FORT WORTH, TEX. Does anyone want to win the Super Bowl, because no team is playing like it.
The Tennessee Titans had lost two of their previous four games—to the New York Jets and the Houston Texans—before beating up on the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers had won five in a row before giving up 323 yards and 31 points to Kerry Collins and the Titans. Kerry Collins?!
The New York Giants had lost two in a row—to Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas — and for most of Sunday night, it appeared they were on their way to the franchise’s first three-game losing streak in more than two years. The Carolina Panthers had won three in a row and led the Giants 28-20 with under four minutes remaining only to fold.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the verge of a historic collapse.
The Cowboys, Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Jets and Denver Broncos keep tripping over their own feet.
Super Bowl champions play their best football late in the season. The Giants went 3-2 in December last year, and their 38-35 loss to the Patriots in the season finale served as a springboard.
So who’s playing the best?
The Colts, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots are, but the Colts will have to win three playoff games outdoors to reach Tampa. The Patriots can win this week, go 11-5 and still not get in. The Ravens and the Chargers have to win this week even to qualify.
Here are my top-10 odds going into the final week:
1. NY Giants—They obviously know how to win the big games, but it might not be easy. They could draw the Cowboys and then the Panthers.
2. Pittsburgh—Yes, the Steelers lost to the Titans—badly—but it wasn’t smart of the Titans to stomp on the Terrible Towels at the end of the game. The Steelers have the better quarterback and know from experience what it takes to win a Super Bowl.
3. Tennessee—The Titans have home-field advantage, but they also have Kerry Collins. There is going to come a point in the playoffs when the game will be in his hands. He, not LenDale White, Chris Johnson or the defense, will have to win it.
4. Indianapolis—The Colts have Peyton Manning, the best quarterback in the game, but I would like their chances more if they didn’t have to win three outdoor games to get there.
5. Baltimore—The Ravens’ defense can carry them the distance, just as it did in 2000.
6. New England—With Bill Belichick on their sideline, I like the Patriots’ chances if they can get in. That’s a big IF.
7. Carolina—The Panthers were the only team with a perfect home record, so if they can win this week and get a first-round bye, they have a good shot to make it at least as far as the NFC Championship Game.
8. San Diego—The Chargers finally are playing like the Chargers I picked to win it all before the season started. It wouldn’t surprise me if they made it to Tampa.
9. Atlanta—Consider this: Matt Ryan has won road games in Minnesota, Green Bay and San Diego. The Falcons are the dark horse.
10. Dallas—The Cowboys clearly have the talent to do what the Giants did last season. But they are only 3-4 on the road this season, only 10-9 in their past 19 games overall, and Tony Romo has a 5-9 career record in games played after Nov. 30.