By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts boogie-woogie bugle boy of Company B
If you've got a domed stadium and/or a veteran, Pro Bowl/Super Bowl quarterback, welcome to the top of our power rankings. If you don't, welcome to the rank and file.
Only six starting QBs in the NFL have earned Super Bowl ring, and five of them are currently in what used to be the "Dominant Dozen." Four of them are in the top five – Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
Three domed teams top the list – yet domed teams rarely fulfull expectations in the playoffs (Minnesota and Indy's postseason struggles are well documented, while the Saints have reached just one conference title game in their history). But this year's teams may be cut from a different Astro-cloth. The Saints, Colts and Vikings appear to be the best thing to happen to domes since they finished St. Peter's Basilica in 1626 (did they have Twitter then?).
The Saints come in at No. 1, with all eight wins by at least eight points. Most of the other rankings (we try not to look, but we're nosy) have Indy at No. 1, but they've been a step behind the Saints all year.
As for the No. 3 Vikings, they have three straight home games against .500-or-worse types (DET, SEA, CHI), so they could well have the top spot when lucky Week 13 rolls around.
At the bottom, against long odds, the Browns have managed to out-suck all others in this, the year of the bottom feeder.
During their bye week, they were passed by the Bucs.
Congrats, boys. You've earned it.
On to the rankings, where you'll be treated to more kernels of wisdom than you'll know what to do with. But don't worry. We'll make more.
1. NEW ORLEANS (8-0). Last week: 30-20 win vs. Carolina. Only six teams in the NFL have turned it over more than the Saints (16). But New Orleans is still +8 in turnover differential, thanks to more takeaways (24) in eight games than they had in all of 2008 (22).
2. INDIANAPOLIS (8-0). Last week: 20-17 win vs. Houston. Amazing fact of the millennium: Of Indy's 11 current starters on defense, only rookie Jarraud Powers and DE Dwight Freeney were drafted higher than the fifth round.
3. MINNESOTA (7-1). Last week: bye. Brett Favre spent his bye week smiling contentedly ... and plotting his next retirement speech.
4. NEW ENGLAND (6-2). Last week: 27-17 win vs. Miami. Randy Moss passed his old teammate Cris Carter for seventh place on the all-time receiving yards list (13,913). He's only 1,275 yards behind No. 2 Isaac Bruce, but still needs 8,982 yards – approximately the career total for HOFer Fred Biletnikoff – to catch Jerry Rice.
5. PITTSBURGH (6-2). Last week: 28-10 win at Denver. Rookie WR Mike Wallace is no Morley Safer, but he's leading a productive crop of first-year wideouts with 437 yards. Six different rookies are on pace to finish with 45+ catches, 650+ yards and 6+ TDs.
6. DALLAS (6-2). Last week: 20-16 win at Philadelphia. The Cowboys' starting offensive line has 540 combined career starts, most in the league. But that hasn't stopped them from being whistled for 19 flags in eight games, well above NFL average. But they do rank No. 6 in our Offensive Hog Index.
7. CINCINNATI (6-2). Last week: 17-7 win vs. Baltimore. Over his last 16 games, RB Cedric Benson has run 361 times for 1,447 yards – all of them tough. He has only one run of more than 30 yards over that span, and just one lost fumble.
8. DENVER (6-2). Last week: 28-10 loss vs. Pittsburgh. The math looks pretty simple for the Broncos. When they run for 100+ yards, they're 5-0. When they allow 100+ rushing yards, they're 0-2.
9. PHILADELPHIA (5-3). Last week: 20-16 loss vs. Dallas. The Eagles are first in turnover ratio (+11), outgain opponents by more than 1 yard per play (5.7 YPP offense, 4.6 YPP defense), rank fifth in scoring margin (+66) and in the top 10 in just about every important category ... and they're going to have to fight for their playoff lives. Yep. That's the Eagles. If the season ended today, they'd squeeze in with a wildcard spot.
10. BALTIMORE (4-4). Last week: 17-7 loss at Cincinnati. The Ravens are one of three teams with more negative runs (22) than 10+ yard runs (21). The others: Detroit and Buffalo. That's not good company.
11. ATLANTA (5-3). Last week: 31-17 win vs. Washington. Matty Ice hasn't been too icy this year. In the second half of games, he's produced a passer rating of 59.9.
12. ARIZONA (5-3). Last week: 41-21 win at Chicago. Ladies and gentlemen, Arizona's running game is actually approaching something like legitimacy for the first time since Reagan was president. Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower average 4.005 YPA -- perfectly average in the NFL, spectacular in Arizona.
13. HOUSTON (5-4). Last week: 20-17 loss at Indianapolis. The Texans rank 15th in scoring offense, 14th in scoring defense. They are a loss away from going 5-5 after finishing the last two seasons at 8-8. But boy, do they make mediocrity fun!
14. SAN DIEGO (5-3). Last week: 21-20 win at NY Giants. The Chargers are a game behind the Broncos as their favorite part of the season fast approaches. They're just 5-5 in November under Norv Turner, but 9-0 in December.
15. N.Y. JETS (4-4). Last week: bye. The Jets have winnable games left against the Jags, Panthers, Bills, Bucs and Falcons, but have a very slim margin for error thanks to games at New England and Indy in the second half, and a season finale against the AFC North-leading Bengals.
16. N.Y. GIANTS (5-4). Last week: 21-20 loss to San Diego. Remember talk of a New York-New York Super Bowl? Well, perhaps our old college prankster friend said it best 20 years ago, after calling in a $200 pizza order only to call back 10 minutes later to utter the immortal words: "Cancel it, f--- face!" Yup, we got class.
17. GREEN BAY (4-4). Last week: 38-28 loss at Tampa Bay. The Packers do everything right except win – they're in the NFL's top 10 in passer rating, rushing yards per game, rushing yards allowed and Defensive Passer Rating.
18. CHICAGO (4-4). Last week: 41-21 loss vs. Arizona. Chicago, on the other hand, doesn't do anything well; they're no higher than 14th in any of our Quality Stats.
19. SAN FRANCISCO (3-5). Last week: 34-27 loss vs. Tennessee. Shaun Hill goes out of the lineup, the Niners lose two straight. What wasn't to like about Hill's 10-6 record as a starter? It sure looks good next to Alex Smith's 11-21 mark.
20. MIAMI (3-5). Last week: 27-17 loss at New England. The Dolphins played at New England, ran for 133 yards, won the time of possession battle and the turnover battle ... and lost by 10.
21. CAROLINA (3-5). Last week: 30-20 loss at New Orleans. RB DeAngelo Williams lost only one fumble in his first three seasons (538 carries). He has lost three this year.
22. JACKSONVILLE (4-4). Last week: 24-21 win vs. Kansas City. The Jags' Offensive Hogs are back to 2007 form (fourth overall), but their Defensive Hogs are back in 1995 form (an expansion-like 31st overall).
23. BUFFALO (3-5). Last week: bye. The Michael Vick-to-Buffalo talk served as a reminder that the Bills are still actually an active member of the NFL.
24. SEATTLE (3-5). Last week: 32-20 win vs. Detroit. The Seahawks have four road games over the next five weeks, including Arizona, Minnesota and Houston. Other than that, life is grand in Seattle. The Space Needle is still up and running, coffee joints and microbreweries are everywhere and there's even a spirited battle to see who will be the new mayor!. Enjoy.
25. TENNESSEE (2-6). Last week. 34-27 win at San Francisco. Chris Johnson, a/k/a the best running back in the NFL for at least the next 30 minutes, is only eight more wins shy of the greatest prediction since we lost the great Jeane Dixon back in 1997 (did she not see the heart attack coming?).
26. OAKLAND (2-6). Last week: bye. The Raiders scored 0 points during their bye week -- just 9.8 PPG fewer points than what they score when actually playing.
27. KANSAS CITY (1-7). Last week: 24-21 loss at Jacksonville. The now departed Larry Johnson carried the ball 416 times for the Chiefs just three years ago, but had just 486 carries since. Bonus fact: the Chiefs are 2-14 in their last 16 games decided by 7 points or fewer.
28. WASHINGTON (2-6). Last week: 31-17 loss at Atlanta. Rookie OLB Brian Orakpo has 5.5 sacks and has started all eight games ... now if he only played quarterback.
29. ST. LOUIS (1-7). Last week: bye. Everyone cool if we don't come up with anything insightful to say about the 1-7 Rams' bye week? Thanks.
30. TAMPA BAY (1-7). Last week: 38-28 win vs. Green Bay. Another Gatorade shower for a first-time head-coaching winner. Now, we'll see if Raheem Morris do what fellow rooks Todd Haley, Steve Spagnuolo and Jim Schwartz have failed
to do: win another game.
31. DETROIT (1-7). Last week: 32-20 loss at Seattle. How strong is the NFL? Two weeks ago, the Lions, who had won once in their last 24 games, hosted a Rams team that had won twice in their last 24 games. And yet, despite all of the area's economic woes, there was still a paid attendance of 40,857 – higher than the NFL averaged in 1960 (40,106).
32. CLEVELAND (1-7). Last week: bye. Coach Eric Mangini spent the off week remembering when he was cool enough to guest star on The Sopranos. Now, he can't even get on "CSI: Cleveland."