Thursday, December 17, 2015

NFL Power Rankings

by Justin Fischetti

  1. Carolina Panthers (13-0) - The Panthers are the 9th team in NFL History to win its first 13 game of the season. Their defense has always been good, but their offense, led by probable MVP Cam Newton, has now scored 79 points over their past 2 weeks.

  1. Arizona Cardinals (11-2) - The Cardinals have solidly established themselves as the 2nd best team in the NFL. They are on a 7 game winning streak, with wins over the Seahawks, Bengals (when they were healthy), and Vikings during the streak.

  1. New England Patriots (11-2) - With star tight end Rob Gronkowski returning, the Patriots looked like themselves again with a nice 27-6 win, and establishing themselves as the best team in the AFC conference.

  1. Seattle Seahawks (8-5) - The Seahawks may have only 8 wins, but have looked dominant since a 2-4 start, especially since beating the similarly-hot Steelers 3 weeks ago. While they will probably end up as a wild card team for being in the same division as the Cardinals, does any other team want to face Seattle in the first round of the playoffs?

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) - While the Steelers have only 8 wins, their offense has been unstoppable lately, scoring at least 30 points in 5 straight games. Last week's surprisingly easy win against the Bengals was particularly impressive, and established themselves as a contender for the Super Bowl.

  1. Denver Broncos (10-3) - The Broncos record is nice, but it could be even better if their offense didn’t miss all those chances to score a touchdown with dropped passes and other poorly-timed bad plays in a home loss to the Raiders. Although Brock Osweiler is playing better as a quarterback than Peyton Manning did earlier in the season, the Broncos remain a defensive team.

  1. Green Bay Packers (9-4) - Although they have looked vulnerable since a 6-0 start, the Packers still remain in first place in the NFC North. Their rushing game, not Aaron Rodgers, carried the offense in last week’s win over the Cowboys. The Packers may end up thanking their game-winning hail-mary pass in Week 13 against the Lions if they win the division.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) - The Chiefs are on a 7-game winning streak since a 1-5 start, playing dominant defense throughout their victories. With a fairly easy schedule to finish the year, an 11-5 finish and a 10-game winning streak to close out the season seems like a good possibility for the Chiefs.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (10-3) - Sure, the Bengals lead their division and are 10-3, but Starting Quarterback Andy Dalton is out until at least the rest of the regular season. While they will likely still win the division and get at least the 3rd seed in the playoffs, this team is vulnerable to a loss.

  1. New York Jets (8-5) - The Jets are on a nice 3-game winning streak and have looked good with Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick playing very well of late. It is worth noting that thanks to a weak AFC South, one of these three teams will miss the playoffs; the Steelers, Chiefs, or Jets.

  1. Minnesota Vikings (8-5) - Bad play by Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to take a sack when you are about to kick a last-second game-tying field goal in their loss to the Cardinals. While the Vikings are 1 game behind the Packers for 1st place in the division, they have looked vulnerable lately in losing 3 of their past 4 game, 2 of those losses being embarrassing home blowouts.

  1. Oakland Raiders (6-7) - The Raiders continue to be surprisingly decent this season, coming up with some clutch defensive stops in a nice 15-12 win over the Broncos in Denver. Although they will probably miss the playoffs, this season is a step forward for the franchise.

  1. New York Giants (6-7) - The Giants finally found a way to win the 4th quarter in Monday Night’s win over the Dolphins. Odell Beckham Jr. has been on a tear lately; at least 100 receiving yards in his last 6 games, the longest such streak in the NFL so far this season.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) - It's safe to say the Eagles are now watchable again after those  terrifyingly bad losses to the Dolphins, Buccaneers, and Lions, beating the always elite Patriots and a Bills team as desperate for a playoff spot as them to remain tied for first in the NFC East.

  1. Washington (6-7) - Washington finally proved it can win on the road with a win against the Bears at Chicago, something you need to do if planning to make the playoffs. The game between the Eagles and Washington next Saturday is going to be HUGE.

  1. Houston Texans (6-7) - The Texans looked bad against the Patriots at home on Sunday Night, but still appear to be the best team in the horrible AFC South division. A big game occurs this weekend for them with a matchup against the Colts.

  1. Buffalo Bills (6-7) - If the Bills end up missing the playoffs for the 16th straight season since 1999, they can blame their inability to let the refs keep their flags in their pockets. The Bills have been flagged an NFL-high 146 times this season, including 15 times in their loss on Sunday to the Eagles.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) - The Buccaneers had a good chance to stay in the wild card race for a playoff spot, but their defense couldn’t stop Drew Brees in a bad loss to the Saints and didn’t score much against the Saints’ abysmal defense.

  1. New Orleans Saints (5-8) - Believe it or not, the Saints just won a game playing solid DEFENSE. Drew Brees also played well in a win over the Buccaneers which severely hurt the Bucs’ playoff chances.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-8) - The Jaguars offense has been on fire of late with Quarterback Blake Bortles (no joke), scoring 51 points in a dominant win over the Colts last weekend. Despite being 5-8, the Jags can still make the playoffs as they are only 1 game behind 1st place in the bad AFC South Division.

  1. Chicago Bears (5-8) - Competitive sports teams prefer to play in their home stadium, right? Not for the Bears. They are 1-6 in Chicago this season, their last 2 losses coming to the 49ers and Washington, while they are 4-2 on the road.

  1. Indianapolis Colts (6-7) - The Colts have been losing uglier than any other team over the past 2 weeks. Their last 2 losses have been by a combined score of 96-26. Yes, 96 combined points given up in just 2 games. Luckily for the Colts, they are still tied for first place in a horrible, horrible AFC South division.

  1. Miami Dolphins (5-8) - The Dolphins’ Monday Night loss to the Giants was what had been the result of many losses for them throughout the year; falling to dumb penalties and bad wide receiver drops. The loss eliminates them from the playoffs.

  1. St. Louis Rams (5-8) - Star Running Back Todd Gurley finally had a big game as the Rams snapped an ugly 5-game losing streak with a win over the Lions.

  1. Detroit Lions (4-9) - As soon as the Lions start to look good; they would have been on a 4-game winning if they didn’t give up a hail-mary pass on the final play heading into the week, they lose to a Rams team which had looked almost as bad as the Falcons in a 5-game losing streak. That’s what very bad teams do.

  1. Cleveland Browns (3-10) - The Browns get a nice jump to 26th (well, nice for the Browns) on the rankings for being the only very bad team to not look horrible last weekend. Looks like Johnny Manziel will be their starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

  1. Dallas Cowboys (4-9) - With or without Starting Quarterback Tony Romo, the Cowboys offense has been pretty awful throughout the season, especially in last Sunday’s game against the Packers when Quarterback Matt Cassel completed just 13 of his 29 passes. Even in a weak NFC East Division, the Cowboys will most likely miss the playoffs.

  1. San Francisco 49ers (4-9) - Losing 24-10 to the Browns is pretty embarrassing. Despite having probably the least talented roster overall in the NFL, the 49ers have managed to sneak out a few wins here and there, most recently hurting the Bears’ playoff chances with an overtime win in week 13.

  1. Baltimore Ravens (4-9) - Without Starting Quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens have predictably gone from bad to worse, getting demolished at home 35-6 by the Seahawks. Actually, while the Seahawks loss was ugly, their first 8 losses were by 8 points or less. You have to win those close games to be in the playoffs.

  1. Tennessee Titans (3-10) - The Titans were actually playing pretty well with Quarterback Marcus Mariota over the past month… until they got destroyed 30-8 by the Jets last Sunday.

  1. San Diego Chargers (3-10) - Well, to win football games, you need some offense, right? Make sure you tell the Chargers that. They have been held to just 3 points in 3 of their past 4 games, that’s just one field goal throughout the entire game. The Chargers have also dropped a ton of close games; 7 of their 10 losses have been by 8 points or less.

  1. Atlanta Falcons (6-7) - Oh. My. Goodness. Yes, the Falcons are 6-7, and yes, the Falcons still have a chance to make the playoffs. But oh my, has there been any team playing worse than Atlanta over the past 2 months? Since a 5-0 start, they have lost 7 of their last 8 games and 6 in a row overall, with losses to the 49ers, Saints, Colts, and Buccaneers (twice!) in this horrible, horrible stretch. Most embarrassing was their most recent loss, a 38-0 loss to the Panthers. Yup, that’s one big goose-egg. No score, and a good example of what happens when the worst team in the NFL plays the best team.

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