- Kansas City Chiefs (8-0): Look to continue to make the '72 Dolphins nervous this week when the embattled Browns visit Arrowhead.
- Indianapolis Colts (7-1): Edgerrin is back and the defense continues to improve under Dungy.
- Tennessee Titans (6-2): Emerge from bye week a game and a tiebreaker behind the Colts with the Dolphins in town.
- New England Patriots (7-2): Are the four best teams in the NFL all AFC teams? It would appear that way right now. The Pats are gritty, and continue to find ways to pull out wins each week.
- Minnesota Vikings (6-2): The defense has reverted to that of years past in back-to-back losses to the Giants and the Packers.
- Seattle Seahawks (6-2): Much maligned a season ago the Seahawk defense is 8th in the league in points allowed thus far.
- Carolina Panthers (6-2): Lack of a pass game starting to become worrisome. Big game versus Tampa this week gives them a chance to distance themselves from the pack.
- Dallas Cowboys (6-2): The Tuna. The friggin' Tuna.
- State Louis Rams (5-3): Momentum was halted by an inspired 49er team this past week.
- Philadelphia Eagles (5-3): Although still a mere shadow of last years team, the Eagles are gaining momentum…and starting to make my pre-season Patriots-Eagles Super Bowl prediction look viable.
The MVP Race
- QB Peyton Manning, Indianapolis - Having a career year in leading the Colts to their best start since 1977.
- QB Steve McNair, Ten - 13 TD's, 3 INT's and a 105 QB rating.
- RB Jamal Lewis, Baltimore - Secures his 1,000-yard season…halfway through game eight.
- WR Randy Moss, Minnesota - Continues to make big plays week in and week out.
- LB Ray Lewis, Baltimore - After what some would consider a slow start, Rayenthal has exploded onto the scene as of late in leading the Ravens to the top of the AFC North.
- RB Stephen Davis, Carolina-On pace for nearly 2,000 yards at over five yards a clip.
- DE Mike Rucker, Carolina-Continues to dominate. Leads the NFL in sacks with 10, and is amongst the tackle leaders for DE's as well.
- RB Priest Holmes, Kansas City-Not as dominating a season as last year, but he should once again surpass 2,000 total yards in leading the offense of the league's last unbeaten.
- LB Tedy Bruschi, New England-The only constant in a banged up Patriot defense…and he's having an unbelievable season.
- LB Scott Fujita, Kansas City-The young linebacker from Cal is quickly becoming a household name around the league.
- RB Ahman Green, Green Bay
- RB Deuce McAllister, New Orleans
- S Roy Williams, Dallas
- WR Torry Holt, State Louis
- QB Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota
- CB Dexter McCleon, Kansas City
- OT Jonathon Ogden, Baltimore
- WR Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis
- WR Dante Hall, Kansas City
- CB Corey Chavous, Minnesota
- DE Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis
- DE Shaun Ellis, NY Jets
- LB Zach Thomas, Miami
- OT Chad Clifton, Green Bay
- S Rodney Harrison, New England
There are five really good games, including both night games, as well as several other intriguing lower tier match-ups on this weekend's slate of NFL action. On Monday night, Philadelphia and Green Bay both try to get back into the playoff picture after slow starts, and on Sunday night, the surprise Super Bowl winners of 1999 and 2000 square off in State Louis when the Ravens visit the Rams. Also, Miami tries to snap a two game losing streak when they play at Tennessee and the Panthers and Buccaneers meet for the second time this year, this time in Carolina. In other action, Buffalo plays at Dallas, and the Browns take on the unbeaten Chiefs in Arrowhead.
The College Ranks
Road To The Sugar Bowl
And then there was one. After yet another impressive win, this one a 43-point pounding of the archrival Cowboys of Oklahoma State, the Sooners are the last unbeaten team from a BCS conference. TCU is still unbeaten as well, but they remain #9 in the BCS standings. Needing to be in the top twelve of the BCS rankings to warrant consideration for a BCS bowl…TCU could give the committee a tough decision if they run the table.
Getting to more realistic Sugar Bowl opponents for the Sooners, who could lose in the Big 12 Championship and likely still get a spot in the national championship game, we are left with six legitimate one-loss teams as the most likely options. USC currently sits in the #2 spot in the rankings, and has a manageable schedule left and no conference championship game to contend with. Florida State is at #3, with Miami Florida at #4, Ohio State #5, Virginia Tech #6, and LSU #7. Michigan and Georgia lead the list of two loss teams that really need some strange things to happen.
- QB Jason White, Oklahoma - While not his best game statistically, White engineered another dominating win over a solid opponent. With a passer rating of 168.3 (27 TD's, 6 INT's) on the nations undisputed #1 team…White has to be the frontrunner right now.
- WR Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh - Just broke the NCAA record for most consecutive games with a TD catch, and the kid is barely halfway through his sophomore season. 1174 yards and 16 TD's dwarf second place in each category. Can a sophomore win this thing?
- QB Matt Leinart, USC - Has catapulted up the ratings in leading the Trojans back into the #2 spot in the BCS standings. Has 24 TD's and 7 INT's to go with a passer rating of 160. Quietly putting up Carson Palmer like numbers and quickly getting himself in this race.
- RB Chris Perry, Michigan - Started very quick, tailed off a little, and has surged as of late. His Wolverines are back in the top ten, and he is once again the nation's leading rusher.
- QB Eli Manning, Mississippi - The Rebels have shot up the SEC standings behind their prolific signal caller, who has been one of the nation's most efficient passers. Big games against Auburn and LSU loom, and will determine the direction of his campaign.
- QB Brad Smith, Missouri - This kid has amazing talent, rushing for almost 300 yards and five touchdowns against Texas Tech. He'd likely need a trip to the Big 12 Championship game to give his campaign enough steam this year…but he will be one of the favorites to win this award next season.
- QB Phillip Rivers, NC State - Three early losses killed Rivers, but he is having a phenomenal season. Plays at Florida State next week in a game he must play well in to have a chance.
- QB Josh Harris, Bowling Green - This exciting young quarterback has played well versus his toughest competition this season and has the Falcons ranked #15 in the country.
- QB B.J. Symons, Texas Tech - Despite overall statistical excellence this season, his chances of winning this award have dwindled down to nothing after a couple consecutive poor performances.
- RB Tatum Bell, Oklahoma State - Is second only to Perry in yards gained on the ground, gaining 6.3 yards per clip. Has also scored 15 times.
- RB Stephen Jackson, Oregon State
- WR Mike Williams, USC
- CB Derrick Strait, Oklahoma
- RB Michael Turner, Northern Illinois
- RB Kevin Jones, Virginia Tech
- S Sean Taylor, Miami Florida
- OT Robert Gallery, Iowa
- WR Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State
- WR Mark Clayton, Oklahoma
- WR Reggie Williams, Washington
- QB Jeff Smoker, Michigan State
- RB DeAngelo Williams, Memphis
- CB Kewain Ratliff, Florida
- OT Shawn Andrews, Arkansas
- DE David Pollack, Georgia
The Games That Matter
There are seven games this week pitting teams ranked in the top thirty of the AP poll against one another.
- #18 Tennessee Volunteers at #6 Miami of Florida Hurricanes
- #14 Michigan State Spartans at #7 Ohio State Buckeyes
- #5 Virginia Tech Hokies at #25 Pittsburgh Panthers
- #10 Iowa Hawkeyes at #16 Purdue Boilermakers
- #11 Texas Longhorns at #21 Oklahoma State Cowboys
Other games of note: #28 Louisville Cardinals at #13 TCU Horned Frogs, Texas A&M Aggies at #1 Oklahoma Sooners, #20 Mississippi Rebels at #27 Auburn Tigers, UCLA Bruins at #12 Washington State Huskies, #3 Florida State Seminoles at Clemson Tigers
As the season approaches the halfway point, I find myself at slightly above .500 picking point spread winners in this portion of my weekly column. I'm at 7-6 in the NCAA and 5-4 in the NFL. In my free Saturday morning handicapping newsletter that I send out to any interested readers, I had a banner week in the NCAA, going 3-1 in my suggested plays and 10-2 overall in the twelve games I picked ATS winners in. Also helping my cause this week was another solid effort from Chad at www.sportslynx.com, who had a 10-5 week, and continues to churn out quality selections.
On to my selections for this week, they lack analysis this week, but they are well though out picks. I will be providing analysis on all of my final plays in my Saturday morning e-mail newsletter. To be added to my mailing list, simply shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck.
Wisconsin Badgers +8 at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Auburn Tigers –7 ½ vs. Mississippi Rebels
Houston Cougars +5 ½ vs. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
Buffalo Bills +4 at Dallas Cowboys