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Friday, December 09, 2005

This Weeks NFL Top Ten

1. INDIANAPOLIS (12-0 SU, 9-3 ATS)
The Colts continue their run to perfection. The next two weeks will provide the biggest tests for them to close this campaign. While everyone continues to talk about San Diego, I am more interested in what Indianapolis will do down in Jacksonville against a team that dominated the trenches in the first meeting. The Jaguars' Jack Del Rio will certainly have his team prepared for this one, and I'm wondering if I’ll be writing about a different No. 1 next week.

2. SEATTLE (10-2 SU, 7-5 ATS)
The Seahawks proved they're the No. 1 team in the NFC with Monday's 42-0 whitewash of the Eagles, and all I can think about were the emails I received about these ratings several weeks back, and how Carolina was the conference's top team, not Seattle. Shaun Alexander may be getting the headlines for this team, but this defense is stellar, and could be the difference in this team getting to the, ahem, dare I say it: the Super Bowl.

3. CHICAGO (9-3 SU, 8-3-1 ATS)
The Bears' defense is simply the best in the league. My problem is this all of a sudden loyalty to Rex Grossman and the spotlight suddenly becoming focused on him. Apparent concerns still exist within Bears management about Grossman's durability, although he is fully recovered from his ankle surgery. And let's face it, the situation is moot if starter Kyle Orton plays well this week against Pittsburgh. But so what if he falls on his face. The chemistry all around has
resulted in an eight-game win streak.

4. DENVER (9-3 SU, 8-3-1 ATS)
So much for the rushing defense and a solid effort from Jake Plummer. The Broncos hadn't allowed more than 24 points in any of their last 11 games before Kansas City ran roughshod through them for 31. Defense needs to be a high priority the rest of the season, beginning this week against the Ravens. The defensive front needs to be awoken, wreaking havoc at the line and finding the blitzing schemes, otherwise, heading into the postseason won't be as easy as they may have thought.

5. NEW ENGLAND (7-5 SU, 5-7 ATS)
The Bills' solid play at home should be a cause for concern this week, as the Patriots scored the winning touchdown with a little more than five minutes remaining at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 30. A Patriots' win will mean they can finish no worse than 8-8. New England has been dominant in the division over the past five seasons with a 23-6 mark, so focusing on beating Buffalo is essential on Sunday.

6. CAROLINA (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS)
The Panthers are 9-3 for the first time in franchise history, and the good news is Carolina is 11-3 in December under John Fox, including 6-0 at home, where they'll face the Buccaneers this week. The Panthers are fourth in total defense, their highest ranking of the season. They have yielded just two more yards than third-ranked Indianapolis. And scoring, well, let's just say it's a jungle with the big, black cats lurking: the Panthers have scored 34 touchdowns and allowed just 20. They have allowed just one touchdown in the last four games.

7. CINCINNATI (9-3 SU, 7-4-1 ATS)
If the Bengals defeat Cleveland this week at Paul Brown Stadium and Chicago wins at Pittsburgh, Cincinnati will claim the AFC North Division Championship. And before these jungle stripes let their cocky attitudes get the best of them, they need to remember that as of yet, they've yet to clinch anything in regards to the playoffs, and they should clearly remember Cleveland as a very rude houseguest during the Holidays. In 2003, a 4-11 Browns team upset Cincinnati in the season finale at Paul Brown Stadium, dropping the Bengals to an 8-8 finish and eliminating them from playoff contention.

8. SAN DIEGO (8-4 SU, 8-3-1 ATS)
What's this about LaDainian Tomlinson not playing? So what he missed practice yesterday and big deal if he is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against Miami. I don't listen to trainers' reports and injury reports – I listen to the players! And the Chargers' star running back said there was "no doubt" he would play. San Diego needs Tomlinson to step up and provide leadership to keep this team focused on this Sunday, rather than Indy Sunday.

9. JACKSONVILLE (9-3 SU, 7-4-1 ATS)
Fred Taylor would be a welcome return this week, huh? But guys, it's not about the offense in this one, it's about the one defense that got to Indianapolis this season. And though the game resulted in a loss for the Jags, this one could be much different, as Del Rio said Monday there were certain intangibles he's found on game film that he will take advantage of this week. And for the record, Taylor practiced without incident this week, revealing clear indications that he will make his first appearance in three weeks this Sunday.

10. TAMPA BAY (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS)
The Panthers are allowing teams to run for just 3.5 yards per carry and have the league's second-best rush defense, and the last time they played Carolina, the Buccs could only muster a meager 44 yards on the ground. True, they rushed just 18 times in meeting No. 1, but that's still a paltry average of 2.4 yards per carry. Tampa Bay needs to establish the running game this week against Carolina in meeting No. 2, and we just may see that thanks to much better blocking by this team of late. Keep this in mind: when they played Carolina, coach Jon Gruden still had his offense devoting a lot of three- and four-wide receiver sets to the scheme. Now the concentration is back in the trenches. This is a must-win situation.

Dropped out Pittsburgh

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