Despite a growing belief that the defending champ Giants were still the league's best team, they had remained at No. 2 in our Power Rankings in recent weeks – prompting accusations that we had been drinking more than usual. But the evidence in their favor had been mounting.
New York's running game had exceeded 200 yards for three consecutive weeks (before being handled by the Cardinals this week). The defense was standing tall, maintaining top-10 rankings in all major categories. And most importantly, the Giants continued to win convincingly
, all while displaying far more patience than your average CHFF staffer waiting to be served at his favorite watering hole.
But the undefeated Titans that stood in the way of the Giants and No. 1.
Well, now that their New York (O.K., New Jersey) brethren, the Jets, have gone into Nashville and toppled the league's last unbeaten, the Giants can assume their rightful place at the top of the list.
It was a bit of a shape-shifting performance for the G-Men in Arizona this week, as their running game generated only 87 yards. But Eli Manning more than made up for it through the air, throwing three touchdown passes to three different receivers.
THE DOMINANT DOZEN
1. N.Y. GIANTS (10-1, previous rank: 2)
Last week: Playing without Brandon Jacobs and Plaxico Burress, Eli Manning delivered his best performance in seven weeks (26 of 33, 240 yards, 3 TDs, 127.3 passer rating) in a 37-29 win at Arizona.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Filling in for Burress, who left early in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, return specialist Domenik Hixon lit up the desert to the tune of 268 all-purpose yards (57 receiving, 11 rushing, 180 in kick returns, 20 in punt returns).
Week 13 matchup: at Washington. The Redskins are third in total defense (272.0 YPG), but the Giants have scored 138 points in their last four games despite facing defenses that all ranked in the top 10.
2. N.Y. JETS (8-3, previous rank: 5)
Last week: The AFC East-leading Jets have won five straight and seven of eight, continuing their roll by shocking the Titans, 34-13.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Jets racked up 192 yards on the ground against Tennessee, with 82 yards and two touchdowns from all-everything back Leon Washington, who has four scores in his last two games.
Week 13 matchup: vs. Denver. The Jets will stay on course against a Denver defense that gave up 318 yards and 31 points at home to a Raiders team that ranks 30th in both scoring offense and total offense.
3. TENNESSEE (10-1, previous rank: 1)
Last week: The bubble finally burst for the Titans, who dropped their first game of the season to the red-hot Jets, 34-13, at LP Field.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Tennessee running back LenDale White took time out from crushing the postgame buffet to complain about his lack of touches, even though his team was down 20-3 at halftime and had just 49 offensive snaps all day.
Week 13 matchup: at Detroit on Thursday. The Titans have gained only 59.6 YPG on the ground in their last three games, but they face a Lions defense that ranks dead last against the run (166.7 YPG).
4. TAMPA BAY (8-3, previous rank: same)
Last week: After spotting the host Lions a 17-0 first-quarter lead, the Buccaneers rallied to an easy 38-20 win.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Tampa's offense gained only 255 yards, but the Bucs produced a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 65-yard interception return for a score in a 2:35 span of the third quarter.
Week 13 matchup: vs. New Orleans. The Bucs have dropped four of their last six home games against the Saints.
5. CAROLINA (8-3, previous rank: 3)
Last week: Continuing the season-long trend of NFC South teams losing division games on the road, the Panthers surrendered nearly three times their season average (15.5 PPG allowed coming in) and got rolled by Atlanta, 45-28.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jake Delhomme had passed for just 174 yards in his previous two games combined, but bounced back with 295 yards through the air against Atlanta.
Week 13 matchup: at Green Bay. Wide receiver Steve Smith, who caught eight passes for 168 yards (21.0 YPA) against Atlanta, has hauled in just 13 passes for 188 yards in three career games against the Packers.
6. INDIANAPOLIS (7-4, previous rank: 7)
Last week: The streaking Colts survived two fourth-quarter scoring drives by the Chargers while kicker Adam Vinatieri's 22nd last-minute, game-winning field goal lifted Indy to a 23-20 victory at the buzzer.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Marvin Harrison has looked rejuvenated during Indy's four-game win streak, catching 22 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown.
Week 13 matchup: at Cleveland. The Colts begin a four-game stretch against teams with just nine combined wins.
7. PITTSBURGH (8-3, previous rank: 7)
Last week: Following a first-quarter touchdown by Cincinnati, the Steelers ran off 20 straight points to top the Bengals, 27-10, in snowy Pittsburgh.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Against Cincy, Ben Roethlisberger took no sacks for only the second time all season. The other time he didn't go down? In Week 7 ... at Cincy.
Week 13 matchup: at New England. The Patriots have gained 1,041 yards on offense in their last two games, but they now must face a Pittsburgh D that ranks first in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense.
8. NEW ENGLAND (7-4, previous rank: 9)
Last week: Matt Cassel became just the fifth quarterback to pass for 400 yards in consecutive games, leading the Patriots to a 48-28 win in Miami.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: New England has generated more than 500 yards of offense in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history.
Week 13 matchup: vs. Pittsburgh. Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney and Kevin Faulk all posted season highs in receiving yards last week against the Dolphins. But now the Patriots oppose a Steelers defense that allows a league-low 168.8 YPG through the air.
9. ARIZONA (7-4, previous rank: 6)
Last week: Kurt Warner passed for 351 yards – his fifth straight 300-yard performance – but couldn't outscore the Giants in a 37-29 home loss.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: After rushing for just 23 yards against New York, the Cardinals have totaled 145 yards on the ground in their last three games (a measly 2.5 YPA) and now rank 30th in rushing (81.1 YPG).
Week 13 matchup: at Philadelphia on Thursday night. Despite its well-documented problems on the East Coast, Arizona has won three of its last five games in Philly, dating back to 1998 when the two teams were still division rivals.
10. DALLAS (7-4, previous rank: same)
Last week: Tony Romo showed no lingering effects from his broken pinkie, passing for 341 yards and two scores in a 35-22 home win over the 49ers.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Terrell Owens caught seven passes for a season-high 213 yards against the 49ers, more than doubling his previous best this year: an 89-yard effort in Week 2 against another former team, the Eagles.
Week 13 matchup: vs. Seattle on Thursday. The most recent meeting between these two teams was a wild-card game two years ago that marked Bill Parcells' last appearance as a coach and Romo's last appearance as a holder.
11. WASHINGTON (7-4, previous rank: same)
Last week: Ball control (41 carries, 187 yards, 38:27 TOP) and defense (228 yards allowed, two sacks, two turnovers) led Washington to a 20-17 win at Seattle.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Despite playing on a bad knee, Clinton Portis managed his first 100-yard effort since Week 8 (143 yards) and reclaimed the league lead in rushing (1,206 yards).
Week 13 matchup: vs. N.Y. Giants. Washington ranks 27th in scoring offense (18.3 PPG), while the Giants are first in scoring offense (29.9 PPG) and sixth in scoring defense (18.1 PPG).
12. BALTIMORE (7-4, previous rank: same)
Last week: The Ravens scored 26 second-half points to turn a three-point halftime lead into a 36-7 blowout of the Eagles at home.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Baltimore's three-headed rushing attack of Willis McGahee, Le'Ron McClain and Ray Rice is on pace to rush for 1,935 yards.
Week 13 matchup:
at Cincinnati. Eight years ago, Marvin Lewis was the defensive coordinator who guided Baltimore's D to one of the best statistical seasons ever (10.3 PPG, best of the Live Ball Era
) as the Ravens won the Super Bowl. Anyone know what happened to him?
THE TEPID TWENTY
13. ATLANTA (7-4, previous rank: same) — Michael Turner recorded four TDs against Carolina to give him a league-leading 13 on the season. But rookie receiver Harry Douglas also scored multiple times against the Panthers – once on a 7-yard run and once on a 61-yard punt return.
14. CHICAGO (6-5, previous rank: 17) — The slumping Bears found that games against the Rams cure most ills.
15. MIAMI (6-5, previous rank: 14) — Chad Pennington's 341 yards against New England was the greatest output of his career and just his seventh 300-yard game.
16. NEW ORLEANS (6-5, previous rank: 21) — Drew Brees topped 300 yards for the eighth time this season in the Saints' 51-29 win over Green Bay, and threw nearly as many TDs (4) as incompletions (6).
17. BUFFALO (6-5, previous rank: 19) — After committing 10 turnovers in his previous four games, Bills quarterback Trent Edwards had none against Kansas City, and also accounted for four touchdowns: two passing, two rushing.
18. MINNESOTA (6-5, previous rank: 22) — The Vikings defense is second against the run (70.4 YPG) and ninth overall (298.9 YPG), but it allows 22.4 PPG, just 18th in the league.
19. DENVER (6-5, previous rank: 15) — The Broncos lost by 21 at home ... to the Raiders.
20. GREEN BAY 54-6, previous rank: 16) — Eight days after outgaining the Bears 427-234 in a dominating 37-3 victory, the Packers allowed 416 yards and allowed the Saints to score a team-record 51 points on Monday night.
21. PHILADELPHIA (5-5-1, previous rank: 18) — With the Eagles trailing by just three points against Baltimore's second-ranked defense, Andy Reid benched Donovan McNabb in favor of Kevin Kolb, who had taken all of 34 career snaps.
22. SAN DIEGO (4-7, previous rank: 20) — The Chargers have been beaten with less 30 seconds to play four times this year, and they have already matched their loss total from the previous two seasons combined.
23. HOUSTON (4-7, previous rank: 25) — Andre Johnson leads the league in receptions (81) and receiving yards (1,071), and has caught at least 10 passes and eclipsed 100 yards in five different games.
24. CLEVELAND (4-7, previous rank: 23) — Despite his defensive background, coach Romeo Crennel presides over a unit that ranks 27th in total defense (369.6 YPG), and his record in 3-plus seasons at the helm of the Browns is 24-35.
25. JACKSONVILLE (4-7, previous rank: 24) — Courtesy of two turnovers, the Jaguars trailed 14-0 before two minutes were gone in their game against Minnesota, and finished with five giveaways and four sacks allowed.
26. OAKLAND (3-8, previous rank: 31) — The Raiders had an out-of-body experience against Denver, scoring 31 points and matching the total from their previous four games combined.
27. SAN FRANCISCO (3-8, previous rank: 26) — Since the start of the 2002 season, teams employing Mike Martz are 12 games under .500 (42-54) ... which clearly is the fault of the officials.
28. SEATTLE (2-9, previous rank: 29) — The Seahawks must win four of their last five games in order to prevent Mike Holmgren's final season from being the worst in his 17-year career as a head coach.
29. CINCINNATI (1-9-1, previous rank: 28) — Lost among the mountain of negatives surrounding the Bengals this season is a respectable pass defense which allows 209.9 YPG (15th); it's also a not-sucky 18th in the more important Defensive Passer Rating category (86.0).
30. KANSAS CITY (1-10, previous rank: 29) — Facing a Buffalo squad that had been plagued by turnovers and in the midst of a four-game skid, the Chiefs allowed a team-record 54 points and didn't post a single takeaway.
31. ST. LOUIS (2-9, previous rank: 30) — Maybe the Rams have a team brunch every week that keeps them from making it to the stadium on time; they are a combined -93 in scoring differential in the first halves of their last three games.
32. DETROIT (0-11, previous rank: same) — Although Thanksgiving football is a Detroit tradition, the Lions delivered a turkey four days early by letting the Bucs outscore them 38-3 over the final three quarters.