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Power Rankings: Don't look now, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are the team to beat

The Steelers are the best team in the NFL right now, but they got only three players elected to the Pro Bowl. Join the club. The Giants had only one last year and won the Super Bowl.

Hines Ward knows first hand about what the Pro Bowl has to do with winning the Super Bowl: nothing.

Ward became the first Steelers receiver to get into four Pro Bowls but failed to get a trip to Hawaii in 2005. That season the Steelers won the Super Bowl, with Ward named Super Bowl MVP.

“For all these guys who got slighted, let’s win a Super Bowl,” Ward told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “A Super Bowl feels a lot better. You get recognition more by winning a Super Bowl than you will by having a Pro Bowl.”

The Steelers have linebackers James Harrison and James Farrior and safety Troy Polamalu selected for the Pro Bowl.

1. Pittsburgh, 11-3 -- Ben Roethlisberger has produced 17 fourth-quarter comebacks in his five seasons.

2. Tennessee, 12-2 -- Since 2004, the Titans are 3-13 without Albert Haynesworth, including three consecutive losses last season. He will not play this week against Pittsburgh.

3. Carolina, 11-3 -- The Panthers went 8-0 at home.

4. Indianapolis, 11-4 -- The Colts have won eight in a row.

5. NY Giants, 11-3 -- The Giants have lost two in a row to division rivals.

6. Baltimore, 9-5 -- The Ravens held James Harrison to no sacks last week. They have DeMarcus Ware this week.

7. Dallas, 9-5 -- The Cowboys lead the NFL with 53 sacks.

8. Philadelphia, 8-5-1 -- In their past three games, the Eagles are 33-for-50 on third down (66 percent).

9. Atlanta, 9-5 -- The Falcons have not allowed a sack in five of the last six games.

10. Minnesota, 9-5 -- The Vikings can clinch their first NFC North title and their first division title since winning the NFC Central in 2000.

11. Miami, 9-5 -- Miami has had a winning record in December in only two seasons since 1996.

12. New England, 9-5 -- The Patriots have 14 players on injured reserve, a franchise high since the current IR rules went into place in 1993.

13. Tampa Bay, 9-5 -- The Bucs are 31st in the league in red-zone scoring.

14. NY Jets, 9-5 -- The Jets have allowed 414 rushing yards the past three weeks combined.

15. Chicago, 8-6 -- The Bears have won two of their past three vs. the Packers at Soldier Field.

16. Houston, 7-7 -- The Texans are 7-3 in their past 10 games.

17. Arizona, 8-6 -- For the first time since the NFL merger in 1970, one team had its starting quarterback and both starting receivers make the Pro Bowl in Kurt Warner and his two favorite targets, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.

18. Denver, 8-6 -- The Broncos, who have five running backs on injured reserve, are 16th in rushing. They have never finished below 12th in Mike Shanahan’s tenure.

19. New Orleans, 7-7 -- The Saints have 17 players on injured reserve.

20. San Diego, 6-8 -- Vincent Jackson is 60 yards shy of a 1,000-yard receiving season.

21. Washington, 7-7 -- Washington has lost five of six games with the only victory over 3-11 Seattle by a field goal.

22. Buffalo, 6-8 -- Trent Edwards is 6-6 as a starter, including 1-5 in his past six starts.

23. San Francisco, 5-9 -- Shaun Hill has thrown 10 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

24. Jacksonville, 5-10 -- The Jags are 2-4 in the division for the third consecutive season.

25. Green Bay, 5-9 -- The Packers have lost four in a row.

26. Cleveland, 4-10 -- Braylon Edwards leads the NFL with 18 dropped passes.

27. Seattle, 3-11 -- The Seahawks are 28th in offense and 30th in defense.

28. Kansas City, 2-12 -- The Chiefs have lost 21 of their past 23 games and appear headed for a 2-14 record, which would tie for the worst in franchise history.

29. Oakland, 3-11 -- The Raiders are the first team in NFL history to lose at least 11 games in six consecutive seasons.

30. Cincinnati, 2-11-1 -- The Bengals are 32nd in offense, 22nd in defense.

31. St. Louis, 2-12 -- During their eight-game losing streak, the Rams have committed 24 turnovers -- more than 19 other teams have coughed up for the entire season.

32. Detroit, 0-14 -- The Lions are the third team in NFL history to go 0-14.

Cowboys’ pick

Baltimore at DALLAS (-4) -- The Ravens are the league’s second-rated defense. The Cowboys are seventh. First team to 10 wins. The Ravens have six return touchdowns, including five on interceptions; the Cowboys have two, including one on an interception return. Just a gut feeling that a return will decide it, and since the Ravens are better at that….

Ravens 10, COWBOYS 9

Charean’s season record: 11-3

Upset special

Buffalo (+7) over DENVER -- Trent Edwards returns after missing the past 21/2 games with a sprained groin. Buffalo, which has lost seven of eight, needs something to stop the avalanche and Edwards’ return could do it. But the biggest reason to pick the Bills is the Broncos could have the division wrapped up before they take the field. The Chargers play at noon and are 31/2-point underdogs at Tampa Bay.

Bills 24, Broncos 20

Charean’s season record: 5-11

Best bet

Philadelphia (-5) over WASHINGTON -- The Redskins have been outscored 41-0 in the first quarter of their past four games: 3-0 in Seattle (the only victory), 10-0 to the New York Giants and 14-0 in each of the past two weeks against Baltimore and at Cincinnati. The Eagles, meanwhile, have gotten three consecutive victories behind Donovan McNabb, who has completed 69.2 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and one interception in the past three games. The Redskins are done; the Eagles are two victories from a possible playoff berth.

Eagles 27, Redskins 10

Charean’s season record straight up: 13-3

Charean’s season record against spread: 8-6-2

-- Home team in caps.

Fantasy Tips

1. The Bucs have allowed 474 rushing yards the past two weeks, but defensive tackles Chris Hovan and Jovan Haye return.

2. The Falcons run defense has been on a rollercoaster ride. They held Tampa Bay to 99 yards rushing last week after giving up 184 to New Orleans the previous week. In other words, Adrian Peterson could have a big day.

3. Since replacing Gus Frerotte late in the first half at Detroit, Tarvaris Jackson has completed 19 of 27 passes, thrown five touchdowns with no interceptions and posted an impressive 141.7 passer rating. He helped the Vikings rally to beat the Lions and then threw a career-high four touchdown passes en route to earning NFC offensive player of the week honors in a 35-14 victory Sunday at Arizona.

4. The Raiders are 31st against the run and closing in on the franchise record for most yards allowed per game. Opponents have averaged 196.1 yards rushing the past nine games. Houston running back Steve Slaton has averaged 115.8 yards rushing in his past five games.

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