NFL Power Rankings for Week 15 (Dec. 11, 2013)

marlon-brown-baltimoreWeek 14 was possibly the most exciting weekend in NFL history. There were wild finishes, blizzard-covered fields, and career-defining moments – all within the span of one day. Here’s a recap of some of the extremely exciting games from last Sunday:

1. The Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings set an NFL record when the lead changed hands six times in the fourth quarter. The last 2:05 of this contest was particularly noteworthy, as five touchdowns were scored. Among them included a 79-yard pass, a 73-yard kick return, and a 41-yard rushing TD. Baltimore got the final critical score to take this hard-fought game.

2. The Cleveland Browns appeared well on their way to a major upset, winning 26-14 with just 2:39 left. But then Tom Brady happened…leading the Patriots to 2 touchdowns, one thanks to an onside-kick recovery.

3. Pittsburgh and Miami already played a crazy game in the snow that saw five different lead changes. But it got really bizarre on the last play, with the Steelers needing to score a TD from 80 yards out to win. Ben Roethlisberger tossed a short pass that was lateraled around several times, before Antonio Brown took it for what appeared to be a 70-yard touchdown. The only problem: his left foot hit the sideline on this long run.

4. With an early 14-0 lead and a snowstorm on their side, it looked like Detroit would cruise to an easy win over Philadelphia. However, the Eagles came “storming” back, outscoring Detroit 34-6 to grab victory.

It’s highly unlikely that the remaining weeks will live up to what fans witnessed in Week 14. But we can all hope for a couple wild finishes as we enter Week 15 of the NFL season.

1. Denver Broncos (11-2); beat Tennessee 51-28, retains same ranking – It was yet another banner offensive day for the Broncos, with Peyton Manning throwing for 397 yards and four TD’s and Matt Prater setting an NFL record with a 64-yard field goal. Knowshon Moreno and Monte Ball also combined for 155 yards and 2 TD’s on the ground.

2. Seattle Seahawks (11-2); lost to San Francisco 19-17, retains same ranking – A week after dominating the Saints at home, Seattle goes out on the road and drops a narrow game to San Francisco. So why are they keeping the second spot? How about their 29-3 drubbing of the Niners earlier in the year. And don’t forget that they also hold a 2-game lead over San Francisco.

frank-gore-san-francisco3. San Francisco 49ers (9-4), beat Seattle 19-17, moves up one spot – San Francisco relied on a 110-yard rushing effort from Frank Gore to pull this close game out. Gore broke a 51-yarder late in the fourth quarter to set up Phil Dawson for a game-winning field goal. But with three games left, it’s doubtful that this contest will help the Niners win the NFC West.

4. New England Patriots (10-3), beat Cleveland 27-26, drops one spot – After allowing Jason Campbell to light them up, the Patriots got some late-game heroics with less than 3 minutes left. We admire New England’s resolve to come back and win. But this is now three weeks in a row that they’ve had to crawl out of an early deficit.

5. New Orleans Saints (10-3); beat Carolina 31-13, retains same ranking – The Saints continue to be excellent at home after walloping their division rivals. We still have questions about New Orleans’ ability to win away from home. But you certainly can’t question Drew Brees, who threw for 313 yards and four TD’s on one of the league’s best defenses.

6. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3); beat Washington 45-10, moves up one spot – There’s no better way to stop a three-game losing streak than to play Washington at home. Kansas City ripped the Redskins on the strength of 321 return yards in the first half alone. Quintin Demps’ 95-yard kickoff return highlighted this incredible output.

andy-dalton7. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4); beat Indianapolis 42-28, moves up one spot – Cincinnati continued their ascension in the AFC by beating the Bengals. Andy Dalton led this effort with 326 passing yards and four touchdowns. Cincy will no doubt be hoping to host a playoff game or two at Paul Brown Stadium, where they’re 6-0 this season.

8. Carolina Panthers (9-4); lost to New Orleans 31-13, drops one spot – On the center stage for the first time in years, Carolina couldn’t deliver. Their defense, which hadn’t allowed more than two touchdowns in a game all year, looked helpless in giving up three TD’s in the second quarter alone.

9. Philadelphia Eagles (8-5); beat Detroit 34-20, moves up two spots – As we explained earlier, the Eagles fought back from a 14-0 deficit amid snowy conditions. A huge thanks can be given to LeSean McCoy, who rushed for a franchise-record 217 yards and two TD’s.

10. Arizona Cardinals (8-5); beat St. Louis 30-10, moves up three spots – Karlos Dansby had his second interception-return TD in the last three games as Arizona walked away with this one. Larry Fitzgerald had a good day, catching 12 passes for 96 yards and a TD.

11. Indianapolis Colts (8-5); lost to Cincinnati 42-28, drops two spots – The Colts may have clinched the AFC South, but it had little to do with how they’ve been playing lately. The secondary was ripped by Dalton, and a slow start also doomed the Colts. About the only positive thing Indy can take away here is that Andrew Luck had his first great game in a while, throwing for 326 yards and four TD’s.

12. Dallas Cowboys (7-6); lost to Chicago 45-28, drops two spots – This was yet another game where the Cowboys defense turned in a very disappointing performance. They gave up 348 passing yards to Josh McCown and allowed the Bears to score on their first eight possessions.

lesean-mccoy13. Detroit Lions (7-6); lost to Philadelphia 34-20, drops one spot – A week after completely shutting down Green Bay’s rushing attack, the Lions looked like they’d never seen snow as McCoy torched them for 217 yards. Of course, it also didn’t help matters that Detroit fumbled seven times, losing three of them. The turnovers and poor run defense negated an amazing day by Jeremy Ross, who had two return touchdowns.

14. Baltimore Ravens (7-6); beat Minnesota 29-26, retains same ranking – Baltimore was mired in a pretty boring game with Minnesota, that is until the last 125 seconds anyways. Following four touchdowns in this short span, Joe Flacco hooked up with Marlon Brown for a fifth and game-winning TD.

15. Miami Dolphins (7-6); beat Pittsburgh Steelers 34-28, retains same ranking – Miami isn’t backing down in the race for the AFC’s last playoff spot. They got nice games out of Daniel Thomas (105YDS, 1TD) and Charles Clay (7REC, 97YDS, 2TD) to pul this game out.

16. Chicago Bears (7-6); beat Dallas 45-28, retains same ranking – The weather may have been freezing, but it wasn’t enough to cool off Chicago. Josh McCown threw a career-high four touchdowns and Matt Forte added 102 yards on the ground. It’s going to be hard for the Bears to sit McCown when Jay Cutler returns from injury.

17. San Diego Chargers (6-7); beat New York Giants 37-14, retains same ranking – Philip Rivers tossed three touchdowns to help San Diego keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Ryan Mathews has a chance to gain the most rushing yards of his career; he’s run for 885 yards and has three games left to rack up another 207 for his career high.

18. Green Bay Packers (6-6-1); beat Atlanta 22-21, retains same ranking – Matt Flynn played much better this game as he tallied 258 passing yards and a touchdown. Mason Crosby also played a part by nailing five field goals. With the Lions and Bears only a half game ahead of Green Bay, they still have a chance to make the postseason when Rodgers comes back.

geno-smith-jets19. New York Jets (6-7); beat Oakland 37-27, moves up two spots – Many people wondered if Geno Smith would even start after the miserable stretch that he’s been having. But start he did, and Smith played pretty well by throwing for a TD and running for another score.

20. New York Giants (5-8); lost to San Diego 37-14, drops one spot – It’s pretty hard to make the playoffs when you start out 0-6. Okay, so it’s nearly impossible and the Giants certainly aren’t going to the postseason now. But despite this loss, they did have a good middle stretch of the season.

21. Tennessee Titans (5-8); lost to Denver 51-28, drops one spot – Tennessee’s postseason hopes have basically disappeared with this loss. Now they face an uncertain future, with running back Chris Johnson likely gone after the year.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8); lost to Miami 34-28, retains same ranking – The Steelers lost their second close game in a row and have all but been eliminated from postseason contention. This aging defense could use some younger upgrades in the offseason.

23. St. Louis Rams (5-8); lost to Arizona 30-10, retains same ranking – After a mid-season surge, the St. Louis Rams have now lost two games in a row pretty badly. The magic that rookie running back Zac Stacy brought is temporarily gone as he rushed for just 25 yards on 14 carries.

maurice-jones-drew24. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9); beat Houston 27-20, moves up one spot – Jacksonville has actually been a pretty good football team over the last few weeks. A big reason for the improved play is Maurice Jones-Drew, who’s rushed for 264 yards and a TD over the past three games.

25. Minnesota Vikings (3-9-1); lost to Baltimore 29-26, drops one spot – One week after an overtime victory over the Bears, Minnesota loses in the last four seconds to Baltimore. The Vikings also lost Adrian Peterson after he was carted off the field with an injury.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9); beat Buffalo 27-6, moves up two spots – Tampa Bay relied on four interceptions and 127 rushing yards from Bobby Rainey to win their fourth game in five tries.

27. Cleveland Browns (4-9); lost to New England 27-26, drops one spot – Moments away from their season-defining victory, Cleveland watched as New England stormed down the field for a touchdown, then recovered an onside kick and scored again. At least they can take solace in Jason Campbell’s strong play because he threw for 391 yards and 3 TD’s.

28. Oakland Raiders (4-9); lost to New York Jets 37-27, drops one spot – The Raiders keep finding players to step in and fill holes on offense, but it hasn’t translated into wins over the last few weeks. Their fans have to wonder when this franchise will experience another winning season again.

29. Atlanta Falcons (3-10); lost to Green Bay 22-21, retains same ranking – Atlanta bolted out to an 11-point halftime lead, but failed to hold off the Packers in the fourth quarter. Matt Bryant also missed a 52-yard field goal with 6:42 left in the game.

30. Buffalo Bills (4-9); lost to Tampa Bay 27-6, retains same ranking – Buffalo’s season has went through the tubes, and they’ve now lost five of their last six contests. This one was particularly bad since rookie QB EJ Manuel tossed four picks.

31. Washington Redskins (3-10); lost to Kansas City 45-10, retains same ranking – The Redskins continued their dismal season by losing a fifth straight game. Now there’s speculation that Robert Griffin III will sit the remainder of the season while coach Mike Shanahan insists that it’s to prevent injury. Some believe that this may be Shanahan’s revenge for owner Daniel Snyder’s coddling of Griffin.

32. Houston Texans (2-11); lost to Jacksonville 27-20, retains same ranking – It’s hard to believe that Houston started the season 2-0. They’ve now lost a franchise-record 11 straight games and some major changes are in store for this team.

Best Bet to win Last AFC Wild Card Spot in 2013

new-york-jets-wild-cardIn most cases, NFL Wild Card teams need at least 9 or 10 wins to secure a postseason berth. However, this year is shaping up to be quite special since eight teams have a legitimate shot at grabbing the last AFC Wild Card spot. And this has created quite a bit of excitment heading into the last few weeks of the season.

Looking at all of the teams that have records ranging between 6-6 and 4-7, an 8-8 record might even be good enough to grab the AFC’s sixth seed. So which of these mediocre teams could find themselves competing against the league’s elite in the postseason? Let’s take a look by ranking the eight teams that still have a realistic shot at the playoffs.

1. New York Jets (5-6) Geno Smith may be playing terrible right now, but he hasn’t killed the Jets’ playoff chances yet. This is especially the case when you consider that they have the easiest remaining schedule out of any other team. They face Miami (home), Oakland (home), Cleveland (home), Carolina (away), Cleveland (home) and Miami again (away). The two games between New York and the Dolphins could potentially decide the Wild Card. Look for the Jets to go 3-2 or 4-1 the rest of the way, with road losses to Carolina and maybe Miami.

joe-flacco2. Baltimore Ravens (6-6) – The Ravens seemingly have the best chance on this list since they boast the top record and have head-to-head wins over the Jets and Dolphins. However, it’s hard to like their remaining schedule, which includes games against Detroit (road), New England (home) and Cincinnati (away) to close out the season. Their only cupcake is Minnesota at home, which could potentially be their lone win in these four contests.

3. Tennessee Titans (5-6) – Before Baltimore won, Tennessee was sitting in the Wild Card spot since they hold all of the tiebreakers. Their schedule ranks somewhere in the middle with two easy games in Jacksonville (away) and Houston (home) to end the year. But they must win at least one of their next three contests (@Indianapolis, @Denver, Arizona) for these final two to matter.

4. San Diego (5-6) – The one saving grace for San Diego is that a couple of their toughest games are at home, as they host Cincinnati and Kansas City. They also play the Giants and Oakland at home, but must travel to Denver in a couple of weeks. San Diego stole a win in Kansas City; can they do it again at Mile High?

5. Miami Dolphins (5-6) – Most people wrote the Dolphins off after the Richie Incognito bullying scandal. But they’ve since stayed in the hunt by going 2-2. Their remaining schedule isn’t impossible, but it does include three road games. Here’s a look at how they finish out the year: @NY Jets, @Pittsburgh, New England, @Buffalo, NY Jets.

cj-spiller6. Buffalo Bills (4-7) – Based on record alone, the Bills are going to have a tough time making the postseason. However, they come out of the bye week with a healthier CJ Spiller and a somewhat favorable schedule: Atlanta, @Tampa Bay, @Jacksonville, Miami, @New England.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) – Pittsburgh lost the big matchup against Baltimore on Thanksgiving Day, and now find themselves needing to win at least 3 out of 4 to make the playoffs. The best thing that they have going in their favor is scheduling: Miami, Cincinnati, @Green Bay, Cleveland. However, Aaron Rodgers should be back for the Green Bay game.

8. Cleveland Browns (4-7) – The Browns caused some excitement earlier in the year after starting 3-3. But they’ve since cooled off, having lost 4 out of their last 5 games. They could jump back into the playoff picture with a home win over Jacksonville this weekend. But it’s entirely possible that they lose these four games to end the year: @New England, Chicago, @NY Jets, @Pittsburgh.

Whoever make the playoffs out of this list will be a big underdog in their first-round game. Of course, this could still make for some interesting spread betting and live wagering opportunities, depending upon what the playoff matchup ends up being.

Ed Reed cut Loose after ripping the Texans

ed-reed-cut-houstonIn his 12-year NFL career, Ed Reed has proven to be one of the greatest safeties of all-time. And after winning a Super Bowl with the Ravens last year, he was expected to bring this greatness to the Houston Texans. However, the 35-year-old was more of a bust than anything, and now he’s been cut loose by the Texans after some controversial comments.

Following Houston’s 27-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Reed said that his team was “outcoached and outplayed” during Sunday’s game. When asked if he still believed this on Monday, the nine-time Pro Bowler confirmed his assertion that Houston was outcoached. Reed also added that the offense “can’t keep going three and out, and put your defense back on the field.”

A large reason for Reed’s comments may have come from the fact that he was left out of the starting lineup for the Cardinals game. And he played just 12 snaps throughout the entire four quarters.

Of course, this should come as no surprise to those who’ve been watching the Texans all season since Reed has continually gone downhill. He began 2013 with some minor injuries, and when he did play, it wasn’t exactly inspiring. So when you combine Reed’s lack of playing time with his negative comments about the coaching staff, it was a fairly easy decision for Houston to let him go.

ed-reed-cut-houston-1This is yet another blow to the Texans dismal season, which began with Super Bowl aspirations. In fact, Reed was brought in as a missing piece to a team that had most of the components needed for a strong defense. He signed a three-year, $15 million deal in what was one of the biggest offseason acquisitions.

But for the few million that he received before getting cut, all Reed provided was 16 tackles in seven games. Gone was the ball-hawking safety who’d piled up 61 interceptions and seven touchdowns through his first 11 seasons in Baltimore.

So what’s the next stop for this aging safety who quickly wore out his welcome in Texas? Well a return to the Ravens isn’t out of the question since Reed carved out a very successful career here. A contender like New England wouldn’t be a surprise either since Stephen Gregory is out, and Bill Belichick might be looking for a veteran replacement. The New York Jets could be another possibility because Reed’s former defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, is always looking to add good defensive players to the Jets.

As for the Texans, they are looking towards next season with a 2-7 record. Case Keenum has officially taken the starting QB job from Matt Schaub. And Arian Foster has been put on the injured reserve list since there’s little reason to keep trying to play him. All in all, this has been a nightmare for a team that went 12-4 in the 2012 regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs, losing to New England 41-28 in the Divisional round.

Brian Hoyer to start Third Straight Game for Cleveland Browns

brian-hoyer-clevelandTheir opening day quarterback Brandon Weeden goes down with an injury. They trade away franchise running back Trent Richardson after a dismal 0-2 start. And yet, the Cleveland Browns are now tied for the AFC North division lead with the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.

And a large part of Cleveland’s success is due to the emergence of backup QB Brian Hoyer. In all actuality though, Hoyer may have earned himself the permanent starting role. He’s been named the starter for a third straight week, while the status of Weeden and his injured thumb are unknown.

Regardless of whether or not Weeden is healthy enough to play, it doesn’t appear that Cleveland is overly concerned about him. Instead, they’re embracing Hoyer and looking to forward to seeing if he can lead them to the playoffs.

brian-hoyer-cleveland-1Now this may all sound quite unrealistic, given that many people thought the Browns were mailing it in following the Richardson trade. But as previously stated, Cleveland is tied atop a mediocre division and faces Buffalo this week. The Bills are also 2-2, but the Browns will be at home and should be favored in this contest.

Basically, Hoyer has provided new life to a team that was previously looking to fight with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the league’s top pick next season. Through two games, he’s racked up 590 passing yards, 5 TD’s, 3 INT’s and a 59.8% completion rate.

Of course, it’s important not to look too far ahead because all of this hype has been created in two games. And the NFL season is a long grind with 12 games left to go. But if Cleveland can beat Buffalo on Thursday and remain on top of the AFC North, it will bring Brian Hoyer hysteria to an all-time high.

Ravens, Broncos kick off 2013 NFL Season Tonight

broncos-ravensThe 2013 NFL season is here as the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens kick the season off tonight (September 5th) at 8:30 ET. Last year saw the Ravens pull of a shocker after they beat Denver 38-35 in a Divisional Playoffs round. And this was only a prelude to Baltimore’s even more surprising run to the Super Bowl title.

But this is a new year, and the Ravens are a very different team. We recently broke down their chances of repeating as Super Bowl champions, and we think that it’s going to be a long shot. This especially the case when you consider that their team changed so much over the summer. For this reason, GTBets.eu has the betting line on tonight’s game as follows:

Baltimore  (-115)  Over 48.5 (-110)
Denver -7.5 (-105)  Under 48.5 (-110)

With Denver being over a touchdown favorite tonight, they are definitely expected to win. But before you make a bet, you might want to check out our analysis of the matchup.

Preview of Denver for Tonight’s Game

peyton-manningThe Broncos are fairly large favorites on our line mainly because they’re playing at home, and this team returns so much talent. In regard to the latter, quarterback Peyton Manning headlines the returners after a season in which he threw for 4,659 yards with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

His receiving corp is going to be a huge factor tonight as well. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are coming back after finishing 1-2 on the team in receiving. Wes Welker is a new addition to Denver as he came to them via New England in the offseason. After posting numbers of 1,354 yards and 6 touchdowns, he’s ready to step in and contribute immediately.

The Broncos running game is more of a question mark entering this year. As a team, they averaged 114.5 rushing YPG, which ranked 16th in the league. In an effort to boost their ground attack, Denver drafted Wisconsin standout Montee Ball in the second round, but he’s going to share touches with Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno to open the year. So it’s anybody’s guess as to how things will turn out in this first regular season contest.

This team will have more questions on the other side of the ball after losing DE Elvis Dumervil to a delayed fax in the offseason and LB Von Miller to a six-game suspension. These players combined for 29.5 sacks last year, so their absence will really hurt Denver’s pass rush tonight. Plus cornerback Champ Bailey will miss this game too. However, they still have interior lineman Terrance Knighton and Kevin Vickerson plugging the middle as well as new addition Shaun Phillips rushing the outside.

Preview of Baltimore for Tonight’s Game

joe-flaccoJoe Flacco returns under center after inking a massive 6-year, $120 million deal this past offseason. Flacco’s incredible playoff run earned him this money, as he tossed 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the postseason. Now everybody wants to know if he can look just as impressive in the regular season.

He won’t be helped by the fact that receiver Anquan Boldin went to the San Francisco 49ers. But at least Flacco will still have Torrey Smith to throw to, who collected 98 yards and two TD’s in the last meeting between these squads. Running back Ray Rice will be a huge key to this game as well. He picked up 1,143 rushing yards and 478 receiving yards in 2012.

Most of the uncertainty regarding Baltimore stems from their losses on defense. Safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, and cornerback Cary Williams all went to other teams through free agency. Plus franchise linebacker Ray Lewis retired after winning his second Super Bowl.

But the Ravens did do their best to reload by picking up Dumervil, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Daryl Smith and Michael Huff during the offseason. This group will have to gel fast if they want to stop Manning and the Broncos vaunted passing game tonight.

Von Miller Suspension Further Weakens Broncos Defense

von-miller-suspensionThe Denver Broncos received a big blow today when it was reported that Von Miller is facing a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. It was initially thought that he’d fight the suspension, but ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter now say that he’s “not likely” to fight the matter.

The league began investigating Miller when he provided a diluted urine sample, just after spilling a sample he gave during an offseason workout. He couldn’t give another sample right away, so he provided another one after consuming lots of fluids during the workout. This all amounted to suspicion that the 6’3″ 250-pound linebacker was trying to avoid giving a pure sample.

At this point, Miller is currently trying to convince the NFL to lessen his suspension to four games. But if he’s unsuccessful, it would mean the Broncos playing against the Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles without their star defender.

von-miller-suspension-1Since being drafted out of Texas A&M with the second overall pick in 2011, Miller has been exceptional for Denver. In ’11, he attained Rookie of the Year honors after racking up 11.5 sacks. Last year Miller was a First-Team All-Pro after tallying 18.5 sacks in his second season.

Now the Broncos will likely lose this production for the first six games of the season. They won’t be the only losers in this matter either since Miller stands to miss $806,162 of his $2,284,125 base salary. It would prove even more costly if Denver tries to recoup the $1,215,265 signing bonus that their All-Pro is due.

Von Miller isn’t the only key defender that Denver will be without since they lost Elvis Dumervil in the offseason thanks to a fax machine error. The standout defensive end informed the Broncos that he’d accept a paycut to stay with them at 3:25 pm – 35 minutes before a 4:00 pm free agency deadline that had to be met. However, his now-fired agent Marty Magid didn’t fax the paperwork until 4:07 pm, seven minutes past the deadline. This forced Denver to release Dumervil, who provided them with 11 sacks last season.

elvis-dumervilWith Dumervil now in Baltimore and Miller likely to miss much of the season’s first half, it’s very questionable as to if the Broncos can repeat their success. Last year they gained home field advantage throughout the playoffs after finishing 13-3. They lost 38-35 to the eventual champion Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Playoff round. However, this didn’t completely demolish what was otherwise a very good season.

Now Denver is facing an uphill battle without two of their most important defenders. Sure quarterback Peyton Manning is back with a full arsenal of weapons. But the D will have to get inventive with stopping opponents. Free agent pickup Shaun Phillips should provide some relief in Miller’s absence. The outside linebacker collected 9.5 sacks for San Diego last year. And fifth-round pick Quanterus Smith could be seeing a lot of time at defensive end. The 6’5″, 255-pounder compiled 12.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in his senior season at Western Kentucky.