What a dilemma.
Titans or Giants? Giants or Titans?
The Titans stayed perfect with their Monday night beatdown of the
once-mighty Colts. The defending champs went on the road Sunday to play
as stout an opponent as they've faced all year, stared down defeat and
a swarm of Terrible Towels, and toppled the Steelers.
The Titans have the league's No. 1 defense, allowing just 12.4 PPG
and ranking fourth in total defense (275.4 YPG). The Giants,
discounting their Week 6 stink bomb in Cleveland, are right there with
Tennessee defensively, ranking near the top in all major defensive
The Titans can score a bit too, averaging 25.7 PPG, good for ninth
in the league, and they boast the fourth-best ground attack at 145.0
YPG. The Giants offense is mostly a well-oiled machine, with or without
Plaxico Burress. They rank first in rushing (157.3 YPG), third in
total offense (378.9 YPG) and sixth in scoring (27.3 PPG).
The Giants are 2-0 against Quality Opponents
having beaten both Pittsburgh and Washington, and they face a very
favorable matchup in their quest to add a third Quality Win this
weekend, playing at home against wounded Dallas. The Titans have just one Quality Win
, a 13-10 squeaker over improving Baltimore back in Week 5.
Oh, yeah, the Giants also have one loss. The Titans do not have any.
Man, that was easy, wasn't it?
THE DOMINANT DOZEN
1. TENNESSEE (7-0, previous rank: same)
Last week: The Titans finally played a non-doormat and came
through, rallying for 25 straight points to dump division rival Indy at
home, 31-21, and placing themselves firmly in the driver's seat in the
Cold, Hard Football Facts: The 21 points allowed to the
Colts was the most given up by Tennessee all year. The 31 points scored
by the Titans, primarily lauded for their defense, marked the fourth
time in five games that they've scored 30 or more.
Week 9 matchup: vs. Green Bay. The end zone is to LenDale
White as a pig roast is to the CHFF staff (or to LenDale White), as
evidenced by his league-leading 10 rushing TDs, including five in his
last two games. The Packers have allowed seven rushing TDs in seven
games, giving White a decent shot to make more bacon.
2. N.Y. GIANTS (6-1, previous rank: 3)
Last week: The Giants overcame red zone woes (one TD in six
trips), got a crucial safety and shut out the Steelers in fourth
quarter to win, 21-14, at Ketchup Field.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Giants third-year defensive end
Mathias Kiwanuka registered three of his team's five sacks of
Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger, giving him a career-high five on the
Week 9 matchup: vs. Dallas. In two road games against the
Cowboys last season (including the playoffs), Eli Manning posted passer
ratings of 113.1 and 132.4, with six touchdowns and one interception.
In one game against Big D at the Meadowlands, Manning's passer rating
was a measly 72.7.
3. CAROLINA (6-2, previous rank: 7)
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Panthers quarterback Jake
Delhomme sports a passer rating of 88.7, which would be a career high
when he's played a full season.
Week 9 matchup: Bye. The Panthers pray that Smith, their most dynamic offensive player, opts not to punch anyone in the face.
4. TAMPA BAY (5-3, previous rank: 2)
Last week: The defense held the host Cowboys to a miniscule
172 yards of total offense, but the Bucs couldn't do anything with the
ball themselves, failing to find the end zone in a 13-9 loss.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Where's the running game? In
Tampa Bay's past two games, backs Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn have
combined for just 131 yards on 54 carries, a lousy 2.43 YPA.
Week 9 matchup: at Kansas City. If the ground game doesn't
get going this week, it may never recover. The Chiefs are dead last
against the run (196.9 YPG).
5. WASHINGTON (6-2, previous rank: 6)
Last week: The Redskins trailed the woeful Lions in the
third quarter, but some huge plays from Santana Moss (50-yard touchdown
catch, 80-yard punt return TD) lifted Washington to a 25-17 victory at
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Against Detroit, Jason Campbell
completed 23 of 28 (82.1 percent) for 328 yards, 11.7 YPA, 1 TD and a
127.4 passer rating. Campbell has thrown eight TDs against zero picks
this year, and his passer rating has climbed to 100.5, easily a career
Week 9 matchup: vs. Pittsburgh on Monday night. The last
time the Redskins lost at home to the Steelers? 1964. Of course,
they've hosted Pittsburgh only four times since then, and just once
6. PITTSBURGH (5-2, previous rank: 4)
Last week: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was
sacked five times and matched his career high with four interceptions
in a 21-14 home loss to the Giants.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Roethlisberger's 44.8 completion
percentage against the Giants was his worst mark since completing 43.8
percent versus Detroit in 2005.
Week 9 matchup: at Washington on Monday night. Both of Pittsburgh's losses this season have been to NFC East opponents (Philly, New York).
7. PHILADELPHIA (4-3, previous rank: 9)
Last week: Super back Brian Westbrook returned from a rib
injury and rushed for 167 yards, 2 TDs and 7.6 YPA in a 27-14 home
victory over the upstart Falcons.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Eagles have more touchdowns
rushing (10) than passing (8) this season; between 2004 and 2007, they
scored through the air 108 times and on the ground just 46 times.
Week 9 matchup: at Seattle. Westbrook could be in for another big day against a Seahawks defense that allows 121.7 YPG, 22nd in the league.
8. NEW ENGLAND (5-2, previous rank: 12)
Last week: The Patriots won their second straight, holding
off the reinvigorated Rams, 23-16, at Gillette Stadium despite a raft
of injuries in both the offensive and defensive backfields.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: With the backfield decimated, RB
Kevin Faulk was in on 71 percent of his team's offensive plays against
St. Louis, 43 percentage points more than his season average.
Week 9 matchup: at Indianapolis on Sunday night. Maalox
sales soared when NBC executives realized that it would be Matt Cassel
and not Tom Brady facing off against Peyton Manning and the 3-4
Colts in this November sweeps-week showdown. When they met last year,
both teams were undefeated.
9. CHICAGO (4-3, previous rank: 8)
Bye. Rising Chicago celebrity Kyle Orton treated his friends to several rounds of Old Style
in celebration of his stellar TD/INT ratio (10 TDs, 4 INTs).
Cold, Hard Football Facts: In his last three games, Orton
has completed 71 of 109 (65.1 percent) for 903 yards, 8.28 YPA, 5
TDs, 0 INTs and a 106.2 passer rating.
10. BUFFALO (5-2, previous rank: 5)
Last week: The division-leading Bills faced their first AFC East opponent and felt the pressure, losing 25-16 in Miami.
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Buffalo entered the game with an
even turnover ratio, but after three lost fumbles and an
interception, that number dropped to -3.
Week 9 matchup: vs. N.Y. Jets. Bills running back Marshawn
Lynch has yet to reach the 100-yard mark this season, topping out at 83
yards against Oakland in Week 3. He may have to wait even longer, as
the Jets rank fourth against the run (82.6 YPG).
11. ARIZONA (4-3, previous rank: 10)
Last week: Coming off a bye and traveling East again, the
Cardinals wasted a 381-yard performance by Kurt Warner and a big return
from Anquan Boldin (9 catches, 63 yards, 2 TDs), losing to Carolina,
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Arizona is first in scoring
offense (28.6 PPG), second in passing (287.7 YPG) and fifth in total
offense (369.3 YPG). But the ground game is desert dry, averaging a
league-worst 3.26 YPA.
Week 9 matchup: at St. Louis. Returning to their longtime
home for a key NFC West tilt, the Cardinals may feel like they're
playing in Glendale if enough baseball fans show up.
12. DALLAS (5-3, previous rank: 18)
The Cowboys reappear in the Dominant Dozen by virtue of not sucking as bad as Tampa in a 13-9 home win over the Bucs that set NFL offenses back 35 years
Cold, Hard Football Facts: Terrell Owens has caught more
than five passes in a game just once this season (seven), sports a
game-high in receiving yards of 89, and has 11 catches for 100 yards
(9.09 YPA) with zero TDs in his last three games.
Week 9 matchup: at N.Y. Giants. Dallas third-string QB
Brooks Bollinger may see some playing time in his return to the
Meadowlands, where he recorded a pair of wins for the Jets in 2005.
THE TEPID TWENTY
13. ATLANTA (4-3, previous rank: 11) — Matt Ryan fell back
to earth in last week's road loss to the Eagles, but his favorite
target, Roddy White, caught eight more passes for 113 yards and 2
touchdowns. White is sixth in receptions (43), third in yards (679),
tied for second in TDs (5) and tied for sixth in catches of 20+ yards
14. GREEN BAY (4-3, previous rank: 13) — Ryan
Grant has had at least 30 carries in each of the last two games and has
responded with his two best yardage outputs (90, 105).
15. NEW ORLEANS (4-4, previous rank: 16) — No wonder Drew
Brees, who's on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season passing
record, has to work so hard on offense: New Orleans is 21st in scoring
defense (24.4 PPG), 27th against the pass (237.2 YPG) and 24th overall
16. BALTIMORE (4-3, previous rank: 19) — Last week,
Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco threw a 70-yard TD pass,
registered a 12-yard TD run and caught a 43-yard pass from his backup,
Troy Smith, on a single-wing trick play. Is Flacco really a triple
threat, or was he the beneficiary of a generous Raiders defense?
17. INDIANAPOLIS (3-4, previous rank: 14) — The Colts
haven't been below .500 this late in the season since 1998, Peyton
Manning's rookie year, in which they finished 3-13.
18. JACKSONVILLE (3-4, previous rank: 15) — A disappointing
season for the Jaguars reached its low point with a home loss to
Cleveland after a bye week. At least a date with the winless Bengals
19. SAN DIEGO (3-5, previous rank: 17) — Without Shawne
Merriman providing pressure, the Chargers rank dead last in pass
defense (265.1 YPG), 27th in Defensive Passer Rating (95.0) and 28th in
total defense (371.6 YPG).
20. MIAMI (3-4, previous rank: 24) — In their three
victories over playoff-hopeful New England, San Diego and Buffalo, the
Dolphins have won by a combined score of 80-39.
21. HOUSTON (3-4, previous rank: 22) — Andre Johnson averages a league-leading 110.3 receiving yards per game and has posted double-digit catches in three straight.
22. DENVER (4-3, previous rank: 21) — The Broncos are in
the bottom five in scoring defense (29th, 27.9 PPG), rushing defense
(30th, 154.6 YPG), passing defense (28th, 240.0 YPG) and total defense
(30th, 394.6 YPG). Even Mike Shanahan's guardian angel, John Elway,
couldn't fix that.
23. CLEVELAND (3-4, previous rank: 25) — Cleveland with Mr. Winslow? 1-4. Cleveland without Mr. Winslow? 2-0.
24. N.Y. JETS (4-3, previous rank: 23) — Moving down a slot
after a win is pretty hard to do, but the Jets needed a last-minute
drive to beat a pathetic Kansas City team at home.
25. ST. LOUIS (2-5, previous rank: 20) — Rookie wideout
Donnie Avery is conjuring visions of the high-octane Rams of old,
recording 10 catches for 218 yards and 2 TDs over the last two weeks.
26. MINNESOTA (3-4, previous rank: same) — Free agent
signee Bernard Berrian is doing his usual deep-threat thing, scoring 3
touchdowns and sporting a nifty 18.5 YPA. Second-year man Sidney Rice
(3 catches, 1 TD) is the only other Vikings wide receiver to have found
the end zone.
27. SEATTLE (2-5, previous rank: 29) — With Seneca Wallace
under center, fullback Leonard Weaver became the new go-to receiver,
catching touchdown passes of 43 and 62 yards.
28. OAKLAND (2-5, previous rank: 27) — It's easy to see why
Al Davis is so loyal to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. If your team's
D gave up 375 yards to Baltimore and ranked 26th in total defense
(362.6 YPG), wouldn't you be?
29. KANSAS CITY (1-6, previous rank: 30) — Tyler Thigpen
actually looked like a real quarterback, completing 30 of 42 passes for
280 yards, 2 TDs and no picks in a near-miss road loss to the Jets.
30. SAN FRANCISCO (2-6, previous rank: 28) — After
committing 17 turnovers (11 INTs, 6 lost fumbles), 49ers
quarterback/franchise savior J.T. O'Sullivan has been permanently
benched by new coach Mike Singletary. They are not a charity!!!
31. DETROIT (0-7, previous rank: 32) — Credit Where Credit
Is Due Department: The Lions scored in the first quarter for the first
time all season. Small victories, Motor City. Small victories.
32. CINCINNATI (0-8, previous rank: 31) — Cheer up, Cincy fans. Baseball season (and another fifth-place finish for the Reds) is only a little over five months away.