NFL Power Rankings Week 17, 2016

tom-brady-deflate-gateBoth the AFC and NFC playoff pictures are much clearer now. But there are still things that need to be sorted out, including the final Wild Card team in the NFC, and seeding in the AFC.

Let’s discuss this along with where teams rank heading into the final week of the regular season. Also, take a look at last week’s power rankings here.

1. Dallas Cowboys (13-2); beat Detroit 42-21, same spot – Even with the NFC’s No. 1 seed wrapped up, Dallas has no plans to rest starters Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott.

2. New England Patriots (13-2); beat NY Jets 41-3, same spot – Despite being a game better than everybody else in the AFC, New England still needs a win or a Raiders loss to clinch the No. 1 seed.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5); beat Baltimore 31-27, up 1 spot – One of our Super Bowl favorites to start the year, Pittsburgh is playing like it now. A big reason why is Le’Veon Bell, who’s racked up almost 2,000 yards from scrimmage in just 13 games.

tyreek-hill-chiefs4. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4); beat Denver 33-10, up 2 spots – Receiver Tyreek Hill has emerged as a dangerous threat to catch or run the ball. He’s helped make the Chiefs more than just a defensive team.

5. Oakland Raiders (12-3); beat Indianapolis 33-25, down 2 spots – While the Raiders can still gain the AFC’s top seed with a win and a New England loss, their Super Bowl odds took a huge hit after losing Derek Carr.

6. New York Giants (10-5); lost to Philadelphia 24-19, down 1 spot – New York is in the playoffs, but they would’ve liked to make it with a victory over their rivals.

7. Atlanta Falcons (10-5); beat Carolina 33-16, same spot – Atlanta wraps up the NFC South with a win over Carolina and Tampa Bay’s loss. This will be a tough team in the playoffs.

8. Green Bay Packers (9-6); beat Minnesota 38-25, same spot – Aaron Rodgers has played amazing over the last several weeks, throwing for another 347 yards and four touchdowns in this game.

jay-ajayi-dolphins9. Miami Dolphins (10-5); beat Buffalo 34-31, up 3 spots – Some wondered if Miami would even make the playoffs when Ryan Tannehill got injured. They’ve since won two straight games and have wrapped up a Wild Card slot. An additional note is that Jay Ajayi had his third 200-yard rushing performance of the season.

10. Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1); lost to Arizona 34-31, down 1 spot – Seattle secured the NFC West a while ago. But they struggled against rival Arizona this year, losing one game and tying another.

11. Washington Redskins (8-6-1); beat Chicago 41-21, up 4 spots – For Washington, the playoff picture is clear: beat the Giants and you’re in.

12. Detroit Lions (9-6); lost to Dallas 42-21, down 1 spot – Losing to the Cowboys puts Detroit in the difficult position of having to beat their division-rival Green Bay to win the NFC North and make the playoffs. Is anybody betting on the Lions here?

13. Houston Texans (9-6); beat Cincinnati 12-10, up 4 spots – Nobody sees Houston as the AFC favorites. But the Texans deserve some credit for winning the AFC South with subpar quarterback play.

14. Denver Broncos (8-7); lost to Kansas City 33-10, down 4 spots – Now out of the postseason hunt, the defending champions may give Paxton Lynch one more look.

15. Baltimore Ravens (8-7); lost to Pittsburgh 31-27, down 2 spots – No longer in the playoff race, Baltimore’s biggest story right now is whether Steve Smith will retire.

16. Tennessee Titans (8-7); lost to Jacksonville 38-17, down 2 spots – Despite the blowout loss to Jacksonville and Marcus Mariota getting injured, Tennessee can be proud of this season after winning just 3 games last year.

17. New Orleans Saints (7-8); beat Tampa Bay 31-24, up 5 spots – This season has to be considered an overall win for New Orleans, who weren’t expected to win this many games.

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7); lost to New Orleans 31-24, down 2 spots – The loss to New Orleans all but eliminates Tampa Bay from making the playoffs. Their postseason odds are so long that they even need AFC teams to lose for strength-of-schedule purposes.

tyrod-taylor-bills19. Buffalo Bills (7-8); lost to Miami 34-31, down 1 spot – Many expected Rex Ryan to be fired, and he was. But we also find out that Tyrod Taylor will be benched for the finale. The reason why is because of a contract clause where he’s due $30.75 million if he gets injured.

20. Indianapolis Colts (7-8); lost to Oakland 33-25, down 1 spot – Will Chuck Pagano keep his job after this year? Everything is up for question heading into Indianapolis’ offseason.

21. Minnesota Vikings (7-8); lost to Green Bay 38-25, down 1 spot – A season that began with so much promise and an 5-0 record will end with a whimper, win or lose, against the Bears.

22. Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1); beat Seattle 34-31, up 3 spots – Arizona is the most-disappointing team from this season. We had them ranked No. 1 in our original power rankings, but they won’t even reach .500 this season. At least they got a victory over their division rivals last weekend.

23. Philadelphia Eagles (6-9); beat NY Giants 24-19, up 1 spot – The Eagles were able to snap a five-game losing streak with this victory.

24. Carolina Panthers (6-9); lost to Atlanta 33-16, down 3 spots – Carolina is right there with the Cardinals in terms of teams that expected much more from 2016.

25. Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1); lost to Houston 12-10, down 2 spots – Expected to fight with Pittsburgh and Baltimore for the AFC North crown, Cincinnati was nowhere close to the team everybody expected.

26. San Diego Chargers (5-10); lost to Cleveland 20-17, same spot – We know he’s good, but does Melvin Gordon’s injury have this much impact?

matt-barkley-bears27. Chicago Bears (3-12); lost to Washington 41-21, same spot – Any thought of giving Matt Barkley a longer look next season ended with his five interceptions in this contest.

28. New York Jets (4-11); lost to New England 41-3, same spot – This score was the total opposite of the competitive game between the Jets and Patriots a few weeks ago. Seems that New York has mailed it in already.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12); beat Tennessee 38-17, up 1 spot – Doug Marrone may actually be considered for the Jacksonville job if he can win again.

30. San Francisco (2-13); beat L.A. Rams 22-21, up 1 spot – San Francisco may only have two wins, but they both came against L.A., making them the superior team.

31. LA Rams (4-11); lost to Seattle 24-3, same spot – What an embarrassing first season in Los Angeles for the Rams.

32. Cleveland Browns (1-14); beat San Diego 20-17, same spot – Given that Cleveland has no chance of winning in Pittsburgh next week, it’s good that they got their lone victory at home against San Diego.

Chuck Pagano Fired? Jim Harbaugh In with Colts?

chuck-pagano-firedFollowing their 33-25 loss to the Oakland Raiders last weekend, the Indianapolis Colts were mathematically eliminated from AFC South contention. This is just the second time in coach Chuck Pagano’s 5-year tenure that the Colts will miss the playoffs.

Indianapolis plays Jacksonville this weekend, and they’re currently -4.5 on our GTBets line.

Despite being just two years removed from an AFC South Championship game appearance, Pagano’s job security remains a constant question. He signed a four-year extension this offseason, but as Jeff Fisher proves, this doesn’t always mean much.

That said, let’s look at whether or not Pagano will be fired along with Jim Harbaugh rumors that are surfacing.

Pagano: “I Take Full Responsibility for Everything”

chuck-pagano-coltsMost expected the Colts to struggle last season, with Andrew Luck missing 9 games with various injuries. Despite Luck missing over half the season, Indianapolis still gutted out a solid 8-8 campaign.

Assuming they can win at home against Jacksonville, they’ll manage the same 8-8 mark — only this season they had Luck for all but one game.

Who’s to blame for a lackluster season in Indy, one where the AFC South was there for the taking? According to Pagano, we can lay the blame on him.

“I take full responsibility for everything,” said Pagano. “That’s what comes with this job.”

As reported by the Indy Star, Pagano also addressed the constant rumors about his job security.

“I don’t hear it, I don’t listen to it, I don’t pay attention to it,” he said, before explaining what his family had to deal with regarding the rumors.

“I hate it for them. I can deal with it. I hate it for my wife and kids who have to read it, watch it, whatever. Have to calm them down, tell them to keep their blinders and earmuffs on … they’re passionate, passionate, passionate about this football team, and they’re pissed. Not about that stuff. Because we’re not winning. That’s what they’re pissed at me about. They still love me, but they’re pissed.”

As for whether or not the Colts plan on tanking the final game to get a better draft pick, Pagano quickly squashed these thoughts.

“The name on the back of your jersey, the decal on the side of your helmet. Pride. Respect. Winning. It’s unacceptable where we’re at,” Pagano explained. “We all know that. Players and coaches. That’s not us. That’s not this culture. That’s not what was developed around here a long time ago. That — that is what’s at stake.”

What’s the Case for Pagano Keeping His Job?

andrew-luck-playoffsIn a league where coaches are often praised for maintaining a .500 record, Chuck Pagano has vastly exceeded expectations in his first five years. He’s 48-31, which is a 60.8% win rate. Assuming they win against Jacksonville, as many expect, he’ll add one more win to this record and have never finished below .500 in five seasons.

One stat that sticks out in Pagano’s 5-year tenure is that they’re 31-13 in games decided by one possession or less. Much of this can be attributed to Luck’s phenomenal play, but some credit also must be given to Pagano and the coaching staff.

As for 2016, Pagano can be given some leeway because the Colts had plenty of injuries, notably the three offensive linemen that went down towards the end of the season.

Friction between Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson

ryan-grigson-coltsOne big problem during Pagano’s tenure has been friction between he and Grigson over personnel moves. The two have found a way to work out their differences, but it didn’t prevent numerous offseason rumors that they’d both lose their jobs.

Owner Jim Irsay spoke on the matter this month, and he neither confirmed nor denied that he’d fire Pagano and Grigson. But if somebody has to go, perhaps Irsay should consider the general manager first.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell wrote a lengthy evaluation of Grigson, where he discusses the GM’s inability to put a strong team around Luck before he signed a five-year, $122 million deal. Barnwell also dives into some of Grigson’s notable failures, like when he signed an aging Trent Cole to a one-year, $5-million deal, or when he took middling receiver Phillip Dorsett with the 29th overall pick.

Jim Harbaugh to Coach the Colts?

Jim Harbaugh has made it pretty clear that he’s not leaving Michigan any time soon. But that hasn’t stopped media outlets from speculating on what NFL teams he would coach if he’s lured away.

First, it was Harbaugh coaching the Chicago Bears. Now, Harbaugh has been linked to the Colts job.

The former San Francisco 49ers coach played for the Colts from 1994-97, throwing for 39 touchdowns and 26 interceptions during his stint there. He came within a nearly-caught Hail Mary of leading Indy to the Super Bowl.

Harbaugh did coach San Francisco to the Super Bowl, losing a close game to his brother John’s Baltimore Ravens. And what stands out about his stint with the Niners is how he quickly transformed a joke franchise into a championship-caliber team.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports that Indianapolis is a definite possibility if/when Harbaugh returns to the NFL:

“Some league insiders have speculated to PFT that Harbaugh could eventually coach the Colts, which would put him back in the organization he nearly took to the Super Bowl in 1995 — and reunite him with former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.”

But given that Harbaugh seems content with his $9-million-a-year Michigan job, odds are that this won’t be happening any time soon. And with few other dynamic coaching options available, Pagano will likely get another chance to lead the Colts in 2017.