Three observations as we turn the page on Week 12 and head into Week 13:
San Francisco's simply the best
Harrison: Week 13 Power Rankings
Twenty-six of the NFL's 32 teams are on the move -- some up, some down -- in Elliot Harrison's updated pecking order. More ...
With Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, a punishing commitment to the run and the most physical defense in the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league. Yes, they're the best team in the NFL, and just seem to be getting better. After a Monday night shellacking of the Chicago Bears and a road win over the New Orleans Saints in the hostile Superdome, the Niners' confidence is soaring, and rightly so.
San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke isn't well known to the general sports public, but he rivals Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson in terms of forming the best-built team in the NFL. If coordinators Greg Roman (offensive) and Vic Fangio (defensive) don't get head-coaching considerations when the season is over, the teams that overlook them deserve to lose with whomever else they select.
You've gotta feel for Norv
No matter what you think of Norv Turner or his abilities as a head coach, you have to have empathy for a man who has spent an entire career developing his craft and establishing a reputation as one of the most solid offensive minds in the game. It's agonizing to watch that career collapse in the manner that it has. Norv stood helplessly on the sideline during Sunday's matchup with the Baltimore Ravens as the San Diego Chargers gave up a fourth-and-29 on a check-down pass to Ray Rice, when almost every defender on the field missed a tackle.
Coach Turner is one of the good people in this profession; his approach to coaching has always resonated with players. It would have behooved the Chargers to execute something as basic as a stop on fourth-and-29.
Cincy suddenly sitting pretty in playoff race
I was in the broadcast booth for the Cincinnati Bengals' game in Week 10, when they were 3-5 and people had dismissed their chances of making the playoffs. Well, you know the saying: That's why you play the games.Marvin Lewis truly felt if they could just get a win against the New York Giants on that day, they could legitimately make a run and enter the playoffs as a wild-card team. They did beat the G-Men -- in impressive fashion -- and then cruised to blowout victories over the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, giving them a three-game win streak heading into Week 13.
At 6-5, Cincy suddenly has a more-than-legitimate chance at making the postseason, especially given its remaining schedule. The Bengalsvisit the left-for-dead Chargers on Sunday before returning home to host the Dallas Cowboys. Then comes a road trip to Philadelphia, where they'll face an Eagles team that has all but given up on the season. Cincinnati finishes the season against a pair of AFC North rivals: the Pittsburgh Steelers, who seem to be floundering on offense amidst multiple injuries, and the Baltimore Ravens, who might have nothing left to play for in the last game of the season. Watch out for the Bengals.