Hello from the modest 5-at-10 compound. We're spending time with the 5-at-10 clan and trying to recover from Christmas.
For those new to the show, here's how we roll when the sports editor takes a hiatus. It's a mini-5-at-10, more of a single topic with 5 items, per se. So it goes.
An announcements before we start: We will have the entries and the leader board for the Winners/Losers bowl-apalooza later today (definitely in Wednesday's full-blown 5-at-10);
From the Mama McNabb Stage at the Al Davis Studio, here we go:
NFL Power Poll
There really are only six teams that can win the Super Bowl, and the Atlanta Falcons are not among them. After getting run out of the Super Dome - the very place the Falcons will likely open the playoffs in less than two weeks - by the record-setting New Orleans Saints and quarterback Drew Brees, the Falcons have severe match-up problems against teams with superior quarterback play. Amazingly, this Falcons team would rather see the San Francisco 49ers in round 1 than the air-happy Saints.
Those six teams who could hoist the Lombardi Trophy are the five below and the Baltimore Ravens, who are left out of the power poll because of the mediocre play of Joe Flacco, who has continued to be the vanilla ice cream on quarterbacks on elite teams. Sure vanilla ice cream is fine and all, and if can be part of a big-time dessert as a contributing piece to a pie al a mode or a baked Alaska. But whichever team wins the Super Bowl there will be at least one moment when that team's quarterback is the full-blown bees knees, a dessert delicacy all alone. And after a hearty meal of three-plus-quarters of playoff football, nobody is looking at the dessert menu and ordering the Flacco.
On to the power poll
1) Green Bay: The hand-wringing about the offensive line was surely overblown. The Packers still managed to put 35 on the board against a desperate Bears team that can rusher the passer as well as most.
2) New England: Did you see the tribute the Patriots paid owner Robert Kraft's deceased wife after last Saturday's win. It was touching. And if you missed it, rest easy, there will be plenty of time to see it again during the Pats' postseason run.
3) New Orleans: Who knew that the season-opening loss to the Packers would be this significant? If the Saints had won that game - and had the inside track on home-field advantage - New Orleans would be the favorite right now. No one wants to play them in the Super Dome. No one.
4) Pittsburgh Steelers: Built for the playoffs, and if they get healthy, the Steelers seem to be the only team that can slow down the Pats in the AFC.
5) San Francisco: We know what you're thinking - you just discounted the Ravens because Joe Flacco is not dessert worthy, how in the world are the 49ers here with Alex Smith pulling the strings? These teams are mirror images - built on excellent defense and coached by a Harbaugh - but the 49ers know that Alex Smith is limited and almost never ask him to do too much and manage the game around his limitations. Flacco, on the other hand, is just good enough to convince you he can be a difference-maker, and more times than not, that difference benefits the other team.
28) Cleveland: When your only reliable offensive weapon is kick returner Josh Cribbs, well, you have some offseason work to do.
29) Tampa Bay: This year's victim of the NFL's weighted schedule. Parity across the NFL (or the "National Football League," as Ron Jaworski is apt to remind us at least 48 times a quarter) is attributable to two factors: 1) the salary cap; 2) weighted schedules that force the teams with better records to play tougher schedules. Every year, there is one team that won 9 or 10 games the previous season that struggles because they are not ready for the week-in, week-out grind of being a very good team since they really are an average team that had a very good season. This year, that was the Bucs.
30) Minnesota: Vikings coach Leslie Frazier must feel like Gerald Ford sometimes. They handed him a flawed roster that was churned up in Brad Childress' job-saving attempt to build a Super Bowl contender. Now, with Adrian Peterson on the shelf for months with a torn ACL and MCL, the Vikings would have a tough time scoring in the SEC West. The roster's lack of appeal however means some job security for Frazier, since nobody in their right mind would take this job next year.
31) St. Louis: Wow, as Ron Burgandy would say, "This escalated in a hurry." A year ago at this time, the Rams entered the last week of the regular season with a chance at the playoffs. Now, with a loss to San Fran on tap this weekend, the Rams will finish 2-14.
32) Indianapolis: The 5-at-10 loves the draft. You know this. But if the Colts find a way to work their way out of the top overall pick - and rob us the offseason drama of the Luck or Manning debate - well, then someone's gonna have some 'splainin to do.
Discuss. And we'll see you tomorrow morning when the 5-at-10 returns to its normal format.