The Giants lost wide receiver Plaxico Burress for the season, and I really don't see any reason to believe that changes their status as the top team in the league.
Last year, things would have been different: Burress was by far the Giants' top receiver in 2007, with 11 more catches than anyone else on the team, 265 more receiving yards than anyone else on the team and nine more receiving touchdowns than anyone else on the team.
This year, though, things are different. Burress is fourth on the team in catches, second in yards and second in touchdowns, and the two games he's missed (Oct. 5 against Seattle and Sunday against Washington) were two of the Giants' most impressive wins this year. Burress is a talented wide receiver, but in this week's NFL power rankings, the Giants remain No. 1 without him.
- 1. Giants (11-1)| Previous Week: 1
Although the Giants shouldn't miss Burress too much, they would miss middle linebacker Antonio Pierce if he's suspended for his involvement in the Burress fiasco. (Pierce allegedly took possession of Burress's gun after Burress shot himself in the leg, and Pierce could face charges in connection with the incident.) All indications are that if Pierce is disciplined at all, it wouldn't happen within the next couple of months, but Pierce is a player this team can ill afford to lose.
- 2. Steelers (9-3) | Prev.: 4
There haven't been many more impressive performances in the NFL this season than the one the Steelers' defense put together against the Patriots on Sunday.
- 3. Titans (11-1) | Prev.: 3
The Titans destroyed the Lions on Thanksgiving and should destroy the Browns and Texans in their next two weeks. By the time the schedule gets tough (Steelers in Week 16, Colts in Week 17) the Titans might have clinched homefield advantage.
- 4. Ravens (8-4) | Prev.: 7
The three Pro Bowl defensive tackles in the AFC will be, I'm sure, the Jets' Kris Jenkins, the Titans' Albert Haynesworth and the Browns' Shaun Rogers. Those are all good choices, but we shouldn't overlook what a strong year Haloti Ngata is having for the Ravens. Baltimore has the best defense in the NFL, and no one deserves more credit for that than Ngata.
- 5. Panthers (9-3) | Prev.: 8
After that lousy Monday night game we got this week, it'll be a treat to watch the Panthers take on the Bucs in a game that will likely determine the winner of the NFC South. I like the Panthers, mostly because I like the way their defense matches up against.
- 6. Buccaneers (9-3) | Prev.: 12
The Buccaneers' offense just hasn't shown that it can move the ball consistently, especially on the ground. I love Warrick Dunn, but he's just not going to hold up as a 20-carries-a-game back.
- 7. Colts (8-4) | Prev.: 5
I had to drop the Colts after the ugly game they played against a weak Cleveland team. I've seen some writers praise the Colts for "finding a way to win" that game, but when you're playing a team as bad as the Browns, shouldn't you dominate, and not just "find a way to win"?
- 8. Cowboys (8-4) | Prev.: 10
I like the talent on this Cowboys team, but it's been a star-crossed season, with the injuries and the Pacman Jones distractions and whatnot. And looking at the schedule ahead, they probably need to go 3-1 in December to make the playoffs. Their final four games? At Pittsburgh, home against the Giants, home against the Ravens, at Philadelphia. I don't think they're going 3-1.
- 9. Jets (8-4) | Prev.: 2
I ranked the Jets too highly last week, thinking their domination of the Titans was a sign that they had turned a corner and were one of the league's elite teams. I don't think the Jets are as bad a team as they looked Sunday against the Broncos, but they're also not as good as they looked the week before that in Tennessee.
- 10. Patriots (7-5) | Prev.: 9
At a time when receivers routinely get up and complain to the officials every time a defensive back touches them, I respect Wes Welker for not complaining about the hard hit he took Sunday against the Steelers. I still say Welker is overrated, though.
- 11. Cardinals (7-5) | Prev.: 6
Kurt Warner has struggled a little bit in the last couple of weeks against two of the best team on the Cardinals' schedule, but if he rebounds with a strong December -- as I think he will, beginning Sunday against the Rams -- he will absolutely deserve his third MVP award.
- 12. Redskins (7-5) | Prev.: 11
Clinton Portis continues to have an absolutely incredible year, and if he keeps up his current pace he'll notch the fourth 1,500-yard season of his career. How impressive is that? Emmitt Smith had three career 1,500-yard seasons.
- 13. Falcons (8-4) | Prev.: 13
Roddy White had his sixth 100-yard receiving game on Sunday, including a great 38-yard catch on which he had to come back for a ball that Matt Ryan underthrew. White might just be the best receiver in the NFL right now.
- 14. Broncos (7-5) | Prev.: 19
One guy who's having a great season is center Casey Wiegmann, who says he was 90 percent sure he was going to retire before the Broncos offered him a contract in the off-season. The 35-year-old Weigmann, who started every game but one in the last seven years for the Chiefs, is the best center in the NFL this decade.
- 15. Eagles (6-5-1) | Prev.: 18
All season everyone kept telling me I was overrating the Eagles, and then in last week's power rankings I finally listened. So then, of course, the Eagles went out and pounded the Cardinals. So let's just keep them somewhere in the middle of the league and move on.
- 16. Dolphins (7-5) | Prev.: 20
Dolphins running back Ricky Williams will return to Toronto -- the city where he briefly played for the Canadian Football League's Argonauts -- on Sunday when the Bills host the Dolphins north of the border. For the record, Williams had 109 carries for 526 yards as an Argonaut.
- 17. Vikings (7-5) | Prev.: 22
For now, I think the Vikings are the best team in the NFC North, but I'm not sure they will be down the stretch without their two stellar defensive tackles, Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, both of whom have been suspended for four games for taking a supplement with a banned ingredient. Those suspensions could cost the Vikings a playoff berth.
- 18. Saints (6-6) | Prev.: 14
The Saints were hit hard by the same set of suspensions as the Vikings; New Orleans lost defensive linemen Charles Grant and Will Smith and running back Deuce McAllister. The difference is that the Vikings are in a bad division and the Saints are in a good division, so New Orleans isn't going to make the playoffs anyway.
- 19. Packers (5-7) | Prev.: 15
At 5-7 and behind both the Vikings and Bears, the Packers probably have to go 4-0 the rest of the way -- which is definitely doable, considering they get the Texans, Jaguars, Bears and Lions.
- 20. Bills (6-6) | Prev.: 16
In October, the Bills were off to a 5-1 start, and they gave coach Dick Jauron a contract extension. They've gone 1-5 since then. This is the ninth different season that Jauron has been a head coach (counting previous stints in Chicago and Detroit), and he's had a winning record exactly once. Do you think maybe the Bills shouldn't have rushed into that contract extension?
- 21. Bears (6-6) | Prev.: 17
The Bears' play-calling when faced with first-and-goal early Sunday night against the Vikings -- running right into the middle of the Minnesota line -- is the kind of thing that costs teams playoff berths.
- 22. Texans (5-7) | Prev.: 23
The Texans aren't a good team, but they do have good young players, like running back Steve Slaton and defensive end Mario Williams. Looking at the Texans' roster, there's a lot of reason for optimism about the future.
- 23. Browns (4-8) | Prev.: 26
I guess I should give the Browns a little bit of a bump in the power rankings for keeping it close against a good Colts team. The key, again, was defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who absolutely abused the Colts' center and guards. It's kind of sad that a player as great as Rogers has spent his career with teams as bad as the Lions and Browns.
- 24. Chargers (4-8) | Prev.: 21
For a while there I thought the Chargers were going to catch the Broncos in the AFC West, but no. Two years after firing Marty Schottenheimer following a 14-2 season, the best-case scenario I can see for the Chargers is they go 3-1 the rest of the way to finish 7-9.
- 25. Jaguars (4-8) | Prev.: 25
After the Jaguars lost on Monday night, ESPN analyst Steve Young said, "I've never seen a more disinterested team in a Monday night moment." Can Jack Del Rio keep his job if the team keeps playing that way?
- 26. 49ers (4-8) | Prev.: 28
Not that it's enough to make up for a bad offense and defense, but the 49ers have the best special teams in the NFL. Punt and kickoff returner Allen Rossum, who's on his fifth NFL team, has had an especially strong year.
- 27. Raiders (3-9) | Prev.: 24
Raiders coach Tom Cable says he and Al Davis share a passion for winning. I don't know if I'd pride myself about having anything in common with Al Davis.
- 28. Seahawks (2-10) | Prev.: 27
The Lions were obviously the worst team to play on Thanksgiving, but the Seahawks didn't look much better. How is it possible that this team, with most of these same players, has been in the playoffs each of the last five years?
- 29. Bengals (1-10-1) | Prev.: 29
Asked about the Bengals' history of having bad teams, coach Marvin Lewis said, "I've not been a part of that, so I don't have to worry about that, nor has anybody in that locker room ever been a part of that other than a couple players." Well, actually, coach Lewis, every guy in your locker room has been part of a bad team. This year.
- 30. Rams (2-10) | Prev.: 30
Rams running back Steven Jackson and coach Jim Haslett aren't seeing eye to eye. Considering that Haslett has gone 2-6 since taking over and Jackson signed a six-year contract extension three months ago, I think this is one coach vs. player battle that the player is going to win.
- 31. Chiefs (2-10) | Prev.: 31
This team is putrid, but it should be noted that tight end Tony Gonzalez is having another stellar year. It's too bad he couldn't do it on a halfway decent team.
- 32. Lions (0-12) | Prev.: 32
Good news, Lions fans: Your general manager is actually taking the job of preparing for the draft seriously. Too bad Matt Millen never thought of that.