Ryan Early's NFL Power Points:
Bucs hold top spot

Updated: December 24, 2002, 11:09 AM ET
By By Ryan Early
The Bucs stay atop the Power Points this week despite having trouble putting away the lowly Lions. Yes, home field advantage does matter in this league. The Dolphins used it to beat an excellent Raider team this past week, but they have to now travel to play the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday. The Dolphins have the highest home field advantage in the league, meaning they will score a touchdown more playing at home than on the road. The Vikings also have a strong home field advantage. Their combined scores should give the Vikings an 11-point edge before they even step onto the field.

The most amazing thing is taking place in the AFC, where not a single team has even clinched a playoff spot with just two weeks remaining. Only three of the conference's 16 teams have losing records. Truly, parity has come to the NFL. With so many teams still in the playoff hunt, game attendance and television ratings remain high. Plus, upset wins like the Seahawks over the Falcons and Bears over the Jets add weight to the old football adage that "on any given Sunday, any team can win." Four games this week match AFC division rivals still in the postseason race. None is bigger than the Broncos-Raiders game, as one of the league's fiercest rivalries could mean playoff elimination for Denver. It's hard to fathom, but it is still possible for the Raiders to finish in last place in the AFC West.

The other AFC West match looks like it should be close if you look at the league standings, but a blowout if you look at the Power Points. The Chargers started the year 4-0, but have lost six of their last 10 and plummeted down the chart. After losing to the Bills in Buffalo this past Sunday, their overall rating is at a negative-3. Meanwhile, the Chiefs haven't won or lost more than two games in a row all season, but against one of the hardest schedules in the league, their losses have been close while they have blown out several opponents. Their strong recent play has them in the top 5 teams in the Power Points, pointing to an easy win this week when they visit San Diego. The biggest problem with the Power Points, though, as I've said before, is that there isn't any way to factor in a significant loss to injury. If Priest Holmes can't play, will Kansas City's offense still play like the best in the league? Very doubtful. But while some injuries have a huge impact on a team's play, such as Jay Fiedler's on the Dolphins, other teams are more apt to overcome a key injury as the Eagles have kept winning without Donovan McNabb.

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