Dolphins allowed a season-worst 129 rushing first downs and 153.5 rushing yards per game.
  • 2007 in a nutshell: New coach – injuries – actual skilled players = Tuna.
  • Team MVP: DE Jason Taylor